PROJECT 1947 FORUM   

UFOs    
SUB ROSA*
DOWN UNDER  

THE AUSTRALIAN MILITARY & GOVERNMENT
ROLE IN THE UFO CONTROVERSY
by Bill Chalker
(Copyright © B. Chalker - 1996)


The author is a leading Australian UFO researcher and a contributing editor to the International UFO Reporter. An industrial chemist with an honours science degree from the University of New England he has worked in quality assurance and laboratory management. His book, The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story, was published in 1996. He coordinates the NSW based UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC) and can be contacted at:

P.O. Box W42,
West Pennant Hills,
NSW, 2125
Australia
Telephone: (02) 9484 4680
email: bill_c@BIGPOND.COM


* Sub Rosa: refers to "under the rose", meaning "in secret".


CONTENTS:



ACCESS TO THE OFFICIAL AUSTRALIAN UFO FILES

Prior to 1982 civilian UFO researchers only had a confused and vague picture of clandestine official involvement in Australia. In the face of the lethargy in the RAAFs replies to serious enquiries, I stepped up my efforts at diplomatically trying to get direct access to the RAAF UFO files. It probably surprised me more than anybody else when the RAAF finally agreed to permit me to examine their files.

The extent of access was unprecedented in the history of the Australian UFO controversy. From the first of my visits to the Russell Offices of the Department of Defence, in Canberra, on January 11th, 1982 to my last in June, 1984, I was able to scrutinise the extent of official UFO investigations in Australia. For the first time a detailed "inside" picture was revealed of RAAF investigations.

I was able to undertake the first officially sanctioned direct review of the Australian government's UFO files. Over two and a half years I was able to:

(1)   examine the majority of the extant UFO files held by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI), Department of Defence, Russell Offices, Canberra

(2)   examine the entirety of the extant UFO files held by the Department of Aviation at their Bureau of Air Safety Investigation in Melbourne, Victoria.

The review has provided a detailed understanding of official involvement in Australia.


ACCESS TO THE RAAF UFO FILES

On Monday morning, January 11th, 1982, I arrived at the Russell Offices of the Department of Defence, in Canberra, to undertake a review of the RAAF/Department of Defence UFO files. This was the first time that a civilian researcher had been afforded this sort of access. For almost thirty years, the RAAF had been the official body invested with the responsibility of investigating reports of UFOs or unusual aerial sighting (UAS) reports in Australia and its territories. Until then no clear and unambigious picture had emerged about the role the RAAF played in the UFO controversy in Australia. Two polarised positions had emerged. The RAAF was covering up its high level involvement in an international "cover-up" of UFO facts, perhaps in concert with the US Air Force. Or, the RAAF was bureaucratically locked into a responsibility it had long since decided was a waste of time, but contined as a service to the general public.

The only public record of case investigations by the RAAF had been the "summaries of Unusual Aerial Sightings". These consisted of date, time, location, very brief details of the event and "possible cause". Nine of these were produced, covering the years between 1960 and 1977. The 1977 Summary was the last publically available summary. In 1980 the Department of Defence indicated "the practice of compiling annual summaries of UAS reports was discontinued in 1978. This was in line with the Department of Defence policy of the RAAF now investigating reports purely as a 'service to the general public'..."

After signing in at the police desk, I was escorted to Building C of the Russell Offices Defence complex. I was shown to a desk. During that day and for the next 3, I conducted an exhaustive examination of the RAAF UFO files. I determined that I was looking at about a third of the holdings of RAAF files on UFOs. Subsequent investigation research and pursing the paper trail enabled me to examine a continuity of files that covered the period from 1950 to 1984.

From the RAAF's point of view, they have been , as Australia's "official governmental examiner" of UFO reports, locked into a bureaucratically orchestrated responsibility, which for a long time they have seen as a waste of their time. They may have allayed possible fear and alarm by the general public and satisfied the government that there is no apparent defence implication. However the RAAF appear to be as confused and uncertain as many civilian groups, on what to do about provocative UFO sightings. The RAAF largely solved that dilemma by ignoring the implications of their "unknown" cases and providing, what many saw as unlikely explanations for intractable reports.


"UNKNOWNS" & "IMPOSSIBILITIES"

The term "unknown", in RAAF parlance, was a moveable feast. In 1973 I was advised it meant a classification that could arise from three different categories, namely:

a. Insufficient information provided to adequately evaluate the sightings;

b. Late submission of reports thus precluding adequate investigation; and

c. Thorough investigation of a detailed report resulting in no factual determination of the cause.

Approximately 1% of all sighting reports submitted to the R.A.A.F. are nonattributable as per sub para c. above, and in future, cause details in the summaries will be more explicit."

By 1980 I was being advised:

The term "unknown" is used to denote the small percentage of UAS reports that remain unresolved because of insufficient information being supplied, late receipt of report denying timely investigation, remoteness of sighting location, and insufficient current scientific knowledge being available to provide an explanation...

It was not only the "unknowns" that drew scrutiny and debate. Many reports had attracted unlikely explanations from the RAAF. For example "tornado - like meterological phenomena" was suggested for some of the most striking cases, such as close encounters at Willow Grove (1963), Vaucluse Beach (1965) and Tully (1966). "Plasma" was a popular explanation around 1967 since it was an explanation being unrealistically pushed in America at the time. It was provided as an explanation in a striking close encounter near Burrenjuck Dam in 1967. It seemed evident on even the most cursory analysis that such weak explanations showed little scientific enquiry, but a lot of political and military myopia.


THE SOURCE OF THE RAAF "IMPOSSIBILITIES"

The quality of RAAF investigations into both prosaic and significant "unknown" reports has drawn criticism from many sources, perhaps none more pointed though than that of Dr. Claude Poher, as expressed in 1976 correspondence with the RAAF. Poher led France's first major official UFO research group GEPAN, part of the French equivalent to NASA. After the Australian Department of Defence sent him some of their Annual Summaries of UFO information, Dr. Poher wrote, "May I suggest, for transmission to personnel responsible for this work, that some of the 'possible causes' mentioned in these summaries are not acceptable..." Dr. Poher gave an example of an innocuous observation at Wickham, NSW, on April 4, 1975, of a "silver object about the size of a cricket ball" , which the 'summary' lists as Venus for the "possible cause". Poher concluded:

"...for the 4th April, 75, the planet was under the horizon so the cause Venus is ridiculous.

"There are many other impossibilities like this in the papers you sent me. I think one should avoid publication of these documents without a careful check by specialists of the different scientific disciplines involved, so as not to have, one day a journalist or a scientist holding the Services of the Australian Department of Defence up to ridicule."

The source of such "impossibilities" is the subject of some speculation. While unconfirmed, I was told the "inside story" by someone working in Defence. His account is controversial and at this stage difficult to substantiate, for obvious reasons. For the record here is his version based on my notes of a interview with him:

"While America had an official attitude -- the Condon Report etc. our Air Force simply has no expectations of getting any other verdict. Their attitude is to try to quieten everything down. Be bland as possible and hope that everything goes away. At times they were actually rather rude to witnesses, tending to ridicule where possible. Generally speaking the men that are handling it wish they weren't. But in the Air Force it is essential to look as though you're good at your job, to get promotion. The attitude is to look as though they are solving all the cases, while looking for an excuse to write it all off.

"The reason why in the 1960s a number of reports got out on sightings and explanations [the "Annual Summaries of Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS)", which weren't quite "annual", the first being from 1960 to 1965, then eventually one covered 1960 to 1968, which became Summary No.1, Summary No. 2 covered 1969, No.3 covered 1970 and 1971, then Nos. 4 through to No. 9 appeared on an erratic annual basic covering individual years from 1972 to 1977 inclusively - B.C.] was that DAFI were handling it and not telling anybody and Public Relations (DPR) were the ones getting all the queries. DPR wrote to DAFI saying this is getting a bit sick. I don't know what to say. Give me an answer. DAFI said look we don't know. We haven't got any answers. We just can't tell. DPR said well hand me the files and I'll get the answers. He got the files and then gave answers according to what the DPR man thought, i.e. ill-thought explanations without any recourse to the honesty of it. I had a look at the Venus group and it just so happened that none of the, say, 15 sightings attributed to Venus, there was not one occasion when Venus was above the horizon at the time. At one time a man in Tasmania saw a bright light in the sky and it was so bright he put on his sun glasses. That was written down as Venus!

"The Air Force published the lists ad nauseam for about ten years [i.e, from 1966 to 1978 covering 1960 through to 1977 inclusively - B.C.] and it was all this PR man who concocted everything and DAFI really had nothing to do with it.... So generally speaking I found the Air Force bordering on a sham really. They were not honest. Their purpose is to allay the fears of the public and to try to get everybody off their back. They don't want politicians on their backs. They don't want the public on their backs. They want to be left alone to do their other job."

Just how accurate is this "insider's" version of the evolution of the "Annual UAS Summaries". Part of his account is in accord with the facts as I could determine them with access to the files in 1982 to 1984. However the severity of his claim about the "honesty" of the exercise may possibly be reconciled by the point that if the PR man created the summaries, and we know certainly that DPR created the first one, then he may have done so, with recourse only to limited information from DAFI (i.e. DAFI gave DPR very brief summaries anyway. There is some evidence for this as I saw small sheet summaries of individual sightings that were ostensibly used in the creation of the first summary) or he made only a very cursory reading of the actual files without any attempt at depth of analysis or critical evaluations of the suggested "possible causes". The RAAF Intelligence officers undertaking the original investigations often gave an "explanation" in Part 2 of the "Report on Unusual Aerial Sighting" pro-forma where it asked "41. The object reported probably was*/may have been *(delete as required)....... " Often this section was not filled out in reports but would have formed the basis of the DPR summary when the "possible causes" were available.


STRANGE LIGHTS AND VANISHINGS IN 1920

The official files do not confirm military activity before 1950, however research has confirmed involvement by the military, albeit in some cases, cursory in nature, back as far as 1920. The Navy submarine depot ship, the Platypus, was involved in the search for a missing schooner, the Amelia J., in Bass Strait. Mystery lights, thought at the time to be "evidently rockets", were observed. Two aircraft left the flying training school and aircraft depot at Point Cook to join in the investigation. One was piloted by a Major Anderson and the other by Captain W.J. Stutt - an instructor for the NSW Government Aviation school at Richmond (a forerunner to the Richmond RAAF base, established soon after the birth of the RAAF in 1921). Stutt and his mechanic, Sergeant Dalzell, were last seen by Major Anderson flying into a large cloud. Their plane and the schooner were never found. Fifty eight years later the Bass Strait became the centre of another extraordinary plane/pilot disappearance, namely the Valentich affair of 1978.


AUSTRALIA'S FIRST OFFICIAL UFO INVESTIGATION?

In 1930, an Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) officer, Squadron Leader George Jones, was sent to Warrnambool, Victoria, to investigate reports of mystery aircraft flying over the coast. No explanation was found in this first official RAAF UFO investigation. Further "mystery aircraft" reports were made in the near Pacific and Papua New Guinea area in 1930, and in 1931 the RAAF was denying any of her planes were the explanation for "mystery planes "reported widely in Tasmania." Jones was to become RAAF Chief of the Air Staff during World War Two, and subsequently Air Marshall Sir George Jones. He was himself to become a UFO witness in 1957. He also became a valuable advocate of serious UFO research, being a patron of the short lived national civilian UFO research organisation CAPIO - Commonwealth Aerial Phenomena Investigation Organisation, and a member of VUFORS - the Victorian UFO Research Society.


MILITARY MATTERS

On October 10th, 1935, an off duty military man took what was possibly Australia's first UFO photograph at Nobby's Head near Newcastle, NSW. Although the photos are now apparently unavailable, investigators who saw the photo during 1968-69 reported it showed "a definite circular object with details seen well at enlargement."

We have already seen that Bass Strait was no stranger to extraordinary UFO mysteries. The crew of a Beaufort bomber flying at 4,500 feet over Bass Strait, during February, 1944, bore witness to what may have been Australia's earliest "electromagnetic" (EM) case.

At about 2.30 am the plane gained a most unusual companion. A "dark shadow" appeared along side the plane and kept pace with it, at a distance of only some 100 to 150 feet. The Beaufort was travelling at about 235 miles per hour. The object appeared to have a flickering light and flame belching from its rear end. Only about 15 feet of the rear end of the UFO was visible to the bomber crew, apparently due to "reflection of light from the exhaust." The strange object stayed with the bomber for some 18 to 20 minutes, during which time all radio and direction finding instruments refused to function. It finally accelerated away from the plane at approximately three times the speed of the bomber. Upon landing, the pilot reported the incident to his base superiors, but he claimed he was only laughed at. Such a reaction seems extraordinary in retrospect since it turns out that Beauforts figured heavily in official RAAF list of planes that "went missing without trace" during World War Two in the Bass Strait area - an area that was not linked to any significant enemy activity. I have been told that the Beauforts had a mechanical problem that may have accounted for some of these losses.


1950 - THE EARLIEST DAFI FILES

We have already seen evidence of earlier cursory interest by the military. However, the earliest still extant sighting report in the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) files was a nocturnal light account at Bass Point, NSW, on July 16, 1950. The growing number of reports that involved official agencies and highly regarded sources served to heighten official interest, initially from two quarters, namely the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).


1952 GAF PILOT ENCOUNTER

The following report is striking not only because of the contents and the calibre of the witness. Just one day earlier, the Minister for Air, William McMahon (a future Australian Prime Minister) had stated in parliament that the "flying saucer" reports were "probably based on flights of imagination".

The chief test pilot for the Government Aircraft Factories was not given to "flights of imagination" and yet at approximately 1200 hours on August 14th, 1952, while flying in a Vampire aircraft, between 35,000 and 36,000 feet, near Rockhampton, Queensland, he observed something he could not explain. Looking east, towards the coast, the pilot saw a large circular light at a lower elevation which could not be estimated due to bad ground haze.

The light was the colour of an ordinary incandescent light globe.

After approximately one minute a number of small lights (6 to 10) appeared to come from the main light. The smaller lights appeared to surround the bright light for about 2 minutes before disappearing. After a further 2 minutes the big light also disappeared. That report did not become public knowledge. It may have been embarassing for the Minister if it had. The report remained classified until I found it in DCA UFO files I was permitted to examine at the offices of the Bureau of Air Safety Investigations during November, 1982.


THE DRURY AFFAIR - "the holy grail of Australian ufology?"

While civilian interest was growing, extensive official interest focused on a daylight movie footage of an extraordinary unidentified "missile" over Port Moresby, taken by Tom Drury, the Deputy Director of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in Papua New Guinea, then an Australian territory.

On August 23rd, 1953, Tom Drury was taking pictures at about midday. The sky was clear, when a small cloud began to form. After a few minutes a silver object came out of the cloud. Drury had started filming. The object climbed very fast, with a vapour trail behind it clear marking its trajectory. It was gone in a few seconds. A handwritten note in DAFI files specifically states that the object was not a secret missile-firing from Woomera.

The Drury UFO film became a controversial and famous mainstay of the Australian contribution to the UFO "cover-up" argument. It became all the more controversial when it was claimed that the UFO section of the film was missing and the RAAF were denying any knowledge of its whereabouts.

Late in 1982 when I was given permission to examine the Department of Aviation UFO files, I specifically requested to see any holdings on the Drury affair. DoA file 128/1/208 part 2 was created in 1982 to enable me to examine Drury documents extracted from a seperate DCA file, 99/1/478 classified SECRET, which apparently held folios about possible enemy activity in the Papua New Guinea territories. These extracts contained some copies of folios from the original DAFI file, 114/1/197 Part 1, opened on 30/10/53 and entitled "Photographs of Unexplained Aerial Object over New Guinea forwarded by T.C. Drury". It was also originally classified SECRET and was "lost" over the years.

It seems clear that the Australian military were looking at the Drury film in the light of possible prosaic threats to security, i.e. the communist "red" peril. Within a year the high tide of McCarthyism swept over the Australian landscape in the form of the Petrov affair. Soon the hunt was on for "reds" under the bed (communists) and in the skies (the "Martians" of the 1954 UFO wave to come). It should not be underestimated the level of possible manipulation of the UFO controversy by intelligence organisations who feared the hand of more prosaic forces than those sort by the wild eyed "saucer" enthusiasts of the day. Evidence for this will be encountered later.

Tom Drury himself indicated to me he felt that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) (which is responsible for internal security in Australia, including counter espionage) was involved. I interviewed the two ASIO operatives who were in Papua New Guinea at that time. Predictably neither were terribly informative, with one of them stating only that if they had any involvement it was only as a "courier" for the film's passage to Melbourne, the then headquarters of the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI), RAAF, and for that matter the headquarters for DCA and ASIO. An ASIO document dated January 15th, 1973, states that "copies of the film were passed to the USAF and the RAF. Drury is said to have received back a print of the film but without any UFO shots." Mr. Drury feels that the processing and analyses required to study his film while it was in the hands of the intelligence community may have destroyed it. It is known that the film did go to the United States for study. There it appeared to have come under CIA scrutiny via Art Lundahl's photographic analysis group.

A 1955 RAAF UFO file indicates that DAFI had sold prints of the 1953 UFO pictures "at 4/9 a pop" to civilian researchers. Edgar Jarrold and Fred Stone were among those who secured copies of these prints.

Edgar Jarrold's own publication, the Australian Flying Saucer Magazine, stated in its February, 1955, issue that:

"94 prints examined reveal conclusively the existence of a shiny, disc-like object whose behaviour could by no wildest stretching of the imagination be attributed to a bird, balloon, orthodox aircraft, hallucination, piece of windblown paper, natural phenomena, or a meteor. The cloud from which the silvery object ... emerged is distinctly visible. On emerging from it at a right angle with no other clouds apparent in a clear sky, still pictures reveal vivid confirmation of Mr. Drury's report that an object, looking at first like a tiny brilliant sun, dashed rapidly from the cloud, heading north-west. The object flashed brightly in the sun as it made an abrupt right-angle turn soon after emerging from the dark cloud, zooming straight up with no reduction in speed. Upon reaching a greater altitude, it levelled off again, with another abrupt right-angled turn [Jarrold's emphasis - B.C.], resuming its north-west flight thereafter until out of camera range altogether.... On effecting such turns, a greater expanse of the object's upper surface becomes visible, causing it to present a featureless, disc-like appearance, which is in sharp contrast to first glimpses showing an object somewhat blurred in focus, and shaped like a theoretically fast moving, very bright star."

Jarrold wrote years later;

"...I was able to view blown up still pictures made from this film before it left Australia due to the American request and am still, I think, the only civilian ever to have seen them. The pictures show what could only be accepted as an extra-terrestrial object, the flight path and behaviour of which, rule out any man made object or meteor. The film was made about midday against a cloudless sky and unfortunately t he object was filmed from a distance, thus providing little real knowledge of the object's shape and composition, main importance being attached to its most unusual actions and behaviour.".

It should be noted that Drury himself observed no discontinuity in the UFO's flight path. Whether the claims of 90° turns were legitimately recorded on the film, or were due to camera movement, or were artifacts of processing, analyses or just plain extravagant interpretations based on limited or poor data, we may never know. The references to 90° turns all stem from Jarrold. No one else, who either saw the film or prints, made such claims. The limited prints I have make any analysis impossible. They are very poor in quality.

Documentation I examined in the DCA and DAFI files contradicts Jarrold's claims to have been the only one to have seen the prints and to have seen them before the original footage was sent to the United States.

A letter to Jarrold from Mr. E.W. Hicks, secretary, the Department of Air, dated December 2nd, 1953, states that "the film has been sent to the United States for technical processing, and it is therefore, not possible to accede to your request [for contact prints - B.C.] until its return, which, it is anticipated, will be early in the New Year..."

The Minister for Air, Mr. McMahon, was quoted in the press during late January, 1954, that he "had the film flown to the U.S to be enlarged." He further stated that the object "was so small that a detailed study of the film was not possible until technicians had enlarged it." (McMahon, 1954). The official files also records a letter from DAFI to Mr. Wiggins of the DCA dated 12/7/54 which states, "The 'Flying Saucer' film taken by Mr. T.C. Drury, at Port Moresby in 1953 and forwarded by you on 22 Sept. is returned here with. We have subjected the film to detailed study and processing but have been unable to establish anything other than the blur of light appears to move across the film. In spite of this disappointment we would like to thank you for your co-operation in this matter."

Thus the evidence suggests that Jarrold would have not got his prints until July, 1954. probably during a meeting he had with Air Force intelligence. Fred Stone also received copies of the same prints late in 1954 during a meeting he had with Air Force intelligence.

In a letter Stone wrote to the Director of Air Force Intelligence in 1973 he stated:

"The original film was much clearer to view when shown on a screen and I can only presume that the use of them by the bodies of the US Air Force, then their Navy Dept. plus our own Air Force and Navy caused them to get into the state they were when the blow up copies were made. I might add that I kept my promise to the official at the time when I was interviewed in Melbourne regarding same and they have never been shown publicly and only to executives of UFO Groups and Societies and then on a very select basis..."

The original Drury film, which allegedly held the UFO image, became something of a "holy grail" for Australian ufology. A number of efforts were made over the years to secure the film and further information about the affair. All largely met with failure.

A previously confidential RAAF document handwritten in 1966 and entitled "Summary of the effort made to rediscover present whereabouts of the allegedly 'excised' frames of Mr. T. Drury's Famous 1953 movie film of the Port Moresby 'UFO sighting'", concluded: "The upshot is that the 'excised' frames either still in DAFI archives, have been destroyed or (perish the thought) have been lost."

Further civilian enquiries in 1973 prompted yet another file search. This time, as we have already noted, DAFI determined that they had made available prints of the film to civil researchers back in 1954. Through Fred Stone the RAAF managed to gain a copy of the same prints the RAAF had provided him back in 1954. It is these third generation copies of prints from several frames of the Drury film that now reside in the RAAF files. I arranged for the RAAF to send copies of the prints (albeit poor in quality) to Tom Drury. The affair does not speak highly of the much vaunted "cover-up" claims.


THE 1954 WAVE

The 1954 "saucer invasion" of Victoria wasted no time in getting underway with an intriguing sighting of a flying "mushroom" by an experienced ANA (Australian National Airways) pilot, Captain Douglas Barker, on January 1st. He was outside his East Doncaster home at about 10.15 am.

"I sighted it first over the Templestowe brickworks between 2 1/2 and 5 miles away on the approach path to Essendon. It was 4 to 5 times larger than a large passenger aircraft. The object was transparent and a smokey celluloid colour, with a bit of a tail and a mushroom shaped head. It oscillated in and out of cloud, and in about 6 miles changed its course to a north-easterly direction. It was travelling faster than any jet plane that I have ever seen."

Beneath the queer craft hung what looked like a light amber observation car.

"Its main body was elliptical with a long shaft about the same length as its body hanging below it. At the end of this thin, slightly curved shaft, was a sort of control tower."

The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) suggested it may have been a Convair aircraft that was in the area. Barker rejected this explanation, "I've never seen anything less like a Convair. First of all, it was huge - about 4 times the size of a DC4. It was travelling at about 700 mph, well below the minimum altitude for the safety of normal aircraft. I see Convairs everday, but this resembled no aircraft I know." Barker had support from colleagues, "Two or three pilots mentioned similiar experiences -- not with mushrooms -- but flying saucers and things. They said they had been too scared to mention what they had seen for fear of ridicule. All my colleagues have taken the reports seriously."

The RAAF had received a report of another "flying mushroom", this time at Mansfield, on January 15th. They did not reveal this information which may have supported Barker's testimony. At 9.30pm, two witnesses saw it descending in front of them at 300 yards. Green lights appeared along with a whirring noise "like wind in wires." The object was estimated to be 150 feet wide and 60 feet in height. A 12 foot rim of bright metal was apparent. When it was stationary the green lights went out and the noise grew louder. The duration of the observation was about 20 minutes during which time its speed varied from fast to hovering. As the object ascended, "yellow gaseous light" emanated from the base of a "stem" like protruberance, giving it a "mushroom" shape. The whirring stopped. As it moved forward, yellow gaseous light came from the side of the "stem". A secret scientific analysis of the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) reports highlighted some interesting attributes of the Mansfield "flying mushroom", including "Inspection of aircraft -- American reports suggest that aircraft provide a centre of interest for UFOs", "Green light from centre of rim apparently used for visual inspection", and the "sudden roar" suggested "rapid jet efflux".

Numerous reports came in from diverse locations in Victoria, prompting the DCA to make a public request for reports to be sent to them. Within a week they had received 59 reports spanning nearly 30 years. DCA officials indicated that they were checking the reports and may turn them over to the RAAF for more extensive investigation. A spokesman said, "Some highly qualified engineers in our department are convinced that there is something in the saucer mystery. We just can't ignore reports submitted by reliable witnesses..."

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) made a series of seemingly open statements about UFOs during January, 1954. By years end they had retreated from their open minded position and closed the door. However in January a RAAF spokesman was quoted as saying, "People are definitely seeing something and we hope to find out what it is. The RAAF has an open mind on saucers. We haven't rejected them as impossible or accepted them as fact yet. There is a high ranking opinion in the Force that saucers do exist and you can't shake it. The RAAF has been receiving saucer reports and investigating them since the war." The statement said the RAAF had received hundreds of reports since 1947 and their data indicated: 10% of the reports indicated the person making it had definitely seen something, details of many of the reports corresponded, 75% of the reports had come from the country districts, the number of reports of sightings from aircraft in flight had increased in recent months, and no sightings had been made from an RAAF machine. The aerial observations had all come from civil aircraft.

A "high ranking RAAF officer" stated:

"The RAAF is keeping an open mind on the objects, but I personally am convinced they have an Interplanetary source. People on this earth should be able to flying into outer space within about 40 years - why shouldn't people on other planets already have reached this stage?"

East Malvern was the scene for an intriguing report on May 30th. At about 12.25 a.m. "human shaped shadows" were sighted in a "flying football" that passed in a "dive" over 6 awed witnesses. The suggestion of "life" in the "flying football" caused a media sensation. Among the witnesses was a policeman. He said, "Shadows of some people I think could be seen for several seconds". David Reese said, "When it reached the lowest point, shapes, like human figures, could definitely be seen." "I could distinctly see inside it, dark shapes like busts", he added.

The puzzling Malvern event was one of the first sightings investigated by a scientist who authored a secret report to DAFI. His role would become pivotal in the secret government investigations. He had interviewed David Reese and "felt reassured as to the integrity of this witness".

The Malvern sensation also prompted a further statement from the RAAF. Gone was any suggestion of support for the "interplanetary" theory of origin. Political and intelligence ethics were now clearly muzzling the free wheeling opinions and depth of "facts" that featured in the January statements.

On May 31st, Melbourne RAAF Public Relations Officer, Mr. John Tyrrell said:

"It would be stupid to ignore flying saucers. We believe there's something flying around which cannot be regarded as a figment of someone's imagination. We don't know what it is, we have no concrete evidence of saucers as such, but we simply can't discount certain reports from sane, seasoned, RAAF and Airline pilots."

During April, 1954, the Deputy Chief of Air Staff (DCAS) had approved a "statement of RAAF policy" on the "investigation of flying saucers". References apparently drawn from that statement appeared in the media from June 3rd, 1954. The full draft policy was held in classified RAAF UFO policy files. It states:

INVESTIGATION OF FLYING SAUCERS

STATEMENT OF R.A.A.F. POLICY

1.     The R.A.A.F. accepts reports on flying saucers and attempts an allocation of reliability,. Those that fall in the reliable class are then subjected to further investigation as and when the opportunity occurs. As a result of this further investigation, a smaller number of reports are followed up and investigations are made with the Meteorological Services, the Government Astronomer and the Civil Aviation authorities in an attempt to fit the original occurrences in with any normal flying activity or meteorological phenomena.

2.     As a result of investigations in the past, there is no doubt that reliable observers have reported sightings which today are inexplicable within the resources available to the R.A.A.F. [my emphasis - B.C.] Reports of this type are continuously filed in an attempt to develop sufficient depth of evidence for an accurate analysis to be made. It may however, be several years before the required depth of evidence is available.

"Depth of evidence" was to some measure invoked by an incident that occurred a few days later. "This particular sighting has an extremely high probability of being a UFO without any provisos", wrote the author of a classified report to DAFI. He was referring to an extraordinary close encounter event at Dandenong, on June 5th, 1954. Two young girls -- Janette Brown (16) and Jeanette Johnston (13) -- witnessed the spectacle.

Janette described what she saw:

"I was standing on Princes Highway, opposite the 21 mile post waiting for Jeanette, about 6.20 pm. I heard a loud drumming noise, something like a motor cycle, but there were no cars or cycles around at the time. Then a large dark shape appeared over the partly built H.T. Heinz factory, and whirred towards me when I shone my torch. Just above the house where the caretaker lives it burst into light. It hovered about 20 yards away on top of the factory gate as if it deliberately wanted me to look at it - or it wanted to look at me. It was cylinder shaped, about 30 feet long and 15 feet high, with a canopy and window on top and a window at each end."

Janette was joined by her friend Jeanette. She described the incident in the following way:

"A silvery coloured cylinder rose above the house then swept away in a wide circle to the International Harvester factory a few hundred yards away. It stayed on top of the factory for about one minute, then disappeared behind trees."

Janette's wristwatch stopped at 6.23 pm, leading to wild speculation that the saucer's "cosmic power" had drained her torch battery of power, and magnetised her handbag, belt clasps and iron fencing over which had hovered. Neighbours complained that their radio reception was affected. A government geologist, Peter Kenley, visited the site and declared there was no compelling evidence for significant magnetisation. The radio interference was caused by storms, he declared, and he also concurred with the idea that a flock of pigeons caused the sighting!

Both girls seemed genuinely frightened by the experience, with one asking if she could move to another suburb, in case the "saucer" tried to destroy her home and family.

Janette Brown's integrity and conviction "was impressive", concluded an "eminent Australian nuclear physicist, who has investigated "saucer" reports since 1948." The physicist wrote about the Dandenong case in a major article for the Melbourne Argus. Entitled "'Saucers' do exist and why!", it appeared on June 26th, 1954, indicating that the physicists name "must be withheld because of his link with high-level research". He concluded:

"... the light available and duration of observation were sufficient to discern details of structure that could not possibly be confused with any phenomena other than a machine that is capable of hovering, rotating, and moving in virtual silence without any obvious method of propulsion."

The physicist prepared his own report on the affair from which I quote:

"In shape, the object appeared to have a circular or elliptical base with a domed canopy on top, in which were square windows symmetrically arranged. Underneath the base were three ellipsoidal "wheels" which appeared to be either swinging or revolving....

"The witness had various impressions:

(a)   The object was attracted towards her because she flashed a torch at it when it first appeared.

(b)   when it was near the fence, she felt that she was being closely observed.

(c)   Her torch felt as though it were charged.

(d)   She had a "ghostly feeling" and was afraid. She crouched close to the ground, and was prepared to use the torch as a weapon should something emerge from the object.

The witness had seen in the Australasian Post a copy of a photograph taken by Adamski but was unimpressed. She claims that previously she did not concern herself with stories of 'flying saucers'."

The "invasion" centred in Victoria in 1954 was the most significant of the early sighting waves. The Victorian UFO Research Society was not founded until 1957, however in 1978 it produced an excellent study of the flap. The persistent Victorian visitations of 1954 drew this flippant comment in a contemporary newspaper: "...It was becoming increasingly clear that the Martians are people of infinite variety", and that they probably regarded their "spaceships", "with the same jealous individuality as terrestrial women have with their hats." The extensive wave lead to entrenched official interest. A classified DAFI file minute dated 2 Nov 1955, somewhat tellingly revealed: "A ministerial statement in the House [Australian parliament - B.C.] on 19 Nov 53 (indicates) that the RAAF make detailed investigations of every report received, (which in truth we are not yet doing)."


THE SECRET TURNER REPORT

The Drury affair and the 1954 "UFO invasion" of Victoria lead to the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) asking Melbourne University professor, O.H. Turner, to undertake a classified "scientific appreciation" of the official reports held on file. In his detailed report Turner recommended greater official interest and specific interest in radar visual reports. His most profound conclusion was:
"The evidence presented by the reports held by RAAF tend to support the ... conclusion ... that certain strange aircraft have been observed to behave in a manner suggestive of extra-terrestrial origin. "

In studying the RAAF/DAFI UFO files Turner also utilised retired Marine Corps Major Donald Keyhoe's USAF reports, described in his best selling book, Flying Saucers from Outer Space, and suggested the RAAF seek official USAF confirmation of the legitimacy of Keyhoe's data. Turner said of Keyhoe's "USAF data", that "if one assumes these Intelligence Reports are authentic, then the evidence presented is such that it is difficult to assume any interpretation other than that UFOs are being observed."

The disposition of Harry Turner's controversial report is a revealing indictment of official handling of the UFO controversy. Faced with his provocative conclusions with Keyhoe's data as one cornerstone, the Director of Air Force Intelligence (RAAF) did seek out official confirmation from America. The Australian Joint Service Staff (intelligence) in Washington wrote to him saying:

"I have discussed with the USAF the status of Major Keyhoe. I understand that his book is written in such a way as to convey the impression that his statements are based on official documents, and there is some suggestion that he has made improper use of information to which he had access while he was serving with the Marine Corps. He has, however, no official status whatsoever and a dim view is taken officially of both him and his works."

So when it came to considering Turner's classified report, the Department of Air concluded: "Professor Turner accepted Keyhoe's book as being authentic and based on official releases. Because Turner places so much weight on Keyhoe's work he emphasised the need to check Keyhoe's reliability. (The Australian Joint Service Staff communication) removes Keyhoe's works as a prop for Turner's work so that the value of the latter's findings and recommendations is very much reduced." Turner's findings, including one in which he recommended the setting up of a scientific "investigating panel", in the light of the "discrediting" of Keyhoe's data, were found to be impractical and not justified.

The big problem with all this was that it was based on an act of conscious or unconscious misrepresentation on the part of the US Air Force. They were engaged in a misguided campaign to undermine the popularity of Donald Keyhoe's books. While Keyhoe may have slightly "beat up" his USAF data, the Intelligence reports, quoted by Keyhoe and used by Turner to support his conclusions to DAFI, were authentic! Eventually the USAF themselves also admitted that the material Keyhoe used was indeed from official Air Force reports. Political myopia from both the US and Australian military effectively scuttled Australia's first serious flirtation with scientific investigation of UFOs. Fortunately Turner's 1954 report was "located" in classified RAAF UFO policy files I examined in 1982 with Squadron Leader Ian Frame from DAFI.

Harry Turner was advocating attempts to secure more radar cases. Radar at the restricted Woomera rocket range facility in South Australia picked up a UFO on May 5th, 1954. Turner's report indicates that at about 1630 hours 3 witnesses saw a "misty grey disc" at a 355 degree bearing, at some 35 miles distance and at an altitude of more than 60,000 feet. The object appeared to have an apparent diameter of about 10 feet. The visual observation which lasted 5 minutes was aided by binoculars. The object travelled south then west, with the radar echo confirming a speed of 3,600 mph! Harry Turner told me of the radar case that impressed him the most in his study of the DAFI UFO files that lead to his classified 1954 report. The case, originally classified 'secret', describes a UFO event over Woomera that was witnessed by an English Electric scientist and a radar operator. The EE scientist was outside talking to the radar operator when the radar confirmed the presence of a UFO. The scientist watched the object with binoculars. One of his functions at Woomera was to monitor rocket tests. He was experienced in observing movement in the sky. The radar tracked the UFO until it went out of range, however they were able to confirm distance and size. Some tests were being undertaken with a Canberra bomber in flight. The UFO was moving in formation with the Canberra. The Canberra crew could not see the UFO, but both the plane and UFO were confirmed on radar.

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