UFOS AND GOVERNMENT
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS & 1957
July 17, 1957; over Louisiana and Texas
This event is the most examined radar-and-visual air encounter of all time. The case usually goes by the nickname "RB-
47," after the type of plane centrally involved. The RB-47 was the Air Force's state-of-the-art bomber of the 1950s, was equipped with the best available radar systems, and was the backbone of the Strategic Air Command's nuclear strike force. The case was studied by James McDonald, the Colorado Project, Brad Sparks, and many other individual researchers, each in their own way. It is a very complex affair thatinvolved our leading-edge radar detection equipment, a long duration plane pacing and chasing, a visual observation throughout most of the incident, radar detection from both ground and air, and a corroboration of cross-talk between pilots and radar personnel. To do this case complete justice would require much space and a detailed highly technical discussion, so we will refer the reader to a good, solid analysis elsewhere.44 Suffice it for our purposes to say that this experience was like an expanded and thoroughly documented version of the January 16 encounter of Colonel Wright that was described earlier. Here, there are more witnesses, longer observations, higher level technology detection capabilities, and stronger corroboration. Both experiences involve the long-term pacing of military aircraft by luminous objects that are strong radio signal emitters. The fact that these radio emissions could overpower our best radio-sensing technology should have been of the greatest concern to the military. In the "RB-47" case, the reality of the experience was clinched when pilots (visually), plane radar operators, and ground radar operators, all simultaneously saw the object "blink out" at the same moment. The extreme anomalousness of that instantly eliminated conventional explanations using any but the most contrived coincidences.
This case was, of course, reported extensively by the crew at landing. At this point in our general story, it should not come as a surprise that many of these reports were lost; their whereabouts are still a mystery. Even then, what made it to Blue Book convinced an electronics (i.e. radar) expert there that the detected signals were hard to explain on any grounds other than an unknown: "there is such a mass of evidence which tends to tie in together to indicate the presence of a physical object or UFO."45
Despite everything, when Blue Book heard that there was a commercial airliner in the general area, they seized upon the idea that somehow a "near miss" had occurred, and that all their military technologies and trained personnel had made a colossal misidentification. Such preposterous claims frequently have been thrown up in the history of this field, as we have seen. Sometimes, interested parties have time to refute them; often, not. In this case, since by coincidence the commercial plane had been involved in a different near-miss (including injuries to passengers), a good record of its flight was kept and it was located nowhere near the area of the RB-47 encounter. Since all this was knowable at the time, one would expect that to be reflected in the record. The Blue Book file says: "Aircraft," to this day. This case would have never risen to any prominence except that the captain of the RB-47 flight happened to be at the Colorado Project's briefing of a group of Air Force personnel in the late 1960s. He asked about his encounter, naturally thinking it would be a good one. When the Colorado Project scientists asked the Air Force for the Blue Book file on the RB-47 case, the file could not be found. Ultimately, the case was put together by better file searching at Blue Book, James McDonald's success at locating several crew members and interviewing them, and FOIA searches that located more of the lost documents. Particularly in the "George Gregory" years at ATIC, this sort of rejection of the need to clarify almost any significant aspect of a UFO case was constant. If we did not know, from our earlier information, what Captain Gregory understood to be his duty as chief of Blue Book, we would label this as reckless and incompetent.