Not long ago I got a strange telephone call from a fellow who claimed that he had known William A. Rhodes, the guy who took two UFO pictures on July 7, 1947. He said that he had known Rhodes well and that his expertise extended way beyond his brush with the world of UFOs.
Now I confess that my interest in Rhodes extended to the pictures he took, and the way the object seemed to mirror that being seen around the country at that time, and little else. No, it wasn’t a flying saucer because it wasn’t saucer shaped. It was more of a heel shape that was what Kenneth Arnold had reported when the term "flying saucer" was invented (Arnold drawing on top, Rhodes photograph on bottom). People talked of flying saucers, but the name covered all sorts of objects from circular to cigar shaped to ball shaped and most of anything else.
Rhodes, who claimed to have a Ph.D, but who was unable to produce any document supporting that claim, might not have been the lunatic that some thought. According to what the caller told me, Rhodes held a number of patents and had been working on a "gravity shield."
He said that Rhodes had gone to work for the War Department during World War II, and that had been working on something that either prevented the magnetic mines from detonating or a way of detecting enemy submarines by a means other than sonar.
I knew that the Air Force had written off Rhodes’ photographs as a hoax but the motivation there might have had nothing to do with Rhodes, and more with what the photographs looked like. They seemed to provide a corroboration of the Arnold sighting. Given some of the descriptions of the craft that crashed at Roswell, the photographs might have also shown an object similar to what had fallen there. At any rate, the Air Force was not impressed with either Rhodes or his background.
I did what anyone would do when presented with this sort of dilemma in today’s world; I checked the Internet. I found an article, apparently written by Rhodes defending his degree. He wrote:
Additionally, after being thoroughly investigated by the FBI, I was issued top-secret status. Not even my wife was to know. The creation was a method of neutralizing the earth's magnetic field in ships. Not a single ship or sailor was lost to magnetic mines during the war's remainder. One day, my boss summoned me to his office and explained: "We have a total absence of degree'd doctorates, and having already passed requirements, you have been selected to receive a Ph.D in Physics. The degree would be known by the nickname "90 Day Wonder", and my work would not be disrupted to gain it.
The way this was explained to me was that Rhodes had taken some sort of test for the position he held. Depending on how well you had done, you were assigned work. Some were given work that would have been assigned to those who had the "equivalent" of a MS and some a Ph.D. Rhodes scored high enough for the Ph. D.
Rhodes explained that this evaluation extended beyond his work with the War Department. He wrote:
Working 16 hours daily, seven days a week, my health began failing. The degaussing system was in full production. My resignation was accepted by Commander Bennett from whom I received a letter of regret, and wished me the best. Back home in Phoenix found the same old agrarian system. Ph.D's could only find work picking oranges of vegies, so I began searching for clients nationally. Soon they found me without advertising. Forward to 1955. From the U of Michigan came Dr. Aden Baker Minel chosen by the National Science Foundation to locate what is presently Kitt Peak Observatory. I applied and was hired immediately for development of instruments relating to the observatory's location. He inquired about my education. When I said 90 day wonder, he grinned and said "Me too", and continued, "Why are you not using it." Replying I didn't think it had any value. "It has the same value as one issued by any university. Use it like I have, your research business needs it." After Kitt peak was selected, Dr. Minel moved to the University of Arizona where he developed what is now know as the Hubble Space Telescope. A few years later he died from heart failure. I owe him a debt of gratitude for his insisting my degree should be used.
He also said that his background had been investigated by the FBI for a security clearance so he could do his classified work. It would seem to me that if this is true, then those investigating his UFO photographs should have known that, especially since the file suggests the FBI was involved. And if they were, then the smear campaign that took place about Rhodes’ background and education was just that, a smear campaign. Even if the Air Force didn’t know, and no one told them, someone at the top knew and didn’t mention it.
Right now, I don’t know how accurate this information is. I have been told that Rhodes held a number of patents and I have seen, again, on the Internet, several patents issued to William A. Rhodes. They were assigned to a guy living in Phoenix, which is where Rhodes lived, and I suspect it is the same guy, but I just don’t know for certain.
If the information is accurate, and this is the same William A. Rhodes, then he got a short shift from the governmental UFO investigators. The questions about his degree become somewhat irrelevant simply because the government was the entity that suggested he had the "equivalent" of a Ph. D and treated his work accordingly. Then, later, because they didn’t happen to like what he had photographed, they asked the questions about it, suggesting he was less than honest and therefore his photographs could be questioned. Talk about double dealing.
This is something that I’ll pursue, seeing what I can learn about Rhodes. It seems he might be something of a radical, in the mold of Nikola Tesla, but who didn’t get the same publicity as Tesla.
But that doesn’t say anything about the pictures. I can see no reason for Rhodes to have faked them, it gained him nothing, and given the information released by the government, made him look rather unreliable. This really is something that deserves more work.