Did The CIC ‘Distress’ The Rhodes UFO Photos?

– by Don Ecsedy, May 2012 (rev March 2014)

On July 9, 1947, the Arizona Republic, a daily newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona, published crops of two photographs Rhodes took on July 7th. The largest of the two is the first photo taken, the smaller sized crop is from the second photo. During the next two years, the Air Force would copy, enlarge, print, and internally publish the first Rhodes photo. None of them are the same crop as seen in the Arizona Republic. UFO writers will publish the Air Force reproductions, or the top part of the Arizona Republic’s version of the first photo. I have not found a full image of the Arizona Republic’s reproduction in their efforts, except for Ray Palmer in Fate Magazine, 1948. For all the suspicions that the photos are a hoax, I have not read a comparison of the differences between the Arizona Republic’s image and the Air Force’s. There is where the real hoax can be found.

The Real Hoax

The first reported encounter with the negatives comes from the Arizona Republic in its story of the sighting on July 9, 1947. The story reports prints and negatives were shown to “aircraft identification experts”. The evidence is strong these experts were at Williams AAF in Phoenix, and this is where Aldrich and the CIC got them. The second encounter was FBI Special Agent Brower and Counter Intelligence Corps Special Agent George Fugate in their joint interview of Rhodes on August 29, 1947, nearly two months after the newspaper story and CIC SA Lynn C. Aldrich’s report. The FBI agent reported that Rhodes did not have the negatives “in his immediate possession”, however the CIC agent said Rhodes had the negative of the first photo, but Rhodes “could not find the negative of the second photograph”. Curiously, the CIC agent then describes the details of the second negative, the one he said Rhodes did not have. The CIC agent said it showed a treeline and a telephone pole. These details, we know from what the Arizona Republic published, belong to at least the first photo, yet the CIC agent does not describe these details as being in the negative he said Rhodes did have. He refers to the negative obtained from Rhodes as Exhibit III, the first photograph. Somewhere a print of the second negative appeared. It may have come from Aldrich because an FBI memo refers to his memo having three prints attached, however Fugate does not mention a fourth Exhibit. The FBI reports have it that Rhodes delivered “negatives” to the Bureau office in Phoenix the day after the interview.

Five and a half months later, dated February 19, 1948, Lewis C. Gust, Chief, Technical Projects Office, Intelligence Department, Air Material Command, at Wright Field wrote a report on the negative provided by the CIC (I don’t know the date the negative was received at AMC). Gust wrote the analysis of the negative could not be completed because he did not have the information necessary to do so because that information not been provided by the CIC, and because the negative was “cut”. Because the camera used 620/120 film, Gust knew the width of the negative frame had to be 2 1/4 inches. Such cameras, though, might produce frames in one of several lengths, either 2 1/4 inches (square format) or 3 1/4 inches (Gust also includes a third size. I think he conflates a 616 length with 620/120′s). Of interest is “The 2 1/4 x 2 1/4″ size was ruled out.” He doesn’t say why it was ruled out, but there is one very good reason to have done so. The length of the longer edge was more than 2 1/4 inches. It is the length of the first negative that had been “cut”, as can be seen by comparing the images, below. The “imaging reference points” have been cropped, not off a print, but the negative. The CIC agent did not describe this negative, the one he said Rhodes had, as being cut or otherwise damaged, but he did specifically and strongly associate the image reference points with the second negative, not the first. One can see where Project Sign, based on Fugate’s report, would believe only one negative was available, and the better one — better because it had image reference points — could not be found.

Information in his report indicates Gust had either read or had heard of Fugate’s report. His request for “more detail” included

Name of camera, type of film used, developer as well as time and temperature, exposure time, focal length of lens and F value used.


If possible, the camera should be aimed to include some ground and horizon as this will help fix the distance from camera to subject by imaging reference points. These reference points can be referred to for evaluation.

This request is senseless since the field agent has no control how a photo he obtains should have been taken. This is a hint, I think, that Gust knew what had been “cut” from the negative. Related to this is there is nothing in the report of Colonel Beam and Mr. Loedding of having obtained this information during their interview of Rhodes in May 1948, even though Loedding had made a request for more information similar to the one Gust made.

From the Analysis, April 28, 1949

The Arizona Republic’s prints were flipped — the negatives were placed under the enlarger with the wrong side facing up.

As you can see above, the orientation of the object is different from their reproduction in the Arizona Republic, below.

From Fate Magazine Spring 1948

A year later, after Loedding had obtained Rhodes’ camera, Colonel Hemstreet requests a completed analysis from Gust. We know Gust replied, but the (numbered) page(s) of his report containing either the completed analysis, or information about it (such as whether it had been done), are not found in the PBB files.

At some point, a document referring to Dr Irving Langmuir’s opinion was written and describes the negative thus:

Yet, the negative was carelessly cut and faultily developed. It is covered with streaks and over a period of six months, has faded very noticeably.

In writing these articles on Incident #40, I have attempted to include all existing documents about it. When I began working on the civilian investigations, I was frustrated by being unable to locate an image of the full Arizona Republic front page for July 9, 1947.

I recently obtained an original copy of the first issue of Fate Magazine to verify the statement by Leonard Stringfield that a Rhodes’ letter was to be found in it. There was no letter.

Instead, I found the Arizona Republic front page:

Ray Palmer wrote about this photo on page 22:

A print of photograph number two is reproduced with this article and a photostat, taken from a portion of page one of the Arizona Republic is also reproduced, showing photo number one. Photo number one also included a skyline of trees and a telephone wire, adding to its authenticity.

So, it appears there was a hoax, and a rather skillful one at that.

– Don, May 20, 2012