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Historically Speaking: Flying saucers — alien or domestic?

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Ruidoso with view of "Old Baldy" — date unknown.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily


Sometimes, in doing research for something else, I run across an old article that certainly can give me cause for pause, like a “wait, what?” moment.

Living in Roswell, having just celebrated another UFO festival, and then reading all the news of late about Area 51 combined with the anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon, I thought I would share this article which brought many questions to my mind.

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I found the article from the Ruidoso News first; then I researched another from the Amarillo Daily News — both articles were published in April 1950 — almost three years after the “Roswell Incident.” See what you think …

Ruidoso News, April 21, 1950.

“‘Saucer’ Sighted Here; Looks Like Balloon

“A number of Ruidoso residents apparently were fascinated by what many referred to as a flying saucer high in the sky over Baldy (Sierra Blanca) at noon Monday.

“The white, globe-shaped object floated for an hour or more and drifted slowly eastward before disappearing.

“Through field glasses it appeared to be a radio-sonde weather balloon of the type loosed by weather observation stations at air fields, to gather information on upper air movements.

“The object, tossed around by what appeared to be air currents, could have drifted to its position above Ruidoso from Holloman Air Force Base or any other government installation to the eastward.

“The speculation it inspired up and down the canyon perhaps will gain new impetus from an absorbing article in the U.S. News and World Report, which claims the saucers are not a figment of excited imagination, nor Russian secret weapons, nor spaceships from Mars.

“The report labels the saucers real and says they are manned by living pilots and are a revolutionary United States development in aircraft.

“U.S. News has gathered and briefed non-secret data from responsible sources — including a group of scientists who were able to track a saucer for several minutes with advanced measuring instruments, and here is what U.S. News believes to be the true story:

“The first successful saucer was built in 1942 and made more than 100 test flights. Current advanced models are circular, 105 feet in diameter, and about 10 feet thick. They have no protruding surfaces of any kind. They are powered by jet engines using a secret fuel. The power is exerted through a series of jet nozzles around the saucer’s rim.

“Their performance, according to the magazine, is next to unbelievable. They can stand still in the air, like a helicopter, and rise almost vertically. Their cruising speed may be as high as 600 mph. Due to the helicopter feature, they do not need air fields for landing or taking off — a very small space is adequate. Control is achieved by tilting the jet nozzles to desired angles, and by turning certain nozzles off and on. Maximum forward speed is attained by turning the nozzles to the rear and applying full power.

“U.S. News emphasizes that this is not a Buck Rogers concept. The principles on which the saucers are allegedly built are known, and sound, and are accepted by the top aeronautical engineers.

“Who, then, is building and operating the saucers? The magazine thinks that most likely the Navy — in spite of this service’s denials — is the agency. The Navy has been given twice as large a guided missile research budget as the Air Force and no public accounting is made of how the money is spent. And these saucers could be flown from any combat ship, not just the carriers.

“The possible significance of the saucers is tremendous. U.S. News sums it up in these words: ‘In war, the combination of helicopter and fast jet plane will easily outfly any present type of military aircraft.

“‘In peacetime, the safety of a nearly crash-proof aircraft may be expected to revolutionize civil air transport. It all points to a big advance in the science of flying.’

“This crash-proof factor, if what the magazine contends is true, proves to be fact, could account for the lack of reported crashes of the aircraft which has puzzled so many observers.”

* * *

Amarillo Daily News, April 4, 1950

“Washington, April 3 (AP) — U.S. News and World Report says there is competent evidence that flying saucers are real aircraft of revolutionary design, developed in the United States. The weekly news magazine for April 7, out today, concludes that the Navy is doing the development.

(The Navy, asked about such reports Friday, said it built only one machine of the general saucer shape, a piston engine aircraft, and it never flew. It said it never built a giant version.)

“Reporting what it calls the ‘real story’ behind the welter of reports about such flying machines, the magazine says ‘engineers competent to appraise reports of reliable observers’ have reached these conclusions:

“Flying saucers seen by hundreds of observers over most parts of the U.S. are accepted as real. Evidence is that they are aircraft of a revolutionary type, a combination of helicopter and fast jet plane.

“They conform to well-known principles of aerodynamics.

“‘An early model of these saucers was built by U.S. engineers in 1942 and achieved more than 100 successful test flights. That project was taken over by the Navy in wartime. Much more advanced models are now being built.’

“‘Just where present saucers are built, also is indicated by evidence now available.’”

A joint article in the same newspaper said,

“‘Saucers Termed US Jet Flyers’

“Washington, April 3 (AP) — Radio commentator Henry J. Taylor said tonight many ‘flying saucers’ really are U.S. controlled experimental jet fighter planes.

“On his ABC broadcast, he identified the plane as XF5U.

“‘Concerning the jet craft he said in addition to other models which I cannot mention, it is a United States Navy experimental fighter.”

“‘It is a jet plane of incredible speed,’ he said. ‘It really looks like and is shaped like a pancake. It has roughly a circular outline.’

“Taylor, in a broadcast from Dallas last Monday said he thinks there are other flying saucers that are real and that, they too, are U.S. controlled.

“Taylor said these flying saucers are of several types ‘but nobody is inside of them.’

“‘They vary in authentically reported size,’ he said, ‘from small white discs 20 inches in diameter and 6 inches thick, such as was found and then hushed up, in Galveston Bay, Texas, to sizes actually 250 feet in diameter.’

“He said two were found in Texas, the second on the ground.

“He said printed in stencil ‘on the original saucer found in Texas’ — he did not specify which this was — was the following inscription:

“‘Military Secret of the United States of America Army Air Forces and a number, and then this:

“‘Anyone damaging or Revealing Description or Whereabouts of This Missile Is subject to Prosecution by the U.S. Government. Call Collect At Once.’

“Taylor said the inscription also carried the long-distance telephone number, the address of the U.S. Air Base and in big black letters, ‘Non-Explosive.’

“Taylor gave no other details.”

* * *

Was U.S. News asked to publish an erroneous article, to calm people’s fears, because of numerous “sightings” during this time? Or did — or does — our military actually have a saucer-shaped aircraft that can do all these things?

Finally, I found another article disputing the fact that the military had anything to do with “flying saucers.”

Lowell Sun, Lowell, Massachusetts-April 4, 1950

“Two New Reports on ‘Flying Saucers’ Provoke Denials by U.S. Armed Forces

“Washington, April 4 (AP) — Two new reports that flying saucers are really secret U.S. weapons provoked quick denials today from the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Both the Air Force and the Navy said flatly that they are not experimenting with any plane or weapon that could account for widespread reports about flying disks.

“A spokesman for the Air Force, which has been investigating hundreds of flying saucer stories, said the armed services are standing on conclusions reached last December that flying saucers just don’t exist.

“At the time, the Air Force interpreted the persistent reports to ‘misrepresentation of various conventional objects, a mild form of mass hysteria or hoaxes.’

“Radio commentator Henry J. Taylor and U.S. News and World Report, a weekly news magazine published here, gave the latest versions yesterday. Both stated flatly that flying saucers do exist, but neither quoted any authority for their statements.

“In a program over the American Broadcasting System, Taylor said that there are two types of ‘flying saucers’ which the military has classified as secret.

“One, he said is a harmless disk which usually disintegrates in the air. Its purpose, he said, is a top military secret.

“He said the other is the Navy’s so-called ‘flying phantom’ or jet propelled XF-5-U-1. The Navy, he said, is experimenting with the radical plane at its Patuxent, Maryland, test center.

“U.S. News said simply that the saucers are revolutionary new planes, probably developed by the Navy as part of its guided missile experiments.

The Air Force issued its denial promptly. A spokesman said:

“‘The armed services are not doing anything that could be traced to being the basis of reports of flying saucers.’”

So, what was it that was over old Baldy?

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.

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