The Flying Saucers are Real
by Donald Keyhoe
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The Flying Saucers Are Real

by Donald Keyhoe

Preface from

This was one of the first books published about the UFO phenomena. We are fortunate that it ended up in the public domain.

It is a template for much of what would follow: the paranoia, the government disinformation, the inescapable conclusion that the saucers are not of this earth. Keyhoe, with his spare, matter of fact writing style, which also conveys a profound sense of wonder, has to be the prototype for the deadpan Fox Mulder of the X-Files.

On one hand we can see the birth of a key modern mythology. On the other, there is a body of almost naive evidence in this text unpolluted by that very mythology. The case studies are real. The witnesses were highly reliable. These cases are still unexplained.


by Donald Keyhoe

New York

To Helen,

with love

Donald E. Keyhoe, who relates here his investigation of the flying saucers, writes with twenty-five years of experience in observing aeronautical developments.

He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He flew in active service with the Marine Corps, managed the tour of the historic plane in which Bennett and Byrd made their North Pole flight, was aide to Charles Lindbergh after the famous Paris flight, and was chief of information for the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce.

Author's Note

ON APRIL 27, 1949, the U.S. Air Force stated:

"The mere existence of some yet unidentified flying objects necessitates a constant vigilance on the part of Project 'Saucer' personnel, and on the part of the civilian population.

"Answers have been—and will be—drawn from such factors as guided missile research activity, balloons, astronomical phenomena. . . . But there are still question marks.

"Possibilities that the saucers are foreign aircraft have also been considered. . . . But observations based on nuclear power plant research in this country label as 'highly improbable' the existence on Earth of engines small enough to have Powered the saucers.

"Intelligent life on Mars . . . is not impossible but is completely unproven. The possibility of intelligent life on the Planet Venus is not considered completely unreasonable by astronomers.

"The saucers are not jokes. Neither are they cause for alarm." [1]

On December 27, 1949, the Air Force denied the existence of flying saucers.[2]

On December 30, 1949, the Air Force revealed part of a secret Project "Saucer" report to members of the press at Washington. The official report stated:

"It will never be possible to say with certainty that any individual did not see a space ship, an enemy missile, or some other object."

Discussing the motives of possible visitors from space, the report also stated:

"Such a civilization might observe that on Earth we now have atomic bombs and are fast developing rockets. In view of the past history of mankind, they should be

[1. Project "Saucer" Preliminary Study of Flying Saucers.

2. Air Force Press Release 629-49.'

{p. 6}

alarmed. We should therefore expect at this time above all to behold such visitations."

(In its April 22 report, Project "Saucer" stated that space travel outside the solar system is almost a certainty.)

On February 22, 1950, the Air Force again denied the existence of flying saucers. On this same date, two saucers reported above Key West Naval Air Station were tracked by radar; they were described as maneuvering at high speed fifty miles above the earth. The Air Force refused to comment.

On March 9, 1950, a large metallic disk was pursued by F-51 and jet fighters and observed by scores of Air Force officers at Wright Field, Ohio. On March 18, an Air Force spokesman again denied that saucers exist and specifically stated that they were not American guided missiles or space-exploration devices.

I have carefully examined all Air Force saucer reports made in the last three years. For the past year, I have taken part in a special investigation of the flying-saucer riddle.

I believe that the Air Force statements, contradictory as they appear, are part of an intricate program to prepare America—and the world—for the secret of the disks.

{p. 7}


IT WAS A strange assignment.

I picked up the telegram from my desk and read it a third time.

NEW YORK, N. Y., MAY 9, 1949



I glanced out at the Potomac, recalling the first saucer story. As a pilot, I'd been skeptical of flying disks. Then reports had begun to pour in from Air Force and airline pilots. Apparently alarmed, the Air Force had ordered fighters to pursue the fast-flying saucers. In one mysterious chase, a pilot had been killed, and his death was unexplained. That had been seventeen months ago. Since then, the whole flying-saucer riddle had been hidden behind a curtain of Air Force secrecy.

And now, an assignment from True magazine on flying saucers.

Twenty-four hours later, I was in Ken Purdy's office.

"I've had men on this for two months," he told me. "I might as well warn you, it's a tough story to crack."

"You think it's a Russian missile?" I asked him. "Or an Air Force secret?"

"We've had several answers. None of them stacks up. But I'm positive one was deliberately planted when they found we were checking."

He told me the whole story of the work that had been done by the staff of True and of the reports sent in by competent writers. The deeper he delved into the mystery, the tougher the assignment got. The more I learned about flying saucers, the less I knew.

"There's one angle I want rechecked," Purdy said.

"You've heard of the Mantell case?"

{p. 8}

I nodded.

"O.K. Try to get the details of Mantell's radio report to Godman Tower. Before he was killed, he described the thing he was chasing—we know that much. Project 'Saucer' gave out a hint, but they've never released the transcript. Here's another lead. See if you can find anything about a secret picture, taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland—it was around July 1947. I'll send you other ideas as I get them."

Before I left, Purdy wished me hick and told me that he would work in closest harmony with me.

"But watch out for fake tips," he said. "You'll probably run into some people at the Pentagon who'll talk to you 'off the record.' That handcuffs a writer. Look out they don't lead you into a blind alley. Even the Air Force statements and the Project 'Saucer' report contradict each other."

For six months, I worked with other investigators to solve the mystery of the disks. We checked a hundred sighting reports, frequently crossing the trail of Project "Saucer" teams and F.B.I. agents. Old records gave fantastic leads. So did Air Force plans for exploring space. Rocket experts, astronomers, Air Force officials and pilot gave us clues pointing to a startling solution. Many intelligent persons—including scientists—believe that the saucers contain spies from another planet.

When this first phase was ended, we were faced with a hard decision. We had uncovered important facts, We knew the saucers were real. If it was handled carefully, we believed the story would be in line with a secret Air Force policy.

It was finally decided to publish certain alternate conclusions. The Air Force was informed of True's intentions; no attempt was made to block publication.

In the January 1950 issue of True, I reported that we had reached the following conclusions:

1 The earth has been observed periodically by visitors from another planet.

2. This observation has increased markedly in the past two years.

"The only other possible explanation," I wrote, "is that,

{p. 9}

the saucers are extremely high-speed, long-range devices developed here on earth. Such an advance (which the Air Force has denied) would require an almost incredible leap in technical progress even for American scientists and designers."

Nation-wide press and radio comment followed the appearance of the article. This publicity was obviously greater than the Air Force had expected. Within twenty-four hours the Pentagon was deluged with telegrams, letters, and long-distance calls. Apparently fearing a panic, the Air Force hastily stated that flying-saucer reports—even those made by its own pilots and high-ranking officers—were mistakes or were caused by hysteria.[1]

But three days later, when it was plain that many Americans calmly accepted True's disclosures, the Air Force released a secret project "Saucer" file containing this significant statement:

"It will never be possible to say with certainty that any individual did not see a space ship, an enemy missile or other object."

In this same document there appears a confidential analysis of Air intelligence reports.[2] It is this summary that contains the official suggestion Of. space visitors' motives. After stating that such a civilization would obviously be far ahead of our own, the report adds:

"Since the acts of mankind most easily observed from a distance are A-bomb explosions, we should expect some relation to obtain between the time of the A-bomb explosions, the time at which the space ships are seen, and the time required for such ships to arrive from and return to home base."

(In a previous report, which alternately warned and reassured the public, the Air Force stated that space travel outside the solar system is almost a certainty.[3])

Since 1949 there has been a steady increase in saucer sightings. Most of them have been authentic reports, which Air Force denials cannot disprove. In January, mystery

[1. Air Force press release 629-49, December 27, 1949.

2. Air Force Project "Saucer" December 30, 1949.

3. Air Force report M-26-49, Preliminary Studies on Flying saucers, April 27, 1949.]

{p. 10}

disks were reported over Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, and several other states. On the Seattle Anchorage route, an air freighter was paced for five minutes by a night-flying saucer. When the pilots tried to close in, the strange craft zoomed at terrific speed. Later, the airline head reported that Intelligence officers had quizzed the pilots for hours.

"From their questions," he said, "I could tell they had a good idea of what the saucers are. One officer admitted they did, but he wouldn't say any more."

Another peculiar incident occurred at Tucson, Arizona, on February 1. Just at dusk, a weird, fiery object raced westward over the city, astonishing hundreds in the streets below. The Tucson Daily Citizen ran the story next day with a double-banner headline:



Flying saucer? Secret experimental plane? Or perhaps a scout craft from Mars? Certainly the strange aircraft that blazed a smoke trail over Tucson at dusk last night defies logical explanation. It was as mystifying to experienced pilots as to groundlings who have trouble in identifying conventional planes. Cannonballing through the sky, some 30,000 feet aloft, was a fiery object shooting westward so fast it was impossible to gain any clear impression of its shape or size. . . . At what must have been top speed the object spewed out light colored smoke, but almost directly over Tucson it appeared to hover for a few seconds. The smoke puffed out an angry black and then be came lighter as the strange missile appeared to gain speed"

The radio operator in the Davis-Monthan air force base control tower contacted First Lt. Roy L. Jones, taking off for a cross-country flight in a B-29, and asked him to investigate. Jones revved up his swift aerial tanker and still the unknown aircraft steadily pulled away toward California. Dr. Edwin F. Carpenter, head of the University of

{p. 11}

Arizona department of astronomy, said he was certain that the object was not a meteor or other natural phenomenon. . . . Switchboards Swamped Switchboards at the Pima county sheriff's office and Tucson police station were jammed with inquiries. Hundreds saw the object. Tom Bailey, 1411 E. 10th Street, thought it was a large airplane on fire. [A later check showed no planes missing.] He said it wavered from left to right as it passed over the mountains. Bailey also noticed that the craft appeared to slow perceptibly over Tucson. He said the smoke apparently came out in a thin, almost invisible stream, gaining substance within a few seconds.

This incident had an odd sequel the following day. Its significance was not lost on the Daily Citizen. It ran another front-page story, headlined:


As though to prove itself blameless for tilting hundreds of Tucson heads skyward, the U.S. Air Force yesterday afternoon spent hours etching vapor trails through the skies over the city. The demonstration proved conclusively to the satisfaction of most that the strange path of dark smoke blazed across the evening sky at dusk Wednesday was no vapor trail and did not emanate from any conventional airplane. The Wednesday night spectacle was entirely dissimilar. Then, heavy smoke boiled and swirled in a broad, dark ribbon fanning out at least a mile in width and stretching across the sky in a straight line. Since there was no proof as to what caused the strange predark manifestation, and because even expert witnesses were unable to explain the appearance, the matter remains a subject for interesting speculation.

There is strong evidence that this story was deliberately kept off the press wires. The Associated Press and other wire services in Washington had no report. Requests for details by Frank Edwards, Mutual newscaster, and other

{p. 12}

radio commentators ran into a blank wall. At the Pentagon I was told that the Air Force had no knowledge of the sighting or the vapor-trail maneuvers.

On February 22 two similar glowing objects were seen above Boca Chica Naval Air Station at Key West. A plane sent tip to investigate was hopelessly outdistanced; it was obvious the things were at a great height. Back at the station, radarmen tracked the objects as they hovered for a moment above Key West. They were found to be at least fifty miles above the earth. After a few seconds, they accelerated at high speed and streaked out of sight.

On the following day Commander Augusto Orrego, a Chilean naval officer, reported that saucers had flown above his antarctic base.

"During the bright antarctic night," be said, "we saw flying saucers, one above the other, turning at tremendous speeds. We have photographs to prove what we saw."

Early in March, Ken Purdy phoned the latest development in the investigation. He had just received a tip predicting a flurry of saucer publicity during March. It had come from an important source in Washington.

"You know what it probably means," he said. "The same thing we talked about last month. But why were we tipped off in advance?"

"It's one more piece in the pattern," I said. "If the tip's on the level, then they're stepping up the program."

Within three days, reports began to pour in—from Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Turkey, and other parts of the world. Then on March 9 a gleaming metallic disk was sighted over Dayton, Ohio. Observers at Vandalia Airport phoned Wright-Patterson Field. Scores of Air Force pilots and groundmen watched the disk, as fighters raced up in pursuit. The mysterious object streaked vertically skyward, hovered for a while miles above the earth, and then disappeared. A secret report was rushed to the Civil Aeronautics Authority in Washington, then turned over to Air Force Intelligence.

Soon after this Dr. Craig Hunter, director of a medical supply firm, reported a huge elliptical saucer flying at a low altitude in Pennsylvania. He described it as metallic, with a slotted outer rim and a rotating ring just inside. {p. 13} On top of this sighting, thousands of people at Farmington, New Mexico, watched a large formation of disks pass high above the city.

Throughout all these reports, the Air Force refused to admit the existence of flying saucers. On March 18 it flatly denied they were Air Force secret missiles or space-exploration devices.

Three days later, a Chicago and Southern airliner crew saw a fast-flying disk near Stuttgart, Arkansas. The circular craft, blinking a strange blue-white light, pulled up in an arc at terrific speed. The two pilots said they glimpsed lighted ports on the lower side as the saucer zoomed above them. The lights had a soft fluorescence, unlike anything they had seen.

There was one peculiar angle in the Arkansas incident. There was no apparent attempt to muzzle the two pilots, as in earlier airline cases. Instead, a United Press interview was quickly arranged, for nation-wide publication. In this wire story Captain Jack Adams and First Officer G. W. Anderson made two statements:

"We firmly believe that the flying saucer we saw over Arkansas was a secret experimental type aircraft—not a visitor from outer space. . .

"We know the Air Force has denied there is anything to this flying-saucer business, but we're both experienced pilots and we're not easily fooled."

The day after this story appeared, I was discussing it with an airline official in Washington.

"That's an odd thing," he said. "The Air Force could have persuaded those pilots—or the line president—to hush the thing up. It looks as if they wanted that story broadcast."

"You mean the whole thing was planted?"

"I won't say that, though it could have been. Probably they did see something. But they might have been told what to say about it."

"Any idea why?"

He looked at me sharply. "You and Purdy probably know the answer. At a guess, I'd say it might have been planned to offset that Navy commander's report—the one on the White Sands sightings."

{p. 14}

The White Sands case had puzzled many skeptics, because the Pentagon had cleared the published report. The author, Commander R. B. McLaughlin, was a regular Navy officer. As a Navy rocket expert, he had been stationed at the White Sands Rocket Proving Ground in New Mexico. In his published article he described three disk sightings at White Sands.

One of the disks, a huge elliptical craft, was tracked by scientists with precision instruments at five miles per second. That's 18,000 miles per hour. It was found to be flying fifty-six miles above the earth. Two other disks, smaller types, were watched from five observation posts on hills at the proving ground. Circling at incredible speed, the two disks paced an Army high-altitude rocket that had just been launched, then speeded up and swiftly outclimbed the projectile.

Commander McLaughlin's report, giving dates and factual details, was cleared by the Department of Defense. So was a later nation-wide broadcast.

Then the Air Force made its routine denial.

Why was McLaughlin, a regular Navy officer subject to security screening, permitted to give out this story? Was it an incredible slip-up? Or was it part of some carefully thought-out plan? I believe it was part of an elaborate program to prepare the American people for a dramatic disclosure.

For almost a year I have watched the behind-the-scenes maneuvers of those who guide this program. In the following chapters I have tried to show the strange developments in our search for the answer; the carefully misleading tips, the blind alleys we entered, the unexpected assistance, the confidential leads, and the stunning contradictions.

It has been a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Only by seeing all parts of this intricate picture can you begin to glimpse the reasons for this stubbornly hidden secret.

The official explanation may be imminent. When it is finally revealed, I believe the elaborate preparation—even the wide deceit involved—will be fully justified in the minds of the American people.

{p. 15}


IT HAS BEEN over two years since the puzzling death of Captain Thomas Mantell.

Mantell died mysteriously in the skies south of Fort Knox. But before his radio went silent, he sent a strange message to Godman Air Force Base. The men who heard it will never forget it.

It was January 7, 1948.

Crowded into the Godman Field Tower, a group of Air Force officers stared up at the afternoon sky. For just an instant, something gleamed through the broken clouds south of the base.

High above the field, three P-51 fighters climbed with swift urgency. Heading south, they quickly vanished.

The clock in the tower read 2:45.

Colonel Guy Hix, the C.O., slowly put down his binoculars. If the thing was still there, the clouds now hid it. All they could do was wait.

The first alarm had come from Fort Knox, when Army M.P.'s had relayed a state police warning. A huge gleaming object had been seen in the sky, moving toward Godman Field. Hundreds of startled people had seen it at Madisonville, ninety miles away.

Thirty minutes later, it had zoomed up over the base.

Colonel Hix glanced around at the rest of the men in the tower. They all had a dazed look. Every man there had seen the thing, as it barreled south of the field. Even through the thin clouds, its intermittent red glow had hinted at some mysterious source of power. Something outside their understanding.

It was Woods, the exec, who had estimated its size. Hix shook his head. That was unbelievable. But something had hung over Godman Field for almost an hour. The C.O. turned quickly as the loud-speaker, tuned to the P-51's, suddenly came to life.

"Captain Mantell to Godman . . . Tower Mantell to Godman Tower . . ."

{p. 16}

The flight leader's voice had a strained tone.

"I've sighted the thing!" he said. "It looks metallic—and it's tremendous in size!"

The C.O. and Woods stared at each other. No one spoke.

"The thing's starting to climb," Mantell said swiftly. "It's at twelve o'clock high, making half my speed. I'll try to close in."

In five minutes, Mantell reported again. The strange metallic object had speeded up, was now making 360 or more.

At 3:08, Mantell's wingman called in. Both he and the other pilot had seen the weird object. But Mantell had outclimbed them and was lost in the clouds.

Seven minutes dragged by. The men in the tower sweated out the silence. Then, at 3:15, Mantell made a hasty contact.

"It's still above me, making my speed or better. I'm going up to twenty thousand feet. If I'm no closer, I'll abandon chase."

It was his last report.

Minutes later, his fighter disintegrated with terrific force. The falling wreckage was scattered for thousands of feet.

When Mantell failed to answer the tower, one of his pilots began a search. Climbing to 33,000 feet, he flew a hundred miles to the south.

But the thing that lured Mantell to his death had vanished from the sky.

Ten days after Mantell was killed, I learned of a curious sequel to the Godman affair.

An A.P. account in the New York Times had caught my attention. The story, released at Fort Knox, admitted Mantell had died while chasing a flying saucer. Colonel Hix was quoted as having watched the object, which was still unidentified. But there was no mention of Mantell's radio messages—no hint of the thing's tremendous size.

Though I knew the lid was probably on, I went to the Pentagon. When the scare had first broken, in the summer of '47, I had talked with Captain Tom Brown, who was handling saucer inquiries. But by now Brown had been

{p. 17}

shifted, and no one in the Press Branch would admit knowing the details of the Mantell saucer chase.

"We just don't know the answer," a security officer told me.

"There's a rumor," I said, "it's a secret Air Force missile that sometimes goes out of control."

"Good God, man!" he exploded. "If it was, do you think we'd be ordering pilots to chase the damned things?"

"No—and I didn't say I believed it." I waited until he cooled down. "This order you mentioned—is it for all Air Force pilots, or special fighter units?"

"I didn't say it was a special order," he answered quickly. "All pilots have routine instructions to report unusual items."

"They had fighters alerted on the Coast, when the scare first broke," I reminded him. "Are those orders still in force?"

He shook his head. "No, not that I know of." After a moment he added, "All I can tell you is that the Air Force is still investigating. We honestly don't know the answer."

As I went out the Mall entrance, I ran into Jack Daly, one of Washington's veteran newsmen. Before the war, Jack and I had done magazine pieces together, usually on Axis espionage and communist activity. I told him I was trying to find the answer to Mantell's death.

"You heard anything?" I asked him.

"Only what was in the A.P. story," said Jack. "But an I.N.S. man told me they had a saucer story from Columbus, Ohio—and it might have been the same one they saw at Fort Knox."

"I missed that. What was it?"

"They sighted the thing at the Air Force field outside of Columbus. It was around sundown, about two hours after that pilot was killed in Kentucky."

"Anybody chase it?" I asked.

"No. They didn't have time to take off, I guess. This I.N.S. guy said it was going like hell. Fast as a jet, anyway."

"Did he say what it looked like?"

{p. 18}

"The Air Force boys said it was as big as a C-47," said Jack. "Maybe bigger. It had a reddish-orange exhaust streaming out behind. They could see it for miles."

"If you hear any more, let me know," I said. Jack promised he would.

"What do you think they are?" he asked me.

"It's got me stumped. Russia wouldn't be testing missiles over here. Anyway, I can't believe they've got anything like that. And I can't see the Air Force letting pilots get killed to hide something we've got."

One week later, I heard that a top-secret unit had been set up at Wright Field to investigate all saucer reports. When I called the Pentagon, they admitted this much, and that was all.

In the next few months, other flying-disk stories hit the front pages. Two Eastern Airline pilots reported a double-decked mystery ship sighted near Montgomery, Alabama. I learned of two other sightings, one over the Pacific Ocean and one in California. The second one, seen through field glasses, was described as rocket-shaped, as large as a B-29. There were also rumors of disks being tracked by radar, but it was almost a year before I confirmed these reports.

When Purdy wired me, early in May of '49, I had half forgotten the disks. It had been months since any important sightings had been reported. But his message quickly revived my curiosity. If he thought the subject was hot, I knew he must have reasons. When I walked into his office at 67 West 44th, Purdy stubbed out his cigarette and shook hands. He looked at me through his glasses for a moment. Then he said abruptly:

"You know anything about the disks?"

"If you mean what they are—no."

He motioned for me to sit down. Then he swiveled his chair around, his shoulders hunched forward, and frowned out the window.

"Have you seen the Post this week?"

I told him no.

"There's something damned queer going on. For fifteen months, Project 'Saucer' is buttoned up tight. Top secret. Then suddenly, Forrestal gets the Saturday Evening Post

{p. 19}

to run two articles, brushing the whole thing off. The first piece hits the stands—and then what happens?"

Purdy swung around, jabbed his finger at a document on. his desk.

"That same day, the Air Force rushes out this Project 'Saucer' report. It admits they haven't identified the disks in any important cases. They say it's still serious enough—wait a minute—"he thumbed through the stapled papers—" 'to require constant vigilance by Project "Saucer" personnel and the civilian population.'"

"You'd think the Post would make a public kick," I said.

"I don't mean it's an out-and-out denial," said Purdy. "It doesn't mention the Post—just contradicts it. In fact, the report contradicts itself. It looks as if they're trying to warn people and yet they're scared to say too much."

I looked at the title on the report: "A Digest of Preliminary Studies by the Air Materiel Command, Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, on 'Flying Saucers.'"

"Have the papers caught it yet?" I asked Purdy.

"You mean its contradicting the Post?" He shook his head. "No, the Pentagon press release didn't get much space. How many editors would wade through a six-thousand-word government report? Even if they did, they'd have to compare it, item for item, with the Post piece."

"Who wrote the Post story?"

Purdy lit a cigarette and frowned out again at the skyscrapers.

"Sidney Shallett—and he's careful. He had Forrestal's backing. The Air Force flew him around, arranged interviews, supposedly gave him inside stuff. He spent two months on it. They O.K.'d his script, which practically says the saucers are bunk. Then they reneged on it."

"Maybe some top brass suddenly decided it was the wrong policy to brush it off," I suggested.

"Why the quick change?" demanded Purdy. "Let's say they sold the Post on covering up the truth, in the interests of security. It's possible, though I don't believe it. Or they could simply have fed them a fake story. Either

{p. 20}

Way, why did they rush this contradiction the minute the Post hit the stands?"

"Something serious happened," I said, "after the Post went to press."

"Yes, but what?" Purdy said impatiently. "That's what we've got to find out."

"Does Shallett's first piece mention Mantell's death?"

"Explains it perfectly. You know what Mantell was chasing? The planet Venus!"

"That's the Post's answer?" I said, incredulously.

"It's what the Air Force contract astronomer told Shallett. I've checked with two astronomers here. They say that even when Venus is at full magnitude you can barely see it in the daytime even when you're looking for it. It was only half magnitude that day, so it was practically invisible."

"How'd the Air Force expect anybody to believe that answer?" I said.

Purdy shrugged. "They deny it was Venus in this report. But that's what they told Shallett—that all those Air Force officers, the pilots, the Kentucky state police, and several hundred people at Madisonville mistook Venus for a metallic disk several hundred feet in diameter."

"It's a wonder Shallett believed it."

"I don't think he did. He says if it wasn't Venus, it must have been a balloon."

"What's the Air Force answer?" I asked Purdy.

"Look in the report. They say whatever Mantell chased—they call it a 'mysterious object'—is still unidentified."

I glanced through the case report, on page five. It quoted Mantell's radio report that the thing was metallic and tremendous in size. Linked with the death of Mantell was the Lockbourne, Ohio, report, which tied in with what Jack Daly had told me, over a year before. I read the report:

"On the same day, about two hours later, a sky phenomenon was observed by several watchers over Lockbourne Air Force Base, Columbus, Ohio. It was described as 'round or oval, larger than a C-47, and traveling in level

{p. 21}

flight faster than 500 miles per hour.' The object was followed from the Lockbourne observation tower for more than 20 minutes. Observers said it glowed from white to amber, leaving an amber exhaust trail five times its own length. It made motions like an elevator and at one time appeared to touch the ground. No sound was heard. Finally, the object faded and lowered toward the horizon."

Purdy buzzed for his secretary, and she brought me a copy of the first Post article.

"You can get a copy of this Air Force report in Washington," Purdy told me. "This is the only one I have. But you'll find the same answer for most of the important cases—the sightings at Muroc Air Base, the airline pilots' reports, the disks Kenneth Arnold saw—they're all unidentified."

"I remember the Arnold case. That was the first sighting."

"You've got contacts in Washington," Purdy went on. "Start at the Pentagon first. They know we're working on it. Sam Boal, the first man on this job, was down there for a day or two."

"What did he find out?"

"Symington told him the saucers were bunk. Secretary Johnson admitted they had some pictures—we'd heard about a secret photograph taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland. The tip said this saucer scared hell out of some pilots and Air Force men up there.

"A major took Boal to some Air Force colonel and Boal asked to see the pictures. The colonel said they didn't have any. He turned red when the major said Symington had told Boal about the pictures."

"Did Boal get to see them?" I said.

"No," grunted Purdy, "and I'll bet twenty bucks you won't, either. But try, anyway. And check on a rumor that they've tracked some disks with radar. One case was supposed to be at an Air Force base in Japan."

As I was leaving, Purdy gave me a summary of sighting reports.

"Some of these were published, some we dug up ourselves," he said. "We got some confidential stuff from

{p. 22}

airline pilots. It's pretty obvious the Air Force has tried to keep them quiet."

"All right," I said. "I'll get started. Maybe things aren't sewed up so tightly, now this report is out."

"We've found out some things about Project 'Saucer,' said Purdy. "Whether it's a cover-up or a real investigation, there's a lot of hush-hush business to it. They've got astronomers and astrophysicists working for them, also rocket expects, technical analysts, and Air Force Special Intelligence. We've been told they can call on any government agency for help—and I know they're using the F.B.I."

It was building up bigger than I had thought.

"If national security is involved," I told Purdy, "they can shut us up in a hurry."

"If they tell me so, O.K.," said Purdy. He added grimly, "But I think they're making a bad mistake. They probably think they're doing what's right. But the truth might come out the wrong way."

"It is possible," I thought, "that the saucers belong to Russia."

"If it turns out to be a Soviet missile, count me out," I said. "We'd have the Pentagon and the F.B.I. on our necks."

"All right, if that's the answer." He chuckled. "But you may be in for a jolt."

{p. 23}


JUST THE idea of gigantic flying disks was incredible enough. It was almost as hard to believe that such missiles could have been developed without something leaking out. Yet we had produced the A-bomb in comparative secrecy, and I knew we were working on long-range guided missiles. There was already a plan for a three-thousand-mile test range. Our supersonic planes had hit around two thousand miles an hour. Our two-stage rockets had gone over two hundred miles high, according to reports. If an atomic engine had been secretly developed, it could explain the speed and range of the saucers.

But I kept coming back to Mantell's death and the Air Force orders for pilots to chase the saucers. If the disks were American missiles, that didn't jibe.

When I reached the lobby, I found it was ten after four. I caught a taxi and made the Congressional Limited with just one minute to spare. In the club car, I settled down to look at Purdy's summary.

Skipping through the pages, I saw several familiar cases. Here and there, Purdy had scrawled brief comments or suggestions. Beside the Eastern Airline report of a double-decked saucer, he had written:

"Check rumor same type seen over Holland about this date. Also, similar Philippine Islands report—date unknown."

I went back to the beginning. The first case listed was that of Kenneth Arnold, a Boise businessman, who had set off the saucer scare. Arnold was flying his private plane from Chehalis to Yakima, Washington, when he saw a bright flash on his wing.

Looking toward Mount Rainier, he saw nine gleaming disks outlined against the snow, each one about the size of a C-54.

"They flew close to the mountaintops, in a diagonal chainlike line," he said later. "It was as if they were linked together."

The disks appeared to be twenty to twenty-five miles

{p. 24}

away, he said, and moving at fantastic speed. Arnold's estimate was twelve hundred miles an hour.

"I watched them about three minutes," he said. "They were swerving in and out around the high mountain peaks. They were flat, like a pie pan, and so shiny they reflected the sun like a mirror. I never saw anything so fast."

The date was June 24, 1947.

On this same day there was another saucer report. which received very little notice. A Portland prospector named Fred Johnson, who was working up in the Cascade Mountains, spotted five or six disks banking in the sun. He watched them through his telescope several seconds. then he suddenly noticed that the compass hand on his special watch was weaving wildly from side to side. Johnson insisted he had not heard of the Arnold report, which was not broadcast until early evening.

Kenneth Arnold's story was generally received with amusement. Most Americans were unaware that the Pentagon had been receiving disk reports as early as January. The news and radio comments on Arnold's report brought several other incidents to light, which observers had kept to themselves for fear of ridicule.

At Oklahoma City, a private pilot told Air Force investigators he had seen a huge round object in the sky during the latter part of May. It was flying three times faster than a jet, he said, and without any sound. Citizens of Weiser, Idaho, described two strange fast-moving objects they had seen on June 12. The saucers were heading southeast, now and then dropping to a lower altitude, then swiftly climbing again. Several mysterious objects were reported flying at great speed near Spokane, just three days before Arnold's experience. And four days after his encounter, an Air Force pilot flying near Lake Meade, Nevada, was startled to see half a dozen saucers flash by his plane.

Even at this early point in the scare, official reports were contradicting each other. just after Arnold's story broke, the Air Force admitted it was checking on the mystery disks. On July 4 the Air Force stated that no further investigation was needed; it was all

{p. 25}

hallucination. That same day, Wright Field told the Associated Press that the Air Materiel Command was trying to find the answer.

The Fourth of July was a red-letter day in the flying-saucer mystery. At Portland, Oregon, hundreds of citizens, including former Air Force pilots, police, harbor pilots, and deputy sheriffs, saw dozens of gleaming disks flying at high speed. The things; appeared to be at least forty thousand feet in the air—perhaps much higher.

That same day, disks were sighted at Seattle, Vancouver, and other northwest cities. The rapidly growing reports were met with mixed ridicule and alarm. One of the skeptical group was Captain E. J. Smith, of United Airlines.

"I'll believe them when I see them," he told airline employees, before taking off from Boise the afternoon of the Fourth.

Just about sunset, his airliner was flying over Emmett, Idaho, when Captain Smith and his copilot, Ralph Stevens, saw five queer objects in the sky ahead. Smith rang for the stewardess, Marty Morrow, and the three of them watched the saucers for several minutes. Then four more of the disks came into sight. Though it was impossible to tell their size, because their altitude was unknown, the crew was sure they were bigger than the plane they were in. After about ten minutes the disks disappeared.

The Air Force quickly denied having anything resembling the! objects Captain Smith described.

"We have no experimental craft of that nature in Idaho—or anywhere else," an official said in Washington. "We're completely mystified."

The Navy said it had made an investigation, and had no answers. There had been rumors that the disks were "souped-up" versions of the Navy's "Flying Flapjack," a twin-engined circular craft known technically as the XF-5-U-1. But the Navy insisted that only one model had been built, and that it was now out of service.

In Chicago, two astronomers spiked guesses that the disks might be meteors. Dr. Girard Kieuper, director of the University of Chicago observatory, said flatly that they couldn't be meteors.

{p. 26}

"They're probably man-made," he told the A.P. Dr. Oliver Lee, director of Northwestern's observatory, agreed with Kieuper.

"The Army, Navy, and Air Force are working secretly on all sorts of things," he said. "Remember the A-bomb secrecy—and the radar signals to the moon."

As I went through Purdy's summary, I recalled my own reaction after the United Airlines report. After seeing the Pentagon comment, I had called up Captain Tom Brown, at Air Force Public Relations.

"Are you really taking this seriously?" I asked him.

"Well, we can't just ignore it," he said. "There are too many reliable pilots telling the same story—flat, round objects able to outmaneuver ordinary planes, and faster than anything we have. Too many stories tally."

I told him I'd heard that the Civil Air Patrol in Wisconsin and other states was starting a sky search.

"We've got a jet at Muroc, and six fighters standing by at Portland right now," Brown said.


"I've no report on that. But I know some of them carry photographic equipment."

Two days later an airline pilot from the Coast told me that some fighters had been armed and the pilots ordered to bring down the disks if humanly possible. That same day, Wright Field admitted it was checking stories of disk-shaped missiles seen recently in the Pacific northwest and in Texas.

Following this was an A.P. story, dated July 7, quoting an unnamed Air Force official in Washington:

"The flying saucers may be one of three things:

"1. Solar reflection on low-hanging clouds. [A Washington scientist, asked for comment, said this was hardly possible.]

"2. Small meteors which break up, their crystals catching the rays of the sun. But it would seem that they would have been spotted falling and fragments would have been found.

"3. Icing conditions could have formed large hailstones, and they might have flattened out and glided a bit, giving

{p. 27}

the impression of horizontal movement even though falling vertically."

By this time everyone was getting into the act.

"The disks are caused by the transmutation of atomic energy," said an anonymous scientist, supposed to be on the staff of California Tech. The college quickly denied it.

Dr. Vannevar Bush, world-famous scientist, and Dr. Merle Tuve, inventor of the proximity fuse, both declared they would know of any secret American missiles—and didn't.

At Syracuse, New York, Dr. Harry Steckel, Veterans Administration psychiatrist, scoffed at the suggestion of mass hysteria. "Too many sane people are seeing the things. The government is probably conducting some revolutionary experiments."

On July 8 more disks were reported. Out at Muroc Air Force Base, where top-secret planes and devices are tested, six fast-moving silvery-white saucers were seen by pilots and ground officers.

That afternoon the Air Force revealed it was working on a case involving a Navy rocket expert named C. T. Zohm. While on a secret Navy mission to New Mexico, in connection with rocket tests, Zohm had seen a bright silvery disk flying above the desert. He was crossing the desert with three other scientists when he saw the strange object flashing northward at an altitude of about ten thousand feet.

"I'm sure it was not a meteor," said Zohm. "It could have been a guided missile, but I never heard of anything like it."

By this time, saucer reports had come in from almost forty states. Alarm was increasing, and there were demands that radar be used to track the disks. The Air Force replied that there was not enough radar equipment to blanket the nation, but that its pilots were on the lookout for the saucers.

One report mentioned a curious report from Twin Falls, Idaho. The disk sighted there was said to have flown so low that the treetops whirled as if in a violent storm. Someone had phoned Purdy about a disk tracked

{p. 28}

by weather-balloon observers at Richmond, Virginia. There was another note on a sighting at Hickam Field, Honolulu, and two reports of unidentified objects seen near Anchorage, Alaska.

A typed list of world-wide sightings had been made up by the staff at True. It contained many cases that were new to me, reports from Paraguay, Belgium, Turkey, Holland, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. At the bottom of this memo Purdy had written: "Keep checking on rumor that the Soviet has a Project Saucer, too. Could be planted."

From the mass of reports, John DuBarry, the aviation editor of True, had methodically worked out an average picture of the disks: "The general report is that they are round or oval (this could be an elliptical object seen end-on), metallic looking, very bright—either shining white or silvery colored. They can move at extremely high speed, hover, accelerate rapidly, and outmaneuver ordinary aircraft.

"The lights are usually seen singly—very few formations reported. They seem to have the same speed, acceleration, and ability to maneuver. In several cases, they have been able to evade Air Force planes in night encounters."

Going over the cases, I realized that Purdy and his staff had dug up at least fifty reports that had not appeared in the papers. (A few of these proved incorrect, but a check with the Air Force case reports released on December 30, 1949, showed that True's files contained all the important items.) These cases included sightings at eleven Air Force bases and fourteen American airports, reports from ships at sea, and a score of encounters by airline and private pilots.

Witnesses included Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force officers; state and city police; F.B.I. agents; weather observers, shipmasters, astronomers, and thousands of good solid American citizens. I learned later that many witnesses had been investigated by the F.B.I. to weed out crackpot reports.

I ended up badly puzzled. The evidence was more impressive than I had suspected. It was plain that many

{p. 29}

reports had been entirely suppressed, or at least kept out of the papers. There was something ominous about it. No matter what the answer, it was serious enough to be kept carefully hidden.

If it were a Soviet missile, I thought, God help us. They'd scooped up a lot of Nazi scientists and war secrets. And the Germans had been far ahead of us on guided missiles. But why would they give us a two-year warning, testing the things openly over America? It didn't make sense.

{p. 30}


I WENT to the Pentagon the next morning. I didn't expect to learn much, but I wanted to make sure we weren't tangling with security.

I'd worked with Al Scholin and Orville Splitt, in the magazine section of Public Relations, and I thought they'd tell me as much as anyone. When I walked in, I sprang it on them cold.

"What's the chance of seeing your Project 'Saucer' files?"

Al Scholin took it more or less dead-pan. Splitt looked at me a moment and then grinned.

"Don't tell me you believe the things are real?"

"Maybe," I said. "How about clearing me with Project 'Saucer'?"

Al shook his head. "It's still classified secret."

"'Look, Don," said Splitt, "why do you want to fool with that saucer business? There's nothing to it."

'"That's a big change from what the Air Force was saying; in 1947," I told him.

He shrugged that off. "The Air Force has spent two years checking into it. Everybody from Symington down will tell you the saucers are bunk."

"That's not what Project 'Saucer' says in that April report."

"That report was made up a long time ago," said Splitt. "They just got around to releasing it."

"Then they've got all the answers now?"

"They know there's nothing to it," Splitt repeated.

"In that case," I said, "Project 'Saucer' shouldn't object to my seeing their files and pictures."

"What pictures?"

"That one taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland, for a starter."

"Oh, that thing," said Splitt. "It wasn't anything—just a shadow on a cloud. Somebody's been kidding you."

"If it's just a cloud shadow, why can't I see it?"

Splitt was getting a little nettled.

{p. 31}

"Look, you know how long it takes to declassify stuff. They just haven't got around to it. Take my word for it, the flying saucers are bunk. I went around with Sid Shallett on some of his interviews. What he's got in the Post is the absolute gospel."

"It's funny about that April twenty-seventh report," I said, "the way it contradicts the Post."

"I tell you that was an old report—"

"I wouldn't say that," Al Scholin put in. "The Air Force doesn't claim it has all the answers. But they've proved a lot of the reports were hoaxes or mistakes."

"Just the same," I said, "the Air Force is on record, as of April twenty-seventh, that it's serious enough for everybody to be vigilant. And they admit most of the things, in the important cases, are still unidentified. Including the saucer Mantell was chasing."

"That business at Godman Field was some kind of hallucination," insisted Splitt.

"I suppose all those pilots and Godman Field officers were hypnotized? Not to mention several thousand people at Madisonville and Fort Knox?"

"Take it easy, you guys," said Al Scholin. "You've both got a right to your opinions."

"Oh, sure," said Splitt. He looked at me, with his grin back. "I don't care if you think they're men from Mars."

"Let's not go off the deep end," I said. "Tell me this: Did Shallett get to see any secret files at Wright Field?"

"Absolutely not."

"Then he had to take the Air Force word for everything?"

"Not entirely. We set up some interviews for him."

"One more thing—and don't get mad. If it's all bunk, why haven't they closed Project 'Saucer'?"

"How do I know? Probably no one wants to take the responsibility."

"Then somebody high up must not think it's bunk," I said.

Splitt laughed. "Have it your own way."

Before I left, I told them I was working with True.

"I want to be on record," I said, "as having told you

{p. 32}

this. If there's any security involved—if you tell me it's something you're working on—naturally I'll lay off."

Al Scholin said emphatically, "It's not an Air Force device, if that's what you mean."

"Some people think it's Russian."

"If it is, I don't know it," said Al, "and neither does the Air Force."

After I left the magazine section, I tried several officers I knew. Two of them agreed with Splitt. The third didn't.

"I've been told it's all bunk," he said, "but you get the feeling they've trying to convince themselves. They act like people near a haunted house. They'll swear it isn't haunted—but they won't go near it."

Later, I asked a security major for a copy of the Project "Saucer" report.

"We're out of copies right now," he said. "I'll send you one next week."

I asked him bluntly what he thought the saucers were.

"I doubt if anybody has the full answer," he said seriously. "There's been some hysteria—also a few mistakes. But many reports have been made by reliable pilots, including our own. You can't laugh those off."

As I drove home, I thought over what I'd heard. All I had learned was that the Air Force seemed divided. But that could be a smoke screen. In less than twenty-four hours, I received my first suspicious tip. It was about ten A.M. when my phone rang.

"Mr. Keyhoe? This is John Steele," said the voice at the other end. (Because of the peculiar role he played, then and later, I have not used his real name.) "I'm a former Air Force Intelligence officer. I was in the European theater during the war."

I waited. He hesitated a moment.

"I heard you're working on the flying-saucer problem," he said quickly. "I may have some information that would interest you."

"Mind telling me who told you I was on it?" I asked.

"No one, directly. I just happened to hear it mentioned at the Press Club. Frankly, I've been curious about the flying saucers ever since '45."

That startled me, but I didn't tell him so.

{p. 53}

"Do you have any idea what they are?" Mr. Steele said.

"No, I've just begun checking. But I'd be glad to hear what you've got."

"I may be way off," said Steele. "But I've always wondered about the 'foo fighters' our pilots saw over Europe near the end of the war."

I thought for a second. "Wasn't that some kind of antiaircraft missile fired from the ground?"

"No. Intelligence never did get any real answer, so far as I know. They were some kind of circular gadgets, and they actually chased our planes a number of times. We thought they were something the Nazis had invented—and I still think so."

"Then who's launching them now?"

"Well, it's obviously either Russia or us. If it is the Soviet—well, that's what's worried me. I don't think it should be treated like a joke, the way some people in the Pentagon take it."

I stared at the phone, trying to figure him out.

"I'd like to talk it over with you," I said. "Maybe you've got something."

"I've given you about all I know," Steele answered. "There was an Intelligence report you might try to see—the Eighth Air Force files should have it."

"Wait a minute," I said. "Give me your number, in case I find anything."

He gave it to me without apparent hesitation. I thanked him and hung up, still wondering.

If it was an attempt at a plant, it was certainly crude. The mention of his former Air Force connection would be enough to arouse suspicion, unless he counted on his apparent frankness to offset it.

And what about the Press Club angle? That would indicate Steele was a newspaperman. Could this be merely an attempt to pump me and get a lead on True's investigation? But that would be just as crude as the other idea. Of course, he might be sincere. But regardless of his motives, it looked bad. Arid who had told him about me?

I thought about that for a minute. Then I picked up the phone and dialed Jack Daly's number.

{p. 34}

"Jack, do you know anyone named John Steele?" I asked him. "I think he's a newspaperman."

"Nobody I know," said Jack. "Why, what's up?"

I explained, and added, "I thought maybe you knew him, and he'd heard about it from you."

"Hell, no," said Jack. "You ought to know I wouldn't leak any tip like that."

"It wouldn't be a tip—I don't know anything about this deal yet. By the way, when you were on the Star did you handle anything on 'foo fighters'?"

"No, that was after I left there. Bill Shippen would have covered that, anyway."

I told him I would look it up in the Star's morgue. Jack said he would meet me there at three o'clock; in the meantime he would see what he could find out about Steele.

Jack was a little late, and I went over the Star's file on the foo fighters. Most of the facts were covered in a story dated July 6, 1947, which had been inspired by the outbreak of the saucer scare. I copied it for later use:

During the latter part of World War Two, fighter pilots in England were convinced that Hitler had a new secret weapon. Yanks dubbed these devices "foo fighters" or "Kraut fireballs." One of the Air Force Intelligence men now assigned to check on the saucer scare was an officer who investigated statements of military airmen that circular foo fighters were seen over Europe and also on the bombing route to Japan. It was reported that Intelligence officers have never obtained satisfactory explanation of reports of flying silver balls and disks over Nazi-occupied Europe in the winter of 1944-45. Later, crews of B-29'S on bombing runs to Japan reported seeing somewhat similar objects. In Europe, some foo fighters danced just off the Allied fighters' wingtips and played tag with them in power dives. Others appeared in precise formations and on one occasion a whole bomber crew

{p. 35}

saw about 15 following at a distance, their strange glow flashing on and off. One foo fighter chased Lieutenant Meiers of Chicago some 20 miles down the Rhine Valley, at 300 m.p.h., an A.P. war correspondent reported. Intelligence officers believed at that time that the balls might be radar-controlled objects sent up to foul ignition systems or baffle Allied radar networks. There is no explanation of their appearance here, unless the objects could have been imported for secret tests in this country.

I read the last paragraph twice. This looked like a strong lead to the answer, in spite of the Air Force denials. There was another, less pleasant possibility. The Russians could have seized the device and developed it secretly, using Nazi scientists to help them. Perhaps the Nazis had been close to an atomic engine, even if they did fail to produce the bomb.

Jack Daly came in while I was reading the story again.

"I got the dope on Steele," he said. "He does pieces for a small syndicate, and I found out he was in the Air Force. I think he was a captain. People who know him say he's O.K.—a straight shooter."

"That still wouldn't keep him from giving me a fake tip, if somebody told him it was the right thing to do."

"Maybe not," said Jack, "but why would they want to plant this foo-fighter idea?"

I showed him the clipping. He read it over and shook his head.

"That's a lot different from disks three hundred feet in diameter."

"If we got the principle—or Russia did-building big ones might not be too hard."

"I still can't swallow it," said Jack. "These things have been seen all over the world. How could they control them that far away—and be sure they wouldn't crash, where somebody could get a look and dope out the secret?"

We argued it back and forth without getting anywhere.

{p. 36}

"I'd give a lot to know Steele's angle," I said. "If you hear anything more on him, give me a buzz."

Jack nodded. "I'll see what I can do. But I can't dig too hard, or he'll hear about it."

On the way out, I found a phone booth and called Splitt.

"Foo fighters?" he said. "Sure, I remember those stories. You think those are your flying saucers?"

I could hear him snicker.

"Just checking angles," I said. "Didn't the Eighth Air Force investigate the foo fighters?"

"Yes, and they found nothing to back up the pilots' yarns. just war nerves, apparently."

"How about a look at the Intelligence report?" I asked.

"Wait a minute." Splitt was gone for twice that time, then he carne back. "Sorry, it's classified."

"If all this stuff is bunk, why keep the lid on it?" I demanded. I was getting sore again.

"Look, Don," said Splitt, "I don't make the rules."

"Sure, I know—sorry," I said. I had a notion to ask him if he knew John Steele, but hung up instead. There was no use in banging my head against the Air Force wall.

The next day I decided to analyze the Mantell case from beginning to end. It looked like the key to one angle: the question of an Air Force secret missile. Unless there was some slip-up, so that Mantell and his pilots had been ordered to chase the disk by mistake, then it would be cold murder.

I couldn't believe any Air Force officer would give such an order, no matter how tremendous the secret to be hidden.

But I was going to find out, if possible.

{p. 37}


FOR MORE than two weeks, I checked on the Godman Field tragedy. One fact stood out at the start: The death of Mantell had had a profound effect on many in the Air Force. A dozen times I was told:

"I thought the saucers were a joke-until Mantell was killed chasing that thing at Fort Knox."

Many ranking officers who had laughed at the saucer scare stopped scoffing. One of these was General Sory Smith, now Deputy Director of Air Force Public Relations. Later in my investigation, General Smith told me:

"It was the Mantell case that got me. I knew Tommy Mantell. very well—also Colonel Hix, the C.O. at Godman. I knew they were both intelligent men—not the kind to be imagining things."

For fifteen months, the Air Force kept a tight-lipped silence. Meantime, rumors began to spread. One report said that Mantell had been shot, his body riddled with bullets; his P-51, also riddled, had simply disintegrated. Another rumor reported Mantell as having been killed by some mysterious force; this same force had also destroyed his fighter. The Air Force, the rumors said, had covered up the truth by telling Mantell's family he had blacked out from lack of oxygen.

Checking the last angle, I found that this was the explanation given to Mantell's mother, just after his death, she was told by Standiford Field officers that he had flown too high in chasing the strange object.

Shallet, in the Saturday Evening Post articles, described Project "Saucer's" reconstruction of the case. Mantell was said to have climbed up to 25,000 feet, despite his firm decision to end the chase at 20,000, since he carried no oxygen. Around 25,000 feet, Shallett quoted the Air Force investigators, Mantell must have lost consciousness. After this, his pilotless plane climbed on up to some 30,000 feet, then dived. Between 20,000 and 10,000 feet, Shallett suggested, the P-51 began to disintegrate, obviously from excessive speed. The gleaming object that

{p. 38}

hypnotized Mantell into this fatal climb was, Shallett said, either the planet Venus or a Navy cosmic-ray research balloon.

The Air Force Project "Saucer" report of April 27, 1949, released just after the first Post article, makes these statements:

"Five minutes after Mantell disappeared from his formation, the two remaining planes returned to Godman. A few minutes later, one resumed the search, covering territory 100 miles to the south as high as 33,000 feet, but found nothing.

"Subsequent investigation revealed that Mantell had probably blacked out at 20,000 feet from lack of oxygen and had died of suffocation before the crash.

"The mysterious object which the flyer chased to his death was first identified as the Planet Venus. However, further probing showed the elevation and azimuth readings of Venus and the object at specified time intervals did not coincide.

"It is still considered 'Unidentified.'

The Venus explanation, even though now denied, puzzled me. It was plain that the Air Force had seriously considered offering it as the answer then abandoned it. Apparently someone had got his signals mixed and let Shallett use the discarded answer. And for some unknown reason, the Air Force had found it imperative to deny the Venus story at once.

In these first weeks of checking, I had run onto the Venus explanation in other cases. Several Air Force officers repeated it so quickly that it had the sound of a stock alibi. But in the daytime cases this was almost ridiculous.

I knew of a few instances in World War II when bomber crews and antiaircraft gunners had loosed a few bursts at Venus. But this was mostly at night, when the planet was at peak brilliance. And more than one gunner later admitted firing to relieve long hours of boredom. Since enemy planes did not carry lights, there was no authentic case, to my knowledge, where plane or ground gunners actually believed Venus was an enemy aircraft.

{p. 39}

Checking the astronomer's report, I read over the concluding statement:

"It simply could not have been Venus. They must have been desperate even to suggest it in the first place." Months later, in the secret Project "Saucer" report released December 30, 1949, I found official confirmation of this astronomer's opinions. Since it has a peculiar bearing on the Mantell case, I am quoting it now:

When Venus is at its greatest brilliance, it is possible to see it during daytime when one knows exactly where to look. But on January 7, 1948, Venus was less than half as bright as its peak brilliance. However, under exceptionally good atmospheric conditions, and with the eye shielded from direct rays of the sun, Venus might be seen as an exceedingly tiny bright point of light. . . . However, the chances of looking at just the right spot are very few. It has been unofficially reported that the object was a Navy cosmic-ray research balloon. If this can be established, it Is to be preferred as an explanation. However, if one accepts the assumption that reports from various other localities refer to the same object, any such device must have been a good many miles high—25 to 50—in order to have been seen clearly, almost simultaneously, from places 175 miles apart. If all reports were of a single object, in the knowledge of this investigator no man-made object could have been large enough and far enough away for the approximate simultaneous sightings. It is most unlikely, however, that so many separated persons should at that time have chanced on Venus in the daylight sky. It seems therefore much more probable that more than one object was involved. The sighting might have included two or more balloons (or aircraft) or they might have included Venus and balloons. For reasons given above, the latter explanation seems more likely.

{p. 40}

Two things stand out in his report:

1. The obvious determination to fit some explanation, no matter how farfetched, to the Mantell sighting.

2. The impossibility that Venus—a tiny point of light, seen only with difficulty—was the tremendous metallic object described by Mantell and seen by Godman Field officers.

With Venus eliminated, I went to work on the balloon theory. Since I had been a balloon pilot before learning to fly planes, this was fairly familiar ground.

Shallett's alternate theory that Mantell had chased a Navy research balloon was widely repeated by readers unfamiliar with balloon operation. Few thought to check the speeds, heights, and distances involved.

Cosmic-ray research balloons are not powered; they are set free to drift with the wind. This particular Navy type is released at a base near Minneapolis. The gas bag is filled with only a small per cent of its helium capacity before the take-off.

In a routine flight, the balloon ascends rapidly to a very high altitude-as high as 100,000 feet. By this time the gas bag has swelled to full size, about l00 feet high and 70 feet in diameter. At a set time, a device releases the case of instruments under the balloon. The instruments descend by parachute, and the balloon, rising quickly, explodes from the sudden expansion.

Occasionally a balloon starts leaking, and it then remains relatively low. At first glance, this might seem the answer to the Kentucky sightings. If the balloon were low enough, it would loom up as a large circular object, as seen from directly below. Some witnesses might estimate its diameter as 250 feet or more, instead of its actual 70 feet. But this failure to recognize a balloon would require incredibly poor vision on the part of trained observers—state police, Army M.P.'s, the Godman Field officers, Mantell and his pilots.

Captain Mantell was a wartime pilot, with over three thousand hours in the air. He was trained to identify a distant enemy plane in a split second. His vision was perfect, and so was that of his pilots. In broad daylight

{p. 41}

they could not fail to recognize a balloon during their thirty-minute chase.

Colonel Hix and the other Godman officers watched the object with high-powered glasses for long periods. It is incredible that they would not identify it as a balloon.

Before its appearance over Godman Field, the leaking balloon would have drifted, at a low altitude, over several hundred miles. (A leak large enough to bring it down from high altitude would have caused it to land and be found.) Drifting at a low altitude, it would have been seen by several hundred thousand people, at the very least. Many would have reported it as a balloon. But even if this angle is ignored it still could not possibly have been a balloon at low altitude. The fast flight from Madisonville, the abrupt stop and hour-long hovering at Godman Field, the quick bursts of speed Mantell reported make it impossible. To fly the go miles from Madisonville to Fort Knox in 30 minutes, a balloon would require a wind of 180 m.p.h. After traveling at this hurricane speed, it would then have had to come to a dead stop above Godman Field. As the P-51's approached, it would have had to speed tip again to 180, then to more than 360 to keep ahead of Mantell.

The three fighter pilots chased the mysterious object for half an hour. (I have several times chased balloons with a plane, overtaking them in seconds.) In a straight chase, Mantell would have been closing in at 360; the tail wind acting on his fighter would nullify the balloon's forward drift.

But even if you accept these improbable factors, there is one final fact that nullifies the balloon explanation. The strange object had disappeared when Mantell's wingman searched the sky, just after the leader's death. If it had been a balloon held stationary for an hour at a high altitude, and glowing brightly enough to be seen through clouds, it would have remained visible in the same general position. Seen from 33,000 feet, it would have been even brighter, because of the clearer air.

But the mysterious object had completely vanished in

{p. 42}

those few minutes. A search covering a hundred miles failed to reveal a trace.

Whether at a high or low altitude, a balloon could not have escaped the pilot's eyes. It would also have continued to be seen at Godman Field and other points, through occasional breaks in the clouds.

I pointed out these facts to one Air Force officer at the Pentagon. Next day he phoned me:

"I figured it out. The timing device went off and the balloon exploded. That's why the pilot didn't see it."

"It's an odd coincidence," I said, "that it exploded in those five minutes after Mantell's last report."

"Even so, it's obviously the answer," he said.

Checking on this angle, I found:

1. No one in the Kentucky area had reported a descending parachute.

2. No cosmic-ray research instrument case or parachute was found in the area.

3. No instruments were returned to the Navy from this region. And all balloons and instruments released at that time were fully accounted for.

Even if it had been a balloon, it would not explain the later January 7th reports—the simultaneous sightings mentioned by Professor Hynek in the Project "Saucer" report. This includes the thing seen at Lockbourne Air Force Base two hours after Mantell's death.

Obviously, the saucer seen flying at 500 m.p.h. over Lockbourne Field could not have been a balloon. Even if there had been several balloons in this area (and there were not, by official record), they could not have covered the courses reported. In some cases, they would have been flying against the wind, at terrific speed.

Then what was the mysterious object? And what killed Mantell?

Both the Air Force and the Post articles speculate that Mantell carelessly let himself black out.

Since some explanation had to be given, this might seem a good answer. But Mantell was known for coolheaded judgment. As a wartime pilot, he was familiar with signs of anoxia (oxygen starvation). That he knew his tolerance for altitude is proved by his firmly declared

{p. 43}

intention to abandon the chase at 20,000 feet, since he had no oxygen equipment.

Mantell had his altimeter to warn him. From experience, he would recognize the first vague blurring, narrowing of vision, and other signs of anoxia. Despite this, the "blackout" explanation was accepted as plausible by many Americans.

While investigating the Mantell case, I talked with several pilots and aeronautical engineers. Several questioned that a P-51 starting a dive from 20,000 feet would have disintegrated so thoroughly.

"From thirty thousand feet, yes," said one engineer. "If the idea was to explain it away, I'd pick a high altitude to start from. But a pilotless plane doesn't necessarily dive, as you know.

"It might slip off and spin, or spiral down, and a few have even landed themselves. Also, if the plane started down from twenty thousand, the pilot wouldn't be too far blacked out. The odds are he'd come to when he got into thicker air—admitting he did blur out, which is only an Air Force guess. I don't see why they're so positive Mantell died before he hit the ground—unless they know something we don't."

One of the pilot group put it more bluntly.

"It looks like a cover-up to me. I think Mantell did just what he said he would—close in on the thing. I think he either collided with it, or more likely they knocked him out of the air. They'd think he was trying to bring them down, barging in like that."

Even if you accept the blackout answer, it still does not explain what Mantell was chasing. it is possible that, excited by the huge, mysterious object, he recklessly climbed beyond the danger level, though such an act was completely at odds with his character.

But the identity of the thing remains—officially—a mystery. If it was some weird experimental craft or a guided missile, then whose was it? Air Force officers had repeatedly told me they had no such device. General Carl Touhy Spaatz, former Air Force chief, had publicly insisted that no such weapon had been developed in his regime. Secretary Symington and General Hoyt Vandenberg,

{p. 44}

present Air Force chief, had been equally emphatic. Of course, official denials could be expected if it were a top-level secret. But if it were a secret device, would it be tested so publicly that thousands would see it?

If it were an Air Force device, then I could see only one answer for the Godman Field incident: The thing was such a closely guarded secret that even Colonel Hix hadn't known. That would mean that most or all Air Force Base C.O.'s were also in ignorance of the secret device.

Could it be a Navy experiment, kept secret from the Air Force?

I did a little checking.

Admiral Calvin Bolster, chief of aeronautics research experimental craft, was an Annapolis classmate of mine. So was Captain Delmer S. Fahrney, head of the Navy guided-missile program. Fahrney was at Point Mugu, missile-testing base in California, and I wasn't able to see him. But I knew him as a careful, conscientious officer; I can't believe he would let such a device, piloted or not, hover over an Air Force base with no warning to its C.O.

I saw Admiral Bolster. His denial seemed genuine; unless he'd got to be a dead-pan poker player since our earlier days, I was sure he was telling the truth.

The only other alternate was Russia. It was incredible that they would develop such a device and then expose it to the gaze of U.S. Air Force officers. It could be photographed, its speed and maneuverability checked; it might crash, or antiaircraft fire might bring it down, The secret might be lost in one such test flight.

There was one other explanation: The thing was not intended to be seen; it had got out of control. In this event; the long hovering period at Godman Field was caused by the need for repairs inside the flying saucer, or repairs to remote-control apparatus.

If it were Air Force or Navy, that would explain official concern; even if completely free of negligence, the service responsible would be blamed for Mantell's death. If it were Russian, the Air Force would of course try to conceal the fact for fear of public hysteria.

But if the device was American, it meant that Project

{p. 45}

"Saucer" was a cover-up unit. While pretending to investigate, it would actually hush up reports, make false explanations, and safeguard the secret in every possible way. Also, the reported order for Air Force pilots to pursue the disks would have to be a fake. Instead, there would be a secret order telling them to avoid strange objects in the sky.

By the time I finished my check-up, I was sure of one thing: This particular saucer had been real.

I was almost positive of one other point-that the thing had been over 30 miles high during part of its flight. I found that after Mantell's death it was reported simultaneously from Madisonville, Elizabethtown, and Lexington—over a distance of 175 miles. (Professor Hynek's analysis later confirmed this.)

How low it had been while hovering over Godman, and during Mantell's chase, there was no way to determine. But all the evidence pointed to a swift ascent after Mantell's last report.

Had Mantell told Godman Tower more than the Air Force admitted? I went back to the Pentagon and asked for a full transcript of the flight leader's radio messages. I got a quick turn-down. The reports, I was told, were still classified as secret. Requests for pictures of the P-51 wreckage, and for a report on the condition of Mantell's body, also drew a blank. I had heard that some photographs were taken of the Godman Field saucer from outside the tower. But the Air Force denied knowledge of any such pictures.

Puzzling over the riddle, I remembered John Steele, the former Intelligence captain. If by any chance he was a plant, it would be interesting to suggest the various answers and watch his reaction. When I phoned him to suggest luncheon, Steele accepted at once. We met at the Occidental, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Steele was younger than I had expected—not over twenty-five. He was a tall man, with a crew haircut and the build of a football player. Looking at him the first time, I expected a certain breeziness. instead, he was almost solemn.

"I owe you an apology," he said in a careful voice after

{p. 46}

we'd ordered. "You probably know I'm a syndicate writer?"

I wondered if he'd found out Jack Daly was checking on him.

"When you mentioned the Press Club," I said, "I gathered you were in the business."

"I'm afraid you thought I was fishing for a lead." Steele looked at me earnestly. "I'm not working on the story—I'm tied up on other stuff."

"Forget it," I told him.

He seemed anxious to reassure me. "I'd been worried for some time about the saucers. I called you that night on an impulse."

"Glad you did," I said. "I need every tip I can get."

"Did it help you any?"

"Yes, though it still doesn't fit together. But I can tell you this: The saucers are real, or at least one of them."

"Which one?"

"The thing Captain Mantell was chasing near Fort Knox, before he died."

"Oh, that one." Steele looked down at the roll he was buttering. "I thought that case was fully explained. Wasn't he chasing a balloon?"

"The Air Force says it's still unidentified." I told him what I had learned. "Apparently you're right—it's either an American or a Soviet missile."

"After what you've told me," said Steele, "I can't believe it's ours. It must be Russian."

"They'd be pretty stupid to test it over here."

"You said it was probably out of control."

"That particular one, maybe. But there have been several hundred seen over here. If they found their controls were haywire, they wouldn't keep testing the things until they'd corrected that."

The waiter came with the soup, and Steele was silent until he left.

"I still can't believe it's our weapon," he said slowly. "They wouldn't have Air Force pilots alerted to chase the things. And I happen to how they do."

"There's something queer about this missile angle," I said. "That saucer was seen at the same time by people a

{p. 47}

hundred and seventy-five miles apart. To be that high in the sky, and still look more than two hundred and fifty feet in diameter, it must have been enormous."

Steele didn't answer for a moment.

"Obviously, that was an illusion," he finally answered. "I'd discount those estimates."

"Even Mantell's? And the Godman Field officers'?"

"Not knowing the thing's height, how could they judge accurately?"

"To be seen at points that far apart, it had to be over thirty miles high," I told him. "It would have to be huge to show up at all."

He shook his head. "I can't believe those reports are right. It must have been sighted at different times."

I let it drop.

"What are you working on now?" Steele asked, after a minute or two.

I said I hadn't decided. Actually, I planned a trip to the coast, to interview pilots who had sighted flying disks.

"What would you do if you found it wasn't a Soviet missile?" said Steele. He sounded almost too casual.

"If security was involved, I'd keep still. But the Air Force and the Navy swear they haven't any such things."

Steele looked at me thoughtfully.

"You know, True might force something into the open that would be better left secret." He smiled ironically. "I realize that sounds peculiar, since I suggested the Russian angle. But if it isn't Russian—though I still think it is—then we have nothing to worry about."

I was almost sure now that he was a plant. During the rest of the luncheon, I tried to draw him out, but Steele was through talking. When we parted, he gave me a sober warning.

"You and True should consider your moral responsibility, no matter what you find. Even if it's not actual security, there may be reasons to keep still."

After he left me, I tried to figure it out. If the Air Force was back of this, they must not think much of my intelligence. Or else they had been in such a hurry to get a line on True's investigation that they had no choice but

{p. 48}

to use Steele. Of course, it was still possible he was doing this on his own,

Either way, his purpose was obvious. He hoped to have us swallow the Soviet-missile answer. If we did, then we would have to keep still, even though we found absolute proof. Obviously, it would be dangerous to print that story.

Thinking back, I recalled Steele's apparent attempt to dismiss the Mantell case. I was convinced now. The Godman Field affair must hold an important clue that I had overlooked. It might even be the key to the whole flying saucer riddle.

{p. 49}


SHORTLY after my talk with Steele, I flew to the Coast. For three weeks I investigated sightings that had been reported by airline and private pilots and other competent witnesses.

At first, the airline pilots were reluctant to talk. Most of them remembered the ridicule that had followed published accounts by other airline men. One pilot told me he had been ordered to keep still about his experience—whether by the company or the Air Force, he would not say. But most of them finally agreed to talk, if I kept their names out of print.

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