One passenger, an officer from ATIC, ran up to me and handed me a roll of film.
"Here's some pictures of them," he said breathlessly. "I never thought I'd see one."
The next passengers I recognized were two other officers, Ph.D. psychologists from the Aero Medical Laboratory. I knew them because they had visited Blue Book many times collecting data for a paper they were writing on UFO's.
The title of the paper was to be: The Psychological Aspects of UFO Sightings.
Almost climbing over each other in their effort to tell their story they told me how they had watched the UFO's from the C-54. Both had seen them "dogfighting" between themselves.
"How fast were they going?" I asked.
"Like hell," was their only answer but the way they said it and the looks on their faces emphasized their statement.
The crowd on the ramp had increased by now and some of the newcomers had binoculars. The men with the binoculars were the focal point of several individual groups as they watched and gave blow-by-blow accounts.
Some of the crowd were talking about jet fighters and it suddenly dawned on me that just across the parking lot was the operations office of the local ADC jet outfit, the 97th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.
I ran over to interceptor operations and went in. I knew the duty officer because several times before the 97th people had chased balloons over Dayton. When I told him about the UFO's all I received was a rather uninterested stare. When I said they were over the base he did me the courtesy of going out to look.
He came running back in and hit the scramble button. Three minutes later two F-86's were headed UFOward. They soon disappeared but their vapor trails kept the tense crowd informed of their progress.
And believe me there was tension.
As the vapor trails spiraled up, first as two distinct plumes, and later only one--as they blended at altitude--more than one pilot standing on the ramp expressed his thankfulness for his unenviable position--on the ground watching.
The vapor trails thinned out and disappeared right under the three UFO's and it was obvious that the two jets had closed in.
Here were three that didn't escape.
That night the 97th Fighter Interceptor Squadron added three more balloons to their record. The F-86's had been able to climb higher than the F-84's.
The next morning photos confirmed the balloons. They had been tethered together and carried an instrument package.
I had been fooled. Two Ph.D psychologists who had studied UFO's had been fooled. A C-54 load of "experienced observers" (many pilots) had been fooled. The tower operators had been fooled and so had a hundred others.
This was an interesting sighting and we used to discuss it a lot. All of the observers later agreed that what made them so excited was the tower operator's announcement: "F-84's from Lockbourne are chasing three high speed objects." This set the stage and from then on no one even considered the fact that if the objects had been traveling 2000 or 3000 miles an hour they would have been long gone in the fifteen minutes we watched them.
Secondly, I found out that the C-54, a slow airplane, had actually overtaken and passed the balloons between Columbus and Dayton but none of the passengers I talked to had stopped to think of this.
And I'm positive that in our minds the balloons, which were about 40 feet in diameter and at 40,000 feet, looked a lot larger than they actually were.
I know the power of suggestion plays an important role in UFO sightings. Once you're convinced you're looking at a UFO you can see a lot of things.
But then there's the "unknowns."
Any good saucer fan--wild eyed or sober--will magnanimously concede that a certain percentage of the UFO sightings are the misidentification of known objects. They drag out the "unknowns" as the "proof."
Technically speaking, an "unknown" report is one that has been made by a reliable observer (not necessarily experienced). The report has been exhaustively investigated and analyzed and there is no logical explanation.
To this, the Air Force says: "The Air Force emphasizes the belief that if more immediate detailed objective observational data could have been obtained on the 'unknowns' these too could have been satisfactorily explained."
I think the Case of the Lubbock Lights is an excellent example of this. It is probably one of the most thoroughly investigated reports in the UFO files and it contained the most precise observational data we ever received. Scientists from far and near tried to solve it. It remained an "unknown."
The men who made the original sightings stuck by the case and furnished the "more detailed objective observational data" the Air Force speaks of.
The mysterious fights appeared again and instead of looking for something high in the air they looked for something low and found the solution.
The world famous Lubbock Lights were night flying moths reflecting the bluish-green light of a nearby row of mercury vapor street lights.