Maury Island UFO Incident
Washington State - June 18, 1947
Article in Kelso, Washington Tribune About Crash
Cover of Book of the Maury Island UFO Incident
by Kenn Thomas
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
The Maury 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.
Kenneth 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 "The Coming of the Saucers" 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 Dahl's supervisor came by and started taking a large Kellogg's 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 Inside the box were a great number of large chunks of material that looked similar to the fragments we had in our room. Arnold yelled Goodbye and good luck 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 informant's 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.
The B-25 Bomber Crash - the Air Force's 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. Lt. 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 night. 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. 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 day's headlines read ³Sabotage Hinted in Crash of Army Bomber at Kelso and a sub-headline read "Plane May Hold Flying Disk Secret." 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. The disk parts were said by the informant to be those from one of the mysterious platters which plunged to earth on the Maury Island recently. Leading substance to the caller's 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 At McChord field an intelligence officer confirmed the informants report that the B-25 Bomber had been carrying classified material.
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. 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 "Pieces not Located" Brig. Gen. Ned Schramm, chief of staff, Fourth Air Force, said he knew nothing about reports that the plane was carrying classified or secret material. As far as I know, the plane was supposed to come in here empty he said, and there wasn't 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 Field.
Read press release of B25 wreakage recently found by local investigators.