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Squadron of Discs Over Atomic Test Site
Date: October 1951
Location: Nellis Air Force Base, Yucca Flat, Nevada, United States

Formation of 18 silvery, rotating, disc-shaped objects, each one with a dome, come down over a nuclear test site, hover for 10 to 15 minutes, and then depart, at an angle, vanishing out of sight in seconds."

Source: NICAP, Walter Webb
[go to original source]

Type of Report: Hynek Class--DD *
UFOCAT Strangeness Class--Type 3**
Vallee Class--Type III-B ***


This sighting, if true, may be unprecedented. It is unusual because of the large number of UFOs reportedly observed at one time, in combination with the supersensitive location and timing of the event. On November 18, 1964, I happened to be investigating a Boston newspaper story which found me prowling around a West Quincy (Boston suburb), Massachusetts, cemetery in search of some sort of weird nocturnal creature (see my NICAP report, "'The Watermelon Caper.' -- November 13-14, 1964"). Although I later concluded the Little beast WAS probably an owl or other known animal, the uncle of the initial witness told me, during the course of the investigation, that he had sighted UFOs in Nevada when he was in the service.

I wrote the following at the end of my 1964 report: "He (I'll call him "Mr. M.") thought the observation might have been made in 1951. He was with a group of servicemen at Yucca Flat and just before a nuclear test was due to go off, they all saw a formation of 18 silvery, rotating, disc-shaped objects, each one with a dome, come down over the test site, hover for 10 to 15 minutes, and then depart, at an angle, vanishing out of sight in seconds."


NTS Area Map

At the time, I was concentrating upon the investigation at hand and was more interested in securing details from Mr. M. about the creature seen by him and the neighborhood kids - in the cemetery. Moreover, I was somewhat skeptical about his story of a UFO armada.

* DD (Daylight Discs)
**Type 3 (UFO in trajectory with single discontinuity)
*** Type III-B (UFO halts in flight and hovers before resuming motion)

Recently, I opened my "sightings pending" folder and attempted to contact some of the witnesses in cases that were never followed up for a number of reasons. One of these individuals was Mr. M. Although 16 years had elapsed since my interview with him, I discovered that he still resided at the same apartment house, but in a different apartment. I telephoned him on February 28, 1981, and re-introduced myself. However, he seemed reluctant to discuss the 1951 episode and, in fact, politely refused to grant a face-to-face interview. As I drew him out, it appeared he received such ridicule from the police and others during the '64 incident that he understandably shied away from any future involvements of a similar nature. I assured him that his name would be kept confidential, that it was important such UFO sightings become part of the written record, that I had interviewed many others, and, in fact, was at UFO eyewitness myself. He seemed to loosen a bit, although he still declined to see me in person. And so, I began asking questions over the telephone. Under the circumstances, I felt very fortunate to have been able to extract the following account from Mr. M.


In 1951, Mr. M. was an Air Force corporal stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada. That same year, the Atomic Energy Commission established the Nevada Test Site and began detonating nuclear devices at Yucca Flat (about 120 kilometers, or 75 miles, northwest of the base). He recalled that during one of the first tests --- perhaps the second or third in a series of seven -- he was among those at Nellis who volunteered for sentry duty at the perimeter of the AEC site. When asked if he could pin down the date, he said "October sticks in my mind" although he couldn't be absolutely certain. The time of the sighting was early morning after sunrise and occurred perhaps 15 or 20 minutes before the detonation.

Armed with these clues, I called the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and spoke to Paul Walker. I had already learned there were 12 nuclear tests in Nevada during 1951 and now wanted to know the dates, times, and code names of each of the tests. Walker not only had that information, but also the height of the burst and the yield. His source was the book, The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, edited by Samuel Glasstone and published jointly by the Department of Defense and the AEC in April, 1962. There were two series of tests in Nevada during 1951. The first one was called Operation Ranger and consisted of five detonations in January and February. The final seven-shot sequence was Operation Buster-Jangle in October and November. Three of those tests -- Shots Able, Baker, and Charlie -- occurred respectively on October 22 at 6:00 a.m. PST; the 28th at 7:20 a.m.; and the 30th at 7:00 a.m. Able was a small tower burst at 30 meters (100 feet), yielding less than 0.1 kiloton. Baker and Charlie were air-drops, exploding at 341 and 345 meters (1,118 and 1,132 feet) above the desert floor with a force of 3.5 and 14 kilotons, respectively. Able was ruled out immediately since the UFO sighting would have had to take place 10 or 15 minutes before sunrise. When I reached Mr. M again on March 5, I asked him if he could remember how soon after sunrise his UFO observation had happened. He replied that it must have been a half hour or so. Both Baker and Charlie qualified. When I asked the witness about the size of the explosion, he recalled it was between 10 and 20 kilotons. This narrowed down the date to October 30. (Local sunrise on that date, 6:00.)

Mr. M., who was 19 years old at the time (on November 3), thought his post was several kilometers -- perhaps five to six (three to four miles) -- east of Ground Zero, which would place the sun at his back. Suddenly, as he glanced at the clear sky in front of him, he perceived three silvery, elliptical objects hovering in the direction of the target zone, and at an estimated height of up to 600 meters (a few thousand feet). Time: approximately 6:40-45, as determined by the known time of the detonation 15 to 20 minutes later. Each object possessed a flat bottom and a dome on top. No other features were visible. The UFOs were arranged in a horizontal triangle, with one object positioned in front toward the observer and the others in back to either side. The analogy Mr. M. used was "like looking down a bowling alley at ten-pins." The UFOs were shiny and reflected the early morning sunlight. No sound could be detected from that distance.

The prime witness and another guard, who also saw the objects, turned to get the attention of the Corporal of the Guard. When the latter arrived, Mr. M. noticed an armada of other discs had joined the original trio. They were all arranged in about six groups of three, stretched out in a horizontal row. Apparently, none of the three witnesses saw the huge formation arrive. Mr. M. remembers he had time to count a total of 18 discs.

After perhaps "30 seconds to a minute" (total observation time), the entire UFO formation abruptly departed upward at an angle and vanished in seconds. The Corporal of the Guard said something like "if we're smart, we won't say anything about this." Mr. M. never heard any mention of the sighting again. No conventional aircraft appeared on the scene to pursue the UFOs, since aircraft weren't permitted over the test area (he doesn't recall seeing or hearing the aircraft that dropped the nuclear device 15 to 20 minutes later). However, the witness believes the UFOs' presence undoubtedly was recorded somewhere. The objects themselves, he feels, must have been monitoring the test. He hinted that, as a consequence of his sighting, he believes UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin.

When I told Mr. M. that in 1964, he said the discs rotated and hovered for 10 to 15 minutes, he answered by saying he didn't recall any rotation and the objects definitely weren't visible that long. (Of course, it has been 16 years since he talked with me and 30 years since the sighting itself. Perhaps the longer time actually was a reference to the interval between the sighting and the nuclear detonation.)

During my March 5 telephone call, I asked the witness if he might attempt to estimate each UFO's apparent size and angular elevation. Of course, it was understood such estimates made 30 years after the fact would be so uncertain as to be almost useless. Further, the observer was unable to visualize the arm's-length size comparison (he kept coming up with a 12-inch rule or pie plate, which would make the UFOs enormous). If the objects were five to six kilometers distant and 600 meters up, the .35-degree elevation value offered by the witness should be reduced to less than 10-degrees. If, on the other hand, the original elevation figure is in the right ballpark, then the objects were actually much higher -- say 3,000 to 4,600 meters (10,000 to 15,000 feet) at the same distance. It seems to me that in order for the domed shapes to have been visible, it is quite possible the UFOs were closer to the witness. In such case, the witness's initial angle estimate would again be in the right ballpark. The fact of the matter is that juggling the above figures is a rather useless exercise at this point in time.

I asked Mr. M. if he would mail a sketch of the UFOs and their formation, but he declined. Therefore, the drawings that accompany this report are the investigator's own interpretation based upon close questioning of the witness on the telephone.


In an effort to determine just how prevalent such mass UFO flights are, I conducted a cursory survey of some of the literature, especially Ted Bloecher's on the UFO Wave of 1947 (private printing, 1967). During the June, 1947 peak period covered by the Bloecher study, I found 16 sighting reports alone that referred to UFO formations numbering 18 or more. An unknown portion of these probably have mundane explanations such as flocks of high-flying birds, airborne seed fibers (milkweed, cottonwood), spider gossamer, and clusters of balloons. One group of 50 to 60 night-flying discs (Case #554) was even accompanied by the suspicious sound of "goose-like honking." Nevertheless, there appeared to be a number of fairly reliable observations in the Bloecher collection describing UFO fleets composed of Mr. M.'s total or more, as follows: 18, 19, 20, 21, 20-30, two dozen (three reports), 25, 25-30, and 30. Groups of three discs in geometrical formation weren't uncommon in the '47 survey.

One of the most detailed and reliable accounts of a mass flight I happened to come across was investigated by APRO Consultant (psychology) R. Leo Sprinkle. It was reported in The APRO Bulletin, December, 1975. On September 24, 1974, at Rock Lake in Wyoming, a pair of fishermen witnessed the flyover of approximately 35 silvery discs arrayed in an oval formation which emitted a droning noise like a beehive. At the end of the sighting, the objects began to climb at a steep angle, and the sound ceased at that point. Then, they accelerated rapidly out of sight.

On occasion, such items as radar chaff discharged from military aircraft and exploding balloons account for some mass-flight sightings. The famous "saucer invasion" of Farmington, New Mexico, on March 17, 1950, proved quite literally to be a bust. Many of the town's citizens asserted they watched hundreds of discs -- from 500 to "thousands" -- cavorting in the sky. Blue Book chief Ed Ruppelt in The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (Doubleday, 1956), explained that a skyhook balloon burst near Farmington on the 17th, and the drifting pieces sparkling in the sunlight at very high altitude, probably were responsible for the local flap.


When I first heard Mr. M''s story 16 years ago, I must admit I was dubious. His hesitation in 1981 to allow a face-to-face interview is, in my judgment, satisfactorily explained by the official ridicule he suffered during the '64 episode. I would describe the witness as "reluctantly cooperative." During our telephone conversations, I was impressed by a number of things. Without any prompting from me, Mr. M. immediately referred to "18" as the number of UFOs he claimed he had seen during the '51 sighting -- the precise figure he gave me 16 years ago. And, as stated elsewhere in this report, such an armada of UFOs is, by no means, a rarity.

The witness had more than simply a passing knowledge of events at the AEC Nevada Test site in 1951. I was able to eventually pin down the date of the experience using the information he recalled, and checked against known dates, times, etc., for the nuclear tests that year. He correctly identified the total number of tests in the fall series of nuclear tests (seven), the test he attended (second or third in the series), the month of his sighting (October), the time (half hour or so after sunrise and 15 or 20 minutes before the detonation), and yield of the test (between 10 and 20 kilotons). This last bit of in formation was enough to permit selection of the final date since the October 30 test was the only one in the entire series that fit within the bracketed lower and upper limits given by the witness; other yields were either much lower or much higher. Thus, while this doesn't necessarily prove Mr. M. had a UFO sighting, it does go a long way toward establishing that he was present at the atomic test site when he said he was.

The appearance and behavior of the UFOs described rule out conventional objects such as aircraft, helicopters, blimps, and balloons. In addition, no such objects would have been permitted over the test site just before the detonation -- especially a mass flight!

Thirty years have elapsed since Mr. M.'s observation, and until now, he has never reported it officially to anyone. I tend to accept his account of what he said, happened in Nevada on that October morning in 1951. Therefore, I believe this sighting should be classified as an unknown.


Source: http://www.ufoevidence.org/cases/case35.htm
No infringement intended. For educational purposes only.