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UFOs, ETs, and Alien Abductions
A Scientist Looks at the Evidence
By Don Donderi
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Don Donderi
All rights reserved.
UFOs and the Cold War
UFOs first came to the attention of the American public in 1947, during the long Cold War between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union that started in 1945 and lasted until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The next three chapters outline the UFO evidence along with the controversies and arguments among government spokesmen, scientists, and media that accompanied all public discussion of UFOs during that time. This sets the stage for later chapters that describe the extraterrestrials, report on contacts between extraterrestrials and us, outline the scientific reaction to the UFO phenomenon, and review the social and political consequences of our interaction with extraterrestrial civilization.
The Index Case: Kenneth Arnold
The first officially recorded case of an epidemic is called the index case. The index case for the modern UFO "epidemic" was the 1947 Kenneth Arnold sighting. If it had been an isolated event it would have dropped off the front pages and out of history, but it was the first of many reported sightings of UFOs in 1947 and throughout the late 1940s and the 1950s.
Arnold, a private pilot, was a self-employed businessman who sold fire-suppression equipment throughout the American Northwest. On June 24, 1947, he had installed some equipment in Chehalis, Washington, when he was told that a military transport plane was missing and presumed lost in the Cascade Mountains. On his return flight east from Chehalis across the Cascades he decided to look for the missing plane and changed his flight plan to fly closer to Mount Rainier. As he was making a turn a flash of light caught his eye. He thought it was a reflection from a nearby airplane and looked for it, but he saw only an airliner far away to his left and behind him. A second flash caught his eye. This time he saw it was reflected from a formation of nine bright objects traveling south between Mount Baker, far to his north, and Mount Rainier, closer to the north on his left. They were flying in echelon formation with the lead object highest as they passed over Mount Rainier and flew south ahead of his course. They disappeared over Mount Adams to the south. Knowing the distance between the mountain peaks, he estimated their speed at more than 1,200 miles per hour—faster than the few new jet planes of the era. He landed at Yakima, Washington and mentioned the sighting to people he knew at the airport, saying he had no idea what he had seen. Figure 4 shows Arnold's drawing of what he saw. His listeners suggested that he had seen guided missiles.
From Yakima Arnold flew on to Pendleton, Oregon, where an air show was about to start. Word of his sighting had preceded him, and when he landed he faced a crowd of interested air show spectators. One person he met there had also seen the same or similar "mystery missiles" on the same day, and the consensus was again that Arnold had seen guided missiles.
Arnold talked to a reporter from the East Oregonian newspaper about the objects, but he did not suggest that they were extraterrestrial. He remarked to the reporter that the objects' flight reminded him of a flat rock bouncing as it skipped across water. The "flying saucer" tag came neither from Arnold nor from the newspaper account, but was created by an anonymous writer who headlined the story circulated by the Associated Press.
The Arnold story triggered reports of about twenty similar sightings on June 24th, almost all of them in the Northwest. A prospector who had been working in the Cascades that day said he had watched "round, metallic-looking discs" maneuvering overhead. He counted "five or six" but added that he was looking at one of them through his telescope and may have missed seeing the rest. During the last week of June and all of July so many reports came in that fighters were sent up on "saucer patrol" in the Northwest. An Air National Guard pilot from North Dakota chased a disk but could not catch it.
Skeptics, who by and large are reasonable people, and debunkers, who are dedicated non-believers with no sense of humor, have been trying to explain away the Arnold sighting ever since it happened. Consider misleading mischief as an explanation. Nothing in Arnold's life as a businessman and flyer suggests that mischief is the explanation. What would he have to gain? He never claimed that what he saw was extraterrestrial; just that it was unique. He did become a mild celebrity in the UFO field as a result of his encounter, and he wrote a book and some articles about his experience, but it never became a major part of his life, and he continued his fire-suppression business long after the 1947 sighting.
An alternative suggestion is that Arnold may have seen some natural phenomenon. The two phenomena suggested were snow blowing off the mountain peaks and lenticular clouds forming over the mountains. Arnold had been flying around mountains for years, and he would have seen snow blowing off the peaks and lenticular clouds many times before. There is no reason to think that his memory suddenly failed him on June 24, 1947.
The debunker Donald Menzel gave three different explanations of Arnold's sighting in three different books, the last explanation being that he had seen raindrops on his window. Menzel ignored Arnold's statement that he had lowered his side window to better see the objects. And what about the option first suggested to Arnold: guided missiles? In 1947 no country in the world could fly anything faster than 1,200 miles per hour and maneuver it around a range of mountain peaks.
The newspaper accounts about the sightings in the Northwest gave little credence to the possibility of extraterrestrial origin. While the papers acknowledged that the sightings were mysterious, other explanations predominated. Either the UFOs were misperceptions, or hallucinations, or military technology—American or foreign. World War II had been succeeded by the Cold War, which influenced both public and government responses to the new UFOs.
The RB-47 Case
On the night of July 17, 1957, a UFO stalked a US Air Force RB-47 electronic reconnaissance plane for one and a half hours over an 800-mile course from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Oklahoma. The RB-47 tried to catch the UFO twice, but it was outrun or outma-neuvered both times. The UFO was seen by the crew, detected by the RB-47's sensors, and tracked by a ground radar station that painted the RB-47 and the UFO at the same time.
The UFO appeared first as an invisible radar source that was tracked by the RB- 47's airborne radar receivers. The invisible source appeared to follow and then circle the RB-47 as it flew over Gulfport, Mississippi. As the aircraft flew further inland, the radar source suddenly appeared to the crew as a "very intense white light with [a] light blue tint" that flashed across the airplane's flight path and took up a position to the right side of the aircraft before it blinked out. The radar-emitting source moved with the light, and even after the light blinked out, the radar source never disappeared from the RB-47's radar receivers. The "huge light" then reappeared at the same bearing as the radar source and below the RB-47.
The RB-47 captain asked for and got permission from air traffic control to deviate from his flight plan and chase the radar-emitting light. He went to full power and dived, but as the RB-47 gained the object suddenly stopped in mid-air below him and the RB-47 overshot it. He turned back toward the object, but when the RB-47 got within five nautical miles the UFO dropped lower and both the RB- 47 and the ground radar station lost contact with it. Running low on fuel because of the extended high-speed chase, the captain radioed the ground station that he had to set a course for home (Topeka, Kansas), at which point the object then took up station behind the RB-47 and was again recorded on the airplane's radar receivers until the RB-47 had passed Oklahoma City on its way home, when the radar signal finally faded out.
This case has an official pedigree because it was assembled from flight plans, mission reports, and communications transcripts that were retained as military records. There can be no doubt about witness reliability because the six aircraft crew members plus the ground-based radar tracking and flight control reporters were all either military personnel or government employees whose careers depended, at the very least, on bureaucratic punctiliousness. Separate follow-up phone interviews with the six flight crewmembers were also consistent.
About ten years after the Kenneth Arnold index case there is reliable evidence that a fast, maneuverable object seen visually and reported on radar stalked and outmaneuvered a frontline US military aircraft. The malfeasance or misperception explanation cannot explain this case. Three alternative explanations are that the visual and radar observations were: a previously unknown atmospheric-meteorological event, a secret military craft not known to the airmen and radar operators, or an extraterrestrial vehicle. The atmospheric-meteorological explanation is weakened by the fact that no one knows how the atmosphere and the weather could produce such an effect. The secret military explanation is weakened by two arguments: first, it wasn't "secret" if it was playing tag with a frontline military aircraft where it could both be seen and tracked on radar; and second, no terrestrial machine an entire half-century after this event can even approximate its performance. That leaves the third explanation: the object was an extraterrestrial vehicle.
The Coyne Helicopter Incident
An Army Reserve helicopter nearly collided with a UFO over central Ohio on the night of October 18, 1973. The four-man crew, commanded by Reserve Lieutenant Lawrence Coyne, flew their UH-1 "Huey" medevac helicopter 125 miles southwest from Cleveland to Columbus, Ohio, to complete routine medical checkups. As they returned to Cleveland that night it was clear and the helicopter was flying at 1,700 feet above rolling terrain. At about 11:00 p.m., over Mansfield, Ohio, one of the crew noticed a red light on the southeast horizon and told Coyne, who said "keep an eye on it." A few seconds later the crewmember said the light was moving toward them on a collision course. Coyne put the UH-1 into a 500-feet-per-minute descent. He called the Mansfield control tower to check on nearby traffic but got no response (a follow-up found no other civil or military airplanes in the area). The red light kept approaching, and Coyne kept the ship in a descent until they had just about reached the ground—about 650 feet up. As the object reached the UH-1, it stopped and hovered above and in front of the helicopter. A cigar-shaped, domed object almost filled the front windshield. It had a red light at the bow, a white light at the stern, and a movable beam that swung from the bottom of the object over the nose of the helicopter and into the cockpit, filling it with green light. Figure 5 is a drawing of what Coyne and his crew saw. The object stayed over the helicopter for an estimated ten seconds and then sped off to the west and eventually out of sight to the north in the direction of Lake Erie. As the object left, the helicopter's magnetic compass swung wildly and the UH-1 climbed to an altitude of 3,500 feet even though Coyne was still holding the control lever for descent.
Nearby, a family of four was driving on the road below. They saw a red and a green light descend rapidly toward their car and they stopped and got out of the car to look at it, when they also heard and then saw the helicopter approaching from the south. They then saw the red-and-green lighted object, which they said looked like a blimp and was as big as a school bus, hovering over the helicopter. The green light suddenly got brighter and lit up the helicopter as well as the family on the ground beneath, who, now thoroughly frightened, scrambled back into their car and drove off.
Was this a misperception or a hoax? Military officers and flight crew who want to keep their jobs do not report hoaxes. The independent ground witnesses and the flight report filed by Lieutenant Coyne agree about the details of the encounter. All four helicopter witnesses agree both about what they saw and about their maneuvers before and after the encounter. There was a physical effect: the helicopter's magnetic compass failed immediately after the encounter and had to be replaced.
Was the UFO a secret military or civil aircraft? Only if the United States or a foreign power was testing a secret aircraft over Ohio in the middle of the night and while doing so, dangerously interfering with a routine military helicopter flight. It was seen at close range and was not recognized by any of the witnesses as a military or civil aircraft. Its performance was extraordinary. Forty years later, no existing aircraft can do what that UFO did.
The 1948 Air Force Estimate of the Situation
A military intelligence report is called an "estimate of the situation." The Estimate of the Situation written in the summer of 1948 by members of the UFO investigation group Project Sign, part of the US Air Force Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC), was particularly significant. You have just read three UFO reports more or less as they were communicated to readers when they were first written. What is your estimate of the situation? You should say: "Based on what I have read, it's far too early to tell." But imagine that over the past year you have received more than two hundred reports like the three you have just read; most from military personnel on duty, many from pilots in the air and radar and control tower operators on the ground. The ATIC Estimate of the Situation concluded that UFOs were probably extraterrestrial. The report with its extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) was rejected by the Air Force Chief of Staff, who ordered it destroyed. But the report and its conclusions became known through leaks to civilian investigators and a book written by former Air Force officer Edward J. Ruppelt.
The current US Air Force estimate of the situation states:
No UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security.
There was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as Unidentified represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge; and
There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as Unidentified were extraterrestrial vehicles.
The Air Force statement is a succinct and convenient summary of everything I intend to disprove. Discounting the reports that are explainable as hoaxes, misperceptions of natural phenomena, or human artifacts, my goal is to demonstrate that many UFO reports describe machines that are technologically superior to anything humans can now produce. These machines are extraterrestrial vehicles, and they are a threat to national security because we cannot defend against them. I will explain why more than sixty years of evidence in support of the ETH has been ignored or dismissed by almost everyone who holds a position of responsibility or trust in government and science. The truth of the ETH will become self-evident to any intelligent person who learns the facts.
From 1947 to about 1980, UFO history could be described as a "chronology of doubt." The doubt resulted from the interaction of the UFO evidence with the goals and personalities of the people and organizations responding to that evidence. This includes the press and television, UFO witnesses, charlatans, local police forces, the US Air Force, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), scientists associated with the Air Force and the CIA, and the founders and members of UFO interest groups. The chronology is outlined in figures 6a and 6b on pages 12 and 13.
After the Arnold Sighting
The US Air Force, formerly the US Army Air Force, became an independent military service on September 18, 1947—three months after the Kenneth Arnold sighting. UFO reports became the Air Force's business because it was responsible for the air defense of the United States. Reports were sent to the ATIC at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, which collected information about all foreign aviation technology. ATIC first thought UFOs were Soviet weapons developed by captured German scientists. During the Second World War, Germany had designed disc-shaped flying objects, the so-called "Horten discs," so the military and civilian technologists at ATIC assumed that further Soviet development of the German discs might be responsible for the UFO sightings, and they scrambled to learn as much as possible about them. But it turned out that the Soviets had not captured the appropriate German technology; nor, for that matter, had they captured the appropriate Germans.
The US Navy had tested an experimental aircraft nicknamed the "Flying Pancake," which had a thin, disc-like profile, but by the time of the Arnold sighting the project had been canceled and the one test aircraft was in a museum. ATIC officers contacted every other American research and development group that could have been developing something like a UFO, but they came up empty.
Excerpted from UFOs, ETs, and Alien Abductions by Don Donderi. Copyright © 2013 Don Donderi. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
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