Thursday, September 23, 2021

Sam Sawyer and the Flying Saucer Pirates

"Sam Sawyer learned …that the whole world was in grave danger! The threat came from the flying saucers. Two wrecked saucers had been recovered and found to be spaceships from another world!”

Thanks to Brian B. of the blog, What My Dad Saw, for his scans of Sam and the Flying Saucer Pirates. 

From the brochure, View-Master Reel List (early 1950s) PDF

Sawyer’s Inc. made View-Master, a viewer for "reels" sold separately, thin cardboard disks containing small transparent color photographs on film, seven stereoscopic 3-D pairs of images. The focus of View-Master was originally educational, and on travel and "cities of the world," but also included story reels for children based on things like fairy tales and cartoons. To achieve the 3-D effect, they used small clay sculptures and photographed the scenes with a stereoscopic camera. In 1950, they introduced “Adventures of Sam Sawyer.” Leland Green of Sawyers Inc. owned the character and series. 

According to J. Clement’s entry on creator Paul Sprunk at the View-Master Database:

“Paul Sprunk (1892 - 1963) was commissioned by Sawyer’s to create their own character, Sam Sawyer in 1950. He was never credited in the accompanying booklets. He had already worked on many Hollywood films as a miniature artist and had his own film studio.” 

“Adventures of Sam Sawyer” had six 1-reel stories, the first three released in 1950, then another group in 1951. The first and last reels featured Sam in space adventures.

1. Sam Flies to the Moon

2. Sam Finds a Treasure

3. Sam in the Land of The Giants

4. Sam in Darkest Africa

5. Sam in the Land of Ice

6. Sam and the Flying Saucer Pirates


The First Boy on the Moon

The stories were written for children, compact, short on details and characterization. As you’ll see in the opening line of “Sam Flies to the Moon,” it’s quickly established that our hero Sam is a scientist, inventor, and an intrepid explorer.

When Sam Sawyer finished his new rocket ship, he decided to fly it to the moon. Although the moon looked small and close at hand in the sky at night, Sam knew it was really a world in itself that circled the earth almost a quarter of a million miles away. He had often thought to himself, "If I were the first boy on the moon, maybe I would discover what kind of people live up there." Excited at the prospect of this, his most daring adventure to date, Sam loaded his ship, checked his space helmet and paralyzer gun, then climbed into his ship.

The titles for the seven scenes: 

1. Sam Sawyer enters his rocket ship. 2. Sam Leaves Earth for the Moon. 3.Sam Sets Foot on the Moon. 4. Sam Fights Moonmen with Paralyzer Gun. 5. Sam Struggles Hand to Hand with Moonman Leader. 6. Sam Surveys His Paralyzed Attackers. 7. He Rockets Back to Earth with Captured Moonman. 

Once he landed, Sam encountered the Moonmen, “strange man-like creatures. Their arms and legs were like metal tentacles, and their heads seemed to glow from within! Antenna-like projections served as ears and they carried short rods that emitted a weird red spark!” Sam was seen as a hostile alien by the Moonmen, and he used his paralyzer gun in self-defense. 

Sam decided to take (abduct!) the Moonman leader to Earth to show him that “we are not really monsters.” On the way, they become friends, and once there, “before he returned to his home on the moon, became convinced that human beings were, on the whole, decent peaceable people.

Sam Fights Moonmen with Paralyzer Gun

Sam’s first space mission had been for peaceful exploration, but not his second trip. He shot to kill, and the target was invaders in flying saucers. Before that voyage, a brief recap UFOs in culture circa 1950. 

In late 1949, writers Donald Keyhoe and Frank Scully both published flying saucer articles that were later expanded into bestselling 1950 book. Keyhoe’s book was based on documented events and speculation from military sources, which led him to proclaim in The Flying Saucers are Real that visitors from other planets were coming in spaceships and the US government was hiding the truth from the public. Far less credible was Scully’s Behind the Flying Saucers, based solely on the second-hand account of oil swindler Silas Newton. It was a whopper about wrecked flying saucers and the bodies of the little men found inside, captured for secret study by the US government. Together, these two books established a lore that has forever since shaped the public’s notions about flying saucers. Scully’s book was reprinted in paperback, giving it further exposure in 1951, just shortly before the release of Sam Sawyer’s flying saucer adventure.

Sam and the Flying Saucer Pirates

“Sam and the Flying Saucer Pirates” was reel 6 in the series.

Scene 1: From the story booklet: “Using secret information from the wrecked saucers,” Sam built a long-range radar-telescope to track the saucers’ point of origin, finding it be “Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our own sun.”

Sam's radar-telescope tracks a flying saucer.

Scene 2: Sam hopped into his spaceship and headed there. On his way, he spotted a saucer headed towards earth, so he blasted it to bits.

Atomic dischargers blow up the saucer from outer space.

Scene 3: Sam lands on their planet and finds a flying saucer factory, indicating they were gearing up to invade earth. Luckily, he thought to bring a bomb.   

Sam plants an H-time bomb at the flying saucer factory.

Scene 4: The Centarurians did not speak but communicated by “thought-waves” or telepathy. They carried weapons, rods that fired a red lightning-like ray that caused paralysis. Sam is abducted, and put in prison.


The men of star Proxima Centaruri paralyze Sam with ray-rods.

Scene 5: Sam had gone to their planet prepared for war, but when captured, tried to persuade them with thoughts of peace and friendship. It didn’t work. They’d been working for three centuries to construct a fleet to conquer earth, and they were launching the invasion soon.

The atomic blast rocks the planet.

Scene 6Bodies of the wounded and dead lay outside the factory and saucer parts are scattered for miles.

Sam views the wreckage of the Centaurian space fleet.

Scene 7: On the voyage home Sam thinks about how he’s prevented war between the planets. Maybe someday, they’ll have friendship, commerce, and tourism instead.

Sam rockets homeward, mission accomplished.

 “Sam and the Flying Saucer Pirates” is a contemporary of the movies The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing from Another World. Each has its own take of flying saucer lore, but only in Sam Sawyer did we see a protagonist that was capable of thwarting the aliens’ attempt to dominate the earth. It's worth remembering, even if it was "only" a View-Master story.

. . .

Thursday, September 9, 2021

SKYLITE: The Project to Mimic UFOs


The US government asked the McDonnell Douglas aerospace company to research the construction of an imitation flying saucer in 1970. At the time, the United States was led by President Richard Nixon, and Richard Helms served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Cold War with Russia  was hot. The US was mired in the Vietnam war and facing an expansion of the Soviet Union’s military forces in Cuba.

The UFO project may have been an offshoot of a prior contract with the CIA. In 1967 the CIA was doing business with McDonnell Douglas Company, and Project AQUILINE was to develop expendable unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles. According to CIA files, “Concentrated study was performed on a wide range of aerodynamic lift devices including balloons, ballistic glider, powered glider and helicopter types for this application. The powered glider was selected...” Aquiline was a small bird-like drone, test flown at Area 51.

From CIA files on Project AQUILINE

Meanwhile, McDonnell Douglas had a study project from 1967 to 1970 led by Dr. Robert M. Wood with the goal of duplicating the performance and propulsion reported in UFOs. Dr. Joseph M. Brown talked about working on the Advanced Propulsion Research Group in his 2004 book,
The Grand Unified Theory of Physics.

“Dr. Robert M. Wood (was) the deputy director of Research at Douglas Aircraft Company, in Santa Monica, California… Wood believed that unidentified flying objects (UFOs) were spacecraft built and manned by extra-terrestrials… Furthermore, he had great confidence in his ability. ‘If extraterrestrials can build a flying saucer, so can I.’”

Describing the team, Dr. Brown said,

“Dr. Darell B. Harmon, Jr… held beliefs about UFO’s similar to Dr. Wood... that UFO’s were powered by anti-gravity propulsion and I was researching gravity so he hired me in spite of my disbelief in extraterrestrials. Thus the Wood-Harmon-Brown team was formed to invent a new propulsion system… In addition to the mathematical physicist, Leon (A. Steinert), we hired an experimentalist Harvey Bjornlie, a retired Los Angeles, California police detective Paul Wilson, a UFO ‘buff” Stan Friedman, and a psychic Chan P. Thomas... Our budget was less than $100,000.00 per year."

Dr. Wood described the group’s origin in his article for the October 2008 issue of the MUFON Journal, "McDonnell Douglas studied UFOs in 1960s," saying, “we opened up an account with an insipid title (Advanced Concepts) and internally called it the BITBR project (for Boys In The Back Room).”  Wood said he managed a team saying he devoted only about 10% of his time to the project, “Only Brown, Thomas and Wilson were full time (and later, Friedman).” During its four years of operation and $500,000 expended, the group conducted research including everything from lab experiments to field studies, investigating haunted houses, ESP and interviewing UFO Contactees.

In BITBR’s 59-page “Advanced Vehicle Concepts Research” presentation, May 2, 1968, the team summarized the goals of the project for management and stated what they had achieved to date. Page 50 mentioned the goal of building a UFO-like spacecraft, a DFO, (possibly for Douglas Flying Object). 

“A DFO can be built within our scientific limits.” It also mentioned, “analysis and duplication of UFO data.” The presentation closed by asking for another year’s funding, and stated, “Bring in DoD at end of year if results warrant.”

The company hoped to build flying saucers for the US government. That almost happened. In a section near the end of Wood’s MUFON article he revealed:

"Covert Applications
The only contact with the government about the Project came towards the end of the spring of 1970 when there was interest expressed by one of the intelligence agencies. This resulted in a draft proposal to ‘mimic, imitate or duplicate the observables associated with UFOs.’ We called this potential opportunity Project Skylite, and prepared a good deal of technical information in anticipation of contract work. It never materialized with McDonnell Douglas to my knowledge."

MUFON UFO Journal, Oct. 2008

The footnote for the passage cited: "Wilson, P. ‘Charts Defining Parameters of Design.’ Six pages, dated June 2, 1970."

The timing for Skylite was strange. The US government shut down Project Blue Book at  the end of 1969, so this would seem to have been unrelated to any study of UFOs. They must have been working towards some other goal. Earlier Project Aquiline CIA documents stated that “The obvious risk is loss of an unmanned aircraft over denied territory and the resulting political implications therefrom.” They thought that since the aircraft was small and unarmed, the risk was minimal. However, it’s possible the CIA considered developing another spy platform, something that would be unrecoverable, vanish like something unearthly.


The Project Skylite Documents

BITBR hired W. Paul Wilson, Jr. for his detective skills to be used in interviewing UFO witnesses, but he was also an engineer, and he also assisted the team in technical research. Files on the McDonnell Douglas UFO study and Project Skylite surfaced when UFO archivist Louis Taylor purchased them from the owner of a house previously occupied by Paul Wilson's widow. “The documents were found rotting away out in the barn.”  Material on the BITR study was published online back in 2007. The Project Skylite material was finally published online by Louis Taylor in October 2020, documents and parametric studies, all hand written by Paul Wilson between April and June of 1970.

Paul Wilson’s first page of an outline of the Project Skyline objectives, dated 4/5/70.

Electrical & Mechanical Systems to Produce Simulated UFO Observables

1. Illusion of physical objects with three-dimensional positivity in space - long & short term affects.

A. Sensed by visual, acoustical, photographic, radio and other EM instrumentation.

B. Large, very light, transparent bags inflatable with ionizable combustible gases. Spherical or saucer shaped.

(1) Bag should be constructed of highly combustible materials that completely vaporize or disintegrate without residue when contain gases or plasma is ignited.

 (2) Ionize contained gas is by means of high energy radar beams (local or objective operated).

(a). The geometric configuration of inflated bags are held to those dimensions that would resonate with the frequencies of exciting radiation.

(b) Parabolic umbrellas for maximum energy concentration.

(c) Spherical resonate cavities for maximum energy absorption.

 (3) Gas mixture and/or system may contain, short half-life high energy radioactive materials to initiate ionizations & emit particle radiation signals.

 (4) Combustible gases at critical mixtures and/or temperatures may be ignited by radio controlled igniters, laser beams, or by spontaneous combustion at predetermined times.


Electrical & Mechanical Systems to Produce Simulated UFO Observables

Proposed shape and structure for the Skylite UFO simulators

“UFO simulator” is how the project was referred to in early internal documents. BITBR went well beyond just spoofing the appearance of a UFO in flight, they also wanted to duplicate other “UFO observables” such as the shape, illumination, sounds, that were reported. Apparently for this project duplicating high speed flight was not a goal except perhaps in the “vanishing” of the balloon when it disintegrated. As for the radar cross-section and electromagnetic signature they desired, that would be accomplished with a “metallic coating for maximum reflectivity.” 

Skylite Parametric Studies, 5/18/70

The aerial platform was intended to be built around Edmund Scientific “Giant Weather Balloons” in the 8 and 16-foot sizes.

Edmund Scientific Weather Balloon ad and product, circa 1968

It was determined that an airborne platform alone was insufficient for generating the spectrum of desired effects and a ground based would be required to generate some of the electromagnetic properties and secondary characteristics.

The timing of shortly the US government’s interest in the BITBR project is strange. It came shortly after the Condon Study’s conclusion was published in 1969 that there was no scientific benefit to studying UFOs. The closure of Project Blue Book followed, so it would seem the US government’s interest here was not scientific. Various notes throughout the Skylite documents give a clue as to the purpose of the project. “Significant information as to an observer’s observational capabilities – with decoy & confusion factors.” (bottom of page 4 of this document, describing, "Ground Effect UFO Simulator.")

Illustrations from Using a Giant Weather Balloon to Create Artificial Moonlight

There’s no clear documentation that any Project Skylite flight experiments took place, but some of the parametric studies suggest there may have at least been a few balloon tests. Describing the overall BITBR experiments to duplicate UFO characteristics, Dr. Wood said they tried to see “whether the speed of light could be influenced by a large magnetic field,” and a later “a second attempt to use magnetic fields… measured whether there was any change in forces… with respect to gravity. Again the result was null.”

The lack of results from the UFO study prompted McDonnell Douglas to spend the money elsewhere, and Wood said, “the consensus was that we should cancel the BITBR project.” Skylite died with it. If the US government pursued the simulated UFO project, it was without Wood’s McDonnell Douglas team. The CIA responded to our FOIA request for records relating to Project Skylite with a form letter about UFO document requests.

Further Sources and Recommended Reading

For other US government attempts to duplicate UFO characteristics and performance, see our article from May 6, 2020, UFO Study Programs and US Military TechnologyFor more on deception and exploitation of the UFOs by military intelligence, see the 2010 book by Mark Pilkington and John Lundberg, Mirage Men: A Journey into Disinformation, Paranoia and UFOs. 

The McDonnell Douglas UFO Study

Douglas Aircraft – UFO Research Documents (1967 – 1969)

Keith Basterfield has written extensively on McDonnell Douglas’ BITBR project: The McDonnell Douglas UAP study. See also, Project Skylite papers uploaded.

Information Dispersal by Louis Taylor: Project Skylite Documents

Project Aquiline

CIA Documents: Project Aquiline

John Meierdierck was in charge of the CIA’s Project Aquiline operations at Area 51, and wrote an account of why the project was scrapped in 1971. See Flying Stories: Project Aquiline

The CIA's Bird-Shaped Aquiline Drones Could Still Be Caged Up At Area 51 by Brett Tingley



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