November 23, 1953
Location: Lake Superior, Michigan, United States
the evening of 23 November, 1953, an Air Force radar controller
became alerted to an "unidentified target" over
Lake Superior, and an F-89C Scorpion jet was scrambled
from Kinross AFB. Radar controllers watched as the F-89
closed in on the UFO, and then sat stunned in amazement
as the two blips merged on the screen, and the UFO left.
The F-89 and its two-man crew, pilot Felix Moncla and
radar operator Robert Wilson, were never found, even after
a thorough search of the area.
A Northrop F-89C Scorpion, like the one flown by Moncla
and Wilson. (credit: Flight Collection)
Press article, regarding the incident, in the Wisconsin
State Journal (Madison, WI), Nov. 25, 1953.
1st Lt. Felix E. "Gene" Moncla, Jr., pilot of
the F89C Scorpion jet. Moncla
was accompanied by radar operator Robert Wilson in the
Loy Lawhon, About.com
Disappearance of Lt. Felix Moncla"
channel that connects Lake Superior with the other Great
Lakes flows through the Soo Locks near Saulte Ste. Marie,
Michigan. On one side of the channel is the U.S., and
on the other side is Canada. The fact that this area is
on a U.S. national border makes it a restricted airspace.
As such, it was monitored by the Air Defense Command in
the evening of 23 November, 1953, an Air Defense Command
Ground Intercept radar controller at Truax AFB became
alerted to an "unidentified target" over Soo
Locks. He sounded the alert, and an F-89C Scorpion jet
was scrambled from nearby Kinross Field. The jet was piloted
by 1st Lieutenant Felix Moncla, Jr., with 2nd Lieutenant
Robert Wilson in the rear seat as radar operator.
Control vectored the jet toward the target, noting that
the target changed course as the F-89 approached it at
over 500 mph. Lt. Wilson had problems tracking the target
on his onboard radar, so ground control continued to direct
the jet to the target. For thirty minutes, the jet pursued
the radar blip and began to close the gap as the UFO accelerated
out over Lake Superior.
Ground Control watched, the gap between the two blips
on the radar screen grew smaller and smaller until the
two blips became one blip. Ground Control thought that
Moncla had flown over the target and that the two blips
would separate again as he moved past it.
didn't happen. Suddenly, the single blip flashed off the
screen and the radar screen was clear of any return at
Ground Control tried to contact the F-89 by radio. There
was no response. Marking the last radar position, Ground
Control dispatched an emergency message to Search and
Rescue. That last sighting was about seventy miles off
Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan, at an altitude of 8,000
feet, approximately 160 miles northwest of Soo Locks.
an all night air/sea rescue search, not a trace of the
plane or the men was ever found. No debris, no oil slick,
nothing was ever found.
at Norton Air Force Base Flying Safety Division issued
a statement that "the pilot probably suffered
from vertigo and crashed into the lake." However,
this was merely speculation and was based on hearsay reports
that Moncla was prone to vertigo.
Air Force explained the unknown radar target at first
as a Canadian DC-3, then later as a RCAF jet. Canadian
officials responded that there were no Canadian aircraft
in the airspace over the lake at any time during the chase.
The Air Force finally stated that the F-89 had exploded
at high altitude, ignoring the fact that this would have
left a lot of debris on the lake surface.
investigators found that mentions of Moncla's mission
- chasing an unidentified target - had been obliterated
from official records. Project Bluebook files simply listed
the case as an "accident."
the record, those that were present in the Ground Control
radar room, that day, have expressed other opinions. They
think that whatever the F-89 was chasing directly caused
the disappearance of the jet...