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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2002 > Nov > Nov 3

Holloman Landing Film Revisited

From: Grant Cameron <presidentialufo.nul>
Date: Sun, 03 Nov 2002 12:05:34 -0500
Archived: Sun, 03 Nov 2002 10:31:13 -0400
Subject: Holloman Landing Film Revisited

Source: Florida Today


Network Joins Search For 'Truth'

Sci-Fi digs for UFO info, but is it a hoax for ratings?

By Billy Cox

It was a marketing strategy every bit as calculating as the
buildup for "The Blair Witch Project." Armed with the latest
Roper Poll numbers indicating 72 percent of Americans believe
the federal government is withholding information about
unidentified flying objects, the Sci-Fi Channel staged a press
conference in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22 to declare its
designs on learning the truth.

Former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta, left,
wants the government to spill the beans on UFOs. Meanwhile,
former Air Force Col. William Coleman, right, who is a
documentary filmmaker and Indian Harbour Beach resident, still
feels bamboozled by the government.

Sci-Fi announced its partnership with a new group called the
Coalition for Freedom of Information, directed by Washington
lobbyist Ed Rothschild. Its leading voice was former Clinton
White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, an avowed "X-Files"
buff whose call "to open the books about the government's
investigation of UFOs" could've come right out of Agent Fox
Mulder's mouth.

Meanwhile, over there in the margins, like an asterisk in fine
print, was Sci-Fi's centerpiece -- a 20-hour miniseries called
"Taken." Set to premiere on Dec. 2, the project concerns alien
abductions, and its executive producer is Steven Spielberg.

If it sounded familiar, perhaps that's because, just a year and
a half ago, the same National Press Club venue was the site of a
similar action by the Disclosure Project. That's when a gallery
of former government witnesses called for open hearings on UFOs
in Congress, so far to no avail.

But there's an even longer view, stretching for decades along
the slippery slopes where show biz and high-level government
intrigues have generated little more than additional layers of
confusing mythology. Decades after his own byzantine encounters
with former Air Force Col. William Coleman, now retired in
Indian Harbour Beach, a documentary filmmaker remains

"I still don't know what happened, and I was right in the middle
of it," says Robert Emenegger, who now works for a public
television station in Fayetteville, Ark. "It was like being in a
Kafka play. Bill once joked with me, 'One day I'll take you out
on a boat and tell you what it really was, but then afterwards,
I'll have to kill you.' "

The controversy began 30 years ago, when Emenegger and producer
Alan Sandler were approached by a military officer about the
possibility of airing footage of an actual alien spacecraft
landing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Today,
Emenegger's story has become the gold standard as evidence of a
government disinformation program surrounding UFOs.

"Coleman's a fascinating character, a real player," says San
Francisco's Paul Meehan, author of "Saucer Movies" in 1998.
"When I watch 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' which
involved a UFO landing at a remote location, recorded in secrecy
by the government, I can't help but wonder if Spielberg was
influenced by what was rumored to have happened at Holloman."

Don Berliner, who chairs the Fund for UFO Research in
Alexandria, Va., has known Coleman since the latter had a
Pentagon office. To him, the USAF's public information chief
from 1971 to '74 remains an enigma.

"Certainly Bill was one of the most objective Pentagon spokesmen
I ever met," says Berliner. "He had to spout the party line, but
I think he tried to be as honest as he could within those
constraints. When it comes to (UFOs), I think he's a conflicted

For his part, Coleman, who worked the Air Force's official study
of UFOs in the 1960s -- called Project Blue Book -- the
Emenegger controversy was always much to do about nothing.
Today, at 78, the survivor of 155 combat missions says the
footage in question never concerned UFOs.

"There was nothing extraordinary on there that I could see,"
Coleman says. "All I know is, we would not release the film
because there were special lenses on the cameras involved, and
we didn't want our technological abilities getting into the
public domain."

Skeptic at first

According to Emenegger, the journey that would lead him to
Coleman began in 1972-73. Emenegger was producing commercial
television ads when he hooked up with Sandler, who was
interested in doing military documentaries.

While discussing ideas on advanced research projects at Norton
Air Force Base outside Bakersfield, Calif., Emenegger says
security officer Paul Shartle, chief of the base audio-visual
department, asked, "What would we think if there had been a
landing of alien craft at Holloman Air Force Base, that they
were met by some of the officers, and that TV camera people had
filmed this landing?

"Well, I was a skeptic. I thought this UFO stuff was a lot of
BS. But Shartle described the film in great detail, descriptions
of the aliens, that it happened in May 1971. But it was all
handled semi-officially. What was so strange to me was, at the
time, he told us this film was unclassified. Shartle said if you
want to pursue this, bury it along with things like laser and
dog training and holography; otherwise, if you ask just about
UFOs, a lot of red flags are going to go up. So that's what we

Emenegger says he and Sandler "went through the motions" of
filming assorted Air Force projects, with the understanding that
they would get exclusive access to the Holloman footage at the
end of the line. In 1973, as a precondition for release of the
film, they met with Coleman, and others, at the Pentagon, to
submit their script (even though they hadn't seen the footage)
for technical accuracy.

By that time, Project Blue Book had been terminated for nearly
four years, after a University of Colorado committee concluded
the phenomenon reflected neither advanced technology nor a
threat to national security. Coleman had joined Blue Book in
1962, following a conversation with Air Force Secretary Gen.
Eugene Zukert.

"Before I took the job, I knew I needed to explain my own
sighting to him," Coleman recalls. "After I told him the story,
he said, 'Good, you're just the guy for the job. You've remained
objective, and that's what we want on the program -- to tell the
truth.' "

Coleman's sighting is now legendary among UFOlogists. In 1955,
while piloting a B-25 over Alabama, he and his four-man crew
attempted to pursue a silvery disc reflecting mid-day sunlight.
The object cast an oval shadow when it dropped to the deck, then
eluded the bomber with a series of evasive maneuvers. Although
Coleman collected and filed individual eyewitness reports from
his men, the account never turned up in the Blue Book archives.

Exactly what happened when Coleman met with Emenegger and
Sandler depends on who you talk to.

"I looked at it just as a commercial venture on their part, a
couple of guys out to make some bucks," says Coleman. "But in
terms of (releasing) the film they were so interested in, I
showed it to my people and they said no. Not because of anything
on the film, but because of the particular camera lenses. They
said they didn't want the Soviets to know our capabilities."

'Bizarre' event

Sandler couldn't be reached for comment, but Emenegger says what
happened next was especially "bizarre," given how they had
already done location shots on-site at Holloman, and even
interviewed eyewitnesses off-camera.

"It wasn't some clandestine adventure. Everyone had been very
cooperative, in terms of allowing us access. We made no secret
of what we were working on. In fact," Emenegger says, "I talked
to the head radar guy there and said, 'I'll bet you were really
amazed in '71 when that thing came down,' and he said, 'You mean
the flying bathtub?' I said, 'Yeah,' and he said, 'You really
don't talk about things like that.'

"So I'm at the Pentagon with Bill, and he's saying how we need
to be careful about certain things because of national security,
blah blah blah. And then he said, 'Let me set you up with George
Weinbrenner,' who was the commander of foreign technology, which
was in this half-underground bunker with all these surveillance

"And I asked Weinbrenner about the landing of an alien ship at
Holloman, and instead of saying, 'What the hell are you talking
about?' he started talking about how difficult it was to get
information about Soviet aircraft, and about how easy it was to
get stuff on our planes. Then he starts talking about spying.
And he draws a picture of a MiG on the wall, and I'm thinking,
god, my question was about an alien landing at Holloman, and
Weinbrenner was going on about how the Soviets have developed
weather alteration patterns, and that's where the really big
problem is.

"I thought I was in the Twilight Zone."

Hold the film

The Air Force never released the film. Emenegger says he got
several different explanations from Coleman.

"I love Bill. He can do no wrong in my mind, even though he can
stretch things," says Emenegger. "But one time, he told me it
was because of the camera lenses. Then he told me it was because
the real incident involved the landing of an SR-71, which was
supposedly classified at the time. Once, he even told me it was
because we didn't have diplomatic relations with the

"I'd bet my life that Bill never saw the film. You know how
people sometimes play a role, where you're talking about
something that they don't know about, but they don't want to let
on, so they play along? That's what our conversations were

"The film I saw was made at Vandenberg (AFB)," Coleman says.
"What I saw, I didn't get excited about. Sometimes when you
launch missiles, you'll get a light phenomenon called halations,
which can look like UFOs. They can be seen rising with the
missiles, they can even be seen going in the opposite direction.
This is what we were dealing with. As far as the Holloman stuff,
I'm not sure what they were talking about."

TV exposure

Despite the confusion, the Sandler/Emenegger documentary
nevertheless made it onto the airwaves in 1974. Called "UFOs:
Past, Present and Future," it was narrated by "Twilight Zone"
host Rod Serling. Coleman appeared on-camera, and the feature
earned a Golden Globe nomination. In 1980, an expanded version
called "UFOs: It Has Begun" was released. Supported by stock
footage, the Holloman landing -- which does show the descent of
a curious glowing orb against a desert backdrop that Emenegger
is at a loss to explain -- is presented, according to Serling,
as "an incident that might happen in the future, or perhaps
could've happened already."

In 1988, Shartle would tell his side of the story on national
TV. During a two-hour special called "UFO Coverup: Live,"
Shartle described the 16mm film as having documented the arrival
of "three disc-shaped craft," one of which landed and opened the
door to three "human-size beings" with gray complexions, tight
jumpsuits, and "thin headdresses that appeared to be
communication devices." The ETs were then met by Air Force
officials, who escorted them away.

Additional corroboration Shartle might've provided died with him
last year in a car wreck.

"It's a good metaphor for the UFO situation in general," says
Dr. Colm Kelleher, of the National Institute for Discovery
Science, a Las Vegas research organization. "It's very difficult
to pin down, and unfortunately, we didn't realize just how
important Shartle was until it was too late to interview him."

Coleman says he never met Shartle and doesn't know what to make
of his story.

After leaving the Pentagon, Coleman went on to become an advisor
to "Project UFO," an NBC prime-time series produced by Jack Webb
("Dragnet") that ran from 1977 to '78. Each episode lifted a
page from the Blue Book files and turned it into a dramatization
in which some cases were solved, while others remained

"From the Air Force point of view, we never got close enough to
any technology that would make (further study) worthwhile, to
spend money that way," says Coleman, mindful of renewed calls
for UFO glasnost on Capitol Hill. "You follow me? It wasn't
promising enough. I never saw anything that would get us
excited, and I had all kinds of clearances."

Coleman predicts there will be no earth-shattering documents
recovered through new Freedom of Information Act initiatives,
and that congressional hearings on more recent events will be
unproductive because "we haven't had any interesting cases
involving high-performance aircraft in years."

At the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle, which has been
collecting data since 1974, director Peter Davenport says it
fields some 25 calls a day, the best of which get posted on its
Web Site daily. The most dramatic recent video footage, linked
up at www.nuforc.com, was taped over Albany, N.Y., in October,
and is now reportedly in the possession of the FBI.

"It's a shame," Davenport adds, "that Mr. Coleman wouldn't
consider what happened over Waldorf (Maryland) interesting."

In that early-morning July 26 incident, witnesses reported
seeing F-16s chasing a glowing UFO for more than half an hour
near Washington. But a North American Aerospace Defense Command
spokesman contradicted the civilian witnesses, and reported the
pilots made no visual contact: "Everything was fine, so (the
planes) went home."

"Well, that would put them (military spokesmen) in the position
of lying, and I don't think that happened," Coleman says. "Our
policy was always to find out the correct answer before you
speak. Because if you start ad-libbing too soon, you may damn
well tell a lie and create something you can't stop."

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