Dr. James E. McDonald — What Might Have Been — 6/6

Dr. James E. McDonald — What Might Have Been — 6/6

Val Germann

Columbia, Missouri

With this installment we finish our look at McDonald’s presentation to the AAAS in December, 1969. In my view McDonald clearly demonstrated that as of the date above the UFO problem had received no significant (public) scientific attention and that the so-called official investigations were just that: so- called; the word “investigation” deserving to be unincluded.

Imagine, if you will, the book that this gentleman was probably working on in the early 1970s! But that book never came out and, not only that, no one picked up his mantle and went on. That is, NO scientist of anywhere near McDonald’s stature stepped in to fill his shoes. Hynek and Vallee don’t count — by a long shot.

The UFOs, of course, did not go away and after the huge flap of 1973 they were right back in the news, where they have been ever since. But where has the high-powered investigation come from? No where, not really. Nothing like McDonald. And this is to be expected, you see, since a word to the wise is sufficient.

Continuing with the 1957 Kirtland AFB incident:

  1. Information Gained from Witness-Interviews:

When I contacted Kaser and Brink, they told me I was the first person to query them on the case since their interrogation by an Air Force captain from Colorado Springs, who had come to interview them at Kirtland just after the incident. Subsequently, I secured the Bluebook case-file on this sighting, and ascertained that a Capt. Patrick O. Shere, from Ent AFB did the interrogation on Nov. 8, 1957, just four days after the sighting.

The accounts I secured in 1969 from Kaser and Brink matched impressively the information I found in Shere’s 1957 report in the Bluebook case-file. There were a few recollective discrepancies of distance or time estimates in the witness accounts given in 1969, as compared with their 1957 statements to the Air Force, but the agreements were far more significant than the small number of mismatches.

In contrast to the somewhat vague impressions I gained (and other readers would surely also gain) from reading the Condon Report version, here is what is in the Bluebook case-file and what they told me directly.

The object came down in a rather steep dive at the east end of Runway 26, left the flight line, crossed runways, taxiways and unpaved areas at about a 30-degree angle, and proceeded southwestward towards the CAA tower at an altitude they estimated at a few tens of feet above the ground. Quickly getting 7 power binoculars on it, they stablished that it had no wings, tail, or fuselage, was elongated in the vertical direction, and exhibited a somewhat eggshaped form (Kaser). It appeared to be perhaps 15-20 ft in vertical dimension, about the size of an automobile on end, and had a single white light in its base. Both men were emphatic in stressing to me that _it in no way resembled an aircraft._

It came towards them until it reached a B-58 service pad near the northeast corner of Area D (Drumhead Area, a restricted area lying south of the E-W runway at Kirtland). That spot lay about 3000 ft ENE of the tower, near an old machine-gun calibration bunker still present at Kirtland AFB. There it proceeded to stop completely, hover just above the ground _in full view_ for a time that Kaser estimated at about 20 seconds, that Brink suggested to me was more like a minute, and that the contemporary Air Force interrogation implied as being rather more than a minute. Next they said it started moving again, still at very low altitude, still at modest speed, until it-again reached the eastern boundary of the field. At that point, the object climbed at an extremely rapid rate (which Kaser said was far faster than that of such modern jets as the T-38).

The Bluebook report expresses the witness’ estimate of the climb rate as 45,000 ft/min, which is almost certainly a too-literal conversion from Mach 1. My phone-interview notes include a quote of Brink’s statement to me that, “There was no doubt in my mind that no aircraft I knew of then, or ever operating since then, would compare with it.” both men were emphatic in stating to me that at no time was this object hidden by any buildings. I confirmed through the Albuquerque FAA office that Area D has never had anything but chain-link fence around it, and that no buildings other than scattered one-story metal buildings ever existed either inside or outside Area D in that sector. The bunker is only about 15-20 feet high, judging from my own recent observations and photos of it from the air. The Bluebook interrogation report contains no statements hinting that the object was ever hidden from view by any structures (although the Bluebook file contains the usual number of internally inconsistent and confusingly presented details).

I asked both men whether they alerted anyone else while the foregoing events were taking place. They both indicated that the object was of such unprecedented nature that it wasn’t until it shot up into the overcast that they got on the phone to get the CAA Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) unit to look for a fast target to the east. Kaser recalled that a CPN-18 surveillance radar was in use at that RAPCON unit at that time, a point confirmed to me in subsequent correspondence with the present chief of the Albuquerque Airport Traffic Control Tower, Mr. Robert L. Behrens, who also provided other helpful information. Unfortunately, no one who was in the Albuquerque/Kirtland RAPCON unit in 1957 is now available, and the person whom Kaser thought was actually on the CPN-18 that night is now deceased. Thus I have only Kaser and Brink recollections of the radar-plotting of the unknown, plus the less than precise information in the Nov. 6, 1957 TWX to Bluebook. Capt. Shere did not, evidently, take the trouble to secure any information from radar personnel. As seen on the RAPCON CPN-18, the unknown target was still moving in an easterly direction when the alert call came from the tower. It then turned southward, and as Kaser recalled, moved south at very high speed, though nothing is said about speed in the Kirtland TWX of Nov. 6, 1957. It proceeded a number of miles south towards the vicinity of the Albuquerque Low Frequency Range Station, orbited there for a number of minutes, came back north to near Kirtland, took up a trail position about a half-mile behind an Air Force C-46 just then leaving Kirtland, and moved offscope with the C-46. The Nov. 8, 1957 report from Commander, 34th Air Div. to ADC and to the Air Technical Intelligence Command closed with the rather reasonable comment: Sighting and descriptions conform to no known criteria for identification of UFOs.” The followup report of Nov. 13, 1957, prepared by Air Intelligence personnel from Ent AFB, contains a number of relevant comments on the experience of the two witnesses (23 years of tower control work between them as of that date), and on their intelligence, closing with the remarks: “In the opinion of the interviewer, both sources (witnesses) are considered completely competent and reliable.”

  1. Critique of the Evaluation in the Condon Report:

The Kirtland AFB case is a rather good (though not isolated) instance of the general point I feel obliged to make on the basis of my continuing check of the Condon Report: In it we have not been given anything superior to the generally casual and often incompetent level of case-analysis that marked Bluebook’s handling of the UFO problem in past years.

In the Bluebook files, this case is carried as “Possible Aircraft”. Study of the 21-page case-file reveals that this is based solely on passing comment made by Capt. Shere in closing his summary letter of November 8: “The opinion of the preparing officer is that this object may possibly have been an unidentified aircraft, possibly confused by the runways at Kirtland AFB. The reasons for this opinion are: (a) The observers are considered competent and reliable sources, and in the opinion of this interviewer actually saw an object they could not identify. (b) The object was tracked on a radar scope by a competent operator. (c) The object does not meet identification criteria for any other phenomena.”

The stunning non sequitur of that final conclusion might serve as an epitome of 22 years of Air Force response to unexplainable objects in our airspace. But when one then turns to the Condon Report’s analysis and evaluation, a Report that was identified to the public and the scientific community as the definitive study of UFOs, no visible improvement is found. Ignoring almost everything of interest in the case-file except that a lighted airborne object came down near Kirtland airfield and left, the Condon Report covers this whole intriguing case in two short paragraphs, cites the Air Force view, embellishes it a bit by speaking of the lost aircraft as “powerful” presumably to account for its observed Mach 1 climb-out) and sggesting that it was “flying without flight plan” (this explains why it was wandering across runways and taxiways at night, in a rain, at an altitude of a few tens of feet), and the Report then closes off the case with a terse conclusion: “There seems to be no reason to doubt the accuracy of this analysis.

Two telephone calls to the two principal witnesses would have confronted the Colorado investigators with emphatic testimony, supporting the contents (though not the conclusions) of the Bluebook file, and that would have rendered the suggested “powerful private aircraft” explanation untenable. By not contacting the witnesses and by overlooking most of the salient features of the reported observations, this UFO report has been left safely in the “explained” category where Bluebook put it. One has here a sample of the low scientific level of investigative and evaluative work that will be so apparent to any who take the trouble to study carefully and thoroughly the Condon Report on UFOs. AAAS members are urged to study it carefully for themselves and to decide whether it would be scientifically advisable to accept it as the final word on the 22-year-long puzzle of the UFO problem. I submit that it is most inadvisable.

 

** End, Part 6/6 **

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