Date: Oct. 21, 2009
From: M. Van Arsdale
Subject: March 2, 1967; White Sands Missile Range, NM

Brief Chronological Summary

At 10:25 A. M. Robert English called Holloman AFB from Apache Summit (No. 1 on map).  He told Major Stephens the UFO officer at Holloman that he was seeing silvery specks passing overhead from North to South.

Major Stephens talked with Mr. English until 10:50 at which time he notified Mission Control to help identify UFO's over Mescalero. Two aircraft were sent up, but neither reported a sighting.

Range surveillance radar was requested to seek the objects. Since it was prior to the start of the range day only two radars were ! in operation. One is located at Holloman Mission Control and the other at Elephant Mountain near Orogrande, 35 miles south of Holloman.

At approximately 10:55 both radars plotted 4 objects 10 Nautical Miles (N. M.) ENE of Tularosa (No. 2 on map). These objects were flickering on and off and no lock was possible. Then a plot of 3 objects were reported over Mescalero by both radars (No. 3 on map). These were also intermittent.  In both cases the objects would appear on one sweep and then not be there on the next only to reappear on the next sweep. The operators were convinced, however, that "something" was there.

At 11:08 both radars plotted an object approximately 7 N. M. ESE •/. of Ruidoso (No. 4 on map);  The tracking radar locked on this object   ' which drifted eastward 3 or 4 miles in ten minutes at 25,000 ft. The two search radars were plotting it also. At 11:18 at point No. 5 on the map the object began moving south at a speed of Mach 1.2. ; .Elephant Mountain lost plot at this point.

At 11:20 an electronics technician, named Duane Bakke, located at .No. 6 on map, saw a saucer shaped object moving away from him disappear behind Alamo peak. At this time the radar was tracking due east   ... of where Mr. Bakke made his observation.

At 11:21  1/2 along the line of movement being tracked, two objects appeared intermittently on scopes of both radars (No. 7 on map). After this Elephant Mountain again lost plot.  Radar 109 continued to track clockwise.

At point nearly due south of Holloman lock was broken, the object seemed to climb rapidly to 80,000 ft. and increased speed to Mach 3.  The track plotted by R109 measured in radius approx. 37 N. M. and continued until lock was lost in the North when the object appeared to go out of range at 100,000 ft.  This occurred at 11:31%.

Presented above are just the events as they occurred in space and time, but there are several inconsistencies and problems related to these events which must be discussed before an evaluation of what happened on March 2 can be made.

Inconsistencies in Reported Data

I will discuss the problems of the data in chronological order.

The first difficulties we encounter are with the statements made by Robert English to Major Stephens. According to Major Stephens, Mr. English was sitting in a gas station by himself and spotted silvery objects coming out the North through a window. He went outside and could still see them coming intermittently overhead in groups of  2 or 3.  He watched them for some time and then went to tell the people in a nearby restaurant.  These people were very nonchalant about his observations and some came out, but no one could see the silvery specks in the sky.  For many this would rule out English's report, but it is a common fact that one person may see a distant airplane (silvery speck) and others can't locate it. And in fact, the other witnesses were not inclined to say that there was nothing there, but to merely state that they couldn't see them. They also didn't try to discount the possibility that English was seeing them.

The cook reported that he saw a large glowing object moving East.  This is 90° off from the objects seen by English and it is not clear how we should evaluate his report.

Mr. English had seen 30 to 40 specks when he called Major Stephens and he was still seeing them at 1:30 P. M. More field work in this area would be needed before we could say with any confidence what happened at Apache Summit on March 2.

It should be noted that, even though Mr. English's report has some peculiar aspects to it, two separate radars picked up objects in that area as soon as they looked.

There are, however, problems with the radar reports also.

The first issue which was raised concerned the possibility that when the radar operators were told to look for some objects the suggestion "caused" them to see objects where there weren't any. This theory is based on the false notion that "suggestion" is adequate to cause "hallucination".  This idea is easiest dealt with by pointing out that two separate radars reported the "same things". Also to assume that trained radar operators see things that aren't there because they are asked to look for a UFO raises greater problems that the UFO does.

There are some discrepancies between the written report issued on March 3 by Mission Control and the photograph of the plotting board taken on March 2.  I have plotted the objects on the map as they were on the photograph, but their positions as given in the written report are different.  The first plot of four objects are given as 10 N. M. ENE of Tularosa on the plotting board they appear between 15 and 20 N. M. ENE of Tularosa which puts them over Mescalero.  The second plot of 3 objects is given as over Mescalero, but on the photograph they are 10 to 15 N. M. East of there.  The report then states that, "at 11:08 both radars plotted a single object at 25,000 feet approximately 7 N. M. ESE of Ruidoso (5 to 10 N. M. North of previous plots).  This description agrees with the plotting board and the map in this report. However, if this object was 5 to 10 nautical miles north of the previous plots as described in the written report it would have been 7 N. M. WSW of Ruidoso. All this may seem to be nit picking, but these contradictions are peculiar and we encounter more as we look closer.

The radar operators and their superiors are willing to state that the plots of objects are confirmable (No.s 2,3,4,&7 on map). In other words, "there were some things there", even though they behaved in a peculiar way (ie. intermittent).  The gain on the radars was normal and both were plotting the same things.  But the tracking of the UFO around the range has been attributed to locking on noise with the resulting azimuthal track with a radius of 37 N. M,

The written report of March 3 states that the operator thought his equipment was malfunctioning.  It further states that an evaluation by AVCO, the company maintaining the radar for the Air Force, was convinced that a noise track had been plotted and that the moving track was invalid.  It was reported by AVCO officials that they felt that the object located at No. 4 on map was there and that its drift to the East was confirmed on both search radars but that it went out of range at point 5 on map and then any small imbalance in the servo motor mechanism would cause the track as described.  This explanation has problems however.

If the object being plotted at point 5 was at the effective range of the radar at Mission Control on Holloman AFB, why was the Elephant Mountain radar still plotting it from 35 miles further away? Also not explained are the two objects plotted at No. 7. These objects appeared on both search radars in the same area at the same time as the track of the "noise".  The coincidence of these objects with an "imbalance in a servo-motor" seems unlikely to say the least. Also the loss of lock south of Holloman, a rapid change in altitude and doubling of speed can't be explained by noise and is judiciously left out of the written report from AVCO.

It should also be noted that 15 Nautical Miles due west of where the radar was tracking at 11:20 a man reported seeing a saucer shaped UFO disappear behind a mountain..

Conclusions and Recommendations

It should be clear at this point that there was UFO activity    ^ over the mountains east of Alamogordo, New Mexico, on March 2, 1967, but it is equally clear that we don't know just what happened.  The approach to clarification which seems to be needed is one called convergent validation.  In order to unravel the events of March 2, more fieldwork would be required.  More data needs to be collected from various sources and assembled to form a coherent picture, For instance, an announcement on the radio produced only 6 people who volunteered information on sightings.  One of these was Duane Bakke whose observation seems to tie in with the other data, but not in a way that helps much.  Another man reported seeing a UFO over White Sands at 2:00 P. M. on March 2, but we can't get anything else on his observation.  One man took 3 pages of notes on the UFO's he saw March 2, but his boss forbade his talking to anyone. We don't t know if his observations will tie into any of the facts we have already.

It would also be possible to visit the area and hunt out reports, particularly the fire towers that lie along the track course and people in the area of Apache Summit.  People are reluctant to talk about what they have seen and personal contact is necessary and first-hand reports are needed.

There is another issue, however, which deals with whether the events of March 2 warrant such an investigation.  The decision to launch a "real" investigation of a sighting must be based on the probability of obtaining new information on the behavior of UFO's that would be commensurate with the effort involved in collecting it.

It would seem on the basis of the information that we already have in hand that the March 2 sightings would not yield any really new evidence that does not appear in numerous other reports.  A more complete investigation might produce new and fruitful information, but it seems more likely that more investigation would only tend to further confirm the validity of the phenomena.  It would seem that, despite the inconsistencies in our data, the double radar confirmation of UFO's on March 2, needs no further validation of the kind that merely attests to "something being there which can't be explained".

The importance of the March 2 sightings lies, then, not in the validation of UFO's over the area, but in facts like one man seeing silvery specks and others not, intermittent presentation on radar, speed and behavior exhibited by the tracking, and Bakke's description of a saucer shaped object like sand-blasted aluminum.  It would seem that intensive investigations should be made of sightings which would yield a large amount of data about behavior and appearance of UFO's and not merely an attempt to establish whether something was "really there".  

This analysis points to sightings which are low level or landings, observed by more than one person, and with possible instrument readings or photographs.  This describes the more bizarre sightings which the Air Force rejects which seldom get reported except locally. But it also agrees with Dr. Hynek's recommendations to study intensively the sightings with the highest strangeness values which also rate high in reliability.  The intensive study of "ordinary" sightings will tend to yield data which merely confirm the existence of UFO's, but doesn't tell us more about their behavior or appearance.

The problems that arise here concern the fact that the sightings which yield the best data on behavior and appearance are usually dismissed because of their strangeness, despite high reliability, and also people are reluctant because of this to discuss what they have seen.

It would seem that our investigative effort must proceed from two points of view, the open-minded and the personal. We must be willing to investigate the most outrageous sightings if the reliability is high enough and we must make personal direct contact with people to obtain first-hand reports and to assure them of our open-mindedness and commitment to scientific procedures.

Submitted March 24 by
M. Van Arsdale