Letter from Gordon David
Thayer to Martin Shough
10 Jan 1988
(edited of some personal and irrelevant material)
[edited] Now, as to jenny's article. Since my last letter (it was just last year, was it not?) I have located the material that I had mentioned. My memory was in error -- it did not come from Stan Friedman but from a man in Illinois, Jerome Clark, who mailed it to me in August of 1981. He stated in a letter "she's a friend of mine." He heard about me through Brad Sparks (APRO). Mr. Clark sent me a copy of a two-page letter that Jenny had sent him previously. It, in turn, contains Jenny's transcription of a letter forwarded to her by the Daily Express from one of the persons at Ely who had witnessed the events. For some reason (probably lack of time) I never followed up on this lead, although it appeared most intriguing to me at the time. I have enclosed a copy of Jenny's letter. Hope it may be of some help to you.
I'm afraid that I must agree with Jenny that the Colorado project was not innocent in execution either; I had rather hoped that the article I sent you would be sufficient to indicate this to you. Simply put, Condon had his mind made up from the very beginning that UFOs were bunk. He fully intended to say so in the final report -- and he did of course -- even if it meant completely disregarding the actual contents of the report -- which he also did. If that's innocent I'm a monkey's uncle.
I must admit that I never entertained the suspicions about Bob Low's note on the leter to Quintanilla that seemed to spring so naturally into your mind. Now that you have brought it to my attention, I can easily see that such an interpretation might be reasonable under the circumstances. I had always thought that Bob Low was the one who was being naive -- implying that the case would never have been classified simply because it would not have been worth classifying, this going along with his (and Condon's shared) belief that UFOs were merely nonsense. But of course it was classified -- secret (not merely confidential, which was a lower option at the time). The only thing I can see that seems to argue against your case is that it would have been more likely that Quintanilla would NOT have declassified the IDO-7-335/BOI-485 reports when brought to his attention by Low's letter. If he had left them secret this would have made a good excuse not to have given them to the CU project. (The project did have some classified documents; they were kept in a safe. But I was not given access to these: it was not deemed necessary, and it was too late to get a "need to know" for me at that point anyway. Bob Low would have known this, I believe.) Nevertheless, Quintanilla did not send us anything at first. It was not until I asked if there were any Bluebook reports on Lakenheath that Roy Craig discovered that Quintanilla had never responded to Bob Low's inquiry; he promptly sent another request. This time Quintanilla did respond, but not with the Lakenheath documents, only the near-useless IR-1-56. Only after we had sent a third request did Quintanilla, apparently grudgingly, send us the Lakenheath reports (and by then it was almost too late to make any use of them anyway--mission accomplished!).
As to the SRI report, your second premise must be the correct one. I know for a fact that Condon was unaware that the SRI report would not consider any specific UFO incidents. He was furious about it. Roy Craig played for me a two-hour tape of a phone conversation that he had with one of the principal investigators for SRI, during which conversation the matter of the specific incidents arose. The SRI PI read to Roy the section of the contract that said they did not have to do any such thing. Roy thought that it was merely a communications breakdown. I see now that it may have been something more sinister than that! [ . . . .]
Incidentally, I am almost 100 percent sure that Blue Book never got any UFO report from Bentwaters. They may have been confused -- for sure! -- but there was never any evidence that they lost UFO reports. After all, filing reports was almost all they had to do. They were very thorough. I see now that the lack of a Bentwaters AFR-200 report may be significant. It seems likely that they might have waited to see what came of the Lakenheath events before filing their own report, and that just might have been enough time for the CIA spooks to have suppressed it, even though the Lakenheath TWX had already gone out (BOI-485 is merely a retransmittal of IDQ-7-335 by HQ, although why they did this, I don't know. I do know that the transmittal list is different on the two TWXs).
I am sorry to have to confuse you still further about the group echoes at Bentwaters, but I must point out that I have not changed my mind as regards the partial reflection theory. There are two kinds of partial reflection: specular and incoherent. Specular reflections, as the term implies, are coherent, as if reflected from a mirror (well, approximately, anyway). These are usually caused by layers of sharply-different refractive index that normally lie more or less horizontally in the atmosphere. These would be unlikely, in and of themselves, to have caused anything like the behavior of the Bentwaters group echoes. Incoherent echoes are usually caused by CAT, as you mention. This type of reflection is more often described as "forward scatter." If produced by CAT (in the normal sense of the term) such scattering would not cause the kind of echoes seen at Bentwaters that night. The likely culprit, if indeed these echoes were caused by an atmospheric process, is a sort of border-line case. This occurs when two layers of air having a sharp difference in temperature and/or humidity are moving with respect to each other. In other words, there is a wind shear across the boundary. When this happens small perturbations in the flow can cause wave-like phenomena to "glide" along the interface between the two layers. This produces patches of high reflectivity that can cause a radar beam to be partially reflected in much the same manner as the smooth layer, except that the magnitude of the reflection may be much higher over small local areas of the boundary layer (because of the angle with respect to the horizon and also local concentrations of refractivity gradient). In this way reflective patches may be set up that will return radar energy back to the transmitter (from ground targets further away). These patches will then produce exactly the type of pattern observed by Whenry: an apparent group of moving targets.
That these patterns tend to come and go can easily be overlooked by the radar operator, or even masked by the antenna rotation period. If there are 12 targets on one sweep and 14 on the next, perhaps slightly displaced from where they ought to have shown up, the radar operator will usually assume that they represent the same group of objects he saw on the previous sweep. This mechanism is most effective when the wind speeds are (1) fairly low (say, under 40 knots or so), (5) the wind shears are not large, and (3) the wind speeds generally increase with altitude. These are precisely the conditions at Bentwaters that night. These patches, by the way, can and usually do move at a slight angle to the prevailing winds (10 to 20 degrees or so) and at a different speed, either faster or slower than the prevailing wind speed near the layer boundary (or boundaries -- multiple layers of this type are common).
I know it is hard to visualize some of this, but there is a simple experiment you can try yourself that will illustrate some of the principles involved. Try throwing a small pebble into a pool of still water and observe the waves produced by it. If you watch carefully you will notice that the speed of the individual waves is rather greater than the speed of the group of waves that spreads out from the point of impact. The individual waves will be seen to disappear at the front edge of the wave-group, while new waves are being formed continuously at the back of the group. Fixing your gaze on one of the little waves near the "back of the pack" and following it from there to its eventual dissolution at the front edge should be sufficient to convince you of the truth of this description.
I do agree that all of the things I mentioned about the group echoes could be consistent with targets that were real objects. The reason I said that the facts "suggested" AP is that they are all consistent with the hypothesis. Real objects could also act this way, true enough, but the observed behavior seems to be "unusual" for real targets, whereas the type of AP I have in mind here is already known to act typically in such a manner. Remember -- l'm not saying they were AP echoes; I just say it seems likely they were. There is no certainty in this business! (Short of having little green men land on the White House lawn on Inauguration Day...and if wishes were horses beggars would ride....)
I'm afraid that I have not progressed far enough with my ideas on a book about Lakenheath to have anything really concrete to offer at this point. I will give it some thought in the next few weeks. The one thing I had thought of was to somehow force it into the kind of format that has been popular with novel-writers recently. You know, the kind that have one chapter "by" one of the characters and the next "by" another. In this way we might be able to come up with a sort of narrative-style book on the Lakenheath case in which inclusion of things like my Colorado project story might fall naturally. I haven't, however, progressed any further than this with the idea. Anything you could come up with would be more than welcome. It could be fun - sort of like a jig-saw puzzle where we would have to fit the pieces together so that they make some sense.
Re your follow-up letters: I knew that the 60th AAA was an Anti-Aircraft Artillery unit. I had always supposed that the CPN-4 radar mentioned in the TWXs was their radar. Perkins never mentioned another radar, but I suppose that there might have been one. It does seem strange to use a CPN-4 for AA purposes. Perkins has stated on several occasions that they had used the CPS-5 for RATCC purposes for a few months prior to the UFO episode. A modification was made to the radar, however, just before the UFO event. It may be that the "official" dedication of the RATCC was held up until the completion of these mods to the radar. We could ask Perkins about it I suppose.
I agree with most of your comments about Freddie. I should point out, however, that there is a possible explanation to the Squadron-Leader/Flight Lieutenant discrepancy: I don't know about the RAF, but in the US armed -forces a person can be given a temporary rating (I was, for example -- all promotions of draftees during the Korean war were temporary above the rank of PFC). When his tour of duty is over, his rank reverts to the permanent grade. Also, it is common practice in the US armed forces to give individuals an "acting" rank. Perhaps Freddie was an "acting" Squadron Leader, and his permanent rank was Flight Lieutenant?
But I agree with your comments in general.
I did work on the SCR-584. This was a van-mounted tracking radar, but it did not have "gun-laying" capability. A later model of the same radar, called the SCR-784, did, however, have gun-laying capability; it was, in fact, made for just this purpose. It was mounted on an open trailer and was meant to be coordinated with nearby AA artillery units. There was a later radar, brand new in 1953 when I first saw it, whose designation I no longer recall (I think it began with the letter "M" and the number began with a "9"). It was an x-band, high speed gun-laying radar with an automatic target acquisition mode. The one we saw was positioned alongside a two-storey building. While the instructor was demonstrating it an aircraft chanced to fly overhead, coming over the top of the building. The speed with which that radar swiveled its antenna to lock on to the aircraft was really impressive. It is quite possible that one of these radars could have been in use at Lakenheath within three years of the time I saw it -- that is, in 1956. All of these radars include imaging systems (usually PPI and RHI scopes). In the case of the super-fast radar, the system allowed the operator to over-ride the automatic target acquisition feature so targets could be chosen at will. Once the operator had guided the antenna to a target on the scopes, the radar could be switched back into automatic mode.
I hope all of this is of some use to you. Please let me know what I can do to help with your investigations.
G. David Thayer
encl: letter from Jerome Clark, 7 Aug 1981, incl. copy of letter from Jenny Randles