Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2005 16:09:41 +0100 (BST)
From: daniel wilson <>
Subject: August 13, 1956, Nuclear war games and UFOs
To: Francis Ridge, Coordinator, Nuclear connection Project <>

On August 13, 1956, the 307th Bombardment wing flying the B-47 jet bomber participated in war games over England. The B-47 jet bombers were at the time stationed at Lakenheath Air Base, England.
History of the 307th Bombardment Wing (Medium)
Lincoln AFB, Nebraska, 1954-1965)
                        Sections highlighted in blue are from the
                        History of the 307th Bombardment Wing (Medium)
                        Lincoln AFB, Nebraska, 1954-1965)

13 August 1956, Lakenheath RAF Air Base
The 307th Bomb Wing participates in operation “Pink Lady.” Target “Bravo” was the top of the Bell Tower of the Tower of London. Target “Golf” was the center of the bridge at Windsor Castle.

The 307th Bombardment Wing (BW) was a part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) which was given the job of delivering nuclear weapons to the Soviet Union if nuclear war would have ever started. In 1956 the 307th BW was stationed at Lincoln AFB, Nebraska. In 1956 the 307th BW was flying the B-47 jet bomber. In June 1956, the 307th BW was preparing for deployment to Lakenheath AFB in the United Kingdom. On July 3, 1956 the move was made.

3 July 1956, Lincoln AFB
15 B-47 aircraft departed Lincoln AFB on 3 July and arrived in the United Kingdom at Lakenheath, as scheduled. Due to a weather delay, the second and third waves of B-47's departed Lincoln two days later than the planned deployment date. The KC-97's deploying to Greenham-Common, were not so fortunate. Due to propeller difficulties they were delayed indefinitely.

<>On August 13, 1956 the 307th BW participated in mock nuclear bombing exercises over England, flying out of Lakenheath AFB, northeast of London.

13 August 1956, Lakenheath RAF Air Base
The 307th Bomb Wing participates in operation “Pink Lady.” Target “Bravo” was the top of the Bell Tower of the Tower of London. Target “Golf” was the center of the bridge at Windsor Castle.
On the evening and early morning of August 13-14, 1956, things became mighty active over the Lakenheath AFB and Bentwaters AFB. UFOs moved in over the area.


At 1810Z on the evening of August 13 1956 Flying Officer George Sandman took off in a De Havilland Venom NF.3 nightfighter of 23 Squadron from RAF Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire (see map below), on a routine flight above the flat landscape of East Anglia. His navigator/radar operator was Flying Officer Peter 'Digger' Dell. They were to carry out medium-level practice interceptions under control of GCI (ground controlled interception) radars at Neatishead, Norfolk.

When they were at about 35,000 feet Neatishead diverted them to try to identify an unidentified radar target at high altitude. FO Dell acquired the target on the Venom's AI radar, but it was far above the maximum ceiling of the Venom. Dell estimated that it was at 80,000 feet and still climbing.

In a 'phone interview with Dave Clarke, Flt. Lt. Dell recalled that "he cranked up his AI set to full tilt and picked up the UFO at maximum altitude, but after some attempts to close gave up and dismissed the target as a balloon . . . reporting the results to Neatishead who he implied were taking the incident far more seriously than he or his pilot (George Sandman) were."

No further action was possible and they landed back at Waterbeach at 1920Z. Dell thought little about it. He believed it was probably a balloon.

Note: Dell's logbook entry for this incident is dated August 14; however his written account states that this is a mistake and he is sure that the incident happened on the evening of the 13th. Dell also told Dave Clarke that he "recalls talking to Brady, Logan, Chambers et al in early hours of the next morning after their attempts to intercept the thing [see below] and said they all agreed it must have been a balloon of some kind. That was why he could place his own incident on the same night, as he believes that he 'was the first one asked to look at this thing."'

This was the start of an eventful night. Dell recalled later that 'half the air force were scrambled', but his own opinion was that events were due to one or more meteorological balloons a) initially caught up in a high altitude jet stream and b) slowly falling to the ground later. He said that other 23 Squadron crews he spoke to agreed that the object they tried to intercept at low level near Lakenheath later that night must have been a balloon, 'judging from its rapid vertical movements and virtually nil horizontal (other than wind speed)'.

Flying Officer Dell had the responsibility of keeping the 23 Squadron diary and the entry for 13-14 August 1956 reflects this conclusion: '. . . it was later decided that the object must have been a balloon.' But no proper investigation appears to have been conducted. Indeed nothing at all in the nature of an official RAF or Ministry report on these incidents survives. This might be taken to mean that the squadron CO agreed with Dell that it was all 'something of nothing' and that no 'UFO' was ever reported upwards in the first place. But these events were only part of an extensive affair which at the time was certainly not discounted at operational level and was of genuine concern to UK and US military authorities.

A possible reference to the Dell/Sandman event occurs in an Air Ministry Directorate of Intelligence briefing note dated May 1957, which describes three 1956 radar sightings which were still carried as unexplained. One of these involved

"an unusual object on Lakenheath Radar which at first moved at a speed of between two and four thousand knots and then remained stationary at an high altitude. No visual contact was made with this object by the Venom sent to intercept it and other radars failed to pick it up."

But no exact date is given. The meaning of the vague phrase 'Lakenheath Radar' in this context is unclear, and the relationship to the events described below remains unresolved.

1. Events at RAF Bentwaters

A couple of hours after Dell and Sandman landed back at RAF Waterbeach, a radar operator at Bentwaters RAF Station, an airfield near Woodbridge in Suffolk tenanted by the US Air Force, detected an unusual echo on a surveillance scope of the Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) radar. The blip attracted the attention of A/2C John L. Vaccare Jr. because although it looked like a "normal aircraft target" approaching from the sea it appeared to be travelling at several thousand miles per hour and was heading straight for the airfield.

The AN MPN-11A GCA system was housed inside a trailer mounted near the main runway. It comprised a blind-landing radar plus a CPN-4 surveillance radar which was used to control traffic over the airfield and guide planes onto final approach. The surveillance scope (known as a PPI, or plan position indicator) showed the radar picture out to a range of approximately 60 miles.

According to the report of this incident, IR-1-56, subsequently compiled by Captain Edward Holt, Air Targets Officer, 81st Fighter Bomber Wing, the target was picked up at a range of 25-30 miles inbound from the ESE . The rate of closure was measured with each 4-second sweep of the radar antenna. Each scan showed the target between five and six miles closer: well over 4000 mph. It crossed the centre of the scope and receded to the WNW, on an almost exact heading for RAF Lakenheath, some 38 miles further inland. But after about half a minute, at a range of 15-20 miles, the little spot of light faded for the last time from the tube phosphor and was not reacquired.

However, at the same time another group of targets was being tracked on a slow course to the NE. According to IR-1-56 these echoes were also detected at 2130Z, but there is good internal evidence that this group was picked up at 2100Z and so had already been under observation for half an hour. In fact it appears likely that arrangements were made to scramble an RAF jet interceptor after these targets, which got off the ground at 2120 (see Section 4.b below) but aborted after a few minutes owing to the accidental loss of its wing-tip fuel tanks. Meanwhile the straggling cluster of about a dozen or more echoes, preceeded by three others which maintained "a triangular formation", crossed the scope centre heading NE at speeds varying between about 80 and 125 mph.

At about 2130, Bentwaters GCA (possibly at this time learning that the RAF interceptor had had to turn back) radioed the pilot of a T-33, a small jet trainer of the 512th Fighter Interceptor Squadron which was returning to Bentwaters from a routine flight. The T-33 was vectored to the area and asked to search for these targets. Since the GCA radar was not operated in tandem with a heightfinder the controllers could not offer accurate altitude guidance. Nevertheless 1st Lieutenants Charles Metz and Andrew Rowe visually searched the area at a few thousand feet, without seeing anything to explain the targets. The Lockheed jet then headed to the E and SE sectors, where a star-like amber light had been observed low on the horizon by Control Tower Shift Chief Sgt. Lawrence S. Wright since about 2120. They reported what was evidently the same "bright star", and noted the flashing beacon of Orford Ness lighthouse visible in coastal haze to the E, but still found nothing unusual.

Meanwhile the target cluster proceeded to a point about 40 miles NE of Bentwaters, whereupon the individual echoes converged to form a single integrated echo with a presentation several times the strength typical of a B-36 (one of the largest production aircraft ever built) under comparable conditions. This very strong echo now stopped moving and maintained station for more than ten minutes, before recommencing movement to the NE. But after 5 or 6 miles of travel it stopped again. This time it stayed stationary for less than 5 minutes before picking up speed and moving off the scope on a N heading at 2155Z.

Only a few minutes elapsed after the disappearance of these curious targets before yet another was detected due E of Bentwaters at a range of about 30 miles. This one, too, appeared as a "normal" return on the GCA scope operated by T/Sgt Whenry, and like the first rapid target detected 30 minutes earlier it was inbound to the station at a speed that Whenry estimated as "in excess of 4000 mph". The phosphorescent blip crossed the scope diametrically and fled westward, where at about 25 miles range the target "disappeared . . . by rapidly moving out of the GCA radiation pattern", leaving the PPI dark and empty save for the ceaseless 4-second sweep of the scope trace and the familiar creeping glow-worms of routine light traffic.

For 20 minutes or so Sgt. Wright's amber star continued its predictable rise into the SE sky, intermittently fading from view presumably due to passing patches of thin cloud in the otherwise near-CAVU weather conditions. At 2220 the Control Tower observers lost sight of it for the last time. At this time Bentwaters personnel had not contacted any other facility. And as far as the only available first-hand report from Bentwaters tells us, nothing further happened. Events returned to the methodical quietude of a night shift like any other.

However, according to RAF Lakenheath sources this was not the end of the affair at Bentwaters. Those sources tell us that at 2255, when Bentwaters GCA operators were watching the bright echo of a USAF aircraft crawl across the phosphor-coated glass of the cathode ray tube, an unexpected blip flared and died, 30 miles E of the field out over the North Sea. Four seconds later the rotating scope trace ignited another bright spot, several miles closer, then another, and another. As had happened twice before that night, an unidentified target seemed to be heading straight for Bentwaters at hypersonic speed. At a displayed range of a couple of miles the target disappeared briefly from the scope, as would be normal for an object passing overhead into the zenithal shadow unilluminated by the radar beam, then reappeared to the W on the same straight course. According to BOI-485, Bentwaters Tower Controllers saw a bright light streak westwards over the field at what seemed to be only a few thousand feet, whilst the USAF pilot in flight over the airfield at 4000' reported that a bright light had gone by underneath his aircraft, travelling E to W at "terrific speed". This time somebody got straight on the 'phone.

Discussion: Detailed analyses by one of us of the possible explanations of these radar reports are offered in two Opinions, here for the three fast tracks, and separately here for the slow cluster. The Bentwaters visual reports are discussed here.


2. The Alerting of RAF Lakenheath

The moment when the alert reached Lakenheath was recalled in 1968 by T/Sgt Forrest D. Perkins, who was on duty at the time as Watch Supervisor in the Radar Air Traffic Control Center located in the airfield Tower building:

. . . It was the 5:00 PM to midnight shift. I had either 4 or 5 other Controllers on my shift. I was sitting at the Supervisor's Coordinating desk and received a call . . . - it was Sculthorpe GCA Unit calling and the radar operator asked me if we had any targets on our scopes travelling at 4,000 mph. They said they had watched a target on their scopes proceed from a point 30 or 40 miles east of Sculthorpe to a point 40 miles west of Sculthorpe. The target passed directly over Sculthorpe RAF Station, England (also USAF Station). He said the tower reported seeing it go by and it just appeared to be a blurry light. A C-47 flying over the base at 5,000 feet altitude also reported seeing it as a blurred light that passed under his aircraft - no report as to actual distance below the aircraft. I immediately had all Controllers start scanning the radar scopes . . . .

Perkins' testimony conflicts with BOI-485 in the matter of the origin of this alert. Where the intelligence report cites Bentwaters, Perkins' has Sculthorpe (a link to a discussion of this point is available from the box below). Saving this point, Perkins' 12-year-old recollection of the alert turned out to be quite closely supported by the classified teletype BOI-485 sent from USAF intelligence at Lakenheath on August 16 1956 (a declassified copy of which was not made available to Colorado University investigators until some months after the receipt of Perkins' letter). BOI-485 began:

This is "UFOB" report in compliance AFR 200-2, 12 August 1954.

Preliminary or background info: At 2255Z, 13 August 56 Bentwaters GCA sighted object thirty miles east of the station travelling westerly at 2000-4000 mph. Object disappeared on scope two miles east of station and immediately reappeared on scope three miles west of station where it disappeared thirty miles west of station on scope. Tower personnel at Bentwaters reported to GCA a bright light passed over the field east to west at terrific speeds and at about 4000 feet altitude. At same time pilot in an aircraft at 4000 feet altitude over Bentwaters reported a bright light streaked under his aircraft travelling east to west at terrific speed.

At this time Bentwaters GCA checked with RAF Station Lakenheath GCA to determine if unusual sightings were occurring. Lakenheath GCA alerted 60th AAA (stationed at Lakenheath) and Sculthorpe GCA to watch for unusual targets.

Discussion: At this point it is impossible to avoid some speculation. The crux of the matter is a pair of problems which may, or may not, be related. These are:
1) the fact that Air Information Report IR-1-56 from Bentwaters does not record any reference at all to the dramatic event which, according to BOI-485 from Lakenheath, was reported from there;
2) the fact that according to the RATCC supervisor in charge at Lakenheath, the call did not come from Bentwaters, but from Sculthorpe, and concerned an event at Sculthorpe.
Some interpretations of these problems are considered in an individual 'Opinion'

BOI-485 is a contemporary written source, but because of many omissions and ambiguities and the constraints of the reporting format it does not at all times tell a coherent story - to say the least. Perkins' testimony, whilst a coherent story, is twelve years old. Discrepancies are therefore only to be expected. But most commentators express surprise at how few there are, and there are striking structural similarities which are quite as important as any discrepancies. Probably the main structural similarity runs through the two accounts of the interception and 'tail-chase' episode.

3. Interception actions near Lakenheath

a) the Perkins/BOI-485 scenario

Perkins recalled from memory that after receiving the telephone report he was sceptical but got his controllers to start scanning the scopes of the CPS-5 surveillance radar, using MTI in conditions of 'little or no traffic or targets on the scopes'. At some point an anomalous stationary target was noticed which was confirmed also by the airfield's CPN-4 GCA radar. The target then started moving around the area in a high-speed rectilinear pattern of abrupt stops and starts, and similar movements of round white lights were reported by visual observers. A conference line was set up with a number of Air Force authorities patched into the Lakenheath RATCC switchboard. After discussion an interception action was agreed with the RAF and the first of two RAF jets approached the area. Perkins recalled:

Radio and radar contact was established with the RAF interceptor aircraft at a point about 30 to 35 miles southwest of Lakenheath inbound to Lakenheath. On initial contact we gave the interceptor pilot all the background information on the UFO, his (the interceptor) present distance and bearing from Lakenheath, the UFO (which was stationary at the time)'s distance and bearing from Lakenheath. We explained we did not know the altitude of the UFO but we could assume his altitude was above 1,500 feet and below 20,000 feet due to the operational characteristics of the radar (CPS-5 type radar I believe). Also we mentioned the report from the C47 over Sculthorpe that mentioned the light passed below him and his altitude was 5,000 feet.

We immediately issued headings to the interceptor to guide him to the UFO. The UFO remained stationary thruout this vectoring of the intercept aircraft. We continually gave the intercept aircraft his heading to the UFO and his distance from the UFO at approximately 1 to 2 mile intervals. Shortly after we told the intercept aircraft he was one half mile from the UFO and it was twelve o'clock from his position, he said, "Roger Lakenheath I've got my guns locked on him. (Then he paused. Then he said)

"Where did he go? Do you still have him?" We replied "Roger, do you have anything following you?" He said "Roger, do you have anything following me?" We replied "Roger, it appeared he got behind you and he's still there." There were now 2 targets one behind the other, same speed, very close, but 2 separate distinct targets. ( . . . ) The first movement by the UFO was so swift (circling behind the intercept) I missed it entirely but it was seen by the other controllers. However the fact that this had occurred was confirmed by the pilot of the interceptor. The pilot of the interceptor told us he would try to shake the UFO and we'd try it again. He tried everything - he climbed, dived, circled etc but the UFO acted like it was glued right behind him, always the same distance, very close but we always had 2 distinct targets.

The interceptor pilot continued to try and shake the UFO for about 10 minutes (approximate guess - it seemed longer both to him and us). He continued to comment occasionally and we could tell from the tonal quality he was getting worried, excited and also pretty scared.

He finally said "I'm returning to Station, Lakenheath. Let me know if he follows me. I'm getting low on petrol." The target (UFO) followed him only a short distance as he headed South South West and the UFO stopped and remained stationary. We advised the interceptor [that] the UFO target had stopped following him and was now stationary about 10 miles south of Lakenheath. He rogered this message and almost immediately the 2nd interceptor called us on the same frequency.

The second pilot was given the position of the object, said Perkins, but even before his plane appeared on Lakenheath radar he reported an engine malfunction and turned back for home.

Teletype BOI-485, originally encrypted and classified SECRET, described what appears to be the same incident in the following terms.

Flight path was straight but jerky with object stopping instantly and then continuing. Maneuvers were of the same pattern except one object was observed to "lock on" to fighter scrambled by RAF and followed all maneuvers of the jet fighter aircraft.
. . . British jet aircraft, Venom, operating out of RAF station Waterbeach, England . . . Lakenheath RATCC vectored him to a target 10 miles east of Lakenheath and pilot advised target was on radar and he was "locking on." Pilot reported he had lost target on his radar.
Lakenheath RATCC reports that as the Venom passed the target on radar, the target began a tail chase of the friendly fighter. RATCC requested pilot acknowledge this chase. Pilot acknowledged and stated he would try to circle and get behind the target.
Pilot advised he was unable to "shake" the target off his tail and requested assistance. One additional Venom was scrambled from the RAF station.
Original pilot stated: "Clearest target I have ever seen on radar!"
Target disappeared and second aircraft did not establish contact. First aircraft returned to home station due to being low on fuel.
Second Venom was vectored to other radar targets but was unable to make contact. Shortly second fighter returned to home station due to malfunctions.

BOI-485 also records, with a cryptic brevity which eludes all but the most careful reading, that in addition to the CPS-5 and CPN-4 surveillance radars and the Venom's APS-57 airborne radar, an additional ground radar at Lakenheath designated TS-ID also detected unknown targets. This is almost certainly a clerical corruption of a TPS-1D search radar operated by the US Army 60th Anti Aircraft Artillery battalion in its airfield defence role (see here and here).

Discussion: The structural similarity between these narratives is very striking. But one problem, which assumes increasing importance in the later history of this case, is an inconsistency in the timing claimed by the two sources. This is a discrepancy which runs deep because it, too, is a structural feature that cannot be ignored. See this individual Opinion for a treatment of this and related issues.



During this time in history the British and the French were making war plans against Egypt which had taken over control of the Suez Canal, which became known as the Suez Canal Crisis. The United States was not supporting this effort at least this is what officials were saying. But with the movement of the 307th BW to England in July 1956, this may have been done in case nuclear war was to break out. The Soviet Union was a close ally with Egypt and was supplying weapons to the Egyptians. Any action from the "West" against Egypt might spark World War III.
                                 MORE INFORMATION TO COME
Daniel Wilson 
See some the history of the 307th Bombardment wing below.
History of the 307th Bombardment Wing (Medium)
Lincoln AFB, Nebraska, 1954-1965


We are pleased to present to you, the members of the 307th Bomb Wing B-47 / KC-97 Association, this history of the 307th Bomb Wing at Lincoln AFB. This history pays homage to those we served with and to those we lost


The 307th Bomb Wing (Medium) at Lincoln AFB
A Salute to All of the Professionals of the 307th

The Mission of the 307th Bombardment Wing (M) was to organize and train a force capable of immediate and sustained long range offensive bombardment and air to air refueling operations in any part of the world, utilizing the latest technical knowledge and advanced weapons.


13 August 1956, Lakenheath RAF Air Base
The 307th Bomb Wing participates in operation “Pink Lady.” Target “Bravo” was the top of the Bell Tower of the Tower of London. Target “Golf” was the center of the bridge at Windsor Castle.



February 1956, Lincoln AFB
The 307th Bomb Wing participated in Operation “Swan Dive.” Valuable initial experience and confidence in navigating in semi-polar areas was accomplished.

1 April 1956, Lincoln AFB
On April 1st, 1956 after a period of 15 months, the Wing was pronounced “Combat Ready.”

6 April 1956, Lincoln AFB
The wing suffered its first casualties, when a B-47 went down near Ceresco, Nebraska. Captain James W Sullivan, Lt Anthony C Marcanti, Lt Lawrence A Schmidt, and A1C James J Berry lost their lives.

19 June 1956, Lincoln AFB
307th Bomb Wing made its last ferry flight in connection with the replacement of its older aircraft. The Wing is preparing for deployment to Lakenheath in the United Kingdom.

3 July 1956, Lincoln AFB
15 B-47 aircraft departed Lincoln AFB on 3 July and arrived in the United Kingdom at Lakenheath, as scheduled. Due to a weather delay, the second and third waves of B-47's departed Lincoln two days later than the planned deployment date. The KC-97's deploying to Greenham-Common, were not so fortunate. Due to propeller difficulties they were delayed indefinitely.

28 July 1956, Lakenheath RAF Air Base
On Friday afternoon, Crew R-38 was involved in an aircraft landing accident in which all crewmembers were fatally injured. On board aircraft 53-4230 were the following officers and A&E technician: A/C Commander, Captain Russel R. Bowling; Co-Pilot, 2/Lt. Carroll W. Kalberg; Observer, 1/Lt. Micheal J. Selmo; A&E Technician, T/Sgt. John Ulrich. The aircraft was shooting touch and gos. On the fourth approach the aircraft porpoised, and a go around was attempted, but the right wing tip dragged and caused an explosive crash.

13 August 1956, Lakenheath RAF Air Base
The 307th Bomb Wing participates in operation “Pink Lady.” Target “Bravo” was the top of the Bell Tower of the Tower of London. Target “Golf” was the center of the bridge at Windsor Castle.

10 October 1956, Redeployment from Lakenheath
During the first leg of their redeployment back to Lincoln, fifty wing personnel are lost aboard a Navy MATS C-118 enroute from Lakenheath to the Azores. An air/sea search was held for a week, with the only trace being two empty life rafts found off the northwest coast of Spain. Nine Navy crewmembers were also lost. A stunned base attended a Memorial Service at Lincoln on 29 October.