Arnold's 1947 Sighting
Maury Island Sighting
and the Kelso Crash
an ongoing Mystery and Investigation by the
Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore and the
Seattle UFO / Paranormal Group
Look for the new upcoming book
Maury Island UFO Incident - The Mystery behind the Air Force's first plane crash in 1947.
24th, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, a federal Marshall had a sighting over
Mineral, Washington, at 9,000 feet near Mt. Rainier of nine "skipping discs" flying North to
in which the story made international news and in which media was to coin the term "flying saucer".
was to later write his 1952 book, The Coming Of The Saucers, published
with Ray Palmer.
Kenneth Arnold's background:
Arnold was an Eagle Scout, a field representative for the American Red
Cross , an All-State Football player. He began selling fire control
equipment throughout the Northwest, and
was a member of an "aerial posse" for the Ada County, Idaho, Sheriff. He was also a relief Federal U.S. Marshall and occasionally flew Federal prisoners to McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary.
Kelso Crash: Mystery behind the Air Force's first
finding the part now on display at the museum.
found from Air Force¹s first plane crash in Kelso Washington 1947.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 1, 1947, a B25
Bomber left McChord Field and crashed in Kelso with what has always
been considered a mysterious cargo of black lava rock slag reported to
have been ejected from an unidentified craft during a sighting over
Maury Island. Capt. Davidson and First Lieutenant Frank M. Brown were
flying back to Hamilton Air Force Base in California when reportedly
their left engine caught on fire and crashed in Kelso killing both
officers. As this crash occurred Aug. 1, 1947, the day the Air Force
separated from the Army, this historically became the Air Force¹s first
military crash and first fatalities. It is believed both Davidson and
Brown knew the urgency of the situation but stayed with the plane until
the last moments.
Maury Island UFO Mystery
New photo and documentation discovered on UFOlogy¹s first modern day case.
June 20, 2006 By Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson
Directors, Seattle UFO/Paranormal Group and Seattle Museum of the Mysteries
Island UFO Mystery is a complex case spanning several months in the
summer of 1947 in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. The mystery
occurred two weeks before Roswell and first involved UFOs seen over
Maury Island, followed by the famous Kenneth Arnold sighting of UFOs
over Mt. Rainier and ended with the tragic crash of a B-25 Bomber and
the deaths of two military intelligence officers. This article focuses
on the crash site of the B-25 Bomber, a first ever interview with a
local who was first on the scene and a newly discovered photo of the
crash site, believed to be the only photo available of the Air Force¹s
first plane crash.
The Maury Island UFO Incident
The mystery starts with a UFO sighting by Harold Dahl on June 21, 1947, 2:00 pm over Maury Island Washington. Dahl along with his son and two crewmen were salvaging logs south of Maury Island when they saw six doughnut shaped disks hovering over the bay. One disk was wobbling and appeared to be in trouble. It lowered itself to about 500 feet above the water and was joined by five other disks. Upon what appeared to be assistance from one of the disks, the floundering disk dropped what appeared to be shiny aluminum metal on the beach followed by black lava like rock (or slag) into the water which created steam upon hitting the water. The falling slag wounded Dahl¹s son Charles and killed their dog. Charles was taken to the local hospital in Tacoma for first aid and the dog¹s body was buried at sea on their return trip. Kenneth Arnold¹s UFO Sighting Three days later on June 24, 1947, a pilot and Federal Marshall by the name of Kenneth Arnold saw nine disks ³skipping² across the North face of Mt. Rainier and was to become the sighting in which media coined the term ³Flying Saucer². He was interviewed by local and national press including Edward R. Murrow and his sighting made radio and news headlines around the world. He was later interviewed by 1st Lt. Frank M. Brown along with Capt. William L. Davidson from Hamilton Field in California.
Arnold meets Harold Dahl and the Military
Kenneth Arnold was interested in UFOs after his sighting and answered a request by Ray Palmer - an editor in Chicago to investigate the nearby Maury Island sighting and a meeting was arranged with Harold Dahl at the Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma where Arnold was joined by United Airlines pilot Capt. E. J. Smith. The officers 1st Lt. Frank Brown and Capt. Davidson were called back at the request of Kenneth Arnold to also review these witnesses. The officers met with Kenneth Arnold and Harold Dahl and collected all the fragments of rock to take back with them to Hamilton Field. It was about midnight on July 31, 1947 when they finished interviewing and they called for a command car to pick them up as they seemed in a hurry to return to Hamiliton Field as it was Air Force Day - the inauguration day of the separation of the Air Force from the Army and all planes were needed. Kenneth Arnold in his book ³The Coming of the Saucers² comments that just as the Army command car pulled up in front of the hotel where he and Capt. Smith were staying, Fred L. Crisman - Harold Dahl¹s supervisor came by and started taking a large Kellogg¹s corn flakes box (believed to be a large box with flaps) out of his trunk and Kenneth Arnold helped Crisman unload this box from his car into the trunk of the command car. Arnold states he could see the top of the box flapping open and ³Inside the box were a great number of large chunks of material that looked similar to the fragments we had in our room². Arnold yelled ³Goodbye and good luck² as the command car drove away. That was the last time Arnold and Capt. Smith were to see the officers. Soon after returning to his hotel room, a Tacoma Times reporter Ted Morello called to say that a mysterious telephone informant had told him what had taken place in their hotel room. This informant¹s information appeared accurate to the point that Arnold thought a small transmitter had been planted somewhere in their room although they could never find one. 1
B-25 Bomber Crash - the Air Force¹s first Fatalities
Arnold the next morning around 9:20am received a call from Fred Crisman informing him that the radio was mentioning news of a B-25 bomber that had exploded and crashed twenty minutes after take off from McChord Field. The B-25 Bomber had crashed near Kelso Washington when the left engine caught on fire. Arnold was later to hear a recorded interview by Ted Morello of Sgt. Elmer L. Taff who was one of the survivors of the plane crash. Sgt. Taff related fifteen to twenty minutes after take off it was noticed that the left engine was on fire. Sgt. Matthew's had tried the emergency fire fighting system which did not work. Then Lt. Brown squeezed through the doorway and commanded them to strap on their parachutes. Lt. Brown had his harness on but not his parachute. He harshly commanded them both to jump. ³Lt. Brown quickly told him how to pull the rip chord when he was sure he was clear of the ship and actually forcibly shoved him out of the plane into the night². Taff related a good ten minutes had elapsed between the time he parachuted out at 10,000 ft. until the fire reached serious proportions and the plane started to dive. Taff also related of how shortly before they took off the pilot and copilot loaded a heavy cardboard box aboard the B-25. Taff noticed it particularly because it seemed very heavy for one man to carry. This box was placed over to one side of the compartment that he and the engineer occupied. Ted Morello also informed Kenneth Arnold that the B-25 Bomber that landed at McChord Field was under military armed guard every minute it was at the field. It was implied by the nature of that statement that this was unusual and Morello was scared for their safety. 1 A local newspaper article also gave clues to what happened aboard the plane. Woodrow D. Matthews, crew chief of the bomber reported helping Davidson and Brown into their parachutes and that at the time he jumped, flames from the blazing left engine were pouring into the cockpit. It was reported that Brown was ³standing in the aisle ready to leave the plane ³ when Matthews himself jumped out. 6 Brown was found at the crash site with his parachute harness on but had apparently returned to the cockpit. His body was found in the wreckage. Matthews related that the only reason he could see that the officers did not get out was that the left wing might have crumpled, trapping them in the plane. 6 T/4 Woodrow D. Matthews, crew chief of the bomber who put the parachute on Sgt. Taff saving his life was proposed for the Soldier¹s Medal. An FBI report states the left wing was found 125 yards from the plane impact site and likely fell off throwing the plane into a plummeting spin. 3 Later that day Kenneth Arnold again received a call from Ted Morello. The mysterious informant that kept calling Morello stated the B-25 bomber from Hamilton Field had been shot down by a 20mm cannon. The Tacoma Times that day¹s headlines read ³Sabotage Hinted in Crash of Army Bomber at Kelso and a sub-headline read ³Plane May Hold Flying Disk Secret². Written by Paul Lance the article stated the plane had been sabotaged or shot down to prevent shipment of flying disk fragments to Hamilton Field, California, for analysis. ³The disk parts were said by the informant to be those from one of the mysterious platters which plunged to earth on the Maury Island² recently. Leading substance to the caller¹s theory is the fact that twelve hours before the Army released official identification, the informant correctly identified the dead in the crash to be Capt. William L. Davidson and 1st Lt. Frank M. Brown. This Tacoma Times article also stated ³At McChord field an intelligence officer confirmed the informants report that the B-25 Bomber had been carrying Œclassified material¹. 1
Paul Lance was later to die two weeks later of unknown reasons. Pathologist studied his body for thirty six hours but could not find any cause of death. 7 Arnold was later informed that the crash was caused by the loss of an exhaust collector ring on the left engine. It was never explained by the military why Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown never notified anyone by radio of their distress nor why they themselves did not parachute. It is likely both Davidson and Brown knew the urgency of the situation but stayed with the plane until the last moments and then it became too late. There has been no indication that the officers were conducting any additional classified missions other than interviewing the UFO sighting witnesses and carrying any other type of evidence on board. Seattle Post Intelligencer Aug. 3, 1947 AP report states ³Pieces not Located² Brig. Gen. Ned Schramm, chief of staff, Fourth Air Force, said he knew nothing about reports that the plane was carrying ³classified² or secret material² ³As far as I know, the plane was supposed to come in here empty.² he said, ³and there wasn¹t a single, solitary, secret thing aboard². 9 Air Rescue Service Final Mission Report (4) states ³at 0930PST, a message from Sq.B informed that top secret material was in the navigators kit and to request Commanding Officer McChord Field to expedite all available information to Commanding Officer Hamilton Field². 5
Bob Davenport - First on the Scene
On March 18, 2006 we interviewed Robert Davenport of Kelso, Washington at a local restaurant and he related clearly how as a fifteen year old boy his neighbor had alerted his family of a report of a crash in the area and he how went with his father immediately to the site. He and his father were the first persons at the crash site in the early morning hours of Aug. 1, 1947 later to be joined by other neighbors and locals. He stated the crash site was easy to find due to all the smoke rising from the numerous small fires. He described the site as gruesome and dangerous as there were still numerous small fire explosions due to the igniting of pockets of spilled fuel. The plane had impacted the hill at the base of three alder trees and there was burnt debris everywhere. Davenport described how it was hard for the Sheriff¹s cars to make it up the rough roads and several cars had their fuel tanks damaged. This was confirmed by other newspaper reports. The military had used their property as a base camp and spent over a week in cleaning up the debris and moving the larger pieces to a nearby corn field. Surprisingly, our inquiries regarding this crash was the first he had ever heard of this plane crash having any connection to UFOs and he was not aware of any secret or classified material on board.
The First Photo (see above photo)
After the interview we decided to check out the local area and see if we could find any further newspaper articles on the crash as the previous year we had discovered a Kelso article that provided more details of the crash area. Our efforts proved more fruitful than we had imagined. We discovered not only another article but a photo of the crash site. 8 The photo was likely taken in the early morning hours by a local photographer for the small newspaper long before the military arrived. As the date was Aug. 1st it was likely printed for the evening edition of the newspaper. We believe this is the only photo available of the crash made available to the public and the first historical photo of the Air Force¹s first plane crash and fatalities. The photo suddenly made the incident seem even more real - more so than any other document could describe and gave a weighted impact to the deaths of Capt. Davidson and 1st Lt. Frank Brown. This photo is believed to be the only printed photo by a newspaper as Kenneth Arnold stated the military authorities had roped off the surrounding 150 acres around the crashed plane and nobody was allowed within that area. According to Kenneth Arnold not even the Civil Air Patrol themselves could approach the crash site. 7
Media and attempted Cover Up?
According to a recently discovered article on the crash, in the Longview Daily article published shortly after the crash of August 1, entitled ³Springer Arrives To See Crash Scene² some indication is given that there was an attempt to provide a different explanation for the officer¹s investigations. Was this perhaps an early example of government disinformation? The article states ³ Information reaching The Daily News concerning the flight tended to dispel rumors of flying discs or secret missions, indicating that the aviators, Capt. William L. Davidson, San Francisco, and 1st Lt. Frank M. Brown of Vallejo took off from McChord Field bound for Hamiliton Field, California, early Friday morning to gain some night flying time on their logbooks.² This may have been one of the military¹s first attempt at a cover up to the press. Seattle Post-Intelligencer I.N.S. article states ³a Fourth Air Force officer verified Capt. Davidson¹ and Lt. Brown¹s deaths but stated that the report that their ill-fated bomber was returning with classified or secret material was ³just a flight of fancy². 5
Indeed, these new discoveries demonstrate that not all cases are investigated fully and time may reveal more information on a mystery that remains as complex and unsolved today as it was almost sixty years ago. This incident serves to commend the actions of the officers that whether or not they believed the slag was legitimate or that the stories were contrived, these two intelligence officers took the witnesses and sightings seriously enough to interview the pilots and witnesses and risked their lives to secure what they believed to be evidence. This article is dedicated to the men and women who take a risk to find the truth. Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson will continue to investigate this case, and document this Northwest mystery. __________________________________________________________
1. Arnold, Kenneth and Palmer, Ray. ³The Coming of the Saucers², 1952. Ray Palmer, Amherst, Wisconsin.
2. Arnold, Kenneth, Fate Magazine, Vol. 1, #1, 1948, The Mystery of the Flying Disks.
3. FBI Report 1947.
4. Air Rescue Service Final Report, McChord Field, Tacoma Washington, Aug. 4, 1947
5. Seattle Post Intelligencer, I.N.S. article, ³Airline Head Mystified Over ŒFlying Disk¹ Fragment Story², Aug. 3, 1947. 6. Longview Daily, ³Springer Arrives To See Crash Scene², Aug. 4, 1947.
7. Arnold, Kenneth. ³Proceedings Of The First International UFO Congress², 1980, Warner Books, New York, NY.
8. Stark, Brent. Dahlquist photo. Longview Daily News, ³Air Force Day Marred As B-25 Crashes Here², Aug. 1, 1947, pg. 1.
9. AP, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, ³2 Flyers Died in Crash on ³Disk² Mission², Sun. Aug. 3, 1947, pg. 1.
UFO community worldwide has proclaimed June 24th International UFO
Research Day in honor of Kenneth Arnold.
Fate Magazines first issue features and article by Kenneth Arnold "The Truth about the Flying Saucers.
Maury Island UFO Incident
Three days before Kenneth Arnold's famous 1947 saucer sighting on Mount Rainier, on June 21, 1947 in Puget Sound a Washingtonian named Harold Dahl watched five flying saucers come to the aid of a sixth wobbling in the sky just off Maury Island (now Vashon Island). The saucers spewed hot ash and slag that wounded Dahl's son and killed their dog. Their dog was buried at sea before they returned and Harold sought medical attention for his son at the hospital.
This occurance was to be investigated later by the military Captain William Davidson and First Lieutenant Frank M. Brown. The officers interviewed Dahl at Tacoma's Winthrop hotel and collected evidence of black lava rock. On August 1, 1947 their modified B-25 bomber crashed in Kelso Washington on their return flight with the evidence. According to the FBI, the military report and the two survivors, the left engine had caught fire and the officers stayed with the evidence. The Kelsonian Tribune headlines announced the next day " Flying Disk Investigators die in Army Bomber Wreck".
Harold Dahl was soon after visited by a "Man in Black" at a Tacoma cafe and soon after would claim the incident was a hoax.
Winthrop Hotel today 2005 in Tacoma. Location of the interview with the military officers.
The first page of the Maury Island Mystery from Key Comics. Tad, Nancy, Philip, Charlette and Kenn Thomas at Maury Island investigating and looking for black lava slag. Kenn Thomas holding a possible artfact?
Men in Black - the first documented case was in the Northwest
"The first instance of the mysterious Men In Black appearing in the history and lore of UFOs happened in the Puget Sound region as part of a sighting known as the Maury island case. Three days before Kenneth Arnold's famous 1947 saucer sighting on Mount Rainier, a Washingtonian named Harold Dahl watched five flying discs come to the aid of a sixth wobbling in the sky. The saucers spewed hot ash and slag that wounded Dahl's son and killed his dog. Shortly after Dahl began telling others about what had happened, he was visited by a "Man In Black", who advised him not to say anything more to anyone. Dahl did not heed the warning. Soon, his logging business began to fail, his wife fell ill and his son disappeared, only to reappear in a distant state, waiting tables, with no memory of how his life circumstances had changed. After that, Dahl vowed to never again tell the tale of the Maury Island UFO and, if asked, he would claim henceforth that it was a hoax. These events preceded by five years the claims of UFO writer Al Bender, generally regarded as the first claim for the existence of Men in Black. Bender, the head of a group called the International Flying Saucer Bureau in Bridgeport, Connecticut, became physically ill after receiving a visit from three MIBs in 1952, who told him to remain quiet about his knowledge of UFOs. - Find out more in the book Maury Island UFO by Kenn Thomas."
" the man wore a black suit, however, and drove a black 1947 Buick sedan when he arrived the day after Dahl's encounter with the flying doughnuts [Maury Island UFO Incident]. After he accepted the strange man's invitation to breakfast, Dahl drove himself to a small cafe in downtown Tacoma followed by the black-suited man in the black Buick...." - Maury Island UFO Incident by Kenn Thomas, Illuminet Press.
historically, the Northwest was the first documented encounter of "Men
in Black" shortly after the "Maury Island UFO incident - the "Roswell
of the Northwest" and just three days before Kenneth Arnolds sighting
of nine discs seen over Mt. Rainier in 1947 and when media coined the
term "flying saucer".
The mystery even though well documented and numerous people were involved including military, has never been solved.
Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore to see the documentation, the
Tacoma Times articles and the FBI report on the B-25 Bomber crash.
New articles from local paper. The government's first attempt at a cover up two weeks before Roswell.
Museum of the Mysteries and the
Please note as of Sept. 26, 2007 this area has been registered as a Historical and Archaeological site with the State of Washington and is on private land.
The museum directors cleared regulation with the
Air Force and the Museum of Flight that
If above link does not work, paste link below.
Tradition of Heroes" History of Air Force Day Air Force logo Air
Force Day was established on August 1, 1947, by President Truman
"in recognition of the personnel of the victorious Army Air Forces and all those who have developed and maintained our nation's air strength." August 1 was chosen to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment, in 1907, of the Aeronautical Division in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army. Air Force Day came into being immediately after the signing of the National Security Act of 1947, although the status of the air element of the military was uncertain. Thus, although it was called Air Force Day, its first celebration was staged by the Army Air Forces and not by the U.S. Air Force. Underlying the Air Force Day celebration was a need to increase "both official and public awareness of the priority of importance of air forces in any system of national security," according to Mr. Truman. "The great strategic fact of our generation is that the United States now possesses live frontiers -- the frontiers of the air -- and that the oceans are no longer sure ramparts against attack."
In his message to the nation on the first Air Force Day, Mr. Truman said, "I remind all of our citizens that the air power of the nation is essential to the preservation of our liberty, and that the continued development of the science of air transportation is vital to the trade and commerce of a peaceful world."
Air Force Day was last observed on August 1, 1949.
request for photo use, inquiries regarding the ongoing research of the
Kelso Crash or requests
for presentations can be directed to the Directors of the
Northwest Museum of the Mysteries
Charlette LeFevre at
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No part of these photos or articles may be reproduced without the express permission of the copyright owners.