The Harmon Field Photo Case
10 July 1947
You can find official references to the Harmon Field sighting and the "sky cleavage" photographs at the PROJECT 1947 website in:
U.S. Air Intelligence Report No. 100-203-79, "ANALYSIS OF
FLYING OBJECT INCIDENTS IN THE U.S."
g. On 10 July 1947, Mr. Woodruff, a Pan-American Airways mechanic reported a circular object flying at high velocity, paralleling the earth's surface and leaving a trail which appeared as a "burning up" of the cloud formation. The sighting occurred near Harmon Field, Newfoundland. Two other persons also saw the trail which remained in the sky for about an hour and was photographed by another PAA employee. The resulting photographs support Mr. Woodruff's observation as far as the sky cleavage is concerned. (See Figs, 5 and 6.)
A detailed account, taken from the Alfred Loedding & the Greatest Flying Saucer Wave of 1947 , by Michael D. Hall & Wendy A. Connors:
Another report came from Newfoundland on the 10th from two Pan American Airways mechanics near Harmon Field, AAFB, Stephenville Cross. At 5:30 P.M. ADT they (and a third man) were driving up a mountain road six miles south-southwest of the base when all three of them, J.N. Mehrman, A.R. Leidy, and J.E. Woodruff, observed a silver circular disc at about 10,000 feet. It passed in horizontal flight along a great curved course. The disc's size, they stated, approximated the wingspan of a C-54 transport aircraft and looked to be cutting a bluish-black trail about fifteen miles long as it literally parted a path through the clouds over Harmon.
The trail passed over the base and out toward the north-northeast---being compared to the afterglow of a powerful searchlight when suddenly switched off. Weather records confirmed scattered clouds between 8,000 to 10,000 feet which supported the original altitude estimate.
Some personnel of the 1388th at Harmon Field also saw this great cut made in the clouds and acquired two Kodachrome pictures taken by one of the mechanics who first witnessed the event. Today copies of these images are in the Blue Book files and although very poor reproduction, they show the spectacular aerial trail. Above is the best of those two photos. (24)
Known as the Harmon Field Case, this incident received the first intensive investigation by Army Air Force Intelligence. The sighting became especially relevant to Intelligence officials both at Wright Field and the Pentagon because of the concern of a Soviet connection to the saucer mystery. The reasoning basically followed the assumption that if the USSR was flying spy flights over the United States, the missions would logically have to pass over some area of Canada or the far north. For that reason the sighting just twelve hours earlier in Newfoundland coupled with this one, and a disc report out of Alaska the very next day, stiffed up a lot of excitement. (25)
The initial report was filed by base intelligence officers on the 16th, but by the 21st a more detailed report was forwarded to the Pentagon. General Schulgen then ordered intelligence at Wright Field in Dayton to send a top- level assessment team to Harmon Field "immediately." (26)
The T-2 chief, Colonel Howard M. McCoy, dispatched a team by the 30th that may have included T-3 (engineer section) specialist Alfred Loedding. McCoy's team was also asked by Schulgen to report directly to the Pentagon following their investigation. Interestingly, at that time, Schulgen also asked McCoy what the T-2 analysis and the T-3 engineering sections had prepared" to date on the disc phenomenon. McCoy's notes do not tell us if Analysis Division Chief Colonel William R. Clingerman had any answers or if the T-3 section at Wright Labs had compiled any analysis. McCoy himself was working on the German/Soviet technology angle. He, in fact, had even interviewed the famous successor to Count Zeppelin's dirigible empire, Hugo Eckener. Eckener was then in America consulting with the Goodyear company to try to revive the era of the great airships following WWII. (27)
The T-2 investigation of the Harmon Field Case really shook up their own aeronautical engineers in the T-3 section. Part of the report had the ring of Alfred Loedding's expertise and read as follows:
The bluish-black trail seems to indicate ordinary combustion from a turbo-jet engine, athodyd motor, or some combination of these types of power plants. The absence of noise and apparent dissolving of the clouds to form a clear path indicates a relatively large mass flow of a rectangular cross section containing a considerable amount of heat (28)
The T-2 team excluded a meteor or fireball scenario in their own minds despite the fact that an astronomical event became the official conclusion on the case file. Behind the scenes, T-2 and Washington were still focused on a Soviet connection. Wright Field investigators spoke with the commander of Harmon Field and others to make sure that no British or Canadian aircraft had been in the area at the time. And since they knew no American aircraft were to blame, they privately concluded something of "foreign origin" made that curious split in the clouds over Newfoundland.
24 Project Blue Book Files, Roll No.1, Case 59, listed as Incidents 26-27 in 1947 era documents.
25 Gross, UFOs: A History 1947, pp.44-45; and Project Blue Book Files, Roll No.2, Case 63, listed as Incident 41 in 1947 era documents.
26 Michael D. Swords, "Project Sign and The Estimate of the Situation." first draft of unpublished article written for 1998 issue of Journal Of UFO Studies. 27 Ibid.
28 Project Blue Book Files, Roll No.2, Case 60, listed as Incident 27a in 1947 era documents.