October 15, 1948
P-61 "Black Widow"
In the fall of 1948, Project Sign received a report from Kyushu, Japan, describing the encounter of an F-61 aircraft with from two to six unidentified flying objects. Intelligence reports from the Far East air forces indicated that the UFOs might have “carried radar warning equipment.” because the “object seemed cognizant of the whereabouts of the F-61 at all times.”
The sighting took place at about 11:05 P M. on October 15,
1948, some 50 miles northwest of Pukuoka, off the northwest coast of
Kyushu. A statement of January 28, 1949, by 2nd Lt. Barton Halter
of the 68th Fighter Squadron, who was radar operator of the P-61,
My present duties are Radar and Communications Maintenance Officer, and Radar Observer Night Fighter with the 68th Fighter Squadron, 347th Fighter Group (AW), APO 75. On 15 October 1948, my pilot and I started out on a routine mission off the northwest coast of Kyushu. When, at 2305 (11:O5 P.M.), we were approximately 5O males at 330° from Pukuoka, I picked up an airborne target. It showed up at a range of five miles dead ahead and slightly below us. We increased our speed to approximately 220 MPH and obtained an advantage of 20 MPH. The target showed no evasive action at first, and we thought that it was probably one of the fighter aircraft from our home field. As we closed in I noticed a slight change in azimuth and a rapid closure between us. Shortly thereafter, a matter of seconds, the target gave the indication of diving beneath us. We dived in an attempt to follow the target and before we could get squared away to follow, it had passed beneath us and was gone. I was notified by my pilot that we were diving at a rate of 3,500 feet a minute at 300 MPH. I had intended to ask the pilot to peel off after it split “S,” but it was gone too fast.
The next, or second, interception was from the rear of the target as was the first; however, the target added a burst of speed dead ahead and outdistanced us immediately. On the third interception, my plot called a visual at 60° portside. By the time I made the pickup it we at 45° port 3,000’ and 5° below. My pilot made a rapid starboard turn in an attempt to head off the target. By the time we got astern of it, it was off again in a burst of speed and disappeared between nine (9) and ten (10) miles.
On the fourth interception, the pilot called to me that we had been passed from above from the rear by our target. I picked up target as it went off my scope from five to ten miles dead ahead and slightly above. On the fifth and sixth interceptions, the target appeared at 9-plus miles doing approximately 200 MPH. We had as advantage of 20 MPH taking our IAS approximately 220 MPH, a safe high-speed cruise for F-61 type aircraft. We closed in to 12,000 feet, then, with a burst of speed the target pulled away to the outer limit of my set which is 10 miles for airborne targets. This took approximately 15 to 20 seconds.
In my opinion, we were shown a new type aircraft by some agency unknown to is. . . .
According to a Project Sign intelligence report, the pilot of the F-61 was able to make out a silhouette of the UFO (it was a clear moonlit night) and he described it as translucent with a very short body and stubby appearance. The object had clean-cut lines and no canopy was discernible. The entire six sightings lasted less than ten minutes with each individual sighting about a minute or so in duration. The UFO’s speed varied from between 200 MPH to 1,200 MPH.
An excerpted dispatch from Headquarters, 315th Air Division, to the Commanding General of the Fifth Air Force, of February 28, 1949, relative to this case, contained these interesting comments:
2. It is believed that the object was not lost from the scope due to the normal skip “null” zones common to all radar equipment. The pilot and observer feel that it was the high rate of speed of the object which enabled it to disappear so rapidly.
The pilot of the F-61, 1st Lt. Oliver Hemphill, Jr., had this to say:
I had an excellent silhouette of the target thrown against a very reflective undercast by a full moon. I realized at this time that it did not look like any type aircraft I was familiar with, so I immediately contacted my Ground Control Station and asked for information regarding any aircraft in the area.
The ground control radar reported no other aircraft and at no time could they pick up the UFO. Hemphill stated that he again caught “just a fleeting glance of the aircraft (UFO); just enough to know he had passed me,” on the fourth sighting.
Project Sign reviewed the Kyashu, Japan UFO case and ultimately classified it as “Unidentified.”
J. Allen Hynek,
(This web page was produced for the NICAP web site by Francis Ridge)