reports "Ground-air-visual-radar" sightings and they make interesting reading.
At Duluth, Minnesota, in March, it's dark by five o'clock in the evening. It's cold. The temperature hovers around zero and it's so clear you have a feeling you can almost reach up and touch the stars.
It was this kind of a night on March 13, 1959, and as the officers and men of the Air Defense Command fighter squadron at the Duluth Municipal Airport moved, they shuffled along slowly because the heavy parkas and arctic clothing they wore were heavy.
Then came the UFO report and things speeded up.
At 5:20P.M., exactly, the operations officer noted the time, word came in over the comm line that someone had sighted an unidentified flying object off to the north. Word flashed around the squadron and as people rushed out of buildings to look they were joined by those already outside.
And there it was: big, round and bright, and it was moving at high speed. Some observers thought it was "greenish," others "reddish," but it was something and it was there.
The bearing was 300 degrees from the base.
It was an awesome sight and it became even more awesome when a quick call to an adjacent radar site brought back the word that they had just picked up a target on a bearing of 300 degrees from the air base. They were tracking it and taking scope photos.
In the alert hangar, the two pilots standing the alert had been listening to a running account of the sighting so when the scramble bell rang they took off for their airplanes like a couple of sprinters.
As the two big alert hangar doors swung up the whining screech of the jet starters, followed by thunder of the engines, filled the airfield. The atmosphere around the Duluth Municipal Airport was closely akin to Santa Anita the instant the starting gates open.
I've been around when jet interceptors scramble and you can twang the tension with your finger.
As the people on the ground watched they could first see the flame of the jet's afterburner disappear into the night. Then the jet's navigation lights faded out on a bearing of 300 degrees.
At the radar site they still had the target and there were many excited people watching the big pale, orange scopes as two little bright points of light began to close on a bigger blob of light.
Then the pilots gave the "Tally-ho"--they were in visual contact.
But the "Tally-ho" had no more been given than the big blob of light on the
target began to pull away from the fighters and was soon off the scope.
The pilots kept visual contact, though, and the radio provided the details of the chase to the now blind crew in the radar room.
The two jets bored north, with afterburner on, and the needles on their machmeters passed the "1.0" mark. But still the UFO was just as far away as it had ever been.
The chase went on for a few minutes more before the pilots pulled their throttles back into the cruise position, turned, and came home.
Even before they landed, the people at the airbase saw the big, round and bright UFO rapidly begin to fade and then it was gone.
So ended the glamour and the dog work began.
Each man who had seen the UFO visually was carefully interrogated. Weather reports were collected. Radarscope photos were developed. The two pilots received special attention. The exact bearing of the UFO was measured and 300 degrees magnetic was correct.
The bundle of data was packed up and sent to Project Blue Book. The panel of experts convened.
First, the radarscope photos were examined.
"Those targets could be interference from other radars," said the radar expert, and he mentally ticked off a dozen and one other similar cases of known interference. The weather data, and locations and frequencies of other radars were checked out.
Beyond doubt it was interference from another radar that caused the target.
Now, the visual sighting.
Balloon? No, the fighters could have caught a balloon in seconds.
Airplane? Same answer. These jets were the fastest things in the air.
Planet or star? Out came the almanacs and the puzzle went to the astrophysicist. Venus was on a bearing of 300 degrees from the Duluth Municipal Airport at 5:20P.M. on March 23rd. But Venus was just below the horizon at that time and the observers said the UFO was "moving fast."
Once again the weather charts were studied. The atmospheric conditions were such that it was very possible that due to refraction Venus would have been visible just on the horizon. The fact that the UFO faded so fast would bear this out because the conditions for such refraction are critical and a slight change in atmospheric conditions could easily have caused the planet to disappear.
The speed--a common illusion. Further interrogation of the observers showed it had never moved.
So, the history of the UFO is almost brought up to date.