Rendezvous In Phoenix

– by Don Ecsedy, March 11, 2014 (Rev)

Before considering Rhodes relationship with Project Sign, I want to point out some interesting features of the pre-Sign period of the Rhodes case. Additional documentation for this entry can be found in the Rhodes chronology, 1947 in the menu.

We begin with the CIC agent Lynn Aldrich, at Williams Field near Phoenix, report to A2 Hamilton Field. According to him, prints of Rhodes photos were “obtained” from the managing editor of the Arizona Republic. The AR story refers to an examination of the prints and negatives by “experts”. I assume this refers to Williams Field. Aldrich’s report implies he is a collection point for military personnel reports of saucers. I assume, then, whoever examined the photos at Williams, then reported them to the CIC. Note: there are now three places where copies of the negatives, and more prints, could be made — Rhodes, Arizona Republic, and Williams Field. Keep track because there are more. Aldrich sends prints to Hamilton Field, date July 14, 1947. It is odd, I think, Aldrich doesn’t seem to be aware they were published in the Arizona Republic on the 9th. In fact there is no evidence at all in the Project Blue Book files that anyone knew they had been published even though it was the suspicion of both Grudge and Blue Book that Rhodes wanted the negatives in order to publish them. George Fugate has a story about Rhodes referring to them in a letter published in Amazing Stories, yet no one seems to know the photos (and the front page of the Arizona Republic) had been published in Fate Magazine. Nor does Blue Book appear to know Kenneth Arnold had published them in 1950. But they are all really concerned Rhodes wants the negatives for publication. Publication doesn’t require negatives. It requires prints. There seem to be plenty out there, the three places already mentioned, plus Hamilton Field, Phoenix FBI, Fate Magazine, Kenneth Arnold. Plus Hamilton and the Phoenix FBI can be added to the list of those who could have duplicated the negatives (that’s five, so far).

On August 28, nearly two months after the sighting, A-2 Hamilton Field makes a request of the FBI to interview Rhodes, with a CIC agent “sitting in”.

The August 8 report referred to is Aldrich’s. The CIC agent is expected on or about September 2 at the Phoenix FBI office. The first was Labor day, which along with August 30 and 31 was Labor Day weekend. On August 30, J. Edgar Hoover, in a wire to both San Francisco and Phoenix FBI offices, denies the request for a “joint investigation”, although the FBI, alone, would interview Rhodes, if requested. Hoover ends the telegram


“If <redacted> proceeds Phoenix in spite of the above, advise him you are not authorized to conduct joint investigation and not possible for <redacted> to sit in on interview with <redacted>."

You see the problem? The FBI had the request on August 28 for a joint investigation on or about September 2, but the CIC agent arrived at the Phoenix FBI office well before then, early enough to have the joint investigation carried out on August 29, the day before Hoover replied. I have to wonder at the speed with which Fugate travelled from Long Beach to Phoenix, or perhaps he was already in Phoenix, perhaps at Williams Field. One thing we can glean from this circumstance is how the CIC and the FBI worked together on investigations of the saucers during the 47 wave. On September 27, Hoover would inform the Pentagon that he had ordered the FBI to discontinue flying disk investigations and to refer all “complaints” to the Air Force. Hamilton Field, A2 plays a big role in that, too.

Worth noting is George Fugate being referred to as “Mr.”. This is in keeping with CIC policy of the era to not reveal an agent’s rank. It is also useful for covering up any association with the army. This throws an interesting light on another investigation out of Hamilton, A-2, the CIC agents investigating Kenneth Arnold and his associates (E.J. Smith and Dave Johnson, for example) in which the CIC agents were known by rank to the subjects of their investigation, Lt Brown and Captain Davidson, who identified themselves not as army counter intelligence agents but as army intelligence agents — A-2. This was exceptional, I think, and may indicate the sophistication of the CIC psychological evaluation of Arnold. Brown and Davidson were pilots. Arnold had an exaggerated respect for pilots. The CIC agents piloted their own plane on their visits, a bomber, as Arnold well knew. The CIC approach to Rhodes was less nuanced, it seems.

Another difference between the Arnold and Rhodes cases is A-2′s request to the FBI for a joint investigation. I haven’t spent as much effort so far on Arnold as I have on Rhodes, and so I may have missed it, but I cannot recall a similar request for a joint investigation re Arnold, or for that matter any of the other cases on the Brown and Davidson agenda.

The relationship between army counter intelligence and the Justice Department goes back to WWI and the predecessor organizations of the CIC and FBI. A significant issue between them was “delimitation” — the boundaries of their authority. Broadly speaking, the FBI had the monopoly on domestic surveillance and investigation, except on military facilities. The grey area would be, for example, civilian employees of the army, or others who had access to army facilities (for example vendors, manufacturers, delivery services) in which the army had a significant interest. J. Edgar Hoover was jealous of his domain, but had worked well over the decades with the military. It is likely no non-CIC personnel knew more about army counter intelligence operations and behavior, over decades, than Hoover. It should go without saying, CIC knew Hoover very well, too.

The creation of the United States Air Force created a unique delimitation issue since the USAF claimed the sky over the United States as part of their domain. To the air forces in 1947, civilians reporting sightings in the sky over the United States were of significant interest to the air forces. On the one hand, it simply created a need to include them in the delimitation agreement between the army and the FBI. On the other hand, the USAF, brand spanking new, was zealous to secure a claim to its ‘turf’ and to repel any poachers. That meant keeping the FBI out of their domain: the sky over the US.

Brower and Fugate

I had to pause writing when I realized I did not have a good reason for believing the FBI agent, Brower, was more reliable, about the Rhodes interview, than the CIC agent, Fugate. I realized my opinion was based overmuch on the way Fugate’s report was used by Project Grudge, which effect can be read in Dr. Irving Langmuir’s opinion, than on his report in the context of the time and place it was written. The big issue is the negatives. According to Fugate, Rhodes had the negative of the first, but only a print of the second. According to Brower, Rhodes had neither negative “in his immediate possession”, but that he would bring them into the Phoenix FBI Office the following day, Saturday, the 30th. This cannot be a ‘misstatement’ or ‘error’ in recollection. Fugate dates his report September 2, immediately following Labor Day. Brower dates his report September 4. The interview was on August 29.

Brower’s account is supported by the Phoenix FBI Office records, Fugate’s by the evidence that Project Saucer and AMC, Wright Field, had only one negative, the first image, and a print of the second. However, both the Pentagon and Hamilton Field had two negatives (it is not obvious which, if either, was the original set) since each produced prints of both photos in the proper orientation. The prints used by the Arizona Republic can be identified because the negatives were placed under the enlarger wrong-side up. Project saucer at Wright Field produced prints of the first photo in the proper orientation, which means prints were made at AMC from a negative, but the second photo is always reversed, meaning they did not have the second negative (and did not photograph the print to make a negative). During Project Blue Book, project saucer first obtains a print of the second photo in proper orientation, from Hamilton AFB — or so it seems, organization and dating of these PBB files is not very clear.

Fugate does not write he obtained anything from Rhodes. He includes three exhibits with his report. I and II are, I assume, prints from an unidentified source; III is the negative of the first photo. But according to Brower and the Phoenix office, the “negatives” were given to Mr Fugate after Rhodes delivered them to the FBI office on the 30th.

Brower’s main concern is to distance the Phoenix office from an association with the possession of the negatives, Rhodes’ property. He writes when Rhodes turned over the negatives he was informed they were to be given to the army and that he would not get them back. He also informs Fugate that he must identify himself to Rhodes as an agent of the army and not, as he had, as a “government agent”. Brower’s concern, once again, is to distance the FBI from possession of Rhodes property; he does not want Rhodes to assume the FBI had his negatives. Brower, however, did not say Fugate informed Rhodes he was an agent of the army. What Fugate did was not his concern. I will note that being in possession of the negatives (it does not appear as if Fugate was present when Rhodes turned over the negatives), it is likely the FBI made copies. Brower concludes his report that he will not forward a copy to the army because their man was present at the interview…I wonder about that.

Why would Brower not send a copy of his report to Hamilton Field? Sure, he’s showing the FBI flag, maybe taking notice of Hoover’s “in spite of”. But it was common practice and Brower writing he would not do it implies it was something that was being done. Wouldn’t Fugate expect there to be an FBI report forwarded to Hamilton Field, A-2, and if so, if he was lying about the negatives, wouldn’t he expect the FBI report of the matter to be different from his? Wouldn’t he expect Brower’s report to have the account of Rhodes delivering the negatives to the Phoenix office (where, we assume, Fugate would pick them up), if that is what happened? What is the alternative? That Brower and Fugate conspired to tell different accounts of the interview?

Lt. Col. Donald L. Springer

I found this photo in an abandoned online gallery of “favorite images” with the caption “Donald L. Springer”. I am no expert on military uniforms and insignia. If anyone with such expertise can date this image, I would appreciate it. Colonel Springer died on duty in Japan in 1956. He was 44 years old, so he was in his mid-30s during the Wave.

Lt. Col. Donald L. Springer???

He was the officer in charge of Hamilton Field’s A-2 Intelligence, who assigned Brown, Davidson, Fugate, and other CIC agents to investigate the saucer reports. He appears in the news stories about the wave in the aftermath of the crash of Lt. Brown’s and Capt. Davidson’s B-25 over Kelso Washington, on August 1, after meeting with Arnold, Smith, Dahl, and Crisman in Tacoma, in their investigation of the Maury Island affair.

August 9, 1947 Nevada State Journal

Of course, Lt. Col. Springer was pursuing the investigation, as we are seeing in the Rhodes case.

Browsing through the 16 pdf collections re UFOs released by the FBI, Francisco FBI office had a good working relationship, so it seems odd that there would be such a miscommunication regarding the “joint interview” arrangements. Was Colonel Springer a bit ‘off balance’ having lost two important agents a few weeks earlier?


The Toilet Seat Memo

The immediate cause of J. Edgar Hoover’s ending the FBI investigation of the flying saucers is often referred to as above captioned. FBI Assistant Director Ladd received a report from San Francisco SAC Kimball on September 19, regarding the memo. Ladd composed a report and drafted a response for Hoover on September 25, which Hoover signed and sent to General George C. McDonald on the 27th.

It is really not clear at all whether or not the request for a “joint investigation” of Rhodes was part of a ‘turf war’ or legitimate. Whatever the truth, the case was compromised by both the FBI and the Air Forces, Hamilton Field, and as a result, we are left to guess just what the hell was done with Rhodes’ negatives.



Phoenix FBI

- by Don Ecsedy, March 24, 2014

Anyone familiar with this case probably knows the story of Rhodes’ attempts to have his negatives returned (it is part of ufo fan lore that Rhodes was unsuccessful in getting his property back). Neither the FBI or USAF files have any texts from Rhodes making these requests, although they are referred to. Requests for the photographs are addressed to the FBI, not the USAF in 1950 and in 1952.

The above is strong circumstantial evidence against Fugate’s interview report which implied, but did not state, that Rhodes had given him a negative of the first and a print of the second (which is what Project Sign had from the CIC). Rhodes supports Brower’s report in part: that he did indeed give negatives to the FBI Phoenix office, but not that he was informed they would be given to the USAF and that the “negatives” would not be returnable to him. There is an additional issue: where is the signed receipt for the negatives? What is the FBI’s proof it happened? Brower’s report of his own behavior (and that of his office) is impeccably FBI…except they didn’t document it according to what I am sure was (and is) S.O.P.

Foreshadowing the two requests, one in 1950, the other in 1952, is found in the CIC’s account of its interview of George Fugate in May 1949.

1949-05-19 Doyle

An April 17, 1950 request from Rhodes to the Phoenix FBI office for his photos, according to that office. This may be the first time Rhodes learns his negatives were given to the USAF by the FBI. There is no evidence in PBB indicating the USAF was aware of this request.

The 1952 query didn’t come from Rhodes, but from Drew Pearson. The FBI and the USAF may not have felt any need to extend themselves to True Magazine or to Rhodes, but Drew Pearson was another matter entirely. Pearson’s request would lead two years later to the apparent return of Rhodes negatives (two) and prints (four).

1952-06-04 FBI

“<redacted — possibly someone from Pearson’s office> states that Dr <redacted — Rhodes > told Pearson today that the FBI borrowed his negatives of the flying discs (sic) and when he asked for their return the FBI told Rhodes the negatives were not available.”

Pearson wanted to know whether the story recounted to him by Rhodes is true (and it is true, isn’t it?). The FBI, though, is not amused since, according to their records (Brower’s interview report) Rhodes “knew full well” the FBI gave them to the USAF. The Phoenix FBI seems to feel that, through no fault of its own, and due entirely to the intransigence of Rhodes, they have got Drew Pearson asking them questions…about an issue some still in the Phoenix office might not want to see publicized. There is also the issue of the crumbling friendship between Hoover and Pearson at this time (they had known each other, and had collaborated, since the early 30s). I don’t know whether the Phoenix office had heard the rumors. Perhaps some mix of these explains that “knew full well” comment. The Phoenix office might have simply responded: “Yes, we don’t have them available. They were given to the Hamilton Field Intelligence Office in 1947″. I think it likely Rhodes told Pearson that the FBI had told him they had given the photos to the Air Force, but that is no reason for Pearson (or perhaps his protege, Jack Anderson) to not find out what the FBI would say about it.

The dates of the two requests are worth noting. The 1950 request from Rhodes comes one year after Sidney Shallet’s article in the Saturday Evening Post, one year after the USAF’s Memorandum To The Press about Project Saucer, after Scully’s Variety articles in late 1949, Keyhoe’s True Magazine article, January 1950 The Flying Saucers Are Real, and one month after Commander Robert B. McLaughlin’s article in the March issue of True. Drew Pearson’s request is just short of two months before the Washhington DC sightings.

In the summer of 1948 Rhodes had significant contact with Project Sign, whether he knew it or not. He did know he was interviewed by and corresponded with Wright Field — Loedding, Beam, McCoy, and Clingerman — about his photographs, but there is little indication Sign paid much attention to them as photographs, except Lewis Gust, who was not part of Sign, but AMC. Although Loedding obtained the camera Rhodes used, he apparently did not collect the information he ought to have (which Lewis Gust requested), and there are no questions in the interview or correspondence as to why the negative they had was “cut”, and no query as to whether he had found the second negative yet. After the correspondence regarding Larmore in June 1948, there is no record of the USAF having been in contact with Rhodes until 1954, if, in fact, the USAF did actually send Rhodes the packet of negatives and prints they prepared, and the “letter of apology”.

Should it have been obvious to Rhodes that the USAF had his negatives? Unless they said so, he could as easily assume they had seen the pictures in the newspaper. Whatever the case, it is clear Rhodes delivered the negatives to the FBI office in Phoenix on Saturday, August 30, 1947.

Unlike Fugate’s report, which stands alone on the number of negatives, the FBI, the Pentagon, and Hamilton Field refer to “negatives” throughout the case. The intermediary between what Rhodes shot and what Sign and AMC had was the CIC Special Agent, George Fugate who introduces the detail of one negative and one print, but except for this set, no one mentions a “cut” negative or poor development technique. This is why I’ve asked the question did the CIC distress the photos?

Who Do You Trust?

- by Don Ecsedy, March 12, 2014

Lt Col Donald L. Springer: his erratic behavior — the “joint investigation” request — is emphasized in his providing a classified document to the FBI several weeks later, which must have been obvious to him was against the interests of the Army Air Forces, his branch of service. It was obvious to FBI agent Kimball, SAC San Francisco, who pleads with Assistant Director Ladd (and therefore, Hoover) not to reveal the FBI’s source for the ‘Toilet Seat Memo’ to the Pentagon so as to save Springer from “embarrassment” and to maintain the close relationship they had with him. And so, we must include the San Francisco FBI office as being somewhat suspect, but not compromised, as is Springer, as a resource on the Rhodes case. Of course, and on another hand, Springer might have been very very clever and the San Francisco FBI very very naive…

However, FBI Agent Brower and the Phoenix FBI office are compromised, since their interest was pure cya to present to Hoover should he deign to take an interest in their handling of the matter. I think we can accept Brower’s account of the actual interview and should also consider he would expect scrutiny from above, and so it would need to be flawless in Hoover’s eyes. The only thing I can think of that Brower might elide was if Fugate asked questions of Rhodes, rather than just auditing the interview.

CIC Agent Aldrich (in 1947), seems harmless enough. He doesn’t know much and makes some misstatements. Browsing among the files one finds this was not the only time Aldrich refers to “unconceivable speed” in PBB files, for example. He seems to think there were two objects, as well.

CIC Agent Fugate (in 1947): he had no obvious reason to misstate some things in his report, but he is suspect until we can determine how far from the truth Brower’s conflicting report is. Or, it could be Fugate did not closely attend to Brower’s interview, in whole or in part, but that is not an easy thing to believe of a CIC agent.

Well. that leaves Bill Rhodes, Kenneth Arnold, and Ray Palmer to consider before moving on to Project Sign. — don, March 12, 2014