Oct 03, 2022 I Nick Redfern

UFOs in 1947: Secret Experiments or Aliens? Look Behind the Curtains and See.

There’s absolutely no doubt that had pilot Kenneth Arnold not encountered a veritable squadron of strange-looking aircraft near Mt. Rainier, Washington State on the afternoon of June 24, 1947, there would never have been an opportunity for the Russians – and for the United States, too, as we’ll soon see – to exploit a very real phenomenon of mystifying origins and nature for psychological and military gain. But, as history has shown, Arnold most assuredly did have that now-legendary encounter. Whether Arnold encountered a number of extraterrestrial craft, advanced creations of the Soviet Union, or the then-latest developments of the U.S. military, remains unknown. The theories are many. The hard answers are scant. Arnold said… "The following story of what I observed over the Cascade Mountains, as impossible as it may seem, is positively true. I never asked nor wanted any notoriety for just accidentally being in the right spot at the right time to observe what I did. I reported something that I know any pilot would have reported. I don't think that in any way my observation was due to any sensitivity of eye sight or judgment than what is considered normal for any pilot. On June 24th, Tuesday, 1947, I had finished my work for the Central Air Service at Chehalis, Washington, and at about two o'clock I took off from Chehalis, Washington, airport with the intention of going to Yakima, Wash. My trip was delayed for an hour to search for a large marine transport that supposedly went down near or around the southwest side of Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington and to date has never been found."

(Nick Redfern) Many of the early UFO files can be found at the National Archives.

Arnold continued: "I flew directly toward Mt. Rainier after reaching an altitude of about 9,500 feet, which is the approximate elevation of the high plateau from which Mt. Rainier rises. I had made one sweep of this high plateau to the westward, searching all of the various ridges for this marine ship and flew to the west down and near the ridge side of the canyon where Ashford, Washington, is located. Unable to see anything that looked like the lost ship, I made a 360 degree turn to the right and above the little city of Mineral, starting again toward Mt. Rainier. I climbed back up to an altitude of approximately 9,200 feet. The air was so smooth that day that it was a real pleasure flying and, as most pilots do when the air is smooth and they are flying at a higher altitude, I trimmed out my airplane in the direction of Yakima, Washington, which was almost directly east of my position and simply sat in my plane observing the sky and the terrain."

There were these words from Kenneth Arnold, too: "There was a DC-4 to the left and to the rear of me approximately fifteen miles distance, and I should judge, at 14,000 foot elevation. The sky and air was clear as crystal. I hadn't flown more than two or three minutes on my course when a bright flash reflected on my airplane. It startled me as I thought I was too close to some other aircraft. I looked every place in the sky and couldn't find where the reflection had come from until I looked to the left and the north of Mt. Rainier where I observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft flying from north to south at approximately 9,500 foot elevation and going, seemingly, in a definite direction of about 170 degrees. They were approaching Mt. Rainier very rapidly, and I merely assumed they were jet planes. Anyhow, I discovered that this was where the reflection had come from, as two or three of them every few seconds would dip or change their course slightly, just enough for the sun to strike them at an angle that reflected brightly on my plane. These objects being quite far away, I was unable for a few seconds to make out their shape or their formation. Very shortly they approached Mt. Rainier, and I observed their outline against the snow quite plainly."

If, as my Body Snatchers in the Desert book suggested, certain key events in the summer of 1947 – of a perceived flying saucer nature – had far less to do with the actions of aliens and far more to do with matters of a classified, military nature, then it would be most reasonable to assume that (a) discussions of such a possibility would have been flying around Washington, D.C., and (b) the government, and people in the military, would have been secretly digging deep to try and determine if this was indeed the case. Guess what? That is exactly what happened. Although many UFO investigators have said that the government’s worries and concerns about UFOs in ’47 were provoked by fear of them having definitive alien or Soviet origins, we have prime evidence in our hands that demonstrates the domestic “secret weapon” angle was one most definitely discussed – and even accepted – at an official level, as we shall now see. It is a crucial part of the argument that at least some UFOs are not from faraway worlds, but from right here.

(Nick Redfern) Secrets in the skies: aliens or the military.  

In early July 1947, Brigadier General George F. Schulgen, who was the Chief of the Requirements Intelligence Branch of Army Air Corps Intelligence, met with Special Agent S.W. Reynolds of the FBI. The purpose: to determine if the Army Air Force could solicit the assistance of the Bureau on a regular basis in its investigation of the growing flying saucer controversy. General Schulgen advised Reynolds that, “every effort must be undertaken in order to run down and ascertain whether or not the flying discs are a fact and, if so, to learn all about them.” The foremost thought on General Schulgen’s mind, at the time, was that the saucers were probably man-made in origin. He had another theory, too, and confided in Special Agent Reynolds that, “the first reported sightings might have been by individuals of Communist sympathies with the view to causing hysteria and fear of a secret weapon.” 

General Schulgen pledged to the FBI “all the facilities of [my] office as to results obtained.” He outlined a plan that would involve the FBI in both locating and questioning witnesses to UFO sightings to ascertain whether they were sincere in their statements that they had seen flying saucers, or whether their statements were prompted by personal desire for publicity or subversive reasons. According to declassified FBI files, Schulgen was careful to advise Reynolds too that: “It has been established that the flying discs are not the result of any Army or Navy experiment.” Following the meeting between Schulgen and Reynolds, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover instructed his agents to begin investigations into flying saucer sightings, specifically in the manner suggested by General Schulgen. As a result of these investigations, on August 15, 1947 the FBI learned of the distinct possibility that the military’s involvement in the flying saucer subject extended beyond that of mere observer. In a memorandum to Edward A. Tamm, the FBI Assistant Director, D.M. Ladd of the Bureau’s Domestic Intelligence Division wrote the following:

“The Director advised on August 14, 1947, that the Los Angeles papers were carrying headlines indicating that Soviet espionage agents had been instructed to determine the facts relative to the flying discs. The article carried a Washington date line and indicated that Red espionage agents had been ordered to solve the question of the flying discs, the Russians being of the opinion that this might be some new form of defense perfected by the American military [italics mine]. The article further recalled that during the recent war pieces of tin foil had been dropped in the air for the purpose of off-setting the value of radar being used by the enemy forces and that these aluminum discs might be a new development along this line. The Director inquired as to whether the Bureau had any such information.” Suspecting that, if the Russians were snooping around, the saucers just had to be American in origin, Special Agent Reynolds of the FBI’s Liaison Section was directed by J. Edgar Hoover to make further inquiries with the Air Force. Answers were sorely needed. Answers came, too. But, they weren’t the ones you might expect them to have been.

On August 19, 1947, Reynolds met with a Lieutenant Colonel George D. Garrett and the entire secret weapon issue was discussed frankly and openly, as were the potential consequences should the Bureau uncover details of a top-secret, domestic research-and-development program. Following their very candid exchange, a remarkable memorandum captioned “Flying Discs” was prepared by Reynolds for the attention of Hoover. It is this document, perhaps, more than any other, which indicates that the American military was testing flying saucer-type aircraft in the summer of 1947. Or, craft that were not circular-shaped but which still came under the UFO banner, such as massive balloon arrays. The document reads as follows: “Special Agent S. W. Reynolds of the Liaison Section, while discussing the above captioned phenomena with Lieutenant Colonel Garrett of the Air Forces Intelligence, expressed the possibility that flying discs were, in fact, a very highly classified experiment of the Army or Navy [italics mine]. Mr. Reynolds was very much surprised when Colonel Garrett not only agreed that this was a possibility, but confidentially stated it was his personal opinion that such was a probability. Colonel Garrett indicated that a Mr. [Deleted], who is a scientist attached to the Air Forces Intelligence, was of the same opinion.”

(Nick Redfern) UFOs, Flying Discs, Hoover and More.

Then, there is this: “Colonel Garrett stated that he based his assumption on the following: He pointed out that when flying objects were reported seen over Sweden, the ‘high brass’ of the War Department extended tremendous pressure on the Air Forces Intelligence to conduct research and collect information in an effort to identify these sightings. Colonel Garrett stated that, in contrast to this, we have reported sightings of unknown objects over the United States, and the ‘high brass’ appeared to be totally unconcerned. He indicated this led him to believe that they knew enough about these objects to express no concern. Colonel Garrett pointed out further that the objects in question have been seen by many individuals who are what he terms ‘trained observers’ such as airline pilots. He indicated also that several of the individuals are reliable members of the community. He stated that these individuals saw something. He stated the above has led him to the conclusion that there were objects seen which somebody in the Government knows all about [italics mine].”

Special Agent Reynolds then pointed out to the colonel that if flying saucers really did originate within the heart of a highly classified domestic project of the military, it was wholly unreasonable for the FBI to be expected to “spend money and precious time conducting inquiries with respect to this matter.” The colonel duly concurred with Reynolds; he indicated that it would have been extremely embarrassing to Air Force Intelligence if the saucers proved to be American in origin. Perhaps sensing that he was now getting very close to uncovering the truth behind the UFO puzzle, Reynolds then made inquiries with the Intelligence Division of the War Department. He wanted their opinion on the theory that something akin to a shadow government operation was responsible for the many flying saucer-type objects seen over North America.

 The War Department, however, issued a flat denial that it was in any way implicated in the UFO issue. In a report written up later, Reynolds noted that he was given “the assurance of General Chamberlain and General Todd that the Army is conducting no experiments with anything which could possibly be mistaken for a flying disc.” Nevertheless, the FBI continued to view the subject of flying saucers and the military’s involvement in the subject with profoundly suspicious eyes. Rumors continued to circulate within the higher echelons of the FBI that it was being denied access to the full and unexpurgated facts – facts suggesting UFOs were home-grown and not Russian or alien in origin. None of this, of course, proves that the flying saucer wave of the summer of 1947 was provoked by a highly classified military program – rather than one of E.T. origin – but the behind-the-scenes discussions between the likes of Reynolds and Garrett on just such this very possibility most definitely pushed things in that direction.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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