Frank C. Feschino Jnr. Shoot Them Down: The Flying Saucer Air Wars of 1952. Published by the author, 2007.
The first portion of this book is, I suppose, the sort of thing which would have impressed me had I read it forty years ago as an impressionable teenage UFO buff. The author has clearly done quite a bit of research into the UFO wave of the summer of 1952 and presents some superficially interesting cases. From the vantage point of 2008 we can tell that many of these, even from the details produced here, were classic cases of bright astronomical objects enhanced by autokinesis, others being balloons and meteorites.
The reader can also detect between the lines, the atmosphere of anxiety, bordering on hysteria, in which this great UFO flap took place. An atmosphere in which any ambiguous light in the sky could be seen either as a Soviet fighter or Martian bomber. The two menaces seem to have been interchangeable, as the USA felt besieged by shadowy enemies, and an undefined sense of threat.
Feschino devotes considerable space to reports of poorly explained air crashes which he seeks to link to the UFO wave. While the vast majority of these were no doubt caused by the usual suspects of poor equipment, bad maintenance and over-tired pilots, the two might just be connected, though not in the way suggested by the author. If pilots were seeing all sorts of ambiguous lights in the sky as mysterious menaces, and on occasions shooting at them, then maybe not all those lights were safely distant stars and planets, some might have been other US aircraft. An epidemic of ‘friendly fire’ incidents in the skies of the US would definitely not the sort of thing you want to have broadcast. Just possibly this was one of the reasons why the ETH was hyped at this point, pilots may have been rather more cautious about firing on suspected Martian spaceships than suspected Soviet aircraft.
There is extensive coverage of the Flatwoods story, with witnesses being re-interviewed but of course, this means substituting fifty year old ‘memories’ for contemporaneous reports. The result is that the Flatwoods monster gets reinvented as a sort of cross between one of H. G. Well's Martians and a Dalek - the influence of both being clear.
Flatwoods sets Feschino off into a fantasy realm in which the US Air Force has a shoot-out with alien spaceships, this being the cause of a fatal air accident on the same day. No actual evidence for this exists of course, and the book thereafter descends into what, even forty years ago, I would have recognised as a farrago of nonsense. Needless to say, the said farrago of nonsense is endorsed by professional after-dinner speaker and one-time nuclear engineer, Stanton Friedman. As an after-dinner speaker Friedman is primarily an entertainer and not a scientist, and we have no doubt that he gives the various Elks, Foresters and Rotarians etc. who hire him their money’s worth. However it is difficult to understand why anyone in ufology takes him seriously. | PR |