Sunday, October 9, 2011

THE SKY IS FALLING: a Walk on the Wild Side with DARPA and the Air Force.

This is an organizational nightmare, so I'm going to break it up into three smaller posts in the hope for a chance of clarity.

Being back home in Michigan, and as the writing and most of the organizing of the big UFO book is over, I decided to face the fact that my files associated with government actions, stupidities, and meddlings were in a colossal mess and begin to do something about that. I came across a file folder which we did not use in the book. I'd collected it at the Smithsonian Institution in 1988 [?]. I'd forgotten completely about it and had no clue. My label said: 1960 CIA investigates object fall. Well, how about that?! Just goes to show you what having too many resources can do for you. I'd never read it closely.

Inside was a memorandum for the record about a phone call from the CIA to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution about something which fell from the sky on September 4th, 1960 in Hartford CT and burned [in a small way, it turned out] a shed. A famous satellite watcher astronomer was involved with the case, and chemical analysis was said to show that the thing was neither satellite nor meteorite. As the Smithsonian Institution was the parent of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory which was now involved publicly, and since the Director of the SAO, Carl W. Tillinghast, was tasked with creating a public statement about the incident, the CIA was requesting a copy of the [blow-off] statement. Hmmmm. What the heck was THIS all about??

On the evening of September 4th, separate individuals saw a greenish-colored [mainly] bright object passing overhead. They were attracted to it by the fact that it made a noise. These visual in-flight observers did not see it land. Another person, however, also alerted by noise, went outside and discovered a smallish object which was reducing itself to pieces and ash and setting afire the local shed.

The witness immediately [with neighbors' help] put out the fire and picked up a moderate pile of various fragments which were still warm. They also called the police. The police arrived not only with their detective, but with a reporter in tow, AND a well-known local college professor, Dr. Robert L. Brown. He, it turned out had much to say.

The press story with out and national almost immediately. This was the time for Soviet and US satellites and everybody was seeing them and was interested. It was also the time of Moonwatch at the SAO, and the time when people were seeing UNexplainable "satellites" either following ECHO about or running in "wrong" orbits in the skies. [I think I posted on this a long time ago, but it may have been an IUR article].

Inspections were made [the picture on the left is the Project Blue Book document showing the shed with burned areas on the bottom]. Note that this case ultimately went to the UFO project. Also, the other witnesses were located by the police.

Professor Brown was avidly interested. He had been the first US citizen to actually spot Sputnik I and was well known to the SAO. In fact he directed one of Moonwatch's observation stations. His group had seen anomalistic "somethings" approximately one week earlier. His press comments flatly eliminated meteors as a culprit, but suggested some Soviet satellite fragments might be involved. Brown was also imagining some other more mysterious artificial object which he did not go into.

What he surely DID do however was to bring the "fall" to the attention of Project Moonwatch and its director Harvard astronomer Fred Whipple and assistant director J. Allen Hynek. Yep. THAT guy again. Those two knuckleheads are shown below at the SAO Moonwatch offices around the time of this story. [the actual photo is one of those posed pictures that they did when they cracked the orbit of Sputnik I. --- two happy, obviously professorial buddies].

It is then that this story takes an abrupt left turn. T. Townsend Brown shows up. My jaw just about hit the floor when I got to this part.

Well, us folks in UFO history research know a great deal about T Townsend Brown and it's rarely good. This guy had almost as many angles and mysteries about him as George Hunt Williamson, and I still don't quite understand him. Please go to the internet and read a little about this guy; I can't write the necessary book here. I'm going to list a bare minimum: rich man's son; child science prodigy; had some ideas which impressed a lot of people; came up with idea that electricity and gravity were related and could be shielded or cancelled; early "president" of NICAP.... by this time fired but still active with his esoteric science ideas.

So, somehow Brown read the press story and IMMEDIATELY got permission to TAKE CONTROL of the samples!!! He walked right into Whipple's office the NEXT DAY, and presented his credentials. Whipple, a severe skeptic about almost anything, agreed that these samples were not worth anything to Moonwatch [doubtless Hynek disagreed, and equally doubtless contacted Major Friend at Blue Book].

Brown gathered up the samples and copies of the police report, promising that he would keep Dr. McCrosky of the SAO informed [he is the scientist pictured below] and was on the phone with Colonel Victor A. Cherbak of the Bedford, MA Cambridge Research Center at the time --- i.e. right there in Whipple's office. [Cherbak is above left]. Who the heck was Cherbak??

Cherbak was the first director of Project Space Track [at the time called Project Harvest Moon]. This was the Air Force's secret analog to Moonwatch, set up to track all Earth-orbiting satellites. T. Townsend Brown: immediately getting access and possession of "anomalous debris" of some kind and talking to the USAF's secret satellite project director by phone in Whipple's office --- almost makes my head hurt. Was no one interested?? But THAT can't be, because Brown had to get that permission somewhere high up. And, at least Blue Book was interested.

We know that Blue Book was interested because when they learned about the case they immediately asked in. They acted on the 8th as you can read below. Little did Major Friend know that Townsend Brown had beaten him to the punch by two days.

Even invoking Air Force Regulation 200-2 which covered the collection of photos and physical evidence, among other things, couldn't help him if the "stuff" was already gone. Plus, the military is usually as slow as molasses on these things anyway.

Nine days later Dr. John T. Wasson [an extremely good atmospheric physicist] was sent to Hartford and SAO-Moonwatch from the USAF Atmospheric Circulation Laboratory, Nuclear Studies Branch. He was a bit surprised to find that the SAO had given everything they had to Brown. In Hartford itself he had more luck as the witnesses had kept some of the stuff themselves, although brown had taken at least half of that too. But at least Wasson could take his oral reports, his pictures of the site, and some meagre samples and make a Blue Book report. And what did his report say?? More importantly what was Townsend Brown doing? That's for the next two segments.

As a little treat: the picture below is of Professor McCrosky at the left on one of his satellite tracking field experiences [Hawaii, I think], and the young bespectacled man in the middle is UFO researcher/legend Walt Webb.


  1. Whoa Professor...X-Files eat yer heart out. This is classy stuff. I can't wait to hear more. Thank you.

  2. I've read the post closely, checked some of the names, read around and dipped into the BB archives to read more. It was quite the year for falling debris.

    The described trajectory of the satellite is fascinating and calls to mind those other mystery satellites from the period.

    I'm already looking forward to the follow-up posts.

  3. Hi Dr Swords,

    With regards to observations of objects accompanying the Echo satellites (and those launched thereafter), I was contacted a few years ago by a former USAF member, who provided me with an account of his observation of the satellites (Echo 1A’s) “companion”. I must admit to taking little notice of the report, due to the date of the sighting and the lack of strangeness compared to other reports that I received at the time. For those who may be interested, find the witness account/ narrative (I hope you don’t mind, Dr Sword’s!):

    “August 1960. I was in the U.S. Air Force stationed at RAF Chicksands, Chicksands Priory, Bedfordshire, England. On August 12th, the U.S. had launched the ECHO 1A Communications Satellite (actually it was a great big Mylar balloon that reflected radio signals). It was big enough to be visible to the naked eye. A few days later, some of my co-workers and I got the times and positions in the sky where ECHO would be visible in our part of the world. We went outside to watch for ECHO and were watching the spot where it would come up over the horizon. Right on time, there it was! And it had a friend, a fellow traveler. There were two bright specks moving across the sky, not just one. They passed directly overhead. Then one of them made a 180 degree turn and went back the way it had come. We went to the coffee shop and discussed what we had seen, but no one had any idea what it might have been.”

    With regards to the book, is it too early to enquire about a publishing date?

    Best wishes
    Lee Dines.

  4. Way cool, professor! I love the intersection of all these people who were involved with the UFOs in their various ways.

  5. To Lee Dines: great UFO witnessing. You were a privileged part of a "high altitude flap" [in my opinion] which showed up just in time to display for us during the heat of the satellite viewing days. It's another evidence of what presses more and more upon me as deliberate display. Really nice case.

    On the book, Robert Powell is busting his butt trying to get all the loose ends tied. I and Steve Purcell are helping all we can. We're getting close. All I can say is that there is nothing to stop us now. All the writing is done; all the references are done; all the pictures have been chosen [I just mailed a check to Colorado today for instance --- another indication that all us "fanatics" still have to spend our own money and will never make it back --- the UFO serious book market is probably less than a thousand]. The Index is left, and I will do a separate case&location index. Not much more. It's all the photo permissions and fees that hold the thing up. We'll still be grinding that out during December. I'll obviously let you guys know before anyone but Patrick Huyghe himself knows.

  6. I'm also looking forward to your book, Professor.
    Thanks for the new information about Townsend. I believe that by 1960 he was the CIA's premier scientist spook and the he and a few others like him were members of the inner circle of that agency. They would have been known as The Century Club, because all of them were born in years around the turn of the century.

    I do think, though, that we do him a misservice to state that he was 'fired' from NICAP. As a President Pro Tempore, He would have never seen his service as intended for anything more than an initiating role.

  7. I can't comment on who was or who was not being paid by the CIA. People are welcome to their beliefs on that.

    As to NICAP, I do not subscribe to the oft-repeated comment that Brown was merely "using" NICAP for personal gain, but if one reads the still-existent documents in the old NICAP files [I have], it is clear that the differences between Brown's vision of NICAP and other important players was such that he got fired/voted out.

    One shouldn't get defensive about that fact. All sorts of accomplished people get fired. But it is important that we do not invent elements of history about people we admire just because we admire them. Brown was fired from NICAP, so what?

    His legacy rises or falls not one iota due to that, but rather as to whether his inventions/ideas worked and whether they led to anything. That is the research project and documentable history someone should be pursuing, and then ignoramuses like myself could evaluate what we then think of him as a physicist.

  8. Points noted. I am much more taken with his location in the historical technological progression of spycraft but I do have, somewhere, a bibliography of current and prestigious research which cites his work. If I can find it again, I will repost it. Anyway I can't help but see the obvious connections as I look at where he was, and what documents I have seen from 1930 forward.

    One of said obvious being that historical records place Brown as the research physicist on early (1930's)gravity research cruises sponsored by the Smithsonian, so he was certainly well connected, there.

  9. Hi,
    Awesome story! Thanks! What evidence corroborated Thomas Townsend Brown taking possession of the samples, or being on the scene?

  10. It's in the Project Blue Book microfilm file on the incident. Colonel Friend of Blue Book has actual memos there. Check them out yourself on, or Fold3 or whatever they are calling it now. I've hinted at the other corroborating evidence as I go in the series on this.

  11. Thanks very much for the quick reply!



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