I seem to have ignited a firestorm with my original piece about the Rhodes photographs. I was just passing along information that I had, thinking others would be interested in it. I guess I got that right.
One of the stumbling blocks of the case was Rhodes’ claim of a doctoral degree. Given what I knew then, I figured it was something that was of only tangential importance. The explanation offered by Rhodes seemed reasonable to me, and if others thought it was an exaggeration, it wasn’t a very big one. I had heard that others, in the government, had been awarded jobs based on tests and equivalency. That Rhodes attached more importance to this than others might was just one of those things.
But I have heard from a number of others who thought that Rhodes’ claim of a doctoral degree was more than an embellishment. To them it meant that Rhodes couldn’t be trusted and it was enough to reject the photographs he had taken. To them, Rhodes had faked the photographs as a way of increasing his importance.
We have already seen the posting he made a number of years ago telling us how all this had come about. He had taken tests while in the Navy, had passed with a high enough score that he could work on projects at a doctoral level, and that this had somehow been translated into an official degree. I know of others who operate in a similar way.
I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially when he was able to produce, for Dr. James McDonald, a small, plastic covered replica of his degree from Columbia.
In the February 18, 1967 letter to Dick Hall, McDonald described this writing:
I did a lot of checking on Rhodes [sic] degrees, because there seemed something odd about an honorary PhD based on the kind of work I could image him doing. Columbia said no record of any such degree. Geo. Washington [University] said no record of a BA ever given to Rhodes in the period I specified. So I made a trip up there... he showed me a photo-miniature in plastic of the alleged Columbia degree, and he said he had the original somewhere in his files but did not show it to me. I kept probing, already having the information that Columbia had no record of any degree. As I kept going over the thing he finally volunteered the remark that he, himself, had checked with Columbia about a year after [Lee] DeForrest presented him with the certificate, found no record and confronted DeForrest with the information, and was non-plussed by D F putting his arm over his shoulder and saying something to the effect, that, "Well, my boy that’s the way those things happen sometimes," and saying no more about it.
Okay, this is little hard to take and McDonald said that "we have to view the case as somewhat beclouded."
But that was 1967 and it is not what he had said to others earlier. According to an Air Force Inspector General report of August 17, 1949, Rhodes apparently told the investigator, as well as neighbors that, "[He] wrote scientific article for nationally known magazine [not identified by either Rhodes or the investigator] and received honorary Doctor of Science degree from [redacted but probably Columbia] University for this article."
So, here is a different version of how he came to obtain a doctoral degree without leaving the necessary footprint. And while I would cut him some slack for the story told to McDonald, this different version is quite difficult to believe. It stretched credulity to the limit.
Now we go to the Internet posting by Rhodes to explain his degree. The key sentences are these, "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."
Nothing was said about what university was granting these "90 Day Wonder" degrees and nothing about who his boss was. In addition, his work with the Navy terminated early in 1942, or not that long after the war started, so you have to wonder about the importance of that work. He suggested that it had ended, but I think a physicist working at the Ph.D. level would be someone to retain.
He claimed a conversation with Dr. Aden Meinel, who corroborated that he too had such a degree, at least according to Rhodes. But the Internet tells me that Dr. Meinel, who might have had such a "90 day wonder" degree at one point, had a doctoral degree granted by the University of California – Berkeley in 1949. And, worst still, Dr. Meinel has not confirmed the conversation.
In my correspondence with Dr. Meinel, I asked about this, specifically. Both times he did not answer the question, telling me, instead that Rhodes was a clever guy... a genius... who helped him, Meinel, with some of his work in the mid-1950s. Valuable help, it is clear but that he, Rhodes, lost interest once he had solved the problems.
At this point I’m ready to suggest that Rhodes is no more trustworthy than those fellows who claim high military rank to improve their credibility. It seems to me that Rhodes had invented this tale of the mysterious degree to improve his credibility and to suggest to his neighbors he was more important than he was.
And, like those people claiming high military rank, he had some documents to prove it but the university didn’t back him up. He offered no names, other than Dr. Meinel, probably because he believed Dr. Meinel was dead and couldn’t dispute him.
As for the pictures, I have been told what he photographed, but I have been unable to verify this. I’m attempting to find pictures of the real object, which is a terrestrially–made craft of limited size, speed and capability.
But even without that, and even with Rhodes making money off his inventions, his holding of various patents, and his somewhat erratic life style, I don’t think there is much of a case left here. If I can nail down the explanation, then we’re done. If I can’t, then there is still that small hole left that suggests there might be something of value in the case... but at this point, I doubt it.