Sunday, June 30, 2013

More Pre-Arnold UFO Sightings

I have been chasing sightings that predate Arnold, but just those made in the months prior to that rather than in the years earlier. I’ve been looking for documentation that proves a sighting was pre-Arnold, meaning that it was published in some form before June 24, 1947. My luck has been sporadic. I’ve found some but there are more out there. The trick was to figure out where to look.

There are many cases that were reported after Arnold but that were made prior to him. For example, there is a report from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma dated May 17, 1947, made by Byron Savage who said that he, and his wife, had seen a round, flat object traveling nearly due north at a speed estimated at three times that of a jet. I have found nothing that documents this sighting prior to Arnold, but the Air Force accepted the date and listed it in the master index for Project Blue Book.

Another May sighting took place on the nineteenth at Manitou Springs [Colorado Springs], Colorado but wasn’t published until June 28 in the Denver Post. Dean Hauser, along with six other railroad workers, said that he and they watched a silver, metallic object fly in from the northwest, stop overhead and then maneuver erratically for some twenty minutes before it disappeared to the west-northwest in a cloudless, blue sky.

A similar case, dated June 12, 1947, came from Weiser, Idaho (with Weiser being redacted from the Blue Book master index for some reason). According to the information, Mrs. H. Erickson (identified that way as a convention of the time) said that she had seen two high-speed, round objects at a high altitude. They were flying in a trail formation and left a vapor trail that persisted from more than an hour.

All these sightings were by civilians, though Savage is described as a field engineer. I mention this simply because it seems that in early 1947, the military was much more interested in sightings by military pilots. And, since a military pilot, in late 1946 or early 1947 might be inclined to mention such things through military channels, those at ATIC would be aware of their sightings. This means that there was a mechanism for collecting the data on such observations, but nothing shows up in the Project Blue Book files.

There are many examples of these early sightings by military pilots. The first listed military sighting is from June 28, 1947 in Montgomery, Alabama. There was another civilian pilot sighting on June 14, 1947, but like so many others it was not reported until after Arnold. The witness, Dick Rankin, claimed some 7000 hours of flight experience, but was on the ground when he saw the “V” formation fly over. In a statement to the military, Rankin wrote:

My name is [redacted, but is Richard Rankin]. I am 47 years old and have flown since I was nineteen years old. I first soloed in an aircraft in1919 … I have accomplished 7000 hours in the air as pilot of both civilian and Military aircraft [though there is nothing in his statements to suggest that he had ever been a military pilot only that he had flown military aircraft]. I am well acquainted with most articles that one would see in the air and I feel that I am well qualified to say when I see articles flying through the air, although I would not attempt to say that I am infallible… The following is an account of what I saw on 14 June 1947 from the yard of my home at [redacted], Bakersfield, California.

At approximately 1200 noon on the 14 of June I was lying in the front yard of my home. There was a lad mowing the lawn at the time. I looked up into the sky and saw ten articles flying from South to th [sic] North at what I would judge to be 350 miles per hour. As I have stated before, I have done quite a lot of map work with the US Forest Service. I distinctly remember that at the time I saw the articles I mentioned it to the lad who was mowing the lawn at the time. I told the lad that the objects were in all probability some sort of Army or Navy test planes from the nearby test centers on the deserts of Southern California…. At the time I did not give the slightest thought to anything but that the objects were some sort of test ship for the Government Service. The objects resembled the pictures that I have seen of the XF5U-1, the so-called “Flying Flapjack” that the Navy is testing. After the objects disappeared I proceeded into the house and had my noon meal. At approximately 1415 [2:15 p.m.] I went back into the yard to sit and lie in the shade. At this time the objects reappeared going from North to South, although this time there were only seven of the articles. When I first saw the original ten objects they were flying in a “V” formation with one object straggling in the rear of the formation. When the objects appeared the second time they were still in the “V” formation although there was only seven of the objects at this time. I remember at this time that I told the lad, who was still working on the lawn, that probably three of the objects had proceeded back to their base on a different course. I actually thought that this was the case, that the other three objects had probably gone back to their base on the other side of the mountains from Bakersfield. A week later when I read of Mr. Kenneth Arnold claiming that he had seen articles flying through the air over the Cascade Mountains in Washington, I realized that the articles I saw were probably the same thing. I was still reluctant to mention this to anyone thinking that they would probably say I was crazy. After sometime I mentioned the incident to the editor of the “Oregonian”, a Portland, Oregon newspaper. At this time I was in Portland for the remainder of the summer…

The sighting is interesting because of the description of the objects, which match that given by Arnold. Had he told this to anyone prior to Arnold’s sighting, had there been any sort of documentation of it prior to Arnold, and had he not mentioned Arnold by name and location, suggesting that he was well aware of the Arnold sighting, this would be a wonderful bit of corroboration for Arnold.

The Flying Flapjack
There is another document in the Project Blue Book files about this, and it is a “Memorandum for the Officer in Charge.” The military was apparently attempting to find Dick Rankin in California, and ran their check through various Palm Springs agencies including the police, the newspaper, Chamber of Commerce but could find almost no record of him there.

On July 11, 1947, according to the Memorandum, the Postmaster in Palm Springs was asked if a person named [redacted, but obviously Richard Rankin] had ever lived in Palm Springs. Ryland M. Gorham said that he, Gorham, had lived there for 14 years and he didn’t recognize the Rankin’s name, which isn’t all that surprising given the large transient population in the area, not to mention the fact that in 1947, Rankin lived in Bakersfield. The problem was the newspaper article, which seems to have generated the investigation mentioned, “He [Rankin] now operates a string of auto courts, spending his winters at Palm Springs.” That same article mentions that Rankin has seen the objects over Bakersfield, which would suggest another avenue for investigation as well.

What makes this disturbing, considering all that has transpired here in the last few days (meaning the NSA monitoring of nearly everything in the name of National Security) is the following from that Memorandum:

A check of General Delivery records revealed a letter addressed to Mr. [redacted, but so poorly done that the last name Rankin can easily be deduced], Palm Springs, mailed from Cicero, Indiana, postmarked at Cicero, Indiana July 1947, at 5 p.m. The return address on the envelope was listed as the Gospel Tract Worker, Route 1, Cicero, Indiana. Mr. Gorham permitted the contents of the envelope to be examined inasmuch as the contents was [sic] 3rd Class material and the envelope not sealed. The records were of a religious nature concerning the sad plight of American non-church goers, the second coming of Christ and etc. Superintendent of Mails was contacted by Mr. Gorham and stated that there was a Mr. [redacted, but Rankin] who are received mail through the general delivery office of the Palm Springs Post Office, but that the last mail, other than the letter mentioned above, came through the Post Office approximately two years ago. The Superintendent of Mails seem to have a very uncanny memory and recalled where the mail coming for [redacted… Rankin] had been addressed to. This mail was addressed to [redacted but is Richard Rankin] in care of a trailer camp located in Palm Springs. On calling the trailer camp office, it was found that Mr. [redacted… Rankin] had lived in the camp but departed approximately two years ago and left no forwarding address. Investigation is continuing in an effort to locate Mr. [redacted… Rankin] and obtain a statement from him.

Clearly they finally succeeded in finding Rankin and getting a statement. Interestingly, his return address, though mostly redacted, showed that he was in Portland, Oregon. I’m not sure why it was such a task for them to find him, given the information in the newspaper which said, “Rankin, who plans to spend the summer here at 834 N. E. Simpson street [sic]…”

Arnold's original drawing of the object for the Army.
This sighting can be seen as extremely important. The description of the UFOs, that they looked like the Flying Flapjack, matches that given by Arnold. And, it matches that of the photographs taken by William Rhodes, about two weeks after the Arnold sighting was reported in the newspapers.

To look at all this from the perspective of someone who accepts the idea of extraterrestrial visitation, this information is important. First, those earlier sightings show that something was happening before Arnold. Second, Rankin’s report reinforces Arnold because Rankin described an object that resembled the objects Arnold saw. Third, the Rhodes photographs further reinforces Arnold because it is another sighting from another part of the country that resembles what Arnold saw. None of these men knew one another and each reported his sighting independently of the other. The timing is interesting because all the sightings were within a month of each other, suggesting that they were seeing something real. Each of these sightings seems to support the other, and then add in those sightings from May and early June and a very interesting and realistic picture emerges. Everything suggests that what is
The Rhodes Photograph, July 7, 1947
being seen is something that was not created on Earth.

But, looking at all this from the other side of the spectrum, that is from the skeptical side, we must note that Rankin didn’t make his report until after Arnold. Rankin, in fact, mentions Arnold which means that he was aware of Arnold’s sighting and Arnold’s description of the objects. Rhodes’ photographs were taken over two weeks after Arnold’s sighting, which means, if they were faked, Rhodes had the information about what the objects looked like. While none of the men knew each other, the Arnold sighting was reported around the country. It is clear that Rankin know about it before he made his report, and Rhodes, coming after Arnold, certainly could have been influenced by it. While it is true that neither man knew the other, it is also true that those following Arnold could easily have drawn their descriptions from him.

The final point here is that the government investigators on this case pawed through Rankin’s mail. While I suppose, since it was third class mail and the envelop was unsealed it was legal for them to look at it, that still doesn’t mean they should have gone through it. I suppose the legal definition would be no expectation of privacy because of the classification of the mail and the open envelop.

For those interested, the Air Force finally determined that Rankin had seen birds. To me, it seems ridiculous that a pilot with 7000 hours of flight time would be fooled by birds. If he was unfamiliar with the sky and what to expect, had he seen the birds under unusual conditions, then it might be conceivable. But there was nothing in the weather reports to suggest that viewing conditions would have obscured birds to the point where the Rankin would be unable to identify them.

At any rate, this is one of the sightings made before Arnold that appears in the Project Blue Book files. For those keeping score at home, in the great AMC analysis of these early sightings, this is Incident No. 29. I don’t know how the sightings were assigned numbers. Arnold was Incident No. 17.

Although this is another of those pre-Arnold sightings, it wasn’t reported until after Arnold. Had there been documentation for it prior to Arnold, it would be a valuable observation. After Arnold, it is interesting, but nowhere as important.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pre-Arnold UFO Sightings

I have been searching for any documentation of a flying saucer, a disk-like craft, being described in the months prior to the Arnold sighting of June 24, 1947. There are many such references, but all of them seem to have been published after Arnold. The Project Blue Book files list several… and it should be noted that there are fewer listed there today than there were originally… the lone exception, as mentioned, is the Walter Minczewski sighting in April 1947. Michael Swords told me that he suspected that documentation for it existed in the Weather Bureau but he had seen nothing. For me, with this particular question, I had to know that the documentation existed. It was about being able to wave a document of known provenance and showing that it mentioned a disk-shaped craft and with an established date before Arnold.

Yes, and to head off any discussions of saucers in the decades that preceded Arnold, I know that these descriptions had been used. Yes, there was documentation for it, but I was looking for something specific in the months prior to Arnold.

Thanks to the people over at the NICAP site especially Michael Tarbell, and Steve Sawyer who made sure that I saw it, we have an interesting sighting from December 30, 1946. It appears in a mimeographed publication known as “Round Robin.” It is dated February 1947 [which given how these things worked, might not have been published until March or April, but it is dated February], and has the title, strangely, “Space Ships Again?”

The editor noted that they had published, in December, a report by Ella Young from 1927 and another sighting of “remarkable lights seen on 20th of last October.” This report, including corroboration of a friend, said:

Yesterday, Dec. 30, [1946] I was with a friend on the high ground that curves southward from Morro Bay [California]. We were looking at the sky to the south where the sun had gone down – golden, with a bank of cloud mist, also golden, on the horizon. The time was 25 min. of six. Suddenly a dark object appeared in the sky; it came forward and grew more distinct. It was very black on the golden sky, and was coming forward head-on – an air machine of some sort. It had a bat-like appearance owing to the curve of its wings. There may have been motion at the extreme tip of each wing but I could not be sure. It appeared to stand still for several minutes and the form was most distinct. Suddenly it with lowered itself toward the horizon, or the bank of cloud mist made an upward movement (perhaps both movements occurred), for the machine passed behind the cloud and did not again appear. Immediately afterward a great flush of colour spread on the sea… I enclose a statement from my friend…

This Ella Young, described as the distinguished author seems to have been a fairly well-known poet. She was born in Ireland but immigrated to the United States in 1925, and moved to California. Given that information, and the spelling of “colour,” I suspect this is the right woman.

The friend is not identified in the “Round Robin” and I have been unable to learn who it was, though this sighting is in Harold Wilkins’ Flying Saucers on the Attack [page 40 of the American paperback edition]. He describes “…Young as an American authoress, who wrote to Mr. Meade Layne, M.A., who has devoted much time to the investigation of these remarkable phenomena, seen at various dates…” Although Wilkins reproduces Young’s statement in his book, that didn’t provide evidence of the report prior to Arnold. Interestingly, he also alters it, changing the time from “25 min. of six,” to “and the time was 5:35 p.m.,” and removes both the underlining and the parenthetical statement.

The “Round Robin” editor also printed the note that came from Young’s friend but without a name, it does little to actually corroborate the story. It was signed as “An Interested Observer,” and it said:

A friend [Young] and I were sitting near Morro Bay about 5:30 in the evening of Dec. 30, watching the sunset over the sea. As brilliant colours poured into the sky, golden and bright red, a large blackish shape appeared. We thought it was a large airplane but noticed that the wings were larger than usual and that they curved like the wings of a bat or a bird. They were wider and broader, also. The shape flew slightly toward land, then hung poised in the air for at least more than five minutes. Then rather suddenly a large band of golden cloud floated in front of it, blotting it out completely. The sunset deepened in colour but the shape had disappeared. I thought this might be of interest to you, as there is no doubt about the shape.

Well, not exactly a disc shape, but then, it sort of matches the description given by Arnold some months later. Sure, you have to interpret what is meant by the descriptions and by doing that you certainly can slip off the rails. For those who think they might want to track down Ella Young, which wouldn’t be all that difficult given her writing career, I will note that she died on July 23, 1956.

There is some intriguing discussion with this article. It said, “And as was lately pointed out in Flying Roll, RR [Round Robin] friend Vincent Gaddis has collected data on some thirty-odd instances of mysterious flying objects, widely varying in appearance – nearly all of recent date.”

This might be even more important than Young’s sighting. Here is a reference to thirty UFO sightings that were made prior to Arnold. We know little about them, other than Vincent Gaddis had collected them. If we can access that source, then we might find a wealth of information about disk-shaped UFOs (which to this point I have been unable to do other than learn that Meade Layne was probably the publisher of “Round Robin”… and that Layne had a Ph.D from USC, taught at a couple of universities, and wasn’t the nutcase he has been labeled as being). It would suggest a growing wave of sightings that existed prior to Arnold and suggest that Arnold didn’t mark the beginning, but actually the middle of the wave. The press jumped on the Arnold sighting, and only then realized what was going on, meaning that people were seeing strange things in the sky. My search of sightings documented prior to Arnold might just have found the mother lode.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Spy Balloons and Philip Klass

In the last few days I have been fielding some inquiries about the Staff Sergeant Charles L. Moody abduction in August 1965. Moody had mentioned to Jim Lorenzen, then the International Director of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), that after his UFO encounter, he had gone to the news stand and bought a copy of Official UFO. I wondered what might have been in that issue and thought I could figure it out based on the date of the sighting, but the most likely candidate is Official UFO Volume 1, No. 2, which I don’t have and probably would have had a publication date of August 1975. It would have been on the news stand in late July, if the normal distribution procedure held true.

I mention all of this to explain how I happened to see Official UFO Volume 1, No. 4, dated November 1975. As I was putting the magazines away, I glanced at the cover which had a big headline in the middle of the cover that said, “Interview: Philip Klass Tells – “Why I Don’t Believe In UFOs.”

Okay, seeing an interview with Klass so early in his anti-UFO career seemed interesting. The interview was conducted by George Earley, who found himself at FORTFEST ’74 in Baltimore, and had an opportunity to sit down with Klass for several hours.

All that was fine, but not particularly helpful, and most of what Klass told Earley was the same thing that he would say time and again in articles, his SUN newsletter and his various books. One thing I did find interesting was his discussion of secret balloon projects.

Earley asked, “There have been numerous claims of CIA involvement in the ‘UFO coverup.’ Didn’t they suggest debunking UFO reports at one time?”

Philip Klass
Klass said, “Yes, and I go into the reason for that in my new book [which is now, what, 38 years old]. Just briefly – about the time flying saucers were discovered (perhaps “invented” is a better word) [and I point out in my new book to be published later, Secrets in the Government Files… hey, everyone else promotes their work, why shouldn’t I? that the sightings began before the Arnold sighting] in the summer of 1947, the CIA and the USAF and the Navy were involved in a top-secret program involving giant, camera-carrying balloons. [That’s right, Klass is blaming balloons for UFO sightings made in 1947 in this 1975 interview]. They would be released from Western Europe; the westerly winds would carry them over the Communist Bloc countries – Soviet Union, Red China, etc. – snapping photographs all the way. Then, if the balloons arrived over Japan, we would send up a radio signal which would bring the camera down by parachute. We would recover the film. We would get a lot of pictures of Russian farms, but, hopefully, we would also get some pictures of Russian military installations, pictures that might indicate the Russians might be preparing to start World War III. This was 1947 – 48, remember.”

Well, our favorite topic here, Project Mogul was certainly underway in 1947, but they were experimenting with using microphones to detect nuclear explosions as opposed to photographing the Russian landscape, but Klass is referring to projects that actually existed including Moby Dick, Skyhook and Genetrix, to name just a few. And while most of them were operating, in a limited and experimental fashion in 1947, they didn’t actually get going until later.

Klass said, “They were experimenting. It began to become operational about 1949 or 1950. Because it was an intelligence gathering operation, the CIA was in overall charge. The Navy supplied the balloons while the USAF supplied the cameras, radio gear and the parachutes. The CIA knew we were flying balloons over Russia to photograph their military facilities, and now here we are getting flying saucer reports. Did this mean the Russians were doing the same thing – releasing reconnaissance spy balloons from Russia and Siberia to fly over the U.S. and photograph our military installations? In those days, back in the 1950s, where we had our missile sites, our air defense installations, our bomber bases was a very hush—hush operation.”

All well and good but the basic premise here is flawed. Klass is suggesting that these high altitude balloons being flown around were the genesis of the flying saucer reports and speculates that the Soviet Union might have been doing the same thing to us. Except the balloon operations here, in the United States, didn’t begin until after the Arnold sighting in June 1947, with the exception of Mogul, but those balloons were in New Mexico or on the east coast and numbered about a dozen. So, whatever Arnold saw, it wasn’t one of these balloons, and the follow up sightings reported around the country were not these balloons.

 Oh, don’t get me wrong, balloons, weather and experimental, were responsible for some UFO sightings. Although I’m worried we’ll get into a big argument about it, I believe that Thomas Mantell was killed chasing a balloon, so it did happen. But the genesis of the UFO sightings, which actually began earlier than Arnold, was not caused by balloon research.

Earley asked about Skyhook, and cosmic ray balloons. Klass said, “Yes, the same type of balloons as used for that. And they flew at such very high altitudes – 100,000 feet or more – that they could not be shot down by ordinary fighter planes of that day. Of course this was a classified program, but what is [emphasis in original] a matter of record – and you can check on this – is that not all of those balloons made it to Japan. They developed leaks or came down for various reasons, and they came down in Russia and the Russians complained about ‘spy balloons’ in the United Nations. There are accounts in the New York Times about this. The U.S. delegate at the U.N. simply said that these were not spy balloons but scientific research balloons. So the CIA’s interest in flying saucers had nothing to do with the idea they were spaceships from another world; the possibility that they were Russian spy balloons similar to ours was what concerned them.”

Well, that might not be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but there is some truth in there. The Japanese, during the Second World War had succeeded in launching some 200 to 300 attacks on the United States using “balloon bombs.” Six people were killed in these attacks, and some forest fires were set, but given they had launched some 9000 of the balloon bombs, the results were small and the damage done was of little consequence. The tragedy was the deaths of the six people… which given the destruction rained down on England, Germany and Japan during the war pales in comparison.

Anyway, the timing seems to suggest that the balloon explanation offered here is a little more enthusiastic than the data warrant. But what is really interesting was that Klass was floating [pun intended] the idea of balloons before it was fashionable. Kind of like the old adage, “Let’s just send up a trial balloon ….”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Vetting the UFO Field

Almost from the point that civilian UFO investigations began, there has been an expressed desire to find evidence of alien visitation. The mere fact that these organizations were looking toward the extraterrestrial does not negate the research they have done. Often scientists have an opinion of how an experiment will conclude, which is one of the reasons for double blind tests. But the gathering of information can be done without the bias of the investigators getting in the way of collecting the data. It is only when data are ignored that the problem arises.

Sort of the corollary to this is the lack of vetting of the witnesses and the information. In the world today it is very easy to check the claimed credentials or backgrounds of witnesses. And too often when the checks fail to produce the verification, then the government is blamed for destroying records to make the witnesses look bad… not creditable.

There are dozens of examples of this. Take Robert Willingham who claimed to have been at the scene of a UFO crash in 1948… or rather in the first, published version of his tale he claimed that. Later it became 1950, which he blamed on a UFO researcher, probably justifiably, and finally in the middle of the 1950s, which he said was the correct date. He claimed to be an Air Force fighter pilot and a retired colonel. Neither of those claims could be verified by military records.

What many people don’t understand is that when someone claims a military career, there is vast documentation for it, from the DD 214, which is a document given to everyone when he or she leaves active duty, to copies of orders, copies of awards and decorations, travel vouchers, photographs and a hundred other pieces of paper to prove the point. Those who are fudging their military service will simply not have those documents, and an investigator will not be able to verify the claim.

When I attempted to verify the validity of the few documents Willingham had supplied, I was unable to do it. In fact, I learned that these documents had been submitted to various authorities for verification by others investigating Willingham’s claims. They were told, and I was told, that the documents had been forged. Rather than accepting this evidence, the investigators accused me of “circling the wagons” and refusing to listen. They didn’t seem to understand that the facts were on my side, but they’d rather believe the guy talking about the UFO crash than the evidence of his fabrication of that event.

This is simply one example of someone who has been caught in embellishing a military career, and thrusting himself into the center of a UFO case… I say himself rather than theirselves, because the vast majority of those doing this are male.

This isn’t limited to witnesses either. Take, as an example, the Spitzbergen Island UFO crash in 1952. This has been proven to be a hoax time and again. The original story was evidentially traced to a newspaper article in Germany and that was about a Soviet-made craft that had crashed. This evolved into a UFO, but it is clear that it never happened, and even if it had, it was a Soviet-made device and not something extraterrestrial.

But here were are in 2013, this case from 1952, is still defended and still used in various reports of UFO crashes. It is used as evidence that the US government is hiding UFO information, but the case is a hoax. It proves nothing about what the US government might be doing or that alien creatures have visited Earth. The origins seem to have been lost to most of those doing research. Once they have what they consider the basic facts, they no longer pursue the information to its ultimate conclusion.

In fact, as mentioned in an earlier post, it is all too often assumed that other researchers have done the original research. I was looking for any UFO reports published in 1947, prior to Kenneth Arnold, that mentioned disk-shaped craft. One that was cited in some of the most credible UFO publications, was of a UFO sighting from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on June 23, 1947. As noted in that earlier post, it was a sighting actually made in Illinois allegedly on the same day as the Arnold sighting but it was not reported until after Arnold.

The point here is that we wish to elevate UFO research from the swamp we find it in to something that is respected, but we never reject a sighting or witness, even when the evidence is stacked against them. There are those who still endorse the Santilli alien autopsy hoax in the face of overwhelming evidence that Santilli and his friends created it… even though Santilli has said that part of it is a hoax… even though the men involved in creating the alien bodies have demonstrated how it was done… even though the cameraman was never identified, there are those that still argue for its authenticity. How do we make any progress with that sort of attitude?

Oh, it’s not limited to the alien side of the fence. Philip Klass made up solutions and attacked those whose opinions differed from his. We’ve already demonstrated this more than once, but there are those who accept what he claimed without question. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he did solve some sightings and he did provide some good information, but there were times that he was way outside the box but no one dragged him back into it. The skeptics continue to defend some of his practices even when it is demonstrated that he had missed the boat.

Charles Moore, he of Mogul fame, is given a pass by those who believe a balloon fell at Roswell. Evidence that he was less than candid on some of what he claimed is ignored because his solution does away with an alien craft. Never mind that Dr. Crary’s diary tells us there was no full array launch, and never mind that he does describe exactly what was sent aloft (a cluster of balloons with a sonobuoy and not a full array) they will insist that the cluster was Flight No. 4. They simply will not look at the documentation against it. In fact, one skeptic denigrated the 50 year old diary. Let’s ignore the written word from the time if it does not conform to our world view.

There are times when you just have to sit on information. We need a chance to validate it before making it public which is sort of an ancillary point here. Premature release can jeopardize research that is underway. We need the chance to complete the work before commenting on it publically.  If we can’t validate it, well, then, we should make that public as well but not until we are sure of the facts. All the information about a specific event should eventually be published, but sometimes it is just too early. Sometimes you need to wait until you know everything about a case. Once you have found the truth, then you should make all the facts public.

We need to raise the quality of our research, regardless of the side we fall on, and we need to accept conclusions that are based on the evidence available and not our opinions of how things should be. We can no longer argue about those cases that are solved and we can no longer accept the solution if it does not fit the facts. We need to elevate our standards and we must follow the evidence. If we can reach that level, then we have made it about halfway to solving the problem.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Citizen Hearing and the USS Helm

There was another aspect to the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure that was more personal than anything else. I looked at it as an opportunity to engage in some first-hand research. I could talk to some of the people who had witnessed UFO sightings and UFO events and get their perspective without those perspectives being filtered through another research or writer. I could learn if their stories had been distorted by others. I could learn, personally, what they had to say.

NARA in College Park
One of the things I wanted to do was visit the National Archives in College Park because I had learned that the deck logs of the USS Helm were kept there. Paul C. Cerny and Robert Neville, two UFO investigators with the Mutual UFO Network, reported in the July 1983 issue of the MUFON UFO Journal that a sailor with the fleet off Guadalcanal in August 1942 said a disk-shaped object circled overhead. According to them, “…a chief at the time aboard the U.S.S. Helm… had an excellent observation of an incredible encounter with an unknown, unidentified intruder. At 10:00 a.m. the fleet received a radar report from one of the cruisers and a little later a visual sighting of the object was made from their destroyer.”
Inside the National Archives
The sighting, according to the unidentified source, said that the initial contact had been by radar. The object was then seen by the sailors of the fleet, as it approached. Because it was not coming from the correct direction, known then as the radio beam according to the witness, the object was assumed to be hostile. When it was still over a mile away, the fleet opened fire.

According to Cerny and Neville, “The unknown then made a sharp right turn and headed south from an approach heading of 320 degrees. The UFO increased its speed and then circled the entire fleet.”
The witness, who unfortunately refused to let his name be used, said that he had a pair of 7 x 50 binoculars so that he had a chance to see the object quite well. According to him, it was fairly flat, silver in color, with a slight dome in the center of the top.

Having circled the fleet, the object departed to the south. It had been taken under fire but the speed seemed to make it difficult to hit. If it had been struck by any of the antiaircraft fire, it showed no adverse effects to that.
There were two dates given for the event in the original article. The first was August 5, 1942, just prior to the Marine landing on Guadalcanal, and the second as either October 9 or 10, 1942.

I now have the deck logs for the dates given, and while they are interesting, which is to say they are a little slice of history, they are also boring. Every entry begins with “Steaming as before,” and they provide the routine matters of the ship’s operation. If something unusual happens, it is logged such as an event on October 10, 1942. The log said, “1930 [7:30 p.m.] stopped to identify small boat.”
I know that during a gunnery practice on October 10, they fired 330 rounds from 20 mm machine guns at an airborne target sleeve.

But I also know that on those dates in October, the USS Helm was not with the invasion fleet, but was operating off Palm Island, near close to Australia. They took on passengers from the sea plane base there and moved them to Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
So, on the days that the unidentified sailor suggested they had been “buzzed” by a disk-shaped object, the USS Helm was engaged in routine activities. There is nothing to suggest that they fired on a target, an unidentified “enemy” aircraft, or anything else. The only day they apparently fired their weapons (on the three mentioned) was October 10 for gunnery practice.

And no, I do not believe that the CIA or the Air Force got to the deck logs and altered them to remove the sighting. During 1942 anything like this would have been thought of as enemy action. In 1942 no additional excitement would have been attributed to it, and with, literally, hundreds of ships engaged in the war, and tens of thousands of sailors fighting that war, no additional attention would have been brought. By the time the war ended, nearly everyone would have forgotten about a minor shooting incident during the invasion of Guadalcanal.
Here are the conclusions that can be drawn from this:

a. Without the name of the sailor, there is a real problem with the validity of the incident. There is no way to check his background to ensure he was assigned to the USS Helm at the proper time.
b. The deck logs (or rather the pages I have) of the ship do not provide any corroboration for the tale, though had it happened, this is the sort of thing that would have been logged.
c. Even though the deck logs on the dates given by the witness do not corroborate his tale, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t get the date wrong. The article in the MUFON UFO Journal gives three dates. I didn’t have the ability to look through the whole deck log, which means that someone should do that, just to be sure.
d. For the October dates, the USS Helm was just off the coast of Australia, which doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have engaged an enemy aircraft if one had been spotted. Of course, if the object was an alien spacecraft, the location of the sighting, meaning close to Australia, doesn’t eliminate it.

All this means to me is that one more case of a disk-shaped object seen prior to Arnold has not been verified. Had the deck logs mentioned the incident, then we would have documentation for the sighting prior to Arnold. Without that corroboration we have another sighting reported after Arnold that allegedly happened prior to Arnold.
At any rate, this provides a little bit of an update for the sighting as first reported, but it still has not been conclusively eliminated. To do that, meaning to ensure that we haven’t overlooked something, a careful study of the USS Helm’s deck logs for August, September and October, 1942 should be made. It is always possible the witness got the date wrong… though I suspect that is not the case.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Evidence and the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure

I am surprised by one of the criticisms offered about the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure and that is that no “real” evidence was presented. It was only testimony from those who had participated in the events and in the world today, or rather in the world of the UFO today, testimony from witnesses has been reduced to being of no value. Makes you wonder about all that testimony being taken on Capitol Hill in the IRS scandal (as a single example), or in various other arenas today. Why even talk to those who were there or participated in the events because it isn’t evidence?

Well, of course, that is a simplistic view.

The White House because I had the picture.
In law it can be said that testimony is evidence, and not just that provided by experts. Rule 701 seems to be the guiding force here, and I confess that not being trained as an attorney I might have slipped off the rails. However, in law, it seems that a witness may offer evidence, testimony, if the witness is not testifying as an expert and that the testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is rationally based on the witness’s perception, helpful to clearly understanding the witness’s testimony or to determining a fact in issue and not based on scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702, which is guidance for expert testimony.

Or, in other words, testimony is a form of evidence, at least in the arena of law, which makes the testimony of those witnesses in front of the Citizen Hearing committee a form of evidence. I will grant you that it is not the best evidence, and it might not be convincing evidence, but it was, in fact evidence, in the eyes of the law.

We can slip into the arena of science here as well. Empirical observation is considered evidence. Empirical evidence is defined simply as information that is acquired by observation or experimentation. Of course those observations or experiments are later analyzed by scientists, but the observations can be made by anyone. So, the witnesses at the Citizen Hearing did provide evidence as empirical observations. “This is what I saw.”

Granted, those with training can analyze those statements and those observations later and provide information about what was seen. The interpretation of the observations is what becomes the question and not the observations themselves (well not entirely).

Again, to me, this says that the testimony was a form of evidence… and in both the law and science, that testimony is then interpreted by those who have some sort of specialized training, expertise, or technical knowledge.

But this is an argument over semantics and I think we all agree that testimony is often badly flawed, open to the interpretations of those giving it, especially after mere weeks have passed, and could be the result of ambiguous stimuli that is filtered through the witness’ own belief structure.

But that wasn’t the only evidence offered at the Hearing. There was documentation. We’ve already talked about the government documents from the Department of Defense that confirms that a Peruvian pilot fired at a UFO. This doesn’t prove that he shot at an alien spacecraft, only that the event took place.

The discussion one afternoon degenerated into questions about the end of Project Blue Book. Nearly everyone was unclear as to the reason for the demise of that study, though they did mention the role that the Condon Committee had in it. I provided some documentation that suggested that it was all a set up. The Air Force wanted out of the UFO investigation business and that was one of the things that the Condon Committee was to accomplish.

The Hippler Letter, discussed here before, gave the instructions to the Condon Committee, and Robert Low of that organization wrote back to say that he understood. That too is a form of evidence. It is documentation.

John Callahan
Finally, there was John Callahan, he of JAL 1628 fame. Not only did he talk about the investigation he had conducted into the incident, he brought the documentation with him including the radar records, transcripts of the aerial conversations, and a recreation of the event using the radar and audio records. The documentation, which included that recorded through instrumentality, was available at the Hearing. Multiple chains of evidence, one supporting the other, each gathered independently.

The point here is not to argue about alien visitation, which is one conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence, but to argue there was evidence beyond the testimony offered. There was documentation, radar traces, and photographs. There were several forms of evidence available to the committee.

For those with an open mind, then there was some very interesting evidence offered. But it was only evidence that something strange is going on and that many of the solutions offered do not fit all the facts, but as I say, it doesn’t take us directly to the extraterrestrial, only that something has happened.