Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Aztec and the Radar Bases

The latest proponents of the Aztec incident - namely Scott Ramsey and Linda Moulton Howe -have over the past several years sought to find evidence that would corroborate the story told to Frank Scully by Silas Newton and Dr. Gee (aka Leo Gebauer) and then described by Scully in Behind the Flying Saucers. The best way to do this would be to prove that there was information in Behind the Flying Saucers that neither Scully, Newton nor Gebauer could have known, and which could only have come from a person, or persons, who were "in the loop" about crashed flying saucers.

Ramsey, in my film Aztec 1948, and Moulton Howe, in her paper "UFO Crash Retrievals," presented at the 2004 Crash Retrieval Conference, claim to have found this corroborative evidence. As Moulton Howe describes it:

"Scott Ramsey's curiosity was provoked by tantalizing details in the Bill Steinman book [UFO Crash at Aztec], combined with a reference in Frank Scully's 1950 book, Behind the Flying Saucers. Scully talked about the early detection of an aerial disc by Top Secret radar bases in New Mexico - a dics that was allegedly tracked by radar down through the atmosphere to Aztec, New Mexico... Eventually, Scott and [New Mexico State Representative] Andy [Kissner] confirmed that three powerful radar sites had been built in a triangular configuration to prtect the super secret Los Alamos Laboratory."

The three radar bases Ramsey and Kissner found had been located at Moriarity, New Mexico, which is east of Albuquerque; Continental Divide, New Mexico, west of Albuquerque; and Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico - later named El Vado - which is north of Albuquerque. These bases did indeed exist, were indeed secret, and did in fact form a triangle of sorts around the sensitive sites of Los Alamos, Sandia Nat, and Kirtland Air Force Base.

Unfortunately for the proponents of the Aztec case, things get a bit stickier after that.

The first problem - and it's a big one - is that nowhere in Behind the Flying Saucers is there any mention of secret radar bases. Instead, Dr. Gee explained to Scully, who had apparently asked how the Air Force "stumbled upon these particular ships... [and] know the moment they come in our atmosphere?" that the flying saucer had been tracked by a device he called a "tenescope."

"Dr. Gee replied, ' In the laboratories and also at Alamogordo and Los Alamos and at different parts of the country we have tenescope observers who spend 24 hours a day watching for evidence of objects or ships flying in the sky. Everything that comes within range of these tenescopes is noted. If it is unfamiliar and lands, the Air Force is aware of it almost immediately, and if it presents scientific problems we or other groups are consulted."

According to Dr. Gee, this was how the Aztec ship had been discovered:

"Two tenescopes caught this unidentified ship as it came into our atmosphere. They watched its position and estimated where it would land. Within a few hours after it landed, Air Force officers reached the flying field at Durango, Colorado, and took off in search for the object."

Now, there are many aspects of Behind the Flying Saucers which are patently ridiculous, but this is one of the best. You won't find the word "tenescope" in any dictionary. If you Google it, one entry (that's right - only one) will come up, which states simply that it was a device described only in Behind the Flying Saucers.

Why only one entry? Why no mention in dictionaries? Because there is not now, nor was there ever, such a thing as a "tenescope." Newton and Gebauer made it up.

This is not to say that there was never a mention of radar bases by the con artists. Indeed, a de-classified AFOSI memo from 23 January, 1950, (discussed in more detail in "Leo Gebauer & The Mysterious Dr. Gee") reveals that Newton had been spreading the flying saucer story about to a number of people in Colorado in 1949, including Morley Davies. According to the memo:

"He [Silas Newton] told Davies the flying saucers were landing near Albuquerque, New Mexico, due to the attraction of the radar installation nearby. He presumed that the radar activity had an effect on these saucers since they were powered by a magnetism drawn from the atmosphere."

Apparently, simple radar stations were not exotic enough for Newton and Gebauer, who subsequently invented the "tenescope," which fit in better with their magnetic propulsion stories and allowed them to claim that the devices were even more secret than radar, which was known to the public. As a result, we have Silas Newton telling one story to people like Morley Davies, and then another, later story to Frank Scully, which would be the one that would be printed in Behind the Flying Saucers.

These factors alone are enough to render any further discussion of the "secret radar bases" meaningless. However, it is important to note that even with respect to the radar bases themselves, Moulton Howe and the other Aztec proponents have it all wrong, as an examination of the official record - in this case, the de-classified Special Air Force Historical Study The Air Defense of Atomic Energy Installations: March 1946 - December 1952 - demonstrates.

First, the order from Headquarters USAF to establish an aircraft control and warning system was not issued until 23 April, 1948, with the vital installations to be defended listed as:

"(1) The Air Force Special Weapons Command Facility at Sandia Air Force Base, and Kirtland Air Force Base... ; (2) the Atomic Energy Installation at Los Alamos... ; and (3) the Strategic Air Command's Walker Air Force Base at Roswell, New Mexico."

This was, of course, after the Aztec incident (and the Roswell incident as well) had allegedly occurred.

By July, sites "temporary in nature in that they were in valley locations" for three stations had been selected, at Kirtland AFB, the AEC Installation at Los Alamos, and Walker AFB. In September, 1948,m the 636th AC&W Squadron was transferred from California to Kirtland. In November, 1948, TPS-1B radars were installed at the Kirtland site, which was designated Lashup site 45 (L-45). The Los Alamos site and the Walker station were designated Lashup sites 44 and 46, respectively, in January, 1949, by which time the Kirtland site was operational for "about four hours a day." The Los Alamos early warning site was not active, "because of radar difficulties [and] insufficient manning," until early 1950.

On 5 January, 1950, the new commander of the new active defense area, as the radar sites were called, was ordered to:

"maintain, within the limitations of available equipment, such portions of the Albuquerque Air Defense Area as are required to identify and intercept with unarmed fighters all unauthorised flights within the airspace over the Los Alamos AEC installation in which all flying had been prohibited since January 1948."

As the Historical Study noted, these actions defined the way active air defense operations were to be conducted in the New Mexico area. The problem , however, was that due to:

"the low operational capability of the light equipment assigned the radar stations and the low manning of these organisations... it was not possible to initiate such operations immediately."

By the end of March, 1950, manning and equipping of the three radar stations within the AADA had progressed to the extent that the radar net in that area was capable of operating "twelve hours a day, seven days a week."

Two years after the alleged Aztec incident, the radar stations could still only operate half the time! By July 1950, around the time Behind the Flying Saucers was being released to the public, Headquarters, Western Air Defence Force (which had been organised in late 1949), was studying the problem that the "unsatisfactory radar equipment deployment" in the area was causing. As their report stated:

"The... present radar deployment in the Albuquerque Air Defence Area does not provide adequate sufficient coverage necessary to defend the area."

Needless to say, they were not talking about defending the area from flying saucers, but rather from more "terrestrial" threats.

It was not until mid-January, 1951, that the newly activated AC&W squadrons were moved to the permanent sites, which had been built at El Vado, Moriarity and Gonzales (effectively, Continental Divide). Even then, due to delays in production of the more advanced FPS-3 search radars and FPS-4 height finders (or, in El Vado's case, the FPS-6 height finder), these sites were assigned less effective CPS-5 search radar system and the FPS-5 interim height finder. El Vado was not capable of round the clock operations until February, 1952.

So much for powerful, secret radar bases.

The lessons here?

First, while Scott Ramsey, a friend for whom I have a great deal of respect, is to be commended for diligently tracking down all of this information (he should be able to write an excellent history of the USAF someday, at least as far as the AFOSI and the early defense of North American airspace are concerned), none of it even remotely begins to substantiate the Aztec case. In fact, when you look at the conflicting statements Newton gave people like Davies, compare it with the "tenescopes" described in Behind the Flying Saucers, and then compare both against the real history of the American radar set-up in post-war New Mexico, you end up with further evidence that Aztec was in fact a con by Newton and Gebauer.

Second, when a ufologist - here, Linda Moulton Howe - says something, always check the facts yourself. They may have gotten it wrong, as was the case here.

Third, always remember that truth abhors a vacuum. Perhaps nowhere is that more the case than in the study of the UFO phenomenon, where it's often "the other side of truth" that matters.

Paul Kimball


RRRGroup said...


Again, superb journalistic-like investigation.

I have one small plaint, however.

How do you know that the following statement didn't refer to defensive measures regarding alien craft, as your corollary indicates?
"The... present radar deployment in the Albuquerque Air Defence Area does not provide adequate sufficient coverage necessary to defend the area."

Needless to say, they were not talking about defending the area from flying saucers, but rather from more "terrestrial" threats.
Rich Reynolds

Paul Kimball said...


Common sense, for starters...

Seriously, though, the overall tone of the report is a pretty good indicator, as are histories of the development of air defence during that period. For example, is it any coincidence that two days after North Korea invaded South Korea, U.S. Air defense systems began around-the-clock operations? If they were looking for flying saucers, one would assume they would be doing so around-the-clock from at least 1947, and the Kenneth Arnold sighting. If Roswell was real, definitely they would have been looking around the clock, but they weren't.

The need for an effective air defence system was not brought on by flying saucers, but by the escalation of the Cold War. The Communists, with Soviet support, seized control of Czechoslovakia in February, 1948. On March 5 the situation looked serious enough to prompt General Lucius Clay, the American military governor in Germany (their zone), to warn that World War III might break out "with dramatic suddeness" at any moment. General Spaatz responded by ordering the ADC to establish air defenses in the northeast and northwest sections of the United States and in Alaska. At the time, only ONE radar station was in operation in the continental United States (four were operating part-time in Alaska).

The set-up of the air defense of North America was in direct response to Soviet (ie. terrestrial) threats, not flying saucers, although if radar happened to acquire a flying saucer, one could count that as a bonus, I suppose.


Roger H Werner said...

I've done a little checking of my own. Regardless of what instrument was employed-tenescope, radar or whatever-the fact remains that the AEC did in fact establish three airborne detection installations at the locations you have indicated before March 1948. These were subsequently taken over by the USAF in 1950. The physical evidence for these installations exists and it quite visible today. Scully seems to have altered some of the information receivrf from Newton et al. It is unclear why this was done; perhaps to protect the identies of the various Dr. Gees. As with all research endeavors one must examine the totality of evidence before offering an explanation rather then cherry pick pieces of the story that don't seem to fit. If one examines the totality of the direct evidence the Aztec incident seems real enough with Scully, Dr. Gee, and Frank Scully. Scully didn't create the incident but merely reported it second hand. If we ignore Scully entirely, one is still left to ponder physical evidence and eye witness accounts not mentioned by Scully. If we are to dismiss Aztec as bogus then all of the direct evidence must also be refuted. This would be rather hard to accomplish. I haven't seen anyone fo it yet.

Thom Lyons said...

A few points on this. I lived and worked in Los Alamos 1981-85 and know the area quite well. El Vado is not a town, its a dam. It was the northern most of the three LASHUP stations set up to protect Los Alamos. This portable unit on top of a hill near the dam became active 27 November 1950. Los Alamos itself is next but they had problems there mainly with getting radar people with a high enough security clearance to actually live and work there. The third as mentioned was 10 miles west of Albuquerque.