On June 3, 1980, the chief defense attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, sent a classified message to the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., reporting on a UFO incident that had taken place the day before in southern Peru. The message said a UFO had been seen twice near a Peruvian Air Force base and that fighter jets had tried unsuccessfully to intercept and destroy the object.
The attaché’s message was routinely relayed to the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Chiefs of Staff of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, and to the Secretary of State. That apparently is the normal routing for most intelligence messages, regardless of the subject matter.
Although the government professes to have had no official interest in UFOs since the Air Force closed down Project Blue Book in 1969, since that time a number of classified messages about UFO incidents have been sent from overseas posts to the DIA and then relayed to the other agencies. Sometimes the UFO messages have gone to the White House as well.
The public is rarely ever made aware of this official interest in UFO matters, and it is only through the Freedom of Information Act that some of these documents are declassified and released.
Months after the Peruvian incident was reported to Washington, the Justice Department turned over a heavily censored copy of the message to Peter Gersten, then a New York lawyer for a small organization called Citizens Against UFO Secrecy, or CAUS, which was suing the DIA for release of certain UFO documents.
Gersten sent a copy to me and, in an attempt to learn more about the Peruvian incident, I phoned the American embassy in Lima. I was told that the defense attaché who had sent the message had been re-assigned and that others in the office knew nothing more about the incident than what was in the report.
I made a bunch of phone calls and eventually located the former attaché. He was a Navy captain who had since been assigned to Langley Air Force Base near Norfolk, Virginia. When I phoned him, he said he had absolutely no recollection of the incident or of the message.
Could it be, I wondered, that such UFO incidents are so common that they make no impression on him? At any rate, he gave me the name of a Peruvian colonel in Lima who had been the liaison to the American military attachés at that time.
I phoned the Peruvian Air Force headquarters in Lima, but the officer was on vacation. Another officer asked what I was inquiring about and, when I told him, he suggested that I write a letter detailing my request to still another colonel.
I did this, but seven weeks passed without a reply. I phoned again, and this time I was referred to the man to whom I had written. By now, he had been promoted to the rank of general.
The general was courteous, but in answer to my questions about the attempt to shoot down a UFO, he explained patiently that a mistake had been made, there had been no UFO and what was seen was only "meteorological balloons."
I thought it was odd that those fighter pilots would try to shoot down balloons and that the chief defense attaché at the U.S. Embassy would bother the Defense Intelligence Agency, the NSA, the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department over something so seemingly trivial.
The explanation the general gave me is rather typical of the response you get in dealing with the military of most countries when it comes to queries about UFOs. Usually, it is difficult if not impossible to get anyone in an official position to discuss UFOs at all.
Several of the more intriguing UFO incidents in the United States to come to light through the Freedom of Information Act occurred in late October and early November 1975. Documents declassified and released under the FOI Act showed that several Strategic Air Command bases in Maine, Michigan and North Dakota came under harassment of sorts from UFOs, as did a number of missile sites in Montana.
The full details of these and other incidents involving the U.S. military are spelled out in the book Clear Intent (re-published as THE UFO COVER-UP), by Larry Fawcett and Barry Greenwood, but briefly this is what happened:
At least three and possibly four SAC bases (Loring AFB, Wurtsmith AFB and Minot AFB) were invaded with apparent impunity by UFOs that easily located the nuclear weapons storage areas of the bases and hovered over those storage areas. At the same time, UFOs were being spotted over nuclear missile sites south of Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, and two jet fighters were sent up to see what was going on.
The jet pilots found nothing, even though military personnel on the ground could see the UFOs turn their lights out when the planes approached and turn them back on again when the planes had passed through the area.
The fact that the jets were scrambled prompted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon to question what he termed the "advisability of scrambling aircraft against UFOs."
Furthermore, at a briefing on November 10, 1975, the Joint Chiefs chairman "indicated that when UFO sightings are reported, the NMCC should ask for temperature gradients in the area for possible aloft inversions." These quotes are contained in Pentagon documents; the NMCC is the National Military Command Center.
It is possible to interpret the last order as meaning the Pentagon doesn't know what UFOs are either, especially if the country's then top military man thought UFOs might be temperature inversions, or freak weather conditions.
At that time, according to documents released under the FOI Act, the following "temperature inversions" were being reported to NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Note: K-1, L-1 and similar designations refer to specific missile sites):
November 7, 6:19 a.m. MST: SAC advised that K-1 says a very bright object to their east is now southeast of them and they are looking at it with 10X50 binoculars. Object seems to have several lights on it, but no distinct pattern. The orange/gold object overhead also has small objects on it.
November 7, 6:27 a.m. MST: L-1 reports that the object to their northeast seems to be issuing a black object from it, tubular in shape.
November 7, 11:35 p.m. MST: A security camper team at K-4 reported UFO with white lights, one red light 50 yards behind white light. Personnel at K-1 seeing the same object.
November 8, 12:45 a.m. MST: Conversation about UFOs; advised to go ahead and scramble, but be sure to brief pilots, FAA.
November 8, 2:15 a.m. MST: From SAC Command Post: From four different points: Observed objects and fighters; when fighters arrived in the area, the lights went out; when fighters departed the lights went back on."
In Washington, D.C., the National Military Command Center was keeping tabs on everything and in a "Memorandum for the Record," dated 6 a.m. EST November 8, Brigadier General Wilman D. Barnes, then deputy director of operations for the NMCC, said in part:
"0522 EST phone conversation with NORAD Command Director: At 0405 EST, SAC Site L-5 observed one object accelerate and climb rapidly to a point in altitude where it became indistinguishable from the stars."
These documents revealed, among other things, that the UFOs were occasionally tracked on radar, at times loafing along at seven miles an hour.
The most interesting revelation was the statement in General Barnes' memorandum that one object shot so high into the sky that observers couldn't tell it from a star. This made a statement once made to me in 1978 even more believable.
that time Manoel Paiva, then mayor of the small Brazilian town of Pinheiro
in the state of Maranhão, said that in 1977 people in his county often saw
UFOs shoot so high into the sky they couldn't tell them from the stars.
And at least once, he said, a UFO came shooting straight back down and hovered over his town again. At the time UFOs were seen nearly every night for four months.
How high do UFOs go? An Air National Guard colonel once told me he and his pilot had been scrambled to intercept a UFO that was hovering over a radar station in Minnesota but that as soon as they were airborne, the UFO shot straight up into the sky.
Soon after, he said, personnel at the radar station told them by radio they had tracked the UFO going from a thousand feet above the station to more than two hundred miles into the sky in a matter of seconds.
a retired Navy lieutenant commander told me that once when he was the radar
officer aboard a Navy destroyer off the New Jersey coast a UFO was tracked
going more than a hundred miles straight up before vanishing from the radar
screen. (For more on these two radar reports, click
(For more on these two radar reports, click here.)
Such reports are not uncommon. On the night of July 28, 1978, U.S. Coast Guard personnel at several stations on Lake Michigan reported seeing UFOs, and the information was relayed to the Pentagon. In a phone interview, Seaman Gary Randalls, who was stationed at Two Rivers, Wisconsin, told me he had seen a second UFO not long after the first sighting.
guy and I went up to the tower at the station, just looking around, thinking
maybe it would come back or something," Randalls said. "Then, off
to the south we saw a white light coming straight at us.
Other people have reported seeing UFOs go out of sight high in the sky.
at one forty-five on the morning of September 7, 1976, a NORAD radar station
at Port Austin, Michigan, one hundred twenty miles north of Detroit, tracked
a group of seven unidentified flying objects moving west to east for about
"In the light of early morning, I saw these red and green and white flashing things all sort of muster together and rise out of sight," Bailey told me. "There was this real bright one, and the seven or so to the left in some kind of formation all came up to this big one and then just rose and went straight out of sight."
In Salto, Uruguay, a blackout occurred when a UFO appeared in the sky on the night of March 24, 1977. Many people went outside and saw a disc-shaped object that went higher and higher until it looked like a star with a reddish color. Then it faded out completely.
In Clifton, Arizona, in 1980, restaurant owner Alonzo Coronado saw a light the size of a dime going higher and higher until it went out of sight.
No nation had aircraft capable of leaving the atmosphere in 1951 when the Navy ship tracked a UFO leaving the atmosphere, and no nation has aircraft with that capability today.
The current policy of the U.S. Government on UFOs, as stated in form letters issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is that:
A. There is no evidence UFOs pose a threat to the United States.
B. There is no evidence they represent a technological development beyond known technology.
C. There is no evidence of extraterrestrial vehicles.
Frankly, I prefer:
D. None of the above.
The fact that UFOs can hover over nuclear weapons storage areas of SAC bases with the Air Force powerless to do anything about it certainly indicates a very real potential threat.
The fact that UFOs can hover motionless and then zip well out of our atmosphere in seconds, and did so long before we started putting men up into space, indicates an awesome technology that we cannot yet begin to match.
And if UFOs can leave our atmosphere that easily, it is rather pointless to argue that they can't get here from "there," wherever "there" may be.
I'm not claiming they're extraterrestrial, but they certainly do not seem to be tied to earth the way we are.
Scientists tell us it is virtually impossible that visitors from other stars could be here because the distances are so vast. Nothing, they say, can travel faster than light, or 186,000 miles a second. And you would have to travel that fast for at least four years to get here from the nearest star, and for much longer if you come from a star that is likely to have inhabitable planets.
That is a powerful argument, and all the logic is on their side. However, the UFO phenomenon is not a logical one and doesn't abide by the laws of the universe as proclaimed by our scientists, who may not know all there is to know.
The truth is, of course, that UFOs are magic. What they can do is just as much magic to us as our space-age technology would be to George Washington or anyone else who lived a couple of hundred years ago.
And undoubtedly the things people on this earth will be capable of doing in the years 2200 or 2300 would most likely seem like magic to the people of today. What we will be capable of a thousand generations from now is impossible to imagine. Perhaps we will even be traveling among the stars.
All that is academic at the moment. The question of where UFOs come from isn't as important at the moment as is the fact that they are here. The question we should try to answer first is what are they?
UFO researchers are always saying, "Look for the patterns." The problem is that there is such an endless variety of things reported in UFO sightings that the patterns that can be recognized cover only a fraction of the cases.
Still, patterns do exist. The ability to leave our atmosphere is one. Extraordinary speed is another. And one that seems to be common in sightings throughout the world is the "ball of fire" or "brush fire" or whatever. It appears to be a brilliant, often fiery ball of light, very often orange or reddish in color.
Everywhere I have gone, people have told of seeing what looks like a ball of fire, and the UFO literature is full of such descriptions. What is behind this "ball of fire"? We have a few clues.
Noemi Rodrigues, a schoolteacher in Santarém, Brazil, told me she saw a large disc-shaped object rise out of the Amazon River one night in July 1981, with water draining off of it. At the time she was standing at the back rail of an overnight passenger boat going from the city of Alenquer to Santarém. The object was glowing a dull orange, but then it suddenly flared into a brilliant, dazzling ball of light that rapidly zigzagged back and forth across the river before disappearing.
A somewhat similar experience was reported by Charles E. Kohlhase, who was the mission design manager for the Voyager space mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
One night in August 1956, while he was still in college at Georgia Tech, he and his father went out into a field near their home outside of Americus, Georgia, to see how well young Kohlhase, then in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, could locate stars.
After about fifteen minutes of stargazing, he and his father spotted a light over the far end of the field moving parallel to the horizon. It blinked on about every ten seconds for a duration of two or three seconds. The light appeared to be going back and forth, left to right, above the trees, about the width of the field.
They thought little of it at the time and decided to walk back to the house. But looking back at the light, they realized it wasn't moving back and forth anymore. Instead, it was moving slowly toward them, pulsing on and off.
"It kept coming and finally stopped at a place that was about a forty-five-degree angle of elevation to us," said Kohlhase. "It emitted no sound and no exhaust. Then the first thing happened that really scared us. This thing turned a brilliant white hot. I shouldn't say hot because I didn't feel any heat from it, but it was extremely bright.
"I crouched down covering my face with my arms in anticipation of a possible explosion. I was convinced that whatever this – whatever it was, maybe an airplane – was about to blow up in a trillion pieces.
“But nothing happened. There was no noise. This brilliant whiteness began to dull, to tone down to about a blacksmith's horseshoe red, like when you pull a piece of iron out of the fire.
"For the first time, I could see its outline. It appeared to be a saucer-shaped object thirty to fifty feet in diameter that was fifty to a hundred yards away.
"Then it began to move slowly back in the other direction. When it got fairly far away, it looked more spherical than it did saucer shaped. The object continued moving until it got back over the tops of the distant pine trees.
"Then two other lights somewhere in the distance rose up from the other side of the trees. The three objects then moved off to the southwest and disappeared in a minute or so."
Kohlhase first revealed this to his scientific colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1968 and told them:
"Being of a scientific discipline, I do not believe in 'flying saucers.' And, yet, what I saw did look like a large 'flying saucer' of a diameter of thirty to fifty feet and a thickness of five to fifteen feet.
“It is my opinion that the object was solid, that it contained an energy source that was the cause of the object's luminosity, and that it was under control. I will always remember and be impressed by this UFO sighting."
When Noemi Rodrigues saw the object rise out of the Amazon, it was disc shaped and glowing dull red, and then it turned brilliant and looked like a ball of fire. Kohlhase saw a brilliant white object tone down to a dull red and then he could make out its outline. It was disc-shaped.
In 1977, Brazilian Air Force Captain Uyrange Hollanda, four sergeants and a young hunter saw a "ball of fire" four times one night on the Guajará River, near Colares, but twice they saw a different shape as well. One time, the object turned its light off and they saw an amber-colored, disc-shaped object with white windows.
Later, the "ball of fire" passed over them and again turned its light out. All they could see was a green light on top and a red light on the bottom. They could see nothing else, but photographs they took revealed a disc-shaped object hovering vertically and apparently shining a beam of light of some kind at them.
All this proves only that some "balls of fire" are really disc-shaped objects that at times turn so bright that the shape behind it cannot be detected by the naked eye. Perhaps all "fireballs" are disc-shaped.
You would think that a mystery such as this phenomenon poses would be utterly fascinating to the scientists of the world, a challenge to end all challenges. Yet, only a relatively few scientists take it seriously.