August 1, 1952 - Sharonville/Bellefontaine, Ohio
August 1, 1952--Sharonville, Ohio. Brilliant white disc observed at low altitude. Others reported oval object. [XII]1
Section XII is not helpful. There is an entry with very little information and no source:
Brilliant, milk-white disc flying slowly, with “tendency to wobble.”2
There is also an entry for Bellefontaine, Ohio on the same date.
USAF jet pilots climbed toward hovering UFO which accelerated and disappeared at high speed.3
Bellefontaine is only 85 miles to the North-Northeast of Sharonville (which is on the northeastern edge of Cincinnati). One has to wonder if the two cases might be related.
Source of information
Because most of NICAP’s sources seem to come from newspapers, I attempted to find information from the usual sources. I could not find any mention of a sighting at Sharonville in either Loren Gross’ history or the newspaper archive. Loren Gross does mention the Bellefontaine incident:
Excitement picked up in the Ohio region at 10:45 a.m. August 1st when a strange object sailed by. Ground observers called it a mysterious glowing sphere, and. when it was picked up by the 664th AC&W radar site near the city of Bellefontaine, the scope operators measured its speed(erroneously as it turned out) as 400 mph. Jets were scrambled to intercept. Visual contact was achieved by the pilots before they lost track of it. At the time the Air Force was baffled by the object, but later an investigation nailed down a balloon explanation.(52) It was just a case of a radar operator making a bad calulation but the incident had unfavorable effects on the UFO investigation. The story of the jet chase leaked to the press when the two pilots involved, Major James B. Smith and Lt. Donald J. Homer, talked to a reporter and admitted they had got a look at the UFO although not a clear one. The following day the story appeared in the New York Times with the reporter’s comment that it was:“ ••• the first time pilots checking~flying saucer reports here had made such a postive statement.” (53) The Times also reported in the same article that: “The Air Technical Intelligence Center,in charge of ‘flying saucer’ investigations, immediately banned the two pilots from commenting further on their experiences and ordered a ban’ on pictures of the two.” (54) 4
This leaves us with project Blue Book as a source of information that might shed light on the matter.
Blue Book file5
Blue Book has a file for the Bellefontaine case but there is no mention of Sharonville. There is a mention of a Sharonville sighting in August 1953 in the Blue Book files. It had no specific date and appears to have come from Leonard Stringfield’s Civilian Research, Interplanetary Flying Objects (CRIFO). It is listed as “INFO”, which meant it was for information only and not evaluated. As noted by Gross, Blue Book eventually evaluated the Bellefontaine event as a balloon. Details from the file were:
At 1515Z, Wright Patterson AFB radar spotted a radar target 20 miles to the North-Northwest. Its course was 240 at a speed of 400 knots. This target was consistent in course and speed until it faded off scope.
At 1555Z, two airborne F-86s, which were within 10 miles of that position, were vectored towards the contact.
The F-86s made two attempts to reach the contact. They reached 48,000 feet but then fell off in altitude. They estimated the object was at 50,000-70,000 feet.
One of the F-86s activated their gun camera and obtained an image of the object. They recorded a fuzzy small image that was round. Estimates of size, based on the estimated distance from the aircraft, were 24-40 feet in diameter.
The object was described as silver and round.
At 1613Z, the F-86s returned to base as they were low on fuel.
• Object was last seen 5 miles Northwest of Springfield, Ohio. This is about 25 miles south of Bellefontaine.
• In the radar data sheet, the radar operator wrote, “The target intercepted was not the target on the PPI scope it must have been flying the same course at the same time.”
Several of the documents, in their conclusion, ruled out a balloon because the radar contact moved against the wind and a speed too high for a balloon.
• In the comments on the record card, it states that the original radar contact was an aircraft from Cleveland and that the pilots chased a research balloon. There is no documentation in the folder, which positively demonstrates that these explanations are correct.
According to Stratocat, there was a research balloon launched at 1312 Central Time (no time zone was listed but it appears they were using local time) on July 29 from Minnesota.6 It was eventually recovered in Merignac, France between 2100Z 2 Aug - 0030Z 3 Aug. On the morning of July 30 (around 0400), LaCrosse, Wisconsin had a strong signal from the transmitter. It had the balloon at 39,000 feet and the transmitter indicated the payload may have dropped. There is no additional information beyond this other than the balloon’s recovery.
If the payload dropped, balloon probably rose above 39,000 feet and loitered in the stratosphere. Winds measured from Rantoul, Illinois above 50,000 feet were about 30 knots from the WNW7 but the winds above that have been known to be slower and can reverse direction in the summer. The balloon remained airborne and would eventually move eastward. A trajectory to the East-Southeast towards Ohio is not unrealistic. On the morning of the 1st, it could have been over Ohio. The pilots reported it was roughly 50-70,000 feet altitude at the time they pursued it. At some point, the balloon could have descended and caught some high speed winds. Dayton had speeds of 54-79 knots from the NW at 10,000-14,000 meters for the afternoon of the 1st.8 Radionsonde data above 10000 meters was missing in most of the Northeast soundings but Rome, New York, had winds at 14,000 meters being 106-123 knots from the WSW on the afternoon of the 1st.9 Since the balloon came down in France (4000 miles) sometime on the evening of the 2nd/morning of the 3rd (France time), the time between the Ohio sighting and arrival in France was 29-32.5 hours. That computes to an airspeed of about 123-138 mph (about 107-120 knots). While these speeds are a little higher that the two values I was able to obtain, it is possible for high speed winds of these type to exist. What the wind speeds were over the Atlantic is difficult to say but wind speeds in the 120-140 knot range, or even higher, are possible. Therefore, it is possible for this balloon to have been seen in Ohio on the morning of the 1st and reached France 29-32.5 hours later.
It is also possible that it was some other balloon. Three days prior to the balloon launched on the 29th, Minnesota launched a Project Gopher balloon. There is no data from that flight. It could have still been airborne on August 1st. There is also the possibility that it was some weather balloon that had drifted into the area from another location or some other research balloon that is not part of the Stratocat database, which is incomplete.
It seems likely that the first radar contact was just an aircraft. It flew at a consistent speed and course and faded away off the scope.
The radar operator even pointed out that the radar contact he tracked and what the pilots chased were two different objects. The pilots saw their target in the initial location of where the radar target was. However, when they returned to base the target did not follow a track to the West-Southwest. In the one hour period, this object went about 15 nautical miles towards the East-Southeast. Contrary to what the investigating officer wrote, this IS consistent with the winds around 52,000 feet which were from the Northwest (azimuth 315) and at a speed of 15 knots.10
Since we have no source for the Sharonville, sighting, I would classify that as insufficient information. If the case is the August 1953 CRIFO case, that is also insufficient information because there is no specific date listed. Additionally, the Blue Book files, other than listing this sighting in August 1953, has no other information in its files. If there was a sighting from Sharonville on August 1, 1952, it is possible they might have seen the same research balloon but that probability seems low based on the distances involved (about 60 miies) and the apparent track of the balloon. If any reader has the details of the August 1, 1952 sighting from Sharonville, I would be interested in seeing it an amending this entry in the next issue. Meanwhile, the Bellefontaine case was probably a high altitude balloon of some kind with the initial radar contact being from an aircraft. This case is not “best evidence” and should be removed from the list.
Quelle: SUNlite 4/2022