(Received May 11, 1970)
THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
TUCSON, ARIZONA 85721
INSTITUTE OF ATMOSPHERIC PHYSICS
May l, 1970
I have now checked my files on that interview with the Navy officer involved in a North Atlantic airborne sighting. The description and details that he gave me sound so very similar to what you recently learned from G. E. Bethune concerning the 2/8/51 sighting in the North Atlantic that there seems little question that they are one and the same.
The retired officer that I talked to is William D. Bridge, now living in the San Diego area. I telephoned him on 4/29, briefly described how you had run down Bethune, and asked him if the name rang a bell. He immediately confirmed that he flew with Bethune when he was in the VR-1 squadron [transport duty) based at Patuxent River NAS. He did not positively recall Bethune to be the pilot of that flight, but he agreed, after 1 sketched the similarity of the accounts, that there was now essentially no doubt of that. I gave him the date, and he will again search his records to see if he can run anything down, now that he has that stronger lead. He indicated he’d send me a letter if anything emerges from that check.
(But earlier searches in his files failed to locate his logs so I’m not optimistic)
I'll put down below a summary of my telephone notes made from an interview on 4/6/69 with Bridge. I had heard of his sighting from a friend, Jim Crooks, an engineer with Convair (who himself recounted an interesting sighting of his own before telling me I should get in touch with Bridge) . Bridge retired from the Navy last year, and is now Executive Director of a planetarium project for Balboa Park in San Diego*. He had been an aerologist, as well as a naval aviator before retiring.
* Not to be identified in Investigator. But he did not [unreadable] [unreadable] his name be kept confidential so ok no name. Don’t say he’s in San Diego – just near.
I'll dictate this directly from my original telephone notes, since I have never before had it transcribed. This will have the effect of bringing up points somewhat out of order, in the way that this happens in an ordinary interview. However, I believe you will have no difficulty in working with it in this form. I'll use separate numbers to facilitate later reference, should that be necessary on either your part or mine.
(1) Bridge had finished Navy flight school in May, 1949, and then went to photographic school in B-24s at Patuxent. In January, 1950, he shifted to transport duty with VR-1 and was with the VR-1 squadron for three years. After that, he went to Monterey for post-graduate school in aerology and oceanography, and later served as an aerologist. The sighting in question is the only UFO he ever saw in his Navy experience, nor did he ever encounter anyone else in the Navy who had seen anything in this category.
(2) The incident in question occurred in the winter, probably December-February, and presumably in the 1951-52 period. He dates it to winter because it was on the north route between Iceland and Newfoundland where it occurred. In winter, it was necessary to do westbound flights far north to avoid the strong westerlies blocking westbound flights through the Azores route.
(3) The incident occurred at night, and he placed it at perhaps 150 miles west of Greenland. They were in a C-54 (Navy designation R5D, same as civilian DC-4J, He was a copilot-navigator responsible for weather observations and for position reports. At the time of the incident, he was doing navigational work and was not in the copilot's seat himself.
(4) His recollection is that they were flying at about 8,000 ft.* All of a sudden, someone in the cockpit saw, down on or near the water, ahead of the starboard wing, a glow. Bridge recalled that it looked like a ball of light when it was down below. When the copilot saw it, he yelled, and Bridge got up to look at it.
* Keyhoe say 19,000. Ck with [unreadable]. Did go to cruise as high as 19,000 routinely? [unreadable] [unreadable] that in library so far.
(5) When it was down below, it looked like only a ball of light. When it came up off their starboard side, it looked like an orange glow in the form of an annular ring with a rather dark center, as he recalled. He thought that, as it came up, the center started to darken in such a way that it took on the general appearance of a bright ring. He did not recall any moon, thinks it was extremely dark. No structure could be seen to the object, when seen from the side view.
(Feb 8, 1951 no new moon, so cks)
(6) It climbed up to their general altitude and lay a bit forward of the wing, as Bridge recalled. He watched it very briefly, and then went back aft to notify the passengers. He thought that about three-fourths of all the passengers must have seen it, and that there were something like thirty or so on the passenger list, (He did not volunteer any comment to the effect that they were relief crews.)
(I failed to recheck him on [unreadable] in my 4/29/70 call)
(7) They had a Navy psychiatrist aboard, or anyway a psychiatrist and he wouldn't even look out. The psychiatrist sat on some cargo, puffing a corncob pipe, and said he wasn't too concerned. He made some comment about already having seen the little green men with, beanies, and it was enough for him.
(He looked, called it “flying saucer” said he didn’t believe in it)
(8) Bridge thought that the distance to the object might have been something in the neighborhood of a half mile, based on his general experience with judging distances. The light was much larger than any aircraft light. We discussed the matter of angular size, and, after a good bit of discussion and my explanations of the meaning of angular size, it seemed to boil down to an angular diameter of perhaps a degree at closest approach. I do not believe too much reliance can be put on that figure, however.
(9) After he had notified people in the back, he looked out the window to try to see it, but the wing got in the way, so he went back up forward. By the time he got back into the cockpit area, the object was already gone, so he did not himself see it shoot forward. The pilot and copilot told him it had gone out of sight in about 5 seconds, once it started accelerating. They looked all around to try to find some clouds, to see if there was any kind of atmospheric explanation, but no clouds could be seen, as Bridge recalls. He said they gave the matter a fair amount of attention right then because they were fairly sure that Intelligence personnel would want to know details. The fact that the glow had moved forward relative to them suggested to them that it couldn't be the glow from any of their own lights off nearby clouds. There was no undercast either at that point, which lay maybe 150 miles southwest of the tip of Greenland.
(10) He thought the total duration of the sighting was in the neighborhood of three minutes. It was not possible to subdivide that into any meaningful subportions during the time it was down below, climbing, hovering, etc. He did indicate that it climbed rather rapidly, and he mentioned the extremely rapid departure once it started.
(Navy intelligence talked with Bethune and some of crew at Patuxent and had them write facts of sighting down.)
(11) After it moved on out over the horizon to the west, in the general direction of their heading towards Gander, they got on the radio and notified Gander of the UFO. They asked Gander if it could see anything on radar, but Gander did not report back, as Bridge recalled.
(12)He recalled that they landed at Gander and were met by [USAF] Intelligence personnel, who told them that they had nothing on radar.
(Bethune says Army intelligence)
(Bethune say radar confirmation described to him several months later by intelligence)
(13) Bridge was not sure of the pilot's name, but offered the name of Paul Abrams as a possibility. He thinks that Abrams is retired now, too. Abrams was a reservist. Bridge a regular USN officer. (Note the name Erdman in Keyhoe's account, possibly a switch from Abrams, phonically reminiscent of Keyhoe's switch fror Bethune to Benton. The name of Abrams should be tried on Bethune at the same time that he is asked to recall if Bridge was, in fact, the copilot-navigator of the flight. It is important to realize that there was a second copilot, and the latter, whoever he was, was actually in the copilot's seat at the time of the incident.).
(Check Bethune on name Paul Abrams)
(14) My notes indicate that/Bridge guessed they might have been 400-500 miles from Gander when this occurred. It was USAF Intelligence people who met them. Bridge recalled that [the passenger] these were mostly dependents and some State [Dept of State] officials, according to my notes.
(Cks ok with 153 mi SW Greenland)
(15) The flight in question was a FLOG flight [Navy Fleet Logistics Group) [actually FLAW – Flight Logistics Airway Staff]. If I got the story right, FLOG was a name that superseded NATS (Naval Air Transport Service). FLOG was not really part of MATS, Bridge noted. (I believe I got it straight that Bridge was flying with squadron VR-1, but my notes are such that VR-1 could be some generic designation for air transport squadrons in general [VR]. That should be double-checked with Bethune.)
(16)The Air Force Intelligence personnel interviewed mainly the crew, since they had had a better view and less cabin light to interfere with the visibility than had the passengers.
(17)My notes indicate that Bridge several times contrasted the appearance of the object when far below to its side view off their starboard wing. He referred at one time to a "dark ring" when seen in side view, but mainly seemed to indicate that it was a bright center around a dark area in the middle. I may have gotten confused in my note-taking about that concept of the "dark ring." In any event, telephone interviewing is always risky with respect to getting shape-descriptions, of course.
(18) I checked my files on the Look article by Liddell. I managed to secure a Xerox of that article through Interlibrary Loan service, but unfortunately do not have the precise date of the issue. The only date I have indicated is February, 1951. That still tends to rather strongly cross-check Bethune.
(Maybe you can find correct date. Not listed by [unreadable], I note)
James E. McDonald