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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2004 > Sep > Sep 22

Naval History Magazine Reports 1952 Incident

From: Mike Christman <mschristman.nul>
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 2004 15:21:19 +0200
Fwd Date: Wed, 22 Sep 2004 09:55:19 -0400
Subject: Naval History Magazine Reports 1952 Incident

Cosmic Curiosity: Naval History Magazine Reports on August, 1952

First off I would like to thank all those who post to this
forum. As a long time lurker, I always come here first when I
want to check on breaking UFO news and investigations, and I
wish to thank all those who devote their valuable time and
effort in pusuit of this worldwide phenomenon.

That said, It's time to report on something I just recently read
in Naval History magazine.

Now, many researchers and readers of this forum are not
surprised when stories about UFO encounters are reported by
civilian and military pilots. What has surprised me however, is
that this particular magazine would report anything at all
about UFOs, and especially as a naval history story.

The magazine attracts many high ranking current and former
military officers to it's reading ranks, and is well known for
it's seriousness regarding naval military history.

The magazine is published by the US Naval Institute, which is a
self-supported non-profit organisation, which also publishes
Proceedings and professional history books. They are located in
Annapolis, Maryland, and the editorial office is at the US Naval
Acadamy at Preble Hall. They are not officially connected with
the US Government.


Cosmic Curiosity: by Commander Edward P. Stafford, US
Navy (Retired)

Half a century ago, three Navy aviators saw something high above
their Greenland base that baffled them.

It was August 1952. I was officer in charge of a detach- ment of
three Navy patrol planes operating out of the new US air base at
Thule, in northwest Greenland, some 80 miles from the North
Pole. The primary mission assigned our four engine, World War II
Privateers was "ice recon- naissance." That ment flying out over
the Kennedy Channel, Smith Sound, Baffin Bay, and the Davis
Strait and plotting the location of the pack ice and large
bergs. That data was relayed to the ships that each summer re-
 supplied the chain of arctic radar stations known as the DEW
(distant early warning) line.

Our secondary job, not to interfere with ice reconnaissance ,
was to support a group of scientists conducting cosmic ray
research. About once a week, when weather conditions were right,
they sent up a huge, translucent "Skyhook" bal- loon with a
package of sensative photographic plates sus- pended under it.
The balloons would drift downwind at an altitude of 90,000-
100,000 feet, where the atmosphere (spun thinner near the poles
by the rotation of the earth) was sufficiently attenuated to
permit the cosmic rays to make their telltale traces on the
photographic plates. When the plates had been exposed for a few
hours, the scientists would send a radio signal to the balloon,
exploding a small charge, cutting the plates loose, and
returning them to earth under a large, bright red parachute.

Our job was to fly above any overcast, keep the high bal- loons
in sight, and report the landing location of the para- chuted
plates for recovery by helicopter. The high-flying gas bags were
equipped by low power, low frequency radio transmitters to which
we would tune our radio compasses so their needles always
pointed toward the balloons.

These were easy flights, always in good weather and always at an
altitude safely above the tall, cloud-shrouded bergs and coastel
rocks we often had to dodge on ice patrol. Each of us had two or
three of those "milk runs" while deployed to Thule, and we
rather enjoyed the change of tactics and routine, as well as the
virtuous feeling that we were helping to advance the cause of

This is why I was surprised to find one of the other plane
commanders as tense and pale on return from a balloon chase as
though it had been a hairy combat mission or a close encounter
with a berg or a mountaintop. Lt. John Callahan was a salty,
steady professional pilot, so I knew when I saw him walking in
from his plane that something serious had happened on that

"What the hell's the matter John?" I asked him. "You look as if
you'd just survived a midair!" "Ed, you're not going to be-
 lieve it. I'm not even sure I do...and I SAW it. And so did
O'Flaherty and Merchant. At least most of it. And I don't think
they believe it either."

I followed John into the line shack where he wrote up some minor
gripes on his airplane, then into our little ready room where we
poured ourselves coffees and sat down. John was not acting at
all like the Callahan I knew. Although he was an experienced and
highly competent naval aviator, John Callahan's normal manner
was outgoing and cheerful, even jovial, with lots of smiles and
laughter and banter...even after a low-level hurricane
penetration or a long patrol in instru- ment weather. Not this
day. Now he was deadly serious and obviously shaken. The last
time I had seen a man like this was in wartime.

Here is John Callahan's story:

He was flying at 10,000 feet in the clear with the balloon in
sight high above and the radio compass needle locked on to the
balloon's transmitter. Through the one set of binoculars carried
in each aircraft, he and his copilot, Lt. (jg) Bill O'Fla-
 herty, occasionally inspected the balloon and its instrument
package, trailing beneath like the tail of a kite. Everything
looked normal for most of the flight. Then, on a routine check
with the binoculars, John found something very ab- normal about
the balloon and its payload. He looked for a long time and then
passed the glasses to O'Flaherty.

"Take a look at our target," he told the young officer, "and
tell me what you see." O'Flaherty looked, lowered the glasses
and glanced sharply at John, then looked again. "Well?" "Jesus
Christ, John there are three bright silver discs attached to
that instrument pod! They weren't there the last time I looked.
Where the hell did they come from?"

Callahan took the glasses back and looked again. They were still
there exactly as the copilot had described, three shining,
saucer-shaped metallic objects clustered on the hanging trail of
the balloon just above the black dot of the science pack- age.

On the intercom Callahan called the plane captain to the cock-
 pit and handed him the binoculars. "Take a look Merchant. What
do you think?" The captain's reacton was the same as the
copilot's. "What the hell are they? Where did they come from?"

Callahan took the glasses back and studied the strange objects
for several minutes while O'Flaherty maneuvered the Privateer to
keep the target in sight. Suddenly Callahan sucked in his breath
and held it. What he was seeing could not be happen- ing. The
three objects had detached themselves from the tail of the
balloon and formed up into a compact vee. As Callahan watched
incredulously, they executed what looked at that dis- tance like
a vertical bank to the left and accelerated to a blind- ing
speed that took them out of sight, climbing in about three

Callahan handed the glasses back to O'Flaherty. "They're gone,"
he said slowly, "CLIMBING from 90,000 feet. Never saw anything
turn so tight or move so fast."

Back in the ready room after the instrument pod had landed and
its position had be reported, this was the aspect of the
phenomenon that most affected Callahan.

"Jesus, Ed," he told me, "from the angle of the sky those things
passed through in the three seconds they were in sight, at that
distance, they must have been going tens of thousands of miles
an hour. They must have pulled a hundred Gs in that turn. And
what the hell climbs out, ACCELERATING from 90,000 feet?"

John sat down that day, while it was still clear in his head,
and wrote a full report of the incident. It went through the
chain of command to the Office of Naval Intelligence. A report
was also made to the Air Force authorities at Thule. There never
has been an explanation, nor even an acknowledgment of the
report. The phenomenon exists today only in the memory of John
C. Callahan, his copilot, his plane captain, and I, to whom it
was told so vividly when it was fresh.

(Commander Stafford is the author of The Big E (1962) and
Subchaser (1988) both published by the Naval Institute.)


It will be interesting to see if this story receives some
responses from Naval History Magazine's readership. It does have
a very active readers column. I have been reading it for years
and have never seen the UFO topic cross these pages.

The magazine's website:


shows the story listed under it's current issue, (UFOs over
Greenland) but the story is not available for online reading.