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.
Conclusion: Unknown.
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.
On October 27, 1951, the new Project Grudge was officially established. I'd written the necessary letters and had received the necessary endorsements.