Saturday, April 23, 2011

Project Mogul, UFOs and Soviet Nuclear Detonations

There has been a rumor circulating about the success of Project Mogul. It has been said that Mogul did detect some American atomic testing and it was successful in detecting the first Soviet nuclear test on August 29,1949.

I was dubious.

I have, in the past, read through all the massive information published about Mogul and the tests. My interest, naturally, centered around the June and July, 1947 flights in New Mexico. These are at the heart of the Roswell controversy. From all that I had read or seen, Mogul was never deployed. It was too expensive and wasn’t all that reliable, though in later years they were very successful on some very, long-range flights.

I also believed that the first Soviet nuclear test had been detected through atmospheric monitoring and seismic recordings. Radiation from the test drifted over monitoring stations and the seismic readings allowed intelligence agents (well, the scientists who monitored such things) to pinpoint the location. I found nothing about Mogul being used.

Tony Bragalia in an email to me, mentioned that Mogul had been successful in detecting that first Soviet test. I asked for the source and he pointed me to an Internet report by Richard A. Muller, who is a professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley.

That web address if fairly long. It is:

I emailed Dr. Muller and frankly, expected no response. I mean the guy has published books, does television shows and teaches classes. His website is quite complex and interesting. I figured that he would be too busy to answer my question about the source and I was afraid my name might annoy him. I am, after all, on the other side of the debate.

Dr. Muller responded within a couple of hours, and given the time (early morning) I sent my email, I was surprised. He was quite courteous in his reply, and supplied what information he could.

He wrote, "I am afraid that I don’t have a hard source for that information; it was something that I was told, and I’m not sure by whom... I don’t have a hard reference for that. Sorry."

In the grand scope of Roswell research, this means very little. Even if Mogul had eventually worked, it doesn’t change what people believe about the Roswell case. All this does is suggest that reports of Mogul success are little more than rumors.

If someone has better information than this, I’m sure that he or she will let me know. But, until we can verify it, the fact is that there is no hard source for the suggestion that Mogul worked (which means in this context, that it didn’t detected the Soviet test).


David Rudiak said...

Kevin, I believe the statement that Mogul detected the first Soviet A-bomb test came from William Broad of the NY Times in his Sept. 18, 1994 article uncritically parroting the AF's Project Mogul explanation:

"The Soviets detonated their first nuclear bomb in August 1949. Mogul detected it, most experts interviewed about the program said. But by that time it was clear that the work was doomed. The main problem was high-level winds that often pushed the balloons out of range of radio communications with the ground. The project was ended in late 1950."

"Operationally it was a nightmare, but scientifically it was a great success," Dr. Charles B. Moore, Mogul's project engineer and now an emeritus professor of atmospheric physics at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, in Socorro, said in an interview."

So undocumented say-so of curiously unnamed experts, unless Broad meant the usual Charles Moore claims about Mogul.

The full article is at:

No document that I'm aware of in the public domain indicates that the Mogul idea actually worked. Richard Rhodes, in his well-documented books on the development of the A-bomb and H-bomb has only one thing to say about it, namely in June 1947, the long-range detection committee could conceive of only three possible ways to carry out long-range detection: sound waves (i.e., the Mogul idea), seismic detection, and radioactivity detection. Both Oppenheimer and Teller at first dismissed sound detection and radiation detection as nonsense, though maybe seismic would work. Later Rhodes indicates they both changed their minds about radiation with further developments, but apparently not about sound. That radiation would work was proven at the Sandstone tests in 1949, whereupon they set up the aerial and ground sampling network.

Nowhere in Rhode's book, "Dark Sun", does it indicate that sound detection ever worked. In fact, it mentions only radiation in the air and the ground as detecting the first Soviet test. Also, there is no indication that seismic detection was in place or used to detect the Soviet A-bomb. Later in the book, it indicates the seismic idea was used to detect the first U.S. H-bomb test and helped measure its magnitude. More on Google Books:

cda said...

While on the subject of the Soviet nuclear tests, there is Marcel's quote that "When we finally detected that there had been an atomic explosion, it was my job to write the report on it". Marcel then says: "In fact when President Truman went on the air to declare that the Russians had exploded a nuclear device, it was my report that he was reading from". [THE ROSWELL INCIDENT, p.72.]

Presumably this Marcel report is available, somewhere. And long declassified. I know doubts have been cast on Marcel's involvement in all this, but maybe examining his report (if it exists) would answer Kevin's question.

KRandle said...

Thanks, David.

I will note that in my discussions with Moore, which became more acrimonious as time passed, he made no mention of the success. In fact, when I first contacted him by mail, I addresssed it to Dr. Moore. I learned later that he mocked me for not knowing he did not have a doctorate. It wasn't until 2002 or 2003 that he received an honorary doctorate from his school.

Broad makes this same error, referring to him as "doctor."

I will also note that Moore originally got the winds aloft data from me, which in later years he conveniently forgot. I have a letter from him asking me for additional charts, which, of course I supplied.

I noticed the same thing you did. That Broad, who never heard a UFO story he liked, cites unnamed sources as saying Mogul worked, but like you, I have been unable to verify it.

All we have is a rumor that it worked, cited in the NYT... If I tried to get away with that, people would be demanding know to the sources... Citing unnamed sources... "Mogul detected it, most experts interviewed about the program said," is a simple "appeal to authority." It tells us nothing about them, but since they were experts, it must be true.

I have yet to find anyone who said that Mogul detected the Soviet atomic detonation and that includes Moore.

David Rudiak said...

cda wrote:
While on the subject of the Soviet nuclear tests, there is Marcel's quote that "When we finally detected that there had been an atomic explosion, it was my job to write the report on it". Marcel then says: "In fact when President Truman went on the air to declare that the Russians had exploded a nuclear device, it was my report that he was reading from". [THE ROSWELL INCIDENT, p.72.]

Presumably this Marcel report is available, somewhere. And long declassified. I know doubts have been cast on Marcel's involvement in all this, but maybe examining his report (if it exists) would answer Kevin's question.

I don't have Marcel's report, but I do have his job description at the time, when he worked with the top secret Special Weapons Project in Washington D.C., whose task it was to determine the status of Soviet nuclear developments, including testing of their expected A-bomb (hence the reason for setting up long-range detection systems).

"Officer in Charge of War Room... Supervises the preparation of charts, diagrams and reports on Intelligence data received and keeps Chief, Intelligence Branch informed of all intelligence data and changes. Prepares special briefing material for Commanding General, Chief of Operations and Technical Director."

What this tells me is that whatever new intelligence came in to the SWP that the Soviet's exploded the A-bomb, Marcel would have been the guy to provide the briefings and write the report for the guys in charge summarizing that intelligence, and this would have been conveyed on to the White House.

Would Marcel's name or initials be on such a report? I don't know. Did Twining personally write the famous Twining memo or did some underling or underlings do it for him and Twining signed it? I suspect the latter.

It doesn't really matter much. Marcel's job description supports his statement that he wrote the report used by Truman to announce that the Soviet's had exploded an A-bomb. That Truman didn't personally read it over the radio (as Marcel remembered it) is unimportant, basically nothing but a nitpick. (The full statement was printed in the newspapers and probably read over the radio by others, not Truman, but again the real issue is did Marcel have a hand in it?)

I suspect from the actual public statement from the White House, that only some elements of the SWP intelligence report were incorporated into the public statement. E.g., there was a lot of language in there trying to reassure the public that this really didn't change anything and that the U.S. had been expecting this for some time. That's political language to sugar-coat the situation, not a technical assessment.

Another aspect of this was that how the information was determined was not publicly released, since the long-range detection systems were classified. I have a Washington Post story where some military person joked with the reporter that he could tell him, but then he would probably have to kill him, or words to that effect.

steve sawyer said...

Project Mogul did not detect the first Soviet nuclear test.

It was detected as follows:

"How did the Truman administration discover Moscow’s secret?

"Shortly after the Soviet test, on 1 September 1949, a WB-29 ["W" for weather reconnaissance] operated by the Air Force's Weather Service undertook a routine flight from Misawa Air Force Base (Japan) to Eilson Air Force Base (Alaska) on behalf of the secretive Air Force Office of Atomic Energy-1 [AFOAT-1] [later renamed the Air Force Technical Applications Center, or AFTAC]. The plane carried special filters designed to pick up the radiological debris that an atmospheric atomic test would inevitably create. So far none of the flights in the Northern Pacific had picked up a scent, but after this flight returned to Eilson and a huge Geiger counter checked the filters, the technicians detected radioactive traces. This was the 112th alert of the Atomic Energy Detection System (the previous 111 had been caused by natural occurrences, such as earthquakes). After a complex chain of events, involving more flights to collect more air samples, consultations among U.S. government scientists, consultants, and contractors, including radiological analysis by Tracerlab and Los Alamos Laboratory, and secret consultations with the British government, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Moscow had indeed conducted a nuclear test. On 23 September 1949, President Truman announced that 'We have evidence that within recent weeks an atomic explosion occurred in the U.S.S.R.'"

See: for additional details and documentation from George Washington University's National Security Archive.

Byron Weber said...

Kevin, regarding Project Mogul I suspect your conclusions are accurate. Much of the information regarding Mogul was generated by Curtis Peebles. Not known to most is a history of the project written many years ago and published by the Smithsonian. A current reference to that book can be found by a google search, but the actual original book is nowhere to be found. Unfortunately I sold my copy of the book to a store in Burbank in 2005.

In 1996 after Peebles published Watch the Skies I telephoned the editor at Harpercollins in Manhattan and left a message regarding Peebles. He immediately called me back. I asked him what he knew about the author and he responded, "nothing." I asked if he knew where Peebles lived and he said he thought he lived in the San Francisco area. I asked how he could publish a book without knowing anything about the author. He just kind of laughed and we left it at that. At the time, no one knew the book had been originally published by the Smithsonian in a limited edition.

I discovered Peebles had an address in Mt. Palomar and took a trip up there to investigate. I went to the local post office and spoke with a clerk. She knew him well and although he had moved from the area she was still forwarding mail to him. She would not provide the new address. I told her I had read many of his books. She was exited and said he would be also. She told me that he was an historian for the USAF.

Circumstantial evidence, yes, but this seems to be the way it works. The AF enlists the Smithsonian who enlists a publisher and any disinformation they wish to distribute becomes public, i.e. the Mogul story.