Tuesday, October 4, 2016

1947 and 1952: Years of the UFO





Before I pursued my Dulce book in earnest, I spent a good deal of time reviewing my UFO literature.

I would spend summer days going through one book at a time, copying salient points onto notebook paper. If I was lucky, I could get through one in the morning, break for lunch, take a brief walk with the dogs, and then start in on another book. In the process of doing this, I came to realize just how pivotal the years 1947 and 1952 were to ufology.

The year 1947 is obvious. It was the summer of both Roswell and Kenneth Arnoldthe latter case being repeatedly pointed to as "the birth of the modern UFO era." What I was unaware of was another, and arguably far more weighty, sighting just a few days after Arnold's. It took place over Muroc Air Force Base, later to be renamed Edwards, in California. On July 8th, personnel at the base observed both spherical and disc-shaped objects overhead, making aerial maneuvers. A full report is available online. This report points out that although these military servicemen were familiar "with everything that flies," including experimental and classified aircraft, these UFOs were unknown to them. One stand-out quote from the report is: "It was man-made, as evidenced by the outline and functional appearance."

Towards the end of that July, the Chiles/Whitted sighting took place. The names refer to the pilot and co-pilot of a DC-3 commercial airliner flying over the American South on July 24th. At 2:45AM over Montgomery, Alabama, the pilots encountered a UFO. They described the craft as being cigar-shaped and with noticeable windows along its side. This object crossed their starboard side, missing the plane by an estimated distance of 1,000 feet. The case may well be the first documented sighting by trained airline pilots.

These sightings both come from highly trained witnesses, not from people craning their necks to the skies expectantly during "saucer flaps." This is a key distinction to the year 1947, making it even more important to ufology than I had previously suspected.

Then came 1952. By this point, Air Force Letter 200-5 established a protocol for the gathering and investigation of UFO reports. Project Blue Book had been established in the wake of Projects Sign and Grudge. The United States military was, ostensibly, taking the matter of UFOs seriously.

They certainly had much to work with. In July (again) of that year, an entire flight of saucers appeared over the U.S. Capitol. This happened over multiple nights, before multiple witnesses, and with the concrete evidence of radar returns as well as photographs and video. There was such concern that then President Truman went on television to address the matter. This particular mass sighting, despite all attempts, has never been adequately explained to my satisfaction.

Also that July, a man named Delbert Newhouse was traveling outside of Tremonton, Utah. While there, he managed to film a collection of objects in flight. The resultant film, while having been at times passed off as seagulls and the like, has still evaded definitive explanation. In fact, it bears more than a superficial resemblance to the Mariana film.

There were a number of other ufological happenings that year, but I've detailed them elsewhere. But another aspect of the year was the Robertson Panel. This panel was convened by the CIA in response to 1952's significant UFO activity. The findings of the panel were that most UFO sightings could be explained as rather mundane realities. However, panel members such as Frederick Durant would later confide that the panel had one mission from the outset and that was to pass off UFOs as not worthy of study and therefore of no threat to the public at large.

And this was before the Condon Report.

Those were quite a pair of years. I write of them now more as an exercise in trying to get my head around what happened in those potboiler times, especially the incidents I was previously unaware of. I write of them also to remind myself that there are still mysteries in ufology. Being naturally skeptical and in the wake of large cases growing weaker, I find myself somewhat jaded. It's tough to remember there are still unknowns or at least incidents that don't have a ready, concrete answer to point to. By that I in no way assert that any of these instances were cases of alien contact. I simply mean that they, particularly in the case of Washington D.C. in 1952, have yet to be conclusively answered.

That's what got me into UFOs in the first place.


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