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Kidz' Korner




By Donald E. Keyhoe

Excerpts taken from Chapter VIII

November Crisis

The great "flap" of 1957 began on November 2.

For days, all over the globe, UFOs by the hundreds descended into our atmosphere, several coming close to the earth. Within forty-eight hours, the censorship wall was breached, as dramatic reports by trained observers hit the front pages. In the fight to regain control, some Air Force officials even repudiated their own men. And still the reports poured in.


As far as our records show, Mr. Odis Echols was the first American to report a UFO during this flap. At 8 P.M. on November 2, Mr. Echols, owner of Station KCLV at Clovis, New Mexico, saw a strange, glowing object speeding southwest.

Soon afterward, Ground Observer Corps spotters at Midland, Texas, sighted another UFO - logged as a "large unidentified object with a bluish glow." At 11:20 P.M., CAA tower operators Calvin Harris and Sandy McKean - on duty at Amarillo Airport - saw the same, or a similar blue UFO moving through the sky. Though McKean called it "spectacular," this case might not have been widely known but for what followed.

It began near Levelland, Texas, on Highway 116. The cases described were confirmed for NICAP by Sheriff Weir Clem and NICAP member James Lee, exactly as they were reported to the Air Force.

Just before midnight, truck driver Pedro Saucedo was driving toward town with a passenger, Joe Salav, when a huge torpedo-shaped machine descended toward the highway. It had a bluish-green glow, and it appeared 150 to 200 feet long.

As the mysterious craft came closer, the car lights dimmed, then the engine sputtered and died. Saucedo jumped out and dived under the truck. As Salav watched from the cab, the strange machine settled close to the road. Whether it landed, or was hovering just off the ground, Salav could not tell - the blue-green light was too bright.

For two or three minutes, the UFO remained there. Then it quickly lifted, its glow changing to red as it climbed.

Shaken, Saucedo got back into his truck. The lights and ignition now worked correctly. He drove into Levelland, told the Sheriff his story, with Salav as a witness.

At first, Sheriff Clem was incredulous. But in the next hour, he learned of four other cases where lights had been dimmed and engines stopped by the object's low approach. Among the witnesses were trucker Ronald Martin, F. B. Williams, Wallace Scott, Newell Wright, Milton Namkin, Constable Lloyd Bollen of Anton, Texas, and James D. Long, of Waco.

While Sheriff Clem was checking one report, he and Deputy Pat McCulloch saw the UFO's weird glow as the machine passed above the highway. This also was seen by patrolmen Lee Hargrove and Floyd Gavin, following in separate cars.

It was then 1:30 A.M.

The second landing came at White Sands. At 3 A.M., a large round device, obviously under intelligent control, slowly descended toward the north tip of the White Sands rocket-proving grounds. From below, two military policemen in a jeep - Corporal Glenn H. Roy and Pfc. James Wilbanks - watched the UFO's cautious descent.

"It came down very slowly to about fifty yards," Corporal Roy later told Army Intelligence officers. "It stayed there three minutes, giving off a brilliant reddish-orange light. Then it came to the ground fairly fast. It looked like a completely controlled landing."

The UFO, Roy and Wilbanks said, was about seventy-five to one hundred yards in circumference. After a few moments on the ground, it took off and rapidly climbed out of sight. Both MP's told the Intelligence officers they believed it was a controlled machine from outer space.

In the predawn darkness, other flying objects caused alerts from coast to coast. But Air Defense pilots, ordered to intercept the UFOs, were swiftly outmaneuvered by the mysterious machines.

After daylight, sightings temporarily fell off; apparently, most of the surveillance was made from higher altitudes. But reports of single UFOs, by military and private observers, came in throughout the day. At Springfield, Illinois, and Calgary, Alberta, motorists reported their engines stalled by low-flying objects. At Deming, New Mexico, a UFO the size of the Levelland machine was seen by two men - Robert Toby, GOC observer and radio-station owner, and CBS-TV cameraman Russell B. Day. By night, the unknown objects were being seen all over the country.

Hours before this, teletype reports from Army, Navy and Air Force bases had reached the Pentagon, also ATIC and the Air Defense Command at Colorado Springs. At least two had already leaked - the "blue UFO" sighting by the Amarillo tower men, and the GOC case at Midland.

As the reports increased, worried ADC officers remembered the '52 tension, when massed sightings caused rumors of a flying-saucer invasion. And the later teletypes did nothing to reassure them.

At 8 P.M., Mountain Standard Time, a second disturbing encounter occurred near White Sands. At a camp north of the proving ground, another Army jeep patrol - SP3 Forest R, Oakes and another SP3 named Barlow - sighted a strange machine hovering fifty feet from the ground. In their official report, the men said it was two hundred to three hundred feet long, shaped like a thick projectile. It had a bright glow. After a short interval, they reported, it took off, climbing at a forty-five-degree angle, and disappeared.

Before Sunday ended, two more sightings by expert observers increased ADC's concern. At 10:55 P.M., Technical Sergeant Jack Waddell, a control-tower operator at Dyess Air Force Base, saw an oddly lighted UFO flying close to a highway.

At 11:53, the CAA tower at Amarillo logged a report from a Navy test pilot. Apparently, a UFO was making a close observation of the Navy plane. Though it showed no sign of hostility, it maneuvered around the aircraft, its glow alternately dimming and growing brighter as it climbed and dived.

By morning, Air Force Headquarters was in a quandary. The Levelland report, backed by five Texas law officers, was a front-page story, and hundreds of newscasters were building it up. Pushing if for second place was a police report from Elmwood Park, near Chicago. At 3:12 A.M., two Elmwood Park officers and a fireman had sighted a glowing orange-red object about two hundred feet long. It was hovering less than three hundred feet from the ground. One officer quickly radioed the police station, and the dispatcher, Daniel de Giovanni, hurried outside. He could plainly see the unknown machine, low and eerily motionless in the sky.

As the police in the squad car turned their spotlight up toward the UFO, its beam and their headlights dimmed. The hovering craft quickly began to move, disappearing in a few seconds.


IF the Levelland encounter had been an isolated case, the censors could have killed it with ridicule. But with all the trained observers now on record, it wasn't safe. Yet something had to be done in a hurry. Too many newspapers were taking the reports seriously.

Most Air Force leaks could be plugged, with a hard-boiled message to base commanders. Pressure could be increased on the Army, Navy, the CAA and the airlines. All this could be done behind the scenes - and was done, as events later proved - but for the press, there was only one solution, short of telling the truth:

A high-level Air Force debunking, minus - temporarily, at least - the usual ridicule.

The decision was made about mid-afternoon. At Alamogordo, New Mexico, a delayed-action bomb already was set to blow the plan sky-high. But the censors had no hint of that.

Later that day, one of our part-time staff members, Miss Elizabeth Kendall, brought up a question which had worried me for some time.

"What if the UFOs land, ready to make contact?" she said. "Does the Air Force - or anybody - have a plan ready?"

"They've never admitted it," I answered, "but they must have some idea of what to do."

"But what good is that, if the public doesn't know?" said Miss Kendall. "Right now, most people are unprepared. What will happen if the Air Force has to admit the 'saucers' are real?"

"Depends on how it's done. If they had to do it now, in all this excitement, it'd probably scare some people. But they wouldn't be in that spot if they'd leveled with the public from the start."


The Alamogordo case broke on the night of November 4. About 10:30 P.M., a disturbing teletype message was flashed to the Pentagon from the Air Force Missile Development Center, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. A Missile Center engineer, James Stokes, had just broadcast a dramatic UFO report over Station KALG, in Alamogordo.

That afternoon, the engineer revealed, an enormous, oval-shaped object had suddenly appeared above the Sacramento Mountains, coming toward Highway 54. As it approached, his car radio failed, then his engine stalled. Other cars, in front and behind him, similarly were stalled by some electro-magnetic effect from the giant UFO.

"It was at least five hundred feet long," Stokes declared.

"As it passed over, I felt a wave of heat. Then the object made a 45-degree turn, toward Organ Pass."

The UFO's speed, the missile engineer estimated, was between 1,500 and 2,500 m.p.h. He declined to say on the air what he thought the object was.

"I just hope we're ready for whatever it is," he said solemnly.

The message from Holloman Air Force Base hit the censors hard. Such a report by a Missile Center engineer would be difficult to explain away, and the press wires already had picked up the broadcast.

Next morning, the Stokes report and the Air Force "fact sheet" fought a front-page battle, with three unco-ordinated Air Force statements adding to the confusion:

The Pentagon: "We are making a serious investigation of the Levelland case. We don't investigate all reports."

ATIC: "We investigate all reports. We never know when one may turn up something new."

ADC: "One published saucer report sets off a rash of sightings."

At NICAP, between attempts to phone Stokes, I had a call from Sam Gordon, science editor of the Washington Daily News:

"Somebody high up in the Coast Guard must believe the 'saucers' are real. They held a special press conference at their New Orleans office and released a sighting by the Coast Guard cutter Sebago. The cutter was cruising in the Gulf of Mexico. This wire story is a radio report from the C.O. Commander C. H. Waring."

At 5:10 that morning (November 5), veteran radarmen on the Sebago had picked up a strange flying object. According to Commander Waring, the UFO had raced around the cutter for ten minutes. Tracking it constantly, the radarmen had seen it stop in mid-air, then accelerate swiftly. At one point, its speed was almost 1,000 m.p.h.

At 5:21, the mystery craft, brightly glowing, was seen by four men on deck: Lieutenant Donald Schaefer, Ensign Wayne Schottley, Quartermaster Kenneth Smith and Seaman Radioman Thomas Kirk. The UFO was then moving horizontally at very high speed.

The last radar contact, Commander Waring said, showed the unknown object heading toward Louisiana. It had then flown 175 miles, in seventeen minutes.

To the Air Force, this published official report was a hammer blow. The Coast Guard was highly respected by the public, and its technicians and officers were as well trained as any in the armed forces. This was one time when a quick brush-off could be dangerous.

Avoiding comment, the Air Force told the press the Sebago's report had not been received. This may have been true, though JANAP 146, binding on the Coast Guard, orders the swiftest possible transmission of UFO reports by teletype, radio or telephone.

Lack of Air Force ridicule in the Coast Guard and Stokes cases temporarily offset their debunking campaign. Noting the serious press treatment, many citizens were encouraged to report their own observations. By the evening of November 5, NICAP had logged scores of new, verified sightings:

Beaumont, Texas. A maneuvering UFO seen by Police Captain Clyde C. Rush, five of his officers and reporter Paul Smith. Spooner, Wisconsin. A fast, oval-shaped object; witnesses, newspaper editor William Stewart, an Episcopal minister, three other residents. Atlanta, Georgia. A huge UFO seen by three city firemen. Ottawa, Canada. A rocket-shaped device witnessed by physics professor Jacques Hebert, Ottawa University. Chicago. An oval-shaped UFO sighted by sheriff's deputies, police sergeant. Barahona, Dominican Republic, disc-shaped UFOs seen by hundreds. Houston, Texas, visual sighting by well-known citizens, with reports of car-radio and ignition interference.

In the growing excitement, some Servicemen, evidently thinking the lid had blown off, made their sightings public. Two important breaks on November 5 were phoned to me that night by a NICAP member in Los Angeles:

"Here's the first report. It was put out by Major Louis F. Baker, C.O. of the Air Force Weather Observation Station, Long Beach Airport."

At 3:50 P.M., Major Baker told the press, he had seen six "saucer-shaped objects" appear suddenly over the airport. Two other Air Force weather experts and ten additional armed forces personnel also had observed the UFOs.

"They were circular, and shiny like spun aluminum," said Major Baker. "They changed course instantaneously, without the loss of speed which planes have in a dogfight."

As Baker and the others watched, the formation of discs circled swiftly near the base of a cloud bank. Determining the distance to the cloud - about 7,000 feet - Major Baker was able to make an accurate estimate of the UFOs' size. They were larger, he reported, than an Air Force C-47 - a twin-engine transport.

"The other sighting is still going on," the Los Angeles member told me. "It's out at the Naval Air Station, Los Alamitos. I just heard a newscast - UFOs have been circling over there almost an hour."

(Later that night, this was confirmed for the press by Navy witnesses at the base, including Lieutenant Richard Spencer, a jet pilot, and Louis D. Mitchell, a control-tower operator.)

"It's really building up!" said the Los Angeles man. "The way they're spilling reports, the Air Force must be ready to bust it wide open."

After he hung up, I could still feel his excitement. But I couldn't believe a policy change was that near, though the pressure obviously was mounting.


Some editors and newscasters knew the Air Force denials weren't true; they themselves had seen UFOs.

At St. Petersburg, Florida, observers of a UFO seen in daylight included WSUN news director Paul Hayes and sportswriter Eddie Ervin, St. Petersburg Independent. Both had been strong skeptics.

At Decatur, Michigan, a strange flying object had been seen by hundreds, including Waldron Stewart, editor of the Adrian Telegram, Decatur Police Chief Donald Miller, and Eaton County deputy sheriffs.

On through November 6 and 7, published sightings continued, though some had been filed before the Schmidt story broke. Curiously, three were Air Force leaks.

One was at Edwards Air Force Base, California. About 7:30 P.M., November 6, Air Force MP's in widely separated areas sighted a mysterious object flying low over the secret test center. The leak came when Air Force officers asked Lancaster and Palmdale county sheriffs to watch for a glowing round object.

That same day, GOC observers at Dansville, New York, flashed a UFO report to the Air Force Filter Center at Buffalo. For some unknown reason, it was released to the press by Filter Sergeant George Hatch. The GOC observers, he said, were fully experienced in identifying aerial objects. Then he added:

"They said the object appeared to be made of highly polished metal, or was glowing very brightly." A message, Hatch said, had been flashed to the Air Defense Command. But ADC refused to comment on reports that jets had tried to force the UFO down.

The most encouraging news in this tug-of-war came in a call from Frank Edwards, at Indianapolis.

"Don, you won't believe this! The chief Air Force PIO at Los Angeles - Colonel Dean Hess - just revealed he's asked Secretary Douglas to open up with the truth about UFOs."

"That's amazing, if he really did."

"It's true, all right. My source in L.A. just read me a press interview. Colonel Hess says the Pentagon is greatly concerned, and it's plain he's worried, too. He said he phoned the Secretary's office and asked for a thorough investigation. Here's the hot part, quote: 'I have asked for a thorough investigation so the public may know the real nature of these objects. I'm not going to be satisfied with one of these routine inquiries. I am sure the American people would be receptive to information as to whether these objects are of terrestrial or celestial origin.' Unquote."

"I can't believe it," I said. "When the censors hear that, he'll think the whole Pentagon fell on him."

"They may get a surprise," said Edwards. "Hess is a former minister and a Korean ace. A man like that could be another Billy Mitchell and wake people up to the truth."

"I just hope he can stand up under the pressure."

"We'll soon know. Now, besides that, I've got two brand-new reports. Tonight, two Illinois state troopers - Calvin Showers and John Matulis - tried to chase a flying object near Danville. It was moving at high speed. When they tried to call their station, the radio was dead. It came back when the UFO was gone. This report is backed by State Police Lieutenant John Henry, chief of the Urbana District.

"Captain Irving Kravitz, TWA, reported the other UFO when he landed at Chicago. He said they'd encountered something strange, moving faster than any jet, over Nebraska. The CAA and the Air Force have the details."

"Maybe that Kearney story won't stop reports, after all," I said hopefully.

"It's not that alone - it's partly that stuff Menzel keeps putting out. [In 1952, Dr. Donald Menzel, head of astronomy at Harvard, tried to explain away UFOs as meteors, reflections and other natural phenomena. But ATIC, in an official statement, told me they not only did not accept his answers but that he had not even examined their evidence. The AF chief consultant on UFOs, Dr. Allen J. Hynek, stated: "He does not present a systematic study . . . raises more questions than answers . . . not a serious treatise, but entertainingly written."] You saw how Menzel explained the Levelland case?" Edwards went on.

"Yes - a mirage."

"And he said it scared the drivers, so each of the cars stalled 'because of a nervous foot on the accelerator."

"But he didn't explain the radios fading and headlights going out."

"Just nervous hands," Edwards said ironically. "You know how scary those Texans are."

In a broadcast next day, Edwards bluntly exposed the falacies in Menzel's theories. And he was not alone. In a sharp editorial, the Columbus Evening Dispatch labeled Menzel as the "chief hatchetman and knocker-down of UFO reports." Citing his "closed-mind dogmatism," it said his claim were a tipoff to the fact that official investigators were baffled.

In California, Captain Ruppelt fired another blast at the astronomer. Describing costly Project Blue Book experiments, he said Menzel's mirage answer was absolutely ruled out.

"There is sufficient evidence of flying saucer existence to warrant further investigation," he told reporters. He also revealed that the project had received electrical interference reports when he was its chief, then urged the Air Force to "stop playing mum."

Just after I heard this, word came that Colonel Hess was to be interviewed on a Los Angeles television program. Hoping for a real break, I waited for word from the Coast. Then a Los Angeles member phoned the bad news to our office:

"Colonel Hess looked beaten - they must've given him hell. All he did was recite the Air Force line. And here's something else. Remember Lieutenant Spencer, the Navy pilot at Los Alamitos? He had agreed to go on the TV show You Asked For It. Now, he's been ordered to drop it and shut up. He's been quoted as saying the directive probably applies to all the armed forces."

But this was only one of the steps taken to help make the blackout complete. Every day, new attempts were made to convince the Pentagon press corps that the entire UFO subject was nonsense. By the end of November 7, as more witnesses were given the "humor" treatment, public reports were almost down to zero.

To some NICAP members, it seemed the silence group had won. But this was only a lull in November's seesaw fight.

The biggest battle was yet to come.
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