This article was published in the daily newspaper New York Times, March 27, 1966.
Also check other files on the Michigan 1966 swamp gas story.
SAUCER SIGHTINGS VEX CAPITOL HILL
Investigating Flying Objects Might Cause Public Alarm
By Evert Clark - Special to The New York Times
Washington, March 26 - Across the swamps of southern Michigan earlier this week "flying saucers" flew. An Air Force investigator shot most of them down with a simple explanation-swamp gas.
But policemen, a civil defense director, a house mother and hundreds of college students had seen the mysterious lights and it is safe to say that not all of them accepted the investigation's conclusion.
The opening of this year's saucer season - the 20th year for "unidentified flying objects" - has presented official Washington with a problem.
Gerald R. Ford, House Republican leader, injected a new element by calling for a "full blown" Congressional investigation. Such inquiries have been proposed many times before, but never by one of Mr. Ford's stature in Government.
Mr. Ford had just returned from Michigan. No saucers were sighted in his district and he had no calls from constituents about them. However, he said:
"I can assure you there is considerable interest and I suspect public concern."
Reluctant to Investigate
Congress has been and still is reluctant to investigate. To do so is to encourage the idea that their is more to the unidentified flying objects than mistaken sightings of natural or manmade objects.
To refuse to investigate however, opens Congress to the charge, often made by fervent believers, that the Government knows what the saucers are but is "covering up."
Mr. Ford suggested that the House Armed Services or the Science and Astronautics Committee hold the investigation.
A spokesman for the Science Committee said the number of "reliable witnesses" who had reported seeing saucers was small compared to all the people who thought they had seen them.
"You can't just select airline pilots and other trained observers to testify," he said.
"You have to take anybody who says he's seen one, and you know what that means. Since we handle space, we already get enough people in here who want to tell us how you can fly to the moon on a washboard or something."
A spokesman for the Armed Services Committee said he had once facetiously suggested that the House Committee on un-American Activities investigate saucers because "it is un-American to have unidentified objects flying over this country."
No Laughing Matter
The committee, however, does not laugh at those who believe they have seen saucers, he said:
"That might be like laughing at the guy who thought of the submarine for the first time."
Nevertheless, there is some fear in both committees that a "full-blown" investigation might frighten much of the public, no matter what findings resulted, by seeming to indicated concern in Congress.
The Air Force charged with the defense of the nation's skies investigates every sighting reported to it. Through the end of last year, it had studied 10,147 such reports.
Last year, 886 sightings were reported - topped only by 1,501 in 1952 and 1,006 in 1957.
Of the 10,147 sightings, 646 remain in the Air force's "unidentified" category. Most "I.F.O.'s" - identified flying objects - were explained as meteors, stars and planets, or planes, balloons and satellites. But many were thrown into a category called "other".
"Other," in the case of this year's sightings, included tracer bullets, debris in the wind, "poor photo process" and "man on ground," according to the Air Force.
'Some Kind of Vehicle'
No space ships, no little men. Yet this week's reports included that of William Van Horn, a Hillsdale County civil defense director, who said the wavering orange, red and white lights he saw through binoculars definitely came from "some kind of vehicle."
John King, a 22 year-old Bangor, Me., man said he shot four times at a 60-foot-long glowing object and hit it. It then zoomed skyward, he said.
"I could hear the elderberry bushes scraping as the thing came toward me," Mr. King said.
A postman in Colorado, a newsman in Wisconsin and an Air Force electronics instructor in Oklahoma all reported seeing mysterious objects last week. The electronics man said a "fish-shaped" craft manned by an "ordinary human" blocked his car near the Texas border. In Texas, the police said hundreds of people reported seeing a starlike object that purred and changed colors.
Noting that "it must be a real dull day, newswise" for his suggestion to get so much attention, Representative Ford said he believed a thorough inquiry would "allay any apprehensions or fears."
"If it is marsh gas, the whole thing could be cleaned up and eliminated as a matter of concern very rapidly," he said.
Meanwhile the Air Force says it still welcomes any evidence "of the existence and intraspace mobility of extraterrestrial life," particularly if it is "operating within the earth's near-space envelope."