By Barb Campagnola
Athens NEWS Contributor
It was Sunday morning, July 28, 2002. The news came on the radio as I was chatting with a friend: a big ball of blue light had been spotted in the sky, but we didn't catch where. It was picked up on radar; fighter jets had been scrambled to the scene. The chase was witnessed by people on the ground. The light traveled at a phenomenal rate of speed and then Blip! - it vanished from the radar and from the skies.
My eyes grew big as saucers. "Did you just hear that?" I asked. I was amazed, having never heard such a thing reported on the news.
Though I have been a skeptic, I do know people who not only believe in UFOs, they say they have seen them. They also think that the government is keeping the truth from us. I couldn't imagine anyone trying to cover up such an important scientific discovery. And why would a ship travel this far just to "blip away"?
When I unfolded the story for myself, my thinking began to take a turn.
I watched and listened all day for the exciting updates. Nothing. I looked in the papers. Nothing. How could a big blue ball of blazing light traveling at phenomenal rates of speed be nothing?
Monday morning, I called my friend J.D. Hutchison, the unofficial UFOologist of Athens. He said he thought it was over Oregon somewhere on July 26 and would check into it. Meanwhile, I searched the Internet: blue light/UFO/July 26.
Apparently on July 26, UFO activity was observed over Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. Witnessed by credible, reliable Air Force pilots and engineers and recorded on radar, a fleet of seven solid-targets were seen hovering, cruising, surrounding and accelerating at phenomenal rates of speed. Then Blip! - they vanished from the radar and from the sky.
Interesting indeed, but I soon discovered that I was reading about the appearance of UFOs on July 26 -- of 1952!
It seems that to date, one of the largest waves of UFO sightings was recorded in July 1952, with an exceptional sighting on the 26th. The government, though it asserted nonchalance, took action. Project Blue Book was instituted in early August immediately after these sightings. It was intended to sort fact from science fiction about UFOs.
Project Blue Book was headquartered at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. Apparently, there had been so much activity to investigate before and after July 26 that the tiny office was overwhelmed, inundated by the stacks of reports. Many of the original documents were moved to the National Archives in Washington when it closed in 1969.
Yes. Yes. This was all very interesting, I thought, as I scrolled down the page. But I wanted to find out about this big blue ball of light in 2002.
J.D. called me back.
"Babs," he said. "It was July 26, but not in Oregon. It was over Andrews Air Force Base."
My jaw dropped.
Andrews Air Force Base? THE Andrews Air Force Base? Exactly 50 years to the day later?
This blue light was beginning to sound very intelligent indeed. An anniversary appearance? How very attention-getting.
I made a few comparisons.
In a press conference on July 29, 1952, Maj. Gen. John Samford of the U.S. Air Force stated that the sightings were caused by temperature inversions. The public was easily convinced, and for many, that was that.
On July 27, 2002, in a telephone conference with UFO researcher Kenny Young, Major Snyder, command spokesperson for both NORAD and the U.S. Space Command, said, "NORAD is absolutely not concerned about this situation. We posture our forces according to the threat and at no time did this incident involve any threat to our country. It was an innocuous happening."
And that was that.
But is history repeating itself?
Released under the Freedom of Information Act, the once-classified transcripts from the tower that night tell a very different story. That night, no one thought it was temperature inversion, including the lieutenant in charge. The report read, "He (Lt. Holcomb) felt that the scope targets at that time were not the result of this inversion and so advised the command post with the suggestion that a second intercept flight be requested."
Statements taken from commercial national airline pilots in the same area on July 13, 1952 are also extraordinary. They say that they observed a blue-white ball of light hovering to the west.
According to the pilot, the object came up to 11,000 ft. and then maintained a parallel course on the same level, at the same speed, until he turned on all lights. The object then departed from the vicinity at an estimated 1,000 mph. The weather was excellent for observation. The crew said that the object "took off, up and away."
On July 14, 1952 Pan Am pilots in the same area reported six glowing lights or discs cruising beneath them. They remained until the pilots turned on the lights. The discs then flipped on their edge, rose up over their plane in formation and then disappeared one by one. Blip. Blip.
About 60 reports were made in July 1952 from credible witnesses. But how many went unreported? How many go unreported today for fear of scoffing? And while this documentation from commercial pilots is fascinating, volumes upon volumes more exist. To do the subject justice one would have to make it a lifelong pursuit. Many have.
Project Blue Book recorded some 12,618 sightings before closing operations in 1969. Of those, 718 remain unexplained. But according to the Air Force and their conclusions from Project Blue Book, UFOs have been proven to be neither a security threat nor extraterrestrial, so we do not need to investigate them any further. Case Closed. And this has become our official position to date. See nothing and say nothing.
So it's probably fair to say that given the penalties, like prison, for divulging classified information, we may never know the truth about July 26, 2002.
Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Or was it... a temperature inversion.