Soon after the flood of flying saucer sightings began in June 1947, Air Force Intelligence at the Pentagon asked the FBI to investigate people who reported saucer sightings. The Pentagon wanted to be certain that no sightings were generated by communist subversives or sympathizers who might try to undermine the confidence of American citizens in the ability of the Air Force to control the skies. Thus was formed a link between Air Force Intelligence and the FBI, a link that would act as a window on Air Force activities for well over a decade.
During this time the FBI was alternately told by the Air Force that saucer sightings were all explainable and insignificant, or that some sightings could not be explained and that continued reporting and investigation were necessary. In the summer of 1952, when there were hundreds of sightings in the U.S.-including sightings over Washington, D.C.-the FBI decided to find out what the Air Force really thought was happening. On July 29, 1952, the same day that the general in charge of Air Force Intelligence, John Samford, told the American press that all sightings were natural phenomena, Air Force Intelligence told the FBI that a small percentage of the sightings could not be explained and that military officials were considering that some sightings might be of “ships from another planet.” If General Samford had said that at the press conference, the history of the subject probably would be different.
Over the next few years, the FBI received one or two reports per year (while the Air Force was still receiving hundreds per year). Two of these are worthy of mention.
Senator Richard Russell saw two flying saucers while he was riding on a train. Now, by itself this wouldn’t seem very important. There have been other reports by people on trains. However, those other people were not in charge of the Senate Armed Services Committee-Richard Russell was! And those other people were not riding through Russia when they had their sightings. Russell was. When those other people told their stories, few people paid any attention. But when Russell told his story, the FBI and the CIA sat right up and listened closely. According to the records of the Air Force, CIA, and FBI, this is what happened.
It occurred on October 4, 1955, at dusk, while the Senator, Col. E. U. Hathaway (a U.S. Army Staff officer assigned to the Senate Armed Services Committee), Reuben Efron (a committee consultant who was keeping records and acting as interpreter), and another businessman (possibly a covert CIA agent) were riding on a train through the Baku area of the Soviet Union near the Caspian Sea. Russell, who was not feeling well at the time, was alone in one compartment with the lights off, while the others were in the next compartment talking with the lights on. Russell happened to be looking outside when he saw a yellow-green light rise vertically upward from a location some distance south of the train. It moved upward at a moderate speed from some initial altitude to a higher altitude, and then accelerated and traveled northward, passing directly over the moving train. He ran into the next compartment and yelled, “Did you see that out there? I just saw a flying saucer!”
The three men in the compartment had not been looking outside. They turned out the lights and all four looked out the window. “I saw it coming up from over there. Here it is coming up again.” Suddenly a second one repeated the performance. After the second one had disappeared over the train, Russell said, “We saw a flying saucer. I wanted you boys to see it so I would have witnesses.”
The verbal descriptions and the illustration presented by Col. Hathaway and Mr. Efron to the Air Attaché at the embassy in Prague ten days later indicate that they saw a rotating, circular craft with two stationary lights. The Air Attaché wrote a report on what he was told and sent it to the Air Force. His report begins with the following statement by Hathaway:
“I doubt if you’re going to believe this, but we all saw it. Senator Russell was the first to see this flying saucer, and he called us to the window and we both [Hathaway and Efron] saw the second one. We’ve been told for years that there isn’t such a thing. but all of us saw it. There were two lights towards the inside of the disk which remained stationary as the outer surface went around. The lights sat near the top of the disk. The aircraft was circular [and] resembled a flying saucer. [It was] revolving clockwise or to the right. There was no noticeable color. The disk rose in the same position as it was in when it sped away. Some sparking or flame came out of the bottom as the craft rose.”
The report contains an illustration showing an object that was flat on the bottom with a raised portion or dome on the top. The witnesses saw no protrusions or anything like wings.
The Air Attaché’s report also included conventional intelligence information on Soviet aircraft, radar installations, and railroads which had been observed by Senator Russell’s party during their trip. The report was classified Top Secret until 1959, when it was downgraded to Secret. It was not released until 1985.