Monday, June 7, 2010

From Bill to Gill to Hill: Part one--Bill.

The [BILL] Nash/ William Fortenberry high strangeness disks incident, and the Father William GILL close encounter of the third kind, and the Betty and Barney HILL close encounter of the third kind/on-board experience do not constitute the basis of the UFO data pile, but they DO symbolize the trajectory of the phenomenon as a logical and defensible coherent phenomenon to the majority of serious UFO researchers. "There is ample reason to believe that products of a very high technology are manifesting in our airspace"; "there is good reason to believe that humanoid occupants are associated with these technological manifestations"; and "there is good reason to believe that some humans {albeit rarely so, defensibly } have had the experience of being on-board what appears to be a technological craft occupied by such beings". THAT, no matter how "All-The-Way-Fool" it may strike one, is where mainline UFOlogy stands. The first step in that trajectory is "BILL" the Nash-Fortenberry case of 1952. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Many of you know the details of these cases already, but some brief description is required for those who do not. Both Jerry Clark [in his encyclopedia] and Tom Tulien [in a review article] have done terrific jobs narrating the incident of 1952. PAN-AM airways pilots Nash and Fortenberry were on a New York to Miami run and had reached the vicinity of Norfolk, VA and Chesapeake Bay. It was the evening and the sky was mostly clear and black, though some light may have remained to the west. Ahead they saw a red brilliance in the direction of Newport News. They had been looking in that general direction and it seemed that the brilliance had simply appeared suddenly there in place. Moments later the brilliance resolved into six bright red objects moving towards them at high speed. They were shaped like coins, red lighted top surfaces and a thin but easily noticeable width of ridge running around the "coin". They flew in a stepped up "echelon" formation in a line. Upon nearing the airliner, slightly right and below, the line of objects came to a slow stop during which the following disks seemed to mistime the slowing slightly and ride together more closely for a moment. The pilots estimated the objects to be about 100 feet in diameter and 2000 feet above the ground. The line of coins then executed a peculiar maneuver, tipping to their side and inverting their positions so that the leading disk was still leading but the group was facing the opposite direction. And off they went. This actual moment of change of direction was abrupt, like "a ball ricocheting off a wall". As they whizzed away, two more disks flew from beneath the airliner and raced after them ultimately catching up and joining the end of the line. Suddenly all the lights blinked out. A moment later all blinked on again, and eight-in-line they enacted a graceful arc which allowed them to climb out of sight. They disappeared by blinking out one by one, but not in flight sequence order. Nash and Fortenberry sat there dumbfounded, completed their flight, and reported the incident. The news story went nation-wide quickly and you can read one newsclipping above.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Air Force did investigate this encounter and interviewed both pilots. Their stories checked. The Air Force interviewer was impressed by the credibility of the witnesses and wrote up a clean [objective-sounding] report. The summary elements of the actual USAF file are at the left and you can read them there. It is easy for anyone to see that if you take the Blue Book report as it is written, there are very few options available for explaining this case away. This was however a bad time for the case to have come to Ruppelt and his Blue Book crew, as they were beginning to become snowed under by the flow of reports of the Summer 1952 wave. With a bit of embarrassment Ruppelt later said that they had given this case short-shrift because there were reports of Air Force jets in the area. "Saint Edward" doubtless would have given this much more credence had he had any time to actually look at it. Nevertheless we can pay more attention today, and there are several characteristics of the case which make conventional explanations ...well...impossible. in my opinion. Note the controlled formation flying, the non-inertial flip turn, the tremendous speed [no matter how you estimate it], the non-flyable disk design, the intelligent behavior of reorientation and regrouping, the disappearance by accelerating to height, and possibly even sudden appearance and disappearance. [though I'll give the skeptic that one as not readily determinable]. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Nash-Fortenberry" stood as an Unexplained in the face of all assaults for about a decade, when Donald Menzel decided to take it on and dismiss it with the wave of his almighty hand. Menzel [above right in the picture] was in the early 1960s engaging in debates by furious correspondence with several people [mostly associated with NICAP]. He had a lengthy one with Defiance College physics professor, Charles Maney. [Maney is above left in the collage]. Other correspondences were with Richard Hall [Keyhoe had no time to waste with him], Wade Wellman, and Bill Nash. The correspondence with Nash came about because Maney had challenged Menzel to forego the generalities and actually apply his "reasoning" to real and tougher cases. One of the things Maney challenged him with was the Chesapeake Bay case. M&M went at it [and "furious" often described both men] until Maney decided to let Nash know that his case was being derided by the "great Harvard astronomer". Nash was a tough and intelligent man, and had plenty of testosterone. He wasn't about to back down from Menzel. [Nash, as you've guessed, is the guy in the lower right of the collage]. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is Maney's actual letter to Bill Nash requesting that Nash write him [Maney] about his case. Nash, irritated at what Menzel had written Maney, wrote directly to Menzel himself. These correspondences are interesting to read--in each case they are exercises in barely controlled civility [Wade Wellman and Donald Menzel resorted to introducing their letters to one another with "Dear Duck" and "Dear Weedy", referencing Wellman smoking pot, after a few exchanges---Menzel started this "upmanship" by the way]. In almost every letter, the correspondent starts calmly with great culture and gradually gives way to anger at what the other guy said in his last one---in some ways, it's quite pitiful. Nash is different. He lets you know what he's thinking in sentence number one. He methodically goes right down a list of Menzelianisms about his case, and either agrees with something or, more often thrashes it. When Menzel has given he or Fortenberry one of his semi-subtle slurs, Nash blasts him and then tells him why he's obviously wrong. Gradually, Menzel began backing off several of his "hypotheses" for explaining the case away [example: a stewardess had opened the flight deck door to smoke a cigarette and the pilots had watched her cigarette's reflection on their windows---you can imagine how Nash thought about THAT one with all the stupidity and incompetence it implies?] He ultimately had to resort to trying to snow Nash with theories of multiple layers of thin ice crystals [would have had to be at least 6 of them stacked up to even begin to entertain such a thing] and a powerful ground-based beam of light reflecting through them in such a way as to mimic all the movements and the directions as seen through three separate windows. At least, with Nash's brains and testosterone facing him, Menzel was a bit more subdued than usual with his language.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What we have here are three pages of Nash's most detailed letter to Menzel, [ hmmm...I have just noticed that the technology for this blogsite has dropped one one these pages during my blog downloading---and once these illustrations are in place, you take great risks trying to move them around----since I'm so far into the entry I'm not going to risk this---what I'll do instead is post these three pages in a supplementary blog entry immediately after this one, and you can read them in order there, but I'll leave the remnant two pages in state here] and you can read the core information about the sighting for yourself, and grasp some of Nash's thinking style and his surrounding beliefs. I'll leave you to it. Hopefully some of you will feel that this is a rare treat to get closer to one of the main cases in our literature.
Again, as mentioned earlier, you'll be able to read the "first" page of the three with the other two following in a bit when I download them together in a new "entry". ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Menzel got what he wanted out of this correspondence: it allowed him to write a better debunking book. He would have looked the fool if he had gone with the stupid ideas that he "was sure" explained the case before he wrote to and read from Bill Nash. Without intending to, Nash tempered Menzel's steel. His ultimate explanation for the case as printed in his book The World Of Flying Saucers [published within the year] was mainly accurate as to fact [there were a few errors like the fact that the pilots had clearly seen "width" to the disks and they were not two-dimensional] while being theoretically clever, confusing, and bases on no facts at all [as to atmospheric conditions]. But what did he care? For Menzel the job was not to actually do anything objective, "scientific", or even rational, but to slay a dragon which could not exist anyway. Many people have wanted to see Menzel as a stooge of the Intel community--not a chance. He was a "law unto himself" and a massive loose cannon--no intel organization would have trusted him for anything. Menzel simply loved to fight and "win". One of the most colossal egomaniacs in world history, Menzel relished embarrassing, destroying, eviscerating his opponents, and even when it was he that was the loser, he chortled his way down his megalomanic lifepath, never acknowledging a single error let alone defeat. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few years later, Jim McDonald read the Nash/Menzel correspondence. Above is part of an interview he had with Nash, and his assessment of the letters exchange. In reality, Menzel lost every exchange of letters with people like Nash, Maney, Wellman, and Hall. This was not primarily because they were smart [they were], but because they were dealing with facts and Menzel was happy with preconceived prejudices and "creative speculation". I would like to say something good about the man. Honestly, I can't think what.


  1. When Menzel became head of Harvard's Astronomy Department, he saw to it that Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin was given the tenure she much deserved, instead of treating her as Harlow Shapley had (e.g., simply commanding her to refute Velikovsky, when she had no interest in that battle at all). Shapley also had assigned overlapping (thus competitive) independent research to Payne-Gaposhkin and Menzel (and I think others), an old trick of autocrats.

    So give him his due: some levels of pettiness were beneath him.

    Frank John Reid

  2. The blog was referring to his action in the field of UFO studies. Doubtless he was good to his mother as well.

  3. Well, I'm glad to hear from Frank John Reid Donald Menzel had a chivalrous aspect to him, but it kind of confirms my suspicions Menzel's real problem lay with the male half of the population.

    He strikes me as a type I myself've had run-ins with in various situations over the years, someone who probably all his life was easily intimidated by robust physically self confident jock types, envying their lack of fear in testosterone charged situation, their ability to not become trapped in hesitation through overly thinking things through, their ability to just act, especially when it came to women.

    He probably compensated for this by ratcheting up his sense of his own intellectual superiority to everyone else, and whenever he'd find some jock type under his patronage or within reach of his influence he probably proceeded to mentally grind them down.

    But then he ran into Bill Nash.

    Even in the early photos, you can see (by the way they stand, their confident posture, their relaxed open shoulders, their upright chins, the precise controlled, almost karate fighter like way they position their hands in the air), Nash and Fortenberry're both old fashioned two-fisted movie hero types, capable of walkin', talkin', chewin' gum - AND biffin' anyone who steps out o' line.

    Even Carl Sagan at his most waspish and savage would've had his work cut out tryin' to intimidate those two on live TV.

    And as you point out, Prof, the apprehension Manzel feels for Nash wreaks in all their exchanges.

    My especially favourite example is the bit where Manzel writes, "Now without necessarily implying that what Capt. Nash saw was related to the phenomenon I have mentioned..."

    You can almost feel him jumping out his skin every time someone walks past his office door as he's dictating the words, just in case that's actually Nash arriving to finally biff him one.

  4. you happen to be completely wrong about Menzel. Menzel was a boxer who thought of himself as quite a fist fighter. He was quite capable of exploding with anger in the face of people who challenged him. Why you keep throwing out this unsupported bull---- continues to mystify me. Why don't you try to add something intelligent about the ufo subject that is based upon some facts? If you can't do this, and just want to fill up our time with self-oriented crap, could you please take that sort of thing elsewhere? Man you pushed me past my patience and that's pretty hard to do.



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