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The 701 club: Case 2006 - Chicasaw and Brookley AFB, Alabama. August 28, 1952

Don Berlinner’s describes the case as follows:

Aug. 28, 1952; Chickasaw and Brookley AFB, Alabama. 9:30 p.m. Witnesses: USAF control tower operators, officer from USAF Office of Special Investigations, and others. Six objects, varying from fiery red to sparkling diamond appearance, hovered, flew erratically up and down for 1 hour and l5minutes.1

Sparks’ entry is more thorough:

Aug. 28, 1952. Chickasaw (30°45’ N, 88°4’ W) and Brookley AFB (30°38’ N, 88°5’ W), Mobile, Alabama. 9:30-10:20 p.m. 3 civilians in Chickasaw reported to duty officer USAF Capt. at Brookley AFB seeing multiple red stationary and maneuvering objects to the S and one moving from S to W, all over the direction of Brookley. AFOSI agent arrived in Chickasaw at 9:50 to investigate and saw the same 4 objects to the S and SW estimated 8-12 miles distance, one fiery red object stationary for 15 mins then drifted 15°-20° to the right then stationary again. Radar operator visually spotted red-green object over Chickasaw to the N. USAF duty officer and control tower operators saw one object to the SW at 240° azimuth to the right and lower than the moon [which was at about 214° azimuth 22° elevation], and another object to the W at 280° azimuth at 10°-20° elevation the latter was confirmed by GCA’s MPN-1 radar as a stationary target at 280° azimuth 4 miles range 4,000 ft altitude [= 11° elevation]. AFOSI officer, and others saw one object explode, one do a figure-8 maneuver, etc., 4-6 objects larger than a star or planet varying from fiery red, redblue, red-green and sparkling diamond appearance, a civilian AF employee saw a flat oval shape. (Sparks; Berliner; cf. Hynek-CUFOS-Willy Smith files) 2

The Blue Book file3

There were many witnesses involved and many objects reported. It probably is best to break up the file into each individual witness. The first witnesses were a Mr. Owens, an unnamed man, and his wife. Their observations were:

At 2130, the witnesses observed an object 60 degrees above the southern horizon. It was “fire engine red and twinkled to a crystal blue”. It was weaving back and forth, dimmed and flickered out. It was observed in the direction of Brookley field. 

At approximately 2135, the Mr. Owens noted a second object that was “Crystal blue and red” that would dim and then brighten. It was visible in the southwest and just above the tree tops/houses. The witness also stated that it was “as red as could be”. The color of the object would then change to a “bronze blue”. 

Owens called the field and, at 2150, a Mr. Robinson showed up at the door. 

 

They went out to the back porch and saw another object. It was also low in the sky above the houses but it was not as bright as the other objects. It was in the western sky. 

• Mr. Owens noted that the first two objects were near some black clouds and somebody noted that they appeared to shine through them. 

• After Mr. Robinson left, Mr. Owens saw another object but gave no direction. It looked like a comet or star. It was flashing and appeared to explode. 

• He thought these objects might be stars or planets but then determined that stars/planets don’t behave this way.

• Owens noted he had seen objects like this since they had moved into their home on July 5th. 

• The other man’s story was similar with some variations. He stated there were three objects that formed a triangle. 

• The objects appeared to jump about. One object appeared to be stationary “at times” and would then shoot over to the western horizon “at times”. The impression was that the object would then return to the original position after shooting to the horizon.

• The man’s observation of the object seen when Mr. Robinson arrived was that it looked like two objects. One was red and the other was blue. It also appeared to be a figure eight shape. He then made the statement that it might have been a star but it was strange.

• Mrs. Owens reported seeing the first object to the south but it disappeared. Another object was low to the south over the houses. It disappeared as well. Two other objects were to the Southwest. 

• She was present when Mr. Robinson appeared and noted the object he observed. She observed it blinking blue and red. 

• Mrs. Owens also mentioned it could not be a star because “It blinked”. It changed colors would fade out and then reappear. 

• She mentioned that they had seen these objects before. 

The next witness was Special Agent Charles Robinson, who had come from the base to investigate:

He stated he arrived at 2200 and saw four objects between due south and to the southwest.

One of these objects appeared as two lights. The top was green and the bottom was red. They flashed on and off like they were a neon flasher. 

• The fourth object blinked regularly and alternated color between blue-green and red. 

• This fourth object was stationary but then moved slowly 15-20 degrees before becoming stationary again. 

• Mr. Robinson left Chickasaw for the base at 2220. All of these objects were still visible. 

• When he arrived at Brookley AFB, these objects could no longer be seen. 

The next witness was the Officer of the day, Captain William Edwards. 

He received the call from Owens at 2130. 

Captain Edwards alerted base personnel and the radar operators of a UFO being reported.

He went to the tower at 2145 and, at 2150, the tower observer pointed out an object visible at 280 degrees azimuth with an angle of elevation of 10-20 degrees. It was stationary for 20 minutes and appeared to be larger than a bright star or planet. The color changed from bluish-green to red.

Ground Control Approach (GCA) radar reported a stationary target at an azimuth of 280 degrees and distance of 4 miles. 

The GCA operator, Airman second class Charles Goetz, made the following observations:

He was originally told to look north but saw nothing on his AN/MPN-1 radar. 

Goetz then saw the target at 280 degrees and four miles. He described it as “not too definite a shape” and stationary. 

He watched it for 30 minutes and then they started up the AN/CPN-4 radar. It saw nothing but ground clutter. 

Airman Goetz stopped watching at 0030. He did not mention if the target disappeared or not. All he could state was that it did not change position or shape. 

The control tower operator was Airman second class Whittaker. His comments were similar to the Officer of the day and GCA operator with some additional information:

The GCA operator reported a second object at 240 degrees azimuth.

Whittaker observed an object to the right of the moon and below it (note: He is the only person to mention seeing the moon!). 

An Air Force B-29 flying to Maxwell AFB was asked to look for UFOs. They failed to report anything back. Either their messages did not reach the tower or they saw nothing to report. 

 

Another control tower operator was Airman third class Edward Smith.

He stated that the first saw the object to the Northwest. 

The object then appeared to move to the Southwest. However, Smith did not see it move. It apparently simply faded out in one location and appeared in another. 

The object appeared to zig-zag. 

The object appeared to come closer and then recede before it faded out. 

 

The staff NCO was Staff Sergeant Robert Calkins. He reported:

Around 2100, he, and two others, saw a bright white object to the west. It was brighter than the nearby stars. 

Sergeant Calkins also noted the GCA operator reporting an object to the southwest. He also reported that the same operator reported three other stationary targets at 4,000 feet. 

Calkins also noted the object he observed was to the right of the moon. 

While Calkins noted there were clouds in the region but he indicated they did not interfere with observing stars.

 

Somebody from Base and Transient section, driving westward at 2130, saw the UFOs as well:

She saw two objects. They were stationary and appeared brighter than wingtip lights. 

They moved downward to the south and then disappeared after two minutes. 

 

Additional information provided by the base Adjutant’s and intelligence officer’s reports:

Weather conditions were 6/10ths Strati-Cumulus clouds. 

The B-29 took off at 2245

 

Captain R.L. James commented on the radar contact on 19 September. He stated, “Reported radar sighting is considered to be insignificant, due to the fact that only one weak stationary target was observed.” 

Analysis

As one can see, the sightings are a bit confusing. However, there are potential explanations for most, if not all, of the sightings. All of the descriptions about the colors changing back and forth are consistent with scintillating stars. Seeing stars as two objects is also not that unusual. Allan Hendry mentions all sorts of interpretations of star shapes. This description was accompanied by a sketch made by police witnesses:

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In many reports, the atmosphere distorted a bright star’s image to an apparently larger size, as large even as the full moon. In most of these reports, the effect is usually short-lived, and the false image quickly settles down again to a point source. In other reports, however, witnesses claimed they could see a shape even though they described the apparent size of the star as normal. Included among these shapes are: discs and discs with domes (“like two plates put together”-- case 332; “elongated, big as a distant plane”--case 377; “dome on top and bottom”- for one and a half hours in case 332) , domes, “a plate with a hole in the center,” vertically oriented small triangles, ovals, a football . . . even “ teacups,” “Mexican sombreros,” and “ bananas as large as the moon, shrinking back down to a star.” People have seen “spikes,” “beams,” “ appendages,” and sparkles shooting out in all directions from bright stars. In case 602, a woman kept in touch with a sympathetic controller for hours at the local airport as she watched stars forming shapes like the letters “V” and “M.” The controller couldn’t see the shapes, but a pilot in the area confirmed that there were unusual atmospheric conditions. In two cases, one star was seen to split up into two (and three) close lights and rejoin again.4 (Hendry -28)

Based on this information, it seems that it is possible that the objects described by the witnesses could just have been scintillating stars. 

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The first object observed by the Owens was to the south and 60 degrees in elevation. Altair matches that position. 

The second object reported by Mrs. Owens was also to the south but low. Fomalhaut was low in the Southeastern area of the sky. Since it was only visible for a few minutes, It is possible that Fomalhaut was the source and it had disappeared behind a cloud.

The two objects that were consistently being mentioned to the southwest were very probably Antares and Mars. The Tower personnel all stated that one of these objects was to the right of the moon. This matches the position of Antares.

It is interesting that the only people who mentioned the moon were the tower personnel. That brings in the possibility that the moon may have also have been involved but most of the descriptions involved changing colors, that are associated with scintillating stars. The moon could have been masked by clouds and might partially peak out giving the indication of another object being visible. 

The object seen to the west was very likely Arcturus. Arcturus, Capella, and Sirius are bright first magnitude stars that are often reported as UFOs. Other first magnitude stars are reported as UFOs in the Blue Book files but none so much as these three.

The intelligence officer’s report mentions six objects but I think that many of these are duplicate/confusing reports which gave the impression of more objects than those actually observed. 

Most of the disappearance and reappearance observations can be attributed to the partly cloudy sky conditions that existed in the area. I have seen stars disappear behind cloud banks when the clouds are not even visible because they are so dark. I suspect that effect was in play here. 

The individual, who was driving, seems to have seen some lights but it is not clear if any motion was due to the car moving or the lights moving. We don’t have a precise direction of observation either. She was driving west but if they were looking to the Southwest, they would have seen the same stars and interpreted them as UFOs as well. 

It is important to note that most of the observations of these objects ceased about the same time that three of the stars/planets were beginning to set or had set. Robinson had reported he left the Owen’s house around 2220 CST and the objects were still visible but had disappeared after he returned to Brookley field. The intelligence officer’s report stated the events ended at 2245, when the B-29 left but the time noted by Robinson appears to have been more accurate as to when the events terminated. 

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As for the radar contact, it seems like it had little to do with the visual sightings. As noted by Captain James, it was a single stationary target and could have been some form of ground target that nobody had noticed previously or a false target due to local conditions. All the other radar targets reported by tower personnel were not mentioned by the GCA operator. He had stated that there was only one target and the rest were ground clutter. Therefore, it seems likely he was reporting targets to the tower that he later evaluated as ground clutter. 

Conclusion

This case is challenging to produce a complete explanation because there may have been different objects observed and reported in various locations in the sky. It seems that stars and planets were the primary source for most, if not all, of these reports. Cloud interference and auto kinetic effect gave the illusion of rapid motion of these objects. I would classify this case as probably stars/planets and remove it from unidentified status.

Quelle: SUNlite 4/2022

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