The Fort Monmouth Case. By Wendy Connors and Mike Hall
The Fort Monmouth Case began with a watershed event which took place at 11:18 A.M. EDT on a clear morning in September 1951. It was Monday the 10th. The place was a radar facility near the coastline at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
A young student Army Signal Corps radar operator, PFC Eugent A. Clark, had just picked up an unknown low-flying target moving faster than the automatic setting mode on his AN/MPG-1 radar set could plot.
As a matter of coincidence, a number of visiting Army officers happened to be standing behind Clark at the time, witnessing the strange event unfold. They watched in amazement as in just moments the curious radar blip traversed the coast line at an estimated speed of at least 700 miles per hour. It was lost off the scope near the Sandy Hook coastal peninsula, not far south of New York City.
This radar tracking caused a lot of excitement. In 1951, although jets had reached such speeds in special tests, they flew nowhere near those velocities on a routine or even sustained basis.
Seventeen minutes later, the story became even more bizarre. Just south of Sandy Hook, at 11:35 A.M. EDT, a T-33 jet trainer piloted by Lieutenant Wilbert S. Rogers, with Major Edward Ballard Jr. in the rear seat, encountered a completely unrecognizable object. They were flying northward at 20,000 feet over Point Pleasant, New Jersey headed toward Sandy Hook.
At that moment Rogers spotted off to his left a dull, silvery object passing far below on an opposing parallel course. It was southward bound in from the coastline peninsula of Sandy Hook and appeared to be about 12,000 feet below them. Rogers had been on a direct pre-approach heading toward a landing into Mitchel AFB, New York, but wanted Major Ballard to have a look at it.
Ballard, however, was on the radio so Rogers turned slightly to the left to linger and waited for him to complete his radio communication. Forty-five seconds later Ballard had caught sight of it, by which time the UFO entered a descending arc-like turn that was about to cut under their flight path. At that moment the pilots’ conversations were heard by ground control via an open mike.
Records show the pilots were excited as both men were watching the object bank. As it did, it revealed a ‘discus-like’ silhouette while continuing its turn. So Rogers kept turning left with it to keep it from going under his wing and thus out of view. While the object proceeded to descend further, Rogers nosed his jet down to eventually complete a hair raising 360-degree, 3,000 feet descending maneuver, just to keep it in sight.
Both Rogers and Ballard estimated the craft to be around 30 to 50 feet in diameter and perhaps moving as fast as 700 miles per hour. By then the pilots knew that they were definitely not chasing a balloon because this thing was not only banking left but was by then out-pacing their jet which Rogers had throttled up from 450 to 550 miles per hour!
By that point the object had completed a 90 degree turn and was heading away from the coastline, traveling out over the ocean in level flight near the speed of sound at around 5,000 feet. Rogers vainly attempted to parallel its course from his current altitude of 17,000 feet as the UFO continued to increase its speed out to sea, covering 35 miles during the short two minute span of the sighting.
Rogers, an experienced WWII fighter pilot, was later asked by a reporter what he thought it was that they had seen that day. He shrugged and only said that the object was something he had never seen before in his life, and it certainly wasn’t a balloon because it was not only descending but moving at great speed. He added that the object looked perfectly round and flat with the center of the object being somewhat raised.
But was it a balloon? Two months later when Edward Ruppelt assumed the helm of the old Grudge project from Jerry Cummings, he carefully disseminated the information that had been collected on the case. Ruppelt was as intrigued as anyone with this fantastic sighting, and no one more than himself respected the experience of veteran flyers like Rogers and Ballard.
Yet, Ruppelt put objectivity first. He even fired three assistants from his project in those early days who became too biased in their approach to investigations.
It was one of Ruppelt’s more trusted associates, Henry ‘Hank’ Metscher, who came up with what he felt was a solid argument that the sighting over Point Pleasant and the radar data from Fort Monmouth may have been attributable to balloon launches. Ruppelt relied on Metscher’s more seasoned engineering background and careful analysis to compose a special November 30 status report to the Pentagon.
It stated: “At approximately 11:12 EDST, 10 September 1951 two balloons were released from the Evans Signal Laboratory, New Jersey, . . . and would have moved into a position nearly in line with Point Pleasant.”
Provided are illustrations from that report plotting the balloons and the course of the T-33 jet. Air Force records do prove that balloons were in the same area at the same time as the T-33, yet estimates place their altitude at 18,000 feet as opposed to the 5,000 feet ceiling Rogers approximated for the UFO.
Those same records also show each balloon burst at a height of 104,000 feet not long after the incident transpired.
To provide further detail, following is an excerpt from Ruppelt’s unedited manuscript to The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. This paragraph never made it into his published book but does detail how ATIC viewed the case at the time:
The sighting by the two officers in the T-33 jet fell apart when Metscher learned that a balloon had been launched in the area of the sighting just a matter of minutes before the UFO was seen. Hank got out an aeronautical chart and plotted the path of the balloon, the path of the T-33, and the reported path of the UFO.
The first thing that showed up was that the balloon was always along the line of sight between the T-33 and where the two officers thought the UFO had been.
With a little more figuring Hank showed how every reported motion of the UFO could have been due to the relative motion between the balloon and the T-33, and the observer’s inability to accurately estimate distances, since they didn’t know how big their “UFO” really was.
Colonel Rosengarten told the authors that he and Lt. Jerry Cummings personally questioned Rogers and Ballard. Although he too greatly respected their years of flying experience, Rosengarten is fairly convinced after talking to them that they simply saw a balloon under unusual circumstances. He also feels that a balloon with foil reflectors on it, accounted for the earlier radar sightings.
After news accounts of the pilot’s incident leaked to the papers, state police officials were queried by reporters, but no collaborating testimony could be found to substantiate the sighting of an unusual object.
Yet another incident did occur that same afternoon of the 10th. Again, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey radar picked up a strange target. This time it was 18 miles above the earth traveling slowly. Soon, ground observers visually confirmed it even though all they could see was a silver speck in the sky.
While Cummings conclusively proved that sighting was attributed to a balloon launch, more unexplained radar sightings followed the next day.
On September 11, a brief summary of the T-33 sighting was sent to ATIC from the 148th interceptor group at Dover AFB, Delaware, where Rogers and Ballard were based. On the next, day Wilbert Rogers himself followed up with another and much more carefully detailed summary to Dayton, addressed to none other than the Commanding General of the AMC! Fort Monmouth forwarded accounts too of the anomalous radar incidents.
Then both pilots were debriefed at Stewart AFB, Newburg, New York, on the 17th by Eastern Air Defense Force Headquarters officials who on the 21st sent a summary of all of the sightings to ATIC as well as the ADC headquarters in Colorado Springs.
This was done according to several official regulations of the time requiring the reporting of unidentified aerial objects. These included Air Defense Command Letter 200-1 of 11 April 1951 requiring the reporting of “unconventional aircraft,” and an Eastern Air Defense Force directive of 19 February 1951, stipulating the same.
Along with these new regulations was a directive from the Continental Air Defense Command in an earlier issuance of 200-1 dated 22 February 1951. It required any reports to be classified “confidential.” However, as will be detailed, these same reports were apparently caught in a paper shuffle and did not make it to Major General Cabell, the head of Air Force Intelligence (AFOIN), in a timely fashion.
This fact becomes the basis for the story to follow, namely because news of the T-33 sighting would first be leaked to the press. This leak came long before Cabell had a chance to be properly briefed on these seemingly fantastic events, which were not easily explainable at the time.
In setting the stage for this tale of a classic military snafu, it is also important to note that at that time Cabell had come under pressure by some American industrialists and scientists who felt the Air Force should be more responsive to UFO reports. Top among those influential men were Robert Johnson and a Mr. Brewster of Republic Aviation.
Republic carried a lot of weight at that time because they were at the cutting edge of high speed fighter development. In fact, research then going on at Republic would lead directly to the F-105 Thunderchief which gained great fame during the Vietnam war a decade later.
Top people at Republic like Johnson and Brewster had an unusually tenacious interest in the early flying saucer sightings. The details are unclear, but AFOSI files show that both men learned of the Fort Monmouth cases and asked permission from the Eastern Air Defense Command to speak to Rogers and Ballard around September 20, still long before Cabell had been briefed on the incidents.
During their interview, Brewster showed the air crew “sketches,” possibly of experimental aircraft. Yet, both pilots told Brewster and Johnson that they had seen no indications of exhaust or propulsion units on the UFO. Records even show Brewster speculative of electrical propulsion of some kind. Brewster explained that he had names of other witnesses, who supposedly had similar sightings and were also interviewed by him and Johnson.
Aviation historian Joel Carpenter recently shared some interesting insights on why Republic may have been so interested in UFOs. As in many other instances, it seems that curiosity in flying saucers had less to do with astrophysical theories than the hard realities of the Cold War:
Each of the airframe contractors in the 40s and 50s had a specialty, and Republic’s was fighters. They had an ace designer named Alexander Kartveli who was very interested in supersonic aerodynamics and came up with some very radical concepts for early jet fighters. (The P-84 that was running up at Muroc when the first disc sighting was made there was one of his designs.)
In those days, Air Defense Command (or maybe still CONAD then) Hq was located at Mitchel Field, Long Island, and since Republic was right down the road in Farmingdale, it had an ³in² with the fighter command. Republic did a lot of studies for CONAD on the problems of how to use fighters to intercept high-speed bombers.
If a bomber is flying near the speed of sound, it is very hard to detect it with radar, scramble the fighter, get the fighter to the exact point where it can fire its weapons, and shoot at exactly the right instant to hit the target. . . You can see why the Ft. Monmouth incident would have had a bearing on this, if the radar operators were tracking UFOs that were going too fast to be jets, what could possibly be done about them?
So I think that the Republic men might have been in the Cabell meeting [when Cabell was finally briefed on the Ft. Monmouth incidents in detail on November 1] as experts on the problems of intercepting high-speed targets.
The other aspect of this is that just a couple of days before the Cabell meeting, Republic had been awarded a contract to build one of the most incredible aircraft ever designed, the XF-103. This was a true interceptor. . . projects like the XF-103 take years to develop and they probably thought that by the time it was operational, the Soviets might have supersonic bombers.
General Cabell had maintained an interest in the UFO mystery since he became director of AFOIN in May of 1948 but for whatever reason had delegated much of the responsibility to subordinates. By 1949, after the Sidney Shallet article, flying saucers were de-emphasized and collection memos for acquiring information on sightings were rescinded.
Grudge officially closed in December of that year although work still went on at ATIC as new sighting reports were handled through routine intelligence channels. Cabell, however, who later characterized the Grudge final report as “the most poorly written piece of unscientific tripe I’ve ever read,” seemed ready by late 1950 and early 1951 for a more active approach.
It is not known why Cabell suddenly took greater interest in flying saucer reports by that time. An extensive reorganization had been completed by mid-1951 which had previously occupied a great deal of his attention. Perhaps by then, he simply had more time to devote to the subject of UFOs as a whole, during a period in which there was already growing concern about possible Soviet developments in heavy high speed bombers.
It does seem once war in Korea began in June 1950, that Cabell was quietly reconsidering the specific issue of flying saucer reports. In fact, at that time he may have come to the realization that his subordinates in AFOIN and Colonel Watson at ATIC were of the growing opinion that they had more important tasks at hand than dealing with the saucer sightings.
This may be why they put such great emphasis on downplaying the investigations, so as not to make flying saucers an issue either privately or publicly.
We know by late 1950 collection memos on UFOs were re-issued and Major General Cabell started to express concern over what he saw as a continually troubling series of saucer reports. Colonel Watson and his deputy commander, Colonel Frank Dunn, were aware of this in particular.
Cabell’s office even later sent word down that he was to be awakened during the middle of the night if he was needed! Colonel Watson, although a very distinguished and respected officer, still apparently had a skepticism when it came to flying saucers. He continued to frown on anyone who claimed to have witnessed a sighting. However, it does seem his deputy, Frank Dunn, did succeed him somewhere around the timeframe in which the Fort Monmouth incidents occurred.
(The records show Colonel Watson was officially reassigned around July of 1951 yet because he was then resisting leaving his beloved ATIC command, Watson may have still been in Dayton, trying to get Cabell to either change his orders to an Air Defense Command, or preferably to stay at ATIC.
This would account for the fact that Ruppelt and Cummings both recalled in their correspondence that Watson had something to do with this story but also remember that his orders for reassignment came in before the Fort Monmouth events all played out.)
We do know from Ruppelt’s private papers that Cabell by at least early 1951 had caught wind of Colonel Watson’s hesitancy to divert significant manpower to saucer investigations. Ruppelt mentions that Cabell, at some point, climbed all over Watson and his Pentagon accomplices like Colonel Porter for “conspiring to kill the UFO project.”
It is known that Watson’s friend, Albert Deyarmond, remained at ATIC after the Colonel accepted a command in Europe. Thus “Moose” Deyarmond remained a key man in the ATIC hierarchy as Colonel Dunn filled Watson’s shoes. It certainly seems Deyarmond continued to enforce Colonel Watson’s so-called anti-saucer policies, as did Analysis Chief Colonel Brunow W. Feiling. The authors do not fully understand why because we also know Deyarmond was privately very interested in the subject and had been a strong supporter of an objective study when he was a member of Project Sign back in 1948. We also know that Ruppelt always understood him to be personally convinced in an extraterrestrial hypothesis for the origin of the phenomena.
Nevertheless, Colonel Watson’s skeptical saucer policy still seemed to be in effect at ATIC by the fall of 1951. In fact, when word of the incredible Fort Monmouth sightings were officially reported to ATIC on the 11th and 12th from Dover AFB and the EADC at Newburg on the 21st, the accounts were dismissed by Colonel Feiling. Feiling completely bypassed Grudge and gave the reports directly to James Rodgers, who was by then no longer even in charge of Grudge.
Although the files do suggest that Colonel Dunn had learned of the incidents as early as the 11th. Records explain that on the 11th, the Air Materiel Command’s Public Information Officer, Colonel Taylor, acquired a summary of the pilot’s sighting from his counterpart at Mitchel AFB, PIO Major John B. Barron. Taylor passed the summary onto Colonel Dunn via Rex Smith, AMC Assistant PIO, on that same day. Yet the Pentagon never received any follow-up investigation from ATIC.
To Dunn’s later horror, the only report that did make its way to Washington was initiated via that curious correspondence between PIO officers to a Colonel Carter of the Field Liaison Section, Directorate of Public Information in the Pentagon. When these sightings subsequently found their way to the national media as early as the 12th, Cabell eventually blew his top. We say “eventually” because, oddly, the General didn’t catch wind of it until long after those press leaks made national headlines in papers like the Washington Daily News and The New York Times. Further, Cabell did not seem to learn about any of this until the 27th or 28th of that month! (The leak first originated from Mitchel AFB when Major Barron allowed a Long Island newspaper reporter, Dick Aurelio, to interview the pilot after Aurelio heard rumors of the sighting.)
Cabell had already told ATIC he wanted personal notification on any new UFO activity, and now he had to read about this outwardly amazing series of cases from a press desk circular that happened to cross his desk, 18 days after the event occurred!
After the news made headlines, the Air Defense Command also wanted more information. They had not received a final report on the sightings even though it involved pilots of its own [Eastern] Air Defense Command. ADC thus wanted Grudge on it right away, but they had no idea that the project had become so understaffed.
As Cabell attempted to wade through this horrendous mess on Friday morning of the 28th, his wartime years as a Pentagon assistant to the Commanding General of Army Air Forces, General “Hap” Arnold, may have come back to haunt him. Cabell had held a unique job as a trouble shooter on Arnold’s personal staff during the madness following the attack on Pearl Harbor. That act by the Japanese, and the shortcomings which military intelligence subsequently found itself guilty of, forever dominated Cabell’s thinking.
Apparently by noon on that Friday, someone at ATIC found himself in a heated telephone conversation with Cabell. After receiving a yard long Teletype message from AFOIN later that afternoon, right at ATIC’s 4:00 P.M. closing time, Analysis personnel knew they had to act. Colonel S.H. Kirkland Jr. was then moving up the ladder at ATIC and working with Colonel Watson’s good buddy Moose Deyarmond, they secured orders (via the administrative ATIN office with a WD form 67) for Lieutenant Colonel Rosengarten to go to New Jersey. Rosengarten was to oversee an investigation of the case in time for a scheduled late Monday afternoon Pentagon conference on the matter with Cabell himself! It is of interest, however, that they told Lt. Col. Rosengarten to hold off on giving the General any definite analysis until all the facts of the case could be studied. (Keep in mind, this is already 18 days after the sighting took place.)
Because Lt. Col. Rosengarten was head of the Performance and Characteristics Branch under the Aircraft and Propulsion Section within ATIC’s Analysis Division, he technically had the old Grudge project under his many commands. Lt. Col. Rosengarten always devoted a hundred percent effort to every task he was given and also sought to carry out assignments in a thorough and careful manner. So he took some time to consider seeking assistance on this important task. As he looked out from his office down the length of Analysis’ long hut-like home, he saw many desks lined up. At one of them he noticed Ed Ruppelt. Ruppelt occupied the exact same desk left by Alfred Loedding who, ironically, left ATIC eight months earlier for a job in Pennsylvania the very day Ruppelt arrived. Since then, Ruppelt had been recruited on occasion to assist with UFO assignments.
Yet logically, only one man should have the task because he was responsible for running Grudge. Lt. Col. Rosengarten’s keen eye moved onto that man, good old Jerry Cummings. Cummings had only recently come to Grudge and like Ruppelt had been reactivated with the start of hostilities in Korea late in 1950. Although recently discovered files do reveal that Cummings did have an earlier tour at the old T-2 Intelligence group in Dayton during the tail end of World War Two. So he was obviously a capable man with prior experience in technical intelligence and apparently a highly skilled Cal. Tec. trained aeronautical engineer.
Rosengarten’s opinion of Cummings was very high. It is evident from the UFO files released by the National Archives that a more serious approach was taken as soon as he took over what was left of the Grudge operation back in July. Cummings, however, often faced many hurdles. In fact, Cummings had been very put out when Feiling bypassed his office with the Fort Monmouth reports. He had complained about this to Deyarmond and to Lt. Col. Rosengarten. So now Rosengarten was giving him the chance to do his job. Cummings was going too.
Although a few researchers have simply characterized Rosengarten and Cummings as doing damage control for ATIC, both men appeared eager to conduct a detailed and objective investigation. Admittedly, there are mysteries from those critical three days, spanning Friday, September 28 to Monday, October 1, but it is clear they were on a mission for Cabell which even had an “Operational Immediate” designation to it. Operational Immediate was the highest peacetime priority code issued at that time and this one had come direct from the old man himself! (It should be noted however that during our interview with Colonel Rosengarten in 1999, he told us that he only made the trip in person to ensure that Cummings received full cooperation.)
Their trip began after boarding a TWA commercial airliner late that Friday night at 11:30 P.M. EST. Rosengarten and Cummings flew direct to New York. The next morning they traveled to New Jersey and coordinated with the G-2 Signal Corps radar station at Fort Monmouth. While at Fort Monmouth they received excellent cooperation from the personnel at the radar station who were all very helpful to their investigation. Lt. Col. Rosengarten recorded:
Interrogation of the student [radar] personnel occupied Saturday, Saturday night, and Sunday morning and part of Sunday afternoon. Much time was spent attempting to fix with greater detail dates, time, and circumstances in order to find something of value. . . . Then, the two pilots, Major Ballard flying as observer, and Lt. Rogers who was flying as pilot of a T-33, sighted an unidentified flying object and they flew into Fort Monmouth for interrogation.
Cummings and Rosengarten were truly working around the clock because early into Monday morning Lt. Col. Rosengarten sent an R and R (routing and record sheet) wire message to the Office of Special Investigation.
This 3:30 A.M. R&R or special transmission officially requested follow-up assistance from the 2nd District AFOSI office on Broad Street in New York City. The AFOSI, in fact, routinely assisted with UFO investigations. Although in this case it seems Rosengarten initiated the AFOSI investigation himself, with authority from the commanding general at the Fort Monmouth radar base.
For some reason, however, Ruppelt recalled that this created a “famous hassle” at ATIC. Following is Lt. Col. Rosengarten’s 3:30 A.M. Monday morning message to the NY AFOSI that caused such a stir:
FROM NR ROSENGARTEN LT COL AFOIN-ATIAA-2 WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB AUTH BY CG FT MONMOUTH NJ. IT IS REQUESTED THAT OSI CONDUCT A DETAILED CHECK IMMEDIATELY AS TO HOW MAJOR BARRON RECEIVED INFORMATION CMA UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES 2 MEMBERS OF THE PRESS WERE GIVEN THIS INFORMATION OF THE INCIDENT PRIOR TO CONTACTING BARRON.
DESIRE NAMES AND TIME OF OTHER MEMBERS OF PRESS INFORMED OF INCIDENT. IT IS DESIRABLE THAT EXACT TIME OF EACH CONVERSATION BE VERIFIED, WHERE APPROXIMATE, INDICATE. THIS INFORMATION IS URGENT AS PER COMMAND OF GENERAL CABELL AIR TECH INT WASHINGTON DC AND IS REQUIRED PRIOR TO 0800 1ST OF OCT AT FORT MONMOUTH ATTN LT. COL NR ROSENGARTEN CMA AIR TECH INTELLIGENCE HQ USAF OR BY 1200 1ST OCT AT AFOIN TC TO BE HELD FOR LT COL ROSENGARTEN.
Earlier at 9:05 P.M. Sunday night, Lt. Col. Rosengarten had phoned the New York AFOSI and informed them of his oncoming wire. Then he again talked by phone to AFOSI duty officer Lieutenant Michael O. Pettee around the time of the 3:30 A.M. wire. Rosengarten told him that Mitchel AFB PIO Major Barron had no malicious intent when he allowed the pilots to talk to the press, but that the release of information in principle did violate regulations.
He also feared a security breach had occurred despite Barron’s best intended efforts as this AFOSI internal memo demonstrates:
Lt. Colonel Rosengarten, AFOIN-ATIAA-2, is assigned to the Director of Intelligence, Headquarters USAF, with duty at Wright-Patterson AFB, in Technical Intelligence. He dispatched the wire referred to in the R&R from Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, indicating that the information released carried the classification of Secret.
He also stated in the wire that the inquiry had been personally and urgently requested by Major General Cabell, Director of Intelligence, Headquarters USAF, and that it was mandatory, if at all possible, to have the results of the interview available at AFOIN-TC, 1 October 1951, during which Rosengarten would be in conference with General Cabell and other personnel of the Technical Capabilities Branch, of OIN.
The significance, if any, of this activity is unknown to OSI. Full information has been requested and has been promised by Major Parker, OIN, for 2 October 1951. I also pointed out verbally to OIN the irregular manner in which the request was made to OSI.
Lucius L. Free, Lt. Col., USAF Sabotage and Espionage Branch.
The AFOSI certainly worked fast. By 11:00 A.M. that Monday morning AFOSI Detachment Commander Major Paul L. McCoy had made a synopsis of the case. By 11:45 A.M. Lt. Col. Rosengarten was informed of the results of their speedy interview of Major Barron. McCoy then said he would forward any additional findings to the Pentagon in time for Rosengarten’s 4:00 P.M. deadline with Major General Cabell.
In 1999, Colonel Rosengarten told the authors that leaks to the news media did indeed have the potential to cause unnecessary harm. Other primary sources have confirmed what will be documented later in this story, that there were key people in the Pentagon and Intelligence community who believed that one good tale about a “flying saucer” in a large newspaper could cause many people around the country to start looking for UFOs.
Because most average citizens are not accustomed to closely observing the sky, they in turn will see things that are in many cases natural or man-made phenomena of which they themselves have no understanding. In theory, this would then lead to a flood of other UFO reports which would cause a great deal of extra work for the Air Force.
It would take men like Ed Ruppelt off analysis work on Soviet aircraft and send him chasing all over the country interviewing UFO witnesses. This scenario would also hamper sincere efforts by ATIC to study the phenomenon. But most importantly, the main point is that public hysteria over UFOs could cause other units of the military to be overwhelmed with the issue and perhaps even hamper their ability to respond to a more earthly Cold War threat, the Cold War being the much more important concern of the day.
Although such a scenario would later be championed by the CIA, it was one growing Air Force concern even at this time, whether the theory itself was valid or not. Thus, those at ATIC like Ed Ruppelt, despite what they felt personally, had to respect this attitude. Former ATIC veterans stated that this was simply respect for duty.
Even with such concerns, UFOs received attention by the Air Force. Any object in the sky of an unknown origin has been of interest to units like ATIC since the 1946 “ghost rocket” reports over Europe. Today, successor organizations are still just as worried about objects that cannot be identified.
But, there are “UFOs” and then there are “flying saucers.” Some like Colonel Watson and Major Boggs wanted to keep tabs on any UFOs associated with the USSR. But “men from Mars” did not openly seem to figure into their concerns even though others like Major General Cabell may have been more broad minded. Cabell, at least, became specifically concerned with the broad issue of flying saucers.
So if there is any moral for this brief side bar to our story, it is that UFO projects after Sign had to first be focused on public reaction to UFOs. That is what Grudge became during Colonel Watson’s reign. Grudge’s successor, Blue Book, under Ruppelt’s tenure would seek a more multi-dimensional role by 1952 but still had to keep in mind the Pentagon’s desire to discourage the media from generating undue public concern.
Now to return to our story of the Fort Monmouth case, late into Sunday night the 30th and even on Monday morning of October 1, Cummings and Rosengarten worked to finish their investigation in time to meet Cabell’s 4:00 P.M. Monday deadline for the all important Pentagon meeting.
Neither man had had much sleep or food since they began their journey, but at least by Monday morning they felt they had done justice to their mission. At the last minute, however, they realized they couldn’t even get a Signal Corps aircraft off the ground in time to make Washington by 4:00.
So, at Lt. Col. Rosengarten’s initiative, he chartered a private plane to fly them to Washington. When they reached the Pentagon they briefed the General but soon found themselves participating in a briefing with not just Cabell, but other top AFOIN brass. (This meeting may have not occurred until the next morning at 10:00 A.M.)
Ruppelt’s book provides a provocative description of that top secret meeting. Because of the significance of the passage it deserves to be quoted in full exactly as stated by Edward Ruppelt:
[Major] General Cabell presided over the meeting, and it was attended by his entire staff plus Lieutenant Cummings, Lieutenant Colonel Rosengarten, and a special representative from Republic Aircraft Corporation. The man from Republic supposedly represented a group of top U.S. industrialists and scientists who thought that there should be a lot more sensible answers coming from the Air Force regarding the UFOs. The man was at the meeting at the personal request of a general officer.
Every word of the two-hour meeting was recorded on a wire recorder. The recording was so hot that it was later destroyed, but not before I had heard it several times. I can’t tell everything that was said but, to be conservative, it didn’t exactly follow the tone of the official Air Force releases, many of the people present at the meeting weren’t as convinced that the ‘hoax, hallucination, and misidentification’ answer was quite as positive as the Grudge Report and subsequent press releases made out.
Toward the end of the two-hour conference a general asked Lieutenant Cummings to review the activity of the UFO investigation for the past year and a half. Maybe it was just a lack of sleep, or maybe it was just Cummings, but the general got the straight answer, for all practical purposes the project was dead.
Then Cummings proceeded to elaborate on the details, the attitude at ATIC, the opposition to his reorganizing the project, and the methods of processing reports. Lieutenant Cummings didn’t miss a point. He later told me that all of the generals and about three fourths of the full colonels present at the meeting turned the shade of purple normally associated with rage while a sort of sickly grin graced the faces of the remaining few.
Then one of the generals on the purple-faced team glared at the sickly-grin team and cut loose.
The first thing the general wanted to know was, ‘Who in the hell has been giving me these reports that every decent flying saucer sighting is being investigated?’
Then others picked up the questioning.
‘What happened to those two reports that General __ sent in from Saudi Arabia? He saw those two flying saucers himself.’ [That case actually occurred after this meeting took place during the next year of 1952 to a General E.M. Day, apparently the case that was so discussed at that meeting was the Mantell Incident.
Because Ruppelt made such an effective argument in his book that the Mantell Incident was not UFO related, he probably substituted the Saudi Arabia sighting so as not to bring the issue of Mantell up again.] ‘And who released this big report, anyway?’ another person [we now know this was Major General Cabell] added, picking up a copy of the Grudge Report and slamming it back down on the table.
We understand that during the meeting Cummings told Cabell all he knew about the behind -the-scenes influences on Project Grudge. Yet, research cannot completely pin down Lt. Col. Rosengarten’s own view. In 1999 Colonel Rosengarten simply told the authors that he just leaned back and let Cummings go.
Lt. Col. Rosengarten did not necessarily disagree with him but would not have characterized the situation in that manner nor have the discourtesy to reprimand Cummings in front of his own superiors. He knew Cummings had no intention himself of making a career out of the military. Besides, Rosengarten said everybody loved that guy if for no other reason than he was so bright.
Ruppelt simply wrote that about that time in the meeting, ‘Cummings dropped his horn rimmed glasses down on his nose, tipped his head forward, peered at Major General Cabell over his glasses and acting not at all like a first lieutenant, said that the UFO investigation was all fouled up.’
Through personal conversations with Colonel Rosengarten, the authors learned of his high regard for not only Cummings but Colonel Watson, and Watson’s administration of ATIC. These authors also greatly respect Colonel Watson’s service but do not understand his apparently skeptical attitude toward UFOs and why ATIC sought to focus only on the public relations issues under his command. Colonel Watson was, in fact, an outstanding officer, no one ever stated anything to the contrary.
In his early career he had been a highly technically trained ‘engine man.’ Since earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1933 and completing some more course work at Yale, Watson proved himself a valued research engineer for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company. By 1936, however, he decided to join the Army Air Corps. Watson wanted to learn to fly.
He did become a flying cadet and soon came under the experienced wing of none other than Lieutenant Curtis LeMay, strategic bombing visionary and future Air Force Chief of Staff. Watson excelled in flying school as he did in every endeavor in life but due to what was considered a mature age of 25 and an unusually high technical expertise, he was destined for desk work.
So in June of 1937 he began a tour at Langley Field as an Engineering Officer. Although not one to be detoured from his passions, he learned to fly almost every aircraft in the inventory despite his assigned duties.
In 1939, while beginning the first of five tours at Dayton, 1st Lieutenant Watson went to work in the Wright Labs Power Plant Division, specializing in engine quality and production liaison with major manufacturers for the Air Force. It was around this time that Watson and Red Honaker became such close friends. Honaker was a clerk at the flight desk in those days and always gave Watson the word when a hot new aircraft came into the field, Watson still being eager to log flight time on his weekends off.
By the time America entered the war, Lieutenant Watson was working to complete his masters degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan. This was quite an opportunity as only three people from Wright Labs were picked for this advanced course work.
After graduation, Captain Watson returned to being a valuable trouble shooter in engine quality control and even testified before Senator Harry S Truman’s oversight committee as an expert in aircraft power plant production.
Moving from captain to major in one month, he became a key Army liaison with the Wright-Aero factory in Cincinnati, Ohio. During the latter part of the war Lieutenant Colonel Watson distinguished himself as Director of Maintenance for the 1st Tactical Air Force in an overseas assignment in England.
His work impressed General Hap Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces. But it was Commanding General of U.S. Strategic Air Forces, General ‘Tooey’ Spaatz, who picked him for the assignment he is most known for. Spaatz put him in charge of Operation Lusty‹an endeavor to recover German aircraft technology.
The small group of ace test pilots and master mechanics Watson led around Europe at the end of the war became known as Watson’s ‘Whizzers.’ They all had great admiration for their commander, by then a full Colonel.
While in this assignment, Watson finally got to do some ‘official’ test flying. Of course, in actuality, he had always managed to fly the latest new aircraft, working out mechanical problems. Until this point, however, Watson had never been rated as a test pilot. As head of Operation Lusty he had the chance to make that grade while flying many new high performance German designs such as the Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter.
The assignment certainly fit Watson’s flamboyant personality and called on his widely varied talents, but it was indeed dangerous work. On one adventure Watson almost lost his life when a German saboteur attached an explosive device to a Junkers-290 transport that he and his men were returning home on via a bold Atlantic crossing.
When the fearless Watson landed in this huge aircraft, the bomb was discovered under the main fuel tank and luckily disarmed without incident. For his many exploits during Project Lusty, Colonel Watson received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.
As an interesting side note, many individuals who were involved in other projects to recover German technology during the war (like Albert Deyarmond, Howard McCoy, Miles Goll, Malcolm Seashore, Donald Putt, and John O’Mara) ended up working with Watson over the years. Virtually anyone who had the honor to serve with or under Watson spoke of him highly.
The authors also stress that they have the highest respect for Harold Watson. His biography by Air Force historian Bruce Ashcroft even begins with a statement that he ‘was the type of person who would roll up his shirt sleeves and work side-by-side with his people.’
He was a fine officer, but what accounts for his skeptical behavior in regard to UFOs, or perhaps we should say flying saucers? Why did he seem to have such little patience or interest associated with UFO investigations?
Perhaps he gained unique insights on the phenomenon during his third tour at Wright Field as head of the Collections Division for T-2 in 1945 and 1946. Or during a tour at the Industrial College and then the Pentagon in 1947 to 1949, when he learned something modern researchers do not understand.
Maybe he was quoted by Ruppelt as saying ‘flying saucers are a bunch of nonsense’ because he knew the reports to be unreliable. These authors are willing to appreciate that there are other insights, and certainly Colonel Watson was in a position to have a first hand perspective.
However, one source suggested to the authors that Watson may have actually believed in ‘flying saucers’ and certainly Cabell did. Although, this is not to imply that they believed in an extraterrestrial origin per se but the reality of a phenomenon or a whole set of phenomena. Watson did apparently come to loggerheads with Cabell but not over belief in UFOs.
They both knew there was something unexplainable. It was all over their approach. Watson wanted to deal with flying saucers by discouraging investigation into them and making it an unpopular issue in the press. In short, the disc reports were just so unexplainable that he wanted to ignore them to concentrate on Cold War issues.
Major General Cabell, on the other hand, desired investigation, as good an investigation as ATIC’s budget would allow, but wanted the press controlled with tact, not ridiculed. Both men also clearly worried about the UFO issue hampering the military’s effectiveness, as has already been detailed.
To back this up, an anonymous source stressed to the authors that the public’s impression in the 1950s was that the primary job of the Air Force was supposed to be air defense. Although numerous other high ranking officers may have also believed in flying saucers ‘as a phenomenon,’ they did not want this known. They worried that if it became common knowledge the public might lose confidence in the Air Force’s ability to defend America’s skies.
Along with this thought, many in the Air Force sincerely worried about creating a state of panic as was believed to have been demonstrated by Orson Welles’ well-known 1938 Halloween radio drama. On that famous night the dramatic actor Orson Welles produced and narrated a play based on H.G. Wells’ book, The War of the Worlds.
Like the classic account of a Martian invasion, the radio show was a frightening success. Unfortunately for many East Coast listeners, it seemed so real that some were claimed to have flown into a panicked frenzy, actually believing aliens were landing in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Apparently, a few suicides actually occurred as a result.
A portion of Ruppelt’s early unedited manuscript to The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects discusses the Orson Welles’ broadcast. Ruppelt states that his office was even ordered to investigate the so-called panic and present a report on it.
While concern over that 1938 incident may sound ridiculous today, these authors have proof it was a very real mind-set of Pentagon and government officials from that time. Of course the clear implication here is that in order for those same officials to subscribe to such a theory, they must have believed that the discs were extraterrestrial in origin!
Our source did not know if Cabell or Watson’s views went that far but did suggest to us that they were believers. Ruppelt’s personal papers also characterize Cabell as ‘pretty much a believer in the UFOs.’
In regard to this famous Pentagon meeting, however, Colonel Rosengarten recently told the authors that contrary to Ruppelt’s account, it was mostly low key with nowhere near the number of participants described. But as stated, he fondly and respectfully remembers Cummings going on about Grudge and making quite an impression.
Colonel Rosengarten said with affection, ‘that boy could talk a starved dog off of a bloody meat wagon, he was so persuasive.’ Colonel Rosengarten also has a very clear memory of Major General Cabell. Near the end of the conference Cabell apparently did get worked up, taking the Grudge report and driving it into the table.
But Colonel Rosengarten states that Cabell, also unlike in Ruppelt’s account, was not angry with ATIC in general, just all the press coverage of UFOs. His point here is that Cabell wanted to prevent the media from focusing too much public attention on the subject until the Air Force had a fair chance to investigate the phenomenon.
Cabell, in fact, challenged ATIC to prove that UFOs did exist! In other words, Cabell thought that trying to prove a negative assumption was a futile exercise in any sort of Intelligence endeavor. Colonel Rosengarten also stated that Cabell was a very fine officer and treated both him and Cummings with great respect and attention.
Never at any time in Colonel Rosengarten’s memory of that meeting did the General express doubts in ATIC’s ability to face the challenges associated with UFOs under the new leadership of Col. Dunn.
Now before we stop there, the authors have just recently uncovered still a third version of this landmark Pentagon meeting. We have read what Ruppelt wrote in the pages of his popular book and studied what Colonel Rosengarten recalls. Yet, here is something from Ruppelt’s private papers that is straight from the mouth of Jerry Cummings.
The passage originated from a conversation Ruppelt had with Jerry Cummings on January 14, 1955, when Ruppelt was compiling his manuscript. Surprisingly, it seems to suggest Colonel Watson may still have been at ATIC as late as the end of September or at least around that general time frame. We thank Professor Michael Swords for sharing this very important document from his files:
[Edward Ruppelt writes:] On 14 January 1955, I had lunch with Jerry Cummings who was then working for Radioplane Corporation in Van Nuys. Since Jerry had been in charge of Blue Book in September 1951, he had the story on how the project got a shot of added emphasis from the sightings at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. (Jerry got out of the Air Force shortly after this and went back to work at Cal Tec.)
Jerry said that on the afternoon of September 1951 [no exact date given but his story apparently begins in mid month] he was in the office when he got a call from Lt. Col. Rosengarten, who was chief of the Aircraft and Propulsion Section at ATIC. [sic, Performance and Characteristics Branch of the Aircraft and Propulsion Section.] Rosy [sic, his nickname was spelled Rosie] was out [sic] boss.
Rosy had a wire that had come in from Ft. Monmouth telling about the sightings there of the past few days. The wire was about 4′ long and very detailed. It was obvious from the tone of the wire that it had created quite a stir at Ft. Monmouth.
When the wire had come into Feiling’s office (Col. Bruno[w] Feiling, Chief of the Analysis Division) about 1300 he had sent it on to Capt Roy James in the Electronics Branch since the sighting involved radar. Somehow Jim [James] Rodgers, ex-chief of Blue Book (at the time it was Grudge and there is no evidence Roy James ever headed Grudge) had gotten into the act.
Rodgers and [Roy] James were laughing about the whole thing when Cummings first heard about it. He was a bit hacked because he was supposed to have the Project but there was nothing that he could do.
The reason for the interest by Rodgers and James, supposedly the first team, was that there had been a rumble that someone in Washington was interested and a quick answer was needed. Cummings was ‘too slow.’ After they messed around with the report for awhile, [the ATIC records show a number of days] speculating on what they could use for an answer, Rosy had gotten wind of the report and he went into Feiling’s office to complain that if he was responsible for the UFO reports he should be the first one to get them.
Rodgers was called in and he gave the report to Rosy. Rodgers already had an answer, ‘the whole outfit were a bunch of young impressionable kids and the T-33 crew had seen a reflection.’ Rodgers had supposedly reported these findings to Col. Watson, the Chief of ATIC, and Watson had supposedly bought the idea. Rosy didn’t like this answer and Cummings like[d] it less, when he saw the wire in Rosy’s office.
They decided not to call in James again because neither one of them trusted his judgment. Cummings was just getting ready to go over to Wright Field to get someone from the Radiation Lab to take a look at the report when a wire came in from Washington. [Apparently now Cummings is referring to Friday, September 28th.]
The time was now about 1600. The wire indicated that [Major] General Cabell had seen a copy of the wire from Ft. Monmouth [heard of it via the news leak on the sighting] and that he wanted to know what ATIC thought. Rodgers put the pressure on to send his answer back to the Pentagon and ‘get them off our backs.’
He claimed that Watson was in agreement with him. [Ruppelt adds here:] (Possible Watson wasn’t there. If Watson wasn’t there it was Dunn, but this doesn’t sound like Dunn. Jerry kept saying Watson.)
Both Rosy and Cummings were against this and when it looked as if Rodgers might be going to win out when someone (I didn’t get who) called the Pentagon and talked to Gen Cabell’s assistant, a colonel [John Schweizer]. This colonel was very surprised to hear that there was even any question at all as to whether or not anyone would go out and investigate the report so whoever it was from ATIC that was on the phone weaseled around to make it sound as if they were going to go to Monmouth and had planned to do it all of the time. [This may have been Albert Deyarmond.]
The Colonel, Cabell’s assistant, added that the General had said that he wanted this report fully investigated and that if they weren’t getting the proper cooperation they should call him or the General and get him out of bed, if necessary.
With this it was decided that a trip should be made and Rosy and Cummings got a hurried set of orders [we now know from Cabell himself but approved by the new ATIC Analysis chief by the 28th, Colonel S.H. Kirkland] and were on their way. When they got to New Jersey [on the 29th] they called the Pentagon and found Cabell had left word that he was to be briefed at the earliest possible moment.
The General said that he wanted to be briefed on Monday (??) [October 1] at the latest. [It seems this order for a prompt investigation and a follow-up Pentagon meeting on Monday October 1st was already part of the Operational Immediate message received by ATIC on September 28th which initiated the whole trip.]
When they got to Monmouth, Cummings and Rosy got in touch with the OD and the OD got them transportation. The Signal Corps was very cooperative. They talked to all concerned and got their story. [This is all confirmed by Colonel Rosengarten.]
The pilot and passenger of the T-33 flew up to Mitchel (??) [the next day, Sunday September 29th] and Rosy and Cummings went over there to talk to them [and was still working with them on Monday morning the 1st of October]. They [the pilots] were both completely sold that the UFO was real. They didn’t have any idea what it was but they were convinced that it was something ‘intelligently controlled.’
[Ruppelt’s reflections again:] (It is interesting to note that weeks later, when we proved, at least to my satisfaction, that the UFO was a balloon, the two officers said that we were nuts. They found several holes in our analysis.)
[Colonel Rosengarten confirmed this to the authors. He said, ‘those pilots would have reached out and slugged us when we interviewed them if we suggested that the facts which we were uncovering actually indicated a balloon as the culprit.’]
Rosy and Jerry found out that the press had gotten a hold of the story and they didn’t like it one bit. At this time the UFO project was a fairly well guarded secret for two reasons:
(1) Many people believed that these UFO’s were from outer space and they didn’t want to cause any alarm, and
(2) the other faction, led by Watson, and obediently followed by Rodgers and James, believed that if you stuck your head deep enough into the sand that they would go away. [Interviews with Colonel Rosengarten indicate that radar expert Roy James was not as skeptical of UFOs as he was doubtful of the capabilities of the primitive state of current radar technology at that time.]
[Ruppelt continued reporting:] In addition, Watson had been telling the reporters that the Project was dead. Cabell read this, evidently, but he was for keeping it all quiet and thought that this story from ATIC was just a cover-up.
The story had leaked out when the T-33 crew talked to the tower and when they had inadvertently talked to each other on the VHF instead of the intercom. Later on they were talking in a bar and a reporter [Dick Aurelio] overheard them. Both of these bits of intelligence were put together and the local story evolved [via the good intentioned help of the PIO, Major John B. Barron, at Mitchel AFB].
Cummings somewhere got word that the ADC radar site at or near Sandy Hook had been picking up targets at the same time as the activity was going on at Monmouth so he went to [the] site to try to find out what was going on. He got a very cold reception and had to call the Duty Officer at D/I to get into the place.
When he did he found out that things were all fouled up. The radar logs showed unidentified targets but the officer said that they were SAC aircraft on a classified training mission. The log didn’t show this however. Jerry did think that he established that the radar had no target other than the T-33 at the time of the sighting.
When Rosy and Cummings finished they couldn’t get a flight to Washington so they again called the Pentagon to see if they could get an aircraft to come up after them. They didn’t have aircraft that intelligence could get so the Pentagon said to charter a plane. This they did [with the help of Lt. Col. Rosengarten’s own initiative].
When they got to Washington they cleaned up and went out to the Pentagon and Gen. Cabell had a meeting set up. There were several people from the aircraft industry at the meeting. How they had found out about the meeting, Jerry didn’t know. One of the men was a Mr. Brewster from Republic Aircraft.
The whole meeting was recorded on wire but several weeks later, at ATIC, at the direction of either Col. Watson or Deyarmond, the wire was destroyed. I heard it before it was destroyed, however.
The meeting was a rough one. While Jerry and Rosy were in New Jersey the General had done a little bit of checking. He had called ATIC and talked to Rodgers and it was obvious that Rodgers didn’t have the answers that the General thought he should have. He got a good clue that Project Grudge had been scuttled a long time before.
When the briefing was rolling the General asked Jerry to give a resume of what had been taking place on Project Grudge. Jerry told me that he looked at Rosy and got the OK sign, so he cut loose [Colonel Rosengarten did not confirm this to the authors]. He told how every report was taken as a huge joke; that at the personal direction of Watson, Rodgers, Watson’s #1 stooge, was doing everything to degrade the quality of the reports; and how the only analysis consisted of Rodger’s trying to think up new and original explanations that hadn’t been sent to Washington before. Rodgers couldn’t even find half of the reports.
The General then got on his horse. He said, I want an open mind, in fact, I order an open mind. Anyone that doesn’t keep an open mind can get out, now. As long as there is any element of doubt, the Project will continue.
About this time one of the General’s staff suggested that since there were industry observers present, maybe the remarks should be kept objective or that the industry people chouls [sic] leave. This got the Old Man and he said that he didn’t care how embarrassing it was, he wasn’t ashamed to give people the devil in front of strangers. [Colonel Rosengarten does not remember any representatives of private industry being present at the meeting.]
He said that the apparent disregard of his orders were a source of concern. He complimented Cummings and Rosy by saying that he was glad to ‘Get action.’ [This point is confirmed by our interview with Colonel Rosengarten.]
The General asked about the results of the investigations of several other good sightings but a telephone check to ATIC showed that they had been lost, no one ever could find them. [These may refer to some records which other sources confirm were destroyed at ATIC either in late 1950 and/or represented records from late 1950 which were destroyed about that general time.]
His next question was: ‘Why do I have to stir up the action? Anyone can see that we do not have a satisfactory answer to the saucer question.’
Cabell went on to say that he wanted some action. He wanted the Project reorganized and he wanted all of the directives reissued because, he said, it was obvious that they were not being followed.
Then, Jerry told me, the General looked at his staff of colonels for about 45 seconds and said, ‘I’ve been lied to, and lied to, and lied to, and lied to. I want it to stop. I want the answer to the saucers and I want a good answer.’ [Colonel Rosengarten respectfully maintains that Cabell’s blowup at that meeting was not over ATIC’s failure to investigate but the press leaks surrounding the T-33 sighting. The reasoning he gives is that Cabell did believe there was certainly something to the flying saucers and for that reason he wanted to keep it all as quiet as possible until they found the answer.
Again, the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast is alluded to in this context as an example of the mind-set/concerns expressed at that meeting. He says he never heard of J.J. or E.H. Porter, Aaron Jerry Boggs, William Adams, Weldon Smith, or others that modern day researchers speculate may have been associated with that meeting.]
He started in on the Mantell Sightings and said that he had never heard such a collection of contradictory and indefinite statements. He said that he thought that he had a big activity operating and found out the only man, and apparently incompetent one at that, fumbling around trying to make excuses.
Col. Porter [Ruppelt words:] (whom I considered to be one of the most totally incompetent men in the Air Force for reasons other than the UFO Project) was his old stupid self and said that he still thought that the project was a waste of time.
The General’s reply was that he didn’t consider himself a crackpot or impressionable person and that he had a great deal of doubt in his mind that the saucers were all ‘hoaxes, hallucinations or the misinterpretation of known objects.’ He took a swing at the famous Grudge Report by saying that it was the ‘most poorly written, unconclusive piece of unscientific tripe’ that he’d ever seen.
The General ended up the meeting by giving a pep talk and saying that he thought that things would change and that the saucers would become respective [sic]. He said that he was going to keep an open mind and that he wanted the same from his staff. [This is confirmed by Cabell’s own autobiography.]
Cummings and Rosy came back to ATIC but the battle wasn’t over. Watson hadn’t been at the meeting, he had sent Col Dunn. Watson didn’t openly fight the Project but he drug his feet for all he was worth. It wasn’t until Watson went to Europe that the Project began to pick up. [The exact date of Watson’s departure for Europe has still not been conclusively ascertained by any Air Force documents.]
It is known via a letter dated October 5 from the Inspector General’s office that after the Pentagon meeting concluded, Cabell no longer felt a security violation had occurred but that the sightings were of significant interest. (Around this time Cabell even requested a review of German secret weapons technology, a link to flying saucers that the first investigators like Alfred Loedding tried but failed to establish four years prior.)
A final report mentioned in that letter was to be drafted by AFOIN but has never surfaced. Cabell did soon send word down to reactivate or create a new Project Grudge, hereafter referred to as New Grudge. Colonel Dunn was instructed to give greater attention to the persistent flying saucer problem as he assumed his new duties as ATIC commander. (Around the time of the Pentagon meeting Col. Watson had already been ‘relieved’ and was getting ready for reassignment to General Lauris Norstaadt’s command in Europe.)
Also on his way out was the chief of Analysis at ATIC, Colonel Brunow Feiling, replaced by the up and coming and more objective Colonel Kirkland, who was already in place at ATIC by late September.
Colonel E.H. Porter’s assistant and Pentagon liaison to ATIC, arch saucer-killer Jerry Boggs, was out too, being temporarily replaced by Lieutenant M.D. Willis before Major Dewey Fournet took his position. Fournet would, in contrast to Boggs, adopt an eventual very pro-saucer approach.
Nevertheless, Colonel Porter remained as Deputy Director for Estimates. He was apparently one of those officers at the Pentagon meeting with a sickly grin on his face when Cabell blew his top. But UFO friendly individuals working under Porter such as Colonel William A. Adams and Colonel Weldon Smith would soon have a significant impact on establishing a more open-minded approach. (Smith worked under Adams who eventually became Chief of the Topical Intelligence Division for the Deputy Director for Estimates at the Directorate of Intelligence, AFOIN. Although at the time Adams was Deputy of the Evaluation Division known as AFOIN-2B3.)
So whether it was by design or chance, men with much more open minds when it came to the UFO phenomenon assumed key positions in both Dayton and Washington. Although at WPAFB, as urgent as Cabell’s orders appeared, no one really seemed to want the added duty. Dunn proceeded to put all the responsibility on Rosengarten who then put it on Cummings, but Cummings soon left the Air Force around mid November to return to work deemed of importance at the California Institute of Technology. So, the task went back up to Lt. Col. Rosengarten. He passed it on to Lieutenant Ruppelt and Lieutenant Henry Metscher who had both already worked with Cummings.
During our interview with Colonel Rosengarten, he stressed that one has to realize that the war in Korea and the Cold War in general occupied great amounts of energy. UFOs certainly were supposed to get better attention, but they were still but a part of the big picture. Colonel Rosengarten added that ATIC was backlogged with many types of analysis chores dating back to the end of WWII as well as new and urgent work on Soviet aircraft.
All of this took a huge portion of AMC/ATIC’s human and financial resources. A recently declassified 1951 history of ATIC shows just how busy they really were with Cold War matters. For example, the Analysis Division, with only 37 technically trained military personnel, had 31 separate projects underway just in the Aircraft and Propulsion Section alone.
One of these was titled Project 10124, a study of Soviet aircraft power-plant development. Project 10095 analyzed foreign aircraft fuels and lubricants. Project 10118 evaluated German swept-forward wing bombers that had been developed by the Junkers group of engineers commandeered by the Russians at the end of the war. It also studied Soviet delta-wing designs.
One of the highest priority projects in the Analysis Division concerned estimating Russian bomber developments. This was of such high priority because real fears then existed over a Soviet nuclear strike against the United States by long-range heavy bombers.
Project 10102 dealt with that concern which in 1951 acquired aerial photographs of the Type-27 Soviet multi-purpose bomber. These photographs were sent to the Analysis Division’s Aircraft and Propulsion Section. They then may have directly come under Lt. Col. Rosengarten’s attention as head of the Performance and Characteristics Branch.
Another effort only recently declassified, concerned a Hungarian-operated Soviet Yak-11 trainer which crashed landed in Siegenburg, Germany. This became the basis of Project 10098 and focused on a careful examination of the aircraft after it was delivered to ATIC in November of 1951.
Project 10115, which Ruppelt had assisted with, analyzed the Mig-15. At the time the Mig-15 generated great concern because it was close in performance to our best fighter aircraft. In July of 1951, ATIC was lucky enough to receive a crashed Mig-15, although it was very badly damaged. The most startling discovery from this project was that the engine used in the Mig-15 was an exact copy of the British Rolls-Royce Nene engine.
ATIC forwarded this engine to the Pratt & Whitney Division of United Aircraft Corporation for detailed evaluation and sent the airframe to Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory for evaluation under a contract with them.
The UFO project was designated 10073. A section from the ATIC history dealing with Project 10073 obviously was not written until very late in 1951, after Ruppelt reorganized the effort. It states the following:
This project involves the collection of reports of unidentified aerial objects; the evaluation, as to source and content, of reports of visual or electronic sightings of unidentified aerial objects submitted by military or civilian sources; the investigation of reports of such sightings through field work when deemed necessary; and the preparation of periodic status reports for the information of the D/I, Hq USAF.
This investigation has been in progress for approximately four years and a new increase in activity has been initiated in studying and indexing project records to enable a statistical survey of incidents to be accomplished.
It is contemplated that all of the sightings of unconventional flying objects will be cross-indexed according to size, color, location, etc., so that as much statistical data as possible will be available. It is believed that possibly several general characteristics of the sightings will be determined from the mass of data on file in ATIC.
This project concentrated on those incidents that appear to have originated from high grade sources, such as pilots, technically trained people, etc. The exception to this was where a number of sightings occur in a certain area at about the same time.
Henry Metscher has also spoken with the authors to help document this time period. Metscher was from the Analysis Division’s Aircraft and Propulsion Section and specialized in aerodynamic engineering. He recalls that he and Ruppelt were kept extremely busy on all sorts of assignments.
During this period they were assisting with UFOs only as part of many duties. By the time New Grudge formally got underway around early December, he had left the Performance and Characteristics Branch. Although he only briefly worked with Ruppelt, Metscher stressed for the record that Ruppelt was ‘one of the finest men I ever met.’
Ruppelt had been a decorated B-29 bombardier and radar operator during WWII with over 1,500 hours in the air. During the war he won five battle stars, two theater combat ribbons, three Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters, and a Presidential Citation. Ruppelt had gone over with the first B-29 squadron to India as a lead bombardier in the 677th Squadron, 444th Bomb Group, 58th Wing of the 20th Air Force.
He remained in the 20th throughout the whole strategic bombing campaign against Japan, following it to Tinian Island from India and China. He even flew on the last conventional raid of the war.
After WWII he became a navigator in the Iowa Air Reserves and entered Iowa State College, earning a BS degree in aeronautical engineering in 1950. With the outbreak of war in Korea, he received a recall to full-time duty from the Air Force and came into Intelligence at Wright- Patterson AFB in early 1951. Given work immediately on classified projects by Lt. Col. Rosengarten, Ruppelt soon gained a reputation at ATIC as a problem solver.
Although he would prove to be the best administrator of a UFO project the Air Force would ever have, he did not have the credentials or rank that would normally be drawn upon for what on the surface seemed a very important intelligence assignment. Only 28 years old at the time, Ruppelt was not a career officer. Still a 1st lieutenant by that fall, it is very odd that any non-career tracked officer would be put in charge of a project as important as one involving possible aerial intrusions into United States air space.