Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Significant Discovery Of US Military

 Records Highlighting "UFO Problem" During 

The Vietnam War 


Part 2

Recently, in Part 1 of this series, I discussed the discovery of US military records which comment liberally on “unidentified flying objects”, usually shortened to just “UFOs”, during the Vietnam War. These records, discovered by myself and Boston based research Barry Greenwood, were originally created by all four branches of the US armed forces. The sorts of records we have found include “Histories” and “Chronologies”, “Mission Reports”, “Patrol Logs”, “Daily Staff Journals”, and so-called “Lessons Learned” publications. Also represented in these finds are “Project CHECO” publications, specific to the United States Air Force (USAF). Most of these records have come from either the Defence Technical Information Center (DTIC) or National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This came on top of other ongoing work which dealt specifically with unresolved questions around the USAF’s accidental strike on Australia’s warship, the HMAS Hobart. Part 1 and Part 2 of that work is complete, and there will be a third installment at some point in the future.

One of the issues I have raised is a question of terminology. It should easy to write off the term “UFO” as some sort of lazy “catchall” for unknown, unidentifiable aircraft. Helicopters, especially seen at a distance, or only briefly plotted on primary radar, would have fallen into the the “UFO” category. However, the problem is rather more complex than that. Time and time again in official military documents we have seen the term “UFO” being alongside, or distinct from, “unidentified aircraft”, “unknown helicopters”, and the like. This is both inconsistent and unexpected in such a wide range of military records. Still, is it possible that these references to, and reports of, “UFOs” or “unidentified flying objects” in Vietnam were merely bumbling enemy helicopters and tricks of light in the jungle? Unfortunately, simple explanations fail to solve the issue to my satisfaction.

Though not found by either Barry Greenwood or myself, it is worth taking a look at a 17th of April, 1967 UFO report made by US Army Specialist (SP4) Robert M. Harkinson who was assigned to Headquarters, 524th Military Intelligence Detachment, Saigon. Harkinson’s typed report was submitted on a two page US Army “Counterintelligence Spot Report” form, with a “Subject” line reading “Sighting of Unidentified Flying Objects”. He states that at around 2:20am:

“…I observed five large, illuminated oval-shaped objects, traveling in close formation and at a very high rate of speed across the sky. At that time, I was on the roof of the Saigon Field Office of the 524th MI Detachment… …I first saw these objects near the horizon to my left and watched them cover the entire field of my vision in what I believe to be less than five seconds. During that period of time, the objects travelled from where I first saw them, near the horizon to my left, passed almost directly over me at what seemed to be a very great height, and then moved out of sight behind a cloud formation at the horizon to my right. The sky was partly cloudy but, at the time of the sighting, the area of the sky over which they travelled was very clear, with the exception of a few small patches of scattered clouds, which they seemed to be above. As the objects passed over these clouds, they were obscured from my vision until they emerged on the other side. I also observed that, as they passed between my line of sight and a star, they covered the star and blocked out its light until they had passed. This indicated to me that the objects were not transparent.”

Following on, the witness attempts to compare the objects to known aircraft, and conveys limitations in describing the objects in detail:

“It was apparent that they were not any form of conventional aircraft due to their size, shape, rate of speed and the fact that they made no noise audible to me. Prior to the sighting of these objects, I had been observing conventional aircraft, both propeller and jet-powered, and there is no question in my mind that they were a great deal larger than any craft I have ever seen in the sky. They were also traveling at a rate of speed which I would estimate to be at least five times greater than any jet-powered aircraft I have ever seen. They were too distant and traveling too fast for a detailed description to be possible. I was only able to see that they were definitely oval in shape and glowed a steady white...”

Finally, Harkinson states:

“I have never held any opinion concerning unidentified flying objects. Neither have I ever seen any, previously. However, I believe that these objects were spacecraft of some kind. I am convinced that they were not reflections, conventional aircraft, meteorites or planets.”

Whatever SP4 Harkinson witnessed, or believed he witnessed, it certainly had nothing to do with North Vietnamese helicopters. The report was submitted to the USAF’s Air Force Systems Command’s (AFSC) Foreign Technology Division (FTD) which controlled Project Blue Book, but, as far as we know, wasn’t investigated. In the covering letter to the FTD, the witness was described as “…a stable, mature member” of the Army’s military intelligence community in Saigon. Astronomer and Project Blue Book consultant J. Allen Hynek took interest in the case, writing to Maj. Hector Quintanilla, the head of the flawed Blue Book UFO investigation project, on the 20th of November, 1967, about acquiring more details from the US Army in Saigon. In the letter, Hynek stated, amongst other things, that:

“As reported, this case is completely unidentified and much additional information is called for. It is inconceivable that military intelligence would not have looked further into this case, and therefore I should like to request that any further information gathered… …be forwarded to Project Blue Book”

Any follow-up investigation is yet to come to light. Harkinson’s two-page “Sighting of Unidentified Flying Objects” Counterintelligence Spot Report form is imaged below.  

As I have frequently pointed out, the terms “UFO” and “Unidentified Flying Object” are used alongside terms like “unidentified aircraft”, “unknown aircraft”, “unidentified helicopter” and the like. This would imply that the unknown objects being commonly witnessed by military forces were not fitting into more mundane categories. Who would want to use the term “UFO” over, say, “unknown helicopter”? Numerous United States Marine Corps (USMC) “Command Chronology” publications exemplify this conundrum.

One such example comes from “Command Chronology, Headquarters, 3rd Marine Division, 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 1 June, 1968 to 30 June, 1968”. In the “Sequential Listing of Significant Events” section of the document, there are pages and pages of raw, tabulated text which discuss the daily activities of the 3rd Marine Division’s 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion while they were patrolling the southern edge of the demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in 1968.  The entries logged on the 18th of June, between 8:35pm and 9:09pm, state:

“Tower at AmTrac CP reports two UFOs at 2 o’clock, 8000m

Co ‘A’ at C–4 position reported unidentified aircraft due east of C–4 position.

Elms Co ‘A’ at Oceanview reported 6 UFOs vic of the mouth of the Ben Hai River

Co ‘A’ at C-4 position reported AA fire at UFO in vic of Gio Linh.

Tower at AmTrac CP reported helicopter flying north over the peninsula.”

The terms “unidentified aircraft”, “UFO” and “helicopter” are used in a very short period of time indeed. Startlingly also is the reference to reported anti-aircraft fire “at UFO”. I have imaged this page below.

The same USMC battalion, by September, 1968, was reporting UFO’s to the USAF’s regional Direct Air Support Center (DASC) at Dong Ha Airfield. Such is stated in the “Sequential Listing of Significant Events” in “Command Chronology, Headquarters, 3rd Marine Division, 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 1 September, 1968 to 30 September, 1968”. The entries logged on the 17th of September, between 8:15pm and 9:00pm, state:

“Co ‘B’ platoon, at Oceanview, (YD 2917151), reported sighting 4 UFO’s at an azimuth of 6200 mils, approximate distance 8000 to 10000 meters. Notified Da Nang DASC.

“Co ‘B’ platoon, at Oceanview, (YD 2917151), reported sighting 10 UFO’s from azimuth 5900 mils to azimuth 6200 mils, approximate distance 8000 to 10000 meters. Notified Da Nang DASC.”

The page is imaged below.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington DC have released thousands of pages of “Daily Staff Journal Or Duty Officer’s Log” records which were compiled by the ground forces of the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division. One such set of logs, penned by the 14th Infantry Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, contains numerous references to radar contacts and visual observations, including landings, which, one would think, should be referred to as “helicopters” or “aircraft”. But, instead, they are listed as “UFOs”. For instance, on the 13th of January, 1969, starting at 1:13am, the 14th Infantry Duty Officer writes:

“To NCS from Radar… …radar picked up UFO moving east.”

An hour later, it is stated:

“To NCS from Radar. Spotted UFO circling, two landings…”

These sorts of entries continue, and include numerous “sightings”, plus a “touch down”. Also listed is the firing of five rounds of 105mm Howitzer fire. The log goes on to state, at 4:01am, that:

“Spooky 23 will be in vicinity of LZ Laura for any possible engagement of UFO’s. Spooky arrived at 0407.”

“Spooky” was the name given to the USAF’s AC-47 gunship aircraft employed for low level ground attack and light air-to-air combat. In this case, apparently, the “UFOs” were gone by the time “Spooky 23” arrived. But, just before 5am, radar picked up the unknown intruders for another half an hour before they vanished. Finally, at 7:30am, it is written that:

“Brigade wants 1/14 to check out the area where artillery was employed… …where UFOs were fired upon this morning.”

The log entries for the rest of the day make no mention of anything being found “where UFOs were fired upon”, so evidently nothing was. The above detailed page is imaged below.

The above log entry is but just one example. With ample time and space, I could highlight similar events, with a detailed summary of each page, but there are simply too many. Suffice to say, some entries are more noteworthy than others. On the 14th of January, for example, at 4:30am, it is said that:

“…Radar reported visual sighting over LZ Chara Bde… …In the 1st ten minutes, there have been 4 landing… …also there is electrical interference coming from that area.”

Electrical interference? This is an effect often reported during localised, close range UFO incidents. Whatever the specifics, and there unfortunately isn’t enough of them, these 14th Infantry logs are loaded with unsolved, unidentified entries about “UFOs”. Helicopters are never mentioned, and, in fact, some of the “UFO” sightings specifically discuss the total lack of sound. None of the sightings end up being actually solved. Also not mentioned, ever, are hostile aircraft, contrails, flak or flares. It’s always “UFOs”. Maybe the wartime environment, plus unpredictable enemy activity, could be responsible for the inability to identify these objects. However, again, there seems to be no association between the “UFOs” and, say, helicopter activity or the sounds of engines. Needless to say, whatever the objects or phenomenon were, the USAF was not taking reports from the 14th Infantry, nor anyone else in the 4th Infantry Division.

Since the early 1950’s, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have promulgated a series of “Merchant Ship Intelligence” (MERINT) instructions which contained a standardized process for reporting unusual, unidentified or potentially hostile aircraft or vessels. While promulgated within “Joint Army Navy Air Force Publication 146” (JANAP 146) doctrine, MERINT instructions were by both non-military maritime professionals aboard US and Canadian flagged ships. Usually running at twelve pages or so, they were often published alongside the more well-known “Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings” (CIRVIS) procedures, and, in fact, some shortened versions of JANAP 146 have both the MERINT and CIRVIS sections combined into one chapter.

Specifically, MERINT instructions requested the reporting of unidentified aircraft, or, formations of unidentified aircraft, missiles, hostile or unidentified submarines and surface vessels, and other unusual or unexpected air or waterborne activity. Also specified are “unidentified flying objects”. A submitted MERINT report would include a description of the sighting, including the object(s) shape, size, color, any discernible features, associated sound, direction of travel, length of sighting, etc. Historically, addressee’s included, to name a few, the Commander-in-Chief, North American Air Defense Command (CINCNORAD), the USN’s Chief of Naval Operations, (CNO), the USN’s Director, Naval Ocean Surveillance Information Center, (D-NOSIC), and the Canadian Navy’s Commander, Maritime Command.

The US Navy (USN) was serious about the promulgation of MERINT instructions through a document titled “Military Sea Transportation Service, Far East, Instruction 3360.1A”. The four page document, distributed in June, 1967, was sent from the Commander, Military Sea Transportation Service, Far East, San Francisco, to various USN Naval Communication Stations (NAVCOMMSTA) in the Asia-Pacific region. Starting on Page 1, the subject line of the document is “Reporting of Vital Intelligence Sightings from Seaborne Sources (SHORT TITLE – MERINT)” and highlights JANAP 146(E) in the reference list. In the “Purpose” section, it is stated:

“To emphasise the importance of prompt and accurate reporting of intelligence sightings by USNS ships under the operation control of the Commander, Military Sea Transportation Service, Far East (COMSTSFE)”

Following on, the “Background” section discusses the significance of “intelligence sightings” reporting, and the importance of complying with the established procedures in the interests of national security. The next section, titled “Action”, states:

“All USNS ships under the operational control of COMSTSFE are directed to report the following intelligence sightings by message:

a. Hostile or unidentified single aircraft or formation of aircraft which appear to be directed against the United States forces.

b.  Missiles.

c.  Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO)

d. Hostile or unidentified submarines.

e. Hostile or unidentified group or groups of military surface vessels.

f. Individual surface vessels, submarines, or aircraft of unconventional design, or engaged in suspicious activity or observed in an unusual location.

g. Unidentified objects of either scientific or warlike appearance seen submerged or floating on the surface of the water.”

Note here that a distinction is drawn between “Unidentified Flying Objects”, or, “UFOs” and “missiles”, “unidentified single aircraft or formation of aircraft”, etc. Thus, UFOs do not seem to mean the same thing. I have imaged the page below.

While it is probably unnecessary to reproduce the rest of “Military Sea Transportation Service, Far East, Instruction 3360.1A” here, I should mention that the second page lays out what exactly should be contained in a report, including items such “Date and time of sighting”, “Altitude of object expressed as Low, Medium or High”, “Direction of travel of object”, “Speed of object” and “Conditions of sea and weather”. Clearly, MERINT instructions, as well as the more familiar CIRVIS procedures mentioned before, are primarily for the reporting of unidentifiable aircraft or vessels which could be hostile. However, unusual UFO events have indeed been reported using MERINT and CIRVIS procedures. The USAF’s Project Blue Book case files contain a significant number of them, as do Canada’s UFO files, formally held by the Department of National Defence (DND). And these are only the cases we know about…

It is easily argued that significant MERINT and CIRVIS reported UFO cases never even made it to Blue Book or the DND, and, in fact, stayed well within operational areas of air defence, air intelligence and so forth. The infamous “Bolender Memo”, which was actually an USAF “Air Staff Study”, and not a memorandum as such, stated that “…reports of unidentified flying objects which could affect national security are made in accordance with JANAP 146… …are not part of the Blue Book system.”. Signed on the 20th October, 1969 by Brigadier General Carrol H. Bolender, Deputy Director of Development, USAF, the document also went on to state that “…reports of UFOs which could affect national security would continue to be handled through the standard Air Force procedures designed for this purpose.”. Thus, it is established that JANAP 146, which contained CIRVIS and MERINT reporting procedures, was one of a number of ongoing examples of doctrine that allowed for, even demanded, the reporting of “UFOs” which “could affect national security”. CIRVIS and MERINT reportable events have continued to be submitted with urgency. Canada’s Department of Transport (DOT) has released some of these reports, but the USAF and NORAD have not, and Freedom of Information requests have been knocked back time and time again.

Actual MERINT instruction booklets, like the example referred to in “Military Sea Transportation Service, Far East, Instruction 3360.1A”, have been released, and are quite clear in textual and graphical presentation. While there have been different versions released since the 1950’s, a good example of a Vietnam War-era MERINT booklet is “OPNAV 94-P-3”. Signed off by Admiral James S. Russell, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, USN, and promulgated in July, 1959, this version of MERINT was current until January, 1967. Page 6 contains the typical “What To Report” section. It is stated, “Report all airborne and waterborne objects which appear hostile, suspicious, or unidentified…”. Examples such as “guided missiles” and “aircraft or contrails…” are listed as distinct from “unidentified flying objects”. Also displayed are shaded illustrations next to each example. Next to “unidentified flying objects” is a somewhat classic flying saucer craft, as well as a Buck Rogers type rocket. So, again, there is certainly a requirement here that UFO’s were to be reported. Below is the page in question.

In March, 2015, researcher Barry Greenwood discovered that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had made a previously unknown collection of Vietnam War-era records partially available. Titled “Combat Air Activities Files” (CACTA), these records were originally controlled by the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s (JCS) J-3 (Operations) Directorate, and contain vast amounts of tabulated data regarding combat missions flown over southeast Asia. The CACTA database is keyword searchable. Using the search term “UFO”, dozens of records populate the results display. Furthermore, the term “UFO” is often accompanied by other terms. The results are as varied as “UFO CHASE”, “SUS UFO” and “UFO SEARCH”. The actual missions that contain these terms include “Air Interdiction”, “Visual Reconnaissance”, “Flare Drop”, “Strike” and “Airborne Alert”. Amazingly, although the raw data in these records are available, the actual hardcopy records at NARA are still classified SECRET. So, even after five decades, the controlling authorities have not seen fit to make them fully available. Barry Greenwood, probably the world’s leading expert on government UFO records availability, says:

“There would seem to be no good reason to withhold the reports if a FOI request were filed. These events were fifty years ago. Invoking “National Security” for a war that ended in the distant past would not be convincing.”

Still, what little we see in these summarised CACTA records is enough to, once again, conclude that the US military, was using the term “UFO” regularly, and, it was being used as a standard descriptor. This should not have been the case. Project Blue Book was being finalized, and the Colorado UFO Study had actually ended when some of these aerial missions over Asia were evidently still listing some events as “UFOs”. Below is one of the digital results pages from the online CACTA database.

To conclude, there is undoubtedly far more Vietnam War-era documentation yet to be declassified and released. We have only seen a fraction of the administrative records painstakingly produced by all four branches of the US military. We have, likewise, only scratched the surface when it comes to operational records – records we know exist by category or title, but have yet to be made available to researchers. There are “Strike Reports”, “Air Interdiction Results”, “After Action Mission Reports”, “Base Alerts”, “Reconnaissance Reports”, “Bombardment Reports”, “Daily Staff Journals”, “Air Traffic Control Logs”, and myriad other groupings of day-to-day paperwork. If the comparatively tiny number of released records, so far, are littered with references to “UFOs”, then the rest of them will hardly be any different. Experience tells us that these current discoveries will not be a freak statistical fluke.

More importantly, considering that “UFOs” were being reported distinctly from other aerial activity, Project Blue Book investigation, with only a handful of exceptions, was absolutely nowhere to be seen. Researchers are well area that the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), Aerospace Defence Command (ADCOM), and the old Strategic Air Command (SAC) were not submitting UFO cases to Project Blue Book when they should have been, but now we can safely say that American forces in Vietnam were no better. Congress, the press and the public were being regularly told that Blue Book was the final word in UFO case collection and study.

Even the most extremist, most boneheaded debunker cannot fail to see dishonesty and inconsistency here. Astoundingly, when America’s leaders specifically ask about the UFO matter, they are told untruths. In a reply letter to Senator Patty Murray, dated August 25, 1993, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Shubert, USAF, stated:

“As information, the Air force began investigating UFOs in 1948 under a program called Project Sign. Later, the program’s name was changed to Project Grudge and, in 1953, it became known as Project Blue Book. On December 17, 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force announced the termination of Project Blue Book... …As a result of these investigations, studies, and experience, the conclusions of Project Blue book were: 1)  no UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security…”

Compare this with the contents of the Bolender Memo, which stated “…reports of unidentified flying objects which could affect national security are made in accordance with JANAP 146…”. As I have highlighted, JANAP 146 laid out CIRVIS and MERINT procedures, which, needless to say, specifically ask for the reporting of “unidentified flying objects”. Moreover, actual copies of CIRVIS and MERINT reports held in America are still classified, despite the fact that some are thirty or forty years old. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), while powerful, has not yielded anything. The Canadian government has done better, releasing interesting CIRVIS reports as they see fit. Apparently though, Canadian MERINT reports are not available. Below is a copy of the reply letter to Senator Patty Murray.

As for Vietnam, whatever the situation – UFO’s, helicopters, unknown aircraft, whatever phrase or term used, there is an awful lot of questions that need to be answered, and an gigantic quantity of military records which need to be seen. We are making progress on the latter. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Significant Discovery Of US Military

 Records Highlighting "UFO Problem" During 

The Vietnam War 


Part 1

Recently, I completed the first two parts of an ongoing series regarding the United States Air Force’s (USAF) accidental missile strike on the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Hobart guided missile destroyer off the coast of Vietnam. The incident occurred on the 17th of June, 1968. Part 1 and Part 2 of that series discussed my discovery of numerous US military records which state that both “enemy helicopters” and “UFOs” were intensely active at the time of the incident. However, during my research phase into this matter, I also found a great number of other Vietnam War-era records, quite aside in time and place than those detailing the with HMAS Hobart. This work adds to the discoveries made by Boston based researcher Barry Greenwood. While I was trawling America’s huge Defence Technical Information Center (DTIC), he was dealing with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The actual items we have found include “Histories” and “Chronologies”, “Mission Reports”, “Patrol Logs”, “Daily Staff Journals”, and so-called “Lessons Learned” publications. Also, these records come from all four branches of the US Armed Forces, which is fairly unusual.

The question, which I have grappled with previously, is a one of terminology. Is the term “UFO” a “catchall” for anything unknown and flying? One would ask, why wouldn’t military personal simply use terminology like “unknown helicopter” or “unidentified aircraft” or “suspected flak”? The fact of the matter is, they often did. Interestingly though, these more routine terms occurred alongside with, and distinct from, the term “UFO”. But, without more information, we just don’t quite know what fits into the “UFO” basket and what doesn’t. It has been argued that “UFOs” reported during the Vietnam War must have all been North Vietnamese helicopters. With this in mind, it is worth highlighting a United States Army “Daily Journal” entry which was found in the records of the 23rd Infantry Division’s Chu Lai Defense Command. Dated January the 6th, 1969, it says:

“Twr 72 rpts object flying into their area about 700m infront of them, AZ 310°. Object came in slow over the ASP & landed. When object moves it has a glowing light. It is about 15 – 20 ft across. It is shaped like a big egg. Control twr rpts their radar did not pick anything up. Object also does not seem to have any sound to it when it moves.”

This record was actually found, not by us, but by Joe Gillette, a NARA archivist in Washington DC. It was submitted to their official blog, “The Text Message – The Blog of the Textual Archives Services Division at the National Archives.”. This is reasonable example of something very peculiar being witnessed and reported by military servicemen, in the vicinity of a military installation. Whatever it was, the notion of a deafening, lumbering North Vietnamese helicopter being responsible is puerile. Without more information, however, we can only treat it as another odd anecdote of wartime history.

During the Vietnam War, the United States Army produced so-called “Lessons Learned” publications. Categorized as a form of “Operational Report”, these special documents were written for the purposes of chronologically recording major operational, in-the-field activities of all the major Army entities – from Field Force echelon down to Battalion level. Now declassified, it turns out that a not-insignificant number of these publications contain interesting references to UFO activity.

One such “Lessons Learned” publication is titled “Operational Report – Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 30 April 1969”. The report chronologically lays out the activities of the Army’s sizeable I Field Force in Vietnam’s Central Highlands during the months of February, March and April, 1969. Originally classified CONFIDENTIAL, it was distributed by the Department of the Army, Office of the Adjutant General, on the 4th of August, 1969, after being signed off by Maj. Gen. Kenneth G. Wickham. On Page 18, it is briefly stated that:

“During Feb, there were 173 Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) Sightings.”

The page in question is imaged below.

Not to be outdone, Page 25 of the report lists an even higher figure of “UFO sightings” for March, 1969. It reads:

“During Mar, there were 190 UFO Sightings.”

The page is imaged below.

On Page 27, there is another entry regarding UFOs, and it applies to the month of April, 1969. It is important here to note that there appears to be a mistake in the author’s text. Instead of correctly listing April as the time period being discussed, they have written March. As I said above, March had already been covered with its apparent 190 sightings. To quote exactly, it states:

“During Mar, there were 46 UFO Sightings.”

Of course, “Mar” means April, thus, the sentence should read, “During Apr, there were 46 UFO Sightings.”. Far more interesting, though, is the passage of text immediately following the above sentence. It states:

“During the entire reporting period, concerted efforts were made to identify UFOs. Further discussion of these efforts is precluded by the classification of this report.”

This is something we seldom see. What “concerted efforts” were made “to identify UFOs”? And with what results? Clearly, whatever efforts were undertaken, the details must have been too sensitive to be laid out, even scantly, in a CONFIDENTIAL Army publication. This would imply that the matter was, at minimum, classified SECRET, which is one level of security classification above CONFIDENTIAL. There is, of course, a chance that the matter was classified TOP SECRET, but, without more to go on, we simply do not know. Imaged below is the page in question.

There is no more discussion of UFOs in “Operational Report – Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 30 April 1969”. In total, during the three months in question, there was a total of 409 UFO sightings made from within the US military. This, by anyone’s measure, is an extremely high number, and, the situation was evidently taken seriously. The fact that these UFO sightings continued to go unresolved must have been troublesome, from a security point of view if nothing else, for the militarys field commanders and other top brass staff. Only a few months later, on the 17th of December, 1969, the Secretary of the USAF, Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr, famously announced that, “No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security.”. This is understandable, as he was paraphrasing the hogwash he was being fed by Project Blue Book staffers, as well as various other USAF entities. Needless to say, a thorough inspection of the USAF’s Project Blue Book records – both administrative papers and case files – turns up nothing on the 409 UFO sightings listed by the Army’s I Field Force in Vietnam. For those unfamiliar with Project Blue Book, it was the USAF’s flawed twenty-year effort to collection and analyse UFO sightings the world over.

Another US Army “Lessons Learned” publication has mention of UFO’s, and, it is in fact the edition that chronologically leads up to one I detailed above. Titled “Operational Report - Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 31 January 1969”, the entire document dryly discusses the operational activities of the I Field Force in the Central Highlands of Vietnam for the months of November and December, 1968, and January 1969. It was distributed by the Department of the Army, Office of the Adjutant General, on the 14th of April, 1969, after being signed off for distribution by Maj. Gen. Kenneth G. Wickham. As is standard, it was originally classified CONFIDENTIAL. On Page 17, various field activities for the month of January are laid out, and the UFO issue is taken rather seriously:

“Current action on UFOs was initiated in Nov 68 when the 4th Inf Div requested a Restricted Flying Area/Defense Identification Zone in order to aid in the identification of unidentified flying objects. In early Jan 69, a message was received from COMUSMACV directing that HAWK acquisition radars would be furnished by the 6th Bn 56th Arty, to aid in UFO detection and identification. On or about 25 Jan the following radars were received accompanied by operating personnel: (1) Pulse Acquisition Radar; (2) Continual Wave Acquisition Radar; and (3) Illumination Radar. These were placed in operation the night of 31 Jan with the radar CP located at LZ Oasis. The Air Force provided a liaison officer at the CP. Presently, the Air Force and the 4th Inf Div are gathering data for analysis; the Air Force will not grant engagement clearance while objects are in the air as positive identification as hostile has yet to be determined.”

This unequivocally says that the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division was concerned enough about “unidentified flying objects” to request implementation of strict air identification processes. Furthermore, the Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV) ordered that three types of primary radar systems would be furnished to the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery Brigade to “…aid in UFO detection and identification”. The USAF provided a liaison officer at the central LZ Oasis Command Post (CP), and the “…gathering data for analysis” was underway by the end of January. Finally, and maybe most importantly, the “objects” were not being readily identified. While there is every possibility that these “UFOs” or “objects” were merely North Vietnamese helicopters, there seems to be an awful lot of confusion about the matter. Again, why not simply use terminology such as “unknown helicopter” or “unidentified helicopter”? Also, if the objects were indeed enemy helicopters, would there not be intelligence from the worst affected areas stating such? The sound of military helicopters in flight, or, the discovery of functional bases from where to operate them from, must surely have been known to someone in the US Army. I have imaged the page below.

Some of the most informative records I have located are from the USAF’s “Project CHECO” collection. These detailed reports examined the USAF’s aerial operations in South East Asia. “CHECO” stands for “Contemporary Historical Examination of Current Operations”, and each report has a standard introduction, which states:

“Project CHECO was established in 1962 to document and analyze air operations in Southeast Asia… …Project CHECO and other US Air Force Historical study programs provided the Air Force with timely and lasting corporate insights into operational, conceptual and doctrinal lessons from the war in SEA.”

Previously, in Part 1 of my report into the accidental USAF missile strike on Australia’s HMAS Hobart warship, I discussed a Project CHECO publication titled “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968”. It was produced by the 7th Air Force’s (7AF) Directorate of Tactical Evaluation, Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces (HQ PACAF), and was published on the 1st of August, 1969. It was signed off by Col. Warren H. Peterson, and was originally classified SECRET/AIR FORCE EYES ONLY. On Page 45 there is mention of a “joint service conference on the UFO problem”, which I discussed at length. Furthermore, on Page 47 and 48 there is detailed discussion on the attempted photographing, radar tracking and aerial engagement of “UFO targets”, which I also highlighted. I believe though, that some aspects of this need further discussion. On Page 47, it is stated:

“Another facet of target identification involved confirming the many visual, radar, and infrared sightings. No ‘hard evidence’ such as photographs or wreckage was obtained. On three successive August nights, RF–4s flew a total of 12 sorties against 34 radar–plotted UFO targets. The photos showed no helicopters despite several runs which, according to the radar, passed directly over the targets. On 28 August, an RF–4C using photo flash cartridges ran controlled tests to photograph a friendly helicopter at night. Of 38 exposed frames made on four passes, only two frames showed the helicopter. The summary of results to the 7AF Command Section said…”

The author then quotes directly from a classified USAF record:

“This test confirms previous opinion by DOCR that chances of photographing one of the UFOs in the DMZ is extremely remote… …Even the two successful exposures required last minute flight correction by a DOCR representative riding in the lead helicopter.”

The page continues with:

“Two special projects were established to observe the UFOs from Con Thien, the highest hill in the eastern DMZ area. The primary mission of project HAVE FEAR did not concern the helicopter reports, but this Air Force Weapons Laboratory project had laser range finders and night observation devices (NOD) that offered some chance of identifying the sightings. HAVE FEAR personnel saw red lights and got video blips. The UFOs usually traveled at speeds from 30 to 80 mph at altitudes from 1,200 to 1,600 feet. After several days of tracking, the red blinking lights would extinguish when under HAVE FEAR surveillance. The project ran from 4–12 August 1968 and resumed from 18–31 August.”

This topic carries over into Page 48, which states:

“In mid-August, HAVE FEAR was joined by Project LETHAL CHASER, which used manpack radar. From 18 August through 3 September 1968, the several observation systems conducted a joint, integrated search that also employed Waterboy radar. The criteria for a valid track included the UFO being within 11 miles of Con Thien, being unidentified by Jazzy Control, having a track of at least two minutes duration, and traveling at less than 180 mph. This joint effort got 67 valid tracks, but no conclusive identifications.

By late August, the helicopter situation dwindled away into occasional sightings and little new technical data. Several times the peculiarities of the tracks and the lack of confirmation where expected (such as from troops in the plotted area) defied adequate explanation. The 7AF Commander decided the results could not justify continuing the projects and MACV concurred.”

As we can see, there are a number of endnotes in the above text. Endnotes 132 and 135 are listed as a document titled “Msg, 7AF to COMUSMACV, ‘Summary Report of UFOs in DMZ’, 19 Sep 68.”. Endnote 133, is listed as “Memo, Col Michael J. Quirk, DOC, 7AF, ‘Test–Night Photo of Helicopters,’ undated (About 30 Aug 68).”. Endnote 134 is listed as “Msg, Det 1, 620th TCS to 7AF, ‘HAVE FEAR,’ 25 Aug 68; (S/NF) Memo, ‘Intelligence Annex (Enemy Helicopters),’ undated (Late Aug 68).”. This leaves no doubt that the information conveyed in these pages was gleaned directly from raw, established USAF authority.

It should be stated that one particular statement in the above passages of text does argue in favour of “UFOs” being nothing more than “helicopters”. That statement is “By late August, the helicopter situation dwindled away into occasional sightings and little new technical data…”. This is stated after the term “UFO” had been used repeatedly, so one has to take into strong consideration that the terminology used could be all-encompassing. Whatever the situation, we don’t often see records that describe such intense efforts to engage unknown, unidentifiable aerial targets, which are repeatedly labelled as “UFOs”. Firstly, steadfast attempts to detect and track very elusive arieal targets, using the resources of the USAF’s WATERBOY Control and Reporting Post at Dong Ha, were, apparently, unsuccessful. Secondly, two special projects, HAVE FEAR and LETHAL CHASER, used laser range finders, night observation devices and mobile radar systems. Yet, they got “no conclusive identifications”. Usually, we only have anecdotal and subjective reports to rely on. But here, we see instrumented efforts to assess unusual aerial activity. Seemingly, these airborne mysteries were never solved. The above mentioned pages are imaged below. 

Another Project CHECO publication I discovered is titled “Project CHECO Report, Direct Air Support Centers in I CORPS, July 1965 – June 1969”. It was produced by the 7th Air Force’s (7AF) Directorate of Tactical Evaluation, Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces (HQ PACAF), and was published on the 31st of August, 1969. Originally classified SECRET/AIR FORCE EYES ONLY, the report was declassified on the 13th of June, 1989. On Page 58, it is stated:

“An additional function mentioned in this report was that of monitoring UFO reports. Information was relayed from forward observation posts through counter-battery intelligence channels to the FSCC, where the liaison team gathered all necessary information into the proper format and passed it on to the appropriate air defense agencies.”.

As detailed in the glossary of this Project CHECO report, the term “FSCC” stands for “Fire Support Coordination Center”. Also, the above sentence finishes with the endnote “8”, which is listed as “Rprt, 20th TASS, Maj W. F. McMillen, ‘End of Tour Rprt’, 3 Dec 68 (Microfilm S-188), Doc. 31.”.  During the late 1960’s, I CORPS was an allied field force organised within the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The ARVN was the Army component of the South Vietnamese military, and functioned alongside the United States Army, as well as the USAF and US Marine Corps (USMC). The USAF’s 7AF provided air support to I CORPS through its “Direct Air Support Center” (DASC) at Da Nang Airfield. Judging by the passage of text I’ve highlighted above, an “End of Tour” report by one Major McMillen contained information about the monitoring of UFO reports.

A further study of this bulk Project CHECO report reveals, on Page 57, that Major McMillen was the 7AF’s Liaison Team Chief at Headquarters, I CORPS. Evidently, the 7AF were processing UFO case data. The statement “…gathered all necessary information into the proper format” before passing it on “…to the appropriate air defense agencies” can mean nothing else. There was certainly a clear paper trail going on here. Myriad questions come to mind. Just how classified was the 7AF’s collection and dissemination of UFO case data to the “appropriate air defense agencies”? Was there any agreement on what these reports were actually caused by? North Vietnamese helicopters? US reconnaissance on sensitive, unacknowledged missions? Or something else more unsolvable? The page in question is imaged below.

“UFOs”, “helicopters”, or otherwise, the records discovered and detailed here, prove, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that there are still very significant quantities of information completely unseen by researchers. In Part 2 of this series, I will highlight an even wider array of US military documents that were created during the Vietnam War, as well as try to offer some conclusions. 

Finally, below, I have imaged the front pages, or, descriptive covering letters, that verify the information I have detailed. Specifically, they are, “Operational Report – Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 30 April 1969”“Operational Report - Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 31 January 1969”“Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968” and “Project CHECO Report, Direct Air Support Centers in I CORPS, July 1965 – June 1969”.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Finally, US Air Force Records Discovered 

Confirming UFO Activity During The Striking Of The 

HMAS Hobart


Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the accidental missile strike on the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) HMAS Hobart by a United States Air Force (USAF) F–4 Phantom Fighter–Bomber in the early hours of June 17th, 1968. Specifically, I aimed to highlight that there has never really been official confirmation and consensus on what the jet was supposed to be firing on, and, that there was a possibility that the aerial targets it had in its sights were unusual and unidentifiable. The most sensible hypothesis has generally been that North Vietnamese M–14 Hound helicopters were flying in the vicinity of the Hobart, and that the F–4 Phantom made a dreadful targeting error. However, in light of a series of recent discoveries, by both myself and Boston based researcher Barry Greenwood, this may not be the case. I have already gone to considerable length highlighting some never–before–seen information in one particular USAF record, which is titled “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968”. Again, Part 1 of this series is worth looking at for those who haven’t.

Of course, no serious research project falls back on a single document. Anyone who knows my work will be well aware that I ceaselessly bring forth more, and more, and more, unseen government UFO records to the table. In this Part 2, I aim to present new, or barely known, records which relate to the HMAS Hobart incident. Moreover, there may be, unsurprisingly, a great deal more still–classified records relating to the incident that we simply do not have access to.

An important question which must be asked is that of terminology. Is the use of the term “UFO”, when used in Vietnam–era military records, merely a “catchall” for anything which is airborne and simply unknown to the observer? It would be easy to assume such is the case. However, time and time again we see the term “UFO”, or “Unidentified Flying Object” as distinctly referenced alongside terms like “unidentified aircraft”, “unknown aircraft” and the like.

One of the many examples of this distinction can be found in the individual line items found in a United States Marine Corps (USMC), “Command Chronology” publication, titled “Command Chronology, Headquarters, 3erd Marine Division, 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 1 June, 1968 to 30 June, 1968”. In the “Sequential Listing of Significant Events” section of the document, there are pages of raw, tabulated text which discusses the daily activities of the 3erd Marine Division’s 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion, in June, 1968. An entry for the 18th of June states:

“Co ‘A’ at C–4 position reported unidentified aircraft due east of C–4 position.”

The very next line item states:

“Elms Co ‘A’ at Oceanview reported 6 UFOs vic of the mouth of the Ben Hai River”

Note the distinction between the terms “unidentified aircraft” and “UFO”? Presumably, military observers would desire to use anything but the term “UFO”, yet we see it used time and time and again throughout all manner of such records.

Another (USMC) “Command Chronology” publication makes reference to ongoing UFO activity in the precise vicinity of where HMAS Hobart was patrolling, and only two nights beforehand. Titled “III Marine Amphibious Force, Air Ground Team, Command Chronology, June 1968”, it was printed by Headquarters, III Marine Amphibious Force, Military Assistance Command on the 9th of August, 1968. Originally classified “SECRET”, and only downgraded to “UNCLASSIFIED” in 2014, it is held, among thousands of similar publications, at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington DC. In a chapter titled “Intelligence”, there is this curious statement on Page 17:

“During the late evening hours of 15 June approximately 15 unidentified aircraft, believed to be enemy helicopters, were reportedly sighted in the DMZ area.  Since that time there have been numerous sightings, both visual and by radar, of unidentified, slow–moving UFO’s in the DMZ area and seaward toward Tiger Island.  No hard evidence of these aircraft has yet been received.”

So, even this USMC historical record – which was authored by utilising raw and classified records – states that “unidentified aircraft” on the 15th of June were only “believed” to be enemy helicopters. Beyond that, “numerous sightings” – seen both visually and on radar – of “unidentified, slow–moving UFO’s” around Tiger Island obviously were of concern. The date–range of these sightings, of course, lead right up to the accidental missile strike on HMAS Hobart. I have imaged the page below.

The United States Navy (USN) didn’t come up with any clear picture either. After searching through dozens of US Naval Forces, Vietnam “Historical Supplement” publications, I managed to locate the corresponding item for June, 1968. Titled “US Naval Forces, Vietnam Monthly Historical Supplement, June 1968”, and originally classified CONFIDENTIAL, discussion of the HMAS Hobart attack is concentrated on Page 5. It states:

“Air Force pilots called in response to earlier reports of enemy aircraft near the DMZ, reported shooting down several helicopters. However, no evidence of wreckage could be found. Subsequent investigation of the events indicated that, in the confusion following the initial reports of helicopter sightings, the friendly aircraft had attacked targets which appeared to be on radar. These radar targets probably included PCF 19. The use of helicopters by the enemy was neither conclusively proved nor disproved although observers ashore and MARKET TIME units continued to observe lights and other indications of helicopter activity along the North Vietnamese coast and between the coast and nearby Tiger Island.” 

This publication was written well after the HMAS Hobart incident, yet confusion around what was actually flying in the DMZ is still very apparent. Specifically, “US Naval Forces, Vietnam Monthly Historical Supplement, June 1968” was signed off for distribution by Commander J. P. Rizza, Chief of Staff for US Naval Forces, Vietnam, on the 18th of Feburary, 1969, which is eight months after that fateful night. Most telling are the passages of text which state “…use of helicopters by the enemy was neither conclusively proved nor disproved…” and “…continued to observe lights and other indications of helicopter activity along the North Vietnamese coast and between the coast and nearby Tiger Island.”. I have imaged the page below.

An Australian Prime Minister’s Department file, titled “HMAS ‘Hobart’ – Attack by United States Aircraft In Vietnamese Waters”, contains fifty–six pages of “cablegrams” and other teletype message traffic between the Australian Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, the Australian Department of External Affairs, and the Office of the Prime Minister. Held now at the National Archives of Australia (NAA), the file was originally classified SECRET and was given the Control Symbol designation 1968/8614, within the A1209 filing Series. In a four page “inward cablegram”, dated the 31st of July, 1968, received by the Department of External Affairs, Canberra from the Australian Embassy, Saigon, it is stated that:

“No physical evidence of helicopters destroyed has been discovered in the area of activity nor has extensive reconnaissance produced any evidence of enemy helicopter operations in or near the DMZ.”

So, six weeks after the incident, despite “extensive reconnaissance”, the US military could not find “any evidence of enemy helicopter operations in or near the DMZ.”. I have imaged the page below.

Even General Creighton W. Abrams, the Commander of all US Forces in Vietnam when HMAS Hobart was hit, refuted the notion that enemy helicopters were definitely operating in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). One of the US Army Press Corps carried a short statement from Gen. Abrams which was picked up by media organisations in the final week of June. One such example was printed in the Springfield Massachusetts Union on the 24th of June, 1968. It states, in part:

“Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, the US commander in Vietnam, said Sunday ‘there is no formal, concrete, factual evidence’ of enemy helicopters being used along the Demilitarized Zone.”

If the USA’s top General in Vietnam couldn’t confirm that all the strange activity in the DMZ could be readily accounted for, then we are somewhat forced to conclude that no one did. 

To conclude, at least for now, I again raise the contents of Part 1 of this series. There, I discussed the contents of “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968” which highlighted, amongst other curiosities, a “joint service conference on the UFO problem”, as well as authorized “projects” that were “established to observe the UFOs”. Further, In this Part 2, I have presented further records that establish a very high level of confusion during the period leading up to the USAF’s accidental strike on HMAS Hobart. The constant utilization of the term “UFOs”, at all levels of military officialdom, indeed matches some of the rumours that circulated in June, 1968 and beyond. That the USAF, and indeed the whole US Armed Forces in Vietnam, were totally unable to present verifiable information – either in public statements, classified records, or anywhere else – that North Vietnamese choppers were intensely active in the DMZ is undeniably significant, and, many would argue, rather disquieting.

Moreover, none of this activity was filed with Project Blue Book, the USAF’s official collection and investigation of UFO reports. This wasn’t merely a case of administrative bungling or misplaced records. It was, however, another example of systematic deception by the US military in regards to what was really going on. When the Secretary of the USAF, Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr, announced, on the 17th of December, 1969, that no UFO reported, investigated and evaluated was “ever an indication of threat to our national security”, one can’t help but suspect that he simply had no idea what was really occurring.

Finally, I have imaged, below, the front covers of some of the documents which I have presented to assist other researchers to verify what I have displayed and discussed. These are the cover pages for the records “III Marine Amphibious Force, Air Ground Team, Command Chronology, June 1968”, “US Naval Forces, Vietnam Monthly Historical Supplement, June 1968” and the Australian government file “HMAS ‘Hobart’ – Attack by United States Aircraft In Vietnamese Waters”.