Monday, October 10, 2011

THE SKY IS FALLING: a Walk on the Wild Side with DARPA and the Air Force, Part Two.

OK folks, here we go again. Yesterday we had a bit of a mystery involving a somewhat mysterious falling object collected by the Hartford CT police department and local astronomer Robert Brown of Southern Connecticut College and the Moonwatch program. The material seemed unusual to Dr. Brown. Then we unexpectedly ran into a MAJOR mystery when T.Townsend Brown strolled into Fred Whipple's office at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Moonwatch Headquarters, presented some kind of credentials, and confiscated everything. What the heck was THAT all about?? I'm not sure that I can answer the question, but here's a hard-won try. Let's begin with the question, what was Townsend Brown doing at the time??

Brown was doing what he basically always was doing: chasing his early intuition that gravity and electromagnetics were interrelated, and that use of one [the electric force] could allow you to control and shield or cancel the other [gravity]. Brown was going for anti-gravity.

This dream had begun well before WW2 when he was a child whizkid at college. Just prior and during the War, he had several stints with the Navy in research capacities and one at least with aerotech envelope pusher Glenn Martin Company. He never stuck with any of the positions long [except the wartime Navy one wherein he rose to Lt. Commander], and always reverted back to setting up his own "Foundation" where he could pursue his obsession.

In one of those iterations, he found enough support to develop a model "electrolevitation" demonstration [see a picture of the device above] which he felt was proof of principle of his electrogravitic concept. Interestingly, Brown always used low-aspect metallic disks for his models, imitative of UFOs. Running alongside his interest in anti-gravity was his fascination with the UFO phenomenon. Very probably, the two mysteries were related. Even if they weren't, Brown felt that his discovery was the way that WE could get one off the ground.

While in Hawaii, Brown allegedly showed a device to Admiral Radford or one of his staff. While in southern California, he demonstrated it for General Victor Bertrandias [pictured below]. Both high-ranked officers were impressed. In 1953, he sent in a proposal to the USAF entitled "Project Winterhaven". This was an extremely elaborate project meant to not only test his electrogravitic principles but to build working propulsion units, communication devices, and detectors of distant events like atomic detonations. Its flow chart of related working institutions included The Franklin Institute, the University of Chicago, the Stanford Research Institute, several corporations such as Lear, Brush, Jansky&Bailey, Hancock Manufacturing. The department of Defense would foot the bill, and, oh yes, they would be able to consult with the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. Einstein was there at the time so that would be handy on something involving "Unified Field Theory", which this was.

How did Brown have the Brass to float this thing?? In a roundabout way, he had Old Albert to thank.

Ever since the Theory of Relativity had taken over physics in the early half of the 20th century, physicists had been giving themselves headaches about whether the forces of electromagnetism and gravity were relatable mathematically. No one spent more time on the problem than Einstein himself, and as he would say, unproductively. Still, Einstein's struggles with this were making some heavy thinkers believe that the concept was not ridiculous. There even began to be a little public fascination with this during and after the war. Electromagnetism was successfully described by quantum electrodynamics and the siege guns of the theoretical physics community began to eye a possible synthesis with gravity again. Some of this thinking seeped into military and technological industry enough that a serious wondering about all this was surfacing.

That brings me to one of my favorite all-time guys, Ed Ruppelt. Edward was just a young Iowa farm boy and ace fighter pilot, who went to Iowa State University and got an engineering degree. Post-War jobs were slim but not in the Air Force, so our hero went and signed up for engineering intelligence work at Wright-Patterson, where he was analyzing Soviet MIG reports. This is of course where he began BSing with Jerry Cummings about the UFO reports that were Jerry's job. The relevance to our story is the Fort Monmouth NJ case which broke the backs of the Project Grudge negativists who still inhabited the AMC intel desks in Dayton. I've told that story elsewhere. For our purposes, there is one significant detail. When Cummings went to the Pentagon to personally inform General Cabell about the case, he entered a room full of not only the General and staff, but also at least one representative of Republic Airlines Corporation. Why?? He, a "Mr. Brewster", was interested in the "Unified Field" concept as it might apply to propulsion research, and, we must assume, that he, and others, thought that this could have some relation to how UFOs flew.

Really?? You can't mean that the airline companies were taking it THAT seriously?

Well, yes they were.

When Ed Ruppelt left the service after 1953, he went out to southern California to look for work in that mighty military-industrial complex. He found a job almost immediately with Northrup Aviation writing what we would call "tactical" appraisals of how certain aircraft can be used in modern warfare. Presumably these would give Northrup ideas about "products" aimed at real Air Force problems. Although Ruppelt's work was apparently just fine, he wanted something more exciting.

In his files Ed had a torn out Aviation Week article that you can see at the left. "Martin Team Pushes Anti-Gravity Study", October 18th, 1951. This is almost the date of the Fort Monmouth case and Jerry Cumming's conference with Cabell and Brewster at the Pentagon. [Glenn Martin ... hmmmm .... that was where Townsend Brown worked... uh .. no... I don't want to go there.]

The second page of the Av-Week article shows the guy behind the Martin project : George Trimble. I am very reluctant to assign this fellow to the funny farm. Note that he is a member of a NACA sub-committee, and those appointments are not handed out to fools. Something was going on there which a lot of people thought had promise.

Martin was far from alone in the aerotech industry. Several companies had decided to make some efforts in this direction. The newsclipping below [I know, it's terrible] shows another company's wizards talking about their new anti-gravity project [Convair-General Dynamics] .

The buzz was on in the aerotech side of things. Go back up to the first page of the Av-Week article and note the markings on the page. [Well, darn it, I clicked on it and I think that the red was too light to show]... well, Ruppelt marked on the page himself. What he marked was essentially the paragraphs after the bulletpoint "Man's Leg Iron". In other words Ruppelt was interested in the anti-gravity research. And he was interested in it for a long time --- he saved this article from the time of his entry into Wright-Pat until 1955. Why 1955?? That's when he sent Glenn Martin an application to join the Martin team.

OK. So the aerodesign companies were going nuts for the Unified Field, anyone else?? Yep. Just about everybody.

At Wright-Patterson AFB, the Air Force set up a project within the engineering side of the base to monitor developments in the field, possibly facilitate some things, and, "who knows what other black project might have been spawned". I was really trying to hold this particular blog study under PhD thesis length, so someone else will have to illuminate the "skunk works" side of things. The scientist in charge of the Wright-Patterson desk was Joshua Goldberg {seen above in his "mature prof's picture"; he was just a fresh PhD at the time}.

Goldberg's office was to [at least in part] fund university theoretical work on Unified Field theory, and hope that the suspected breakthrough would arise to allow actual development of functional devices.

Meanwhile, the powers of the intelligence community and Big Science decided that the US needed a really big black science frontier agency. Thus in 1958 was founded DARPA [Advanced Research Projects Agency --- the "D" was added later for "Defense"]. This movement has been directly linked to the shock everyone was given by Sputnik. DARPA immediately gobbled up funds and research areas formerly heading for individual services and practically caused a war right in the Pentagon. When the dust settled, many of the fundings were shifted back, and another agency also created [NASA], and DARPA went on with the remaining projects. The centerpiece of the DARPA agenda was Project Defender. This had everything to do with ballistic missiles, satellite weapons, both theirs and the development of our own. This project bloomed in the summer of 1960 ... hmmm... just before the material fall we're talking around. Embedded in its ideas for both protection against and development of these space weapons were several "unusual" interests: force fields, antimatter, and ... uh oh ... antigravity. {you are not cleared for this information. Hit delete immediately. If you have printed the page, eat it}.

Meanwhile, back on a slightly less spooky front, a second generation business manufacturing firm owner, Agnew Bahnson, was pursuing his own obsession. Well, you don't have to guess what it was. He had used some of his leftover wealth to build his own laboratory facility to experiment upon gravity, electromagnetics, and whatever else he wanted to seriously play around with.

Somehow this behavior got him in the know with other wealthy characters like Isaac Babson, and heavyweight scientists like Bryce Dewitt and John Wheeler. A letter between him and Dewitt is on the left. The bottom line of these relationships was a coming together of a motherload of the world's best theoretical physicists, plus Goldberg's Air Force money and Babson's money [and I'd bet the forerunner personnel of what was about to become DARPA but I'm not supposed to know that] to create the famous Chapel Hill Conference of 1957 on "The Role of Gravitation in Physics", which is a deliberately chosen soft [non-controversial] title to mask that a lot of what they were going to talk about was Unified Field Theory and, horrors, anti-gravity possibilities.

The conference happened as you can see from the book title below. To my knowledge, all the talks are public. For our purposes, it shows that such discussion was rollicking about everywhere.

And right in the middle of it was our boy T. Townsend Brown. While all those heavy greymatter guys were arguing about whether anti-gravity was possible, here he was claiming that he'd already done it.

The diagram above is part of his patent on his device, Note the year that it was presented to the Patent Office: 1957. Right on time for the Chapel Hill Conference and the beginnings of DARPA.

And what did Brown want to do?? Well fly a UFO with it of course. Brown was always interested in propulsion first and other applications later. And as we've seen, he had already placed an elaborate proposal with the Air Force for doing just that in 1953. I'll make a "wild bet" that this proposal was still on file.

But where? Wright-Patterson with Joshua Goldberg? Or at DARPA?

Whatever the situation there, right after the big Chapel Hill conference, Brown and Bahnson make a deal. Brown will come to Bahnson's lab, and with Bahnson's money and facility he will demonstrate his anti-gravity principle. Agnew Bahnson is in Hog Heaven at the idea, and when the results come in, he feels that Brown did not disappoint. These are the famous Brown-Bahnson electrogravitic demonstrations of 1958-1960 .... hmmm ... THAT date again. The picture below is of Brown, Bahnson, and Brown's co-worker happily enjoying the rush of being on the frontier.

Brown "knew" he could do this. Bahnson knew that he could do this. Bahnson had a backdoor connection with the big wheels in the field and possibly even Goldberg's office. Brown had a proposal in to the Air Force. Who else knew? Who took him seriously? And what did it have to do with the Hartford fall?

In 1960, the patent was granted.

Then along came Robert P. Luker. [Betcha can't guess who HE is]. Part three/Final hopefully tomorrow.


  1. Hello, Professor.

    Thanks again for going into this. General Bertrandias is also interesting in that in '52 he spoke to General Craig over the phone, showing great alarm over what he saw demonstrated at the Townsend office. It is in the BB files. Will you be covering this info, or have you already and I missed it?


  2. Bob, yes I know this incident of Bertrandias being "scared". I didn't use it in the blog because it was not clear to me that the actual demonstration was frightening or whether it was just the general worried about the Russkis getting hold of the technology. Because that "message" would not be clear, I left it out [well, just mentioned the Bertrandias witnessing] since I decided that the story being told was coherent without the "scared" part.

    Now my reading of the "scary" part is that the general was worried about application by the Soviets. That, as far as we can see, adds to the seriousness that Brown's thing could be taken by the military. It does not help us understand why his proposal fell flat with them, and Brown had to go off trying to gain funds via the neonatal NICAP or in Europe, rather than here in the US from military sources. There's another story hidden in there somewhere.

  3. Professor, Linda tells me that her father is not in the bahnson group above, but that she had a quite shock when she saw Luker's photo. Her words:

    In the second section of the " Professors" blog there are two pictures. The first is a picture of three men standing together. He Identifies the first as my Dad. No way.
    And the next picture of the man with a cap on and a heavy coat IS DAD and I have NEVER seen that photo.

  4. Yes, fine, I'll buy that TTB is not the fellow on the left...but some site "out there" said it was. TTB is in the other three-person scene in the next blog entry [much clearer picture of him].

    And I will admit that the early picture of Luker DOES look a bit like TTB, but in this case it is not. The photo comes from a USNavy site and clearly says Luker.

  5. I see the resemblance, too, but if the record says Luker, the record says Luker. I'll keep my eyes open in case I run across him again. Thanks for uncovering his involvement.

    I do know that one of Townsend's 1930s gravity research cruises was aboard a submarine (the 'old' SS 478), but he would have been a much younger man than the gentleman in the picture appears to be.

  6. Hi,
    This is a somewhat offbase question. I am writing a paper on Bahnson. What are the best sources to learn about him with? Is there a biography? Thanks!

  7. Sorry, don't have that info---outside the range of my studies. I found a fair amount of information on the net.

  8. why the proposed aeromarine flying craft drawn to look alike adamski's flying saucer? is this intentional to show they got a craft with flying saucer capability ?



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