Incident #40 — Born Under A Bad Sign

– by Don Ecsedy, May 2012

What to make of Incident #40? We do not know how the report of the incident came about. Rhodes did not report it to the authorities. There is no report from him in either the Air Force or the FBI casefiles. According to Linda Howe, in 1999 Rhodes had said a friend of his was head of the photography department at the Arizona Republic and Rhodes told him about the sighting and the film. His friend asked Rhodes to bring the film in and they’d develop it and run the photos in the paper. The Arizona Republic story says prints and negatives were shown to aircraft identification experts, and the Aldrich memo implies his information came from “military personnel”, and we assume they were the Arizona Republic’s experts. The photos were obtained from the managing editor of the Arizona Republic. How they were obtained is not specified. It is interesting the editor is not named as one would expect in a report like this.

What this all means is that an editor at the Arizona Republic reported the photos to Williams AAF and provided prints and the negatives. They were obtained and examined by CIC agents. The negatives may have been copied. Possibly the comment in Langmuir document refers to it

Four expert photographers concur in the opinion that the image is of true photographic nature. However, they disagree with each other as to the possibility of filming such and occurrence under the conditions described.

Aldrich obtained the photos and information about the sighting the day before the Arizona Republic published them. There is never any reference to the news story in the PBB case files even though it is obvious from the very beginning the material came from a newspaper. The information is also in Agent Brower’s report which the AF had obtained in 1949. Considering the Air Force’s ongoing concern about publicity about the photos and their suspicion that Rhodes was shopping around the story. the fact is they had already been published in the mass media and were known to the press.

In August, A-2 at Hamilton AFB requested the FBI to “completely interview” Rhodes and if an Air Force agent could “sit in on this interview”. Hoover denies the request, but the Phoenix office did not receive his order until after the interview. Hoover was willing for the FBI to interview Rhodes, but denies the request for a “joint investigation”. Although Hoover would soon end the FBI’s participation in saucer investigations, that is not at issue here for him. This seems to be an issue of delimitation. Rhodes was a civilian not associated with military security.

This important moment in the case becomes a matter of cya, and possibly due to this, the disposition of the negatives is unclear. Over time, the FBI’s version of events will be gently transformed from an Air Force request to have its agent sit in on an FBI interview to the opposite — a request for the FBI to sit in on an Air Force directed interview of Rhodes. Brower’s elaboration of a firewall between the FBI and the evidence collected manages to obscure more than it reveals. At this critical juncture of the collection of evidence, the second negative, which Fugate wrote had image reference points, vanishes from the case. An FBI memo refers to having received a third print with a copy of Aldrich’s report. Fugate’s report implies he obtained both a negative of photo 1 and a print of 2 from Rhodes.

The CIC agent’s report differs in details with the FBI agent’s report, but although we have a copy of the FBI report in the PBB case file, there is no evidence the report received any attention; there is no evidence of an attempt to sort out the differences. One reason might be, Fugate’s version of the interview had been incorporated in Project Grudge’s take on the case. To review Fugate’s report in light of Brower’s would mean starting all over again. After Project Sign there is no evidence the Air Force contacted Rhodes.

Did the CIC retain the 2nd negative or pass it on to another recipient rather than AMC or Project Sign? The FBI files refer to “negatives” but I have not found an FBI reference to ‘two’ negatives.

The information missing from the Rhodes case would make a better case than the one we have. Among the missing are Lewis Gust’s completed analysis of the first negative, the second negative period, and the investigation of Larmore’s photos.

This is a photograh case, yet they are barely present in the files. There are three known opinions. One is Lewis Gust’s. He writes up a preliminary analysis and awaits more information. Project Sign, having acquired the camera from Rhodes, leads to a request for Gust’s complete analysis. We have a response from Gust, but not the analysis part. Perhaps it was among the missing page(s), but perhaps not. Having the camera was not the only thing Gust requested. There is no evidence that additional evidence was collected. Therefore, it is possible the missing page(s) of his report was not the analysis, but a request for the information that had not been provided (such as information about the development process)

The ‘analyses’ of the otherwise unknown John A. Clinton, and the well known Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr Irviing Langmuir, are…uninformed.

In 1952 while the FBI is dealing with requests for the photos from Drew Pearson and informing the Air Force of it, the Air Force refers to “Rhoads” wanting his negatives back. We don’t know if Rhodes made any such inquiry of the Air Force because there is no correspondence from him in the PBB files.

In 1949, Project Grudge requests the FBI report by Brower because Fugate’s “memory is hazy”. Hazy about what? Fugate reported little personal information about Rhodes, but the Air Force would expect the FBI agent did, and that’s what they need as Project Grudge seems determined to fix the label of hoaxer on Rhodes and are looking for dirt. But once they get that material, there is no development of it in the files. It seems they ignored it. But it contains information of interest in a background investigation of Rhodes: his claim to have worked at the Naval Ordnance Lab, and at Falcon Field.

Aldrich and Doyle, the AFOSI investigators in 1949, were directed to investigate matters of no consequence, instead.

Finally, Grudge just called the photos a hoax, on no known evidence, and dropped the case. However, Air Force and Navy Intelligence continued to include the sighting and photographs in their “Analysis” without regard to Grudge’s negative opinion.

The Project Sign investigation simply vanishes from the files except for the Beam, Loedding report. However, we know both Colonels McCoy and Clingerman were pursuing the Lewis Larmore lead in the summer of 1948.

In 1954 the Air Force sent negatives to Rhodes. We do not know if they were the original negatives, copies of the originals, or negatives forged from the prints per Ruppelt’s suggestion. No ufo investigators appear to have followed up on this with Rhodes, who died in 2007 at age 90 (Larmore died in 1995). A few inquiries seem to have been made by investigators when Rhodes was in his 80s. Rhodes also wrote some things about his life a few years before he died. These are often used in support of the Project Grudge case against him by investigators who ought to know better. By comparing examples of Rhodes signature over four decades, his health, reflected by them, begins a decline around 1988. His later recollections contain factual errors. His comments in his last years should not be treated as if they were made in 1947.

If there was an investigation and analysis of the two negatives and Lewis Larmore, they are not evident in the PBB case files. There is no investigation available of Incident #40 if by that we mean a witness statement, analyses of the negatives, and a report on the findings. Such things are not in PBB . Without the negatives, there is nothing to analyze except the way the case was treated — which might eventually lead us to something interesting.