The UFO Summer of '47
by Jan L. Aldrich.

By the 8th of July, 1947, foolishness was starting to get the upper hand; reports had fallen off, and the P-38 Montana story had proved false. The popular columnist, Hal Boyle, ran a two-part story about being kidnapped from an Oklahoma bar by a big hairy Martian. These columns ran in well over 1000 newspapers. Many witnesses -- especially women -- decided partly because of Boyle's column that they had to end their UFO reports with a statement about their alcohol consumption habits.

Dewitt Miller, a Fortean Society member, wrote a widely read article on Charles Fort, strange sky objects seen in the past, and the possible extraterrestrial origins of UFOs. Other Fortean Society members are quoted in local or national news stories during the 1947 UFO wave.

Towards the end of the day on July 8 in some western newspapers, the first news stories on the Roswell "crashed saucer" started to appear. Generally the reports are not detailed. Once again the press was apparently faced with a fantastic seeming episode, but this time emanating from an official source.

July 9th was about the peak of the worldwide coverage of the catholic priest who had a circular saw blade land near him. Many newspapers headlined this as a flying disc story, with headlines like "See Saw, He Saw." Hal Boyle's second installment of his humor column also appeared in many papers on this date. He continued his fanciful story about being kidnapped by Martians. He was able to escape his captors and return to earth. In the end, he facetiously worried about the effects of beer on his imagination.

The story of Roswell about a "captured" disc appeared in most newspapers many times married up with the Brigadier General Ramey press conference, contending the debris recovered was a weather instrument.

Stories about people who found various balloon-borne apparatus or items that fell off aircraft were featured in numerous newspapers during and immediately after the wave. Besides natural material and man-made items which came to earth in the natural course of events, many pranksters planted crudely made flying discs. Possibly some of these devices were built with the idea that the people who offered the rewards for a UFO could be fooled into awarding the prizes. Since most "crashed discs" were very primitive, the fabricators probably decided instead to plant them somewhere and watch the proceedings.

Following is a small sample of "crashed discs" stories:

Oxford, Ohio, 7 July, 1947. Another radar target similar to the Chillicothe one found today. It was first spotted on the 4th, but not recorded until the newspaper stories about the weather kites. (Cincinnati, Ohio, Enquirer (Kentucky Ed), 8 July

Baker, Montana 9 July, 1947, D. H. Baker, a farmer, found a red balloon 26 inches long.  Attached to it was a bottle filled with ash. On the 8th he watched an object shuttling back and forth. The recovered object resembled balloons used for night pibal observations. (Helena, Montana, INDEPENDENT RECORD, 10 July, 1947)

A Florida restaurant owner had paper plates printed up with "Take this Flying Saucer to....." They were thrown from a plane, but did not land were he intended. Odds & Ends Column, Winter Haven, Florida, DAILY CHIEF, 9 July, 1947 p. 1.)

Black River Falls, Wisconsin, 10 July, 1947. An elaborate contraption was found and turned over to the Civil Air Patrol. It was disc-shaped with a motor, propeller, and various electronic components, none of which did anything. (Associated Press 10 & 11 July Black River Falls, Wisconsin.)

Woodworth, North Dakota, 11 July, 1947. Five Woodworth residents fabricated a disc-shaped object. It caused quite a stir, and people came from the surrounding area to view the disc. Some even flew in by plane. (Minot, North Dakota, DAILY NEWS, 11 July, 1947 p. 1)

Laurel, Maryland, 11 July, 1947. At 9:45 p.m., a buzzing thing three-and-a-half feet across made of a circular piece of metal and a garbage can lid was discovered. It had two small aerials, a dry cell battery, a camera lens, and a "ticker" Mr. Thaddeus Elder and his young son found it and called the FBI, who did not want it. The object was turned over to the Laurel police department. (Cambridge, Maryland, DAILY BANNER, 12 July, 1947 Associated Press.)

Eugene, Oregon 12 July, 1947. Dave Campbell wanted to throw metal discs from an airplane but police would not allow it. He threw them from his car instead. (Ogden, Utah, STANDARD-EXAMINER 13 July, 1947)

Clearwater, Florida, 15 July, 1947. Police responding to a call at night found a device consisting of a kite with a silver disk painted on it in a vacant lot. They determined that a prankster had been responsible for flying it. (Clearwater, Florida SUN 17 July,1947, p 14.)

Marysville, Kansas 17 July 1947. Newspaper reports said that a Bailyville man had found a "flying saucer." It was a radiosonde balloon. (Marysville MARSHALL COUNTY NEWS 17 July, 1947, p. 1)

Ragland, W.Va, about 23 July 1947. A radiosonde balloon was brought to a local reporter. (Holden, W.Va., FOUR WIND NEWS, 24 July, 1947.)

Near Mullensville, W.Va, 8 August 1947. A balloon, parachute and radiosonde was found that had been launched at 10 a.m. on August 3. (Pineville, W.Va., INDEPENDENT HERALD, 8 August, 1947, page1.)

A former weather observer added his experience to the stories of downed devices.

Cincinnati ENQUIRER, Kentucky Edition, 10 July, 1947.


I noticed in this morning's paper an article on the last page, I believe datelined from Chillicothe, anent [sic] a peculiar star-shaped object found in a corn field by a farmer.

I recognized the object immediately and am writing to clear up the mystery. It just so happens that I am quite familiar with said objects having sent up several hundred of them while in the army weather service. They happen to be radar targets. They are fastened about six feet below a large hydrogen inflated balloon, which I would judge is four or five feet in diameter when fully inflated, and contrary to the usual description of the flying saucer, they ascend almost vertically, depending upon the wind velocity and also go up very slowly. They are made of laminated foil and kraft paper material and are supported by thin wooden sticks. The foil covering on the under side of the target allows the radar signal to be reflected to the radar instrument.

These targets are very useful in plotting wind direction and velocity on cloudy days when a weather balloon could not be followed with the ordinary weather theodolite due to clouds.

I hope that this information will prove useful, and I imagine that I will be about the steenth [sic] person to tell you what the object was and what use it has in the weather service.

Richard P. Kast, former Army Weather Service, 2307 Oxford State Road, Middletown, Ohio.

On the 9th of July at 1:00 p. m. reporters observed a balloon release with radar targets at Alamogordo. This story was carried in some newspapers the next day. It was not widely reported. Several balloon releases by Army, Navy and weather bureau personnel were made for newsmen during the next few days. A story was headlined on "Army, Navy Work to Still Saucer Rumors." (A variation of that story from a Nevada newspaper is reproduced below.)  It basically reports that UFO stories are falling apart; easily explained as common natural or man-made objects. Many editors, it indicates, have tired of the nonsense associated with the flying saucers and state so. After this date, few sightings are carried on the news wires. It is still possible to find local news stories.

Las Vegas Review-Journal - July 9, 1947


By United Press
(UP) -- Reports of flying saucers whizzing through the sky fell off sharply today as the army and navy began a concentrated campaign to stop the rumors.

      One by one, persons who thought they had their hands on the $3,000 offered for a genuine flying saucer found their hands full of nothing.

      Headquarters of the 8th army at Fort Worth, Texas, announced that the wreckage of a tin-foil covered object found on a New Mexico ranch was nothing more than the remnants of a weather balloon.   AAF headquarters in Washington reportedly delivered a "blistering" rebuke to officers at the Roswell, New Mexico, base for suggesting that it was a "flying disc."

      A 16 inch aluminum disc equipped with two radio condensers, a fluorescent light switch and copper tubing found by F.G. Harston near the Shreveport, Louisiana, business district was declared by police to be "obviously the work of a prankster."   Police believed the prankster hurled it over a sign board and watched it land at Harston's feet.   It was turned over to officials at Barksdale army air field.

      U.S. naval intelligence officers at Pearl Harbor investigated claims by 100 navy men that they saw a mysterious object "silvery colored, like aluminum, with no wings or tail," sail over Honolulu at a rapid clip late yesterday.   The description fit a weather balloon but 5 of the men, familiar with weather observation devices, swore that it was not a balloon.

      "It moved extremely fast for a short period, seemed to slow down, then disappeared high in the air," said Yeoman 1/C Douglas Kacherle of New Bedford, Massachusetts.   His story was corroborated by Seaman 1/C Donald Ferguson, Indianapolis; Yeoman 3/C Morris Kzamme, La. Crosse, Wisconsin, Seaman 1/C Albert Delancey, Salem, West Virginia, and Yeoman 2/C Ted Pardue, McClain, Texas.

      Admiral William H. Blandy, commander-in-chief of the Atlantic fleet, said like everyone else he was curious about the reported flying saucers "but I do not believe they exist."

      Lloyd Bennett, Oelwein, Iowa, salesman, was stubborn about the shiny 6 1/2-inch steel disc he found yesterday.   Authorities said it was not a "flying saucer" but Bennett said he would claim the reward offered for the mysterious discs.

      There were other discards.  Not all the principles were satisfied with the announcement that the wreckage found on the New Mexico ranch was that of a weather balloon.

      The excitement ran thru this cycle:

1.   Lieut. Warren Haught [sic], public relations officer at the Roswell Base released a statement in the name of Col. William Blanchard, base commander.   It said that an object described as a "flying disk" was found on the nearby Foster ranch three weeks ago by W.W. Brazel and had been sent to "higher officials" for examination.

2.   Brig. Gen. Roger B. Ramey, commander of the 8th Air Force said at Fort Worth that he believed the object was the "remnant of a weather balloon and a radar reflector," and was "nothing to be excited about."   He allowed photographers to take a picture of it.   It was announced that the object would be sent to Wright Field, Dayton, OH.

3.   Later, Warrant Officer Irving Newton, Stetsonville, Wisconsin, weather officer at Fort Worth, examined the object and said definitely that it was nothing but a badly smashed target used to determine the direction and velocity of high altitude winds.

4.   Lt. Haught reportedly told reporters that he had been "shut up by two blistering phone calls from Washington."

5.   Efforts to contact Col. Blanchard brought the information that "he is now on leave."

6.   Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, intelligence officer of the 509th bombardment group, reportedly told Brazel, the finder of the object, that "it has nothing to do with army or navy so far as I can tell."

7.   Brazel told reporters that he has found weather balloon equipment before, but had seen nothing that had resembled his latest find.

8.   Those men who saw the object said it had a flowered paper tape around it bearing the initials "D.P."

On the 10th and 11th two more "crashed disc" stories got worldwide coverage. A disk shaped object was found in Hollywood, California, and another in Twin Falls, Idaho. In both cases the hoaxes are quickly identified. The FBI was involved in both cases. The Twin Falls, Idaho, hoax -- made of jukebox parts -- is turned over to the Army at Fort Douglas, Utah. No mention of this case is found in the Project Blue Book files; just as no mention is found of the Roswell case. The Hollywood and Twin Falls reports were the coup de grace of press wire coverage. Now mostly foreign or humor stories were the only ones reported. Seldom was a US sighting report seen nationwide on the wire services after this date. Regional reports were more common. Reports from South America and other parts of the world do appear.

Due to the fact that Ted Bloecher curtailed his search in newspapers at this point, we have an artificial drop off in reports at this time. The delay in reporting a UFO sighting was sometimes three to seven days. The drop off was partially due to wire service withdrawal, but overall the decline in reports was more gradual than previously known.

Besides the U.S. officials, the military or defense ministries in Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil all felt it necessary to comment on the sky phenomena. The comments ranged from "Bring one in" to "fantasy." In Brazil the U.S. AAF weather balloon explanation was cited by authorities.

On the afternoon of 10th of July a remarkable sighting took place which would influence the official investigation over the next two years and would be reflected on their sighting report questionnaire. Near Stephenville Cross, Newfoundland, three men returning by car from a fishing trip saw a bluish-black vapor trail. It cut a channel through the clouds estimated to be at 8,000 to 10,000 feet. It parted the clouds. One of the observers got a camera and took two photographs of the gap that had been opened in the clouds.

Woodruff Picture One
Woodruff Picture Two

They viewed a seemingly translucent disk-like wheel traveling at a high rate of speed and parting the clouds behind it. The explanation generally put forth for this report is a "low altitude meteor." If that were so, one would think that meteor tracers would want to see this case and it would be examined in the scientific literature. Not a chance. The three letter initials "UFO" apparently consigned it to scientific limbo. Presumably the feeling was that the only inquiring minds that will look at UFOs are the ones that get their material off the supermarket checkout line magazine racks.

The importance attached to this event can be seen in Project Sign, the first U.S. Air Force UFO investigations project, "Essential Elements of Information" (EEI) form. EEI are the data that the intelligence personnel determined were absolutely needed to answer intelligence requirements. (Note item #11, Effects on Clouds.)

(re: Sighting of Unidentified Aerial Objects)

    1.   Date of sighting

    2.   Time of sighting

    3.   Where sighted:

      a. Ground
           1.  City -
           2.  Distance and direction from city -
           3.  From -
           4.  Map coordinates -
       b. Air -
       c. Sea -

    4.   Number of objects
      a. Formation -

    5.   Distance of object from observer
      a. Laterally or horizontally -
      b. Angle of elevation from horizon -
      c. Altitude -

    6.   Time in sight -

    7.   Appearance of object
      a.  Color -
      b.  Shape -
      c.  Apparent construction -
      d.  Size
           1.  Estimated size -
           2.  Size as it appeared from the observers view -

    8.  Direction of flight-

    9.  Tactics or maneuvers
      a.  Vertical ascent or descent, horizontal, etc.-

    10.  Evidence of exhaust
      a.  Color of smoke -
      b.  Length and width -
      c.  Odor -
      d.  Rate of evaporation -
      e.  Does trail vary with sound?

    11.  Effect on clouds
      a.  Opened path thru clouds -
      b.  Formed cloud or mists -
      c.  Reflected on clouds -
      d.  Shown [sic] thru clouds -

    12.  Lights
      a.  Reflected or attached -
      b.  Luminous -
      c.  Blinked on and off -

    13.  Support
      a.  Wings -
      b.  Aerodynamic lift of fuselage -
      c.  Vertical jets -
      d.  Rotating cylinder or cone -
      e.  Aerostatic lift (balloon or dirigible) -

    14.  Propulsion
      a.  Propeller or jet -
      b.  Rotor -
      c.  Aerodynamic vanes -
      d.  Visible exhaust or jet openings -

    15.  Control and stability
      a.  Fins -
      b.  Stabilizers -

    16.  Air ducts -

    17.  Speed MPH -

    18.  Sound -


    1.  Name of observer -

    2.  Address -

    3.  Occupation -

    4.  Place of business -

      a.  Employer or employee

    5.  Hobbies -

      a.  Time engaged
      b.  Observer is not an amateur astronomer, pilot or engineer

    6.  Ability to determine

      a.  Color -
      b.  Speed of moving objects -
      c.  Size at distance -

    7.  Reliability of observer

      a.  Sources
           1.  Neighbor -
           2.  Police Department -
           3.  FBI -
           4.  Employer -

    8.  Notes relative to observer
      a.  Sightings in general -
      b.  How attention was drawn to object
           1.  Sound -
           2.  Motion -
           3.  Glint of light -

    9.  Witnesses -

    10.  Comments of interrogator -.


    1.  Sequences of local weather conditions -

    2.  Winds aloft report -

    3.  Local flight schedules of commercial, private and military aircraft flying
    in the vicinity at the time -

    4.  Possible releases of testing devices in vicinity sent aloft by weather unit -

    5.  Projections or attachments visible -

    [Credit to KJ Craft for this material.]

During the 7-11 July period columnists, including the Alsop brothers, and editors expressed concerns that the flying discs had highlighted unpreparedness in the field of Air Defense. While it seemed unlikely that the Russians had jumped ahead, it was a possibility they felt which should be considered. Some research on the connection of Air Defense with the UFO question has been done, but much remains to be done. Of course such official studies would be out of the public's ken and without a whisper about flying saucers.

Exactly when the military began a serious concerted effort to investigate UFOs is not clear. Reports were gathered early on, but the order to interview Kenneth Arnold and Richard Rankin only went out to the 4th Air Force on the 10th of July. In the Chronicle Section of this report are numerous examples of sightings by military personnel for which reports were not later found in official files (NIOF) . The FBI did investigate the reports almost from the first. The FBI dropped out when J. Edgar Hoover found that the Air Force wanted to palm off the hoax "crashed discs" on the Bureau and leave the actual investigations for the Air Force. - Jan. L. Aldrich

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