LIFE Magazine, April 7, 1952
by H. B. Darrach Jr. and Robert Ginna
On July 10, 1947 at 4:47 p.m., one of the U.S.'s top astronomers was driving from Clovis to Clines Corners, N. Mexico [Note: Later revealed to be Dr. Lincoln La Paz -- see Incident 10, green fireballs, which La Paz investigated.] His wife and his teen-aged daughters were also in the car. (For professional reasons he has asked LIFE to withhold identity.) It was a bright sunny day, but the whole western half of the sky was a "confused cloud sea." All at once, as the car headed toward these clouds, "all four of us almost simultaneously became aware of a curious bright object almost motionless" among the clouds. Instantly, from long habit in dealing with celestial phenomena, he began to make calculations. with what crude materials he had at hand. He held a pencil at arm's length, measured the size of the object against the windshield of the car, measured the distance between his eyes and the windshield, etc. His wife and two daughters did the same, each making independent calculations. The object, says the scientist, "showed a sharp and firm regular outline, namely one of a smooth elliptical character much harder and sharper than the edges of the cloudlets... The hue of the luminous object was somewhat less white than the light of Jupiter in a dark sky, not aluminum or silver-colored... The object clearly exhibited a sort of wobbling motion ... This wobbling motion served to set off the object as a rigid, if not solid body." After 30 seconds in plain view, the ellipsoid moved slowly behind a cloud (273 degrees azimuth, elevation 1 degree) "and we thought we had lost it." But approximately five seconds later it reappeared (275 degrees azimuth, elevation 2 degrees). "This remarkably sudden ascent thoroughly convinced me that we were dealing with an absolutely novel airborne device." After reappearing, the object moved slowly from south to north across the clouds. "As seen projected against these dark clouds, the object gave the strongest impression of self-luminosity." About two and a half minutes after it first came into view, the thing disappeared finally behind a cloud bank.
The astronomer vouches for the approximate accuracy of his observations and computations. He determined that the object was not less than 20 nor more than 30 miles from his viewing point; that it was ellipsoidal and rigid; that it was 160 feet long and 65 feet thick, if seen at minimum distance; or 245 feet long and 100 feet thick if at maximum; and that its horizontal speed ranged between 120 and 180 mph and its vertical rise between 600 and 900 mph. He also observed that the object moved with a wobble, no sounds, and left no exhaust or vapor trail. His wife and daughters support his observations, and their computations were in accordance with his own, though slightly less conservative. The object's appearance and behavior answer no known optical or celestial phenomenon. No known or projected aircraft, rocket or guided missile can make such a rapid vertical ascent without leaving an exhaust or vapor trail.
On April 24,1949 at 10:20 a.m., a group of five technicians under the general supervision of J. Gordon Vaeth, an aeronautical engineer employed by the Office of Naval Research, were preparing to launch a Skyhook balloon near Arrey, N. Mexico A small balloon was sent up first to check the weather. Charles B. Moore Jr., an aerologist of General Mills Inc. (pioneers in cosmic ray research) was tracking the weather balloon through a Theodolite -- a 25-power telescopic instrument, which gives degrees of azimuth and elevation (horizontal and vertical position) for any object it is sighted on. At 10:30 a.m. Moore leaned back from the Theodolite to glance at the balloon with his naked eye. Suddenly he saw a whitish elliptical object, apparently much higher than the balloon, and moving, in the opposite direction. At once he picked the object up in his Theodolite at 45 degrees of elevation and 210 degrees of azimuth, and tracked it east at the phenomenal rate of 5 degrees of azimuth-change per second as it dropped swiftly to an elevation of 25 degrees. The object appeared to be an ellipsoid roughly two and a half times as long as it was wide. Suddenly it swung abruptly upward and rushed out of sight in a few seconds. Moore had tracked it for about 60 seconds altogether. The other members of his crew confirmed his report. No sound was heard, no vapor trail was seen. The object, according to rough estimations by Moore and his colleagues, was about 56 miles above the earth, 100 feet long and was traveling at seven miles per second.
No known optical or atmospheric phenomenon fits the facts. A natural object traveling at seven miles per second has never been seen to make a sudden upward turn. There is no known or projected source of silent, vapor less power for such a machine. No human being could have borne the tremendous "G" load brought to bear on the craft during its abrupt vertical veer.
One night in the summer of 1948 Clyde W. Tombaugh, the discoverer of the planet Pluto, was sitting in the back yard of his home at Las, Cruces, N. Mexico With him were his wife and his mother-in-law. It was about 11 p.m. and they were all sitting quietly, admiring the clarity of the southwestern sky, like any proper astronomical family. All at once they all saw something rush silently overhead, south to north, too fast for a plane, too slow for a meteor. It seemed to be quite low. All three of the witnesses agreed that the object was definitely a solid "ship" of a kind they had never seen before. It was of an oval shape and "seemed to trail off at the rear into a shapeless luminescence." There was a blue green glow about the whole thing. About half a dozen "windows" were clearly visible at the front of the ship and along the side. They glowed with the same blue-green color as the rest of the ship, only the glare was brighter, and had a touch of yellow in it.
The object bore a resemblance to the craft seen by Pilots Chiles and Whitted. It bore resemblance to no aircraft known to be in operation on earth.
In this case LIFE's informant is an Air Force officer who holds a top military post at a key atomic base. Since his assignment and whereabouts must be kept a secret he has asked LIFE to withhold his name. He has the highest security rating given. Before he took his present assignment, this officer was in command of the radar equipment that keeps watch over a certain atomic installation. One day in the fall of 1949, while watching a radarscope that covered an area of sky 300 miles wide and 100,000 feet deep, he was startled to detect five apparently metallic objects flying south at tremendous speed and great height. They crossed the 300-mile scope, in less than four minutes. The objects flew the whole time in formation.
There is no dead-certain explanation of this phenomenon -- radar is as full of tricks as an old-maid's imagination. However, the officer involved is an experienced observer, well aware of the eccentricities of the instrument. He believes that in this instance he made a legitimate radar contact. If so, it can be said that the only natural objects known to travel at such a speed are meteors, but meteors do not fly in formation. If the officer picked up machines, they were performing in a manner that rocket experts agree is still beyond the capabilities of earth's most advanced weapons.
"Civilian Saucer Investigations" was organized by witness Ed J. Sullivan (standing), who urges other witness's to write to P.O. Box 1971, Main Post Office, Los Angeles. CSI includes Dr. Walter Riedel (behind Sullivan), who was chief designer at great German rocket laboratory at Peenemunde.
On May 29, 1951 at 3:48 p.m., three technical writers for the aerophysics department of North American Aviation's plant at Downey, outside Los Angeles, were chatting on the factory grounds. They were Victor Black, Werner Eichler and Ed J. Sullivan. All at once they stared at the sky. Sullivan describes what they saw: "Approximately 30 glowing, meteor like objects sprayed out of the east at a point about 45 degrees above the horizon, executed a right-angle turn and swept across the sky in an undulating vertical formation ... that resembled a tuning fork on edge. It took each of them about 25 seconds to cross 9O degrees of the horizon before performing another right-angle turn westward toward downtown Los Angeles... We estimated their diameter at 30 feet and their speed to be 1,700 mph. Each appeared as an intense electric blue light, round and without length. They moved with the motion of flat stones skipping across a smooth pond."
No known natural or optical phenomenon, makes the peculiar light, in bright day, attributed to these objects by Sullivan and his colleagues; nor can any natural object, hurtling at such a speed, execute a right angle turn. As in the Moore Theodolite sighting, the execution of such a turn would have crushed any human crew under the impact of "G" forces. Finally, of course, no known machine travels at 1,700 mph without making a sound or leaving an exhaust or vapor trail.
On Jan. 20, 1951, at 8:30 p.m., Captain Lawrence W. Vinther of Mid-Continent Airlines was ordered by the control tower at the Sioux City airport, to investigate a "very bright light" above the field. He took off in his DC-3 with his copilot, James F. Bachmeier, and followed the light. All at once the light dived at the DC-3 almost head on; it passed silently and at great speed about 200 feet above its nose. Both pilots wrenched their heads back to see where it had gone, only to discover that the thing had somehow reversed direction in a split second and was now flying parallel to the airliner heading in the same direction. It was a clear moonlight night and both men got a good look at the object. It was as big or bigger than a B-29, had a cigar-shaped fuselage and a glidertype wing, set well forward, without sweepback and without engine nacelles or jet pods. There was not exhaust glow. The white light appeared to be recessed in the bottom of the plane. After a few seconds the object lost altitude, passed under the DC-3 and disappeared. A civilian employee of Air Intelligence was a passenger on the flight, saw the object and confirms the description by the pilots.
The conditions for observation were excellent. One fact alone -- the astonishing reversal of direction performed by the object -- suffices to classify it as a device far beyond the known capacities of aeronautical science. Although its shape is different, the soundlessness of the object and the absence of observable means of propulsion relate it to the saucer class of phenomena.
At 6:45 a.m., just before sunup on February 18, 1952, a photographer named C. E. Redman was driving through Albuquerque, N. Mexico on his way to photograph a wedding. Stopped for a traffic light, he noticed two bright things in the sky. "They were hovering above Tijeras Canyon... The one to the north was on its edge. The other was lying horizontally. They were bright, bluish white... It was probably the most astonishing thing I've ever seen. Those things were soundless. They were not jets or vapor trails. I've seen hundreds of jets and vapor trails." Redman was questioned later the same day by a LIFE reporter and a prominent scientist, working together. From his testimony, and from the lay of the land, it was estimated that the disks were 20 miles away and four miles in the air, and that they had a diameter of about 136 feet. Another witness saw the same objects Redman saw, and at the same time, but from the other side of town. W. S. Morris, a retired master sergeant of the Air Force who is now a news dealer in Albuquerque, was out to drop off his morning papers when he saw two strange objects over Tijeras Canyon. "I watched them for 12 minutes. They were a blinding silver, long and thin, gleaming all over. They hovered, one kind of above the other to the right. They seemed brighter than the sun, which wasn't yet over the Sandia mountains. It just touched their bottoms and they glowed red. They didn't flutter or move. They just hung there. It must have been 20 miles away. Then they just suddenly dropped down behind the mountain, and the upper one tilted so that I could see its profile. It looked like a bell pepper-with a bump on top, that is."
Kirtland AFB acknowledged that there were no aircraft in that area at that time. The observations reinforce each other and point to several striking facts. First, one disk proved itself three dimensional when it tilted, to descend. Second, the suddenness of the disk's descent indicates that the bodies contained a source of power. Third, the power that can suspend a three-dimensional body, of the size Morris describes and in the position he indicates, without turning a blade or roaring a jet, is unknown.
How discs looked in relation to each other is shown by C.E. Redman of Albuquerque.
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