This Day in Paranormal History: Ft. Monmouth UFO Incident 1951by Cherlyn Gardner Strong on Sep. 10, 2010, under Life, UFOs
On September 10, 1951, Major Ballard and Lieutenant Rogers spotted a UFO over Sandy Hook, NJ, during a training flight. The report in itself may not be remarkable as far as UFO sightings are concerned. However, the investigation and subsequent aftermath related to this incident, does fit the bill.
Consider the following text of the letter requesting a USAF evaluation of the incident, then we will go from there.
Subject: UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT
Date of report: 21 SEPTEMBER 1951
Date of information 10 SEPTEMBER 1951
Reported by LT.COL. BRUCE K. BAUMGARDNER
On 10 September, Major Ballard and Lt. Rogers were participating in a training flight from Dover AFB, Delaware to Mitchell AFB, New York (Direct), when they spotted an unidentified object over Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
The time was 1135 EDT, and the weather was CALM. When spotted, the object was at an estimated altitude of 8,000 feet. Flying at 20,000 feet, the pilot immediately made a diving turn in his T33 and followed and timed the object until it disappeared two minutes later.
Both pilots observed the strange object, which appeared to be the size of an F-86 but much faster (900+ mph), disc shaped, steady in flight with no visible means of propulsion, and shiny silver in color.
At 1110 EDT a radar station at Ft. Monmouth plotted an unidentified, high speed (above 700 mph) object in approximately the same location.
This headquarters has no information regarding natural phenomena, experimental aircraft of guided missiles that could have caused the observations.
Request USAF evaluation of incident be furnished this headquarters.
Director of Intelligence
BRUCE K. BAUMGARTNER
Lt. Colonel, USAF
Project Grudge took on the investigation of the incident, or the lack thereof of an investigation. Project Grudge succeeded Project Sign in 1949 for a short while before Project Blue Book.
Investigators with Project Grudge quickly solved the case by saying that it was (you guessed it), a weather balloon.
“Critics charged that, from its formation, Project Grudge was operating under a debunking directive: all UFO reports were judged to have prosaic explanations, though little research was conducted, and some of Grudge’s “explanations” were strained or even logically untenable. In his 1956 book, Edward J. Ruppelt would describe Grudge as the “Dark Ages” of USAF UFO investigation. Grudge’s personnel were in fact conducting little or no investigation, while simultaneously relating that all UFO reports were being thoroughly reviewed. Ruppelt additionally reported that the word “Grudge” was chosen deliberately by the anti-saucer elements in the Air Force.” – Wikipedia
The Project Grudge investigators reported their findings related to the Fr. Monmouth incident to General Charles P. Cabell, head of Air Force intelligence at the Pentagon. The explanation angered General Cabell during the meeting, who is reported to have ordered:
“I want an open mind; in fact, I order an open mind! Anyone who doesn’t keep an open mind can get out now! … Why do I have to stir up the action? Anyone can see that we do not have a satisfactory answer to the saucer question.”
Yet, the weather balloon hypothesis remained the most popular explanation for UFOs.
Seventeen years later, the case was evaluated by a University of Arizona physicist with an interest in UFOs.
Dr. James E. McDonald worked tirelessly in the 1960s to expand UFO studies. He argued that UFOs represented “an intriguing, pressing and unsolved mystery which had not been adequately studied by science.”
During a the Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects in Washington, D.C. on July 29, 1968, McDonald argued that the balloon hypothesis was “strained beyond the breaking point.”
He also brought up his findings on the Ft. Monmouth case:
1. Case 31. Ft. Monmouth, N.J., September 10, 1951:
It is clear from Ruppelt’s discussions (Ref. 5) that a series of radar and visual sightings near Ft. Monmouth on 9/10/51 and the next day were of critical importance in affecting official handling of the UFO problem in the ensuing two-year period. Many details from the official file on these sightings are now available for scientific scrutiny (Ref. 7). Here, a sighting by two military airmen flying in a T-33 near Ft. Monmouth will be selected from that series of events because the sighting was eventually tagged as a weather balloon. As with any really significant UFO case, it would require far more space than can be used here to spell out adequately all relevant details, so a very truncated account must be employed. While flying at 20,000 ft from a Delaware to a Long Island airbase, the two men in the T-33 spotted an object “round and silver in color” which at one stage of the attempted intercept appeared flat. The T-33 was put into a descending turn to try to close on the object but the latter turned more tightly (the airmen stated) and passed rapidly eastward towards the coast of New Jersey and out to sea. A pair of weather balloons (probably radiosonde balloons but no information thereon given in the files) had been released from the Evans Signal Laboratory near Ft. Monmouth, and the official evaluation indicates that this is what the airmen saw.
However, it is stated that the balloons were released at 1112 EDST, and the sighting began at about 1135 EDST with the T-33 over Point Pleasant, N.J. In that elapsed time, a radiosonde balloon, inflated to rise at the 800-900 ft/min rate used for such devices, would have attained an altitude of about 17-18,000 ft, the analysis notes. From this point on, the official analysis seems to be built on erroneous inferences. The airmen said that, as they tried to turn on the object, it appeared to execute a 120-degree turn over Freehold, N.J., before speeding out over the Atlantic. But from the upper winds for that day, it is clear that the Ft. Monmouth balloon trajectory would have taken it to the northeast, and by 1135, it would have been about over the coast in the vicinity of Sea Bright. Hence, at no time in the interval involved could the line of sight from T-33 to balloon have intersected Freehold, which lies about 15 miles WSW of the balloon release- point. Instead, had the airmen some how seen the radiosonde balloon from Pt. Pleasant, it would have lain to about their N or NNE and would have stayed in about that sector until they passed it. Furthermore, the size of the balloon poses a serious difficulty for the official analysis. Assuming that it had expanded to a diameter of about 15 feet as it ascended to about the 18,000-ft level, it would have subtended an arc of only 0.6 min, as seen from the T-33 when the latter passed over Pt. Pleasant. This angular size is, for an unaided eye, much too small to fit the airmen’s descriptions of what they tried to intercept. In a press interview (Ref. 40), the pilot, Wilbert S. Rogers of Columbia, Pa., said the object was “perfectly round and flat” and that the center of the disc was raised “about six feet” and that it appeared to be moving at an airspeed of the order of 900 mph. The entire reasoning on which the balloon evaluation is elaborated fails to fit readily established points in the official case-summary.
McDonald would testify before Congress in 1968, and stated:
“UFOs are entirely real and we do not know what they are, because we have laughed them out of court. The possibility that these are extraterrestrial devices, that we are dealing with surveillance from some advanced technology, is a possibility I take very seriously”
It is said that McDonald’s UFO research took a toll on him. Three years later, in March 1971, his wife asked for a divorce. In April, McDonald attempted suicide with a gunshot to the head. He survived, but was blinded and confined to a wheelchair. He regained a degree of peripheral vision by June and planned to return to teaching at the University of Arizona.
On, June 13, 1971, a family discovered a body by the Cañada Del Oro Wash in Tucson. The body was identified as McDonald’s.
A .38 caliber revolver and a suicide note were found closeby.