Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jesse Marcel - A Dispassionate Look

There has been, again, an assault on the integrity of Jesse Marcel, Sr., by one who has never served in the military and who seems to believe that if it didn’t appear in Marcel’s service record, then it must be a lie. Such simplistic thinking has, for too long, influenced both sides of the UFO question. In the real world there are shades of gray and we must remember that to understand much of what happens in UFOlogy we must be aware of that.

I thought that if we attempted a dispassionate look at Marcel, we might learn something. Oh, it’s not going to lead us to flying saucers and alien bodies, but it might teach us something about the case anyway.

Marcel, in discussing flying saucers (a term very much in use in 1947, though there are those who deny this) with his ham radio buddies in the late 1970s, said that he had picked up pieces of a flying saucer while he was stationed in Roswell (do I need to append New Mexico to this). It was just conversation among friends, but one of those friends was also a station manager in New Orleans who mentioned Marcel to Stan Friedman.

Friedman, and then Len Stringfield, interviewed Marcel who told them about picking up pieces of flying saucer. By searching newspaper files starting with the Arnold sighting on June 24, 1947, they found (or rather I am told William Moore found) a picture of Marcel holding up some of this alleged flying saucer debris on July 9, 1947.

So we come to the first question. In 1947 what did flying saucer mean? Was it a term applied only to alien spaceships or did it have a more general connotation?

Given what I have read in the newspapers and magazines from that era, it would seem to me that flying saucer meant any sort of object, mirage, or apparition seen in the sky. It didn’t necessarily mean spacecraft and I think that it rarely meant spacecraft.

True, that was sometimes the definition applied then but it wasn’t as fixed as it is now. So, when Marcel told his son he had pieces of a flying saucer, he might not have meant it was an alien ship.

I can, of course, interview the son about that and I remember the words he said his father spoke when Jesse Jr. found the writing embossed on the small I-beam. His father said that Jesse Jr. might have been the first person in the world to have seen writing from another world... but in this discussion, I’m thinking that flying saucer was a more generic term than it is today, which, of course doesn’t mean that Marcel wasn’t thinking alien in 1947.

If we look at his statements to various investigators, in front of the media, and to others he talked to, what he described is mainly bits and pieces of debris that had no real shape and provided no real clue to what the overall craft, or object, might have been. Bits of metal, thick paper and thin foil are basically bits of metal, thick paper and thin foil. It is not what you would expect to find littering a crash site, but then, you would certainly find that sort of thing scattered among the larger pieces unless the thing disintegrated or that the field Marcel walked was only part of the crash site. Others suggest that the main body of the craft had come down elsewhere and Bill Brazel told me there was a gouge suggesting something heavy had hit and skipped. Marcel didn’t mention the gouge and as far as I know, no one asked him about that specifically.

So, we have some metallic debris and the like which suggests a technology that was advanced beyond ours but the problem is not with the descriptions of the debris by Marcel but the interpretation put on it. It would seem that everyone, debunker, skeptic, researcher and believer concedes that Marcel handled the material that he claimed to have handled. No one is accusing him of lying about this.

The darling of the debunkers, Sheridan Cavitt, in his official statement to the Air Force, said that he didn’t remember if Marcel had gone out to the field with him or not. He didn’t deny it, he just wasn’t sure. What is important is that Cavitt talked about the debris, but his interpretation of it was that it was something of terrestrial manufacture and unimportant. He never explained why, after he had returned from the Debris Field he didn’t mention this to Colonel Blanchard, the 509th Bomb Group commanding officer.

Yes, I know that Cavitt’s chain of command did not pass through the 509th Headquarters, but instead to the CIC office in Albuquerque. But then, if Cavitt had accompanied Marcel to the Debris Field, Blanchard would have asked both what they had seen. Apparently Cavitt did not mention he thought it was all a balloon when he spoke to Blanchard.

But again, we have no evidence of Marcel lying. We have a disagreement as to interpretation of the debris they saw. Cavitt thought balloon and Marcel thought flying saucer.

We all seem to agree that Marcel went out to the Debris Field. We all agree that he found material that he believed to be exotic. We agree that he took it home and then out to the base. Marcel had not lied about any of that. Others witnessed various parts of that activity so we have independent corroboration.

We all agree that Marcel had been a major in 1947, he was the air intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Group, and that he held bits of what he believed to be a flying saucer, whatever definition we wish to apply to those words today. So where does this idea that Marcel was a liar come from?

It can all be traced to a transcript of an interview that was conducted by Bob Pratt in 1978. Pratt’s transcript is sometimes garbled with his questions or comments inserted into the middle of Marcel’s statements. I believe that Pratt was careful in transcribing what Marcel said, was less careful with his own comments, and while he would have understood the transcript completely though today we are sometimes confused.

Karl Pflock, in his Roswell book, printed the transcript, but he cleaned it up. He put his spin on some of the words, and as I have said before, the insertion of a comma in one place changes the meaning of the answer to one of those confusing questions.

Again there is little dispute about what he described as seeing on the Debris Field. The problem arises when we begin to compare his service record with what he said in the Pratt interview. Some of the things said here were not repeated to others, which makes me wonder how this came about.

At the being of the interview, Marcel said, "I had flying experience before going in service, started flying in 1928, so being in the air was not foreign to me."

This has been interpreted to be Marcel suggesting that he had been a pilot as far back as 1928, yet when he was asked, in a pre-commissioning interview in 1942 what his hobbies were, he mentioned photography and ham radio. He said nothing about aviation. But he did mention was a cartographer and that he worked from aerial photographs and part of his experience was flying over the areas.

However, and this is important, he said only that he had been flying since 1928 but not that he was a pilot. As part of his job as a cartographer, he flew but did not pilot the aircraft. We have a wash on this. No lie from Marcel, but a misinterpretation from those who wish to assassinate his character. I know from my own experience that when I first joined the Army I mentioned nothing about my previous flying experience, although most of it was as a student with limited hours as a pilot. What this all means to me is that Marcel had flown as part of his job but hadn’t piloted the aircraft and in his interview entering active duty simply did not mention this because, at the time, it was irrelevant and unimportant.

There are two other points in the Pratt interview that talk about flying experience. Marcel mentioned that he had 438 hours of combat time, which meant that he had flown into combat as a member of a crew. Some suggest he was a passenger in an aircraft that was flying into combat, but I suggest he was a member of the crew rather than just a passenger. The exact nature of his position in the aircraft is irrelevant and we have documentation to support his tale of combat flying hours.

He then mentioned that, "...[I] was intelligence officer for bomb wing, flew as pilot, waist gunner and bombardier at different times..."

Now we have Marcel saying he was a pilot, at least to those who weren’t paying attention. He said he had flown AS a pilot, not that he was one and this is a vital distinction. He was not claiming to have been rated and his military record reflects that he was not a military pilot. This does not mean he hadn’t flown as a pilot.

No one seems worried that he also said that he had flown as a bombardier or waist gunner. Again, he wasn’t saying that he had been trained in those positions, only that he had flown in them. This, to me, means he wasn’t lying, but giving an accurate accounting of his experience. In aviation units, those not rated in specific positions sometimes fly in them.

There is a scene in 12 O’Clock High in which they have returned from the first bombing mission in Germany. General Savage learns that half the ground staff has made the mission flying as waist gunners, men who were not rated in those positions but made the mission anyhow.

Yes, this is fiction, but my own experience in an aviation unit bears this out. I gave "stick time" to crew chiefs and door gunners and myself flew as a door gunner on occasion. Nothing in our records would reflect this.

In other words, I don’t see this as a lie by Marcel either. He had the opportunity to do those things and did them. They just weren’t mentioned in his military record and I wouldn’t expect them to be.

The problem is actually when he apparently said he had 3000 hours of pilot time. This is a huge number for someone who is not rated. I have something like 16 – 1700 hours, if you count everything, and I was rated.

But I don’t know how this number came up. In Pflock’s version of the interview, he has Pratt asking the question. According to that version, "Pratt: You had three thousand hours as a pilot – "

Marcel said, "Right [and] eight thousand hours [total] time."

The way it appears in the Pratt interview is "Q – 3000 hrs pilot (right) 8000 hrs flying time."

I could argue that it was Pratt who introduced this number into the discussion and we don’t know where it originated. I could argue that we don’t have Marcel saying this, but to be fair, he seems to be agreeing to it which is really the same thing.

In the end, it seems to me that the 1928 as the date when he started flying is irrelevant because that was when he started flying as a map maker. He didn’t say he started flying as a pilot in 1928. That is an assumption that others have made over the years and I don’t think anyone ever asked Marcel about this.

Later he said that he had flown as a pilot, and this too, is the truth. He wasn’t saying that he was rated or a pilot but that he had flown as one, as well as a waist gunner and bombardier. This too, seems to be the truth.

The problem for me is this claim of 3000 hours as a pilot and 8000 flying time. While I can ignore the 8000 hours total time simply because he was in aviation units and we know he had nearly 500 hours in combat make that total number a little more palatable.

But the 3000 hours of pilot time is quite worrisome... I can’t see how that is possible for a non-pilot even in an aviation unit. This would seem to be an embellishment but I have no evidence that the number is inaccurate... and in the end, no one else does either. Marcel never really did say he had been a pilot.

I suppose this could be seen as splitting a fine hair but do we really want to trash a man’s reputation for something like this... something that we can’t prove is a lie. It might just be true, though I find it hard to believe.

Those attacking Marcel also accuse him of lying when he said he was shot down once, on his third mission and that he claimed he was the sole survivor. The debunkers have gone wild with this claim which is really one that we can provide a resolution to.

Debunkers have said there was nothing in his file to show that he was shot down and I say there wouldn’t be unless he had been put in for an award of some kind. There is no place to make such a note and it was such a common occurrence that it didn’t merit mention.

Pflock, in his interpretation of this wrote, "Marcel: I got shot down one time, my third mission, out of Port Moresby.

"Pratt: Did everyone survive?"

"Marcel: All but one crashed into a mountain."

In this interpretation, Marcel is saying that everyone but one crashed into the mountain which means there was another survivor.

However, if I add a comma, I change the meaning. "Marcel: All, but one crashed into a mountain."

Now everyone, but a single poor soul survived.

In the Pratt interview, it appears like this, "... I got shot down one time, my third mission, out of Port Moresby (everyone survive) all but one crashed into a mountain."

No matter how you slice it, Marcel didn’t claim he was the only survivor as many of the debunkers allege. This is a clear win for Marcel. No evidence that he was lying and no evidence that he claimed he was the only survivor.

For me, the most troubling is the claims in the Pratt interview are for college credit and a college degree. Again, the Pratt transcript is garbled. In the Pratt interview, it said (and reproduced here exactly as it is in the transcript), "... degree in nuclear physics (bachelors) at completed work at GW Univ inWash. attended (LSU, Houston, U of Wis, NY Univ, Ohio State) , Docotr pool? and GW..."

Prior to entering the Army, Marcel mentioned that he had attended LSU for a year and a half, but there is a qualification on one of the documents. In parentheses, it said, "Uncredit." I have no idea what that means. Did he merely audit the classes? Did he flunk out? Did he receive an incomplete?

I did check with the other universities mentioned, asking each if there were any kind of extension courses that Marcel might have taken while on active duty. All replied that he hadn’t attended their schools in any official capacity. I do know that some of the military courses he took were taught at universities, but nothing to suggest any civilian education at them. The Pratt interview seems to be the only place he made these claims and they are not true.

In the end we have seem to have a single example of Marcel lying but even this makes no sense. Why claim to have attended so many schools? Why say this at all because someone was going to check?

Does this really suggest that we could trust nothing that Marcel said? We all agree that he walked the Debris Field. We all agree that he picked up the material. We all agree that something fell. But because we have some ambiguous statements on a transcript that is sometimes garbled, we’re simply going to reject everything that he said, even when it is corroborated by others whose testimony is trusted.

Since this is a dispassionate look, which means I’m not debating the point, but attempting to understand it, there is one other interview that is important. I don’t understand how the skeptics have missed it for the last decade but I have seen little mention of it (and now I’m sure it will be quoted to prove that Marcel was a liar... I can see the headline, "Jesse Marcel admits the Roswell case a lie.")

Dr. Linda Corley is from Houma, Louisiana, which was where Jesse Marcel lived. She said that in 1981, while working on a school project, she called Marcel and asked for an interview. She spent about four hours with Marcel and his wife, Viaud, and said that she "can’t remember a more pleasant or interesting visit."

Rather than repeat what she heard from Marcel during that interview because it is essentially what he said to everyone else, I’ll mention what happened in the days that followed. According to Corley, she received a telephone call from Marcel. She said, "I can still hear Jesse’s frantic voice on the telephone saying NOT to use any of the material obtained from my conversation with him. He seemed almost hysterical when he called my home, the first time, several days after the interview."

Then, according to Corley, "He stated that everything he told me was a lie."

She also said, "Well, I knew most of what he said was previously published material, given on other interviews, so I figured that this was only his way of trying to prevent me from using the information given me. But I did not know why. My heart really went out to him. He sounded so scared. The second telephone call was similar to the first. A day or so later he called to inquire if I had released any of the information to the press. I assured him that it was only for a school project but he insisted that I was going to the press with it. I tried to calm him and promised him that I would not use any of the personal information if he did not want me to. However, that did not seem to console him. I just didn’t know what to make of his strange behavior..."

So, contrary to what a debunker has written, Viaud Marcel never said it was a lie. That quote came from her husband under what sounded like duress. I don’t know why he would want to repudiate what he had said in the past, though I can speculate. However, this is to be a dispassionate look, so I’ll leave those speculations for later.

What we all really disagree about here is the interpretation that Marcel, in his later life, put on what he had found in New Mexico in 1947. Because some of us don’t agree with that interpretation, they’re going to smear his reputation, even though we know that the military records are often incomplete, that we can see how some conclusions about his statements were drawn both by Pratt and others who read his interview transcript later, and that there is confusion in what was actually said by Marcel.

I understand that some believe that if Marcel is eliminated from the Roswell case, major damage has been done, which I suspect is the reason for the smear campaign. But when you look at it carefully, all you see is that Marcel claimed to have picked up strange debris that he couldn’t identify. He was who he said he was, which means he was the air intelligence officer in 1947. He was on Blanchard’s staff and every other staff officer who was interviewed with a single exception agreed with him. He believed the material was of alien manufacture.

The confusion then, comes from the Pratt interview and Marcel’s actual record. You can decide if those discrepancies are enough for you to reject what he said or if they are the sorts of trouble you run into when looking at the written words of an interview made decades earlier and a set of military records that are even older.

Personally, in the end, I will not label Marcel a liar for those discrepancies simply because there are enough problems with my military records and what I know to be the facts in my record to suggest similar problems exist with Marcel’s records.

We can disagree about the interpretation but the case for Marcel being a liar is not proved. This, I believe, is the conclusion that a dispassionate look will sustain. We haven’t reached the extraterrestrial, but I think we understand a bit more of the situation in Roswell in 1947.

Monday, June 20, 2011

UFO Cover Up - The Early Days

The other day I was on a radio show and the host asked if there was a cover up. I said, "Yes," and that I could prove it. The documentation available shows that the military tried to hide what it was doing with UFO investigations, sometimes in a not very clever way. Sometimes, I think it was just a case of incompetence rather than anything particularly nefarious.

In my search of UFO files, at the National Archives, at the Center for UFO Studies, and using the Project Blue Book files, I learned how some of this transpired. The following will provide a glimpse into the convoluted trail that leads into the cover up.

The military, after the code name Project Sign, the first of the official UFO investigations was compromised, claimed that the UFO investigation had been closed. They had merely changed the name and kept going under the code name of Grudge. Then, in December 1949, they announced that Project Grudge had been ended. The study hadn't ended, but continued, still using the code name Grudge. Later that name was changed and Blue Book was born.

In the beginning, Blue Book was a solid investigation of UFOs. But after the summer of 1952, that situation changed. Clearly UFOs were not something that were going to go away. Clearly the public interest, after more than five years, was at an all time high. Newspaper reporters and magazine writers were trying to learn everything they could about UFOs. Books on the topic sold well and more were scheduled to be published that year. Something had to be done to end the interest.

One of the responses was the CIA's Robertson Panel which would determine that there was nothing to UFOs, but more importantly, they didn’t threaten national security.

The other was a new set of regulations and a change in the way the UFO investigation was going to be handled. ATIC and Project Blue Book, who had been the main action addressees on UFO related items of intelligence were about to lose that distinctive status. New regulations, issued by the Air Defense Command on January 3, 1953 created the 4602d Air Intelligence Service Squadron (AISS). Other new regulations, including Air Force Regulation 200-2, dated August 1953, tasked the 4602d with the investigation of UFOs. All UFO reports would pass through the 4602d AISS prior to transmission to ATIC. That was a major change in the UFO investigation.

It is interesting to note that Ed Ruppelt, after briefing the members of the Robertson Panel, was on his way to Ent Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, the headquarters of the 4602d. He was scheduled to arrive on January 24, 1953 to "present a one hour briefing at Officers Call." The trip was arranged by Major Vernon L. Sadowski on January 7, 1953, or about a week before the Robertson Panel began its meetings.

But Ruppelt, in describing how the 4602d entered into the UFO investigation business, seemed to think it was the result, not of manipulation at the top, but because of his pushing from the bottom. He wrote, "Project Blue Book got a badly needed shot in the arm when an unpublicized but highly important change took place: another intelligence agency began to take over all field investigations...the orders had been to build it up - get more people - do what the [Robertson] panel recommended. But when I'd ask for more people, all I got was a polite 'So sorry.'...I happened to be expounding my troubles one day at Air Defense Command Headquarters while I as briefing General Burgess, ADC's Director of Intelligence, and he told me about his 4602d Air Intelligence Squadron, a specialized intelligence unit that had recently become operational. Maybe it could help..."

Ruppelt explained that he didn't expect much from Burgess. Ruppelt expected to write memos and letters and seal "it in a time capsule for preservation so that when the answer finally does come through the future generation that receives it will know how it all started."

This time things were different. Ruppelt writes, "But I underestimated the efficiency of the Air Defense Command. Inside of two weeks General Burgess had called General Garland, they'd discussed the problem, and I was back in Colorado Springs setting up a program with Colonel White's 4602nd."

In Ruppelt's book, he implies that all this happened late in the summer of 1953. Ruppelt's tour at Blue Book was scheduled to end in February 1953, and he departed for two months of temporary duty in Denver. He writes, "When I came back to ATIC in July 1953 and took over another job, Lieutenant Olsson was just getting out of the Air Force and A1/c (Airman First Class) [Max] Futch was now it...In a few days I again had Project Blue Book as an additional duty this time and I had orders to 'build it up.'"

So, Ruppelt, at the end of the summer, is talking to General Burgess and within weeks, he is told that the 4602d is available to investigate UFOs. Documentation, however, doesn't bear this out.

On March 5, 1953, months before Ruppelt met with General Burgess, a letter headed, "Utilization of 4602nd AISS Personnel in Project Blue Book Field Investigations," is sent to the Commanding General of the Air Defense Command and to the attention of the Director of Intelligence at Ent Air Force Base. The plan of action, outlined in the letter was approved on March 23, 1953.

In the letter, it was written, "During the recent conference attended by personnel of the 4602nd AISS and Project Blue Book the possibility of utilizing 4602nd AISS field units to obtain additional data on reports of Unidentified Flying Objects was discussed. It is believed by this Center that such a program would materially aid ATIC and give 4602nd AISS personnel valuable experience in field interrogations. It would also give them an opportunity to establish further liaison with other governmental agencies, such as CAA, other military units, etc., in their areas."

The interesting statement here, as in many of the other documents relating to the 4602d, is the idea that the field teams, by interrogating witnesses to UFO sightings, can gain valuable experience in interrogating people. Ruppelt pointed out that the 4602d had a primary function of interrogating captured enemy airmen during war. In a peacetime environment, all they could do was interrogate "captured" Americans in simulations. According to Ruppelt, "Investigating UFO reports would supplement these problems [wartime simulations] and add a factor of realism that would be invaluable in their training."

All this went on while Ruppelt was on temporary duty and someone else was heading Project Blue Book. It would seem that some correspondence between the ADC and ATIC would have been on file at Blue Book. Ruppelt, when he returned to ATIC, should have been aware that negotiations between the 4602d and ATIC were in progress. Yet his own book suggests he didn't understand that.

Upon publication of Air Force Regulation 200-2, in August 1953, a briefing about implementation of the regulation was held at Ent Air Force Base for members of the 4602nd. Publication of a regulation suggests that the changes had been in the planning stage for a long time. It suggests that the implementation of ADC regulation 24-3, published on January 3, 1953, was part of a larger plan. All of it was probably an outgrowth of the wave of sightings from the summer of 1952.

During the briefing, one of the officers asked, "What is the status of the 4602d in regards to this new UFOB regulation?"

Major BeBruler said, "I want to say that on this UFOB regulation that ADC will designate the 4602d as the agency to discharge its responsibility for field and certain preliminary investigations. Secondly, there will be a criteria established as a guide to determine when the field units will conduct a detailed follow-up investigation and when they will not."

This is important because it marks the shift in the UFO investigations. The Robertson Panel recommended no secrecy. They wanted to share everything with the public to prove there was nothing to hide. But that didn't happen. Instead, Blue Book was stripped of its investigative function and became little more than a public relations clearing house. The real investigations were conducted by the 4602d AISS, an intelligence agency of which no one outside a limited circle inside the intelligence community knew. Public questions about UFOs went to Blue Book but no one asked the 4602d what they were doing. They operated outside the spotlight of the media.

From the documentation available, it is clear that the investigative function after 1953 rested with the 4602d. UFO sighting reports were transmitted electronically to the closest of the field units for investigation. Once that investigation was completed, those sightings which were not identified were transmitted on to ATIC and supposedly provided to Project Blue Book.

Although AFR 200-2 was first published in August 1953, implementation of it seems to have lagged until August the following year. Reports available in the 4602d Unit History, originally classified secret, show that there was some reluctance to take on the task of UFO investigation.

This is not to suggest, from some of the early reports, that the 4602d was operating to suppress UFO data, though that was the effect. The men at the meetings, from the questions asked, seemed more concerned with the logistical support available to them to complete their mission rather than hiding anything about their work. The regulations at squadron and flight levels had not yet been written.

During the initial briefing held in 1954, Lieutenant Vaughn, said, "General Carey is very vehement in his desire to see these reports before they are sent anywhere. What will be done about that? He has seen this AFR 200-2, but before they are sent in, he still wants to see them."

Colonel White answered, "I see no objection to that, if they don't get tied up. There is nothing in 200-2 that says that written reports (AF 112) should go to General Carey. Again this is in his division area of responsibility. General Carey is one of the sharpest officers in the Air Force today, and if he wants you to do something like this in his area, it, of course, should be done. The one arrangement that I would make is that you should hand carry the reports to him."

The question that begs to be asked is if this was in some way an attempt to circumvent AFR 200-2 by General Carey. And why should the reports be hand carried to him?

The simplest answer is that General Carey, because the UFO program was moving into his area of responsibility wanted to be kept apprised of what was happening in the field. Hand carrying the reports just expedited the process. There seems to be nothing underhanded or nefarious in the operations as they were being established by the 4602d. They were tasked with a job and were attempting to carry it out to the best of their abilities.

What is important here is the shift of investigative responsibility. Ruppelt complained that his tiny shop was overworked and undermanned, and a splendid compromise was found. In reality, since none of this was made public until long after the fact, it is clear that it was one more aspect of the conspiracy of silence.

In 1947 and 1948 when Project Sign was created, the public name given it was Project Saucer. A review of the magazine articles and books released in that time frame speak of Project Saucer. Once the real name, Project Sign, was compromised, the public name of Saucer was scrapped. Officials then suggested that Sign had been closed and no new investigation had been undertaken. Of course, it was only a name change, the project still existed.

This time the name was left in place, but the location of the investigation shifted. Blue Book would issue press releases and reporters would call the project for information, but the investigation was now housed in the Air Defense Command and conducted by the 4602d as part of their training.

While it can be argued, persuasively, that military secrets are a necessity, and since Blue Book was well known by the beginning of 1953, the policy makes sense. But it can also be argued that the policy is an outgrowth of a desire to mislead the public about the reality of the situation. The question that can be asked, and frequently was, "How can anyone suspect the Air Force takes UFOs seriously if the investigation consists of an officer, an NCO, an enlisted man or two and a secretary?" The answer is, of course, not very.

But, of course, that wasn't the true picture. Investigation was continuing at a very high level with the addition of the 4602d's intelligence teams. More information comes from the unit history (originally classified as Secret) and dated from 1 January - 30 June 1955. "The 4602d Air Intelligence Service Squadron continues to conduct all field investigations within the zone of the interior to determine the identity of any Unidentified Flying Objects." The unit history also noted, "The responsibility for UFOB investigation was placed on the Air Defense Command, with the publication of AFR 200-2, dated 12 August 1954."

This merely confirms what we had suspected before. There was a secret study of UFOs conducted by the Air Force that was not part of the Blue Book System. Clearly ATIC was involved because regulations demanded it, but there is nothing to suggest that every report forwarded to ATIC made its way down to Blue Book.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I Understand the Skeptics

I have always, in the past, rejected the idea of producing a top ten list of UFO sightings. I thought of it as a trap by the skeptics and the debunkers. They would take the list, find implausible solutions and then report that they had identified the UFOs as something mundane. They wouldn’t care if the solutions made sense or not. They would report that they had solved the cases and UFOs were nothing more than misidentifications and hoaxes.

There is good reason to believe that. Philip Klass was infamous for finding solutions that didn’t fit the facts. In Socorro he suggested it was a conspiracy between the then Socorro mayor and police officer Lonnie Zamora. Klass believed that the mayor had wanted to find an excuse to develop some land he owned and believed a UFO landing there would create a tourist attraction. We have since learned that the mayor didn’t own the land in 1964 and no real tourist attraction was ever developed.

Donald Menzel offered multiple explanations for the photographs taken over Lubbock, Texas in September 1951 but finally settled on "Hoax!" There is no evidence that it was a hoax and when I talked to the photographer, Carl Hart, some forty or so years later, he told me that he still doesn’t know what he photographed.

But there is no evidence of a hoax, unless, of course, you have the Menzel mindset. That is, there is no alien visitation and anything that suggests otherwise is either a misidentification or a hoax.

I now find myself in the same dilemma as the skeptics when it comes to the UFO subset of cattle mutilations. I entered the investigation in the early 1970s when Jim Lorenzen, then the International Director of APRO, asked me (and several others in several other locations) to look into some mutilations in Minnesota. After a week or so there, I had the answers to the questions about those specific mutilations and the extraterrestrial had nothing to do with it.

And in the years since, I have investigated other mutilations and I have kept up with the current literature on mutilations. I have read from both sides of the controversy including the two works that I think of as most important: the Rommel investigation done for the state of New Mexico, and Mute Evidence. I believe that anyone interested in cattle mutilations should have read both works but that isn’t the case. When I asked a proponent of mutilations about it quite recently, she said that she was unfamiliar with them.

Here’s the deal. Every case of mutilation that I have investigated has a rational, terrestrial explanation. Every one.

The answers ranged from scavengers to humans who thought it funny to carve up an already dead animal, but nothing with an extraterrestrial influence. There were suggestions, but those were based on speculation and the observations of those who didn’t understand the process of decay.

Periodically, I would look again at cattle mutilations, believing that as time passed, new information would surface. Instead it was the same sorts of arguments that hadn’t seemed all that persuasive in the 1970s. Ranchers who said they had never seen anything like it in the past. A surgical precision that couldn’t be duplicated by vets or doctors. Laser instruments that suggested a technology that was far beyond ours.

But, in the end, no one could explain why the aliens were doing it. What was the motivation? Why not just take the whole animal and not leave the remains?

As I have mentioned in the past, some one over at UFO UpDates asked for a list of reading material about mutilations and, of course, all those saying that UFOs were responsible were noted. I merely suggested that they also look at Mute Evidence and Rommel’s investigation for the state of New Mexico. I wasn’t advocating a position, merely providing, what I thought to be some useful references.

The response was typical. I was asked how I would explain various anomalies that some investigators had reported. I was asked how I would explain a lack of copper in the blood of the mutilated animal. I was asked how I would explain the lack of scavenger tracks on the ground near the dead and mutilated animal.

Well, the answers were there. Today, I would point to Fact or Fiction: The Paranormal Files on the SyFy Channel. They showed a picture of a dead and mutilated cow and said that there had been no animal tracks around it. But they didn’t mention the bird droppings that were quite obvious on the animal, even in the picture. There are many bird scavengers and no one seems to think of them.

They also tried to duplicate, using various instruments, the precision of the cuts on a mutilated animal and failed to do it. But they did run an experiment that suggested that some of these precise cuts were the result of the natural decomposition of the animal including some seemingly straight line incisions.

Their conclusion, which I’m sure annoyed not only some of the local ranchers but those who studied cattle mutilations, was that there was no evidence to suggest anything alien was involved.

Here’s the real point. Every time I believe that we had ended the conversation, someone says, "Yes, those are solved but what about this new and different case. How do you explain...?"

Usually it is just more of the same. What is anomalous to one is explained in the mundane to another. The solution, I suppose, would be a list of the ten most mysterious cattle mutilations and see if we could find solutions.

There are some truly mysterious cases and I learned of one in England not all that long ago. While mysterious, the solution, I believe, will be terrestrial rather than alien. I won’t say that I would be delighted if is was alien, but if that is the direction it took, then we who argue for the extraterrestrial nature of some UFO sightings would have some good evidence.

In a similar vein, Chris O’Brien, out there in Colorado, in the San Luis Valley is attempting to put up web cameras that could be used to spot the mystery mutilators and any space craft they might be flying. While I sort of trivialize it here, I do think it is a good idea. Anything that is done in an attempt to further our knowledge and to resolve an issue is a good thing. But the question is how long does it go on before he decides that there are no alien mutilators...

Obviously, if he caught something on tape, that would prove his point and we would have a very interesting bit of evidence. But I wonder if the same thing I heard about the lack of "classic" mutilations while Kenneth Rommel was investigating in New Mexico would be said in the San Luis Valley. While the cameras were operating, there just were no classic mutilations in front of them... Or if there was evidence of scavengers in what might look to be a classic mutilation, it would be dismissed because the damage didn’t mirror, exactly, some other mutilations.

The skeptics, I imagine, think the same thing about UFO sightings. They wonder just how many of the once classic cases that are now solved, at least for many of us, have to be defined as mundane before we give up the argument. In the last decade or so, many of them have fallen. I now believe that the Chiles-Whitted case of the cigar-shaped craft that rocketed past their aircraft was a bolide... an extremely bright meteor that seemed to come directly at them and fooled them.

I believe that the Mantell case, in which Thomas Mantell was killed chasing a huge object, is explained by a Skyhook balloon. I base that on the descriptions of the object that were provided by those who saw it as it drifted at 80,000 or a 100,000 feet above the ground.

I do not believe that a Project Mogul balloon is responsible for the debris found near Roswell. That doesn’t mean it was extraterrestrial, only that it wasn’t a balloon. I get to the extraterrestrial by other means and I reject Mogul because it doesn’t work, for all the reasons I have outlined here in the past.

So I understand the skeptics desire to have a list of the ten best cases so they could tackle them. I can easily think of ten cases with multiple chains of evidence but I fear that we have lost the opportunities that those cases would have supplied. We were so busy arguing about whether or not some UFOs represented alien spacecraft that none of us looked at the really good evidence when we had the opportunity.

I also know that some of the skeptics, but by no means all of them, would fail to make a dispassionate argument. They truly believe there is no alien visitation and therefore no evidence can prove alien visitation. Others would take that dispassionate look, but they would insist an very compelling evidence and rightly so.

I have no hope that anything will ever be resolved. Even if the spacecraft landed there would be those who believed it was some kind of fake. These are the same kind of people who believe the moon landings were a hoax, that the president’s birth certificate was faked, and that there is a colony on Mars (where I suspect the really rich will hide when the asteroid collides with Earth on December 21, 2012 and remember you heard it here first).

My real point is that I understand the skeptics frustration with UFOs, but then, I understand the other side of the coin as well. And I understand that nothing will be resolved until we can remove the emotion and belief structure from the equation. Humans haven’t been able to do that in all of recorded history and I doubt we’ll do it here. We can try, but I have little hope.