About three quarters of a century ago, we find that the military and the government were in the same place that we find ourselves today. That means that they didn’t know what was happening but they had a number of flying saucer sightings that the Air Force found puzzling. Their solution then was to create an estimate of the situation. This is not the fabled Estimate of the Situation that is talked about in UFO literature, but another, earlier estimate that contained 16 cases and about 35 reports that included a sighting with color photographs.
The following analysis could have been written today, given what the UAP report to Congress supplied. I offer this in comparison to what was released on June 25 because it is basically the same thing. Reports gathered and selected because of who the witnesses were, little in the way of analysis of those sightings, and a suggestion that more needed to be done. In the end, nothing came of this and we were subjected to decades of misinformation, distortion and outright lies about UFOs. It was as vague as the new report and offered little in the way of investigative analysis.
Read the following with the UAP report in mind. I believe we are going down the same path, given that no one today seems to have a sense of history. Those responsible for the report to Congress should have taken time to look at the history of UFO investigation. It might have saved them some time and suggested a method for their work. Instead, it looked to me that they have fallen into the same trap because no one looked down the road. Here is a report about that earlier assessment that I wrote two years ago. They could have just taken it and handed it in as if it was something new and important.
It is surprising that Lieutenant Colonel George Garrett’s “Mini Estimate of the Situation” was accepted as anything other than rumor and speculation that it seemed to include. There was little hard information in it, there was apparently no real investigation of the cases so that a legitimate conclusion could not be drawn, but it seemed to have been accepted at the higher headquarters. However, given they believed the solution to the flying disc question resided at the top of the chain of command, the somewhat lackadaisical composition of it isn’t all that surprising. It seemed to be a warning that they were onto something that maybe should remain classified, even if the answer was to be found in terrestrial terms.
In the world today, and even that world decades ago, there were avenues for investigation that were not followed. The military and the government had the resources to look deeper into the phenomenon that was commanding so much press attention. Garrett, along with FBI agent Reynolds, and Brigadier General George Schulgen, seemed to have put together a document that did little to advance their knowledge. Today we can do that.
Rather than create a number of tables that provided a quick look at the sightings as they did, they could have provided some interesting information about those sightings. Today it is clear that some of the cases cited in that Mini ETOS are not very good and certainly not overly puzzling. Following, in the order they were listed by Garrett is what can be found about these cases in the world of the Internet and the declassified Project Blue Book files, along with some possible solutions for a few of them.
Garrett’s first case was that from Manitou Springs, Colorado, which is at the foot of Pike’s Peak near Colorado Springs. The first indication of this case was published on June 28 in the Denver Post. It becomes clear that one of the witnesses was Dean Hauser, a Navy veteran, who was accompanied by six other railroad workers, including Ted Weigand, Marion Hisshouse, T.J. Smith and L.D Jamison. They were eating lunch when Weigand spotted a bright silver-colored object approaching rapidly from the northeast. It stopped almost directly overhead and the group of men watched it perform wild gyrations for a number of minutes. Hauser said that the object, after having approached in a straight line, “began to move erratically in wide circles. All this time it reflected light, like metal, but intermittently, as though the angle of reflection might be changing from time to time.”
According to the witnesses, it was difficult to get a clear idea of its shape, and even viewing it through binoculars did not appear to “bring it any closer.” They estimated its height at one thousand feet. For twenty minutes they watched it climb, dive, reverse its flight course, and finally move off into the wind in a westerly direction. “It disappeared in a straight line in the west northwest in a clear blue sky,” Hauser reported. At no time did anyone hear any noise.
The day after the first article appeared in the Denver Post, there was a second one. This time the Post reported witnesses had been interviewed by members of the 15th Air Force Headquarters and the results of the investigation would be sent on to Washington, which suggested those results were seen by Garrett. The conclusion, unknown to the witnesses, was “possible birds.” (Bloecher I-1). This case itself, is not mentioned in the Project Blue Book files.
The reason that Garrett might have been impressed with the sighting would be the number of witnesses, that they observed the object through binoculars, and that they were men with some mechanical expertise. It should also be noted that the object was in sight for about twenty minutes and that a bird, observed first with the unaided eye would be resolved as a bird when seen through the binoculars.
Garrett next cited a report by Bryon Savage, a businessman pilot, living in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Savage said that he, and his wife, had seen a round, flat object, described in some accounts as “disc-like,” traveling nearly due north at a speed estimated at three times that of a jet on May 17 or 18, about 8:30 in the evening. (Maccabee UFO Investigator January 1978 p. 3).
The Oklahoma City Times gave it prominent space on June 26th. At the time of his sighting, Savage had been out in his yard near dusk, and the sky was still light, when he saw an object “come across the city from just a little east of south … its altitude was very high somewhere around 10,000 feet, I couldn’t be sure. Funny thing about it, it made no noise. I don't think it had kind of internal combustion engine. But I did notice that right after it went out of sight, I heard the sound of rushing wind and air. I told my wife right away, but she thought I must have seen lightning.”
He said that the object was “a shiny, silvery color,” and very large -- “bigger than any aircraft we have.” He said it was “perfectly round and flat.” He was also quoted as saying that it appeared “frosty white,” and that its speed was about three times as fast as a jet. It disappeared from view in about fifteen to twenty seconds. Although the sighting details provided by Savage are far more complete than those given for many of the official cases listed by Blue Book as “explained,” this report falls in the category of Insufficient Information. (http://nicap.org/waves/Wave47Rpt/ReportUFOWave1947_SectionI.htm)
Next up in Garrett’s Mini EOTS, was reported 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’ participation with Schulgen and Garrett it is not difficult to believe that the FBI was involved. It does demonstrate an FBI interest in UFOs that began at the very beginning, something the FBI sometimes suggests they wanted to hide.
Garrett finally reached the case that had launched the problem. It was the one that had been featured in newspapers and on radio programs. It was the reason that people were talking about flying saucers and flying discs. Kenneth Arnold, a Boise, Idaho, businessman, said that he had seen a string of strange objects, flying one behind the other, at about 9,500 feet. Watching them, he at first thought they might be water spots on the windows or maybe sunlight reflecting off the mountain top snow but then realized they were something unusual.
Using the cockpit clock to time them, and guessing at their distance, he calculated the speed to be more than 1500 miles an hour thought there are various other reports about their speed. He was unsure of the exact shape but later said they were crescent shaped. He counted nine of them in an undulating formation that he described as flying like geese. He said it looked as if they were chained together and that the formation was rather diagonal.
When Arnold landed in Yakima, Washington, later on the afternoon of June 24, he told the assembled reporters what he had seen. In the course of describing the objects, he said they moved with a motion like that of saucers skipping across the water. Hearing Arnold's description of the motion of the objects, reporter Bill Bequette, coined the term "flying saucer," though in the next few days, most reporters and then scientists and Army officers would call the objects flying disks. The term, then, according to most investigators, didn't originally refer to the shape of the objects, but to the style of their movement through the air.
Within days Arnold would provide the military with a written description of the events. In a document that was originally classified, but that has long since been downgraded and was a part of the Project Blue Book files, Arnold wrote:
On June 24th... I had finished my work... and about two o’clock I took off for Chehalis, Washington, airport with the intention of going to Yakima, Washington... I flew directly toward Mt. Rainier after reaching an altitude of about 9,500 feet, which is the approximate elevation of the high plateau from with Mt. Rainier rises... There was a DC-4 to the left and to the rear of me approximately fifteen miles distance, and I should judge, a 14,000 foot elevation... I hadn’t flown more than two or three minutes on my course when a bright flash reflected on my airplane. It startled me as I thought I was too close to some other aircraft. I looked every place in the sky and couldn’t find where the reflection had come from until I looked to the left and the north of Mt. Rainier where I observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft flying from north to the south at approximately 9,500 foot elevation and going, seemingly, in a definite direction of about 170 degrees.
They [the objects] were approaching Mt. Rainier very rapidly, and I merely assumed they were jet planes. Anyhow, I discovered that this was where the reflection had come from, as two or three of them every few seconds would dip or change their course slightly, just enough for the sun to strike them at an angle that reflected brightly on my plane... I thought it was very peculiar that I couldn’t their tails but assumed they were some type of jet plane. I was determined to clock their speed, as I had two definite points I could clock them by... I watched these objects with great interest as I had never before observed airplanes flying so close to the mountain tops... I would estimate their elevation could have varied a thousand feet one way or another up or down...
They flew like many times I have observed geese to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as if they were linked together... Their speed at the time did not impress me particularly, because I knew that our army and air forces had planes that went very fast.
A number of news men and experts suggested that I might have been seeing reflections of even a mirage. This I know to be absolutely false, as I observed these objects not only through the glass of my airplane but turned my airplane sideways where I could open my window and observe them with a completely unobstructed view... When these objects were flying approximately straight and level, there were just a black thin line and when they flipped was the only time I could get a judgement as to their size.
Unlike most of the other sightings Garrett used, with Arnold there was a great deal of information. A stronger case for something unusual could be made by attaching to it to his Mini EOTS.
One of the important points was that the Arnold report was not stand alone. There seemed to be independent corroboration for his sighting. Unfortunately for Garrett, that corroboration would not appear until a month after he had forwarded his Mini EOTS to his higher headquarters.
Fred Johnson, who claimed to be a prospector, reported watching five or six disk-shaped craft as they flew over the Cascade Mountains about the time Arnold had lost sight of his. He said they were round with a slight tail which differed slightly from what Arnold had said. Johnson thought the objects were about thirty feet in diameter. He could see no formation and as they banked in a turn, the sunlight flashed off them just as Arnold had said. As they approached, Johnson noticed that his compass began to spin wildly. When the objects finally vanished in the distance, the compass returned to normal.
After learning of the Arnold sighting, Johnson wrote to the Air Force on August 20, 1947, saying:
"Saw in the portland (sic) paper a short time ago in regards to an article in regards to the so called flying disc having any basis in fact. I can say am a prospector and was in the Mt Adams district on June 24th the day Kenneth Arnold of Boise Idaho claims he saw a formation of flying disc (sic). And i saw the same flying objects at about the same time. Having a telescope with me at the time i (sic) can asure (sic) you there are real and noting like them I ever saw before they did not pass verry (sic) high over where I was standing at the time. plolby (sic) 1000 ft. they were Round about 30 foot in diameter tapering sharply to a point in the head and in an oval shape. with a bright top surface. I did not hear any noise as you would from a plane. But there was an object in the tail end looked like a big hand of a clock shifting from side to side like a big magnet. There speed was far as I know seemed to be greater than anything I ever saw. Last view I got of the objects they were standing on edge Banking in a cloud."
It is signed, "Yours Respectfully, Fred Johnson."
Although there was no official government study at the time, the Army Air Forces had asked the FBI to interview Johnson. The FBI report contained, essentially, the same information as the letter that Johnson had sent to the Army. The FBI report ended, saying, "Informant appeared to be a very reliable individual who advised that he had been a prospector in the states of Montana, Washington and Oregon for the past forty years."
Dr. Bruce Maccabee, a physicist with the Navy and who has a private interest in UFOs, wrote in the International UFO Reporter, that the Johnson sighting is important, not because it takes place near where Arnold saw the nine objects, but because it seems to be an extension of the Arnold sighting. It provides independent corroboration for the Arnold sighting, strengthening that case, and reducing, to ridiculous, some of the explanations that have been offered to explain it. (Maccabee, 1995b)
The most important point might be that Johnson made was that his compass was spinning wildly when the objects were near suggesting some kind of magnetic interference. If that is accurate, he is not only another witness to what Arnold saw, but the first to report that the objects interacted with the environment. Garrett, of course, didn’t have access to that information at the time, which might have changed the direction of some of that early research.
Dr. Donald H. Menzel, the late Harvard scientist, decided that Johnson was being honest in his report, that is, Johnson was not lying about it. Johnson, according to Menzel, was merely mistaken in his analysis of the sighting. Menzel wrote that Johnson had probably seen bright reflections from patches of clouds. It didn't seem to matter to Menzel that Johnson saw the objects only about a thousand feet over his head, watched them through a telescope, and had them in sight for almost a minute before they vanished, disappearing into a cloud.
In the Project Blue Book files, which didn’t exist when Garrett was writing his Mini EOTS, there is a note about the Arnold sighting. An Air Force officer who reviewed the case wrote, “The report cannot bear even superficial examination, therefore, must be disregarded. There are strong indications that this report and its attendant publicity is largely responsible for subsequent reports.”
Not content with a negative note in the file, the officer added, “It is to be noted that the observer has profited from this story by selling it to Fate magazine.”
Such a comment doesn’t actually negate the case. Even if Garrett had this information in 1947, it is unlikely that he would have included it in his report. The idea is does not affect the case, given all that is known about it.
Garrett’s next sighting involved multiple witnesses and pilots including Wilson H. Kayko, John H. Cantrell, Theodore Dewey and one man identified only as Redman. The Project Blue Book files available show that two Air Force (at the time Army Air Forces) pilots and two intelligence officers 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.
Ed Ruppelt reported it this way:
That night [June 28, 1947] at nine-twenty, four Air Force officers, two pilots and two intelligence officers from Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama, saw a bright light traveling across the sky. It was first seen just above the horizon, and as it traversed toward the observers it “zigzagged,” with bursts of high speed. When it was directly overhead it made a sharp 90-degree turn and was lost from view as it traveled south.
The Blue Book files included just ten pages of information about the case that included the project card and weather data. In a letter dated July 7, 1947, to the Assistant Chief of Staff for intelligence at Air Tactical Command, there was additional information. It said:
At approximately 2120 Central time, a light, with a brilliance slightly better than a star, appeared in the West. It was first noted above the horizon of the clear moon-light night, traveling in an easterly direction at a high rate of speed. There was no audible sound and it was impossible to determine the altitude, except that it appeared to be at great height. It traveled in a zig zag course with frequent bursts of speed, much light a water bug as it spurts and stops across the surface of water. It continued until it was directly overhead and changed course 90 [degrees] into the south. After traveling in the above manner for approximately five (5) minutes, it turned southwest and was lost in the brilliance of the moon. [sic] at 2145 Central it was no longer possible to observe.
It was noted, in the letter signed by one of the witnesses, Kayko, “No plausible explanation is offered for the unusual action of this source of light, which acted contrary to common aerodynamic laws.”
There is one other interesting note. On the “checklist” that contains many questions about the sighting, there is one question about photographs. Here the answer was, “None in our file altho letter of transmittal indicates one was sent.” Those photographs have not surfaced.
The eventual label applied to the case was that this was a balloon. Although it seems that four officers, including the two intelligence officers, would have been able to identify a balloon if that was the solution, it would also seem that the maneuvers of the object would rule out a balloon, regardless of how strong the winds aloft were blowing or how variable they might be at different altitudes. It should also be noted that there is nothing to suggest a lighted balloon in the area, though weather balloons did, sometimes, carry lights for the ease of observation after dark.
Garrett’s next case was witnessed by three scientists and the wife of one at White Sands, New Mexico, on June 29, 1947. Again, while there is little real information included in Garrett’s estimate, there is more data available. According to the Project Blue Book files, not to mention several newspapers including the Washington Star on July 7, Dr. C. J. Zohn, described as a rocket expert, was traveling with two other scientists, Curtis C. Rockwood and John R. Kauke, near Las Cruces, when Zohn spotted the object traveling north at about 10,000 feet. He said it was bright and silver with no protuberances visible and was elliptical in shape.
Zohn pointed it out to the others, so that all four of them saw the object. The disc was moving away from them at a uniform rate of speed. He said, “It was clearly visible and then suddenly, it wasn’t there.”
Garrett had access to this information. According to a letter dated July 16, Major William P. Mellen, wrote, “At the request of Lt. Col. G. D. Garrett, the undersigned has interviewed this date Mr. [name redacted] Administrative Assistant in Rocker Sonde Section NRL, who had previously released information to the press regarding an aerial object which he stated he saw at White Sands, New Mexico, 29 June.”
Mellen went into greater detail about the sighting. The trouble here is that with the names redacted, there is no real way to know which of the witnesses said what. Mellen wrote:
At between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. Sunday 29 June 1947, [names redacted] was proceeding along Highway 17 in a North-Easterly direction from Las Cruces, New Mexico to White Sands V-2 firing grounds in an automobile… At some time between those given and about one-third of the distance from Las Cruces [name redacted, but probably Kauke] who was driving the car, noticed the subject device and called attention to the other occupants. Mr. [name redacted] opened the window nearest him and observed the object moving at an unknown rapid velocity at an unknown altitude, which he estimated at about 10,000 feet, and which Mr. [name redacted], who also observed it through an open window, estimated at between 8,000 feet and 10,000 feet, although the former puts little credence in the estimates.
When first sighted the object was to the right and forward of the automobile at an unstated elevation and was apparently moving horizontally in a Northerly direction such as to cross the highway from right to left. The object was observed by all persons in the automobile. Mr. [name redacted] stated that he could not observe any details of the object other than its shape was uniform., with no protuberances such the wings of an airplane. It was too distant to enable stereoscopic visualization. Thee was apparently some solar specular reflection which seemed to change in intensity as the object receded until it was lost from sight after an estimated 30 seconds from the time first noticed. He could not explain how it disappeared except perhaps that the reflection angle may have changed abruptly. There were apparently no clouds or visibility obstructions at the time. The sun was to the rear of the automobile. Mr. [redacted] thought that at one time he saw vapor trails.
The Blue Book file on the case mentioned that Zohn had been in New Mexico to observe V-2 launches, but that the sighting had nothing to do with that. This was mentioned as a way of establishing that Zohn and the others were familiar with the rocket tests, and it was noted that one of the men had recently been discharged from the Navy. It was suggested that his Naval training meant that he was familiar with various types of aircraft.
In an entry that is thin, almost nonexistent, is a sighting from July 1. A civilian pilot on the ground in Bakersfield, California, saw something. Garrett’s report provides no additional information and the case was not found in the Project Blue Book files under that date. Although Garrett suggested that other information would be found later, there is no evidence that such is the case. Without additional information it seems strange that Garrett would include it in his estimate, even if the witness was a pilot.
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.
They could see no real shape but did say the craft was flat on the bottom, very thin, and seemed to be irregular on the top. The object appeared to be at the same altitude as the airplane and followed them for ten to fifteen minutes.
Moments later four more appeared on the left of the aircraft. Smith was quoted in the newspaper saying, "We couldn't tell what the exact shape was except to notice that they definitely were larger than our plane (a DC-4), fairly smooth on the bottom and rough on top."
Although the case was thoroughly investigated, the Air Force found no solution for it and in the Project Blue Book files, it is still carried as “Unidentified.”
Three airmen, including Major Archie B. Browning, flying a B-25, near Clay Center, Kansas said they saw a silver-colored object pacing their aircraft at 1:45 p.m. Browning said that a bright flash called his attention to 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. The Air Force would suggest that the sighting was caused by a sunshine reflection on the windshield. (Bloecher 1947)
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 the information available:
…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. The Blue Book files corrects this, listing them both on the same “Project Card.” Both sightings lasted under a minute, and in both sightings the witnesses were members of the Civil Air Patrol, an official auxiliary of the Air Force that is a civilian volunteer organization. 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.
According to the Blue Book Project Card, “Saucer descended vertically edgewise through clouds, stopped at 4000’ and assumed horizontal position and proceeded in horizontal flight from a horizontal position for 15 seconds covering 25 miles, again stopped and disappeared.”
These two cases were marked, “Insufficient information for proper analysis.” This begs the question of what Garrett thought was so important about them that he included them in his analysis, or what information was left out of the reports now available that Garrett had in 1947. It wouldn’t be the first time that information in the Project Blue Book files were altered or reevaluated.
Following his theory of who might make the best witnesses, the next case involved an Army Air Corps 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 [identified as J. N. Mehrman, A.R. Leidy and J.E. Woodruff] 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.
The report reached General Schulgen on July 16 with a more detailed version on July 21. The updated information was sent on to the Pentagon. Schulgen ordered T-2, part of the intelligence function at Wright-Patterson, to take a top team to Harmon to investigate.
This response, in 1947, provides a hint as to what Garrett and the others were thinking. They believed that the solution rested in terrestrial technology, or in other words, this was something of Soviet manufacture. Given the sightings, first in Canada and then in Alaska, the theory was that the Soviets were flying something along the great circle route. While the sighting itself is interesting for the photographs, it was important because it seemed to suggest the Soviets rather than aliens.
The original investigation had excluded meteors or fireballs as the possible explanation. Later, as Blue Book officers became more interested in solutions than facts, the case was written off as a meteor.
The final case that Garrett cited was from Elmendorf Field in Anchorage, Alaska, on July 11, through Garrett dated it July 12. Colonel Bruce H. Perry and Major William E. Geyser, both in the Army Air Forces said that they watched an object that resembled a grayish balloon as it followed the contours of the mountains some five miles away. They said the object was small, maybe two to three feet in diameter, or maybe as much as ten feet. It was traveling at high speed, at three to four thousand feet, based on the cloud cover at ten thousand feet. Geyser said that the object paralleled the course of a C-47 that was landing on the airfield. (Sparks; Lara Elliott/NICAP website; FBI files; BB files; McDonald list; FOIA; Saunders/FUFOR Index)
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 project then in development in total secrecy. They thought they would be told to end their investigation because of that. The answer they received, after they had forwarded their report to the Air Materiel Command and to Lieutenant General Nathan F. Twining, must have surprised them. It was not at all what they had expected.
In today’s environment, there is access to so much more information that was available to those working in 1947. These cases, in Garrett’s Mini-EOTS, that seemed so strange then, aren’t particularly interesting today, except for the context in which they were made. One of them has virtually disappeared from any known database. All that is known about it is that a civilian pilot, on the ground in Bakersfield, California apparently saw something he couldn’t identify. Garrett had no other information which seems curious that he thought enough of it to include it in his Estimate. There is no record of it in the Project Blue Book files, and no one seems to know anything more about it. As evidence, it is useless.
But there is another aspect to this case. There is a Blue Book file labeled June 14, 1947, from Bakersfield. Included in it at a number of newspaper articles that mention a “veteran pilot,” who saw a formation of objects over Bakersfield on June 23. Several of the newspaper clippings are dated as July 1 or July 2, though in the text they all report the June 23 date.
The witness, Richard Rankin was described as having over 7000 hours of flight experience, but didn’t provide any information about his training or if he had been a commercial or military pilot. It did mention that he had been a stunt flyer in the past.
He said that he couldn’t see wings or propellers on the craft and thought they were almost round. He saw ten objects heading to the north. They turned, heading south but there were only seven. He thought he was looking at the Navy’s XFU51, known as the “Flying Flapjack” because of its bizarre shape, but the “Flapjack” had only flown on the east coast. At the time of the sighting there was only one in existence.
Other than the date, this fits the description of the sighting that Garrett had reported. It is single witness, but one with flying experience, and to Garrett that was an important factor. The Air Force later explained the sighting as birds.
The first case in Garrett’s Estimate which has almost no information, is from Colorado, again something of a bare bones report can be looked at again. The names were printed in the local newspaper. Garrett didn’t include names and his Estimate mentioned only three witnesses. They watched it maneuver, but importantly, observed it through binoculars which would tend to rule out conventional aircraft. It was in sight for twenty minutes, which mean all seven of the witnesses, had the opportunity to get a good look at it. Blue Book had no information on it, and it wasn’t reported until after Arnold made his sighting, which weakens it somewhat.
This reflects the sort of sightings that Garrett favored. Those that were multiple witness, and those sightings where the object, or objects, were under observation for more than a minute. The sightings were those that were not fleeting flashes of light or indistinct blobs. The one thing that sticks out is that most of the witnesses had flight experience of some kind, including military officers, commercial pilots, Civil Air Patrol pilots, or who had some other connection to the military and aviation.
The same thing can be said for the next case from Oklahoma City. Garrett provided little about it, but other sources were able to expand on the information. In the end, it was single witness, but importantly, Savage’s wife thought that he might have seen a flash of lightning. From the available information, it seems that this report was included because the man was a civilian pilot.
The next case, that is from Massachusetts, might have been included because FBI Special Agent Reynolds had “secretly” investigated the case. The information about the sighting isn’t all that spectacular when it is examined in a dispassionate way. It is a small, silvery object that seemed to be moving faster than a jet at about a thousand feet. Again, it is single witness and there is very little information about witness’s background or education.
The real take away here is that the case was secretly investigated by an FBI agent at a time when the FBI was questioning the importance of these sightings. J. Edgar Hoover might have wanted to “empire build” by adding this dimension to the FBI’s responsibilities, but he was being cautious about it. This wasn’t the only indication that the FBI wanted in, but didn’t want anyone to know about.
A photographic case that did not make Garrett’s Mini-EOTS, but relevant to the discussion of FBI involvement in UFO investigation, happened on July 7, 1947. William Rhodes, a somewhat self-employed inventor, said that he had taken two pictures of something in the sky over his Phoenix, Arizona home. The point here is that Rhodes was visited by an Army officer, identified as George J. Fugate, and a man in civilian clothes. According to documents in the Project Blue Book files, the FBI agent, identified as Special Agent Brower, didn’t want to flash his FBI credentials, and just accompanied Fugate on the investigation. He was introduced to Rhodes as a government agent, but no mention was made of his connection to the FBI. Rhodes was free to assume that the man was just another Army officer wearing civilian clothes.
Garrett included the Arnold case in his analysis, treating it as he had all other. Just the bare facts about it. What is lost here is the possible corroboration by Fred Johnson, and even more importantly, the electro-magnetic effects that he reported. If Johnson was telling the truth, and if his compass did begin to spin wildly, then this would be an important bit of evidence.
And, importantly, the two Fourth Air Force officers who investigated the Arnold sighting, were also involved with Arnold later. What is relevant here is that Arnold asked Lieutenant Brown about other sightings. Brown mentioned, specifically, the Rhodes’ photographs, suggesting that the object looked like those Arnold had seen. Brown drew a picture of it for Arnold, and then destroyed it.
All of this would suggest Arnold had seen something more than a mirage as the Air Force eventually claimed, or a flock of birds that some of those in the skeptical community believed. However, it should be noted that Robert Sheaffer at his Bad UFOs website, posted a picture of pelicans in a “V” formation seen from a distance. Their shape does seem to match the stylized shape of the objects Arnold reported. It makes for an interesting comparison, though birds do not fit with everything that Arnold reported. This information was not available to Garrett when he wrote his Estimate.
After Arnold, Garrett moved back to military personnel that included two pilots and two intelligence officers. There is nothing overly interesting about the case, other than it was a report from four military officers, each with some training in identifying that things seen in the sky. This seemed to be an appeal to the expertise of the officers as well as a suggestion that they wouldn’t be making up the sighting for some personal reason or publicity.
The next case, from the White Sands area of New Mexico, was probably included because Garrett himself had requested additional information about it. There were four witnesses that included a rocket scientist. The credibility of the witnesses, along with the data collected at the request of Garrett probably explains the inclusion of this case in his Mini Estimate.
July 4 sighting from near Emmet, Idaho, was important because it was made by the civilian flight crew of an airliner. They all saw the object and made their observations known. Another important factor is that the Air Force would later determine that there was no solution for the sighting. It was labeled as unidentified in the Blue Book files.
What is surprising, over that same long, July 4 weekend, there was a series of sightings in and around Portland, Oregon, that involved various law enforcement officers and civilian observers. Given the number of independent reports made, and that some of them were trained individuals, it seems odd that Garrett did not include it in his report. It would have added another level of corroboration for his concern about what was happening and more importantly, provided more independent observations of what might have been the same objects.
The next cases are more or less the same as many of those that came before them. Pilots reporting objects in the sky that they couldn’t readily identify. These included the sightings from the members of the Civil Air Patrol and later a member of the National Guard.
In fact, most of these cases are simply witness statements about what they had seen and how they interpreted it. He did mention two cases that involved photographs, but in the first, the pictures were not received and in the second, though the pictures were in color, there was nothing extraordinary about them. The pictures demonstrated that something had been in the air but provided no clues about the nature of that something.
Without the additional information that has been added here, there is nothing other than people, mostly pilots, seeing something that they are unable to identify. Given what Garrett, and by extension Schulgen believed, it would seem that they provided some of the more interesting sightings, made interesting by the witnesses and not what they had seen. Garrett, Schulgen and Reynolds, believed, by the time the Mini Estimate was submitted, their bosses, higher in the chain of command knew what was being seen. They believed that the answer was classified, and they would be told that further investigation was unnecessary and could lead to compromise. That, of course, was wrong.
Though Schulgen, Garrett and Reynolds believed they would be told to shut down the investigation, the opposite happened. On September 23, 1947, they received a reply to their Mini Estimate of the Situation. Lieutenant General Nathan F. Twining sent them a letter. It was not the response they expected.
Based on the evidence, correspondence of the time, and other factors, it is believed that Howard McCoy was the author of the letter for Twining’s signature. The letter said:
AMC Opinion Concerning “Flying Discs”
Army Air Force
Washington 25, D.C.
ATTENTION: Brig. General George Schulgen
1. As requested by AC/AS-2 there is presented below the considered opinion of this command concerning the so-called "Flying Discs." This opinion is based on interrogation report data furnished by AC/AS-2 and preliminary studies by personnel of T-2 and Aircraft Laboratory, Engineering Division T-3. This opinion was arrived at in a conference between personnel from the Air Institute of Technology, Intelligence T-2, Office, Chief of Engineering Division, and the Aircraft, Power Plant and Propeller Laboratories of Engineering Division T-3.
2. It is the opinion that:
a. The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious.
Basic Ltr fr CG, AMC, WF to CG, AAF, Wash. D.C. subj “AMC Opinion Con- cerning “Flying Discs”.
b. There are objects probably approximating the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft.
c. There is a possibility that some of the incidents may be caused by natural phenomena, such as meteors.
d. The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and motion which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically or remotely.
e. The apparent common description is as follows:-
(1) Metallic or light reflecting surface.
(2) Absence of trail, except in a few instances where the object apparently was operating under high performance conditions.
(3) Circular or elliptical in shape, flat on bottom and domed on top.
(4) Several reports of well kept formation flights varying from three to nine objects.
(5) Normally no associated sound, except in three instances a substantial rumbling roar was noted.
(6) Level flight speeds normally above 300 knots are estimated.
f. It is possible within the present U.S. knowledge -- provided extensive detailed development is undertaken -- to construct a piloted aircraft which has the general description of the object in sub- paragraph (e) above which would be capable of an approximate range of 7000 miles at subsonic speeds.
g. Any development in this country along the lines indicated would be extremely expensive, time consuming and at the considerable expense of current projects and therefore, if directed, should be set up independently of existing projects.
h. Due consideration must be given the following:-
(1) The possibility that these objects are of domestic origin - the product of some high security project not known to AC/AS-2 or this Command.
(2) The lack of physical evidence in the shape of crash recovered exhibits which would undeniably prove the existence of these subjects.
(3) The possibility that some foreign nation has a form of propulsion possibly nuclear, which is outside of our domestic knowledge.
3. It is recommended that:-
a. Headquarters, Army Air Forces issue a directive assigning a priority, security classification and Code name for a detailed study of this matter to include the preparation of complete sets of all available and pertinent data which will then be made available to the Army, Navy, Atomic Energy Commission, JRDB, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Group, NACA, and the RAND and NEPA projects for comments and recommendations, with a preliminary report to be forwarded within 15 days of receipt of the data and a detailed report thereafter every 30 days as the investi-
Basic Ltr fr CG, AMC, WF to CG, AAF, Wash. D.C. subj “AMC Opinion Con- cerning “Flying Discs”.
gation develops. A complete interchange of data should be effected.
4. Awaiting a specific directive AMC will continue the investigation within its current resources in order to more closely define the nature of the phenomenon. Detailed Essential Elements of Information will be formulated immediately for transmittal thru channels.
N. F. Twining
Lieutenant General, U.S.A.
At the end of 1947, the military still didn’t know what the flying saucers were. Twining was telling his subordinates that he didn’t know what they were, and he wanted them to continue the investigation. It would no longer be the haphazard collection of data through multiple military organizations, but a concentrated effort housed at Wright Field. They were given a priority status, their work would be classified, and would have a staff dedicated to that research.
The project, known officially as Sign but as Project Saucer to the general public, would begin after the first of the year. Twining’s order said that they were interested in learning more about the flying saucers, that they believed the saucers were real, the letter also said that the panic that had existed when Garrett put together his Mini Estimate had evaporated. The brass no longer were worried about Soviet invasion or alien visitation. There seemed to be no threat to national security. Now this was just a phenomenon to be identified.