an insider's guide
to flying saucers
PART THREE OF THREE PARTS
From 1951 through 1953 Captain Edward J. Ruppelt was chief of Project Blue Book -- the official Air Force investigation into the UFO phenomenon. Although he was the lowest ranking officer to run Blue Book over the course of the twenty-two years of the project's existence, he was also the most open, allowing outside investigators such as Major Donald Keyhoe unprecedented access to Blue Book's files. This series features selections from his writings.
Left: Captain Edward J Ruppelt at his desk.
HE WAS THERE for one of the two most critical times in the annals of ufology.
And though the first critical period of summer 1947 had produced reams of classified records documenting the events, the thinking and the tenor of the times, it was only Captain Edward J. Ruppelt who, after the second great UFO wave of 1952, dared step out from behind the curtain of official obfuscation to give the public a mostly unvarnished and personal view of the situation -- as he had seen it from the inside as chief of the Air Force's Project Blue Book -- in his 1956 classic book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.
His take on the classic events are well known, and in any case have been mostly covered in the first two parts of this series. But it is the lesser known incidents on which Ruppelt throws a fascinating spotlight.
Here then, excerpts from his most intriguing encounters with the unknown...
FROM THE FOREWORD:
This is a book about unidentified flying objects -- UFO's -- flying saucers." It is actually more than a book; it is a report because it is the first time that anyone, either military or civilian, has brought together in one document all the facts about this fascinating subject. With the exception of the style, this report is written exactly the way I would have written it had I been officially asked to do so while I was chief of the Air Force's project for investigating UFO reports -- Project Blue Book.
In many instances I have left out the names of the people who reported seeing UFO's, or the names of certain people who were associated with the project, just as I would have done in an official report. For the same reason I have changed the locale in which some of the UFO sightings occurred. This is especially true in chapter fifteen, the story of how some of our atomic scientists detected radiation whenever UFO's were reported near their "UFO-detection stations." This policy of not identifying the "source," to borrow a term from military intelligence, is insisted on by the Air Force so that the people who have co-operated with them will not get any unwanted publicity. Names are considered to be "classified information."...
It was only after considerable deliberation that I put this report together, because it had to be told accurately, with no holds barred. I finally decided to do it for two reasons. First, there is world-wide interest in flying saucers; people want to know the facts. But more often than not these facts have been obscured by secrecy and confusion, a situation that has led to wild speculation on one end of the scale and an almost dangerously blasé attitude on the other. It is only when all of the facts are laid out that a correct evaluation can be made.
Second, after spending two years investigating and analyzing UFO reports, after talking to the people who have seen UFO's -- industrialists, pilots, engineers, generals, and just the plain man-on-the-street, and after discussing the subject with many very capable scientists, I felt that I was in a position to be able to put together the complete account of the Air Force's struggle with the flying saucer.
The report has been difficult to write because it involves something that doesn't officially exist. It is well known that ever since the first flying saucer was reported in June 1947 the Air Force has officially said that there is no proof that such a thing as an interplanetary spaceship exists. But what is not well known is that this conclusion is far from being unanimous among the military and their scientific advisers because of the one word, proof; so the UFO investigations continue.
The hassle over the word "proof" boils down to one question: What constitutes proof? Does a UFO have to land at the River Entrance to the Pentagon, near the Joint Chiefs of Staff offices? Or is it proof when a ground radar station detects a UFO, sends a jet to intercept it, the jet pilot sees it, and locks on with his radar, only to have the UFO streak away at a phenomenal speed? Is it proof when a jet pilot fires at a UFO and sticks to his story even under the threat of court-martial? Does this constitute proof?
The at times hotly debated answer to this question may be the answer to the question, "Do the UFO's really exist?"
I'll give you the facts -- all of the facts -- you decide...
FROM CHAPTER ONE:
Note: F-86 Sabrejet, provided for informational purposes and not included in book. The F-86 is considered one of the best fighter jets of all time, and in 1948 set the world speed record of 670 miles per hour.
In the summer of 1952 a United States Air Force F-86 jet interceptor shot at a flying saucer.
This fact, like so many others that make up the full flying saucer story has never before been told.
I know the full story about flying saucers and I know that it has never before been told because I organized and was chief of the Air Force Project Blue Book, the special project set up to investigate and analyze unidentified flying object, or UFO reports...
There is a fighter base in the United States which I used to visit frequently because, during 1951, 1952, and 1953, it got more than its share of good UFO reports.
The commanding officer of the fighter group, a full colonel and command pilot, believed that UFO's were real. The colonel believed in UFO's because he had a lot of faith in his pilots -- and they had chased UFO's in their F-86's. He had seen UFO's on the scopes of his radar sets, and he knew radar.
The colonel's intelligence officer, a captain, didn't exactly believe that UFO's were real, but he did think that they warranted careful investigation. The logic the intelligence officer used in investigating UFO reports -- and in getting answers to many of them -- made me wish many times that he worked for me on Project Blue Book.
One day the intelligence officer called me at my base in Dayton, Ohio. He wanted to know if I was planning to make a trip his way soon. When I told him I expected to be in his area in about a week, he asked me to be sure to look him up. There was no special hurry, he added, but he had something very interesting to show me.
When we got wind of a good story, Project Blue Book liked to start working on it at once, so I asked the intelligence officer to tell me what he had. But nothing doing. He didn't want to discuss it over the phone. He even vetoed the idea of putting it into a secret wire. Such extreme caution really stopped me, because anything can be coded and put in a wire...
Once we were alone, the intelligence officer shut the door, went over to his safe, and dug out a big, thick report. It was the standard Air Force reporting form that is used for all intelligence reports, including UFO reports. The intelligence officer told me that this was the only existing copy. He said that he had been told to destroy all copies, but had saved one for me to read.
With great curiosity, I took the report and started to read. What had happened at this fighter base?
About ten o'clock in the morning, one day a few weeks before, a radar near the base had picked up an unidentified target. It was an odd target in that it came in very fast -- about 700 miles per hour -- and then slowed down to about 100 miles per hour. The radar showed that it was located northeast of the airfield, over a sparsely settled area.
Unfortunately the radar station didn't have any height finding equipment. The operators knew the direction of the target and its distance from the station but they didn't know its altitude. They reported the target, and two F-86's were scrambled.
The radar picked up the F-86's soon after they were airborne, and had begun to direct them into the target when the target started to fade on the radarscope. At the time several of the operators thought that this fade was caused by the target's losing altitude rapidly and getting below the radar's beam. Some of the other operators thought that it was a high flying target and that it was fading just because it was so high.
In the debate which followed, the proponents of the high flying theory won out, and the F-86's were told to go up to 40,000 feet. But before the aircraft could get to that altitude, the target had been completely lost on the radarscope.
The F-86's continued to search the area at 40,000 feet, but could see nothing. After a few minutes the aircraft ground controller called the F-86's and told one to come down to 20,000 feet, the other to 5,000 feet, and continue the search. The two jets made a quick letdown, with one pilot stopping at 20,000 feet and the other heading for the deck.
The second pilot, who was going down to 5,000 feet, was just beginning to pull out when he noticed a flash below and ahead of him. He flattened out his dive a little and headed toward the spot where he had seen the light. As he closed on the spot he suddenly noticed what he first thought was a weather balloon. A few seconds later be realized that it couldn't be a balloon because it was staying ahead of him. Quite an achievement for a balloon, since he had built up a lot of speed in his dive and now was flying almost straight and level at 3,000 feet and was traveling "at the Mach."
Again the pilot pushed the nose of the F-86 down and started after the object. He closed fairly fast, until he came to within an estimated 1,000 yards. Now he could get a good look at the object. Although it had looked like a balloon from above, a closer view showed that it was definitely round and flat saucer shaped. The pilot described it as being "like a doughnut without a hole."
As his rate of closure began to drop off, the pilot knew that the object was picking up speed. But he pulled in behind it and started to follow. Now he was right on the deck.
About this time the pilot began to get a little worried. What should he do? He tried to call his buddy, who was flying above him somewhere in the area at 20,000 feet. He called two or three times but could get no answer. Next he tried to call the ground controller but he was too low for his radio to carry that far. Once more he tried his buddy at 20,000 feet, but again no luck.
By now he had been following the object for about two minutes and during this time had closed the gap between them to approximately 500 yards. But this was only momentary. Suddenly the object began to pull away, slowly at first, then faster. The pilot, realizing that he couldn't catch it, wondered what to do next.
When the object traveled out about 1,000 yards, the pilot suddenly made up his mind -- he did the only thing that he could do to stop the UFO. It was like a David about to do battle with a Goliath, but he had to take a chance. Quickly charging his guns, he started shooting. . . . A moment later the object pulled up into a climb and in a few seconds it was gone. The pilot climbed to 10,000 feet, called the other F-86, and now was able to contact his buddy. They joined up and went back to their base.
As soon as he had landed and parked, the F-86 pilot went into operations to tell his story to his squadron commander. The mere fact that he had fired his guns was enough to require a detailed report, as a matter of routine. But the circumstances under which the guns actually were fired created a major disturbance at the fighter base that day...
For some obscure reason there was a "personality clash," the intelligence officer's term, between the pilot and the squadron commander. This was obvious, according to the report I was reading, because the squadron commander immediately began to tear the story apart and accuse the pilot of "cracking up," or of just "shooting his guns for the hell of it and using the wild story as a cover-up."...
The intelligence officer wrote up his report of a UFO sighting, but at the last minute, just before sending it, he was told to hold it back. He was a little unhappy about this turn of events, so he went in to see why the group commander had decided to delay sending the report to Project Blue Book.
They talked over the possible reactions to the report. If it went out it would cause a lot of excitement, maybe unnecessarily. Yet, if the pilot actually had seen what he claimed, it was vitally important to get the report in to ATIC immediately. The group commander said that he would make his decision after a talk with his executive officer. They decided not to send the report and ordered it destroyed...
- - - - -
On July 24, 1952, two Air Force colonels, flying a B-25, took off from Hamilton Air Force Base, near San Francisco, for Colorado Springs, Colorado. The day was clear, not a cloud in the sky.
The colonels had crossed the Sierra Nevada between Sacramento and Reno and were flying east at 11,000 feet on "Green 3," the aerial highway to Salt Lake City. At 3:40P.M. they were over the Carson Sink area of Nevada, when one of the colonels noticed three objects ahead of them and a little to their right. The objects looked like three F- 86's flying a tight V formation. If they were F-86's they should have been lower, according to civil air regulations, but on a clear day some pilots don't watch their altitude too closely.
In a matter of seconds the three aircraft were close enough to the B- 25 to be clearly seen. They were not F-86's. They were three bright silver, delta wing craft with no tails and no pilot's canopies. The only thing that broke the sharply defined, clean upper surface of the triangular wing was a definite ridge that ran from the nose to the tail.
In another second the three deltas made a slight left bank and shot by the B-25 at terrific speed. The colonels estimated that the speed was at least three times that of an F-86. They got a good look at the three deltas as the unusual craft passed within 400 to 800 yards of the B-25.
When they landed at Colorado Springs, the two colonels called the intelligence people at Air Defense Command Headquarters to make a UFO report. The suggestion was offered that they might have seen three F- 86's. The colonels promptly replied that if the objects had been F- 86's they would have easily been recognized as such. The colonels knew what F-86's looked like.
Air Defense Command relayed the report to Project Blue Book. An investigation was started at once.
Flight Service, which clears all military aircraft flights, was contacted and asked about the location of aircraft near the Carson Sink area at 3:40P.M. They had no record of the presence of aircraft in that area.
Since the colonels had mentioned delta wing aircraft, and both the Air Force and the Navy had a few of this type, we double-checked. The Navy's deltas were all on the east coast, at least all of the silver ones were. A few deltas painted the traditional navy blue were on the west coast, but not near Carson Sink. The Air Force's one delta was temporarily grounded.
Since balloons once in a while can appear to have an odd shape, all balloon flights were checked for both standard weather balloons and the big 100-foot-diameter research balloons. Nothing was found.
A quick check on the two colonels revealed that both of them were command pilots and that each had several thousand hours of flying time. They were stationed at the Pentagon. Their highly classified assignments were such that they would be in a position to recognize anything that the United States knows to be flying anywhere in the world.
Both men had friends who had "seen flying saucers" at some time, but both had openly voiced their skepticism. Now, from what the colonels said when they were interviewed after landing at Colorado Springs, they had changed their opinions.
Nobody knows what the two colonels saw over Carson Sink. However, it is always possible to speculate. Maybe they just thought they were close enough to the three objects to see them plainly. The objects might have been three F-86's: maybe Flight Service lost the records. It could be that the three F-86's had taken off to fly in the local area of their base but had decided to do some illegal sight-seeing. Flight Service would have no record of a flight like this. Maybe both of the colonels had hallucinations.
There is a certain mathematical probability that any one of the above speculative answers is correct -- correct for this one case. If you try this type of speculation on hundreds of sightings with "unknown" answers, the probability that the speculative answers are correct rapidly approaches zero.
Maybe the colonels actually did see what they thought they did, a type of craft completely foreign to them.
Another good UFO report provides an incident in which there is hardly room for any speculation of this type. The conclusion is more simply, "Unknown," period.
On January 20, 1952, at seven-twenty in the evening, two master sergeants, both intelligence specialists, were walking down a street on the Fairchild Air Force Base, close to Spokane, Washington.
Suddenly both men noticed a large, bluish-white, spherical-shaped object approaching from the east. They stopped and watched the object carefully, because several of these UFO's had been reported by pilots from the air base over the past few months. The sergeants had written up the reports on these earlier sightings.
The object was traveling at a moderately fast speed on a horizontal path. As it passed to the north of their position and disappeared in the west, the sergeants noted that it had a long blue tail. At no time did they hear any sound. They noted certain landmarks that the object had crossed and estimated the time taken in passing these landmarks. The next day they went out and measured the angles between these landmarks in order to include them in their report.
When we got the report at ATIC, our first reaction was that the master sergeants had seen a large meteor. From the evidence I had written off, as meteors, all previous similar UFO reports from this air base.
The sergeants' report, however, contained one bit of information that completely changed the previous picture. At the time of the sighting there had been a solid 6,000-foot-thick overcast at 4,700 feet. And meteors don't go that low.
A few quick calculations gave a rather fantastic answer. If the object was just at the base of the clouds it would have been 10,000 feet from the two observers and traveling 1,400 miles per hour.
But regardless of the speed, the story was still fantastic. The object was no jet airplane because there was no sound. It was not a searchlight because there were none on the air base. It was not an automobile spotlight because a spotlight will not produce the type of light the sergeants described. As a double check, however, both men were questioned on this point. They stated firmly that they had seen hundreds of searchlights and spotlights playing on clouds, and that this was not what they saw.
Beyond these limited possibilities the sergeants' UFO discourages fruitful speculation. The object remains unidentified.
The UFO reports made by the two colonels and the two master sergeants are typical of hundreds of other good UFO reports which carry the verdict, "Conclusion unknown."
FROM CHAPTER FIVE: Describing events before Captain Ruppelt arrived at Blue Book...
After a quiet January, True again clobbered the reading public. This time it was a story in the March 1950 issue and it was entitled, "How Scientists Tracked Flying Saucers." It was written by none other than the man who was at that time in charge of a team of Navy scientists at the super hush-hush guided missile test and development area, White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico. He was Commander R.B. McLaughlin, an Annapolis graduate and a Regular Navy officer. His story had been cleared by the military and was in absolute, 180-degree, direct contradiction to every press release that had been made by the military in the past two years. Not only did the commander believe that he had proved that UFO's were real but that he knew what they were. "I am convinced," he wrote in the True article, "that it," referring to a UFO he had seen at White Sands, "was a flying saucer, and further, that these disks are spaceships from another planet, operated by animate, intelligent beings."
Note: Commander McLaughlin's True magazine article, provided for informational purposes and not included in book.
On several occasions during 1948 and 1949, McLaughlin or his crew at the White Sands Proving Ground had made good UFO sightings. The best one was made on April 24, 1949, when the commander's crew of engineers, scientists, and technicians were getting ready to launch one of the huge 100-foot-diameter skyhook balloons. It was 10:30 A.M. on an absolutely clear Sunday morning. Prior to the launching, the crew had sent up a small weather balloon to check the winds at lower levels. One man was watching the balloon through a theodolite, an instrument similar to a surveyor's transit built around a 25-power telescope, one man was holding a stop watch, and a third had a clipboard to record the measured data. The crew had tracked the balloon to about 10,000 feet when one of them suddenly shouted and pointed off to the left. The whole crew looked at the part of the sky where the man was excitedly pointing, and there was a UFO. "It didn't appear to be large," one of the scientists later said, "but it was plainly visible. It was easy to see that it was elliptical in shape and had a 'whitish-silver color.'" After taking a split second to realize what they were looking at, one of the men swung the theodolite around to pick up the object, and the timer reset his stop watch. For sixty seconds they tracked the UFO as it moved toward the east. In about fifty-five seconds it had dropped from an angle of elevation of 45 degrees to 25 degrees, then it zoomed upward and in a few seconds it was out of sight. The crew heard no sound and the New Mexico desert was so calm that day that they could have heard "a whisper a mile away."
When they reduced the data they had collected, McLaughlin and crew found out that the UFO had been traveling 4 degrees per second. At one time during the observed portion of its flight, the UFO had passed in front of a range of mountains that were visible to the observers. Using this as a check point, they estimated the size of the UFO to be 40 feet wide and 100 feet long, and they computed that the UFO had been at an altitude of 296,000 feet, or 56 miles, when they had first seen it, and that it was traveling 7 miles per second.
This wasn't the only UFO sighting made by White Sands scientists. On
April 5, 1948, another team watched a UFO for several minutes as it
streaked across the afternoon sky in a series of violent maneuvers.
The disk-shaped object was about a fifth the size of a full moon.
On another occasion the crew of a C-47 that was tracking a skyhook balloon saw two similar UFO's come loping in from just above the horizon, circle the balloon, which was flying at just under 90,000 feet, and rapidly leave. When the balloon was recovered it was ripped.
I knew the two pilots of the C-47; both of them now believe in flying saucers. And they aren't alone; so do the people of the Aeronautical Division of General Mills who launch and track the big skyhook balloons. These scientists and engineers all have seen UFO's and they aren't their own balloons. I was almost tossed out of the General Mills offices into a cold January Minneapolis snowstorm for suggesting such a thing -- but that comes later in our history of the UFO.
I don't know what these people saw. There has been a lot of interest generated by these sightings because of the extremely high qualifications and caliber of the observers. There is some legitimate doubt as to the accuracy of the speed and altitude figures that McLaughlin's crew arrived at from the data they measured with their theodolite. This doesn't mean much, however. Even if they were off by a factor of 100 per cent, the speeds and altitudes would be fantastic, and besides they looked at the UFO through a 25-power telescope and swore that it was a flat, oval-shaped object. Balloons, birds, and airplanes aren't flat and oval-shaped.
Astrophysicist Dr. Donald Menzel, in a book entitled Flying Saucers, says they saw a refracted image of their own balloon caused by an atmospheric phenomenon. Maybe he is right, but the General Mills people don't believe it. And their disagreement is backed up by years of practical experience with the atmosphere, its tricks and its illusions.
When the March issue of True magazine carrying Commander McLaughlin's story about how the White Sands Scientists had tracked UFO's reached the public, it stirred up a hornets' nest. Donald Keyhoe's article in the January True had converted many people but there were still a few heathens. The fact that government scientists had seen UFO's, and were admitting it, took care of a large percentage of these heathens. More and more people were believing in flying saucers.
The Navy had no comment to make about the sightings, but they did comment on McLaughlin. It seems that several months before, at the suggestion of a group of scientists at White Sands, McLaughlin had carefully written up the details of the sightings and forwarded them to Washington. The report contained no personal opinions, just facts. The comments on McLaughlin's report had been wired back to White Sands from Washington and they were, "What are you drinking out there?" A very intelligent answer -- and it came from an admiral in the Navy's guided missile program.
By the time his story was published, McLaughlin was no longer at White Sands; he was at sea on the destroyer Bristol. Maybe he answered the admiral's wire.
FROM CHAPTER SIX:
On March 8 one of the best UFO sightings of 1950 took place right over ATIC [Note: ATIC -- the Air Technical Intelligence Center -- was home to Project Blue Book].
About midmorning on this date a TWA airliner was coming in to land at the Dayton Municipal Airport. As the pilot circled to get into the traffic pattern, he and his copilot saw a bright light hovering off to the southeast. The pilot called the tower operators at the airport to tell them about the light, but before he could say anything, the tower operators told him they were looking at it too. They had called the operations office of the Ohio Air National Guard, which was located at the airport, and while the tower operators were talking, an Air Guard pilot was running toward an F-51, dragging his parachute, helmet, and oxygen mask.
I knew the pilot, and he later told me, "I wanted to find out once and for all what these screwy flying saucer reports were all about."
Note: An F-51 Mustang, provided for informational purposes and not included in book.
While the F-51 was warming up, the tower operators called ATIC and told them about the UFO and where to look to see it. The people at ATIC rushed out and there it was -- an extremely bright light, much brighter and larger than a star. Whatever it was, it was high because every once in a while it would be blanked out by the thick, high, scattered clouds that were in the area. While the group of people were standing in front of ATIC watching the light, somebody ran in and called the radar lab at Wright Field to see if they had any radar "on the air." The people in the lab said that they didn't have, but they could get operational in a hurry. They said they would search southeast of the field with their radar and suggested that ATIC send some people over. By the time the ATIC people arrived at the radar lab the radar was on the air and had a target in the same position as the light that everyone was looking at. The radar was also picking up the Air Guard F-51 and an F-51 that had been scrambled from Wright- Patterson. The pilots of the Air Guard '51 and the Wright-Patterson '51 could both see the UFO, and they were going after it. The master sergeant who was operating the radar called the F-51's on the radio, got them together and started to vector them toward the target. As the two airplanes climbed they kept up a continual conversation with the radar operator to make sure they were all after the same thing. For several minutes they could clearly see the UFO, but when they reached about 15,000 feet, the clouds moved in and they lost it. The pilots made a quick decision; since radar showed that they were getting closer to the target, they decided to spread out to keep from colliding with one another and to go up through the clouds. They went on instruments and in a few seconds they were in the cloud. It was much worse than they'd expected; the cloud was thick, and the airplanes were icing up fast. An F-51 is far from being a good instrument ship, but they stayed in their climb until radar called and said that they were close to the target; in fact, almost on it. The pilots had another hurried radio conference and decided that since the weather was so bad they'd better come down. If a UFO, or something, was in the clouds, they'd hit it before they could see it. So they made a wise decision; they dropped the noses of their airplanes and dove back down into the clear. They circled awhile but the clouds didn't break. In a few minutes the master sergeant on the radar reported that the target was fading fast. The F-51's went in and landed.
When the target faded on the radar, some of the people went outside to visually look for the UFO, but it was obscured by clouds, and the clouds stayed for an hour. When it finally did clear for a few minutes, the UFO was gone.
A conference was held at ATIC that afternoon. It included Roy James, ATIC's electronics specialist and expert on radar UFO's. Roy had been over at the radar lab and had seen the UFO on the scope but neither the F-51 pilots nor the master sergeant who operated the radar were at the conference. The records show that at this meeting a unanimous decision was reached as to the identity of the UFO's. The bright light was Venus since Venus was in the southeast during midmorning on March 8, 1950, and the radar return was caused by the ice-laden cloud that the F-51 pilots had encountered. Ice-laden clouds can cause a radar return. The group of intelligence specialists at the meeting decided that this was further proved by the fact that as the F-51's approached the center of the cloud their radar return appeared to approach the UFO target on the radarscope. They were near the UFO and near ice, so the UFO must have been ice.
The case was closed.
I had read the report of this sighting but I hadn't paid too much attention to it because it had been "solved." But one day almost two years later I got a telephone call at my office at Project Blue Book. It was a master sergeant, the master sergeant who had been operating the radar at the lab. He'd just heard that the Air Force was again seriously investigating UFO's and he wanted to see what had been said about the Dayton Incident. He came over, read the report, and violently disagreed with what had been decided upon as the answer. He said that he'd been working with radar before World War II; he'd helped with the operational tests on the first microwave warning radars developed early in the war by a group headed by Dr. Luis Alvarez. He said that what he saw on that radarscope was no ice cloud; it was some type of aircraft. He'd seen every conceivable type of weather target on radar, he told me; thunderstorms, ice-laden clouds, targets caused by temperature inversions, and the works. They all had similar characteristics -- the target was "fuzzy" and varied in intensity. But in this case the target was a good, solid return and he was convinced that it was caused by a good, solid object. And besides, he said, when the target began to fade on his scope he had raised the tilt of the antenna and the target came back, indicating that whatever it was, it was climbing. Ice-laden clouds don't climb, he commented rather bitterly.
Nor did the pilot of one of the F-51's agree with the ATIC analysis. The pilot who had been leading the two-ship flight of F-51's on that day told me that what he saw was no planet. While he and his wing man were climbing, and before the clouds obscured it, they both got a good look at the UFO, and it was getting bigger and more distinct all the time. As they climbed, the light began to take on a shape; it was definitely round. And if it had been Venus it should have been in the same part of the sky the next day, but the pilot said that he'd looked and it wasn't there. The ATIC report doesn't mention this point.
I remember asking him a second time what the UFO looked like; he said, "huge and metallic" -- shades of the Mantell Incident.
The Dayton Incident didn't get much of a play from the press because officially it wasn't an unknown and there's nothing intriguing about an ice cloud and Venus. There were UFO reports in the newspapers, however.
One story that was widely printed was about a sighting at the naval air station at Dallas, Texas. Just before noon on March 16, Chief Petty Officer Charles Lewis saw a disk-shaped UFO come streaking across the sky and buzz a high-flying B-36. Lewis first saw the UFO coming in from the north, lower than the B-36; then he saw it pull up to the big bomber as it got closer. It hovered under the B-36 for an instant, then it went speeding off and disappeared. When the press inquired about the incident, Captain M. A. Nation, commander of the air station, vouched for his chief and added that the base tower operators had seen and reported a UFO to him about ten days before.
- - - - -
Ever since July 4, 1947, ten days after the first flying saucer report, airline pilots had been reporting that they had seen UFO's. But the reports weren't frequent -- maybe one every few months. In the spring of 1950 this changed, however, and the airline pilots began to make more and more reports -- good reports. The reports went to ATIC but they didn't receive much attention. In a few instances there was a semblance of an investigation but it was halfhearted. The reports reached the newspapers too, and here they received a great deal more attention. The reports were investigated, and the stories checked and rechecked. When airline crews began to turn in one UFO report after another, it was difficult to believe the old "hoax, hallucination, and misidentification of known objects" routine. In April, May, and June of 1950 there were over thirty-five good reports from airline crews.
One of these was a report from a Chicago and Southern crew who were flying a DC-3 from Memphis to Little Rock, Arkansas, on the night of March 31. It was an exceptionally clear night, no clouds or haze, a wonderful night to fly. At exactly nine twenty-nine by the cockpit clock the pilot, a Jack Adams, noticed a white light off to his left. The copilot, G. W. Anderson, was looking at the chart but out of the corner of his eye he saw the pilot lean forward and look out the window, so he looked out too. He saw the light just as the pilot said, "What's that?"
The copilot's answer was classic: "No, not one of those things."
Note: A TWA DC-3, provided for informational purposes and not included in book.
Both pilots had only recently voiced their opinions regarding the flying saucers and they weren't complimentary.
As they watched the UFO, it passed across the nose of their DC-3 and they got a fairly good look at it. Neither the pilot nor the copilot was positive of the object's shape because it was "shadowy" but they assumed it was disk-shaped because of the circular arrangement of eight or ten "portholes," each one glowing from a strong bluish-white light that seemed to come from the inside of whatever it was that they saw. The UFO also had a blinking white light on top, a fact that led many people to speculate that this UFO was another airliner. But this idea was quashed when it was announced that there were no other airliners in the area. The crew of the DC-3, when questioned on this possibility, were definite in their answers. If it had been another airplane, they could have read the number, seen the passengers, and darn near reached out and slugged the pilot for getting so close to them.
About a month later, over northern Indiana, TWA treated all the passengers of one of their DC-3 nights to a view of a UFO that looked like a "big glob of molten metal."
The official answer for this incident is that the huge orange-red UFO was nothing more than the light from the many northern Indiana blast furnaces reflecting a haze layer. Could be, but the pilots say no.
There were similar sightings in North Korea two years later -- and
FEAF Bomber Command had caused a shortage of blast furnaces in North
UFO sightings by airline pilots always interested me as much as any type of sighting. Pilots in general should be competent observers simply because they spend a large part of their lives looking around the sky. And pilots do look; one of the first things an aviation cadet is taught is to "Keep your head on a swivel"; in other words, keep looking around the sky. Of all the pilots, the airline pilots are the cream of this group of good observers. Possibly some second lieutenant just out of flying school could be confused by some unusual formation of ground lights, a meteor, or a star, but airline pilots have flown thousands of hours or they wouldn't be sitting in the left seat of an airliner, and they should be familiar with a host of unusual sights.
One afternoon in February 1953 I had an opportunity to further my study of UFO sightings by airline pilots. I had been out at Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs and was flying back East on a United Airlines DC-6. There weren't many passengers on the airplane that afternoon but, as usual, the captain came strolling back through the cabin to chat. When he got to me he sat down in the next seat. We talked a few minutes; then I asked him what he knew about flying saucers. He sort of laughed and said that a dozen people a week asked that question, but when I told him who I was and why I was interested, his attitude changed. He said that he'd never seen a UFO but he knew a lot of pilots on United who had. One man, he told me, had seen one several years ago. He'd reported it but he had been sloughed off like the rest. But he was so convinced that he'd seen something unusual that he'd gone out and bought a Leica camera with a 105-mm. telephoto lens, learned how to use it, and now he carried it religiously during his flights.
There was a lull in the conversation, then the captain said, "Do you really want to get an opinion about flying saucers?"
I said I did.
"O.K.," I remember his saying, "how much of a layover do you have in
I had about two hours.
"All right, as soon as we get to Chicago I'll meet you at Caffarello's, across the street from the terminal building. I'll see who else is in and I'll bring them along."
I thanked him and he went back up front.
I waited around the bar at Caffarello's for an hour. I'd just about decided that he wasn't going to make it and that I'd better get back to catch my flight to Dayton when he and three other pilots came in. We got a big booth in the coffee shop because he'd called three more off-duty pilots who lived in Chicago and they were coming over too. I don't remember any of the men's names because I didn't make any attempt to. This was just an informal bull session and not an official interrogation, but I really got the scoop on what airline pilots think about UFO's.
First of all they didn't pull any punches about what they thought about the Air Force and its investigation of UFO reports. One of the men got right down to the point: "If I saw a flying saucer flying wing-tip formation with me and could see little men waving -- even if my whole load of passengers saw it -- I wouldn't report it to the Air Force."
Another man cut in, "Remember the thing Jack Adams said he saw down by Memphis?"
I said I did.
"He reported that to the Air Force and some red-hot character met him in Memphis on his next trip. He talked to Adams a few minutes and then told him that he'd seen a meteor. Adams felt like a fool. Hell, I know Jack Adams well and he's the most conservative guy I know. If he said he saw something with glowing portholes, he saw something with glowing portholes -- and it wasn't a meteor."
Even though I didn't remember the pilots' names I'll never forget their comments. They didn't like the way the Air Force had handled UFO reports and I was the Air Force's "Mr. Flying Saucer." As quickly as one of the pilots would set me up and bat me down, the next one grabbed me off the floor and took his turn. But I couldn't complain too much; I'd asked for it. I think that this group of seven pilots pretty much represented the feelings of a lot of the airline pilots. They weren't wide-eyed space fans, but they and their fellow pilots had seen something and whatever they'd seen weren't hallucinations, mass hysteria, balloons, or meteors.
Three of the men at the Caffarello conference had seen UFO's or, to use their terminology, they had seen something they couldn't identify as a known object. Two of these men had seen odd lights closely following their airplanes at night. Both had checked and double- checked with CAA, but no other aircraft was in the area. Both admitted, however, that they hadn't seen enough to class what they'd seen as good UFO sighting. But the third man had a lulu.
If I recall correctly, this pilot was flying for TWA. One day in March 1952 he, his copilot, and a third person who was either a pilot deadheading home or another crew member, I don't recall which, were flying a C-54 cargo airplane from Chicago to Kansas City. At about 2:30P.M. the pilot was checking in with the CAA radio at Kirksville, Missouri, flying 500 feet on top of a solid overcast. While he was talking he glanced out at his No. 2 engine, which had been losing oil. Directly in line with it, and a few degrees above, he saw a silvery, disk-shaped object. It was too far out to get a really good look at it, yet it was close enough to be able definitely to make out the shape.
The UFO held its relative position with the C-54 for five or six minutes; then the pilot decided to do a little on-the-spot investigating himself. He started a gradual turn toward the UFO and for about thirty seconds he was getting closer, but then the UFO began to make a left turn. It had apparently slowed down because they were still closing on it.
About this time the copilot decided that the UFO was a balloon; it just looked as if the UFO was turning. The pilot agreed halfway -- and since the company wasn't paying them to intercept balloons, they got back on their course to Kansas City. They flew on for a few more minutes with "the darn thing" still off to their left. If it was a balloon, they should be leaving it behind, the pilot recalled thinking to himself; if they made a 45-degree right turn, the "balloon" shouldn't stay off the left wing; it should drop 'way behind. So they made a 45-degree right turn, and although the "balloon" dropped back a little bit, it didn't drop back far enough to be a balloon. It seemed to put on speed to try to make a turn outside of the C-54's turn. The pilot continued on around until he'd made a tight 360-degree turn, and the UFO had followed, staying outside. They could not judge its speed, not knowing how far away it was, but to follow even a C-54 around in a 360-degree turn and to stay outside all of the time takes a mighty speedy object.
This shot the balloon theory right in the head. After the 360-degree turn the UFO seemed to be gradually losing altitude because it was getting below the level of the wings. The pilot decided to get a better look. He asked for full power on all four engines, climbed several thousand feet, and again turned into the UFO. He put the C-54 in a long glide, headed directly toward it. As they closed in, the UFO seemed to lose altitude a little faster and "sank" into the top of the overcast. Just as the C-54 flashed across the spot where the UFO had disappeared, the crew saw it rise up out of the overcast off their right wing and begin to climb so fast that in several seconds it was out of sight.
Both the pilot and copilot wanted to stay around and look for it but
No. 2 engine had started to act up soon after they had put on full
power for the climb, and they decided that they'd better get into
I missed my Dayton flight but I heard a good UFO story.
What had the two pilots and their passenger seen? We kicked it around plenty that afternoon. It was no balloon. It wasn't another airplane because when the pilot called Kirksville Radio he'd asked if there were any airplanes in the area. It might possibly have been a reflection of some kind except that when it "sank" into the overcast the pilot said it looked like something sinking into an overcast -- it just didn't disappear as a reflection would. Then there was the sudden reappearance off the right wing. These are the types of things you just can't explain.
What did the pilots think it was? Three were sold that the UFO's were interplanetary spacecraft, one man was convinced that they were some U.S. "secret weapon," and three of the men just shook their heads. So did I. We all agreed on one thing -- this pilot had seen something and it was something highly unusual.
The meeting broke up about 9:00 P.M. I'd gotten the personal and very candid opinion of seven airline captains, and the opinions of half a hundred more airline pilots had been quoted. I'd learned that the UFO's are discussed often. I'd learned that many airline pilots take UFO sightings very seriously. I learned that some believe they are interplanetary, some think they're a U.S. weapon, and many just don't know. But very few are laughing off the good sightings.
FROM CHAPTER SEVEN: Note: This includes the period just before Rupplet joined Blue Book.
My interest in UFO's picked up in a hurry when I learned that ATIC was the government agency that was responsible for the UFO project. And I was really impressed when I found out that the person who sat three desks down and one over from mine was in charge of the whole UFO show. So when I came to work on my second morning at ATIC and heard the words "flying saucer report" being talked about and saw a group of people standing around the chief of the UFO project's desk I about sprung an eardrum listening to what they had to say. It seemed to be a big deal, except that most of them were laughing. It must be a report of hoax or hallucination, I remember thinking to myself, but I listened as one of the group told the others about the report.
The night before a Mid Continent Airlines DC-3 was taxiing out to take off from the airport at Sioux City, Iowa, when the airport control tower operators noticed a bright bluish white light in the west. The tower operators, thinking that it was another airplane, called the pilot of the DC-3 and told him to be careful since there was another airplane approaching the field. As the DC-3 lined up to take off, both the pilots of the airliner and the tower operators saw the light moving in, but since it was still some distance away the DC-3 was given permission to take off. As it rolled down the runway getting up speed, both the pilot and the copilot were busy, so they didn't see the light approaching. But the tower operators did, and as soon as the DC-3 was airborne, they called and told the pilot to be careful. The copilot said that he saw the light and was watching it. Just then the tower got a call from another airplane that was requesting landing instructions and the operators looked away from the light.
In the DC-3 the pilot and copilot had also looked away from the light for a few seconds. When they looked back, the bluish white light had apparently closed in because it was much brighter and it was dead ahead. In a split second it closed in and flashed by their right wing, so close that both pilots thought that they would collide with it. When it passed the DC-3, the pilots saw more than a light -- they saw a huge object that looked like the "fuselage of a B-29."
Note: Two B-29s in flight, provided for informational purposes and not included in book. The B-29 had a length of 99 feet and a wingspan of 144 feet.
When the copilot had recovered he looked out his side window to see if he could see the UFO and there it was, flying formation with them. He yelled at the pilot, who leaned over and looked just in time to see the UFO disappear.
The second look confirmed the Mid Continent crew's first impression -- the object looked like a B-29 without wings. They saw nothing more, only a big "shadowy shape" and the bluish-white light -- no windows, no exhaust.
The tower had missed the incident because they were landing the other airplane and the pilot and the copilot didn't have time to call them and tell them about what was going on. All the tower operators could say was that seconds after the UFO had disappeared the light that they had seen was gone.
When the airliner landed in Omaha, the crew filed a report that was forwarded to the Air Force. But this wasn't the only report that was filed; a full colonel from military intelligence had been a passenger on the DC-3. He'd seen the UFO too, and he was mighty impressed.
I thought that this was an interesting report and I wondered what the official reaction would be. The official reaction was a great big, deep belly laugh.
This puzzled me because I'd read that the Air Force was seriously investigating all UFO reports.
I continued to eavesdrop on the discussions about the report all day since the UFO expert was about to "investigate" the incident. He sent out a wire to Flight Service and found that there was a B-36 somewhere in the area of Sioux City at the time of the sighting, and from what I could gather he was trying to blame the sighting on the B-36. When Washington called to get the results of the analysis of the sighting, they must have gotten the B-36 treatment because the case was closed.
Note: A Boeing B-36, provided for informational purposes and not included in book. The B-36 had a length of 162 feet and a wingspan of 230 feet.
I'd only been at ATIC two days and I certainly didn't class myself as an intelligence expert, but it didn't take an expert to see that a B-36, even one piloted by an experienced idiot, could not do what the UFO had done -- buzz a DC-3 that was in an airport traffic pattern.
I didn't know it at the time but a similar event had occurred the year before. On the night of May 29, 1950, the crew of an American Airlines DC-6 had just taken off from Washington National Airport, and they were about seven miles west of Mount Vernon when the copilot suddenly looked out and yelled, "Watch it -- watch it." The pilot and the engineer looked out to see a bluish white light closing in on them from dead ahead. The pilot racked the DC-6 up in a tight right turn while the UFO passed by on the left "from eleven to seven o'clock" and a little higher than the airliner. During this time the UFO passed between the full moon and DC-6 and the crew could see the dark silhouette of a "wingless B-29." Its length was about half the diameter of the full moon, and it had a blue flame shooting out the tail end.
Note: A American Airlines DC-6, provided for informational purposes and not included in book.
Seconds after the UFO had passed by the DC-6, the copilot looked out and there it was again, apparently flying formation off their right wing. Then in a flash of blue flame it was gone -- streaking out ahead of the airliner and making a left turn toward the coast.
The pilot of the DC-6, who made the report, had better than 15,000 hours' flying time.
- - - - -
A belated UFO report had come in from Africa. One of my friends was reading it, so I asked him if I could take a look at it when he had finished. In a few minutes he handed it to me.
When I finished with the report I tossed it back on my friend's desk, with some comment about the whole world's being nuts. I got a reaction I didn't expect; he wasn't so sure the whole world was nuts -- maybe the nuts were at ATIC. "What's the deal?" I asked him. "Have they really thoroughly checked out every report and found that there's nothing to any of them?"
He told me that he didn't think so, he'd been at ATIC a long time. He hadn't ever worked on the UFO project, but he had seen many of their reports and knew what they were doing. He just plain didn't buy a lot of their explanations. "And I'm not the only one who thinks this," he added.
"Then why all of the big show of power against the UFO reports?" I remember asking him.
"The powers-that-be are anti-flying saucer," he answered about half bitterly, "and to stay in favor it behooves one to follow suit."
FROM CHAPTER NINE:
While I traveled around the United States getting the project set up, UFO reports continued to come in and all of them were good. One series of reports was especially good, and they came from a group of people who had had a great deal of experience watching things in the sky -- the people who launch the big skyhook balloons for General Mills, Inc. The reports of what the General Mills people had seen while they were tracking their balloons covered a period of over a year. They had just sent them in because they had heard that Project Grudge was being reorganized and was taking a different view on UFO reports. They, like so many other reliable observers, had been disgusted with the previous Air Force attitude toward UFO reports, and they had refused to send in any reports. I decided that these people might be a good source of information, and I wanted to get further details on their reports, so I got orders to go to Minneapolis. A scientist from Project Bear went with me. We arrived on January 14, 1952, in the middle of a cold wave and a blizzard.
Note: A May, 1948 Popular Science article on the General Mills Skyhook program, provided for informational purposes and not included in book.
The Aeronautical Division of General Mills, Inc., of Wheaties and Betty Crocker fame, had launched and tracked every skyhook balloon that had been launched prior to mid-1952. They knew what their balloons looked like under all lighting conditions and they also knew meteorology, aerodynamics, astronomy, and they knew UFO's. I talked to these people for the better part of a full day, and every time I tried to infer that there might be some natural explanation for the UFO's I just about found myself in a fresh snowdrift.
What made these people so sure that UFO's existed? In the first place, they had seen many of them. One man told me that one tracking crew had seen so many that the sight of a UFO no longer even especially interested them. And the things that they saw couldn't be explained.
For example: On January 16, 1951, two people from General Mills and four people from Artesia, New Mexico, were watching a skyhook balloon from the Artesia airport. They had been watching the balloon off and on for about an hour when one of the group saw two tiny specks on the horizon, off to the northwest. He pointed them out to the others because two airplanes were expected into the airport, and he thought that these might be the airplanes. But as they watched, the two specks began to move in fast, and within a few seconds the observers could see that "the airplanes" were actually two round, dull white objects flying in close formation. The two objects continued to come in and headed straight toward the balloon. When they reached the balloon they circled it once and flew off to the northwest, where they disappeared over the horizon. As the two UFO's circled the balloon, they tipped on edge and the observers saw that they were disk-shaped.
When the two UFO's were near the balloon, the observers also had a chance to compare the size of the UFO's with the size of the balloon. If the UFO's were as close to the balloon as they appeared to be they would have been 60 feet in diameter.
After my visit to General Mills, Inc., I couldn't help remembering a magazine article I'd read about a year before. It said that there was not a single reliable UFO report that couldn't be attributed to a skyhook balloon.
I'd been back at ATIC only a few days when I found myself packing up to leave again. This time it was for New York. A high-priority wire had come into ATIC describing how a Navy pilot had chased a UFO over Mitchel AFB, on Long Island. It was a good report.
I remember the trip to New York because my train passed through Elizabeth, New Jersey, early in the morning, and I could see the fires caused by an American Airlines Convair that had crashed. This was the second of the three tragic Elizabeth, New Jersey, crashes.
The morning before, on January 21, a Navy pilot had taken off from Mitchel in a TBM. He was a lieutenant commander, had flown in World War II, and was now an engineer at the Navy Special Devices Center on Long Island. At nine-fifty he had cleared the traffic pattern and was at about 2,500 feet, circling around the airfield. He was southeast of the field when he first noticed an object below him and "about three runway lengths off the end of Runway 30." The object looked like the top of a parachute canopy, he told me; it was white and he thought he could see the wedges or panels. He said that he thought that it was moving across the ground a little bit too fast to be drifting with wind, but he was sure that somebody had bailed out and that he was looking at the top of his parachute. He was just ready to call the tower when he suddenly realized that this "parachute" was drifting across the wind. He had just taken off from Runway 30 and knew which direction the wind was blowing.
Note: A U.S. Navy TBM Avenger, provided for informational purposes and not included in book. The TBM's top speed was 275 miles per hour.
As he watched, the object, whatever it was (by now he no longer thought that it was a parachute), began to gradually climb, so he started to climb, he said, staying above and off to the right of the object. When the UFO started to make a left turn, he followed and tried to cut inside, but he overshot and passed over it. It continued to turn and gain speed, so he dropped the nose of the TBM, put on more power, and pulled in behind the object, which was now level with him. In a matter of seconds the UFO made a 180-degree turn and started to make a big swing around the northern edge of Mitchel AFB. The pilot tried to follow, but the UFO had begun to accelerate rapidly, and since a TBM leaves much to be desired on the speed end, he was getting farther and farther behind. But he did try to follow it as long as he could. As he made a wide turn around the northern edge of the airfield he saw that the UFO was now turning south. He racked the TBM up into a tight left turn to follow, but in a few seconds the UFO had disappeared. When he last saw it, it had crossed the Long Island coast line near Freeport and it was heading out to sea.
When he finished his account of the chase, I asked the commander some specific questions about the UFO. He said that just after he'd decided that the UFO was not a parachute it appeared to be at an altitude of about 200 to 300 feet over a residential section. From the time it took it to cover a city block, he'd estimated that it was traveling about 300 miles an hour. Even when he pulled in behind the object and got a good look, it still looked like a parachute canopy -- dome-shaped -- white -- and it had a dark undersurface. It had been in sight two and a half minutes.
He had called the control tower at Mitchel during the chase, he told me, but only to ask if any balloons had been launched. He thought that he might be seeing a balloon. The tower had told him that there was a balloon in the area.
Then the commander took out an aeronautical chart and drew in his flight path and the apparent path of the UFO for me. I think that he drew it accurately because he had been continually watching landmarks as he'd chased the UFO and was very careful as he drew the sketches on the map.
I checked with the weather detachment at Mitchel and they said that they had released a balloon. They had released it at nine-fifty and from a point southeast of the airfield. I got a plot of its path. Just as in the Long Beach Incident, where the six F-86's tried to intercept the UFO, the balloon was almost exactly in line with the spot where the UFO was first seen, but then any proof you might attempt falls apart. If the pilot knew where he was, and had plotted his flight path even semi-accurately, he was never over the balloon. Yet he was over the UFO. He came within less than 2,000 feet of the UFO when he passed over it; yet he couldn't recognize it as a balloon even though he thought it might be a balloon since the tower had just told him that there was one in the area. He said that he followed the UFO around the north edge of the airfield. Yet the balloon, after it was launched southeast of the field, continued on a southeast course and never passed north of the airfield.
But the biggest argument against the object's being a balloon was the fact that the pilot pulled in behind it; it was directly off the nose of his airplane, and although he followed it for more than a minute, it pulled away from him. Once you line up an airplane on a balloon and go straight toward it you will catch it in a matter of seconds, even in the slowest airplane. There have been dogfights with UFO's where the UFO's turned out to be balloons, but the pilots always reported that the UFO "made a pass" at them. In other words, they rapidly caught up with the balloon and passed it. I questioned this pilot over and over on this one point, and he was positive that he had followed directly behind the UFO for over a minute and all the time it was pulling away from him.
This is one of the most typical UFO reports we had in our files. It is typical because no matter how you argue there isn't any definite answer. If you want to argue that the pilot didn't know where he was during the chase -- that he was 3 or 4 miles from where he thought he was -- that he never did fly around the northern edge of the field and get in behind the UFO -- then the UFO could have been a balloon.
But if you want to believe that the pilot knew where he was all during the chase, and he did have several thousand hours of flying time, then all you can conclude is that the UFO was an unknown.
I think the pilot summed up the situation very aptly when he told me, "I don't know what it was, but I've never seen anything like it before or since -- maybe it was a spaceship."
I went back to Dayton stumped -- maybe it was a spaceship.
FROM CHAPTER TEN:
While I'd been in California, Colonel Dunn had received a call from General Samford's office. It seems that a few nights before, one of the top people in the Central Intelligence Agency was having a lawn party at his home just outside Alexandria, Virginia. A number of notable personages were in attendance and they had seen a flying saucer. The report had been passed down to Air Force intelligence, and due to the quality of the brass involved, it was "suggested" that I get to Washington on the double and talk to the host of the party. I was at his office before 5:00 P.M. and got his report.
About ten o'clock in the evening he and two other people were standing near the edge of his yard talking; he happened to be facing south, looking off across the countryside. He digressed a bit from his story to explain that his home is on a hilltop in the country, and when looking south, he had a view of the entire countryside. While he was talking to the two other people he noticed a light approaching from the west. He had assumed it was an airplane and had casually watched it, but when the light got fairly close, the CIA man said that he suddenly realized there wasn't any sound associated with it. If it were an airplane it would have been close enough for him to hear even above the hum of the guests' conversations. He had actually quit talking and was looking at the light when it stopped for an instant and began to climb almost vertically. He said something to the other guests, and they looked up just in time to see the light finish its climb, stop, and level out. They all watched it travel level for a few seconds, then go into a nearly vertical dive, level out, and streak off to the east.
Most everyone at the party had seen the light before it disappeared, and within minutes several friendly arguments as to what it was had developed, I was told. One person thought it was a lighted balloon, and a retired general thought it was an airplane. To settle the arguments, they had made a few telephone calls. I might add that these people were such that the mention of their names on a telephone got quick results. Radar in the Washington area said that there had been no airplanes flying west to east south of Alexandria in the past hour. The weather station at Bolling AFB said that there were no balloons in the area, but as a double check the weather people looked at their records of high-altitude winds. It couldn't have been a balloon because none of the winds up to 65,000 feet were blowing from west to east -- and to be able to see a light on a balloon, it has to be well below 65,000 feet; the man from CIA told me that they had even considered the possibility that the UFO was a meteor and that the "jump" had been due to some kind of an atmospheric distortion. But the light had been in sight too long to be a meteor. He added that an army chaplain and two teetotaler guests had also seen the light jump.
There wasn't much left for me to do when I finished talking to the man. He and his guests had already made all of the checks that I'd have made. All I could do was go back to Dayton, write up his report, and stamp it "Unknown."
FROM CHAPTER ELEVEN:
According to our weather records, on the night of July 12 it was hot in Chicago. At nine forty-two there were at least 400 people at Montrose Beach trying to beat the heat. Many of them were lying down looking at the stars, so that they saw the UFO as it came in from the west northwest, made a 180-degree turn directly over their heads, and disappeared over the horizon. It was a "large red light with small white lights on the side," most of the people reported. Some of them said that it changed to a single yellow light as it made its turn. It was in sight about five minutes, and during this time no one reported hearing any sound.
Note: A Chicago beach in the late 1950s, provided for informational purposes and not included in book. The TBM's top speed was 275 miles per hour.
One of the people at the beach was the weather officer from O'Hare
International Airport, an Air Force captain. He immediately called
O'Hare. They checked on balloon flights and with radar, but both were
negative; radar said that there had been no aircraft in the area of
Montrose Beach for several hours.
I sent an investigator to Chicago, and although he came back with a lot of data on the sighting, it didn't add up to be anything known.
The next day Dayton had its first UFO sighting in a long time when a Mr. Roy T. Ellis, president of the Rubber Seal Products Company, and many other people, reported a teardrop-shaped object that hovered over Dayton for several minutes about midnight. This sighting had an interesting twist because two years later I was in Dayton and stopped in at ATIC to see a friend who is one of the technical advisers at the center.
Naturally the conversation got around to the subject of UFO's, and he asked me if I remembered this specific sighting. I did, so he went on to say that he and his wife had seen this UFO that night but they had never told anybody. He was very serious when he admitted that he had no idea what it could have been. Now I'd heard this statement a thousand times before from other people, but coming from this person, it was really something because he was as anti-saucer as anyone I knew. Then he added, "From that time on I didn't think your saucer reporters were as crazy as I used to think they were."
- - - - -
All the reports that were coming in were good ones, ones with no answers. Unknowns were running about 40 percent. Rumors persist that in mid-July 1952 the Air Force was braced for an expected invasion by flying saucers. Had these rumormongers been at ATIC in mid-July they would have thought that the invasion was already in full swing. And they would have thought that one of the beachheads for the invasion was Patrick AFB, the Air Force's Guided Missile Long-Range Proving Ground on the east coast of Florida.
On the night of July 18, at ten forty-five, two officers were standing in front of base operations at Patrick when they noticed a light at about a 45-degree angle from the horizon and off to the west. It was an amber color and "quite a bit brighter than a star." Both officers had heard flying saucer stories, and both thought the light was a balloon. But, to be comedians, they called to several more officers and airmen inside the operations office and told them to come out and "see the flying saucer." The people came out and looked. A few were surprised and took the mysterious light seriously, at the expense of considerable laughter from the rest of the group. The discussion about the light grew livelier and bets that it was a balloon were placed. In the meantime the light had drifted over the base, had stopped for about a minute, turned, and was now heading north. To settle the bet, one of the officers stepped into the base weather office to find out about the balloon. Yes, one was in the air and being tracked by radar, he was told. The weather officer said that he would call to find out exactly where it was. He called and found out that the weather balloon was being tracked due west of the base and that the light had gone out about ten minutes before. The officer went back outside to find that what was first thought to be a balloon was now straight north of the field and still lighted. To add to the confusion, a second amber light had appeared in the west about 20 degrees lower than where the first one was initially seen, and it was also heading north but at a much greater speed. In a few seconds the first light stopped and started moving back south over the base.
Note: Aerial views of Patrick AFB and Cape Canaveral in the 1950s, provided for informational purposes and not included in book. Patrick is about 15 miles south of Canaveral. Patrick was headquarters for the entire Patrick-Canaveral complex, which was the Air Force's primary center both for long-range missile tests and early American sub-orbital rocket flights.
While the group of officers and airmen were watching the two lights, the people from the weather office came out to tell the UFO observers that the balloon was still traveling straight west. They were just in time to see a third light come tearing across the sky, directly overhead, from west to east. A weatherman went inside and called the balloon-tracking crew again -- their balloon was still far to the west of the base.
Inside of fifteen minutes two more amber lights came in from the west, crossed the base, made a 180-degree turn over the ocean, and came back over the observers.
In the midst of the melee a radar set had been turned on but it couldn't pick up any targets. This did, however, eliminate the possibility of the lights' being aircraft. They weren't stray balloons either, because the winds at all altitudes were blowing in a westerly direction. They obviously weren't meteors. They weren't searchlights on a haze layer because there was no weather conducive to forming a haze layer and there were no searchlights. They could have been some type of natural phenomenon, if one desires to take the negative approach. Or, if you take the positive approach, they could have been spaceships.
FROM CHAPTER TWELVE:
So the Washington National Airport Sightings are still unknowns.
Had the press been aware of some of the other UFO activity in the United States during this period, the Washington sightings might not have been the center of interest. True, they could be classed as good reports but they were not the best that we were getting. In fact, less than six hours after the ladies and gentlemen of the press said "Thank you" to General Samford for his press conference, and before the UFO's could read the newspapers and find out that they were natural phenomena, one of them came down across the Canadian border into Michigan. The incident that occurred that night was one of those that even the most ardent skeptic would have difficulty explaining. I've heard a lot of them try and I've heard them all fail.
At nine forty on the evening of the twenty-ninth an Air Defense Command radar station in central Michigan started to get plots on a target that was coming straight south across Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron at 625 miles an hour. A quick check of flight plans on file showed that it was an unidentified target.
Three F-94's were in the area just northeast of the radar station, so the ground controller called one of the F-94's and told the pilot to intercept the unidentified target. The F-94 pilot started climbing out of the practice area on an intercept heading that the ground controller gave him. When the F-94 was at 20,000 feet, the ground controller told the pilot to turn to the right and he would be on the target. The pilot started to bring the F-94 around and at that instant both he and the radar operator in the back seat saw that they were turning toward a large bluish white light, "many times larger than a star." In the next second or two the light "took on a reddish tinge, and slowly began to get smaller, as if it were moving away." Just then the ground controller called and said that he still had both the F-94 and the unidentified target on his scope and that the target had just made a tight 180 degree turn. The turn was too tight for a jet, and at the speed the target was traveling it would have to be a jet if it were an airplane. Now the target was heading back north. The F-94 pilot gave the engine full power and cut in the afterburner to give chase. The radar operator in the back seat got a good radar lock-on. Later he said, "It was just as solid a lock-on as you get from a B-36." The object was at 4 miles range and the F-94 was closing slowly. For thirty seconds they held the lock-on; then, just as the ground controller was telling the pilot that he was closing in, the light became brighter and the object pulled away to break the lock-on. Without breaking his transmission, the ground controller asked if the radar operator still had the lock-on because on the scope the distance between two blips had almost doubled in one sweep of the antenna. This indicated that the unknown target had almost doubled its speed in a matter of seconds.
Note: The Lockheed F-94 Starfire, provided for informational purposes and not included in book. With a top speed of 640 miles per hour, it was the Air Force's first operational jet-powered all-weather interceptor aircraft.
For ten minutes the ground radar followed the chase. At times the unidentified target would slow down and the F-94 would start to close the gap, but always, just as the F-94 was getting within radar range, the target would put on a sudden burst of speed and pull away from the pursuing jet. The speed of the UFO -- for by this time all concerned had decided that was what it was -- couldn't be measured too accurately because its bursts of speed were of such short duration; but on several occasions the UFO traveled about 4 miles in one ten second sweep of the antenna, or about 1,400 miles an hour.
The F-94 was getting low on fuel, and the pilot had to break off the chase a minute or two before the UFO got out of range of the ground radar. The last few plots on the UFO weren't too good but it looked as if the target slowed down to 200 to 300 miles an hour as soon as the F-94 turned around.
What was it? It obviously wasn't a balloon or a meteor. It might have been another airplane except that in 1952 there was nothing flying, except a few experimental airplanes that were far from Michigan, that could so easily outdistance an F-94. Then there was the fact that radar clocked it at 1,400 miles an hour. The F-94 was heading straight for the star Capella, which is low on the horizon and is very brilliant, but what about the radar contacts? Some people said "Weather targets," but the chances of a weather target's making a 180 degree turn just as an airplane turns into it, giving a radar lock-on, then changing speed to stay just out of range of the airplane's radar, and then slowing down when the airplane leaves is as close to nil as you can get.
What was it? A lot of people I knew were absolutely convinced this report was the key -- the final proof. Even if all of the thousands of other UFO reports could be discarded on a technicality, this one couldn't be. These people believed that this report in itself was proof enough to officially accept the fact that UFO's were interplanetary spaceships. And when some people refused to believe even this report, the frustration was actually pitiful to see.
FROM CHAPTER FOUTEEN:
By late August 1952 several groups in Washington were following the UFO situation very closely.
The sighting that had stirred everyone up came from Haneda AFB, now Tokyo International Airport, in Japan. Since the sighting came from outside the U.S., we couldn't go out and investigate it, but the intelligence officers in the Far East Air Force had done a good job, so we had the complete story of this startling account of an encounter with a UFO. Only a few minor questions had been unanswered, and a quick wire to FEAF brought back these missing data. Normally it took up to three months to get routine questions back and forth, but this time the exchange of wires took only a matter of hours.
Note: 1948 photo of the Tokyo headquarters of the Far East Air Force (FEAF), provided for informational purposes and not included in book. Following WWII, the FEAF was responsible for the aerial defense of Japan.
Several months after the sighting I talked to one of the FEAF intelligence officers who had investigated it, and in his estimation it was one of the best to come out of the Far East.
The first people to see the UFO were two control tower operators who were walking across the ramp at the air base heading toward the tower to start the midnight shift. They were about a half hour early so they weren't in any big hurry to get up into the tower -- at least not until they saw a large brilliant light off to the northeast over Tokyo Bay. They stopped to look at the light for a few seconds thinking that it might be an exceptionally brilliant star, but both men had spent many lonely nights in a control tower when they had nothing to look at except stars and they had never seen anything this bright before. Besides, the light was moving. The two men had lined it up with the corner of a hangar and could see that it was continually moving closer and drifting a little off to the right.
In a minute they had run across the ramp, up the several hundred steps to the tower, and were looking at the light through 7x50 binoculars. Both of the men, and the two tower operators whom they were relieving, got a good look at the UFO. The light was circular in shape and had a constant brilliance. It appeared to be the upper portion of a large, round, dark shape which was about four times the diameter of the light itself. As they watched, the UFO moved in closer, or at least it appeared to be getting closer because it became more distinct. When it moved in, the men could see a second and dimmer light on the lower edge of the dark, shadowy portion.
In a few minutes the UFO had moved off to the east, getting dimmer and dimmer as it disappeared. The four tower men kept watching the eastern sky, and suddenly the light began to reappear. It stayed in sight a few seconds, was gone again, and then for the third time it came back, heading toward the air base.
This time one of the tower operators picked up a microphone, called the pilot of a C-54 that was crossing Tokyo Bay, and asked if he could see the light. The pilot didn't see anything unusual.
At 11:45P.M., according to the logbook in the tower, one of the operators called a nearby radar site and asked if they had an unidentified target on their scopes. They did.
The FEAF intelligence officers who investigated the sighting made a special effort to try to find out if the radar's unidentified target and the light were the same object. They deduced that they were since, when the tower operators and the radar operators compared notes over the telephone, the light and the radar target were in the same location and were moving in the same direction.
For about five minutes the radar tracked the UFO as it cut back and forth across the central part of Tokyo Bay, sometimes traveling so slowly that it almost hovered and then speeding up to 300 miles an hour. All of this time the tower operators were watching the light through binoculars. Several times when the UFO approached the radar station -- once it came within 10 miles -- a radar operator went outside to find out if he could see the light but no one at the radar site ever saw it. Back at the air base the tower operators had called other people and they saw the light. Later on the tower man said that he had the distinct feeling that the light was highly directional, like a spotlight.
Some of the people who were watching thought that the UFO might be a lighted balloon; so, for the sake of comparison, a lighted weather balloon was released. But the light on the balloon was much more "yellowish" than the UFO and in a matter of seconds it had traveled far enough away that the light was no longer visible. This gave the observers a chance to compare the size of the balloon and the size of the dark, shadowy part of the UFO. Had the UFO been 10 miles away it would have been 50 feet in diameter.
Three minutes after midnight an F-94 scrambled from nearby Johnson AFB came into the area. The ground controller sent the F-94 south of Yokohama, up Tokyo Bay, and brought him in "behind" the UFO. The second that the ground controller had the F-94 pilot lined up and told him that he was in line for a radar run, the radar operator in the rear seat of the F-94 called out that he had a lock-on. His target was at 6,000 yards, 10 degrees to the right and 10 degrees below the F-94. The lock-on was held for ninety seconds as the ground controller watched both the UFO and the F-94 make a turn and come toward the ground radar site. Just as the target entered the "ground clutter" -- the permanent and solid target near the radar station caused by the radar beam's striking the ground -- the lock-on was broken. The target seemed to pull away swiftly from the jet interceptor. At almost this exact instant the tower operators reported that they had lost visual contact with the UFO. The tower called the F-94 and asked if they had seen anything visually during the chase -- they hadn't. The F-94 crew stayed in the area ten or fifteen more minutes but couldn't see anything or pick up any more targets on their radar.
Soon after the F-94 left the area, both the ground radar and the tower operators picked up the UFO again. In about two minutes radar called the tower to say that their target had just "broken into three pieces" and that the three "pieces," spaced about a quarter of a mile apart, were leaving the area, going northeast. Seconds later tower operators lost sight of the light.
The FEAF intelligence officers had checked every possible angle but they could offer nothing to account for the sighting.
There were lots of opinions, weather targets for example, but once again the chances of a weather target's being in exactly the same direction as a bright star and having the star appear to move with the false radar target aren't too likely -- to say the least. And then the same type of thing had happened twice before inside of a month's time, once in California and once in Michigan.
As one of the men at the briefing I gave said, "It's incredible, and I can't believe it, but those boys in FEAF are in a war -- they're veterans -- and by damn, I think they know what they're talking about when they say they've never seen anything like this before."
I could go into a long discourse on the possible explanations for this sighting; I heard many, but in the end there would be only one positive answer -- the UFO could not be identified as something we knew about. It could have been an interplanetary spaceship. Many people thought this was the answer and were all for sticking their necks out and establishing a category of conclusions for UFO reports and labeling it spacecraft. But the majority ruled, and a UFO remained an unidentified flying object.
- - - - -
September 1952 started out with a rush, and for a while it looked as if UFO sightings were on the upswing again. For some reason, we never could determine why, we suddenly began to get reports from all over the southeastern United States. Every morning, for about a week or two, we'd have a half dozen or so new reports. Georgia and Alabama led the field. Many of the reports came from people in the vicinity of the then new super-hush-hush Atomic Energy Commission facility at Savannah River, Georgia. And many were coming from the port city of Mobile, Alabama. Our first thought, when the reports began to pour in, was that the news papers in these areas were possibly stirring things up with scare stories, but our newspaper clipping service covered the majority of the southern papers, and although we kept looking for publicity, none showed up. In fact, the papers only barely mentioned one or two of the sightings. As they came in, each of the sighting reports went through our identification process; they were checked against all balloon flights, aircraft flights, celestial bodies, and the MO file, but more than half of them came out as unknowns.
When the reports first began to come in, I had called the intelligence officers at all of the major military installations in the Southeast unsuccessfully trying to find out if they could shed any light on the cause of the sightings. One man, the man who was responsible for UFO reports made to Brookley AFB, just outside of Mobile, Alabama, took a dim view of all of the proceedings. "They're all nuts," he said.
About a week later his story changed. It seems that one night, about the fourth night in a row that UFO's had been reported near Mobile, this man and several of his assistants decided to try to see these famous UFO's; about 10:00 P.M., the time that the UFO's were usually reported, they were gathered around the telephone in the man's office at Brookley AFB. Soon a report came in. The first question that the investigator who answered the phone asked was, "Can you still see it?"
The answer was "Yes," so the officer took off to see the UFO.
The same thing happened twice more, and two more officers left for different locations. The fourth time the phone rang the call was from the base radar station. They were picking up a UFO on radar, so the boss himself took off. He saw the UFO in air out over Mobile Bay and he saw the return of the UFO on the radarscope.
The next morning he called me at ATIC and for over an hour he told me what had happened. Never have I talked to four more ardent flying saucer believers.
We did quite a bit of work on the combination radar visual sighting at Brookley. First of all, radar visual sightings were the best type of UFO sightings we received. There are no explanations for how radar can pick up a UFO target that is being watched visually at the same time. Maybe I should have said there are no proven explanations on how this can happen, because, like everything else associated with the UFO, there was a theory. During the Washington National Sightings several people proposed the idea that the same temperature inversion layer that was causing the radar beam to bend down and pick up a ground target was causing the target to appear to be in the air. They went on to say that we couldn't get a radar visual sighting unless the ground target was a truck, car, house, or something else that was lighted and could be seen at a great distance. The second reason the Brookley AFB sighting was so interesting was that it knocked this theory cold.
The radar at Brookley AFB was so located that part of the area that it scanned was over Mobile Bay. It was in this area that the UFO was detected. We thought of the theory that the same inversion layer that bent the radar beam also caused the target to appear to be in the air, and we began to do a little checking. There was a slight inversion but, according to our calculations, it wasn't enough to affect the radar.
More important was the fact that in the area where the target appeared there were no targets to pick up -- let alone lighted targets. We checked and rechecked and found that at the time of the sighting there were no ships, buoys, or anything else that would give a radar return in the area of Mobile Bay in which we were interested.
Although this sighting wasn't as glamorous as some we had, it was highly significant because it was possible to show that the UFO couldn't have been a lighted surface target.
While we were investigating the sighting we talked to several electronics specialists about our radar visual sightings. One of the most frequent comments we heard was, "Why do all of these radar visual sightings occur at night?"
The answer was simple: they don't. On August 1, just before dawn, an ADC radar station outside of Yaak, Montana, on the extreme northern border of the United States, picked up a UFO. The report was very similar to the sighting at Brookley except it happened in the daylight and, instead of seeing a light, the crew at the radar station saw a "dark, cigar shaped object" right where the radar had the UFO pinpointed.
What these people saw is a mystery to this day.
- - - - -
In late September 1952 the NATO naval forces had held maneuvers off the coast of Europe; they were called Operation Mainbrace. Before they had started someone in the Pentagon had half seriously mentioned that Naval Intelligence should keep an eye open for UFO's, but no one really expected the UFO's to show up. Nevertheless, once again the UFO's were their old unpredictable selves -- they were there.
Note: Life Magazine article on Operation Mainbrace, provided for informational purposes and not included in book.
On September 20, a U.S. newspaper reporter aboard an aircraft carrier in the North Sea was photographing a carrier take-off in color when he happened to look back down the flight deck and saw a group of pilots and flight deck crew watching something in the sky. He went back to look and there was a silver sphere moving across the sky just behind the fleet of ships. The object appeared to be large, plenty large enough to show up in a photo, so the reporter shot several pictures. They were developed right away and turned out to be excellent. He had gotten the superstructure of the carrier in each one and, judging by the size of the object in each successive photo, one could see that it was moving rapidly.
The intelligence officers aboard the carrier studied the photos. The object looked like a balloon. From its size it was apparent that if it were a balloon, it would have been launched from one of the ships, so the word went out on the TBS radio: "Who launched a balloon?"
The answer came back on the TBS: "Nobody."
Naval Intelligence double checked, triple checked and quadruple checked every ship near the carrier but they could find no one who had launched the UFO.
We kept after the Navy. The pilots and the flight deck crew who saw the UFO had mixed feelings -- some were sure that the UFO was a balloon while others were just as sure that it couldn't have been. It was traveling too fast, and although it resembled a balloon in some ways it was far from being identical to the hundreds of balloons that the crew had seen the aerologists launch.
We probably wouldn't have tried so hard to get a definite answer to the Mainbrace photos if it hadn't been for the events that took place during the rest of the operation, I explained to the group of ADC officers.
The day after the photos had been taken six RAF pilots flying a formation of jet fighters over the North Sea saw something coming from the direction of the Mainbrace fleet. It was a shiny, spherical object, and they couldn't recognize it as anything "friendly" so they took after it. But in a minute or two they lost it. When they neared their base, one of the pilots looked back and saw that the UFO was now following him. He turned but the UFO also turned, and again it outdistanced the Meteor in a matter of minutes.
Then on the third consecutive day a UFO showed up near the fleet, this time over Topcliffe Aerodrome in England. A pilot in a Meteor was scrambled and managed to get his jet fairly close to the UFO, close enough to see that the object was "round, silvery, and white" and seemed to "rotate around its vertical axis and sort of wobble." But before he could close in to get a really good look it was gone.
It was these sightings, I was told by an RAF exchange intelligence officer in the Pentagon, that caused the RAF to officially recognize the UFO.
FROM CHAPTER SEVENTEEN:
It was just a few minutes before midnight on January 28, 1953, when a message flashed into Wright-Patterson for Project Blue Book. It was sent "Operational Immediate," so it had priority handling; I was reading it by 12:30 A.M.. A pilot had chased a UFO.
The report didn't have many details but it did sound good. It gave the pilot's name and said that he could be reached at Moody AFB. I put in a long distance call, found the pilot, and flipped on my recorder so that I could get his story word for word.
He told me that he had been flying an F-86 on a "round robin" navigation flight from Moody AFB to Lawson AFB to Robins AFB, then back to Moody -- all in Georgia. At exactly nine thirty five he was at 6,000 feet, heading toward Lawson AFB on the first leg of his flight. He remembered that he had just looked down and had seen the lights of Albany, Georgia; then he'd looked up again and seen this bright white light at "ten o'clock high." It was an unusually bright light, and he said that he thought this was why it was so noticeable among the stars. He flew on for a few minutes watching it as he passed over Albany. He decided that it must be an extremely bright star or another airplane -- except it just didn't look right. It had too much of a definitely circular shape.
It was a nice night to fly and he had to get in so much time anyway, so he thought he'd try to get a little closer to it. If it was an airplane, chances were he could close in and if it was a star, he should be able to climb up to 30,000 feet and the light shouldn't change its relative position. He checked his oxygen supply, increased the r.p.m. of the engine, and started to climb. In three or four minutes it was obvious that he was getting above the light, and he watched it; it had moved in relation to the stars. It must be an airplane then, he'd decided -- an airplane so far away that he couldn't see its red and green wing tip lights.
Since he'd gone this far, he decided that he'd get closer and make sure it was an airplane; so he dropped the nose of the F-86 and started down. As the needle on the machmeter nudged the red line, he saw that he was getting closer because the light was getting bigger, but still he couldn't see any lights other than the one big white one. Then it wasn't white any longer; it was changing color. In about a two second cycle it changed from white to red, then back to white again. It went through this cycle two or three times, and then before he could realize what was going on, he told me, the light changed in shape to a perfect triangle. Then it split into two triangles, one above the other. By this time he had leveled off and wasn't closing in any more. In a flash the whole thing was gone. He used the old standard description for a disappearing UFO: "It was just like someone turning off a light -- it's there, then it's gone."
I asked him what he thought he'd seen. He'd thought about flying saucers, he said, but he "just couldn't swallow those stories." He thought he had a case of vertigo and the more he thought about it, the surer he was that this was the answer. He'd felt pretty foolish, he told me, and he was glad that he was alone.
Up ahead he saw the sprawling lights of Fort Benning and Lawson AFB, his turning point on the flight, and he'd started to turn but then he'd checked his fuel. The climb had used up quite a bit, so he changed his mind about going to Robins AFB and started straight back to Moody.
He called in to the ground station to change his flight plan, but before he could say anything the ground radio operator asked him if he'd seen a mysterious light.
Well -- he'd seen a light.
Then the ground operator proceeded to tell him that the UFO chase had been watched on radar. First the radar had the UFO target on the scope, and it was a UFO because it was traveling much too slowly to be an airplane. Then the radar operators saw the F-86 approach, climb, and make a shallow dive toward the UFO. At first the F-86 had closed in on the UFO, but then the UFO had speeded up just enough to maintain a comfortable lead. This went on for two or three minutes; then it had moved off the scope at a terrific speed. The radar site had tried to call him, the ground station told the F-86 pilot, but they couldn't raise him so the message had to be relayed through the tower.
Rack up two more points for the UFO -- another unknown and another confirmed believer. ...
- - - - -
A few weeks after the final plans had been made with the 4602nd, I again bade farewell to Project Blue Book. In a simple ceremony on the poop deck of one of the flying saucers that I frequently have been accused of capturing, before a formation of the three-foot-tall green men that I have equally as frequently been accused of keeping prisoner, I turned my command over to Al/c Max Futch and walked out the door into civilian life with separation orders in hand.
The UFO's must have known that I was leaving because the day I found out that officers with my specialty, technical intelligence, were no longer on the critical list and that I could soon get out of the service, they really put on a show. The show they put on is still the best UFO report in the Air Force files.
I first heard about the sighting about two o'clock on the morning of August 13, 1953, when Max Futch called me from ATIC. A few minutes before a wire had come in carrying a priority just under that reserved for flashing the word the U.S. has been attacked. Max had been called over to ATIC by the OD to see the report, and he thought that I should see it. I was a little hesitant to get dressed and go out to the base, so I asked Max what he thought about the report. His classic answer will go down in UFO history, "Captain," Max said in his slow, pure Louisiana drawl, "you know that for a year I've read every flying saucer report that's come in and that I never really believed in the things." Then he hesitated and added, so fast that I could hardly understand him, "But you should read this wire." The speed with which he uttered this last statement was in itself enough to convince me. When Max talked fast, something was important.
A half hour later I was at ATIC -- just in time to get a call from the Pentagon. Someone else had gotten out of bed to read his copy of the wire.
I used the emergency orders that I always kept in my desk and caught the first airliner out of Dayton to Rapid City, South Dakota. I didn't call the 4602nd because I wanted to investigate this one personally. I talked to everyone involved in the incident and pieced together an amazing story.
Shortly after dark on the night of the twelfth, the Air Defense Command radar station at Ellsworth AFB, just east of Rapid City, had received a call from the local Ground Observer Corps filter center. A lady spotter at Black Hawk, about 10 miles west of Ellsworth, had reported an extremely bright light low on the horizon, off to the northeast. The radar had been scanning an area to the west, working a jet fighter in some practice patrols, but when they got the report they moved the sector scan to the northeast quadrant. There was a target exactly where the lady reported the light to be. The warrant officer, who was the duty controller for the night, told me that he'd studied the target for several minutes. He knew how weather could affect radar but this target was "well defined, solid, and bright." It seemed to be moving, but very slowly. He called for an altitude reading, and the man on the height finding radar checked his scope. He also had the target -- it was at 16,000 feet.
The warrant officer picked up the phone and asked the filter center to connect him with the spotter. They did, and the two people compared notes on the UFO's position for several minutes. But right in the middle of a sentence the lady suddenly stopped and excitedly said, "It's starting to move -- it's moving southwest toward Rapid."
The controller looked down at his scope and the target was beginning to pick up speed and move southwest. He yelled at two of his men to run outside and take a look. In a second or two one of them shouted back that they could both see a large bluish white light moving toward Rapid City. The controller looked down at his scope -- the target was moving toward Rapid City. As all three parties watched the light and kept up a steady cross conversation of the description, the UFO swiftly made a wide sweep around Rapid City and returned to its original position in the sky.
A master sergeant. who had seen and heard the happenings told me that in all his years of duty -- combat radar operations in both Europe and Korea -- he'd never been so completely awed by anything. When the warrant officer had yelled down at him and asked him what he thought they should do, he'd just stood there. "After all," he told me, "what in hell could we do -- they're bigger than all of us."
But the warrant officer did do something. He called to the F-84 pilot he had on combat air patrol west of the base and told him to get ready for an intercept. He brought the pilot around south of the base and gave him a course correction that would take him right into the light, which was still at 16,000 feet. By this time the pilot had it spotted. He made the turn, and when he closed to within about 3 miles of the target, it began to move. The controller saw it begin to move, the spotter saw it begin to move and the pilot saw it begin to move -- all at the same time. There was now no doubt that all of them were watching the same object.
Once it began to move, the UFO picked up speed fast and started to climb, heading north, but the F-84 was right on its tall. The pilot would notice that the light was getting brighter, and he'd call the controller to tell him about it. But the controller's answer would always be the same, "Roger, we can see it on the scope."
There was always a limit as to how near the jet could get, however. The controller told me that it was just as if the UFO had some kind of an automatic warning radar linked to its power supply. When something got too close to it, it would automatically pick up speed and pull away. The separation distance always remained about 3 miles.
The chase continued on north -- out of sight of the lights of Rapid City and the base -- into some very black night.
When the UFO and the F-84 got about 120 miles to the north, the pilot checked his fuel; he had to come back. And when I talked to him, he said he was damn glad that he was running out of fuel because being out over some mighty desolate country alone with a UFO can cause some worry.
Both the UFO and the F-84 had gone off the scope, but in a few minutes the jet was back on, heading for home. Then 10 or 15 miles behind it was the UFO target also coming back.
While the UFO and the F-84 were returning to the base -- the F-84 was planning to land -- the controller received a call from the jet interceptor squadron on the base. The alert pilots at the squadron had heard the conversations on their radio and didn't believe it. "Who's nuts up there?" was the comment that passed over the wire from the pilots to the radar people. There was an F-84 on the line ready to scramble, the man on the phone said, and one of the pilots, a World War II and Korean veteran, wanted to go up and see a flying saucer. The controller said, "O.K., go."
In a minute or two the F-84 was airborne and the controller was working him toward the light. The pilot saw it right away and closed in. Again the light began to climb out, this time more toward the northeast. The pilot also began to climb, and before long the light, which at first had been about 30 degrees above his horizontal line of sight, was now below him. He nosed the '84 down to pick up speed, but it was the same old story -- as soon as he'd get within 3 miles of the UFO, it would put on a burst of speed and stay out ahead.
Even though the pilot could see the light and hear the ground controller telling him that he was above it, and alternately gaining on it or dropping back, he still couldn't believe it -- there must be a simple explanation. He turned off all of his lights -- it wasn't a reflection from any of the airplane's lights because there it was. A reflection from a ground light, maybe. He rolled the airplane -- the position of the light didn't change. A star -- he picked out three bright stars near the light and watched carefully. The UFO moved in relation to the three stars. Well, he thought to himself, if it's a real object out there, my radar should pick it up too; so he flipped on his radar ranging gun sight. In a few seconds the red light on his sight blinked on -- something real and solid was in front of him. Then he was scared. When I talked to him, he readily admitted that he'd been scared. He'd met MD 109's, FW 190's and ME 262's over Germany and he'd met MIG-21's over Korea but the large, bright, bluish white light had scared him -- he asked the controller if he could break off the intercept.
This time the light didn't come back.
When the UFO went off the scope it was headed toward Fargo, North Dakota, so the controller called the Fargo filter center. "Had they had any reports of unidentified lights?" he asked. They hadn't.
But in a few minutes a call came back. Spotter posts on a southwest- northeast line a few miles west of Fargo had reported a fast moving, bright bluish white light.
This was an unknown -- the best.
The sighting was thoroughly investigated, and I could devote pages of detail on how we looked into every facet of the incident; but it will suffice to say that in every facet we looked into we saw nothing. Nothing but a big question mark asking what was it.
When I left Project Blue Book and the Air Force I severed all official associations with the UFO. But the UFO is like hard drink; you always seem to drift back to it. People I've met, people at work, and friends of friends are continually asking about the subject. In the past few months the circulation manager of a large Los Angeles newspaper, one of Douglas Aircraft Company's top scientists, a man who is guiding the future development of the super secret Atlas intercontinental guided missile, a movie star, and a German rocket expert have called me and wanted to get together to talk about UFO's. Some of them had seen one.
I have kept up with the activity of the UFO and Project Blue Book over the past two years through friends who are still in intelligence. Before Max Futch got out of the Air Force and went back to law school he wrote to me quite often and a part of his letters were always devoted to the latest about the UFO's.
Then I make frequent business trips to ATIC, and I always stop in to see Captain Charles Hardin, who is now in charge of Blue Book, for a "What's new?" I always go to ATIC with the proper security clearances so I'm sure I get a straight answer to my question.
Since I left ATIC, the UFO's haven't gone away and neither has the interest. There hasn't been too much about them in the newspapers because of the present Air Force policy of silence, but they're with us. That the interest is still with us is attested to by the fact that in late 1953 Donald Keyhoe's book about UFO's, Flying Saucers from Outer Space, immediately appeared on best seller lists. The book was based on a few of our good UFO reports that were released to the press. To say that the book is factual depends entirely upon how one uses the word. The details of the specific UFO sightings that he credits to the Air Force are factual, but in his interpretations of the incidents he blasts way out into the wild blue yonder.
During the past two years the bulk of the UFO activity has taken place in Europe. I might add here that I have never seen any recent official UFO reports or studies from other countries; all of my information about the European Flap came from friends. But when these friends are in the intelligence branches of the U.S. Air Force, the RAF, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force, the data can be considered at least good.
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While the European Flap was in progress, the UFO's weren't entirely neglecting the United States. The number of reports that were coming into Project Blue Book were below average, but there were reports. Many of them would definitely be classed as good, but the best was a report from a photo reconnaissance B-29 crew that encountered a UFO almost over Dayton.
About 11:00A.M. on May 24, 1954, an RB-29 equipped with some new aerial cameras took off from Wright Field, one of the two airfields that make up Wright-Patterson AFB, and headed toward the Air Force's photographic test range in Indiana. At exactly twelve noon they were at 16,000 feet, flying west, about 15 miles northwest of Dayton. A major, a photo officer, was in the nose seat of the '29. All of the gun sights and the bombsight in the nose had been taken out, so it was like sitting in a large picture window—except you just can't get this kind of a view anyplace else. The major was enjoying it. He was leaning forward, looking down, when he saw an extremely bright circular-shaped object under and a little behind the airplane. It was so bright that it seemed to have a mirror finish. He couldn't tell how far below him it was but he was sure that it wasn't any higher than 6,000 feet above the ground, and it was traveling fast, faster than the B-29. It took only about six seconds to cross a section of land, which meant that it was going about 600 miles an hour.
The major called the crew and told them about the UFO, but neither the pilot nor the copilot could see it because it was now directly under the B-29. The pilot was just in the process of telling him that he was crazy when one of the scanners in an aft blister called in; he and the other scanner could also see the UFO.
Being a photo ship, the RB-29 had cameras—loaded cameras—so the logical thing to do would be to take a picture, but during a UFO sighting logic sometimes gets shoved into the background. In this case, however, it didn't, and the major reached down, punched the button on the intervalometer, and the big vertical camera in the aft section of the airplane clicked off a photo before the UFO sped away.
The photo showed a circular-shaped blob of light exactly as the major had described it to the RB-29 crew. It didn't show any details of the UFO because the UFO was too bright; it was completely overexposed on the negative. The circular shape wasn't sharp either; it had fuzzy edges, but this could have been due to two things: its extreme brightness, or the fact that it was high, close to the RB-29, and out of focus. There was no way of telling exactly how high it was but if it were at 6,000 feet, as the major estimated, it would have been about 125 feet in diameter.
Working with people from the photo lab at Wright-Patterson, Captain Hardin from Project Blue Book carried out one of the most complete investigations in UFO history. They checked aircraft flights, rephotographed the area from high and low altitude to see if they could pick up something on the ground that could have been reflecting light, and made a minute ground search of the area. They found absolutely nothing that could explain the round blob of light, and the incident went down as an unknown.
Like all good "Unknown" UFO reports, there are as many opinions as to what the bright blob of light could have been as there are people who've seen the photo. "Some kind of light phenomenon" is the frequent opinion of those who don't believe. They point out that there is no shadow of any kind of a circular object showing on the ground—no shadow, nothing "solid." But if you care to take the time you can show that if the object, assuming that this is what it was, was above 4,000 feet the shadow would fall out of the picture.
Then all you get is a blank look from the light phenomenon theorists.
With the sighting from the RB-29 and the photograph, all of the other UFO reports that Blue Book has collected and all of those that came out of the European Flap, the big question—the key question— is: What have the last two years of UFO activity brought out? Have there been any important developments?
Some good reports have come in and the Air Force is sitting on them. During 1954 they received some 450 reports, and once again July was the peak month. In the first half of 1955 they had 189. But I can assure you that these reports add nothing more as far as proof is concerned. The quality of the reports has improved, but they still offer nothing more than the same circumstantial evidence... There have been no reports in which the speed or altitude of a UFO has been measured, there have been no reliable photographs that show any details of a UFO, and there is no hardware. There is still no real proof.
- - - - -
Personally, I don't believe that "it can't be." I wouldn't class myself as a "believer," exactly, because I've seen too many UFO reports that first appeared to be unexplainable fall to pieces when they were thoroughly investigated. But every time I begin to get skeptical I think of the other reports, the many reports made by experienced pilots and radar operators, scientists, and other people who know what they're looking at. These reports were thoroughly investigated and they are still unknowns. Of these reports, the radar- visual sightings are the most convincing. When a ground radar picks up a UFO target and a ground observer sees a light where the radar target is located, then a jet interceptor is scrambled to intercept the UFO and the pilot also sees the light and gets a radar lock-on only to have the UFO almost impudently outdistance him, there is no simple answer. We have no aircraft on this earth that can at will so handily outdistance our latest jets.
The Air Force is still actively engaged in investigating UFO reports, although during the past six months there have been definite indications that there is a movement afoot to get Project Blue Book to swing back to the old Project Grudge philosophy of analyzing UFO reports -- write them all off, regardless. But good UFO reports cannot be written off with such answers as fatigued pilots seeing a balloon or star, "green" radar operators with only fifteen years' experience watching temperature inversion caused blips on their radarscopes; or "a mild form of mass hysteria or war nerves." Using answers like these, or similar ones, to explain the UFO reports is an expedient method of getting the percentage of unknowns down to zero, but it is no more valid than turning the hands of a clock ahead to make time pass faster. Twice before the riddle of the UFO has been "solved," only to have the reports increase in both quantity and quality.
I wouldn't want to hazard a guess as to what the final outcome of the UFO investigation will be, but I am sure that within a few years there will be a proven answer...
Maybe the final proven answer will be that all of the UFO's that have been reported are merely misidentified known objects. Or maybe the many pilots, radar specialists, generals, industrialists, scientists, and the man on the street who have told me, "I wouldn't have believed it either if I hadn't seen it myself," knew what they were talking about. Maybe the earth is being visited by interplanetary spaceships.
Only time will tell.
In 1960 an expanded edition of The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects appeared adding three new chapters at the end and showing Ruppelt had decidedly turned not only more skeptical towards the phenomenon, but flatly declared...
During the past four years the most frequent question I've been asked is: "What do you personally think? Do unidentified flying objects exist, or don't they?"
I'm positive they don't.
I was very skeptical when I finished my tour of active duty with the
Air Force and left Project Blue Book in 1953, but now I'm convinced.
Since I left the Air Force the Age of the Satellite has arrived and we're in it. Along with this new era came the long range radars, the satellite tracking cameras, and the other instruments that would have picked up any type of "spaceship" coming into our atmosphere.
None of this instrumentation has ever given any indication of any type of unknown vehicle entering the earth's atmosphere.
I checked this with the Department of Defense and I checked this through friends associated with tracking projects. In both cases the results were completely negative.
There's not even a glimmer of hope for the UFO.
And the last words of the expanded edition were... "our Space Age Myth -- the UFO".
The expanded edition carried the same cover and copyright date, and made no mention of having changed from the original 1956 edition.
Left: Captain Edward J Ruppelt, standing, and Air Force Director of Intelligence John A. Samford in July, 1952.
REGARDLESS OF HIS ultimate negative view, Ruppelt is owed heartfelt thanks for his candor, his humor, and his willingness to bring forth facts about the phenomenon to the American public.
During his time at Blue Book, he resuscitated a moribund investigation, while at the same time bringing a new openness -- even allowing journalists access to Air Force files. After leaving, he wrote a lengthy magazine piece and then his book, both revealing to the public the extent of the military's encounter with the phenomenon as well as its difficulties with interpreting it. In all of these endeavors he not only pointed the way at the time but left trail markers for serious study of the early decades of the phenomenon even today.
Edward J. Ruppelt died of a heart attack on September 15, 1960, at the age of 37.
1. The complete Report on Unidentified Flying Objects can be found online at Project Gutenberg, including the three added chapters.
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