The 1954 windshield pitting epidemic- delusion, UFOs, H-Bombs or perhaps…. UF6 "hex" leak(s) at Hanford?
Jack Sliwa Technologist White Paper #2 dated 02/10/22
Introduction and Background Information
Almost 68 years since it happened its time to take another look….
From late March 1954 through April 17, 1954 the U.S. Pacific Northwest went through a strange phenomenon evidenced by automobile windshields undergoing severe deep pitting. These windshield pits were the size of a pencil eraser up to the size of a dime and appeared to eiher be chemically etched or ballistic craters as from an impacting BB or shotgun pellet. More than 3000 such damaged windshields were reported to various police departments by automobile owners starting in Bellingham, moving south 2 weeks later to Mount Vernon and Sedro Wooley, and again moving south 1 week later to Anacortes on Fidalgo Island and then onto the secure military base at Whidbey Island. Finally, moving again southwardly, around the April 14-17 period the phenomenon finally hit Seattle. There is no debate that the above periods and locations are accurate. Other questionable data indicate that the 1954 wave may have also occurred in 1952 and again later in 1957. Further other data indicate that there were similar limited (?) events in Toronto Canada and Ohio in these timeframes. Finally, some data indicate limited 1954 events in Northern California and Nebraska.
During the 1954 Pacific Northwest March/April events the Anacordes police took the phenomenon seriously and used roadblocks and vehicle searches to try and find the supposed vandals with their BB guns. None were found. It was the search by 75 military troops on Whidbey Island whereat vandals could not possibly be entering that secure military facility, that “convinced” the authorities, including President Eisenhower’s designated scientists, that the entire episode was “hysteria” with perhaps 5% real vandalism thrown in. A specific and pivotal piece of evidence that steered their conclusions was that, without a doubt, “only older cars had pit damage whereas new cars parked adjacently had supposedly no such damage”. Even numerous police cars were damaged on the same day in front of the officers eyes. Glass craters were seen forming before their eyes. Sometimes the vinyl or polymer intralayer in the dual layer glass windshield bubbled to be followed by cratering of the outer glass layer. (For those windshields having such an intralayer) It was noted by several that by rubbing away the prepit brownish/grayish deposits that subsequent pits would NOT form thus making it clear that chemical etching was happening to the outer glass layer. Brownish/Grayish coal-ash like micropebbles were identified which seemed to “magnetically” react with pencil leads. On a few rare occasions cracks started growing and interconnecting-without intralayer bubbles. There was also limited data regarding similar pitting damage to aircraft windshields.
Before hysteria and/or delusion were “identified” as the cause various parties had blamed one or all of ongoing Pacific nuclear bomb tests, cosmic rays, UFOs, sand fleas living IN(?) the windshields, vandals with BB guns, vandals with shotguns, vandals with slingshots, coal dust and even gremlins!. Somehow, incredibly, the above actually observed chemical etching was ignored by those “scientists” pointing to delusion. The hysteria/delusion conclusion basically states that the pits were always there and were only noticed upon hearing of someone else discovering them on their own windshield. That was a travesty of logic and reason to blame the ENTIRE phenomenon on hysteria.
First, I have attached the link to a YouTube video regarding this subject. Its link is here
I have also attached 12 downloadable news story references in the form of a zip file. Click here to download it. These articles give the above and additional detail on this strange phenomenon from a daily news point-of-view.
Finally, I have also attached 4 downloadable files relating to winds and weather in the Pacific Northwest region. The 4 articles in the form of another ZIP file can be downloaded here. I’ll next discuss the overall phenomenon including the weather aspects as a potential contributor to the pitting.
I have personally had quite a bit of experience using liquid hydrogen fluoride (HF) diluted (or not) to various concentrations as a glass/oxide etchant in the semiconductor (IC) and MEMS industries. It is a clear liquid and can dramatically burn tissue in any measurable amount-even the tiniest droplets or smudge. Thus fab workers are required to utilize mask/shields and rubber aprons as well as elbow length gloves when working with HF solutions. It is extremely hazardous.
It struck me when I read about the Hanford nuclear refining processes that a major step includes the preparation of gaseous uranium hexafluoride UF6 or “hex”. If “hex” comes into contact with water it forms HF products. Such water could include humidity or rain presuming the UF6 is released (e.g. accidentally) into the atmosphere. Such an event would cause immediate massive damage to nearby glass. Thus we have the hypothetical possibility of Hanford releasing (in the 1954 era) UF6 into the atmosphere and forming HF products which fall onto remote automobile windshields-presuming the humidity/rain and wind conditions are right. Note that wind directions and velocities vary seasonally, with time of day, as well as with altitude in most locations.
I don’t claim to be a meteorologist but the first thing I looked for weather-wise was whether there was anything unusual about the 1954 weather in the NW USA. You will see that one of the 4 downloadable weather articles is entitled “1954 The year without a summer”. 1954 across the US was cooler. It was a standout exception to normal. This caused me to look further.
My question became “are there ever situations wherein wind or breezes at one or more altitudes blow FROM Hanford generally northwest toward the cities where windshield damage occurred”. The remaining three downloadable weather papers (a) discuss Pacific NW winds in general and (b) show the weather and winds for March 1954 and April 1954 for the Pacific NW.
From these papers taken together it is plain to see that winds can and do sometimes blow from Hanford toward Seattle and points north thereby allowing the possibility that UF6 sourced HF was carried from a Hanford leak or release of UF6 in 1954. UF6, in minute droplet amount in an etched pit, will give only a very low reading, if that, on a Geiger counter which can’t be held directly against the pit UF6 itself. It will be noted that UF6 crystals are grayish. The UF6 phase diagram demonstrates that the solid/gaseous phase change boundary extends down to about 50 Deg F and the cooler year certainly would help. So Pacific NW weather conditions could easily invite either phase presuming it doesn’t totally react with moisture first. The gray UF6 crystals are also known to burn skin and sting. Also note the reports of damaging winds in March and April of 1954. It is possible that formed gray HF products in turn crystallized in/on preexisting brown coal dust giving the brown/gray particles.
A good question is why the windshields of newer cars seem not to be attacked as much. First, some amount of hysteria is almost always based on at-least some real phenomenon-my opinion. We absolutely know real etching took place. It turns out glass roughness and glass composition both have an effect on wet etch rate by HF solutions. Surface roughness increases the initial etch rate such as for a finely sandblasted (by road dust) older windshields. Further, rougher glass has a much better HF wettability so bigger pits may form. Glasses, such as soda lime glass (versus Pyrex™ for example) have high etch rates which then slow dramatically because of insoluble etch byproducts which block the etching process itself. Thus we would need to know the variation in windshield as-manufactured glass composition over time i.e. for the older vs the newer cars. Further, glass stress also speeds up etching. Finally, if the outer laminate thickness of glass decreased over time of manufacture one would see fewer huge pits in newer glass because the intralayer acts like an etch stop.
From the best of my knowledge most (all?) automobiles in the 1954 timeframe used laminated glass windshields. There were incremental improvements to such laminated glass during the 1960s to more than triple the laminate strength.
It appears possible that an accidental or purposeful (emergency response) UF6 release(s) from Hanford in March/April, 1954 could have caused some HF byproducts to fall onto the cities of Seattle and those cities earlier affected northward. That in turn could have caused the windshield pitting. In any event a better analysis than mine of the exact weather conditions on/around the pitting days could help. Wind flow patterns around the Pacific NW are rather complex and variable per the downloadable Schoenberg weather attachment.
It is recognized that the Hanford Site, despite its ongoing cleanup challenge, did serve our country well when we needed it most. In any event the conclusion of hysteria and delusion as the entire explanation of windshield pitting is a travesty of critical thinking. It would be quite understandable (to me) if the government at that time chose to hide such a leak(s) for two reasons: (a) The radioactivity exposure from UF6 was minimal, (b) The delusion conclusion would need to be withdrawn probably causing even more public concern.
Although I have described liquid HF products falling on windshields it will be apparent that if the gray/brown deposit falls as a solid or semisolid on a windshield and later water/humidity is THEN added then even more pitting may occur.
A web based entity such as The Black Vault, experts in filing FOIAs, might consider submitting an FOIA request for the 1954 period looking for anything confidential/secret relating to a UF6 or hex leak and related help from Washington in fixing/finding it.
This paper has not PROVEN such a leak (with distant transport) occurred in April/May 1954 or at any other time. It merely shows that mechanistically it appears that it may have been physically possible. In any event reactive hysteria and delusion were probably present but they don’t explain the whole event and probably rarely do in cases where real physical evidence is seen.