Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Forgotten Piece of 1959 Research

This is the sort of post that I might have to do more of, rather than things which need more research time, as time is not cooperating much here. The inspiration for this post was reading in the Flying Saucer Review for 1959 a brief notice of a piece of reporter detective work by John Lester of the Newark Star-Ledger. The mention was about a poll that Lester made of 50 commercial pilots about what they felt about UFOs and the way the government was handling the subject and treating the witnesses. This poll has been noted by several writers in modern times and you can find brief descriptions of it in several places on the internet with not much detail [just as FSR had little detail.] The pilot responses about their beliefs and their treatment by the USAF were exactly as you would guess: that there are anomalous aerial phenomena up there and the pilots don't appreciate being threatened by the AF nor made to be fools. But it was a second, much less noticed poll by Lester [and completely missed by FSR] that I find more interesting and want to describe here.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lester did a much more ambitious poll than the one with the pilots. Taking a full month to accomplish it, he contacted 1000 government radar operators around the US and asked several questions: Had they seen UFOs? Did their radars track them? Were they "real targets"? What did they think about all this? Lester's results were far more stunning [for me] than the pilot responses. [By the way folks, the reason that you are getting this more detailed {than in FSR} info on this topic is that I have my 1959 chapter from the big history book in progress {with me here in WVA} and so can share little bits of it]. Lester of course summarized the general tenor of the 1000 radar operators in the article so I'll quote some of it. ---------------------------------------------------------------------"Traveling at fantastic speeds--sometimes thousands of miles per hour--these objects execute perfect 90-degree turns, steep vertical climbs, even abrupt, hovering stops in defiance of all known laws of aerodynamics, the radarmen report."---------------------------------------------------------------- "When more than one are involved they fly in a pattern within a pattern."----------------------------------------------------------------------------"In addition, they invariably stay just ahead of Air Force planes sent up to intercept them." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lester went on to state that "eight out of ten" of the 1000 operators polled felt that something was out there which couldn't be explained conventionally. This included the elimination of such explanations as meteors, cloud phenomena, balloons, aircraft, hallucinations or "anything else of this nature". ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------"Of the total number whose opinions were tabulated, fully half reported they had seen--'tracked' is their term--unidentified flying objects on their radar screens one or more times and in many instances the objects were observed simultaneously by people in the vicinity--sometimes by the thousands."--------------------------------------------------------------------------------"About 60%-- three-out-of-every-five-- of the remaining five hundred who've never personally tracked a UFO are of the same opinion because of their confidence in radar and the knowledge and skill of their co-workers."-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This publication was an unexpected block-buster for the Pentagon which could not let it stand unanswered. Major Tacker at the UFO Information desk released a brainless statement that it was all just natural phenomena, but even he realized that such a comment was lame and said that he would like to get the details of these alleged cases to assess them. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lester then followed the radarmen poll with his narrower one with the fifty commercial pilots , which later UFOlogists have emphasized [though why compared to the other mystifies me a bit]. The pilots were almost unanimous in blasting the Air Force. Lester's poll was biased in that every one of the fifty had seen a UFO themselves, but one could say that this made them the proper group to be commenting anyway. All fifty had already been interrogated by the Air Force and almost none was happy with their treatment. One even mentioned the "new" clause in USAF regulations covering air intelligence which could levy a $10000 fine on a pilot for talking about a UFO case in public [once that case had been investigated and they had been told not to]. This really was a line item in the CIRVIS-MERINT regulations which could be employed if an official report had been made. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Lester then made his only mistake. As the third segment in his news series, he reported on some rumors that he'd been hearing around military circles. These were about crashed saucers. He said that his sources had told him of at least six cases in five different countries. "Ours"[in the US] was of course secretly held at Wright-Patterson. This gave Tacker the opening to blast away at him as a producer of "pure rubbish". It is likely that the great majority of readers swung over to Tacker's side due to that. Crashed extraterrestrials were, of course, too much to swallow.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lester's great idea was not about crashed disks but radar cases and the personnel who saw them. This has been picked up in our time by Jan Aldrich and Martin Shough who have done the heroic first work of cataloguing those case types. Now aided by Fran Ridge, Dan Wilson, and Jean Waskiewicz, they are expanding the catalogue to epic proportions, using Fran's great NICAP website as the locus. All readers are recommended to Fran's site as the [hands-down] outstanding english-language UFO site in existence. Go there and become smart and wise.


  1. Prof: "Lester then followed the radarmen poll with his narrower one with the fifty commercial pilots , which later UFOlogists have emphasized [though why compared to the other mystifies me a bit]."

    Possibly because, being visually biased creatures, more store was set by direct 'eye' contact.

    That radar stuff though's very compelling, especially so early on; but I remember once watching a British Met Office official - during an upsurge in tornados, flooding, etc. - being interviewed about the use of radar in weather detection systems and he claimed the software they used was now so sophisticated it could screen out the sort of false - "ghost" - readings which'd plagued its use in earlier times.

    This set me thinking: define 'false'; and left me wondering just what exactly else such software was screening out...

  2. Yes..interesting. We always assume deficiencies to buttress the negative position, whereas they might just as well point to gaps wherein we are missing the phenomenon.



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