From the very first days of the modern era of saucer sightings, pilot reports of encounters with the flying disks were almost invariably treated -- both by officials and the public alike -- with a level of deference and respect accorded no one else. No doubt in large part that deference and respect was a well-deserved residue of admiration and awe for the air crews of World War II, who consistently brought to each mission a mix of pluck, smarts, courage and cool clear-headedness in the midst of the most terrible -- and often sudden -- lethal dangers in the sky.
And certainly after years of experience where not only their very lives but the outcome of battle -- or even the war itself -- depended on accurate identification of other flying objects, their judgments of what they had encountered in the air were deservedly well-trusted. Equally important -- in the then-new atomic age of aerial warfare -- these same men would be the first line of defense against a far-more devastating surprise attack than that which shocked the nation to its core at Pearl Harbor.
It had been, in fact, a private pilot -- Kenneth Arnold -- who had first reported the phenomenon aloft, followed soon thereafter by a report from commercial airline pilots E.J. Smith and Ralph Stevens of United Airlines. Other private, commercial, and military pilot reports would follow, some of them detailing spectacular occurrences.
It was fitting, then, that in July, 1950, Flying magazine weighed in on the "flying saucer" controversy from the pilot's point of view. Penned by Flying editor Curtis Fuller, the article focused on pilot encounters while in flight, dating back to Kenneth Arnold's original sighting in early summer, 1947 (unmentioned in the article was the fact that Curtis Fuller was co-founder of Fate magazine -- which had taken a journalistically-suspect approach to the mystery of the flying discs -- and that Curtis also wrote articles about the saucers for Fate using the pseudonym of "John C. Ross").
Above: Cover of July 1950 issue of Flying magazine and article opening pages. The caption beneath the color illustration reads... "Passengers aboard a TWA airliner near South Bend, Ind., witnessed a strange sky phenomenon in April. It had a bright red color, and appeared to fly on edge like a wheel. 'It looked something like a spinning exhaust, all aflame,' said Passenger Jacob Goelzer."
The Flying Saucers -- Fact Or Fiction?
By Curtis Fuller
Editor of Flying
When observers as experienced as airline pilots say they've seen strange objects in the sky, they deserve a respectful hearing.
THE night of March 31, 1950, was dark and clear. The Chicago and Southern Air Lines DC-3 had taken off a short while before from Memphis airport for a regularly scheduled flight to Little Rock, Ark. Off in the distance Capt. Jack Adams, 31, a veteran of 7,000 hours and seven years on the airline, could see the glow of lights that meant Little Rock, 40 miles away.
"There was only a small piece of moon showing," Adams said. "Our altitude was about 2,000 feet. Visibility and ceiling were unlimited. We could see 20 or 30 miles easily."
In the right hand seat was Co-Pilot G.W. Anderson, Jr., 30, a 6,000-hour veteran. Anderson and Adams knew the route perfectly, had flown it many times together.
At exactly 9:29 p.m. Adams' attention was caught by a lighted, fast-moving object. "My God, what's that?" he asked.
Anderson looked up. "Oh no, not one of those things!" he said.
Unfortunately for his peace of mind it was "one of those things."
The editors of FLYING have followed and investigated reports of "those things" for just short of three years -- ever since Kenneth Arnold, a businessman-pilot and himself a contributor to FLYING, started the great modern flying saucer controversy on June 24, 1947.
Since then we have talked with men who believe they have seen flying saucers, with men who are equally sure they haven't, with Air Force investigators, with psychologists. For nearly three years no editor of FLYING has visited an Air Force base or talked with an Air Force officer without asking "What do you know about the flying saucers?"
The results, as you may suspect, have not been very fruitful. The answer has almost invariably been an unyielding:
"There isn't any such thing."
And yet in the minds of the editors there has always remained an unsatisfied, nagging doubt. If there isn't any such thing, what did Captain Jack Adams and First Officer G.W. Anderson, Jr., see?
Up to the time of issuing its first report about a year ago, the Air Force's Project Saucer had investigated 240 domestic and 30 foreign saucer incidents. FLYING has in its own records reports of more than 40 saucer sightings.
Most of the reports are from crackpots and come under what psychologists call "hallucinatory phenomena." But the crackpot reports do not detract from the validity of reports from qualified observers any more than the existence of medical quacks proves that trained doctors are also quacks.
We have in our files enough material to write a book on flying saucers -- a strange compilation, indeed, of "things that don't exist." Several of the accounts are more interesting and inexplicable than those described in this article, but we have confined this to only four reports.
All involve sightings by airliner crews -- in each case by both pilots and co-pilots. We have confined the descriptions of saucer sightings to these four accounts because we know that airline pilots are trained observers. They are used to watching and interpreting sky phenomena and would be less likely to err in their reports than any other group we could think of.
No editor of FLYING has ever seen a flying saucer. But we adopt the position of Dr. Frank K. Edmondson, director of the Goethe Link Observatory of Indiana University at Bloomington.
"I have never seen a flying saucer," said Dr. Edmondson, "but after you discount all these explainable reports, there is a residue left that I cannot explain."
The sightings by airline pilots are part of that residue, and the strange craft that Captain Adams and First Officer Anderson saw near Little Rock last March was one of those unexplainable phenomena.
"It was about 1,000 feet above us and about a half mile away," Anderson told intelligence officers. "It zoomed at terrific speed (perhaps as much as 700-1,000 m.p.h.) in an arc ahead and above us, moving from south to north...
"This object remained in full view for about 30 seconds and we got a good look. It had no navigation lights, but as it passed ahead of us in an arc we could plainly see other lights -- as though from eight or 10 lighted windows or ports -- on the lower side.
"The lights had a fluorescent quality. They were soft and fuzzy, unlike any we'd seen before. The object was circular, apparently, and the lights remained distinct all the time it was in our view. There was no reflection, no exhaust, and no vapor trail. That's definite."
Captain Adams added that "there was a bright white light flashing intermittently from the top of the thing. The speed attracted our attention first, that and the blinking light. It was the strongest blue white light we've ever seen.
As the object passed, its underside apparently was then exposed to the pilots because the blue-white light was obscured. The object then continued in a straight line and disappeared.
"I've been a skeptic all my life, but what can you do when you see something like that?" Adams said. "We both saw it and we were flabbergasted."
The night was so dark that neither Adams nor Anderson could detect any dark or solid outline to the object. They assume that it was circular only because the lighted "portholes" were arranged in a circle.
The two pilots told a Memphis Press-Scimitar staff writer:
"We tried not to be too fantastic in making our report. We sort of figured on the short side of everything. We never had been interested in these things before. In fact, frankly, we did not believe in them.
"The thing was not a shooting star or a comet. We know a comet, and we see shooting stars between Memphis and Houston all the time."
* * *
It was 2:45 early one July morning in 1948. An Eastern Airlines DC-3 piloted by Capt. Clarence Shipe Chiles and co-piloted by John B. Whitted, was tooling along at 5,000 feet about 20 miles southwest of Montgomery, Ala., en route from Houston to New York.
The moon was bright and there were scattered light clouds. Thunderstorms had been reported en route and Chiles and Whitted were watching faint flashes of lightning way up ahead.
"We had our eyes focused on the point from which the thing came," Chiles told Louis Blackburn, of the Houston Press. "From the right and slightly above us came a bright glow and the long rocket-like ship took form in the distance.
"It's a jet job," I said to Whitted.
"Then it grew larger and pulled up alongside. It appeared to be about 100 feet long with a huge fuselage three times as large as that of a B-29.
"It's too big for a jet, but what the devil is it?" said Whitted.
"There were two rows of windows and it appeared definitely to be a two-decker. The lights from the side were a ghastly white, like the glow of a gas light -- the whitest we'd ever seen.
"There was a long shaft on the ship's nose that looked like it might have been part of radar controls. The ship acted that way too, for just after it pulled alongside us it whipped quickly upward at a very sharp angle."
Both craft veered to their respective left. The mystery ship passed about 700 feet to the right and above the airliner. "Then, as if the pilot had seen us and wanted to avoid us, it pulled up with a tremendous burst of flame from the rear and zoomed into the clouds, its prop wash or jet wash rocking our DC-3."
The wingless craft gave the impression of having a pilot's cabin at the front of a cigar-shaped fuselage. The cabin was brightly lighted but the fuselage itself approximated the brilliance of a magnesium flare.
"We saw no occupants," Chiles said. "From the side of the craft came an intense fairly dark blue glow that ran the entire length of the fuselage like a blue fluorescent factory light. The exhaust was a red-orange flame, with a lighter color predominant around the outer edges."
Both Chiles and Whitted agreed that the exhaust flame extended 30 to 50 feet behind the object and became deeper in intensity as the craft pulled up into a cloud. They estimated its speed as being about 1/3 faster than ordinary jets -- that is, 700 to 900 m.p.h.
Immediately after the ship disappeared, Chiles turned the controls over to Whitted and rushed into the cabin to find out if any passengers had seen the object. He found all the passengers asleep except C.L. McKelvie of Columbus, O.
"I remembered saying to myself 'That's the queerest lightning I've ever seen,' and I pressed myself closer to the window to see it," McKelvie said. "I was amazed at the brilliance of the flash of light."
McKelvie realized it was not lightning when the "light" flashed past in an unbroken line to disappear in a cloud. "It was much redder in color than lightning," McKelvie said. He did not, however, see any form of a ship.
The light from the object was so brilliant, indeed, that it caused "lightning blindness" to both pilots. They had to turn up their cockpit lights to read the instruments.
* * *
Nine circular disc-like objects were sighted by a United Air Lines plane west-bound from Boise, Ida., to Seattle Wash., on July 4, 1947 -- just a few days after Kenneth Arnold reported the first chain of "discs" over the state of Washington.
There had been many other reports of "flying saucers" in the northwest but most persons were skeptical. "I'll believe 'em when I see 'em," said Capt. E.J. Smith of United Air Lines Flight 105. The plane took off at 9:04 p.m. and was only eight minutes out of Boise when Smith and his co-pilot, First Officer Ralph Stevens, saw five disc-like objects in "loose formation."
At first they mistook the objects for aircraft and blinked their lights as a warning. It was a dimly twilighted sky and they could see the objects silhouetted clearly. The two pilots called Marty Morrow, stewardess, to the cockpit to certify that they were actually seeing the discs and she too saw them.
Then they caught sight of four more of the objects, three clustered together and a fourth flying "by itself, way off in the distance."
"The discs were flat and roundish," Smith and Stevens said. "They definitely were not aircraft. But they were bigger than aircraft."
* * *
The most recent "flying saucer" sighting by an airliner was on the night of April 27, 1950, when occupants of a Trans-World Airline plane en route to Chicago saw a "round glowing mass" in the air as they flew over South Bend, Ind.
Capt. Robert Adickes, the pilot, and First Officer Robert Manning had the object in sight for six or seven minutes as it overtook their plane at about 2,000 feet and cruised along a parallel course. Adickes has been flying for 13 years and has been a TWA captain for six years.
He is a cautious man and is reluctant to say that he saw a "flying saucer." To him it was an "object" or a "guided missile."
"I had just had my dinner and was wide awake," says Adickes, "when this object flew alongside. It was definitely round, with no irregular features at all, and about 10 to 20 per cent as thick as it was round. It was very smooth and streamlined, and glowed evenly with a bright red color as if it were heated stainless steel. It was so bright it gave off a light. It left no vapor, no flame. It appeared to fly on edge, like a wheel going down a highway.
"I went back to show the passengers. Most of them saw it but they couldn't see it as clearly as we [pilot and co-pilot] did because cabin lights were on and their eyes weren't adjusted to darkness.
"I called South Bend air traffic control and asked if they had any record of unusual craft in the vicinity. They didn't."
Adickes banked north in an effort to get a closer look. "It appeared to be controlled by repulse radar," he said. "As I'd turn toward it, it would veer away, keeping the same distance.
"When I turned directly toward it, it took off at a speed judged to be about 400 m.p.h., twice my speed. It went down to 1,500 feet and streaked out of sight northward over South Bend."
Adickes had talked with other pilots who claimed to have seen strange sky phenomena before he saw the object over South Bend. He is careful to say that he did not see anything that could not be explained by physics, radar, or known aerodynamic principles. He examined it as well as he could and even opened the cockpit window on the right side so that he wasn't looking through glass. Because there was nothing to compare it with he hesitates to estimate its size or distance, but compares it in size and color with an orange about 20 feet away.
"It looked something like a spinning exhaust, all aflame," said passenger Jacob Goelzer. Another passenger, C.W. Anderson, an International Harvester plant superintendent from Springfield, O., said "It looked like a big red light bulb, fading off fast. It was moving very fast. I didn't notice any details of the red ball."
* * *
There is a surprising correlation in all these four sightings. There is the feeling by several pilots that the objects are under a kind of repulse radar control. In the two seen closest there appear to be lighted openings or "portholes."
All the objects have been seen at night, except the United Air Lines group which was seen at twilight and showed no lights. Otherwise, all objects are associated with lights, two of them with exceptionally bright white or blue-white lights, and also with softer fluorescing lights.
Three of the objects were round and disc-shaped. The fourth, that of the Eastern Airlines pilots was cigar-shaped -- yet it is obvious that a disc seen on edge throughout its flight would also look cigar-shaped. None of the three disc-shaped objects showed any evidence of reaction propulsion. That of the cigar-shaped object did.
The attitude of scientists everywhere is in almost universal agreement -- there are no such things as flying saucers. It is a striking fact that astronomers and physicists universally discount their existence on the grounds that they are hallucinations, but that psychologists are inclined to credit them on the grounds that they cannot be hallucinations.
Dr. Harlow Shapley, director of Harvard Observatory, says: "No evidence that flying saucers are other than natural neurotic phenomena has been received at the Harvard Observatory."
Dr. I.S. Bowen, director of Mt. Palomar and Mt. Wilson observatories says: "We have not observed objects in the air that could not be explained as natural phenomena." And Dr. Robert H. Baker, professor of astronomy at the University of Illinois in Urbana declares: "I would say it's hysteria. I never saw a saucer, and know of no astronomer who has."
Among physicists, Dr. Arthur Jaffee an atomic scientist of the University of Chicago, suggested: "Maybe the people who see things have motes in their eyes." Dr. James Arnold, former Manhattan Project worker and a chemistry professor at the University of Chicago: "There's no evidence. People can see a lot of things -- some real and some caused by the power of suggestion."
And here's what Dr. Erwin Angres, a psychiatrist replied: "Pilots, who are trained observers, are not going to be fooled very often. There may be something to the stories."
There is a striking similarity between the attitude of scientists and newspapers toward flying saucers, and toward man's first attempts to fly.
People simply would not believe that the Wright Brothers had flown. The most important reason they would not believe it was that they had been told by scientists for years that heavier-than-air flight was impossible. Dr. Simon Newcomb, the distinguished astronomer and the first American since Benjamin Franklin to be made an associate of the Institute of France, declared just a few years before the Wrights flew that flight without gas bags would require the discovery of some new metal or a new unsuspected force in nature. Rear Adm. George W. Melville, then chief engineer for the U.S. Navy proved convincingly in the North American Review that the attempts to fly heavier-than-air craft were absurd.
During 1904 and 1905, the Wright Brothers conducted numerous experimental flights at Simms Station, eight miles from Dayton. They flew from Huffman Field, alongside the interurban line, and people who watched the flights from the interurban cars used to flock into the Dayton Daily News office and demand to know why there was nothing in the newspaper about them.
Dan Kumler, city editor, explained in 1940 why they didn't publish the stories. "We just didn't believe it. Of course you remember that the Wrights at that time were terribly secretive."
He was asked: "You mean that they were secretive about the fact that they were flying over an open field along the interurban line?"
Kumler hesitated and replied, "I guess the truth is that we were just plain dumb."
All the evidence suggests that orthodox scientists don't believe there can be such things as flying saucers because they don't behave in accordance with the conventional physics they know -- just as the Wright Brothers plane did not accord with the physics of Simon Newcomb and therefore couldn't exist either.
FLYING does not have any secret sources in the Government who are able to give us confidential reports on how the saucers are powered, and who is behind them, such as one national magazine has published.
We are convinced that they have nothing to do with the Chance Vought V-173 configuration pictured on the cover of FLYING, nor with the Chance Vought XF5U (Flying Pancake) as stated by another national magazine. Only one of each of these airplanes was ever built, and the XF5U never even flew. The V-173 did fly but had no performance comparable with that attributed to the mysterious objects described here.
We do not believe that the saucers are a Soviet development. If the Russians did have anything so revolutionary they would hardly risk their secret by conducting training flights over the United States.
Are they then a United States development?
Airline pilots and businessmen pilots who do a lot of flying, and who talk with pilots who have seen strange objects in the sky, generally believe that they are. But if so, note these contradictions:
1. If they are indeed a secret U.S. development, that secret has been better kept in peacetime than the atomic bomb was in wartime.
2. They seem to involve a revolutionary type of fuselage, of flight theory, and also perhaps even a revolutionary type of propulsion. This seems to be the reason the physicists questioned do not believe they exist. The editors of FLYING keep well abreast of late aviation developments and know of no airframes or power plants, atomic plants included, that perform as these objects are reported to perform.
3. Like the Russians, it hardly seems likely that U.S. researchers would be experimenting with the saucers at random spots all around the country where there would always be the danger of their secrets becoming known.
4. The Government itself does not just evade answers on flying saucers. In every case it denies they exist. While certain denials are to be expected, it seems to the FLYING staff that the type of denials are fairly conclusive.
Before Project Saucer was "officially" terminated it reported that "no definite conclusive evidence is yet available that would prove or disprove the possibility that a portion of the unidentified objects are real aircraft of unknown or unconventional configuration."
This, it seems to us, is an evasion. Even taking the four reports cited here, it is obvious that skilled pilots, trained observers of sky phenomena, saw something. If they saw it, it must exist. They are not all victims of hallucinations despite the ready explanations of the physicists.
But what the strange phenomena are, the editors of FLYING do not pretend to know.
We can only say what they are not. They are not anything the glib radio commentators and the sensational magazines say they are. They are a mystery and a contradiction, and we know little more about what they are than when we started our investigation. But it's been interesting, hasn't it?
Omitted from Flying magazine's account of the encounter by Captain E.J. Smith was another pilot sighting which occurred on the same route some three weeks later, as reported in the July 28, 1947, edition of the Gallup, New Mexico, Independent...
Above: A United Airlines DC-3, the same make flown by Captains Smith and Gibian.
Airlines Pilot Sights Another Flying Saucer
BOISE, Idaho, July 29(AP) -- It's flying disc time again in Idaho and the United Air Lines pilot who spotted the latest one says "they ought to be kept off the civil airways."
Capt. Charles P. Gibian, who while coming in to Boise for a landing last night reported spotting a disc-like object "going like hell" at about 9,000 feet, told the Boise Statesman:
"If it is real it must be some sort of military experiment and if that is the case they ought to arrange to keep the objects off the civil airways."
Army and Navy spokesmen have denied knowledge of the discs.
Gibian, who talked to the Idaho Statesman by telephone from Pendleton, Ore., became the second United pilot on flight 105 to report seeing the flying object. His predecessor was Capt. E.J. Smith who said he spotted two groups of discs July 4, near Emmett, Idaho.
Smith's story came during the climax of the flying discs reports, which started in late June in the state of Washington. During early July there were few states in the nation without at least one report of a disc and persons in numerous other countries, including Japan, also said they sighted the objects.
Gibian's disc -- or whatever -- was the first reported since word of the objects tapered off about two weeks ago.
The pilot said his first officer, Jack Harvey, also saw the object last night.
They said they saw a round, flat object in the sky west of Mountain Home, a village 45 miles east of here.
Both men said they thought the object was an airplane until "in a matter of seconds it disappeared, apparently going away from us."
Gibian said if the object was 40 miles or so distant from the airliner, it was as big as an airplane.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration's communications station here reported there were no other aircraft in the sky in the vicinity of Mountain home at the time Gibian and Harvey reported seeing the object.
Also omitted from the Flying magazine feature was a March, 1950, sighting by pilots of the same airline as Captain Adams and Co-pilot Anderson one week before their reported sighting, as related in the March 23, 1950, edition of the Memphis, Tennessee, Press-Scimitar newspaper...
Above: From 1950, a Chicago & Southern Airlines DC-3.
Captain Paul W. Bennett and First Officer William T. Tuero have related seeing a "bright and strange object" in the distance off Greenwood, Miss., at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Morris J. Baker, C&S public relations official, said today.
The two pilots were bound from Memphis to New Orleans when they sighted the object.
It was east of their course and they watched it for about 10 minutes before it suddenly disappeared.
Bennett and Tuero told C&S Chief Pilot Jack McKee about the object when they reached New Orleans but did not report it officially, Baker said.
The pilots said they didn't want "friends kidding us about flying saucers."
The pilots also told the press:
Their saucer remained in view long enough to call the stewardess, Patricia Hicks, of 19 South Tucker, and she pointed out the object to several passengers. One of them was Capt. Tommy Bridges, C&S pilot making the trip as a passenger.
And even as Flying magazine was going to press with its July report on pilot sightings, two new encounters were being reported in the daily press -- both reported in the last days of June. First would be the story of a major in the Air Force Reserve, as found in the June 27, 1950, edition of the Somerset, Pennsylvania, Daily American...
Above: May, 1950, postcard image of Memphis Municipal Airport. Originally dedicated in 1929, during World War II it came under the administration of the Army Air Force. When the war ended, the airport came under a dual military-civilian use, operating under the auspices of the Continental Air Defense Command. In 1946 Memphis became the first training base for the newly-created Air Reserve -- made up of "civilian" Air Force officers and enlisted personnel who could be called to active duty for defense of the country in case of war. Pictured is the $65,000 administration building, at the time one of the country's most up-to-date. There was also a modern control tower through which all traffic of the airport was regulated by means of radio, plus stop and go beams atop the building. Memphis featured runways in the eight 45-degree compass directions.
Major Saylor Gives Report Of Flying Saucers
The enigma of the flying saucer was given a local twist Monday morning when Major Cloyd B. Saylor of the United States air force reserve walked into the American office.
Major Saylor, a Somerset resident, reported seeing three of the saucers while on a mission near Memphis, Tenn. The first of these was spied about one mile ahead of a military plane in the formation. The second was seen making a steep dive ahead of the plane, then climbing vertically until it was lost from sight. Flying saucer No. 3 was seen soaring at a terrific rate of speed parallel to the line of flight of the aircraft.
Commenting on the saucers he had seen, Major Saylor said he had never believed in the validity of stories recited by various "eyewitnesses" of the soaring discs.
"But I am now thoroughly convinced," he stated.
Major Saylor just recently returned from a two-weeks tour of active duty with the United States air force.
The same day that Major Saylor's story appeared -- June 27, 1950 -- a different pilot account appeared in the Galveston, Texas, Daily News...
Above, top: A Central Airlines six-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza. Central Airlines started service in 1949 with eleven Bonanzas. Bottom: A Central Airlines DC-3, which Central began adding to the fleet in 1950, with DC-3s representing the entire fleet by 1951. It is not known which aircraft was being flown in the following story...
Airlines Pilot Sees Big Flying Saucer
HOLDENVILLE, Ok., June 26. (UP) -- Flight Capt. Harry Logsdon, Central Airlines pilot, brought his "flying saucer" story down to earth here today.
Logsdon was reported to have seen a "saucer-shaped object" in the sky near Commerce, Tex. last weekend.
"I sure did," Logsdon told a reporter here. "It was about 30 feet in diameter."
The pilot said the object was "stationary when I first spotted it. I got within about three miles of it before it took off in a burst of speed."
Logsdon, a veteran commercial pilot from Fort Worth, said his plane was traveling about 185 per hour "and this thing was going twice as fast."
A passenger identified as W. Crosder, Texarkana, also said he saw the object.
July, 1950, produced a new sighting over Arkansas by two military pilots, confirmed by radar. And because it involved the United States Navy -- which was much less reticent than the Air Force about going public with such matters -- it became a national newswire story, as found in the Neosho, Missouri, Daily Democrat...
Above, top: From 1951, A U.S. Naval Reserve Grumman TBM-3E Avenger assigned the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit at NAS Memphis, Tennessee (actually located in Millington). An orange fuselage band on the nose was a standard marking for U.S. Naval Reserve aircraft. However, the type of aircraft actually flown during the incident is unknown. Bottom: News photo of radarman G.D. Wehner drawing outline of image he saw on radar. Behind him are radarman J.O. Burgess (left), pilot R.E. Moore (right), and pilot J.W. Martin (standing, top of picture).
Naval Airmen Report Seeing Flying Disc
MEMPHIS, Tenn., July 12. -- (UP) The Navy studied a report today from two pilots and an electronics instructor who claimed to have tracked a flying saucer or "some strange craft" on a radar screen for eight miles.
Both fliers reported seeing a shiny round object whizzing past their training planes, about 10 miles northeast of Osceola, Ark., last night.
Electronics Technician G.D. Wehner, who was flying with an enlisted Pilot R.E. Moore, said he "caught it on the radar scope. It was helmet-shaped. The outline of the edges were all right, but glare from the center of it prevented getting a better look."
"At first we thought it was a jet plane distorted by glare of the aluminum body," said Lt. (jg) J.W. Martin, the second pilot.
"When I first spotted the saucer it was about two miles off and appeared to be a round ball. It was in sight for about three minutes and at one time we were within one mile of it."
Moore said, "It was on our left and travelled across in front of us and disappeared in the distance to our right. I think it would be about 25 to 45 feet across and about seven feet high.
"The thing looked like a World War I helmet seen from the side, or a shiny shallow bowl turned upside down. We wanted to follow it, but our training ships couldn't keep up with the saucer, or whatever it was."
The pilots, based at Millington Naval Air Station near here, estimated the object was flying at an altitude of 8,000 feet at a speed of 200 miles per hour.
The Navy declined comment.
Similar flying saucer stories have been debunked by the armed forces.
One month following the Flying magazine article, above, the August, 1950, edition of True magazine published an in-depth investigation on the experiences of Capt. Robert Adickes, First Officer Robert Manning, and the passenger-witnesses of TWA Flight 117, written by Major Donald Keyhoe...
Above, top: Box-top illustration for TWA Douglas DC-3 model kit. Bottom: Opening pages of Major Keyhoe's article.
FLIGHT 117 and the FLYING SAUCER
A TRUE Investigation adds to the record of responsible Saucer sightings with the facts on the red disk that paced an air-liner over Indiana on April 27, 1950
by Donald E. Keyhoe
FLIGHT 117 was ninety miles east of Chicago when Captain Robert F. Manning saw the mysterious light.
It was the night of April 27, 1950. The time was 8:25 p.m. Cruising at 2,000 feet, the Trans World Air Lines DC-3 droned westward over Goshen, Indiana. In the left-hand seat, handling the controls, was Captain Robert Adickes, stocky ex-Navy pilot with ten years' service in TWA. Manning, taller, blond, quiet-voiced, was also a four-stripe captain, but on this particular flight he was in the right-hand seat, serving as first officer, or copilot.
Four-stripe pilot witnesses: Adickes and Manning.
Manning glanced out from the shadowy cockpit. Twenty-five miles ahead, South Bend was a spreading glow in the darkness. Clouds massed at 4,000 feet made a black sky overhead. He looked back to the right to where Elkhart lay some six miles to the north.
It was a familiar routine, picking out Elkhart. He had once lived there and the sight brought pleasant memories.
Suddenly a strange red light moving swiftly near the horizon caught Captain Manning's eye. It was coming toward the air liner, climbing up on the right, from a point some miles behind.
Puzzled, he watched it close in. This was no wingtip light -- the strange red light was too bright. With growing astonishment, he saw that the light was increasing in size. Whatever it was, this was no conventional aircraft.
The DC-3 was cruising at 175 miles an hour, but the mysterious glowing object was overtaking it rapidly. It was now an orange-red color, like a round blob of hot metal sweeping through the night sky. Craning his neck, Manning looked down on a spherical shape, glowing brightly on top, the lower part in shadow.
For a second, he half doubted his senses. He had heard Flying Saucer reports from other air-line pilots, but this was almost fantastic. He swung around to Adickes.
"Look over here. What do you make of that?"
Captain Adickes turned. Startled, he raised up and gazed through the starboard window. The thing was still climbing, not quite at the air liner's level. Over the top, he could see scattered ground lights, and below it, car lights on a highway. He could only guess at its size, but it looked to be at least twenty feet in diameter, probably closer to fifty.
Manning turned to Adickes. "Look over here..."
The two pilots stared at each other, then Adickes reached for his mike and called TWA at Chicago.
"We've sighted a strange object off the starboard wing," he swiftly told the dispatcher. "Ask ATC if there's any traffic near us."
In a moment, the answer came back. Air Traffic Control had no record of anything near their ship.
Adickes and Manning looked out again at the Saucer. It appeared to be half a mile distant, now keeping pace with the plane. Adickes shook his head incredulously. It looked exactly like a huge round wheel rolling down a road, but how could a thing like that stay in the air?
"I'm going to try to sneak up on it," he told Manning. He banked the ship gently, but the glowing disk at once slid away, keeping its distance. He tried again, with the same result.
"Call the hostess," he said abruptly. "I want someone else to see this thing."
Back in the cabin, hostess Gloria Hinshaw caught the hastily flashing signal. She hurried up the aisle and entered the cockpit.
"Take a look out there," said Adickes. He pointed across the right wing.
The amazed hostess stared out at the glowing Saucer. It was once more flying parallel with the plane.
"What on earth is it?" Gloria Hinshaw exclaimed.
"We don't know," said Manning.
"Go back and tell the passengers," Adickes said quickly. "Get them all to look at it."
The hostess returned to the cabin. The first passenger, in a single seat on the right, was sound asleep. She turned to the two across the aisle -- Clifford H. Jenkins and Dean C. Bourland, both Boeing Aircraft men.
"There's a Flying Saucer out there. Look out the starboard side."
Jenkins laughed, then he saw the look on her face. He jumped up and peered out the opposite window, Bourland crouching beside him. From the lighted cabin, the shape of the Saucer was less distinct. To Jenkins, it looked like a blur of windows lit with a queer red light. It was unlike anything he'd ever seen -- and he knew every type of plane.
While Jenkins and Bourland were gazing at the Saucer, Captain Adickes came hurrying out of the cockpit. The sleeping passenger woke up as Adickes leaned down to look out through his window.
"What's the matter -- what's going on?" he demanded.
"Look out there," said Adickes. "See that thing?" He turned to the two Boeing men. "Did you see it? I want plenty of witnesses to this."
This was one air-line Saucer sighting that had plenty of passenger witnesses -- the captain made sure of that.
The starboard-side passengers were watching the Saucer, but on the port side aft, the hostess was having trouble. Some of the passengers, including one who had plainly had a drink or two before embarking, thought the whole thing was a gag.
"Sure, let's all see the Flying Saucer," chortled the tipsy gentleman. "Let's see the little men from Mars."
He stopped, his mouth hanging open, as he saw the strange red object glowing beyond the wing. Pop-eyed, he sagged back in his seat.
When Adickes returned to the cockpit, Manning was putting down his mike.
"I called the South Bend radio range," said Manning. "I told them to go out and see if they could spot the thing."
Adickes took the controls, made one more cautious attempt to sneak up on the Saucer. When the thing again slid away, he swung around quickly, to give direct chase.
Instantly, the glowing disk dived. In barely more than a second, it went down to 1,500 feet, racing off to the north past South Bend. Its speed, Adickes estimated, was close to 400 miles per hour. For a few minutes longer, the weird light remained visible -- a diminishing bright red spot against the ground. Then it faded and disappeared.
What they saw ... artist's rendering of consensus.
Adickes' radio flash to Chicago had been picked up by newspapermen. Reporters were waiting at the airport, and the story was soon on the wires. It drew unusual attention. This was not just another Flying Saucer story, to be laughed off. Besides the crew, there were passenger witnesses. Adickes, recalling the ridicule other pilots had met, had carefully seen to that.
Because of the unusual nature of this air-line Saucer sighting, TRUE asked me to carry out a full-scale investigation. Each of the three crew members was interviewed. All but five of the sixteen passengers were located. Detailed eyewitness accounts were obtained by long-distance telephone calls to Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Dayton and several other cities.
As we expected, there were some differences in witnesses' stories. All these variations have been noted. The result is this report, which we believe to be an accurate, impartial account of what actually happened on the night of April 27.
BEFORE meeting the two pilots of Flight 117, I talked with others in TWA who knew them.
"Quiet ... conservative ... serious ... careful." These were some of the terms that were applied to both men. Nobody in TWA questions that Adickes and Manning saw just what they said.
Manning, who saw the Saucer first, has been an Air Force pilot. He has flown six years with the air line; his flight experience totals about 6,000 hours.
By the time I met Manning, at Pittsburgh Airport, there had been several published "explanations" of the South Bend Flying Saucer. One theory was the red object was simply a reflection of blast furnaces against the clouds.
"Yes, I heard that," Captain Manning told me. "Also, someone said we'd been looking at a burning barn. Even a first-trip passenger would hardly be fooled that easily -- certainly not a pilot with any experience. Adickes and I have both seen ground fires and cloud reflections at night. There wasn't any similarity. We were ninety miles from the furnaces at Gary, and no reflection or burning barn could climb and maneuver like that"
"How large do you think it was?" I asked him.
"That's hard to say, because we could only guess at its distance," said Manning. "But it had to be fairly large. When I first saw it, the thing was near the horizon. So it had to be several miles away, perhaps ten or more. Even then, it was big enough to stand out."
Manning quietly spiked the idea that the Saucer had been a jet plane's tail pipe.
"I've seen jets at night. If you're directly behind one, you'll see a round spot for a few moments. But this thing was huge in comparison. It didn't resemble a jet in any way. Besides, I saw it coming up from behind us. A jet's exhaust would be invisible from that angle. You wouldn't see much from the side, either."
When he first saw the object, Manning said, it seemed a brighter color than when it flew alongside. He would venture no opinion, however, when I asked whether this could be interpreted as indicating that it was using less power when it slowed to pace the air liner.
"I can't swear to its exact shape," Manning told me. "As it came up from below, it was just a bright red spot at first. Once, I had the feeling of looking down on top of a sphere. But most of the time it was just a large orange-red blob, like a mass of glowing hot metal out there in the sky."
Although Manning had not seen it as a disk rolling on edge, he admitted that a spherical object could appear like a rolling wheel. He agreed with Captain Adickes' opinion that the thing had evaded attempts to get closer to it.
"Like flying in formation with another plane," was his description. "It seemed to slide away when we turned toward it."
Manning did not speculate as to what the object was, or how it was powered and controlled.
"All I can say is that it definitely was there. Most of the people in the plane saw it. And it was entirely different from any ordinary aircraft -- uncanny enough to startle anyone first seeing it."
Captain Adickes agreed on the bizarre appearance of the thing. When I saw him at Washington, he told me he previously had been only half convinced by other pilots' reports of Flying Saucers. "But I know now they definitely do exist. This was not an airplane and it wasn't imagination."
Adickes said he had seen jet planes at night. He fully confirmed Manning's rebuttal of this explanation.
"And it wasn't St. Elmo's fire or any reflection on clouds," he added. "A lot of my seventy-eight hundred hours' flight time was put in on night flying. I've seen just about everything you'd expect to encounter, but never anything like that disk."
CAPTAIN ADICKES said its proximity had no effect on radio reception. Nor did he notice any deviation on his instruments. The object's color, he said, was not a bright cherry-red, as some newspapers had stated. Instead, it was about the dull-red color of hot metal.
"Manning and I could only estimate its size," he said. "It might have been even larger than fifty feet in diameter, depending on its distance from us. This will give you an idea. When I tried to cut in toward it, that last time, it streaked down over South Bend at twice our speed -- somewhere between three-fifty and four hundred miles an hour. But even at that speed, it took several minutes to fade out. So it had to be fairly big."
As it speeded up to escape, Adickes said, it turned so that he caught a glimpse of the thing edge on. It seemed to be about 10 per cent as thick as its diameter.
Other air-line pilots had told him of unsuccessful efforts to close in on Flying Saucers, Captain Adickes told me.
"I thought maybe they imagined it, but now I know better. I tried to sneak up on it, and also to get above it. Each time, it veered away. And when I went after it, the thing was off in a flash."
From the darkened cockpit, hostess Gloria Hinshaw also saw the object veer away. Back in the lighted cabin, she saw it again briefly as it speeded off and dived over South Bend.
"How did it look to you?" I asked her.
"Like a big red wheel rolling along," she said. "I haven't any idea what it was, but it was certainly a strange-looking thing. If I hadn't actually seen it, I don't think I would believe it."
None of the passengers was alarmed by the Saucer, but Miss Hinshaw had been worried for a moment when she made the first announcement.
"Some of them got excited," she said, "but no one seemed to be nervous. And, course, some didn't even believe it -- they were on the other side, farther back. The rest of us took a lot of kidding from them before we landed. But there's one thing sure -- those who did see it won't laugh any more at Flying Saucer stories."
Passenger Samuel N. Miller, manager of the Goodman Jewelry Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, told me the same thing.
"I'd been laughing at the stories since 1947, but not any more. I saw the Saucer, all right -- even before the hostess told us."
Miller was on the left side, near the wing. Glancing up from a magazine, he noticed an odd red glow out on the starboard side.
"It was the color of a neon sign," he described it to me. "I thought at first it was an advertising blimp. Then it got closer and I saw it was disk-shaped. It wasn't flashing, like a neon sign -- it was solid color, just a big red disk."
Soon after this, the air liner swerved as Captain Adickes made the first attempt to close in.
"It wasn't abrupt -- just an easy turn," said Miller. "Right after that, the hostess's signal began to flash, and she ran up the aisle."
The rest of his story tallied with the crew's, except for the time estimate. He thought he had watched the Saucer almost fifteen minutes; the pilots' figure was eight minutes. When I asked him what he thought it was, he admitted he had no answer.
"I can't believe it's a secret device of ours," he said. "They'd be pretty stupid to fly it near air liners, where everybody could see it and talk about it."
The description given by Clifford H. Jenkins, an engineering supervisor at the Seattle plant of the Boeing Airplane Company, varied considerably from the others. Mr. Jenkins saw the object just over the leading edge of the right wing.
"I've never seen anything like it before," he told me with emphasis. "It was like a row of windows glowing deep red. It had no blinker or clearance lights like a conventional plane."
"Could you distinguish separate windows?" I asked him.
"No, it looked like windows blended by distance into a solid red band. The thing was perfectly steady, with no oscillation that I could see."
Just before Captain Adickes came back, Mr. Jenkins said, the plane veered rather sharply to the right, but the angle of the Saucer in relation to the DC-3 did not appear to change. (In effect, this substantiates the pilots' statements that the object moved simultaneously with the air liner.)
"I had the thing in view three to four minutes," said Jenkins. "Its top speed was obviously much higher than ours, for it left us behind in a hurry."
According to Jenkins, the Saucer disappeared on a parallel course.
"The aspect never changed -- neither did the angle. The thing just faded in size until it was out of sight in the darkness."
(Captain Adickes later pointed out that Manning and he had the Saucer in view from the nose of the plane, where it would be visible longer. This might explain Jenkins' failure to see the object's change in altitude.)
Since most of the witnesses agreed that the Saucer was round, I asked Jenkins again about its shape.
"It was like a red-hot bar, moving horizontally," he answered. "If it was a row of windows, then the thing must have been at some distance to blend them together like that."
(Captain Adickes has suggested that the air liner's lighted cabin made it difficult to get a clear view, unless the passenger was close to a starboard window. Jenkins and his seatmate, Bourland, were in the aisle, two feet or more from the window. It is possible that this could account for the difference in descriptions: Jenkins might have attempted subconsciously to fit a blurred reddish mass into the conventional pattern of airplane windows. Otherwise, it seems to be one of those puzzling discrepancies often found in group reports of accidents and other exciting incidents. Miller, for instance, was no closer than Jenkins, yet he saw the object clearly as a disk.)
"It definitely wasn't a hallucination," Jenkins summed up his opinion, "for at least a dozen people saw it. It wasn't any known type of aircraft. It couldn't have been a meteor -- it was too slow; besides, it was flying along horizontally.
"It may have been something the United States has developed which it doesn't choose to announce. Or it may be, as some people believe, that such things come from another planet."
Jenkins told me that Dean C. Bourland, from Boeing's Wichita plant. also had seen the mysterious object, but he was not sure whether Bourland's description agreed with his. I tried to reach Bourland at Wichita, but he was on vacation.
After a little difficulty, I located the passenger who had been asleep in the right front seat. He proved to be Edward J. Fitzgerald, vice-president and sales manager of Metal Parts & Equipment Company, Chicago.
"I missed part of the excitement," said Mr. Fitzgerald. I was sound asleep until the pilot woke me up. He was leaning over me, and two men were kneeling in the aisle, staring out the window. The pilot asked me to look out at the Saucer -- he said he wanted plenty of witnesses so people wouldn't think he was crazy.
"When I turned around, I saw this strange red glow on a level with the wing. tip. The effect, after being waked up so suddenly, was naturally startling. The thing looked round, though perhaps not a perfect circle. I estimated it to be about two hundred yards away, but that's only a guess.
"The pilot started to explain how they'd sighted the thing, then he saw it was pulling ahead. He went back to the cockpit and a second later the plane banked to the right. The 'saucer,' or whatever it was, speeded up and then dipped a little. Altogether, I saw it about thirty seconds before it disappeared."
"Did you see any windows, or any resemblance to a plane?" I asked him.
"No, it wasn't anything like a plane," Fitzgerald said positively. "It was a very strange object -- almost weird."
Five officials of the International Harvester Company who were passengers on Flight 117 refused to be interviewed; whether this was to uphold company dignity or through personal preference was not stated. Two of these officials were in the Chicago office -- a Mr. Gelzer and a Mr. Irwin. The others were located at the Springfield, Ohio, plant -- Mr. Drum, the works manager, Mr. Anderson, the superintendent, and a Mr. Smith, initials unknown.
In spite of their collective refusal. I learned that two or more of this group did see the Flying Saucer. Other witnesses told me of the Harvester men's comments. One man thought it was round, another oval. Both agreed on its mysterious appearance, its bright-red glow, and its speed.
Another Chicago passenger, Harold C. Weimer, of 5028 Windsor Avenue, reported he did not see the Saucer. He was sitting on the left side, in the rear; by the time he looked out. the object had disappeared. (It was Weimer who suggested the blast-furnace explanation.)
The Saucer was also seen by Martin Nerat, an employe of the Schwerman Trucking Company of Milwaukee. When the hostess made her announcement, Nerat stepped across the aisle and gazed out a starboard window. Like the other witnesses, he was startled by the mysterious object.
When I talked with him, Nerat said the bright-red glow had prevented him from seeing any distinct shape. He agreed with the pilots on the Saucer's maneuvers.
"Every time the plane turned toward it, the thing pulled away. At the last, it was going a lot faster than we were. I don't know what it was, but it wasn't an airplane."
There were five more passengers aboard Flight 117, but their addresses are unknown. The names are: Berder, Guttfred, Kehma, Moran, and Moseley. TRUE would appreciate receiving reports from these passengers, so that the record will be complete. Any new information they can contribute will be published in TRUE'S letter section at a later date.
The Flight 117 incident has had an important effect. This carefully noted sighting by TWA pilots and passengers impressed many Americans. Among those who made public statements after the incident was Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, then president of Eastern Air Lines. In a United Press story from Savannah, Georgia, Captain Rickenbacker said, commenting on the Saucers:
"There must be something to them, for too many reliable persons have made reports on them."
However, Captain Rickenbacker apparently suspected that the Saucers might be American guided missiles. When I interviewed Captain Adickes, I mentioned Rickenbacker's comment, and I found that he had the same theory.
"I think that the thing was equipped with some sort of repulse radar," said Adickes, "so it would keep at a certain distance from air liners and other planes."
The guided-missile explanation is not new, of course. The armed services and the White House have emphatically denied that the Saucers are an American development, but some Americans discount this as a smoke screen to hide a secret weapon.
To recheck, I went to the foremost guided-missile authority in the United States, Captain Delmer S. Fahrney, U.S.N. Captain Fahrney began guided-missile experiments for the Navy in 1936. The television-eye missile was designed and perfected by Fahrney and his engineers. All of the later Army and Air Force developments stem from Captain Fahrney's early work, and the Navy guided-missile program is still far in the lead.
As commanding officer of the Naval Air Guided Missile Test Station at Point Mugu, California, Captain Fahrney exchanges top-secret information with both the other services.
"I can tell you flatly that the Flying Saucers are not guided missiles of the Navy, Army or Air Force," he said when I interviewed him in Washington. "No guided-missile officer would be stupid enough to test any such device along airways or over cities. It would be criminal negligence -- a mechanical failure could endanger lives. Even when launching a missile over the ocean, we clear the test range and keep it patrolled during operations."
Admiral Calvin Bolster, of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, gave me the same personal assurance in regard to U.S. piloted aircraft of advanced design.
"If the Flying Saucers exist," he said, "they're not anything we're producing."
Other high defense officials have pointed out that such top-secret devices, even if piloted, would hardly be tested at random all over the United States, Canada, Mexico and other countries where Saucers frequently have been seen.
THE CASE of Flight 117 is, in chronological order, the ninth air-line Saucer sighting of which TRUE has specific record; a tenth occurred one month later; there have also been, at various times, a number of other cases incompletely documented.
Sightings by experienced transport airmen are impressive testimony to the reality of Flying Saucers.
The Air Force, which undertook the investigation of Saucers, has nevertheless professed to deny their existence from the first reported incident.
On July 4, 1947, shortly after the start of the "Saucer scare," Captain Emil J. Smith of United Air Lines was still one of the skeptics. But that evening, over Emmett, Idaho, Captain Smith and his copilot, Ralph Stevens, saw nine fast-flying disks above their DC-3. The Air Force's Project Saucer brushed off the sighting as an illusion.
On July 24, 1948, the pilots of an Eastern Air Lines DC-3, Clarence Chiles and John Whitted, reported seeing a space ship near Montgomery, Alabama. A passenger confirmed that a strange, brilliant object had streaked past the air liner's window. An hour before, Air Force men at a Macon base had seen the same thing flash overhead, trailing colored flames. After screening 225 plane schedules and finding no craft in the vicinity that could be held to supply the answer, Project Saucer explained it away as a meteor.
SOME TIME after this, the crew of a Pan American Airways plane sighted a strange aerial object between Everett and Bedford, Massachusetts. The pilot and navigator described it as cylindrical in shape, about the length of a P-40 fuselage, and blunt at both ends.
"Weather balloons," said the Air Force.
Near the end of 1949, a Golden North air freighter was paced between Seattle and Anchorage, Alaska, by a night-flying Saucer. When the pilots tried to close in, the strange craft zoomed at terrific speed. Later, the air-line head reported that Intelligence officers had quizzed the pilots for hours.
"From their questions," he said, "I could tell they had a good idea of what the Saucers are. One officer admitted they did, but he wouldn't say any more."
Early on the day of March 8, 1950, three TWA pilots at Vandalia airport, the municipal field for Dayton, Ohio, were among the many observers of a gleaming object that hovered in the sky at high altitude. They were W.H. Kerr, D.W. Miller, and M.H. Rabeneck. All noted the strange appearance of the object, which, though small to the eye, was presumably huge since it was visible at great height.
Meantime, other observers at Vandalia had phoned Wright Field, headquarters of Project Saucer. Scores of Air Force pilots and ground men watched the disk as four fighter planes raced up in pursuit. The mysterious object streaked vertically upward, hovered for a while miles above the earth, and then disappeared.
Later, Captain Kerr made a report to the Civil Aeronautics Authority. A C.A.A. official said that they already had a full report coming from Vandalia, with affidavits from twenty qualified witnesses.
Captain Rabeneck's observation, made through binoculars, has a special value. He happens to be an amateur astronomer of considerable experience.
"One thing is certain," he told Captain N.G. Carper, chairman of the TWA unit of the Air Line Pilots Association. "This was no star, planet, meteor. ... Not that I believe that any air-line pilot who saw the thing would need an astronomer to tell him that."
A news story from Wright Field next day said the object had been identified as the planet Venus -- although it had been seen in broad daylight, when Venus is practically invisible. When the C.A.A. report reached Washington, I asked to see a copy. I was told it had been rushed to Air Force Intelligence. When I asked the Air Force to let me see it, I was told the report had been sent to Wright Field. Since then, the C.A.A. has officially told me that all such cases reported to them are "in the province of the military" and therefore confidential. I got that answer when I inquired whether the South Bend radio-range operator had seen the Saucer reported by Flight 117. In spite of this, the Air Force still insists that Project Saucer has been disbanded, its investigation ended.
Three days after the Dayton sighting, a similar disk was observed by an American Air Lines group at Monterrey, Mexico. This was on March 12. Captain W.R. Hunt watched the disk through a theodolite at the airport. In addition, the Saucer was seen by forty passengers and the rest of the crew. On March 18, the Air Force again denied the existence of Flying Saucers.
On the night of March 21, the crew of a Chicago & Southern air liner saw a fast-flying disk near Stuttgart, Arkansas. The circular craft, blinking a strange blue-white light, pulled up in an arc at terrific speed. The two pilots said they glimpsed lighted ports on the lower side as the Saucer zoomed above them. The lights had a soft fluorescence, unlike anything they had ever seen.
On April 18, Captain Carl Gray was piloting a Braniff air liner when a C.A.A. tower operator at Childress, Texas, radioed an urgent message. A mysterious, silvery-white object had been sighted from the tower; the operator asked Gray to be on the lookout for it.
CAPTAIN GRAY and his crew spotted the thing a few minutes later -- a large, round, shining object oscillating at a high altitude. His first thought, that it might be a balloon, quickly gave way to puzzled astonishment.
"I've never seen anything like it," he radioed the tower. Later, two Air National Guard fighter pilots were guided up toward the Saucer by the C.A.A. tower man, who was watching it through binoculars. But the planes failed to reach the object. Its height was later estimated at fifteen miles above the earth. My request for the final C.A.A. report on this sighting was refused, as in the case of the Vandalia affair and, later, Flight 117.
On the night of May 29, 1950, the pilot, first officer, and flight engineer of an American Air Lines DC-6 that had left Washington watched an intensely glowing something approach their plane head on while they climbed southwest-ward a few miles beyond Mount Vernon. Captain Willis Sperry edged right to avoid it, whereupon it swerved left and stopped. When they swung back toward it, the thing resumed motion. As it swiftly circled behind the plane, it passed before the rising full moon in silhouette, and Captain Sperry observed that it was much elongated -- "torpedo-shaped," he called it -- and wingless. The lighted portion was at its forward end, and the slim body suggested dark metal. Then it darted out of sight to the east with great speed.
Besides the air-line sightings described above, there are incomplete reports of others -- a sighting by a Capital Air Lines pilot near Buffalo, New York; a strange encounter on the airway between Alaska and Japan; Flying Saucers reported by air-line pilots flying from Hawaii to the mainland, and other sightings on American domestic lines.
The Air Force either denies knowledge of C.A.A. reports or refuses permission to see them. Concerning its own data, it announces: "There is no investigation going on. Flying Saucers simply don't exist."
Any thinking person who examines the mass of evidence can reach but one conclusion: the Saucers are real. There remains the debatable question:
What were the objects which all these air-line pilots saw?
As I stated in the January issue of True, there are only two possible answers:
1. Saucers are interplanetary craft. Or,
2. They are extremely high-speed, long-range devices secretly developed here on Earth.
I believe that Admiral Bolster and Captain Fahrney have told the truth. Regardless of any secret weapon's value, I cannot believe that our armed services would risk American lives by testing it above populated areas. In addition, the incredible range and speed of the Saucers and the worldwide spread of sightings exclude the man-made weapon theory.
Perhaps the following quotation from a formerly secret Project Saucer report is the key to the mystery. Discussing the motives of possible visitors from space, this official Air Force statement says:
"Such a civilization might observe that on Earth we now have atomic bombs and are fast developing rockets. In view of the past history of mankind, they should be alarmed. We should therefore expect at this time above all to behold such visitations.
"Since the acts of mankind most easily observed from a distance are A-bomb explosions, we should expect some relation to obtain between the time of the A-bomb explosions, the time at which the space ships are seen, and the time required for such ships to arrive from and return to home base."
WAS THE release of this Project Saucer report a blundering slip-up? Or was it part of a slow, halting program to prepare us for a dramatic disclosure?
After a year's investigation, I believe that Air Force denials and contradictions have been due to fear of public reaction. I believe that Project Saucer was created to cover up the facts until the American people could be prepared. Apparently, there are some men in the Air Force who still think we are not ready.
For almost three years, the answer to the Flying Saucer mystery has been a cautiously hidden secret. If we are not ready now, we never shall be.
It is high time that the American people were trusted with the truth.
-- Donald E. Keyhoe
The following month, in the September, 1950, issue of Flying magazine, reaction came in the form of letters to the editor in the magazine's "Mail Box" section...
Above, top: Cover for September, 1950, issue, and first page of "The Mail Bag". Bottom: "Mail Bag" page with letters about flying saucers.
I was pleased to read your article on flying saucers [July FLYING]. People are gradually beginning to realize that these sightings are not bunk. I thought it was bunk until I saw one in, of all places, Acapulco, Mexico. Now don't tell me I had been drinking tequila, or that I was seeing spots before my eyes! Hundreds of natives saw it -- probably a large number of whom had never heard of them before.
I was glad to see that you did not offer any explanation for the saucers. Thus far, there certainly is no adequate explanation. All I can say is that if one ever actually sees one, he has seen the most awe-inspiring, strange and unaccountable sight that he'll ever see in his lifetime. ... Space does not permit me to go into detail as to why the object was not a balloon, a kite, a plane, or some such object. ... I have lost so much sleep thinking about the contraption, I wish I had never seen the darn thing in the first place.
L.J. ALGER, M.D.
Grand Forks, N.D.
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Until the evening of May 29, I was definitely a skeptic as far as strange flying objects were concerned ... as I had never seen anything of the sort. [However] that night I saw something that can only be referred to as an unexplainable reality.
I was flying American Airline's DC-6 flight No. 49, New York to San Francisco, with stops at Washington, Nashville and Tulsa. We had departed from Washington at 9:15 E.S.T. bound for Nashville. Visibility was excellent -- 50 miles at least. We were at 7,500 feet, climbing to 18,000, (about 30 miles out of Washington) when First Officer Bill Gates yelled, "Hey, what's that?" I was facing the rear flight deck getting a flight map and when I looked up I saw coming toward us at our level a brilliant, diffused, bluish light of fluorescent type. I would say it was 25 times the magnitude of the brightest star. Momentarily it seemed to stop, possibly five seconds, and changed its course to parallel us on our left -- still at the same altitude as it passed between us and the full moon.
Three of us, Gates, Flight Engineer Robert Arnholt (also a pilot) and I all got a good look at it. Silhouetted against the moon, it appeared to be the shape of a torpedo or submarine, except that there were no protruding fins or external structure of any kind. It appeared to be a perfectly streamlined object of a dark metallic color, but at night it could have been pink or any other color and looked the same.
In comparing the speed of this object with jet aircraft (which I have observed many times at close range), I would say without a doubt that the speed of the object was far beyond the limits of any known aircraft speeds that we know. In comparison, the speed was fantastic. As described in my sketch [below) the entire flight path, as observed from the cockpit until it passed out of sight into the east, was approximately only one minute.
When the object first appeared coming toward us, I started a turn to the right, then when it changed its course to parallel us, I started turning to the left so as to be able to follow its path. Even so it went to the rear of the plane, circled around to the right far enough so that the First Officer saw it on his side before reversing its direction and going out of sight to the east.
I then called the Washington control tower and asked them if they were able to pick up the object on the radar scope. After several minutes, operator Barnes radioed that they were unable to find any trace of it.
I talked to several passengers after the incident but only one told me he had seen an extremely bright light passing the left side of the ship. Before he could get a good look at it, the object had passed out of his sight.
Since this incident, I have received countless letters and phone calls regarding "saucers," and a number of serious discussions with my fellow pilots in contrast to the ribbing I expected.
WILLIS T. SPERRY
Captain, American Airlines
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If you will read "The Flying Saucers Are Real" and "The 'Flying Saucer' Is Good News" by Donald Keyhoe and Henry J. Taylor, respectively, I am sure you will be convinced that your research has not been sufficient.
Your article was excellent as far as it went ... but I don't think you should drop all your research regarding this unknown and unsolved field of 'flying saucers'.
Some of the popular magazines have set up departments dealing with flying saucers. I believe you could improve FLYING by putting an article about saucers in the magazine now and then ...
El Paso, Texas.
• FLYING has made careful investigations of the flying saucers. In the opinion of its editors, in the opinion of topnotch Washington military correspondents with whom we have discussed the subject in detail, no public commentator has satisfactorily explained the saucers or been able to present satisfactory proof of his theories. FLYING welcomes detailed reports from its readers accompanied, if possible, by drawings and/or photographs. -- ED.
One month later, in the beginning days of October, 1950, a new report came in from a Southern California airliner captain, as reported in the October 6, 1950, edition of the Altoona, Pennsylvania, Mirror...
Above, top: Postcard image of a California Central Airlines DC-4. California Central Airlines (CCA) was a regional carrier operating from 1949 through 1954. Middle: A CCA Martin 202. Bottom: A CCA Lockheed 12A Electra Junior. Over time CCA's small fleet was also reported to include a Lockheed Constellation and a Douglas DC-3. It is not known what type of aircraft was flying during the following incident...
Flying Saucer Makes Dive at Airline Plane
OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 6 (UP) -- A mysterious, brilliantly-lighted object that looked like a flying wing without a fuselage dived at an airline plane, a pilot reported.
Capt. Cecil Hardin of California Central Airlines radioed Lockheed airport at Burbank, Calif., last night that the mystery object dived on him at 7:32 p.m., PST between Van Nuys and San Fernando.
Lockheed called Van Nays which reported no aircraft in flight. Re ports from air controlling points in the region also failed to show any aircraft in the area.
Hardin said the object looked like a flying wing without a fuselage. It loomed straight ahead of the plane and then did a half-roll and went under the left wing, he said.
"We were climbing from the airport. I looked up and there came six or eight brilliant lights. I started to pull up and it went under the wing. We didn't feel any prop wash.
"I couldn't tell whether it came within 100 feet or 500 feet of us."
Hardin said his co-pilot, Jack Conroy of Glendale, also saw the object. An unidentified woman passenger told him later she saw lights flash by, but paid no attention.
Hardin, a former army transport pilot, guessed the speed of the object was at least equal to that of a jet plane.
He described the object as being "about as long as a DC-3" (about 85 feet) and said the lights must have been on top as he could still see them after the object went under the wing.
The air force has said that an investigation failed to disclose the existence of "flying saucers" or similar phenomena frequently reported throughout the country.
Ten days following Capt. Hardin's report, another airline crew reported a sighting over North Carolina, as described in the October 16, 1950, edition of the Florence, Alabama, Times...
Above: From the declassified files of Project Blue Book, a letter supporting the account of the Miami Airlines pilots...
Miami Airlines Pilots Tell Of Strange Objects
MIAMI, Fla. (AP) -- What Capt. George A. Woodward of Miami saw while flying a Miami Airlines, Inc., DC-4 over North Carolina Sunday might not have been flying saucers but he doesn't know what else to call them.
"Woodward and co-pilot Williams [sic] Bradsley of Miami reported seeing four shiny objects which they couldn't identify. The Civil Aeronautics Administration office at Florence, S.C., said it had received similar reports, the latest about three weeks ago.
"We took off from Raleigh for Miami at 4:00p.m. (EST) and 20 minutes later I saw four shiny objects that looked like balloons," Woodward said.
"My co-pilot looked at me and said: 'Do you see what I see?'
"I told him I did and we headed toward them. They appeared to be about 100 feet in diameter, of some shiny substance like aluminum or chrome. They were thicker in the middle and tapered off, like two saucers fitted together.
"They were in line about 25 feet apart and about five miles away. We chased them but they backed away, descending slowly, then took off in a burst of speed."
Bardsley [sic, elsewhere spelled Bradsley] tried to photograph the objects but they disappeared before he could get his camera set up.
Woodward said he had been flying 12 years and had never seen such objects. He said he wasn't sure what they were but they weren't planes or balloons.
He sighted them near Pope Air force Base, Fort Bragg, N.C., and reported it to the CAA offices in Lumberton, N.C., and Florence, he said.
Pilot reports from overseas were not often found in the American press at the time. Fortunately, some English-language newspapers outside the United States carried intriguing reports, such as the following from the March 29, 1950, edition of the Australian newspaper the Barrier Daily Truth...
Above: A British Vickers Viking airliner of Misrair (translated as Egypt Air) -- the national airline of Egypt. The aircraft was designed to carry up to 36 passengers a distance of 1700 miles. The Vickers Vikings made up the entire fleet of the airline until 1951, when Vickers Viscount 700s were added to the fleet.
More Reports Of Flying Saucers From Washington and Mediterranean
Washington, March 17 -- A veteran private pilot reported that he saw a flying saucer within 25 miles of Washington yesterday. Bertram Totten, clerk at the Congressional Library, said he was flying at 5,000 feet when be sighted an
aluminium colored disc about 40 feet wide and ten feet thick. It was whirling along 1,000 feet below his plane.
Totten said: "I dived toward it but before I could get very close it zoomed up into space at several hundred miles an hour." The saucer gave off vapor trails like those from aircraft engines, added Totten.
Capt. Ali Beyound, pilot of Egyptian Airlines, told in Cairo yesterday of three silver flying saucers which he saw on Saturday over the Mediterranean 35 miles south-west of Haifa. He added that they were flying in perfect triangular formation at great speed at a height of about 1,200 feet.
"I was flying from Cairo to Beirut when suddenly the second pilot pointed to west where I saw three metallic discs travelling at a staggering speed," he said. He estimated they were about the size of a fighter aircraft.
Another interesting foreign report appeared in the declassified files of the Air Force Project Blue Book, which contained a file on an incident from Africa in February, 1951. Included in the file was a transcript taken from a book -- Flying Saucers and Common Sense by Waveney Girvan -- published in the UK in 1955 and in the U.S. in 1956. Girvan's transcript was of an article in the London Sunday Dispatch of February 25, 1951.
The various transcripts have resulted in some variation in published accounts -- including the name of the pilot involved -- but the following is from a physical clipping of the article, and is transcribed below as originally published...
Above: Lockheed Lodestars of the East African Airways fleet in the late 1940s-early 1950s. The airline was the successor to Wilson Airways, founded in 1929 by widow Florence Kerr Wilson. Wilson Airways established the viability of regular scheduled air service in East Africa (primarily Kenya and Tanzania). World War II found Wilson's routes taken over by the Royal Air Force and the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). On October 30, 1945 East African Airways Corporation was incorporated in London to serve Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar -- all British territorial colonies at the time. Starting with six aircraft from BOAC, and adding six more the next year, in 1948 it acquired five Lockheed 18-56 Lodestars, one of which was involved in the following incident.
The Airliner Passengers Who Took Photographs and Signed Affidavit
The Most Authentic
Flying Saucer Story
of Them All
NINE men and two women who saw a mystery object flying near Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanganyika, last week, have signed an affidavit giving the most authentic Flying Saucer report so far. They saw the mystery object clearly for 17 minutes from their plane, and describe it as bullet-shaped and metallic.
They refuse to accept the explanation of Dr. U. Liddel, U.S. research chief, who says Flying Saucers are "Skyhook" experimental balloons. Here is a detailed account of what they saw.
By Our MOMBASA Reporter
THE object was first seen by Radio Operator Dennis W. Merrifield, 34, in the East African Airways plane Lodestar, en route to Mombasa from Nairobi.
"Have a look at a Flying Saucer," he said to Captain J. Bicknell, 30, an ex-B.O.A.C. pilot.
The object was absolutely motionless 10,000ft. above Kilimanjaro. Merrifield, ex-R.A.F, radioed Nairobi that the object was a "bright gleaming spot".
Nairobi reported that there were no other planes in a wide arc and said: "Take more water with it." [Note: this was a common phrase at the time implying too much alcohol affecting judgment.]
Captain Bicknell told me: "The morning was clear and cloudless, visibility was good and the weather perfect. I timed the Saucer for 17 minutes while the Lodestar kept to its course. Twice it rose vertically to a final height of 40,000ft., then, it moved east towards the coast at a terrific speed.
"There was a large, fin-like object attached to the rear, although it wasn't clearly defined. There was no apparent propelling power when the Saucer moved. There were definitely no vapor trails."
Captain Bicknell immediately after landing at Mombasa prepared an affidavit, which Merrifield and his seven men and two women passengers signed.
One passenger, Captain H.B. Fussell, a Newport, Monmouthshire, sports dealer, who had a pair of powerful binoculars said: "Through the glasses the object appeared bullet-shaped. Its colour was whitish-silver with three vertical black bands down the side.
"For ten minutes it remained stationary, then it suddenly rose vertically by 5,000ft."
"Again if became stationary, and then a minute later it rose again and moved laterally away at a great speed, probably 400 m.p.h."
Captain Fussell said that Dr. Urner Liddel's balloon theory did not fit what he saw. "Suppose it was a balloon -- how could a balloon both hover motionless and move at 400 m.p.h. in the same weather conditions?" he asked.
"I emphatically reject the theory. The object was definitely metallic."
A radio officer named Overstreet from the American freighter Robin Mowbray, who was another passenger, said: "I wouldn't swear but through the binoculars I thought I could identify a row of circular windows."
Charles J. Vernon, also American and purser of the Robin Mowbray, said: "The object must have been immense, two or three times the size of the largest passenger plane."
Three separate attempts to photograph the object were made from the plane. Captain Fussell snapped it with his miniature camera. Mr. Overstreet shot 30 feet of colour film with a telescopic lens on his cinecamera, and Mr. Vernon also tried to snap it.
After landing, Captain Fussell developed his film in the presence of a newspaper reporter and a commercial photographer, who could certify that the film was not faked or retouched.
Three exposures were blank but the fourth showed a small black object.
Mr. Vernon's film showed nothing, and Mr. Overstreet's colour-film has not been developed.
During the night after the Saucer was reported, two unexplained flashes lit Mombasa.
Captain Bicknell was born in Exeter and lived in London before joining the Eastern African Airways in 1948.
Radio Operator Merrifield's parents live at Ellison-gardens, Southall, Middlesex.
One week later, on March 4, 1951, the London Sunday Dispatch published an update...
Pilot Made Sketch of
FLYING In a cloudless sky over Mount Kilimanjaro, In Tanganyika, Captain Jack Bicknell, pilot of a passenger plane bound for Mombasa, saw through binoculars "a metallic, bullet-shaped object which must have bean more than 200ft. long." The "Sunday Dispatch" last week gave a detailed report of this "Flying Saucer" sighting, the most authentic so far recorded.
When he brought the plane down Captain Bicknell drew a sketch of what he had seen.
The diagram above was prepared from Captain Bicknell's sketch and shows the "large object attached to the rear."
One passenger, Captain H.B. Fussell, of Newport, Monmouthshire, also told of the "three vertical black bands down the side."
Captain Bicknell, an ex-BOAC pilot, giving additional details, said the mystery object was stationary when first seen. and remained so for 17 minutes.
"Then it began to move eastwards, rising as it did so. It disappeared at about 40,000ft.," he said.
"We've calculated that in the three minutes of visible movement it covered about 60 miles. That gives a speed of well over 1,000 m.p.h."
Meanwhile, back in the United States -- continuing its expressed interest in pilot reports -- Flying magazine in its June, 1951, issue published the personal account of Capt. Lawrence W. Vinther, and his strange aerial encounter the previous January...
Above: First page of article.
When the Office of Naval Research recently disclosed that all "reliable reports" of flying saucers can be attributed to cosmic balloons, the nation's press sat back stolidly and accepted the statement at face value.
The press services, the leading weekly news magazines, most of the country's newspapers and a host of periodicals hailed the revelation as the solution to a long-standing mystery.
Yet the mystery is not solved. It has only been deepened.
In the past 11 months, FLYING has reported the observations of five veteran airline pilots who, along with their co-pilots, encountered strange objects flying over the United States.
Last July, FLYING said: "...it is obvious that skilled pilots, trained observers of sky phenomena, saw something. If they saw it, it must exist. They are not all victims of hallucinations despite the ready explanations of the physicists. But what the strange phenomena are, the editors of FLYING do not pretend to know."
The following is a report from a veteran Mid-Continent Airlines captain, the sixth report of this type to be published in FLYING. -- The Editors.
An Airline Captain Reports:
Another Saucer Mystery
By Lawrence W. Vinther
Captain, Mid-Continent Airlines
I WAS taxiing out for take-off at Sioux City, Ia., on Mid-Continent Airlines' scheduled Flight 9 of January 20, 1951, when the tower asked if I would investigate a very bright light west of the field. I told him that what he saw was a star.
"No," the tower said, "I see what you mean, but this is higher than that -- about 8,000 feet."
Looking higher, I saw the light moving from north to south, west of the field and fairly high. I agreed to investigate it.
The crew of the Mid-Continent Airlines DC-3 that night, in addition to myself, included Co-pilot James F. Bachmeier, a lieutenant commander in the Naval Air Reserve (who returned to active duty March 1, as commanding officer of a supply squadron), veteran of World War II in the South Pacific where encounters with Jap night fighters were commonplace. Bachmeier had flown nearly four years with Mid-Continent and had a total flight time of over 6,000 hours.
Immediately after a northwest take-off, a left climbing turn was started, following the left-hand circle of the observed light. The radius of the circle of the light was at least two miles -- possibly more -- outside the circle made by the DC-3.
Southeast of the field the strange lights were blinked five or six times. The rest of the time they were steady. When we reached a point east of the field (the DC-3 was headed northeast), we observed a change in the object. By the time we realized what the change was, it dived over our nose at about a 160° angle to the heading of the DC-3 and 200 feet above it.
That brought the object down beyond the left wing of the airliner, and then came the strangest part of the whole encounter. Instead of running by, as any aircraft will when met nearly head-on, the object abruptly (as quickly as the heads of the pilots could be turned) was flying in the same direction as the airliner -- and at the same altitude and the same speed! Here it was, flying formation with us, about 200 feet away!
And the object was big! We estimated the size as being anywhere from that of a B-29 to half again as big. The time was 8:30 on an exceptionally clear moonlight night, so we got an excellent silhouette view. There was a definite fuselage and wing configuration. The fuselage was cigar-shaped. The wing was further forward than a B-29 wing and no engine nacelles or jet pods could be seen. The wing had no sweepback, being perfectly straight. It had a high aspect ratio like a glider wing.
I couldn't tell whether the object turned around or just reversed direction. We didn't see any jet glow or exhaust flame. As the object dived across our nose, the bright white light observed by the tower could be seen at a slight angle -- not in full force as it would have been head-on. As nearly as could be determined, this light was located on the bottom of the fuselage. It was either in a "tunnel" mounting that blocked the view, or was turned off as it came toward us. From take-off to the time of this run toward the airliner, we were able to see a red form of navigation light.
There was insufficient light to determine the probable material from which the object was made, or if there were any markings on it.
About the time this object was flying on the wing of the DC-3, a Cessna 140 made an emergency landing at Sioux City and parked while the object was still in sight. After the object was lost to sight a Bonanza arrived from the east-northeast. These were the only other aircraft in the vicinity at the time.
The object flew formation on the left wing of the DC-3 for four or five seconds or more, then started dropping down and under the fuselage of our aircraft. I reduced power and made a left turn to the west over the Sioux City field attempting to keep the object in view. After losing sight of the object under the belly, we made a right turn in an attempt to regain sight of it, but no further contact was made. We continued our scheduled flight to Omaha, Nebr.
In addition to the two Mid-Continent Airlines' pilots, three other persons are known to have seen the object. One was a passenger aboard the flight who happened to be looking out the window at the time. The other two were Chief Controller John Williams of Sioux City Tower, and his fellow controller, whose name I don't know.
The passenger, incidentally, is an aide to Col. Matthew Thompson, USAF, at Offutt Field, Omaha, Nebr., who is assigned to investigation of strange aircraft.
In 1952 -- the penultimate year of saucer sightings -- pilot reports included two separate Air Force encounters on the same cold January night over Korea. Nearly as remarkable at the events themselves is the fact that the incidents were publicly announced by the Air Force. The story was retold in the April 6, 1952, edition of the London Sunday Dispatch newspaper, from which the following excerpt is taken...
Above, top: B-29 Superfortress on the ground at Boeing plant. Second: B-29 in flight. Third: Cockpit view of B-29 Superfortress. Fourth: Top-gunner view. Fifth: A "Rosie the Riveter" installs one of five armor glass (bullet-proof) windows in the tail gunner's compartment. Sixth: Tail-gunner position. Seventh: Report on January, 1952, sightings from the declassified files of the Air Force Project Blue Book. Bottom: Diagram of crew positions. Five years before the encounters over Korea, two B-29 Superfortresses had dropped the world's first atomic bombs ever used in combat over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
April 6, 1952, edition of the London Sunday Dispatch newspaper from which the following was taken...
THE crew of an American Superfortress bomber which had been out on a night mission over the North Korean battlefront climbed wearily out of their plane at their home airstrip with a very strange tale on their lips.
This night mission had taken them over Wonsan, important war-scarred harbour on the north-east coast. And it was while the bomber was in the air above this port that a queer thing had been spotted against the background of the dark night sky.
It was a spinning disc-shaped object that suddenly loomed into view, an object orange in colour and with small, bluish flames playing about its revolving rim.
The bomber was traveling at some 200 miles per hour. For five minutes the disc, flying above the bomber, kept pace with it on a parallel course. Then suddenly, it was gone, vanishing abruptly into the blackness of the night.
TWO pairs of eyes had watched it, with fascinating interest, from the bomber. They were the eyes of the central flying controller, alert in his high-up post, and of the equally alert tail-gunner.
They told of what they had seen to incredulous comrades. They told the story in greater detail to Intelligence officers when they landed. The latter, knowing the two men for experienced flyers of the world-war days, were not incredulous, but puzzled. They realised that, with these two men, imagination was not the answer.
They had seen what they had seen from different parts of the plane, and their stories tallied. Both fixed the size of the spinning disc as about 3ft. across, as seen by them. Its actual size, of course, was anybody's guess.
While the Intelligence Officers were wrinkling their brows over this queer report, a somewhat similar story was being listened to at the headquarters of another squadron of Superforts some miles away.
This Squadron had also been out on a night mission. It had taken the bombers over Sunchon, some 80 miles distant from Wonsan. And it was over Sunchon that, from one of the bombers, something that looked like a revolving globe had been spotted.
Just as in the other case, this strange globe had come into the view of the central firing controller and the tail-gunner of the plane. It was orange in colour and had followed the bomber for about a minute. Then it had vanished.
All this happened on the night of January 29 last. Full details of what the four airmen swore they clearly saw have been sent back to the United States Air Force headquarters in Washington and are now being pored over by experts who have probed many hundreds of flying saucer stories over the past four years or so.
One theory, an obvious one perhaps, is that the spinning objects might have been the exhausts of Red night fighters -- sometimes there are luminous exhausts from jet engines that glow orange and blue.
But that is not a theory the experts are prepared to accept out of hand...
In July, 1952 -- the penultimate month of the penultimate year of saucer sightings -- there would be a number of pilot sightings reported around the world. One of the first was covered in the July 6, 1952, edition of the Long Beach, California, Press-Telegram...
Above, top: Aerial view of Hanford nuclear site in 1960, when eight plutonium-production reactors (used for the production of nuclear weapons) were on line. In 1963 a ninth reactor would begin production. However, in 1952 when the following incident occurred, only five reactors were active, with a sixth going on line five months following the sighting. Middle: Diagram of the Hanford site in the mid-1960s. The caption noted that, "this artist's view of the AEC 600-square mile Hanford complex shows the location of the various plutonium extraction and laboratory facilities, together with the identity of the contractors that operate them". It also noted that "The plutonium processing facilities were located in the higher altitude 75-square mile 200 Area...". Bottom: A Curtiss C-46 Commando operated by Conner Air Lines. The C-46 was a transport aircraft with high-altitude capability. It was used as a military transport during World War II. Following the war, airlines such as Conner purchased surplus aircraft from the government -- often hiring veteran pilots and airmen to crew them.
Fliers See 'Saucer' Over Atomic Plant
DENVER, Colo., July 5. -- Four Florida air pilots, three of them World War II veterans, told today of seeing a "flying saucer" hovering over the Hanford atomic plant at Richland, Wash.
Capt. John Baldwin of Coral Gables, Fla., an Air Force pilot in the Pacific during World War II who has 7000 hours of airline pilot experience, said the object he and his companions saw early today was a "perfectly round disc, white in color and almost transparent with small vapor trails off it like the tentacles of an octopus."
He said he was flying at about 9000 feet and saw the object "just below a deck of wispy clouds 10,000 to 15,000 feet directly above us."
"All of us have been flying a number of years and we've seen all kinds of clouds and formations, but none of us had ever seen anything like this," Baldwin said.
"The object seemed to back away from us and change shape. It was perfectly round and still at first. Then it seemed to back away from us and change shape. It became flat, gained speed and then disappeared quickly."
Baldwin's report was attested to by Capt. George Robertson of Miami, who flew a C-46 over the Hump to Burma in World War II; D. Shenkel of Miami, a former Air Force pilot, and Steven Summers of Hialeah, Fla., who has been flying since shortly after the end of World War II. Baldwin and Robertson are pilots and Shenkel and Summers are co-pilots for Conner Air Lines.
Baldwin said that after spotting the object "I ran to the rear of our C-46 for my camera, but by the time I could get it, the object had disappeared. Boy what a shot that would have made!"
Baldwin called the object a "flying saucer," but then added that "I've never believed in them, but this definitely wasn't a cloud formation nor a weather instrument. It was an object that none of us had ever seen before."
Baldwin said the object was spotted over the "Hanford atomic plant" between Ellensburg and Yakima, Wash., at about 6 a.m.
This is about 75 miles east and south of an area where the first of the mysterious objects was reported seen six years ago in the vicinity of Mt Rainier, southeast of Seattle.
"We passed the object as it stood suspended in space," Robertson said. "We couldn't pick it up on our radar. We reversed our course and went back, but we couldn't spot it again."
One particularly dramatic encounter that July involved a commercial airliner in flight over Chesapeake Bay, as told by the pilots themselves in the October, 1952, edition of True magazine...
Above: Lead illustration for the following article...
WE FLEW ABOVE FLYING SAUCERS
By 1st Officer William B. Nash and 2nd Officer William H. Fortenberry
Pan American pilots Nash, Fortenberry.
HOW does it feel to see flying saucers? Like most people, we had never consciously expected to face that question, but now we have an answer. When you see "saucers" from the angle and nearness that we did, and watch them go through the astonishing maneuver that we witnessed, you feel humbled.
Sitting in the complex cockpit of a fast four-engined airliner, we had the deflated feeling that we and our modern airplane were so far outclassed by somebody and something else that it wasn't at all funny.
On the night of July 14,1952, we were ferrying a Pan American World Airways DC-4 from New York to Miami. There was a crew of three --Captain Fred Koepke and ourselves -- and ten passengers, company personnel and their families. The night was clear and visibility unlimited. The only clouds, practically invisible to us, were reported to be thin cirrus, three-tenths, at 20,000 feet.
Occupying the pilot and co-pilot seats, we flew at 8,000, cruising on the automatic pilot over Chesapeake Bay, as we approached Norfolk, Virginia, which lay about 20 miles in front of us on our compass course of 200 degrees magnetic -- a little west of south. We were due to overhead the V.H.F. radio range station at Norfolk in six minutes and make a position report then. The sun had set an hour before, and though we could still make out the coast line, the night was almost entirely dark. The distant lights of the cities stood out plainly, undimmed by any haze. One of us pointed out to the other the city of Newport News, which lay forward and to our right.
Suddenly a red brilliance appeared in the air beyond and somewhat eastward -- that is, to our side -- of Newport News.
We saw it together at practically the same moment. The remark of one of us was, 'What the hell is that?" It hadn't grown gradually into view -- it seemed simply to have appeared, all of a sudden, in place.
Almost immediately we perceived that it consisted of six bright objects streaking toward us at tremendous speed, and obviously well below us. They had the fiery aspect of hot coals, but of much greater glow -- perhaps twenty times more brilliant than any of the scattered ground lights over which they passed or the city lights to the right. Their shape was clearly outlined and evidently circular; the edges were well defined, not phosphorescent or fuzzy in the least. The red-orange color was uniform over the upper surface of each craft.
Within the few seconds that it took the six objects to come half the distance from where we had first seen them, we could observe that they were holding a narrow echelon formation -- a stepped-up line tilted slightly to our right, with the leader at the lowest point and each following craft slightly higher. At about the halfway point, the leader appeared to attempt a sudden slowing. We received this impression because the second and third wavered slightly and seemed almost to overrun the leader, so that for a brief moment during the remainder of their approach the positions of these three varied. It looked very much as if an element of "human" or "intelligence" error had been introduced, in so far as the following two did not react soon enough when the leader began to slow down and so almost overran him.
We judged the objects' diameter to be a little larger than a DC-3 wingspread would appear to be -- about 100 feet -- at their altitude which we estimated at slightly more than a mile below us, or about 2,000 feet above ground level.
When the procession was almost directly under and slightly in front of us -- the pilot had to rise hurriedly from the left-hand seat and lean to see them -- the objects performed a change of direction which was completely amazing.
All together, they flipped on edge, the sides to the left of us going up and the glowing surface facing right. Though the bottom surfaces did not become clearly visible, we had the impression that they were unlighted. The exposed edges, also unlighted, appeared to be about 15 feet thick, and the top surface, at least, seemed flat. In shape and proportion, they were much like coins. While all were in the edgewise position, the last five slid over and past the leader so that the echelon was now tail-foremost, so to speak, the top or last craft now being nearest to our position. Then, without any arc or swerve at all, they all flipped back together to the flat altitude and darted off in a direction that formed a sharp angle with their first course, holding their new formation.
The change of direction was acute and abrupt. The only descriptive comparison we can offer is a ball ricocheting off a wall.
Immediately after these six lined away, two more objects just like them darted out from behind and under our airplane at the same altitude as the others. The two newcomers seemed to be joining the first group on a closing heading.
Then suddenly the lights of all of the objects blinked out, and a moment later blinked on again with all eight in line speeding westward, north of Newport News, and climbing in a far, graceful arc that carried them above our altitude. There they disappeared, while still in view, by blinking out one by one -- not in sequence, but in a scattered manner.
There had seemed to be some connection between the lights and the speed.
The original six had dimmed slightly before their angular turn and had brightened considerably after making it. Also the two others were even brighter, as though applying power to catch up.
Diagram shows saucers' maneuver in stages. At "A," during approach, six held stepped-up echelon. Flipping on edge at "B," followers overrode leader until, in reverse order at vee point, they flipped flat again and echelon darted in new direction, appearing aligned from observers' point of view. At "C," after brief blink-out, six were joined by two from behind airliner.
We stared after them, dumbfounded and probably open-mouthed. We looked around at the sky, half expecting something else to appear, though nothing did. There were flying saucers, and we had seen them. What we had witnessed was so stunning and incredible that we could readily believe that if either of us had seen it alone, he would have hesitated to report it. But here we were, face to face. We couldn't both be mistaken about such a striking spectacle.
The time was 8:12 Eastern Standard Time. The whole thing had occurred very quickly; we agreed on an estimate of 12 seconds. Now for the question, not too hopeful: had anybody else aboard seen it?
The co-pilot went through the small forward passenger compartment, where the captain was intent on paper work. In the main cabin, some of the passengers were dozing. A cautious inquiry whether anyone had happened to see anything unusual brought no results.
Back in the cockpit, we discussed and formulated a quick report. We called the Norfolk radio as we passed over it, gave our position according to routine, and upon receiving confirmation of that message added a second which we requested be forwarded to the military:
"Two pilots of this flight observed eight unidentified objects vicinity Langley Field; estimate speed in excess of 1,000 mph; altitude estimated 2,000 feet." The captain came forward and was told of the incident and the message; he took over while we went to work figuring and writing notes on what we had seen.
With a Dalton Mark 7 computer, a kind of pivoting calculator, we swung the azimuth from the longitudinal axis of the airplane to the saucers' angle of approach toward the nose, as well as we could remember it, then did the same for their angle of departure. We found that the difference was only about 30 degrees; therefore they had made a 150-degree change of course almost instantaneously. The G force produced in such a turn we couldn't begin to figure, of course, even if we had known how, for it would depend on duration and speed -- and there was where we really ran into something.
By reference to the chart, we estimated that the saucers' track, from the locality where we had first seen them to the place where they had disappeared, covered about 50 miles, and they had traveled it in 12 seconds. If we were conservative and allowed 15 seconds, that would mean that the objects were flying at the rate of 200 miles in each minute, or 12,000 miles per hour! If we were to be even more conservative and cut our distance estimate right in half, the speed would still he around 6,000 miles per hour!
Awhile later, while we were still discussing the matter, the lights of a northbound four-engined airliner came into view on a course about 1,000 feet above us. If any normal happening could have increased the effect of our night's experience on us, it was that commonplace event. Ordinarily the head-on approach of two airliners -- their closing speed would be 500-550 m.p.h. -- seems pretty brisk. This night the oncoming plane seemed to be standing still, after the streaking speed of the saucers.
We landed at Miami International Airport shortly after midnight. On entering the operations office, we found filed, from our New York dispatcher, a copy of the saucer message we had transmitted through Norfolk, with an addition: "Advise crew five jets were in area at the time." That didn't exactly apply; the things we had seen were eight in number, and we were dead sure they were no jets. Then we phoned the officer on duty at the Air Force headquarters on the airport and told him we had a report to make concerning some strange unidentified objects. He took our names and addresses and said we would be contacted by the proper authorities.
We were. At 7 a.m. we were telephoned by Air Force investigators and appointments were set for an interview later that morning. For a considerable time both of us were earnestly and diligently interrogated, separately and together. We were surprised by being told at the end that our particular experience wasn't by any means unique.
We have both been flying for more than ten years, we have had plenty of service drill on aircraft recognition, and in thousands of hours of flight time neither of us has ever seen anything even remotely resembling the strange and unforgettable objects we saw near Newport News on July 14.
Maybe there is some sort of confirmation in the fact that, following our sighting, the Washington radar twice picked up unidentified objects, on July 19 and 26, and that on the second occasion a pursuing jet flier reported being outdistanced by four disappearing lights.
What were the saucers we saw doing there? We have no idea. One of us thought that their sudden lighting up suggested that they may previously have been hovering. In any case, whether they saw us and came to investigate, or happened to move toward our position and took alarm, or rendezvoused there with the last two, or had some entirely different purpose, are about equally undeterminable guesses.
Though we don't know what they were, what they were doing or where they came from, we are certain in our minds that they were intelligently operated craft from somewhere other than this planet.
We are sure that no pilot, able to view them as we did, could conceive of any earthly aircraft capable of the speed, abrupt change of direction, and acceleration that we witnessed, or imagine any airplane metal that could withstand the heat that ought to have been created by friction in their passage through the dense atmosphere at 2,000 feet. Whether they were controlled from within or remotely, we can't say, but it is impossible to think of human flesh and bone surviving the jolt of their course reversal.
We have the usual reasons, too, for not believing that they were secret guided missiles. It is not logical that our own armed services would experiment with such devices over large cities and across airways, and another nation would not risk them here. Nor could anybody's science have reached such a stage of development without some of the intermediate steps having become public knowledge.
One thing we know: mankind has a lot of lessons to learn ... from somebody.
-- William B. Nash and William H. Fortenberry
Three nights later, on July 17, 1952, an American Airlines pilot would have his own sighting, as reported in the July 18, 1952, edition of the Great Bend, Kansas, Daily Tribune...
Above: Postcard image of a flagship American Airlines DC-6 in flight. Bottom: Illustration for magazine ad. In 1952, while other airlines utilized the DC-6 for trans-oceanic and intercontinental flights, American was the only airline flying the Douglas DC-6 for U.S. transcontinental passenger service.
Pilot Spots Four Mystery Objects In Air
Chicago -- A veteran airline pilot reported seeing four flying objects moving at terrific speed over Denver, Colo., last night. Capt. Paul L. Carpenter of American airlines said that he and his crew spotted the objects after a flight ahead of them radioed them to be on the lookout.
Carpenter said the objects looked like planets and had a yellowish tinge. He said he saw one by itself, then two others and finally a fourth.
He estimated their altitude at about 25,000 to 30,000 feet and said he thought they were traveling at about 3,000 miles an hour.
He said they trailed no light as meteors might and that one changed its direction.
The objects were too far away, Carpenter said, to tell if they had the round shape of the reputed "flying saucers."
An air force officer assigned to investigate the "flying saucer" reports said in Dayton, O., that about 15 percent of the approximately 1,000 reports can not be explained.
Carpenter, who lives in Los Angeles, was piloting a non-stop Los Angeles to Chicago flight when he spotted the objects.
Then, on the night of Saturday, July 19, 1952 through the morning of Sunday, July 20, 1952, came the first of the famous sightings over Washington, D.C. -- which included pilot sightings, as given in the following news report from the July 22, 1952, edition of the Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Gazette And Bulletin...
Above: A Capital Airlines ad in October, 15, 1950, issue of The New Yorker magazine.
Radar Spots 'Aerial Objects' Over Capital
WASHINGTON, July 21-- The Air Force disclosed tonight it has received reports of an eerie visitation by unidentified aerial objects -- perhaps a new type of "flying saucer" -- over the vicinity of the nation's" capital. For the first time, so far as is known, the objects were picked up by radar -- indicating actual substance rather than mere light.
In addition, they were described as traveling at a slow 100 to 130 miles per hour -- instead of with the incredible swiftness attributed to earlier saucers -- although at times they shot up and down.
The "objects" were also described as hovering in one position.
The Air Force said no planes were sent out in an attempt to intercept the objects, and no sightings were reported, by "Operation Skywatch," the round-the-clock ground observer operation, now underway around the northern part the United States.
The Air Force, said it has received only a preliminary report, and therefore does not know why no attempt at interception was made.
The air traffic control center at Washington National Airport, just across the Potomac river from the capital, reported that its radar operators picked up eight of the slow-moving objects around midnight last Saturday. They were flying in the vicinity of nearby Andrews Air force Base.
The center said Capital Airlines Flight 807, southbound from National Airport, reported seeing several objects between Washington and Martinsburg, W. Va., at 1:15 a.m. (CST) the same night.
Officials of Capital Airlines said the pilot of Flight 807, Capt. "Casey" Pierman of Detroit, a veteran of 17 years service with the company, spotted the objects and described them in these words:
"They were like falling stars without tails."
Company officials said the airport picked up radar "blips" -- contact with aerial objects -- and asked Capt. Pierman to keep a watch out for any unusual objects in the sky.
Shortly thereafter, officials said, Pierman reported back to the dispatchers tower that he had spotted a group of objects.
Pierman, then flying at normal cruising speed of 180 to 200 MPH reported that the objects were traveling with "tremendous vertical speed" -- moving rapidly up and down -- and then suddenly changing pace until they seemed to hang motionless in the sky.
Officials said Pierman made only a routine report of the incident and did not specifically say that what he saw were flying saucers.
The eight objects picked up by Air Force radar were said to be traveling at slightly more than 100 MPH.
The airport traffic control center said another air liner, Capital-National airlines Flight 610, reported observing a light following it to within four miles of National Airport. ...
Additional details of Captain Pierman's sighting appeared in a story in the July 22, 1952, edition of the San Mateo, California, Times...
... Capt. S.C. "Casey" Pierman of Detroit, piloting Capital Airlines flight 807, southbound from national airport, soon reported seeing seven objects between Washington and Martinsburg, W. Va. He said they changed pace, sometimes moving at tremendous speed, at other times hanging almost motionless.
He was careful in his report, and later in an interview, not to identify the objects as flying saucers.
He described them as "like falling stars without tails" but added:
"In my years of flying I've seen a lot of falling or shooting stars . . . but these were much faster. . . . They couldn't have been aircraft. They were moving too fast for that. They were about the same size as the brighter stars, and were much higher than our 6000 foot altitude." ...
And still more details of Captain Pierman's sighting appeared in a story in the July 22, 1952, edition of the Washington, D.C. Daily News...
... Capt. Pierman, who has flown in this area for 17 years, was asked by the airport tower to keep an eye out for the objects when they showed up on the radar screen.
He was flying at 180 to 200 mph toward Martinsburg, W. Va., he said, when he saw six lights.
"They were very similar to brilliant falling stars without tails," Capt. Pierman said.
Three flew in an approximately 25-degree dive at "a substantial speed" and three more flew "very, very high" on a horizontal plane. Capt. Pierman said he had "a feeling" they were in the upper atmosphere, at about 60,000 feet.
He finally lost sight of them when they went into what he called "a terrific power dive" near Martinsburg.
They traveled at "tremendous vertical speed" and then changed pace and seemed to hang motionless, he said. ...
Then, in a July 29, 1952, an NEA newswire feature article on that night, a final few details were revealed, as in the July 29, 1952, edition of the Chester, Pennsylvania, Times, telling of Pierman's interaction with chief radar operator Harry G. Barnes...
... As is normal at that time air traffic was very light. But at the first opportunity an operator in Barnes' office contacted Capital Airlines pilot Capt. S.C. Pierman shortly after he took off and asked him to look for the objects.
For about 14 minutes, Pierman was in direct, two-way communication with Barnes. While he was within radar range, Pierman was able to see six objects which showed up on the path indicated by the center's radar. Pierman's sightings reported to Barnes coincided exactly with the radar sightings, Barnes reports.
Pierman is a 17-year veteran of commercial flying and is described by Capital Airlines officials as very level-headed and "taciturn." After he landed in Detroit Pierman had this to say about the sightings:
"In my years of flying I've seen a lot of falling or shooting stars -- whatever you call them -- but these were much faster than anything like that I've ever seen. They were moving too fast for that. They were about the same size as the brighter stars. And they were much higher than our 6,000-foot altitude. I couldn't estimate the speed accurately. Please remember I didn't speak of them as flying saucers -- only very fast moving lights."
Charles Wheaton, first officer on the flight with Pierman, a veteran of 12 years of flying confirms Pierman's sightings and adds:
"Before the other night, I always discounted alleged flying saucers as atmospheric phenomenon. But now I feel I have actually seen some active strange objects which defy explanation."
Another Capital Airlines pilot also reported seeing a light off his wing, which showed up in that position on the radar scope. Other pilots in the air that night, Barnes reveals, appeared to be reluctant to discuss the subject with him on the radio. ...
While the sightings over Washington, D.C., were commanding the lion's share of national attention, a little-noticed report of a private pilot was making local news, as found in the July 23, 1952, edition of the Ruston, Louisiana, Daily Leader...
Above: A 1929 ad for Delta Air Service of Monroe, Louisiana -- forerunner to the major carrier known today as Delta Airlines. A.D. Hanks, the pilot in the following story, had been a pilot for Delta Air Service -- a fact noted in an news story following his crop-dusting plane flipping and killing him after striking a power line in June, 1958. The article noted that Hanks "was currently flying from Hangar 3 at Selman Field and owned two dusting planes in addition to a three-passenger touring craft". It also noted that he was "well-known to pilots over the south and south-west". It is unknown what type of aircraft he was flying in the following incident.
Monroe Pilot Reports Flying Disk Followed Him For 20 Minutes
Those flying saucers are buzzing over Louisiana again.
The latest reports come from a man in Monroe. He is A.D. Hanks, who says he saw one last Tuesday night. The reason he didn't tell about it sooner Hank says, is he was afraid people would think he was crazy.
He says he was flying near the Arkansas border when he saw what looked like a blood red star about 2000 feet overhead. He estimates that it was traveling at 4000 feet at a speed of over 100 miles an hour.
Hanks says the object was headed southwest, but, suddenly it turned around and started following him. Hanks thought he was seeing things. To find out, he made a 90 degree angle turn. The flying saucer did the same thing and followed his course for about 10 minutes.
Then, say Hanks, the saucer swooped down below him and kept following his course. About ten minutes later, according to the pilot, it went back overhead and switched to its original course.
Hanks has been a flier for 25 years. But, he says he has never had such an eerie feeling or seen such an unnatural sight.
Two weeks following the encounter by pilots Nash and Fortenberry, and 10 days following the report of Captain Pierman, RAF Flight Sergeant Roland Hughes had his own spectacular sighting. Hughes had been stationed at RAF Oldenburg in northern West Germany when, on July 30, 1952, he encountered a flying metallic disc -- which he estimated to be 100-foot in diameter -- flying alongside his aircraft before speeding off. Upon landing he learned the object was also detected by RAF radars on the ground. Several days later Flt. Sgt. Hughes was sent to see Duncan Sandys, at the time the government's head aviation minister (and later Defense Secretary). Afterwards Sandys would write "I have no doubt at all that Hughes saw a phenomenon similar to that described by numerous observers in the United States" and also that "until some satisfactory scientific explanation can be provided, it would be most unwise to accept without further question the view that 'flying saucers' can be dismissed as 'a mild form of hysteria'." Hughes' account was only made public in 2012, the circumstances of which were revealed in the following excerpt from the May 27, 2012, edition of The Telegraph newspaper under the headline "The UFO sighting that convinced a Government minister"...
Above: Flt. Sgt. Hughes. After his encounter he became known to his squadron as "Saucer Sam", which can be seen stenciled onto his aircraft to his right.
...The documents are among thousands released by the archive in recent years. Their disclosures were uncovered by David Clarke, a Sheffield Hallam University academic, while he was conducting research for a new edition of a book he has written on UFO sightings for the National Archives.
By chance, shortly after his discovery, Dr Clarke was contacted by the fighter pilot's son, who had read the earlier edition and wanted to share information about his father's sighting.
Roland Hughes had died in 2009, aged 79, but had recounted his version of events to his son, Brian, who passed on the account to Dr Clarke, as well as his father's log book, in which he had noted the sighting and subsequent meeting with Sandys...
In the airman's account, relayed via his son, he was in one of four aircraft from No. 20 Squadron, of the RAF's 2nd Tactical Air Force, returning to RAF Oldenburg, in northern West Germany, flying in formation at high altitude in clear visibility.
He reported seeing a sudden flash of "silver light" in the sky high above him which rapidly descended towards him until he could see that it was a "gleaming silver-metallic disc".
The airman said its surface was shiny, "like tin foil", and "without a single crease or crinkle in it". He could see, with "astonishing clarity", the aircraft's "highly reflective and absolutely seamless metallic-looking surface". He estimated its size at 100ft across – "about the wingspan of a Lancaster bomber".
It flew alongside him for several seconds before flying off at great speed.
None of the other three pilots saw the object – it is thought because they were all executing a "banking turn" at the time and would not have been looking in the right direction...
August, 1952, began with a news story that apparently was almost buried. Thankfully, an unsourced news clipping dated August 1, 1952, was retained in the Air Force Project Blue Book files, probably from a newspaper local to Wright-Patterson AFB where Blue Book was located and where the incident occurred...
Above: A North American F-86 Sabrejet in flight.
2 Jet Pilots See Object
DAYTON, Ohio. Aug. 1 -- Jet interceptor pilots reported to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base officials today they saw an object in the sky which they didn't think was a light reflection.
It was the first time pilots checking on flying saucer reports here had made such a positive statement.
The two interceptors were sent up about 1:45 a.m. [sic, should be 10:45 a.m. according to Blue Book file] after the base had received five or six reports of "flying saucers."
They told officers they went up about 17,000 feet and for about 10 seconds watched a bright object which hovered above them. It then disappeared at "a high rate of speed."
"We deliberately maneuvered around to make sure it wasn't a light reflection. At first it appeared red and white and then white only," they said.
The pilots, attached to the 97th Fighter Wing, were Maj. James B. Smith, and 1st Lt. Donald J. Hemer, recently transferred from O'Hare Air Force Base, Park Ridge, Ill.
The Air Technical Intelligence Center, in charge of "flying-saucer" investigations, immediately ordered the two pilots to stop commenting further on their experiences and ordered a ban on pictures of the two.
In the report to Capt. E.J. Ruppelt, in charge of "flying-saucer" studies, the two pilots said they were unable to estimate the object's location because "it was dark and there was nothing to compare it with."
Although the official report said the pilots observed the object for about ten seconds, that probably referred to the brief time they got a good look at it.
One of the pilots reported: "I don't think the light was a reflection. I deliberately maneuvered around it at several angles to make sure it wasn't a light reflection. If it had been, there would have been a change."
Then, in mid-August, word came in from Texas telling of another sighting by an airline captain, in the Lubbock, Texas, Evening Journal...
Above: A Pioneer Airlines Martin 2-0-2 on the tarmac. The following story refers to a "Pacemaster" aircraft, which refers to the airline's naming of all its 2-0-2s with the name of a legendary Texan conjoined with "Pacemaster", such as the Kit Carson Pacemaster. Pioneer was a small regional line serving New Mexico and Texas.
Airlines Pilot Chases Mysterious Orange Light Others Sight Sky "Object"
DALLAS, Aug. 14 -- Capt. Max M. Jacoby, chief pilot for Pioneer Airlines, reported Thursday that he saw and chased a mysterious orange light within 15 to 25 miles of Love Field Wednesday night.
He refused to call the light a "flying saucer" or to try to explain its origin. But he said he had never seen anything like it in 16 years of flying.
Jacoby, Capt. J.W. McNaulty and a maintenance man took a two-engine Pacemaster up for a routine test flight. Jacoby saw the light first and called the attention of the others to it.
Saw Large Light
"I looked out the left window of the cockpit (at 3,000 feet altitude) and saw a large light," he said. "Then it suddenly started moving northwest. So I turned the plane on a course that would intercept it at about 40 degrees.
"It went across and completely out of sight. It dived down. But the body of the thing did not change when it tuned. It was bright, then it began to die down.
"I was still flying on this heading (about 240 miles an hour) when the light reappeared. It was dim at first, then it got bright. And Captain McNaulty timed it. It was at the brightest point about 10 seconds. Meanwhile, I turned again to line up with this light and it went out of sight in a southeasterly direction. We were unable to find it again."
Orange In Color
"The body of the light was fairly constant," he said. "It was orange in color and at the periphery was fuzzy. It was differential in speed . . . it just went off and left us."
Jacoby said he thought they might be seeing an optical illusion. But he brought the nose of the plane up and lined it up with a star. The star remained constant, he said, so he knew it wasn't an illusion.
He couldn't tell whether it was just a light or whether it was a light coming from an object. Since he could not tell how far we was from it, he refused to guess exactly how big it was.
The next day, the August 15, 1952, edition of the Galveston, Texas, Daily News, provided additional details...
Transport Pilot Declines to Identify 'Big, Orange Light' as Flying Saucer
DALLAS, Aug. 14 – Capt. Max M. Jacoby, who has been flying for 16 years, disclosed Thursday that he chased a big, orange light, apparently not of earthly origin, Wednesday night in a transport plane.
The light was of the type generally put in the "flying saucer" category, but Jacoby declined to call it more than a "light" for fear he would be laughed at. He never did catch it.
Jacoby, who is chief pilot of Pioneer Airlines, Capt. J.W. McNaulty, a pilot, and a maintenance man saw the light about 11:30 p.m. at 3,000 feet altitude, 15 to 25 miles from Love Field.
They were making a routine test flight. Jacoby said he was the first to see it. It seemed to be standing still and was not a "focused" light, such as the landing light of a plane.
"Then it suddenly started moving northwest," Jacoby said. "So I turned the plane on a course (at a speed of 240 miles an hour) that would intercept it at about 20 degrees. It went across and completely out of sight.
"It dived down. But the body of the thing did not change when it turned. It was bright, then it began to die down (dim). I couldn't tell whether it was just a light or a light coming from some object.
"I was still flying on this heading when the light reappeared. It was dim at first then got bright and Capt. McNaulty timed it. And it was at its brightest point about 10 seconds. I turned to line up with the light and it went out of sight in a southeasterly direction. We were unable to find it again."
Four days later, word came in from Paris, France, telling of another sighting by an airline captain, in an International News Service newswire report datelined August 18, 1952...
Above: From 1952, a TWA Lockheed Super Constellation.
PARIS, Aug. 18 -- A Trans-World Airlines Captain said tonight that he saw an "extra-terrestrial object" flying directly head-on in front of his New York to Paris Airliner early today.
The pilot, Capt. Walter W. Hawkins, of Coatesville, Pa., said the swiftly-moving object was "too bright to be a star" and was nothing like any of the thousands of meteors he had seen. The object was sighted at 2:32 a.m. (10:52 p.m. Sunday EDT) 115 miles east of Gander, Newfoundland.
Capt. Hawkins said it also was spotted by both the pilot and co-pilot of a TWA Airliner enroute from Frankfurt to Gander on their radar screen.
The object, which he estimated to be traveling at an estimated speed of 700 mph, was described by Capt. Hawkins as "white with a faint reddish tint."
Capt. Hawkins said he was flying above the clouds at 15,000 feet when he noticed the light right in front of him at actually the same altitude.
Continuing, he said:
"It was too bright to be a star. Barlett (Leland Barlett, of Bethpage, N.Y.), my relief pilot, noticed it at the same time.
"We flashed our nose light but there was no answering signal.
"It kept growing. Then, without appearing to accelerate, it veered to the left and travelled in a horizontal arc of about 45°. It remained constant in brilliance and then just quit."
The pilot said the object did not fade out but was "just like an electric light being turned off."
Capt. Hawkins said:
"I am convinced the object was not a plane. And it was not like any of the thousands of meteors I have seen.
"It had no tail and travelled horizontally -- making two reasons why it wasn't a meteor, unless there is some new type."
Although all other reports in this post focus on pilot sightings while in flight, one spectacular report -- from England, in September, 1952 -- was made by pilots from the ground just after landing their Gloster Meteor jet fighters, while watching another come in to land. The incident occurred during "Operation Mainbrace", a major NATO military exercise described by Life magazine as involving "10 NATO nations, 450,000 men... an eight-nation naval force with 10 aircraft carriers". The story of the pilot sighting appeared in the September 21, 1952, edition of the London Sunday Dispatch newspaper...
Above: Gloster Meteor in flight.
What Intruded Into 'Exercise Mainbrace'? 'Saucer' Chased R.A.F. Jet Plane Say 6 Airmen
NOT Smoke-Ring Or Weather Balloon, Says Pilot
By Sunday Dispatch Reporter
SERIOUS investigation was being made last night by the R.A.F. into the mystery of a silvery-white object that chased a Meteor jet-plane over Yorkshire during "Exercise Mainbrace."
It was seen by two R.A.F. officers and three aircrew as they stood near Coastal Command Shackleton Squadron H.Q. at Topcliffe.
Here are five of the R.A.F. men who saw the Flying Saucer. Left to right standing: L.A.C. Grime, Sgt. T.B. Dewys, Master Sigs. A.E. Thompson, Flight-Lieut M. Cybulski, Flight-Lieut. J.W. Kilburn
They had just landed after a flight and were watching a Meteor coming into land at the neighbouring Dishforth R.A.F. station.
One of them, Flight Lieut. John W. Kilburn, 31, of Egremont, Cumberland, then spotted "something different from anything I have ever seen in 3,700 hours flying in a variety of conditions."
He told me last night:
"It was 10:53 a.m. on Friday. The Meteor was coming down from about 5,000ft. The sky was clear. There was sunshine and unlimited visibility.
"The Meteor was crossing from East to West when I noticed the white object in the sky.
This object was silver and circular in shape, about 10,000ft. up some five miles astern of the aircraft. It appeared to be travelling at a lower speed than the Meteor but was on the same course.
"I said: 'What the hell's that?' and the chaps looked to where I was pointing. Somebody shouted that it might be the engine cowling of the Meteor falling out of the sky. Then we thought it might be a parachute.
"But as we watched the disc maintained a slow forward speed tor a few seconds before starting ta descend.
"While descending it was swinging in a pendulum fashion from left to right.
"As the Meteor turned to start its landing run the object appeared to be following it. But after a few seconds it stopped its descent and hung in the air rotating as it on its own axis.
"Then it accelerated at an incredible speed to the west, turned south-east and then disappeared.
"It is difficult to estimate the object's speed. The incident happened within a matter of 15 to 20 seconds.
During the few seconds that it was rotating we could see it flashing in the sunshine. It appeared to be about the size of a Vampire jet aircraft at a similar height.
"We are all convinced that it was some solid object. We realised very quickly that it could not be a broken cowling or a parachute.
"There was not the slightest possibility that the object we saw was a smoke ring or was caused by vapour trail from the Meteor or from any jet aircraft. We have, of course, seen this and we are all quite certain that what we saw was not caused by vapour or by smoke.
"We are also quite certain that it was not a weather observation balloon. The speed at which it moved away discounts this altogether.
"It was not a small object which appeared bigger in the conditions of light. Our combined opinion is that it was about the size of a Vampire jet and that it was something we had never seen before in a long experience of air observation."
Flight Lieutenant Marian Cybulski, 34, who was in a Polish squadron during the war and has flown 2,000 hours, said:
"I agree with everything that. Flight Lieutenant Kilburn says about this mysterious object. There may be Flying Saucers and there may not be. But this was something I have never seen before."
'Sort Of Halo'
Master Signaller Albert W. Thomson, 29, of Abbey-road, Barrow-in-Furness, who has been with the R.A.F. for 14-1/2 years, said: "I saw just the same. It was there in the air, a round shape which hung for a few seconds. What it was I simply don't know."
Sergt. Flight Engineer Thomas B. Dewys, 20, of Bedworth, Warwickshire, also saw the object.
L.A.C. George Grime, 22, of Salford, said: "I saw a sort of halo shining on the centre of the object. It appeared to be going round and to shine as it turned. It was a solid object with no marks on it.
A sixth flyer who saw the incident, Flight Lieutenant R.M. Paris, of Brighton, was on a flying exercise yesterday and could not give a personal account.
As stated above, pilot reports from overseas rarely made it into the U.S. newspapers. Fortunately, there were some European books on the subject which included such pilot sightings. One was "Flying Saucers From Another World" by French researcher (and science fiction writer) Jimmy Guieu, who at the time was also "Head of Investigation" for the French civilian saucer organization "Ouranos". Guieu's book was published in 1954 in France and two years later in an English translation in London, from which edition the following excerpts are taken...
Above: Dust jacket for original 1954 French hardcover edition.
Before 1951 the pilots of the United States Air Force could boast of having a monopoly in the pursuit of Flying Saucers. But on June 15, 1951, French aviators also took a turn.
On that particular day at 10.37 a.m. the Air Force pilots Irenee Prio and Raymond Gallibert, each flying a Vampire of Base 115 at Orange, Vaucluse, were on a training flight.
I myself interviewed M. Prio, Lieutenant Gallibert having left for Canada.
These two eye-witnesses, as jet pilots, can hardly be accused of day-dreaming or having taken a cloud for real objects. They are accustomed to travelling in space and to the various aircraft which they may encounter.
"We were flying in an absolutely cloudless sky" (said M. Prio), "when right above Orange we perceived an object of bright metallic appearance at an altitude of between 1 ,600 and I, 700 feet. The object was circular and appeared to be of aluminium and was perfectly motionless.
Naturally interested, we decided to approach it and changed course in its direction.
As soon as we made towards it, the disc 'see-sawed' for a moment and then took off at a rapidly increasing speed. We chased it as far as above Aspes-sur-Buech without being able to catch up, the climbing speed of our Vampire being inadequate. After we had followed it for six minutes, the object disappeared, still climbing at a speed of about 6oo miles per hour.
Lieutenant Gallibert and I were in constant radio communication during this rather strange chase. Our conversation was registered at S.T.R. 922, at the Orange Base, which also continuously kept note of our position."
Interviewed by Charles Garreau for La Bourgogne Republicaine of February 10, 1954, on this incident, General de Buretel de Chassey, Commander of the First Air Force Region at Dijon, said:
"I remember reading the report of the pilots of the two Vampires of Orange Base who in June 1951 vainly pursued what appeared to them to be a shining disc above the Alpilles. These two pilots were sober types and I doubt that they would venture on a hoax."
- - - - -
In the month of October 1952, a large number of phenomena occurred in various parts of the world.
On October 6, for instance, at 7.27 or 7.30 p.m. (varying according to different testimonies), several citizens of Marseilles saw an object flying at great speed on a westward course and, in their general judgment, at an altitude of about 3,000 feet.
This "meteor", as many termed it, was an elongated body as brilliant as the full moon, with a trail. Some witnesses stated that they had seen port-holes in the object. In Tarascon, the passing of a "bolide" (large meteor or fireball) was also reported at 7.30 p.m. Its flight was followed for eight to ten seconds.
According to Marseilles observatory, it was a bolide from sidereal space passing through our atmosphere. As for the 3,000 feet of altitude attested by witnesses, the observatory statement maintained that this was erroneous: the meteor must have passed at a height of 30 miles. Otherwise, its speed and brilliance and other points in witnesses' descriptions enabled the astronomers to be quite definite in their judgment, or so they maintained.
Really? Are you quite, quite sure, Messieurs les astronomes?
Well, why not examine our conclusions? Why not study, as we of Ouranos did, the formal statements of two pilots who saw the phenomenon -- and only then should you issue a "definite opinion".
Here, then, is the statement of the two pilots, Francis Cavasse, thirty-two years old, and Michel Clement, thirty-one, who are employed on the regular service, London-Orly-Nice.
"We have never believed in the existence of Flying Saucers or flying cigars" (these two eye-witnesses declared). "But we are compelled to yield to the evidence of our own eyes because this evening (October 6, 1952) we encountered in the air a mysterious object which passed above our plane at a tremendous speed.
"At 7.28 p.m., local time" (said M. Francis Cavasse), "we were flying over Draguignan and the Department of Var when my colleague, Clement, drew my attention to a strangely shaped, luminous flying object. It looked like an elongated egg. It was flying horizontally in an absolutely straight line. Its speed was regular and terrific. The 'egg' was completely aglow, not blinding, but like a neon light. We were able to follow its course for 30 seconds without taking our eyes off it. When it was lost to view it was still following its straight course.
The machine had a trail 20 to 25 times its own length. The vapour, which was a bluish-white, had a mottled appearance.
We estimated the speed of the object to be two or three times that of a jet plane at full speed. We would remark that this estimate was not calculated with instruments but was merely a rough judgment. Our impression was that it was flying at anything from 1,200 to 2,000 miles per hour. From the moment of its appearance, we judged that it was about two miles in front, and above us. It seemed much bigger than a normal transport plane. We have never seen anything in the sky similar to this. We think that we must have crossed the path of a guided machine flying from north-east to south-west: that is, towards Toulon. It had nothing in common with a meteor."
- - - - -
On December 17, at 6.10 a.m., M. Luigi Bianco of Redon, Marseilles, saw a great white disc flying at tremendous speed towards the south-east. To the naked eye its diameter seemed to be 24 inches. Flying in a straight line at 35-40 degrees above the horizon, it left a whitish-blue forked trail. Witnesses who saw this object from other suburbs of Marseilles noticed greenish-yellow lights on this disc, which was surrounded by a bluish-white fringe.
On that same day a certain Captain Ulf Christiansson, former fighter-pilot of the R.A.F., was flying a DC-3 between Malmoe and Stockholm. Suddenly, above Halsingborg, at 2.30 p.m. -- that is, seven hours after the Marseilles sighting -- he encountered a space-craft. Captain Christiansson's account was as follows:
"We were flying at about 6,000 feet when I suddenly sighted something which I at first thought must be a jet fighter. It was quite distinct and was flying towards us at terrifying speed. In a few seconds it passed below my plane at an altitude of about 3,500 feet. I had told my mechanic, Olle Johansson, to observe it also so that afterwards we were able to compare our impressions.
I had never seen anything like it before. It appeared to be a symmetrical, spherical, robot-like object. It seemed to be made of a white metallic substance and it left no trail in its course above the clouds. Visibility was excellent. We were flying towards the north with the sun to starboard when the saucer cut across our course, heading north-east. I should say here that I had never believed stories about Flying Saucers or similar things. But now I am eager to know the results of the investigation started by the Swedish Air Force."
In the statement later issued by the Swedish Air Force it was stated that "no Swedish aircraft was flying in the region where this object was sighted". General Begt Nordenskjold, Commander-in-Chief of the Swedish Air Force, stated that an enquiry was also being held to discover whether the object had been picked up by radar...
Illustrating the difficulty in judging such foreign accounts as well as their translations into English, French researcher Aime Michel gave a similar but still differing quote on the October 6, 1952, incident from pilot Francois Cavasse (translated as "Francis Cavasse" in Guieu's book). Published originally in France in 1954 under the title "Lueur sur les Soucoupes Volantes", it was translated into English and published in Great Britain in 1957 under the title "The Truth About Flying Saucers", from which the following excerpt is taken...
Above, top: Dust jacket for original 1954 French hardcover edition. Bottom: 1950s postcard image of a Douglas DC-4 at Orly airport.
The passage of an unknown object over Provence on the evening of October 6th, 1952, provided perhaps the best opportunity, from the scientific point of view, of establishing the actual existence of flying saucers, beyond doubt or cavil. The documentary evidence about this occurrence which I have been fortunate enough to collect proves that an object travelling in complete silence at a speed of at least 2,000 miles per hour flew over the south of France about 7.25 p.m. on October 1952, and that it was not an aerolite.
On that evening, less than ten days after the antics over the Nordic countries, two pilots of an Air France D.C.4 on the London-Orly-Nice route had quite a strange story to tell on their arrival at Nice. The pilots in question were Francois Cavasse and Michel Clement, two experienced airmen, each with more than 5,000 flying hours to his credit.
"We had never believed in the existence of flying saucers," they said, "but we can't deny the evidence of our own eyes, and this evening, in mid air, we passed a mysterious object travelling at a terrific speed above us." M. Cavasse, for himself, says:
"It was just before 7.30 p.m. local time. We were flying over Draguignan, when Clement, my co-pilot, drew my attention to the behaviour of a luminous object of curious shape. It at once suggested a sort of elongated egg. It was travelling on a horizontal and perfectly straight course at a constant and very high speed. It glowed with a white light, rather faint, certainly not blinding; something like a neon light. Its glow enabled us to follow it closely for thirty seconds, without taking our eyes off it. When it disappeared from view, it was continuing on its straight horizontal course in a westerly direction. It left behind it a white trail, with just a touch of blue in it, looking like a dotted line, and twenty to twenty-five times its own length. We estimated its speed to be two or three times that of a jet plane, somewhat between about 2,000 and 3,000 kilometres an hour. That figure was not arrived at by any calculation, but is a personal impression only. When we first sighted it we had an idea that it was about three kilometres ahead and a little above us. It struck us as much bigger than an ordinary commercial aircraft.
"We are familiar with the sky and its tricks," added the pilot, "but we have never seen anything the slightest bit like what we saw this evening. We are morally certain that the object was guided or teleguided; it was certainly perfectly under control. Any idea that it was an aerolite is out of the question. Aerolites do not follow a perfectly straight, horizontal course and do not glow with a steady, unvarying light. Their initial velocity is terrific, but it ultimately diminishes towards the end of their course and they seem to come to a stop or explode. This object behaved quite differently. It was flying not far away, certainly at a very high speed, but nothing like as fast as an aerolite. It was travelling on a north-east-south-west axis, that is, towards Toulon."
The D.C.4 landed at Nice at 7.40 p.m. A quarter of an hour earlier, M. Fonseca, an employee of Air France who happened to be on the runway at Nice airport, had seen an object which answered in all respects to the description given by the two pilots, travelling northwards. Not far from M. Fonseca, but not in his company, Mrs. Charles Givern, an American lady, had also noticed the " flying egg" which had so astonished the two pilots.
"I cannot give a better description than that of MM. Cavasse and Clement. I agree with it entirely. I am satisfied that I have seen a guided or teleguided object, of an unknown species."
Two further witnesses came forward. Dr. Carlotto, a hospital surgeon at Nice, added some interesting particulars. "The trail," he said, "unlike that of an aeroplane, came to a point instead of spreading out. It emitted a dim light, subject to rapid and regular pulsations (blinking). These pulsations were produced by the object itself and not the effect of clouds, because the sky was quite clear." At the time of this occurrence Dr. Carlotto was on the balcony of his residence at 2 rue du Marechal-Joffre, Nice.
The last witnesses were Mme. and M. Pierre Fabre, of Grasse. They happened to be at Mougins, between Grasse and Cannes. Their evidence corroborates that of the others in all respects.
So there were seven eye-witnesses, who did not know each other and had never met. Their stories are identical, except for the times, which differed by seven minutes at most. Their watches could hardly expect to be synchronized! Dr. Carlotto fixes the time at 7.20 p.m. and the two pilots 7.27 p.m. ...
Across the English Channel, sightings in Great Britain continued to make news. The November, 10, 1953, edition of The Scottish Daily Express carried a report which included several pilot sightings under the headline "Saucers Again"...
Above, top: A De Havilland Vampire of the Royal Air Force. Middle: Northolt aerodrome in the day before the opening of Heathrow airport in 1954. Originally built as a military facility, after World War II Northolt also served as London's civil airport until the opening of Heathrow. Bottom: Neville Duke in the bright-red Hawker Hunter in which he set the world speed record in 1953.
SAUCERS AGAIN Jet fliers see one from 20,000ft. up
Express Air Reporter DEREK DEMPSTER
FLYING OFFICER T.S. JOHNSON, pilot of two-seat Vampire jet night-fighter and his navigator, Flying Officer G. Smythe, were flying at 20,000 feet over Kent when they saw an object which at first appeared to be a star or a bright stationary light.
They could not estimate its altitude, but it was very much higher than they were.
Within a few seconds of sighting it -- last Tuesday morning -- they saw the object move towards them and pass over the aircraft moving at tremendous speed.
The object was maintaining level flight. It was perfectly circular in shape, and appeared to be emitting or reflecting a fierce bright light around the edge but not at the tail or in the centre.
It was in sight for only 30 seconds. Both airmen remarked on the tremendous speed it was making.
Johnson and Smythe thought they would have their legs pulled about it when they came down and reported it at West Malling, Kent.
Instead the station commander, Group-Captain P.H. Hamley, took it so seriously he sent a report to Fighter Command. They took it seriously, too, and sent for the two officers, who were questioned for an hour-and-a-half.
On October 9, two B.E.A. pilots, Captain P.G.F. Fletcher and First Officer R.L. Lemon, saw an object in the sky on their way from London to Paris.
On their return to London Airport, they were told that Northolt had been plotting something on the radar screen that circled at 50,000ft. for two hours at a speed of 38 knots.
The day Neville Duke broke the world's speed record from Tangmere, Sussex, a saucer was seen hovering over the airfield.
One of the men who saw it was Flight-Sergeant Norster, of Portsmouth. He said: "It was a circular and whitish object. It was directly overhead in a bright blue sky.
"We thought it was a met. balloon until it moved off at a terrific speed on a course 210 degrees towards the Channel.
"Then we knew it wasn't. We kept in view for about five seconds.
"I was not the only one who saw it. Pilots and ground crews on my squadron and the other squadron stationed here also saw it."
He added: "It was picked up by radar, too. But it moved so fast the operators couldn't clock its speed." ...
Although military pilots also found themselves vexed by unidentified aerial objects -- in militarily parlance, "UAOs" --their reports were often made through military channels, seldom appearing in the press. It wasn't until 1953, with the publication of the hardcover book Flying Saucers from Outer Space, that details of these encounters were first made public.
The book had been written by Major Donald Keyhoe, who had set off a furor in January, 1950, with his article "The Flying Saucers Are Real" in True magazine. His 1953 book was the result of an extraordinary set of circumstances resulting in Air Force files being opened for his inspection during a short-lived but pivotal period in 1952. It was from this access to the actual Air Force investigative reports that Keyhoe was able to give accounts of military encounters, as found in the following excerpts...
Above: Dust jacket for Flying Saucers From Outer Space. The letter reproduced on the back, written on Air Force stationery, confirmed that Keyhoe had had access to Air Force files.
[Note: the following accounts are in the order in which they appeared in the book, but are not necessarily in chronological order. Abrupt edits have been made in order to focus only on the pilot reports. Jumps within the text are indicated by a three-dot ellipse. Jumps between sections are indicated by a centered five-dash divider.]
- - - - -
Since 1951 a selected group of high government officials has been secretly briefed on the saucers by Air Force Intelligence. More than one former skeptic, after these closed-door sessions, has emerged badly jolted by the Intelligence officers' disclosures.
- - - - -
In the last nine months I have seen most of the evidence used in these secret briefings. Confidential sighting reports, by Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots, have been cleared to me with the conclusions of Air Technical Intelligence. Other important clues, unknown to most Americans, have been released by Project Bluebook, the "saucer" investigating agency at Wright-Patterson Field. Little by little the curtain has been raised to reveal a sobering picture.
- - - - -
On the night of December 4, 1952, a frightened Air Force pilot landed at Laredo, Texas. Since actual names are deleted, in clearing Intelligence reports, I have called him Lieutenant Earl Fogle.
Twelve miles from the field, Fogle told air base officers, a mysterious, blue-lighted object had almost crashed into his fighter. It had been no accident -- the strange device had raced head-on at his lighted F-51. At the last instant it had flipped to one side, streaking by at terrific speed.
Badly shaken, Fogle watched it flash up in a vertical climb. After a moment the blue-lit object turned, circling back as if for another pass. Fogle hastily switched off his lights, nosed down in a steep spiral.
The unknown machine dived to 2,000 feet. Apparently missing Fogle's plane in the dark, it circled toward Laredo Air Force Base, then swiftly turned away. Again climbing straight upward, it disappeared in the night.
- - - - -
The ... ATIC report was dated January 9, 1953. (As in all these official cases, witnesses' names have been changed in accordance with Air Force requirements.)
Early on the evening of the 9th, a B-29 bomber, with Captain George Madden at the controls, was flying over California on a routine mission. Lieutenant Frank Briggs, the copilot, had the right-hand seat.
It was a clear night. Looking down, they could see Santa Ana, some 16,000 feet below. Except for the B-29, the sky seemed to be empty.
Captain Madden was checking his instruments when a flash of blue light suddenly caught Briggs' eye. He stared out to the right. Coming toward them, at fantastic speed, was a V-formation of blue-lighted objects.
Briggs gave a shout of warning. Madden took one look, hurriedly swerved to the left. For a split second the strange craft seemed to hold their speed. Then they abruptly slowed down, the V-formation twisting as if a few of the machines had overshot. Banking away, they slanted upward and vanished.
The entire sighting had lasted only five seconds.
The captain and Briggs stared across at each other. Now that the formation was gone, the whole thing was like a dream. But whatever they were, the blue UFO's had been real.
Though Madden knew of no supersonic test plane that could make such speeds, he cut in his mike and called Air Traffic Control. In a few moments the answer came back. No experimental aircraft -- no planes of any kind -- were known to be in their area.
After landing, both pilots were cross-examined, separately and together. From the wording of the report, it was plain that Intelligence did not question the truth of their statements.
The next sighting had happened back in October. At 2 o'clock, on the morning of the 29th, Lieutenants Burt Deane and Ralph Corbett were on an intercept mission over Hempstead, Long Island. Both pilots were flying F-94 jets, with radar operators in the rear cockpits.
Suddenly a fast-moving object, showing a bright white light, appeared a few miles ahead. Because of its brilliance, the shape behind the light was hidden.
Deane, the flight leader, signaled Corbett to "lock on" by radar and follow. Then he tried to close in. He knew at once they had been spotted. Whipping into a tight circle, the UFO cut inside the pursuit curve he had set up. At full power, Deane tried to tighten up, almost blacking out from the high-g turn. But the saucer still turned inside his orbit.
For eight minutes Deane and Corbett vainly attempted to match the machine's amazing performance. Finally, as if tired of the game, the UFO climbed away at supersonic speed.
Both pilots were convinced the saucer was some kind of revolutionary device.
"Based on my experience in fighter tactics," Lieutenant Deane told Intelligence, "it is my opinion that the object was controlled by something having visual contact with us. The power and acceleration were beyond the capability of any known U.S. aircraft."
Below this, the Wing Intelligence officer had added:
"It is believed this report is based on reliable and verifiable observations."
- - - - -
I gave Riordan the reports he hadn't seen. The last one he read was the Laredo case, which I'd finished the night before.
Lieutenant Earl Fogle, the Intelligence report showed, was an experienced jet pilot. But on the night of December 4 he had been flying the slower F-51, which has a top speed of about 400 miles per hour.
At 8:49, after a two-hour practice flight, Fogle called the Laredo tower and asked permission to land. But since several jets were ahead of him, the tower told him to circle outside the traffic pattern.
Flying at 6,000 feet, several miles from the base, Fogle suddenly noticed a bright, fast-moving light. At first he took it for the after-burner of a jet. Then he realized no jet could make such a swift, tight turn. As he banked toward it, he saw that the light had a queer blue tinge.
The unknown machine rose quickly to his level, circling at tremendous speed. All that Fogle could see was its bright bluish-white glow. Whether it came from an exhaust, a light on the object, or some other source, he was unable to tell.
After a moment the strange device shot up in an odd, flitting ascent. Fogle watched it, astonished. In a few seconds, it climbed almost 9,000 feet. Then it dived back to his level.
Fogle went after it at full power. The UFO seemed to stop, or turn tightly, almost in one spot. Abruptly he realized it was coming straight toward him. The terrific closing speed gave him no time to turn. Paralyzed, expecting a head-on collision, he watched the thing streak toward him.
Three hundred feet away, the machine wavered for a split second. Then it flashed to one side, hurtling past his right wing, so fast it was only a blur.
Looking fearfully over his shoulder, Fogle saw it shoot up in another flitting climb. When it plunged back, as if for a second pass, he hurriedly cut off his lights. Afraid that a straight drive would make him too easy a target, he threw his fighter into a screaming spiral.
For a moment he thought his unknown pursuer would follow him all the way down. But at 2,000 feet the blue-lit device swiftly turned away. Climbing sharply, in another flitting ascent, it vanished in the dark
- - - - -
Many of them had talked freely about technical angles of an encounter, but few would discuss their emotions. The nearest I'd come was when Lieutenant George Gorman told me about his dogfight with the "saucer" light at Fargo.
During this weird night battle the fight came head-on toward Gorman's F-51. At a safe margin he dived under it, missing collision by several hundred feet.
"I'd half intended to ram it," he said. "But I guess I lost my nerve. The thing didn't scare me very much -- maybe it would have, if it'd been larger, or I'd seen a solid object back of the light."
Later, a captain on a major airline, who'd seen a saucer at close range, had given me his story.
"When you've got a ship full of passengers, it's no joke -- even if you do kid about it later. One night a big orange-red disc -- it was glowing like hot metal -- flew alongside and paced us for miles. Every time, when I tried to ease away, it would swerve in and follow. The same if I tried to climb away.
"At first I was just plain dumfounded. Then I realized we were helpless, if whoever controlled the thing wanted to attack. The copilot and I had a bad five minutes, before it pulled up and left us. Maybe the saucers are friendly -- but I wish to heaven they'd stay off the airways."
- - - - -
...on October 1, the Fargo "saucer" fight report came in from Lieutenant George Gorman. When Project investigators flew to the scene, two airport tower operators confirmed Gorman's sighting of the eerie "flying light."
Then in November there was a sudden flurry of reports from our air bases abroad. On November 1, radar men at Goose Bay Air Force Base, in Labrador, picked up a strange object flying at 600 miles an hour. Five days later Air Force radar men in Japan tracked two oddly maneuvering UFO's for over an hour. On the scope they appeared like two planes, dogfighting. But there were no conventional aircraft in the area.
Three weeks later another radar case startled Air Force officers in Germany. On the night of November 23 an F-80 jet pilot was flying near Furstenfeldbruck when he sighted a circling object with a bright red light. At about the same moment the UFO was picked up by Air Force ground radar. It was tracked as flying in circles at 27,000 feet -- the altitude where the pilot encountered it.
As the F-80 drew near, the red-lighted device swiftly climbed out of sight. But before it went off the scope, operators tracked it to 40,000 feet, circling at speeds estimated as high as 500 m.p.h.
- - - - -
That very night I received a special-delivery letter from a Navy pilot. On the evening of November 7, he and his radar man had sighted a UFO north of the Navy's base at Lakehurst.
"It played a cat-and-mouse game with us for 15 minutes," the pilot wrote me. "It was also seen by the pilot of an F9F-2 Panther jet. But of course you know all people who see saucers are liars or crackpots. So just throw this into your wastebasket."
- - - - -
In the first part of 1951 there was a lull in reports from service and airliner pilots... Then, slowly, sightings began to increase...
On September 11, an Air Force jet pilot spotted a gleaming disc flying over New Jersey at 900 miles an hour. Three days later, at Los Alamos, a saucer was seen maneuvering not far from the Atomic Energy laboratory...
Later that month, on the 23d, two F-86 jet pilots were scrambled from March Field, California. Vectored by GCI, they spotted a round, silvery object flying a controlled orbit at 50,000 feet. The strange machine passed over the jets, kept on circling above them. Four more jets were scrambled, but none of the pilots was able to reach the UFO's altitude.
- - - - -
For the first quarter of '52, another lull seemed in the making. Then several things happened in quick succession.
During a flight to Hawaii a plane carrying Navy Secretary Dan Kimball was buzzed by a flying saucer. Kimball's pilot hurriedly radioed a second Navy plane, some distance behind. In a few moments word came back. The saucer had just buzzed the second plane, so swiftly that no one aboard could make out its shape...
On July 12 another teletype report came in from the Midwest, but this, too, was kept quiet. At 9 o'clock that night a lone saucer, glowing blue-white, flashed over Indiana. At Delphi it was seen by several civilians, among them an ex-Air Force jet pilot, Jack A. Green, who is now a flight test analyst for Northrop Aircraft Company. When Green went to the Delphi police station to report the sighting, state police were already on the wire, helping the Air Force collect detailed information. The same thing occurred at several other Indiana towns, but somehow the newspapers missed the story. Fortunately, from the Air Force viewpoint, the saucer had been too high to attract wide attention.
For 24 hours more, Intelligence officers kept their fingers crossed. But their luck was running out. On the following night the story broke wide open.
The scene was the city of Indianapolis. It was Saturday night, and the streets and parks were crowded. Suddenly a bright yellow glow appeared in the sky. As startled citizens stared upward, a huge, oval-shaped machine raced out of the southeast and over the city. Barely 5,000 feet high, it was seen by thousands of people as it streaked overhead, trailed by a fiery exhaust.
In two minutes police, airport, and newspaper switchboards were swamped with calls from frightened citizens. Thousands more hastily spread the news to neighbors who missed the saucer. For a while a panic seemed in the making. Then, when the saucer did not return, the hysteria gradually died down.
While the strange machine was approaching Indianapolis, it had been seen by several airline pilots. One of them was Captain Richard Case, who was flying an American Airlines Convair. When he first sighted it, his airliner was 30 miles southeast of the city, cruising at 300 miles an hour.
"It was a controlled craft of some sort," he said when he landed. "We were flying at 5,000 feet when I first saw it. The saucer seemed to be at about 15,000, going three times faster than we were. Then it changed course and came toward us, losing altitude. It dropped to about our level, then took off northwest, over the city."
Five other pilots soberly told the same story. One was an Eastern Air Lines captain, another from the Air Force. Until that night all had been skeptics. Now they were convinced that the saucers were ominously real...
Even before the Indianapolis report reached the Air Force, they knew that some strange, high-speed craft was operating in the area. Just before the sighting, Air Force radar men at Kirksville, Missouri, had picked up a mysterious device flying with terrific velocity. Before the track could fade from their scope, they quickly computed its speed.
The unknown machine had been making over 1,700 miles an hour. From the size of its blips, the radar men estimated it was as large as a B-36 bomber.
Though this sighting was kept secret, by the next day the whole country knew the Indianapolis story. But this was just the beginning.
That very night, while the Air Force was still nervously watching the Midwest reaction, another dramatic sighting hit the headlines. This time the scene was the East coast.
At 9:12 p.m. a Pan American DC-4 approached Norfolk, Virginia, on its way to Miami. At the controls was First Officer W.B. Nash. Second Officer W.H. Fortenberry was acting as the copilot. Both men had been flying for more than ten years, with thousands of hours in airliner cockpits.
Cruising at 8,000 feet, the DC-4 was a few miles from Newport News when a red glow appeared ahead. The pilots saw six huge, disc-shaped machines racing toward them, but at a lower altitude. The discs, which were flying in the flat position, had a brilliant orange glow like red-hot metal.
As the formation approached, in echelon, the leader suddenly slowed, then flipped up on edge. As if on signal, the five other discs also flipped up edgewise. Almost reversing its course, the leading machine flipped back to the horizontal and streaked off to the west. Following through, the others also swiftly changed their direction, then again lined up behind the leader.
A second later two more discs shot out from under the DC-4. As they speeded up to overtake the formation, the pilots saw their color suddenly brighten. Apparently this was a clue to the strange machines' propulsion, for the first six discs had dimmed as they slowed for the turn, then had brightened again as they speeded up.
Amazed and disturbed at what they had seen, the pilots radioed Norfolk and reported the sighting in detail. By the time Air Force Intelligence officers met them at Miami, the story was already on the press wires.
Twelve hours later, near Newport News, a commercial pilot encountered two saucers with pulsating lights. Their speed, more than 600 miles an hour, gave him no chance to close in for a better look. That same night another saucer was sighted by naval officers at Miami and still more reports came in from Norfolk, the Bahamas, and Hampton, Virginia.
The ink was hardly dry on these stories when a sighting near Denver broke into print. On the night of the 17th, Captain Paul L. Carpenter, flying an American Airlines DC-6, received a radio warning from a flight ahead. A flying saucer formation had just raced past the leading plane. Cruising at 25,000 feet, Carpenter and his crew turned down their cockpit lights and stared into the night.
Then suddenly they saw four lights, moving at fantastic speed. The saucers' course took them to one side, too far to see any details. But by checking the time in sight, and the angle of sky traversed, Carpenter made a rough estimate of their speed.
It was 3,000 miles an hour...
In many cases the secret Intelligence reports backed up the published stories. On the night of July 23 a saucer showing a bluish-green light was seen over Boston. A few minutes later it was picked up by GCI radar. When Ground Control vectored an F-94 pilot toward the saucer, he saw the weird light and locked onto the object with his own radar. But the jet was swiftly outdistanced. In another case Intelligence officers confirmed a series of sightings at West Coast aircraft plants. Engineers at one plant, who watched the discs maneuver, told reporters the saucers were "definitely controlled machines." ...
The third Intelligence report, dated July 23, covered an F-94 chase over Braintree, Massachusetts. Earlier, GCI had picked up a saucer circling at high speed, about the time that a bluish-green light was sighted from the ground. When the F-94 pilot was vectored in, he saw the machine's light, then locked onto the saucer with his radar. For a few seconds he tried to close in at full power. But the saucer swiftly pulled away and disappeared from his scope...
Just then his phone rang. While he was talking, I looked over the last Intelligence report. This IR had come from an Air Defense Command unit near Osceola, Wisconsin. It was dated July 28, 1952.
About 2:30 a.m., GCI radar had picked up several UFO's. As in the Washington Airport sightings, the first tracked speeds contrasted strangely with the later maneuvers. Most of the saucers were idling along at 60 m.p.h. until jet interceptors took off. Shortly after this, one machine's speed jumped to more than 600 miles an hour.
When the nearest pilot reached 25,000 feet, he spied several rapidly moving lights east of St. Paul, Minnesota. The saucers coincided with the track which GCI had given him. At the same time they were also sighted by a plane spotter of the Ground Observer Corps.
- - - - -
This UFO encounter, the report showed, had occurred just ten minutes before the "yellow saucer" sighting at Los Alamos. At 9:40 Central Standard Time, a GCI station in Michigan was tracking three F-94s which were making practice runs on a B-25 bomber. Suddenly a trail of saucer blips appeared on the radarscope. The unknown machine was making 635 m.p.h., flying a course of 350 degrees.
Seconds after the blips appeared, GCI called Captain Ned Baker, one of the F-94 pilots. Giving him the UFO's position, they ordered an interception.
Baker put the jet into a steep climb and his radar operator, Lieutenant Guy Sorenson, carefully watched the rear-pit scope. As the F-94 reached 20,000 feet, GCI vectored Baker into a left turn. A moment later Sorenson picked up the saucer's blips and locked on. The UFO was four miles away, flying at their altitude.
Calling Baker on the intercom, Sorenson gave him the bearing. Peering into the night, Baker saw the strange machine, its position marked by a flashing light. As he watched, the light changed from red to green to white, alternating at regular intervals. Opening up to full power, he tried to close in.
Back at Ground Control, fascinated radar men watched the chase on their scope. They could tell the F-94 was at its maximum speed. But the saucer, slightly increasing its speed, easily stayed ahead.
For 20 minutes Baker stubbornly kept on. By now they were over Sanilac County, at a point some 20 miles north of Port Huron. The lights on the saucer were still flashing red, green, and white and its blips were clear on Sorenson's scope -- exactly where GCI had them on its screen.
Finally Baker gave up and turned back. Though he didn't know it, several residents of Sanilac County had also seen the saucer. Every night for the past week machines of this same type had been sighted over the county, identified by their red, green, and white lights.
- - - - -
At 10:51 a.m., August 1, 1952, radar men at a GCI post had spotted a fast-moving saucer. Apparently it was observing Wright-Patterson Field, for the track showed it not far from the base, though at a high altitude. About this same time the strange machine was seen from the ground by several civilians near Bellefontaine. It appeared to be round, with a shiny, metallic gleam.
When the blips came on the scope, two F-86 jets were about ten miles from the saucer, on a GCI intercept problem. The two pilots, Major James B. Smith and Lieutenant Donald J. Hemer, were immediately vectored toward the UFO. (Since the AP got their names, I have been allowed to use them in this case.)
As Smith and Hemer reached 30,000 feet, they saw a bright, round, glowing object maneuvering above them. To make certain it was not a ground reflection, both pilots changed course, circled, and climbed, to view it from different angles. The saucer's appearance did not change. Positive it was a solid object; both pilots switched on their gun-cameras and climbed at full power.
At 40,000 feet the mysterious device was still above them. Pulling up at a sharp angle, Major Smith tried to get a picture. But his F-86 stalled and fell off. When Hemer nosed up for a camera shot, the same thing happened.
Then Major Smith, climbing again to 40,000 feet, made a second attempt. This time he was successful, and he clicked off several feet of film before the plane stalled.
As he began the camera run, Smith's radar gun sight had caught the saucer for a moment. (Hemer's radar sight was "caged" -- inoperative -- so he saw no radar blips.) From the range of his radar set, Major Smith knew the unknown device must be between 12,000 and 20,000 feet above him to cause such a weak blip.
To confirm his estimate he quickly checked with his telescopic gun sight and found it just covered the saucer. But before he could get a closer look, the machine quickly accelerated, disappearing at a tremendous speed. Later, using the radar and optical sight data, Smith carefully calculated the UFO's size. Apparently, it had been one of the medium-sized types. If it had been 12,000 feet above him, then it was about 24 feet in diameter. If it was at 20,000, its diameter was not less than 40 feet...
The Intelligence report on this case, which had been cleared for me, also included the ATIC analysis...
"The ground radar squadron established two facts: Reaffirmation that the UFO moved at 400 knots (480 land miles per hour) and indications that the F-86s and the UFO appeared simultaneously on the GCI scope. It is obvious that all eyes and antennas put a fix on the same object.
"The object was obviously not a balloon, since the speed was too fast. (A radiosonde balloon was released at 1500 Zebra [10 a.m. Central Time] and moved off to the east. The object was sighted north-northwest of the base.)
"The object moved against the wind, its blip size that of a normal aircraft. The object was not a known aircraft because the altitude was too high. It was not astronomical, as the dual radar returns eliminate this." ...
"The electronic or visual mirage of meteorological phenomena is out of the question, as the radar set was on high beam and both would not occur simultaneously in the same place. The sighting occurred above the weather. Conclusion: Unknown."
- - - - -
"We're simply not bothering with monster stories," Chop repeated, when I asked him again in November. "We've got enough trouble with confirmed sightings."
By way of proof he gave me two Intelligence reports from ATIC.
The first sighting had been on August 3, at Hamilton Air Force Base in California. At 4:15 p.m., two huge silvery discs, flying at different altitudes, had raced out of the east. As jet pilots on the ground watched them, the higher machine dived to the other one's level. Then the two saucers began to circle the base, maneuvering like fighter planes in a dogfight.
The pilot who saw them first, Lieutenant D.A. Swimley, had always scoffed at the saucers. Still incredulous, he got a pair of binoculars and trained them on the strange craft. He could plainly see their round shapes, but the discs were too high for detailed observations.
By this time GCI radar had picked up the saucers' blips, and plane spotters were phoning in reports. While interceptor pilots were dashing for their F-86s, six more discs came into sight and joined the others. As Swimley and other pilots watched from the ground, the saucers took up a diamond-shaped formation, heading into the west. Before the jets could reach their altitude, the machines had vanished.
When an Intelligence officer questioned Swimley, he estimated the discs to be 60 to 100 feet in diameter.
"And don't tell me they were reflections," he added. "I know they were solid objects."
The second sighting had been made by Colonel Carl Sanderson, another jet pilot who had also been a skeptic. In a cooly factual report he told Intelligence officers he was now convinced the discs were real.
"On the 24th of August," he said, "I was flying an F-84 at 35,000 feet, en route to Turner Air Force Base, in Georgia. At 10:15, Mountain Standard Time, I sighted two round silvery objects flying abreast over Hermanas, New Mexico. One made a right turn, in front of my F-84. Both objects disappeared at very high speed, then reappeared over El Paso, Texas. I saw one climb straight up, two or three thousand feet. Then the second one came across in front of me and joined the other in close formation. In a few minutes they both vanished. From their maneuvers and their terrific speed, I am certain their flight performance was greater than any aircraft known today." ...
The second case which Chop had just cleared was even more dramatic. This strange sighting occurred over the Gulf of Mexico, as a B-29 bomber was returning to its base in Texas. It was just before dawn on December 6, 1952 -- less than 48 hours after Lieutenant Earl Fogle's near-collision at Laredo, Texas.
Approaching the end of a night practice flight to Florida, the B-29 was cruising in bright moonlight, at 18,000 feet. So far it had been a routine mission.
At 5:24 a.m. the big bomber, piloted by Captain John Harter, was 190 miles from Galveston and about 100 miles south of the Louisiana coast. A minute before, Harter had called the radar officer, Lieutenant Sid Coleman, and asked him to turn on the set, so he could check the coastline on the auxiliary scope in the cockpit.
At 5:25, back in the ship, Coleman was watching the main radarscope to see if the coast showed up. Suddenly the blip of some unknown object appeared at one edge of the screen. When the sweep made its next revolution, Coleman jumped.
In that brief moment the unknown craft had gone 13 miles.
A third blip leaped onto the scope as the oncoming object streaked toward the B-29. For an instant it seemed they would meet head-on. Then Coleman saw their paths were diverging. He snatched up his stop-watch, yelled for the flight engineer.
"Bailey! Help me track this thing!"
Before the blips faded, Coleman and the staff sergeant swiftly computed the unknown's speed.
It was 5,240 miles an hour.
The two men gaped at each other, then Coleman grabbed his intercom mike and called the pilot.
"Captain -- check your scope! We just clocked an unknown at over 5,000."
"That's impossible," snapped Harter. "Recalibrate the set."
As Coleman hurriedly went to work, Master Sergeant Bailey bent over the scope.
"There's another one -- two of them," he exclaimed.
A second later Lieutenant Cassidy, the navigator, cut in on the intercom.
"I've got 'em on my scope, too," he said tautly.
By the time Coleman finished recalibrating, the blips of four UFOs were racing across his screen. Abruptly, Harter's crisp voice came through the intercom.
"I've got four unknowns at 12 o'clock [dead ahead]. What do you show?"
"They're on all three scopes," said Coleman. "I've recalibrated -- it's no malfunction."
Up in the cockpit, Harter incredulously watched the swift-moving blips cross his glass. As one approached on the right, he called out a hasty alert.
"Unknown at 3 o'clock!"
Back in the B-29, Bailey sprang to the right waist blister and peered out into the night. Astonished, he saw a blue-lit object streak from front to rear. Moving so fast it was only a blue-white blur; the saucer vanished under the bomber's wing.
The strange machine had hardly disappeared when another group of blips came onto all three scopes. Like the other machines, the new group was making over 5,000 miles an hour. To make it worse, they were all coming from almost dead ahead. Though their course still diverged enough to miss the bomber by miles, the slightest change might put the crew in instant peril. At those terrific speeds they wouldn't have a prayer and every man aboard knew it.
Six minutes after the first sighting, there was a sudden lull. As the scopes cleared, Coleman drew a long breath. Apparently the nightmare was over.
A minute passed. The tense airmen were slowly beginning to relax when a third group of blips flashed onto the scopes. Coleman seized his stop-watch again, swiftly called off the times and distances. Bailey figured the speeds, grimly nodded.
"Same as before," he muttered.
The radar officer bent over the screen. Two of the UFO's were rocketing by on the right.
"Unknowns at four o'clock!" he bawled into the mike.
Staff Sergeant Ferris beat Bailey to the waist blister. Open-mouthed, he watched two machines streak by -- mere blurs of blue-white light.
Up in the cockpit, Harter's eyes were glued to the auxiliary scope. Forty miles away, five of the saucers were racing behind the bomber, cutting across its course.
Suddenly the saucers swerved, headed straight for the B-29. Harter froze. At their terrific speed they would close the gap in three seconds.
But before he could move the controls, an incredible thing happened. Abruptly the onrushing UFO's slowed to the bomber's speed. For ten seconds they kept pace behind it, while the pilot held his breath.
Then, swiftly picking up speed, the unknown machines pulled off to one side. At the same moment Harter caught sight of a huge blip -- a half-inch spot on the scope. Amazed, he saw the most fantastic thing of all.
Still moving at over 5,000 miles an hour, the smaller craft merged with the large machine. Instantly, the huge blip began to accelerate. Moving so fast that Harter sat stunned, it flashed across his scope and was gone.
A few moments later Coleman's awed voice came through the intercom.
"Captain, did you see that?"
"Yes -- I saw it," said Harter.
"We clocked it," said Coleman. "You won't believe this -- it was making over 9,000 miles an hour!"
"I believe it, all right," Harter said grimly. "That's just what I figured."
For the rest of the way he kept the crew on alert, but no more saucers appeared.
- - - - -
The action began in the early evening of December 29, 1952. At about 7:30 p.m. an Air Force radar base in northern Japan received a call from a B-26 crew.
"We've just sighted a UFO. It looks like a cluster of lights -- red, white, and green."
Moments later the Air Force radar men picked up the UFO. But because of the B-26's low speed, no interception could be made. At 7:45 an F-94 pilot radioed in, reporting the same type of device. The call was overheard by Colonel Low, who was flying his F-84 jet fighter at 27,000 feet
Three minutes later the wing commander sighted the strange machine, easily identified by its red, white, and green fights. He called Ground Control and was asked to try an interception.
As he climbed, Colonel Low switched off his lights. The object's lights did not change -- proof that it was no canopy reflection. Keeping his own lights off to avoid detection, Low climbed to 35,000 feet. When he got closer, he saw that the saucer's lights were revolving in a counterclockwise direction -- a steady rotation between eight and 12 times a minute.
Beside the shifting colors, Low could see three fixed shafts of white light shining outward. Apparently one part of the machine was rotating, but the change of colors was puzzling. At times the saucer was one solid color, white, green, or red. In between, the wing commander saw brief combinations -- red-white, red-green, and green-white. But the three white beams remained constant.
After watching the device for a moment longer, Colonel Low opened his F-84 to full power. Racing in at over 500 miles an hour, he tried to close the gap. Apparently his unlighted plane was not seen for a second or two. Then the saucer increased its speed. Gradually pulling away, it disappeared in 30 seconds.
Five minutes later, circling at 35,000 feet, the wing commander saw the machine again. As before, it was at his level, but now moving parallel with the F-84. This time, as a test, Colonel Low left his lights on when he tried to close in. Immediately turning west, the strange craft speeded up, so swiftly that it vanished in five seconds.
Eleven nights later, on January 9, 1953, another machine with similar rotating lights was sighted over Japan and tracked by radar. With the permission of Intelligence, Colonel Low mentioned both cases to war correspondents, withholding the details I have just given.
"Don't dismiss these as the reports of a few imaginative people," he warned the reporters. "These were corroborated sightings by trained pilots and radar operators."
- - - - -
I picked up the second ATIC report. "Here's another Japan case. See what you think of it."
The report, sent in as an IR, had been written in the first person by Lieutenant David C. Brigham, a young Air Force pilot from Rockford, Illinois. It read as follows:
"At 11:20 hours, March 29, 1952, I was flying a T-6 north of Misawa. GCI was running an intercept on me with a flight of two F-84's. One of them overtook me, passing starboard at approximately 100 feet, and ten feet below me. As he pulled up abreast, a flash of reflected sunshine caught my eye. The object which had reflected the sunshine was a small, shiny disc-shaped object which was making a pass on the F-84.
"It flew a pursuit curve and closed rapidly. Just as it would have flown into his fuselage, it decelerated to his air speed, almost instantaneously. In doing so, it flipped up on its edge at an approximate 90-degree bank. It fluttered within two feet of his fuselage for perhaps two or three seconds. Then it pulled away around his starboard wing, appearing to flip once as it hit the slipstream behind his wing-tip fuel tank.
"Then it passed him, crossed in front, and pulled up abruptly, appearing to accelerate, and shot out of sight in a steep, almost vertical climb. It was about eight inches in diameter, very thin, round, and as shiny as polished chromium. It had no apparent projections and left no exhaust or vapor trails. An unusual flight characteristic was a slow, fluttering motion. It rocked back and forth in 40-degree banks, at about one-second intervals throughout its course."
- - - - -
When I got to the Pentagon, Al hadn't come back from the conference, so I looked over the ATIC reports.
The first was dated January 6, 1953. In the early-morning hours a saucer with red, green, and white lights had been sighted at Dallas. A CAA tower controller, a Weather Bureau observer, and other witnesses had given Intelligence detailed reports, but none of them had seen the lights rotate. Occasional blue and orange color effects made it hard to classify the saucer as any distinct type...
Clipped to this first Intelligence report was a memo Al had written:
"Note that Air Force pilots in Japan sighted a UFO with red, green, and white rotating lights, on January 9. This was also the date when the V-formation of blue-white UFO's was sighted over Santa Ana. The attached news items may interest you; I'm asking ATIC if they looked into the sightings."
The news stories showed five saucer reports. Two had occurred on January 11. Near Canton, Ohio, two gleaming discs had been sighted by civilian witnesses, and at Kerryville, Texas, an oval-shaped device, glowing orange-red, had caused a peculiar interference with local television reception. From the 22d to the 24th, saucers had been seen at three places in California. Two brightly glowing UFO's had flown swiftly over Richmond; a formation of silvery discs had been sighted at Pomona, and an oval-shaped metallic-looking saucer was reported by pilots at Palmdale.
On January 29, the ATIC reports showed, there had been two military sightings. One was at Santa Ana, where a Marine Corps jet pilot vainly tried to intercept an orange-red disc. The second, another fruitless chase, took place near Millinocket, Maine, where the crew of an F-94 spotted a silver-gray oval-shaped machine flying at 23,000 feet. After they gave up trying to catch it, the saucer was sighted by two jet pilots from another squadron. By then it was at a higher altitude.
Without reporting it to GCI, the two pilots debated, by radio, whether they should try to intercept the strange machine. Unknown to them, part of their conversation was taken down by a radioman at a nearby Air Force base.
"Do you see that thing above us?" one pilot asked. "It sticks out like a sore thumb."
"If I were going to chase it," said the other pilot, "I'd drop my wing tanks first."
Evidently the two men had decided against an interception. The listening radioman didn't catch all their discussion, but he heard one revealing remark.
"I'll never admit I saw the thing," one pilot said emphatically.
Plainly, some airmen remembered the "crackpots and bars" blast by Colonel Watson, though the Air Force had tried to offset it. I wondered how many other sightings had gone unreported...
The year 1953 would produce its share of pilot sightings, but none so detailed and dramatic as military pilot sightings near Japan, as found in a national newswire report printed in the January 21, 1953, edition of the Reno, Nevada, Evening Gazette...
Above, top: Map of relevant area. Middle: Lockheed F-94 Starfire in flight. The all-weather Starfire was the first U.S. production jet to have afterburner capability. Its radar provided the ability to identify enemy aircraft at night or in poor weather. Bottom: A Martin B-26B Marauder in flight.
Saucer Sightings Over North Japan
A U.S. AIR BASE, Northern Japan, Jan. 21.(AP) -- Mysterious flying objects -- "rotating clusters of red, white and green lights" -- have been sighted over northern Japan by American airmen, the air force disclosed tonight.
Intelligence reports placed the sightings close to Russian territory in the Kurile islands and Sakhalin.
"There are too many indications of the presence of something . . . to be considered an observation of "nothing." And they discounted the possibility the sighted objects were mere "reflections of light."
Col. Curtis R. Low, commander of the northern division of the Japan air defense force, said the flying clusters were seen by fighter pilots and ground personnel and were tracked on radar. He released official intelligence, reports on the sighting to the Associated Press.
The reports were similar those describing "flying saucers" in the U.S. One said the lights appeared to hang motionless at times, and at other times disappeared with blinding speed.
Col. Donald J.M. Blakeslee, world war II ace and commander of an escort fighter wing, took detailed observations on one rotating cluster and tried in vain to intercept it in a jet.
Sightings were made by many persons at many points over northern Japan Dec. 29. On Jan. 9 a rotating cluster was spotted by two fighter pilots and was tracked on radar.
The report was signed by Lt. Col. Russell Powell, intelligence officer, U.S. air force.
The sightings occurred over the frozen, ice-locked reaches of northern Japan, a land tense with continued air harassment [sic] by near-flying Russian fighter planes.
Russian territory in the Kurile islands is only 4-12 miles northeast of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost Island.
The Russian island of Sakhalin is only 30 miles north of Hokkaido. The Reds have dozens of air bases on Sakhalin and the Kuriles.
The intelligence report said Blakeslee closed on the object after extinguishing all the lights on his aircraft "to make certain he was not getting some reflection from his canopy surface. When all lights were out, he noticed no change in the appearance or brilliance of the object and its color scheme."
The object increased speed and vanished in 30 seconds.
Blakeslee made a second approach, five minutes later, with all lights on. This time the object disappeared in five seconds.
The report noted this as "a tangible point of coincidence," but did not speculate whether Blakeslee's lights could have been seen from the object.
It also pointed out that Blakeslee, not knowing the size of the object, had no way of knowing how close he got to it.
An intelligence report signed by Maj. L.J. Pagozalski (hometown unavailable) praised Blakeslee's knowledge of aircraft and his attempts to find out what the mysterious object was.
It concluded: "The frequency of related sightings of an evaluated nature further attest to some unconventional flying object active in this general area during the early evening hours of Dec. 29, 1952."
The same night the clusters were seen by two crew members of an F-94 interceptor for about 40 minutes, by two crew members of a B-26 bomber for five to seven minutes, and by five different airmen on the ground, intelligence said.
The five ground observers said the objects "were circular ferris wheel disc types with rotational red, green, and white lights."
Intelligence said the ground observers watched the objects "for varying times, ranging from 30 minutes to three hours. There were no aircraft in the air from this northern Japan air base at the time. Approximately an hour and a half after Blakeslee saw the rotating cluster farther south.
The air force said a rotating cluster Jan. 9 near an air base in northern Honshu was observed visually by a pilot of an F-94 jet interceptor for approximately one minute . . . Radar contact for approximately two minutes was verified by both members of the crew." The F-94 carries a radar observer.
The report called the object "a light that appeared to continuously change in color from red to white to green."
The pilot, Lt. Melvin E. Conine (hometown unavailable) said, "I immediately turned into the light but lost sight of it shortly after . . . I searched the area but made no further contact."
The radar observer, Sec. Lt. Walter D. Lawley, jr., of Tuscaloosa, Ala., said the radar "blip was unlike regular return usually gotten from another aircraft, being very weak and fuzzy instead of sharp. The radar set was in good condition both before the pickup and after."
Supporting the dramatic nature of the sightings near Japan, a Canadian reporter gave his view, as found in the January 30, 1953, edition of the Walla Walla, Washington, Union-Bulletin...
Flying Saucer Tale Confirmed By Korean Vet
VANCOUVER. B.C. -- Flying saucers are no longer a joke to Bill Boss, Canadian Press war correspondent.
Back from Korea, he said in an interview Wednesday that he is impressed with the reports of fighter-bomber pilots telling of flying saucers -- disc clusters "or whatever they are called."
Boss told of reports from "seven independent" pilots on the same day, Jan. 9.
"There is more to this than we all thought," he said. "I think the story of the discs was the most significant to come out of Japan.
The evidence of the pilots, two of whom "locked" with radar on the objects, "is too strong to be dismissed."
One pilot whose jet "locked" -- that is, was electronically drawn to the target -- said the disc kept its distance from the 700 mph jet in a straight line and then drew away.
"It must have had a multiple of the speed of sound to do that."
The sky clusters, he said, were always reported out from the Russian-held island of Sakhalin or the Russian-held mainland.
"Possib1y it is significant that saucer stories always appear over Western places of strategic interest. like Northern Japan or Texas, but never where satellite forces are committed."
"It looks like a Russian experiment?" a reporter asked.
"It looks like a Russian accomplishment, Boss replied.
The next day, in the January 30, 1953, edition of the Newcastle, Pennsylvania, News came word of a sighting by two test pilots for Northrop Aviation, and a separate sighting by a Marine pilot...
Above: A U.S. Marine Corps North American FJ-2 Fury at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro in 1954. It is not known what jet fighter the pilot was flying.
Flying Saucers Are Back In News At Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 30 -- (INS) -- Flying Saucers zoomed back into the news in Los Angeles today with two incidents of mysterious sky objects reported on successive days.
Red [sic, should be Rex] Hardy, Jr., a Northrop Aircraft test pilot who was a lieutenant commander in the Naval air service during the war, declared that he saw four Saucers, flying in formation, near Malibu yesterday afternoon. Malibu is on the coast, west of Los Angeles.
"I'm a firm believer in Saucers now."
Two men who were with him in a plane 9,000 feet above Malibu confirmed Hardy's story. They are Chester Mathews, another test pilot, and Jim Wilkinson, a Northrop photographer.
Earlier officials at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Base, south-east of Los Angeles, reported that one of their jet interceptor planes chased a large fiery disc-shaped object Wednesday night but was out-distanced.
Several persons in the Los Angeles area reported sighting what apparently was the same object.
Hardy related that the objects he saw were flying two above and two below.
That same day, the Eureka, California, Humboldt Times, carried a newswire story giving more details on the encounter near El Toro...
Above: Present-day map of area. El Toro Marine Corps Aviation Station was located in Santa Ana. The LGB notation with the airplane graphic indicates the location of Long Beach Airport.
Flying Saucer Chased By Jet in South
EL TORO, Calif. (AP) -- A Marine Corps pilot with 11 years experience said Thursday he chased a brilliant, amber-hued, disc-shaped object for several minutes Wednesday night before it swung out to sea and disappeared.
"I chased something. I don't know what it was," Maj. Harvey Patton, of Salt Lake City, told newsmen.
Patton, stationed at the marine air base here. said that at 7:55 p.m. he was flying an all-weather jet interceptor plane at 20,000 feet over Corona, 20 miles east, "when there was an apparent explosion at high elevation. It was a brilliant amber color."
Fearful that a companion plane was in trouble, he contacted the other pilot by radio. The other pilot reported he had seen the explosion too.
At 9 p.m. when Patton came in for a landing at the base the tower asked him to investigate a moving object sighted over Newport Beach, 10 miles east.
At the same time Edward Downs, tower controller at the nearby Long Beach airport reported sighting an "eerie orange flame" traveling west in the sky at high-speed.
"I sighted an amber colored object and turned to pursue it. I estimate I had it in sight for the next three to four minutes as I picked up speed toward Newport Beach. It then turned and swung northwest along the coast toward Long Beach .
"I could not gain on the object, although it seemed to be only two or three miles in front of me. During the chase our altitude ranged from 3,000 to 4,000 feet. My radar operator, Sgt. Rothblatt watched as I was forced to give up the chase because my plane was running out of fuel. He said the object swung out to sea."
As for the sighting by the Northrop test pilots, the February 2, 1953, edition of the Palm Springs, California, Desert Sun provided additional details...
Above: 1951 magazine ad for Beechcraft showing different models made by the aircraft manufacturer. It is not known which specific Beechcraft model was being flown by Rex Hardy, Jr.
Villagers' Son Chases Saucers Over Southland
Well-authenticated reports of flying saucers were rampant again in the southland this weekend, following a flurry of saucer excitement here Wednesday.
Rex Hardy, Jr., son of Atty. and Mrs. Rex Hardy of Palm Springs, and former lieutenant commander in the Navy Air Service reported seeing four flying saucers flying in formation over Malibu Thursday afternoon. Attorney Hardy talked with his son by telephone Friday and said I that he is conviced [sic] he has finally seen flying saucers ... whatever they may be.
A TRAINED OBSERVER and not given to fanciful ideas, young Hardy is now a test pilot at Northrop Aircraft.
He reported that the four saucers, flying in pairs one above the other, were flying at around 9000 feet and he judged them to be about the size of a B-36. He described them as being circular and aluminum-colored, and said they followed a definite flight pattern at a speed of around 1200 miles per hour.
"They were definitely not balloons nor any type of aircraft I have ever seen," he told his father. "I'm a confirmed believer now in the 'saucers' or whatever you want to call them. If they had been balloons they wouldn't have been moving that fast -- (their speed was terrific -- they traveled 100 miles in around 5 minutes) and their shape was not that of any known aircraft."
HARDY, WHO HAS around 4000 hours in the air, was flying his twin-engine Beechcraft with Chester Mathews, another Northrop test pilot, and Jim Wilkinson, Northrop photographer when they saw the saucer formation. They said the saucers disappeared on an eastern course toward Riverside.
A Marine jet pilot, Major Harvey Patton of El Toro, reported giving chase to a large fiery, disk-shaped object that outraced him and disappeared at high speed toward Long Beach Wednesday night. The tower controller at Long Beach also reported seeing the disk. ...
In 1956, Captain Ed Ruppelt -- former head of the Air Force Project Blue Book investigation into the saucers -- would reveal even more pilot sightings in a now-classic book...
Above: Dust jacket for 1956 hardcover The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.
[Note: the following accounts are in the chapter order in which they appeared in the book. Abrupt edits have been made in order to focus only on the pilot reports. Jumps within the text are indicated by a three-dot ellipse. Jumps between sections are indicated by a centered five-dash divider.]
CHAPTER ONE Project Blue Book and the UFO Story
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's Project Blue Book, the special project set up to investigate and analyze unidentified flying object, or UFO, reports. (UFO is the official term that I created to replace the words "flying saucers.")
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.
When I left Dayton about a week later I decided to go straight to the fighter base, planning to arrive there in midmorning. But while I was changing airlines my reservations got fouled up, and I was faced with waiting until evening to get to the base. I called the intelligence officer and told him about the mix-up. He told me to hang on right there and he would fly over and pick me up in a T-33 jet.
As soon as we were in the air, on the return trip, I called the intelligence officer on the interphone and asked him what was going on. What did he have? Why all the mystery? He tried to tell me, but the interphone wasn't working too well and I couldn't understand what he was saying. Finally he told me to wait until we returned to his office and I could read the report myself.
Report! If he had a UFO report why hadn't he sent it in to Project
Blue Book as he usually did?
We landed at the fighter base, checked in our parachutes, Mae Wests, and helmets, and drove over to his office. There were several other people in the office, and they greeted me with the usual question, "What's new on the flying saucer front?" I talked with them for a while, but was getting impatient to find out what was on the intelligence officer's mind. I was just about to ask him about the mysterious report when he took me to one side and quietly asked me not to mention it until everybody had gone.
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 he 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.
After the squadron commander had heard his pilot's story, he called the group commander, the colonel, and the intelligence officer. They heard the pilot's story.
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."
Other pilots in the squadron, friends of the accused pilot -- including the intelligence officer and a flight surgeon -- were called in to "testify." All of these men were aware of the fact that in certain instances a pilot can "flip" for no good reason, but none of them said that he had noticed any symptoms of mental crack-up in the unhappy pilot.
None, except the squadron commander. He kept pounding home his idea -- that the pilot was "psycho" -- and used a few examples of what the report called "minor incidents" to justify his stand.
Finally the pilot who had been flying with the "accused" man was called in. He said that he had been monitoring the tactical radio channel but that he hadn't heard any calls from his buddy's low- flying F-86. The squadron commander triumphantly jumped on this point, but the accused pilot tended to refute it by admitting he was so jumpy that he might not have been on the right channel. But when he was asked if he had checked or changed channels after he had lost the object and before he had finally contacted the other F-86, he couldn't remember.
So ended the pilot's story and his interrogation.
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 made his decision after a talk with his executive officer. They decided not to send the report and ordered it destroyed.
When I finished reading, the intelligence officer's first comment was, "What do you think?"
Since the evaluation of the report seemed to hinge upon conflicts between personalities I didn't know, I could venture no opinion, except that the incident made up the most fascinating UFO report I'd ever seen. So I batted the intelligence officer's question back to him.
"I know the people involved," he replied, "and I don't think the pilot was nuts. I can't give you the report, because Colonel -- -- -- told me to destroy it. But I did think you should know about it." Later he burned the report. ...
CHAPTER FIVE The Dark Ages
... 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...
CHAPTER SIX The Presses Roll -- The Air Force Shrugs
... On March 8 one of the best UFO sightings of 1950 took place right over ATIC.
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."
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.
- - - - -
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 9:00P.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.
CHAPTER SEVEN The Pentagon Rumbles
... In early January 1951 I was recalled to active duty and assigned to Air Technical Intelligence Center as an intelligence officer. I had been at ATIC only eight and a half hours when I first heard the words "flying saucer" officially used. I had never paid a great deal of attention to flying saucer reports but I had read a few -- especially those that had been made by pilots. I'd managed to collect some 2,000 hours of flying time and had seen many odd things in the air, but I'd always been able to figure out what they were in a few seconds. I was convinced that if a pilot, or any crew member of an airplane, said that he'd seen something that he couldn't identify he meant it -- it wasn't a hallucination. But I wasn't convinced that flying saucers were spaceships.
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."
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.
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.
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.
- - - - -
I had had the project only a few days when a minor flurry of good UFO reports started. It wasn't supposed to happen because the day after I'd taken over Project Grudge I'd met the ex-UFO "expert" in the hall and he'd nearly doubled up with laughter as he said something about getting stuck with Project Grudge. He predicted that I wouldn't get a report until the newspapers began to play up flying saucers again. "It's all mass hysteria," he said.
The first hysterical report of the flurry came from the Air Defense Command. On September 23, 1951, at seven fifty-five in the morning, two F-86's on an early patrol were approaching Long Beach, California, coming in on the west leg of the Long Beach Radio range. All of a sudden the flight leader called his ground controller -- high at twelve o'clock he and his wing man saw an object. It was in a gradual turn to its left, and it wasn't another airplane. The ground controller checked his radars but they had nothing, so the ground controller called the leader of the F-86's back and told him to go after the object and try to identify it. The two airplanes started to climb.
By this time the UFO had crossed over them but it was still in a turn and was coming back. Several times they tried to intercept, but they could never climb up to it. Once in a while, when they'd appear to be getting close, the UFO would lazily move out of range by climbing slightly. All the time it kept orbiting to the left in a big, wide circle. After about ten minutes the flight leader told the ground controller, who had been getting a running account of the unsuccessful intercept, that their fuel was low and that they'd have to break off soon. They'd gotten a fairly good look at the UFO, the flight leader told the ground controller, and it appeared to be a silver airplane with highly swept-back wings. The controller acknowledged the message and said that he was scrambling all his alert airplanes from George AFB. Could the two F-86's stay in the area a few more minutes? They stayed and in a few minutes four more F- 86's arrived. They saw the UFO immediately and took over.
The two F-86's with nearly dry tanks went back to George AFB.
For thirty more minutes the newly arrived F-86's worked in pairs trying to get up to the UFO's altitude, which they estimated to be 55,000 feet, but they couldn't make it. All the time the UFO kept slowly circling and speeding up only when the F-86's seemed to get too close. Then they began to run out of fuel and asked for permission to break off the intercept.
By this time one remaining F-86 had been alerted and was airborne toward Long Beach. He passed the four homeward-bound F-86's as he was going in, but by the time he arrived over Long Beach the UFO was gone.
All the pilots except one reported a "silver airplane with highly swept-back wings." One pilot said the UFO looked round and silver to him.
The report ended with a comment by the local intelligence officer. He'd called Edwards AFB, the big Air Force test base north of Los Angeles, but they had nothing in the air. The officer concluded that the UFO was no airplane. In 1951 nothing we had would fly higher than the F-86....
The New Project Grudge
...In the original report of how the six F-86's chased the high-flying UFO over Long Beach, the intelligence officer who made the report had said that he'd checked all aircraft flights, therefore this wasn't the answer.
The UFO could have been a balloon, so I sent a wire to the Air Force weather detachment at the Long Beach Municipal Airport. I wanted the track of any balloon that was in the air at 7:55A.M. on September 23, 1951. While I was waiting for the answers to my two wires, Lieutenant Metscher and I began to sort out old UFO reports. It was a big job because back in 1949, when the old Project Grudge had been disbanded, the files had just been dumped into storage bins. Hank and I now had four filing case drawers full of a heterogeneous mass of UFO reports, letters, copies of letters, and memos.
But I didn't get to do much sorting because the mail girl brought in a copy of a wire that had just arrived. It was a report of a UFO sighting at Terre Haute, Indiana. I read it and told Metscher that I'd quickly whip out an answer and get back to helping him sort. But it didn't prove to be that easy.
The report from Terre Haute said that on October 9, a CAA employee at Hulman Municipal Airport had observed a silvery UFO. Three minutes later a pilot, flying east of Terre Haute, had seen a similar object. The report lacked many details but a few phone calls filled me in on the complete story.
At 1:43P.M. on the ninth a CAA employee at the airport was walking across the ramp in front of the administration building. He happened to glance up at the sky -- why, he didn't know -- and out of the corner of his eye he caught a flash of light on the southeastern horizon. He stopped and looked at the sky where the flash of light had been but he couldn't see anything. He was just about to walk on when he noticed what he described as "a pinpoint" of light in the same spot where he'd seen the flash. In a second or two the "pinpoint" grew larger and it was obvious to the CAA man that something was approaching the airport at a terrific speed. As he watched, the object grew larger and larger until it flashed directly overhead and disappeared to the northwest. The CAA man said it all happened so fast and he was so amazed that he hadn't called anybody to come out of the nearby hangar and watch the UFO. But when he'd calmed down he remembered a few facts. The UFO had been in sight for about fifteen seconds and during this time it had passed from horizon to horizon. It was shaped like a "flattened tennis ball," was a bright silver color, and when it was directly overhead it was "the size of a 50- cent piece held at arm's length."
But this wasn't all there was to the report. A matter of minutes after the sighting a pilot radioed Terre Haute that he had seen a UFO. He was flying from Greencastle, Indiana, to Paris, Illinois, when just east of Paris he'd looked back and to his left. There, level with his airplane and fairly close, was a large silvery object, "like a flattened orange," hanging motionless in the sky. He looked at it a few seconds, then hauled his plane around in a tight left bank. He headed directly toward the UFO, but it suddenly began to pick up speed and shot off toward the northeast. The time, by the clock on his instrument panel, was 1:45P.M. -- just two minutes after the sighting at Terre Haute.
When I finished calling I got an aeronautical chart out of the file and plotted the points of the sighting. The CAA employee had seen the UFO disappear over the northwestern horizon. The pilot had been flying from Greencastle, Indiana, to Paris, Illinois, so he'd have been flying on a heading of just a little less than 270 degrees, or almost straight west. He was just east of Paris when he'd first seen the UFO, and since he said that he'd looked back and to his left, the spot where he saw the UFO would be right at a spot where the CAA man had seen his UFO disappear. Both observers had checked their watches with radio time just after the sightings, so there couldn't be more than a few seconds' discrepancy. All I could conclude was that both had seen the same UFO.
I checked the path of every balloon in the Midwest. I checked the weather -- it was a clear, cloudless day; I had the two observers' backgrounds checked and I even checked for air traffic, although I knew the UFO wasn't an airplane. I researched the University of Dayton library for everything on daylight meteors, but this was no good. From the description the CAA employee gave, what he'd seen had been a clear-cut, distinct, flattened sphere, with no smoke trail, no sparks and no tail. A daylight meteor, so low as to be described as "a 50-cent piece held at arm's length," would have had a smoke trail, sparks, and would have made a roar that would have jolted the Sphinx. This one was quiet. Besides, no daylight meteor stops long enough to let an airplane turn into it.
In a few days the data from the Long Beach Incident came in and I started to put it together. A weather balloon had been launched from the Long Beach Airport, and it was in the vicinity where the six F- 86's had made their unsuccessful attempt to intercept a UFO. I plotted out the path of the balloon, the reported path of the UFO, and the flight paths of the F-86's. The paths of the balloon and the F-86's were accurate, I knew, because the balloon was being tracked by radio fixes and the F-86's had been tracked by radar. At only one point did the paths of the balloon, UFO, and F-86's coincide. When the first two F-86's made their initial visual contact with the UFO they were looking almost directly at the balloon. But from then on, even by altering the courses of the F-86's, I couldn't prove a thing.
In addition, the weather observers from Long Beach said that during the period that the intercept was taking place they had gone outside and looked at their balloon; it was an exceptionally clear day and they could see it at unusually high altitudes. They didn't see any F- 86's around it. And one stronger point, the balloon had burst about ten minutes before the F-86's lost sight of the UFO.
Lieutenant Metscher took over and, riding on his Fort Monmouth victory, tried to show how the pilots had seen the balloon. He got the same thing I did -- nothing...
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.
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. ...
CHAPTER TEN Project Blue Book and the Big Build-Up
... The new reporting procedures established by the Air Force letter greatly aided our investigation because it allowed us to start investigating the better reports before they cooled off. But it also had its disadvantages. It authorized the sender to use whatever priority he thought the message warranted. Some things are slow in the military, but a priority message is not one of them. When it comes into the message center, it is delivered to the addressee immediately, and for some reason, all messages reporting UFO's seemed to arrive between midnight and 4:00A.M. I was considered the addressee on all UFO reports. To complicate matters, the messages were usually classified and I would have to go out to the air base and personally sign for them.
One such message came in about 4:30A.M. on May 8, 1952. It was from a CAA radio station in Jacksonville, Florida, and had been forwarded over the Flight Service teletype net. I received the usual telephone call from the teletype room at Wright-Patterson, I think I got dressed, and I went out and picked up the message. As I signed for it I remember the night man in the teletype room said, "This is a lulu, Captain."
It was a lulu. About one o'clock that morning a Pan-American airlines DC-4 was flying south toward Puerto Rico. A few hours after it had left New York City it was out over the Atlantic Ocean, about 600 miles off Jacksonville, Florida, flying at 8,000 feet. It was a pitch-black night; a high overcast even cut out the glow from the stars. The pilot and copilot were awake but really weren't concentrating on looking for other aircraft because they had just passed into the San Juan Oceanic Control Area and they had been advised by radio that there were no other airplanes in the area. The copilot was turning around to look at number four engine when he noticed a light up ahead. It looked like the taillight of another airplane. He watched it closely for a few seconds since no other airplanes were supposed to be in the area. He glanced out at number four engine for a few seconds, looked back, and he saw that the light was in about the same position as when he'd first seen it. Then he looked down at the prop controls, synchronized the engines, and looked up again. In the few seconds that he had glanced away from the light, it had moved to the right so that it was now directly ahead of the DC-4, and it had increased in size. The copilot reached over and slapped the pilot on the shoulder and pointed. Just at that instant the light began to get bigger and bigger until it was "ten times the size of a landing light of an airplane." It continued to close in and with a flash it streaked by the DC-4's left wing. Before the crew could react and say anything, two more smaller balls of fire flashed by. Both pilots later said that they sat in their seats for several seconds with sweat trickling down their backs.
It was one of these two pilots who later said, "Were you ever traveling along the highway about 70 miles an hour at night, have the car that you were meeting suddenly swerve over into your lane and then cut back so that you just miss it by inches? You know the sort of sick, empty feeling you get when it's all over? That's just the way we felt."
As soon as the crew recovered from the shock, the pilot picked up his mike, called Jacksonville Radio, and told them about the incident. Minutes later we had the report. The next afternoon Lieutenant Kerry Rothstien [sic, throughout], who had replaced Lieutenant Metscher on the project, was on his way to New York to meet the pilots when they returned from Puerto Rico.
When Kerry talked to the two pilots, they couldn't add a great deal to their original story. Their final comment was the one we all had heard so many times, "I always thought these people who reported flying saucers were crazy, but now I don't know."
When Lieutenant Rothstien returned to Dayton he triple-checked with the CAA for aircraft in the area -- but there were none. Could there have been airplanes in the area that CAA didn't know about? The answer was almost a flat "No." No one would fly 600 miles off the coast without filing a flight plan; if he got into trouble or went down, the Coast Guard or Air Rescue Service would have no idea where to look.
Kerry was given the same negative answer when he checked on surface shipping.
The last possibility was that the UFO's were meteors, but several points in the pilots' story ruled these out. First, there was a solid overcast at about 18,000 feet. No meteor cruises along straight and level below 18,000 feet. Second, on only rare occasions have meteors been seen traveling three in trail. The chances of seeing such a phenomenon are well over one in a billion.
Some people have guessed that some kind of an atmospheric phenomenon can form a "wall of air" ahead of an airplane that will act as a mirror and that lights seen at night by pilots are nothing more than the reflection of the airplane's own lights. This could be true in some cases, but to have a reflection you must have a light to reflect. There are no lights on an airplane that even approach being "ten times the size of a landing light."
What was it? I know a colonel who says it was the same thing that the two Eastern Airlines' pilots, Clarence Chiles and John Whitted, saw near Montgomery, Alabama, on July 24, 1948, and he thinks that Chiles and Whitted saw a spaceship. ...
CHAPTER ELEVEN The Big Flap
... Then in early 1952 there was another good report from this area. It was an unknown.
The incident started when the pilot of an Air Force C-54 transport radioed Goose AFB and said that at 10:42P.M. a large fireball had buzzed his airplane. It had come in from behind the C-54, and nobody had seen it until it was just off the left wing. The fireball was so big that the pilot said it looked as if it was only a few hundred feet away. The C-54 was 200 miles southwest, coming into Goose AFB from Westover AFB, Massachusetts, when the incident occurred. The base officer-of-the-day, who was also a pilot, happened to be in the flight operations office at Goose when the message came in and he overheard the report. He stepped outside, walked over to his command car, and told his driver about the radio message, so the driver got out and both of them looked toward the south. They searched the horizon for a few seconds; then suddenly they saw a light closing in from the southwest. Within a second, it was near the airfield. It had increased in size till it was as big as a "golf ball at arm's length," and it looked like a big ball of fire. It was so low that both the OD and his driver dove under the command car because they were sure it was going to hit the airfield. When they turned and looked up they saw the fireball make a 90-degree turn over the airfield and disappear into the northwest. The time was 10:47P.M.
The control tower operators saw the fireball too, but didn't agree with the OD and his driver on how low it was. They did think that it had made a 90-degree turn and they didn't think that it was a meteor. In the years they'd been in towers they'd seen hundreds of meteors, but they'd never seen anything like this, they reported. ...
CHAPTER TWELVE The Washington Merry-Go-Round
No flying saucer report in the history of the UFO ever won more world acclaim than the Washington National Sightings...
On July 10 the crew of a National Airlines plane reported a light "too bright to be a lighted balloon and too slow to be a big meteor" while they were flying south at 2,000 feet near Quantico, Virginia, just south of Washington.
On July 13 another airliner crew reported that when they were 60 miles southwest of Washington, at 11,000 feet, they saw a light below them. It came up to their level, hovered off to the left for several minutes, and then it took off in a fast, steep climb when the pilot turned on his landing lights.
On July 14 the crew of a Pan American airliner en route from New York to Miami reported eight UFO's near Newport News, Virginia, about 130 miles south of Washington...
This then was the big build-up to the first Washington national sighting and the reason why my friend predicted that the Air Force was sitting on a big powder keg of loaded flying saucers.
When the keg blew the best laid schemes of the mice and men at ATIC, they went the way best laid schemes are supposed to. The first one of the highly publicized Washington national sightings started, according to the CAA's logbook at the airport, at 11:40P.M. on the night of July 19 when two radars at National Airport picked up eight unidentified targets east and south of Andrews AFB. The targets weren't airplanes because they would loaf along at 100 to 130 miles an hour then suddenly accelerate to "fantastically high speeds" and leave the area. During the night the crews of several airliners saw mysterious lights in the same locations that the radars showed the targets; tower operators also saw lights, and jet fighters were brought in...
Several times during the night the targets passed close to commercial airliners in the area and on two occasions the pilots of the airliners saw lights that they couldn't identify, and the lights were in the same spots where the radar showed UFO's to be. Other pilots to whom the ARTC radar men talked on the radio didn't see anything odd, at least that's what they said, but the senior controller knew airline pilots and knew that they were very reluctant to report UFO's.
The first sighting of a light by an airline pilot took place shortly after midnight, when an ARTC controller called the pilot of a Capital Airlines flight just taking off from National. The controller asked the pilot to keep watch for unusual lights -- or anything. Soon after the pilot cleared the traffic pattern, and while ARTC was still in contact with him, he suddenly yelled, "There's one -- off to the right -- and there it goes." The controller had been watching the scope, and a target that had been off to the right of the Capitaliner [sic] was gone.
During the next fourteen minutes this pilot reported six more identical lights.
About two hours later another pilot, approaching National Airport from the south, excitedly called the control tower to report that a light was following him at "eight o'clock level." The tower checked their radar-scope and there was a target behind and to the left of the airliner. The ARTC radar also had the airliner and the UFO target. The UFO tagged along behind and to the left of the airliner until it was within four miles of touchdown on the runway. When the pilot reported the light was leaving, the two radarscopes showed that the target was pulling away from the airliner...
Not too long after this excitement had started, in fact just after the technician had checked the radar and found that the targets weren't caused by a radar malfunction, ARTC had called for Air Force interceptors to come in and look around. But they didn't show, and finally ARTC called again -- then again. Finally, just about daylight, an F-94 arrived, but by that time the targets were gone. The F-94 crew searched the area for a few minutes but they couldn't find anything unusual so they returned to their base.
So ended phase one of the Washington National Sightings.
- - - - -
The good UFO reports that Lieutenant Flues had told me about when I called him from Washington had tripled in number before I got around to looking at them. Our daily take had risen to forty a day, and about a third of them were classified as unknowns.
More amber-red fights like those seen on July 18 had been observed over the Guided Missile Long-Range Proving Ground at Patrick AFB, Florida. In Uvalde, Texas, a UFO described as "a large, round, silver object that spun on its vertical axis" was seen to cross 100 degrees of afternoon sky in forty-eight seconds. During part of its flight it passed between two towering cumulus clouds. At Los Alamos and Holyoke, Massachusetts, jets had chased UFO's. In both cases the UFO's had been lost as they turned into the sun.
In two night encounters, one in New Jersey and one in Massachusetts, F-94's tried unsuccessfully to intercept unidentified lights reported by the Ground Observer Corps. In both cases the pilots of the radar-nosed jet interceptors saw a light; they closed in and their radar operators got a lock-on. But the lock-ons were broken in a few seconds, in both cases, as the light apparently took violent evasive maneuvers.
Copies of these and other reports were going to the Pentagon, and I was constantly on the phone or having teleconferences with Major Fournet.
When the second Washington National Sighting came along, almost a week to the hour from the first one, by a stroke of luck things weren't too fouled up. The method of reporting the sighting didn't exactly follow the official reporting procedures that are set forth in Air Force Letter 200-5, dated 5 April 1952, Subject: Reporting of Unidentified Flying Objects -- but it worked.
I first heard about the sighting about ten o'clock in the evening when I received a telephone call from Bob Ginna, Life magazine's UFO expert. He had gotten the word from Life's Washington News Bureau and wanted a statement about what the Air Force planned to do. I decided that instead of giving a mysterious "no comment" I would tell the truth: "I have no idea what the Air Force is doing; in all probability it's doing nothing." When he hung up, I called the intelligence duty officer in the Pentagon and I was correct, intelligence hadn't heard about the sighting. I asked the duty officer to call Major Fournet and ask him if he would go out to the airport, which was only two or three miles from his home. When he got the call from the duty officer Major Fournet called Lieutenant Holcomb; they drove to the ARTC radar room at National Airport and found Al Chop already there. So at this performance the UFO's had an official audience; Al Chop, Major Dewey Fournet, and Lieutenant Holcomb, a Navy electronics specialist assigned to the Air Force Directorate of Intelligence, all saw the radar targets and heard the radio conversations as jets tried to intercept the UFO's.
Being in Dayton, 380 miles away, there wasn't much that I could do, but I did call Captain Roy James thinking possibly he might want to talk on the phone to the people who were watching the UFO's on the radarscopes. But Captain James has a powerful dislike for UFO's -- especially on Saturday night.
About five o'clock Sunday morning Major Fournet called and told me the story of the second sighting at Washington National Airport:
About 10:30P.M. on July 26 the same radar operators who had seen the UFO's the week before picked up several of the same slow-moving targets. This time the mysterious craft, if that is what they were, were spread out in an arc around Washington from Herndon, Virginia, to Andrews AFB. This time there was no hesitation in following the targets. The minute they appeared on the big 24-inch radarscope one of the controllers placed a plastic marker representing an unidentified target near each blip on the scope. When all the targets had been carefully marked, one of the controllers called the tower and the radar station at Andrews AFB -- they also had the unknown targets.
By 11:30P.M. four or five of the targets were continually being tracked at all times, so once again a call went out for jet interceptors. Once again there was some delay, but by midnight two F- 94's from New Castle County AFB were airborne and headed south. The reporters and photographers were asked to leave the radar room on the pretext that classified radio frequencies and procedures were being used in vectoring the interceptors. All civilian air traffic was cleared out of the area and the jets moved in...
But just as the two '94's arrived in the area the targets disappeared from the radarscopes. The two jets were vectored into the areas where the radar had shown the last target plots, but even though the visibility was excellent they could see nothing. The two airplanes stayed around a few minutes more, made a systematic search of the area, but since they still couldn't see anything or pick up anything on their radars they returned to their base.
A few minutes after the F-94's left the Washington area, the unidentified targets were back on the radarscopes in that same area.
What neither Major Fournet nor I knew at this time was that a few minutes after the targets left the radarscopes in Washington people in the area around Langley AFB near Newport News, Virginia, began to call Langley Tower to report that they were looking at weird bright lights that were "rotating and giving off alternating colors." A few minutes after the calls began to come in, the tower operators themselves saw the same or a similar light and they called for an interceptor.
An F-94 in the area was contacted and visually vectored to the light by the tower operators. The F-94 saw the light and started toward it, but suddenly it went out, "like somebody turning off a light bulb." The F-94 crew continued their run and soon got a radar lock-on, but it was broken in a few seconds as the target apparently sped away. The fighter stayed in the area for several more minutes and got two more lock-ons, only to have them also broken after a few seconds.
A few minutes after the F-94 over Newport News had the last lock-on broken, the targets came back on the scopes at Washington National.
With the targets back at Washington the traffic controller again called Air Defense Command, and once again two F-94's roared south toward Washington. This time the targets stayed on the radarscopes when the airplanes arrived.
The controllers vectored the jets toward group after group of targets, but each time, before the jets could get close enough to see anything more than just a light, the targets had sped away. Then one stayed put. The pilot saw a light right where the ARTC radar said a target was located; he cut in the F-94's afterburner and went after it, but just like the light that the F-94 had chased near Langley AFB, this one also disappeared. All during the chase the radar operator in the F-94 was trying to get the target on his set but he had no luck.
After staying in the area about twenty minutes, the jets began to run low on fuel and returned to their base. Minutes later it began to get light, and when the sun came up all the targets were gone.
Early Sunday morning, in an interview with the press, the Korean veteran who piloted the F-94, Lieutenant William Patterson, said:
I tried to make contact with the bogies below 1,000 feet, but they [the radar controllers] vectored us around. I saw several bright lights. I was at my maximum speed, but even then I had no closing speed. I ceased chasing them because I saw no chance of overtaking them. I was vectored into new objects. Later I chased a single bright light which I estimated about 10 miles away. I lost visual contact with it about 2 miles.
- - - - -
On the same night as the second Washington sighting we had a really good report from California. An ADC radar had picked up an unidentified target and an F-94C had been scrambled. The radar vectored the jet interceptor into the target, the radar operator in the '94 locked-on to it, and as the airplane closed in the pilot and RO saw that they were headed directly toward a large, yellowish-orange light. For several minutes they played tag with the UFO. Both the radar on the ground and the radar in the F-94 showed that as soon as the airplane would get almost within gunnery range of the UFO it would suddenly pull away at a terrific speed. Then in a minute or two it would slow down enough to let the F-94 catch it again.
When I talked to the F-94 crew on the phone, the pilot said that they felt as if this were just a big aerial cat-and-mouse game -- and they didn't like it -- at any moment they thought the cat might have pounced.
Needless to say, this was an unknown.
- - - - -
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.
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. ...
CHAPTER FOURTEEN Digesting the Data
... 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.
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. ...
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN What Are UFO's?
While the scientists were in Washington, D.C., pondering over the UFO, the UFO's weren't just sitting idly by waiting to find out what they were -- they were out doing a little "lobbying" for the cause -- keeping the interest stirred up.
And they were doing a good job, too.
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 12:30A.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.
- - - - -
The first thing that I did when I returned to Project Blue Book was to go over the reports that had come in while I was away. There were several good reports but only one that was exceptional. It had taken place at Luke AFB, Arizona, the Air Force's advanced fighter-bomber school that is named after the famous "balloon buster" of World War I, Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. It was a sighting that produced some very interesting photographs.
There were only a few high cirrus clouds in the sky late on the morning of March 3 when a pilot took off from Luke in an F-84 jet to log some time. He had been flying F-51's in Korea and had recently started to check out in the jets. He took off, cleared the traffic pattern, and started climbing toward Blythe Radio, about 130 miles west of Luke. He'd climbed for several minutes and had just picked up the coded letters BLH that identified Blythe Radio when he looked up through the corner glass in the front part of his canopy -- high at about two o'clock he saw what he thought was an airplane angling across his course from left to right leaving a long, thin vapor trail. He glanced down at his altimeter and saw that he was at 23,000 feet. The object that was leaving the vapor trail must really be high, he remembered thinking, because he couldn't see any airplane at the head of it. He altered his course a few degrees to the right so that he could follow the trail and increased his rate of climb. Before long he could tell that he was gaining on the object, or whatever was leaving the vapor trail, because he was under the central part of it. But he still couldn't see any object. This was odd, he thought, because vapor trails don't just happen; something has to leave them. His altimeter had ticked off another 12,000 feet and he was now at 35,000. He kept on climbing, but soon the '84 began to mush; it was as high as it would go. The pilot dropped down 1,000 feet and continued on -- now he was below the front of the trail, but still no airplane. This bothered him too. Nothing that we have flies over 55,000 feet except a few experimental airplanes like the D-558 or those of the "X" series, and they don't stray far from Edwards AFB in California. He couldn't be more than 15,000 feet from the front of the trail, and you can recognize any kind of an airplane 15,000 feet away in the clear air of the substratosphere. He looked and he looked and he looked. He rocked the F-84 back and forth thinking maybe he had a flaw in the plexiglass of the canopy that was blinking out the airplane, but still no airplane. Whatever it was, it was darn high or darn small. It was moving about 300 miles an hour because he had to pull off power and "S" to stay under it.
He was beginning to get low on fuel about this time so he hauled up the nose of the jet, took about 30 feet of gun camera film, and started down. When he landed and told his story, the film was quickly processed and rushed to the projection room. It showed a weird, thin, forked vapor trail -- but no airplane.
Lieutenant Olsson and Airman Futch had worked this one over thoroughly. The photo lab confirmed that the trail was definitely a vapor trail, not a freak cloud formation. But Air Force Flight Service said, "No other airplanes in the area," and so did Air Defense Command, because minutes after the F-84 pilot broke off contact, the "object" had passed into an ADIZ -- Air Defense Identification Zone -- and radar had shown nothing.
There was one last possibility: Blue Book's astronomer said that the photos looked exactly like a meteor's smoke trail. But there was one hitch: the pilot was positive that the head of the vapor trail was moving at about 300 miles an hour. He didn't know exactly how much ground he'd covered, but when he first picked up Blythe Radio he was on Green 5 airway, about 30 miles west of his base, and when he'd given up the chase he'd gotten another radio bearing, and he was now almost up to Needles Radio, 70 miles north of Blythe. He could see a lake, Lake Mojave, in the distance.
Could a high-altitude jet-stream wind have been blowing the smoke cloud? Futch had checked this -- no. The winds above 20,000 feet were the usual westerlies and the jet stream was far to the north.
Several months later I talked to a captain who had been at Luke when this sighting occurred. He knew the F-84 pilot and he'd heard him tell his story in great detail. I won't say that he was a confirmed believer, but he was interested. "I never thought much about these reports before," he said, "but I know this guy well. He's not nuts. What do you think he saw?"
I don't know what he saw. Maybe he didn't travel as far as he thought he did. If he didn't, then I'd guess that he saw a meteor's smoke trail. But if he did know that he'd covered some 80 miles during the chase, I'd say that he saw a UFO -- a real one. And I find it hard to believe that pilots don't know what they're doing.
- - - - -
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 tail. 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 gunsight. 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-15'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...
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...
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...
Although not nearly all pilot reports for the period through 1953 are included above, and although such reports would continue over the over the coming decades, few if any had the dramatic consequences of one tragic military pilot encounter -- the last for this post -- covered in Major Keyhoe's next book, published in 1955 and entitled The Flying Saucer Conspiracy...
Above: Dust jacket for The Flying Saucer Conspiracy.
[Note: three-dot ellipses used in the following are in the original.]
For several years, the censorship of flying-saucer reports has been increasingly tightened. In the United States, this top-level blackout is backed by two strict orders.
I learned of the first order, a Joint-Chiefs-of-Staff document, in the fall of '53. Known as JANAP 146 (Joint-Army-Navy-Air-Publication), this order sets up a top-priority radio system for the most urgent Intelligence reports. Pilots are directed to report unidentified flying objects (UFOs) immediately from all parts of the world, using this emergency system -- and to keep these sightings secret.
Under Section III any pilot who reveals an official UFO report can be imprisoned for one to ten years and fined up to 10,000 dollars. (Title 18, U.S. Code, 793.)
Three months later, in December 1953, I discovered the second order, which carries court-martial penalties. For several days, I had been checking on a strange story from Kimross Air Force Base [sic, throughout, should be Kinross Air Force Base] near Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. The facts had been hurriedly covered up after a brief Air Force admission. ...
It was the evening of November 23, and wintry darkness had settled over Michigan. At an isolated radar station Air Defense operators were watching their scope in a routine guard against possible enemy attack.
Suddenly the "blip" of an unknown machine appeared on the glass screen. The Ground Control Intercept officer took a quick look. The "unknown" was flying over the Soo Locks -- and no aircraft was scheduled near that important target. Whatever it was, it had to be identified swiftly.
In less than two minutes an F-89 from Kimross Field was streaking toward the locks. At the jet's controls was Lieutenant Felix Moncla, Jr., a veteran at 26. Behind him was Lieutenant R.R. Wilson, a 22-year-old Oklahoman acting as radar observer. Guided by Ground Control, Moncla climbed steeply toward the "unknown."
Back at GCI, the controller watched the jet's "blip" on his glowing radarscope. As it moved toward the UFO's blip, the strange craft changed course. The controller called Moncla and gave him the new bearing. From the scope he saw that the F-89 was now over Sault Sainte Marie, though to the crew the city's lights would be only a blur, quickly lost behind.
The UFO, flying as fast as a jet airliner, was heading toward Lake Superior. At over 500 miles per hour, the F-89 raced after it, out across Whitefish Bay.
Nine more minutes ticked by in the tense quiet of the GCI radar room. Gradually the F-89 cut down the gap. By now, the controller knew that Wilson should have spotted their quarry on the fighter's short-range radar. Watching the chase, he cut in his microphone and called the flight's code name.
"Target should soon be visual. Still bearing --"
He broke off, staring at the scope.
The two blips had suddenly merged into one.
Whether the strange machine had abruptly slowed or Moncla unaccountably had put on full power, no one in the room could tell.
But one thing seemed grimly certain: the two machines were locked together, as if in a smashing collision.
For a moment longer the huge, ominous blip remained on the glass. Then it quickly went off the scope.
Marking the position, the controller flashed word to Search and Rescue. Moncla and Wilson might have bailed out in time. Both had life jackets and self-inflating rafts; even in the icy water they might survive for a little while.
The mystery craft and the F-89 had come together far offshore, about 100 miles from Sault Sainte Marie and 70 miles from Keweenaw Point. As quickly as possible, search planes with flares were roaring over Lake Superior. After a fruitless night search, boats joined the hunt as American and Canadian flyers crisscrossed a hundred-mile area.
But no trace was ever found of the missing men, the F-89 -- or the unknown machine.
My first word on this mystery came from an old friend in Detroit, a former Army Air Corps navigator that I'd met in earlier days, when I was an aide to Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh. The night the jet vanished, he called me at my home near Alexandria, Virginia.
"This may be just a wild story," he said, "but there's a rumor out at Selfridge Field that an F-89 from Kimross was hit by a flying saucer. All I know is that the plane's missing. You think there could be any truth in the UFO angle?"
"It's possible," I answered, "but most of those 'saucer collision' stories turn out to be ordinary crashes."
"Well, I hope this is too. I'd hate to think that the saucers are hostile."
"Even if it did happen, it could have been an accident. But thanks for the tip. I'll check with the Pentagon."
Next morning I called the Air Force Press Desk and got First Lieutenant (now Captain) Robert C. White. A 34-year-old bomber pilot, White was serving as a PIO (Public Information Officer). He admitted the F-89 was missing and gave me the names of the crew.
"It's obvious," he added, "that they had engine trouble and crashed in the lake."
"Why were they out there?" I asked.
"Intercept mission -- checking on an unknown."
"Did they identify it?"
"I'm not sure. Let me call you later."
"I'm about to take off for Des Moines," I said. "I'll phone when I get back."
Before driving to Washington Airport, I called radio commentator Frank Edwards -- we had exchanged flying-saucer reports since 1949. Frank whistled at the Kimross tip.
"If it's true, this thing's getting serious! Kimross probably won't talk, but I'll give it a try. Right now I'm waiting for a Wisconsin call on that Truax crash."
"What was that?"
A jet from Truax Air Force Base crashed near there yesterday, at Madison. Several witnesses said a saucer flew near the plane, just before it dived into a swamp. It may be just bunk, but I'm checking on it."
"How soon can you phone Kimross?" I asked.
"I'll try to rush it. Call me before you take off."
Thirty minutes later, I phoned from the airport.
"Don," Frank exclaimed, "your Detroit man had it dead right! Truax Field made an official statement on the Kimross jet."
Admitting the collision?" I said incredulously.
"Listen to this: 'The plane was followed by radar until it merged with an object 70 miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan.' That's the statement they gave the Associated Press."
"That's amazing! You sure Truax really said it?"
"Absolutely. I made a fast check. It's already on the AP wire at Sault Sainte Marie."
"You said Truax …"
"Here's what happened. An AP man at Sault Sainte Marie queried Kimross. They told him to clear with the OPI for the area, at Truax. He did -- and got that official answer."
It's incredible -- their releasing it. I knew some PIO's were against the blackout, but to let this get out --"
"It certainly raised the devil at the Pentagon," said Frank. "I just called there. At first, they said it was some silly rumor, but when I told them that Truax gave it to the AP, they hit the ceiling. I'll bet they're burning up the wires right now."
"Can they make the AP kill it?"
"I don't know. But they can say it was a mistake and ask them to run a correction. To avoid that, the AP will yank it if there's time."
In a few hours, I had a hint that Frank was right. At Chicago, where I changed planes, there was no sign of the AP story. Later, I learned that it had appeared in the early edition of the Chicago Tribune, headed "Jet, Two Aboard, Vanishes Over Lake Superior." It was deleted from all other editions.
Because of a late Des Moines landing I missed Frank's broadcast, and during my Iowa trip, I heard no more on the mystery. The night I returned, I called the Mutual station in Washington, but Frank had left for New York after his ten o'clock program.
Next morning, after trying to reach White, I went in to the Civil Aeronautics Board to see Arthur Caperton, one of the CAB's senior crash investigators. A quick, decisive man, square-jawed and ruddy-faced, Caperton had been, like myself, a Marine Corps pilot. Later he had become an airline captain, flying DC-6's before joining the Board.
In my case, an inquiry from a night crash at Guam had put me out of uniform until World War II, though I'd flown nonmilitary planes while writing on aviation. Meanwhile, I'd drawn several good-luck assignments which gave me valuable contacts all over the country. As chief of information for Civil Aeronautics, I had made an air tour with Floyd Bennett, Admiral Byrd's pilot on the historic North Pole flight. The next year, by another lucky break, I flew as Colonel Lindbergh's aide on a 48-state tour, after his famous "Lone Eagle" flight to Paris. Many of the pilots and aviation experts that I met on these tours were later to give me important UFO reports.
Caperton and I had talked about the saucers before, and I knew that the Board and the Air Force often exchanged unusual crash reports.
"What do you know about a flying saucer hitting an F-89 on November 23?" I asked him.
Caperton stared. "An actual collision? It must be under wraps. I haven't heard a thing."
I told him what had happened.
"Good Lord!" said Caperton. "If Truax said that, it must be true. Those Ground Control operators are tops."
"The question is, was it accidental?"
"Accident or not, it's a real jolt." Caperton shook his head. "I think it's dangerous, ordering jet pilots to chase the saucers. Of course, they don't often get close -- the UFO's run away from them."
That noon at the Press Club Caperton and I got a new slant on the Kimross case. It came from an airline pilot, Captain Ed Stone, a sober-faced six-footer with prematurely gray hair. (Since his company, like most lines, asks its pilots to avoid saucer publicity, I have changed his last name.) Stone said that he had not heard of the F-89 disaster.
"But that must be what Frank Edwards was talking about the other night," he added. "He said two Canadian pilots denied being over the Soo Locks or seeing an F-89. I missed the first part, so it was Greek to me."
The Canadian angle was new, and as we were leaving I called the Pentagon from a Press Club booth. This time, I caught White at his desk.
"The unknown in that case was a Canadian DC-3," he told me. "It was over the locks by mistake."
I started to repeat the Canadian pilots' denial, then changed my mind.
"Let me get this straight," I said. "Obviously, the F-89 didn't collide with a Canadian airliner -- there'd have been a big row in the papers. So what did it hit?"
"It didn't hit anything," White said emphatically.
"Then what happened to it?"
"Probably engine trouble, as I said before. They must have bailed out -- or ditched -- too fast to report."
"Wait a minute," I said. Truax Field gave the AP an official statement that the F-89 'merged' with an object 70 miles off Keweenaw Point."
"That's not true!" White said quickly.
"The AP story was wrong?"
"Well … no. Truax made the statement. But the 'merging' part was a mistake. That second blip was from some object actually miles from the F-89."
"Miles from it? Then why in Heaven's name did GCI say they merged?"
"They just read the scope wrong," said White.
It was an incredible answer, and I was sure he knew it. No GCI controller capable of such a colossal blunder would be tolerated for a minute by the Air Defense Command. These specially selected radar technicians must be able to guide jet fighters into close-range attacks on enemy bombers. This means making swift, precise measurement of distance between planes -- in yards, not miles. Without this accurate measurement, interception at night and in bad weather would be impossible. Our country would be tragically helpless against massed enemy bombers. It was impossible to believe that expert technicians had misread the scope, and I was sure that White was merely acting under orders.
"Does that clear up everything?" White asked after a silence.
"No. I'd like to see the Air Force investigation report."
"I'm sorry, that will be classified."
"Well, did the F-89 actually intercept the DC-3 so that the Canadians had to identify themselves?"
"I'm not sure. That's a classified Air Defense report. But we're certain that the DC-3 was over the locks."
"Then what was the other unknown -- the object that GCI said was 70 miles off Keweenaw Point?"
"Maybe another plane., we just don't know. But they did not merge."
When I relayed White's story, Caperton snorted.
"That's idiotic! Who are they trying to kid?"
"What would you have said?" Stone said somberly. "Unless the Pentagon admitted a UFO hit the jet, they had to explain away the radar report."
"But this phony answer," growled Caperton. "Why didn't they hang it on the Truax PIO?"
"It would look suspicious," I said. "Why would he make up that Ground Control report? And not many people know radar."
"Maybe so. But that cockeyed DC-3 story --" Caperton glanced at the clock. "I've go to run, but if you have time, check the intercept angles. You'll see what I mean."
Captain Stone had time before his next flight, so we worked out the intercept problem.
When the F-89 began the chase, the unknown machine had just passed over the Soo Locks a few miles north. Guided by GCI, the F-89 hurtled after it at over 500 mph. (Under Air Defense Command rules, maximum intercept speeds cannot be given.)
In average flights, a DC-3 cruises at about 165 mph. But even at its maximum, about 215, the Canadian airliner would have been overtaken in 3 minutes, including time for the F-89 to slow down and avoid overshooting.
Under Air Defense orders, Moncla would have closed in quickly, to identify the unknown as a friendly aircraft or challenge it if it proved hostile. The jet's reduced speed and close approach would have been seen clearly on the GCI radarscope.
If the Canadian pilots failed to answer the jet's radio call, Moncla would have "buzzed" the airliner so that the crew could see the jet's lights. As a final resort he would have fired a warning burst with guns or rockets.
No airline captain in his right mind would fail to answer that warning. Unless he did respond, with proof that his flight was friendly, his airliner might be shot down.
After identifying the plane the F-89 crew would have relayed the information to Ground Control. Mission accomplished, they would then have returned to Kimross Field.
Instead of all this, Moncla flew out over Lake Superior, more than 100 miles beyond the locks. During this time he was pursuing the unknown machine, guided and tracked by Ground Control.
To keep ahead of the F-89 this long, the mysterious craft had to fly at more than 450 mph. Since this is more than twice the top speed of a DC-3, the Canadian airliner could not possibly have been the unknown in this chase.
Even if the F-89 had intercepted the airliner (which ignores the pilots' denial), this still would not explain the 100-mile flight, the second unknown, and the merging -- all officially admitted in the Truax statement.
"How did they expect to get away with that story?" Captain Stone said as we finished.
"They had to produce something to explain what the jet was chasing. And they knew not many people would stop to figure it out."
Stone gazed down at the flight diagram.
"It must have been a saucer -- I don't see any other answer. A jet would explain the speed, but no planes of any kind were lost that night, except the F-89."
"One thing, this certainly knocks down that crazy rumor about the saucers being U.S. weapons. The Air Force wouldn't risk its pilots' live like that -- besides, why chase our own missiles?"
"That secret-weapon answer was exploded long ago," I told him. "Even if you toss out all the older reports, we know that the saucers have been operating here for at least 9 years. Our pilots sighted hundreds of them over Europe and the Pacific in '44 -- so did the Germans and the Japs. If we had such a super-weapon then, why didn't we use it to end the War? It would have saved a lot of lives. And the Reds wouldn't have dared start the Korean War."
Stone nodded. "Also, we wouldn't be afraid now of an H-bomb attack. With those terrific speeds and maneuvers, the saucers could knock down ordinary jet bombers without half trying. Besides that, why spend billions on ordinary planes, carriers, and foreign bases if we have saucers with a worldwide range?"
"That goes for the Russians too," I said. "If they'd had flying saucers in '44, they'd have used them against Hitler, and by now, they'd own the world. But the Soviet wasn't even producing jets in World War II. And right now they're working like mad on planes and missiles, just like us."
Stone stood up. "You're right," he said as we went to get our coats. "No nation on Earth could have had the discs in '44."
"Not even now," I added. "Air Force radar has tracked mother ships and discs maneuvering at over 9000 miles an hour. Even our latest missiles can't approach that -- and no missile on earth can stop dead, hover over a city, and then streak straight up into the ionosphere at thousands of miles an hour."
We went out to the elevators. Under his cap visor, Stone's face had an intent look.
"That could be the reason," he muttered. He glanced at me sidewise. "I mean why the Pentagon is so desperate about hushing it up. Maybe Moncla or Wilson gave Ground Control the answers to all this before the collision."
"They probably didn't have time --"
"I don't mean the very last instant. But put yourself in Moncla's place. You're closing in on the thing. The last few seconds, you see something --maybe you suddenly know what's behind all this. Wouldn't you yell it into your throat-microphone?"
"I might if I weren't too scared to talk."
"Even then you'd almost instinctively yell something, and Ground Control would hear it. If we could only see that Air Force inquiry report! It could be the key to this whole saucer business."
When I saw Frank Edwards a day or so later, he confirmed what Stone had said about the Canadian pilots.
"They denied the whole thing -- they were pretty sore about it." Frank looked at me with no trace of his usual whimsical humor. "This Kimross thing must be something terrific, the way the Air Force has covered up. What do you think happened?"
"I can't figure it out. It's the most baffling saucer report that I've ever heard ... even stranger than the Mantell case."
1. Born on March 2, 1912, in Necedah, Wisconsin, Curtis Fuller graduated from Nacedah High School in 1929 as valedictorian of his class. Fuller received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1933, followed by a Master of Science degree from Northwestern University in 1937. In his varied career Fuller had started out as a newspaper reporter and then sports editor for the Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, Daily Tribune. In 1938 he was appointed as a public information officer for the State of Wisconsin (from which position he was summarily dismissed in 1939 with a change in administration). He moved on to become associate editor for Better Roads magazine and in 1943 was appointed an associate editor for Flying magazine. In 1945 Fuller was promoted to associate managing editor for Flying, followed by promotion to managing editor in October, 1946. In 1947 he co-founded Fate magazine with Ray Palmer, but as both were then under contract to Ziff-Davis publishing, Fuller would write for Fate using the pseudonym "John C. Ross".
In 1955 Fuller bought full interest in Fate, while Palmer moved on to new publishing ventures. In the 1960s Fuller was an officer for the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship as well as president of the Illinois Society for Psychic Research. In 1977 Fuller, through Fate magazine, organized the first "International UFO Conference". Fuller continued to act as publisher of Fate until March, 1989. He died two years later at the age of 79.
2. In a December, 1952 article for Fate magazine, Curtis Fuller added the interesting detail that the July, 1952, Conner C-46 flight involved in the article "Fliers See 'Saucer' Over Atomic Plant" was transporting "50 Korean war veterans to Columbia, S.C." Conner's venture -- based in Florida -- appears to have had a possible connection to the American intelligence community (either at the time or later), as revealed in a fascinating in-depth article in the Miami New Times entitled The Conner Conspiracy.
3. The March 29, 1950, article in the Barrier Daily Truth headlined "More Reports Of Flying Saucers" had a short mention of a pilot encounter by Bertram Totten. In UFOs: A History, Loren Gross included a newspaper clipping, unfortunately without labeling the newspaper from which it was clipped (most likely a local paper in Virginia or Washington, D.C.), which gave more detail...
Flying Disc Over Area Reported by Private Pilot
Circular Object Evades Small Plane South of National Airport, Flier Says
A flying disc, about 40 feet in diameter and 10 feet thick, was reported seen over the Washington area by an airplane pilot yesterday morning.
"I was flying a Luscombe ship which I had rented at the Hybla Valley Airport," he said, "and I had been practicing spins and other maneuvers. I was about 5000 feet south of National Airport. ...
"This circular object, which seemed to be of aluminum color and glittering on top, came across my path, about. 1000 feet below. l put my ship into a dive to get a closer look at it. As it leveled off, the object, whatever it was, accelerated at a terrific speed, pointed somewhat upward as it to gain more altitude, and disappeared.
"! would say it was going 400 to 500 miles per hour as it disappeared to the east. It left a trail of vapor behind. It was in my sight for about one minute and a half."
Totten said he could not make out any windows or openings on the disc and could not see any control surfaces.
The pilot said he was a test inspector in several aircraft plants during the war, and has been flying for the past 10 years. He said he had never seen any flying object before like the one he spotted yesterday.
4. The June 27, 1950, article in the Galveston Daily News headlined "Airlines Pilot Sees Big Flying Saucer" telling of the sighting of Harry Logsdon, was expanded upon in UFOs: A History, by Loren Gross, which included the following quotes from an article in the Daily Oklahoman...
Logsdon, a veteran commercial pilot, was quoted as saying he kept the object in sight for about 20 miles before it pulled away from his airliner in a sudden burst of speed.
He estimated the object's speed in excess of 400 miles an hour, the airline said.
5. The October 6, 1950, article in the Altoona Mirror headlined "Flying Saucer Makes Dive at Airline Plane", telling of the sighting of California Central Airlines crew, made mention of Lockheed Airport (now Burbank Bob Hope Airport) contacting "Van Nuys". Van Nuys was the site of a small airport which was greatly expanded in during World War II as an Army Air Force base, and then as a National Guard base in the 1950s. An October 6, 1950, International News Service newswire article included the following...
Authorities at the Lockheed terminal said there was little chance that the ship was a Northrup flying wing on an experimental flight.
6. Exactly one week following the July 19/20, 1952 report of saucers over Washington, D.C., the discs made a return radar-visual appearance. The focus of news reports from that incident were on fruitless chases by jet aircraft, but there were almost no direct quotes from pilots. One exception was a brief mention found in a newswire report, printed in the July 29, 1952, edition of the Phoenix, Arizona, Republic newspaper...
National Airlines Pilot J.E. Lundy, Jacksonville, Fla., said he had seen mysterious amber-colored lights last Saturday and the night of July 10 near Washington.
He said he was traveling at about 17,000 feet when he was directed to observe the phenomena by the airport radar operator here. He speculated the air force might be testing secret atomic aircraft.
The July 10 sighting mentioned did not appear in the newspapers, but is found in declassified Project Blue Book files, where a letter dated July 18, 1952, written on National Airlines stationery, includes a signed statement by Capt. J.E. Lundy and First Officer L. Blanks...
On the night of July 10, 1952 at 2018, National Airlines flight 42, we were approximately ten miles south of Potomac River south of Clifton intersection. A strange light caught our attention. At first we thought it was a landing light on an approaching aircraft, but discounted this as it did not get any closer. Then we though it was a military flare but discounted this also because it appeared to rise when flares fall. It was an amber light and appeared to glow somewhat with no tail. The light was of very, very bright intensity. It was not a meteor since meteors generally descend rapidly. This light was in our view approximately ten minutes making no particular pattern of movement. Then suddenly it climbed rapidly in a turning attitude and disappeared into the northwest. Our altitude through this event was 1,500 feet above sea level. In our opinion it could not have been a light inflection due to cloud formations which would have been contrary to such. There was only one light. No photographs were made.
7. The original story on Flt. Sgt. Roland Hughes, as published in the May 27, 2012, edition of The Telegraph can be read here. Dr. Clarke's account, as published in his book, can be read at Google Books here. The book may be purchased at Amazon.com.
8. Not included in this post is a story from 1952 told second-hand, published in the July 30, 1952, edition of the Lowell, Massachusetts, Sun newspaper...
Pilot Says His Plane Was Attacked by Flying Saucer Says Incident Happened a Year Ago On Warm Sunny Day Over Augusta, Ga.
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Press, a Scripps-Howard newspaper, today told of a veteran air force pilot whose F-51 fighter plane was "attacked repeatedly by a flying saucer."
The story was told by the Press aviation editor, Charles Tracy, captain and former assistant wing operations officer of the 117th tactical reconnaissance wing, Lawson Air Force base, Columbus, Ga.
Tracy said the incident "never before revealed to the public" happened a year ago over Augusta, Ga., on a "warm, sunny, clear day."
The pilot was First Lt. George Kinman of Birmingham, Ala., a veteran of seven years service, now flying jets in Germany.
Tracy said he never saw the official report but was "repeating the pilot's conversation with me." Here's Kinman's story as told by Tracy:
"I was cruising at about 230 mph.
"All of a sudden I noticed something ahead, closing in on me head-on. Before I could take evasive action -- before I even thought of it, in fact --this thing dipped abruptly and passed underneath, just missing my propeller.
"The thing was definitely of disc shape . . . white . . . pretty thick . . . it looked like an oval . . . it was about twice as big as my plane . . . it had no visible protrusions like motors, guns, windows, smoke or fire."
Kinman immediately turned round but couldn't see anything.
Within 15 seconds, he estimated, the disc came directly at him again and once more dipped suddenly at the last possible moment to avoid a collision. This happened repeatedly, he said, for from five to 10 minutes.
Kinman tried to put his plane is position to use the cameras in his fuselage, adjusted to shoot the ground while in level flight. He was not successful and his films, when developed, showed nothing," Tracy said.
"On its final pass, the disc whirled upward. Kinman thought it was going to take a piece of his canopy with it. Then, he said, it disappeared.
Tracy said the pilot's own startling story is in the top secret files in Washington.
There is no report in declassified Project Blue Book files matching or even similar to the description of the circumstance and location for 1951.
9. The August 1, 1952, unsourced newspaper report on the sighting and pursuit by Maj. James B. Smith, and 1st Lt. Donald J. Hemer from Wright-Patterson AFB states that the "two interceptors were sent up... after the base had received five or six reports of 'flying saucers.'" In fact, they had been sent up as a result of radar reports, as revealed in the following description found in the declassified files of Project Blue Book (image followed by transcription)...
Description of Incident
At 1551Z, a radar track appeared 20 miles NNW of W-P AFB. The course was 240° at 400 knots. Two F-86's under GCI control were then located ten miles SW of that position. The fighters were vectored and made visual contact at 1555Z. Fighters stayed with the object until 1613Z.
Interrogation of sources, an AF major and lieutenant, reveal the following:
a. The F-86's climbed to 48,000', fell off, and then made a second climb to 48,000'. The major made a camera run the second time and received a weak return on his radar gunsight. The lieutenant's sight was "caged" so he received no return. The major estimated the object at 12,000-20,000' above his altitude of 48,000'. This estimate was substantiated by the range capability of the radar gunsight. The object's size, accepting source's estimate of distance, was 20-40' in diameter and source said his optical sight just covered the object. The films were not sufficiently clear. The object appeared as a fuzzy, small image in the upper right hand comer with discernable motion to lower left.
b. The AC&W Squadron established two important facts: Re-affirmation
that the UFO moved at 400 knots and indication that the two F-86's and UFO appeared simultaneously on the GCI scope. It is obvious that all eyes and antennas were fixed on the same object.
The object was not a balloon, since the speed was too fast. A rawinsonde was released at 1500Z and moved off to the east. The object moved against the wind. The blip size was that of a normal aircraft. The object was not a known aircraft because the altitude was too high. The object was not astronomical as dual radar returns eliminate this. Electronic or visual mirage of meteorological phenomenon is out of the question as the radar set was on high beam, and both would not occur simultaneously in the same place. The sighting occurred above the weather.
10. Although reputed to be a careful researcher, Jimmy Guieu's book, Flying Saucers Come From Another World also treated some fantastic rumors seriously...
On December 20, I951, a United Press Agency report stated that at 3.30 p.m. three jet planes from a Pacific Coast base had collided during an exercise and had crashed. The three pilots were killed.
We are so accustomed to reading reports of this nature in the daily papers that we do not attach any very great importance to them. Ah, well, we say to ourselves, three more poor devils have had it; and then we pass on to the Parliamentary debates or the betrothal of Miss So-and-So to a cardboard tycoon, and so on. Yet the death of a man, or of three men, is no trifling incident.
In spite of the silence of the U.S. Air Force, of the strictly maintained secrecy, a strange rumour took form. Little by little, fantastic and appalling, the truth emerged.
"On December 20, 1951," our investigator reported, four years after the death of Mantell, in the skies of the Pacific there took place a second 'interplanetary' air-combat -- a deadly combat, brief as lightning.
At the L----- base, the control-room gives the signal to take off. Three Sabres start climbing towards the clouds. The cloud ceiling is about I ,200 feet. Captain Scott is in command of the patrol and Lieutenants Powell and Hadley fly the other two fighters.
In a few seconds the three fighters on their training flight are among the clouds. But soon, at 22,000 feet, they emerge into the blue sky. Scott checks on his companions. At a distance of I 50 feet from each other they climb with throttles full out and are soon at 30,000 feet. Suddenly a radio signal comes from the M----- listening station, 125 miles away:
'An unidentified flying object has just flown over base from the south-east, on a course towards the north-west. Altitude: 32,000 feet. Speed: 3,750 miles per hour. To all units in the air in this sector: Attention! Danger!'
Once again Station M----- broadcast this message. But Powell and Hadley had also heard it. Instinctively they took up combat position, flying in to support Scott.
'Hey, fellows!' said Scott. 'This is an unexpected exercise! I've got an idea we're to chase the saucer. Keep your eyes open!'
According to the speed data supplied -- 3,750 miles per hour -- the saucer, noted at some 125 miles away, should come into view in two minutes. So Captain Scott ordered:
'We'll climb to 22,000 feet. Heading 80. The thing should come into view behind us, three-quarters astern, in one minute and 30 seconds. Keep your eyes open!'
On the ground, they were following the message.
Faintly at first, below the fighters, a black spot began to grow bigger. It was going to pass ahead of the patrol. In three seconds it was there!
'Come on, fellows!'
Captain Scott banked sharply to starboard and, with all possible speed, made for the point where the object and his patrol would converge. It would pass them at less than 3,ooo feet.
'Crazy!' murmured Hadley.
'Cameras ready!' shouted Scott. 'Now!' "
And that was all.
Less than two minutes later, the blackened and still burning debris of the three American machines was scattered over an area of three miles.
On the ground, no one had seen or heard anything of this extraordinary combat. But radar had picked them up. On it they saw three points almost touch the mysterious object, and then suddenly vanish, while the "other" continued its upward flight at fearful speed.
What are we to make of this incident, described in this report with such detailed clarity? The names of the victims and witnesses must be kept secret. Were the fighters destroyed by the saucer or were they just caught up by an eddy, an atmospheric disturbance caused by the disc, and hurled one against the other?
There is no record of any such crash, nor any United Press wire story of anything similar at the time.
11. A 1953 newsreel on Neville Duke's world speed record was produced by British Pathe, but without mention of the reported saucer sighting...
12. The story of Lt. Brigham given in Keyhoe's Flying Saucers From Outer Space is illustrative of the line between disclosure and national security that Major Keyhoe endeavored to respect in his reporting. Keyhoe's version of the intelligence report was as follows...
"At 11:20 hours, March 29, 1952, I was flying a T-6 north of Misawa. GCI was running an intercept on me with a flight of two F-84's. One of them overtook me, passing starboard at approximately 100 feet, and ten feet below me. As he pulled up abreast, a flash of reflected sunshine caught my eye. The object which had reflected the sunshine was a small, shiny disc-shaped object which was making a pass on the F-84.
"It flew a pursuit curve and closed rapidly. Just as it would have flown into his fuselage, it decelerated to his air speed, almost instantaneously. In doing so, it flipped up on its edge at an approximate 90-degree bank. It fluttered within two feet of his fuselage for perhaps two or three seconds. Then it pulled away around his starboard wing, appearing to flip once as it hit the slipstream behind his wing-tip fuel tank.
"Then it passed him, crossed in front, and pulled up abruptly, appearing to accelerate, and shot out of sight in a steep, almost vertical climb. It was about eight inches in diameter, very thin, round, and as shiny as polished chromium. It had no apparent projections and left no exhaust or vapor trails. An unusual flight characteristic was a slow, fluttering motion. It rocked back and forth in 40-degree banks, at about one-second intervals throughout its course."
...while the actual report read (image followed by transcription)...
At 1120 hours 29 March 52, I was flying a T-6 heading approximately due north at approximately 20miles north of Misawa over the coast. I was climbing at approximately 130 mph indicated airspeed, altitude approximately 6000 feet. GCI was running an intercept on me with an F-84 flight of two. Call sign of the F-84's was Frosty Mike 3 and 4. I watched them close on me from about 7:00 o'clock around to about 5:30 and Frosty Mike 3 overtook me passing starboard approximately 100', and approximately 10' below me, taking my number. As he pulled abreast of me at about my 3:00 o'clock position and 10 feet low, a flash of reflected sunshine caught my eye at about 4 o'clock position. The object which had reflected the sunshine was a small shiny disc-shaped object which was making a pass on Mike 3. It closed from slightly above him from approximately 4 o'clock and flew an approximate pursuit curve, appearing to overtake him at around 30 or 40 mph over his airspeed, which I would estimate at approximately 150 to 160 mph. It closed rapidly and just before flying into his fuselage it decelerated to his airspeed almost instantaneously. In doing so it flipped up on its edge at approximately a 90° bank. It then fluttered within 20 feet of his fuselage for perhaps 2 or 3 seconds, pulled away and around his starboard wing, appearing to flip once as it hit the slipstream behind his wing tip fuel tank. Then it passed him; crossed in front of him and pulled up abruptly, appearing to accelerate and shot out of sight in a steep, almost vertical climb.
It was about 8 inches in diameter, very thin, round and as shiny as polished chromium; had no apparent projections, and left no exhaust trails or vapor trails.
An unusual flight characteristic was a slow fluttering motion. It rocked back and forth at approximately 40° banks, at approximately 1 second intervals throughout its course: It was very thin and resembled a round piece of shiny sheet metal.
The weather was very good. I do not remember any clouds that day. Duration of sighting was approximately 10 seconds.
14. Rex Hardy, Jr. -- the Northrop test pilot featured in the articles "Flying Saucers Are Back In News At Los Angeles" and "Villagers' Son Chases Saucers Over Southland" began his adult career as a noted photographer for Life magazine. He had joined its staff in its early days, and was mentored by Edward Steichen, Carl Mydans and Peter Stackpole. Later he shared an office with Margaret Bourke-White. Hardy joined the U.S. Naval Reserve just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and was aboard the aircraft carrier Saratoga when it arrived there a few days later. Already qualified as a private pilot, Hardy underwent military flight training and became a photo-reconnaissance pilot in the South Pacific (which entailed dropping "flash bombs" to light up an area for photographing -- attracting the attention of anti-aircraft batteries and Japanese fighter pilots in the process). Following the war he became a test pilot for Northrop Aviation, and in 1956 became Chief Test Pilot with Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. In 1969 he moved to England, returning to the United States in 1979 to join NASA in its flight safety program. Hardy died in 2004, aged 88.
15. Researcher Richard Hall's 1964 report, The UFO Evidence includes a section on "Pilots and Aviation Experts" which includes more pilot sightings.
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