Tuesday, December 8, 2009

UFOs?...Uhhh,They're BALLOONS!! Yep. That's What they Are.

This blog entry is about the title [UFOs and Balloons] but it is mainly about the critical importance of learning UFO/Government history. The only reason that certain falsities about the subject are allowed to go on interminably is that no one really knows anything about what really went on. Many good people keep disrespecting the subject because they cannot believe that "science" and the Air Force would have so thoroughly lied and/or otherwise misinformed them through all these years. This little entry is part of one "chapter" in how all that could happen.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
UFOs and balloons have a long history, beginning almost immediately in the 1947 wave with the spectacular lie by General Roger Ramey at the Fort Worth press conference, where he denigrated Major Jesse Marcel by posing him with an ordinary weather balloon and saying [essentially and unmistakably] that Marcel was incapable of telling the difference between a simple balloon and a flying disk allegedly found at Roswell. But we'll let Roswell lie quietly for now and pursue the more general disinformation about balloons and UFOs. The villain in the story is a scientist working for the U S Navy's Office of Naval Research. His name was Urner Liddel; he was very smart; he knew all the science big-wigs personally [like Edward Condon, a friend]; and he was in charge of the nuclear science desk at ONR. He also had gotten interested in UFOs in the late 1940s and when the Navy's Intelligence officers in the Pentagon began receiving all of the USAF's UFO reports after 1948, they passed them on to ONR and they passed through Liddel's desk. Then, in late 1951 [and into 1952] Liddel got so "exercised" by the UFO problem that he issued his own special study declaring them to be mostly erroneous sightings of USN secret balloons, mainly launched in New Mexico and Minnesota. This personal study he was happy to present to the national press, who loved it and gave it big play. Although the big General Mills project balloons did look awesome and even beautiful in the high atmosphere, there were a few problems with his thesis as we shall see---problems which it seems impossible to believe that he did not know. The Air Force itself DID know the problems [i.e. that the entire idea was preposterous for 90+% of the incidents], but was happy to remain silent while some highly educated "expert" created a diversion. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The "Big Research Balloon" theory had remarkable staying power despite its absurdity. Three years after Liddel's "revelations" [in 1954] it had a particularly big year with major national media outlets resurrecting and parading it about to the relief, one supposes, of both the Air Force and the more hysterical-oriented part of the American public. Two of the sources shown on the left are Collier's magazine and U.S.News and World Report, showing the kind of coverage such a debunking claim could command. The newspaper story is even more interesting to the UFO historian, as it quotes the CEO in charge of secret balloon research at General Mills as saying that their balloons are responsible for the UFO craze. Certainly this is as close to the "horse's mouth" as you can get and so it must be true. But NONE of it was true and all the important "authority figures" had to know it. Well...pretty bold statement by me. Where do I get off making such an accusation?--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Unlike Liddel and even Bullis, it was the boys at the left who actually flew the secret balloons. What did they say? THEY ALL SAW UFOS. Not their own balloons, but UFOs coming to "visit" or "inspect" or "whatever they were doing" at their balloon launches. Commander McLaughlin, who headed up the Navy projects out of White Sands Proving Grounds, saw a UFO and had others reported to him. One such case was by Charles Moore, the scientific leader on the site. Most astounding were the experiences of J.J.Kaliszewski and his launch teams at General Mills in Minnesota. We are lucky that Tom Tulien interviewed Kaliszewski for the UFO Oral History Project. Here are some quotes: After saying that he and his buddies just laughed at Liddel's article when it came out, he told Tom this: "[In 1951] we were up there watching the balloon for possible malfunction, when all of a sudden into our field of vision comes this object--had no business being there--so this is what we reported. Oh, it passed behind the balloon, over the balloon, oh, it moved around. It had to have some interest in the balloon or it wouldn't have hung around." A day later it happened again. Kaliszewski thought that [since he had an rough idea of how far away the balloon was from his plane] that the object was moving rapidly at about 1500-2000 mph. "Some of these balloons, they attracted these things. I would say, starting with the 50s through the late 50s there must have been dozens of sightings but nobody bothered to report them. [More about that later]. I've had a number of sightings, but I didn't log them because nobody'd listen to you. If you did have a sighting--if that thing began changing altitudes in 10 or 15 seconds from out-of-space where you almost couldn't see it, down to ground level, and then go right to left at estimated several thousand miles per hour, and all of a sudden make a 90 degree turn and go in a different direction--we've seen all those things and there's no way that the human body could handle it. If you talked to somebody, they just pooh-poohed. You couldn't talk to Wright Field [Project Grudge at the time] or any of the design groups around the country". Kaliszewski and his team had obviously seen quite a few remarkable things. Some clarification is needed for some of his remarks. He and the General Mills teams DID report their cases originally, and only after receiving disrespectful treatment by the USAF did they refuse to continue. Nevertheless, they had such numerous sightings that they kept records on self-made forms for a while, and several of their cases [ex. Moore's, two of Kaliszewski's, a famous one from Artesia, NM etc] DID get to the USAF. But, by 1952, they were so miffed at the Air Force that Captain Ruppelt said they almost threw him out in the snow when he went up there to try to reestablish a connection with them. The main point is clear: Not only were balloons NOT the "explanation" for UFOs, but some of the most powerful unknowns on record came while the balloon scientists were launching those same balloons!! If this weren't so disgusting, it would be hilarious.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Let's end this today with a minor point and then a major one. The minor point is that it was probably true that top secret balloons were involved in a minority of UFO cases. Although I will get a few of my friends mad at me, I believe that it's 99% clear that the famous Mantell plane crash of 1948 involved a mistake with a balloon. Some of my other buddies would include another 1948 "classic", the George Gorman "lightball chase", as a balloon event--that I'm not nearly so sure of--the testimony of the ground witnesses makes me demure. And at the other end of the spectrum, the Roswell write-off is utterly ridiculous as any balloon. On the major point(s) to take from this, let's stop and consider the characters in the story. What-in-the-H___ explains Urner Liddel? Because he sat in ONR looking at all the UFO reports, he HAD to see his own Navy Research cases, and he HAD to know that his own balloon guys saw UFOs! There aren't many hypotheses to deal with him. He is either a bald liar, or he is profoundly ignorant, or something is wrong with his mind. He, due to his position, almost cannot be "profoundly ignorant". And, take this for what it's worth, my reading of his writing and his letters to Condon leads me to believe that HE believed what he said, and also that he was the kind of ego-centric loose cannon that the intelligence community would not risk assigning some conspiratorial task. It will probably surprise you, but I believe that there was something wrong with his mind. What was wrong was that something in his view of reality was so strongly abhorrent to this concept that he could not analyze nor think straight when he was addressing it. Smart as he was in many ways, he was when it came to threats [to his sanity?] a "messed up dude". We've had a whole angry crowd of such people, standing in the path to discovery. I think that it is time to entertain the hypothesis that in some serious way, they are crazy. What else, really, can explain staring right at information and either not even seeing it or hysterically blocking it, and replacing common sense with some of the most preposterous ideas that even informed children can see through? The august Mr. Bullis may be another such guy, or, in his case he may have been honoring a request from the USAF. Either way, he just flatly disinformed the public. It is circumstances like these played out over and over in UFO history which explain how the current state of ignorance and disinformation has been able to be maintained. But no claims by UFO exponents can be treated seriously unless the doubter would dig into the documents of our history. THEN, one finds the astounding picture of what actually went on with both the government and a few media-blessed "scientists" [it sticks in my craw to give them that designation]. But digging into real history is real work. No such truth will be dawning on the general consensus reality anytime soon....sadly. All you and I can do on these matters we care about is to stand up to the snickering ignoramuses, a task much easier if we actually learn something in depth ourselves. But...count to ten...we have one great advantage: we have fun, and they're just grumpily miserable.


  1. Dear Professor,

    Welcome back.

    Regarding the Gorman incident: the two things that give me pause are A) Gorman's decision that he needed night-flying practice, and B) the initial turn that Gorman made.

    Gorman's statement that he managed to close on the object, resulting in it passing overhead, after the first turn, while also reporting that he did not see an outline of the object in my mind puts his orientation/attitude in doubt, particularly in light of his statement about practicing night-flying (why did he feel this need?). It seems entirely possible that the object was the balloon that had been released in the area at the time.

    In my opinion only (and I'm not that bright) the only way to rationally handle sceptical outcries regarding the subject: if there's any reasonable doubt the case should not be touted as one that is unexplained.

    Is there any rumored footage of the UFOs visiting the high altitude balloons? I gotta believe that there's at least some still shots buried somewhere...

  2. I agree with you on Gorman and that is why I don't tout it in any of my "power case" lists. My view of this is however, when one has a case that is not obviously explained nor unexplained, one puts it in the gray basket, not in the explained basket. The gray basket contains cases of all different shades of gray--some are so "smudged" that I'd never put them on the table under any but the most unusual circumstances--but, like Fort, I don't want to prematurely just forget them entirely. I never attempt to make an argument about the nature of any of the anomalies starting from the poorest incidents, but if stronger cases point to interesting possibilities, then I want the whole spectrum of the unexplained to revisit. This procedure does not seem to "damage" me in any way analytically as long I don't quit thinking. In fact, it seems to insist that I remain more open to possibilities both positive and negative about the subjects. Regarding the other elements of your post, I don't usually concern myself much about things like why Gorman was practicing night flying. People's lives are complex and I am not he nor do I actually know much about his general situation. This puts me in a position that i don't want to dwell upon, because I have no facts and his flying seems on the surface not an abnormal behavior. All I have here is the report, and that is what I must content myself with or I start imagining things out of my own experience, not his. Nevertheless, an argument can be made that the balloon was the culprit [regardless of why Gorman was night-flying]. Jerry Clark [no debunker he] makes the same argument as the USAF did. I respect that, but refuse to be dead certain of it. As to the possibility of footage from balloon research--it probably happened several times, but I've not seen any from the GM cases mentioned. There was footage taken at Edwards during the set-up for a phototheodolite monitoring [not of a balloon] which shows an object with no detail. Other such things as gun-camera films seem to have existed [or in at least one case do exist], which also show no detail. UFO veterans view all film cases as merely additional supplements to the case reports as written--"the film/photo is only as good as the case evidence that surrounds it". Film is too easy to argue against if it stands alone.

  3. Dear Professor,

    You and I understand the concept of the gray basket, but others folks who use any reason to debunk or criticize the phenonema being studied (which may be ANY area of the Big Study) will view the cases in the gray basket as being a dubious claim,lump them with the *good* claims and then use that false relationship to dismiss the entire area of study.

    I believe Socrates called this the 'One bad apple spoils the entire bunch' principle, or maybe it was the Jackson Five?

    I'm not near my material right now, which makes me hesitate to quote any source, but I believe this has happened in the past (potentially as part of a disinformation scheme concerning flight testing unusual but man-made aircraft at Area 51). I would say that the serious investigator would need to avoid the gray basket cases *in public* to avoid an inadvertent discrediting of all of his or her work.

    [And yes, science shouldn't be forced to work this way, but the rise of what I call the Ranting Media over the past decade coupled with the use of more sophisticated information usage strategies by the media has made me think in more defensive terms.]

    Regarding Gorman: my mentioning his decision that he needed practice flying at night was to point out that this is indicative that he didn't do a lot of it and that increases the chances that he momentarily lost his orientation while turning toward the object. It's been my understanding that flying an F51 (postwar name for the P51 Mustang) could be a handful even in broad daylight.

    Didn't Charles Moore state that he'd had a sighting of a UFO near one of his balloons and that the incident had been viewed through a theodolite? Perhaps Moore could supply more information about similar incidents?

    Thank you for having one of the more intellectually stimulating sites.

  4. Moore did see the UFO through his theodolite [the famous Arrey, NM incident.] It was however to my knowledge not photo'd as the equipment was just being put up. That's my memory. It's even possible that they weren't planning to photo anything with regard to that launch. Anyway I've seen no photo. P.S. I don't use the weak cases in my published work. But since this is a blog, I feel that I can try to stimulate a more wide-ranging imagination on some of these matters as long as I tell the reader what I'm doing--thus the occasional "caveat emptors" and the Out Proctor concept.

  5. Take a look at Liddel's Journal of the American Optical Society paper from the Oct 1952 meeting. On the one hand, he realizes that there can be vertically-oriented mirage/mirage-like conditions (though he exaggerates how common this can be, I think; I'd think most would due to columns of hot air from chimneys and the like, not sharp-bordered weather fronts!). This explains some astonishments at Venus, I think.

    On the other hand, he refers to a sighting (I suspect it's Kaliszewski's group's) by putting the word "expert" (as in expert observers) in quotes. The strict implication is that seeing a UFO invalidates one's expert status, or rather, narrows it to the few things one has been very specifically trained to observe. (It seems there's more than one meaning to "No observer qualified to observe a UFO has ever seen one.")

    Frank John Reid

  6. Thanks Frank. One very mild caution about reading Liddel's JAOS paper: he has obviously altered his "presentation" after having heard Menzel. We can't be sure from the paper exactly what he was raving about in the actual speech. He has become much more condemning of real people though in the paper [as compared to his original news pamphlet on balloons], that is certain. All you say makes sense.