In 1953, Air Defence Radar over Lake Superior, Michigan, detected a U̳F̳O̳ travelling at rapid speeds. An F-89C interceptor jet was dispatched to investigate, the plane and its pilots were never seen again.
On the evening of November 23, 1953, Air Defence Command radar detected the presence of an unidentified object moving at 500 mph over Lake Superior. An F-89C all-weather interceptor, piloted by Lieutenant Felix Moncia Jr., with radar observer Lieutenant R. R. Wilson in the rear cockpit, was dispatched from Kinross Air Force Base, near the Soo Locks in northern Michigan. Under radar guidance, the jet headed tow̳a̳r̳d the target.
At 8000 feet, 70 miles off Keweenaw Point, and 160 miles northwest of the Soo Locks, the blip of the F-89 and that of the U̳F̳O̳ merged, then faded from the screen. Nothing more was heard from the interceptor, and no trace of it was ever found, despite an extensive search.
A brief statement, prepared by the Public Information Office at Wisconson’s Truax Air Force Base (which handled such duties for bases in the area), was given to the press. By the next day, however, an Air Force spokesman at the P̳e̳n̳t̳a̳g̳o̳n̳ claimed that the unidentified object was a Royal Canadian Air Force C-47 and that the F-89, far from colliding with it as the radar reading indicated, had never been any closer than miles from it. The fate of the F-89 after that was unclear, the Air Force contended: it had crashed for unknown reasons.
The Canadian government denied on several occasions that any incident involving one of its aircraft and a USAF interceptor had occurred on the date in question. In any case, the official Air Force version implied an implausible incompetence on the parts of radar operators at such a sensitive installation. The official version has it that Moncla may have suffered from vertigo and lost control of his aircraft, though r̟e̟c̟o̟r̟d̟s indicate he was flying on instruments. No transcript of Moncla’s radio conversation with the controllers has ever been released.
The Air Force gave conflicting accounts to Moncla’s widow. First, she was told that the F-89 had flown too low in its effort to identify the Canadian plane and crashed into the water. Subsequently, another officer asserted that the interceptor had exploded at a high altitude.
For years rumours have circulated that the Air Force is covering up other cases in which U̳F̳O̳s apparently snatched military aircraft. The most interesting of these stories comes from the testimony of Master Sergeant O. D. Hill of Project Blue Book – or so Cleveland U̳F̳O̳logist Tom Comella would assert in a nationally published magazine article that has never been challenged.
According to his account, on February 4, 1956, Comella and three other civilian U̳F̳O̳ investigators met with Air Technical Intelligence Centre (ATIC) representatives at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where Blue Book was headquartered. Their purpose was to discuss two cases in which low-flying objects had passed over residential areas. The ATIC personnel promised to get back to them. But they heard nothing until June 28, when Edgar Smith, a member of the civilian group, received a visit from M. Sgt. Hill, though Hill had not participated in the original meeting. After initially reciting the standard anti-U̳F̳O̳ Blue Book line, Hill told Smith that the project existed to “prevent another Pearl Harbour.” He said that “our planes have been and still are disappearing from the sky.” Then asking not to be quoted, he related two cases.
The first of these sounds in every way except one like the Kinross episode. The sole discordant detail is Hill’s reference to a “thorough search of the land area”; the Kinross case took place, of course, over a body of water. Perhaps Hill’s recall was imperfect. Smiths notes have Hill saying this of the second case:
“A transport plane with 26 persons aboard was rapidly approaching its air base some 10 miles away from shore. Back on land at the radar station the operator was carefully tracking the transport plane and was in constant radar communication with the plane. Suddenly the radar operator spied a second blip on his radarscope. He immediately radioed the transport and advised the pilot to bew̳a̳r̳e of the a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ object.”
The U̳F̳O̳ was travelling at a high rate of speed, about 2500 mph. It jumped about on the radarscope like a tennis ball. All of a sudden the mysterious blip headed straight for the transport plane, and before the radar operator could w̳a̳r̳n it, the two objects had united into one on the radar screen. The one remaining blip sped straight up at a terrific rate of speed. A surface search of the water in the vicinity revealed no oil slick, although a general’s briefcase was found floating. The plane has completely disappeared.”
Hill told Smith that such incidents had officials worried. Two hundred scientists were at work on the U̳F̳O̳ problem for the U.S. government.
As soon as Hill left his house, Smith called Comella to summarize the sergeant’s account and tell him Hill was on his way. Hill repeated the stories to Comella and added that many top officials believed U̳F̳O̳s to be of ex̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ origin. A month later Smith and Comella saw Hill at ATIC headquarters, then met separately with the new Blue Book head, Captain George T. Gregory. When asked about the disappearance cases, Gregory attributed them to “bugs or small birds that get into the radar pattern.” When Comella asked if birds were responsible for the aircraft’s disappearance, too, Gregory said, “Well, we just cannot talk about those cases.”
Hill never disputed Comella’s version of events. There seems no reason to doubt that Comella’s account of their interaction is correct. To date, no independent confirmation of the second disappearance case (if we assume the first to refer to the Kinross event) has surfaced.