The Shape of Things to Come, Declassified
20 w by 12 in h
Based on a photo from the "Hanford Historical Photo Declassification Project".
copyright J Kearns 2006
The future belonged to men in tights, women in veils, and flying saucers
The first modern UFO sighting is widely given as the nine unidentified aircraft observed by pilot Kenneth Arnold near Mount Rainier on June 24, 1947. He described them as being saucer-like disks.
Have you ever seen a UFO?
In July, news flashed around the country of an alien craft having crashed in Roswell, New Mexico.
Nine short years later and the meme is so well-established that a saucer is the "shape of things to come" in a 1956 Atomic Frontier Days Parade float representing Camp Hanford.
If one looks up on the internet UFOs and Hanford, however, one finds that in the middle of July 1945 a UFO was observed over Hanford.
The National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena website gives the following story on an event involving airmen from the Naval Air Station at Pasco, Washington:
About 60 miles away stands the Hanford plant, its atomic activities known to only a very few. These battle-scarred veterans are to protect that plant in the event of an air attack. Although they don't know what this is all about, they will follow orders, as military people are taught.
The standby aircraft are always armed and ready to defend the plant, although few pilots seriously believe it will ever come under enemy attack, given the current state of Japan's diminishing effectiveness. But, like the shark attack that Rolan never expected to face, an air emergency does occur. It is noon time, and no planes are in the air. The bullhorn's jarring sound of General Quarters sends the pilots rushing to the ready room for a quick briefing and on to the aircraft for immediate takeoff. Radar had detected a fast-moving object that is now in a holding pattern directly above the Hanford plant. It is extremely high and Rolan can't see it at first. As they rapidly increase altitude the pilots all spot it at about the same time and head directly for its position.
None of them can recognize it, but they can see it well from their vantage point. It has a saucer-like appearance, is bright, extremely fast, and very high. The F6F has an operating ceiling of 37,000 feet, but on this day they exceed that considerably and still can't get close enough.
"What the hell is that?" one pilot yells over the radio.
"Nothing I've ever seen before," answer another.
Rolan calls the base to report the situation. They tell him to go higher.
"If we go much higher we can ruin these engines."
"Blow the engines if you have to, but use full military power, full throttle injection, maximum, continuous. Go for it!"
Rolan wonders what the pilots will do when the engines quit and the tower operator tells them to "glide back towards the airport and hope that you make it."
Even with the emergency settings, the F6F can't get close enough to determine the exact nature of this object. It doesn't make any overt moves, gives no signals, just hovers there as if observing, staying well enough out of reach. The pilots can't believe its ability to hover like this. When some of the engines begin to fail, and fuel consumption gets critical, the planes return to base one by one, and the strange craft disappears as quickly as it came. It doesn't return.
Although a number of people witness this incident, the local newspaper carries no report of it in the days that follow. Rolan can only surmise that the government stepped in and clamped a lid on the whole affair, according to war security measures.
Following the Truman Doctrine of March 1947, in August of 1947, Hanford Works announced a new phase of Cold War expansion
There were yet more sitings, these preceding and coincident with the opening of Camp Hanford.
The News World, New York City, March 6, 1982
Waves of UFOs buzzed vital U.S. atomic sites
Hanford, Oak Ridge facilities saw alerts
By A. Hovni
Special to The News World
Second in a three-part series
The U.S. Air Force was assuring the public in 1949 and 1950 that their so-called "Project Saucer" (actually code-named Project Sign first, later renamed Project Grudge and finally Project Bluebook) had been terminated and that the whole flying saucer scare had in essence ended, or was on its way to do so. Yet at the same time and unknown to the public, a number of government agencies ranging from the CIA and the FBI to the military and the Atomic Energy Commission, seemed quite concerned with the unpleasant fact that many of the nation's "vital installations", such as the atomic plants and research facilities at Hanford, Wash. and Oak Ridge, Tenn., had apparently become "targets" for unidentified flying objects...
Dr. J. Allen Hynek's book about the U.S. Air Force UFO files mentions an incident on May 21, 1949, when a flying disc "was observed in restricted air space over the Hanford Atomic Plant." The object was confirmed on radar and was sighted by the personnel at the Hanford radar station and an F-82 fighter from nearby Moses Lake AFB was scrambled, but was not able to locate the UFO which also vanished from the radar screen.
Another interesting declassified military document shows that there were other sightings reported at the Hanford AEC installations in Washington State, where radioactive waste material has been stored for years. Written by a Major U. G. Carlan and dated August 4, 1950, the memo states that "since 30 July 1950 objects, round in form, have been sighted over the Hanford AEC Plant. These objects reportedly were above 15,000 feet in altitude. Air Force jets attempted interception with negative results."
The incidents apparently caused quite a bit of stir. "All units including the anti-aircraft battalion, radar units, Air Force fighter squadrons, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation," continues the memo, "have been alerted for further observation. The Atomic Energy Commission states that the investigation is continuing and complete details will be forwarded later."
Camp Hanford was established by the Army in 1951 for the air defense of the Hanford plant. It closed in 1961. When I check a book on the Cold War legacy of Hanford, I find that though Camp Hanford didn't open until 1951, a news announcement was made May 4, 1950 of, "Army to Spend Huge Sum at No. Richland". On May 12th, a report gave troops already arriving in an army convoy. On July 3, the news was that yet more troops were arriving within days, and on August 18th, an announcement of yet more anti-aircraft troops added to the Richland force.
The promise of Utopia, and off world redemptions
I remember driving the desert highway with my family, at night, and I'd scan the skies for UFOs. These weren't UFO hunting trips. While you were there, why not look?
And I seem to remember my father saying he'd once seen one, or something that could have been a UFO. Or maybe he just spoke about them.
For some reason, no hard facts to it, I always had the impression that sci-fi was big in Richland, due the preponderance of scientists. Maybe it was just because my father was a scientist and for a long while read a good bit of sci-fi.
But sci-fi was certainly part of the culture. I remember the great fuss that surrounded the debut of Star Trek. I've no idea what watching Star Trek felt like elsewhere in the late 60s, but in Richland, from what I recollect, the show seemed to be viewed as home movies from the future. More than that, I retain the impression that with the debut of Star Trek it was believed that the greater public was getting it (or would possibly get it with Hollywood's help) that science was the answer, the hope for the future. Science would set religion straight and provide a moral base for a universal community. Science, by reason of its progressiveness, was egoless, selfless, pure, and even its errors a benefit to humanity through the essential sacrifice of a few for the many.
Were corporations and big business an apparent driving factor in the future that was Star Trek? No. Product in the Star Trek future existed only as a means for enrichment and not for business. Money simply didn't factor because all would have what they needed.
The below float, again, represented Richland's thoughts on progress. The "past" section is an individual portraying an American Indian on grassland. The "present" shows I guess a wheat field. The "future" was the outer reaches attained by science.
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
Accession Number N1D0053777
Document Number 1253B-50-NEG-H
Alternate Document Number 1253B-50-NEG
Title Description ATOMIC FRONTIER DAYS - PARADE, FIREWORKS, BEAUTY CONTEST, FLOATS, DANCING
Key Word(s) ATOMIC FRONTIER DAYS,BEAUTY CONTEST,FIREWORKS,FLOATS,PARADE
Document Date 05-Feb-2002
Public Availability Date 14-Jun-2002
The projected future reflected the great faith in atomic power, which would be cheap and available without restriction for all. That cheap, unrestricted availability of power meant, queerly, an escapist release from the bonds of Earth. In this respect, with the promise of release from the trials and tribulations that had been Mother Earth, with ascent into pristine space, the mentality was not much different from the heavenly visions of pearly gates, though was one in which the heavens were attained without death.
Through the atom we would step into the Great Beyond away from hell which was a perishing, overpopulated planet. In some scenarios the Earth, freed, would return to a state of Eden, functioning--for those catapulted to the stars--as a distant anchor to humanity. But that restoration was viewed as coming only after humanity had freed itself of Earth.
And maybe this played a part in disregard for what was happening here. Not so different from religions which believe in an essential and imminent apocalypse, which gives little cause to think ahead to the next seven generations and how current actions may be played out in their lives. Just as "In Jesus Christ" was the great password, with science there would never be a reason to pay the piper because by the time the piper came calling, the princess would be able to call its name, Rumpelstiltskin, and banish immediately all debt.
The float in this picture draws, indeed, more on elfen tales than science. I painted the costumes purple but I'd the feeling that a deep forest, Martian green figured at least subconsciously.
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
Accession Number N1D0021057
Document Number 14740-NEG-O
Alternate Document Number 14740-NEG
Title Description FRONTIER PARADE
Key Word(s) HANFORD SITE
Document Date 04-Aug-1956
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002
Why the projected future costume of a woman would include a veil, I don't know, but isn't it interesting that the male here is showing chest and leg while the woman is entirely covered in fabric with a seeming Nights of Arabia twist?
Originally posted on my blog May 19 2006.