Recent interest in unidentified flying objects has been stoked by recordings released by the U.S. Navy and demands by congressmen that investigations ensue.
The Internet has been abuzz ever since the Navy said it could not identify a craft seen by Navy pilots in a 2015 video.
Members of Congress are demanding investigations to find out what unknowns are flying in U.S. airspace. One such probe has already preceded these efforts.
The United States Air Force operated Project Blue Book, a study of sightings of unidentified objects over the U.S., from 1949 through 1969. When Blue Book was shuttered, the Air Force officially determined that no UFO investigation had turned up a threat to national security, evidence of advanced scientific knowledge or proof of extraterrestrial vehicles.
Project Blue Book concluded that most UFO sightings were misidentification of aircraft or of natural phenomena. A small percentage, though, went down on the books as “unexplained” or “insufficient data” — including at least one incident in Lowndes County.
In 2015, Los Angeles resident John Greenewald Jr. posted a wealth of newly declassified documents to his website, Blackvault.com. Declassified Blue Book documents are also available piecemeal here and there across the Internet.
Of interest in those documents to South Georgia sky observers:
• July 7, 1949
A document from the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations dated Sept. 14, 1949, follows a reported incident from July 7 of that year, in which a woman — her name blacked out — reported to The Valdosta Daily Times that she had seen “a bright, reddish object in the southeast section of Valdosta, Georgia.”
The woman was interviewed by an Air Force agent and described the object she saw as “in the shape of an electric light bulb, with the small stem up ... red in color, hanging in the sky at about a 45 degree angle from the horizon. ... She also stated that the object did not seem to be too far away from her and that it already disappeared into the southwest.”
The report, which is light on details, mentions that “Residence check of Mrs. ------ revealed that she is trustworthy though very excitable, nervous, sickly, and thought to have a great deal of imagination.” No other person reported seeing the object, according to the report.
• July 19, 1949
One of the most extensively documented UFO sightings involving Valdosta was first reported by The Valdosta Daily Times in its July 19-20, 1949, issues.
In the July 19 story headlined ‘Valdostan Sights Illuminated Object in the Midnight Skies,” local engraver Ed Hopkins is reported as seeing an object “which he described as a reddish-orange ball of fire which acted very much like a V-2,” and which seemed to move quickly at first before slowing down.
In the story, Hopkins is said to have seen two actual V-2 rockets launched in Germany while serving with the U.S. Army in World War II. The V-2, one of Adolf Hitler’s “vengeance weapons,” was the world’s first ballistic long-range missile and was fired repeatedly at targets in Britain toward the end of the war.
Far faster than any plane of the age, it could not be intercepted and gave no warning of its approach before it struck. The missile was introduced too late to have any real impact on the outcome of the war.
Hopkins said “the object last night resembled those launchings.” Hopkins followed the object, seen southeast of Valdosta, for several minutes using “high-powered field glasses.”
The story also mentions a person identifying himself only as “Hugh” calling a Times reporter, claiming he had seen “a fiery object” in the skies.
In the Times’ followup story on July 20, a local policeman, J.B. Hughes, reported that he and several other officers who were changing shift at the police station saw the object as well. Without giving names, the story says several other people had contacted the Times “to corroborate the report made by Ed Hopkins yesterday.”
An Air Force OSI document on this event, with names blacked out, says, “With Mr. ---- knowledge of a German V2 rocket that he did not see the object itself, but that the yellow object that he saw was a flare from an unknown object.”
The document follows with weather observations from what was then Valdosta Municipal Airport, then adds a paragraph on one of the witnesses:
“Residence check of -------- revealed that he is of excellent reputation, scientific minded, very precise in his work and a non-drinker.”
The investigation paper concludes with the statement: “There is a rumor in Valdosta, Ga., that the Government has an experimental laboratory located on the Florida Coast, south of Valdosta, Ga.”
The rumor was true. The Joint Long Range Proving Grounds was established at Cape Canaveral on Florida’s east coast in 1949 for missile testing.
The July 19, 1949, UFO case for Valdosta was eventually labeled “insufficient evidence” by the Air Force.
• July 24, 1952
An unclassified Air Intelligence Information Report dated Aug. 5, 1952, says a member of the Air Force Band based at Moody AFB reported having sighted several unidentified flying objects in the vicinity of Lakeland, Ga.
“An interview with the airman disclosed that he had seen three objects, at various altitudes and distances from his point of observation, and that because of their odd flying characteristics, he made special effort to follow their course and maneuvers.”
• Nov. 30, 1954
Another unclassified Air Force document details multiple sightings of an explosive object of some sort across much of Georgia and Alabama. The mayor of Sylacauga, Ala., told an officer at Maxwell AFB that an unidentified object fell through the roof of a home at 3:30 p.m. and injured a woman.
The report documents a number of related sightings, starting with a report from a Homerville woman of an “explosion in the air estimated five miles north of Homerville.” Similar reports of mid-air explosions and assumed plane crashes were made across Georgia and Alabama in the next couple of hours, including such locations as Marietta, Birmingham, Phenix City, Tuscaloosa and Newnan, Ga.
“Birmingham, Alabama, Airport Tower reported silver object falling at bearing 135 degrees, forty miles southeast of Birmingham. Small plane pilots reported smoke in same area at same time.”
In the end, this UFO was identified: it was a meteorite burning up and breaking apart as it entered the atmosphere. The website History.com mentions this as the first confirmed case of a person being hit by a meteorite.
Various and Sundry
In declassified Project Blue Book papers, there are several volumes of indexes which list thousands of UFO sightings with brief, two-line summaries. These include:
• Nov. 28, 1966 - Sparks - “insuffficient data” to determine what was seen.
• Oct. 20, 1960 - Moody AFB - aircraft.
• Sept. 16, 1958 - Moody AFB - the star Sirius.
ˆJuly 24, 1952 - Lakeland - balloon.
• Aug. 5, 1952 - Homerville - balloon.