Saturday, April 07, 2012

Kenneth Arnold, William Rhodes and Maury Island

This whole UFO thing is becoming quite confusing with little bits and pieces dropping in from all sorts of places. As I wrote a while ago, I had been driving into the Hy Vee grocery store parking lot when I got a call from someone wanting to talk about William Rhodes (See a series of postings in October 2010). That set off a bit of an investigation into the photographs he had taken on July 7, 1947, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Rhodes photograph.

The Air Force worked hard, I thought, to discredit Rhodes and their investigation into his background was some what snarky on the surface. They maligned his occupation, suggesting he was little more than a third-rate musician who lived off his wife’s salary as a teacher. They didn’t think much of his Panoramic Research Laboratory which seemed to be a well-equipped home lab, and overlooked that he held a number of patents. They mentioned that he claimed to be a doctor, but could find no reference in the telephone director showing that he was a physician or a vet, apparently never considering that he might hold a Ph.D or looking for other documentation besides that in the telephone book.

As I have noted before, this question of a post-graduate degree is a somewhat murky area and as James McDonald suggested, clouds his otherwise interesting tale of taking two photographs of a flying saucer. For some, this issue is enough to suggest the Rhodes photographs are a hoax. For others it is an aberration that suggests something about Rhodes’ personality but does not mean the pictures were faked.

I mention all this by way of background to a new point. I have been working on a book for Visible Ink Press and one of the things I have been doing is revisiting the Maury Island sighting. This took place on June 21, 1947, which is only a couple of days before Kenneth Arnold made his sighting, but it received no publicity, or interest, until after Arnold’s report exploded all over the newspapers and the world.

George Earley, who describes himself as an “Opinionated Oregonian,” and who had researched the case for a long time, published a four-part series in UFO magazine about the Maury Island case. (I will note here that Bill Birnes who is the publisher of UFO and who, on UFO Hunters on History (which used to be the History Channel, but they do little history any more), investigated the Maury Island case, published Earley’s series which seems to conflict with Birnes’ opinion of the sighting. It is always good to see opposing opinions freely stated without acrimony, but then, I digress).

You’re all probably wondering what this means and how does it all tie together. Simple. Earley, in part four of the series, mentioned that Arnold, who was investigating the Maury Island sighting for Ray Palmer of Amazing Stories, believed that he had gotten himself in over his head. Arnold just wasn’t sure what to do, but remembered that Lieutenant Frank Brown, who had investigated Arnold’s sighting, had told him to call if he had any questions. Arnold did that, calling Brown at Hamilton Army Air Field in California.

Brown, with Captain William Davidson, took a B-25 (with permission, of course) and flew up to Tacoma, Washington, where Arnold was investigating the case. They all got together in Arnold’s hotel room late in the evening where Arnold showed them the debris that had been recovered on Maury Island. Both Army officers seems to believe that the material was nothing more than smelter slag and believed the tale of the crippled UFO to be a hoax. (And while all that is not critical to this, I will note that I find no reason to disagree with the two officers and their analysis.)

Anyway, the point is, and according to Earley, Arnold asked the two officers what Army intelligence had learned about UFOs. Davidson then drew a picture and said, “This is a drawing of one of several photographs we consider to be authentic.”

All well and good, but what has this to do with anything else, you might ask? Well, Brown then said, “It came from Phoenix, Arizona the other day. We have prints of it at Hamilton Field, but the original negatives were flown to Washington, D.C.”

Earley then wrote, “If they were, the late Edward Ruppelt, one-time head of Project Blue Book, made no mention of them in his book.” (But there is a case file in the Blue Book files so Ruppelt had to know about it.)

It is clear to me, that those pictures were the ones that Rhodes had taken since there are no other photographs taken in July 1947 in Phoenix, Arizona. It is interesting that Brown mentioned Hamilton Field because Rhodes does the same thing. And Hamilton Field was part of the Fourth Air Force in 1947, and Rhodes had communications with officers at Fourth Air Force about his photographs as well.

Now I realize these statements, uttered so long ago by officers who would be dead a few hours later (their B-25 crashed and burned), doesn’t mean much in and of itself. But still it is an interesting bit of information buried in a long story about the Maury Island hoax written by Earley, a man who has long studied that case and is well-versed on the ins and outs of it.

And no, there is nothing more we can do. Brown and Davidson died within hours of the conversation., Captain E. J. Smith, an airline pilot who was also in the room during the discussion and who had his own UFO sighting on July 4, 1947, and Kenneth Arnold who asked the question are both gone as well. We only have the information provided by Arnold so long ago in his writings about UFOs, about a case that he didn’t investigate with pictures he probably didn’t see, and what we all know about the Rhodes photographs. It is interesting, as I say, but doesn’t prove much one way or the other.


Don said...

"The Air Force worked hard, I thought, to discredit Rhodes..."

They barely got off their asses. Hynek wanted evidence in order to expose Rhodes in public as a hoaxer, if such was the case. The CIC gave him some chat with a Rhodes' neighbor (who said she didn't know him very well) and the highlights of whatever directories they pawed through. This is a background check?

"And no, there is nothing more we can do."

I've done a better background check on Rhodes than what the CIC reported. There's plenty more I can do.



Frank Stalter said...

One question I have about Maury Island and the deaths of Brown and Davidson. If I understand correctly, there were 4 people on the B-25 before it crashed, the others being the pilot and I guess a co-pilot. Those two had parachutes and jumped and Brown and Davidson didn't have chutes. What's the protocol there? "It's been nice knowing you guys, see you in the hereafter," and then they jump? Very bizarre.

KRandle said...

Frank -

Brown and Davidson were the pilots. When the engine caught fire, Brown went back to the two passengers, got them into parachutes and then out of the plane. He returned to the cockpit where he and Davidson apparently thought they could land the plane safely, saving the aircraft... unfortunately the left wing came off (probably because of the engine fire) and the aircraft went into a spin. At that point they couldn't get out.

cda said...

It always struck me as amusing that according to Ray Palmer (who promoted the Maury Island case), all 64,000 copies of the July 9 "Arizona Republic" were seized by AF personnel to squash interest in the Rhodes photo, which was on the front page. He genuinely believed this was possible and was done! He admitted a few copies escaped confiscation.

(He even claimed the Tacoma library had some local papers removed due to the Maury Island story!).

And the amusing part? On that very front page of the 'Republic' was the Roswell 'collapsed disc' story, blown apart by Ramey.

Palmer had no interest in Roswell, and never once referred to it, but he was still a staunch conspiracist.

Don said...

CDA wrote: "Palmer had no interest in Roswell, and never once referred to it, but he was still a staunch conspiracist."

Isn't that a point in Roswell's favor?



KRandle said...

Don -

As I explained in the Rhodes' posts in October 2010, the Air Force didn't try very hard to find the truth. In today's world is it certainly easier to check on someone. But then, you'd think the FBI and CIC would have had the resources in 1947 to check this guy out, especially since he had worked for the Navy during the beginning of WW II.

As for Palmer, he was more interested in proving the Shaver mystery true than anything else. Roswell didn't help his case.


Nice snide remark, however.

Lance said...

Where did the quotes from Brown and Davidson come from? From the Arnold and Palmer book, the Coming of the Saucers?

I wouldn't trust the accuracy of any conversation related in that book. Its Hardy Boys style (as well as the well-known tendency of one of the authors to make stuff up) should put any researcher on guard.



KRandle said...

Lance -

The quotes came from George Earley's articles in UFO, who got them from a number of places, all of which come back to Arnold and Palmer (say, did anyone notice that it was Arnold - Palmer?).

I mentioned this only because it relates to the Rhodes photographs in Phoenix which I found interesting but certainly not very convincing.

Don said...

Kevin wrote: "But then, you'd think the FBI and CIC would have had the resources in 1947 to check this guy out, especially since he had worked for the Navy during the beginning of WW II."

They could have more easily confirmed the Falcon Field story. It is material to the sighting and photos. If Rhodes was not a civilian instructor in aircraft recognition there, then that's all Hynek needed, both to dispose of Rhodes and his photos.

I haven't looked into whatever relationship Rhodes may have had with the NOL. I don't know what question to ask. It seems very unlikely that he did, in the sense of being on the staff, on the org chart. He might have done work for them, though.

Referring to your 10/10 article, I still think your informants' information is in the ballpark. I don't know if it was the object photographed, but that kind of project is something that fits in well.

"In today's world is it certainly easier to check on someone."

The Rhodes case was off and on for a long time, and passed through numerous hands. I think what we have in BB today was not available to Hynek or Ruppelt, for example. And there appears to be information that they and we both do not have, although at this later date we can discern what is absent.



Don said...

Does anyone know what Arnold's and Rhodes' Selective Service status was during the war?



Lance said...

I am looking forward to your write up about the Rhodes case, Don--if that's what you plan to do.


Lance said...

Oh, and thanks Kevin for the response. I'm sure you have also read Coming of the Saucers and know what I am talking about in regards to stuff that Palmer touched.

Best--And Happy Easter,


brumac said...

The Air Force may have tried to publicly "dis" the Rhodes photos but privately Air Force Intel essentially endorsed them when it included both photos, with blowups, in the formerly Top Secret Air Intelligence Report 100-203-79 published in December, 1948. This document was release to ppublic view at the National Archives in the spring of 1985 and soon after I visited the Archives and held in my hands what appeared to be the legendary Estimate of the Situation, a TS document in a stiff black paper folder. However, upon reading it became clear that this was not the EOS. Instead it was a "ghost" or more accurately a distant cousin. At any rate, I bring this up because of the Rhodes connection. Rhodes had said they had taken his negatives and not returned them. The doubters assumed that Rhodes was lying because he didn't want the original negatives to be available for skeptical analysis. However, in the black cover version of the document, apparently the master copy (from which other copies had been made....and later destroyed), there were four prints of the Rhodes photos, two full frame and two blowups. These were photographic prints pasted into the pages of the report. They looked to me to be so clear that IMHO they were made from the original negatives. They were presented in the document as part of a long list of sightings of "flying saucers." One wonders where these negatives are now. Inquiring minds want to know.

KRandle said...

All -

Although I haven't said much about it, I will note here that Rhodes' claim of an advanced degree is quite shakey, and I found his posting about it as I explained in the October posts. He provided two versions of it and for some, it was enough to discredit him and his photographs.

On the other side, the Air Force investigation, as presented in the Project Blue Book files was little more than a smear and an attempt to discredit him through innuendo. They wanted to explain the pictures which they didn't actually do though they labeled them as a hoax.

I'll tell you all what bothered me the most in this tale. At the beginning of the war he was working for the Navy Department and just a few months into 1942, he was back home in Phoenix doing something else. It seemed to me that if his work with the Navy was critical, he would have been with them longer... remember the war began, for those of us in the US, in December 1941 and three or four months later Rhodes was back in Phoenix.

I explained in the October pieces that the man Rhodes said could corroborate his story was dead, but I found him alive. He did not corroborate it... but he didn't deny its accuracy either. As I said then, I just don't think he wanted to call his friend, Rhodes, a liar.

As I said, I found the reference to the Rhodes photographs in the article written by George Earley to be interesting but I don't think it does anything to advance our knowledge of the pictures and it certainly doesn't say anything about their legitimacy.

David Rudiak said...

Don and I have tried to verify some of Rhodes' various claims (Don more so than me). We went into this on Kevin's blog back in Oct. 2010. The point being, if some of his other claims can be verified, then the PhD claim is more likely to be true.

From what I was able to determine in a limited way from Net electronic searches (summarized at the blog), Rhodes was the real deal as far as inventive skills were concerned, in 1948 building an advanced, well-acknowledged, telescope and TV imaging system, (e.g., mentioned in astronomer Clyde Tombaugh's papers).

A few years later he was the co-inventor with electronics pioneer Lee de Forest of a TV light amplifier. This established that Rhodes did indeed know de Forest, who he claimed was part of his honorary PhD degree. Doesn't prove he did receive such a degree, but does give the story some crediblity.

I note a number of other inventions by Rhodes, a number of them patented. Obviously he was clever guy, no doubt clever enough to hoax the photos, but that doesn't mean he did hoax the photos. We currently aren't getting anywhere with arguments about the PhD story since nothing can be verified one way or the other. His colleague refusing to confirm or deny the story also doesn't tell us much. Saying he didn't want to embarrass Rhodes is pure conjecture.

That's where it currently stands. The CIC and air intelligence obviously took the photos very seriously at the time. They did confiscate the negatives and prints. They weren't completely honest with him about their identity in getting him to agree to give them up. That's all documented. Rhodes never got them back though he did try. Instead the negatives disappeared into the usual black hole of UFO photos taken by the military.

A similar example was a movie taken by Louisville Times photographer Al Hixenbaugh June 27, 1950. The newspaper printed several frames of the film on their front page the next day. The newspapers said military intelligence was interested in examining the film. Clandestine investigations by USAF intelligence and R&D then began. Documents show they also wanted to conceal their interest in the film and their identities. I spoke to Hixenbaugh about ten years ago and was about the most reluctant witness I ever encountered. He finally very reluctantly told me he did finally meet with military intelligence and had the film up until that time, but refused to say more about what happened to the film.

Interestingly, a few seconds of the film did appear in a UFO documentary a few years later. The object looks exactly like what Kenneth Arnold described. When I asked Hixenbaugh if he knew about Kenneth Arnold, his comment was "Who?" I really don't think he knew anything about Arnold or his story.

KRandle said...

David -

You wrote, "His colleague refusing to confirm or deny the story also doesn't tell us much. Saying he didn't want to embarrass Rhodes is pure conjecture."

Yes, it is, but it strikes me that if the story was true, he would have confirmed it. If he didn't remember, he would have said it. That he dodged the question, twice, seems to suggest that the story wasn't true.

And, we have two versions of how Rhodes said he was awarded his Ph.D. One makes a little sense and the other, not so much. But the real point is that there are two versions from Rhodes...

Yes, the guy was near genius based on the patents he was awarded. Yes, he had an abrasive personality which might explain some of his trouble in the 1950s. But the fact remains that he probably embellished his educational background...

Of course, the fact also remains that the Air Force did attempt to smear him with their snarky little comments and their claim that his neighbors said he was a good neighbor who apparently shot the cats and dogs that strayed onto his property, which doesn't make him sound like a good neighbor.

This is one in which the jury is still out and it really depends on which side of the UFO fence you are on. If you accept the idea of alien visitation, then here is a case that doesn't rely solely on the word of the observer because he has pictures, and if you think there has been no visitation, then his embellishment on his educational background is sufficient to reject the pictures as faked.

David Rudiak said...


Credibility is in the eye of the beholder. A good example of a terrible witness with little or no credibility but a still unexplained case was the Florida Scoutmaster case described by Ruppelt. The guy's war hero claim didn't stand up, in fact he received a dishonorable discharge. Those who knew him considered him a pathological liar.

With such an obviously shaky witness, Ruppelt was about to write the whole thing off as a likely hoax, except when they examined the grass samples they had collected from the area they discovered that the roots were charred. The best the technical people could figure is that a large induction current had been produced in the area. Nobody could figure out how anybody could have faked that.

So the case remains unexplained, despite a pathological liar for a prime witness.

Another important witness whose claims of a degree (which were somewhat ambiguous to begin with) are maybe shaky was Jesse Marcel. However, unlike Rhodes, Marcel had a lot of backup for his story of highly anomalous debris and a coverup, including two generals, Dubose and Exon. And absolutely no question exists that he was indeed the head intel officer at Roswell, was sent out to the debris field, and subsequently flown to Fort Worth with debris to see Gen. Ramey, the guy who finally debunked the whole thing as a weather balloon. Also there is no question that he received high praise from superior officers afterward, including Ramey and Dubose.

Usually a lot of ambiguity about whether a witness is telling the truth about their credentials has to do with the records now being very old and difficult to locate, if they exist at all. Marcel, e.g., went from Lt. to Captain to Major while stationed in the South Pacific for 18 months, but there is no record of his promotion to Captain, yet it is unlikely he jumped directly from Lt. to Maj. And other than his record noting he received the Bronze Star, no paperwork or actual citation exists for this in his record either.

KRandle said...

David wrote, "Credibility is in the eye of the beholder."

I thought that was what I said, more or less.

You write about Jesse Marcel and suggest a jump from first lieutenant to major is unlikely... and while true it would not be without precedence.

George Custer jumped from captain to brigadier general. Of course he moved from the regular Army to a Michigan state regiment but he was a general. After the war and his commission expired he dropped to lieutenant colonel, never having been a major.

Jimmy Doolittle, after the morale boosting raid on Tokyo jumped from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general...

Jesse Marcel, however, based on the documentation I have was promoted to captain on para #1, Special Order # 62 dated March 4, 1944. So the record seems complete and his promotions are noted on other documents.

And yes, I do have a copy of his Bronze Star Medal citation. I had to go to the unit history, but I did find it. BTW, the dates on the unit history and the notation in his file do not agree.

Don said...

Brumac, the report you saw was an original of the "Analysis Of Flying Object Incidents In The US", dated 10 December 1948, prepared by both Air Force and Navy intelligence, originally classifed Top Secret.

Thanks for the info that the originals came with four photographic prints pasted in.

My focus on the case has been just that, a focus on the documents in BB, rather than the object photographed, or Rhodes character.

This case spans Sign, Grudge, and BB, and along the way things got lost, left incomplete, or were garbled -- intentionally or not.

Sometime in 1948, the AF, or rather AFOSI, no longer needed Rhodes or his photos. They had better information on the project or object -- it is this information that does not appear to have been known to Hynek, to Grudge, or BB. It was not in the files then and is not there now, afaict. But there is a faint reflection of it in a trivial detail in an existing file, or so I believe.

Lance wrote: "I am looking forward to your write up about the Rhodes case, Don--if that's what you plan to do."

On this part of the case, I will and soon because I think the odds of my finding the "smoking gun" document is about nil, because it wasn't the sort of document that would be archived. It was civilian and nothing official. It would be nothing but pure luck if I found it.

It's not going to identify the object, nor is it going to change anyone's opinion of Rhodes' character. I hope it will encourage others to follow the lead.



cda said...

Brumac refers to the "Estimate of the Situation", the famous unofficial document produced by some Project Sign members in 1948.

I wonder why this document, with its TOP SECRET designation, was ever produced. Ruppelt indicates it emanated from the Chiles-Whitted incident, and that this was the trigger, as it were. It included reports from "scientists, pilots and other equally credible observers, and each one was an unknown".

Yes, an unknown in 1947 & 48. But today? Would such a document ever be produced today? The Chiles-Whitted affair seemed like a 'sky monster from outer space' story in 1948, but today it would be quickly demolished and thus not create the headlines and sheer wonderment it got at the time. Thus the EOS document would not have had the impetus it had then.

It is entirely possible Rhodes' photos were within its pages. We shall never know, but I assume some UFO photograps were included to give the document more strength, and Rhodes' were the obvious ones to include (does anyone know of any other similar photos during 47-48 of the same quality?)

We also do not really know whether it was due solely to Gen Vandenberg that the document met its demise, or whether others up the hierarchy had briefly seen it, been non-committal or skeptical but decided to let proceed to the top regardless.

The idea that Roswell was in it but was expunged by Vandenberg only arose decades later, and as part of the conspiracy thesis.

Don said...

The 12/10/48 "Analysis" (not the disputed "Estimate") notes that the cases it summarizes include reports from "possibly less reliable sources" that cannot be "entirely ignored".

The "Analysis" is a nice example of an official Top Secret document with errors. For example, the fubar'd Arnold sighting. The report transfers his June 24 sighting to July 29 (where one would expect the amber disks sighting) and to Tacoma.

Of special interest to me is the "Analysis" misspelling of 'Rhodes' as "Rhoads". The original report on Rhodes was made by CIC SA Lynn Aldrich, in which he refers to "Rhoads". This misspelling makes its reappearance in BB with Fournet and Ruppelt, and this indicates that what they had was Aldrich's original report and, because of their bizzare cluelessness, nothing else. This seems to be the case for the "Analysis" as well. Question here for me is why didn't they have the correct spelling which, except for one instance (Gust's "Rhoades") appears throughout the files? It is importand in searching BB on this case to get unredacted copies.

All this suggests to me that sometime in 1948, a lot of the Rhodes files were not available to the the authors of the "Analysis", and later to Ruppelt.

This should be a matter of interest for those who rely on Dr McDonald's inquiry at Columbia. Did he write to them, call them on the phone, meet them face to face? Did Columbia check for misspellings of "Rhodes"? I do not think, Dr McDonald had the BB files to analyze.



Anonymous said...

So, did no one ever interview Robert Snieder about the EOS?

cda said...

When Major Dewey Fournet was once interviewed about EOS his response was that the document was still TOP SECRET when he saw it. Therefore he was not at liberty to reveal its contents.

Presumably Snieder would say the same. So unless Snieder or anyone else saw it and read it AFTER it was declassified, you will get the same answer.

But even at this late stage, I seriously doubt that any such post-declassification reader would remember what they had read. Nor do I believe they would attach any importance to it now.

Don said...

Kevin wrote: "It is clear to me, that those pictures were the ones that Rhodes had taken since there are no other photographs taken in July 1947 in Phoenix, Arizona."

But that is the question re Incident #40.

Kevin, I've avoided the Arnold connection to the Rhodes case because I didn't want to complicate my work with something that is a sidebar, at best, to Incident #40. Is there any evidence that the drawing shown to Arnold was based on a Rhodes photo, or are we only glossing it with his name for the reason you give?

What do you make of EJ Smith's account that Arnold said the photo upon which the drawing was based was taken by a woman in Phoenix?



Don said...

The agent in charge Wilcox' report, with Smith as his source, has "[Arnold] met them at the door and seemed excited, explaining to [Smith] that Captain [Davidson] had just drawn a reproduction of a freak disc which had supposedly been seen by a woman in Arizona and that this drawing as an exact reproduction of the flying disc which he, [Arnold], had seen several weeks before, nearing Mt. Ranier."

Nothing about it reproducing a photograph here. I correct my previous comment about the woman taking a photo.

In 1952, Arnold has "I turned to Lt. Brown for verification. He nodded his head and stated, "That's right. It came from Phoenix, Arizona the other day. We have prints of it at Hamilton Field but the original negatives were flown to Washington, D.C."



Don said...

"It is also interesting to note that while Rhodes himself had no luck in getting his photographs back, officers at Hamilton Field willingly gave copies to Arnold on a subsequent trip he made to that base. Those same photos given to Dr McDonald by Arnold were lent for the purpose of reproduction in this report by Dr. McDonald."

-- Report on the Wave of 1947 by Bloecher and McDonald

There's more of this in Alfred Loedding, and the Great Flying Saucer Wave of 1947 (Hall and Conners), plus their comment that Brown and Davidson had interviewed Rhodes in July of 1947.

These statements, along with Dr McDonald's inquiry at Columbia, seem to be foundational to the opinion on the Rhodes case among ufo researchers as well as what is commonly posted in blogs.

What are the primary documents supporting these assertions?



The Secret Sun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kurt Peters said...

In the suppressed UFO-Mutilation-Expose book "Mute Evidence", we see Linda Moulton Howe explaining how she sat on Arnold's lap as a child while he told her UFO stories.....

....we also see how Karl Pflock was a deceiving con-man....

Kurt Peters said...

P.S. ....there was a competent book review of "Mute Evidence" in IUR (CUFOS publication) decades ago that explored all this....

Kurt Peters said...

Feline Abduction Syndrome???

Unknown said...

I personally don't think Brown and Davidson ever died. I think they jumped before the crash; and, I think their faked deaths were just a part of the military's planned UFO hoax at Maury Island, which was designed to discredit Arnold and Palmer.