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Incident 40 - UFO

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Incident 40 - UFO

"Incident 40" includes photos of a suspected UFO and possibly one of the first appearances of the "Men in Black". When people interested in the subject of UFOs hear the name of the city of Phoenix, Arizona, most immediately recall the famous incident "Phoenix Lights" of 1997. But it turns out that numerous cases of anomalous unidentified objects in our sky have been observed in Phoenix for a long time. In fact, such reports date back to the earliest days of what is considered the "modern history" of ufology, and the United States Government has shown considerable interest in many of them. One such sighting was reported on the same day as the infamous Roswell disaster, although it attracted much less media attention. However, this event caused a lengthy investigation by the US Air Force, which lasted for several years.

The event in question took place in Phoenix, Arizona, late on the evening of July 7, 1947. William A. Rhodes, a professional musician and amateur photographer, radio operator and electronics enthusiast, was leaving home to go to his workshop, which he built in the backyard, when he heard a curious noise coming from the west. According to the witness, he did not see anything in that direction from his yard, but quickly noticed an unusual sight in the northeast. He described it as an elliptical, flat, gray object measuring 20-30 feet across, moving at 400-600 miles per hour, spiraling down from an altitude of about 5,000 feet to 2,000 feet. Rhodes quickly ran to his workshop and picked up a Kodak Brownie 120 camera. Returning to the street, he took one photo of the object as it approached the lower trajectory, and another after it finished its spiral fall and began to accelerate rapidly upwards at an angle of 45 degrees.

William A. Rhodes saucer

After the object disappeared into the sky, Rhodes wasted no time sharing his impressions with the Arizona Republic newspaper. The next day, an article with two photos taken by an eyewitness appeared on the front page of the newspaper, which caused a considerable stir. William Rhodes did not know that the federal government found out about this story almost immediately and became interested in his story. This was followed by an investigation that lasted more than five years, and Rhodes' personal journey, which was not always positive. His story became part of the project "Offense", called simply "Incident 40", and later - the project "Blue Book". And his story may have become one of the earliest recorded appearances of people who are called "men in black" in UFO mythology.

The investigation begins

In the following weeks, Rhodes gave interviews to many newspapers and magazines. Many media outlets of that time were extremely interested in the topic of "flying saucers", since just two weeks earlier the world learned about Kenneth Arnold's infamous message about numerous mysterious aircraft spotted near Mount Ranier in Washington State. The press mistakenly reported that Arnold described these ships as "flying saucers", but the name stuck. It is worth noting that the photos of Mr. Rhodes eerily coincided with the real description that Arnold gave to the aircraft he observed, and this fact will be noted later in the investigation of Project Grudge.

Rhodes' observation could also have been quickly pushed off the front pages of newspapers, because by some cosmic coincidence (if that was the case) it happened on the same day that a newspaper in Roswell, New Mexico, reported the famous discovery of a "flying disk", which eventually became the benchmark for all UFO reports of that era.

Flying saucer

When William Rhodes told his story to the world, he did not know that military and government officials were aware of it and almost immediately began to study his message. Within 24 hours after the Arizona Republic newspaper reported the incident on July 8, 1947, the newspaper was contacted by representatives of the Air Force with a request to provide copies of two photographs provided to them. The newspaper complied with the request.

All this was documented in the protocols of the investigation of the project "Blue Book", which are now stored in the National Archive Catalog. It is also worth noting that the name of William Rhodes has been edited in all the documents to which we will refer and cite here, with the exception of one case when the name "Rhodes" was left untouched. However, publicly available media materials leave no doubt that this particular case is being investigated, and his identity has never been hidden in his public interviews and speeches.

Although the attention of the world community may have quickly shifted to other stories about potentially unearthly phenomena, the attention of the government has not weakened. Inquiries were made through a number of Air Force and federal intelligence agencies offices about what Rhodes had seen. All this information was sent to several departments, including the Air Force Logistics Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Coordinating with other federal agencies, an interview with Rhodes himself was eventually arranged, which took place at the end of August 1947, less than a month after the observation. What happened next may have served as the basis for a number of long-standing theories about how the US federal government views issues related to UFO sightings.

Arrival of the men in Black

On August 9, 1947, an interview with William Rhodes was scheduled. He was interviewed by Special Agent George Fugate Jr. of the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) and Special Agent Brower (not named) of the FBI. Curiously, if Special Agent Fugate later revealed his identity, the agents were initially presented only as "representatives of the United States government." In later interviews, Special Agent Brower stated that he considered hiding his identity an "unusual procedure", but it was "none of his business", and he continued the interview. Rhodes was asked for his original photographs of the ship and negatives from his camera. He handed over the photos, but informed the agents that there were no negatives at his house, but he would give them back the next day, which he did. He was also informed that it was "unlikely" that the photographs and negatives would be returned to him.

This is an unusual part of the recording. A few photographs of FBI agents from the 1950s show that they usually came to assignments in a stereotypical men's black business suit and dress shoes. (In the modern era, when law enforcement officers of any level visit citizens, the standard procedure is to present a valid identity card indicating the department in which they work and the reasons for the visit. This was not the case with Special Agent Brower in 1947. And this information did not come to us from some conspiracy UFO publication. This information is documented in archived government reports.

The reader may well wonder if this was some kind of unique approach proposed by Fugate, or if it was a standard approach in UFO investigations. If the latter, then perhaps Special Agent Brower was unwittingly recruited as one of the first documented "men in black". Anonymous people in official attire claiming to be "from the government" ask a witness to hand over evidence to them, which is quite consistent with the legend of the "men in black". However, William Rhodes was unhappy with the seizure of his evidence, which led to complications in the subsequent investigation.

Unusual twists of the government investigation

Although the investigation conducted by various units of the US military and intelligence services began literally the day after William Rhodes photographed something unusual in the sky near his home, it stretched for several years. Even before Rhodes was questioned at the end of August 1947, inquiries were made about the photographs he submitted. Some of these investigations were indeed of a technical nature, the reliability of the images, the weather conditions at that time and other data that could confirm or refute the witness's statements were studied.

UFO sightings

But at the same time, when investigators were checking the possibility that "flying disks" were seen over Phoenix, they studied William Rhodes himself even more deeply. The materials of the investigation, which were later collected as part of the "Offense" project, clearly show that the government studied almost all aspects of Rhodes' life to determine the "nature of his character" and how "patriotic" a citizen he was.

Numerous reports have shown that the government requested complete information about Rhodes' credit history, as well as his personal history, while his neighbors were interviewed to determine what kind of person he was. An early report stated that "there are other undesirable aspects to this case. The nature of the observer and his business connections are currently being investigated." Subsequent reports show that the investigation became interested in many aspects of Rhodes' life that had nothing to do with unidentified aerial phenomena.

As a result of these investigations, reports were compiled that dealt with very private issues. One of the reports recorded that his mother was a Russian emigrant, and it was suggested that the family's loyalty could lie elsewhere. It was noted that he was a musician and that his wife was the only source of income for the family. The report claimed that Rhodes is "not religious and is a registered Democrat," as well as that he "did not vote in the last election." All this was recorded, despite the fact that interviews with his neighbors showed that he is a "great neighbor" who "devotes a lot of time to community projects."

Conclusions on incident 40 were drawn in two different directions

The final investigation reports were contradictory in many ways. Some investigators found the fact of observation very convincing, while others completely wrote it off. But it was clear that there were questions for Rhodes from the very beginning. One of the reports, in particular, emphasized the division of opinion on both the photographic evidence and the credibility of the witness. On the first page of the report, the investigators concluded that "no astronomical explanation is possible for the unusual object mentioned in this incident." It goes on to say: "This case is particularly important because of the photographic evidence and because of the similarity of these photos to the drawings [edited] in Incident 17." (Incident 17 is a meeting with Kenneth Arnold).

The report goes on to say that "these two most reliable, completely independent cases should coincide so closely with respect to the shape of the object and its maneuverability." The report goes on to say that incident 40 is "one of the most important in the history of these facilities," and recommends further investigation and gathering more evidence.

Flying saucers

But on the second page of the same report, a disclaimer is added. Having completely changed the situation, he warns that "there remains a high probability that this whole incident is far-fetched and is an invention of an excited mind. This reinforces the need for a second investigation. If this is a far-fetched fact, then it should be emphasized and even made public in order to suppress enthusiasm for irresponsible reports about "saucers" and similar objects." Similar alternations of support for the reliability of Rhodes' observation and the possibility that it was completely a hoax continue throughout the documents.

But one person who seemed to lean towards the credibility of Incident 40 was J. Allen Heineck. In his analysis of the reports listed in the "Project Grudge", he divided all observations into three categories with several subcategories for each. Category 1 covered astronomical phenomena such as meteors, stars, planets, or related natural lights in the sky. Category 2 has been described as "non-astronomical phenomena, but suggesting other explanations." It included objects such as balloons, ordinary planes, rockets, flares, birds or other ordinary things that are regularly observed. Category 3 was reserved for events characterized as "non-astronomical, with no obvious explanation." He divided this category into subsection (3.a), which was written off as "lack of evidence precluding explanation". Category (3.b) was defined as "Evidence offered: Suggests a lack of explanation." Incident 40 is included in category (3.b).

What happened to the photos and negatives?

One of the main points of contention in the entire Incident 40 case was what became of the photographs and negatives from William Rhodes' cell after the initial investigation in 1947. By 1952, the BBC somehow found out that Rhodes had been in contact with the magazine that published his story and was asking about the possibility of suing the government to get the negatives back. This seems to have caused some confusion among government officials who studied the fact of the surveillance, as a result of which the Air Force Intelligence Directorate at Wright-Patterson reported that they had no negatives, but if they were found, they should be returned to Rhodes "with an apology" to "avoid a stir in the press."

This caused the Air Force Intelligence Directorate (AFOIN) to send a letter to Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, known for the Blue Book project, with a request to "return the negatives to us as soon as possible." Ruppelt was assured that if the negatives were returned, copies would be made for his recordings. Ruppelt quickly responded, stating that there were no negatives in his office. He also went further, saying he wasn't even sure if Rhodes had sent the negatives to the government, saying his office had concluded that the photos "probably aren't authentic." He further suggested that Rhodes was trying to join a "gang selling photographs," and if the government confirmed that they had the negatives, it could lead to an "unpleasant situation."

UFO sightings

However, these questions about the origin and ownership of the negatives are not supported by government documents. The routing and accounting sheet shows that the negatives were in the possession of the Technical Projects Department of the Air Materials Command at Wright-Patterson on February 19, 1948. Other records in the archive show that the negatives were examined and analyzed by various experts to determine the equipment used for the shooting, the type of film used and the possible authenticity of the images. While it is possible that Ruppelt's office had somehow lost the negatives by the time the investigation was coming to an end, it remains documented that the negatives had been moving back and forth between Wright-Patterson and other offices for some time.


Fifteen Minutes of Fame" by William A. Rhodes came and went pretty quickly in July and August 1947. Perhaps this was because he reported his observation and presented his photos to the local media only two weeks after Kenneth Arnold attracted national attention, and the world learned about the Roswell incident the day after his message hit the press. But behind the scenes, the government found a reason to describe his report as one of the "two most confirmed, completely independent cases" of UFO sightings. Even J. Allen Hynek found the evidence convincing, with no obvious alternative explanation.

Although some government experts tried to call Rhodes an oddball, interviews with his neighbors and relatives described him as a scientifically minded person who was interested in astronomy, radio and television technology and photography from an early age. Skeptics can reasonably point out that the time when he saw the phenomenon was "on the tail" of Kenneth Arnold's phenomenon, but the similarity between these two phenomena was recognized even by the Blue Book project. In addition, Rhodes' interest in all these technologies arose much earlier than modern stories about strange objects in the sky appeared. And his documented experience of communicating with those whom we can call "Men in Black" today gives reason to wonder if this event was something significant in the history of ufology.

As always in such early cases, the conclusions are left to the discretion of the observer. But what is known as "Incident 40" in the files of "Project Grudge" and "Project Blue Book" may deserve closer attention of those who study the parallels between the earliest days of our research on these subjects and what is happening today in the new investigative offices of the Pentagon's UAP.

Related tags:

Phoenix  Arizona  UFO  sightings  1947  incident  report  men in black

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