The controller acknowledged the message and said that he was scrambling all his alert airplanes from George AFB. Could the two F-86's stay in the area a few more minutes? They stayed and in a few minutes four more F-86's arrived. They saw the UFO immediately and took over.
The two F-86's with nearly dry tanks went back to George AFB.
For thirty more minutes the newly arrived F-86's worked in pairs trying to get up to the UFO's altitude, which they estimated to be 55,000 feet, but they couldn't make it. All the time the UFO kept slowly circling and speeding up only when the F-86's seemed to get too close. Then they began to run out of fuel and asked for permission to break off the intercept.
By this time one remaining F-86 had been alerted and was airborne toward Long Beach. He passed the four homeward bound F-86's as he was going in, but by the time he arrived over Long Beach the UFO was gone.
All the pilots except one reported a "silver airplane with highly swept back wings." One pilot said the UFO looked round and silver to him.
The report ended with a comment by the local intelligence officer. He'd called Edwards AFB, the big Air Force test base north of Los Angeles, but they had nothing in the air. The officer concluded that the UFO was no airplane. In 1951 nothing we had would fly higher than the F-86.
This was a good report and I decided to dig in. First I had some more questions I wanted to ask the pilots. I was just in the process of formulating this set of questions when three better reports came in. They automatically got a higher priority than the Long Beach Incident.
The Lubbock Lights, Unabridged
When four college professors, a geologist, a chemist, a physicist, and a petroleum engineer, report seeing the same UFO's on fourteen different occasions, the event can be classified as, at least, unusual. Add the facts that hundreds of other people saw these UFO's and that they were photographed, and the story gets even better. Add a few more facts - that these UFO's were picked up on radar and that a few people got a close look at one of them, and the story begins to convince even the most ardent skeptics.
This was the situation the day the reports of the Lubbock Lights arrived at ATIC. Actually the Lubbock Lights, as Project Blue Book calls them, involved many widespread reports. Some of these incidents are known to the public, but the ones that added the emphasis and intrigue to the case and caused hundreds of hours of time to be spent analyzing the reports have not been told before. We collected all of these reports under the one title because there appeared to be a tie-in between them.
The first word of the sightings reached ATIC late in September 1951, when the mail girl dropped letters into my "in" basket. One of the letters was from Albuquerque, New Mexico, one was from a small town in Washington State, where I knew an Air Defense Command radar station was located, and the other from Reese AFB at Lubbock, Texas.
I opened the Albuquerque letter first. It was a report from 34th Air Defense at Kirtland AFB. The report said that on the evening of August 25, 1951, an employee of the Atomic Energy Commission's super secret Sandia Corporation and his wife had seen a UFO. About dusk they were sitting in the back yard of their home on the outskirts of Albuquerque. They were gazing at the night sky, commenting on how beautiful it was, when both of them were startled at the sight of a huge airplane flying swiftly and silently over their home. The airplane had been in sight only a few seconds but they had gotten a good look at it because it was so low. They estimated 800 to 1,000 feet. It was the shape of a "flying wing" and one and a half times the size of a B-36. The wing was sharply swept back, almost like a V. Both the husband and wife had seen B-36's over their
The Lubbock Lights, Unabridged.97
home many times. They couldn't see the color of the UFO but they did notice that there were dark bands running across the wing from front to back. On the aft edge of the wings there were six to eight pairs of soft, glowing, bluish lights. The aircraft had passed over their house from north to south.
The report went on to say that an investigation had been made immediately. Since the object might have been a conventional airplane, air traffic was checked. A commercial airlines Constellation was 50 miles west of Albuquerque and an Air Force B-25 was south of the city, but there had been nothing over Albuquerque that evening. The man's back ground was checked. He had a "Q" security clearance. This summed up his character, oddballs don't get "Q" clearances. No one else had reported the UFO, but this could be explained by the fact the AEC employee and his wife lived in such a location that anything passing over their home from north to south wouldn't pass over or near very many other houses. A sketch of the UFO was enclosed in the report.
I picked up the letter from Lubbock next. It was a thick report, and from the photographs that were attached, it looked interesting. I thumbed through it and stopped at the photos. The first thing that struck me was the similarity between these photos and the report I'd just read. They showed a series of lights in a V shape, very similar to those described as being on the aft edge of the "flying wing" that was reported from Albuquerque. This was something unique, so I read the report in detail.
On the night of August 25, 1951, about 9:20 P.M., just twenty minutes after the Albuquerque sighting, four college professors from Texas Technological College at Lubbock had observed a formation of soft, glowing, bluish green lights pass over their home. Several hours later they saw a similar group of lights and in the next two weeks they saw at least ten more. On August 31 an amateur photographer had taken five photos of the lights. Also on the thirty first two ladies had seen a large "aluminum colored," "pear shaped" object hovering near a road north of Lubbock. The report went into the details of these sightings and enclosed a set of the photos that had been taken.
This report, in itself, was a good UFO report, but the similarity to the Albuquerque sighting, both in the description of the object and the time that it was seen, was truly amazing.
I almost overlooked the report from the radar station because it was fairly short. It said that early on the morning of August 26, only a few hours after the Lubbock sighting, two different radars had shown a target traveling 900 miles per hour at 13,000 feet on a northwesterly heading. The target had been observed for six minutes and an F-86 jet interceptor
98.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
had been scrambled but by the time the F-86 had climbed into the air the target was gone. The last paragraph in the report was rather curt and to the point. It was apparently in anticipation of the comments the report would draw. It said that the target was not caused by weather. The officer in charge of the radar station and several members of his crew had been operating radar for seven years and they could recognize a weather target. This target was real.
I quickly took out a map of the United States and drew in a course line between Lubbock and the radar station. A UFO flying between these two points would be on a northwesterly heading and the times it was seen at the two places gave it a speed of roughly 900 miles per hour.
This was by far the best combination of UFO reports I'd ever read and I'd read every one in the Air Force's files.
The first thing I did after reading the reports was to rush a set of the Lubbock photos to the intelligence officer of the 34th Air Division in Albuquerque. I asked him to show the photos to the AEC employee and his wife without telling them what they were. I requested an answer by wire. Later the next day I received my answer: "Observers immediately said that this is what they saw on the night of 25 August. Details by airmail." The details were a sketch the man and his wife had made of a wing around the photo of the Lubbock Lights. The number of lights in the photo and the number of lights the two observers had seen on the wing didn't tally, but they explained this by saying that they could have been wrong in their estimate.
The next day I flew to Lubbock to see if I could find an answer to all of these mysterious happenings.
I arrived in Lubbock about 5:00 P.M. and contacted the intelligence officer at Reese AFB. He knew that I was on my way and had already set up a meeting with the four professors. Right after dinner we met them.
If a group had been hand-picked to observe a UFO, we couldn't have picked a more technically qualified group of people. They were:
Dr. W. I. Robinson, Professor of Geology.
Dr. A. G. Oberg, Professor of Chemical Engineering.
Professor W. L. Ducker, Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department.
Dr. George, Professor of Physics.
This is their story:
On the evening of August 25 the four men were sitting in Dr. Robinson's back yard. They were discussing micro meteorites and drinking tea. They jokingly stressed this point. At nine twenty a formation of lights streaked across the sky directly over their heads. It all happened so fast that none
The Lubbock Lights, Unabridged.99
of them had a chance to get a good look. One of the men mentioned that he had always admonished his students for not being more observant; now he was in that spot. He and his colleagues realized they could remember only a few details of what they had seen. The lights were a weird bluish green color and they were in a semicircular formation. They estimated that there were from fifteen to thirty separate lights and that they were moving from north to south. Their one wish at this time was that the lights would reappear. They did; about an hour later the lights went over again. This time the professors were a little better prepared. With the initial shock worn off, they had time to get a better look. The details they had remembered from the first flight checked. There was one difference; in this flight the lights were not in any orderly formation, they were just in a group.
The professors reasoned that if the UFO's appeared twice they might come back. Come back they did. The next night and apparently many times later, as the professors made twelve more observations during the next few weeks. For these later sightings they added two more people to their observing team.
Being methodical, as college professors are, they made every attempt to get a good set of data. They measured the angle through which the objects traveled and timed them. The several flights they checked traveled through 90 degrees of sky in three seconds, or 30 degrees per second. The lights usually suddenly appeared 45 degrees above the northern horizon, and abruptly went out 45 degrees above the southern horizon. They always traveled in this north-to-south direction. Outside of the first flight, in which the objects were in a roughly semicircular formation, in none of the rest of the flights did they note any regular pattern. Two or three flights were often seen in one night.
They had tried to measure the altitude, with no success. First they tried to compare the lights to the height of clouds but the clouds were never near the lights, or vice versa. Next they tried a more elaborate scheme. They measured off a base line perpendicular to the objects' usual flight path. Friends of the professors made up two teams. Each of the two teams was equipped with elevation measuring devices, and one team was stationed at each end of the base line. The two teams were linked together by two-way radios. If they sighted the objects they would track and time them, thus getting the speed and altitude.
Unfortunately neither team ever saw the lights. But the lights never seemed to want to run the course. The wives of some of the watchers claimed to have seen them from their homes in the city. This later proved to be a clue.
100.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
The professors were not the sole observers of the mysterious lights. For two weeks hundreds of other people for miles around Lubbock reported that they saw the same lights. The professors checked many of these reports against the times of the flights they had seen and recorded, and many checked out close. They attempted to question these observers as to the length of time they had seen the lights and angles at which they had seen them, but the professors learned what I already knew, people are poor observers.
Naturally there has been much discussion among the professors and their friends as to the nature of the lights. A few simple mathematical calculations showed that if the lights were very high they would be traveling very fast. The possibility that they were some natural phenomena was, of course, discussed and seriously considered. The professors did a lot of thinking and research and decided that if they were natural phenomena they were something altogether new. Dr. George, who has since died, studied the phenomena of the night sky during his years as a professor at the University of Alaska, and he had never seen or heard of anything like this before.
This was the professors' story. It was early in the morning when we returned to Reese AFB. I sat up a few more hours unsuccessfully trying to figure out what they had seen.
The next day I again met the intelligence officer and we went to talk to Carl Hart, Jr., the amateur photographer who had taken the pictures of the lights. Hart was a freshman at Texas Tech. His story was that on the night of August 31 he was lying in his bed in an upstairs room of the Hart home. He, like everyone else in Lubbock, had heard about the lights but he had never seen them. It was a warm night and his bed was pushed over next to an open window. He was looking out at the clear night sky, and had been in bed about a half hour, when he saw a formation of the lights appear in the north, cross an open patch of sky, and disappear over his house. Knowing that the lights might reappear as they had done in the past, he grabbed his loaded Kodak 35, set the lens and shutter at f 3.5 and one tenth of a second, and went out into the middle of the back yard. Before long his vigil was rewarded when the lights made a second pass. He got two pictures. A third formation went over a few minutes later and he got three more pictures. The next morning bright and early Hart said he took the roll of unexposed film to a friend who ran a photo finishing shop. He explained that he did all of his film processing in this friend's lab. He told the friend about the pictures and they quickly developed them.
I stopped Hart at this point and asked why he didn't get more excited
The Lubbock Lights, Unabridged.101
about what could be the biggest news photos of the century. He said that the lights had appeared to be so dim that he was sure he didn't have anything on the negatives; had he thought that he did have some good pictures he would have awakened his friend to develop the negatives right away.
When he developed the negatives and saw that they showed an image, his friend suggested that he call the newspaper. At first the paper wasn't interested but then they decided to run the photos. I later found out that they had done some checking of their own.
We went with Hart into his back yard to re-enact what had taken place. He described the lights as being the same dull, glowing bluish green color as those seen by the professors. The formation was different, however. The lights Hart saw were always flying in a perfect V. He traced the path from where they appeared over some trees in the north, through an open patch of sky over the back yard, to a point where they disappeared over the house. From the flight path he pointed out, the lights had crossed about 120 degrees of open sky in four seconds. This 30-degree-per-second angular velocity corresponded to the professors' measured angular velocity.
We made arrangements to borrow Hart's negatives, thanked him for his information, and left.
Armed with a list of names of other observers of the mysterious lights, the intelligence officer and I started out to try to get a cross-section account of the other UFO sightings in the Lubbock area. All the stories about the UFO's were the same; various types of formations of dull bluish green lights, generally moving north to south. A few people had variations. One lady saw a flying venetian blind and another a flying double boiler. One point of interest was that very few claimed to have seen the lights before reading the professors' story in the paper, but this could get back to the old question, "Do people look up if they have no reason to do so?"
We talked to observers in nearby towns. Their stories were the same. Two of them, tower operators at an airport, reported that they had seen the lights on several occasions.
It was in one of these outlying towns, Lamesa, that we talked to an old gentleman, about eighty years old, who gave us a good lead. He had seen the lights and he had identified them. Ever since he had read the story in the papers he had been looking. One evening he and his wife were in their yard looking for the lights. All of a sudden two or three appeared. They were in view for several seconds, then they were gone. In a few minutes the lights did a repeat performance. The man admitted he had been scared.
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