I’ve been working on a new book and I was chasing down stories of flying saucers, flying discs, seen prior to June 24, 1947. Sure there are some, but all, or almost all, seem to have been reported after Kenneth Arnold’s story appeared in newspapers.
One of the best of these, reported in many sources, came from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and according to one document, “Thus neither of those sightings [one from El Paso, Texas and one from Wapakoneta, Oregon] made the papers before Arnold’s account, but one story was actually reported to newspapers on the 23rd. The tale came from a railroad engineer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As he was climbing off his engine, he observed ten shiny disc-shaped objects flying in a string-like formation, ‘like wild geese.’ The six line story it generated produced little attention at the time.” The source of this, according to the footnote, was a speech given by Frank Edwards in April, 1956.
I have found references to it in other publications. Richard Hall, in his 1964 book, The UFO Evidence, lists it in two places, Section XI, page 129 and Section XII, page 152. Neither supplies much in the way of information. It is basically a recap of this other story and in neither place is there a source.
An Internet site listed Ted Bloecher’s The Report on the UFO Wave of 1947 as a source, but I was unable to find it there. If it is, I would hope that someone would point it out to me, but I don’t think they’ll find it. Bloecher used newspaper files for his documentation and so, if he didn’t find it in a newspaper, it was probably not published anywhere.
Now I was reading, the other day, a criticism of a UFO book, and it was suggested that primary sources were the best. Not witness testimony, but something that had been written down, such as a newspaper article or military document created at the time. If nothing else, that article could help establish the credibility of the sighting. Someone quoting another book would not be a primary source… it might be a secondary source, but might be even further removed from the primary source.
So, rather than quote those other books, rather than make a list of Internet and web sites that quoted the story, I thought about looking in the Cedar Rapids newspapers to find the original story. In June 1947, there were two newspapers in Cedar Rapids, The Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Cedar Rapids Tribune.
I carefully read the Gazette for June 23 and did not find the story. I went through the issue twice. I looked on June 24 but it was not there either. Nor was it there on the 25th, 26th, or 27th. Of course, if printed after June 24, it was just another of the many cases that surfaced after Arnold’s report hit the national circuit. Yes, I did find the Arnold story in the Gazette and thought the engineer story might be appended to it, but it was not.
The Tribune was not a daily paper and did not have an issue on June 23. I looked at several issues, but they didn’t even carry any flying disc reports. The newspaper was more geared to the local area.
And I was even allowed to search the library’s database for the newspaper articles. It wasn’t there, but then, I was told that they missed things in preparing the database. That it wasn’t there didn’t mean anything other than it wasn’t there. When appended to the other failed searches, that information becomes more significant.
While this sighting, if published on June 23, or even on June 24, would have been an important contribution to the UFO history, I was unable to find any documentation for it prior to Edwards’ 1956 speech. It does not appear in the Cedar Rapids newspapers, and I seriously doubt that any other newspaper would have carried it. Just nothing there of interest for them in it.
There is a school of thought that the case is listed in the Project Blue Book files, but it is from the Des Moines, Iowa area, happened on June 29, and involved a bus driver rather than a railroad engineer. But the details of the sighting are a match. The story was reported on July 8. If this is the right case, then it does nothing for us. It is just another of those sightings made after Arnold, reported after Arnold, and involves a single witness. The Air Force wrote it off as coming from an unreliable source.
I really wanted to document the details of the Cedar Rapids case, but simply could not do it. This is another “sighting” that should be removed from the various listings and databases. I don’t know how Edwards got it so twisted around, but I do know he didn’t get it from a newspaper in Cedar Rapids.