By Scott Corrales (c) 1994
Inexplicata-The Journal of Hispanic UFOlogy
UFO Digest Latin America Correspondent
[This article originally appeared in Tim Beckley's Unsolved UFO Mysteries magazine in 1994. The electronic file was recently rediscovered during a hard drive scan and we're sharing it with our readers 18 years later! -- SC]
Captain Charles Wendorf's orders were straightforward enough: fly his B-52 Stratofortress to the Saddle Rock Mid-Air Refueling Area to meet a KC-135 tanker. The clear skies over the Mediterranean coast of Spain made Saddle Rock a particularly suitable refueling site. The giant aircraft, an element of the 68th Bomber Squadron out of North Carolina, was in the middle of a long patrol of the Atlantic Ocean, coming as close to the USSR as they dared. But Cold War tension would be the very last factor to affect the B-52's fate.
At 10:22 a.m. on January 17, 1966, at an altitude of thirty thousand feet, Captain Wendorf's nuclear-warhead laden Stratofortress sighted the KC-35 some 15 miles ahead in the refueling zone. The B-52 carefully jockeyed into position behind the tanker to connect with its refueling mast--a complex but efficient operation that did not involve any loss in speed on the bomber's part and in which remarkably small amounts of fuel were lost.
But something went wrong. An unseen force bumped against the bomber's underside, pushing it upward and causing the KC-135's starboard wing to graze the B-52's cockpit. The bomber's crew felt another terrible jolt as their plane rammed into the tanker's fuselage
To observers on the ground witnessing the refueling maneuver, the tanker exploded into a ball of orange flame while both military aircraft disintegrated high above the earth. The long-range bomber's crew managed to jump clear of the explosion and were later rescued by Spanish fishermen after having miraculously survived their high-altitude jump. But four hydrogen bombs now lay at the bottom of the shallow coastal waters, and the efforts to retrieve them before lethal gamma radiation spread throughout the sea made headlines worldwide.
Witnesses to the explosion claimed having seen three objects in the sky at the time of the explosion, although only the downed bomber and the disintegrated tanker should have been in the area. Suspicions arose among the Spanish military elements assisting with the rescue efforts that the USAF's frantic search for the missing warheads was, in fact, a thinly-veiled excuse for finding the elusive third "airplane" -- the UFO which had caused the destruction of its aircraft and then disappeared without a trace.
The USAF had good reasons, perhaps, to worry about a force inimical to its interests somewhere over the Mediterranean: Eight days before the Palomares debacle, a colossal fireball of unknown origin had flown over the Italian cities of Capri and Naples, causing a general blackout. Four years later, in October 1969, two jet fighters would disappear without a trace during NATO exercises held off Crete. The previous year, the French air force had lost two Mystére IV fighter-bombers on routine patrol over Corsica. The result of the military inquest was that both planes were lost due to "undetermined causes".
Incidents such as this one are legion: UFOs--whether interplanetary or interdimensional--have engaged in a sort of "air supremacy" struggle with military aircraft of all nations since the first foo-fighter encounters during the Second World War. Fighters, bombers and transport planes have been intercepted and fired upon by unidentified objects, while others have been destroyed during efforts at getting closer to the mysterious intruders that fly over sovereign airspace with impunity.
The concept of an interplanetary war in our times, a thought which admittedly smacks of the Cold War's "flying saucer" scare, has been seriously invoked by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the 1950's and by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980's. NATO allegedly prepared a document evaluating the threat posed to existing conventional and military forces in the 1960's, conceding that "we virtually have no defense against their advanced technology." Serious researchers like the late Dr. Olavo Fontes analyzed the possibility that northern Brazil would be occupied by a UFO invasion force in the wake of the attack on the Itaipú garrison in 1965. But the hostility between unidentified objects and human air forces is not limited to our own air force nor to our own times, as can be seen in the following paragraph.
During World War II, both Allied and German aviators had close encounters with unknown aircraft. The following incident appeared in La Nature, a French scientific magazine:
"It took place in Le Mans at the start of the summer of 1941...The Luftwaffe had occupied the old Le Mans airfield at the La Sarthe circuit and was stationing many Messerschmitt 109 fighters--not very fast vehicles, but highly maneuverable ones. The German pilots were kept in constant state of readiness, and I had the opportunity to witness a number of Messerschmitt flight squadron maneuvers in broad daylight.
"The weather was splendid, and as far as I can recall, it was a Sunday. At around 1300 hours, the skies were clear and only a few large cumuli could be seen at quite a distance from each other. Toward that time, the entire city heard the roar of the airplanes flying at full speed, and I was able to ascertain at the time that the cause for alarm appeared to be within one of the large cumulus clouds, which at the time was slowly passing over the airfield. One could see the Messerschmitts flying around the cloud, diving into it, shooting up out of it, or emerging from it sideways before engaging in the same maneuver again. It was a spectacular performance to watch, but it must have been terribly dangerous for the pilots. Was this an exercise ordered by the base commandant or an alert? I never found out, but it was interesting to see the looks of terror on the faces of the German soldiers and officers that
comprised the city garrison as they followed the spectacle from the windows of their homes.
"I was then able to observe how the cloud, whose base upon its arrival was 900 feet high to a maximum height of 3000 feet, began to grow, and when it cleared the airport to move away from the city, had acquired the shape of a very tall pyramid with perfectly clear outlines. Its sharp apex must have been at an altitude of some 10000 feet, judging by its visible height over the horizon and its probable location over the terrain. My vantage point was some 2 miles away from the airfield, and the cloud was some 3 miles away while I watched its apex."
The Korean War produced a number of incidents which became classics of ufology and stressed the inimical nature of whatever appeared to be sharing the skies with our own aircraft.
A B-29 flying over the Korean Peninsula during the 1950-53 conflict had its otherwise uneventful mission interrupted by the sudden appearance of a 20 inch wide glowing disk within the cockpit, which remained immobile and suspended in mid-air to the shock of the flight crew. When one of the airmen approached it with a fire extinguisher, the strange object vanished, only to reappear later on. The bizarre "probe" inspected the bomber's interior before returning to its materialization point and disappearing for good.
A squadron of fighters flew into a cloudbank similar to the one assaulted by the German Messerschmitts during the previous war, but this time, whatever was inside the cloud won: the fighters never emerged from the seemingly innocuous clouds.
The air and ground forces of the former Soviet Union were by no means immune to UFO attacks. In 1961, a giant UFO escorted by a host of lesser craft challenged the grim defenses of the Moscow Anti-Ballistic Missile defense system, one of a kind in the whole world. The commander of the Rybinsk battery opened fire on the intruder, but to the surprise of the assembled misslemen, the projectiles detonated well short of their targets. Now it was the UFOs turn: all the electrical systems of the Rybinsk battery were stalled until the small flotilla of intruders was safely out of its range.
Apparently, the elements of the elite Soviet Rocketry Forces were unable to avoid the temptation of taking potshots at passing UFOs. In 1969, one such detachment was in charge of the nine brigades of SAMs (Surface-to-Air Missiles) which defended the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi against American bomber raids. The Soviet artillerymen, stationed at some distance from Hanoi proper, observed a battleship-sized discoidal UFO (its diameter was in excess of 1000 feet, according to calculations) approach silently and suddenly, oblivious to the urgent IFF ("Identification Friend-or-Foe") requests transmitted by the ground installations. The battery commander phoned his superiors for instructions, and after a brief delay, was given the order to open fire. Three out of five missile brigades launched a total of ten SAMs against the aeroform, but as had occurred in Rybinsk years before, the salvos detonated well short of the target, to the dismay of the ground personnel.
The UFO fired a needle-thin blue beam against one of the SAM launchers, turning the entire unit, which included three launchers, as well as radar and guidance stations, into a smoking heap of metal. According to the report (which has been classified as a hoax by many researchers), two hundred lives were lost in the process before the UFO resumed its trajectory and vanished from sight.
However, the Petrozavodsk UFO of September 1977 seized the initiative when, at four o'clock on the morning of September 20th, it terrorized the city's inhabitants. The medusa-like craft emitted golden shafts of light that pierced holes in windows and pavements. The intruder returned five or six times within a month.
Another much-publicized incident dealt with the destruction of a Cuban MiG-21 "Fishbed" by a UFO. According to a specialist stationed at Florida's Boca Chica Naval Station, some 90 miles off the Cuban coast, he noticed that a strange object was approaching the island nation at some 600 miles an hour at an altitude of 32,000 feet. Two Cuban MiG's intercepted the object and attempted radio contact. The vehicle was described as a large, featureless sphere. When orders to destroy the object were
issued from the ground, one of the MiG's suddenly exploded and disintegrated (in other retellings of the story, it was "zapped" by the UFO) while the UFO climbed suddenly to 100,000 feet and continued its southward trajectory unchallenged.
Other incidents, like the following, have bordered on the unreal--and in fact, there exists no way of proving its authenticity. Author Luis Anglada Font, a World War II fighter pilot who later devoted himself to UFO research in the early days of the phenomenon, included the following highly dramatic account (as told to him by physicist Raymond Harvey) in one of his books, La Realidad de los Ovnis A Través de los Siglos. The case was allegedly "hushed" by ATIC at Wright Paterson AFB and never included in the Blue Book Files. Anglada simply refers to it as "The Steinbeck Affair."
According to the author, this chilling incident took place sometime in 1953. Steinbeck--no rank given--was a thirty year old aviator who was considered among "the best and brightest" due to his bravery and considerable sang froid. He had been summoned to an unnamed air base near Las Vegas to test a one-of-a-kind fighter prototype: a sky-blue interceptor armed with atomic cannon.
[The narrative involving the pilot "Steinbeck" has been called a fabrication, given the fact that it was never substantiated, Luis Anglada never cited his sources, and "atomic cannon" sound like an outlandish pulp magazine creation. For the sake of maintaining the original article's continuity, it is not being excised -- SC]
A lengthy briefing session ensued, after which the test pilot, technicians and three high-ranking officers went on to inspect the interceptor itself, which was kept in a hangar guarded by an armed infantry platoon. Steinbeck and the officers had to present their credentials to be allowed in.
Once inside, a German engineer met the visitors and proceeded to show off the interceptor. The test pilot climbed into the cockpit and gave the instrumentation a thorough examination. Steinbeck was to fly the plane at four o'clock the following morning and perform a certain number of routine maneuvers before opening fire with his atomic arsenal against an airborne target.
The story relates that Steinbeck and the others met with the press later that evening at the officers' lounge. In conversation, the test pilot revealed that he had studied stenography (!) and that a mechanized steno pad had been installed on the right-hand side of the cockpit so that he could note every single step of the test flight. The steno pad's housing was equipped with a parachute that would land it safely in the event of a malfunction.
All went well the following morning. Steinbeck took to the dark desert sky in the prototype without any incident while the unidentified German technician followed his progress from the control tower. At one point, witnesses in the tower saw the foreign expert blanch as he stared at the radar screen, speaking into the microphone
with a sense of urgency: "Please, come back to base! There are unidentified machines to your right! Land quickly!"
The radar had in fact detected an object that crossed the field at breathtaking speed, followed by others: a total of eight unidentified vehicles were closing in on Steinbeck's prototype, sending the ground control personnel into a frenzy. The entire base was placed on full alert.
Steinbeck allegedly radioed back that the vehicles were surrounding him and that he was going to open fire on them with the interceptor's advanced weaponry. Two bursts from the atomic cannon [sic] were fired against one of the intruders, and moments later, the prototype crashed into the desert sand at high speed some two and a half miles downrange from the control tower.
Rescue crews found a twisted heap of metal along with the test pilot's carbonized remains--the engines and fuel tanks, however, were intact and unexploded; more importantly, the steno pad in its aluminum housing was recovered intact a few hundred feet away from the downed fighter, and it told the astounding tale of how a long, flaming "tube" had been aimed at Steinbeck's plane. The pilot's final desperate shorthand read: "They're attacking, I think they're attacking...God have mercy on me...I'm shooting back."
Anglada's "atomic cannons", the most questionable detail in the account, could refer to small warheads expelled by means of a launcher-like arrangement rather than science-fictionish "blasters". It is a fact that the military experimented with different permutations of nuclear ordnance, ranging from atomic hand grenades and bazookas (like the "Davy Crockett") to huge atomic railguns. If true, the case would represent one of the most significant unprovoked attacks ever recorded.
Heat weapons appear to be the weapon of choice in aerial engagements between UFOs and terrestrial aircraft. One case involving fighters "scrambled" to intercept UFOs ended with the object pursued firing a heat weapon at the fighters which made their wings incredibly hot, forcing them to break off their mission and return to base.
The Walesville, NY incident, which occurred in July of 1954, is perhaps the best known of the heat-weapon attacks: An F-94 Starfire scrambled to investigate a UFO tracked by the radars at Griffins AFB was greeted with a terrific blast of heat issuing from the unknown vehicle. Pilot and navigator bailed out while the fighter rammed into a house, causing five deaths.
Carlos Alejo Rodríguez, a trainer pilot for the Uruguayan Air Force, also found himself at the receiving end of a heat weapon of some sort when he approached a large discoidal UFO flying over the Curubelo Air Force Base. The sudden surge of suffocating heat caused the startled pilot to break off his pursuit and return to the base.
Helicopters have, on occasion, had cause to defend themselves from intruders: In January 1974, the crew of a Marine UH-1E helicopter from the 3rd Marine Aircraft wing flying from Quantico, Va. to Beaufort, S.C. found itself having to stand tall against a silver-white UFO heading on a collision course toward the helo. The pilot engaged in evasive action only to discover that the featureless object was able to match his dodging effortlessly and even pull alongside until it filled the cockpit's view. Disregarding the rules of engagement, the gunner fired tracers point-blank at the UFO with no apparent effect. But to the surprise of all aboard, the huge object peeled away with a slight wobble before receding into the distance.
Lest the reader suspect that these incidents belong to the "heroic past" of UFO research, it is well worth remembering that the most graphic cases of UFO-military aircraft interaction occurred in the late Eighties, when the US Navy lost two F-14 Tomcats while intercepting a giant triangular object over Cabo Rojo, P.R.. The magnitude of the incident apparently forced all military flights over the island to take off with their full complement of missile pods, and prompted PRANG (Puerto Rico National Air Guard) to replace its ageing fleet of Grumman A-7's with F-15's.
The final question is always: does Earth stand a chance against a bona fide extraterrestrial attack? There is evidence that terrestrial air forces have tried to develop deterrents against this unknown threat since the 1950s. It has been suggested that the formation of the USAF's Space Command in 1985 (ostensibly in charge of all satellite operations) was the first step in providing a capability against an attack from space. Upon close inspection, the SDI program (alternatively known as "Star Wars" or the "Peace Shield") applications appear better suited to repel a space-based threat than an atmospheric one. In September 1985, an F-15 launched an 18 ft. long missile dubbed "Tomato Can" at P871, a solar observation satellite, striking it at 30,000 miles per hour and nearly pulverizing it. While "Tomato Can" accomplished its mission without the benefit of a warhead, one can imagine its capability against "hostile unknowns" if endowed with one.
Model kit hobbyists may recall Aurora's "Ragnarok", a prototype of a U.S. Air Force nuclear-powered and laser-equipped interceptor specifically "developed to
protect the earth from any hostile alien invasion". The detailed 1/200 scale kit provided an informative rundown on the ultimate orbital interceptor, which was 255 feet long and with a weight in excess of 330 tons (heavier than a B-52) and capable of achieving its cruising altitude of 200,000 feet in a startling 8 minutes.
The information went on to state that "protection from alien craft" was provided in the shape of five nuclear rockets and an ingenious manned support craft (a descendant of the D-21 reconnaissance drone carried piggyback by the SR-71?) armed with laser weapons capable of piercing two feet of solid steel. The kit's info blurb ended with a price tag of 100 million dollars for each "Ragnarok".
While the model kit may just have been a fanciful take on the aviation developments that followed one another in the 1960s--U-2s, SR-71s, XB-70s--the fact remains that modeling companies have often "scooped" the Air Force's official acknowledgement of the existence of certain craft, as was the case with the F119 "Stealth" Fighter and the B-2 Bomber. Another modelmaker, Testors, recently made the pages of TIME magazine with a disturbing model kit of a UFO, described as "a scale replica of one of the ships, based on descriptions from Bob Lazar." We can certainly feel confident that there are no Ragnaroks lurking in secret warrens under the Nevada desert, but at some point, a design similar to Aurora's must have been on the drawing boards as a viable response to the threat posed by UFOs, despite Project Blue Book's insistence that "no UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given the indication of being a threat to our national security."
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