Early UFO history, post WWII and Crisman

                                                                      by Ken Hollings (c)


"Author: Ken Hollings lives in London. He is the author of "Electronically Yours, Eternally Elvis" in The Last Sex, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, eds., St. Martin's Press, 1993. He is an editorial correspondent for CTHEORY. Dedicated with thanks to Adair Brouwer.

"A growing desire for distractions and a reluctance to look back at the frenzy of the war years meant that the public needed new heroes and new horizons to fix their gaze upon. The first great wave of UFO sightings would supply them with both.

In 1947, Kenneth Arnold was credited with seeing the first flying disks passing in formation over Mount Rainier in Washington. He was piloting his own specially designed mountain aircraft at the time, searching for the wreckage of a crashed C-46 Marine transport plane.

In 1948, flight leader, Captain Thomas F. Mantell plummeted to his death while pursuing a UFO over Fort Knox, Kentucky in his F51. Project Blue Book, taking a rather romantic view of the incident, claimed that what he had actually been chasing was the planet Venus.

Major Donald E. Kehoe became interested in flying saucers when he was invalided out of the Marine Corps after cracking up his plane during a failed landing attempt. He later went on to become director of NICAP, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, an organisation founded at the end of a four-day symposium on UFOs held in Washington in 1956. Among those present was William P. Lear, maverick aviator and inventor of the Lear Jet.

The mysterious Frederick Crisman, whose reports of crashed UFOs would lead retired Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt into a bitter war of words with Flying Saucer magazine's Raymond Palmer, first became interested in the subject when he encountered a laser-toting alien in a cave in Burma. At the time, he was convalescing after having been shot down over the Pacific while flying a combat mission in World War II.

These jocks were the jet pilots of the New Age: guys with the right stuff, hell-bent on creating a space programme of their own devising. They could almost smell the excitement of the future crackling like ozone in their nostrils. The only thing that seemed to stand in their way was the mordant scepticism of people like Philip J. Klass, who shared the official USAF line on UFOs. Klass, an avionics expert, wrote regularly for Aviation Monthly, but showed no natural aptitude for flying.

In the end, what stopped these fly boys from attaining their goal was the future itself.