Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Washington National UFO Sighting Press Conference, Part 7

Please note, as we begin to talk about Major Fournet and Lieutenant Holcomb, who were in the radar room on the second Saturday, they are nowhere to be found at the press conference.

Reporter: You had two experts over there last Saturday night, Major Fournet and
Lieutenant Holcomb, who described themselves as radar technicians and intelligence officers. What was their opinion?

Samford: May I try to make another answer and ask for support or negation, on the quality of the radar operator. I personally don’t feel that is necessarily associated with quality of radar operators because radar operators of great quality are going to be confused by the things which now appear and may appear in radar. The ability to use the radar for the thing it was designed for is, I believe, dependent upon the thing that they see doing a normal act. If it does a normal act, then it becomes identified as the thing that they thought it was and then it pulls itself along through this mass of indication and they say, "That one has normal processes." I think that a description of a GCA landing has some bearing on that in which to get associated with the GCA you have to make a certain number of queries and do a certain number of things and then you become identified through the fact that you obey. If you obey, then you have an identity and you can then be followed with precision. So I wouldn’t like to say that this is a function of inadequate radar operations. I think it’s a thing that can happen to any radar operator. If he sees something in there and says, "That one is neither behaving nor any other normal pattern." What is it? Curiosity stimulus, any other kind of stimulus can result in overemphasis at any particular time on any radar scope. These recently appear to have been much more solid returns than ordinarily classifiable by the arguments that I have just given. Would you address yourself to what I’ve just said.

Reporter: Yes. What do the experts think? That was the question.

Samford: The experts?

Reporter: The ones that saw it last Saturday night. What did they report to you?

Reporter: Two of them saw it in --

Reporter: What did they say?

Samford: They said they made good returns.

Reporter: Did they draw any conclusions as to what they were, whether they were clouds?

Samford: They made good returns and they think that they ought to be followed up.

Reporter: But now you come to the general belief that it was some either heat inversions or some other phenomena without substance.

Samford: The phrase "without substance" bothers me a little.

Reporter: Well, could you --

Samford: -- say what we do think?

Reporter: Yes.

Samford: I think that the highest probability is that these are phenomena associated with the intellectual and scientific interests that we are on the road to learn more about but that there is nothing in them that is associated with material or vehicles or missiles that are directed against the United States.

Reporter: General, you said that -- can you stop that short of the United States, sir, or the menace to the United States?

Samford: Well, that was the -- I think that is the part that I believed. Now, what was it that I would have said otherwise?

Reporter: Well, you said were not associated with vehicles --

Reporter: Materials.

Reporter: Missiles.

Reporter: Period.

Reporter: Material, vehicles, and missiles directed against the United States.

Reporter: The question whether these are hostile or not makes very little difference. What we’re trying to get at is are you eliminating, excluding from consideration a missile, a vehicle, or any other material object that might be flying through the air other than sound or light or some other intangible.

Reporter: Somebody from this planet or some other planet violating our air space.

Samford: The astronomers are our best advisers, of course, in this business of visitors from elsewhere. The astronomers photograph the sky continuously perhaps with the most adequate photography in existence and the complete absence of things which would have to be in their appearance for many days and months to come from somewhere else. It doesn’t cause them to have any enthusiasm whatsoever in thinking about this other side of it.

Reporter: Have any astronomical laboratories reported any sightings whatsoever or any astronomers?

Samford: I don’t recall. Captain Ruppelt, do you know whether we’ve had reports from astronomical laboratories or observatories?

Ruppelt: No, sir. None have ever had any real bearing.

The question as posed and the answer as posed, at this point are misleading. Astronomers had made UFO reports on a number of occasions. Dr. Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto, had made a UFO sighting report to the Air Force. He was not at an observatory at the time, but in his backyard, with his wife, but the real point is that here was a scientist, one with impressive credentials, who had made a UFO report to the Air Force.

More recently, studies have been conducted using professional astronomers and engineers as the subjects. It was reported that these people reported UFOs at a higher rate than the general population. In other words, it would be expected that astronomers, who watch the sky on a regular basis, would see UFOs more frequently that the general population and they did, according to a scientifically reported study.

In fact, because they are familiar with the sky and the astronomical phenomena in it, they would be able to eliminate many of the mundane answers that confuse and confound the general population. Their sightings, normally of longer duration, are not easily explained by the mundane and are, therefore, more likely to be labeled as unidentified.

But there was another point that is generally overlooked. According to Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s survey of his fellow astronomers, most astronomers, in 1952, would not have been inclined to report a UFO sighting. Hynek wrote, "I took the time to talk rather seriously with a few of them, and to acquaint them with the fact that some of the sightings were truly puzzling and not at all easily explainable. Their interest was almost immediately aroused, indicating that their general lethargy is due to lack of information on the subject. And certainly another contributing factor... is their overwhelming fear of publicity. One headline in the nation’s papers to the effect ‘Astronomer Sees Flying Saucer’ would be enough to brand the astronomer as questionable among his colleagues."

So, there is a very real possibility, according to the information available, that astronomers do see UFOs, but they don’t report them with any frequency. Ruppelt had to know that Hynek was conducting the study, even if it had not been completed, and he had to know that, at least, one astronomer had reported a UFO.

To be fair, it must be noted that General Samford might not have had the information, or that it might not have been reported to the Air Force at the highest lever. The general attitude of the Air Force was that if something wasn’t reported to them, it simply didn’t exist.


cda said...

"The general attitude of the AF was that if something was not reported to them it simply didn't exist"

But Ruppelt makes it clear in his book that only some 10 per cent of the sightings in the US were reported to Blue Book. So your statement hardly stands up. Ruppelt knew full well that only a minority of the sightings reached the AF. Samford must also have known this.

I did not realise that Tombaugh had reported his August 1949 UFO to the AF. Where does he say this, and what was the AF explanation of it? More important, did Tombaugh accept the explanation, if there was one?

Astronomical journals contain many sightings of strange objects dating back two centuries or more. Even during Blue Book's existence there were plenty. Whether Ruppelt ever knew of them we cannot say. Hess, Hall, LaPaz, Tombaugh are a mere four among, probably, a dozen or more up to the end of 1952. Even Menzel had a sighting (maybe two)!

Amateur astronomers must have also seen plenty, and of course still do.

KRandle said...


I said nothing about Blue Book here, but can easily prove the point. At the press conference, where were Dewey Fournet, Al Chop and John Holcomb? They were in the radar room for the second round of sightings. Don't you think their contribution would have been valuable... Or was someone afraid they were say something that the Air Force didn't want to hear.

We can look at later sightings. With Levelland, the Air Force condemned Don Keyhoe for claiming there were nine witnesses but the Air Force only interviewed three and claimed there were only three. Seems like the Air Force believed if you didn't talk to them, you didn't exist...

For those interested, there were witnesses in, at least, thirteen different loccations around Levelland, which means Keyhoe had under estimated the numbers and the Air Force criticism, while correct, Keyhoe's number was wrong, it was, in fact, too small.

Tombaugh did not accept the explanation for his sighting... one offered by Menzel. Tombaugh was there and Menzel was not.

cda said...

I know Tombaugh rejected Menzel's explanation for his (Tombaugh's) sighting. But what did the Air Force say about it?
Did they explain it or not, and if they did what was Tombaugh's reaction?

Dave Smith said...

"More recently, studies have been conducted using professional astronomers and engineers as the subjects. It was reported that these people reported UFOs at a higher rate than the general population."

Could someone direct me to this study?