First U.S. Air Force Crash Includes UFO Wreckage Bill Knell

Wreckage from the first crash of an Air Force Aircraft on August 1, 1947 seems like something that only the military might be interested in. Or maybe not. Much of the original wreckage was left to rust in the forest and no recent attempts have been made to relocate or recover it by any branch of the Military. Instead, civilians have been looking for pieces from the crashed B-25 for years. That"s because the crash site near Kelso, Washington, may contain material that"s simply out of this world.

After ten years of searching, Jim Greer located pieces from the B25 in a ravine near Goble Creek east of Kelso. He has turned some of the material over to the Museum of Mysteries in Seattle. Their interest is in the paranormal aspects of the crash. That’s because the aircraft was carrying two Officers that participated in the investigation of a Washington UFO incident and material from that investigation.

1947 is a memorable year for UFO enthusiasts. The saucer sightings by Kenneth Arnold in the State of Washington and UFO crash or crashes in New Mexico tend to dominate our attention. It’s easy to forget that over 850 sightings of a credible nature were reported by U.S. Newspapers. These include amazing events alleged to have occurred near Maury Island in Washington. Real or imagined, those events and their aftermath reveal a stunning cover-up that has never been fully investigated or explained.

Harold Dahl, his son Charles, the family dog and two crew members were on a patrol boat looking for salvage logs in the Puget Sound on June 21, 1947. They were just off Maury Island (today called Vashon Island) when the UFO incident began. The group witnessed six ‘donut-shaped’ craft above their position. Harold said that the objects were about one hundred feet in diameter and had a ‘bright metallic’ appearance.

Five of the crafts were circling a sixth which Dahl said was ‘wobbling’ and seemed to be in distress. After some sort of an explosion, the sixth craft discharged a large quantity of debris. The debris resembled cooled volcanic lava, had an aluminum-like appearance and fell in the form of large flakes. These flakes hit and damaged their boat, injured Charles and killed the family dog. Afterward, all the objects rose rapidly into the sky and took off in the direction of the ocean.

Dahl headed to Maury Island where he stopped to assess the damage to his boat and take photos. Finding more debris, he collected it and then proceeded to Tacoma. After taking his son to the emergency room, Dahl reported the entire incident to Fred Crisman, the harbor patrol supervisor. Crisman didn’t believe him, so he returned to the area on Maury Island which Dahl described.

Crisman found what seemed like tons of the strange material along the shoreline. While picking up some of it, he said that an object appeared and dropped more. Meanwhile, Dahl was visited by a "man in a dark suit" the next day. The man told Dahl that he saw something he was not supposed to see and warned him not to discuss it.

Just three days after the Maury Island incident, Kenneth Arnold reported seeing a formation of strange looking objects traveling at incredible speeds near Mount Rainer, Washington. Because Arnold was a former military aviator and well-respected private pilot, the press jumped all over his sighting. Arnold was later contacted by Ray Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories. The two discussed his sighting, became friends and forged a working relationship.

United Airlines Captain E. J. Smith was a friend of Kenneth Arnold, but initially skeptical of his sighting until he had one of his own. During a flight from Boise, Idaho, to Tacoma, Washington on July 4, 1947, Smith noticed a formation of saucer-shaped objects near his aircraft. They first appeared just after 9pm, then vanished and reappeared several times for over forty-five minutes. Captain Smith, Co-Pilot Ralph Stevens and Stewardess Marty Morrow all saw them.

The importance of the Arnold and Smith sightings cannot be stressed enough. These witnesses were experienced pilots, not starry-eyed civilians looking at something in the sky that a trained observer might immediately recognize as commonplace. That would make any opinions they had about the Maury Island UFO incident all the more important.

Their involvement began with a letter to Ray Palmer from Fred Crisman. Palmer quickly contacted Arnold and asked him to investigate the Maury Island story. Arnold agreed, but asked Smith to help. He also contacted the military and requested that they send investigators to be present during the initial interviews.

Arnold and Smith arrived in Tacoma and met with Harold Dahl at the Winthrop Hotel on July 31, 1947. Also present were a Captain Davidson and 1st Lt. Frank Brown. Crisman showed up with cereal boxes filled with material from the Island which he presented to the Military Officers. In a hurry to return to Hamilton Field for Air Force Inauguration Day, Davidson and Brown left the hotel just after midnight. Air Force Inauguration Day was the day that the Air Force officially became a separate branch of the military.

After the session with Dahl was completed, Arnold returned to his hotel room. He almost immediately received a call from Ted Morello, a United Press reporter. Morello seemed to know everything that went on in the hotel room where the impromptu investigative had taken place and wanted a comment about it. Arnold was upset and suspected a hidden microphone had been used to obtain the information. That wasn’t the only surprise Arnold was to experience during the next twenty-four hours.

According to witnesses, Captain Davidson and Lt Brown boarded a B-25 with a box of material from their investigation and took off from McChord Field with two other crew members. Shortly afterward, their left engine caught fire and the fire fighting system malfunctioned. After ordering the other crew members to bail out, Davidson and Brown were trapped when the aircraft began to collapse around them. Both perished in the crash.

This was the very first crash of an Air Force plane because it happened on the day that the Air Force officially separated from the Army. It’s ironic that the crash may have been directly linked to the UFO phenomenon. An article in the Tacoma Times claimed that the B-25 was shot down by a 20mm canon or sabotaged to keep the material salvaged from the Maury Island event from being examined at Fort Hamilton.

After the B-25 crash and the Men in Black incident involving Dahl, the two witnesses became concerned for the safety of their families. When Arnold and Smith came to view the boat that Dahl said was damaged by the falling debris, Captain Smith expressed some doubts. He felt that repairs on the vessel were inconsistent with the kind of damage that was originally reported.

Rather than explain that whole sections were replaced, Dahl simply told Smith that he was no longer going to cooperate with the investigation and just wanted to be left alone. Some reports say that the two witnesses admitted it was all a hoax, but neither Dahl or Crisman ever admitted making such statements. Another report said that the material Dahl and Crisman presented to the investigators was just worthless slag from a local smelter.

Apart from the fact that there was nothing in it for Dahl or Crisman to create a hoax and both had more to lose than gain, there is some evidence to support their side of the story: - FBI Teletype from J. Edgar Hoover, 8/14/47: “It would also appear that Dahl and Crisman did not admit the hoax to the army officers…”

- Return Teletype to Hoover from Special Agent George Wilcox: "Please be advised that Dahl did not admit that his story was a hoax but only stated that if questioned by authorities he was going to say it was a hoax because he did not want any further trouble over the matter."

- In the January 1950 edition of FATE Magazine, Fred Crisman called allegations that he admitted the case was a hoax a “bald-faced lie.”

- Neither Ray Palmer or Kenneth Arnold ever said the case was a hoax.

Even stranger were the events that occurred after the investigation by Arnold, Smith, Davidson and Brown:

- The crash of the B25 is surrounded by allegations of sabotage or downing by friendly fire.

- The crash of Kenneth Arnold’s airplane under mysterious circumstances on August 3, 1947. He was almost killed and later claimed his aircraft had been sabotaged.

- The untimely and mysterious death of Paul Lance, the Tacoma Times Reporter who claimed that the B25 might have been purposely brought down by government operatives. He died two weeks after the article appeared in print. No actual cause of death could be determined.

- The sudden death of Ted Morrello, the United Press reporter who called Arnold just after the Dahl Meeting claiming full knowledge of the proceedings.

- The closing of The Tacoma Times which went out of business shortly after the article about the B25 was published.

Unlike most hoaxes, the Maury Island UFO incident is not unique among sighting or physical evidence cases. The scene originally described by Dahl has been repeated many times. Several objects are seen together, one crashes or is in distress and others assist. Strange material is ejected, dropped or simply deposited. The material can be metallic, fibrous or even biological. There are many reasons for anyone interested in UFOs to take a second look at this case. Including the military response to the crash.

Robert Davenport of Kelso, Washington, was one of the first people to view the B-25 crash site. He said that small fires were still burning due to all the unused fuel when he and a few others found the wreckage. When the military arrived they expelled everyone, sealed 150 acres around the crash site and took over the area for about a week. They used part of Davenport’s land as a base camp.

Despite combing through debris and moving some larger pieces to an open field for further inspection, the bulk of the crash material was left behind. This seems strange for an investigation involving the very first crash of an Air Force plane. It appeared that they were more interested in looking for something in the aircraft than trying to determine the cause of the crash.

It’s doubtful that the validity of the Maury Island UFO incident will ever be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. It’s also unlikely that any of the material from that event will ever be recovered from the B-25 crash site. However, it’s important to remember that Maury Island occurred before the Arnold sighting, before Roswell and is certainly surrounded by unusual circumstances and unresolved issues. Whether the actual sighting occurred or never happened, you have to be amazed by the response of the government within a government.

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