From: "joel carpenter" <>
To: "Francis Ridge" <>
Subject: Re: UFOs & Nuclear weapons
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 09:05:37 -0400

By the spring of 1952, Air Defense Command was in a near-frenzied state over 
the potential of a Soviet sneak attack. Its eyes and ears, the Lashup radar 
network and the GOC, had proven discouragingly unreliable, and, lacking 
credible intelligence on Soviet capabilities and intentions, it had no real 
basis for assessing the nature of the threat. As one air defense expert 
pointed out in a speech at the Air War College on April 1, attacking Soviet

"might come in at a high altitude or low altitude. They might come in many 
different ways as far as whether they exploit saturation tactics or try to 
sneak through the defenses or so on. And since we don't know anything really 
about their doctrine of strategic air, we have a tremendous gamut of 
possibilities to worry about ... we always have to look at the worst 

Little more than two weeks later, the worst possibility seemed to have come 

On April 16, Air Force Intelligence warned Col Burgess, at ADC Headquarters, 
Ent AFB, that a classified source (possibly an electronic intercept) had 
provided an "indication" of ominous Soviet military activity. Burgess 
directed his staff to be ready for anything out of the ordinary. Around 
10:30 PM Colorado time, observers at a remote US installation on Nunivak 
Island in the Bering Sea spotted what looked like four vapor trails heading 
east-southeast toward the continental US. They reported the sighting to 
their control center at Elmendorf AFB, near Anchorage, which relayed the 
information to McChord AFB in Tacoma. McChord, in turn, transmitted the 
warning to Hamilton AFB, in California, which finally passed it to ADC 
Headquarters just after midnight local time. Burgess immediately contacted 
the Royal Canadian Air Force, notified the various ADC subdivisions, and 
ordered perimeter radar stations to take extreme precautions. When Ent 
attempted to call Elmendorf for confirmation, the line went dead, leaving 
Headquarters in a state of frustrated anger. Around 2:30, the Ent Combat 
Operations Center woke General Frederick H. Smith, Vice Commander of ADC, 
and informed him that they had "something hot." Smith rushed back to take 
charge. He was reluctant to call an alert, which would activate the entire 
network of fighters and antiaircraft artillery, on such slim evidence. As he 
and his officers debated the problem, an aide came running up with an urgent 
notice from Eastern Air Defense Forces: radar at Presque Isle, Maine, had 
reported five incoming Unknowns. It was a haunting replay of the December 6, 
1950 scare. With the simultaneous appearance of two waves of unidentified 
targets, there was no alternative. At 3:10 AM, Smith ordered America's first 
nationwide Air Defense Readiness alert. 

Within seconds, the Air Force began winding up toward war fighting 
capability. ADC commander General Benjamin Chidlaw raced back to Ent to 
assume command. General LeMay was notified by hotline of the alert, and his 
Strategic Air Command prepared for an order to launch its bombers. The 
Pentagon, and probably the White House, were informed. Regional ADC centers 
called in personnel. Interceptor crews raced to their aircraft as backup 
fighters were brought up to ready status. Tactical Air Command and reserve 
units prepared to turn over their fighters to ADC control. The Ent COC was a 
bedlam of chattering teletypes and ringing telephones as bases all over the 
country reported in. Within thirty minutes, Army antiaircraft artillery 
sites were ordered to man their weapons and mobile guns began preparing to 
move out. Interceptors screamed toward the Unknowns in the east. 

Somewhere over Maine, the fighters closed in on three of the Unknowns. One 
by one, as the objects loomed out of the darkness, the interceptor pilots 
were able to discern that they were conventional aircraft -- in fact, they 
were ordinary airliners. As the situation clarified, Eastern Air Defense 
Force determined that the airliners -- a Pan Am ship, a British flight, and 
an Air France plane -- had gone off course or off schedule for one reason or 
another and had routinely reported their deviations to Canadian air traffic 
control centers. But the deviation reports had never been passed on to 
Presque Isle. The stray airliners, unregistered on the US radar center's 
logs, became potentially hostile Unidentified Flying Objects. Just before 
6:00 AM, Chidlaw rescinded the alert. 

The Air Staff in the Pentagon was highly critical of the action, charging 
that ADC had "panicked" and overreacted. "Tell 'em if the situation occurs 
again I'll do the same thing," Chidlaw said as he stalked back to bed. 
Later, he told General Vandenberg that he hoped the April 17 alert had made 
"more of our top Air Force people ... aware of the very thin margin of 
evidence on which we too frequently must base our decisions." Newspaper 
accounts of the Alaska contrail sighting made it into Flying Saucer Review 
and on into popular UFO literature as saucer reports, without, of course, 
any description of the ADC alert. 

Air Defense Command was desperate. Its confidence in the ability of its 
fighters to defeat a Soviet attack was at an all-time low. There was a 
growing concern about a strange aspect of the realities of Soviet tactics: 
because of the limited range of Soviet Tu-4 bombers -- near-identical copies 
of the B-29 -- any Soviet attackers would of necessity be unable to return 
to their homeland after making their bombing runs (midair refueling had yet 
to be widely employed). If a Soviet surprise attack came, American defenses 
would therefore be confronted by suicidally determined foes. 

On April 23, ADC urgently requested that the Air Force archives at Maxwell 
AFB, Alabama locate "all material extant" on Japanese and German attempts to 
destroy bombers by ramming them with fighters. Its Operations and Training 
Directorate Fighter-Interceptor Division considered the ramming study a 
"red-hot major project," but planned to "release validated information to 
the Defense Forces in a discreet manner so as not to adversely affect the 
morale of combat personnel or leave the ADC open to criticism by civilian 
agencies." Studies began on the possibility of actually smashing F-94s into 
B-29s (presumably unmanned drones) to test the effects of the potentially 
suicidal tactic. 

The Development of Continental Air Defense to 1 September 1954 (Secret), 
(Maxwell AFB, Georgia: USAF Historical Research Division Research Studies 
Institute, Air University, 1956) 

Schaffel, Capt. Kenneth, The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and The 
Evolution of Continental Air Defense 1945-1960 (Washington, DC: Office of 
Air Force History, United States Air Force, 1991), p.113-120 

Zimmerman, Carroll L, Insider at SAC (Sunflower University Press,1988) 

Leslie, Desmond, and George Adamski, The Flying Saucers Have Landed, New 
York: The British Book Centre, 1953, p.56 

Austerman, Wayne R., "Ramming, the Final Option: A Heretofore Secret Look at 
the Sobering State of America's Air Defense Command in the Mid Fifties," 
Airpower, May 1987, p. 16