Project Blue Book and the Big Build-Up
Just twenty minutes after midnight on January 22, 1952, nineteen and a half hours after the Navy lieutenant commander had chased the UFO near Mitchel AFB, another
incident involving an airplane and something unknown was developing in Alaska. In contrast with the unusually balmy weather in New York, the temperature in Alaska that
night, according to the detailed account of the incident we received at ATIC, was a miserable 47 degrees below zero. The action was unfolding at one of our
northernmost radar outposts in Alaska. This outpost was similar to those you may have seen in pictures, a collection of low, sprawling buildings grouped around the
observatory- -like domes that house the antennae of the most modern radar in the world. The entire collection of buildings and domes are one color, solid white, from
the plastering of ice and snow. The picture that the outpost makes could be described as fascinating, something out of a Walt Disney fantasy--but talk to somebody
who's been there--it's miserable.
At 0020, twenty minutes after midnight, an airman watching one of the outpost's radarscopes saw a target appear. It looked like an airplane because it showed up as a
bright, distinct spot. But it was unusual because it was northeast of the radar site, and very few airplanes ever flew over this area. Off to the northeast of the
station there was nothing but ice, snow, and maybe a few Eskimos until you got to Russia. Occasionally a B-50 weather reconnaissance plane ventured into the area, but
a quick check of the records showed that none was there on this night.
By the time the radar crew had gotten three good plots of the target, they all knew that it was something unusual--it was at 23,000 feet and traveling 1,500 miles an
hour. The duty controller, an Air Force captain, was quickly called; he made a fast check of the targets that had now been put on the plotting board and called to a
jet fighter-interceptor base for a scramble.
The fighter base, located about 100 miles south of the radar site, acknowledged the captain's call and in a matter of minutes an F-94 jet was climbing out toward the
While the F-94 was heading north, the radar crew at the outpost watched the unidentified target. The bright dots that marked its path had moved straight