office. More reports, which had been phoned in from all over northern New Mexico, were waiting for them. By morning a full-fledged investigation was under way.
No matter what these green fireballs were, the military was getting a little edgy. They might be common meteorites, psychologically enlarged flares, or true UFO's, but whatever they were they were playing around in one of the most sensitive security areas in the United States. Within 100 miles of Albuquerque were two installations that were the backbone of the atomic bomb program, Los Alamos and Sandia Base. Scattered throughout the countryside were other installations vital to the defense of the U.S.: radar stations, fighter-interceptor bases, and the other mysterious areas that had been blocked off by high chain-link fences.
Since the green fireballs bore some resemblance to meteors or meteorites, the Kirtland intelligence officers called in Dr. Lincoln La Paz.
Dr. La Paz said that he would be glad to help, so the officers explained the strange series of events to him. True, he said, the description of the fireballs did sound as if they might be meteorites --except for a few points. One way to be sure was to try to plot the flight path of the green fireballs the same way he had so successfully plotted the flight path of meteorites in the past. From this flight path he could determine where they would have hit the earth--if they were meteorites. They would search this area, and if they found parts of a meteorite they would have the answer to the green fireball riddle.
The fireball activity on the night of December 5 was made to order for plotting flight paths. The good reports of that night included carefully noted locations, the directions in which the green objects were seen, their heights above the horizon, and the times when they were observed. So early the next morning Dr. La Paz and a crew of intelligence officers were scouring northern New Mexico. They started out by talking to the people who had made reports but soon found out that dozens of other people had also seen the fireballs. By closely checking the time of the observations, they determined that eight separate fireballs had been seen. One was evidently more spectacular and was seen by the most people. Everyone in northern New Mexico had seen it going from west to east, so Dr. La Paz and his crew worked eastward across New Mexico to the west border of Texas, talking to dozens of people. After many sleepless hours they finally plotted where it should have struck the earth. They searched the area but found nothing. They went back over the area time and time again-- nothing. As Dr. La Paz later told me, this was the first time that he seriously doubted the green fireballs were meteorites.
Within a few more days the fireballs were appearing almost nightly. The
intelligence officers from Kirtland decided that maybe they could get a good look at one of them, so on the night of December 8 two officers took off in an airplane just before dark and began to cruise around north of Albuquerque. They had a carefully worked out plan where each man would observe certain details if they saw one of the green fireballs. At 6:33P.M. they saw one. This is their report:
At 6:33P.M. while flying at an indicated altitude of 11,500 feet, a strange phenomenon was observed. Exact position of the aircraft at time of the observation was 20 miles east of the Las Vegas, N.M., radio range station. The aircraft was on a compass course of 90 degrees. Capt. ------ was pilot and I was acting as copilot. I first observed the object and a split second later the pilot saw it. It was 2,000 feet higher than the plane, and was approaching the plane at a rapid rate of speed from 30 degrees to the left of our course. The object was similar in appearance to a burning green flare, the kind that is commonly used in the Air Force. However, the light was much more intense and the object appeared considerably larger than a normal flare. The trajectory of the object, when first sighted, was almost flat and parallel to the earth. The phenomenon lasted about 2 seconds. At the end of this time the object seemed to begin to burn out and the trajectory then dropped off rapidly. The phenomenon was of such intensity as to be visible from the very moment it ignited.
Back at Wright-Patterson AFB, ATIC was getting a blow-by-blow account of the fireball activity but they were taking no direct part in the investigation. Their main interest was to review all incoming UFO reports and see if the green fireball reports were actually unique to the Albuquerque area. They were. Although a good many UFO reports were coming in from other parts of the U.S., none fit the description of the green fireballs.
All during December 1948 and January 1949 the green fireballs continued to invade the New Mexico skies. Everyone, including the intelligence officers at Kirtland AFB, Air Defense Command people, Dr. La Paz, and some of the most distinguished scientists at Los Alamos had seen at least one.
In mid-February 1949 a conference was called at Los Alamos to determine what should be done to further pursue the investigation. The Air Force, Project Sign, the intelligence people at Kirtland, and other interested parties had done everything they could think of and still no answer.
Such notable scientists as Dr. Joseph Kaplan, a world-renowned authority on the physics of the upper atmosphere, Dr. Edward Teller, of H-bomb fame, and of course Dr. La Paz, attended, along with a lot of military brass and scientists from Los Alamos.
This was one conference where there was no need to discuss whether or not