Location: Nellis Air Force Base, Yucca Flat, Nevada, United
of 18 silvery, rotating, disc-shaped objects, each one
with a dome, come down over a nuclear test site, hover
for 10 to 15 minutes, and then depart, at an angle, vanishing
out of sight in seconds."
NICAP, Walter Webb
[go to original source]
of Report: Hynek Class--DD *
UFOCAT Strangeness Class--Type 3**
Vallee Class--Type III-B ***
sighting, if true, may be unprecedented. It is unusual
because of the large number of UFOs reportedly observed
at one time, in combination with the supersensitive location
and timing of the event. On November 18, 1964, I happened
to be investigating a Boston newspaper story which found
me prowling around a West Quincy (Boston suburb), Massachusetts,
cemetery in search of some sort of weird nocturnal creature
(see my NICAP report, "'The Watermelon Caper.' --
November 13-14, 1964"). Although I later concluded
the Little beast WAS probably an owl or other known animal,
the uncle of the initial witness told me, during the course
of the investigation, that he had sighted UFOs in Nevada
when he was in the service.
wrote the following at the end of my 1964 report: "He
(I'll call him "Mr. M.") thought the
observation might have been made in 1951. He was with
a group of servicemen at Yucca Flat and just before a
nuclear test was due to go off, they all saw a formation
of 18 silvery, rotating, disc-shaped objects, each one
with a dome, come down over the test site, hover for 10
to 15 minutes, and then depart, at an angle, vanishing
out of sight in seconds."
OF UFO FORMATION FROM TELEPHONE
CONVERSATION WITH WITNESS (INTERPRETATION
IS ONLY AN APPROXIMATION)
the time, I was concentrating upon the investigation at
hand and was more interested in securing details from
Mr. M. about the creature seen by him and the neighborhood
kids - in the cemetery. Moreover, I was somewhat skeptical
about his story of a UFO armada.
DD (Daylight Discs)
**Type 3 (UFO in trajectory with single discontinuity)
*** Type III-B (UFO halts in flight and hovers before
Recently, I opened my "sightings pending"
folder and attempted to contact some of the witnesses
in cases that were never followed up for a number of reasons.
One of these individuals was Mr. M. Although 16 years
had elapsed since my interview with him, I discovered
that he still resided at the same apartment house, but
in a different apartment. I telephoned him on February
28, 1981, and re-introduced myself. However, he seemed
reluctant to discuss the 1951 episode and, in fact, politely
refused to grant a face-to-face interview. As I drew him
out, it appeared he received such ridicule from the police
and others during the '64 incident that he understandably
shied away from any future involvements of a similar nature.
I assured him that his name would be kept confidential,
that it was important such UFO sightings become part of
the written record, that I had interviewed many others,
and, in fact, was at UFO eyewitness myself. He seemed
to loosen a bit, although he still declined to see me
in person. And so, I began asking questions over the telephone.
Under the circumstances, I felt very fortunate to have
been able to extract the following account from Mr. M.
1951, Mr. M. was an Air Force corporal stationed at Nellis
Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada. That same year, the
Atomic Energy Commission established the Nevada Test Site
and began detonating nuclear devices at Yucca Flat (about
120 kilometers, or 75 miles, northwest of the base). He
recalled that during one of the first tests --- perhaps
the second or third in a series of seven -- he was among
those at Nellis who volunteered for sentry duty at the
perimeter of the AEC site. When asked if he could pin
down the date, he said "October sticks in my mind"
although he couldn't be absolutely certain. The time of
the sighting was early morning after sunrise and occurred
perhaps 15 or 20 minutes before the detonation.
with these clues, I called the Union of Concerned Scientists
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and spoke to Paul Walker.
I had already learned there were 12 nuclear tests in Nevada
during 1951 and now wanted to know the dates, times, and
code names of each of the tests. Walker not only had that
information, but also the height of the burst and the
yield. His source was the book, The Effects of Nuclear
Weapons, edited by Samuel Glasstone and published
jointly by the Department of Defense and the AEC in April,
1962. There were two series of tests in Nevada during
1951. The first one was called Operation Ranger and consisted
of five detonations in January and February. The final
seven-shot sequence was Operation Buster-Jangle in October
and November. Three of those tests -- Shots Able, Baker,
and Charlie -- occurred respectively on October 22 at
6:00 a.m. PST; the 28th at 7:20 a.m.; and the 30th at
7:00 a.m. Able was a small tower burst at 30 meters (100
feet), yielding less than 0.1 kiloton. Baker and Charlie
were air-drops, exploding at 341 and 345 meters (1,118
and 1,132 feet) above the desert floor with a force of
3.5 and 14 kilotons, respectively. Able was ruled out
immediately since the UFO sighting would have had to take
place 10 or 15 minutes before sunrise. When I reached
Mr. M again on March 5, I asked him if he could remember
how soon after sunrise his UFO observation had happened.
He replied that it must have been a half hour or so. Both
Baker and Charlie qualified. When I asked the witness
about the size of the explosion, he recalled it was between
10 and 20 kilotons. This narrowed down the date to October
30. (Local sunrise on that date, 6:00.)
M., who was 19 years old at the time (on November 3),
thought his post was several kilometers -- perhaps five
to six (three to four miles) -- east of Ground Zero, which
would place the sun at his back. Suddenly, as he glanced
at the clear sky in front of him, he perceived three silvery,
elliptical objects hovering in the direction of the target
zone, and at an estimated height of up to 600 meters (a
few thousand feet). Time: approximately 6:40-45, as determined
by the known time of the detonation 15 to 20 minutes later.
Each object possessed a flat bottom and a dome on top.
No other features were visible. The UFOs were arranged
in a horizontal triangle, with one object positioned in
front toward the observer and the others in back to either
side. The analogy Mr. M. used was "like looking
down a bowling alley at ten-pins." The UFOs were
shiny and reflected the early morning sunlight. No sound
could be detected from that distance.
prime witness and another guard, who also saw the objects,
turned to get the attention of the Corporal of the Guard.
When the latter arrived, Mr. M. noticed an armada of other
discs had joined the original trio. They were all arranged
in about six groups of three, stretched out in a horizontal
row. Apparently, none of the three witnesses saw the huge
formation arrive. Mr. M. remembers he had time to count
a total of 18 discs.
perhaps "30 seconds to a minute" (total
observation time), the entire UFO formation abruptly departed
upward at an angle and vanished in seconds. The Corporal
of the Guard said something like "if we're smart,
we won't say anything about this." Mr. M. never
heard any mention of the sighting again. No conventional
aircraft appeared on the scene to pursue the UFOs, since
aircraft weren't permitted over the test area (he doesn't
recall seeing or hearing the aircraft that dropped the
nuclear device 15 to 20 minutes later). However, the witness
believes the UFOs' presence undoubtedly was recorded somewhere.
The objects themselves, he feels, must have been monitoring
the test. He hinted that, as a consequence of his sighting,
he believes UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin.
I told Mr. M. that in 1964, he said the discs rotated
and hovered for 10 to 15 minutes, he answered by saying
he didn't recall any rotation and the objects definitely
weren't visible that long. (Of course, it has been 16
years since he talked with me and 30 years since the sighting
itself. Perhaps the longer time actually was a reference
to the interval between the sighting and the nuclear detonation.)
my March 5 telephone call, I asked the witness if he might
attempt to estimate each UFO's apparent size and angular
elevation. Of course, it was understood such estimates
made 30 years after the fact would be so uncertain as
to be almost useless. Further, the observer was unable
to visualize the arm's-length size comparison (he kept
coming up with a 12-inch rule or pie plate, which would
make the UFOs enormous). If the objects were five to six
kilometers distant and 600 meters up, the .35-degree elevation
value offered by the witness should be reduced to less
than 10-degrees. If, on the other hand, the original elevation
figure is in the right ballpark, then the objects were
actually much higher -- say 3,000 to 4,600 meters (10,000
to 15,000 feet) at the same distance. It seems to me that
in order for the domed shapes to have been visible, it
is quite possible the UFOs were closer to the witness.
In such case, the witness's initial angle estimate would
again be in the right ballpark. The fact of the matter
is that juggling the above figures is a rather useless
exercise at this point in time.
asked Mr. M. if he would mail a sketch of the UFOs and
their formation, but he declined. Therefore, the drawings
that accompany this report are the investigator's own
interpretation based upon close questioning of the witness
on the telephone.
FLIGHTS OP UFO'S
an effort to determine just how prevalent such mass UFO
flights are, I conducted a cursory survey of some of the
literature, especially Ted Bloecher's on the UFO Wave
of 1947 (private printing, 1967). During the June, 1947
peak period covered by the Bloecher study, I found 16
sighting reports alone that referred to UFO formations
numbering 18 or more. An unknown portion of these probably
have mundane explanations such as flocks of high-flying
birds, airborne seed fibers (milkweed, cottonwood), spider
gossamer, and clusters of balloons. One group of 50 to
60 night-flying discs (Case #554) was even accompanied
by the suspicious sound of "goose-like honking."
Nevertheless, there appeared to be a number of fairly
reliable observations in the Bloecher collection describing
UFO fleets composed of Mr. M.'s total or more, as follows:
18, 19, 20, 21, 20-30, two dozen (three reports), 25,
25-30, and 30. Groups of three discs in geometrical formation
weren't uncommon in the '47 survey.
of the most detailed and reliable accounts of a mass flight
I happened to come across was investigated by APRO Consultant
(psychology) R. Leo Sprinkle. It was reported in The APRO
Bulletin, December, 1975. On September 24, 1974, at Rock
Lake in Wyoming, a pair of fishermen witnessed the flyover
of approximately 35 silvery discs arrayed in an oval formation
which emitted a droning noise like a beehive. At the end
of the sighting, the objects began to climb at a steep
angle, and the sound ceased at that point. Then, they
accelerated rapidly out of sight.
occasion, such items as radar chaff discharged from military
aircraft and exploding balloons account for some mass-flight
sightings. The famous "saucer invasion"
of Farmington, New Mexico, on March 17, 1950, proved quite
literally to be a bust. Many of the town's citizens asserted
they watched hundreds of discs -- from 500 to "thousands"
-- cavorting in the sky. Blue Book chief Ed Ruppelt in
The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (Doubleday,
1956), explained that a skyhook balloon burst near Farmington
on the 17th, and the drifting pieces sparkling in the
sunlight at very high altitude, probably were responsible
for the local flap.
I first heard Mr. M''s story 16 years ago, I must admit
I was dubious. His hesitation in 1981 to allow a face-to-face
interview is, in my judgment, satisfactorily explained
by the official ridicule he suffered during the '64 episode.
I would describe the witness as "reluctantly cooperative."
During our telephone conversations, I was impressed by
a number of things. Without any prompting from me, Mr.
M. immediately referred to "18" as the
number of UFOs he claimed he had seen during the '51 sighting
-- the precise figure he gave me 16 years ago. And, as
stated elsewhere in this report, such an armada of UFOs
is, by no means, a rarity.
witness had more than simply a passing knowledge of events
at the AEC Nevada Test site in 1951. I was able to eventually
pin down the date of the experience using the information
he recalled, and checked against known dates, times, etc.,
for the nuclear tests that year. He correctly identified
the total number of tests in the fall series of nuclear
tests (seven), the test he attended (second or third in
the series), the month of his sighting (October), the
time (half hour or so after sunrise and 15 or 20 minutes
before the detonation), and yield of the test (between
10 and 20 kilotons). This last bit of in formation was
enough to permit selection of the final date since the
October 30 test was the only one in the entire series
that fit within the bracketed lower and upper limits given
by the witness; other yields were either much lower or
much higher. Thus, while this doesn't necessarily prove
Mr. M. had a UFO sighting, it does go a long way toward
establishing that he was present at the atomic test site
when he said he was.
appearance and behavior of the UFOs described rule out
conventional objects such as aircraft, helicopters, blimps,
and balloons. In addition, no such objects would have
been permitted over the test site just before the detonation
-- especially a mass flight!
years have elapsed since Mr. M.'s observation, and until
now, he has never reported it officially to anyone. I
tend to accept his account of what he said, happened in
Nevada on that October morning in 1951. Therefore, I believe
this sighting should be classified as an unknown.