but together they seemed to mean something. He suggested that I come out and take a look at them -- so I did.
Individually they weren't too good, but when I lined them up chronologically and plotted them on a map they took the form of a hot report.
At 3:40P.M. a woman at Unionville, Virginia, had reported a "very shiny object" at high altitude.
At 4:20P.M. the operators of the CAA radio facility at Gordonsville, Virginia, had reported that they saw a "round, shiny object." It was southeast of their station, or directly south of Unionville.
At 4:25P.M. the crew of an airliner northwest of Richmond, Virginia, reported a "silver sphere at eleven o'clock high."
At 4:43P.M. a Marine pilot in a jet tried to intercept a "round shiny sphere" south of Gordonsville.
At 5:43P.M. an Air Force T-33 jet tried to intercept a "shiny sphere" south of Gordonsville. He got above 35,000 feet and the UFO was still far above him.
At 7:35P.M. many people in Blackstone, Virginia, about 80 miles south of Gordonsville, reported it. It was a "round, shiny object with a golden glow" moving from north to south. By this time radio commentators in central Virginia were giving a running account of the UFO's progress.
At 7:59P.M. the people in the CAA radio facility at Blackstone saw it.
At 8:00P.M. jets arrived from Langley AFB to attempt to intercept it, but at 8:05P.M. it disappeared.
This was a good report because it was the first time we ever received a series of reports on the same object, and there was no doubt that all these people had reported the same object. Whatever it was, it wasn't moving too fast, because it had traveled only about 90 miles in four hours and twenty-five minutes. I was about ready to give up until morning and go home when my wife called. The local Associated Press man had called our home and she assumed that it was about this sighting. She had just said that I was out so he might not call the base. I decided that I'd better keep working so I'd have the answer in time to keep the story out of the papers. A report like this could cause some excitement.
The UFO obviously wasn't a planet because it was moving from north to south, and it was too slow to be an airplane. I called the balloon-plotting center at Lowry AFB, where the tracks of the big skyhook balloons are plotted, but the only big balloons in the air were in the western United States, and they were all accounted for.
It might have been a weather balloon. The wind charts showed that the high-altitude winds were blowing in different directions at different altitudes
above 35,000 feet, so there was no one flow of air that could have brought a balloon in from a certain area, and I knew that the UFO had to be higher than 35,000 feet because the T-33 jet had been this high and the UFO was still above it. The only thing to do was to check with all of the weather stations in the area. I called Richmond, Roanoke, several places in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., and four or five other weather stations, but all of their balloons were accounted for and none had been anywhere close to the central part of Virginia.
A balloon can travel only so far, so there was no sense in checking stations too far away from where the people had seen the UFO, but I took a chance and called Norfolk; Charleston, West Virginia; Altoona, Pennsylvania; and other stations within a 150-mile radius of Gordonsville and Blackstone. Nothing.
I still thought it might be a balloon, so I started to call more stations. At Pittsburgh I hit a lead. Their radiosonde balloon had gone up to about 60,000 feet and evidently had sprung a slow leak because it had leveled off at that altitude. Normally balloons go up till they burst at 80,000 or 90,000 feet. The weather forecaster at Pittsburgh said that their records showed they had lost contact with the balloon when it was about 60 miles southeast of their station. He said that the winds at 60,000 feet were constant, so it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out where the balloon went after they had lost it. Things must be dull in Pittsburgh at 2:00 a.m. on Monday mornings, because he offered to plot the course that the balloon probably took and call me back.
In about twenty minutes I got my call. It probably was their balloon, the forecaster said. Above 50,000 feet there was a strong flow of air southeast from Pittsburgh, and this fed into a stronger southerly flow that was paralleling the Atlantic coast just east of the Appalachian Mountains. The balloon would have floated along in this flow of air like a log floating down a river. As close as he could estimate, he said, the balloon would arrive in the Gordonsville- Blackstone area in the late afternoon or early evening. This was just about the time the UFO had arrived.
"Probably a balloon" was a good enough answer for me.
The next morning at 8:00A.M., Al Chop called from the Pentagon to tell me that people were crawling all over his desk wanting to know about a sighting in Virginia.
The reports continued to come in. At Walnut Lake, Michigan, a group of people with binoculars watched a "soft white light" go back and forth across the western sky for nearly an hour. A UFO "paced" an Air Force B-25 for thirty minutes in California. Both of these happened on June 18, and although we checked and rechecked them, they came out as unknowns.