It has been a while since I chased a footnote or two because, frankly, I don’t look for these things. I just stumble across them in my research. But sometimes, someone provides a lead. David Gumina, an Australian, provided the information for this, though it’s not exactly chasing a footnote it comes close.
Gumina wrote that he had been listening to a program that mentioned the Aztec UFO crash and Frank Scully’s book, Behind the Flying Saucers. He wrote, “So I thought I would read Scully’s book to get a better idea of the story. However, getting to the chapter ‘The Air Force Reports’, Scully claims an astronomer by the name of Dr. Walter Lee Moore ‘reported that he personally focused his telescope on several flying disks’.”
Given the lead from Gumina, I, naturally, grabbed my copy of Scully’s book so that I could read exactly what he had written. On page 77 of the hardback edition of Behind the Flying Saucers, Scully wrote:
I take it that Air Materiel Intelligence screens its astronomers [a reference to the hiring of Dr. J. Allen Hynek as Project Sign’s scientific consultant]. Had it found itself saddled with Dr. Walter Lee Moore, astronomer of the University of Louisville, instead of Dr. Hynek of [The] Ohio State University, it might have got a different story about flying saucers. Dr. Moore reported that he personally focused his telescope on several flying disks. They headed straight toward Venus. Venus was nearer to the sun – in its pirogee (sic) [perigee] phase. The day was clear. In fact the planet could have been seen that day during the daytime with the naked eye.
According to Dr. Moore the disks headed straight toward Venus on the return trip. This led him to suspect that as little as we know of what is going on behind those Venusian cloudbanks, Venus is the point of origin of those flying saucers which he saw and those which Kenneth Arnold saw.
But Aero-Medical Laboratory men instead of Dr. Moore were called in by Air Materiel Command Intelligence to needle Arnold’s story. They stated that an object traveling at 1,200 miles per hour would not be visible to the naked eye.
But Arnold didn’t say he looked at them with a naked eye, and the Aero-Medical Laboratory men, who of course were not up there with Arnold, never reported how fast Arnold’s eyes might be at spotting objects twenty-five miles away possibly scooting by him as he jogged along at 200 miles per hour. They never checked on Dr. Moore’s either. In fact as far as I could find, Air Materiel Command Intelligence never evaluate, and, if so, never released Dr. Moore’s report at all.
Gumina followed up on this, searching for the original source of Moore’s report, or rather how Moore got involved in this at all. Moore’s report doesn’t really reflect what Scully had written. Moore was quoted in story that was related to the Mantell incident. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal on January 9, 1948:
But when Dr. Walter Lee Moore, University of Louisville astronomer, focused his telescope by measurements given him by Godman Field officers it was trained straight on the planet Venus.
Dr. Moore said Venus was near the sun at this time and added that “very exceptional atmospheric conditions” could have made it visible to the naked eye during the day.
“If they chased Venus in airplanes,” said Dr. Moore, “they certainly had a long way to go.”
Moore mentioned nothing about seeing any flying disks. He was saying that Venus was at the point in the sky where he focused his telescope and suggesting that the viewing conditions were good enough that pilots could have spotted the planet in the daylight. There was nothing about disks and certainly no suggestion that the mythical disks were aimed at Venus. The statements by Scully seem to lack any understanding of interplanetary flight and that those leaving Earth for another planet don’t aim at where it is, but where it will be.
We also know, today, that the cloud cover on Venus does not hide a tropical planet, but one that has a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead. Given that, we can say that any flying saucers that might have been spotted on Earth didn’t come from Venus.
And, that discussion about what Arnold might have been able to see from his cockpit is also irrelevant. The sentence, “…the Aero-Medical Laboratory men, who of course were not up there with Arnold never reported how fast Arnold’s eyes might be at spotting objects twenty-five miles away possibly scooting by him as he jogged along at 200 miles per hour,” is nonsensical.
Finally, I’m not sure why those at “Air Materiel Intelligence,” which is probably a reference to ATIC and Project Sign, would have needed to discuss anything with Moore. His observations of Venus and its relative brightness adds nothing to the investigation they were conducting, other than corroborate Hynek’s suggestion that Venus would have been bright enough to be seen in the afternoon sky, if someone knew where to look for it.
The point, however, is that Scully took a few basic facts and twisted them around to fit his belief structure. When we get to the original source, we find that he has embellished the account almost to the point that it is unrecognizable. This is just another fine example of the need to get to the original source to learn the truth. Moore’s report is nothing like Scully reported and if he could mangle the story to the point he did, you have to wonder about the accuracy of the rest of his reporting.