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Volume 39

The Skeptics UFO Newsletter

Philip J. Klass

May 1, 1996

This volume is available as a PDF file. Download »

Once “SECRET” 1948 Papers Reveal Air Force Intelligence Official’s Complaint About Lack Of Crashed Saucer To Help Identify UFOs

I CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU HOW MUCH WE WOULD GIVE TO HAVE ONE OF THOSE [UFOs] CRASH IN AN AREA SO THAT WE COULD RECOVER WHATEVER THEY ARE.” This statement, from Col. H.M. McCoy, chief of intelligence for the USAF’s Air Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (in Dayton, Ohio), was made in his lengthy briefing of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board on March 17, 1948—less than nine months after it is claimed that the Air Force recovered a crashed saucer near Roswell, N.M. Minutes of the meeting, originally classified SECRET, have recently been declassified.

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (AFSAB), formed in mid-1946 to offer guidance on challenging scientific issues, consisted of 31 of the nation’s top scientists and technologists. Initial and subsequent members would include such eminent scientists as Dr. Theodore von Karman, Dr. Edward Teller, Dr. Hans A. Bethe, Dr. Enrico Fermi, Dr. Irving Langmuir, Dr. Vladimir K. Zwarykin, Dr. Detlev W. Bronk, and Dr. James ("Capt. Jimmy”) Doolittle. If the debris recovered from the “Mac” Brazel ranch in New Mexico had all the mysterious properties that some persons now claim, this should have been the highest-priority issue presented to the AFSAB when it met in the Pentagon on March 17, 1948.

But in fact it was not until late in Col. McCoy’s presentation to the AFSAB that he got around to discussing UFOs: “We have a new project—Project SIGN—which may surprise you as a development from the so-called mass hysteria of the past summer when we had all the unidentified flying objects or discs. This can’t be laughed off. We have over 300 reports which haven't been publicized in the papers from very competent personnel, in many instances—men as capable as Dr. K.D. Wood—and practically all Air Force, airline people with broad experience. We are running down every report. I can’t even tell you how much we would give to have one of those crash in an area so that we could recover whatever they are.”

Ufologist Maccabee Challenges McCoy’s Statement

Long-time UFO researcher Dr. Bruce S. Maccabee questions the new evidence and offers two alternative explanations for McCoy’s statement: (1) McCoy—the USAF’s top technical intelligence official—was not aware of the debris recovered from the Brazel ranch, or (2) McCoy knew about the incident “but he lied about it.”

Those who claim that debris from a flying saucer was recovered from the Brazel ranch also claim that the debris was sent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) for analysis. If so, Col. McCoy would have been responsible for directing the analysis. During McCoy’s March 17 AFSAB briefing he reported: “We only have one recent item of captured equipment, which is a Russian IL-7 aircraft which crash-landed in Korea a few months ago....We have gone over that with a fine-toothed comb....It is a type (of) aircraft very similar to our P-47...”

If McCoy “lied” to the AFSAB, then he also lied to Maj. Gen. C.P. Cabell, the USAF’s Director of Intelligence. In a TOP SECRET memorandum dated Oct. 11, 1948, Col. McCoy was informed that Gen. Cabell had requested an “exhaustive study of all information” available on UFOs to assess what they might be. In a letter dated Nov. 3, 1948, Gen. Cabell pressured AMC for a response. On Nov. 8, 1948, Col. McCoy responded, saying: “...the exact nature of these objects cannot be established until physical evidence, such as that which would result from a crash, has been obtained.” [Emphasis added.] [SUN #29/Sept. 1994].

Mysterious Green Fireballs, UFOs, And The “Roswell Incident”

In Gen. Cabell’s Nov. 3, 1948, letter to the Air Materiel Command’s commanding general, he said: “It is imperative, therefore, that efforts to determine whether these objects [UFOs] are of domestic or foreign origin must be increased until conclusive evidence is obtained. The needs of national defense require such evidence in order that appropriate countermeasures may be taken [i.e., develop suitable defenses.]”

In late 1948, there was a rash of reported sightings of a new type of “UFO” in the skies of New Mexico, described as “green fireballs.” Understandably, these attracted the attention of Pentagon intelligence officials because of the important military and nuclear research facilities in New Mexico. IF top Pentagon officials knew that an extraterrestrial craft had crashed near Roswell in mid-1947, there would be reason to fear that the green fireball/UFOs might be ET weapons and precursors of an ET attack. This should have prompted the Pentagon to try to develop surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles, that hopefully could shoot down the ET intruders.

Quite the opposite occurred. As of March 1947—prior to the Roswell Incident—the USAF had a contract with General Electric—called Project Thumper—to develop a ground-based missile to intercept and destroy a small hypersonic ballistic missile warhead. By March 1948, nine months after the Roswell Incident, the USAF had canceled this project. As of July 1, 1947, the USAF had two companies under contract to develop supersonic air-to-air missiles: General Electric and Ryan Aeronautical. By March of 1948, both programs had been terminated.

USAF Suspected Green Fireballs Might Be Soviet Weapons

The numerous reports from New Mexico of green fireballs on horizontal trajectories prompted USAF fears that the objects might be Soviet rocket weapons. It was known that the USSR had developed short-range military rockets during World War II and that after the war they had captured a number of scientists involved in Germany’s V-2 rocket-powered missile program. An investigation by Dr. Lincoln La Paz, director of the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics, prompted him to conclude that the green fireballs were "man-made” objects and not ordinary meteors because of their horizontal trajectory, the relatively slow velocity, and the absence of any sound or persistent ionization trail. This prompted the USAF to classify its green fireball investigation “SECRET.”

The results of a further investigation conducted by Dr. Joseph Kaplan, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), were reported by him at the Nov. 3, 1949, meeting of AFSAB. According to recently declassified minutes of that AFSAB meeting, Kaplan reported that his investigation into 46 reported sightings of green fireballs suggested they were a rare type of meteor, which had been observed elsewhere in the U.S. and on more traditional vertical trajectories.

One possible explanation for why so many of the green fireballs had been sighted over New Mexico, suggested by Dr. Kaplan, was “the extrordinary fine visibility in that region and the fact that a greater number of people than ever before are looking at the skies in that area. Dr. Teller seems to agree...” Another possible explanation was offered by Dr. Norris E. Bradbury of the Los Alamos National Laboratories. He noted that there were many military and nuclear research facilities which employed numerous security guards: "Security guards see these things at night because it is their business to be out on guard duty at night, and the number of these people has increased greatly in New Mexico in the last couple of years.”

The “Top Secret” 1948 “Estimate of the [UFO] Situation”

In an effort to dismiss Col. McCoy’s statement at the March 17, 1948, meeting of AFSAB, Maccabee claims: “About five months later, according to Capt. E.J. Ruppelt [who headed Project Blue Book from early 1951 to September 1953] the legendary ‘Estimate of the Situation’ was written by Air Technical Intelligence, quite probably by Col. McCoy and others working with him. According to Ruppelt it proposed that flying saucers were ET craft. This claim was based on sighting reports, according to Ruppelt...” [Emphasis added.] IN OTHER WORDS, THE “ESTIMATE OF THE SITUATION” REPORT MADE NO MENTION OF A CRASHED SAUCER HAVING BEEN RECOVERED BARELY ONE YEAR EARLIER AT ROSWELL.

This is confirmed by former Maj. Dewey Fournet, who was the Project Blue Book liaison officer in the Pentagon. In a letter dated May 23, 1992, to UFO-researcher Jim Meliscuic, Fournet said he had “inherited a copy when I became program monitor....It recapped all seemingly unexplainable UFO reports received by the Air Force to that time. It very explicitly mentioned that absolutely no artifacts had been recovered.” [Emphasis added.]

It is therefore not surprising that USAF Chief-of-Staff Gen Hoyt S. Vandenberg rejected the "Estimate of the Situation.” According to Ruppelt, Gen. Vandenberg “wouldn’t buy interplanetary vehicles. The report lacked proof.”

IF debris from an ET craft had been recovered barely a year before, near Roswell, why did the author(s) of the “Estimate of the Situation” report fail to mention this important fact which could prove their claim that some UFOs are ET craft? SUN suggests several possibilities:

Maccabee’s “Quite Probably” Claim Is Almost Certainly Wrong

What about Maccabee’s claim that the “Estimate of the Situation” report, sent to USAF headquarters in Washington for Gen. Vandenberg, “quite probably” was written by Col. McCoy? According to Ruppelt, the report was sent to the Pentagon in late September of 1948. Yet only a few weeks later, on Nov. 8, 1948, Col. McCoy wrote a letter dealing with UFOs, addressed to USAF Chief-of-Staff Vandenberg, classified “SECRET.” Excerpts from McCoy’s three-page letter include the following:

"In attempting to arrive at conclusions as to the nature of unidentified flying object incidents in the United States, this Command has made a study of approximately 180 such incidents....The possibility that the reported objects are vehicles from another planet has not been ignored. However, tangible evidence to support conclusions about such a possibility are completely lacking....Although it is obvious that some types of flying objects have been sighted, the exact nature of those objects cannot be established until physical evidence, such as that which would result from a crash, has been obtained.” [Emphasis added.]

NOVA Rebuts Hopkins, Mack Criticism Of Abduction Documentary

Ms. Denise Dilanni, producer of the recent NOVA “Kidnapped by UFOs?” TV documentary, has provided a very revealing response on the World Wide Web to sharp criticism by UFO-abduction gurus Budd Hopkins and Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Mack [SUN #38/Mar. 1996]. In Hopkins’ widely publicized criticism, he characterized the NOVA show as “a polemic having absolutely nothing to do with scientific investigation.” Hopkins also accused NOVA of “having declined to employ any scientifically valid testing." 

Dilanni responded to these charges as follows: “In interviews and in writing, and specifically in a letter sent October 17, 1995, we offered several abduction proponents the opportunity to have NOVA hire independent scientists to examine any physical evidence from a current case. We went so far as to offer to perform an MRI or other radiological tests (with the approval of a physician) in cases of alleged nasal implants. We were not taken up on our offer, and it was further suggested that the aliens are too smart to let such evidence fall into our hands.” [Emphasis added.] Recently, Ms. Dilanni told SUN that Hopkins now denies ever having received such an offer. But she added that the Oct. 17 letter was sent to Hopkins via certified mail and by fax, with a follow-up telephone call to be sure he had received the offer.

Dilanni’s World Wide Web response added: “One MIT physicist, a fervent proponent in alien abductions and in the process of scientific inquiry, has confirmed that there is not one, single, independently confirmed piece of scientific evidence for an alien abduction. Not one.” [SUN Note: The MIT physicist is Dr. David E. Pritchard, who has analyzed several alleged “alien implants."] 

Not the First Time That Hopkins Declined Request For Evidence

At the 1992 MUFON conference in Albuquerque at which Hopkins spoke, Dr. Richard M. Neal—a California gynecologist and long-time pro-UFO researcher—presented a paper challenging the frequent claims made by Hopkins, and his principal deputy David Jacobs, that ETs implant women with alien sperm, and later return to remove the unborn fetus. Dr. Neal asked: “Why do some of our top researchers say they have numerous cases in their files related to Missing Embryo/Fetus Syndrome, yet they fail to produce anything that can be investigated or documented when questioned thoroughly?” [SUN #17/Sept. 1992]. When Hopkins and Jacobs failed to respond to Neal’s challenge, he later offered to pay $500 for “any case that shows without a reasonable doubt that a female abductee has had a missing pregnancy.” At the time of Dr. Neal’s death last year, neither Hopkins nor Jacobs had responded to this offer—so far as is known.

On the World Wide Web, NOVA producer Dilanni explained: “In our film, we take on the challenge of Harvard psychiatrist John Mack who says that abduction stories must be true, for there are no alternative explanations for even a single abduction case. NOVA turns to a panel of experts from sciences and social sciences to learn what they have to say about the phenomenon. With expert testimony from Carl Sagan, from repressed memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, Pulitzer prize winning cult investigator Richard Ofshe, and many others, our program spins an original answer to the question of what really might be behind the strange, sad stories told by alien abductees.”

New A&E Cable TV Show Likely To Irritate Hopkins, Jacobs And Mack

Hopkins, Jacobs and Mack are not likely to be pleased with a two-hour TV show, “Where Are All The UFOs?,” which is to debut on May 12 on the A&E cable network, because it also dares to offer a prosaic possible explanation for some UFO abduction tales. Dr. Michael Persinger, a Canadian neuro-scientist who appeared on the NOVA show to demonstrate how abduction fantasies can be generated by exciting the brain’s temporal lobe, is given roughly equal time by A&E to that provided to Hopkins and Jacobs.

For coverage of other aspects of the UFO question, A&E opted to use five pro-UFO researchers, but only one UFO-skeptic—Curtis Peebles—author of the book “Watch The Skies.” The pro-UFO researchers included: Mark Rodeghier (scientific director of the Hynek Center for UFO Studies [CUFOS]), Jerome Clark (editor of the CUFOS publication International UFO Reporter), Michael Swords (editor of the CUFOS Journal of UFO Studies) Bruce Maccabee (former head of the Fund for UFO Research [FUFOR]), and Kevin Randle (Roswell Incident researcher/author). (Randle, who is writing a new book on UFO abductions, briefly expressed serious doubts about their reality during his appearance on the show.)

Considering A&E’s loaded panel of UFO “experts,” the show is only moderately pro-UFO biased—except for its coverage of the Roswell Incident. Mark Rodeghier, in describing the General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation initiated at the request of Congressman Steven Schiff (R.-NM), said: “But essentially they (GAO) couldn’t find any records on Roswell at all, period.” SUN urges Rodeghier to read page 2 of the GAO report where he will find the following: “Our search for government records concerning the Roswell crash yielded two records originating in 1947....The 509th-RAAF report noted the recovery of a ‘flying disc’ that was later determined by military officials to be a radar-tracking balloon. The FBI message stated that the military had reported that an object resembling a high-altitude weather balloon with a radar reflector had been recovered near Roswell.” Copies of both are shown on pages 12-14.

The A&E program narrator compounded Rodeghier’s erroneous claim by adding: “In fact, the GAO revealed that all documents related to Roswell had been illegally destroyed. If there had been a Government cover-up surrounding Roswell and Area 51, we may never know what has been kept secret, or if it relates to UFOs.” If A&E had bothered to read the GAO report they would have learned that while RAAF outgoing teletype messages for the period of Oct. 1946 through Dec. 1949 had been destroyed, this was not illegal according to the chief archivist at the Defense Department’s record center in St. Louis, Mo.

There is not even a brief mention by the A&E narrator of the USAF’s lengthy Roswell investigation, or the Project Mogul balloon launched on June 4, 1947, which is believed to explain the unusual debris discovered by rancher “Mac” Brazel [SUN #30/Nov. 1994].

CUFOS Officials Endorse Authenticity of 1958 Trindade UFO Photos

Of the many thousands of UFO photos that have been made public during the past 49 years, the four pictures made in early 1958 near Brazil’s Trindade Island were characterized as among the most impressive of all time by the three CUFOS officials on the A&E show. Mich-ael Swords said: “Because this is a multiple-witness case done by scientists and a professional photographer and has many photographs, it probably has to be taken seriously as the number one photographic case in the UFO history.” IUR editor Jerry Clark, who has authored several books on the history of UFOs, characterized the Trindade photos as "unusually evidential...for the reality of UFOs as somebody’s technology.” Mark Rodeghier said the photos were taken by a “Brazilian naval photographer....with literally dozens and dozens of witnesses.”

Because the Trindade UFO photo case occurred nearly a decade before SUN’s editor entered the UFO field, and the case is not even mentioned in David Jacobs’ book “The History of the UFO Controversy in America,” published in 1975, we turned to the book “The World of Flying Saucers,” by the late Dr. Donald H. Menzel (world-famous Harvard astronomer and UFO debunker) and Lyle G. Boyd, published in 1963. The book devotes 10 pages to the case. According to Menzel, the UFO photographer—Almiro Barauna—was not a “naval photographer.” Rather, he was a free-lance photographer who earlier had published a humorous article on UFOs that was illustrated with bogus UFO photos which Baruna said he had produced using trick photography. As for the claim that there were “dozens and dozens of witnesses” on board the ship, Menzel reports the Brazilian navy could find only two other persons on board the vessel at the time who claimed to have seen the UFO. Both were Barauna’s close friends.

Menzel reported that the Brazilian navy’s analysis of the Trindade negatives “revealed several dubious features. The details of the land in the foreground were very sharp but the UFO disk was hazy, showed little contrast, and was essentially without shadows.”

APRO Leaders Not That Impressed With Trindade Photos 30 Years Ago

In the fall of 1966, when the University of Colorado began its UFO investigation, the leaders of the nation’s two largest pro-UFO groups—NICAP and APRO—agreed to provide a list of the UFO cases and photos which they believed were the most credible. APRO submitted some UFO photos taken in Brazil—BUT NOT THOSE TAKEN NEAR TRINDADE ISLAND, which were in its possession. Instead, the Brazilian UFO-photos APRO submitted had been taken in 1952 at Barra da Tijuca. (The University of Colorado analysis spotted serious inconsistencies in the Barra da Tijuca photos, indicating they were a hoax.)

Now, 30 years later, three top CUFOS officials consider the Trindade photos among the most impressive ever taken. SUN wonders: How long before CUFOS also endorses the photos by Switzerland’s BILLY MEIER, which most pro-UFO researchers now consider to be a hoax. 

Alleged Roswell Crashed Saucer Fragment “Smells” Like A Hoax

A small, thin metal fragment, submitted to the Roswell International UFO Museum on March 24 by a visitor from Utah who reported that it allegedly came from a soldier who had recovered it 49 years ago from the crashed-saucer site, is a hoax—in SUN’s opinion. The thin triangular-shaped fragment, measuring approximately 65 mm. by 62 mm. by 36 mm. with an elliptical hole in its center and mounted in a glass-covered picture frame, was turned over to Max Littell, the museum’s secretary/treasurer.

The visitor, who provided his name to Littell but asked that it not be made public because he had come to Roswell to apply for a position as a teacher at the local college, will be referred to as “X.” According to “X,” he had obtained the fragment from another Utah resident ("Y”), who had mounted and framed the fragment that he (allegedly) had received from a former soldier ("Z”), who had been based at Roswell in 1947 and found it at the UFO crash site. Littell told SUN that “X” will not provide the names of the other two men, although he has provided a clue to “Z’s” name by saying “it’s something like...” and then uttering a complex uncommon name. Littell told SUN that he has not been allowed to talk with “Y” (the framer), except via “X” serving as the intermediary.

Analysis of the front side of the fragment, using an X-ray fluorescence technique at a Bureau of Mines facility at Socorro, N.M., revealed its content to be roughly 50% copper and 50% silver. Analysis of the back side showed it was 87% silver, 12% copper and 1% trace elements. Dr. Charlie Moore, who now lives in Socorro and who launched the Project Mogul balloon train on June 4, 1947, which is believed responsible for the Brazel ranch debris, was an interested observer of the fragment analysis. The appearance of the fragment and the results of its analysis prompted Moore to comment: “The fragment was not related to one of the radar targets or any of the other equipment used” by his group. Littell told SUN that he hopes that arrangements can be made to have the fragment undergo isotopic analysis at Los Alamos National Laboratories to determine if the ratio of copper isotopes is the same as that of terrestrial copper, or if the ratio is “out-of-this-world.” This type of analysis was proposed by David Thomas, based on an idea suggested by Dr. Carl Sagan.

A few days after the Museum’s receipt of the fragment was reported in the news media, Littell told SUN that he received a call from Las Vegas talk-show host Art Bell, who reported that he also had received a metal fragment in the mail with an accompanying letter. Littell said that a portion of the letter resembled the story he had been told by “X.” But other portions were “too wild to be credible.”

Any Claimed Crashed-Saucer Fragment From Brazel Ranch Is Suspect

While a number of persons have claimed to have been members of a “recovery team” sent to the Brazel ranch—and some claim to have covertly pocketed pieces of debris (which they have since lost)—such tales are necessarily spurious, based on the known facts. According to rancher Brazel’s account, given in the offices of the Roswell Daily Record on Tuesday night, July 8, 1947, and published in the July 9 edition, Brazel first discovered the unusual debris on June 14—which was 10 days before pilot Kenneth Arnold reported his now-famous UFO sighting. Because Brazel did not have a radio in his small ranch house, he did not learn about “flying discs” until Saturday, July 5, when he visited nearby Corona. This prompted him to suspect that the unusual debris might be from a “flying disc,” so the next day, Brazel—together with his wife and two children (who did not live on the ranch)—returned to the “debris field” and recovered much of the debris, which they brought back to the ranch house. (Brazel said the debris included “considerable Scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed upon it...”)

The next day, Monday, July 7, Brazel drove to Roswell and reported his finding to the sheriff, who in turn contacted intelligence officer Maj. Jesse Marcel. Later that afternoon, Marcel and Capt. Sheridan Cavitt drove back with Brazel to his ranch. Because they arrived late, they spent the night (according to Marcel’s 1978/79 recollections), and the next morning went out to collect any debris that Brazel had overlooked.

If there had been a lot more debris than the three men were able to collect on the morning of July 8, Marcel or Cavitt could have driven to nearby Corona to call RAAF and ask that the base send up a "recovery team.” But if that had occurred, Marcel, Cavitt or Brazel would have remained at the ranch to direct the “recovery team” to the debris field in the desolate desert area with few landmarks. BUT WE KNOW THAT ALL THREE MEN DROVE BACK TO ROSWELL ON TUESDAY, with Marcel and Cavitt arriving shortly before noon.

IF a decision to send a “recovery team” was made only AFTER Marcel and Cavitt returned to RAAF, who would help it find the “debris field?” We know that Marcel departed for 8th Air Force headquarters in Ft. Worth around noon to bring the already recovered debris. (In Marcel’s later-year recollections, he never mentioned any “recovery team” visit to the ranch.) It could not be Brazel, because he drove to Roswell on Tuesday, and later that evening would be brought to the newspaper offices by Walt Whitmore, owner of radio station KGFL. Brazel was an overnight guest in Whitmore’s home. And Capt. Cavitt, the only other person who might help the recovery team find the “debris field,” who is alive today, has no recollection of having made a second trip to the Brazel ranch.

All Quiet On The SCAM (Santilli Controversial Autopsy Movie) Front

Bob Shell’s long-promised, repeatedly delayed interview with the alleged autopsy cameraman (AAC)—originally scheduled for last summer—has not yet occurred, as of late April [SUN #38/Mar. 1996]. "Alien Autopsy” movie producer Robert Kiviat’s promised interview is also “on hold,” according to Shell. Not surprisingly, “AAC imposters” are moving in to fill the void. Shell reports that a British publisher, Orion Press, was about to sign a contract with a person claiming to be AAC, but decided to back out. Shell told SUN that he hopes to meet with Santilli soon in London but that Santilli has twice delayed the meeting. IF the AAC really exists, SUN predicts that Santilli will soon report that the Grim Reaper has "called,” and that this was one appointment the AAC was unable to defer.

Short Shrift:

NOTE: Opinions expressed in SUN are those of its Editor—unless otherwise noted—and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he is affiliated—or his spouse. We thank Dr. Gary Posner for help in proofreading.

Philip J. Klass

Phil Klass was a UFO researcher with a background in electrical engineering. He was author of seven books on UFOs, including UFOs Explained and UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Game. He was also editor of the SUN newsletter, a UFO-related publication.