The Flying Saucers Are Real Book Summary

Title: The Flying Saucers Are Real
Author: Donald Keyhoe

TLDR: A former Marine pilot investigates the flying saucer phenomenon, uncovering a pattern of government cover-up and mounting evidence that points to extraterrestrial observation of Earth, potentially sparked by humanity’s development of atomic weapons.

Chapter 1: The Assignment

The book opens with Donald Keyhoe, a former Marine pilot and aviation journalist, receiving a curious assignment from True Magazine: investigate the flying saucer mystery. Keyhoe, initially skeptical of the phenomenon, recounts how the initial wave of saucer sightings in 1947, including reports from reputable Air Force pilots, had subsided behind a curtain of Air Force secrecy.

Keyhoe delves into True Magazine’s preliminary investigations, revealing conflicting theories and planted misinformation. The magazine, having uncovered compelling evidence for the saucers’ existence, plans to publish a carefully worded article with alternate conclusions. The Air Force is informed and, surprisingly, doesn’t block publication.

The January 1950 True Magazine article concluded that the most likely explanation for the saucers was periodic observation of Earth by visitors from another planet. This sparked a flurry of public interest, forcing the Air Force to issue contradictory statements, first denying the existence of saucers and then conceding the possibility of extraterrestrial visitation.

Keyhoe hints at an elaborate Air Force program to prepare America, and the world, for the truth about the disks. The book promises to expose the investigation’s intricate path, the misleading tips, the confidential leads, and the contradictions encountered in solving this perplexing puzzle.

Chapter 2: The Mantell Incident

Keyhoe introduces the tragic case of Captain Thomas Mantell, whose mysterious death while chasing a flying saucer in 1948 becomes a turning point in the public perception of the phenomenon. Mantell, leading a flight of three P-51 fighters, pursued a large, metallic, glowing object sighted by state police and Army personnel near Fort Knox. His radio transmissions to Godman Air Force Base, where he was stationed, revealed increasing concern as the object climbed and outpaced his fighter.

Mantell’s final transmission described the object as “tremendous in size” and climbing faster than his plane. Minutes later, his fighter disintegrated in mid-air. A search by his wingman failed to locate the object, which had vanished.

The Air Force initially confirmed that Mantell died chasing a saucer but offered no explanation for the object’s identity. Later, they attributed his death to a blackout from lack of oxygen at high altitude, suggesting he was chasing the planet Venus.

Keyhoe highlights inconsistencies in this explanation, noting Venus’s low visibility at the time and the improbability of experienced pilots mistaking it for a large metallic disk. He reveals contradictory statements from the Air Force, hinting at a deliberate attempt to conceal the truth.

Chapter 3: The Saucer Scare Begins

This chapter explores the early days of the “saucer scare” in the summer of 1947. Following Kenneth Arnold’s famous sighting of nine gleaming, high-speed disks near Mount Rainier, reports flooded in from across the United States.

Keyhoe details several key sightings, highlighting the consistent descriptions of round, metallic objects capable of outmaneuvering conventional aircraft and flying at incredible speeds. He reveals attempts by the Air Force to dismiss the sightings as hallucinations, while simultaneously admitting investigations by Wright Field and even scrambling fighter jets to intercept the objects.

The chapter explores various theories put forward by the public and scientists, including solar reflections, meteors, and even secret government experiments. The Air Force’s contradictory statements and contradictory “explanations” fuel public speculation and alarm. Keyhoe suggests a deliberate attempt to suppress or downplay the reports, particularly those from reputable sources like airline pilots.

Chapter 4: Pentagon Inquiries and Suspicious Tips

Keyhoe visits the Pentagon, seeking information from Air Force press officials about Project Saucer, the top-secret unit established to investigate the sightings. He is met with contradictory statements and outright denials, with officials alternately claiming the saucers are “bunk” and admitting that many sightings remain unexplained.

Keyhoe requests access to Project Saucer files and photographs, specifically a rumored picture of a saucer taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland, but is denied. Officials claim the material is classified and insist that the investigation has debunked most of the reports.

He receives a suspicious phone call from “John Steele,” a former Air Force Intelligence officer, who suggests the saucers are Nazi-developed “foo fighters” now in the possession of either the US or Russia. Keyhoe, sensing a planted story, investigates the “foo fighter” phenomenon reported by pilots during World War II but remains skeptical of Steele’s motive.

Chapter 5: The Mantell Case Revisited

Keyhoe delves deeper into the Mantell case, exploring the various explanations put forward by the Air Force and analyzing their inconsistencies. He interviews General Sory Smith, a former colleague of Mantell and Colonel Hix, who admits being disturbed by the case and questioning the official explanations.

Keyhoe meticulously debunks the theories that Mantell was chasing the planet Venus or a Navy cosmic-ray research balloon. He dissects the technical aspects of balloon operation, highlighting the impossibility of a balloon performing the maneuvers described by Mantell and witnessed by ground observers.

Keyhoe also examines the “blackout” theory, challenging the suggestion that Mantell, a seasoned pilot, would carelessly climb to a dangerous altitude without oxygen. He concludes that the Air Force is concealing vital information about the object Mantell chased, likely a large, technologically advanced craft beyond anything developed on Earth.

Chapter 6: A Meeting with John Steele

Keyhoe meets with John Steele, the former Intelligence officer, to explore his claims about the “foo fighters.” He shares his findings about the Mantell case, suggesting the object was likely a secret American or Soviet missile.

Steele, surprisingly, dismisses the Mantell case and insists the saucers must be Russian. Keyhoe challenges this, arguing that the Soviet Union wouldn’t test advanced weapons so openly over American territory.

During their conversation, Steele urges Keyhoe to consider the “moral responsibility” of publishing information that might be best left secret, even if it doesn’t involve national security. Keyhoe concludes that Steele is attempting to steer the investigation towards a “Soviet missile” answer that would force True Magazine to abandon the story.

Chapter 7: Airline Encounters and Historic Sightings

Keyhoe travels to the West Coast, interviewing airline pilots who have encountered saucers. He uncovers several confidential reports of disks pacing airliners, outmaneuvering them at incredible speeds, and displaying unusual lights and exhaust patterns.

Some pilots, fearing ridicule, are reluctant to speak, but others openly express their belief that the saucers are either advanced missiles or extraterrestrial spacecraft. Keyhoe also learns about a rumor of a saucer tracked by radar in Labrador.

Back in New York, Keyhoe discusses his findings with True Magazine editors. They agree that the evidence for the saucers’ existence is overwhelming and explore various explanations, including a psychological warfare hoax.

The editors introduce the “interplanetary” theory, revealing reports of saucer-like objects dating back to the 18th century. Keyhoe remains skeptical but finds the historical evidence increasingly difficult to dismiss.

Chapter 8: The Eastern Airlines “Space Ship”

This chapter delves into a chilling encounter reported by Captain Clarence Chiles and First Officer John Whitted of Eastern Airlines in July 1948. While flying a DC-3 near Montgomery, Alabama, they encountered a large, wingless, cigar-shaped object traveling at high speed.

The pilots described the object as about 100 feet long, with a bright blue glow along the fuselage, red-orange exhaust, and rows of windows. They estimated its speed at 500-700 mph.

Keyhoe analyzes their detailed account, comparing it with a simultaneous sighting of a similar object at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia. He debunks the Air Force’s attempts to explain the sightings as a meteor or a conventional aircraft, noting inconsistencies in timing and the absence of any known plane matching the description.

Keyhoe explores the possibility of a secret, advanced aircraft, concluding that the object’s performance and design are far beyond anything currently developed on Earth.

Chapter 9: Project Saucer Investigations

Keyhoe continues his investigation, focusing on learning more about Project Saucer’s operations and interviewing witnesses who have been questioned by the secretive unit. He discovers that Project Saucer teams employ a range of techniques, including psychological tests and character checks, to weed out hoaxers and discredit legitimate reports.

He uncovers evidence of the Air Force pressuring witnesses to remain silent, suggesting alternative explanations like balloons, birds, or meteors. Keyhoe also learns about the Gorman case, where a National Guard pilot engaged in a “dogfight” with a mysterious, maneuvering light over Fargo Airport.

Through his interviews, Keyhoe begins to understand the extent of Project Saucer’s efforts to “explain away” the sightings and conceal the truth. He notes a pattern of downplaying evidence and offering far-fetched explanations, even in cases involving reputable witnesses and corroborated reports.

Chapter 10: Space Exploration Plans and the Gorman Case

Keyhoe examines the history of rocket research and space exploration, contrasting the early skepticism towards pioneers like Goddard and Pendray with the rapid progress made by the Germans during World War II. He analyzes the Pentagon’s announcement of the Earth Satellite Vehicle Program and the plans for a moon rocket, highlighting the technical challenges and potential military applications of such technology.

He recounts the details of the Gorman “dogfight,” where Lieutenant George Gorman pursued a maneuvering white light in his F-51 fighter. The light, witnessed by ground observers, displayed incredible speed and agility, outmaneuvering Gorman’s plane and ultimately escaping.

Keyhoe examines the Air Force’s attempts to explain the light as a Navy cosmic-ray balloon or a hallucination, debunking both theories with technical arguments and witness testimony. He concludes that the light was a small, remote-controlled device, likely operated from a larger, unseen craft.

Chapter 11: Redell’s Theory and the Mystery Lights

Keyhoe discusses the Gorman case with Paul Redell, an aeronautical engineer who believes the mystery light was a small, transparent, rotating disk controlled remotely from a larger ship. Redell emphasizes the possibility of the saucer phenomenon involving technology far beyond our current understanding.

Keyhoe reveals the existence of other “mystery light” sightings, including reports of green lights at Las Vegas and Albuquerque and a strange encounter by two Air Force pilots at Andrews Field. He analyzes these cases, debunking attempts by Project Saucer to explain them as balloons or meteors.

He reveals a letter from Art Green, a pilot previously interviewed, claiming that Gorman’s F-51 showed positive readings on a Geiger counter after the encounter, suggesting the involvement of atomic technology.

Chapter 12: Analyzing Disk Technology and the White Sands Sighting

Keyhoe delves into the technical aspects of disk-shaped aircraft, discussing different methods of operation and propulsion with Redell. They analyze the feasibility of a rotating disk with a cambered surface, powered by rim jets, and conclude that such a design could achieve high speeds and maneuverability.

However, they dismiss the possibility of such a device operating at the high altitudes and speeds reported in many sightings, particularly in a case at White Sands Proving Ground.

Redell describes a sighting by a Navy rocket expert, later identified as Commander Robert B. McLaughlin, who witnessed a large, elliptical saucer tracked by scientists at 15,000 mph and 50 miles above Earth. The object then performed a steep climb with G-forces beyond human tolerance.

Redell argues that no current missile or experimental craft could explain this object’s performance, suggesting it was a space ship from another planet.

Chapter 13: Speculations on the Visitors’ Planet

Keyhoe examines Project Saucer’s analysis of potential planets that could harbor intelligent life, including Mars and Venus. He challenges their arguments against the possibility of advanced civilizations on these planets, noting that our own space exploration plans contradict their assumptions.

He explores the potential challenges of interstellar travel, particularly the vast distances involved in reaching stars like Wolf 359, which is eight light-years away. He discusses the possibility of utilizing advanced technologies like cosmic ray propulsion or manipulating electromagnetic fields to overcome these distances.

Keyhoe receives another suspicious call from John Steele, who now claims the disks are British-developed, cambered rotating disks tested over a long-range course extending from Australia to Canada. Steele provides detailed information about the alleged testing program and suggests a secret agreement between Britain and the US to conceal this technology.

Chapter 14: Reversing the Space Exploration Equation

Keyhoe analyzes Steele’s “British missile” explanation, ultimately dismissing it as improbable and illogical. He argues that no nation would risk such large, uncontrolled missiles over populated areas, regardless of their detonator systems.

He revisits the question of the space visitors’ motivations, proposing a simple method for understanding their purpose: reversing the equation of our own space exploration plans. Keyhoe outlines a hypothetical mission to Mars, detailing how Earth explorers would approach an unknown planet, observing, analyzing, and gathering information before attempting contact.

He suggests that the space visitors have been observing Earth for centuries, intensifying their observations in recent decades as our technology advanced, particularly after the development of atomic weapons.

Chapter 15: True Magazine’s Conclusion and Public Reaction

Keyhoe and True Magazine editors finalize their article, presenting their conclusion that the flying saucers are interplanetary craft observing Earth. They acknowledge the possibility of some sightings involving secret missile tests but prioritize the overwhelming evidence for extraterrestrial visitation.

They express concern about the article’s potential impact on the public, recognizing the profound implications of confirming intelligent life on other planets. They decide to present a factual, carefully worded article, hoping to prepare readers for the eventual official disclosure.

The article, published in the January 1950 issue of True Magazine, sparks a nationwide media frenzy. The Air Force, seemingly caught off guard by the public reaction, issues a hasty denial, claiming all saucer reports have been explained and Project Saucer has been discontinued.

Chapter 16: The “Little Men” Hoax and Project Saucer Summaries

Keyhoe investigates the “little men from Venus” story, a widely circulated hoax claiming that two crashed saucers containing the bodies of three-foot-tall aliens were recovered near the US-Mexico border. He debunks the story, revealing inconsistencies and fabricated evidence.

He obtains Project Saucer case summaries from the Air Force, expecting them to confirm the official denials. Instead, he discovers numerous unexplained cases and contradictory “explanations” that rely on far-fetched theories and disregard witness testimony.

Keyhoe analyzes the reports, highlighting attempts to “explain away” key sightings like the Mantell case, the Muroc sightings, and the Chiles-Whitted encounter. He concludes that the summaries are deliberately misleading, designed to conceal the truth about the saucers.

Chapter 17: Facing the Sphinx: A Meeting with Major Boggs

Keyhoe confronts Major Jerry Boggs, a Project Saucer Intelligence officer, demanding answers about the unexplained cases and contradictory statements. Boggs, a skilled and unflappable agent, calmly insists that the saucers are “bunk” and offers simplistic explanations for key sightings, including the Venus theory for the Mantell case.

Keyhoe challenges his answers, pointing out contradictions with previous Project Saucer reports and witness testimony. Boggs deflects his questions, claiming re-analysis of the cases has revealed the true explanations.

Keyhoe requests access to the complete Project Saucer files, but Boggs and other Air Force officials stonewall him. He is given two binders containing sanitized case summaries, which he suspects contain clues to the truth that Boggs has overlooked.

Chapter 18: Analyzing the Case Summaries and The “Bona Fide” Sightings

Keyhoe meticulously analyzes the Project Saucer case summaries, finding further evidence of deliberate misinformation and suppressed evidence. He identifies numerous cases officially listed as “explained” that contain admissions of unsolved mysteries and contradictory “explanations.”

He discovers a startling comment in the report on the Twin Falls case, where a disk was seen whipping treetops as if in a vacuum. The report states that this sighting “must be classed with the other bona fide disk sightings,” a revealing slip that suggests Project Saucer recognizes the authenticity of many saucer reports.

Keyhoe concludes that the Air Force is deliberately leaking select information to prepare the public for the truth, while simultaneously maintaining a façade of denial.

Chapter 19: Denied Access and Continued Sightings

Keyhoe is officially denied access to the complete Project Saucer files at Wright Field, despite General Sory Smith’s initial attempts to facilitate his request. The Air Force remains determined to keep the truth hidden, despite the mounting evidence and public interest.

Meanwhile, new saucer sightings continue to flood in from across the United States and abroad. The Air Force issues further denials, attributing the reports to misinterpretations, hysteria, and hoaxes.

Keyhoe analyzes these denials, recognizing a pattern of alternating between dismissals and subtle hints of extraterrestrial visitation. He believes the Air Force is struggling to control the narrative and manage public perception.

Chapter 20: Keyhoe’s Conclusions and A Call for Truth

In the final chapter, Keyhoe presents his conclusions after a year of investigating the flying saucers and the Air Force’s secretive operations. He asserts that the Air Force is aware of the truth about the saucers – that they are extraterrestrial spacecraft observing Earth – but is deliberately concealing this information from the public.

He outlines his belief that the Air Force is engaged in a program of gradual disclosure, using carefully selected leaks and misleading statements to prepare the American people for the eventual revelation.

Keyhoe argues that the American people deserve the truth, calling for the Air Force to release the complete Project Saucer files, including details of key sightings, any attempted landings or contact by space visitors, and all other suppressed information.

He recognizes the potential for panic and the need to control information that could be valuable to enemies on Earth, but emphasizes the importance of honesty and transparency in facing this momentous reality. He believes the public is capable of handling the truth and that acknowledging the existence of extraterrestrial life could ultimately unite humanity in facing the challenges of the Interplanetary Age.

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