Monday, February 1, 2010

1948:Chiles-Whitted makes SIGN Brave

In the early morning hours of July 24, 1948, two of Eastern Airlines finest pilots [one a war hero: "in a command capacity during the war with vast experience in judging and identifying aircraft", according to the project report on this case---this was Chiles] had an encounter. Known as the "Chiles-Whitted" case after the pilots' names, it involved, they felt, a "near-hit" of their plane with a large lighted cigar-shaped craft apparently propelled by some sort of rocket power. They said that it was their impression that this "flying fuselage" changed course slightly to pass up and to their right. They sat there stunned for five minutes.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Upon landing they reported to the Atlanta administration. Those administrators gave the story to the press. These press stories were how the word of this got to the Pentagon. Everyone seemed to want to interview the pilots, and several interviews happened. Chiles then said that he got a phone call from the Pentagon saying that he was not to say another word about his experience to the public or he'd be called back to active duty. Reflecting on this heavy-handed silencing later, Chiles indicated that he was angered by it, but for the time being complied. The horse was far out of the barn though and the event was national and officials were being asked about it all over. Of course they had no explanation to give anyone. This, being of course an unacceptable military and security situation, prompted the Pentagon [in the person of new chief of Air Force intelligence, Charles Cabell ] to phone Howard McCoy at Project SIGN and order him to get the project down there asap. The bottom two entries in the picture collage here are the thumbnail descriptions that Whitted (left) and Chiles (right) gave at different times---I picked them out of the file because of their convenient sizes---of their encounter.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By the afternoon of Cabell's phonecall, the two "aces" of the project [Alfred Loedding {above, right} and Albert Deyarmond {below right}] were flying to Atlanta with their immediate boss, Lt.Colonel Raymond Llewellyn, as backup. Meeting the pilots [on layover at the Henry Grady hotel] Loedding and Deyarmond split up, each interviewing one of the pilots separately. [In the photo, Chiles is on the right, Whitted is on the left----Chiles' drawing is middle of the page; Whitted's drawing is below]. You can look at the drawings and decide what you will. Some of you will decide that the drawings are too much unalike to credit. Some of you will decide that, given the short time of the passage and the different viewing positions of the pilot/co-pilot seats, that the commonalities of the drawings [general shape, "rocket thrust', two rows of "windows", Lighted "windows", dark front end,....] are good enough. Loedding and Deyarmond, for their parts, were wowed. We are dealing with two guys [from SIGN] who have been immersed in unidentified flying object reports for months, and are surely oriented towards believing them, especially when they have such impressive witnesses. We are at greater emotional distance. Maybe we agree; maybe we do not. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The SIGN operatives went back to the project convinced that they had just interviewed two pilots who had seen a ship from outer space. [I've made a synthesis drawing of the two pilots' attempts to give an impression of the kind of thing that Loedding and Deyarmond thought they were dealing with; collage left, upper portion]. This thing wowed them more than it would you or I, because, as aeronautical engineers they were schooled in the ideas of one of the great(though largely unknown) scientific geniuses of the twentieth century, Ludwig Prandtl. Prandtl basically wrote the laws of fluid flows that found much of aeronautical theory. Historians rate him up there with people like Euler and Bernoulli. "The Prandtl Theory of Lift" described, mathematically how such an object could fly, despite one's gut impression that it could not do so. This thing COULD fly. This thing, to them, was real, and "out-of-this-world". It was the "excuse" that they were looking for to put forward the conclusion that had been firming up all along. An example as to how "ripe" they were for this: they had just explored the possibility of asking the think-tank RAND to give them their estimate as to whether a spaceship was a feasible technology. They may not have been aware that RAND had already produced such a study [it's very first as far as we know] that pronounced that this was feasible. [Prandtl is in the collage, middle left; the remainder are from the RAND study and RAND's chief, Franklin Collbohm]. SIGN had what they wanted and they were ready.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
But was the Pentagon ready for them? SIGN thought that its logic was air-tight. Here was a craft that flew according to very advanced aerodynamic principles, indicative of high technology. But the Prandtl Theory of Lift made the difficulty of this even clearer: you would have to have an extremely powerful power-plant to fly the thing. Nothing that anyone had, nor anything that was even well imagined, was powerful enough to get this thing up and maneuverable. [Speculation about nuclear engines immediately came up]. It can fly; it did fly; we can't fly it; therefore somebody else is flying it. This logic and the cluster of unexplained encounters that SIGN could list, were the foundation stones for the famous extraterrestrial "Estimate of the Situation". Once SIGN concluded, and Staff chief Captain Robert Sneider began to pen the Estimate, Howard McCoy would have begun to inform the Pentagon as to what was coming. Doubtless vibrations were felt through the entire directorate.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is the maelstrom that the news would be heading into. It is one version of the AF Intelligence "stack" [which was changing as all this happened] that the Estimate would face. Vandenberg was now Chief. His new Chief of Intelligence, General Charles Cabell (top, right), had replaced George McDonald. Schulgen was gone, replaced in Cabell's office by Colonel John Schweizer. Over the Intelligence analysis group was Brigadier General Ernest (Mickey) Moore, bottom left. In the middle [of the pictures and, doubtless everything,] was the most negative officer towards UFOs in the Pentagon, Colonel Edward Porter. At the position which would become the UFO "analysis desk", was Major Aaron J. (Jere) Boggs--later known as the "saucer killer". Not a friendly environment. Stay tuned.


  1. I mention this only as an "aside". I am just finishing Paul Hills book on Unconventional Flying Objects and he has a number of technical arguments to make about the kind of object that Chiles and Whitted saw. Hill himself saw such an object and surmised that what appeared to be a flame trail was actually a plasma phenomenon. While it doesn't doesn't speak to historicity (thats your bag Prof) it does give some food for thought about the potential significance of these objects and their mode of locomotion. Thanks for the historical perspective, I think any of us who are interested in the topic need to "back up the train" so to speak and go back to understand what the powers-that-be were actually thinking and doing at the time.

  2. Glad you're reading Hill and getting things out of it--not my strength. I think I can best serve by giving you a factual historical context within which to read all that stuff. This will hopefully allow everyone to have a clear view of what the AF was doing, and not waste time on the sorts of conspiracies that don't really make sense.

  3. Prof, looking at the drawings from the point of view of an artist, it seems very clear to me that both men saw the same thing, a long narrow object with significant curving aspects to its overall outline, with a number of illuminated straight-edged oblongs running its length.

    When they've come to draw what they saw, though, their respective backgrounds seem to've kicked in.

    Chiles, the more visually sophisticated of the two has rendered his 'cigar' a more elegant leaf shape, whereas Whitted's gone for an out and out phallus.

    Whitted, though, seems to've decided the illuminated oblongs had to be something akin to windscreens running the length of a 'double decker' passenger plane, and distributed them along the horizontal length of the 'cigar'.

    Whereas Chiles, with his greater military background and probable exposure to a wider range of aerial technologies of the time, seems to've decided such an extensive double-levelled array of extremely large windscreens would've made for unsound structural integrity and rendered the oblongs as something more akin to steel plates with attached light sources.

    It's also possible Whitted, who seems less artistically skilled than Chiles, simply couldn't draw his oblongs with the same alignment as Chiles', in the same way some people have to draw profiles of human faces with both eyes to one side of the face, even though they know this is in fact not anatomically accurate.

  4. Extremely interesting commentary. Your words show the rest of us that the complexity of UFO research is such that having many people of many talents at work on analysis is valuable. I will add one speculative thing: persons process their incoming sense perceptions differently and one of those ways is in different rates of "pictures per second" by our eyes. Chiles may have had, in addition to the skills that you already have mentioned, the natural ability to "take more pictures" which makes the action seem to slow down and gives you opportunity to see more detail. Great baseball hitters seem to take more pictures than us mere mortals and can process what the ball is doing. Wayne Gretsky said that when he played, the puck seemed in slow motion to him such that he was seeing every tumble it made, allowing him to predict what it would collide with [skates, etc] and be there at the point of attack quicker than the other guy. It's speculative because we don't know if Chiles was this way, but it would also help explain why he saw more than Whitted. I had one personally dramatic experience of this when I was in a car in southern France and saw another car that was on collision course with us. Adrenalin kicked in and everything slowed down to the extent that the shattered glass and thrown off chrome headlight circlet erupted in beautiful slow-motion so that I could see, for that short [ten second?] moment every shard of glass and the circlet tumbling like the space station in 2001:a space odyssey. Phil Klass would not have believed the detail that I could have put in my "report".

  5. Thank-you for your article. I have been reading the various materials available on Projects Sigma and Sign recently, and 1 thing that has struck me is that there might be greater scope for U. F. O. investigators to get at the truth of what happened in the incidents investigated by Project Sign.I state this because at that time, 1948, although the Roswell incident may or may not have happened, there was much more open-ness about the investigation of U. F. O.'s insofar as the military's attitude to public discolsure was concerned. Also, the documents from that period are now de-classified, which did and does not apply in the case of subsequent investigations, such as Project Blue Book. I accept that their documents have, in fact, been de-classified, but this might have been because, if you believe the theory, the "real" cases were handled by another department, whatever you want to call it, Majestic 12, Project Grudge, etc. This has had some interesting comments already, and thankfully not the usual sort of rubbish that seems to infect these sort of forums.I apologise for having to appear here as Anonymous, but my Google account does not seem to be working!

  6. not sure how to respond properly to your note...the entirety of the SIGN, Grudge, Blue Book case files were published long ago as the Project Blue Book microfilms, and UFO researchers have been working on them since the late 1960s, when Jim McDonald led the way. Other USAF documents were successfully FOIA'd from the Pentagon in the 1980s and have, basically, matched up well with the case files in the microfilm. Post the Ruppeltian era, due to JANAP orders, reports went to ADC HQ and could have been separated as to secrecy level there. Hynek thought that such things probably happened, and that is why he began to liaison with civilian groups to get richer cases. Generally UFO history is pretty clear when you stick to these documents and the best civilian work. Adding unsupported guesswork concepts into the mix leads to errors in my opinion, and is not necessary even.



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