Saturday, April 24, 2010

UFOs & The Enigma of the United States Navy

We know a great deal about the USAF's involvement in UFOs. We know a fair amount about the CIA's and the FBI's. There is not much indication that the Army had a lot to do with them, but there are many hints that the Navy had interests. But it is the Navy which stands as the one service or agency which we know had interest and yet remains almost completely silent [i.e. uncooperative to FOIAs] as to their history. That gap in our knowledge won't be filled by this post, but a small bit of information is available, so here goes.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The fellows pictured here are General Walter B. Smith [left] and Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter [right]. It is a picture to symbolize the handing off of the leadership of the CIA from the Admiral to the General. Hillenkoetter had been chief during an interesting time, vis-a-vis UFOs. There was Roswell, of course, but there was also SIGN and the Estimate of the Situation. That Estimate, as we have seen earlier in this blog, created a situation wherein all USAF UFO reports were sent in duplicate to the Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence, where a file was kept. Also, as we have seen earlier, the Office of Naval Research [in the person of Urner Liddel] used the files for an idiosyncratic study of UFOs and Balloon sightings and if one ONR person was reading the files doubtless others were. How active the Navy's Intel operations were about keeping tabs on the subject, we don't know; and perhaps never will unless they make some effort to be more cooperative about searching their records and releasing them. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The other thing that we absolutely know about the Navy, though, is that many highly placed officers were interested in the phenomenon. Roscoe Hillenkoetter himself joined NICAP and was willing to speak very publicly [and to congress] about the goodness of what NICAP was doing and that UFOs seemed to be a real but non-terrestrial mystery. He was far from alone.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Admiral Delmar Fahrney, the former chief of guided missiles research for the Navy, became NICAP's chairman of the board, following the abortive few months of the T.Townsend Brown era. Fahrney was very outspoken about the same two things which would be the NICAP mantra over the years: The UFOs were extraterrestrial, and the policy of secrecy was a big mistake. Office of Naval Research chief Admiral Calvin Bolster apparently believed the same, although Keyhoe and Fahrney were never able to get him to come out publicly with a statement. Several other Navy officers were NICAP members and Keyhoe occasionally got "leaks" from Navy people who obviously disliked USAF policy. A great deal of conversation had to be going on within that service [whether formally or not] which was sympathetic to research on the phenomenon and impatient with their rival service. One of these "conversations" which resulted in a massive "leak" was reported by Keyhoe in his 1960 book, as written about in the blog the other day.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In FLYING SAUCERS: Top Secret, Keyhoe described a meeting with two Naval officers which had been arranged "by an old classmate [from the Naval Academy] of mine". I'll speculate a little and guess that this was Bolster as Keyhoe mentions Fahrney in the text in a way that seems to eliminate him. Whoever it was he was a big wheel. --------------------------------------------------------------------------The meeting was in 1958, just after Dick Hall arrived at NICAP, and Keyhoe discussed the content of it with Dick. Using aliases, he described a meeting with a Captain [a Navy-style "Captain"] and a Commander in their office and quite "private". The officers danced about to begin with asking Keyhoe all manner of probing questions--as it turned out they were trying to get him to betray confidential sources of information to see if he could be trusted not to breach such confidentialities. Keyhoe passed the test, though not until wondering for a moment if these guys were setting him up for something. [because of his good friend who had arranged this, he didn't think that it could possibly be such a set-up and was patient].-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ultimately the officers were convinced and began telling him of "hidden" cases from naval personnel. Keyhoe was told that they had been keeping a "log" of these things. They were keeping it [on naval sightings only] "with the Admiral's consent". So who was the "Admiral"? Normally that would mean THE Admiral, Chief of Naval Operations, Arleigh A. Burke. Could that even be possible? Could the Chief of Staff of the Navy be interested in someone keeping track of UFOs? As we can read shortly, this is far from impossible, as something very similar had happened just before. But WHY were they keeping track? "Just so we'll know how many important Navy sightings go into the 'sink' ". They sarcastically said that this was their nick-name for Project Blue Book. Everything goes in, and nothing [as to information] comes out. The officers were irritated by the policy which kept information on sightings even from the relevant service, and actual lies occasionally told back to them. The officers then pulled several NICAP bulletins out of a drawer and told Keyhoe that they agreed with the stance that he was taking on all this. Keyhoe was not shown the full log at that time but was told of cases. That log probably still exists somewhere in Navy records and they will not do what is necessary to find and release it to us. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And we know absolutely that another one existed and that it was ordered at the highest levels. This was the study ordered by Secretary of the Navy Dan Kimball, and soon-to-be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Admiral Arthur Radford, that was precipitated by the close passage of their planes by a UFO in mid-Pacific, and the subsequent blunt uncooperative treatment of the Secretary's aides when they later inquired about the incident from the Air Force. Kimball ordered, through Radford, that a separate Navy file be maintained, particularly of Navy cases, since the Air Force could not be trusted to act in a responsible and civil manner as to openly sharing information as to what was going on [This fiasco happened just before Ruppelt got on the scene and began to recreate the Project in a more orderly and sensible mode. Naval distrust caused him some early problems of information transfer which he had to try to repair, and one spectacular Balloon-Research-Team case was garbled enough that his report on it was a full year off in date---something that didn't get corrected for a few months]. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Kimball/Radford study was headed by a commander, Frank Lowell Thomas, out of the Office of Naval Intelligence [I think that this is correct, but it could have been ONR instead---these two offices work pretty closely together]. Commander Thomas' study/file went on for an unknown amount of time; it could have been a year, it could have been several. Radford didn't retire from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs until 1957---pretty close to when Keyhoe's informants were keeping their file "with the approval of the Admiral". We don't know if there was any relationship whatever between these two files, or even if they in some ongoing form were the same thing. Whatever the exact situation, one can never say with any honesty that the Navy had no interest in UFOs. And, those early files contained some of the best cases of the era, and would be historically important. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What did Keyhoe's "leakers" tell him? Somewhere there's probably an old unexamined NICAP file which would tell us this, but I haven't seen it. In the book, Keyhoe, the honorable man, makes things tough to suss as well. He gives a very abbreviated example of a Naval Transport plane encountering a red-orange glowing UFO coming directly at it, which the pilot dived beneath it to escape the collision. [with no more than is here, one cannot honestly rate this as more than a fireball encounter which fooled the pilot into believing that it was closer than it was]. Later in the book Keyhoe has a chapter entitled "The Hidden Reports". But, although several of these are Navy, each is described in a way that it cannot be one of these "log" cases that the leakers gave to him. This is frustrating to say the least, as I would really like to know the kinds of things these guys were saving in their files. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The only thing discussed that Keyhoe is willing to talk about [since it breaks no confidences] is the Piri Reis map. This is, to me, quite bizarre. You can hopefully read about it in the two NICAP UFO Investigator articles which accompany this section. The newsletter articles don't mention the role of the leakers in presenting this information to Keyhoe, but Naval references are still scattered about even here. The real point is that these guys who were charged with keeping a UFO log for the Navy thought that it was a strong possibility that someone thousands of years ago had been mapping the planet using aerial technology. And Keyhoe was apparently buying it: both in the book, and as indicated by his willingness to put the subject in the newsletter twice. Just so as not to be misunderstood, I believe that the Piri Reis map is a genuine artifact of the time frame of Christopher Columbus and an interesting mystery in many ways. I do not think that it is at all obvious that it must be drawn by using aerial technology--and in fact know that really wonderful maps can be [admittedly laboriously] put together by the grunt work of just-us-humans sailing and walking about making measurements and stringing them together [see the accuracy of the near-Greece Mediterranean area from Ptolemaic times, if you doubt this]. The fact that the Piri Reis map seems to be but a portion of a much larger thing, very possibly using an origin point around Alexandria Egypt, is also interesting, but hardly indicative of "ancient astronauts" or Atlantaens. The great debatable mystery as to whether the map shows Antarctica is the big thing, but even that doesn't lead you to ET. Still, we have Naval intelligence people concerned with UFOs [and Don Keyhoe] who are going there. This is more than intriguing to me, but I can't get much more clear about the Navy and Keyhoe in my mind without more to go on. How "sold" were people like this on a centuries-old surveillance, and in some sense, "presence" on Earth by extraterrestrials?-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ed Ruppelt once said "Why don't the #%@&!!! things swim so we could give them to the Navy?" Maybe the Navy would have been happy to "have" them. There sure seem to have been people there who took them a lot more seriously.


  1. Prof, there's probably a huge psychological chasm between the mentalities of navy people and air force people.

    For the most part air force people spend mere hours 'away' from land and get where they want to go far more rapidly; and the only time they're likely to pay particular attention to the sea is during recovery searches or in preparation for ditching.

    Navy people spend months away from land - even sub crews submerge for weeks on end - and every thing occurs on huge drawn out time scales for every second of which they have to pay very exact attention for fear of missing crucial sea state or sky condition details which might make the difference between plain sailing and Titanic-esque disaster.

    When a crew member reports seeing an unknown giant sea beast or weird submarine light formations they can't afford to lightly ignore such information simply because the very fact something may've brought these 'things' towards the surface might be alerting them to changing conditions down below - such as some hitherto unknown submarine volcano becoming active and being about to blow.

    And it's been that way for navy people since the dawn of time - they had to've been the first ones to realise the world was round simply from watching other ships appear or disappear over the horizon.

    My suspicion's that's one of the reasons why Keyhoe's chums were so keen on the ancient maps - professional pride - they had to've been compiled by their kind of people: extremely patient, highly diligent, exquisitely painstaking, inordinately disciplined, objective clear sighted, dedicated Ruppelt-esque type people.

    That's why I'm struck by the navy guys' belief the ancient maps were the result of aerial surveys: it's unlikely they had in mind modern satellite style surveillance but maybe they envisaged something along the lines of operations conducted from prehistoric aircraft carriers! (Or maybe they unconsciously recognised ancient space travellers would've been much more like their service than that of the air force guys).

    Something about the maps must've inclined them to the aerial scenario, because I agree with you, Phocaeans like Pytheas're supposed to've conducted astonishing surveys of the world virtually as far as the North Pole and maybe even as far as the South!

  2. Of course Keyhoe was a Marine, which is Navy, and Navy Commander Robert McLaughlin was also very vocal, and very anti-secrecy.

  3. agreed, of course. The mysteries which remain are: why were so many of the very high-up USN personnel that interested in both the phenomenon and "release"?, and why won't the Navy dig in now and release what they did have?

  4. Hello, Prof.

    I have not read (yet) Ruppelt's book. On my soon-to-do list. His remark, which you quote, asking why UFOs didn't 'swim' struck me as a little odd. Was he unaware of USOs? Regards.

  5. Ruppelt, to my knowledge, had no credible cases of UFOs entering or leaving the water. Remember that he was project chief way back in 1952. Had he lived he would have become aware of several cases, but since 99% had nothing to do with water immersion, he would still have made the same remark about what service would have investigative responsibility. Even the well-known Kingdon/Bethune [off Gander, Newfoundland] case of 1951 [I believe] was probably not a "rise-from-the-water case" as Keyhoe/NICAP originally thought, but a true UFO coming from below the planes and giving an illusion of being on the surface at one point. USOs come [mainly] later, and Carl Feindt's great USO site lists practically all of them.

  6. they do swim and the us and russian navy have doing their research in detail for over 40 years..anyone wanting to discuss ufos/rts face to face can do so on 2nd sat of each month 12noon at thomasville ga library free of charge host billy j rachels with 45 years in research

  7. this is not the place for advertisements, and I don't think that there is any defensible documentation for your first sentence, but, in this case, what-the-heck, if people want to talk to you in Thomasville library for free, why not? They can make their own minds up as to whether your research of forty five years is legit. I, by the way, have not heard of this fellow [despite my "45" years of very public research] and so can not recommend him one way or the other. Plus, the thought that an audience of nearby Thomasville GA UFO-interested parties would be reading this blog stretches my mind pretty far past reality. But hey!, we're Out Proctor regularly here.

  8. Tons of water based cases and Russian researcher involve din their Navy record release in 2009 said “Fifty percent of UFO encounters are connected with oceans. Fifteen more – with lakes. So UFOs tend to stick to the water”

    They call them USO's. S for submerged.

  9. perhaps. I have looked at some of these alleged Soviet reports and they are very unconvincing. Every UFOlogist should know that the state of Soviet UFOlogy was extremely disconnected and filled with controversy. So-called "releases" by the government often were no such thing. The role of Felix Zigel is also very controversial and does not seem in any real way to be "official". Other operatives seem to have adopted rivalry and have occasionally dissed one another in post-Soviet times, leaving western-worlders confused as to what really happened over there. Many reports seem to have no official status despite claims to the contrary. One of the few sources that may be accurate on most of these things has been Vladimir Rubtzov. One of the only studies of UFOs which is obviously legitimate is the one by the Soviet astronomer Gindilis. I say all this because it is wise to take Russian reporting with large grains of salt until all this shakes out.



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