Friday, May 29, 2015

WHAT'S HARDER TO UNDERSTAND: UFOs or US?


This post is shrapnel from my flailing around trying to "recover" organization from the weekend's UFO get-together. Much paper has been flying about; a situation which was magnified by the arrival of the remnants of Onondaga College's discarded UFO archive collection [stimulated originally by CUFOS subscriber Steve Zalewski.] Now that Steve has passed [at least I've been given to believe that], Onondaga had no advocate for keeping the collection and wanted to free archive space --- there's a lesson there for those who think that any college is an eternally safe repository. Mark Rodeghier received notice of Onondaga's decision with a request that he should take the collection if CUFOS wished. Mark asked me. I asked "how much?" Onondaga said "six file drawers."

A few weeks ago six file drawer-sized boxes arrived at 818 South Park. I took them on the premise that I'd search through everything, save out what little I assessed that CUFOS didn't have, offer the remnants to my weekend friends, and pitch the shrapnel into the recycling bin. All that has happened, and every page poked into by multiple UFOlogists. Nothing important escaped. But I had more filing to do.

This post comes out of a rare-ish newsletter originating with the early Chicago-area Rocket Society. The leading, and nearly only, article in this June 1950 publication was "A Scientific Analysis of the Flying Disk Reports." I find it interesting for several reasons, so you're getting stuck with reading about it.


Before I jump directly into this newsletter, it's helpful to know that by June 1950 we've not only had the big 1947 flap, but inside Wright-Patterson's Project SIGN thoughts about the disks being extraterrestrial had held sway, the USAF Pentagon had rebelled against that, Saturday Evening Post's Sidney Shallet had gotten into Wright Pat for his mind-boggling article in 1949, and in 1950 White Sands missile commander Robert McLaughlin has written a TRUE article almost flatly stating that the disks had to be extraterrestrial. Some of the above information was hidden from the public, and other bits were separated by authoritative-sounding Air Force claims that it was bunk. The "intellectual" atmosphere for a scientist, or an engineer, or a technical writer, was puzzling and fascinating in the extreme.

This is the atmosphere which produced Don Keyhoe, but he wasn't the only one --- he was the most life-long pain-in-the-Air-Force's-butt, but other writers and scientists felt that the USAF was covering something up as well. When the 1949 Saturday Evening Post article{s} came out, the USAF "coincidentally" prepared a review of the flying disks entitled "Project Saucer", and invited anyone [particularly newswriters] to come to the Pentagon and read it. Keyhoe was one who did. Apparently a Chicago-based technical writer, and member of the Chicago Rocket Society, was another. The Air Force's release was a colossal snafu by them, as it gave the impression of an even greater support for the strangeness of the flying disks than Shallet's modestly-written pieces. Keyhoe smelled a rat. Apparently so did George A. Whittington.

Whittington probably shared out the information in the Project Saucer release with his Rocket Society colleagues as they waited for further revelations from the Air Force. As SIGN had been smashed down by the anti-saucer Pentagon, none did. Then in January of 1950, Keyhoe unloaded his TRUE article, "The Flying Saucers are Real", and in March TRUE followed with Commander McLaughlin's " How Scientists Tracked a Flying Saucer." Keyhoe was a retired marine with no particular expertise in advanced flying technology [despite being a pilot himself and personally knowing heavyweight Navy technologists], but Robert McLaughlin was one of the Navy's top missile experts, AND in command of Naval research at White Sands. He had a powerful voice. {Note that neither Keyhoe nor McLaughlin were Air Force.}

Whittington heard McLaughlin loud and clear. His talk to the Rocket Society [March or April, it's not dated] gave the following views:
a). The military has plenty of evidence for the reality of the flying disks and there is no question of their reality;
b). They want the public to believe that they have the situation in hand, thus the admission of an on-task Project Saucer [he could not have known the internal politics that had brought "Saucer"/SIGN down and replaced it with the incompetent Grudge, then nothing at all for a time];
c). The Air Force is acting so quietly about this that they must not only know that the disks are interplanetary technology, but know far more than that, even to the extent of contact.

Whittington then went on to speculate why the Pentagon would not release the whole facts, citing everything from panic to warmongering overreaction to war industry economic dislocations, or just simply that communications were primitive and information releases were premature. Whittington then said that although he had spoken his views "lightly" and humorously, he was not joking. The expert authority of Commander McLaughlin essentially assured him that the flying disks were advanced flying machines well beyond our capabilities.

That position was shortly buttressed by another Rocket Society member of greater technical "presence."


First, what was the Chicago Rocket Society anyway? It was an "amateur" membership in that you did not have to be exceptionally qualified to belong [just love rocketry], but it was one of the elite such societies in the country. The Society hosted the overall American Rocket Society national meeting in 1957, and that's one of the Nazi Paperclip rocket experts pictured at that meeting above.


I couldn't find a picture of sometime-president of the Rocket Society, Dr. Norman J. Bowman, but he might be in one of the pictures above [about adult advisors with the High Schoolers of the Northern Indiana Rocket Club]. Bowman was a secondhand helper there. {I also put this up here since I found that the pictures contained a photo of a genius ex-Notre Dame classmate of mine, Physics major Ray Durand. ... nostalgia, but the darned guy would sneak into my dorm room and shout out all the answers to the NYT crossword puzzle when I was trying to work it.}

Bowman was a real rocket expert.

 

 Bowman was a research chemist at Standard Oil Research Laboratories in Whiting, Indiana and, obviously from the publications above, knew a lot about the state of American rockets, missiles, and Space Flight. So when Bowman was invited to give a talk to the Chicago Association of News Broadcasters, people listened. {This talk was presented then in the June 1950 Rocket News Letter, whereupon it comes down to me and you.}

Bowman's talk showed great familiarity with whatever the intelligent layman had available to him at the time [ex. Project Saucer release, SEP article, TRUE articles] as well as an expert training within which to evaluate the information, and the scuttlebutt which doubtlessly was passing back and forth among his colleagues in the rocketry "business". After repeating the background points of the Project Saucer evaluation he said this:

"I believe it is the almost universal conclusion of persons, including most scientists, who have studied the reports, that there is some unusual aircraft being commonly observed. I personally feel this is well established beyond any reasonable doubt and it is on this basis that I shall proceed (with the rest of the concepts and deductions of his talk)."

Hmmmm... right on, Dr. Bowman.

He went on to remark:

"PROPULSION: The most striking fact about the disks is that in practically no case has a visible means of propulsion been observed nor has any noise been heard. It is most surprising that noise from a propeller or other means of propulsion, or a jet trail, has not been observed. This seems to indicate some new means of propulsion." 

Speaking then about shapes, speed, altitudes, and range --- ALL of which defied modern aircraft performance --- he then said:

"MANOEUVERABILITY: Next to the lack of visible propulsion mechanism, this is the most striking feature of the disks. They have universally been reported to change linear velocity, altitude, and direction with almost incredible rapidity. Accelerations calculated for these changes have commonly run to 20Gs or more, which is beyond the ability of our human body to endure even for a short time. It further seems very doubtful that these disks are pilotless guided missiles, as they have manoeuvered in a manner with aircraft, and almost engaged in dogfights, which would be impossible for guided aircraft, particularly as they must have been out of sight of their home base. It is well known that the big bottleneck in our guided missile program is the guiding mechanism." 


Bowman reflected upon the then-recent US News and World Report story that the disks were only Navy developments from the war era. You can almost feel him scratching his head at the stupidity of this, calling the Navy craft The Flounder and remarking on its primitiveness. How anyone could be floating such bunk mystified him. 


He also wondered how [why?] a world class scientist like Irving Langmuir would be speaking an Air Force line about the disks being confusions and errors et al. He probably didn't know that Langmuir was an oldtime Air Force Scientific Advisor linked into the Pentagon. 

Bowman wasn't cowed by Langmuir or the Air Force's public mockery. He closed his talk with a frank discussion of the extraterrestrial hypothesis from an engineer-scientist's point of view. He said that it was unfortunate that some were dismissing this as pulp fantasy. On the contrary, he pointed out that we were close to being able to build an orbiting rocket and therefore a space station. He spoke of ultimately using nuclear power plants to make serious lifting of payloads and people possible.

"If we forecast space flight for ourselves, why should it be unbelievable that intelligent life elsewhere in this universe has achieved it somewhat ahead of us? Those who say it is impossible would, I fear, have also stated unequivocally in 1940 that the atomic bomb was impossible.
 Well, to summarize what I have said: It is my belief that the data is adequate to say that the flying disks are real and that some type of unusual aircraft is commonly being observed. If one takes the best authenticated reports as being substantially correct, the performance characteristics of the ships are beyond current earth technology and one must conclude that they are indeed extraterrestrial space ships. On the other hand, if the reports have been consistently exaggerated to a considerable extent, it must be concluded that the disks are simply some new type of US aircraft." 

It's clear that Bowman didn't buy Consistent Considerable Exaggeration here. 



Over at Wright-Patterson's T2 intelligence program, Colonel Mack McCoy during the Project SIGN days didn't buy "lousy reporting" either. Mack had stretched his imagination trying to figure how these things could even get here from foreign soil. Some kind of floating aircraft carrier? He asked ex-German wizards --- no luck. Nothing like that had been under development let alone flown.

McCoy's engineering buddies at SIGN [Albert Deyarmond at left and Alfred Loedding at right] also could not see the way around what to them was a simple engineering conclusion: These things are WAY too clever to be ours.


Down the road at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Nuclear Energy for Aircraft Propulsion {NEPA} was getting started. It had ideas and designs for propulsion systems on the board [intriguingly, it also attracted UFO overflights.] We as engineers, knew that nuclear-powered flight was possible and could "get us off the ground" and into space.



Over at the Air Force thinktank RAND, chief designer Jimmy Lipp had already roughed out the overview and pieces for an "Earth-circling spacecraft". We knew all these things, but still....

Lipp is a case in point. He ostensibly at least, HATED UFOs. His nephew was longtime UFOlogist Bob Wood. Lipp was so intimidating in his hatred of the subject that Bob rarely even mentioned it to him. 

Why was that? Do some, even very smart people, FEAR the idea of extraterrestrial visitation so much that they just deny it away? Listening to the Lipps, Menzels, Langmuirs of the world, one might make a theory about that. 

But so many of their peers didn't feel that way at all. And some of the most responsible of them did not feel that way. 


NATO chief Lionel Chassin....
 Air Marshall George Jones ....

CIA chief Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter...

All these men during this period and throughout the 1950s expressed dismay that the UFOs were not being taken seriously, and the ETH ignored.


Art Lundahl, the best intelligence photo interpreter that we ever had, felt that he had seen plenty of solid photographic evidence for the disks and that the ETH was the only thing to explain them.


Astronaut-to-be Deke Slayton had a mid-air encounter with a disk over Wisconsin during this period. NASA didn't like him to talk about it, but Slayton never felt that he had an explanation. 

In 1952, Pentagon intelligence analyst Stephan Possony was head of the USAF Special Study Group working out of General John Samford's office. One of Possony's projects was trying to figure means of communicating with the saucer pilots. --- right in synch with George Whittington's speculations. 


So, as we stare at a photo allegedly taken by a person near an airbase in 1950, we can reflect: The professional engineers thought that we had plenty of evidence WAY back then [let alone now] to be talking about and taking the ETH very seriously --- BUT WE STILL AREN'T.

So, what's easier to understand: UFOs or US? 

Peace, folks, and a happy start to the summer.





4 comments:

  1. Excellent piece, as always. Thanks, Michael!

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    1. Hi, Mark. Good to hear from you. How's the Hynek project going? Finished and published and me just not knowing yet?

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  2. Nice job and summary, Dr. Swords.

    "So, what's easier to understand: UFOs or US?"

    I'd venture that's an unanswerable general question, as it depends on the bases for differing definitions of UFOs and the complicating variables of how and why people think what they do about same. Ontology and epistemology, and all that jazz... but if I had to guess, I'd say people are easier to understand, in lieu of what UFOs really are. Usually.

    "I can almost always only say maybe, but then again it depends..."

    My mantra of agnostic ambiguity, similar to Mark's "ambiguity is more convincing than certainty." 8^}

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  3. Three words that should never be in the same sentence: "discarded", "UFO", and "archive" !
    Thanks for saving and sharing the info. ----Mrs. C

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