July 6, 1947
Atomic Energy Experiments
Explain 'Flying Saucers'
Says Scientist; More in Sky
From the Journal Archives
Sunday Morning, July 6, 1947
By International News Service
>The magic words "atomic energy" were offered tonight as the explanation of the baffling "flying saucers" which have been sighted in increasing numbers by hundreds of persons in 32 states, but mainly in the western United States for the past week.
A noted scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said flatly the objects skimming throughout the skies are the results of Government experiments in "transmutation of atomic energy."
This was the first unqualified explanation of the "discs."
The California Institute of Technology later issued a denial that one of its scientists had suggested the saucers might be experiments in "transmutation of atomic energy." Dr. C.C. Lauritsen, head of the school's nuclear physics departments, said he believed the discs have nothing to do with nuclear physics.
Officials of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington said it had no experiments involving "flying saucers" under way, and one of them added, "All we know is what we read in the papers."
An Army Air Forces official in Washing said the AAF was completely mystified by the saucer reports.
Capt. Tom Brown, AAF information officer, said,
"This is definitely not an air forces experiment. We absolutely do not know what these flying discs are. In fact, we wish we did, but we're just as mystified as everyone else."
Maj. Richard Shoop, chief technical engineer at Muroc Army Air Base, denied the discs were connected with any experiments there. Muroc officers said, moreover, a P-80 jet fighter we being readied to give chase if any of the saucers showed up around the desert proving ground.
No Navy Gadgets
The Navy also declared "no such gadgets" were being tested at either the guided-missile test station at Point Gugu or at the Inyokern ordnance test station in the Mojave desert.
Col. Al Dutton, commanding officer of the Oregon National Guard, announced Saturday night that the guard's squadron would attempt to photograph any future apparitions of the discs. He said six P-51 fighter planes, equipped with gun and telescopic cameras, would be kept ready to take off on a moment's notice.
Dr. Harold Urey, atom scientist at the University of Chicago, called that "gibberish."
A spokesman at the Hanford atomic works in southern Washington disclaimed any knowledge of the suggested relation of the "saucers" to atomic experiments. The spokesman said "So far as we know, they have no connection with our work here.
More Are Seen
New reports of the strange objects continued to pour in as the public weighed the words of the Pasedena scientists would not allow use of his name.
A disc was sighted this morning in Seattle. Another was reported by an Army Air Forces sergeant at Mountain View near San Francisco bay. Others were reported in various parts of the nation.
At Columbus, Ohio, Louis E Starr, national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, asserted at a VFW convention that he was expecting information from Washington about "the fleets of flying saucers." "Too little is being told to the people of this country," Starr declared.
Two Chicago astronomers said the discs are probably "man-made and radio-controlled." The undulating flashing objects "couldn't be meteors," said Dr. Girard Kluper, director of the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory at Williams Bay, Wis.
Discs Man Made
Support for the Pasadena scientists's statement came from several quarters. it appeared that the discs were definitely "man-made" and not "space ships" from another planet.
At the Army Air Forces' McClellan Field in Northern California, authorities suggested that top Army officials may know the nature and origin of the discs.
They hinted that "if they actually do exist, they might be a part of a U.S. Army training process and coming somewhere from the south."
One official said: "It's nothing for people to fear, get stirred up or excited about."
Recall Swedish Reports
Some thought the situation similar to that in Sweden last year, when mystery missiles were reported over that country, and Dr. A.A. Knowlton, Reed College physics professor in Portland, Ore., commented:
"There's a great possibility that the flying visitors are the result of secret experiments with the guided missiles, either by our own or foreign governments. Some months ago there were many reports of mysterious rockets over Sweden. Stories about these were never confirmed or officially explained."
The reports from Sweden, however, were of objects trailing flames, like a rocket or jet-propelled missile. The reports on the discs almost universally mention that no means of propulsion can be seen.
And from Los Angeles came word that the idea of airborne "saucers" is not new. Leo Bentz, once noted building of racing autos, said he witnessed a demonstration of a saucer-like flying model back in 1928 in the Southern California city.
Bentz said the inventor of the strange little craft was a Frenchman, George de Bay, who has since dropped out of sight.
Bentz said he lost track of his friend but the Frenchman said he might go to Europe and intimated that he was headed for Russia.
A Coast Guard yeoman in Seattle displayed what he said was a picture of a disc. It showed a patch of light on a dark sky. The photo was snapped by Yeoman Frank Ryman near Seattle last night.
Tells of Experiment
The noted Pasedena scientist- veteran of the Manhattan project which produced the atomic bomb - was the only authority to claim flatly that the "flying saucers" were no mystery to him.
He said experiments are being conducted at Muroc Lake in Southern California, at White Sands in New Mexico, at Portland Ore., and in other places. He did not mention Hanford, Washington.
The scientist declared:
"These 'saucers' so-called, are capable of high speeds, but they can be controlled from the round.
"They are twenty feet in width in the center and are partially rocket-propelled on the take-off."
"People are not 'seeing things.'"
"Such flying discs actually are in experimental existence."
The scientist said any further information on the discs would have to come from the War Department.
Reports on observations of the flying objects came in from such widely scattered points as Augusta, Ga., Denver and all along the Pacific coast.
Northern Oregon and southern Washington sent in reports by the wholesale Friday.
Convincing testimony on the actual existence of the discs came from Capt. E.J. Smith, United Airlines pilot. He said he saw a flight of five discs shortly after leaving Boise, Idaho, on a flight to Seattle late Friday.
Convincing testimony on the actual existence of the discs came from Capt. E. J. Smith, United Airlines pilot. He said he saw a flight of five discs shortly after leaving Boise, Idaho, on a flight to Seattle late Friday.
Smith said his first officer, Ralph Stevens, and the plane's stewardess, Mary Morrow, also saw the strange objects.
The "disc derby" began when a Boise, Idaho businessman-pilot, Kenneth Arnold, said he saw a flight of nine near Mt. Rainier on June 24. Scientists and military men scoffed at the initial reports.
States where the discs have been reported included: Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Michigan, Indiana, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee, Maine, Florida, Utah, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas and the District of Columbia.
Knowing of Discs
Says Not Connected
With Atom Research
DENVER, July 5 (AP) - David Lilienthal, chairman of the atomic Energy Commission, told the Denver Post in a telephone interview tonight that the flying saucers reported throughout the nation were in no way connected with atomic experiments.
The Post said a reporter held this short phone conversation with Lilenthal, in Washington:
The reporter explained the purpose of his call and related reports that a west coast scientist had said the discs were related to "transmutation of atomic energy."
Lilienthal interrupted to say "of course, I can't prevent anyone from saying foolish things."
The Post reporter asked, "Can you shed any light on the matter at all?"
Lilienthal replied, "No."
"Is it in any way connected with experiments in atomic energy, the transmutation of metals or similar research?" the reporter asked.
"No," said Lilienthal, who then added in closing the conversation "until someone has the facts about this phenomenon, I can't see how anyone can say anything definite about it."
Flying Disc Here
Four patients at the U.S. Veterans' Administration Hospital here said that they watched a "flying disc" disappear into and come out of the clouds in the southwestern sky Saturday afternoon.
The group, all in the same room, were John Goyng, Charles Roat, Fred Lucero and Lorenzo Garcia.
They watched it out of a window, they said, and it "seemed like a round ball, brighter than any airplane we've ever seen and was going straight ... not dipping. It had nothing projecting from it that we could see."
It was the second report about discs from Albuquerqueans Saturday. In the morning, Jess Satathite of W. Candelaria Rd. reported having seen five, saucer shaped objects and said one of them circled the city. They appeared from the west, he said, as he was working on the house.