UFO Files: “Incident 40”

(ORDO NEWS) — “Incident 40” includes photographs of an alleged UFO and possibly one of the first appearances of “Men in Black”.

When people interested in UFOs hear the name of the city of Phoenix, Arizona, most immediately think of the famous 1997 “Phoenix Lights” incident. But it turns out that in Phoenix there have long been numerous cases of observations of anomalous unidentified objects in our sky.

In fact, such reports date back to the earliest days of what is considered the “modern history” of Ufology, and the United States government has shown considerable interest in many of them.

One such sighting was reported on the same day as the infamous Roswell disaster, though it received much less media attention. However, this event prompted a lengthy investigation by the US Air Force that lasted for several years.

The event in question took place in Phoenix, Arizona, on the late evening of July 7, 1947. William A. Rhodes, a professional musician and amateur photographer, radio operator and electronics enthusiast, was leaving his home to go to his backyard studio when he heard a curious noise coming from the west.

According to the witness, he did not see anything in that direction from his yard, but quickly noticed an unusual sight in the northeast. He described it as an elliptical, flat, gray object 20 to 30 feet across, moving at 400 to 600 miles per hour, spiraling down from about 5,000 feet to 2,000 feet.

Rhodes quickly ran to his workshop and grabbed a Kodak Brownie 120 camera. Back outside, he took one photo of the object as it approached the lower trajectory,

After the object disappeared into the sky, Rhodes wasted no time sharing his impressions with the Arizona Republic newspaper. The next day, an article with two photographs taken by an eyewitness appeared on the front page of the newspaper, which caused considerable excitement.

William Rhodes did not know that the federal government almost immediately became aware of this story and became interested in his story. This was followed by an investigation that lasted more than five years, and a personal journey of Rhodes, which was not always positive.

His story became part of Project Resentment, simply called Incident 40, and later Project Blue Book. And his story may have been one of the earliest recorded appearances of people who are called “men in black” in UFO mythology.

Investigation Begins

In the weeks that followed, Rhodes gave interviews to numerous newspapers and magazines.

Many of the media at the time were extremely interested in the topic of “flying saucers” because only two weeks earlier the world had learned about Kenneth Arnold’s infamous report of numerous mysterious flying machines seen near Mount Ranier in Washington state.

The press erroneously reported that Arnold had described these ships as “flying saucers”, but the name stuck. It is worth noting that the photographs of Mr. Rhodes matched eerily with the actual description Arnold gave of the aircraft he observed, a fact that will be noted later in the Project Grudge investigation.

Rhodes’ sighting could also have been pushed out of the front pages fairly quickly, because by some cosmic coincidence (if that was the case) it happened on the same day.

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When William Rhodes told his story to the world, he did not know that the military and government officials were aware of it and almost immediately began to study his message.

Within 24 hours of the incident being reported in the Arizona Republic newspaper on July 8, 1947, the newspaper was approached by Air Force officials asking for copies of the two photographs provided to them. The newspaper complied with the request.

All of this was documented in the minutes of the Blue Book investigation, which is today held in the National Archives Catalogue.

It is also worth noting that the name of William Rhodes has been redacted in all documents that we will refer to and reproduce here, with the exception of one case where the name “Rhodes” was left intact. However, publicly available media materials leave no doubt that

Although the attention of the world public may have quickly turned to other stories of potentially unearthly phenomena, the attention of the government has not waned. Inquiries were made through a number of Air Force and federal intelligence offices about what Rhodes saw.

All this information was sent to several departments, including the Air Force Logistics Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Coordinating with other federal agencies, an interview was eventually arranged with Rhodes himself, which took place in late August 1947, less than a month after the sighting.

What happened next may have been the basis for a number of long-standing theories about how the US federal government handles UFO sightings.

The arrival of the Men In Black

On August 29, 1947, an interview was scheduled with William Rhodes. He was interviewed by Special Agent George Fugate Jr. of the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) and Special Agent Brower (not named) of the FBI.

Curiously, if Special Agent Fugate later revealed his identity, the agents were initially presented only as “representatives of the United States government.” In later interviews, Special Agent Brower stated that he considered hiding his identity “an unusual procedure” but that it was “none of his business” and he continued the interview.

Rhodes was asked for his original photographs of the ship and negatives from his camera. He handed over the photographs, but told the agents that he did not have the negatives at home, but that he would return them the next day, which he did. He was also told that it was “unlikely”

This is an unusual part of the record. The few photographs of FBI agents from the 1950s show that they typically showed up on missions wearing the stereotypical masculine black business suit and dress shoes.

(In the modern era, when law enforcement officers of any level visit citizens, it is standard procedure to present a valid ID showing the department they work for and the reason for the visit. This was not the case with Special Agent Brower in 1947.

And this information came to us not from some UFO conspiracy publication, this information is documented in archival government records.

The reader may well wonder if this was some unique approach proposed by Fugate, or if it was a standard approach in UFO investigations. If the latter, then perhaps Special Agent Brower was unwittingly recruited as one of the first documented “Men in Black”.

Anonymous people in formal attire, claiming to be “from the government”, ask a witness to give them evidence, which is quite consistent with the legend of the “men in black”. However, William Rhodes was dissatisfied with the removal of his evidence, which led to complications in the subsequent investigation.

Government investigation takes interesting turns

Although the investigation, conducted by various branches of the US military and intelligence services, began literally the day after William Rhodes photographed something unusual in the sky near his home, it dragged on for several years.

Even before Rhodes was interrogated at the end of August 1947, inquiries were made about the photographs he had submitted.

Some of these investigations were indeed technical in nature, examining the accuracy of the photographs, the weather conditions at the time, and other data that could confirm or disprove the witness’s claims.

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But at the same time that investigators were testing the possibility that “flying discs” had been seen over Phoenix, they were looking even deeper into William Rhodes himself.

Investigation material later collected by Project Grievance clearly shows that the government was looking into virtually every aspect of Rhodes’ life to determine the “nature of his character” and how “patriotic” a citizen he was.

Numerous reports have shown that the government requested full details of Rhodes’ credit history as well as his personal history, while his neighbors were interviewed to determine what kind of person he was. An early report stated that “there are other undesirable aspects to this case.

The nature of the monitor and his business connections are currently being investigated.” Subsequent reports indicate that the investigation became interested in many aspects of Rhodes’ life that had nothing to do with unidentified aerial phenomena.

As a result of these investigations, reports were drawn up that dealt with very specific issues.  It has been noted that he was a musician and that his wife was the only source of income for the family.

The report claimed that Rhodes was “non-religious and a registered Democrat” and that he “did not vote in the last election.” All this was recorded, despite the fact that interviews with his neighbors revealed that he is a “great neighbor” who “devotes a lot of time to community projects”.

Conclusions from incident 40 was drawed in two different ways

The final reports of the investigation were contradictory in many respects. Some investigators found the sighting to be highly convincing, while others wrote it off entirely. But it was clear that Rhodes had questions from the very beginning.

One report in particular highlighted divisions of opinion both over photographic evidence and over the credibility of the witness. On the first page of the report, investigators concluded that “no astronomical explanation is possible for the unusual object mentioned in this incident.

It goes on to say: “This case is especially important because of the photographic evidence and because of the similarity of these photographs to the drawings [redacted] in Incident 17.” (Incident 17 is an encounter with Kenneth Arnold).

The report goes on to say that “these two most reliable, entirely independent cases must agree so closely in regard to the shape of the object and its maneuverability.”

The report goes on to say that Incident 40 is “one of the most important in the history of these facilities” and recommends further investigation and gathering more evidence.

But a disclaimer is added on the second page of the same report. Reversing the situation, he warns that “there remains a strong possibility that this whole incident is contrived and the fabrication of an excited mind.

This reinforces the need for a re-investigation. irresponsible reports about “saucers” and similar objects”. Similar alternations between support for the veracity of Rhodes’ observation and the possibility that it was entirely a hoax continue throughout the documents.

But one person who seemed to lean towards the credibility of Incident 40 was J. Allen Hynek. In his analysis of the reports listed in Project Dirty, he divided all sightings into three categories, with several subcategories for each.

Category 1 covered astronomical phenomena such as meteors, stars, planets, or associated natural lights in the sky. Category 2 has been described as “non-astronomical phenomena, but suggesting other explanations”.

It included objects such as balloons, conventional planes, rockets, flares, birds, or other common things that are regularly observed. Category 3 was reserved for events characterized as “non-astronomical, with no obvious explanation”. He divided this category into a subsection (3.a), which was written off as ”

So what happened to the photos and negatives?

One of the major points of contention in the entire case of Incident 40 was what became of the photographs and negatives from William Rhodes’ camera after the initial investigation in 1947.

By 1952, the Air Force had somehow learned that Rhodes had been in contact with the magazine that had published his story and asked about the possibility of suing the government to get the negatives back.

This appears to have caused some confusion among government officials looking into the sighting, leading the Air Force Intelligence Directorate at Wright-Patterson to report that they had no negatives, but if found, they should be returned to Rhodes “with apologies” to ” avoid media hype.

This prompted the Air Force Office of Intelligence (AFOIN) to send a letter to Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, of Project Blue Book fame, asking him to “return the negatives to us as soon as possible.” Ruppelt was assured that if the negatives were returned, copies would be made for his recordings.

Ruppelt responded quickly, stating that there were no negatives in his office. He also went further, saying he’s not even sure if Rhodes sent the negatives to the government, saying his office concluded the photos “probably aren’t genuine.”

He further suggested that Rhodes was trying to join a “photo-selling gang” and if the government confirmed they had the negatives, it could lead to a “nasty situation.”

However, these questions about the provenance and ownership of the negatives are not supported by government documents.

The Routing and Accounting Sheet shows that the negatives were in the possession of the Air Materials Command Technical Projects Division at Wright-Patterson on February 19, 1948.

Other records in the archive show that the negatives were examined and analyzed by various experts to determine the equipment used for filming, the type of film used, and the possible authenticity of the images.

While it is possible that Ruppelt’s office had somehow lost the negatives by the time the investigation came to a close, it remains documented that the negatives moved back and forth between Wright-Patterson and the other offices for some time.


Fifteen Minutes of Fame” by William A. Rhodes came and went rather quickly in July and August 1947. This may have been because he reported his sighting and submitted his photographs to the local media only two weeks after Kenneth Arnold had attracted attention the entire country.

And the world learned of the Roswell incident the day after his report hit the press. But behind the scenes, the government found an occasion to describe his report as one of the “two most confirmed, completely independent cases” of reports of UFO sightings.

Even J Allen Hynek found the evidence convincing, with no obvious alternative explanation.

Although some government experts tried to call Rhodes an eccentric, interviews with his neighbors and relatives described him as a scientifically minded person who from an early age was fond of astronomy, radio and television technology, and photography.

Skeptics may reasonably point out that the time he saw the phenomenon was on the tail of the Kenneth Arnold phenomenon, but the similarities between the two have been recognized even by Project Blue Book. Also, Rhodes’s interest in all of these technologies predates modern stories of strange objects in the sky.

And his documented experience of communicating with those whom we today can call “People in Black” gives reason to wonder if this event was something significant in the history of ufology.

As always in such early cases, the conclusions are left to the discretion of the observer.

But what is known as “Incident 40” in the files of Project Grudge and Project Blue Book perhaps deserves closer attention from those who study the parallels between the earliest days of our research on these subjects and what is happening today in the new Pentagon UAP investigation offices.


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