1947: Ramey, Roswell, and pre-Roswell UFO debunkery
The flying saucer phenomenon first burst into the U.S. public consciousness after pilot Kenneth Arnold's sighting of 9 anomalous objects near Mount Rainier on June 24, 1947. There was a heavy concentration of sightings in the New Mexico area, including two major ones on June 27 and June 29. On June 30, Brig. Gen. Ramey, 8th AAF commander at Fort Worth and his intelligence chief, Col. Alfred Kalberer, [Note 1--Kalberer's background] were interviewed by a reporter for the Associated Press. They started debunking the saucer reports, including Arnold's, as "Buck Rogers stuff." Ramey said people were probably seeing heat waves or misidentifying distant jet planes. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Austin American, Roswell Morning Dispatch, El Paso Times, July 1, New!] Kalberer continued debunking the next day, saying "we're not being invaded by planes from Mars." He likened the situation to the hysteria caused by Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast of a decade before. He also compared the reports to those of sea serpents. Finally he discounted Kenneth Arnold's calculation of supersonic speeds saying that he must have made a math mistake. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, El Paso Times, July 2, New!] A week later, on Sunday July 6, Ramey was attending an air show in his home town of Denton, Texas, as was FWAAF base commander. Col. H. T. Wheless [Note 2 -- Wheless' background] (Denton Record-Chronicle, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 6). His chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Thomas Dubose (Ret.) remembered Ramey being away from the base when Dubose received the first calls from acting SAC chief Gen. Clemence McMullen in Washington about the crash and strange material being found. (This probably represented debris samples that rancher Mack Brazel had brought to the sheriff's office when he first reported his find.) McMullen ordered the debris immediately shipped to Washington by "colonel courier" under the strictest secrecy. Dubose wasn't even supposed to tell the absent Ramey. As it turned out, according to Dubose, acting base commander Col. Alvin Clark ended up as McMullen's "colonel courier." However, Ramey didn't stay in the dark very long. According to an affidavit from Roswell public information officer Walter Haut, a second crash site was discovered by the afternoon of Monday, July 7. Ramey was at the Roswell staff meeting the next morning at 7:30 a.m., along with Dubose. Everyone was briefed about two crash sites, the debris field about 75 miles to the northwest, and a craft/body site 40 miles north. Debris was passed around for everybody to examine. Nobody knew what it was. Most of the meeting was devoted to discussing how the crash was to be publicly handled, since many civilians were now aware of both sites. Ramey suggested the public be told about the debris field site to divert attention away from closer and more important craft/body site. Haut felt Ramey was acting under directions from the Pentagon. In fact, simultaneous with the morning meeting, General Hoyt Vandenberg, acting Army Air Force Chief of Staff, had called a meeting of the War Department's Joint Research and Development Board, chaired by Dr. Vannevar Bush. Bush and the Research and Development Board were later implicated in 1950 as being involved in a supersecret UFO study group, perhaps going under the code name of Majestic 12 or MJ-12.
Haut said he was unaware of exactly how the misdirection was to be handled, but by around 9:30 a.m. base commander Col. William Blanchard dictated a press release to him. In the meantime, Ramey returned to 8th AAF Headquarters at Fort Worth. The press release stated that they had recovered a flying disc from a nearby ranch and that it was being flown to "higher headquarters," which turned out to be General Ramey. Thus part of the scheme seemed to be first to shift the focus away from the craft/body site, and then shift it away from Roswell altogether, directing it to Fort Worth instead for Ramey to handle.
Haut distributed the release to the local Roswell media around noon, and by 2:30, the press release hit the newswire and created a press furor. Newspaper reported Gen. Vandenberg dropping into the AAF press room to personally handle the crisis. Phone calls were directed to Roswell and Gen. Ramey in Fort Worth.
By around 3:30 in the afternoon, newspapers reported that Ramey began debunking the Roswell base flying disk press release, instead labeling it a weather balloon and its radar target. Ironically, during a photo op of Ramey with the weather balloon in his office, a picture of him holding a teletype message was taken. The message from Gen. Ramey to Vandenberg stated unequivocally that there had been "victims", totally destroying the ongoing pretense that the events could be explained as the crash of a balloon. In addition, Ramey mentioned that a "disk" had been found and that something "in the disc" (probably the bodies--see B-29 crate flight) was being shipped to his command. [Note 3 -- Ramey's history of spin-doctoring] A week after Roswell, Ramey rebutted some additional comments by Col. Kalberer on July 10 that the flying disks reported in the Pacific northwest were probably part of some secret military project. Ramey said he knew of no such projects. (UP item, El Paso Times, July 15, New!) New! Researchers Tom Carey and Don Schmitt found one witness, a B-29 crew member at Fort Worth in 1948, who said while waiting to board the plane, he overheard Ramey talking with an officer about the Roswell incident. When asked what the stuff really was, Ramey allegedly said, "It was the biggest lie I ever had to tell...It was out of this world." Similarly, former AF intelligence officer and UFO researcher George Filer recently (2011) related speaking with Mrs. Ramey, who told him her husband "was very embarrassed about having to lie about the weather balloon--he was very upset about that." She also related they became good friends with President Truman afterward. Two second-hand witnesses claim Mrs. Ramey told them her husband related it involved a "spaceship." [2007, Witness to Roswell, p. 190] Mrs. Ramey has never made a public statement to this effect, however. Roswell/UFO researcher Stanton Friedman also spoke with Mrs. Ramey and was convinced she didn't know any actual details about Roswell.
1952: Washington D.C. UFO Overflights, the"Shoot Down" Order,
and the Debunking Press Conference
After this, Ramey dropped below the UFO radar screen for the next 5 years. In 1950 he became Air Force Director of Operations at the Pentagon. He popped up again debunking UFOs at a large press conference at the Pentagon called on July 29, 1952, in response to widespread saucer sightings the previous few months, climaxing in the nationally publicized visual sightings, radar contacts, and jet scrambles over Washington D.C. during the previous two weekends.
The day before the press conference, press stories came out that jet interceptors had been placed on a 24-hour nationwide "alert against the flying saucers" with orders to "shoot them down" if they didn't land. One INS story then stated that the Air Force refused to confirm this, but Lt. Col. Moncel Monte, information officer, stated: "The jet pilots are, and have been under orders to investigate unidentified objects and to shoot them down if they can't talk them down." (INS Stories, July 29, 1952: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, San Francisco Examiner, Fall River (MA) Herald-News New!) In addition to the Air Force jet interceptors, apparently the Army was also involved. According to one article in the Los Angeles Times.(New!), many of the nation's major airports were surrounded by antiaircraft batteries because of the tense flying saucer situation. According to historian Gerald K. Haines in a 1997 report commissioned by the CIA titled "CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-1990", the massive build-up of sightings over the U.S., particularly in July, 1952, had greatly alarmed the Truman administration. This apparently led to the order to "Shoot them down!" That order was put into effect by the Air Force on July 26. Further, according to Brad Steiger, "Several prominent scientists, including Albert Einstein, protested the order to the White House and urged that the command be rescinded, not only in the interest of future intergalactic peace, but also in the interest of self-preservation: Extraterrestrials would certainly look upon an attack by the primitive jet firepower as a breach of the universal laws of hospitality. [Note 4 on Einstein and protests] The 'shoot them down' order was consequently withdrawn on White House orders by five o'clock that afternoon."
Ramey, who as Operations Officer for the Air Force was in charge of the interceptions, issued the following doubletalk public denial to the newspaper articles:
"No orders have been issued to the Air Defense Command, or by the Air Defense Command, to its fighter units, to fire on unidentified aerial phenomena. The Air Force in compliance with its mission of air defense of the United States must assume the responsibility for investigation of any object or phenomenon in the air over the United States. Fighter units have been instructed to investigate any object observed or established as existing by radar tracks and to intercept any airborne object identified as hostile or showing hostile interest. This should not be interpreted to mean that Air Defense have been instructed to fire haphazardly on anything that flies." The debunking press conference was apparently ordered by Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Nathan Twining in order to cool down the press furor over the rumored "shoot down" order and the nationally reported radar contacts and jet intercepts over Washington D.C. ) Two years later, with Ramey present, Twining was to add his own interesting comments about "men from Mars." At the press conference, Ramey was in the company of Major Gen. John A. Samford, Director of USAF intelligence. According to Major Donald Keyhoe, who attended the session, Samford appeared relaxed and unflappable, while Ramey struck him as a "florid and serious" officer. The press was told Ramey and Samford were the Air Force's top two flying saucer experts. However, Samford did most of the talking at the press conference. Ramey was present to primarily answer possible questions on jet interceptions. At one point, Ramey and Samford admitted that interceptors had been sent aloft 300 times in the past because of radar contacts. In an apparent attempt to minimize this, however, Ramey also said that this was just standard procedure and on one occasion jet interceptors were scrambled, only to find a flock of geese
Samford remained very ambiguous in his comments to the point of confusing the press with even more doubletalk. Samford eventually threw out the explanation that the D.C. sightings might have been caused by heat inversions, which seemed to generally satisfy the press. (In 1956, Samford became director of the highly secretive National Security Agency.)
"Ramey was very polite and certainly very smart. He managed to evade the pointed nature of each
question and somehow seemed to be covering it anyway (Keyhoe chuckled), but of course that
was because he had to. He was under orders like all the rest of them, but after that time I don't
recall having any other contact with him."
Pratt told Keyhoe that he was currently trying to locate Ramey [Note 5 on Ramey as a USAF nonentity], because his publisher had been told by a brigadier general, who had known Ramey in the 1950's (perhaps Brig. Gen. Arthur Exon--see comments on Roswell), that Ramey definitely believed the objects to be from outer space, despite public statements to the contrary. As we shall soon see, Ramey's clever evasion skills were on display again when interviewed on CBS TV a few days after the press conference, including his ability to talk around the extraterrestrial question.
The day after the press conference, Ramey identified strips of tinfoil found near a race track as radar chaff that had been dropped by bombers the previous Sunday during an Air Defense exercise. He said the foil could not have caused the Washington D.C. UFO radar contacts from Saturday night. (Washington Post, 7/31/52).
Internal Briefings vs. the Official Story
In many respects, the 1952 Washington debunking resembled Ramey and the military's 1947 debunking of Roswell and the flying saucers. In place of "weather balloons" just substitute "heat inversions" for the fit-all "explanation." However, as was usually the case, the Air Force's official story fed the press and public contrasted sharply with what was being said internally. Only a few hours before the press conference, Samford's office had briefed AFOSI (Air Force counterintelligence) about the flying saucers and the Washington sightings and concluded that, "The Director of Intelligence [i.e. Samford] advises that no theory exists at the present time as to the origin of the objects and they are considered to be unexplained."
On the same day at about the same time, the FBI liaison with the Air Force arranged through General Samford's office to be briefed by a Commander Randall Boyd of the Current Intelligence Branch, Estimates Division, Air Intelligence (same people that briefed AFOSI). The liaison was told:
He [Boyd] advised that the sightings in the last category [pilot sightings with ground radar corroboration] have never been satisfactorily explained. He pointed out, however, that it is still possible that these objects may be a natural phenomenon or some type of atmospheric disturbance. He advised that it is not entirely impossible that the objects sighted may possibly be ships from another planet such as Mars. He advised that at the present time there is nothing to substantiate this theory but the possibility is not being overlooked. He stated that Air Intelligence is fairly certain that these objects are not ships or missiles from another nation in this world. Commander Boyd advised that intense research is being carried on presently by Air Intelligence, and at the present time when credible reportings of sightings are received , the Air force is attempting in each instance to send up jet interceptor planes in order to obtain a better view of these objects. However, recent attempts in this regard have indicated that when the pilot in the jet approaches the object it invariably fades from view. This was a very different slant than the public story of mirages and heat inversions. Among other things, notice the consistent reference to actual "objects" and the seriousness with which the matter was treated, including discussion of possible extraterrestrial origins, intense research, jet intercepts, and evasive behavior. [For a very detailed account of the 1952 Washington sightings, see Dr. Bruce Maccabee's website.]
Ramey Continues the Debunkery on National TV
A few days later (August 3), Ramey appeared on CBS TV, on the Sunday news show "Man of the Week," where he was grilled by reporters on flying saucers. He was called the Air Force's "saucer man" and said to be handling investigation into the current rash of reports. (See Associated Press account)
Like Samford's confusing press conference comments and Ramey's own "shoot 'em down" denial press release a few days before, Ramey again proved to be evasive and ambiguous in his answers and also gave out what he must have known to be false information. He claimed the saucers couldn't be material, solid objects because they couldn't be photographed, insinuating that there were no photos of UFOs, which was completely false. There were already a number of photos and movies in Air Force possession, as Ramey must surely have known. In addition, even if they were nonsolid and nonmaterial, that still wouldn't mean they couldn't be photographed. Mirages can be photographed, as can other ephemeral atmospheric phenomena such as rainbows, auroras, sun dogs, lightning, and clouds. If it can be seen with the human eye, it can also be photographed with a camera.
In dealing with radar contacts, Ramey resorted to weasel words. He did not exactly say there had been no radar tracking, instead saying the radar contacts had been sporadic with no suggestive pattern (whatever that meant). As the average person knows today, very material aircraft can be made stealthy to radar. "Sporadic" contact by itself certainly did not prove the objects were nonmaterial. Besides, there had been radar contacts, sporadic or not, some simultaneous with visual sightings. At the press conference a few days before, Ramey had already admitted to 300 such instances in which planes were scrambled for intercept.
He also said no UFO had ever been tracked entering, crossing, and leaving the country, which was hardly the point, since the same could probably be said of all conventional aircraft at that time as well. There were certainly a number of shorter duration radar contacts in Air Force files, including the Washington D.C. contacts, which prompted the debunking by Samford and Ramey to begin with. Whether the UFOs traversed the continent and were tracked the entire time was immaterial.
Ramey likewise declared that absence of contrails was another point against the material existence of the saucers. Of course, conventional aerial objects such as balloons, helicopters, and low-flying aircraft of all types, including jet aircraft, also leave no contrails, yet they are very material. Furthermore, it simply wasn't true that there were no reports of UFOs having contrails. There were such reports, though relatively rare. E.g., a top secret air intelligence study from 1948 noted that "sound and visual trails are not normally associated with the sightings." [Note 6 on eyewitness and photographic evidence of UFO trails]
Ramey also made it sound like most people were just making things up or seeing things. "Some people see things that aren't there. Some people describe things they haven't seen. It is noticeable the reports come in waves." However, Ramey did add, "There are some reports of incredible things from credible people."
Ramey could have elaborated this included well-trained military pilots, ground observers, and radar personnel, not to mention commercial airline pilots, control tower operators, meteorologists, astronomers, rocket scientists, and engineers. (See, e.g., 1952 LIFE Magazine article for some of these high-credibility reports.) As a Battelle Memorial Institute study of USAF UFO reports showed the following year, these most credible reports from the most experienced people had the highest, not lowest, percentage of unknowns associated with them.
When it came to answering a question as to possible extraterrestrial origins, since Ramey had already discounted that they could be of U.S. or Russian origin, Ramey responded ambiguously, "I still believe they are some phenomena that is not easily explained." Like Gen. Samford a few days before, Ramey threw out unusual atmospheric conditions producing mirages as a possible explanation.
(New item) However, another just-discovered account of Ramey's interview has Ramey being more equivocal in his extraterrestrial remarks. It stated that Ramey "did not rule out the possibility that the objects were interplanetary visitors, but he was exceedingly skeptical." Moreover, "Gen. Ramey said he was convinced at least that the saucer's had no hostile intent," an odd choice of words for nonexistent objects. Words like "hostile" and "intent" instead suggest animate consciousness and imply the saucers to be real and intelligently controlled. Finally, he "was not entirely satisfied with the scientific theories cited in recent weeks to show that the 'saucers' were really mirages picked up on the radar screen during certain atmospheric conditions. None of the theories held all the answers, he said." (New York Herald-Tribune & St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/4/52)
Another interesting Ramey remark on the TV program, according to the AP account, was an admission that the Air Force had been forced to come up with some quick answers to prevent a public panic:
In answer to a question whether the Air Force was trying to dispel "hysteria," Ramey replied, "The Air Force is attempting now to make fast explanations." Again, this sounds very much like what Ramey had done with his "weather balloon" story in 1947 to explain the Roswell base press release of a recovered "flying disk." [Note 7 on public panic]
It is also noteworthy that Ramey said he had been reviewing reports for 6 years, meaning since 1946, a full year before Roswell and the great U.S. saucer wave of June/July 1947.
Throughout the interview, Ramey stated he was of the opinion they were not material objects and was "reasonably well" convinced there were no such things based on his 6 years of reviewing reports.
Ramey was still using the "nonmaterial" theme to debunk the saucers a year and a half later. In a story in People Today, Dec. 16, 1953, he was asked to comment about a much-hyped "real" flying saucer under development by the AVRO company in Canada. Ramey said, "The Canadian project has 'mass.' What caused the saucer reports was insubstantial, like electronic phenomena." (Link also has information on a UFO sighting by Lockheed Skunkworks engineers/pilots on the same date and possible connection to later development of the Stealth fighter.)
Four weeks after his CBS TV appearance (August 30), while Ramey was visiting his parents in Denton, Texas, the subject was raised again. Ramey described the public's excitement over flying saucers as "regrettable."
The article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (New!) then states: "One of the Air Force's experts on flying saucers, Ramey reported that 80 percent of the objects can be explained, 5 per cent of the reports are lies or hoaxes, and another 5 per cent are 'hallucinations.' Only 10 per cent of the reports of mysterious aerial objects can not be pinpointed to specific objects or reasons."
However, the month before, both Ramey and Samford had claimed that 20% of the sightings were unexplained, not 10%. This was already low-balling the unknowns, since the Air Force's Project Blue Book at that time placed the number of unknowns at 27%, not 20%, much less 10%. A subsequent scientific and statistical review of 3200 Air Force reports by the Battelle Memorial Institute the following year placed the number of unknowns at a more conservative 22%. However, when only the most reliable sightings were considered, such as those made by trained military personnel and pilots, the percentage actually rose to 35%. So Ramey, as one of the A.F.'s supposed experts, was either badly informed or not totally truthful in his comments.
Air Force Chiefs Vandenberg and Spaatz Join In
Ramey was no doubt deceptive, but he was basically just repeating the party line that Samford had first laid out at the press conference, including statements about the saucers not being material. He was also no different than other high-ranking officers in-the-know charged with keeping the subject matter secret.
E.g., on July 30, the day after the press conference, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, now AF Chief of Staff, was also busy debunking the saucers. According to a United Press story out of Seattle, Vandenberg said there were no such things and believed the present wave of reports were the result of "double vision." He told a group of Boeing aircraft officials, "I don't believe there are flying saucers. However, there apparently are physical phenomena which make people think they have seen them." He added that they were not the product of any experiments by the armed forces and that they "certainly are not machines flown by men from Mars or from any foreign power. I don't like the continued occurrence of mass hysteria about flying saucers. The Air Force has had teams of experts investigating all reports since the end of World War II, and they never have found anything to substantiate existence of such things." [Denver Post, Washington Star, July 31, 1952, Also found in St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Oakland (CA) Tribune]
Vandenberg, like Ramey, seemed to have forgotten the telegram he received from Ramey about the "victims" and "disc" at Roswell.
Vandenberg's predecessor as Chief of Staff, Gen. Carl Spaatz, also joined in the ridicule. When asked his opinion of flying saucers, he was quoted as saying, :"I have also known men who have seen pink elephants." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7/30/52, Note 8) The debunking remarks of Ramey, Vandenberg, and Spaatz after the July 29 press conference seem like deliberate "mop-up" operations to reinforce the initial debunkery. It is very similar to the negative remarks issued by military people post-Roswell along with the debunking weather balloon demonstrations. [See section on how the military debunked the saucers after Roswell]
Previous High Brass Debunkery
This wasn't the first time that important generals like Vandenberg and Spaatz had been involved in public UFO debunkery. A famous example of this occurred April/May 1949 in a heavily slanted, anti-UFO article by Sidney Shallet published in the Saturday Evening Post. Shortly before the article, the Air Force's original investigative group, Project SIGN, had concluded in the summer of 1948 that the saucers were interplanetary. SIGN was summarily dismantled by Vandenberg for daring to reach such an audacious conclusion. It was replaced by Project GRUDGE, with the mandate to debunk the saucers. Investigations were being carried out by the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) at Wright-Patterson AFB. According to later Project Blue Book head Cpt. Ed Ruppelt in his book (Chapt. 5--The Dark Ages), Shallet had been carefully selected and approved by the Pentagon because of his anti-UFO stance and could be trusted to write the story the way they wanted the public to hear it. Ruppelt described Shallet's article this way:
"Many famous names were quoted. The late General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, then Chief
of Staff of the Air Force, had seen a flying saucer, but it was just a reflection on the
windshield of his B-17. General Lauris Norstad's UFO was a reflection of a star on a
cloud, and General Curtis E. LeMay found out that one out of six UFO's was a balloon;
Colonel McCoy, then chief of ATIC, had seen lots of UFO's. All were reflections from
distant airplanes. In other words, nobody who is anybody in the Air Force believes in
Retired Air Force Chief of Staff Spaatz was also quoted in the article. Shallet wrote that Spaatz was another general "who gets indignant when he thinks of saucer hysteria." Spaatz told him, "If the American people are capable of getting so excited over something which doesn't exist, God help us if anyone ever plasters us with a real atomic bomb."
Shallet said that LeMay didn't give him a quote for publication, "but soon thereafter, when a certain lieutenant colonel gave out a lulu of a story on how he, too, had seen flying saucers, the general rebuked him blisteringly by telegram... and sent it collect."
LeMay was also very specific about what type of balloons were causing the sightings, hauling out the 1947 Roswell radar target weather balloon explanation, and claiming they were "in wide use." (Note 9 on previous military Roswell debunkery)
Elsewhere Shallet spent a lot of time elaborating on LeMay's radar target explanation, stating authoritatively that, "The most common sources of innocent deception in the balloon field are the so-called RAWIN (radar-wind) target balloons. ...At the very time the saucer sightings were at their height [in 1947], the Air Force had just turned over thousands of surplus RAWINS to Weather Bureau stations all over the country, so they were used in greater numbers than ever before. Sometimes several RAWINS were released together, which might account for 'disk formations.'"
Ironically in the present day, Air Force Roswell debunkers claimed exactly the opposite, that the radar targets were hardly used at all, and therefore the one that Gen. Ramey displayed in his office had to come from Project Mogul and was the Roswell crash object.
For those of you who have read my Vandenberg section describing his involvement with the Roswell incident, most of the named generals in Shallet's article will already be familiar. Vandenberg was in charge of the Army Air Force at the Pentagon in early July 1947 while General Spaatz was away. (New item, 2007!) One Roswell witness, Army photographer Frederick Benthal, said he was briefed that he might encounter LeMay at the body site he was eventually taken to. If true, this would mean LeMay had seen what happened at Roswell first-hand. A few hours before the Roswell base press release went out, Vandenberg called a sudden, lengthy meeting of the Joint Research and Development Board and was briefed beforehand by LeMay, then Vice Chief of Research and Development for the AAF. Vandenberg's log also have him conferring with LeMay on the current flying saucer situation at other times as well. Later that evening, Gen. Ramey had sent Vandenberg a telegram informing him of "the victims of the wreck" and the "disc" that had been found at Roswell. The next morning Vandenberg was in a lengthy meeting with Norstad, AAF Director of Plans and Operations, along with AAF Secretary Stuart Symington, and Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, whom Vandenberg had dispatched to investigate the European ghost rocket UFO's a year before. Immediately afterwards Vandenberg and Symington met with Eisenhower and the rest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As for poor Col. Howard McCoy, the former ATIC chief depicted as a UFO skeptic in the article, he was probably a hard-core UFO "believer" who helped write the 1948 Project SIGN intelligence estimate that the saucers were interplanetary. He was also at a small 1966 MUFON UFO meeting in Washington D.C., where fellow intelligence officer and NASA program manager Col. Howard Wright stated that, purely as an intelligence matter to find out more about us, he thought that the aliens were already walking among us! (recording)
1954: Chief of Staff Twining and the Orbiting Satellites Story
This just about wraps it up as far as what is known about Ramey and UFOs. Two years later he may possibly have been involved in public statements made by Gen. Nathan Twining, Vandenberg's successor as AF Chief of Staff. Twining is another general thought to be closely associated with the Roswell crash. In 1947 he was commanding officer of the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field, where debris and maybe bodies were taken. Whether by coincidence or otherwise, he also happened to be in New Mexico from July 7 to 11, 1947, during the height of the Roswell incident. Allegedly this was for a prearranged bombing course at Kirtland AAF in Albuquerque. But the following week, Twining also wrote a letter to Boeing Aircraft apologizing for canceling a long-scheduled July 16 trip to the Boeing factory in Seattle, "...due to a very important and sudden matter that developed here." What exactly was the "important and sudden matter" that forced his cancellation? (Top Secret/Majic, by Stanton Friedman, pp. 42-43) [Note 10 for comments of Twining's son on Roswell and lost pilots] On September 23, 1947, Twining wrote a famous memo stating that the flying saucers were quite real (though denying the existence of physical evidence that would prove their existence) and strongly urged their official study by various agencies of the government. (This led to the formation of Project SIGN in January of 1948, the first official USAF public UFO investigative group.) The day after Twining's memo, Truman allegedly set up the "Majestic 12" or "MJ-12" supersecret UFO investigative group under the direction of Dr. Vannevar Bush (for more discussion, see the Wilbert Smith Canadian documents which prove Bush was in charge of such a group). Twining, along with Vandenberg, were alleged members of the group. Though most Ufologists believe the Majestic documents to be fake, it would certainly be logical for people like Twining and Vandenberg to be on such a committee.
Back to Twining and Ramey. Twining, Ramey, and other dignitaries, such as Senator Lyndon Johnson of Texas, were in Amarillo for Armed Forces Day. At a press conference on May 15, 1954, before his speech, somebody apparently asked Twining about flying saucers. (According to the Amarillo paper, it wasn't clear exactly how the subject came up. It just did. We do know that the previous day, "down the road" in Dallas, four Marine Corp jets had pursued 16 UFOs, possibly one reason the topic was raised.)
United Press reported that Twining said the Air Force had the best brains in the country working on "the flying saucer problem." He dismissed 90% of the reports as pure imagination, but the Air Force couldn't explain the other 10%, some of them coming from "very reliable" people.
"We just don't know about that 10 per cent. If they are from Mars and there is a people and a world that far ahead of us, I don't think we have even to worry about it. We are certainly working on the problem and are not discounting all these reports." (Dallas Morning News, Washington Post, May 16, also found in the Los Angeles Times)
Donald Keyhoe in his book Flying Saucers: Top Secret also had Twining speaking of Mars, though the attributed quote is slightly different: "There is no proof these things are real, but if there is a civilization on Mars that far ahead of us I don't think we have anything to worry about."
The local Amarillo paper also quoted Twining somewhat differently. "90 percent of the reports we receive are baseless, but about the other ten per cent ... we don't know." Most of the reports ran in cycles and were tricks of the mind, but he added, "some very reliable people have made reports. They aren't all screwball reports by any matter or means. We're vitally interested and are studying the matter." Twining added that if the flying saucers did exist and were from another world that far ahead of us in productive skills, "there isn't any point in worrying about them anyway." (Amarillo Sunday News-Globe, May 16)
Twining's remarks sounded very much like Ramey's two years before, though not as dismissive. He acknowledged that 10% of sightings were highly credible and unexplained, and that UFO's were still being intensively studied, including by top people.
The other statement about not worrying about some advanced ET civilization can perhaps only be understood in the context of a secret crisis atmosphere within the government and military at that time.
This was perhaps hinted at in a column by journalist Dorothy Kilgallen back on Feb. 15, 1954, in which she wrote, "Flying saucers are regarded as of such vital importance they will be the subject of a special hush-hush meeting of world military heads next summer." [Note 11] The story is very complicated and little known, but involves an official acknowledgement two months before Twining's comments that a search for natural orbiting satellites was being conducted by New Mexico astronomers Drs. Clyde Tombaugh and Lincoln La Paz, financed by the Army (e.g., Los Angeles Times headline story, March 4, 1954; Science News Letter, March 20, 1954, Time Magazine, March 15, 1954 New!). The story finally broke on August 23, 1954 in Aviation Week magazine that two satellites had been found only 400 and 600 miles out. They were termed "natural satellites" and implied that they had been recently captured, despite this being a virtual impossibility. [Note 12 on Eisenhower administration's attempts to censor the press when the topic was again raised the following year.] Although La Paz was again directly implicated in identifying the objects, he was to immediately deny his involvement, but not the truth of the story. (e.g., San Francisco Chronicle on 8/24). However, the usually UFO-staid N.Y. Times on Aug. 29 (New!) also cited an anonymous source close to the project who said that the story was true and La Paz was indeed involved, in fact had been the one to spot and identify the objects as natural rather than artificial satellites. (However, the same source also denied any connection with flying saucers.) Six weeks later, on Oct 10, in a special to the N.Y. Times (New!), La Paz was again to completely deny not only his direct involvement, but also that anything had been found. Tombaugh also later issued a denial that anything had been found. For example, Popular Mechanics magazine was to run two stories in October and May of 1955 in which they claimed that "independent sources" had informed them that "unofficially" the U.S. had secretly orbited a satellite. (Considering that this was over 2 years before the Soviets were the first to actually do it, the Popular Mechanics articles have the smell of a carefully planted cover story.) (New!) In the second story, titled "He Spies on Satellites," it also described Tombaugh's search for natural satellites. Then followed Tombaugh's denial:
"Professor Tombaugh is closemouthed about his results. He won't say whether or not
any small natural satellites have been discovered. He does say, however, that newspaper
reports of 18 months ago announcing the discovery of natural satellites at 400 and 600
miles out are not correct. He adds that there is no connection between the search program
and the reports of so-called flying saucers."
Despite the denials, La Paz's and Tombaugh's involvement with UFO's predated this by a number of years. La Paz was noted for his recovery of meteorites after calculating trajectories based on eyewitness interviews. He already had two spectacular UFO sightings of his own, one only 80 miles north of Roswell and 2 days after the Roswell story broke. (See July 10 of N.M. UFO reports section; also 1952 LIFE Magazine article where LaPaz remains anonymous). According to some military intelligence officers, La Paz was secretly called in after the Roswell incident to determine the trajectory of the crash object under the guise of investigating an airplane crash. (See e.g., affidavit of Earl Zimmerman; another naming La Paz was Sgt. Louis Ricket of the Roswell Army Counterintelligence Corp). In December 1948, the mysterious "green fireball" phenomenon suddenly appeared in the northern New Mexico.area. Air Force intelligence again secretly called in La Paz to investigate. La Paz had a green fireball sighting of his own on December 12, and after analyzing other green fireball sightings arrived at the conclusion that the mysterious fireballs were artificial in origin. (For more on La Paz's sighting and the green fireballs, again see LIFE Magazine article)
Tombaugh, famous for his discovery of the planet Pluto, had his first sighting in Las Cruces on August 20, 1949. He later wrote, "I was so unprepared for such a strange sight that I was really petrified with astonishment." (Tombaugh's letter in The UFO Evidence, ed. Richard Hall) Tombaugh's sighting was also written up in the 1952 LIFE Magazine article. Tombaugh would also have two more sightings, one of which he would never describe in detail.
In addition, like La Paz, Tombaugh had had green fireball sightings, three in fact. He had also told the Naval missile director at White Sands Proving Ground, Cmdr. Robert McLaughlin, that he had seen a bright flash on Mars in August 1941, which he now attributed to an atomic blast (mentioned May 12, 1949, in a letter from McLaughlin to Dr. James van Allen New!).
In 1957, Tombaugh was quoted saying, "...other stars in the galaxy may have hundreds of thousands of habitable worlds. Races on these worlds may have been able to utilize the tremendous amounts of power required to bridge the space between the stars... These things, which do appear to be directed, are unlike any other phenomena I ever observed. Their apparent lack of obedience to the ordinary laws of celestial motion gives credence."
Given this known background, it would probably be fair to call Tombaugh a "believer."
In June 1952, astronomer Dr. J. Alan Hynek, a consultant to the Air Force's Project Blue Book (their public UFO investigation) secretly conducted a survey of fellow astronomers on UFO sightings and attitudes while attending an astronomy convention. Both La Paz and Tombaugh told Hynek about their sightings. Tombaugh also told Hynek that his telescopes were at the Air Force's disposal for taking photos of UFOs, if he was properly alerted. [Note 13]
Thus the involvement of La Paz and Tombaugh in searching for near-Earth orbiting objects was hardly accidental. Furthermore, given Tombaugh's earlier offer to search for and photograph UFOs for the Air Force, his later protestations that he was just searching for natural Earth satellites at military expense and that this had nothing at all to do with UFOs is not terribly convincing.
Keyhoe was later to report that his sources told him the satellites had originally been picked up in 1953 while testing new long-range radar, prompting the sudden visual search by Tombaugh and LaPaz. On May 13, only two days before Twining's remarks, Keyhoe went on radio commentator Frank Edward's program and stated that Earth was being circled by one or two artificial satellites and this information was being withheld from the public. Keyhoe added that U.S. Government scientists at White Sands, N.M. (i.e. La Paz and Tombaugh), were making an intensive effort to locate and chart the course of the satellites in an attempt to determine what they were and where they came from. (New! View articles: