What Radar Tells About Flying Saucers by Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe
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What Radar Tells About Flying Saucers
Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe
December 1952 issue of True (The Man's Magazine).
The article on page 25 is titled "What radar tells about flying saucers."
U.S. Air Force and civilian radar experts know enough about temperature
inversion to be sure that it doesn't explain the strange objects they've
seen on their scopes in Washington, and in other places. And the official
Air Force gun-camera photos reproduced here for the first time back them up.
by Donald E. Keyhoe
In a new investigation of the flying saucers, TRUE magazine has secured Air
Force confirmation of these important facts:
1. Since 1947, hundreds of unidentified aerial objects have been tracked by
radar operators of the Air Force, Navy and civil Aeronautics Administration.
2. More than 300 times, Air force interceptor planes have chased mysterious
lights and unidentified objects revealed by radarscopes.
3. Strange round objects have shown on interceptors' gun-camera pictures and
on photographs taken from the ground at a missle-testing range.
4. The "temperature inversion" or "mirage" answer to radar sightings widely
publicized by Dr. Donald H. Menzel of Harvard has failed to satisfy Air
Force investigators because he has not attempted to explain any specific
"saucer" cases in official files.
In December 1949, when an Air Force statement said saucer reports were
hoaxes, hallucinations, or mistaken observations of normal objects, the case
lists of "Project Saucer" included several puzzling radar reports. At that
time, however, most Air Force officials believed they were errors of
interpretation due to weather phenomena. Even during the past year, with
radar reports rapidly increasing, some Air Force officers still believed
these disturbing cases were caused by temperature inversion.
Accumulated evidence, revealed in this article, now proves that very few of
the reports can thus be explained. As a result, many baffling "saucer" cases
investigated by the Air Technical Intelligence Command are still listed as
The most recent of these mystifying incidents was reported from Congaree Air
Base near Columbia, South Carolina, as this was being written. On August 20,
1952, radar operators at a nearby interceptor post were watching their scope
when a strange "blip" appeared at an indicated range of 60 miles southeast.
Evidently the object shown was very fast-moving, for within less than a
minute each successive sweep of the beam renewed the blip in a different
position, producing a row of widely spaced spots on the phosphor-coated
glass in a track that ran off the scope. Dumbfounded, the men hurriedly
computed the speed.It was more than 4,000 miles per hour.
The operators realized that to flash an alarm was useless. Moving at 70
miles a minute, the mysterious object would be 200 miles away before a jet
interceptor could take off.
When I checked on this case, the Air Force made no attempt to gloss over the
facts. The operators were experts, trained to recognize the blips of solid
objects. The radar was working correctly. Something streaked through the
skies that morning, but the Air Technical Intelligence Command frankly
admits it has no explanation.
There are other unexplained Air Force cases almost as incredible, such as
the tracking of an unidentified object at 1,7000 m.p.h. near Kirksville,
Missouri, and vain pursuits by jets at Dayton and St. Paul. (These and other
important cases released to TRUE by the Air Force will be discussed in
Not until last July, when unidentified lighted objects were seen at
Washington Airport, did the general public learn that radar was tracking the
saucers. Later, conflicting news stories gave many the impression that the
Air Force had "debunked" all saucer reports and had no further interest.
Major General Roger S. Ramey, Director of Operations, made the Air Force
position clear in the following statement for TRUE:
"The Air Force, in compliance with its mission of air defense of the United
States, must assume responsibility for investigation of any object or
phenomena in the air over the United States. Fighter units have been
instructed to investigate any object observed or established as existing by
radar tracks, and to intercept any air-borne identified as hostile or
showing hostile interest. This should not be interpreted to mean that
air-defense pilots have been instructed to fire haphazardly on anything that
The Air Force attitude was amplified for me by another spokesman in this
"We don't know what these things are and there's no use in pretending we do.
We can't discount entirely that they may come from another planet, though we
have no evidence to support it. We have found no threat to this country -
there is not the slightest evidence that they come from a foreign nation -
but until we know the answers we shall carry on a serious investigation."
Unfortunately, public confidence in radar has been badly shaken. Many
Americans still believe that the Washington radarmen, veteran air-traffic
controllers, were tricked by atmospheric conditions. The same cause was said
to have created mirage lights in the sky, deceiving airline and jet pilots,
control-tower men, and other trained and experienced observers.
If this were so, serious problems in air-traffic control would certainly
have to be solved. But the true story behind the Washington sightings has
never been told until now. To get that story, I spent considerable time at
the Airway Traffic Control Center at Washington Arport. I talked with the
controllers who saw the strange blips and also with outside radar experts,
Weather Bureau officials and radio astronomers. The final answer is
startling in its implications.
The action began at 12:40 a.m. on the night of July 20. At midnight, eight
air-traffic controllers, headed by Harry G. Barnes, took over the watch at
the Washington Center. The night was clear, traffic was light, and the men
settled down for a routine watch.
"Air Force radarmen learn to identify all normal phenomena."
To understand the queer events that followed, you must first have a clear
picture of the Center's operations. The Center is located entirely apart
from the airport tower, which directs take-offs and landings and close-in
traffic. The radar room of the Center is a long, dimly lit chamber, darkened
so scopes can be easily read. Its radar equipment, by which controllers have
guided thousands of air-liners through fog and storms, is an M.E.W.
(Microwave Early Warning) type similar to the sets used by the air-defense
On a nearby hill, a huge parabolic antenna, rotating six times per minute,
transmits a narrow radio beam which swings around the horizon. When the beam
strikes a plane, an "echo" or "return" is reflected back. Amplified, this
appears as a small spot or "blip" on the face of a cathoderay scope. The
Center's main scope, 24 inches in diameter, has a pale lavender glow.
Traveling around the glass, like a glowing clock hand, is a purplish streak
called the "sweep" which shows the direction of the moving radio beam.
As the echo comes back from a cruising airliner, a small round violet blip
appears on the scope. At that spot, the phosphor coating of the glass
maintains, a diminishing glow. Every ten seconds, a new blip appears,
showing the plane's changed position. The glass retains seven blips before
the first one fades out. From the position of the blips and the space
between them, the plane's course and speed can be seen at a glance, also its
location, distance and compass bearing.
Besides the main scope, which is adjusted to show traffic within a 34-mile
radius - a 68-mile circle - the Center operates two smaller console scopes
which show the transmitter's full range of 105 miles, or a circle 210 miles
Radarscopes show other things than planes in the sky - irregular blobs are
reflected from thunderstorms, thin spotty blips from flocks of birds,
spreading blotches caused by rain or snow clouds.
Very high-frequency radar sets can pick up even cobwebs or clouds of nearby
insects. But these do not appear on the M.E.W. scope, nor would their echoes
resemble the clear, sharp blip of a plane. There are two known things which
can cause somewhat similar echoes - balloons especially equipped with large
panels of metal for radar tracking, and "chaff" or "window," which are
strips of aluminum foil dropped by military planes to jam radar sets. The
presence of either is indicated by their drift at the speed of the wind.
Strips of chaff, usually dumped by the hundreds, cause heavy returns which
trained radarmen can easily recognize. In addition, chaff falls to the
ground, so that its blips soon disappear.
CLICK here for larger image.
Hovering object that was scanned by radar and seen by ground watchers
was caught on film by a climbing jet pilot. These unretouched 35 mm.
gun-camera movie frames, released to TRUE by the Air Force,
were taken at 30,000 feet, near Wright Field, at 11 a.m. on August 20, 1952.
On the night of July 20, none of these things were involved, as an Air Force
check has proved. The scope was clear of any strange objects until 12:40. At
that moment, seven round blips, like those of planes, suddenly appeared in
the southwest quadrant. Since no group of planes - military or civilian -
was due to arrive, the Control Center men were immediately concerned. Harry
Barnes, the senior controller, tracked the unknown visitors at 100-130
m.p.h. - a speed oddly low compared with their swift appearance.
Barnes quickly checked the consoles; both scopes showed the strange blips.
He called in radar technicians; they found no flaw in the set or antenna.
Worried, though the low speeds didn't indicate Soviet bombers, he called the
Washington Airport tower. To handle local traffic, the tower has a separate
set, an A.S.R. (Airport Surveillance Radar) with a 30-mile range.
Tower operators Howard Cocklin and Joe Zacko both reported the strange blips
on their scope, and in the same position. So did Air Force radarmen at
Andrews Air Force Base, which uses an A.S.R. set. Not only that, visual
observers at both points could see mysterious lights moving in the sky.
Flashing word to Air Defense, Barnes turned back to the scope. The unknown
visitors had separated, were now over Washington, two near the White House,
one close to the Capitol.
A few minutes later, the controllers bending over the scope got a new jolt.
One blip track showed an abrupt 90-degree turn, something no plane could do.
As the sweep came around, another of the strange objects suddenly reversed -
its new blip "blossoming" on top of the one it had previously made. The
unknown craft, or whatever it was, had stopped dead from over 100 m.p.h.,
then completely reversed direction - all in about five seconds.
"Then we noticed another strange thing," Barnes told me later. "Some blips
suddenly disappeared, between sweeps. I couldn't explain it, until Jim
Ritchey called 'Casey' Pierman to check on one group of the things." Captain
Pierman, flying a Capital airliner, had just taken off from Washington. In a
few moments he radioed back that he saw a bright light where the scope
showed one of the objects. At the very instant he called the Center, the
object raced off at terrific speed.
"It was almost as if whatever controlled it had heard us, or had seen
Pierman head toward it," said Barnes. "He said it vanished from sight in
three to five seconds. But here's the important point: at that very moment,
the blip disappeared from the scope.
"That means it must have raced out of our beam between ten-second sweeps. It
could have done this in one of two ways: First, it could make a steep climb
at terrific speed, so that in ten seconds it would be above the vertical
area swept by our M.E.W. set. [The beam's average altitude, at its highest
point, is from 35,000 to 40,000 feet, far out, but it is much less near the
airport. At 30 miles, it is about 8,500 feet, sloping to 1,200 at three
miles.] Second, it could race horizontally off our 34-mile scope within ten
Considering the objects' relative position, just before they vanished, this
last would require a speed of from 5,000 to 7,000 m.p.h. At the time, this
seemed unbelievable to Barnes and the other controllers. But Captain Pierman
later confirmed the objects' tremendous speed.
"They'd go up and down at terrific speed, or streak off and disappear.
Between Washington and Martinsburg, we saw six of these fast-moving lights.
[Control Center radar showed them at the same position.] I don't know what
they were, but they weren't shooting stars."
"Saucer spots played among markers used by controllers to
direct airliners on Washington traffic-center radarscope."
Another confirmation of the visitors' incredible speed came later that
night, from the Washington tower. Operator Joe Zacko had been watching the
A.S.R. scope when one of the mystery objects abruptly appeared just west of
Andrews Field. Unlike the slower M.E.W., the A.S.R., with its 28-r.p.m.
antenna, can track extremely high speeds. As Zacko watched, fascinated, the
blips made a bright streak or trail, heading north-northeast toward
Riverdale. Then the trail ended as swiftly as it had come.
Howard Cocklin, hastily called over by Zacko, also saw the bright trail.
Together they figured the object's speed from its trace.
It had been making two miles per second - 7,200 m.p.h.
"It was as if it had descended rapidly, almost vertically," Cocklin told me
later. "That would bring it suddenly into the A.S.R. beam area. It seemed to
level off for those few seconds, and then abruptly ascend out of the beam
Barnes and his men saw another significant maneuver that night. When they
vectored a pilot toward one of the lighted objects, the strange blip
disappeared. Then in a few seconds it reappeared behind the plane. Barnes
commented, "If it was the same one - and I think it was - that was another
of those high-speed vanishing acts between sweeps."
(The same maneuver was reported from Kirkland Air Force Base, New Mexico, on
July 29. On this occasion a mysterious disk - sighted by numerous ground
observers - was seen to whip around at terrific speed behind jet planes sent
up to intercept it.)
Below is an enlargement of the diagram made from
a controller's original sketch. I have cleaned it up
purely to make it easier to read. I have not changed
anything other than contrast and brightness after scanning it.
"From a controller's original sketch, some saucer movements
July 20 on Washington
radarscope are diagrammed above.
At A, seven blips appeared suddenly. Two moved (B) near White House, one
At C, one fled a north-westbound airliner (indicated by row of blips).
Later (D) ten flocked at Andrews Field.
E illustrates a saucer's right-angle turn compared with curving turn of
At 3 a.m., two Air Force jets, brought in from another mission, roared down
over Washington. Just before they arrived, all the strange blips left the
scope. Coincidence or not, as soon as the jets headed back for their base,
the visitors reappeared and again swarmed over Washington. One,
simultaneously plotted by the Center, Andrews Field, and the Washington
tower, followed an airliner to within four miles of the airport, as the
pilot watched its light. At one time, ten of the "saucers" were over Andrews
Field, then at daybreak they were gone.
The shaken controllers, for the most part, agreed they had tracked solid
objects capable of fantastic maneuvers.
"I'm positive they were guided by some intelligence," Barnes has since told
me. "If no planes were in the air, the things would fly over the most likely
points of interest - Andrews Field, the aircraft plant at Riverdale, the
Monument, or the Capitol. One or two circled our radio beacons. But as soon
as an airliner took off, several would dart across and start to follow, as
if to look it over."
On July 26, in the early evening, an eerie red-lighted object flashed over
Key West, Florida. A destroyer-escort quickly put to sea, and the Navy
announced it would try to find the answer. Then official silence fell.
That same evening at 9:08 p.m., the Washington Center, still jittery, had
another call from its unknown visitors. Again, the control tower and Andrews
Field radar confirmed the blips. As before, the mystery objects hovered,
made sharp turns, reversed, and vanished from scopes. Pilots, too, and
ground observers watched the lights race off.
Of four pilots who saw the fast-moving lights, one was flying a jet
interceptor. This pilot, Lieutenant William L. Patterson, on seeing four
lights, went after one at full throttle.
"I was at my top speed," he said on landing, "but I couldn't close in." His
plane's maximum speed was better than 600 m.p.h.
When the story of these weird events broke, combined with full details of
the July 20 sightings, the Air Force was flooded with demands for an
explanation. Reluctantly, since Air Technical Intelligence at Dayton had not
even begun its evaluation, Air Force officials in Washington released a
public statement: since some radar reports were due to temperature
inversion, this might explain the Washington sightings, including the odd
Until then, few people except scientists, radarmen and Weather Bureau
experts had ever heard of inversions. In itself, a temperature inversion is
a simple effect.
Ordinarily, air gets colder as the altitude increases, but under certain
conditions there may be layers of warm air with cooler air underneath. Such
inversions are common on the desert. At night, or when clouds suddenly
shadow the hot ground, the surface quickly cools off. Air in contact with
the ground also cools fairly quickly, but above this there is still a warm
layer, its height and thickness varying with conditions. On top of this warm
layer, the air becomes cool again, increasingly with altitude.
Since light moves slower in a denser medium, its rays are refracted, or
bent, as they pass from the warm to cold air. It is this which causes "lake"
mirages on deserts, or a watery sheen that appears ahead as you drive on a
heated road. In both these cases, the hot-cold layer refracts light waves
from above the horizon, and these "bent" waves are simply reflecting the
A spoon in a glass of water also illustrates the principle of refraction.
Seen from a certain angle, the spoon appears to be bent sharply - a result
of the different temperatures.
According to Dr. Donald H. Menzel, of Harvard University, this effect
explains many flying saucers, both the lights and radar blips. It is
Menzel's belief that observers have merely seen reflections, either of
ground lights - or of stars, the moon, or the sun. In the same way, he says,
radar "saucers" are simply ground objects picked up by deflected radar beams
and shown on scopes as strange blips.
The apparent high speed and violent maneuvers, he explains, can be caused by
reflections of moving objects, such as cars and trains, or by turbulence in
the inversion. In the latter case, the light or radar waves, striking
agitated air, reflect unevenly, creating false effects of motion even from
At first glance, this would seem to explain not only the Washington reports,
but all the simultaneous radar-and-light sightings. When word of this answer
reached Washington Airport, the controllers and radar engineers were
"Every man in here knows temperature-inversion effects," said Barnes. "When
an inversion is big enough, it picks up all sorts of 'ground clutter' -
water tanks, buildings, bridges, shore lines and so on. But anybody can
recognize it - you'll see huge purplish blobs, but nothing like those blips
we tracked. And in the six years I've watched these scopes, absolutely
nothing - high-speed jets, storms, inversions, or anything else - has ever
caused echoes that maneuvered like that, and we have had identical weather
conditions many times."
Every controller and technician backed him up.
"Besides that," Chief Engineer J. L. McGivern told me, "there was no ground
clutter either time, except the big blotch we always have at the center of
the scope, where the bottom of the beam picks up the airport buildings."
At the Weather Bureau, I found the same answer. Vaughn D. Rockne, senior
radar specialist, who is familiar with inversion effects, had never seen or
heard of such blips as were tracked on the two nights in question.
Dr. John Hagin, the leading radio astronomer at the Naval Research
Laboratory went even further.
"Even with an extreme inversion," Dr. Hagin told me, "conditions would have
to be very, very unusual to cause such effects. In my opinion, the
pinpointing of blips by three radar stations, and simultaneous sighting of
lights at the same points, would make it impossible."
"How much of an inversion - what temperature change would be needed?" I
"Ten degrees Farenheit at the very least. Probably much higer."
As a final step, I asked the Air Force to select a radar expert to present
the official opinion. The officer chosen was Major Lewis S. Norman, Jr., of
the Aircraft Control and Warning Branch, who had made a special study of
"Turbulence in an inversion layer absolutely is necessary to get the effect
of high speed and fantastic maneuvers," Major Norman told me. "It can result
from up or down drafts, or such 'burbles' may be caused by heated air from
"At a minimum, how much temperature inversion would it take?" I asked.
"On the centigrade scale, between 5 and 10 degrees. If you used the
Fahrenheit scale, it would take an inversion between 9 and 18."
Now I was sure of the truth. But to be doubly certain, I rechecked Weather
On the first night, the inversion had been 1 degree Fahrenheit. The second
night it had been almost equally negligible - barely 2 degrees.
Here was positive proof. Temperature inversion could not possibly explain
the Washington "saucer" cases.
Suddenly, as I recalled the words of the Naval Research experts, the
hundreds of Air Force radar reports took on dramatic meaning. The rare
conditions required to produce moving lights and blips certainly could not
have existed in more than a few of these cases. There must be a large number
still officially unexplained.
Going back to the Air Force, I asked two point-blank questions. Had Dr.
Menzel ever been asked by the Air Force to determine if his theory would
explain specific "saucer" cases? If so, what were the results?
Here are the Air Force answers:
1. Dr. Menzel had been invited to apply his theory to cases on record.
2. He had not attempted to explain any specific occurrences.
Following this, I asked the Air Force for typical reports and conclusions,
from 1948 up to date.
One of the first cases, involving three separate incidents, took place in
Labrador, at Goose Bay Air Force Base. About 3 a.m. on October 29, 1948, an
unidentified object in slow level flight was tracked by tower radarmen. Two
days later, the same thing happened again. But the following night, on
November 1, radarmen got a jolt. Some strange object making 600 m.p.h. was
tracked for four minutes before it raced off on a southwest course.
At the time, weather conditions were considered as a possible answer. But in
the light of the new temperature-inversion revelations, this obviously must
be ruled out.
On November 6, the same year, Air Force operators in Japan tracked two
strangely maneuvering objects for sixty-five minutes. On the scope, they
appeared like two planes dogfighting, but no fighters were in the area. This
case is stll unsolved.
On the night of November 23, 1948, an F-80 pilot flying near
Furstenfeldbruck, Germany, sighted a circling red light. About the same
moment, the object was picked up by an Air Force ground radar station. It
was tracked as flying in circles at 27,000 feet, the same altitude at which
the pilot encountered it. Because of his own maneuvers, he could only guess
at its speed - somewhere between 200 and 500 m.p.h.
As the F-80 drew nearer, the object swiftly climbed up out of the pilot's
sight. But before it went off the scope, operators tracked it to 40,000
feet. This case is also unexplained.
On February 22, 1950, Naval officers at Key West reported that two glowing
objects had been tracked by radarmen as they streaked above the air station.
They were also seen by pilots and ground men, flying at a height too great
for attempted pursuit.
Over a year later, on July 14, 1951, two strange objects were sighted above
White Sands as Air Force and other observers watched a guided-missle test.
An optical tracker, using a 20-power monocular telescope, spotted one of the
large objects near a B-29. Its presence was confirmed by two radar operators
who tracked it at jet-plane speed. Pictures taken on 35-mm. film are said to
show an oval-shaped object, too indistinct because of the altitude to reveal
details. At first, a balloon was suggested as an answer, but the "jet speed"
approach shown on radar proves this was impossible. No definite conclusion
has been made by Air Technical Intelligence analysts.
In the light of these earlier reports, the 1952 sightings now seem doubly
On June 19, 1952, a new incident occured at Goose Bay Air Force Base - the
fourth to date. Just after midnight, a weird red light appeared, holding a
southwest course. At the same time, tower radarmen caught it on their scope.
After hovering briefly, at 4,000 feet, the light suddenly turned white. At
about this instant, the blip on the scope "brightened." This effect,
familiar to operators, is seen when a plane banks, the larger surface
exposed to the radar beam causing a sharper return.
Apparently, the unknown device had tilted for a swift maneuver. A second
later, the blip returned to normal size, then vanished from the scope. The
light disappeared at approximately the same moment. (This odd change in
color, before a maneuver or increase in speed, has been described in
numerous other cases.)
An even more puzzling incident was the Kirksville, Missouri, affair of July
13. It was 9 p.m. when Air Force radarmen picked up an unknown object, its
blip indicating a solid device or machine the size of a B-36. Before it
raced off into the night, its speed was tracked at 1,500 knots - over 1,700
m.p.h. Searching for a solution, one officer theorized that a thunderstorm
might have caused the blip, but Washington Center controllers say this is
impossible. To date, the A.T.I.C. has found no explanation.
Week after week, jet fighters are "scrambled" at points around the country
for "saucer" chases. One of these alerts happened near Osceola, Wisconsin,
three nights after the second Washington episode. As in many of these
pursuits, the first reported speeds of the blips contrasted strangely with
the objects' later maneuvers. Most of the blips were dawdling at 60 m.p.h.
until the jets took off. Shortly afterward, one blip's speed jumped over
Reaching 25,000 feet, one pilot spied some rapidly moving lights, a little
east of St. Paul. At the same time, they were sighted by a trained Civil
Defense skywatch observer, just before they disappeared.
A meteor shower was first considered a possible explanation. It is true that
meteors can be tracked by radar; this method is now used by several
observatories. But an astronomer at the Naval Observatory, Washington,
quickly ruled out this answer because of the first slow speeds. In addition,
no meteor shower was reported on that night.
Two F-86 pilots had a little better luck in a chase on August 1. At the
time, the press was refused permission to interview the pilots - a rule of
the Air Defense Command. Since then, however, the A.T.I.C. has made details
available for use in this article.
At about 10:45 on the morning of August 1, ground radar at Wright-Patterson
AFB picked up an unidentified object between the base and Bellefontaine,
Ohio. It was also reported by ground witnesses as a mysterious glowing
sphere. The two jet pilots, Major James B. Smith and Lieutenant Donald J.
Hemer, were immediately dispatched to intercept it if possible.
As they reached 30,000 feet, both pilots saw a brightly glowing object
hovering above them. To make certain it was not a ground reflection, they
carefully maneuvered to view it from various angles. The "saucer's"
appearance did not change. Positive it was a solid object, both pilots
switched on their camera-guns, nosed upward and made separate runs for
pictures. Within a few seconds of the planes' maneuver, the "saucer" began
to move off, disappearing at a high rate of speed.
When the pictures were developed, a round shape appeared on both films. But
its speed or distance prevented distinctive details from showing in the
No final conclusion has been made by the A.T.I.C. in this case. That this
might have been a balloon, as suggested, does not stand up, for two reasons.
First, and most important, no balloon can hover, then suddenly race off,
outdistancing fast jets. Second, ordinary weather balloons will not show on
radarscopes; as stated before, it is necessary to attach a metal radar
"target" to reflect the beam. But if ground radarmen had been tracking such
a balloon, there would have been no mystery. All weather-balloon records are
available to the A.T.I.C. and no radar-target balloon was within miles of
The only balloon in the general area was a standard radiosonde type, which
holds a tiny radio transmitting set, and it released thirty minutes before
the pilots' encounter. Weather Bureau experts have informed me it is not
possible to get a radar blip from this type of balloon. Even if it were
possible, there would still be no explanation for the hovering and sudden
burst of speed witnessed by two experienced pilots.
The violet maneuvers and high speeds frequently reported rule out all
balloons - including the Navy's "skyhooks" which were once publicized as the
Every other conventional explanation has been proved false. One, given
shortly after the Washington sightings, was put forth by a chemist named
Noel Scott, who is employed by the Army. Scott announced he had produced
tiny "saucers" of ionized gas in a vacuum-jar experiment at Fort Belvoir. At
the time, Scott announced he had produced tiny "saucers" of ionized gas in a
vacuum-jar experiment at Fort Belvoir. At the time, Scott told Air Force
investigators he had no idea whether the conditions of his experiment were
likely to exist in the atmosphere. To get the answer, I queried Dr. George
Ray Wait, internationally known physicist of Carnegie Institute. Here's what
Dr. Wait told me:
"I know of no conditions in the earth's atmosphere, high or low, that would
duplicate those needed to make the laboratory models at Fort Belvoir."
In regard to unidentified objects observed visually and tracked by radar,
Dr. Wait posed a key question: Are they navigated?
"If the reports of reversals, sharp turns, rapid climbs and descents are
fully confirmed," he said, "no natural phenomena, to my knowledge, would
explain such reports."
The swift acceleration of saucers, confirmed by radar and visual reports,
far exceeds the acceleration of man-made rockets and guided missles. In
addition, no earthly craft can reverse from high speed or make the violent
turns proved by radar tracks.
Some flying-saucer skeptics claim that no solid object, not even a
revolutionary space ship, could maneuver as reported, since it would be
subject to the Earth's laws of gravity, momentum and inertia.
But there is one practical answer. By applying the propulsion force in the
opposite direction, abruptly reversing its thrust, an object might be halted
in a few seconds. On an M.E.W. radarscope, or as seen visually, it would
appear to have stopped almost instantly. After this full-power stop, a
90-degree turn could then be achieved by again changing the thrust.
A G-sled used by the Air Force gives a hint of the possibilities. This
device, driven by rockets down a long track, attains high speed in a few
seconds. Near the end of the track, it is abruptly halted by a powerful
braking system. For an instant, the force acting on an occupant is many
times the effect of gravity. Tests have proved that human pilots, for a
fraction of a second, can take over 45 G's and live.
Perhaps humanlike beings could withstand the G forces of saucer maneuvers if
applied for only a moment. It may be, however, that the objects are remotely
controlled from higher up to avoid repeated exposure to such stresses. In
any event, the maneuvers themselves are explainable by reversing or shifting
the thrust of some radically new type of propulsion.
The increasing evidence from the radar-and-light reports cannot be denied.
It is my opinion, as previously stated in TRUE, that the saucers are devices
from outer space, exploring the Earth just as our government expects some
day to explore other planets.
Though most authorities believe that life, as we know it, is not possible on
Mars or Venus, they do not exclude the possibility that different forms of
life may have developed there. From these neighboring planets, the time
required to reach the earth would be relatively short, with the velocities
now considered attainable.
If the saucers are not from planets of our solar system, then the problem of
the vast distances from other stars' planets may seem insurmountable. But
Einstein's theory of special relativity offers a solution now accepted by
space-travel planners in this country and abroad. Because of the relative
nature of time and space, the elapsed time for a round trip to a distant
point will be less for the travelers than the elapsed time recorded on Earth
when that journey is ended. However, the occupants of the space craft will
be unaware of any difference during their trip; to them, the daily passage
of time, as shown by their clocks, will seem normal.
This distance, or "time-dilatation factor" as it is called, will increase as
a space ship's speed approximates the velocity of light.
Fantastic though it seems, time dilatation has been proved mathematically.
In a recent Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Dr. L.R. Shepherd
gives figures for a specific interstellar voyage. He assumes that a
traveler, X, makes a round trip to the star Procyn, 10.4 light years away,
while an observer, Y, remains on Earth to record the elapsed time here. He
also assumes that, because of the long trip at maximum speed, periods of
acceleration and retardation are negligible.
"Suppose X goes to Procyn and back." says Dr. Sheperd, "with a velocity of
.99c [c equals the velocity of light]. While Y records X's return twenty-one
years later, X is aware only of a passage of three years ....The only
shortcoming would be....that friends whom he left in the bloom of their
youth would be found in their dotage."
This latter effect, however unfortunate, does not alter the basic fact: time
dilatation can greatly shorten interstellar journeys. Nor would trips of
several years daunt human space explorers any more than long sea voyages
daunted Columbus, Magellan and others who left home for extended periods to
explore the globe.
To reach velocities close to that of light would, this scientist points out,
require a source of energy more powerful than any known today - the
wholesale conversion of mass into energy.
The problem is staggering - but so were the problems of splitting the atom.
Races on other planets, with civilizations perhaps thousands of years ahead
of ours, could have found the answer and conquered space long ago.
Some Air Force officers still insist the saucers do not exist. But
regardless of such personal beliefs, the "saucer" investigation will go on.
The growing body of data, it is hoped, may permit some conclusions to be
drawn. So far, statistics aren't particularly helpful. A preliminary
A.T.I.C. analysis of fifty radar reports taken at random from the files show
incidents from land and sea, and speeds between zero and 4.500 m.p.h.; 80%
came from surface-land or ship-based-radar installations, 20% from air-borne
sets, and 35% were confirmed visually. Daytime produced 35% of the
incidents, night 65%. In 60% of the cases, a single object was reported; in
40%, multiple objects. They flew straight paths more often than they
The latest plans of the A.T.I.C. attest to its serious attitude. One hundred
special two-lens cameras which can take simultaneous straight and
spectroscopic photos, through which the saucers' light source may be
analyzed, have been sent to strategic points - air bases, A-bomb plants, and
other spots where the mysterious visitors have frequently been seen. The
reports of airline pilots and other trained observers are to be studied more
carefully than ever before. Even apparent hoaxes will be investigated.
The Air Force is admittedly touchy on one point - the question of
interceptors trying to down the "saucers." General Ramey, reiterating his
previous statement, emphasized:
"No orders have been issued to the Air Defense Command or by the Air Defense
Command to its fighter units to fire on unidentified aerial phenomena."
Unless an object attacks our planes, or is obviously a threat to this
country, the decision is left up to pilots.
In talking with Major Norman, the Air Force radar expert, I learned he had
been an interceptor pilot and had once chased a strange light.
"On an interception like that," I said, "exactly what steps would you take?"
"First, you prepare for combat," he said. "That means your guns are ready in
case you're fixed on. Then I'd ease in close, if I could, for a try with my
camera-guns. But I'd be very cautious, I'll tell you that."
"Suppose you got close," I said, "and saw some strange device. Would you
signal for it to land - maybe fire a burst off to one side?"
He looked at me grimly. "Unless it attacked me, I wouldn't cut loose my
guns - it might be suicide."
"Even if they weren't hostile," another officer told me, "barging in too
close might scare them into attacking."
There is no doubt that many interceptor pilots remember Captain Mantell, who
met his death while chasing a saucer near Godman Field, Kentucky. Though he
was said to have blacked out from lack of oxygen, there is still a lingering
doubt among fliers.
Trying to communicate with the saucers would seem the next logical step. So
far, the Air Force informed me, it has made no such attempt. When I
suggested the idea to Controller Harry Barnes, he looked surprised.
"I was so intent on tracking them, I never thought of trying the radio.
After all, what would you say?"
"How about this? 'You, out there three miles north of the airport; if you
read me, make a right turn.'"
"If it did turn, my hair would probably stand on end." Barnes thought for a
moment. "Maybe I'll try it, at that, if it ever happens again."
From all the hundreds of saucer reports, one fact stands out - there is no
cause for fear. For years, these unknown visitors have been operating
peacefully in our atmosphere. (I do not believe Mantell's plane was
destroyed as a hostile act.) There has been plenty of time, if hostility
were intended, for the intelligence back of the saucers to strike at our
planes and our cities.
It is evident that exploration, and eventually contact, are the purposes
behind the saucers' repeated visits. When that contact comes, it should be
no cause for panic. Meeting intelligent beings who know the secrets of space
should be of profound benefit to everyone on Earth.
It could be the greatest adventure of all time. - Donald E. Keyhoe
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