Things That Go Whiz

ISGP section: UFO press reports index

May 9, 1949
Time Magazine

The frightening idea really began to ake hold on June 24, 1947. That was the lay when Kenneth Arnold of Boise, Idaho looked out of his airplane near Mt. Rainier and saw—or thought he saw—nine enormous discs flying at 1,200 m.p.h. The newspapers began to talk about "flying saucers."

As the flying-saucer idea sank into the public mind, all sorts of mysterious swooping things were reported. Policemen in Portland, Ore. saw discs that looked like 'shiny chromium hubcaps." Two pilots n Alabama saw a huge black object bigger than an airliner. A man in Oklahoma City saw a "saucer" as bulky as six 6-B29s. A prospector in the Cascade Mountains saw six discs that made the needle of his compass gyrate wildly. Little children saw little discs. Two kids in Hamel, Minn, reported that a dull grey disc two feet across had come right down between .hem, hit the ground, spun around, bounced up again making whistling noises, and sped off over the trees.

After some months of buildup, the portents had become so numerous and alarming that the Air Force began gathering all the data it could find on each report of "unidentified aerial phenomena" such as flying discs, space ships from Mars and things that go whiz in the air. Last week the National Military Establishment issued a statement on Project Saucer. Spinners of yarns about flying saucers, including a score or so of Air Force pilots, stuck stoutly to their stories. But the Air Force's scientists found no convincing evidence that mysterious aircraft (from Mars, or even from the U.S.S.R.) had been at large in the U.S.

Flame & Fight. There had been plenty of reports to keep Project Saucer busy. In January 1948, an object like "an ice cream cone topped with red" was sighted by several observers over Godman Air Force Base, Ft. Knox, Ky. Three fighter planes flew off in pursuit. Captain Thomas F. Mantell chased the object to 20,000 ft., later crashed, probably from lack of oxygen, and died.

In July, two Eastern Airlines pilots flying over Alabama met a "wingless aircraft, 100 ft. long, cigar-shaped and about twice the diameter of a B-29." Dazzling blue light glared from its windows, and long orange flame streamed out behind. It shot past the airliner at a speed one-third faster than common jets.

In October, Lieut. George F. Gorman of the North Dakota National Guard re ported that he had had a dogfight with a flying saucer Over Fargo. He was heading for his airfield in his FSI at night when he saw a mysterious light "six to eigh inches in diameter, clear white and com pletely round with a sort of fuzz at the edges." Lieut. Gorman dived at the light the light dived at Gorman. Round & round they went for 27 minutes. Then the light put on speed and tore out of sight on a northwest-north heading.

Balloon & Star. Project Saucer sifted more than 240 reports in the" U.S. and 30 in foreign parts. About 30% of the "unidentified aerial phenomena," it decided, were due to astronomical objects, such as meteors, bright stars or planets. Other flying discs turned out to be weather balloons, some of them carrying lights, or the big plastic balloons that scientists send up to study cosmic rays. Some of the mysterious lights were probably reflections on an airplane's windshield....

... Some of the phenomena have not been fully explained, and reports still come in at the rate of about twelve a month; but the National Military Establishment is not worried. Group suggestibility and "vertigo" and the difficulty of judging the speed and distance of an airborne object give plenty of material for the human imagination to work on. In the case of flying saucers, it appears to have worked hard. Since no single bolt or rivet of a mysterious aircraft has yet been found, there is no reason to believe that either Russians or Martians have been tearing off on mysterious cross-country trips over the U.S.