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The Kölmjärv Ghost Rocket Crash Revisited
Reinvestigation and review of a 1946 case by Clas Svahn and Anders Liljegren
One of the most substantial cases from the 1946 ghost rocket wave is reviewed in this article. Clas Svahn, journalist with Norrbottens-Kuriren, a north-Swedish newspaper, recently located and re-interviewed several of the witnesses as well as the military man who was in charge of a prolonged search in the lake. To complete the picture, in details, notes from the contemporary newspapers and newswires - culled from the AFU archives -have been interwoven into the story to create what we believe is the most complete case report ever published on any of the ghost rocket wave cases. Still, recently received materials from the Defence Staff files have not been incorporated into the story. We have not had the opportunity, so far, to analyze this wealthy archives material, but it is expected that a future report will supplement the case on this point.
1. General background
50 meters from the shore of Lake Kölmjärv, about 24 km west of Överkalix in the extreme north of Sweden (about 66' 23”N, 22' 18'' E), a mysterious object may have been embedded in the bottom mud since almost 40 years. During a two-week campaign the military searched every inch of the lake with special instruments without any result. The lake's muddy bottom obstructed their difficult work.
The summer of 1946 was to become "a silly season." All over Sweden thousands of people reported their sightings of unknown, often rocket-like objects crossing the sky or crashing into lakes. During four days in July alone, the Swedish Defence Staff received 300 reports, and when the summer was at an end, an official number of 997 sightings had been recorded. (1)
The objects often passed the country on vast trajectories and many suspected the Russians, who were believed to carry out experiments and improvements on captured German V-type weapons. Daily reports filled the newspaper columns: On the west coast a square-shaped object crossed the sky on a northerly course without a sound; off Sundsvall a silvery, oblong object surprised a few factory workers; and in Stockholm people watched a large, luminous object with a couple of black balls trailing behind. . .
2. The Kölmjärv sighting
To farmer Knut Lindbäck (now interviewed in 1984 (2) at the age of 68) and his maid Beda Persson (18 years old in 1946), July 19, 1946, was a busy Friday. Hay-making was going on. Knut and Beda worked by the leaning shores of Lake Kölmjärv. It was 11:45 - almost noon - and the sun was broiling hot.
All of a sudden a humming sound was heard from the sky.
- I looked up since I thought it was an airplane, says Knut today. Instead, I spotted a rocket-like device diving towards the lake.
In the company of Beda he watched the two meters long, ashen-gray projectile falling into the water about 1.5 km away, near the south-western shore of the lake. A tall column of water emerged and was soon followed by yet another cascade. (There was, reportedly, no wood or other objects to hinder the witnesses’ view of the object's trajectory (3)).
- That it was a solid object of that I am sure, says Knut, who still remembers the incident very well. The object was two meters long and had a snub nose, while the stern was pointed. I thought there were a few small wing-like protrusions on the side, but I am not sure. Everything happened so quickly!
The length of the water pillar was "a few meters" according to the first newswire report cabled to all Swedish newspapers (3). From contemporary news items it is further evident that there was no light on, or from, the object (4). The Swedish news agency TT reported that the two prime witnesses had heard no explosions (3), however, Lindbäck told Dagens Nyheter that "there was a smashing sound, but this was probably from the water thrown up." (4)
The magnitude of the crash is underlined, however, by yet another witness (located in 1984) who was standing by the northern shore of the lake, just a couple of hundred meters from the site of impact. Frideborg Tagebo, 14 years old in 1946, remembers everything clearly: (5)
- The sound was horrible. I had never heard anything like it before - or since. My mother, who was washing clothes down at the shore, shouted at me to shut the windows because she thought it was a tornado coming in. Our dog went crazy and ran away. Everything was terrible. When the thing eventually stroke (sic-struck?) down, it was like a bomb had detonated.
Ghost rocket seen by Frideborg Tagebo as it plunged into Lake Kölmjärv.
Sketch drawn in 1984 by the witness.
Lindbäck, further away, immediately took his bike and followed the road along the lake until he reached a spot near to the observed crash site. Here he went out on the lake in a rowing-boat.
- When I rowed to the spot I saw that seaweed and water-lilies had been torn off by their roots and thrown ashore. The water was completely muddy and it was impossible to discern if there was an object on the bottom. Water was not deep here, only about two meters or so.
3. The investigations
On that same evening (Friday) police and Home Guard personnel were posted along the lake with orders to cordon off the area and keep a watch on the crash site, after a neighbour of Lindbäck had called the law enforcement office. During the night between Friday and Saturday, a military group from the Ing. 3 engineer corps in Boden started off in lorries towards Kölmjärv. (4)
On July 20 (Saturday morning) the then lieutenant Karl-Gösta Bartoll arrived at Kölmjärv in the company of a group of soldiers to search for the rocket. The commanding officer of the operation is now - 38 years later - a 68 year old major in the reserves, living in Arboga. When the Kölmjärv crash happened, he had been with the Ing.3 corps for five years, thus a main part of the war years. (6)
On the (sic-that) Saturday there were some preliminary investigations on the site, and on Sunday morning further personnel and equipment arrived from Boden.
Reported a nation-wide newspaper: "A military unit of ten men was dispatched to the lake on Saturday and soon found the spot where the projectile had sank (sic-sunk) into the bottom. Water depth at that point is only 75 centimeters and the projectile had made a meter wide hole which was very deep in the mud. When an oar was put into this hole, it wouldn't reach the bottom, so reinforcements were called for. The projectile must have had an immense rate of speed since large quantities of mud have been thrown far away around the crash site. It is hoped that, thanks to the mud which has lessened the impact, it will be possible to recover the projectile. One estimates, however, that there will be a few days work before the object can be dug out." (7)
- The military started to build a raft by the shore, says Rune Lindbäck, the neighbour who called on the authorities. They were very careful not to use iron nails which would have disturbed their sensitive instruments. The raft was tied by ropes of hemp. (2)
From the raft the military could see how moraine and stones from deeper layers had been forced up. Everything pointed to an explosion below the water surface.
"The military is now searching a 200 x 200 meter wide area across the lake. Due to the deep mud, one is now using the method of ‘sounding,' e.g. for each half-meter a long feeler is stuck into the mud. Water depth is only 2 meters at the deepest. An attempt to use ordinary mine search equipment failed since they are not constructed to work at such distances as is the question here. Special officers and scientists from the Research Institute of National Defence (FOA), who travelled to the site on Saturday, returned Sunday evening." (8)
Professor Gustaf Ljunggren of FOA says that the Institute has sent two observers to the crash site in the Kalix area.
- Before the bomb is recovered, it is too early to say anything about its nature, said Prof. Ljunggren. If they are rocket-powered projectiles, it is feasible that they have steering equipment that automatically bring them back to their point of start - which could explain the relative lack of crashes. Is (sic It) is also possible that the projectiles are steered by radio. In any case it is hard to believe that they have been directed, on purpose, to crash into lakes in order to escape Swedish searches. The lake we are now investigating is only 200 meters across and when it comes to such "shooting distances" as we are contemplating, a target of that size is much too small. (9)
"From the crash site the latest news are that the search area has been widened since it has been established that the projectile has bounced against a submerged rock under the mud and changed its direction. Attempts to use mine search equipment have failed and now an electrical probe is used." (9)
To the Dagens Nyheter correspondent, witness Lindbäck reported that "the deep mud obstructs the search. The depth of two meters at the crash site is in the shallow part of the lake which is much deeper at other points, but the lake is only two or three square kilometres in area." (10)
Later, a civilian expert from the Boliden mining company arrived with an instrument that would indicate iron objects in the water.
- The instrument resembled today's metal detectors, says Karl-Gösta Bartoll, but in those days it was unique. For almost two weeks we searched the lake, but all we found was a wood-gas burner a (sic and) a few other familiar iron objects. (6)
Rumours went wild, however, one week after the crash, distributed by the national press:
"The rocket projectile has been found, according to precise (sic!) information. This could not be confirmed, however, on the[that?] Sunday evening since a lightning storm had broken the telephone lines to Lindbäck. The military... (had) first used mine search equipment, but later changed to an iron detector. A steel-wire is stretched across the 150 meters lake... The whole lake has been squared, and now it seems that the efforts have been rewarded. Late on Sunday evening Dagens Nyheter made contact with Captain Dimander of the local defence staff in Kalix. He had had no contact with Lindbäck on the[that?] Sunday since the lines had been broken. In Överkalix there were persistent rumours Sunday evening that the bomb had been located... The projectile was three meters long and painted with white letters." (11)
Authorities denied the rumours, of course:
"According to information from the Air Defence division of the Defence Staff ‘the ghost bomb’ has not yet been found... Rumours on Sunday that it had been recovered are completely unfounded." (12)
Finally, in mid-August, the stream of speculations ended in question marks:
"The investigations of a claimed projectile crash site has[have] now been suspended without results. Except for electrical mine searches, geological ore detectors have been used. In all spots where the instruments have reacted to metal, further searches were made with trawls, electrical sounding, and the mud was even sifted. Drainage of the lake will not be attempted." (13)
And so ended the search, which the Chief of the Swedish Air Defence, Nils Ahlgren, labeled "the safest indication of a crash"(14), in nothing. But behind the newswires there was more to the story...
The military investigation of the small Norrbotten Lake was not to go about undisturbed. After a few days a sentinel discovered a couple of mysterious persons sneaking about in the woods near the crash point. They were spotted several times and finally Lieutenant Bartoll ordered live ammunition in the weapons.
- Finally, we dared not use our phones to report to headquarters in Boden, but sent our reports by an orderly-man. In the end someone even cut off the telephone lines with cutting nippers (maybe the "lightning storm" refered (sic) to by Dagens Nyheter on July 29?).
The two mysterious men kept hidden and no spies were ever caught. (6) Immediately after the first newswire report from the Swedish news agency, the Defence Staff appealed to the newspapers not to print the exact name of the lake and instead use "southeastern Norrbotten" in their reporting. (15) Obviously this was too late since many papers had already published the lake's name. This limited censorship was then genereally (sic) imposed and place names disappeared in most ghost rocket reports after July 20.
Lieutenant Bartoll was transferred (sic) when the Kölmjärv search was called off to Gällivare where a few people in a summer cottage had seen an object fall into a lake.
- Their sighting was almost identical to Knut Lindbäck's, but that lake was too deep and we could not accomplish any search, says Bartoll.
- There are many indications that the Kölmjärv object disintegrated itself, he continues. First of all, Lindbäck saw a second cascade of water after the first impact and, secondly, an old lady living in a cottage near the crash site reported she had heard a muffled thunder-clap. The object was probably manufactured in a light-weight material, possibly a kind of magnesium alloy that would disintregrate (sic) easily and not give any indications on our instruments.
What is your opinion then, what did people see this summer . . . ?
- There was definitely no psychosis, says Bartoll. What people saw were real, physical objects. My personal theory is that they were German, or Russian, test weapons launched by the Russians from one of the Baltic States. We who worked in the field never knew what it was all about since the Defence Staff never released their results to the local level. Similar searches were simultaneously made in five or six other Swedish lakes, but there were no remains found in any of the cases. (6)
This reference: Clas Svahn and Anders Liljegren, “The Kölmjärv Ghost Rocket Crash Revisited,” AFU Newsletter 27, pp. 1-5. AFU’s website: <http://www.afu.info/>http://www.afu.info/
Notes & references:
(01). Liljegren, Anders: Spökraketerna 1946 - nyhets-byråmaterialet. AFU, 1977, 36 pp. A compilation of 154 newswire telegrams distributed by the Swedish news agency TT, Tidningarnas Telegram-byrå. Official summaries on the wave are found in newswires nr 74 and 154.
(02). Svahn, Clas: Gåtan Kölmjärv - vad döljer sig under ytan? Norrbottens-Kuriren, May 26, 1984.
(03). TT newswire telegrams nr. 38, 40, 42 and 44 (see Liljegren, reference 1).
(04). Dagens Nyheter, July 21, 1946.
(05). Telephone interview, June 13, 1984.
(06). Svahn, Clas: Utredningen saboterades! Norrbottens-Kuriren, May 26, 1984.
(07). Svenska Dagbladet, July 21, 1946.
(08). Svenska Dagbladet, July 22, 1946.
(09). Östergötlands Folkblad, July 22, 1946.
(10). Dagens Nyheter, July 22, 1946.
(11). Dagens Nyheter, July 29, 1946.
(12). TT newswire telegram nr 59, July 29, 1946.
(13). TT nr 114, Aug. 15, 1946.
(14). Svenska Dagbladet, Aug. 7, 1946.
(15). TT nr 44, July 20, 1946.
UFOCAT PRN 111105 [DOS: 07-EE-1946]
UFOCAT URN 111105 Karl Rehn, news clip
UFOCAT PRN 130533 [DOS: 07-19-1946]
UFOCAT URN 130533 AFU Sweden (Archives for UFO Research Sweden & Scandinavia),
newsletter # 027
UFOCAT URN 138394 Andre Liljegren, Case #044
UFOCAT URN 138546 AFU Sweden (Archives for UFO Research Sweden & Scandinavia),
# G066 (news clip)
UFOCAT URN 174317 *U* UFO Computer Database by Larry Hatch, # XXXXXX, © 2002
Europe Sweden, Norrbotten
Överkalix Latitude 66-19-00 N, Longitude 22-49-60 E (D-M-S)
Boden Latitude 65-49-60 N, Longitude 21-41-60 E
Arboga Latitude 59-23-60 N, Longitude 15-49-60 E
Kalix Latitude 65-50-60 N, Longitude 23-07-60 E
NOTE: - I was unable to get the coordinates for either lake most unusual CF-
Kölmjärv Latitude 66-22-00 N, Longitude 22-18-00 E (D-M-S) [PPL]
Norrbotten Latitude 65-45-00 N, Longitude 23-00-00 E [RGN]
UFO Location (UFOCAT) Latitude 66.32 N, Longitude 22.90 E (D.%) [URN 130533 & 174317]
Latitude 66.30 N, Longitude 22.82 E (D.%) [URN 13834 & 138546]