Rhodes 1948

– by Don Ecsedy, May 2012

1948 -Project Sign

1948/02/19

Six months after the sighting and four months after Rhodes was interviewed by the CIC and FBI, Air Material Command (AMC) would respond. I do not know yet when the CIC sent the negative to AMC and to Project Sign. The CIC may have had the negative(s) for perhaps several months.

1. Reference is made to the films taken by Mr. Rhoades (Incident #40) which were forwarded for examination...

a. It is concluded that the image is of a true photographic nature, and is not due to imperfections in the emulsion, or lack of development in the section in question. The image exhibits a "tail" indicating the proper type of distortion due to the type of shutter used, the speed of the object and the fixed speed of the shutter. this trailing off conforms to the general information given in the report.

b....The report states that a 620 camera was used, indicating several possibilities, since the 620 is nomenclature for the spooling and width of the film we may have negatives 2 1/4 x 2 1/4", 2 1/4 x 3 1/4" and 2 1/4 x 4 1/4". The sample submitted has been cut and it was not possible to establish the exact frame size. The 2 1/4 x 2 1/4" size was ruled out, leaving 2 1/4 x 3 1/4" and 2 1/4 x 4 1/4"...

c. It should be pointed out, the need for more detail in reports is brought out in this report. A summary would suggest the following points.

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

(2) 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.

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Brower refers to the camera as "120" and Aldrich as "620". These refer to the diameter of the flange of the spool the film is rolled on. It is the same film with the same frame sizes. Kodak made its line of box Brownie cameras in both spool sizes.

From the Arizona Republic photo, the camera is definitely a Kodak Box Brownie. Most models, whether 120 or 620, produced a 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 inch negative; some had the square format of 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches, but Rhodes camera, as is evident by its rectangular shape, is 2 1/4 x 3 1/4. The key dimension was 2 1/4 (which defines 'medium format'). Although there were a few advanced models, nearly all these cameras had a simple meniscus lens, a fixed aperture around f/11, and a shutter speed approximately of 1/50th of a second. The image in the finder was flipped. One held the camera against one's chest and looked down into the viewfinder. If the film frame was 2 1/4x 3 1/4 inches, the camera had two viewfinders to accomodate the two orientations -- vertical and horizontal. A static object could be framed, but it would be extremely difficult to take a photo of a moving object. In the AR photo, Rhodes is sighting alongside the camera, which is the best way to have taken the shots, rather than using the viewfinder. He is holding it in the vertical orientation.

AMC's Lewis Gust misspells Rhodes as 'Rhoades'. 'Rhoades' may be an amalgam of 'Rhodes' and Aldrich's 'Rhoads', whose report is listed as an attachment. Gust refers to Rhodes' "films", but he only has one negative to analyse, the negative of the first photograph. Loedding, from Project Sign, who also has Aldrich's report, spells Rhodes as Rhoads.

"True photographic nature" means the object was photographed, and not present in the frame through other means. It does not mean the object was "real" rather than a "fake".

I believe Gust was mistaken about his third film size 2 1/4 x 4 1/4". Gust appears to have conflated 616 and 620 film. 616 film could not be used in a 620 camera. It's frame size was 2 1/2 x 4 1/4. Kodak did not make a camera or film in the size Gust mentions. The square format would be "ruled out" if the negative had a dimension longer than 2 1/4 inches. That means the frame size was 2 1/4 x 3 1/4. Adding a 616 size among the possible frame dimensions, AMC confused itself. It could "establish the exact film size". So, "...an appromimate size of 44 feet as the diagonal size of the object".

Gust did not refer to the film type of the negative. If there was no code on the non-image area of the frame (known as the "rebate"), the frame could have been given to Kodak to make the determination. Three bw Kodak films were possible at the time, a medium speed PlusX, a faster speed Super XX, and a wide latitude film Verichrome. Verichrome was the least expensive and the most commonly used for amateur snapshots. Unlike the other two, Verichrome was orthochromatic, which means it was insensitive to red, and therefore produced a different greyscale from color than the other two panchromatic films. Today orthochromatic film is a specialty item. Kodak marketed from about 1953 a panchromatic film called Verichrome. But in 1947, all Verichrome was ortho. It is worth keeping this in mind, since Fugate reported Rhodes said the object was hard to see against the overcast sky, while Brower has it Rhodes "was surprised the object appeared dark on a light background; that he fully expected the object would be light on a dark background."

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It is worth keeping in mind, as well, that the negatives were handled at the AR and also by an unknown number of aircraft recognition experts.

It was the absence of information about the equipment used, not the quality of the negative, that prevented Gust from making a complete analysis.

In the absence of good images, I've taken the images from the USAF ANALYSIS OF FLYING OBJECT INCIDENTS IN THE U.S, dated 49/04/28, see below, Image1 and Image2.

Image1 scales to 2.44 x 2.25 inches. Image2 scales to 2.25 x 3.44 inches. nearly a 1/4 inch longer than the film frame.

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48/02/27

A week after Gust's report, Alfred C. Loedding, aeronautics engineer and Air Force consultant with Project Sign, adds his request for more information from the field, referring to Aldrich's report and spelling Rhodes as Rhoads.

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Both Gust's and Loedding's requests for agents in the field to obtain more information apparently went unheeded and in the first week of May, 1948, Mr Loedding, along with Colonel Beam, would travel to Phoenix themselves, interview Rhodes and obtain his camera. We will find out nothing more about the analysis of the negatives; we do not know if AMC ever completed an analysis. But Loedding and Beam will report something that changes the course of the case.

1948/05/11

Lt Colonel James C. Beam (an assitant to Colonel Clingerman) and Alfred C. Loedding interviewed Rhodes in Phoenix. The report is signed by Beam with the concurrence of Loedding. It now ten months since the sighting.

5. Lt Colonel James C. Beam, and Mr. Alfred C. Loedding proceeded to Phoenix Ariz. to interview Mr. William A. Rhodes and follow up on the report and photographs submitted by him some months ago. Although Mr. Rhodes is currently employed as a piano player in a night club, his primary interest is in a small but quite complete laboratory behind his home. According to his buiness card, this laboratory is called "Panoramic Research - Laboratory and Observatory", and Mr. Rhodes is referred to as "Chief of Staff". Mr. Rhodes appeared to be completely sincere and apparently is quite interested in scientific experiments. Mr. Rhodes stated he was an aircraft recognition instructor during the last war, and that in his opinion, the object sighted definitely was not a wind-blown object. He reiterated that the object was not less than 2000 ft. away and that it was not much more than 2000 ft. away unless he had greatly underestimated its size. Mr. Rhodes pointed out where he had stood when he took the pictures of this flying object and indicated the exact paths of approach and departure of the object. He added that when the object turned directly away from him, he observed what appeared to be one large opening, or vent across the entire trailing edge. Mr. Rhodes promised to send in another more detailed report, incorporating this observation.

6. Mr. Rhodes also mentioned having seen a series of photographs taken by another civilian in Phoenix, Ariz. on appromiately the same day. He promised to investigate this phase and to forward a set of these photographs to this headquarters if they are available. Mr. Rhodes permitted the ordinary box type camera with which he took his pictures to be brought to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for examination

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"...follow up on the report and photographs submitted by him some months ago."

What are we to make of this? Rhodes did not make any report and did not submit any photographs, as if he took it upon himself. The report about the photographs came to the CIC via informants, and the FBI and the CIC obtained the negatives (one has to assume they did, somehow) on their own initiative, not because Rhodes contacted them. If Loedding and Beam express Project Sign's understanding of the case, we can say that the Rhodes Myth begins here with "submitted by him". The odds of confusion in communication become high. The Air Force would communicate to the FBI that Rhodes reported a flying disc sighting, which he did not.

"He reiterated that the object was not less than 2000 ft. away and that it was not much more than 2000 ft. away unless he had greatly underestimated its size." According to Brower, the lowest approach was 1000-2000 feet (1000 feet in the AR news story). It is 2000 feet in Fugate. According to both Brower and Fugate the object had a diameter of "20-30 feet." According to Gust, using the correct frame size "an approximate size of 44 feet as the diagonal of the object". This report refers to the "cut" photograph that Gust had because of the reference to 2000 feet -- it's lowest point. The second photograph would show it at a higher altitude heading up to the cumulus at 5000 feet. This is further evidence AMC did not have the "second photograph" negative that Fugate described (this is a discussion exclusively about the "cut" negative). It is also evidence of the technical nature of Rhodes' report of the sighting.

Of interest is "Mr. Rhodes stated that in his opinion...the object sighted definitely was not a wind-blown object". The opinion the object was wind-blown is found in an undated document in which it is attributed to Dr. Irving Langmuir. The details in the document suggest it was written in 1949 during Project Grudge and can be found in that section of this article. As will be seen in the Project Grudge section, the issue of the Panoramic letterhead is significant. Here, Beam and Loedding see Rhodes "business card", which contains the same information found on his letterhead, below.

Rhodes has promised to send a more detailed report, including the observation of the trailing edge of the object, and he also promised to investigate "a series of photographs taken by another civilian in Phoenix, Ariz. on appromiately the same day". Rhodes had undertaken his own investigation

Project Sign will be very interested in "this phase" of the case.

1948/05/26

Three weeks later, Colonel McCoy, in charge of Project Sign, would write a letter to Rhodes...

Reference is made to your interview of 5th May 1948 with Lt Col Beam and Mr. A. C. Loedding, representative of the Technical Intelligence Division, this Headquarters. Information is requested concerning the status of the additional report you promised to submit relative to pictures of your sighting made 7 July 1947 of an unidentified aerial object. Information is also desired as to whether or not you were able to secure copies of photographs taken by another civilian in Phoenix.

In the event it is possible to furnish Government transportation, would you consider making the trip to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for another interview? Unfortunately no funds are available for any additional reimbursement. Please refer your reply to the attention of MCIAX0-3 as indicated in the upper left-hand corner of this letter. This procedure facilitates the prompt handling of your communicaton.

This document contains information affecting the national security of the United States within the meaning of the Espionage Act 50 USC 31 and 32 as amended. The transmission or revelation of its contents in any manner to an unauthorized person is prohibited.

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McCoy offers transportation to, at least, Wright, but no other reimbursement for expenses incurred.

The reference to the Espionage Act may possibly refer to Project Sign's ongoing Analysis, which we know was published with the date 48/12/10 and was classified Top Secret. The Rhodes case and photographs were part of the report (and by that time Sign had, at least, a print of the second negative). The authorized persons Rhodes would know of would be Loedding, Beam, Clingerman, and McCoy -- Project Sign.

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1948/06/08

Two weeks later, Colonel W. R. Clingerman sends Rhodes a teletype...

MCIAX0-6-1. Request answer by government collect telegram as to when answer to letter this HQ dated 26 May can be expected. Direct any reply to Technical Intelligence Division, MCIAX03.

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MCIAX03 identifies Project Sign.

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1948/06/11

Rhodes replies by telegram on what appears to be June 11...

Reply to letter dated May 26 can be expected when I complete further investigation this week. I suggest you contact Mr. Lewis Larmore 2625 North 10th Street Phoenix Arizona regarding more and better photographs of the object.

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1948/06/14

I don't know the actual date of this document, however its receipt is acknowledged on the 18th of June by Colonel Clingerman and it follows on the content of Rhodes June 11 telegram. This is the letter that has Rhodes' letterhead, an important matter, as we will see.

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This is the Rhodes letterhead Project Sign had, addressed to Colonel McCoy, and is the letterhead Colonel Clingerman (who is part of this correspondence) would have seen. The letterhead referred to during Project Grudge, which in large part determined the negative opinion of Grudge, never existed as I will demonstrate in its place.

What we know of Larmore's photographs comes from Rhodes. In his telegram he refers to "more and better" photos, and here "Whether or not they are real I do not know. Some of them look faked while others do not." It strongly suggests Larmore had taken more than one or two.

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1948/06/16

Colonel Clingerman writes to Lewis Larmore

During the course of an Intelligence investigation concerning the sighting of an unidentified aerial object over Phoenix, Arizona on or about 7 July 1947, it has come to the attention of this Headquarters that you took, or have in your possession, several photographs of the object in question.

It would be appreciated if you could furnish this Headquarters with copies of these photographs together with a complete report of the circumstances surrounding the sighting of this object. Since this Headquarters is charged with performing investigations on all unidentified aerial objects it is requested that all possible information on this and any other future sightings be forwarded to this Headquarters, attention MXCIX0-3.

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1948/06/18

A redacted copy of this letter from Colonel McCoy to Rhodes has the hand written note: "June 18"

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The Rhodes case enters a new year and becomes the subject of a new Project. What information did Project Sign uncover? The case began with a curious report by CIC SA Aldrich and the CIC interview of Rhodes by SA Fugate who, according to the FBI's agent's report and the records of the Phoenix FBI office, was given "negatives". Brower did not copy the Air Force on his report. It also appears as if the CIC only delivered one of the two negatives provided by the FBI to it to AMC and Project Sign. What was being done to the second? AMC's Lewis Gust did not have the information he needed to complete a report on the negative he had, and he and Loedding requested additional field work, which was not forthcoming. Loedding, along with Colonel Bream, then had to get the information for themselves.

When Project Sign is in place, the principals, McCoy and Clingerman, correspond with Rhodes. They are very interested in his story of another set of photographs in the possession of Lewis Larmore. The last document available for 1948 is Colonel Clingerman's letter to Larmore. It is the last we will hear of him.

Project Sign was preparing its report to the Pentagon. According to the criteria established, the best cases for investigation were those reported by military and commercial pilots with radar confirmation and witnesses on the ground. The cases that best met those criteria were the ones Sign moved to the front burners. The Rhodes and Larmore case didn't meet those criteria; others did.

Next: 1949 -- Project Grudge

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