great "flap" of 1957 began on November 2.
days, all over the globe, UFOs by the hundreds descended
into our atmosphere, several coming close to the earth.
Within forty-eight hours, the censorship wall was breached,
as dramatic reports by trained observers hit the front
pages. In the fight to regain control, some Air Force
officials even repudiated their own men. And still the
reports poured in.
far as our records show, Mr. Odis Echols was the first
American to report a UFO during this flap. At 8 P.M. on
November 2, Mr. Echols, owner of Station KCLV at Clovis,
New Mexico, saw a strange, glowing object speeding southwest.
afterward, Ground Observer Corps spotters at Midland,
Texas, sighted another UFO - logged as a "large unidentified
object with a bluish glow." At 11:20 P.M., CAA tower
operators Calvin Harris and Sandy McKean - on duty at
Amarillo Airport - saw the same, or a similar blue UFO
moving through the sky. Though McKean called it "spectacular,"
this case might not have been widely known but for what
began near Levelland, Texas, on Highway 116. The cases
described were confirmed for NICAP by Sheriff Weir Clem
and NICAP member James Lee, exactly as they were reported
to the Air Force.
before midnight, truck driver Pedro Saucedo was driving
toward town with a passenger, Joe Salav, when a huge torpedo-shaped
machine descended toward the highway. It had a bluish-green
glow, and it appeared 150 to 200 feet long.
the mysterious craft came closer, the car lights dimmed,
then the engine sputtered and died. Saucedo jumped out
and dived under the truck. As Salav watched from the cab,
the strange machine settled close to the road. Whether
it landed, or was hovering just off the ground, Salav
could not tell - the blue-green light was too bright.
two or three minutes, the UFO remained there. Then it
quickly lifted, its glow changing to red as it climbed.
Saucedo got back into his truck. The lights and ignition
now worked correctly. He drove into Levelland, told the
Sheriff his story, with Salav as a witness.
first, Sheriff Clem was incredulous. But in the next hour,
he learned of four other cases where lights had been dimmed
and engines stopped by the object's low approach. Among
the witnesses were trucker Ronald Martin, F. B. Williams,
Wallace Scott, Newell Wright, Milton Namkin, Constable
Lloyd Bollen of Anton, Texas, and James D. Long, of Waco.
Sheriff Clem was checking one report, he and Deputy Pat
McCulloch saw the UFO's weird glow as the machine passed
above the highway. This also was seen by patrolmen Lee
Hargrove and Floyd Gavin, following in separate cars.
was then 1:30 A.M.
second landing came at White Sands. At 3 A.M., a large
round device, obviously under intelligent control, slowly
descended toward the north tip of the White Sands rocket-proving
grounds. From below, two military policemen in a jeep
- Corporal Glenn H. Roy and Pfc. James Wilbanks - watched
the UFO's cautious descent.
came down very slowly to about fifty yards," Corporal
Roy later told Army Intelligence officers. "It stayed
there three minutes, giving off a brilliant reddish-orange
light. Then it came to the ground fairly fast. It looked
like a completely controlled landing."
UFO, Roy and Wilbanks said, was about seventy-five to
one hundred yards in circumference. After a few moments
on the ground, it took off and rapidly climbed out of
sight. Both MP's told the Intelligence officers they believed
it was a controlled machine from outer space.
the predawn darkness, other flying objects caused alerts
from coast to coast. But Air Defense pilots, ordered to
intercept the UFOs, were swiftly outmaneuvered by the
daylight, sightings temporarily fell off; apparently,
most of the surveillance was made from higher altitudes.
But reports of single UFOs, by military and private observers,
came in throughout the day. At Springfield, Illinois,
and Calgary, Alberta, motorists reported their engines
stalled by low-flying objects. At Deming, New Mexico,
a UFO the size of the Levelland machine was seen by two
men - Robert Toby, GOC observer and radio-station owner,
and CBS-TV cameraman Russell B. Day. By night, the unknown
objects were being seen all over the country.
before this, teletype reports from Army, Navy and Air
Force bases had reached the Pentagon, also ATIC
and the Air Defense Command at Colorado Springs. At least
two had already leaked - the "blue UFO" sighting
by the Amarillo tower men, and the GOC case at Midland.
the reports increased, worried ADC officers remembered
the '52 tension, when massed sightings caused rumors of
a flying-saucer invasion. And the later teletypes did
nothing to reassure them.
8 P.M., Mountain Standard Time, a second disturbing encounter
occurred near White Sands. At a camp north of the proving
ground, another Army jeep patrol - SP3 Forest R, Oakes
and another SP3 named Barlow - sighted a strange machine
hovering fifty feet from the ground. In their official
report, the men said it was two hundred to three hundred
feet long, shaped like a thick projectile. It had a bright
glow. After a short interval, they reported, it took off,
climbing at a forty-five-degree angle, and disappeared.
Sunday ended, two more sightings by expert observers increased
ADC's concern. At 10:55 P.M., Technical Sergeant Jack
Waddell, a control-tower operator at Dyess Air Force Base,
saw an oddly lighted UFO flying close to a highway.
11:53, the CAA tower at Amarillo logged a report from
a Navy test pilot. Apparently, a UFO was making a close
observation of the Navy plane. Though it showed no sign
of hostility, it maneuvered around the aircraft, its glow
alternately dimming and growing brighter as it climbed
morning, Air Force Headquarters was in a quandary. The
Levelland report, backed by five Texas law officers, was
a front-page story, and hundreds of newscasters were building
it up. Pushing if for second place was a police report
from Elmwood Park, near Chicago. At 3:12 A.M., two Elmwood
Park officers and a fireman had sighted a glowing orange-red
object about two hundred feet long. It was hovering less
than three hundred feet from the ground. One officer quickly
radioed the police station, and the dispatcher, Daniel
de Giovanni, hurried outside. He could plainly see the
unknown machine, low and eerily motionless in the sky.
the police in the squad car turned their spotlight up
toward the UFO, its beam and their headlights dimmed.
The hovering craft quickly began to move, disappearing
in a few seconds.
the Levelland encounter had been an isolated case, the
censors could have killed it with ridicule. But with all
the trained observers now on record, it wasn't safe. Yet
something had to be done in a hurry. Too many newspapers
were taking the reports seriously.
Air Force leaks could be plugged, with a hard-boiled message
to base commanders. Pressure could be increased on the
Army, Navy, the CAA and the airlines. All this could be
done behind the scenes - and was done, as events later
proved - but for the press, there was only one solution,
short of telling the truth:
high-level Air Force debunking, minus - temporarily, at
least - the usual ridicule.
decision was made about mid-afternoon. At Alamogordo,
New Mexico, a delayed-action bomb already was set to blow
the plan sky-high. But the censors had no hint of that.
that day, one of our part-time staff members, Miss Elizabeth
Kendall, brought up a question which had worried me for
if the UFOs land, ready to make contact?" she said.
"Does the Air Force - or anybody - have a plan ready?"
never admitted it," I answered, "but they must
have some idea of what to do."
what good is that, if the public doesn't know?" said
Miss Kendall. "Right now, most people are unprepared.
What will happen if the Air Force has to admit the 'saucers'
on how it's done. If they had to do it now, in all this
excitement, it'd probably scare some people. But they
wouldn't be in that spot if they'd leveled with the public
from the start."
Alamogordo case broke on the night of November 4. About
10:30 P.M., a disturbing teletype message was flashed
to the Pentagon from the Air Force Missile Development
Center, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. A Missile
Center engineer, James Stokes, had just broadcast a dramatic
UFO report over Station KALG, in Alamogordo.
afternoon, the engineer revealed, an enormous, oval-shaped
object had suddenly appeared above the Sacramento Mountains,
coming toward Highway 54. As it approached, his car radio
failed, then his engine stalled. Other cars, in front
and behind him, similarly were stalled by some electro-magnetic
effect from the giant UFO.
was at least five hundred feet long," Stokes declared.
it passed over, I felt a wave of heat. Then the object
made a 45-degree turn, toward Organ Pass."
UFO's speed, the missile engineer estimated, was between
1,500 and 2,500 m.p.h. He declined to say on the air what
he thought the object was.
just hope we're ready for whatever it is," he said
message from Holloman Air Force Base hit the censors hard.
Such a report by a Missile Center engineer would be difficult
to explain away, and the press wires already had picked
up the broadcast.
morning, the Stokes report and the Air Force "fact
sheet" fought a front-page battle, with three unco-ordinated
Air Force statements adding to the confusion:
Pentagon: "We are making a serious investigation
of the Levelland case. We don't investigate all reports."
"We investigate all reports. We never know when one
may turn up something new."
"One published saucer report sets off a rash of sightings."
NICAP, between attempts to phone Stokes, I had a call
from Sam Gordon, science editor of the Washington Daily
high up in the Coast Guard must believe the 'saucers'
are real. They held a special press conference at their
New Orleans office and released a sighting by the Coast
Guard cutter Sebago. The cutter was cruising in
the Gulf of Mexico. This wire story is a radio report
from the C.O. Commander C. H. Waring."
5:10 that morning (November 5), veteran radarmen on the
Sebago had picked up a strange flying object. According
to Commander Waring, the UFO had raced around the cutter
for ten minutes. Tracking it constantly, the radarmen
had seen it stop in mid-air, then accelerate swiftly.
At one point, its speed was almost 1,000 m.p.h.
5:21, the mystery craft, brightly glowing, was seen by
four men on deck: Lieutenant Donald Schaefer, Ensign Wayne
Schottley, Quartermaster Kenneth Smith and Seaman Radioman
Thomas Kirk. The UFO was then moving horizontally at very
last radar contact, Commander Waring said, showed the
unknown object heading toward Louisiana. It had then flown
175 miles, in seventeen minutes.
the Air Force, this published official report was a hammer
blow. The Coast Guard was highly respected by the public,
and its technicians and officers were as well trained
as any in the armed forces. This was one time when a quick
brush-off could be dangerous.
comment, the Air Force told the press the Sebago's
report had not been received. This may have been true,
though JANAP 146, binding on the Coast Guard, orders the
swiftest possible transmission of UFO reports by teletype,
radio or telephone.
of Air Force ridicule in the Coast Guard and Stokes cases
temporarily offset their debunking campaign. Noting the
serious press treatment, many citizens were encouraged
to report their own observations. By the evening of November
5, NICAP had logged scores of new, verified sightings:
Texas. A maneuvering UFO seen by Police Captain Clyde
C. Rush, five of his officers and reporter Paul Smith.
Spooner, Wisconsin. A fast, oval-shaped object;
witnesses, newspaper editor William Stewart, an Episcopal
minister, three other residents. Atlanta, Georgia.
A huge UFO seen by three city firemen. Ottawa, Canada.
A rocket-shaped device witnessed by physics professor
Jacques Hebert, Ottawa University. Chicago. An
oval-shaped UFO sighted by sheriff's deputies, police
sergeant. Barahona, Dominican Republic, disc-shaped
UFOs seen by hundreds. Houston, Texas, visual sighting
by well-known citizens, with reports of car-radio and
the growing excitement, some Servicemen, evidently thinking
the lid had blown off, made their sightings public. Two
important breaks on November 5 were phoned to me that
night by a NICAP member in Los Angeles:
the first report. It was put out by Major Louis F. Baker,
C.O. of the Air Force Weather Observation Station, Long
3:50 P.M., Major Baker told the press, he had seen six
"saucer-shaped objects" appear suddenly over
the airport. Two other Air Force weather experts and ten
additional armed forces personnel also had observed the
were circular, and shiny like spun aluminum," said
Major Baker. "They changed course instantaneously,
without the loss of speed which planes have in a dogfight."
Baker and the others watched, the formation of discs circled
swiftly near the base of a cloud bank. Determining the
distance to the cloud - about 7,000 feet - Major Baker
was able to make an accurate estimate of the UFOs' size.
They were larger, he reported, than an Air Force C-47
- a twin-engine transport.
other sighting is still going on," the Los Angeles
member told me. "It's out at the Naval Air Station,
Los Alamitos. I just heard a newscast - UFOs have been
circling over there almost an hour."
that night, this was confirmed for the press by Navy witnesses
at the base, including Lieutenant Richard Spencer, a jet
pilot, and Louis D. Mitchell, a control-tower operator.)
really building up!" said the Los Angeles man. "The
way they're spilling reports, the Air Force must be ready
to bust it wide open."
he hung up, I could still feel his excitement. But I couldn't
believe a policy change was that near, though the pressure
obviously was mounting.
editors and newscasters knew the Air Force denials weren't
true; they themselves had seen UFOs.
St. Petersburg, Florida, observers of a UFO seen in daylight
included WSUN news director Paul Hayes and sportswriter
Eddie Ervin, St. Petersburg Independent. Both had
been strong skeptics.
Decatur, Michigan, a strange flying object had been seen
by hundreds, including Waldron Stewart, editor of the
Adrian Telegram, Decatur Police Chief Donald Miller,
and Eaton County deputy sheriffs.
through November 6 and 7, published sightings continued,
though some had been filed before the Schmidt story broke.
Curiously, three were Air Force leaks.
was at Edwards Air Force Base, California. About 7:30
P.M., November 6, Air Force MP's in widely separated areas
sighted a mysterious object flying low over the secret
test center. The leak came when Air Force officers asked
Lancaster and Palmdale county sheriffs to watch for a
glowing round object.
same day, GOC observers at Dansville, New York, flashed
a UFO report to the Air Force Filter Center at Buffalo.
For some unknown reason, it was released to the press
by Filter Sergeant George Hatch. The GOC observers, he
said, were fully experienced in identifying aerial objects.
Then he added:
said the object appeared to be made of highly polished
metal, or was glowing very brightly." A message,
Hatch said, had been flashed to the Air Defense Command.
But ADC refused to comment on reports that jets had tried
to force the UFO down.
most encouraging news in this tug-of-war came in a call
from Frank Edwards, at Indianapolis.
you won't believe this! The chief Air Force PIO at Los
Angeles - Colonel Dean Hess - just revealed he's asked
Secretary Douglas to open up with the truth about UFOs."
amazing, if he really did."
true, all right. My source in L.A. just read me a press
interview. Colonel Hess says the Pentagon is greatly concerned,
and it's plain he's worried, too. He said he phoned the
Secretary's office and asked for a thorough investigation.
Here's the hot part, quote: 'I have asked for a thorough
investigation so the public may know the real nature of
these objects. I'm not going to be satisfied with one
of these routine inquiries. I am sure the American people
would be receptive to information as to whether these
objects are of terrestrial or celestial origin.' Unquote."
can't believe it," I said. "When the censors
hear that, he'll think the whole Pentagon fell on him."
may get a surprise," said Edwards. "Hess is
a former minister and a Korean ace. A man like that could
be another Billy Mitchell and wake people up to the truth."
just hope he can stand up under the pressure."
soon know. Now, besides that, I've got two brand-new reports.
Tonight, two Illinois state troopers - Calvin Showers
and John Matulis - tried to chase a flying object near
Danville. It was moving at high speed. When they tried
to call their station, the radio was dead. It came back
when the UFO was gone. This report is backed by State
Police Lieutenant John Henry, chief of the Urbana District.
Irving Kravitz, TWA, reported the other UFO when he landed
at Chicago. He said they'd encountered something strange,
moving faster than any jet, over Nebraska. The CAA and
the Air Force have the details."
that Kearney story won't stop reports, after all,"
I said hopefully.
not that alone - it's partly that stuff Menzel keeps putting
out. [In 1952, Dr. Donald Menzel, head of astronomy at
Harvard, tried to explain away UFOs as meteors, reflections
and other natural phenomena. But ATIC, in an official
statement, told me they not only did not accept his answers
but that he had not even examined their evidence. The
AF chief consultant on UFOs, Dr. Allen J. Hynek, stated:
"He does not present a systematic study . . . raises
more questions than answers . . . not a serious treatise,
but entertainingly written."] You saw how Menzel
explained the Levelland case?" Edwards went on.
- a mirage."
he said it scared the drivers, so each of the cars stalled
'because of a nervous foot on the accelerator."
he didn't explain the radios fading and headlights going
nervous hands," Edwards said ironically. "You
know how scary those Texans are."
a broadcast next day, Edwards bluntly exposed the falacies
in Menzel's theories. And he was not alone. In a sharp
editorial, the Columbus Evening Dispatch labeled
Menzel as the "chief hatchetman and knocker-down
of UFO reports." Citing his "closed-mind dogmatism,"
it said his claim were a tipoff to the fact that official
investigators were baffled.
California, Captain Ruppelt fired another blast at the
astronomer. Describing costly Project Blue Book experiments,
he said Menzel's mirage answer was absolutely ruled out.
is sufficient evidence of flying saucer existence to warrant
further investigation," he told reporters. He also
revealed that the project had received electrical interference
reports when he was its chief, then urged the Air Force
to "stop playing mum."
after I heard this, word came that Colonel Hess was to
be interviewed on a Los Angeles television program. Hoping
for a real break, I waited for word from the Coast. Then
a Los Angeles member phoned the bad news to our office:
Hess looked beaten - they must've given him hell. All
he did was recite the Air Force line. And here's something
else. Remember Lieutenant Spencer, the Navy pilot at Los
Alamitos? He had agreed to go on the TV show You Asked
For It. Now, he's been ordered to drop it and shut
up. He's been quoted as saying the directive probably
applies to all the armed forces."
this was only one of the steps taken to help make the
blackout complete. Every day, new attempts were made to
convince the Pentagon press corps that the entire UFO
subject was nonsense. By the end of November 7, as more
witnesses were given the "humor" treatment,
public reports were almost down to zero.
some NICAP members, it seemed the silence group had won.
But this was only a lull in November's seesaw fight.
biggest battle was yet to come.