As should be obvious, I have spent some time looking into the November 1957 UFO sightings, especially those in the desert southwest. I have been through what I can find, including the original reports that appear in The A.P.R.0. Bulletin, the NICAP UFO Investigator, the Project Blue Book files, and the skeptical end of these cases including Watch the Skies! by Curtis Peebles.
What I find interesting is how the Project Blue Book investigators seemed to miss basic facts, made allegations that were never corroborated (which is a nice way to suggest they just made up stuff), and wrote off cases based not on the evidence but on their own personal bias. The James Stokes case of November 5, 1957, proves the point.
What prompted this is what I read in Watch the Skies!. The information is right out of the Project Blue Book files, reported as if this was an unbiased search for the truth, the only credible source for information and dismisses Stokes as a liar. That allegation is based on trivia, much of it coming from the mistakes made by the Air Force which could have been corrected if they had cared anything for the truth.
The first point is the claim that Stokes, after his sighting and before he did anything else, called the media, in this case the Alamogordo radio station to describe what he had seen. But the evidence, available at the time, is that Stokes first called his superior, Major Ralph Everett, at Holloman Air Force Base to ask if he could talk about the case. When he received the affirmative, he didn’t call the radio station. He called his friend, Jim Lorenzen. But the radio station news director, Terry Clarke, having learned Stokes’ name from Everett, was looking for Stokes so that even if Stokes hadn’t called Lorenzen, who then called radio station, the story would have gotten out. So, Stokes story can’t be criticized for his the media contact.
Much is made by the alleged misidentification of Stokes as an engineer. The Air Force suggests that we can reject Stokes because of this resume inflation. But the idea that he was an engineer is again traced to Holloman and his superiors who identify him as such. Even the base PIO, in a statement released that is in support of Stokes’ credibility and is not part of the Blue Book file, identifies him as an engineer. Of this, Michael Swords in UFOs and the Government wrote, “the pettiness of part of this attempt at personality assassination is a little disturbing.”
From there we move into the real trivia. According to the Air Force, Stokes changed the number of cars along the side of the road from ten to several and finally settling on six. But in that first interview, in the radio station, Stokes didn’t give a number. He just said several.
Or the idea that he made contradictory statements. This apparently revolves around the “severe” sunburn that Stokes reported. Terry Clarke, in his December 1957 magazine article (written within weeks of the sighting) mentioned the sunburn, but didn’t call it severe. There are several newspaper clippings in which it is described as severe, but in the documentation from the time frame, and from Clarke’s description of it, the sunburn was mild. It had faded by the next morning and by the time the Air Force investigator arrived, there was no sign of any sort of burn. To the Air Force, this observation, days later, and the change from severe to mild is evidence of Stokes changing his statements. This is the second contradictory statement noted in the Blue Book file, the first being the number of stalled cars.
As those of you who visit here regularly know, I try to get to both sides of the controversy. I published information that refutes some very interesting Foo Fighter sightings based on evidence I found in the ship’s deck logs that do not confirm the sightings. I believe that Chiles and Whitted, who said they saw a cigar-shaped craft with a double row of lighted, square windows, saw a bolide, a very bright meteor. I have corrected inaccurate information with the latest data, and have taken heat for being a debunker and an anti-abduction propagandist…but the real search should be for the truth, whatever that truth might be.
But here, in the Stokes case, I say the skeptics have it wrong. Those who had looked at the case, used the Project Blue Book files as their source of information, ignoring other sources such as Clarke’s 1957 article (or probably not locating it during their research which isn’t quite the same as ignoring it) don’t have an accurate and complete picture. If we are going to learn anything about these UFOs, the very least we can do is make sure that our sources of information are accurate, that they are not biased, and most importantly, that these sources use the best information available. Repeating a conclusion created by someone else because you like it is not doing research, it is merely following the party line, whichever party line that happens to be.
Stokes deserved better than he got from his own government. He had served in the Navy for 24 years, he had served in World War II, and there is no evidence in the accounts gathered at the time that he changed his story, recanted part of his story, or that he invented it out of whole cloth. This doesn’t mean he saw an alien spacecraft, only that he saw something he couldn’t explain and reported that to his superior the first chance he got. But there is nothing to prove that he made the thing up for the publicity that he received and nothing to validate the claim that it was a hoax. This should have been marked “Unidentified” by the Air Force, not “Mirage and Psychological.”