Saturday, January 30, 2010

1948: Sailing Towards An Estimate

After Mantell the SIGN Project began its official work. The two "events" don't have anything to do with one another, but their temporal approximation might make a person who hadn't studied the history think that they did. The pictures above let you see the real people behind the story. At the top are [left to right] Chief of AMC intelligence Colonel Howard [Mack] McCoy, Chief of the Technical Intelligence division [that is, McCoy's main assistant over the boys at the specific analysis desks] Colonel William Clingerman, and the "mysterious" Miles Goll [who is not mysterious at all]. Goll was a colonel at Wright-Pat during the war, and was one of those guys who left the service at its end but was encouraged to stay on at T-2 with all the irreplaceable retirements that were taking place in essential positions. Albert Deyarmond was another like that at SIGN, and at the Pentagon Colonel Garrett ultimately did the same thing. Goll was McCoy's main administrational helper out of the HQ office. People have tried to make of him some mystery shadowy figure due to the fact that they don't read the documents and only know that he signed the so-called [not called so by T-2] "Pentacle" memo. In the middle above is a rather amazing picture of the boys "in action" in McCoy's office/meeting room in [probably late 1947 or 1948]. Who would think that we'd ever have such a memorial to McCoy's era on film? Mack is at the head of the table [with a piece of art with a rocket on it behind him] and Clingerman is second to the right. Nearest the camera is John [Red] Honaker, a civilian intelligence operative out of McCoy's main office, who was still there when Ruppelt arrived and Ed was able to talk with him and others [like Al Loedding] about what this era was like. The guy closest to the camera on the left is very probably Goll [very balding and mustachioed]. Who knows, maybe they're considering whether to send up SIGN's Estimate of the Situation as we watch? Below are the two main SIGN engineers, Albert Deyarmond [a longtime buddy of McCoy--on the left] and Alfred Loedding [on the right]. These are the real people [no conspiracy agents they] who began in earnest the Air Force's attempt to understand the flying disks.
In the pictures to the left are shown [on the left] an aerial photo of the T-2 area, and a picture of two of our heroes in the story. As to T-2: some folks don't realize that Wright-Patterson AFB was really a significantly separated base in simplicity of travel between the two [by this I mean that it wasn't like driving across the street--it took a little trouble to pass between as they were somewhat split as to ground transport] and, moreso in function. Wright was the Top Secret Technology base, Patterson was more or less a "normal" airfield. In between the two, and on the Patterson side, was the T-2 area and the intelligence division---that is, Intelligence was not alongside Engineering, and these functions became more and more separated with time. Knowing this could play a role in peoples' thinking about Roswell, for instance. [A secret shipment to a secure building in T-3 Engineering need not ever involve anyone from T-2]. The other picture I just include because I like it: Mack [on the right] and Moose [Deyarmond's nickname; on the left]. The two great buddies in their "sunday military finest" at an awards banquet. I put some of this sort of stuff in here because I think it's useful to remember that these folks are people--maybe not that different from you and me.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Well, on to SIGN and its activities: there are an unlimited number of things that could be written about, so I'll have to just pick some which are in my judgement insightful. In early February, SIGN received a newspaper clipping [of all things] which said that "white balls of light" had been seen during some military operation in France. SIGN was very interested. Please get this information to us at the earliest possible date. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A few days later something was reported that stretched them past what they wanted to consider. A fireball cruised over and crashed in Kansas at Norcatur. Many folks saw it and there were news reports. SIGN was made aware of the event and later learned that some meteorite hunters had recovered an achondritic meteorite which is not [largely] iron-nickel and so deteriorates in the atmosphere often putting on a colorful show. So far so good. An "unfettered Fortean", named Norman Markham, wrote to the Pentagon saying that he had insights into this event. This was passed on to SIGN. Markham said that he had calculated a path for the object in question and felt that it intersected with the orbit of the Moon. He went on to comment on other anomalous "meteoritic" events, and alluded a possible connection to the "current" flying disk sightings. He spoke of the extraterrestrial theory for the disks [quite early, eh?] and said that they seem to arrive in greater frequency depending on the orbits of a certain planet [Venus]. I have no idea how SIGN took all this, but they sent the letters on to meteor expert Lincoln LaPaz rather than throwing them in the trash. LaPaz rejected Markham's ideas [naturally] but in a letter back to the Research and Development Board at the Pentagon reported on his own team's field work interviewing persons about the Norcatur fall. The boggler was the testimony of Leland Sammons, farmer of Stockton, Kansas. He said that he was outside near the chickenhouse when the pheasants and hens all raised a ruckus. He investigated and was confronted by an object hovering nearby. The thing descended to about 6 foot off the ground. It was 4 foot long and funnel-shaped. A pipe stuck out of its midsection [right at Sammons]. It wobbled about, fire sucking in and out, showered sparks, and, increasing in its "fire", took off extremely fast and departed in a trail of smoke [the latter part of this his wife also saw]. "Suddenly there was a great cloud of smoke in the sky" and they heard an explosion. Well, what do you make of that? SIGN and LaPaz, to maintain sanity apparently, forgot it as fast as they could, but the report nevertheless was left in project records. My UFO friend Frank Reid thinks that this affair may have begun an idea in USAF minds that plotting UFO incidents relative to planetary orbits was a good idea [SIGN did that in this very year]. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Now to the associated picture. in the upper left is William Rhodes of Phoenix, AZ. Rhodes; as many of you know, took two photos of "flying disks" in early July of 1947. Those photos are shown on the right. [I was messing about one day in CUFOS files and came across what seem to be negatives of the original photos as collected by SIGN. By this I mean not Rhodes' own negatives--although even that is possible--but a "first" copy perhaps that the AF saved{and Hynek walked off with}. I asked Rob Swiatek if he could get a good print of them, and that's what you're looking at. I think that this is "neat" but I'm a romantic]. Well, Al Loedding was very fired up for the Rhodes photos and when he got an excuse to visit him in person [due to an important-sounding case out of Holloman] he took the opportunity to go on to Phoenix as a side-trip. Nothing that happened there dissuaded him from his enthusism that he was looking at a flying disk in the air, just as he knew it could be. [Rhodes was a bit of a poser--he liked to think of himself in more august terms than probably was justified, but that didn't bother Loedding, although it did put off other investigators]. Loedding went back to SIGN thinking that he had one more solid reason for believing that the disks were flying around. The last part of this illustration is of a German glider from the AMC's secret library that was used by both ET-pro and ET-con elements in the Air Force to support their contentions that the flying disks represented a serious intelligence concern.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In the interval between the Rhodes trip [sorry] and the beginning of the Estimate, there were many cases to look at. Here are three from May. On the seventh, three persons [two adults and a child] watched a large number ["50 or 60"] starlike objects move in a generally straight line West to East. "Occasionally one would deviate from its course making sharp angular turns". They simply flew away and disappeared in the distance. Their color was said to be like bright aluminum. The local military investigator said he thought they witnessed a meteor shower. SIGN got hold of Dr. Paul Herget of the Cincinnati Observatory. Herget said that he knew that under optimal viewing conditions it was possible to see meteors with the unaided eye during daylight [it was about 4PM] but that he seriously doubted that 50 to 60 of them could be meteors. As a side effect Herget suggested to SIGN that if they wanted an on-call astronomy consultant, he knew just the guy--a young astronomer at Ohio State named J. Allen Hynek. When you look at the project record card on the "Memphis Affair", you see in the evaluations box: "meteor". What a joke, eh? Herget says not likely; witnesses say metallic, and occasional zig-zagging, what's going on? I believe that there is no way that SIGN thought that this case was meteors. [whether it really was or not]. What most UFO historians don't realize is that many of the "evaluations" on the project record cards were changed over time. There were at least two big periods for this: one, with Allen himself screwing the works up in his Grudge mode, and a second in the George Gregory period of the later fifties, when he went back in for some necessary [in his mind] re-evaluations. SIGN probably thought this was a good case. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------My next choice is a report from an area between Plevna and Miles City, MT. A manager of the B.F.Goodrich company was driving at about 11:30PM, when he saw a very bright object to his northwest. He stopped his car and watched as the object "sailed around the sky--which at times close and at others seemed to speed away into the heavy cloud bank to the west and then later reappearing ". It appeared as a very bright white light. Through field glasses he saw the thing as an elongated object with a light shining down beneath it. The object stayed about for twenty minutes and then "flew off through the heavy cloud bank to the west". So what was this thing? The official record card says: "Refraction of Planet Mars". Lord help us and get the excedrin! Once again this is almost certainly not the view of SIGN. It might, however, be the imaginative puzzle-solving of Allen Hynek. If so, and there is a very good chance of this, our off-course UFO hero was in a stage which out-Menzelled Menzel. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On May 28, an AF officer, riding as passenger in a C-47, saw out-of-the-window, first three disks flying in a stepped-up line beside and just to the rear of the plane. They seemed to be small and silvery-gold or shiny-brass. They executed several sharp turns. When he tried to get a fellow passenger to look, they were gone. Two more, however, subsequently returned to the approximate position and behavior, and the second passenger did see those. [see the illustration above from the microfilms]. Solution?: "Probable reflection." Yow! Of what? Shiny metallic, manuvering, multiple positions, seen by two people...bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb. Another triumph of "analysis". But, once again, very likely NOT SIGN's way of seeing the case.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In the midst of this period [March 17-18] there was a Scientific Advisory Board meeting in DC. Many of the key AF technical and intelligence operatives were required to attend and make presentations. McCoy was one of them. This meeting has gotten far more attention in the modern UFO community that it deserves and the reason is that the persons who see vast importance in it have [in my opinion] an insufficient understanding of history--yes, that again. This meeting arose to its UFO notoriety as an argument that the crash at Roswell [or any other crash] had not happened. I believe that it's perfectly acceptable scholarship to argue against Roswell, but not using materials that don't say what one "wants" them to say. The debate in the modern community occurred because a prominent [at the time] Roswell supporter used the transcript of this meeting as an alleged trump card argument that it had not in fact happened. This fellow [ a fine guy, by the way] was so impressed by Mack McCoy saying in his remarks to the board that project SIGN had no evidence of the kind that they [AMC] had received during WW2 such as material from crashes, so as to be able to prove what the flying disks are. And yes, he did say something just like that. The anti-Roswell contingent in the UFO community saw in this statement that Roswell couldn't possibly have happened or McCoy would not have said that. Superficially, there is logic in that. But not in a historical context. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------To see the event in its meaning we need to view it in its time and reason. Theodore von Karman [pictured above, bottom] has called this meeting to discuss a large variety of research concerns. These included future plans, NACA, missiles, weapons, aero-medical research, and on and on. It was a big meeting and many of the SAB attended [picture of an SAB group, von Karman at head of table, is above]. Heavyweights were there. Vandenberg [above left], sitting in for Spaatz, and General Laurence Craigie, following LeMay up the ladder to be boss of R&D, also made a statement. McCoy's contribution was late in the day, and most of the SAB had already left to listen to a speech by Truman [or play hooky ]. McCoy, mercifully, cut his presentation short, telling almost anecdotes about the various programs going on at AMC. The reason that he and others interested in AMC were there was that they were trying to get approval for additional manpower to staff an "Applied Research Section" at T-3 to be scientific consultants to T-3's chief and certain of the laboratories. [If I were a conspiratorial man, I'd start wondering exactly what some of this consultancy might amount to]. That sell-job worked and von Karman wrote to Craigie that he approved the added manpower. So, what about McCoy's "no crashes" comment? We've already discussed this exact issue in the post about the "Twining memo", written by McCoy and saying the same thing. McCoy may or may not have known about Roswell. If he did, he will not mention it in some general speech. Even the SAB contains dozens of people who have no need to know, and whose expertise is irrelevant. Two members didn't even have Top Secret clearances at the time. SAB notes are classified "Secret" so Top Secret information will not appear in them. etc. etc. I read McCoy's comments about Project SIGN as remarks that he thinks he has to make because some of the SAB will have heard of it, he's giving a general survey of everything that is going on, and he's going to make the project sound sensible to a bunch of skeptical scientists. Nothing more. Yet this off-hand description, taken with no understanding of context, caused at least one researcher to leave UFOlogy entirely. As I just said: argue the issues all one wants. Maybe there are good arguments which absolutely reduce Roswell to oblivion. This, however, is not one of them.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------In case someone wishes to acquire fire-power for his/her own conspiracy, I'm appending the "1948-current" SAB membership below, directly to you from the archival files of Theodore von Karman himself, good fellow that he was.


  1. Very interesting. I've often wondered who it was Ruppelt talked to when he first started at ATIC. It didn't occur to me that it might have been Loedding. Also very interesting for how Hynek entered the picture.

  2. In various things written for the Fortean Society's "Doubt," N.G. Markham made clear he was computing arrival & departure dates for spaceships visiting from Venus & the moon. His predictions may not have worked, but Sign could have seen that they could check this stuff out with their full data-set.

    Quintanilla's odd-jobs guy, Sgt. Moody, changed evaluations, too--one he did on the basis of color of object, and Jacques Vallee hailed him as discoverer of the species of bird with four lights.

    Frank John Reid

  3. Frank: Ha! Funny. I apologize, by the way, for not giving you credit for giving me the lead on this Markham stuff. Maybe one day your name will be up there in lights just like the four-lighted bird.



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