There is a misunderstanding about the Twining letter and it is about what caused it to be written. To understand it in the context of the time, it is necessary to understand why the letter was written.
In July 1947, an officer who worked for Brigadier General George Schulgen put together an Estimate of the Situation, which is not to be confused with the big one that was written later. This mini-EOTS covered a number of sightings that had been made early in 1947, including a few that had preceded Arnold. LTC George Garrett was the officer who wrote this EOTS that was sent to LTG Nathan Twining at Wright Field for analysis. I covered all this in Government UFO Files, which, if I was smart, is all I would say about it, making those interested in this discussion buy the book. However, and with the help of many others including Dr. Michael Swords ...
In July 1947, Garrett believed that nothing useful would be found by additional Air Force (really Army Air Forces) investigation of the flying saucer reports. Both Garrett and Schulgen decided that the answer was held above their pay grade and thought of a way to pass the buck back up the chain of command so they would no longer have to deal with it. They were quite certain that when they assembled their information in what might be considered an intelligence Estimate of the Situation, they would be told that those at the top knew what the flying saucers were and there would be no need to continue to investigate. Or, I suppose, you might say that this is what they hoped would happen.
Garrett began his work on his Estimate in the beginning of July, 1947. He selected sixteen flying saucer reports that seemed to demonstrate the truly unusual nature of the phenomenon, and then provided his analysis of the data that had been collected.
The first case he mentioned preceded that by Kenneth Arnold; the man many believe “launched” the UFO phenomena as we know it today, by over a month. That sighting, from Manitou Springs, Colorado happened sometime between 12:15 and 1:15 p.m. on May 19, 1947. This was a silver object that remained motionless, giving the three witnesses a good look at it, and then made a number of aerobatic maneuvers before disappearing at incredible speed. The sighting report mentioned that it had been watched through optical instruments and had been in sight for over two minutes meaning they had time to study it carefully. This sighting does not appear in the Project Blue Book files, though it was used as support for Garrett’s conclusions at the end of this study which in and of itself is interesting.
The second report that was mentioned was from Oklahoma City on May 22, 1947. There are few details available other than it was made by a businessman pilot and he saw the object or light from the ground and not the cockpit.
The third case came from Greenfield, Massachusetts on June 22, 1947. According to the report:
Edward L. de Rose said, ...there appeared across his line of vision a “brilliant, small, round-shaped, silvery white object” moving in a northwesterly direction as fast as or probably faster than a speeding plane at an estimated altitude of 1,000 feet or more. The object stayed in view for eight or ten seconds until obscured by a cloud bank. It reflected the sunlight strongly as though it were of polished aluminum or silver… He said it did not resemble any weather balloon he had ever seen and that “I can assure you it was very real.”
According to the information available, this was a case that had been secretly investigated by the FBI, and given Special Agent Reynolds’ (who has a role in these early investigations as outlined in The Government UFO Files) participation with Schulgen and Garrett it is not difficult to believe that the FBI was involved.
Next was the report that got everyone talking about flying saucers and this is the Kenneth Arnold’s sighting. In 1947, as Garrett was putting together his Estimate, it was still considered an unknown by those who had officially investigated it and who had talked to Arnold.
Garrett’s next sighting involved two Air Force (at the time Army Air Forces) pilots and two intelligence officers who saw a bright light zigzagging in the night sky over Maxwell Air Force Base on June 28, 1947. The sighting lasted for about five minutes. The eventual label applied to the case was that this was a balloon.
Garrett’s next case was witnessed by three scientists at White Sands, New Mexico. The object was silver in color and no external details were reported. There was the possibility of a slight vapor trail and none of the three were sure how it disappeared, suggesting that the angle changed and they lost sight of it.
Civilian pilots were responsible for the next sighting that Garrett quoted. Captain E. J. Smith was piloting a United Airlines plane when one of the flying saucers appeared coming at them. The first officer, Ralph Stevens, reached down to blink the landing lights, and Smith asked what he thought he was doing. Stevens responded that another plane was coming at them. As it closed, they realized that it wasn't another aircraft but one of the flying disks.
Although the case was thoroughly investigated, the Air Force found no solution for it. In the Project Blue Book files, it is still carried as “Unidentified.”
Three airmen on a B-25, near Clay Center, Kansas said they saw a silver-colored object pacing their aircraft was the next case cited. One of the witnesses was the pilot who said that a bright flash called his attention of the object, which he said was thirty to fifty feet in diameter and very bright. He said the object appeared to be pacing the aircraft at 210 miles an hour. When they turned toward it, the object seemed to accelerate to high speed and disappeared. Later the Air Force would suggest that the sighting was caused by a reflection on the windshield.
Garrett next reported that Captain James H. Burniston, on July 6, 1947, while at Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base saw one of the flying disks. According to that report:
…He observed an object traveling in a southeasterly direction at an estimated height of 10,000 feet or more and at a speed in excess of that of any aircraft he had ever seen. The object was in his view for approximately sixty seconds during which time it travelled over three-quarters of the visible sky. Burniston could distinguish no definite color or shape. It appeared to roll from side to side three times during his observation and one side reflected strongly from its surface while the other side gave no reflection. He estimates the size to be about that of a C-54 and states that between the time the top of the object was visible and the time it rolled over … the bottom became very difficult to see and almost disappeared.
Although the next two reports seem to be related, Garrett broke them into two separate incidents, one from Koshkonong, Wisconsin and the second from East Troy, Wisconsin. They are listed on the same “Project Card,” which supplies very little information. Both sightings lasted under a minute, and in both sightings the witnesses were members of the Civil Air Patrol, an official civilian auxiliary of the Air Force. The first of the sightings was reported at 11:45 (CST) in the morning and the second at 2:30 (CST) in the afternoon. Both were made on July 7, 1947.These two cases were marked, “Insufficient information for proper analysis.”
Following his theory of who might make the best witnesses, the next case involved an Army National Guard pilot flying near Mt. Baldy, California on July 8, 1947. The flat object, reflecting light, was about the size of a fighter. The pilot said that he gave chase attempting to keep the object in sight but was unable to do so.
A police officer, among others, in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, reported an egg-shaped object with a barrel-like leading edge about thirty minutes before midnight on July 9, 1947, in the next case reported by Garrett. There were four objects that had a phosphorescent glow.
The next day, and next on the list there was a series of sightings in Newfoundland. Garrett used the sighting that took place about four in the afternoon, and was seen by a “TWA Representative and a PAA Representative [who was identified as a Mr. Leidy] on the ground. The object was “circular in shape, like a wagon wheel,” and was bluish-black with a fifteen foot long trail. The object “seemed to cut clouds open as it passed thru [sic]. Trail was like beam seen after a high-powered landing light is switched off.”
The case took on added importance because there were color photographs of the disk as it cut through the clouds. Dr. Michael Swords reported in the Journal of UFO Studies:
The bluish-black trail seems to indicate ordinary combustion from a turbo-jet engine, athodyd [ramjet] motor, or some combination of these types of power plants. The absence of noise and apparent dissolving of the clouds to form a clear path indicates a relatively large mass flow of a rectangular cross section containing a considerable amount of heat.
In 1947, this was an important case and provides a hint as to what Garrett and the others thought. They believed that the solution here rested in terrestrial technology, or in other words, this was something of Soviet manufacture. While the sighting itself is interesting for the photographs, it was important because it seemed to suggest the Soviets were responsible rather than aliens.
The final case that Garrett cited was from Elmendorf Field in Anchorage, Alaska on July 12. A major in the Army Air Forces said that he watched an object that resembled a grayish balloon as it followed the contours of the mountains some five miles away. The major said that the object paralleled the course of a C-47 that was landing on the airfield.
With these sixteen reports, and two added later, Garrett composed his study. It might be said that he drew on these specific cases because he, along with Schulgen, believed they most accurately described the objects seen, the maneuvers they performed, and they would most likely lead to the conclusion that these sightings were of a classified research project then in development. They thought they would be told to quit because of that. The answer they received, after they had forwarded their report to the Air Materiel Command and to Twining must have surprised them. It was not at all what they had expected.
On September 24, 1947, Schulgen, Garrett and the others received the written response from Twining’s staff. This analysis of the situation was based wholly on the information supplied by Garrett through Schulgen. Twining’s staff looked at the reports that had been included and then produced a draft of the response for approval by Twining.
Given the information they had to work with, and it seems those at Wright Field added nothing to the mix themselves; they reached their conclusions based on the information supplied. These reports, for the most part, came from pilots, both military and civilian including airline pilots. They came from scientists, police, and aviation personnel who should have been able to recognize aircraft in the air. The reports were selected because they were, for the most part, from multiple witnesses and one must have been selected because of the photographs. These were some of the best sightings that had been received beginning with the May reports that did not make it into the Project Blue Book files.
This response, then, from Twining's AMC staff was telling them that the phenomenon was “something real and not visionary or fictitious.” Not only that, Twining was telling them that his command didn't know what the flying saucers were and that they should be investigated.
If the flying saucers were a U.S. project, then the last thing anyone at the higher levels of the chain of command would have wanted would be an official investigation. Any investigation would be a threat to the security of the project. To end such an investigation one of those on the inside of the secret would have to drop a hint to someone on the outside. If, for example, it was such a secret project that General Twining and the AMC were outside the loop, then another general, on the inside, could call Twining to tell him to drop the investigation. He wouldn't have to spill any details of the secret project, only tell Twining that it was something he didn't need to worry about and the answer was not Soviet or anything else that could threaten national security. Twining would then end his inquiries, secure in the knowledge that the solution to the mystery was already known to someone inside the US military and the government.
Swords, commenting on this, wrote, "What explains this confident display of mediocrity? Although we are apparently not dealing with genius here, neither should we assume complete stupidity. This report was not put together with any greater intensity because the authors did not feel that it was necessary. They did not think that UFOs were any great mystery. It was obvious to them that UFOs were mechanical, aerial devices. Whose devices was still up in the air (so to speak), but the indications were fairly clear: despite assurances to the contrary, they must be our own. 'Lack of topside inquiries' [meaning, of course, those higher up in the chain of command] made this the only reasonable conclusion in their eyes."
What this does explain, for those who haven’t figured it out yet, is why there was a mention of a “lack of crash recovered material.” None had been included in the mini-EOTS. The response by Twining, which was written under the supervision of Howard McCoy, used only that information included in the original EOTS. They added nothing to it because they could accomplish what they wanted in that way. Had they added additional information or mention information that was classified “Top Secret” that would have changed the nature of the discussion and, of course, the classification of the response.
And this is why the Roswell crash wasn't mentioned in Twining's letter. It wasn't part of the original query, there was no reason to add it, and the investigation could continue as they searched for additional answers... or more importantly, they scrambled around trying to find out if national security was at risk. This they could accomplish without compromising the Roswell information.