Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Canada and Flying Saucers, Vol. V [Wilbert Smith - Competent? Credible? - Part 1]

When it comes to judging the reliability of a source, there are two key factors to look at – the first is whether the source is competent, and the second, if he or she passes this hurdle, is whether they are credible.

It is time to lay to rest, once and for all, the contention that Wilbert Smith, Canada’s supposed flying saucer guru, has passed either of these tests, as they relate to the subject of UFOs.

Was Smith competent?

That depends on what you mean by “competent.”

Was he a competent civil servant, who fulfilled the job functions that he was assigned during his tenure in the radio regulations division of the Civil Aviation section of Canada’s Department of Transport? Here the answer is yes. Indeed, as pro-Smith ufologists constantly point out, he won a posthumous award for his contribution to the development of Canada’s broadcast industry.

For Smith's work at the Department of Transport put into proper perspective, see:

(1) http://redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/wilbert-smith-department-of-transport.html;

(2) http://redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/wilbert-smith-department-of-transport_17.html;

(3) http://redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/wilbert-smith-in-perspective-part-i.html;

(4) http://redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/wilbert-smith-only-pawn-in-their-game.html; and

(5) http://redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/wilbert-smith-only-pawn-in-their-game_16.html.

However, by focusing on Smith’s years of service as a bureaucrat and radio engineer as evidence of his “competence,” pro-Smith ufologists like Grant Cameron and Stan Friedman have missed the boat completely. After all, a perfectly competent radio engineer and bureaucrat does not necessarily a perfectly competent scientist make, and it is on the issue of Wilbert Smith’s competence as a scientist, capable of devising, managing and completing experiments and observations related to the UFO phenomenon, that the question of professional competence is relevant.

When this area of his work is examined, the answer as to his competence is different. It is clear that he was not competent. Indeed, this was the conclusion drawn by Dr. Omond Solandt (who was a competent scientist, and then some), who wrote:

“He was not a good scientist… Frank Dawes, head of our telecommunications research Lab and an authority on terrestrial and other magnetism repeated the experiments with Smith and showed that the results obtained by Smith were due to sloppy measurements with uncalibrated equipment. There was nothing in the theory.” [Letter to Christopher Allan, 3 August, 1989]

Smith was not out to objectively examine the subject of UFOs, but was out to prove that UFOs were alien spacecraft. As Solandt said, “He was out to prove that there were UFOs and that the ‘Establishment’ was dedicated to suppressing all knowledge about them.” [Allan letter, ibid.] In other words, he did exactly what a competent scientist or researcher would not do – he formulated his conclusions first, and then conducted his experiments in order to try and make whatever data he found fit his conclusions. On the question of UFOs, he was a conspiracy theorist (and therefore the perfect target for an American disinformation scheme – see www.redstarfilms.blogspot.com/), not a scientist.

This can be seen in his work. Take, for example, his interim report for Project Magnet, from 1952. After a year of experimenting in his part-time, he was unable to offer any results. As Smith admitted, “The results to date have hardly been spectacular and may even be claimed to confirm only what could be expected in the behaviour of fields.” He also admitted that “the limited amount of information available regarding the flying saucers has proven a serious handicap in evaluating the characteristics and salient features of this possible other technology.” Nevertheless, this did not stop him from drawing the conclusion that “flying saucers exist,” demonstrated “strong magnetic fields,” and operated in a very particular manner (“rims rotate; rims not airfoil; rims get hot”).

In 1953, again with no evidence to support this conclusion (and in breech of security, which was supposedly, at least so far as his alleged American sources were concerned, two "points" higher than the hydrogen bomb), Smith gave interviews to reporters in which he stated that there was “a 60 per cent probability that [UFOs] are alien vehicles.” [Winnipeg Free Press, 12 November, 1953]. In his own mind, however, that figure was 100%, as his personal correspondence confirms beyond any reasonable doubt.

This is competence? Hardly.

But, you may ask, surely Smith didn’t just make this stuff up? He must have had something that underpinned his conclusions about aliens?

As it turns out, he did, which leads us to the question of credibility, and the extremely important aspect of Smith’s activities that pro-Smith ufologists rarely, if ever, mention. Instead, embarrassed by the truth, they resort to euphemistic phrases like the one Stan Friedman used in his May 2005 MUFON Journal column:

“Yes, Wilbert had many interests, some of which might displease some people. So what?”

If those interests had included things that were unrelated to UFOs (and so long as they were not criminal), then Stan would have a point. What Stan doesn’t tell you, however – in the process breaking one of his four “rules for debunkers,” i.e. the one that states, “What the public doesn't know, we certainly won't tell them” (http://www.stantonfriedman.com/) – is that the “interests” to which he refers relate directly to Smith’s “study” of the UFO phenomenon, and to his credibility as a source.

Because Wilbert Smith was a “contactee.”

To be continued…

Paul Kimball


The Odd Emperor said...

Pretty interesting.

Of course the “I have a conclusion and I’m now going to prove it scientifically” is not science. At best it’s pseudoscience, at worst it’s faith based circular reasoning. This is one of the largest stumbling blocks between getting UFOlogy recognized as a codified field of research and its current state of (IMO) -- a circus.

Everyone who’s made a reasonable attempt to approach this in an objective, scientific manner has either become a believer (I.E. lost their objectivity) or they’ve been run out of the field by the growing cadre of believers.

The Odd Emperor

Paul Kimball said...

Your Imperial Majesty:

Yup, the 'bleevers have run a good many out of the study of the UFo phenomenon (I see you've had your own recent run-in with one of the more egregious examples of their ilk). Fortunately, there's lots of folks still at it - both "above ground" and "underground" who take it seriously, and who let the chips (i.e. the facts) fall where they may.

Keep up the good work over at the Odd Empire!


Don Maor said...

Dear Paul:

you are heavily missing the point, nobody needs to be reminded about the fact that Smith failed in his quest. That is extremely obvious and need not to be stressed. It is an obvious fact that there are not human flying saucers yet, then you do not need to tell me that Smith failed.

The mistake of Kimball is focusing in the competence of Smith. The fact that must be subjected is NOT whether W. Smith succeded or not in his quest to develop a flying saucer. All the people sometimes succeed or fail. The real point is: Smith was told by someone in USA embassy that Vannevar Bush was involved with saucers research. You have to deal with that Paul.


Paul Kimball said...


Actually, I've dealt with it before. First, you should get your facts right - it wasn't someone at the US embrassy that Smith spoke to, it was a young American scientist, Robert Sarbacher, who, the evidence indicates (there is no other logical explanation for it), was either a witting or unwitting pawn in an intelligence disinformation scheme. I (and others, like Brad Sparks) have deconstructed the information that he supplied Smith, a willing patsy, and shown that it just does not make sense. Bush was far out of the loop in 1950 (his own description, to Truman's science advisor) - he simply would not have been picked by Truman, a man who disliked and distrusted Bush. And more. But the key should be that Sarbacher told Smith that the details in Frank Scully's ridiculous book Behind the Flying Saucers were substantially correct. This was bollocks, to put it as politely as I can.

Paul Kimball

Don Maor said...

Paul: Are you saying that Sarbacher told Smith that V. Bush was involved in saucer research simply to disinform him? no proof of disinformation theory, it just sounds logical to you because extraterrestrial theory just seem to be ilogical, no other reason, i think. may be i am too slow, so i don`t see the disinformation purpose. Would you like to explain such purpose? Knowing that purpose would make me understand a big percentage of the UFO engima. However, It would not be the solution to the Enigma... We still would have the BIG AMOUNT OF UNknown objects sighted since 1947.


Paul Kimball said...


That's not an unreasonable question. First, I would like to stress that I consider it the most logical explanation not because I am anti-ETH (I am not - I consider it a perfectly valid theory) but because the idea that anyone in the United States government, or afiliated with them in any way, as Sarbacher was, would pass along legit information of a super sensitive nature to someone like Wilbert Smith, for all of the reasons I have outlined, is ludicrous. Also, that information was almost certainly bogus if one examines everything that Sarbacher supposedly told Smith (and here we only have Smith's word for the exact details of that conversation) with a critical eye.

Having said that, let me add that the disinformation angle is only a theory, but it is the one that makes the most sense to me given all of the circumstances. It is possible that Sarbacher knew he was disinforming Smith, and it is possible that he did not - that the information had been planted on him, and he just passed it along. Both happen all the time in the intelligence world.

Also, it is important to note that the American intelligence community (and others as well, presumably) have used UFOs as part of a disinformation scheme in the past. This is undisputed.

To what purpose, vis-a-vis Smith? Two possibilities come to mind, to me at least, given the time period in which this occurred (one always has to look at these things in their historical context). The first is that the Americans were trying to send false information along to the Soviets, but not directly. There are a host of reasons why they would do this - for example, if the disinfo came indirectly, from an ally of the US, the target is more inclined to accept it as legitimate. Those ufologists who might tell you this kind of thing doesn't happen in the real world just do not know much about the history of intelligence operations, and how they are conducted. And, in 1950, Canada had a reputation (as did the UK) as a place that leaked (in Canada's case, still living down the Gouzenko affair a couple of years earlier).

This is one possibility - they wanted the Soviets to believe they had recovered flying saucer technology, and tried to leak it to them through Smith, and probably others we may not know anything about.

There is another possibility that makes sense to me. They were trying to leak the information to Canada, to see how we would react, and what we might know, about flying saucers. At the time (and still today), there was definitely a... "complicated" relationship between Canada and the United States. On the one hand, we were (and are) close allies, but on the other hand (and many Americans just don't understand this), there is a current of cultural nationalism that runs through Canadian history, and most of it is directed at the US. Accordingly, we are very wary of our neighbour to the south (one Prime Minister once likened the relationship to "sleeping with an elephant - it's great until the elephant rolls over.") The US was not sharing atomic technology with Canada (and the UK) at the time. There was competition going on - both industrial and military - to build new and better equipment (we Canadians weren't always military patsies - at the end of WWII, for example, we had the world's 4th largest navy, after the US, USSR, and UK) - any Canadian familiar with the AVRO Arrow fighter can cite it to you, chapter and verse. Canada was working on some "far out" projects, as was the United States, with neither knowing completely what the others were up to all the time. And so on.

So, the Americans might have been trying to determine what WE knew, or didn't know, or what WE were up to, or not. They might also have been trying to convince US that they knew something, or were up to something, that they were not. This would not surprise me in the least.

This is an incomplete answer, because the real answer is that I don't know for sure. One can only look at the evidence in its entirety and assess what is more probable, what is more logical, in an objective way. It is neither probable nor logical that Smith would have been given real sensitive information by the United States - ergo, there must be some other reason. The ones I have suggested above may be true, or they may not. But they are both more likely, given all of the circumstances, than the one that pro-Smith ufologists have been trotting around for decades now.

Paul Kimball

Paul Kimball said...




There were things about British and Canadian research wanted to know more about - including flying saucers.


Don Maor said...

Paul, You have to admit one thing: Both your theories, the canadian disinfomation theory, and the russian (via canada) disinformation theory, seem to be much more plausible provided with fact that USA in fact HAD recovered ET saucers. The other scenario: that USA did not recover anything does not make sufficient merits to support such a disinformation act. Anyway, it is a good proof that USA government had VERY good reasons to be very worried about the saucer problem... On the other hand, the Sarbacher interviews of 1983 seem to point towards the fact the he indeed was convinced about what he was saying. It would be strange that a person would still be holding a story for about 32 years knowing it was "bollock". is not it? the purposes of disinformation should not hold for about 32 years. therefore, the only possibility is that Sarbacher was an unwitting agent in this scenario. I do not really see where is the big contradiction in sarbacher's reports. I do not also see why would a disinformation act would have internal contradictions. As long as he said, he was not full dedicated to the saucers, he was a consultant, so he did not know all. He said, he once was invited to visit a crash site, but has bussiness to attend, so he could not go. BUT HE SAID IT IN 1983, this fact does not fit too much with the disinformation theory. Absolutely on other hand, i have read the 1953 Keyhoe's ufo book and it brings many conversations between Smith and Keyhoe. Those conversations show a very reasonable Smith, with obvious interests in Saucers and possible ET technology. Permit me to say that it absolutely does not show a crazy or unbalanced Smith. The interest in UFOs is an obvious tendency required to make a man to search for diplomatic contacts at other countryes. As appears in the Friedman's and Berliner's book, Crash At Corona, years later Smith got crazy. But looking at Keyhoes book it is obvious that Smith was in good mental health at least before 1952, wich is the relevant period of time. I think you are putting the things in a very infairly way to Smith.

Don Maor said...

excuse me if i have writing mistakes, i am not a native english speaker.

Paul Kimball said...


With respect, Smith's views, and his work, speak for themselves, and not in a positive way. And the fact that the United States might have been pulling a disinformation scheme doesn't mean that they had flying saucers in their possession at all - their disinformation efforts with respect to Paul Benenwitz, for example, had nothing to do with UFOs; in fact, they were using UFOs (and some ufologists) to distract attention away from other work that they were doing. It is entirely plausible that this is what they were doing in the 1950s, when there are any number of intelligence memos that indicate the US was considering using UFOs for just that purpose. As I said, however, this is only one theory to explain the Smith story. There may be others. There is one theory that DOES NOT make any sense, however - that Wilbert Smith, contactee, blabbermouth, and mid level career civil servant, was somehow let in on the biggest secret in the United States. Alas, that is the one that certain ufologists have clung to for years now - not because it is true, but because it re-inforces their beliefs about certain things. In that respect, they are not entirely disimilar to Smith.

And as for Smith's mental state, I don't think he was crazy. That's a false division that ufologists have used - oh, they say, Smith was crazy at the end, when he started talking about contactees, and his alien pals, but not when he was working on top secret projects. And yet the fact is that Smith made it very clear that he was a contactee AT THE SAME TIME as he was supposedly working on these government projects (which the pro-Smith ufologists have also repeatedly mischaracterized, for their own purposes).

As for Sarbacher holding onto a story for over 30 years, if he was part of it, then of course he would. In fact, Stan Friedman, in bashing Nick Redfern's new theory about Roswell (and I do not agree with Nick re: his theory - here I agree with Stan) has stated that he believes Nick was disinformed. By whom? Men and women who were in their 70s and 80s, and long since retired from intelligence / government work.

Conversely, it is possible that Sarbacher was just a conduit for the information - in essence, he was told it by others in the late 1940s and 1950s, and then spread those phoney stories to Smith (remember, he never saw anything).

Personally, I suspect it was the former, but either is possible.

The shame of this is that the history of the UFO phenomenon in Canada (the REAl one, not the phoney Smith one) is fascinating, with lots of good, unexplained cases that should be examined. And yet all of that has been lost in the focus on Smith, and the "Cosmic Watergate."


P.S. No need to worry about the English - seems fine to me! :-)

Don Maor said...

Well, reading the Smith Memo, and the talkings between Keyhoe and Smith, one simply can not say that Smith was crazy nor delusional. And that is a fact.

"The cosmic watergate" way is the only way to obtain results. The analysis of photographies is not giving more results anymore. It already has yield the extraterrestrial hypotesis. now what we need is a proof.

Paul Kimball said...


Of course one can state it, because it is the truth, based on the evidence.

But, to each their own. If belief is what you're into, fair enough, and good luck to you. For my part, I am tired of dealing with folks who just won't look objectively at the evidence.

Paul Kimball