United States Air Force General Nathan Farragut Twining was a very big deal. During World War Two, he was considered an outstanding commander of bombing operations in both the European and Pacific theaters. After the war, then Lieutenant General Twining was named Commanding General of the military’s Air Materiel Command, working with the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It was in this esteemed capacity that he was asked to write a secret memo about UFOs in 1947 for Brigadier General George Schulgen, Chief of the Air Intelligence Requirements Division at the Pentagon.
Twining put his name to a high level “coordinated” memo from extremely in-the-know officers and scientists on September 23rd, 1947 in which he stated his considered opinion (and theirs) that UFOs were real and had capabilities he did not believe the U.S. had yet achieved. For context, this memo came just three months after the Kenneth Arnold sightings, two months after the Roswell crash, and just five days after the U.S. Air Force was created as its own entity.
Importantly, such a statement did not hurt Twining’s career given that he was subsequently made Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force from 1953 until 1957, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1957 to 1960, being the first member of the Air Force to serve as Chairman, let alone become a key advisor to the President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower.
The takeaway is that Twining was hardly ridden out of military service for advancing crazy ideas. That, of course, is what makes the memo he wrote so damned interesting.
His September letter/memo was originally classified, but later released through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. It is a barn-burner, not just for its time, but for our time. It starts out with the single sentence, under Section 2, “It is the opinion that” —
“The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious.”
In further clear language, it goes on with specificity to state what these devices could do —
“The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and action which must be considered evasive when sighted … lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically, or remotely.”
Yes, that does sound like a few of Lue Elizondo’s so-called “Five Observables.” Only it was being put in writing some 70 years before we ever heard of Elizondo when the New York Times broke the story about his Pentagon gig at AATIP and the Nimitz case.
Twining listed several common descriptions of UFOs. They generally were silent, had a metallic or light reflecting surface, no trail, were circular or elliptical in shape, and often flat on the bottom. Many descriptions indicated a dome on top. Several reports indicated they flew in formation. No mention of Tic-Tacs (although they would not be a thing until 1969).
On July 8, 1947, the exact same day that the Roswell Air Base put out a press release saying that they had a flying saucer in their possession (something they wrote off as a weather balloon just five hours later), Twining canceled a scheduled trip to the West Coast. He did so “due to a very important and sudden matter.” It appears that while it was thought he was in Washington, D.C., travel records show he actually made a trip to New Mexico, where he remained until July 10.
Within two months, the Pentagon asked Twining and his team at Air Materiel Command to get to the bottom of the entire “flying disk” affair. He convened a secret conference with personnel from the Air Institute of Technology, Intelligence assets from T-2 (later, the Foreign Technology Division), the Office of Chief Engineering Division, and the Aircraft, Power Plant and Propeller Laboratories of Engineering (Division T-3). As Don Schmitt and Tom Carey put it in their Children of Roswell book —
“If the general was attempting to corroborate ‘hardware,’ he couldn’t have gone to better consultants. Clearly, these were ‘nuts and bolts’ experts, not simply lights-in-the-sky speculators. Combined with what Twining knew firsthand to be the truth about the recovery at Roswell and whatever late-breaking status reports he gleaned from these consultants, he decided how to respond to the original demand.”
Of particular interest, T-2 Intelligence at that time was primarily responsible for analyzing any and all foreign, new, or unknown aerial technology that came into the possession of the United States by whatever means. After World War Two, it was logically assumed that most such material devices would be of Soviet origin. Roswell was the cherry on top.
What’s not generally known is that at the end of the letter, handwritten, is the listing of the high-ranking officers and scientists who “coordinated” the memo — again, for the record, people from aircraft, propeller and power plant labs, and the engineering division T-3 at Wright Field.
So, importantly, this three page assessment wasn’t Nathan Twining flying solo with his beliefs about flying disks, but the consensus opinion of the best and brightest minds on the subject area that America had to offer.
Here is the entire Twining Memo. Each of the three pages is clickable in order to be seen and read in full size and, because of its importance, a transcript follows for even easier reading —
The Full Transcript
September 23, 1947
SUBJECT: AMC Opinion Concerning “Flying Discs”
TO: Commanding General
Army Air Forces
Washington 25, D.C.
ATTENTION: Brig. General George Schulgen, AC/AS-2
1. As requested by AC/AS-2 there is presented below the considered opinion of this command concerning the so-called “Flying Discs.” This opinion is based on interrogation report data furnished by AC/AS-2 and preliminary studies by personnel of T-2 and Aircraft Laboratory, Engineering Division T-3. This opinion was arrived at in a conference between personnel from the Air Institute of Technology, Intelligence T-2, Office, Chief of Engineering Division, and the Aircraft, Power Plant and Propeller Laboratories of Engineering Division T-3.
2. It is the opinion that:
a. The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious.
b. There are objects probably approximating the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft.
c. There is a possibility that some of the incidents may be caused by natural phenomena, such as meteors.
d. The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and motion which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically or remotely.
e. The apparent common description is as follows:
(1) Metallic or light reflecting surface.
(2) Absence of trail, except in a few instances where the object apparently was operating under high performance conditions.
(3) Circular or elliptical in shape, flat on bottom and domed on top.
(4) Several reports of well kept formation flights varying from three to nine objects.
(5) Normally no associated sound, except in three instances a substantial rumbling roar was noted.
(6) Level flight speeds normally above 300 knots are estimated.
f. It is possible within the present U.S. knowledge — provided extensive detailed development is undertaken — to construct a piloted aircraft which has the general description of the object in sub- paragraph (e) above which would be capable of an approximate range of 7000 miles at subsonic speeds.
g. Any development in this country along the lines indicated would be extremely expensive, time consuming and at the considerable expense of current projects and therefore, if directed, should be set up independently of existing projects.
h. Due consideration must be given the following:-
(1) The possibility that these objects are of domestic origin — the product of some high security project not known to AC/AS-2 or this Command.
(2) The lack of physical evidence in the shape of crash recovered exhibits which would undeniably prove the existence of these subjects.
(3) The possibility that some foreign nation has a form of propulsion possibly nuclear, which is outside of our domestic knowledge.
3. It is recommended that:
a. Headquarters, Army Air Forces issue a directive assigning a priority, security classification and Code name for a detailed study of this matter to include the preparation of complete sets of all available and pertinent data which will then be made available to the Army, Navy, Atomic Energy Commission, JRDB, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Group, NACA, and the RAND and NEPA projects for comments and recommendations, with a preliminary report to be forwarded within 15 days of receipt of the data and a detailed report thereafter every 30 days as the investigation develops. A complete interchange of data should be affected.
4. Awaiting a specific directive AMC will continue the investigation within its current resources in order to more closely define the nature of the phenomenon. Detailed Essential Elements of Information will be formulated immediately for transmittal thru channels.
Lieutenant General, U.S.A.
What It Said and What It Didn’t Say about Roswell
Some proponents view this letter as proof that the Air Force knows that extraterrestrial UFOs exist. The closest the the letter comes to considering alien origin is the opinion that we should consider, “The possibility that some foreign nation has a form of propulsion possibly nuclear, which is outside of our domestic knowledge.”
At the same time, however, the memo also asks us to consider, “The lack of physical evidence in the shape of crash recovered exhibits which would undeniably prove the existence of these subjects.”
UFO skeptics have pointed to Twining’s statement that no wreckage of a flying disc had been recovered. It’s true that he was probably in a good position to know. But what we don’t know is whether Twining would have been able to tell Schulgen about a UFO crash, if indeed such a thing happened. Simply put, if Schulgen lacked a “need to know,” Twining could not have told him.
It’s more than just that, however. As Schmitt and Carey point out in their book, Inside the Real Area 51, the document signed by Twining and approved by his advisors is a definitive acknowledgement of the reality of UFOs, arrived at only a couple of months after Roswell. They point out that before the July crash investigations had been lackluster, photographic evidence was rare, and most sightings went unattended.
“Only physical evidence could have provided such incontrovertible proof. Only an event such as the recovery of such physical evidence… a weather balloon would hardly fill that need. Clearly something extraordinary had happened in New Mexico two months before Twining’s amazing assessment. And where had the wreckage from the alleged flying saucer crash been taken? Wright Field — where Twining was headquartered.”
In the memo, Twining also stated that UFOs were not secret American craft. If this sounds familiar, it’s what the Department of Defense and people like Senator Marco Rubio have been saying in our latest go-round with this phenomenon. This delay is hardly a sign of progress we can be optimistic about.
UFO historian Richard Dolan takes that on in his ground-breaking book, UFOs and the National Security State: An Unclassified History, Volume One: 1941–1973.
“The U.S. had no craft in 1947, experimental or otherwise, that could duplicate the reported maneuvers of flying saucers. Even today, cutting-edge aircraft cannot turn a sharp angle at mach-plus speeds. When Twining wrote his letter, Chuck Yeager had not yet broken the sound barrier (he did it the next month at Muroc Field). And why would Twining tell Schulgen to keep studying flying saucers if they were simply classified American craft? If there were good reasons for doing so, none have emerged.”
What to Make of All This
Summing up, the Twining Memo says two things that we can reasonably expect this month’s upcoming UAP report to say, at minimum:
- UAP/UFOs are physically real.
- We don’t make them.
This raises a pretty big question, one that was raised in the Twining Memo and is being raised lately by everyone from Christopher Mellon and Harry Reid to the 60 Minutes team —
3. If we don’t make them, then who does?
That leads to really only two answers —
4. Russia or China (or some other earthly power), or
5. Somebody else from somewhere else (i.e. extra terrestrial, ultra dimensional, extra temporal, etc.)
Finally, let’s factor in the fact that it’s been nearly 75 years since Twining has his office staff hammer out his memo on their clunky typewriters.
While it may be possible in 2021 to imagine (even though no one’s done it to our knowledge) building craft (drones or manned) that can go 13,000 miles per hour, or go from 80,000 feet to 100 feet in about a second or so, or go from space to atmosphere to sea, it’s hard to imagine that being the case immediately after World War Two. Frankly, if anybody had that technology they would have used it. Neither Germany, the Soviet Union, nor the United States was holding anything back, witness the nuclear bombs used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hitler was trying to get some jet aircraft in the air but couldn’t muster even that in time to save his lost cause.
That’s why the Twining Memo is so important. It reminds us that this has been going on for a very long time, that there’s history here. This phenomenon didn’t just start in 2004 with the Nimitz case. There have been a lot of other sightings than those three Navy videos.
It’s not really okay if the UAP report being prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence simply addresses these modern reports as if none of this historical material happened. Because after Twining wrote his memo, we had Project Sign, Grudge, Blue Book, and the Condon report, modest congressional hearings, and thousands and thousands of sightings by everyone from average citizens to Presidents Reagan and Carter, plus police officers, military men and women, airline pilots, etc., and many of them were confirmed by multiple POVs and radar. That data is not to be dismissed lightly.
General Nathan Twining said they were real in 1947. Whether he was writing in the white heat of an off-world crash at Roswell or not, he was writing about something else unexplained and compelling. He didn’t dismiss the phenomenon, nor did he suggest we ignore it. He said it was authentic and that it merited immediate and sustained investigation.
It is odd that it’s taken us over seven decades to catch up to his words and historians will probably make something of that in the years to come.
Maybe the new UAP report that’s in the pipeline should borrow Nathan Twining’s best line for its own opening —
“The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious.”
Yes, that ought to get the process started.