to put Farmington on the map, and real honest-to- goodness flying saucers. One explanation was never publicized, however, and if there is an explanation, it is the best. Under certain conditions of extreme cold, probably 50 to 60 degrees below zero, the plastic bag of a skyhook balloon will get very brittle, and will take on the characteristics of a huge light bulb. If a sudden gust of wind or some other disturbance hits the balloon, it will shatter into a thousand pieces. As these pieces of plastic float down and are carried along by the wind, they could look like thousands of flying saucers.
On St. Patrick's Day a skyhook balloon launched from Holloman AFB, adjacent to the White Sands Proving Ground, did burst near Farmington, and it was cold enough at 60,000 feet to make the balloon brittle. True, the people at Farmington never found any pieces of plastic, but the small pieces of plastic are literally as light as feathers and could have floated far beyond the city.
The next day, on March 18, the Air Force, prodded by the press, shrugged and said, "There's nothing to it," but they had no explanation.
True magazine came through for a third time when their April issue, which was published during the latter part of March 1950, carried a roundup of UFO photos. They offered seven photos as proof that UFO's existed. It didn't take a photo-interpretation expert to tell that all seven could well be of doubtful lineage, nevertheless the collection of photos added fuel to the already smoldering fire. The U.S. public was hearing a lot about flying saucers and all of it was on the pro side. For somebody who didn't believe in the things, the public thought that the Air Force was being mighty quiet.
The subject took on added interest on the night of March 26, when a famous news commentator said the UFO's were from Russia.
The next night Henry J. Taylor, in a broadcast from Dallas, Texas, said that the UFO's were Uncle Sam's own. He couldn't tell all he knew, but a flying saucer had been found on the beach near Galveston, Texas. It had USAF markings.
Two nights later a Los Angeles television station cut into a regular program with a special news flash; later in the evening the announcer said they would show the first photos of the real thing, our military's flying saucer. The photos turned out to be of the Navy XF- 5-U, a World War II experimental aircraft that never flew.
The public was now thoroughly confused.
By now the words "flying saucer" were being batted around by every newspaper reporter, radio and TV newscaster, comedian, and man on the street. Some of the comments weren't complimentary, but as Theorem I of the
publicity racket goes, "It doesn't make any difference what's said as long as the name's spelled right."
Early in April the publication that is highly revered by so many, U.S. News and World Report, threw in their lot. The UFO's belonged to the Navy. Up popped the old non-flying XF-5-U again.
Events drifted back to normal when Edward R. Murrow made UFO's the subject of one of his TV documentaries. He took his viewers around the U.S., talked to Kenneth Arnold, of original UFO fame, by phone and got the story of Captain Mantell's death from a reporter "who was there." Sandwiched in between accounts of actual UFO sightings were the pro and con opinions of top Washington brass, scientists, and the man on the street.
Even the staid New York Times, which had until now stayed out of UFO controversy, broke down and ran an editorial entitled, "Those Flying Saucers--Are They or Aren't They?"
All of this activity did little to shock the military out of their dogma. They admitted that the UFO investigation really hadn't been discontinued. "Any substantial reports of any unusual aerial phenomena would be processed through normal intelligence channels," they told the press.
Ever since July 4, 1947, ten days after the first flying saucer report, airline pilots had been reporting that they had seen UFO's. But the reports weren't frequent-- maybe one every few months. In the spring of 1950 this changed, however, and the airline pilots began to make more and more reports--good reports. The reports went to ATIC but they didn't receive much attention. In a few instances there was a semblance of an investigation but it was halfhearted. The reports reached the newspapers too, and here they received a great deal more attention. The reports were investigated, and the stories checked and rechecked. When airline crews began to turn in one UFO report after another, it was difficult to believe the old "hoax, hallucination, and misidentification of known objects" routine. In April, May, and June of 1950 there were over thirty-five good reports from airline crews.
One of these was a report from a Chicago and Southern crew who were flying a DC-3 from Memphis to Little Rock, Arkansas, on the night of March 31. It was an exceptionally clear night, no clouds or haze, a wonderful night to fly. At exactly nine twenty-nine by the cockpit clock the pilot, a Jack Adams, noticed a white light off to his left. The copilot, G. W. Anderson, was looking at the chart but out of the corner of his eye he saw the pilot lean forward and look out the window, so he looked out too. He saw the light just as the pilot said, "What's that?"