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.
During the summer of 1953, UFO reports dropped off considerably. During May, June, and July of 1952 we'd received 637 good reports. During the same months in 1953 we
received only seventy-six. We had been waiting for the magic month of July to roll around again because every July there had been the sudden and unexplained peak in
reporting; we wanted to know if it would happen again.