The Haneda AFB R/V Incident
Japan
August 5, 1952
F-94
C-54

Captain Edward J. Ruppelt:
By late August 1952 several groups in Washington were following the UFO situation very closely.
The sighting that had stirred everyone up came from Haneda AFB, now Tokyo International Airport, in Japan. Since the sighting came from outside the U.S., we couldn't go out and investigate it, but the intelligence officers in the Far East Air Force had done a good job, so we had the complete story of this startling account of an encounter with a UFO. Only a few minor questions had been unanswered, and a quick wire to FEAF brought back these missing data. Normally it took up to three months to get routine questions back and forth, but this time the exchange of wires took only a matter of  hours. 

Several months after the sighting I talked to one of the FEAF intelligence officers who had investigated it, and in his estimation it was one of the best to come out of the Far East. 

The first people to see the UFO were two control tower operators who were walking across the ramp at the air base heading toward the tower to start the midnight shift. They were about a half hour early so they weren't in any big hurry to get up into the tower - at least not until they saw a large brilliant light off to the northeast over Tokyo Bay. They stopped to look at the light for a few seconds thinking that it might be an exceptionally brilliant star, but both men had spent many lonely nights in a control tower when they had nothing to look at except stars and they had never seen anything like this bright before. Besides, the light was moving. The two men had lined it up with the corner of a hangar and could see that it was continually moving closer and drifting a little off to the right. 

In a minute they had run across the ramp, up the several hundred steps to the tower, and were looking at the light through 7x50 binoculars. Both of the men, and the two tower operators whom they were relieving, got a good look at the UFO. The light was circular in shape and had a constant brilliance. It appeared to be the upper portion of a large, round, dark shape which was about four times the diameter of the light itself. As they watched, the UFO moved in closer, or at least it appeared to be getting closer because it became more distinct. When it moved in, the men could see a second and a dimmer light on the lower edge of the dark, shadowy portion. 

In a few minutes the UFO had moved off to the east, getting dimmer and dimmer as it disappeared. The four tower men kept watching the eastern sky, and suddenly the light began to reappear. It stayed in sight a few seconds, was gone again, and then for the third time it came back, heading toward the air base. 

This time one of the tower operators picked up a microphone, called the pilot of a C-54 that was crossing Tokyo Bay, and asked if he could see the light. The pilot didn't see anything unusual. 

At 11:45 P.M., according to the logbook in the tower, one of the operators called a nearby radar site and asked if they had an unidentified target on their scopes. They did. 

The FEAF intelligence officers who investigated the sighting made a special effort to try to find out if the radar's unidentified target and the light were the same object. They deduced that they were since, when the tower operators and the radar operators compared notes over the telephone, the light and the radar target were in the same location and were moving in the same direction. 

For about five minutes the radar tracked the UFO as it cut back and forth across the central part of Tokyo Bay, sometimes traveling so slowly that it almost hovered and then speeding up to 300 miles an hour. All of this time the tower operators were watching the light through binoculars. Several times when the UFO approached the radar station - once it came within 10 miles - a radar operator went outside to find out if he could see the light but no one at the radar site ever saw it. Back at the air base the tower operators had called other people and they saw the light. Later on the tower man said that he had the distinct feeling that the light was highly directional, like a spotlight. 

Some of the people who were watching thought that the UFO might be a lighted balloon; so, for the sake of comparison, a lighted weather balloon was released. But the light on the balloon was much more "yellowish" than the UFO and in a matter of seconds it had traveled far enough away that the light was no longer visible. This gave the observers a chance to compare the size of the balloon and the size of the dark, shadowy part of the UFO. Had the UFO been 10 miles away it would have been 50 feet in diameter. 

Three minutes after midnight an F-94 scrambled from nearby Johnson AFB came into the area. The ground controller sent the F-94 south of Yokohama, up Tokyo Bay, and brought him in "behind" the UFO. The second that the ground controller had the F-94 pilot lined up and told him that he was in line for a radar run, the radar operator in the rear seat of the F-94 called out that he had a lock-on. His target was at 6,000 yards, 10 degrees to the right and 10 degrees below the F-94. The lock-on was held for ninety seconds as the ground controller watched both the UFO and the F-94 make a turn and come toward the ground radar site. Just as the target entered the "ground clutter" - the permanent and solid target near the radar station caused by the radar beam's striking the ground - the lock-on was broken. The target seemed to pull away swiftly from the jet interceptor. At almost this exact instant the tower operators reported that they had lost visual contact with the UFO. The tower called the F-94 and asked if they had seen anything visually during the chase - they hadn't. The F-94 crew stayed in the area ten or fifteen more minutes but couldn't see anything or pick up any more targets on their radar. 

Soon after the F-94 left the area, both the ground radar and the tower operators picked up the UFO again. In about two minutes radar called the tower to say that their target had just "broken into three pieces" and that the three "pieces," spaced about a quarter of a mile apart, were leaving the area, going northeast. Seconds later tower operators lost sight of the light. 

The FEAF intelligence officers had checked every possible angle but they could offer nothing to account for the sighting. 

There were lots of opinions, weather targets for example, but once again the chances of a weather target's being in exactly the same direction as a bright star and having the star appear to move with the false radar target aren't too likely - to say the least. And then the same type of thing had happened twice before inside of a month's time, once in California and once 
in Michigan. 

As one of the men at the briefing I gave said, "It's incredible, and I can't believe it, but those boys in FEAF are in a war - they're veterans - and by damn, I think they know what they're talking about when they say they've never seen anything like this before." 

I could go into a long discourse on the possible explanations for this sighting; I heard many, but in the end there would be only one positive answer - the UFO could not be identified as something we knew about. It could have been an interplanetary spaceship. Many people thought this was the answer and were all for sticking their necks out and establishing a category of conclusions for UFO reports and labeling it spacecraft. But the majority ruled, and a UFO remained an unidentified flying object. 

On my next trip to the Pentagon I spent the whole day talking to Major Dewey Fournet and two of his bosses, Colonel W. A. Adams and Colonel Weldon Smith, about the UFO subject in general. One of the things we talked about was a new approach to the UFO problem - that of trying to prove that the motion of a UFO as it flew through the air was intelligently 
controlled. 

I don't know who would get credit for originating the idea of trying to analyze the motion of the UFO's. It was one of those kinds of ideas that are passed around, with everyone adding a few modifications. We'd been talking about making a study of this idea for a long time, but we hadn't had many reports to work with; but now, with the mass of data that we had accumulated in June and July and August, the prospects of such a study looked promising. 

The basic aim of the study would be to learn whether the motion of the reported UFO's was random or ordered. Random motion is an unordered, helter-skelter motion very similar to a swarm of gnats or flies milling around. There is no apparent pattern or purpose to their flight paths. But take, for example, swallows flying around a chimney - they wheel, dart, and dip, but if you watch them closely, they have a definite pattern in their movements - an ordered motion. The definite pattern is intelligently controlled because they are catching bugs or getting in line to go down the chimney. 

By the fall of 1952 we had a considerable number of well documented reports in which the UFO's made a series of maneuvers. If we could prove that these maneuvers were not random, but ordered, it would be proof that the UFO's were things that were intelligently controlled. 

During our discussion Major Fournet brought up two reports in which the UFO seemed to know what it was doing and wasn't just aimlessly darting around. One of these was the recent sighting from Haneda AFB, Japan, and the other was the incident that happened on the night of July 29, when an F-94 attempted to intercept a UFO over eastern Michigan. In both cases radar had established the track of the UFO. 

In the Haneda Incident, according to the sketch of the UFO's track, each turn the UFO made was constant and the straight "legs" between the turns were about the same length. The sketch of the UFO's flight path as it moved back and forth over Tokyo Bay reminded me very much of the "crisscross" search patterns we used to fly during World War II when we were searching for the crew of a ditched airplane. The only time the UFO seriously deviated from this pattern was when the F-94 got on its tail. 

Captain Edward J. Ruppelt
Source: The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, page 187

 Haneda AFB Case Directory
NICAP Home