These excerpts from NICAP's assessment(s) of UFO accounts prior to and right after Kenneth Arnold's iconic "flying saucer" sightings indicate how clean UFO sightings in the 1947 time-frame were, and why most were not ballyhooed:
"Published records have referred to a total of forty-nine UFO reports for the
period June 1st through June 24th, by more than seventy-five witnesses, two
thirds of whom have been fully identified. These figures raise an
interesting question: why did none of these seventy-five witnesses report
their unusual observations until after Arnolds story had been
published? In a number of those reports, the witnesses tried to account
for their initial silence. Richard L. Bitters, editor of the Wapakoneta
(Ohio) Daily News, reportedly felt that his sighting of June 23rd was
simply not a news story, and did not publish it until two weeks later when he
changed his mind at the height of the wave (III-6); on the same night,
two other Ohio residents made a similar sighting but delayed reporting it
"until others had told of seeing them" (Case 28); E. B. Parks,
of Hazel Green, Alabama, felt that the phenomenon he observed about the
same time was "so unusual that it was not reported for fear others would
disbelieve the account of it" (Case 29). Richard Rankin, who had not
attached any "otherworldly" significance to his sighting of June 23rd
(or 14th) at Bakersfield, California, assumed that he was observing the
Navy’s experimental "Flying Flapjack," the XF5U-1, even though
"I couldn’t make out the number or location of the propellers, and I
couldn’t distinguish any wings or tail" (II-3) so he hesitated to describe
what he had seen "until others were reporting the same
thing." And so it went: if the reason for not reporting these
earlier sightings at the time they occurred is not exactly
stated in every case, it is at least implicitly apparent the
witnesses were afraid to report them because they were so
Element of Fear
The 1947 UFO wave is perhaps the most fascinating of any to examine because of
its unique position at the very beginning of the contemporary period of UFO
activity in this country. There were no "attitudes" about UFOs
in June 1947. There were no preconceptions, no misconceptions, no
"policies" by either press or public, or by any official agencies,
and certainly no pattern existed concerning the phenomenon by which comparisons
might be made. Few people recalled the reports of "ghost rockets"
over Sweden during the summer of 1946, and it was only during the crest of the
1947 wave, on July 6th and 7th, that any connection was made with
those earlier phenomena. A few World War II veterans, who had observed
"foo fighters" over Germany and in the South Pacific during the war,
were now reminded of those earlier incidents by the widespread reports of
flying saucers. But for most witnesses, the experience of observing
strange aerial manifestations was completely without precedent and profoundly
We now know that after 1947 it could be expected that a UFO witness might be
afraid to report a sighting publicly for fear of ensuing ridicule and
intimidation. This is a reaction we have come to expect, one of the
many psychological complexities of the UFO phenomenon that has
developed out of prevailing public and official attitudes over a long
period of time. But in 1947 there were no such precedents to create this
type of fear; these witnesses had seen something unaccountable and their
fear was of the unknown, a reaction to something totally new and unexpected.
There was no place, outside of science fiction, for this kind of inexplicable
experience: the appearance of some new phenomenon was not just
frightening, it was against all common sense, and if
something in someone’s experience does not make any sense, it is not
likely that this experience is going to be made public, at least not until it
is discovered that others have shared the same baffling experience. And so
to many, it must have come as something of a relief to read of Kenneth Arnold's
sighting, and to discover that they had not taken leave of their senses and
were not the only ones to have come face to face with something they were quite
unable to explain or understand."
Here are examples of sightings [from NICAP] that show, as I see it, how UFO sightings in the early 1947 period were reported without an interpretive patina that could mar the essence of the accounts:
Before June 1947
As early as the middle of April 1947, at the Weather Bureau in Richmond,
Virginia, a U. S. Government meteorologist named Walter A. Minczewski and his
staff had released a pibal balloon and were tracking its east-to-west course at
15,000 feet when they noticed silver, ellipsoidal object just below
it. Larger than the balloon, this object appeared to be flat on
bottom, and when observed through the theodolite used to track the
balloon, was seen to have a dome on its upper side. Minczewski and his
assistants watched the object for fifteen seconds as it traveled rapidly in
level flight on a westerly course, before disappearing from view. In the
official report on file at the Air Force's Project Blue Book, at
Wright-Patterson Field, in Dayton, Ohio, this sighting is listed as
Another early sighting in the official files is the report by Byron Savage of
Oklahoma City -- like Arnold, a businessman and private pilot. He
had seen an object about six weeks before Arnold, on May 17th or
18th, and his report was one of the first to receive widespread
attention in the newspapers immediately after Arnold's report had appeared. The
Oklahoma City Times gave it prominent space on June 26th. At the time of
his sighting, Savage had been out in his yard it was dusk, and the sky was
still light, when he saw an object “come across the city from just a little
east of south … its altitude was very high somewhere around 10,000
feet, I couldn’t be sure. Funny thing about it, it made no noise. I
don't think it had kind of internal combustion engine. But I did notice
that right after it went out of sight, I heard the sound of rushing wind and
air. I told my wife right away, but she thought I must have seen
lightning.“ He further described the object as being of “a shiny, silvery
color,” and very large -- “bigger than any aircraft we have.” He said it
was “perfectly round and flat.” In the Blue Book file he described the
object as appearing ellipsoidal in shape as it approached, and completely
circular while passing directly overhead, on a course toward the
northwest. In this account he said that it appeared “frosty
white,” and that its speed was about three times as
fast as a jet. It disappeared from view in about fifteen to
twenty seconds. Although the sighting details provided by
Savage are far more complete than those given for many of the official cases
listed by Blue Book as “explained,” this report falls in the category
of Insufficient Information.
Another case in the Air Force Blue Book files occurred on May 19th, sometime
between twelve thirty and one p.m., at Manitou Springs,
Colorado. Seven employees of the Pikes Peak Railway, including Navy
veteran Dean A. Hauser, mechanics Ted Weigand and Marion Hisshouse, and T. J.
Smith and L. D. Jamison, were having lunch when
Weigand noticed a bright,
silver-colored object approaching rapidly from the
northeast. It stopped almost directly overhead and the group of men
watched it perform wild gyrations for a number of minutes. Hauser said that the
object, after having approached in a straight line, “began to move
erratically in wide circles. All this time it reflected light, like
metal, but intermittently, as though the angle of
reflection might be changing from time to time.” It
was difficult to get a clear idea of its shape, and even viewing it through
binoculars did not appear to “bring it any closer.” They estimated its
height at one thousand feet. For twenty minutes they watched it climb,
dive, reverse its flight course, and finally move off into the wind in a
westerly direction. “It disappeared in a straight line in the
west-northwest in a clear blue sky,” Hauser reported. At no time did
anyone hear any noise. An account of the sighting appeared in the Denver Post
of June 28. The next day the Post reported that the witnesses had been
interviewed by representatives of the 15th Air Force headquarters and the
results of the investigation would be sent on to Washington. The results,
perhaps unknown to the witnesses even to this day, were “possible birds.”
(The "birds explanation" in the report right above came after the fact, and was part of the loony explanations that so-called "experts" eventually imparted to flying saucer and UFO reports.)
In the 1940s and early 1950s, citizens, who had been solicited to keep their mouths shut during WWII (about lots of things, many mundane, such as what manufacturers were making in their factories or how food stuffs were being rationed) had a hesitancy to be public about strange things they experienced or saw.
This wasn't an instilled fear of government reprisal but, rather, a mind-set left over from the codicils of WWII behavior.
People were inclined to be closed-mouth.
Moreover, there wasn't an inclination to be socially bombastic. Such boorish displays of attention-seeking didn't pop up until the 1960s.
So, in the 1947 to 1957 time-frame, UFO reports, aside from those by contactees, remain grist for investigation.
Within them lie clues to the nature -- the core nature -- of the UFO phenomenon.
While Roswell clutters the purity of those early UFO reports, Roswell, itself, is a fount of interesting information -- something did indeed happen near there in July 1947 -- but the incidents inside the Roswell story have been compromised by UFO researchers who've larded the tale with their biases and inept investigations, mostly or all) after 1978.
While Roswell is a source for some insight to the UFO phenomenon, it's those other 1947 reports and sightings, because they haven't been besmirched by ufologists, which contain information that's ripe for investigation, even now.
A forensic look at the 1947 wave (of UFO sightings), apart from Roswell or Arnold's sighting can be useful for those who want to clarify the historicity of UFOs or want to determine what UFOs are or were.
It's UFO archaeology and/or paleontology; ufology should be abandoned as the rubric under which new UFO aficionados operate.
And Roswell should be left to those who think they can unravel the event(s) from the mythology and detritus that has accumulated over the years and continues to pile up in 2013.