The UFO Files
|U.S. skies were as deadly as
Article published Feb 18, 2008
by Billy Cox
In the summer of 1952, the Pentagon’s kettle was whistling.
At a time when the U.S. was bracing for Soviet airstrikes, UFOs were systematically exposing holes in the defense netting with publicized incursions over Washington, D.C., nuclear plants and military bases. Maj. Gen. Robert Ramey of the U.S. Air Force went on record saying jet fighters had been scrambled several hundred times to pursue UFOs. Not surprisingly, the brass decided to get aggressive.
On July 29, the International News Service announced, “The Air Force revealed today that jet pilots have been placed on a 24-hour nationwide alert against ‘flying saucers’ with orders to shoot them down if they refused to land.” The order was so provocative that Robert Farnsworth, president of the U.S. Rocket Society, wrote a letter of protest to the White House. Hostile action against UFOs, Farnsworth wrote, “could cause unbelievable suffering and death.”
After the '52 wave had subsided, Capt. Edward Ruppelt, former director of the USAF’s Project Blue Book, revealed that UFOs — contrary to an emerging opinion suggesting peaceful intentions — weren’t to be trifled with.
In alluding to the loss of military pilots who gave chase, he wrote, "If the Air Force hadn't slapped down the security lid, these writers might not have reached this conclusion" about peaceful aliens. "There have been other and more lurid duels of death. That's what everybody missed.''
Ruppelt didn’t elaborate, but Port Orange author Frank Feschino tries to connect the dots in his 2007 book, “Shoot Them Down.” Using New York Times figures, Feschino notes that the military lost 185 fighter aircraft over the U.S. and its coastal waters from 1951-56, versus 104 fighter planes downed in the Korean War during roughly half that same time period. On the domestic front, those crashes claimed the lives of 199 aviators in what were labeled as accidents.
It may be impossible to get to the bottom of all those “accidents.” As William E. Burrows pointed out in 2001, deception is the cornerstone of national security.
In “By Any Means Necessary: America’s Secret Air War in the Cold War,” Burrows described how, from 1950-69, 18 planes with more than 160 U.S. airmen and agents were lost during covert operations against communist nations. To avoid embarrassment, authorities told survivors their sons, husbands, fathers and brothers were killed during routine missions.
Maybe those events include some of Ruppelt’s “lurid” casualties as well — who knows. But Feschino’s exhaustive research — which includes newspaper accounts of carnage on the ground when downed jets crashed into residential neighborhoods — indicates The Times’ accident figures are incomplete. He also establishes a pattern between UFO sightings and routine-mission “accidents.”
Feschino’s riskiest scenario occurred Sept. 12, 1952, when sightings over the eastern seaboard were widespread and documented in the press. Thanks to inconsistencies and contradictions in Air Force records, Feschino projects that a dogfight started that afternoon over the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, engaged other jets off the Virginia coast during the early evening, and resulted in several direct hits on UFOs, one of which went down in West Virginia in front of eyewitnesses. A military search team was dispatched to recover debris near the rural town of Flatwoods.
At least one thing about “Shoot Them Down” is indisputable. Based on newspaper reports, the number of 1952 UFO incidents listed in Project Blue Book is underrepresented. The relevance for today? The military reported no routine training accidents during last month’s Stephenville UFO incident in Texas.
“I think they learned their lesson" from 1952, Feschino
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