W A Harbinson and Projekt Saucer

SF author W A Harbinson has written a series of chunky paperbacks based on the Nazi UFO mythos. The series is run under the overall title Projekt Saucer, the key titles relating to WWII being Inception and Genesis [21]. I find his writing interesting and often quite exciting, though the accounts of violence and cold Nazi ruthlessness can be a little strong for my taste. Were these books sold only as fiction, they'd be of little interest to us here.

However, not only do the novels include an 'Author's Note' which suggests that the author's own research has established a factual basis to his 'fiction', but he has also published a non-fiction book  Projekt UFO. The blurb on the back says:

For nearly half a century, ever since the first UFO sightings of June 1947, it has been assumed that flying saucers, if they exist at all, are of extraterrestrial origin. 'Projekt UFO: The Case for Man-Made Flying Saucers' proves conclusively that this is not so.

The book extends well beyond the end of WWII, and for the most part it deals with the usual post-war questions regarding the reality of UFO sightings, the development of terrestrial technologies, and key cases, such as Socorro. It also introduces - in Harbinson's Foreword - the 'Brisant' document, one of the truly great ufological red herrings.

In May 1978, at Stand 111 in a scientific exhibition in the Hanover Messe Hall, some gentlemen were giving away what at first sight appeared to be an orthodox scientific newspaper called 'Brisant'. The paper contained two seemingly unrelated articles: one on the scientific and ecological value of the Antarctic, the other about a German World War II flying saucer construction project, named 'Projekt Saucer'.

The first article, written from a neo-Nazi standpoint, included a suggestion that West Germany should claim back their right to Queen Maud Land > in the Antarctic, which the Nazis stole from the Norwegians during World War II and renamed Neu Schwabenland. The second article, which asserted that the German scientists were the first, but not the only ones, to construct highly advanced saucer-shaped aircraft, was accompanied by reproductions of technical drawings of a World War II flying saucer.

The unnamed author failed to name the designer of the flying saucer and claimed that the drawings had been altered by the West German government to render them 'safe' for publication. Adding weight to his claim, he also pointed out that during World War II all such inventions, whether civilian or military, would have been submitted to the nearest patent office where, under paragraphs 30a and 99 of the Patent-und Strafgesetzbuch, they would have been routinely classified as 'secret.' After being confiscated and passed on to one of Himmler's many SS research establishments, at the end of the war they would perhaps have disappeared into secret Soviet files, or into equally secret British and US files, or lost with 'missing' German scientists and SS troops.

The rest of the article was just as intriguing. It claimed that throughout the course of World War II the Germans sent ships and planes to Queen Maud Land>, or Neu Schwabenland, in the Antarctic, with equipment for massive underground complexes, similar to those they had constructed in Thuringia and the Harz Mountains in Germany.. It said that at the end of the war some of the scientists and engineers who had worked on Projekt Saucer escaped from Germany by submarine and ended up in an underground base in the Antarctic, where they continued to construct even more advanced flying saucers, and that the Americans and Soviets, upon learning about this, then used their captured German scientists and technical papers for the secret construction of their own flying saucers.

Mark Ian Birdsall, in his paper The Ultimate Solution, asserts that it was Harbinson himself who found 'Brisant', though Harbinson doesn't make that claim.

Harbinson while researching 'Genesis' paid a visit to the semi-Northern city of Hannover in the late 70's. It was here that he reportedly attended a science lecture exhibition at the 'Hannover Messe Hall'. Whilst looking around the hall, Harbinson arrived at stand number 111, it was here that he was handed a magazine called 'Brisant'. [24]

I wrote to Harbinson via his publishers to ask for further information about 'Brisant', because it is clearly - if it ever actually existed - a key document in the development of the mythos. Henry Stephens of the German Research Project (see below) offers copies of what he says are some pages, and claims that the originals of 'Brisant' were lost by Harbinson's publishers: so I asked about that, too. Unfortunately, I received no response, so the authority and provenance of 'Brisant' remain unknown.

Harbinson seems to have been inspired by the content of the paper, despite the implausibility of the bit about the patent office and the plans having been "altered by the West German government to render them 'safe' for publication". That sounds more like an excuse for the technical infeasibility which afflicts every diagram of discs in the mythos. Undeterred, Harbinson continues:

This theory would explain why, even before glasnost, all the nations of the world - even the Soviets and the Americans - had cooperated with one another only in the Antarctic. In short, the flying saucers seen by so many people since World War II are not extraterrestrial space-craft, but are, in fact, extraordinarily advanced, top secret, man-made machines. They come from right here on Earth.

During my two years of intensive research, I uncovered written and photographic evidence which proved beyond doubt that Nazi Germany had in fact initiated a research programme for the development of saucer-shaped aircraft. I found that at the close of the war seasoned Allied pilots were submitting official reports about harassment by 'balls of fire' that tailed them and made their aircraft and radar mal-function. In addition, one of the leading members of Germany's Projekt Saucer development team disappeared into the Soviet Union and another went to work with German rocket expert, Wernher von Braun, for NASA in the United States

My research also uncovered articles about man-made flying saucers, including the German Kugelblitz and the Canadian AVRO-Car prototype published not only by the 'lunatic' fringe but by highly respected aeronautical magazines such as 'Luftfahrt International', the 'Royal Air Force Flying Review', and the 'US News and World Report'. So, flying saucers, whether primitive or highly advanced, were certainly constructed in Nazi Germany and post-war
Canada, in the latter case with the aid of the United States

In 1980, my 615-page novel, 'Genesis', based on a mass of research material, including that mentioned above, was published. It became a bestseller on both sides of the
Atlantic, eventually becoming a 'cult' book, and is still in print ten years after its publication. Reviewing the novel on its publication in the United States
, 'Publishers Weekly' said: 'Harbinson has drawn so heavily on factual material and integrated it so well into the text that the book begins to read like non-fiction...' [25]

That Publishers Weekly was so impressed says much for the quality of Harbinson's writing, but little for his research. In his chapter 'Technology and Sightings of World War II' we find a familiar statement, with a few added details:

Renato Vesco was an aircraft engineer specializing in aerospace and ramjet developments. Educated before World War II at the
University of Rome, he then studied aeronautical engineering at the German Institute for Aerial Development. During the war, he was sent to work with the Germans at Fiat's immense underground installations at Lake Garda, near Limone in northern Italy
, where he helped in the production of aeronautical devices that were tested at the Hermann Göring Institute of Riva del Garda. After the war, in the 1960s. Vesco worked for the Italian Air Ministry of Defence as an undercover technical agent, investigating the UFO phenomenon. [26]

Harbinson accepts Vesco's claims without further ado, and then goes on, in his chapter 'Division of the Scientific Spoils of War', to accept Lusar, too, saying :

An article about 'Projekt Saucer' was later published in the indispensable volume, 'German Secret Weapons of the Second World War' (1959) by Major Rudolf Lusar, and included reproductions of the flying saucer drawings of Schriever and Miethe.

Harbinson sets out more of Lusar's material, and then reports, helpfully, some research of his own:

Schriever's recollection of the test flight date is contradicted in certain details by alleged eye witness Georg Klein, a former engineer with Albert Speer's Ministry for Armament and Ammunition, who told the press that he had actually seen the test flight of the Schriever disc, or one similar, near Prague on 14 February 1945. A certain doubt may be cast on Klein's date, since according to the War Diary of the 8th Air Fleet,
14 February 1945 was a day of low cloud, rain, snow and generally poor visibility - hardly the conditions for the testing of a revolutionary new kind of aircraft.

One of those who may have been involved in the actual Projekt Saucer is Heinrich Fleissner, of Dasing, Augsburg in the Federal German Republic. Interviewed for the 2 May 1980 edition of Neue Presse magazine, Fleissner, who was then seventy-six, claimed that he had been a technical consultant on a jet-propelled, disc-shaped aircraft that had been constructed by a team of technicians in Peenemünde, though the parts had been built in many other places. According to Fleissner, Hermann Göring had been the patron' of the aircraft and had planned to use it as a courier plane. At the end of the war, the Wehrmacht destroyed most of the plans and a few of the 'unimportant' drawings fell into the hands of the Russians.

Hermann Klaas, from Mühlheim, West Germany, a bio-technician specializing in aerodynamic phenomena, was another who claimed to have worked on various remote-controlled models for disc-shaped aircraft during World War II. The most common model was 2.4 metres in diameter and propelled by an electro-engine supplied by the Luftwaffe. According to Klaas, these models were similar to those then being developed by Schriever, Habermohl, Miethe, and Belluzzo in Böhmen (Czechoslovakia) and Breslau (now Wrocklaw, Poland). [28]

Overall, bearing in mind the quality of most of his sources, Harbinson's research is better than most: it takes a while to realise that the world of ufology is full of dreams, misapprehensions and outright lies. For me, though, why the Germans would have called their enterprise 'Projekt Saucer' is a mystery in itself. The drawings produced during the 1950s, and even in the hypothetical 'Brisant', in no way resemble saucers, 'saucer' is not a German word, and the term 'flying saucers' didn't appear until 1947 when a journalist mistook Kenneth Arnold's description of the way unidentified objects moved in the air over the Cascade Mountains for a description of what they looked like. Maybe this is what they call artistic licence, fine for fiction, but distinctly out of place if it's conveyed as the truth. I have no hesitation in concluding that there was no 'Projekt Saucer' in the real world, and that Harbinson has, presumably quite inadvertently, made a major contribution to the development of the mythos.