A month or so ago a number of people on UFO Updates (myself included) panned Frank Feschino’s new book, The Braxton County Monster: The Cover-Up of the Flatwoods Monster Revealed, because of the inclusion by Feschino of an unsubstantiated account, which even he admits was “speculation” (p. 205) about a vast aerial battle between several UFOs and dozens of USAF fighters on the night of 12 September, 1952, in which at least one fighter was destroyed, and the crew killed. His scenario had no evidence to back it up. Instead, writes Feschino, it was what he “believed” had happened (p. 228).
One of Feschino’s most egregious flights of fancy came on page 236, when he writes, as fact:
“Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett advised President Truman that an all-out air assault against these objects was inevitable, that the UFOs should not compromise the United States any further. An enraged Truman agreed… President Truman then ordered every rocket-bearing and cannon-armed jet along the mid-Atlantic toward the UFOs. At approximately 7:05 PM EDT, U.S. fighter jets were en route to intercept the objects ninety miles off the Coast.”
There might be no redemption for Feschino, who with this account has certainly compromised his credibility with serious UFO researchers, in the process doing a grave disservice to what is a genuinely interesting case – the Flatwoods Monster – and undermining his own considerable research.
Still, the aerial battle scenario Feschino created got me to wondering – is there any indication, whether in official records or statements, or in the news media, that the USAF did have a policy to engage UFOs, or that this may indeed have happened?
As it turns out, there is.
Take, as just one example, this excerpt from a New York Times article title “Air Force Explains 2-Hour Delay in Chasing ‘Objects’ Over Capital” from 29 July, 1952:
“An Air Force official tonight said its Air Defense Command had been ready for many months to challenge any unknown object aloft… Jet interceptors were sent aloft during the week-end after the radar maintained by the Civil Aeronautics Administration near Washington National Airport showed objects on its screen that should not have been there.”
This indicates that the Air Force did indeed have a policy of sending up jet interceptors when unidentified flying objects were reported.
There are many more examples of similar reports and statements. Of course, it makes sense that this would have been the Air Force’s policy at the height of the Cold War (and a very hot war in Korea). To do otherwise would have been irresponsible.
None of this proves that the UFOs were extraterrestrial. Indeed, in a number of cases, such as the fatal crash of Captain Thomas Mantell while pursuing a UFO on 7 January, 1948, the pilots were chasing something that was definitely not an alien spacecraft (in Mantell’s case, a top secret Skyhook balloon, as demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt by Kevin Randle at www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2002/nov/m16-026.shtml , and in Jerry Clark’s excellent book Strange Skies: Pilot Encounters with UFOs). It certainly does not validate Feschino’s wild account of a Trafalgar in the Sky between aliens and the USAF on 12 September, 1952.
What it does do, however, is provide solid evidence that UFOs are real (which is a different thing from saying that they are extraterrestrial in origin), and that the United States took whatever they were very seriously back in the late 1940s and into the 1950s.
If ufology would stick to these types of conclusions, it would get a lot further with the general public, the media, and the policy makers. Unfortunately, all too often, someone like Feschino comes along, takes some basic facts, and spins them into a tale that, even to those of us who are willing to accept the extraterrestrial hypothesis as reasonable, is a better fit for a Steven Spielberg film.