For anyone interested in the sublimely weird world of UFOs and ufology, 1952 would be a great year to
The period had everything we have today; agendas, hoaxes and most importantly…UFOs. Yes indeed! The skies above the USA were alive with
the kind of UFOs that were straightforward and made sense. Back then, they were god-damned spaceships and that was the end of it. Nobody was talking
about parallel dimensions or paranormal entities interacting with human consciousness. These were the days when people would smoke to get rid of a
cough and pour as much salt on their fried chicken as they wanted to. N’ it didn’t do ‘em any harm none neither…
There’s no need to pull out all the usual 1952 examples as we’ve read them all…you already know it was a great year. CIA Director, Walter B.
Smith recorded the level of interest in a declassified document…
I was digging through the Blue Book files and found an incident that has somehow fallen down the back of the ufological chair. It’s got the same
themes as we see today. We’ve got the authorities covering up the incident…badly. Debunkery from Howard Menzel. There’s also the respected UFO
researcher misleading his audience and lost in the middle is an exciting incident. Sounds sadly familiar doesn’t it?
A pilot, Lt Robert Arnold had been patrolling the area around Laredo AFB in a North American T-28.
Returning to base, he was asked to delay landing due to a flight-training exercise. As he waited for a window (at 6000 ft), his attention was caught
by the light of a jet plane at a lower altitude. He realised that the jet had no nav lights and was climbing rapidly to his position. He banked left
to keep it in view and the object shot past him at speed and levelled off at 9000ft. As soon as it hit that altitude, it began to return and took a
position level with Arnold.
By now, he was probably somewhere on his way to the land of ‘omfg!’
The object took off and raced away some few miles South East of Laredo AFB and stopped dead. Curiosity and training kicked in…Arnold was already in
pursuit of the object. No doubt he had ideas of identifying this light or maybe chasing it off? The T-28 Trainer was fitted with a .30 calibre machine
gun as standard. Whatever was going through the pilot’s mind, he was in for an unexpected fright…
The object suddenly began to move and took a run straight at Arnold. In his report he describes the feeling as ‘sheer fright.’ The object got some
300 feet (100 yards) away and twitched from side to side, like a line-backer , before opting to shoot past his left wing at an estimated 150 feet (50
Project Blue Book page
Arnold realised there was no contest with the flight characteristics of this unknown object. He clearly couldn’t shoot at it, out- manoeuvre or
outrun it. Who knows if it was a clever move or one out of panic?
He switched off his lights and dove for cover.
Keeping the reddish light in sight, the T-28 plummeted to 1500ft. I imagine the pilot, at this point, was praying to anyone who’d listen and alive
in the moment in that odd way we only experience on life’s precipice. Yet again, he had little time to work out his next move as the object was
already returning. This time it dived towards his position before levelling off and vanishing into the night.
As described in the above clipping, Lt Arnold promptly reported the incident. The report came to the attention of Project Blue Book, led by Captain
Ruppelt, Major Donald Keyhoe
Enter Project Blue Book...
In late ’52, Project Grudge
had been and gone, leaving a residual tendency to identify all
UFO reports as misidentifications, weather and hoaxes. Captain Ruppelt saw Project Grudge as an exercise in bad science, derision and debunking. In
his book, he described Project Grudge as…
With the new name and the new personnel came the new objective, get rid of the UFO's. It was never specified this way in writing but it didn't
take much effort to see that this was the goal of Project Grudge. This unwritten objective was reflected in every memo, report,
To reach their objective Project Grudge launched into a campaign that opened a new age in the history of the UFO. If a comparative age in world
history can be chosen, the Dark Ages would be most appropriate. Webster's Dictionary defines the Dark Ages as a period of "intellectual
Ch 5, pg 60 The Report on Unidentified Flying
With this in mind, it’s surprising to see BB go the same route as Grudge and identify the cause of Arnold’s sighting as ‘possibly balloon.’ A
balloon had been released 5 minutes
after Arnold's sighting began. It's worth considering.
However, ignoring the timing, the behaviour of a rising balloon is not what Arnold described and wouldn't explain how the object descended 3000ft at
over 500mph. Nevertheless, the balloon explanation was the only game in town.
From Report dated December 5th 1952
Project Blue Book page
From possibly to probably with no more information…
Project Blue Book page
By May 17th of 1953, the object’s identification had been changed to ‘aircraft.’
The guys at Project Blue Book are reasonable in suggesting ‘possible balloon,’ but are they reasonable to record the incident as solved
the files? Years later, when the Project was publicly decommissioned, the statistics relating to solved cases were massaged by examples like this.
The concerns that Edward Ruppelt
publicly expressed in his book (quoted earlier), don’t
reflect his actions. In fact, researcher Brad Sparks, went through the BB files years back and came up with
1600 unsolved cases.
. What’s particularly interesting is that the final report doesn’t just list
it as ‘possibly’ a balloon...it’s 100% ‘balloon’…
Tut tut tut
We’ve gone from an encounter described as a light travelling at over 500mph interacting with an airplane to ‘possible balloon’ and then to
certain ‘balloon.’ This is how the distrust and suspicion gets started.
Some of you have heard all about a guy called Menzel. For those who haven’t, he was one of the prototype debunkers. He hated UFOs, UFO reports and
UFO witnesses. From his typewriter, he obsessively discounted all reports as Venus, mirages, inverted mirages, bad witnesses, idiots and hoaxers. He
identified some reports as Venus being reflected off temperature inversions and mirages. Nothing he could come up with seemed more ridiculous to him
than UFO reports.
Little wonder then that he got wind of the encounter and took his rusty razor to it. By the time he’d finished, our old friend Venus was in the
frame again. According to Menzel, Arnold had been ducking and diving from Venus.
Project Blue Book page
Menzel and Donald Keyhoe were the best of enemies and always rose to the challenge of criticising the other. Keyhoe supported the idea that UFOs were
extra-terrestrial machines and that there was a huge cover-up by the USAF. At the end of his letter to Major R. J. Friend, he points the finger at
Keyhoe’s bad research.
Surprisingly, Menzel is right to pick up on this as Keyhoe has definitely been spicing up the details and possibly making others up. In ‘The Flying
Saucers Are From Outer Space’ Keyhoe really does misidentify the model of airplane as an F-51 and then adds a lot of spice and innuendo to the
account. He uses the name 'Fogle' due to Arnold's name apparently being blacked out in his documents...
Looking fearfully over his shoulder, Fogle saw it shoot up in another flitting climb. When it
plunged back, as if for a second pass, he hurriedly cut off his lights. Afraid
that a straight drive would make him too easy a target, he threw his fighter into a screaming spiral.
For a moment he thought his unknown pursuer would follow him all the way down. But at
2,000 feet the blue-lit device swiftly turned away. Climbing sharply, in another flitting ascent, it
vanished in the dark . . .
Riordan reread the description of the head-on pass.
"Close call," he muttered. "It looks to me like a practice attack."
"Maybe it was only a remote-control observer unit, and whoever was guiding it didn't mean to
get that close."
"Whatever they're up to, I don't like it. Some day they're going to hit a plane—if they haven't
Page 17 UFOs From Outer Space.
This part has been criticised by Brad Sparks, but I’m not so sure it’s deceitful. It could be, there’s no doubt about that and Keyhoe won’t
be the first to add details that support the ‘conspiracy.’ On the other hand, Keyhoe was a ‘knock on doors’ researcher and it’s conceivable
that he got this account of a ‘grilling’ from Arnold himself. It depends on whether he used the pseudonym ‘Fogle’ to protect Arnold’s
privacy or because he didn’t know his name and had never met.
For two hours Intelligence officers grilled him on every detail.
Did the UFO (unidentified flying object) seem to be piloted or under remote control? What
was its size and shape, its speed compared with a jet? Did it oscillate in flight, or flutter when it
climbed? Did the blue light blink or pulsate?
On and on went the probing questions, worked out by the Air Technical Intelligence Center to
identify UFO types. Then secret reports were put on the wires, for the ATIC at Dayton and
Intelligence Headquarters in Washington.
Page 7 NICAP link
The described events are almost identical to other reports. Military pilots are flying at night and find themselves being buzzed by an apparently
intelligent light source (UFO). This object engages their attention before utterly out-manoeuvring them and finally vanishing from sight. The Tehran
1976 (Middle East) equivalent incident involved the pilot locking on to the target and then immediately being unable to operate the radar or weapons.
The pilot statement is here.
Over Brazil in 1986 several jets were scrambled to investigate reported UFOs. An aerial game of cat and mouse developed that ultimately failed to
identify the moving lights. The guys at NARCAP have a lot of credible reports about the incident at their
Project Sphere Report.
An airline pilot who was looking to confirm radar paints of the UFOs had an
emotional response when he made visual contact…
NARCAP: Project Sphere -
"We asked if the contact was on their radar and the answer was positive. The controller told us that, “...the position of the unknowns was, at
that moment, at the 11 o’clock position relative to our own aircraft and he asked if we could see it. It was at this position that I saw it. A very
strong light shone, a white light. The emotion that I have even until today I get confused with the certainty that he (the object) was listening in to
our conversation over the radio. At the same moment that the ground control asked us if we were seeing the traffic and I answered, the object blinked,
so to speak (to say): I am "here!”
The Arnold report (way, way back in 1952) shows that nothing has changed. People are still reporting sightings whilst we all go through the motions.
Menzel is long gone, but his spirit lives on in the deeds of many others since. Right now, it’s possible to list around 20 well-known people who
respond in ways that aren’t so different. Major Keyhoe’s interpretation of the incident is just the same as many well-known UFO researchers today.
His belief system coloured his understanding and retelling of cases. Official explanations still drift towards Venus, balloons and space junk. As far
as ‘we the public’ react? Not a lot of change there either! One week on ATS shows how little we’ve changed, collectively.
What can we take from cases like this? I guess it’s up to the reader to draw their own conclusions. For me, if I accept that Arnold’s account is
mostly accurate, it demonstrates that such UFOs aren’t overtly hostile; dangerous without being fatal. At the same time, we should accept the
possibility that these accounts might not be 'real.' It’s hearsay, as James Carrion has said, we need a high tolerance for ambiguity in this
Further reading and sources:
NICAP: The Laredo Case - articles and files
Sign Historical Group: UFO History (comments by Sparks and Clark)
Journal of UFO Studies: Articles by Michael Swords
Project Blue Book Archive: About
Fund for UFO Research
The Sign Historical Group - Homepage