Monday, 29 August 2016

Significant Discovery Of US Military

 Records Highlighting "UFO Problem" During 

The Vietnam War 

 

Part 1

   
Recently, I completed the first two parts of an ongoing series regarding the United States Air Force’s (USAF) accidental missile strike on the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Hobart guided missile destroyer off the coast of Vietnam. The incident occurred on the 17th of June, 1968. Part 1 and Part 2 of that series discussed my discovery of numerous US military records which state that both “enemy helicopters” and “UFOs” were intensely active at the time of the incident. However, during my research phase into this matter, I also found a great number of other Vietnam War-era records, quite aside in time and place than those detailing the with HMAS Hobart. This work adds to the discoveries made by Boston based researcher Barry Greenwood. While I was trawling America’s huge Defence Technical Information Center (DTIC), he was dealing with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The actual items we have found include “Histories” and “Chronologies”, “Mission Reports”, “Patrol Logs”, “Daily Staff Journals”, and so-called “Lessons Learned” publications. Also, these records come from all four branches of the US Armed Forces, which is fairly unusual.

The question, which I have grappled with previously, is a one of terminology. Is the term “UFO” a “catchall” for anything unknown and flying? One would ask, why wouldn’t military personal simply use terminology like “unknown helicopter” or “unidentified aircraft” or “suspected flak”? The fact of the matter is, they often did. Interestingly though, these more routine terms occurred alongside with, and distinct from, the term “UFO”. But, without more information, we just don’t quite know what fits into the “UFO” basket and what doesn’t. It has been argued that “UFOs” reported during the Vietnam War must have all been North Vietnamese helicopters. With this in mind, it is worth highlighting a United States Army “Daily Journal” entry which was found in the records of the 23rd Infantry Division’s Chu Lai Defense Command. Dated January the 6th, 1969, it says:

“Twr 72 rpts object flying into their area about 700m infront of them, AZ 310°. Object came in slow over the ASP & landed. When object moves it has a glowing light. It is about 15 – 20 ft across. It is shaped like a big egg. Control twr rpts their radar did not pick anything up. Object also does not seem to have any sound to it when it moves.”

This record was actually found, not by us, but by Joe Gillette, a NARA archivist in Washington DC. It was submitted to their official blog, “The Text Message – The Blog of the Textual Archives Services Division at the National Archives.”. This is reasonable example of something very peculiar being witnessed and reported by military servicemen, in the vicinity of a military installation. Whatever it was, the notion of a deafening, lumbering North Vietnamese helicopter being responsible is puerile. Without more information, however, we can only treat it as another odd anecdote of wartime history.

During the Vietnam War, the United States Army produced so-called “Lessons Learned” publications. Categorized as a form of “Operational Report”, these special documents were written for the purposes of chronologically recording major operational, in-the-field activities of all the major Army entities – from Field Force echelon down to Battalion level. Now declassified, it turns out that a not-insignificant number of these publications contain interesting references to UFO activity.

One such “Lessons Learned” publication is titled “Operational Report – Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 30 April 1969”. The report chronologically lays out the activities of the Army’s sizeable I Field Force in Vietnam’s Central Highlands during the months of February, March and April, 1969. Originally classified CONFIDENTIAL, it was distributed by the Department of the Army, Office of the Adjutant General, on the 4th of August, 1969, after being signed off by Maj. Gen. Kenneth G. Wickham. On Page 18, it is briefly stated that:

“During Feb, there were 173 Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) Sightings.”

The page in question is imaged below.


Not to be outdone, Page 25 of the report lists an even higher figure of “UFO sightings” for March, 1969. It reads:

“During Mar, there were 190 UFO Sightings.”

The page is imaged below.


On Page 27, there is another entry regarding UFOs, and it applies to the month of April, 1969. It is important here to note that there appears to be a mistake in the author’s text. Instead of correctly listing April as the time period being discussed, they have written March. As I said above, March had already been covered with its apparent 190 sightings. To quote exactly, it states:

“During Mar, there were 46 UFO Sightings.”

Of course, “Mar” means April, thus, the sentence should read, “During Apr, there were 46 UFO Sightings.”. Far more interesting, though, is the passage of text immediately following the above sentence. It states:

“During the entire reporting period, concerted efforts were made to identify UFOs. Further discussion of these efforts is precluded by the classification of this report.”

This is something we seldom see. What “concerted efforts” were made “to identify UFOs”? And with what results? Clearly, whatever efforts were undertaken, the details must have been too sensitive to be laid out, even scantly, in a CONFIDENTIAL Army publication. This would imply that the matter was, at minimum, classified SECRET, which is one level of security classification above CONFIDENTIAL. There is, of course, a chance that the matter was classified TOP SECRET, but, without more to go on, we simply do not know. Imaged below is the page in question.


There is no more discussion of UFOs in “Operational Report – Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 30 April 1969”. In total, during the three months in question, there was a total of 409 UFO sightings made from within the US military. This, by anyone’s measure, is an extremely high number, and, the situation was evidently taken seriously. The fact that these UFO sightings continued to go unresolved must have been troublesome, from a security point of view if nothing else, for the militarys field commanders and other top brass staff. Only a few months later, on the 17th of December, 1969, the Secretary of the USAF, Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr, famously announced that, “No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security.”. This is understandable, as he was paraphrasing the hogwash he was being fed by Project Blue Book staffers, as well as various other USAF entities. Needless to say, a thorough inspection of the USAF’s Project Blue Book records – both administrative papers and case files – turns up nothing on the 409 UFO sightings listed by the Army’s I Field Force in Vietnam. For those unfamiliar with Project Blue Book, it was the USAF’s flawed twenty-year effort to collection and analyse UFO sightings the world over.

Another US Army “Lessons Learned” publication has mention of UFO’s, and, it is in fact the edition that chronologically leads up to one I detailed above. Titled “Operational Report - Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 31 January 1969”, the entire document dryly discusses the operational activities of the I Field Force in the Central Highlands of Vietnam for the months of November and December, 1968, and January 1969. It was distributed by the Department of the Army, Office of the Adjutant General, on the 14th of April, 1969, after being signed off for distribution by Maj. Gen. Kenneth G. Wickham. As is standard, it was originally classified CONFIDENTIAL. On Page 17, various field activities for the month of January are laid out, and the UFO issue is taken rather seriously:

“Current action on UFOs was initiated in Nov 68 when the 4th Inf Div requested a Restricted Flying Area/Defense Identification Zone in order to aid in the identification of unidentified flying objects. In early Jan 69, a message was received from COMUSMACV directing that HAWK acquisition radars would be furnished by the 6th Bn 56th Arty, to aid in UFO detection and identification. On or about 25 Jan the following radars were received accompanied by operating personnel: (1) Pulse Acquisition Radar; (2) Continual Wave Acquisition Radar; and (3) Illumination Radar. These were placed in operation the night of 31 Jan with the radar CP located at LZ Oasis. The Air Force provided a liaison officer at the CP. Presently, the Air Force and the 4th Inf Div are gathering data for analysis; the Air Force will not grant engagement clearance while objects are in the air as positive identification as hostile has yet to be determined.”

This unequivocally says that the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division was concerned enough about “unidentified flying objects” to request implementation of strict air identification processes. Furthermore, the Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV) ordered that three types of primary radar systems would be furnished to the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery Brigade to “…aid in UFO detection and identification”. The USAF provided a liaison officer at the central LZ Oasis Command Post (CP), and the “…gathering data for analysis” was underway by the end of January. Finally, and maybe most importantly, the “objects” were not being readily identified. While there is every possibility that these “UFOs” or “objects” were merely North Vietnamese helicopters, there seems to be an awful lot of confusion about the matter. Again, why not simply use terminology such as “unknown helicopter” or “unidentified helicopter”? Also, if the objects were indeed enemy helicopters, would there not be intelligence from the worst affected areas stating such? The sound of military helicopters in flight, or, the discovery of functional bases from where to operate them from, must surely have been known to someone in the US Army. I have imaged the page below.


Some of the most informative records I have located are from the USAF’s “Project CHECO” collection. These detailed reports examined the USAF’s aerial operations in South East Asia. “CHECO” stands for “Contemporary Historical Examination of Current Operations”, and each report has a standard introduction, which states:

“Project CHECO was established in 1962 to document and analyze air operations in Southeast Asia… …Project CHECO and other US Air Force Historical study programs provided the Air Force with timely and lasting corporate insights into operational, conceptual and doctrinal lessons from the war in SEA.”

Previously, in Part 1 of my report into the accidental USAF missile strike on Australia’s HMAS Hobart warship, I discussed a Project CHECO publication titled “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968”. It was produced by the 7th Air Force’s (7AF) Directorate of Tactical Evaluation, Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces (HQ PACAF), and was published on the 1st of August, 1969. It was signed off by Col. Warren H. Peterson, and was originally classified SECRET/AIR FORCE EYES ONLY. On Page 45 there is mention of a “joint service conference on the UFO problem”, which I discussed at length. Furthermore, on Page 47 and 48 there is detailed discussion on the attempted photographing, radar tracking and aerial engagement of “UFO targets”, which I also highlighted. I believe though, that some aspects of this need further discussion. On Page 47, it is stated:

“Another facet of target identification involved confirming the many visual, radar, and infrared sightings. No ‘hard evidence’ such as photographs or wreckage was obtained. On three successive August nights, RF–4s flew a total of 12 sorties against 34 radar–plotted UFO targets. The photos showed no helicopters despite several runs which, according to the radar, passed directly over the targets. On 28 August, an RF–4C using photo flash cartridges ran controlled tests to photograph a friendly helicopter at night. Of 38 exposed frames made on four passes, only two frames showed the helicopter. The summary of results to the 7AF Command Section said…”

The author then quotes directly from a classified USAF record:

“This test confirms previous opinion by DOCR that chances of photographing one of the UFOs in the DMZ is extremely remote… …Even the two successful exposures required last minute flight correction by a DOCR representative riding in the lead helicopter.”

The page continues with:

“Two special projects were established to observe the UFOs from Con Thien, the highest hill in the eastern DMZ area. The primary mission of project HAVE FEAR did not concern the helicopter reports, but this Air Force Weapons Laboratory project had laser range finders and night observation devices (NOD) that offered some chance of identifying the sightings. HAVE FEAR personnel saw red lights and got video blips. The UFOs usually traveled at speeds from 30 to 80 mph at altitudes from 1,200 to 1,600 feet. After several days of tracking, the red blinking lights would extinguish when under HAVE FEAR surveillance. The project ran from 4–12 August 1968 and resumed from 18–31 August.”

This topic carries over into Page 48, which states:

“In mid-August, HAVE FEAR was joined by Project LETHAL CHASER, which used manpack radar. From 18 August through 3 September 1968, the several observation systems conducted a joint, integrated search that also employed Waterboy radar. The criteria for a valid track included the UFO being within 11 miles of Con Thien, being unidentified by Jazzy Control, having a track of at least two minutes duration, and traveling at less than 180 mph. This joint effort got 67 valid tracks, but no conclusive identifications.

By late August, the helicopter situation dwindled away into occasional sightings and little new technical data. Several times the peculiarities of the tracks and the lack of confirmation where expected (such as from troops in the plotted area) defied adequate explanation. The 7AF Commander decided the results could not justify continuing the projects and MACV concurred.”

As we can see, there are a number of endnotes in the above text. Endnotes 132 and 135 are listed as a document titled “Msg, 7AF to COMUSMACV, ‘Summary Report of UFOs in DMZ’, 19 Sep 68.”. Endnote 133, is listed as “Memo, Col Michael J. Quirk, DOC, 7AF, ‘Test–Night Photo of Helicopters,’ undated (About 30 Aug 68).”. Endnote 134 is listed as “Msg, Det 1, 620th TCS to 7AF, ‘HAVE FEAR,’ 25 Aug 68; (S/NF) Memo, ‘Intelligence Annex (Enemy Helicopters),’ undated (Late Aug 68).”. This leaves no doubt that the information conveyed in these pages was gleaned directly from raw, established USAF authority.

It should be stated that one particular statement in the above passages of text does argue in favour of “UFOs” being nothing more than “helicopters”. That statement is “By late August, the helicopter situation dwindled away into occasional sightings and little new technical data…”. This is stated after the term “UFO” had been used repeatedly, so one has to take into strong consideration that the terminology used could be all-encompassing. Whatever the situation, we don’t often see records that describe such intense efforts to engage unknown, unidentifiable aerial targets, which are repeatedly labelled as “UFOs”. Firstly, steadfast attempts to detect and track very elusive arieal targets, using the resources of the USAF’s WATERBOY Control and Reporting Post at Dong Ha, were, apparently, unsuccessful. Secondly, two special projects, HAVE FEAR and LETHAL CHASER, used laser range finders, night observation devices and mobile radar systems. Yet, they got “no conclusive identifications”. Usually, we only have anecdotal and subjective reports to rely on. But here, we see instrumented efforts to assess unusual aerial activity. Seemingly, these airborne mysteries were never solved. The above mentioned pages are imaged below. 




Another Project CHECO publication I discovered is titled “Project CHECO Report, Direct Air Support Centers in I CORPS, July 1965 – June 1969”. It was produced by the 7th Air Force’s (7AF) Directorate of Tactical Evaluation, Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces (HQ PACAF), and was published on the 31st of August, 1969. Originally classified SECRET/AIR FORCE EYES ONLY, the report was declassified on the 13th of June, 1989. On Page 58, it is stated:

“An additional function mentioned in this report was that of monitoring UFO reports. Information was relayed from forward observation posts through counter-battery intelligence channels to the FSCC, where the liaison team gathered all necessary information into the proper format and passed it on to the appropriate air defense agencies.”.

As detailed in the glossary of this Project CHECO report, the term “FSCC” stands for “Fire Support Coordination Center”. Also, the above sentence finishes with the endnote “8”, which is listed as “Rprt, 20th TASS, Maj W. F. McMillen, ‘End of Tour Rprt’, 3 Dec 68 (Microfilm S-188), Doc. 31.”.  During the late 1960’s, I CORPS was an allied field force organised within the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The ARVN was the Army component of the South Vietnamese military, and functioned alongside the United States Army, as well as the USAF and US Marine Corps (USMC). The USAF’s 7AF provided air support to I CORPS through its “Direct Air Support Center” (DASC) at Da Nang Airfield. Judging by the passage of text I’ve highlighted above, an “End of Tour” report by one Major McMillen contained information about the monitoring of UFO reports.

A further study of this bulk Project CHECO report reveals, on Page 57, that Major McMillen was the 7AF’s Liaison Team Chief at Headquarters, I CORPS. Evidently, the 7AF were processing UFO case data. The statement “…gathered all necessary information into the proper format” before passing it on “…to the appropriate air defense agencies” can mean nothing else. There was certainly a clear paper trail going on here. Myriad questions come to mind. Just how classified was the 7AF’s collection and dissemination of UFO case data to the “appropriate air defense agencies”? Was there any agreement on what these reports were actually caused by? North Vietnamese helicopters? US reconnaissance on sensitive, unacknowledged missions? Or something else more unsolvable? The page in question is imaged below.


“UFOs”, “helicopters”, or otherwise, the records discovered and detailed here, prove, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that there are still very significant quantities of information completely unseen by researchers. In Part 2 of this series, I will highlight an even wider array of US military documents that were created during the Vietnam War, as well as try to offer some conclusions. 

Finally, below, I have imaged the front pages, or, descriptive covering letters, that verify the information I have detailed. Specifically, they are, “Operational Report – Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 30 April 1969”“Operational Report - Lessons Learned, Headquarters, I Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 31 January 1969”“Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968” and “Project CHECO Report, Direct Air Support Centers in I CORPS, July 1965 – June 1969”.







Thursday, 18 August 2016

Finally, US Air Force Records Discovered 

Confirming UFO Activity During The Striking Of The 

HMAS Hobart

 

Part 2

   
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the accidental missile strike on the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) HMAS Hobart by a United States Air Force (USAF) F–4 Phantom Fighter–Bomber in the early hours of June 17th, 1968. Specifically, I aimed to highlight that there has never really been official confirmation and consensus on what the jet was supposed to be firing on, and, that there was a possibility that the aerial targets it had in its sights were unusual and unidentifiable. The most sensible hypothesis has generally been that North Vietnamese M–14 Hound helicopters were flying in the vicinity of the Hobart, and that the F–4 Phantom made a dreadful targeting error. However, in light of a series of recent discoveries, by both myself and Boston based researcher Barry Greenwood, this may not be the case. I have already gone to considerable length highlighting some never–before–seen information in one particular USAF record, which is titled “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968”. Again, Part 1 of this series is worth looking at for those who haven’t.

Of course, no serious research project falls back on a single document. Anyone who knows my work will be well aware that I ceaselessly bring forth more, and more, and more, unseen government UFO records to the table. In this Part 2, I aim to present new, or barely known, records which relate to the HMAS Hobart incident. Moreover, there may be, unsurprisingly, a great deal more still–classified records relating to the incident that we simply do not have access to.

An important question which must be asked is that of terminology. Is the use of the term “UFO”, when used in Vietnam–era military records, merely a “catchall” for anything which is airborne and simply unknown to the observer? It would be easy to assume such is the case. However, time and time again we see the term “UFO”, or “Unidentified Flying Object” as distinctly referenced alongside terms like “unidentified aircraft”, “unknown aircraft” and the like.

One of the many examples of this distinction can be found in the individual line items found in a United States Marine Corps (USMC), “Command Chronology” publication, titled “Command Chronology, Headquarters, 3erd Marine Division, 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 1 June, 1968 to 30 June, 1968”. In the “Sequential Listing of Significant Events” section of the document, there are pages of raw, tabulated text which discusses the daily activities of the 3erd Marine Division’s 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion, in June, 1968. An entry for the 18th of June states:

“Co ‘A’ at C–4 position reported unidentified aircraft due east of C–4 position.”

The very next line item states:

“Elms Co ‘A’ at Oceanview reported 6 UFOs vic of the mouth of the Ben Hai River”

Note the distinction between the terms “unidentified aircraft” and “UFO”? Presumably, military observers would desire to use anything but the term “UFO”, yet we see it used time and time and again throughout all manner of such records.

Another (USMC) “Command Chronology” publication makes reference to ongoing UFO activity in the precise vicinity of where HMAS Hobart was patrolling, and only two nights beforehand. Titled “III Marine Amphibious Force, Air Ground Team, Command Chronology, June 1968”, it was printed by Headquarters, III Marine Amphibious Force, Military Assistance Command on the 9th of August, 1968. Originally classified “SECRET”, and only downgraded to “UNCLASSIFIED” in 2014, it is held, among thousands of similar publications, at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington DC. In a chapter titled “Intelligence”, there is this curious statement on Page 17:

“During the late evening hours of 15 June approximately 15 unidentified aircraft, believed to be enemy helicopters, were reportedly sighted in the DMZ area.  Since that time there have been numerous sightings, both visual and by radar, of unidentified, slow–moving UFO’s in the DMZ area and seaward toward Tiger Island.  No hard evidence of these aircraft has yet been received.”

So, even this USMC historical record – which was authored by utilising raw and classified records – states that “unidentified aircraft” on the 15th of June were only “believed” to be enemy helicopters. Beyond that, “numerous sightings” – seen both visually and on radar – of “unidentified, slow–moving UFO’s” around Tiger Island obviously were of concern. The date–range of these sightings, of course, lead right up to the accidental missile strike on HMAS Hobart. I have imaged the page below.



The United States Navy (USN) didn’t come up with any clear picture either. After searching through dozens of US Naval Forces, Vietnam “Historical Supplement” publications, I managed to locate the corresponding item for June, 1968. Titled “US Naval Forces, Vietnam Monthly Historical Supplement, June 1968”, and originally classified CONFIDENTIAL, discussion of the HMAS Hobart attack is concentrated on Page 5. It states:

“Air Force pilots called in response to earlier reports of enemy aircraft near the DMZ, reported shooting down several helicopters. However, no evidence of wreckage could be found. Subsequent investigation of the events indicated that, in the confusion following the initial reports of helicopter sightings, the friendly aircraft had attacked targets which appeared to be on radar. These radar targets probably included PCF 19. The use of helicopters by the enemy was neither conclusively proved nor disproved although observers ashore and MARKET TIME units continued to observe lights and other indications of helicopter activity along the North Vietnamese coast and between the coast and nearby Tiger Island.” 

This publication was written well after the HMAS Hobart incident, yet confusion around what was actually flying in the DMZ is still very apparent. Specifically, “US Naval Forces, Vietnam Monthly Historical Supplement, June 1968” was signed off for distribution by Commander J. P. Rizza, Chief of Staff for US Naval Forces, Vietnam, on the 18th of Feburary, 1969, which is eight months after that fateful night. Most telling are the passages of text which state “…use of helicopters by the enemy was neither conclusively proved nor disproved…” and “…continued to observe lights and other indications of helicopter activity along the North Vietnamese coast and between the coast and nearby Tiger Island.”. I have imaged the page below.



An Australian Prime Minister’s Department file, titled “HMAS ‘Hobart’ – Attack by United States Aircraft In Vietnamese Waters”, contains fifty–six pages of “cablegrams” and other teletype message traffic between the Australian Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, the Australian Department of External Affairs, and the Office of the Prime Minister. Held now at the National Archives of Australia (NAA), the file was originally classified SECRET and was given the Control Symbol designation 1968/8614, within the A1209 filing Series. In a four page “inward cablegram”, dated the 31st of July, 1968, received by the Department of External Affairs, Canberra from the Australian Embassy, Saigon, it is stated that:

“No physical evidence of helicopters destroyed has been discovered in the area of activity nor has extensive reconnaissance produced any evidence of enemy helicopter operations in or near the DMZ.”

So, six weeks after the incident, despite “extensive reconnaissance”, the US military could not find “any evidence of enemy helicopter operations in or near the DMZ.”. I have imaged the page below.



Even General Creighton W. Abrams, the Commander of all US Forces in Vietnam when HMAS Hobart was hit, refuted the notion that enemy helicopters were definitely operating in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). One of the US Army Press Corps carried a short statement from Gen. Abrams which was picked up by media organisations in the final week of June. One such example was printed in the Springfield Massachusetts Union on the 24th of June, 1968. It states, in part:

“Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, the US commander in Vietnam, said Sunday ‘there is no formal, concrete, factual evidence’ of enemy helicopters being used along the Demilitarized Zone.”



If the USA’s top General in Vietnam couldn’t confirm that all the strange activity in the DMZ could be readily accounted for, then we are somewhat forced to conclude that no one did. 

To conclude, at least for now, I again raise the contents of Part 1 of this series. There, I discussed the contents of “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968” which highlighted, amongst other curiosities, a “joint service conference on the UFO problem”, as well as authorized “projects” that were “established to observe the UFOs”. Further, In this Part 2, I have presented further records that establish a very high level of confusion during the period leading up to the USAF’s accidental strike on HMAS Hobart. The constant utilization of the term “UFOs”, at all levels of military officialdom, indeed matches some of the rumours that circulated in June, 1968 and beyond. That the USAF, and indeed the whole US Armed Forces in Vietnam, were totally unable to present verifiable information – either in public statements, classified records, or anywhere else – that North Vietnamese choppers were intensely active in the DMZ is undeniably significant, and, many would argue, rather disquieting.

Moreover, none of this activity was filed with Project Blue Book, the USAF’s official collection and investigation of UFO reports. This wasn’t merely a case of administrative bungling or misplaced records. It was, however, another example of systematic deception by the US military in regards to what was really going on. When the Secretary of the USAF, Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr, announced, on the 17th of December, 1969, that no UFO reported, investigated and evaluated was “ever an indication of threat to our national security”, one can’t help but suspect that he simply had no idea what was really occurring.

Finally, I have imaged, below, the front covers of some of the documents which I have presented to assist other researchers to verify what I have displayed and discussed. These are the cover pages for the records “III Marine Amphibious Force, Air Ground Team, Command Chronology, June 1968”, “US Naval Forces, Vietnam Monthly Historical Supplement, June 1968” and the Australian government file “HMAS ‘Hobart’ – Attack by United States Aircraft In Vietnamese Waters”. 







Thursday, 11 August 2016

Finally, US Air Force Records Discovered 

Confirming UFO Activity During The Striking Of The 

HMAS Hobart

 

Part 1

   
On October the 16th, 1973, the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Chief of Staff, General George S. Brown, who was later appointed as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered a press conference in Illinois. When the UFO matter was raised, Gen. Brown curiously stated:

“I don’t know whether this story has ever been told or not. They weren’t called UFOs. They were called enemy helicopters. And they were only seen at night and they were only seen in certain places. They were seen up around the DMZ in the early summer of ’68. And this resulted in quite a little battle. And in the course of this, an Australian destroyer took a hit and we never found any enemy, we only found ourselves when this had all been sorted out. And this caused some shooting there, and there was no enemy at all involved but we always reacted…”

Candid statements like this were somewhat of a rarity in the 1970’s. The USAF had announced the closure of Project Blue Book in January, 1970, officially closing the doors in the Spring of 1970. But over in Vietnam, UFO reports were consistently being collected and investigated, in various forms, with the primary purpose being to determine whether or not these events were related to enemy activity. Often they were not.

Of all the reported sightings of unusual aerial activity, none have proved more controversial than those of June the 17th, 1968. There has been much written about this event, so further narrative is not needed beyond this brief summary. During the early hours of the morning, a Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) guided missile destroyer, the HMAS Hobart, was patrolling the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) near Tiger Island. A USAF F–4 Phantom Fighter–Bomber fired three missiles on unknown aerial targets, suspected to be North Vietnamese M–14 Hound helicopters. The missiles, however, struck HMAS Hobart, killing Ordinary Seaman R.J. Butterworth and Chief Electrician R.H. Hunt and wounding several others. This was, it seemed, a classic case of “friendly fire”, but rumours started filtering out that the F–4 Phantom hadn’t merely mistaken HMAS Hobart for offensive enemy helicopters, and, that unusual, unidentifiable aerial activity was the intended target. Some of those who were there even use the term “UFOs”.

Finding official USAF or RAN records which discuss this event is not too difficult. Finding the term “UFO” in such records is nigh impossible. Luckily, like so many pieces of history, nothing stays hidden for ever.

Recently, while painstakingly scouring through the online archives of America’s huge Defence Technical Information Center (DTIC) holdings, I honed in on a series of USAF publications which specifically discuss the UFO topic in relation to aerial activities during the Vietnam War. It’s no surprise that few unusual records – whether administrative in nature, or, actual reports – would be hiding in Vietnam War–era military documents. In fact, it would be very odd if there wasn’t – especially when one considers the gigantic quantity of material already begrudgingly released by the US government over the last forty years. Just last year, researcher Barry Greenwood discovered that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had made available myriad Vietnam War files, including US Army records and thousands of pages of USAF “Combat Air Activities” (CACTA) papers – many of which contained references to UFO’s. The records Greenwood and I are finding are a variety of “Daily Staff Journals”, “Histories”, “Chronologies”, “Mission Reports” and so–called “Lessons Learned” publications. These files have only been declassified recently. We know there is much more which is apparently too sensitive to be released, even after forty years or more.

In the 1960’s the USAF ran “Project CHECO” which produced hundreds of detailed reports examining the USAF’s aerial operations in South East Asia. “CHECO” stands for “Contemporary Historical Examination of Current Operations”. Most of these reports have a standard introduction, which states:

“Project CHECO was established in 1962 to document and analyze air operations in Southeast Asia… …Project CHECO and other US Air Force Historical study programs provided the Air Force with timely and lasting corporate insights into operational, conceptual and doctrinal lessons from the war in SEA.”

The report that mentions the HMAS Hobart is titled “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968”. It was produced by the 7th Air Force’s (7AF) Directorate of Tactical Evaluation, Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces (HQ PACAF), and was published on the 1st of August, 1969. Signed off by Col. Warren H. Peterson, the report was originally classified SECRET/AIR FORCE EYES ONLY, the report was only declassified on the 17th of August, 2006. In relation to the HMAS Hobart and UFO’s, on pages forty–five and forty–six it states:

“The several direct hits or near misses on friendly vessels by the Air Force missiles obviously raised the question of what went wrong with target acquisition. The pilots, based on their radar and visual sightings, fired at what they thought were helicopters. The joint service conference on the UFO problem took note of one possibility…”

This passage ends with an endnote, namely, number “128”. The next passage of text is a quote taken directly from raw USAF records, and it states:

“It is important to note that only in the case of the Hobart were the recorded targets in close proximity to ships. It is possible that targets fired on were airborne and that missiles subsequently [were] guided on the stronger radar return from ships in the vicinity.”

I have imaged, below, the two pages that contain this startling text.




It is important to reiterate that the information used by the author of this Project CHECO report was sourced directly from two raw USAF documents. These are listed under endnote 128 at the end of the report. They are titled “20 June Helicopter Conference” and “Memo, Brig Gen George W. McLaughlin, TACC, 7AF to Comdr, 7AF, ‘Air Attacks on Naval Surface Vessels’, 18 Jun 68”. Both are listed with an “(S)” next to them, meaning they were, and probably still are, classified SECRET.

As for the text itself, the first sentence highlights the issue of faulty target acquisition and the accidental hits on HMAS Hobart. The second sentence indicates the pilots of the USAF combat jets had a mix of “radar and visual sightings” and fired on “what they thought were helicopters”. But it is the third sentence where things get interesting. Note that it reads, “The joint service conference on the UFO problem took note of one possibility…”. Clearly stated here is that there was a “conference” on the “UFO problem”, and a “joint services” conference at that. This may mean that all branches of the US armed forces attended, not just components of the USAF. More importantly, the “UFO problem” strongly indicates that there was an ongoing issue with UFO’s in the region; which is what weary UFO researchers have been saying for years.

The next passage of text, quoted from raw administrative records, discusses HMAS Hobart directly. Key here are the sections that read “…only in the case of the Hobart were the recorded targets…” and “It is possible that targets fired on were airborne…”.

Questions need to be raised here. The USAF’s official UFO study, “Project Blue Book”, which closed in 1970, was not being informed of this “UFO problem”. We know this because Project Blue Book files have been publicly available since 1976, and there are comparatively few Vietnam War sourced cases or investigations. As for the “UFOs” themselves, it could be argued that the term “UFO” was a catchphrase for all aerial oddities and unknown aircraft, but ’researchers experience with other caches of military documents often tells us the opposite. “UFOs” are often dealt with as distinct from helicopters, planes, flak, etc. Barry Greenwood’s work last year shows that there the term “UFO” was being used very regularly, including instances where the phrases “UFO landing” and “UFO chase” are used within combat and intelligence assessments.

Other questions must also be asked. Did the “joint service conference” on the “UFO problem” include Royal Australian Navy (RAN) officers? After all, it was an Australian ship that was struck. If so, where are those records? Were any technical studies completed by the USAF’s 7AF science and technology directorates? What about the source documents used in compiling this Project CHECO report, which, I state again, are listed on Page as “20 June Helicopter Conference” and “Memo, Brig Gen George W. McLaughlin, TACC, 7AF to Comdr, 7AF, ‘Air Attacks on Naval Surface Vessels’, 18 Jun 68”?  One can only imagine how many records like this must be languishing – still classified – in permanent archives across the continental United States.

There are other overt references to UFO’s amongst the pages of “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968”. On Page 47, it is stated:

“Another facet of target identification involved confirming the many visual, radar, and infrared sightings. No ‘hard evidence’ such as photographs or wreckage was obtained. On three successive August nights, RF–4s flew a total of 12 sorties against 34 radar–plotted UFO targets. The photos showed no helicopters despite several runs which, according to the radar, passed directly over the targets. On 28 August, an RF–4C using photo flash cartridges ran controlled tests to photograph a friendly helicopter at night. Of 38 exposed frames made on four passes, only two frames showed the helicopter. The summary of results to the 7AF Command Section said…”

The author then quotes directly from classified USAF records, which reads:

“This test confirms previous opinion by DOCR that chances of photographing one of the UFOs in the DMZ is extremely remote… …Even the two successful exposures required last minute flight correction by a DOCR representative riding in the lead helicopter.”

The page continues with:

“Two special projects were established to observe the UFOs from Con Thien, the highest hill in the eastern DMZ area. The primary mission of project HAVE FEAR did not concern the helicopter reports, but this Air Force Weapons Laboratory project had laser range finders and night observation devices (NOD) that offered some chance of identifying the sightings. HAVE FEAR personnel saw red lights and got video blips. The UFOs usually traveled at speeds from 30 to 80 mph at altitudes from 1,200 to 1,600 feet. After several days of tracking, the red blinking lights would extinguish when under HAVE FEAR surveillance. The project ran from 4–12 August 1968 and resumed from 18–31 August.”

Within the above text there are three endnote listed. Endnote 132 is listed as a document titled “Msg, 7AF to COMUSMACV, ‘Summary Report of UFOs in DMZ’, 19 Sep 68.”. Endnote 133, is listed as “Memo, Col Michael J. Quirk, DOC, 7AF, ‘Test–Night Photo of Helicopters,’ undated (About 30 Aug 68).”. The final endnote, 134, references a document titled “Msg, Det 1, 620th TCS to 7AF, ‘HAVE FEAR,’ 25 Aug 68; (S/NF) Memo, ‘Intelligence Annex (Enemy Helicopters),’ undated (Late Aug 68).”. This leaves no doubt that the content of the page was gleaned directly from raw, established USAF authority. The page in question is imaged below.


So what can we take from this? The fact that USAF attempted to make sense of these elusive “visual, radar, and infrared sightings”, by organising the photographing of them, is something that we scarcely see in the established official record. The statement “…On three successive August nights, RF–4s flew a total of 12 sorties against 34 radar–plotted UFO targets” demonstrates clearly the urgency of the situation. The statement about the “…chances of photographing one of the UFOs in the DMZ is extremely remote…” indicates that a fair degree of discussion must have taken place over the matter. If that is not enough, note the passage of text which states “…two special projects were established to observe the UFOs…”. There is no question that something odd was going on. To use the frowned–upon term “UFO” so readily implies that US forces had few clues as to what they were visually witnessing and plotting on radar systems. Also, as I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, the term “UFO” is utilised as distinct from terms like “hostile aircraft”, “flak”, “rocket barrage”, “formation of planes” and so forth.

Most compelling is the fact that the author of this Project CHECO report was able to reference a classified document which, again I want to highlight, titled “Msg, 7AF to COMUSMACV, ‘Summary Report of UFOs in DMZ’, 19 Sep 68.”. Quite simply, this means that there was a 7th Air Force “Report Of UFOs in the DMZ”. There is most definitely no mention of this is the Project Blue Book files, which were supposed to be the last word on UFO’s by the USAF. It would be amazing if this was the only record of its type. Where are these raw records, and, more importantly, in what volume are they? As I have raised before, there was also a “joint service conference on the UFO problem” at nearly the same time.

These situations – where sensitive UFO–related records are found far outside Project Blue Book – keep coming up all the time. Anyone who clings to the notion that there is nothing more to be found, no more mysteries, no more classified files, is living in the early 1970’s. There always seems to be some recorded fact, some official opinion, or some unseen report that departs massively from the USAF’s public relations stance that UFO’s have never been an issue for national security or something worth seriously considering in future policy or plans.

In Part 2 of this series, I will present another bevy of US military documents, as well as some Australian records, that relate to the UFO matter in Vietnam, including, specifically, the strike on HMAS Hobart. Finally, I have imaged below the front page of “Project CHECO South East Asia Report: Air War In The DMZ September 1967 – June 1968” to further establish the provenance of this hitherto classified paperwork.