Friday, October 08, 2010

More on William A. Rhodes

I said that I would look for more information on William A. Rhodes (seen here in a bad photograph, but one taken in 1947) and I have uncovered a few addition facts. Seems he wasn’t quite the dummy that the Air Force would have us believe. The Air Force reported that Rhodes was a self-employed musician and the only source of income was his wife’s salary as a fourth grade teacher.

In a report written by Lynn C. Aldrich, (on a form labeled with United States Air Force and dated 17 August 1949), Rhodes is described by a Mr. and Mrs. (name redacted) as "emotionally high strung, egotistical and a genius in fundamentals of radio and electronics.

In another interview conducted on July 15, 1949 of another witness whose name is also redacted, she described Rhodes as "emotionally high strung and egotistical."

In a report dated July 14, 1952, by Gilbert R. Levy, Rhodes is again described as "an excellent neighbor, who caused no trouble, but judged him to be emotionally high strung, egotistical, and a genius in fundamentals of radio. He conducts no business through his ‘Laboratory,’ but reportedly devotes all his time to research."

They also report that he is listed in the telephone book as "Dr." but they could find no reference to Rhodes in the classified section of the telephone directory "under Physicians & Surgeons (MD), Dentists and Veterinarians." Which, of course, would be of great importance if these sorts of people were the only ones entitled to be addressed as "Doctor."

They do suggest his claim of a Ph.D from Columbia University could not be verified, and checks by others including James McDonald, bore this out. We have seen, however, why Rhodes believed that he had been granted the degree and he did have a small replica of the diploma encased in plastic. He said that he had a larger one somewhere but never did produce it.

The Air Force also seemed annoyed that Rhodes claimed he owned or worked for Panoramic Research Laboratory. They could find no evidence that it had ever been incorporated or that it ever conducted any business.

In the AMC summary evaluations, as part of the Project Grudge Report, Appendix 1, they go further in their character assassination of Rhodes. They noted, "In subsequent correspondence to the reporter of this incident, the observer [Rhodes] refers to himself as Chief of Staff of Panoramic Research Laboratory, the letterhead of which lists photography among one of its specialties. Yet, the negative was carelessly cut and faultily developed."

They also note, "there are other undesirable aspects to this case. The observer’s character and business affiliations are presently under investigation, the results of which are not yet known."

The same report continued, "Dr. Irving Langmuir studied subject photographs, and after learning of the prior passage of a thunderstorm, discounted the photographed object as being merely paper swept up by the wind."

And then, as if to reinforce this character assassination, the report said, "AMC Opinion: In view of the apparent character of the witness, the conclusion by Dr. Langmuir seems entirely probably (sic)."

Of course, not mentioned is the complete discounting of the verbal report by Rhodes. He heard a whooshing sound which drew his attention to the craft which, of course, rules out paper blown by the wind. And you must discount the size, speed and altitude estimates provided by Rhodes, though most people, looking up at an object in the sky fail to correctly estimate much about it. But here there were clouds in the sky which gave, to some extent, a point of reference. And, in the second picture, there is some foreground detail.

In other words, the Air Force seemed to go out of its way to discredit Rhodes, suggesting that he was an egotistical man who lived off the income of his wife. Although the neighbors had said he was a good neighbor, the Air Force reported that he hated cats and dogs and has shot several animals that strayed onto his property. I’m not sure that I would describe someone who shot pets as a good neighbor, so you have to wonder about these claims by the Air Force.

And here’s the flip side of this. Rhodes said that he had done experimental work with the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Washington, D.C. during World War II. He returned to Phoenix in 1942 and worked as an instructor at Falcon field.

Tony Bragalia and I both found that Rhodes did hold multiple patents which suggested he wasn’t quite the "weirdo" that the Air Force made him out to be. He seemed to be the genius that his neighbors believed him to be. And with patents often come licensing fees, which would be a source of income not readily seen by those who didn’t know about it. I saw nothing in the Air Force investigation that suggested they had looked at his tax returns to learn if his lab brought in any income.

Dr. James McDonald investigated Rhodes in the 1960s and found that he held a variety of patents, and according to a letter dated February 18, 1967, wrote, "...who has made a modest living off an impressive variety of inventions." McDonald, then, did what the Air Force couldn’t, or didn’t, that is, verify Rhodes’ creative genius.

It is quite clear from the files that the Air Force thought little of Rhodes and his "eccentric life style." They made fun of his lab and his research, suggesting he was an unemployed musician and mentioning little about his technical background. Clearly he was a clever man who invented or modified a number of things and was granted patents on them.

I have found nothing in the case file, nor in the investigations to reject the photographs or to suggest they were a hoax. Instead, I noticed that the Air Force drew a line connecting the Rhodes photographs with the first of the Kenneth Arnold drawings. I think that was a connection they would rather not be made in the civilian world because it suggested that Rhodes tended to corroborate Arnold and they would be happier if the sightings were not connected.

But the real problem here, knowing now what I know, is that the Air Force was attempting to belittle the value of the photographs by careful character assassination. Rhodes was a clever man, doing work at a Ph. D. level for the government during the war, but when his name surfaced with UFO photographs, he became a crackpot who inflated his ego with his Panorama Research Laboratory and claiming a degree he had not earned.

In the end, there is no valid reason to reject the photographs. At least there was none I could find in the files. If that is true, then the pictures become more important... as does the Arnold sighting.

14 comments:

cda said...

This may be a bit off base but in reply to Kevin I would point out the following:

1. We had (in 1958-59) a saucer devotee, Ray Palmer, and a strong believer in the Rhodes photos and in Maury Island, telling us that all 64,000 copies (!) of the very newspaper that featured the said photos, namely the "Arizona Republic" were confiscated in a house-to-house raid by the military. (The irony is that the particular issue of July 9, 1947 had a front page headline about the Roswell saucer, not the Rhodes photos, which were relegated to a secondary story).

2. We had also claims, not from Palmer but from a writer to his magazine, that copies of the "Tacoma Times" for the relevant date (i.e. containing the Maury Island story) were seized by the military from the Tacoma public library.

3. We have had much more recent claims (in at least one book) that the military were engaged in house-to-house searches in summer '47, with added death threats, against anyone & everyone who was thought to have possessed fragments of the Roswell saucer. Yes, Kevin, you can believe this if you wish. I shall certainly not try to persuade you otherwise.

At least nobody confiscated or destroyed the "Roswell Daily Record" or the "Ft Worth Star-Telegram". Let us be thankful for small mercies!

As to Rhodes himself, I simply say his 'horseshoe' photos are unique, aren't they? Or has anyone else got horseshoe-shaped objects on film? His background is interesting, but proves nothing.

Sourcerer said...

"In the AMC summary evaluations, as part of the Project Grudge Report, Appendix 1, they go further in their character assassination of Rhodes."

Likely Rhodes was collateral damage in the struggle between Grudge and Sign. I think there was a change in relations between Rhodes and the military with the shift from Sign to Grudge.

Rhodes wrote to Col McCoy that a Lewis Larmore had also taken photographs. I don't know if there was a followup to that.

CDA will be pleased to learn that the 5/19/49 AF Report of Investigation noted Mr Rhodes read Amazing Stories.

I don't see any 'scalloping' on the Rhodes saucer, as there is in Arnold's drawings. Palmer probably used the Rhodes photos for the cover painting of the Spring 1948 issue of Fate, as an illustration for Kenneth Arnold's article.

Regards,

Don

Sourcerer said...

CDA: "His background is interesting, but proves nothing."

I agree with that. What matters are the photographs.

In the Fugate 'memo' of 9/2/47:

"Its color was grey, which made it blend into the clouds and difficult to see at a distance."

Plus this:

"He still had the negative of the first photograph (Exhibit II), but he could not find the negative for the second photograph."

The Gust 'memo' from Air Materials Command, 2/19/48:

In paragraph b. "The sample (negative) had been cut and it was not possible to establsh the exact frame size"

Who cut the negative? If it was Rhodes, then we likely have a hoax because cutting would eliminate image reference points (which exist, for example, in the Trent photos).

If the cutting happened after Mr Rhodes turned over the negative, then we have a hoax, too, but a far different one.

There's more about the photos and their history to be said, but resolving the above issue takes precedence before the others are worth raising.

Regards,

Don

Sourcerer said...

"The irony is that the particular issue of July 9, 1947 had a front page headline about the Roswell saucer, not the Rhodes photos, which were relegated to a secondary story"

Are you sure about that, CDA? I think the Rhodes' photos were front page. Even the Roswell story wasn't the top headline that day in the Arizona Republic.

cda said...

To Sourcerer:
I have had another look at the poor quality photo of the front page of the "Arizona Republic" (it is printed in 'FLYING SAUCERS' magazine Oct 1958). You are correct: The main headline is to do with local politics. The sub-headline is 'Captured New Mexico Disc Proves Dud' [i.e. Roswell], with a column devoted to this. Under this are the Rhodes photos, very fuzzily reproduced, along with a narrative. Presumably you also have this photo. It was Palmer's caption under the photo that intrigued me. Why, if the USAF did indeed confiscate all the newspapers, did Palmer manage to evade this and preserve this one copy for his magazine to reproduce 11 years later!?

It looks as if Palmer had in his possession a unique copy of the 'Republic' and hence a highly valuable piece of history of this incident (i.e. Rhodes not Roswell). If Palmer was so clever at evading the military, why couldn't some of the Roswell witnesses have done the same with their saucer fragments?

It thus appears as if the USAF were exceptionally busy that summer! With Tacoma in their sights as well, they were just a bit too busy to be credible, I suggest.

I repeat: has anyone else photographed a horseshoe-shaped UFO, or is Rhodes unique in this respect?

Sourcerer said...

CDA,

I don't know the source of the image I have. The paper is folded to highlight the Rhodes photos, and only shows the center portions of the headlines. The Roswell headline is obvious. The main one might be not a local issue, but about the federal tax legislation that Congress and the White House had been wrangling over (Truman vetoed the first one). You can see the story on the July 8, Roswell Daily Record front page "House Passes Tax Slash by Wide Margin". I think the Republic is reporting the story that the Senate would back the House vote.

I don't know of any similar flying saucer photos to the Rhodes ones, but I don't have much interest in the subject, as you know, except for Roswell. I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of ufo photos.

I got onto the Rhodes story because I could find only one of the two photos reproduced at a large size, and I wondered why (my hobby is photography with a special interest in old film photography equipment and technique). The AMC report had the answer. The negative was cropped. Oh, and let's not forget that the 8/17/49 AF Report refers to "the negatives".

According to Special Agent Fugate (I think) one of the photos had foliage in it, and I do not see that in the reproductions found on the web.

As for Palmer, in his top ten criteria for publishing anything, accuracy was not on the list.

In the AF Doyle Report 5/19/49:

"Fugate further related that almost four months ago, a friend had shown him an article in the Question and Answer Section of a magazine..." The magazine he said was Amazing Stories, and the letter writer said his two photos of flying discs had been given to federal agents and they had not returned his photos. He wanted info on how to sue the government to get them back. Fugate believed the letter writer was Rhodes.

Fans collect magazines. A dedicated researcher could find the issue (if it ever was). Maybe someone has already.

That's the Palmer connection I know of.

Sourcerer said...

CDA
"If Palmer was so clever at evading the military, why couldn't some of the Roswell witnesses have done the same with their saucer fragments?"

According to the Cavitts Major Marcel did.

You are bringing in the ET angle via the "fragments". The better comparison is the story of confiscating news and wire stories at KGFL (I don't recall the other media in town reporting this, but would like to know if they did).


Regards,

Don

Sourcerer said...

Kevin:"...Chief of Staff of Panoramic Research Laboratory, the letterhead of which lists photography among one of its specialties. Yet, the negative was carelessly cut and faultily developed."

September 1947 George Fugate, Jr., Special Agent, CIC-ADC=4AF

"Its color was grey, which made it blend into the clouds and difficult to see at a distance."

In 1949 (from the same as you are quoting from -- I think...tired of peering at these jpegs of photocopies)

"In explaining the results of photographing the [?hip?] Mr [BLANK] stated that he was surprised that the object appeard dark on a light backround."

Gust at AMC had already referred to the high contrast of the object relative to the background. It certainly doesn't "blend" with the background, nor is it "difficult to see".


Assuming Mr Rhodes was not a master darkroom technician, I do not think the negative could have its contrast changed so significantly as to render one of several similar light grays as nearly black, especially without blowing out the background. This could be resolved by having the other images from the same roll, if there were any.

For the one that, evidently, was a print, it's a different matter. Dodge and burn is the name of the technique and a hobbiest then could do it.

The unaddressed issue is that the film was most likely Kodak Verichrome, an orthochromatic emulsion. Which means the warmer the color, the darker the gray. For example a b&w photo of the US Flag with a panchromatic film would show the red stripes as around 50% gray. But with an ortho film they would appear nearly black.

So, the alternative to darkroom process is that the object, to the film at least, was reddish.

Regards,

Don

Bob Koford said...

I guess one might suggest that the original 1942 shot of the craft over LA could possibly represent a horse shoe shape.

I did my own studies of the pic (as an amature, with photoshop), and I had seperated the light intensities, and to my eye it began to appear that the "bubble" on top was a burst of AA fire just on the far side of it. When the object was "pulled" out of the area of the photo, and replaced on a blank page, it then took on the shape of an elongated U shape heading generally slightly away from the camera, showing part of the rear of the craft.

Although the vast majority of witnesses seem to describe a saucer-like object, I seem to also recall that at least two of the witnesses described an elongated U, or horse shoe shaped object.

Thanks for the great article!

cda said...

I have remarked about all the alleged USAF activity in '47, silencing witnesses, death threats, confiscation & destruction of newspapers & photos (even from libraries), and even causing a big shortage of ice in Roswell (as per AJB's article a while back). This may indicate some early post-war over-excitedness on the part of the military, coupled with fear of Russia. However, apart from the confiscation of Rhodes' pics, it is far more likely a series of anecdotal tales, told and retold decades later.

Strange days indeed in '47.

Sourcerer said...

CDA "However, apart from the confiscation of Rhodes' pics, it is far more likely a series of anecdotal tales, told and retold decades later.

I don't know if the Rhodes' evidence is best described as a "confiscation". According to the 8/17/49 AF Report of Investigation (last two paragraphs), when Mr Rhodes delievered the "negatives" to the Phoenix Office, he was informed there was "little, if any, chance of his getting the negatives back. Mr [BLANK] turned the negatives over to this office with the full understanding that they were being given to the army and that he would not get them back."

Possibly they were attempting to establish a 'cover' to 8/30/47, if Rhodes was now attempting to recover them. I haven't seen any 1947 documents about Rhodes turning over the "negatives" at the "Phoenix Office [FBI].

If he did agree to not having them returned, I wonder if he would have been given a statement to sign to that effect.

I note again "negatives", not "negative". This may indicate that between the 8/9/47 interview by CIC agent Fugate, and FBI agent Bowers, and before turning them over to the FBI office on 8/30/47, Mr Rhodes found the second negative.

***

Kevin: "In the end, there is no valid reason to reject the photographs."

Given that originally Fugate describes one negative and one missing, given that Mr Rhodes is said to have delivered "negatives" to the FBI, given that AMC reports only one negative, and that one "cut", given that attributed to Mr Rhodes in 1947 "Its color was grey, which made it blend into the clouds and difficult to see at a distance", and given that in 1949 has attributed to him: "In explaining the results of photographing the [?hip?] Mr [BLANK] stated that he was surprised that the object appeard dark on a light backround; that he fully expected that the object would be light on a dark background."...

There may not be a reason to reject the photos, but there is plenty of reasons to wonder just what we have.

Regards,

Don

KRandle said...

Don -

"There may not be a reason to reject the photos, but there is plenty of reasons to wonder just what we have."

My point exactly. There has been no evidence offered that suggest hoax, other than the character assassination of Rhodes. I hope to have more on this soon.

KDR

Sourcerer said...

I wrote: "Rhodes wrote to Col McCoy that a Lewis Larmore had also taken photographs. I don't know if there was a followup to that."

I have a short article about this, posted to:

http://ufocon.blogspot.com/

THE OTHER PHOTOGRAPHER [7 July 1947, PHOENIX ARIZONA]

Regards,

Don

DreamQuest said...
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