Local "flying discs", and possibly those throughout the nation, simmered down to balloon-piloted observation radar targets loosed from the Alamogordo Army Air Base and related bases throughout the nation.
Those observed over Otero county were loosed from the north area of the local air base under direction of Major W. D. Pritchard of the Watson Laboratories AMC experimental group for long range radar detection, or from the other White Sands Proving Ground and related groups.
On invitation of Major Pritchard, members of the Alamogordo News staff took pictures of the balloons and trailing angular cornered reflectors covered with tinfoil as they were prepared to be sent aloft and after their release on Wednesday, July 9, at 1 p.m.
The same group observed the flight of the balloons and trailing observation reflectors for approximately one hour until one balloon burst over the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains, southeast of Alamogordo, and the consequent descent of the device, known by rumor as the "flying disc" of the area, until it grounded about 300 feet from highway 70 southeast of Alamogordo.
In flight the reflectors and their towing balloons climbed by stages in the mid-day hot air currents and at times oscillated and appeared to the eye-sight as of various shapes with the reflectors losing their identity as they changed.
The towing balloons, however, remained identified throughout the seven to ten-mile flight and were observed by motor-operated tracking sights, field-glass and radar contact with the reflectors.
Major Pritchard, who issued the invitation to the press group to visit and view the widely-discussed and reported ascent of the corner reflector device, explained the object was [used for the] study and training of officers and enlisted men of the army in observing and tracking of objects slower than airplanes by eye and radar device.
The corner reflectors being periodically released for this purpose, he explained, and had been for the past fifteen months from this local headquarters of the AMC under the Watson Laboratories group, who have headquarters at Red Bank, New Jersey.
Major Pritchard and his fellow officers, Major C. M. Mangum, Captain L. H. Dyvad and Lt. S. W. Seigel, he explained, "had not realized that our balloon and corner reflector radar experimental device was in any way related to the widely-discussed "flying disc" observed over the nation until reading news dispatches on Thursday." [sic]
The major said, "after reading the detailed description on the recovery of one of our reflectors, or a similar one from another base, we suddenly became aware of the possibility."
"We do not use the device here for weather observation," the major said, "but for training of men and experimental purposes," and he further explained the general use of the radar equipment at the base was tracking of rockets fired from smaller base at White Sands Proving Ground.
Some of the balloons, of the type shown to the Alamogordo News representatives Wednesday, the commanding officer said, were used to carry at times devices that it was necessary for the group to recover and these were tracked to their destination by B-17's and other aircraft if they soared out of range of the radar equipment. The radar had been successful, he explained, up to 40 miles, while some of the balloon-towed groups have gone as far as Colorado.
Within the past week several groups of Otero county residents have observed from one to four "flying discs" in flight, with their descriptions varying according to height of observation, speed of flight and oscillation of the corner reflectors towed as all of these and other atmospheric changes alter the look of the objects. These corner reflectors when packed before attaching to the towing balloons, are about 48 inches across and are a perfect triangle.
The balloon, or balloons, are then attached by a string to the center of this triangle and it then opens into a paper covered by tinfoil with six triangles pointed at the top and braced by strips of wood which always present to the radar and to observing groups one flat shiny surface no matter at which angle viewed.
It is very light and is towed by a synthetic rubber balloon made of neoprene which is boiled an hour before use as to increase the life and resistance to atmospheric conditions.
At times a balloon burst soon after ascent with the reflector then falling to the earth and at other times the air currents force the balloons down with their burdens.
The balloons the [are] about four feet in diameter and light colored. [sic]
Comparison of the local corner reflector training device with stories of those recovered near Corona recently and picked up at other points the last several months hold a striking similarity.
Experiments the experimental group from the proving grounds said, showed the early morning hours of from five to six to be the most successful to gain the 30 to 40-thousand feet altitudes attained by the device. They also explained the ordinary flight course of these experiments was from the base to the Sacramento Mountains north of Alamogordo and thence along the mountain range on north. Others have, the group said, soared east to Roswell and other Pecos Valley areas and some stray west towards the mountains and on to Arizona.
These experiments and many others will continue at the local base, the group stated, with the hope of perfecting radar equipment to a greater range, more efficiency and towards the goal of photographic-radar tracking that is instantaneous.
FANTASY OF THE "FLYING DISC" IS EXPLAINED HERE
--News Men Watch Army Radar Crew Launch "Disc"
AAF WEATHER EXPERTS FORECAST FOR V-2 FIRINGS
A small but efficient weather station has been installed at the White Sands Guided Missile Proving Grounds by the Air Weather Service of the Army Air Forces.
The weather station is unlike other stations in that the technicians at White Sands are primarily interested in meteorological conditions of the upper air regions rather than weather close to the earth's surface which effect normal air traffic.
For this reason the weather technicians use the latest in radio equipment. Large 2000 gram neoprene balloons carry delicate instruments to about 100,000 feet with ground radio receivers, direction finding equipment, and surveillance radar units correlate weather conditions at extreme heights.
One of the major projects at White Sands is the series of captured German V-2 rocket firings in which leading scientists of major research organizations place various types of recording instruments in the warheads of the rockets in science's efforts to solve some of the mysteries of the upper atmosphere.
The importance of weather forecasting for these rocket firings is vital to the success of the V-2 program.
Four complete forecasts ranging from 72 to 4 hours before each V-2 firing are required to insure the success of the program. The forecasts have the following purposes: The 72 hour forecast is for the necessary planning and set-up of the supplies for the day of firing. A 48-hour forecast determines whether it is advisable to take the assembled rocket down to the site of the launching or leave it in the assembly hanger. A 24-hour forecast determines the rate of the instrumentation and whether to continue with the scheduled program. The final forecast determines the practicality of fueling the rocket for the firing.
Las Cruces Citizen, June 26, 1947, page 8
WSPG Weather Station Installed to Forecast For V-2 Launchings
A small but efficient weather station, commanded by Capt. John R. Smith, has been installed at the White Sands guided Missiles Proving Ground. Unlike most weather stations, technicians at White Sands are primarily interested in meteorological conditions of the upper air regions rather than weather close to the earth's surface which affects normal air traffic.
For this purpose, large 2,000-gram neoprene balloons carrying delicate instruments to about 100,000 feet with ground radio receivers, direction-finding equipment, and surveillance radar units have been installed.
Four complete forecasts ranging from 72 to four hours before each V-2 firing will be made to determine whether or not to proceed with the firing schedule as once the rocket is fueled it must be lauched or the tons of expensive fuel must be dumped out, due to its composition.
With the data provided by the AAF weather station, White Sands officials can determine the necessary degree of safety precautions to be taken in the event a V-2 gets out of control during the early portions of its flight.
(Editor's Note [in Daily Record] The picture above, and the story below, are used by courtesy of the El Paso Times. The picture shows weather disks suspended from balloons, and the story reveals that they may have been confused with the flying disk hysteria which plagued the country for a few weeks.)
Alamogordo, N.M. Many of the "flying discs" reported in this area Wednesday [Daily Record story omitted "Wednesday"] probably came from the Alamogordo Army Air field.
Maj. W. D. Prichard, stationed here with the Watson Laboratories and working with White Sands Proving Grounds, said he and his crew released balloons with attached equipment. When the equipment collapses, he said, it easily might resemble a saucer or disc [spelled "disk" in Daily Record story].
A limited number of these balloons have been released in the past 15 months, Major Prichard said, the number increasing sharply in recent weeks.
"We use the balloons rather than aircraft in the experiment because it is slower in the air and can be more readily studied and followed," he said. "It goes higher than the eye can see and a radar set is employed to follow its course."
The equipment is a six-cornered reflector, covered with tinfoil held in place by small slabs of wood. Sometimes they carry instruments, but all have a tag reading "Property of A.M.C. (Aircraft Materials Corps) [Note: Actually stands for Air Material Command] Watson Laboratories Alamogordo Air Field." The balloons usually are exploded by high altitude pressure. They are boiled for a full hour before being filled to increase their tensile strength.
Major Prichard doubted whether the balloons had reached the Pacific Northwest, where the disks first were reported, but they could easily travel over the Rocky Mountain area, he said.
Alamogordo, N.M., July 9, 1947
Purpose of the experiments is to train men in the observing and tracking flights of V-2 rockets and other experimental projects. [Rest of story omitted in Daily Record] The radar training gained in tracing the devices gives some weather information but is not primarily a weather project.
About 35 men are working here with the Watson Laboratories group, whose headquarters are at Redbank, N.J., in radar detection. Assisting Major Pritchard in a demonstration given Wednesday were Major C.M. Mangum, Capt. L. H. Dyvad, and Lt. S. W. Seigel.
The Alamogordo air base is expected to become the proving ground for all guided missile projects. Its name shortly will be changed to Alamogordo guided Missile Range.
July 11, 1947, El Paso (TX) Times, Front Page
'FLYING DISCS' MAY BE AIR FIELD BALLOONS'
By Mrs. Tom Charles
July 17, 1947, Roswell Daily Record
ALAMOGORDO AIR FIELD WEATHER BALLOONS MAY HAVE ADDED TO FLYING DISK HYSTERIA
United Press Stories
Albuquerque Tribune, July 11, 1947, page 5
"Discs" May Be From NM Field
El Paso Herald-Post, July 11, page 8
Alamogordo Air Field Balloons May Be 'Discs'
Austin Statesman, July 11, p. 18
Disc Explanation Given
ALAMOGORDO, July 11 (UP) -- A possible explanation for the many "flying saucers and discs" seen over the Rocky Mountains region recently came from the Alamogordo Army Air Field here today.
Maj. James R. Pritchard, public relations officer at the air field, said that the balloons with attached equipment have been released from the air field for the past 15 months, with a large number of them being released just recently.
He expressed the opinion that the discs reported seen in the Pacific northwest may be an experimental project used by the Navy in that area. (The Navy yesterday flatly denied their planes were responsible for the disc stories.) Howeer, he said that those seen in the Rocky Mountain region probably came from the Army air field here.
He said that the balloons were used to train men in observance and tracing the flights of V-2 rockets and other experimental projects. An extensive program is planned along this line, he said.
A demonstration was given for reporters at the air field Wednesday by Maj. Pritchard. Radar sets are used to follow the course of the balloons which carry six-cornered reflectors covered with tinfoil. [Rest of story omitted in Herald-Post] These reflectors sometimes carry instruments and sometimes carry tags marked "property of A. M. C. Watson Laboratories, Alamogordo Airfield."
Aircraft as well as ground equipment is ued to track the balloons. It was explained that they are influence by their stay in the air according to weather conditions.
Pritchard said one was recently found near Amarillo, Tex. and several have been recovered in Colorado. Some of the balloons have been released singly, while others have been released in groups, Pritchard said.
(Clovis) New Mexico Press, July 12, 1947, front page
Saucers Might Be Balloons Used in Training Projects
ALAMOGORDO, N. M., July 11, UP-- The theory that some of the "flying saucers" might be balloons and equipment being used in training projects here was advanced today by Maj. James R. Pritchard, public relations officer at Alamogordo Army Air Field.
Major Pritchard said balloons with attached equipment, used in training men in observance and tracing flights of V-2 rockets and other experimental projects, have been released from the field for the past 15 months. A large number have been released recently he added.
In a demonstration for reporters Wednesday, balloons carrying six-cornered reflectors were released and tracked by radar. Their stay in the air, and their actions, are influenced by weather conditions.
These reflectors sometimes carry instruments and sometimes carry tags marked "property of A. M. C. Watson laboratories."
Major Pritchard said the balloon probably accounted for a number of "flying saucer reports" in the Rocky Mountain region. One recently was found near Amarillo Texas, and several have been recovered in Colorado. He added that similar Navy instruction might acount for those in the northwest.
United Press Teletypes
The following UP teletypes on the Alamogordo demonstration are from the collection of original UP telexes saved by Roswell KGFL radio announcer Frank Joyce. See also July 8 telexes saved by Joyce. (Source: UFO Crash At Roswell II: The Chronological Pictorial, by Donald R. Schmitt)
EXR44S [Sent from El Paso]
ALAMOGORDO, NEW MEXICO---AN ARMY AIR FORCE MAJOR HAS SUGGESTED THAT THE MYSTERIOUS FLYING DISKS MIGHT BE REFLECTORS OFF SOUNDING BALLOONS USED IN THE V-2 ROCKET TESTS.
MAJOR JAMES R. PRITCHARD, PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER AT THE ALAMOGORDO
AIR FIELD---JUST EAST OF WHITE SANDS, NEW MEXICO, PROVING GROUNDS---
DEMONSTRATED THE BALLOONS TO THE PRESS.
HE SAID THE BALLOONS--WHICH CARRY A SILVER REFLECTOR WHICH COULD BE A DISK---HAD BEEN RELEASED AT ALAMOGORDO FOR THE PAST 15 MONTHS AT FREQUENT INTERVALS---AND WHICH HAVE LANDED THROUGHOUT THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION.
THE MAJOR ADDS THAT DISK IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST COULD BE THE RESULT OF SIMILAR ACTIVITY BY THE NAVY.
S01030P7/10.. [Sent 10:30 PM, July 10]
(Unspecified time and date)
A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR THE MANY "FLYING SAUCERS AND DISCS" SEEN
RECENTLY OVER THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION HAS COME FROM THE ALAMOGORDO AIR
FIELD. IT IS OFFERED BY MAJOR JAMES R. PRITCHARD, PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER AT THE AIR FIELD. HE SAYS THAT BALLOONS WITH ATTACHED EQUIPMENT
HAVE BEEN RELEASED FROM THE FIELD FOR THE PAST 15 MONTHS, WITH A LARGE NUMBER OF THEM BEING RELEASED JUST RECENTLY. MAJOR PRITCHARD SAYS THE DISCS REPORTED SEEN IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST MAY BE AN EXPERIMENTAL PROJECT USED BY THE NAVY IN THAT AREA. HOWEVER, HE SAYS THAT THOSE SEEN IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION PROBABLY CAME FROM THE ALAMOGORDO FIELD. PRITCHARD SAYS THAT THE BALLOONS ARE USED TO TRAIN MEN IN OBSERVANCE AND TRACING THE FLIGHTS OF V-2 ROCKETS AND OTHER EXPERIMENTAL PROJECTS. HE ADDS THAT AN EXTENSIVE PROGRAM IS PLANNED ALONG THIS LINE. HERE IS HIS EXPLANATION: RADAR SETS ARE USED TO FOLLOW THE COURSE OF THE BALLOONS WHICH CARRY SIX-CORNED REFLECTORS COVERED WITH TINFOIL. THESE REFLECTORS SOMETIMES CARRY INSTRUMENTS. SOMETIMES THEY CARRY TAGS MARKED "PROPERTY OF A-M-C WATSON LABORATORIES, ALAMOGORDO AIRFIELD." AIRCRAFT AS WELL AS GROUND EQUIPMENT IS USED TO TRACK THE BALLOONS. THEIR LENGTH OF STAY IN THE AIR DEPENDS UPON WEATHER CONDITIONS. PRITCHARD SAYS THAT ONE RECENTLY WAS FOUND NEAR AMARILLO, TEXAS, AND THAT SEVERAL HAVE BEEN RECOVERED IN COLORADO. SOME OF THEM HAVE BEEN RELEASED SINGLY, WHILE OTHERS HAVE BEEN RELEASED IN GROUPS.