UFO UpDates
A mailing list for the study of UFO-related phenomena
'Its All Here In Black & White'
Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > May > May 24

Horten Wings [was: U.S. Department Of Defense On

From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2007 19:06:49 +0100
Fwd Date: Thu, 24 May 2007 10:44:27 -0400
Subject: Horten Wings [was: U.S. Department Of Defense On

>From: Steven Kaeser <steve.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Tue, 22 May 2007 18:06:28 -0400
>Subject: Re: U.S. Department Of Defense On UFOs

>>From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
>>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>>Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 14:10:47 +0100
>>Subject: Re: U.S. Department Of Defense On UFOs


>>One can always make that argument that *if* the objects reported
>>by Arnold *did* strongly resemble the Horten wings in shape (and
>>I suppose nobody can argue with that - they did), and if there
>>was some chance that Horten designs might have been flown in the
>>US in June 1947, then probability favours the conclusion that
>>Arnold must have misjudged the speed/distance of unfamiliar
>>aeroforms by a factor 3 or something. But that depends on it
>>being likely that Horten designs were in use in the US at that

>The Chairman of the Fund for UFO Research, Don Berliner, wanted
>to respond:


>Martin Shough thinks that "nobody can argue with" the claim that
>"the objects reported by (Kenneth) Arnold 'did' strongly
>resemble the Horton (flying) wings...."

>I can argue and am doing so.

>The description in Kenneth Arnold's initial written report to
>the U.S. Army Air Forces, a few weeks after his 6/24/47
>experience, is of objects "longer than wide" and his simple
>sketch shows an oval with its tail end slightly pointed, and
>bearing no similarity to the Ho.IX, which was a slightly-swept
>flying wing with a wingspan of 55' and length of 24' 6".

>The idea that the objects were crescent-shaped did not appear
>until 1952, when an article in Fate magazine included a photo
>of Arnold with a model of a crescent-shaped airplane or UFO.

>Don B.

Hi Don

Well yes, I've already been mildly taken to task off-List by
Brad Sparks for this and I've conceded that saying "strongly
resemble" was overstating the case. But I still think a case can
be made for a resemblance (not that I'm strongly motivated to do
so). More importantly I think the whole question of Arnold's
various descriptions is complicated and problematical.

To adapt and expand on what I've already said to Brad, yes it's
true that Arnold's fully-developed Horten-like batwing or
crescent with the pointy bit on the back dates from a few years
later. In fact in his book - perhaps we should say "Palmer's
book" in this context - it appears in the picture section as "a
photo of a model" of what Arnold saw, which isn't even
attributed directly to Arnold. But still, by implication he is
endorsing it, and there is a photograph on P1947 at


of Arnold holding an enlargement of this same picture and
pointing at it with, I would say, great definiteness. Later
still he said that one of the objects was "...a very wraith-like
looking thing, but it wasn't round at all" and referred to its
"wingspan" (whilst the others had a "little peak at the rear"
that made him think of tadpoles).

But it's also true that his July 1947 letter to the AF has a
sketch that looks more nearly disc-like. Did Arnold change his
story in this rather basic particular between 1947 and 1952? If
Don is right, then he must have done. But why, I wonder? Had
someone exposed him to the Horten design in the meantime and
convinced him he must have been mistaken?

Maybe, but in his radio interview on June 26 1947 two days after
the sighting he already described "half a pie plate with a
convex triangle at the rear":

"I kept looking for their tails, and they didn't have any tail.
. . . I could see them only plainly when they seemed to tip
their wing, or whatever it was, and the sun flashed on them.
They looked something like a pie plate that was cut in half with
a sort of a convex triangle in the rear. Now, I thought, well,
that maybe they're jet planes with just the tails painted green
or brown or something..."

I accept that this can easily be interpreted as matching the
sketch in his AF letter that July, showing a semi-circular
leading edge with the trailing edge cut to a rounded "V", but I
fancy it can also be read as having some of the characteristics
of the Horten-style wing he endorsed later. And in early
statements he repeatedly described "wings", he said he looked
for the "tails" that ought to have gone with the wings but was
never able to see tails, convincing him that they were not the
shape of normal aircraft. Together with the "batwing" model
later endorsed by him, and the "pecking" flight characteristic,
all this suggests some _resemblance_ to a Horten-style craft
with the innate pitch instability of a flying wing.

I admit his early sketch shows a much lower aspect ratio wing
and if the trailing-edge "V" has any relation to the vestigial
"V" fuselage on a Horten then it's a stretch. But my feeling is
that these shapes are kind of topologically related, i.e. his
planform can be transformed from a Horten shape in a continuous
operation and retains the basic clean leading swept edge and two
"bites" out of the trailing edge leaving a tail point - as
though the ghost of a Horten is in there somewhere, perhaps
inside an evolved design and/or a corrupted observation. How
good an artist was Arnold? I don't know. And as Brad Sparks
points out there is internal evidence in Arnold's report that
the visual resolution was (being generous) probably not as good
as his account suggest it was. Maybe the best he could do was a
very bad sketch of a shape only vaguely perceived?

I'm not really convinced by the "bad artist" theory, though, and
Brad would argue that Arnold couldn't have made out any shape at
all and so must have improvised _all_ descriptions of object
shape. Yet he did explicitly describe object shape from the
start. He repeatedly says that he was able to make out shape
"clearly" and "quite plainly", especially as the objects passed
in front of the snow, and underlines that by saying that towards
the end of the sighting they dwindled until he wasn't able to
make out shape any more. This adds up to a strong qualitative
fact, a structural part of his narrative. But in order to
preserve consistency in his various quantitative estimates of
distance, speed, angular size and rate we are apparently
required to dump this fact, because of minimum angular
resolution. So we have a choice. I would normally prefer to
reject one or more quantitative estimates (explicit or implicit)
rather than a qualitative feature which is strongly structurally
embedded in the narrative. Of course this may have consequences
for other parts of the report - like estimated size, speed etc.

Allowing that he did see _some_ shape(s) as he insisted he did,
then which shape was it? Arnold's July 1947 sketch must have
been drawn after the United Airlines case which is referenced in
the letter, so it was _after_ July 4 but before his July 12
message expressing "disappointment" with the official reaction.
By July 4 the "flying saucer" or "flying disc" stereotype is
firmly established everywhere, and Capt Smith - with whom Arnold
closely allied himself in his appeals to the AF to take him
seriously - had described 9 "circular" discs. So here's a
theory: Perhaps in Arnold's post-July 4 sketch an original more
ideosyncratic impression of a tail-less flying wing was morphing
towards a "flying disc" because this stereotype was taking over
and he wanted his description to be acceptable? I don't think
this suggestion seems in character with Arnold's rather
forthright personality as he was described at the time (although
he is rather deferential to "Big Smithy" in his book), but then
if he didn't adapt his story at this time, well he must have
done so later - mustn't he?

I wish it was all clearer. No doubt it is clearer to others than
it is to me. I don't think I'm looking to make problems, but I
do think that the status of the Arnold description vis a vis the
"saucers" is historically awkward. I can sympathise with cynics
who conclude that decades of "saucer" sightings surely must be a
myth that stemmed from a misunderstanding (I just can't agree
with it on a case-by-case evidence basis). Yes, there are quotes
from the very first publicity that seem to favour a more disc-
like appearance: June 25 East Oregonian: "nine saucer-like
aircraft"; June 26 Chicago Daily Tribune: "They were silvery and
shiny and seemed to be shaped like a pie plate [not a half pie
plate with a "V" on the back]". But these are ambiguous, and
Arnold himself is on record as distancing himself from claims
that he described disks. The politically-correct psychosocial
narrative today is that saucers would not exist had not East
Oregonian reporter Bill Bequette's phrase "saucer-like" gone out
on the AP wire as "flying saucers". I still wonder - how much of
this is itself just a re-copied urban legend? Can we really be
clear about what Arnold _described_, never mind what he saw?

Martin Shough

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



[ Next Message | Previous Message | This Day's Messages ]
This Month's Index |

UFO UpDates Main Index

UFO UpDates - Toronto - Operated by Errol Bruce-Knapp

Archive programming by Glenn Campbell at Glenn-Campbell.com