|Strange Flying Objecvts Are Appearing in Large Numbers Over the
Continent. Are they Secret Weapons of the USSR or....?
[This compilation of foreign newspaper stories appeared during the European flap of 1950-54 and was printed at the peak of the sightings in a small English-language magazine published by Charles Harnett at Kaiserslautern, Germany]
August 1948 ... All of Europe was still laughing about the many flying saucer sightings reported in the United States the previous year. Americans were certainly making fools of themselves. But the last laugh was yet to come, because on August 16 an Austrian newspaper blazoned its pages with what was described as "the first sightings of flying discs in central Europe".
Residents in the Muehlviertel district of Upper Austria along the Czech border had reported seeing flying saucers moving at an exceptionally high rate of speed, then returning just as rapidly to the point where they were first noticed.
Soon similar stories were running rampant as strange objects appeared elsewhere. This was the beginning of the European flying saucer flap that began in 1950 and continues unabated to this day.
But apparently unknown to many Europeans and most Americans, saucers had been witnessed much earlier and by a good many people throughout the Continent But there had been no flap -- the sightings had been sporatic and usually reported only in small local papers, mainly in Germany, France and Italy.
Turkey entered the controversy early when an Istanbul magazine recalled eyewitness accounts of flying saucers in the Maras region in November 1947, adding that reports had reached Turkey that Soviet scientists had been experimenting with missiles powered by cosmic rays in the region east of Maras, across the Soviet-Turkish border.
A newspaper in Rome told how, in March of 1948, seven UFOs were spotted speeding across north Italian skies on a path from northeast to southwest. Eyewitnesses reported that the objects traveled at a very high speed at around 15,000 feet altitude and seemed to emit "deep sounds".
A report of August 18, 1949 had eyewitnesses at Lucinico, Trieste near Gorizia seeing flying saucers coming from the direction of the Yugoslav border and proceeding rapidly in a northward direction.
On October 29, 1948, newspapers throughout Europe reported this sighting near Munich:
"Five U. S. Air Force pilots observed a mysterious, silvery object similar in appearance to a so-called flying saucer hanging high over Neubiberg Air Base in Bavaria. The object disappeared at a terrific speed after having remained over the air base more than 30 minutes. A similar object had been seen days before by another group of American pilots."
These reports touched off a chain of speculative comments among astronomers and scientists on the continent, who variously claimed that the objects were from Russia or from outer space. Few seemed to regard them as products of the United States.
In November of 1948 reports came from Denmark that unidentified flying objects had been seen at Skagen, Northern Jutland. These were described as missiles which passed over Skagen at high altitude and disappeared northward over Skagerrack. A Danish coast guardsman allegedly saw one disc-like object moving northward at 15,000 feet altitude and then, through binoculars, observed another "shining like silver and traveling in a different direction". Scores of eyewitnesses corroborated the incident.
During 1949 saucer sightings over Europe waned but interest was kept alive by reports from the United States that on August 20 officials from the U. S. Air Force's Office of Special Investigation (OSI) had found two dilapidated objects resembling flying saucers in a tobacco shed in the small town of Marley Park, Maryland. The machines, according to a wire service story, had been built before the war by a Jonathan Caldwell who had since disappeared. One of the craft was reported to have flown. Officials said they were interested in finding Caldwell to learn what he had been doing since then and for whom. Hints were made that he might be turning out improved models elsewhere on a larger scale.
A German magazine carried a story about the so-called foo-fighters of World War II -- objects reminiscent of flying saucers that appeared usually as small balls of fire and trailed allied fighters and bombers on bombing raids. Rumor had it that these were radar-controlled devices designed by the Germans to track the course of allied aircraft.
A French magazine brought from the past a report of a flying saucer seen over Arras centuries before, in 1461. A 500-year old manuscript had been found in which the following appeared:
"On the night of All Saints Day a bright object half the size of the moon was seen for almost a quarter hour. It flew rapidly in wild maneuvers, then darted out of sight." The report closely paralleled sightings nearly 500 years later.
DPA, the German national press agency, reported in October 1949 that Copenhagen got its first glimpse of "flying fireballs" in and around the city. Balls of fire were also reported over the island of Bjornholm in the Baltic, and similar bodies had been sighted over Sweden the week before.
Reporters who had written of "Gallic scepticism" after 15 years of supersecret projects under Hitler began to scratch their heads as more and more sightings flooded police stations and newsrooms late in 1949. Could so many people be mistaken by ordinary objects in the sky or hoodwinked by hoaxes? To pragmatic Europeans, it appeared that something was being seen that could and should be explained but weren't.
Until 1950, flying saucer stories had attracted little more than passing interest among Europeans. This was to change abruptly. For 1950 and 1951 were to be the years of the most seen over European skies. In the early months, reports came by the hundreds from Belgium, Germany, Sicily, Austria, Lebanon and Portugal. About these, American news organizations were strangely quiet.
For example, postal official Josef Brem and his wife claimed to have seen a strange object blazing a trail across the sky over Koetzling, Germany. Brem described it as yellow-silver, disk-shaped, flat like an inverted saucer and surrounded by an opal-shaped, brightly lit ring. He said it remained in view more than a minute before flying off swiftly in a southwesterly direction.
Then scores of department store employees in Brussels told police of witnessing a flying saucer zipping about in the sky above their store.
The crew of a coast guard ship cruising off north Portugal at night told of seeing dozens of strange objects flying in various formations and moving "faster than tracer bullets".
An entire population of a Sicilian village watched in awe as a saucer-shaped object circled the town of Caltagirone, moved in a wide arc, and then disappeared to the southeast.
Two Vienna policemen said they glimpsed a UFO heading eastward toward the Czech border, keeping it in view for more than half a minute.
Europeans could hardly believe their eyes each morning when they picked up their newspapers to read new reports of strange aerial craft cruising, hovering, speeding and maneurvering over the skies of every country from England to Italy and from Spain to the iron curtain.
Denmark and Italy were reporting more sightings than other countries during this period. Some scientists appeared to accept the idea that the objects were either Russian or American. Few followed the theories of American "experts" who spoke of ionized clouds, mirages, meteors or mass hysteria. An occasional European scientist ventured to say it was "possible" that the phenomenon had its origin in outer space.
Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion and each was a little different from the other. One American went a little too far to suit most Europeans when he said he believed the objects were the "heavenly host". Another found a biblical phrase that said, "And there shall be signs in the sky".
Then, just as suddenly as they came, the strange objects dropped out of sight. Some cases continued to crop up every few weeks in England. And for a short time in France they averaged 20 sightings a day over a three-day period.
In January 1952, an expert in meteors in New Mexico made headlines in the leading newspapers of Europe when he stated that a series of green fireballs sighted over the southwestern states were probably not meteors, but more likely guided missiles of Soviet origin. This followed a story in Look magazine that claimed saucers could be manmade vehicles, "most probably Soviet".
Then came the story of a 40-year old graduate of the University of Prague and former Luftwaffe Captain Rudolf Schreiver, who claimed to have designed a flying saucer before the collapse of Germany in 1945. He explained that in the early 1940s engineers throughout the world had been experimenting with craft of highly unusual configurations, including the now famous inverted saucer shape.
According to Schreiver, a set of blueprints turned up missing from his laboratory and when he gave duplicates to colleagues in Prague they apparently ended up in Russian hands, enabling the Soviets to build a saucer.
Late in 1952 the American magazine People Today said that its editors believed flying saucers were not only real but were guided missiles launched from the Soviet Union. The article stated that saucers were being launched from Atomgrad Number 3, a highly secret missile center near Finland. The missiles were described as crewless and deployed mainly for reconnaissance of U. S. atomic and military installations. According to the magazine, "cameras and electronic observation devices" were loaded aboard the craft which were then guided by remote control via a chain of Soviet snorkel submarines in the Atlantic. It seemed the government was not telling the truth for fear of panic.
This story was given some credence when Swedish officials recorded the passage of unidentified flying objects hurtling across Scandinavia in a direct line toward the United States.
In January 1953 the general staff of the Danish Army issued orders to all servicemen to be on the alert for unidentified flying objects. The order was that any strange aerial apparition should be reported to authorities immediately.
An interesting aspect of these sightings is that in most cases the objects appeared to originate from the direction of the iron curtain, and often returned toward the same direction. Coming at the height of the cold war, this led some psychologists to speculate that the sightings were an example of mass hysteria caused by international tensions or fear of a Soviet invasion.
Early in 1954, a Swedish pilot observed a strange metallic circular object flying at supersonic speed over southern Sweden well within range of secret Soviet rocket bases. The craft was in sight for 10 seconds. Days later, Radio Moscow took the unusual step of denying that Russia was behind the saucers. The unprecedented announcement claimed that so-called unidentified flying objects were merely propaganda inventions "to create the impression that Moscow is provoking its neighbors". It denounced western news media for spreading falsehoods.
On March 26, 1954 five control tower personnel at a NATO air base near Landstuhl, Germany reported seeing a UFO. F-86 Sabrejets were scrambled but failed to get close to the illusive object. Eyewitnesses said the object appeared several times during the early evening hours but each time the jets tried to close, they were not able to get near it. Speed of the object was said to be moving fairly slowly, leading some to speculate that the object was a weather balloon. However, no balloons were reported in the area and the object seemed to easily outmaneuver the jets. The Air Force released no conclusions following the sighting.
Are flying saucers interplanetary spaceships or missiles from Russia or the United States, if they exist at all? Though some "experts" claim they are piloted by 40-inch tall creatures, others say there is evidence to show that they are supersecret craft of ultra-modern design produced by the Soviet government and used principally for observation. The German illustrated magazine Frankfurter Illustrierte carried a series of articles to advance this theory. It contained the kind of detail that caused many official eyebrows to raise.
It told of a secret report delivered on April 28, 1948 from the U. S. State Department to the Joint Chiefs of Staff which stated in part:
"From time to time, some saucer-like projectiles have displayed movements that indicate they are controlled in an intelligent manner and are either piloted or radio-controlled. The acceleration of these objects is higher than present normal limits. They are noiseless. With the aid of special instruments, their diameters have been measured to be as large as 100 to 160 feet in diameter."
If this article was based on fact, it was directly contradicted by an Air Force official a month later who stated that reports of unidentified flying objects were completely unfounded.
The Frankfurt-based magazine went on to quote the chief of the U. S. Defense Staff in Tokyo as stating on May 9, 1953:
"In the past few weeks, Navy and Air Force craft operating in the Pacific have seen strange objects on several occasions, objects generally referred to as flying saucers. Their routes could be determined along with their possible home station. Near the island of Tinian one of the objects was struck by an American aircraft and fell into the ocean."
Major Donald E. Keyhoe, a marine reserve officer, personally investigated UFOs and has written articles and books purporting to prove that the illusive objects are interplanetary spacecraft. His latest book is due to be released in Europe soon.
Whatever side of the controversy you favor, one thing is for certain. So many eyewitnesses cannot be wrong. Thousands upon thousands of persons throughout the world have seen these objects with their own eyes and refuse explanations of mass hysteria, reflections in the sky or misinterpretations of ordinary objects.
Most recently, the Air Force has admitted that 20 percent of UFO sightings reported by Americans are mysteries yet to be explained. But what of the many more thousands of Europeans who have also witnessed these flying phantoms? What percentage of them are unexplainable and who is investigating them?
It's been said that a secret is the hardest thing to keep. Perhaps the riddle of the UFOs, if now a well kept secret, may be answered in our lifetimes.