about the meeting. He had a long list of questions about reports that had been made over the past four years and every time he asked a question, the "expert" would go tearing out of the room to try to find the file that had the answer. I remember that day people spent a lot of time ripping open bundles of files and pawing through them like a bunch of gophers. Many times, "I'm sorry, that's classified," got ATIC out of a tight spot.
Ginna, I can assure you, was not at all impressed by the "efficiently operating UFO project." People weren't buying the hoax, hallucination, and misidentification stories quite as readily as the Air Force believed.
Where it started or who started it I don't know, but about two months after the visit from Life's representative the official interest in UFO's began to pick up. Lieutenant Jerry Cummings, who had recently been recalled to active duty, took over the project.
Lieutenant Cummings is the type of person who when given a job to do does it. In a few weeks the operation of the UFO project had improved considerably. But the project was still operating under political, economic, and manpower difficulties. Cummings' desk was right across from mine, so I began to get a UFO indoctrination via bull sessions. Whenever Jerry found a good report in the pile--and all he had to start with was a pile of papers and files--he'd toss it over for me to read.
Some of the reports were unimpressive, I remember. But a few were just the opposite. Two that I remember Jerry's showing me made me wonder how the UFO's could be sloughed off so lightly. The two reports involved movies taken by Air Force technicians at White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico.
The guided missile test range at White Sands is fully instrumented to track high, fast-moving objects--the guided missiles. Located over an area of many square miles there are camera stations equipped with cinetheodolite cameras and linked together by a telephone system.
On April 27, 1950, a guided missile had been fired, and as it roared up into the stratosphere and fell back to earth, the camera crews had recorded its flight. All the crews had started to unload their cameras when one of them spotted an object streaking across the sky. By April 1950 every person at White Sands was UFO-conscious, so one member of the camera crew grabbed a telephone headset, alerted the other crews, and told them to get pictures. Unfortunately only one camera had film in it, the rest had already been unloaded, and before they could reload, the UFO was gone. The photos from the one station showed only a smudgy dark object. About all the film proved was that something was in the air and whatever it was, it was moving.
Alerted by this first chance to get a UFO to "run a measured course," the camera crews agreed to keep a sharper lookout. They also got the official O.K. to "shoot" a UFO if one appeared.
Almost exactly a month later another UFO did appear, or at least at the time the camera crews thought that it was a UFO. This time the crews were ready--when the call went out over the telephone net that a UFO had been spotted, all of the crews scanned the sky. Two of the crews saw it and shot several feet of film as the shiny, bright object streaked across the sky.
As soon as the missile tests were completed, the camera crews rushed their film to the processing lab and then took it to the Data Reduction Group. But once again the UFO had eluded man because there were apparently two or more UFO's in the sky and each camera station had photographed a separate one. The data were no good for triangulation.
The records at ATIC didn't contain the analysis of these films but they did mention the Data Reduction Group at White Sands. So when I later took over the UFO investigation I made several calls in an effort to run down the actual film and the analysis. The files at White Sands, like all files, evidently weren't very good, because the original reports were gone. I did contact a major who was very co- operative and offered to try to find the people who had worked on the analysis of the film. His report, after talking to two men who had done the analysis, was what I'd expected--nothing concrete except that the UFO's were unknowns. He did say that by putting a correction factor in the data gathered by the two cameras they were able to arrive at a rough estimate of speed, altitude, and size. The UFO was "higher than 40,000 feet, traveling over 2,000 miles per hour, and it was over 300 feet in diameter." He cautioned me, however, that these figures were only estimates, based on the possibly erroneous correction factor; therefore they weren't proof of anything--except that something was in the air.
The people at White Sands continued to be on the alert for UFO's while the camera stations were in operation because they realized that if the flight path of a UFO could be accurately plotted and timed it could be positively identified. But no more UFO's showed up.
One day Lieutenant Cummings came over to my desk and dropped a stack of reports in front of me. "All radar reports," he said, "and I'm getting more and more of them every day."
Radar reports, I knew, had always been a controversial point in UFO history, and if more and more radar reports were coming in, there was no doubt that an already controversial issue was going to be compounded.