mystery behind the first documented UFO sighting in modern times
has been solved by Dr. Andrew Wiggins of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"This will help clear the air of some far-out tales and conspiracy
theories run rampant since 1947," said Dr. Wiggins at a press
conference yesterday at the Space
Needle in Seattle. "UFOism has had a powerful influence
on science fiction, on movies, and it even inspired architect
John Graham's flying saucer concept for the Space Needle, which
was built for the 1962 World's Fair," he said.
first documented UFO
sighting occurred on June 24, 1947. As a result, the term "flying
saucer" was coined in newspaper stories that went viral both
nationally and in Canada. The idea of a visitation by extraterrestrials
traveling in out-of-this-world vehicles captured the public's
imagination and is thought by many to have created a form of mass
hysteria. The June 24 sighting was followed just two weeks later
by the famous Roswell
Incident at Roswell, New Mexico, and then by a continuous
string of UFO sightings up to the present day.
years ago on a June afternoon seasoned pilot and businessman Kenneth
A. Arnold was flying west at 9,200 feet in his Call-Air
A-2 from Chehalis, Washington, to Yakima. His flight path
was just south of Mt.
Rainier. It was a completely clear afternoon with mild winds.
Just before 3:00 p.m., while he was passing over the town of Mineral,
his attention was captured by bright metallic glints like flashing
mirrors on his left, just to the north of Mt. Rainier. There he
saw a chain of nine unusual objects flying in a diagonally stepped-down
echelon formation, weaving side-to-side like a "Chinese kite."
At first he suspected that the objects were still-classified experimental
U.S. military aircraft.
saucer came from Arnold's later statement to a reporter that
the objects moved "like saucers skipping on water."
extraordinary feature of the flying objects was that they seemed
to Arnold to be moving at supersonic speed, at approximately 1,700
miles per hour. By his calculations, that was three times faster
than any manned aircraft known in 1947. It was only later in the
year, on October 14, that the sound barrier was broken by a manned
vehicle when Chuck Yeager reached 807.2 mph in the orange, bullet-shaped
Bell X-1 named Glamorous Glennis.
Wiggins said, "Kenneth Arnold impressed newspaper reporters
and Air Force investigators alike as being a reliable and sound
witness. But people see things. People imagine things. One person's
account is not necessarily bulletproof. Corroborating evidence
is the key in making a definitive judgment about an event. I was
skeptical of the facts behind Arnold's story."
investigators, including Dr. Wiggins, proposed worldly explanations
for Arnold's account of the flying objects over Mt. Rainier. What
researchers sought were identifiable physical objects or natural
phenomenon: possibilities included mirages, meteors, wave
clouds, and even a flock of pelicans flying in formation.
Wiggins said, "I've had an intense interest in the phenomenon
of UFOs since I was at Jefferson High in Alexandria, Virginia.
The Arnold sighting came before all the others and I got fixated
on it. Google has changed
everything: it's the most powerful research tool the world has
ever known, and I started to use it to learn about the geography
and weather around Mt. Rainier. I also started monitoring the
news of the Pacific Northwest. Last year I caught a break."
October 13, 2010, Dr. Wiggins saw something that sparked his interest.
It was a feature story in the Oregonian
about a German family living in a heavily wooded region in Lewis
County, Washington, adjacent to Mt. Rainier National Park. In
the article was a picture of a weathered barn with over 50 metal
disks tacked up to its side alongside an elk antler rack. "Those
metal disks seemed out of place," he said, "and I booked
a ticket to Portland to meet with the writer of the article."
lunch and a bottle of Red
Tail Ale at McMenamins'
White Eagle Saloon with writer Shiela Flanders, Dr. Wiggins learned
the name and address of the German family living just south of
Ashford, Washington. Flanders had also noted the incongruity of
the shiny metal objects when she photographed the barn for her
article, but at the time she was focused on her story about immigrants
living in the United States.
October 20th, when Dr. Wiggins arrived at the gate of an old homestead
in the shadow of Mt. Rainier at the end of a winding dirt road,
he was met by 65-year-old Kurt Kluge. Kluge was of course curious
about why an esteemed professor at the Air Force Academy in Boulder
would want to talk to him.
like to see your barn," said Dr. Wiggins. Approaching the
rustic barn in a grove of tall Douglas firs, sun-sparked reflections
shot from the disks tacked to its side. Pointing to the disks,
Dr. Wiggins asked, "Where did they come from?"
father, Angar Kluge, told me the story of the hard rain when I
was a little boy," he said, "In the middle of a June
afternoon in 1947, he was with the farrier shoeing his horse when
brilliant flashes appeared in the sky. Suddenly these hard chrome
disks bulleted into the roof and side of the barn with tremendously
loud shots; like 12-gauge shotgun blasts in rapid succession.
He was struck in the right leg by one of the disks after it ricocheted
off the siding; he walked with a limp for the rest of his life."
Later, Kurt's father told him that he thought the disks were beautiful,
so he hung them up on the side of the barn and they have been
there ever since, sort of a family heirloom. "Our heritage
is German, so my father didn't do a lot of mingling with the locals
in Ashford during or after the war, and our family way was to
keep to ourselves. Very few outsiders have ever seen the barn,"
Kurt said. Since Dr. Wiggins was so intrigued with the flying-saucer-shaped
disks, Kurt was happy to give one to him. To the excited Dr. Wiggins,
it seemed to almost vibrate in his hands.
Wiggins said, "I've always loved old Fords. The summer after
high school I built a hot rod '33 Ford Coupe. I knew that the
Mt. Rainier disk was actually a chromed steel variant of a 1949-50
Ford hubcap. The '49 is a piece of art, beautifully simple and
elegant, with what appears to be a pointed canopy at its center.
But how did over fifty '49 hubcaps end up falling from the skies
below Mt. Rainier two years before they were even released by
Ford? I had a mystery inside of a mystery."
in Boulder, Dr. Wiggins fired up Google and found a complete
selection of early Ford V-8 parts on the Bob
Drake Reproductions Web site. On page 418 of the auto parts
manufacturer's new Catalog 26 he found a hot rod '49 "Baby
Moon" hubcap without the stock issue black-painted FORD embossed
stamping on its side. Although made of stainless steel instead
of Ford's original chrome-plated steel cap, it looked exactly
like his specimen from Mt. Rainier.
next focus was on parts that were shipped out of Ford's headquarters
in Dearborn, Michigan during the summer of 1947. His research
led him to Bob
Gregorie, the designer hired by Edsel Ford in 1931 who was
responsible for the design of the '36 Lincoln Zephyr, the '39
Lincoln Continental, the 1935-42 Fords, and the famous '49 Mercury.
Ford's archives, Dr. Wiggins found that it was Gregorie's apprentice,
Randolph Johnson, who had worked on the initial wheel and body
designs for the "shoebox" Fords starting in 1949. Since
the design teams worked two to three years ahead of the model
release dates, Johnson had worked up several prototypes of the'49
hubcap in the spring of 1947. Good quality prototypes were usually
thrown into production runs, but Johnson's prototype hubcaps were
flawed: they lacked the FORD typography that was later added to
the tooling dies. That left over 200 perfectly finished, but unusable
hubcaps at the Ford factory.
his search to find the disposition of those 200 prototypes, Dr.
Wiggins went to Ford's records of individual parts sales and found
an invoice and shipping manifest for them. They were sold to a
government surplus dealer in Seattle to outfit surplus WWII vehicles
that had come back from the Pacific theater, which for combat
use had of course been deployed without any chrome trim or hubcaps.
(Later, the dealer was unhappy with the shipment when he discovered
that the hubcaps didn't fit WWII vintage Ford wheels.) The hubcaps
were trucked to Chicago, where two open bins of 100 apiece were
loaded onto a Douglas
DC-4-1037 operated by Northern Hemisphere Shipping. The transport
plane departed for Seattle on June 22, with one scheduled stop
for pickup and delivery in Boise, Idaho.
to Northern Hemisphere's flight log for the DC-4, veteran pilot
Ron Jones experienced an invisible, but extreme event of downward
wind shear on the west side of Mt. Rainier around 3:00 p.m. on
June 24, 1947, on his approach to Seattle. "The fuselage
almost buckled, as if it were hit by a giant fist just behind
the wings. I thought we were goners," wrote Jones, "In
fact, we suffered only cracks in the wings near the fuselage,
a damaged antenna, and we lost one bin of auto parts when the
cargo doors were flung open."
Wiggins concluded his press conference yesterday by giving a layman's
version of a famous scientific principle, Occam's
Razor, which states that "the simplest explanation is
most likely the correct one." He said that his explanation
for the first UFO sighting by Arnold is sound. "It follows
a real-world string of documented facts and is supported by hard
physical evidence. It's not founded on
hearsay and requires no leap of faith in alien visitations, futuristic
technologies, or interstellar travel by advanced civilizations."
Wiggins said, "This mystery is solved. The UFOs that Kenneth
Arnold saw in 1947 weren't spaceships. They were Ford hubcaps."
FINE PRINT: First UFO Mystery Solved is ©2011
by Randy Johnson. The story is historical fiction. Its concept
was fabricated by Randy Johnson and Shannon Fain. Although most
of the background information in the story is documented fact,
the story line about the hubcaps (and its characters, including
Andrew Wiggins, Shiela Flanders, Randolph Johnson, Ron Jones,
and the Kluges) is complete fiction. The truth is that the 1949
Ford hubcap is a true work of art, worthy of hanging on your wall
if you don't have a '49 Ford Custom Coupe, and it's a dead ringer
for the classic 1950s depictions of flying saucers. Click here
for the full line of early Ford and hot rod parts at Bob Drake
Reproductions Inc. To see more work by artist/writer/marketer
Randy Johnson, Click here.
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