Technical UFOs

- by Don Ecsedy, May 2012

Flying Saucers are UFOs. The Air Force referred to such objects as Unidentified Aerial Objects before settling on Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFO. On weekends, when they relaxed and tried to be like normal people, they called them Flying Discs (they were too stiff to say Flying Saucer). The Disc or Saucer is a Technical UFO, to be distinguished from other unidentified objects seen in the sky — a phenomenon that goes back for millennia. The Wave lasted about three weeks, beginning on June 24, 1947.

Other examples of Technical UFOs were the Mystery Airplanes of the first third of the 20th century, and the Mystery Airships of the last third of the 19th. What distinguishes the Saucers from them is that those object types – airplanes and airships – already existed. Some were “mysterious” because they seemed to have no existence except in the sightings. The special aspect of the Saucers as Technical UFOs is that nothing like them existed in 1947 or before, no, not even in Nazi Germany. If they existed anywhere, it was in the imagination, and not only in the imaginations of aeronautic engineers. They were a vision of a future. specifically General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold’s future, as detailed in his Third Report to the Secretary of War, November 12, 1945. General Arnold’s vision of a future of satellites, guided missiles, orbital weapons and reconnaissance platforms, “push button warfare” and “true space ships” were the subject of newspaper Sunday supplements and magazines until the Wave. They were also on the drawing boards of the RAND corporation (one of General Arnold’s projects) and other venues of the emerging Air Force R&D complex. Like cartoon characters, the objects on their drawing boards seemed to have detached themselves, risen up into the sky and become public spectacles. Hardly anything is more curious about the 1947 Wave than the Air Force’s obsession with the Saucers.

The Saucers weren’t exactly General Arnold’s idea of the future. General Arnold was very good at extrapolation. The Saucers went beyond that. General Arnold might have imagined flights of remotely controlled drone missiles, but Kenneth Arnold’s Saucers skipped, flipped, and darted. The AF was getting reports from reliable people (which is to say, people like themselves, and themselves) who were reporting seeing things that displayed no regard for the laws of physics.

Surreal as that was for the Air Force, there were nightmarish shadows, a little man with a fantastic imagination and his followers, occultists whose mediums talked to the Saucers, and Forteans who, in the spirit of curmudgeonly contrariness, might not have believed in the existence of the Air Force.

The Flying Saucers made for strange bedfellows.

Technical UFOs cont.: The Flying Saucer Specification

- by Don Ecsedy, July 2012

In a July 8, 1947 story by the UP with a Washington dateline, reported the flying disc reported by the Roswell Army Air Field was 25 feet in diameter, made of wood and covered with a “material resembling tinfoil”. In a phone call, General Roger M. Ramey explained that the object was of such a construction that it could not hold a pilot or attain supersonic speeds, and that there was no evidence of a power plant.

Until this story, the press and the public did not know what a flying disc or saucer was. The excitement caused by the Roswell AAF statement was its implication that the mystery of the saucers would finally be explained. It wasn’t, but we can see the AF thinking on the subject. That if there were a 25 ft disk constructed so that it could seat a pilot, had a power plant, and could attain and withstand supersonic speeds, then that would be a flying disc. This specification was reinforced by the Air Material Command study of the reported sightings, commonly referred to as the Twining Memo, of September 23, 1947.

Technical UFOs cont.: The Intruder Hypothesis

- by Don Ecsedy, July 2012

After Kenneth Arnold told his story to the press about sighting nine objects near Mt Ranier that he could not identify, several people in the northwest described similar sightings. A radio news editor wired AF Hq for a response. Of interest is the last sentence, “Security is not involved”.

Since November, 1945, the Army Air Force’s public relations had publicized General Arnold’s ‘roadmap’ of new weapons development. The public had come to expect supersonic aircraft, orbital satellites, and “true spaceshps”. The AF had to respond to the public interest by emphasizing that such developments were years and decades in the future, but to the public in 1947, it had already been “years”. Men like Arnold and other pilots, such as those in his first audience at the airfield at Yakima, were familiar with the AF stories as they were found in magazines such as Popular Science, Mechanix Illustrated, and Flying, as well as the reports of the science and aviation editors at their local daily.

If security was not on the minds of the Pentagon that day, then it very likely occurred to them over the next day or so. The AF would issue denials the objects were secret military tests, and began to suggest such sightings might be “imaginary”.

Besides “imaginary”, the general opinion was they were secret military or government research craft, or missiles belonging to a foreign power.

Both these issues definitely involve security, and considering the discs were coming from the north, there was the suspicion they were of Soviet origin, possibly coming across the North Pole.

On July 2, less than 2 weeks after Arnold’s report, the AF would begin an investigation of the flying discs. The field investigations would be carried out by the Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), which I think indicates espionage was on the AF minds in the Pentagon. Over the July 4th weekend (the 4th was on a Friday) the saucer reports became overwhelming, topped by the account of the July 4th sighting of airline pilot Emil Smith, his co-pilot Ralph Stevens, and the stewardess Martine Morrow on their flight from Boise, Idaho to Portland, Oregon. A Coast Guard Yeoman, Frank Ryman, got the first disk photo published in the press, as well.

After the 1947 Wave, after the AF “clamped down” on saucer reports, the Twining Memo would confirm the mystery of the saucers. For the US to produce such craft, the Memo stated it would require a massive and expensive effort (and that is excluding some of the more spectacular reported behavior), and since such a project had not been undertaken, they could not be ours. But if we hadn’t, then who else could? No one on earth. Thus, the suspicion that the saucers were of interplanetary origin.

However, the CIC had a more nuanced view of security and espionage.