National Geographic : 1952 Sep
BY GENERAL OF THE ARMY GEORGE C. MARSHALL IN 1943 I was flying across southern Cali fornia on the last leg of an inspection trip with Gen. Henry H. Arnold, then Com manding General of our Army Air Forces. As our plane droned across the desert, General Arnold glanced down at the rumpled mesas below and then turned to me. "Have you ever seen the great effigies near Blythe?" he inquired. I had not, nor had I even heard of them. I asked him to explain. He told me then that on a bluff above the small California town of Blythe, a local pilot, George Palmer, had dis covered several remarkable figures of great size outlined in the rocky soil. One of them appeared to represent a man; others depicted animals. The curious thing about them was this: So huge were they in outline and so shallow in indentation that they were virtually invisible to anyone standing only a few yards away. Nor were there any hills near enough to af ford a comprehensive view. In short, not even their creators could ever have glimpsed their handiwork's total design. This would have been plain only to the gods of the mesa, a passing bird-or the unfore seen invention in which we were now traveling. "When these effigies were first reported to me," said General Arnold, "I was commanding March Field, only a few hours' flight away. Calling on one of our young pilots, I asked him to reconnoiter the area. He did, and brought back a startling photograph [above] taken by his technical sergeant, Stephen McAlko. Would you like to see what that picture showed?" I said that I would, very much. General Arnold promptly changed our plane's course, and soon we were scanning the ridges sloping back from the lower Colorado River above Blythe. Then we saw them: gravel sculptures such as few men had ever laid eyes on-simple in outline, childish in form, and yet so grandiose in scale as to take one's breath away. It was a sight which left upon me a lasting impression. Years later, attending a meeting of the National Geographic Society's Board of Trustees, I suggested that important questions about these gravel effigies still remained: Who made them? What was their purpose? Were there any more like them in the vicinity? Now, in the article which follows by Frank M. Setzler, I am happy to find some of the answers authoritatively presented.