"no information was gained"
-Dr. Louis Elterman
"objects are sighted in some number"
-from the White Sands Film report to
Dr. Anthony Mirarchi
ASKANIA CINETHEODOLITES AT THE WHITE SANDS PROVING GROUND
In December, 1948 a new and strange phenomenon began to be observed repeatedly in
the southwestern United States in areas where Top Secret nuclear weapon research was
being carried out. Particular areas were around Los Alamos, New Mexico, Sandia Base near
Albuquerque, New Mexico, the White Sands Proving Ground in NM and, eventually around the
nuclear weapon storage site called Killeen Base at Fort Hood, Texas.
This phenomenon consisted of (generally) bright green lights moving (generally)
horizontally through the night sky and then dropping downward slightly and
going out. These became to be known as "green fireballs." After these had been observed
many times in late 1948 and early 1949 Dr. Lincoln La Paz, a famous meteoricist (a scientist
who studies meteors and meteorites), declared that they weren't normal meteors. He told
the Air Force and the FBI (see Appendix) that if these weren't special devices resulting from our own (United
States) secret research, then they could be Russian and in any event were a potential threat
to our "vital installations" (FBI terminology) where nuclear weapon research was carried out.
These fireballs were observed repeatedly throughout 1949 and Air Force scientists
wanted to know what they were. (Also observed were objects which Dr. La Paz called the "disc
variation"...but it almost seems that the Air Force scientists really didn't want to know
what THEY were!) Finally, in 1950, they succeeded in setting up an observation program to
scientifically record the fireballs. It is at this point that our present story begins, but,
before leaving the fireballs behind, let me just point out that they are STILL a mystery!
In the spring of 1950 a $20,000, half-year contract was signed with the Land-Air
Corporation which operated the phototheodolites at White Sands. Land-Air was to set up a 24
hour watch at a location in New Mexico to be specified by the Air Force and the phototheodolite
operators at White Sands were to film any unusual objects which happened to fly past. The
name of this project was Twinkle.
The investigation began on March 24, 1950. By this time there had been many sightings
in the southwest according to the sighting catalogue compiled by Lt. Col. Rees of the 17th
District Office of Special Investigations at Kirtland, AFB, many of them around Holloman Air
Force Base. His catalogue shows the following data for New Mexico in 1949: the area of Sandia
Base (Albuquerque) - 17 sightings, mostly in the latter half of the year; Los Alamos area - 26
sightings spread throughout the year; Vaughn area - none; Holloman AFB/Alamogordo/White Sands
area - 12; other areas in southwest New Mexico- 20; total - 75. For the same areas in the
first three months of 1950 there were: Sandia - 6 (all in February); Los Alamos - 7; Vaughn
- 1; Holloman AFB/Alamogordo/White Sands - 6; others - 6; total - 26. With all these
sightings, the scientists were quite confident that they could "catch" a fireball or a saucer.
On February 21 an observation post, manned by two people, was set up at Holloman with a
theodolite, telescope and camera. The post was manned only from sunrise to sunset. The
observers saw nothing unusual during a month of operation. Then the scientists decided to
begin a constant 24 hour watch on the first of April that would last for six months, with Land-
Air personnel operating cinetheodolites (theodolites with movie cameras) and with Holloman AFB
personnel manning spectrographic cameras and radio frequency receivers. Thus began Project
Twinkle with the high hopes of solving the fireball/saucer mystery.
SIGHTINGS BY OBSERVERS OF SUPERIOR RELIABILITY
TWINKLE, TWINKLE LITTLE CRAFT
Dr. Anthony Mirarchi was not the average scientist. He knew about the fireball
sightings in the southwest and he was skeptical, all right, but he was also skeptical of the
glib explanations that had been offered. Before deciding what the fireballs and "disc
variation" might be he wanted more data. In early 1950 he was the Chief of the Air
Composition Branch at Geophysical Research Division (GRD) at the Air Force Cambridge Research
Laboratory (AFCRL) in Cambridge, Mass. Twinkle began as Dr. Mirarchi's project. However,
he retired from AFCRL in October, 1950, so he did not write the final report. That duty
fell to the next project director, Dr. Louis Elterman. This final report has an important
place in UFO history. Had Mirarchi written the report the history of early UFO research
might be different. However, as you will see, Elterman did write it and, in doing so, left
out the important information you are about to read. (Dr. Elterman and the project's final
report are discussed below.)
Dr. Mirarchi visited Holloman Air Force Base in late May, 1950, and requested a brief
report on sightings which had occurred on April 27 and May 24. Fortunately for "the truth,"
this brief report to Mirarchi survived in the National Archives microfilm record where it was
found in the late 1970's, long after the Twinkle report had had its...intended?... debunking
effect on the green fireball and disc sightings! The report reads as follows (see also
copies from the Archives microfilm below):
" 1. Per request of Dr. A. O. Mirarchi, during a recent visit to this base, the
following information is submitted.
2. Sightings were made on 27 April and 24 May 1950 of aerial phenomena during
morning daylight hours at this station. The sightings were made by Land-Air, Inc.,
personnel while engaged in tracking regular projects with Askania Phototheodolites.
It has been reported that objects are sighted in some number; as many as eight have
been visible at one time. The individuals making these sightings are professional
observers. Therefore I would rate their reliability superior. In both cases photos
were taken with Askanias.
3. The Holloman AF Base Data Reduction Unit analyzed the 27 April pictures and
made a report, a copy of which I am enclosing with the film for your information.
It was believed that triangulation could be effected from pictures taken on 24 May
because pictures were taken from two stations. The films were rapidly processed
and examined by Data Reduction. However, it was determined that sightings were made
on two different objects and triangulation could not be effected. A report from Data
Reduction and the films from the sighting are enclosed.
4. There is nothing further to report at this time."
The writer of this cover letter is not known (no signature). It might have been the
Lt. Albert mentioned in the document below. The Data Reduction report attached to the letter reads as
"Objects observed following MX776A test of 27 April 1950"
2nd Lt. (name censored) EHOSIR 15 May 50
1. According to conversation between Col. Baynes and Capt. Bryant, the following
information is submitted directly to Lt. Albert.
2. Film from station P10 was read, resulting in azimuth and elevation angles being
recorded on four objects. In addition, size of image on film was recorded.
3. From this information, together with a single azimuth angle from station M7, the
following conclusions were drawn:
a). The objects were at an altitude of approximately 150,000 ft.
b). The objects were over the Holloman range between the base and Tularosa Peak.
c). The objects were approximately 30 feet in diameter
d). The objects were traveling at an undeterminable, yet high speed.
Wilbur L. Mitchell
Data Reduction Unit
So, there you have it, four unidentified objects... UFOs... were flying at 150,000 ft
near the White Sands Proving Ground. Each was roughly 30 ft in size. (The sighting was
similar to that of Charles B. Moore while tracking a high altitude balloon in April, 1949.)
Could Mr. Mitchell and the Askania operators have made a mistake? Not likely. Their business
was tracking fast moving rockets and calculating the trajectories of the rockets. As
the writer of the above letter stated, "The individuals making these sightings are
professional observers. Therefore I would rate their reliability superior."
Human beings had made no objects that could fly at 150,000 ft in the spring of 1950.
So, what were they? Whose were they?
The skeptical scientist might, at this point, question the ability of Askania cameras
to accurately image some object at 150,000 ft (28 statute miles). Just what was the
capability of a phototheodolite? In fact, one might wonder just what IS a phototheodolite?
The phototheodolite is a telescope which does two things at once as the operator points
it toward the object of interest (usually a rocket). First, the phototheodolite (or
cinetheodolite) makes of series of photos (or a movie) of what is being seen through the
telescope. Typically the camera takes a picture (or many pictures) every second. The
shutter (exposure) times for all active phototheodolites at a test site such as White Sands
are controlled electronically by a central "time keeper". Thus all the camera pictures are
synchronized. The phototheodolite also accurately measures and records on the film, the
azimith and elevation (horizontal and vertical pointing directions) as time goes on. When
two or more of these cameras are pointed at the same object, say a rocket traveling into
space, the elevation and azimuth information that is recorded can be used to accurately
determine the position (altitude and horizontal position relative to the cameras) every
second by triangulation (a well known trigonometric technique). Thus these cameras can
provide information on the flight of a rocket, i.e., at any instant how high it is, how
far it has traveled downrange, what the exhaust of the rocket looks like (an important
"diagnostic" for determining how well the fuel was burning, how accurately the rocket nozzles
were directing the exhaust, etc.) and whether or not the rocket was rotating or tumbling as
it traveled. As an example of such a camera in action, consider the following composite
Here we see a rocket just after takeoff (lowest photo) and then several photos taken
many seconds later as it climbed upward. The number at the upper left is the azimuth and the
number at the upper right is the angular elevation. According to the text that accompanies
the picture, the top photo was taken when the rocket was nearing burnout. Burnout of a V-2
occurred when the altitude was about 20 miles and the rocket was about 2 miles downrange.
However, the actual altitude when that photo may have been less than that. (Apparently this
camera was quite far from the takeoff point in order to capture a reasonable "side shot" of
the rocket at burnout.)
The rocket itself was about 46 ft long and 5 ft in diameter (at its widest). Looking
at the top photo of the rocket one can clearly see the general shape, although it is distorted
(foreshortened) by the perspective view (from below and to one side). Had the rocket
presented the same perspective view but from a distance of about 30 miles (150,000 ft) the
image would not be as large as in the upper photo, but the general shape could still be
determined from the image (which would have been clearer in the original film than in this
The focal length of the typical telescope was 60 cm. One may assume that the 35 mm film
used had an image size resolution, determined by the average film grain size, of 0.001 cm
(0.01 mm or 10 microns), or less (if high resolution film was used the grain size could be as
small as about 5 microns). Assuming 0.001 cm resolution at the film plane, the angular
resolution was on the order of 0.001 cm/60 cm = 1.6 x 10^-5 radians = 0.0009 degrees which is
about 3 arc-second resolution (1 arc-sec = 0.00028 deg). When this distance is projected to
150,000 ft it corresponds to about 2 1/2 ft. This is a "resolution element" at that distance.
Hence it is not surprising that the film image discussed above is a quite good representation
of the shape of the V-2 rocket at a high altitude.
An object 30 ft in diameter would have 12 of these resolution elements across its width,
and about 140 such elements over the whole image area (if roughly round) which would be more
than enough to assure that the film image would be clearly show the the overall shape
of the object. (If the film resolution were better than 10 microns the number of resolution
elements in the image would be even greater. The more resolution elements there are, the
more accurate is the depiction of the actual shape of the object.) The bottom line is that it
is very UNLIKELY that the expert analysts at White Sands were wrong when they stated that
the objects were about 150,000 ft high and about 30 ft in diameter (and traveling at a high
A DISMAL FAILURE?
...or a COVER UP?
Enter Dr. Louis Elterman, a well known atmospheric physicist. Elterman was known
for using powerful searchlights to study the upper atmosphere (density, dust loading, etc.).
He also wrote a report on ball lightning for Project Grudge, the second Air Force project to
collect and analyze flying saucer sightings, so he obviously knew the official opinion of
the Air Force on flying saucers, namely that there weren't/aren't any. (The Project
Grudge personnel did not look favorably on saucer reports.) A year and a half after the
above sightings, in November, 1951, Dr. Elterman, who was at that time the Director of Project
Twinkle, and who worked at the Atmospheric Physics Laboratory (APL) of the Geophysical Research
Division (GRD) of the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL), wrote the final report
on Project Twinkle. According to Dr. Elterman's report, Project Twinkle was a dismal failure:
"no information was gained." He recommended it be discontinued. His recommendation was
But, was it a failure? Was there really no information gained? Notice that the
above document says that as many as 8 objects were sighted at one time on May 24, 1950. This
statement is confirmed in an FBI report entitled "Information Concerning Phenomena in New
Mexico," written on August 23, 1950. According to the report, "On May 24, 1950, personnel
of Land-Air, Incorporated, sighted eight to ten objects of aerial phenomena." Isn't the fact
of the sighting "information?" Of course it is. Then, why did Elterman write "no information
was gained?" Let us look more carefully at Elterman and his Project Twinkle report.
According to Dr. Elterman, before Twinkle began there had been "an abnormal number of
reports" from Vaughn, New Mexico, so it was decided to place a lookout post there. Why this
place was chosen is a mystery to me. It is about 120 air miles from Los Alamos, about 90 from
Sandia Base and nearly 150 from Alamogordo/Holloman AFB. I have listed above the sighting
statistics for the various New Mexico areas, being careful to list the sightings around Vaughn
separately. Note that Vaughn had only 1 sighting in the whole previous year. So why did they
"waste" a lookout post at Vaughn? Why didn't they put one at Los Alamos or at White Sands?
Did they think that they could triangulate over a very large baseline distance with the lookout
post at Holloman AFB or were they actually trying to avoid sightings? These are questions
which must forever remain unanswered. (Note: Elterman was not responsible for this poor
choice of location since he did not become the Project director until about 7 months after
athe project started.)
Anyway, it was a mistake. After Project Twinkle began the sighting rate dropped
precipitously. The Project Blue Book sighting list shows 1 sighting in April, 1 in May and 1
in August in the Holloman area. There were also fewer sightings in the other areas. In fact,
for the period from April 1 to October 1 covered by the first Land Air contract there were
only about 8 sightings in the whole of New Mexico as compared with the roughly 30 sightings
during the previous 6 months.
The effect of this sudden decrease in sighting rate is reflected in the Twinkle Final
Report which says that there were very few observations. However, of more importance is what
is not reflected in the report, that is, what is ignored or covered up (?) in the
report, namely the fact that Twinkle was successful.
To demonstrate that Dr. Elterman "ignored information" or was just plain dishonest, I
quote here one part of the report verbatim. Commenting on the "first contractual period, 1
April 1950 to 15 September 1950" Dr. Elterman wrote:
"Some photographic activity occurred on 27 April and 24 May, but simultaneous
sightings by both cameras were not made, so that no information was gained.
On 30 August 1950, during a Bell aircraft missile launching, aerial phenomena were
observed over Holloman Air Force Base by several individuals; however, neither Land-Air
nor Project personnel were notified and, therefore, no results were acquired. On 31
August 1950, the phenomena were again observed after a V-2 launching. Although much film
was expended, proper triangulation was not effected, so that again no information was
During the second contractual period, 1 October 1950 to 31 March 1951 there were no
sightings. It was as if the phenomenon had reacted to the setting up of observation posts by
moving elsewhere. There were continuing sightings in other parts of the country and even a few
in the other parts of New Mexico, but none near Holloman AFB. The lack of sightings was enough
to end the contract. After the contract ended there were discussions about what to do with the
data and whether or not to continue observations at at some low level of effort. It was
decided in the late spring of 1951 not to continue the special effort. Elterman, writing in
November, 1951, recommended "no further expenditure" of time and effort...and there was none.
But, what about the sightings during the first half of the contract, the sightings at
Holloman Air Force base in April, May and August, 1950? Even Elterman admits that things
According to Eltermann, no information was gained, to which I respond,
What do you mean, Dr. Elterman, Sir?
Oh, Great and Exalted Guru of the Upper Atmosphere,
isn't the fact that something unusual was sighted by experienced observers "information"?
Something WAS up in the sky...
something that was sufficiently unusual as to attract attention.
Was Elterman justified in making such a comment?
No! Certainly information "is gained" when a number of qualified obervers
simultaneously view unidentified objects from various locations. And more information is
gained if some of these observers film these objects through cinetheodolite telescopes.
There is useful information even if a "proper triangulation" is not accomplished. And
there is even more information gained if a proper triangulation is accomplished...and one
was accomplished, only Eltermann didn't mention it!
Farther on in the report Dr. Elterman indicates a serious deficiency in the operational
plan for Project Twinkle. The project scientists knew that they might have some film to
analyze, but according Elterman there were insufficient funds built into the contract to
analyze the film. After a discussion with Mr. Warren Kott, who was in charge of the Land-Air
operations, Elterman estimated that it would take 30 man-days to analyze the film and do a
time correlation study which "would assure that these records did not contain significant
material." According to Elterman, "no provisions are contained in the contract" for this
One reads this previous statment with some astonishment. They set up a
photographically instrumented search for unknown objects and then failed to provide
for the film analysis if they were lucky enough to get film. What sort of a scientific
project is that? Did they want to succeed or did they want to fail?
Furthermore, Elterman's statement that a time correlation study should be done to
assure that the records contained no significant material sounds as if Elterman
had already concluded that there was no worthwhile evidence in the film. Does this sound
like an unbiased investigation?
Near the end of the report Elterman supported his statement that "no information was
gained" by offering explanations for the sightings: "Many of the sightings are attributable to
natural phenomena such as flights of birds, planets, meteors and possibly cloudiness." Note
that he wrote "many." He did not write "all." What about the sightings that were NOT
attributable to birds, planets, meteors and cloudiness?
The typical scientist reading the Project Twinkle Final Report would assume Elterman
was telling the truth, that there was "no information gained" and that all the sightings were
misidentifications. The typical reader would accept Dr. Elterman's opinion as the final word
on the subject. Only the perceptive person would realize that he had not actually proven his
statement to be true, even though he presumably had access to the photographic evidence which
would prove it, if it were true.
Compare the above letter/report to Dr. Mirarchi with the first paragraph of Elterman's
statement where he says "...simultaneous sightings by both cameras were not made so that no
information was gained." It seems that Elterman got his information on these sightings from
this report to Dr. Mirarchi. Yet he did not even give a hint of the existence of the most
important result of Project Twinkle, the April 27 triangulation which yielded information on
altitude and size. Could it be that he didn't know about the Data Reduction Unit report? Or
did he know and choose to purposely ignore or withhold the information? Was this part of
a "cover up" or simply the "ostrich effect" kicking in (if you stick your head deep enough
into the sand the problem will go away)?
Capt. Edward Ruppelt, who was the director of Project Blue book during 1952 and 1953,
in his landmark 1955 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, described the
April 27 event in more detail. A guided missile had just been tracked and the cinethodolite
crews were starting to unload their cameras when someone spotted objects moving through the
sky. The camera stations were linked by a telephone network, so that crew alerted the others.
Unfortunately all but one camera had been unloaded and the UFOs had departed before the other
cameras could be reloaded. According to Ruppelt, "The photos from the one station showed only
a smudgy dark object. About all the film proved was that something was in the air and,
whatever it was, it was moving." Evidently Ruppelt didn't know that a triangulation had been
accomplished. But at least Ruppelt did not claim that "no information was gained."
Ruppelt also discussed the May 24 event and its failure at triangulation due to the
fact that the two cameras were looking at different objects. Ruppelt wrote that in February,
1951, when he first learned of these sightings (this was about 9 months before he became the
director of Project Grudge and over a year before the name was changed to Blue Book), "The
records at AMC [the Air Materiel Command headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base]
didn't contain the analysis of these films but they did mention the Data Reduction Group at
White Sands. So, when I later took over the UFO investigation I made several calls in an
effort to run down the actual film and analysis." Unfortunately, he was not successful even
though he did manage to contact, through a "major who was very cooperative," two men who had
analyzed what was either the May 24, or the August 31, film or both (see Elterman's
statement above regarding the August 31 sighting). Ruppelt writes as follows:
"(the major's) report.... was what I had expected - nothing concrete except that the
UFOs were unknowns. He did say that by putting a correction factor in the data gathered
by the two cameras they were able to arrive at a rough estimate of speed, altitude and
size. The UFO was 'higher than 40,000 feet, traveling over 2,000 miles per hour, and it
was over 300 feet in diameter.' He cautioned me that these figures were only estimates,
based on the possibly erroneous correction factor; therefore they weren't proof of
anything - except that something was in the air."
Obviously Ruppelt underplayed the importance of this report by suggesting that the films
didn't prove anything. My response to this is
So what, if the size, distance and speed estimates might be wrong....
something was there, obviously large, fast and unusual or the camera crews wouldn't have
bothered to film it!
Since Ruppelt apparently was not aware that a triangulation had been accomplished for
the April 27 sighting one wonders if he would have tried to downplay that film, also, as not
"proof of anything."
At the bottom of the report to Dr. Mirachi is a list of enclosures which shows that two
reports (Data Red Report #1 and Data Red Report #2) and three films (P-10 and P-8 of May 24
and P-10 of April 27) were sent to Mirarchi along with a map of the Holloman range showing,
I presume, the locations of the cameras. There is a hand written note at the right of the
list of films which says "Film on repository with AFCRL" and a few other undecipherable
scribbles. Attempts (in the late 1970's) to locate these films failed. (Mirarchi died
in the 1960's.)
Incidently, the Project Blue Book master sighting list indicates that all four of the
sightings listed by Elterman had "insufficient information" for evaluation.
Although Dr. Mirarchi retired in October 1950 and had no part in writing the final
Twinkle report that was completed over a year later, his involvement with the green fireballs
and saucers did not end when he retired. In early 1951 he returned to "action" in a public
way and his actions nearly got him into serious trouble almost two years after that!
In the middle of February, 1951 Time magazine published an article that featured a
well known scientist, Dr. Urner Liddel of the Naval Research Laboratory near Washington, DC.
In the article Dr. Liddel stated that he had studied around 2,000 saucer reports and, in his
opinion, the only credible saucer sightings were actually sightings of misidentified Skyhook
balloons, balloons which had been kept secret by the armed services. Apparently Dr. Liddel
wasn't aware of the several sightings by balloon project scientists (e.g, C. B. Moore
Evidently Dr. Mirarchi felt it was his civic duty to repudiate Liddel's claims and
two weeks later he responded publicly. According to a United Press story filed on February
26, 1951 Mirarchi said he believed, after investigating 300 reports of flying saucers, that
the saucers were missiles from Russia which had photographed our atomic bomb test sites.
According to the United Press article the 40 year old scientist who "for more than a year
conducted a top secret investigation into the weird phenomena said that he had worked with
balloons and balloons did not leave an exhaust trail." Another reason given against the
balloon explanation was that balloons could not be seen at night. Mirachi explained how
"scientists had picked up dust particles containing copper which could have come from no other
source than the saucer motive plants (the engines)." (This was a reference to efforts by Dr.
La Paz to have air samples taken after a green fireball sighting to see if there were any small
particles of copper or copper compounds in the air. Such compounds "burn green" or give off a
characteristic green color when heated, so La Paz had conjectured that the green color could be
attributed to burning copper compounds associated with the fireballs. In one case there was
success in detecting such particles, although La Paz was not completely convinced that the
particles were from the fireball.)
According to the newspaper article "flying saucers or 'fireballs' as he terms them,
were regularly observed near Los Alamos until he set up a system of phototheodolites to
measure their speed, size and distance away.... but the fireballs mysteriously ceased
appearing before the theodolites could go to work. Dr. Mirarchi concludes that spies must
have tipped off the saucers' home base." Mirarchi referred to two sightings for which
there was photographic evidence: a single photo of a round glowing object and a motion picture
which "showed one streaking across the sky for one and a half minutes." Mirarchi went
on to say that he was aware that some sightings were actually sightings of balloons, but that
"there was too much evidence in favor of saucers to say they could have all been balloons.
'I was conducting the main investigation. The government had to depend on me or my branch for
information.' He said he did not see how the Navy (i.e., Dr Liddel) could say that there had
been no concrete evidence on the existence of the phenomena."
Mirachi concluded by accusing the government of committing "suicide by secrecy" for not
admitting that the saucers were real and probably missiles from Russia.
Strong words! So strong they nearly got Mirarchi in trouble more than two years later.
According to an Air Force document released in 1991(!), in 1953, during a time of espionage
and spy hunting (the Rosenbergs, atomic spies, were executed in 1953) the FBI queried the Air
Force as to whether or not Mirarchi should be investigated for breaking security. Lt. Col.
Frederick Oder, who had been instrumental in getting Project Twinkle started, responded by
writing that, because Mirarchi had released to the newspaper some information that was
classified Confidential or Secret it "could cause serious harm to the internal security of the
country...if it were to fall into unfriendly hands...both from the point of view of the
prestige of our Government and the point of view of revealing our interest in certain
classified projects." Brigadier General W. M. Garland, who was in charge of AMC in 1953,
decided not to pursue Dr. Mirarchi because, in his opinion, the information was not that
important. Furthermore, in Gen. Garlands' opinion, the facts about saucers being missiles,
as stated in the newspaper article, had been "disproved or are, at best, personal opinions,
and are not considered classified data." In other words, Gen. Garland apparently believed
that the green fireball and saucer sightings were not Russian missiles, although he did not
say what he thought they were.
Perhaps Gen. Garland let Mirarchi of the hook because he recalled that there had been a
recommendation to declassify and release the results of Project Twinkle in December, 1951, a
month after the final report was written. However, he could find no record of declassification
in the files of AMC. Evidently he was not aware of the recommendation against
declassification contained in a February 1952 letter to the Directorate of Intelligence from
the Directorate of Research and Development which states
"The Scientific Advisory Board Secretariat has suggested that this project not be
declassified for a variety of reasons, chief among which is that no scientific explanation for
any of the 'fireballs' and other phenomena was revealed by the (Project Twinkle) report and
that some reputable scientists still believe that the observed phenomena are man-made."
Another letter, this time from the Directorate of Intelligence to the Research Division
of the Directorate of Research and Development, dated March 11, 1952, adds another reason
for withholding the information from the public:
"It is believed that a release of the information to the public in its present condition would
cause undue speculation and give rise to unwarranted fears among the populace such as occurred
in previous releases on unidentified flying objects. This results from releases when there has
been no real solution."
In other words, Air Force Intelligence had realized that the public could see through
the smokescreen of previous explanations and wanted real answers, so, if they couldn't come
up with real answers it was better to say nothing.
Over a year after Mirarchi responded to Liddel, LIFE Magazine published an article on
flying saucers. In that article the authors described some of the sightings which caused the
Air Force to start Project Twinkle. One of the hundreds of letters which the magazine
received in response to that article was from Captain Daniel McGovern who wrote "I was very
closely associated with Projects 'Twinkle' and 'Grudge' at Alamogordo, N. Mexico where I was
chief of the technical photographic facility at Holloman Air Force Base. I have seen several
of these objects myself` and they are everything you say they are as to shape, size and speed."
(LIFE, April 28, 1952)
I thank Joel Carpenter and Brad Sparks for some of the phototheodolite information presented
A helpful reference was 200 MILES UP by Dr. Gordon Vaeth, Ronald Press, NY (1955).
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON FLYING SAUCERS IN THE YEAR FOLLOWING
MIRARCHI'S RESPONSE TO LIDDEL see
As a matter of historical interest I present here s ome of the information collected by
the FBI before and during the time of Project Twinkle. The FBI was responsible for protecting
"vital installations" (laboratories and military bases where nuclear weapons were designed and stored)
from spies and Soviet communist subversive actrivities. Therefore FBI agents attended meetings of
Air Force and Army intelligence and security organizations at these installations. As mentioned
at the beginning of this article, a new phenomenon was reported numerous times starting in December,
1948: "green fireballs" were seen by numerous people including many security guards at the
vital installations.The people who were in charge of security for
installations in the southwest worried about the "green fireballs" (and "disc variation"). No one knew
what these thhings were, leaving open the possibility that the Soviets could be involved. Therefore
the FBI was interested in keeping track of the developments. The first mention in the FBI file of this
fireball situation is in a document dated January 31, 1949, entitled "Protection of Vital
Installations." This document is shown below. The name which was blacked out at the beginning
of the fifth paragraph is that of Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, a famous meteoricist (a person who studies
meteors and meteorites; the FBI document incorrectly refers to him as a "meteorologist"). (His
name and other names were blacked out - censored - of the FBI documents before they were
released to me under the Freedom of Information Act in the spring of 1977). Note that subject
matter was considered "Top Secret" by intelligence officers of the Air Force and Army.
The subject was again brought to the attention of the FBI on Feb. 10, 1949. In the document
below the research done by Dr. Lincoln LaPaz is again mentioned. Moreover, LaPaz by this time
had generated a rather frightening theory to explain the green fireballs: they could be Soviet
missiles (suborbital bombs) that were being used to target the "vital installations."
In a letter from the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) at San Antonio, TX, the FBI learned from
the Fourth Army intelligence officers that the "flying discs, Flying saucers and "balls of light" were
now referred to as "Unconventional Aircraft" and the effort to understand them was called
"Project Grudge." (Students of UFO history will recall that the first publicly known Air Force
project to investigate "flying saucers" was called Project Sign; it ran from January 1948 to
early 1949 when the name was changed to Project Grudge.)
Skipping over many months and many UFO sighting reports one finds the next major mention of
this subject in an FBI letter dated August 23, 1950. (The reader will recall that Project
Twinkle started in March, 1950.) During 1949 and 1950 the continued sightings of these strange phenomena
had caused the security agencies some concern since there was no good explanation. Their
concern is echoed in the document below. Evidently Dr. La Paz was still considering the
possibility that the fireballs were Soviet guided missiles. The document mentions the
contract with Land-Air to carry out a 24 hour skywatch called "Project Twinkle." This document
also refers to the May 24 sighting of numerous "objects of aerial phenomena." The name
that appears crossed out in the last page is probably that of Anthony Mirachi, the
The last mention in the FBI file of Project Twinkle is in a letter dated October 9, 1950.
Note that the FBI uses the term "complaints" to refer to reports of these unusual phenomena
(saucers, discs, fireballs, etc.). According to the document there had been no new developments.