September 10, 1951
Fort Monmouth, New Jersey
Captain Edward J. Ruppelt:
All during the early summer of 1951 Lieutenant Cummings "fought the syndicate" trying to make the UFO respectable. At the time I was continuing to get my indoctrination. Then one day with the speed of a shotgun wedding, the long overdue respectability arrived. The date was September 12, 1951, and the exact time was 3:04 PM.
On this date and time a teletype machine at Wright-Patterson AFB began to chatter out a message. Thirty-six inches of paper rolled out of the machine before the operator ripped off the copy, stamped it Operational Immediate, and gave it to a special messenger to deliver to ATIC. Lieutenant Cummings got the message. The report was from the Army Signal Corps radar center at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and it was red-hot.
The incident had started two days before, on September 10, at 11:10 AM, when a student operator was giving a demonstration to a group of visiting brass at the radar school. He demonstrated the set under manual operation for a while, picking up local air traffic, then he announced that he would demonstrate automatic tracking, in which the set is put on a target and follows it without help from the operator. The set could track objects flying at jet speeds.
The operator spotted an object about 12,000 yards southeast of the station, flying low toward the north. He tried to switch the set to automatic tracking. He failed, tried again, failed again. He turned to his audience of VIPs, embarrassed.
"It's going too fast for the set," he said. "That means it's going faster thana jet!"
A lot of very important eyebrows lifted. What flies faster than a jet?
The object was in range for three minutes and the operator kept trying, without success, to get into automatic track. The target finally went off the scope, leaving the red-faced operator talking to himself.
The radar technicians at Fort Monmouth had checked the weather - there wasn't the slightest indication of an inversion layer.
Twenty-five minutes later the pilot of a T-33 jet trainer, carrying an Air Force major as passenger and flying at 20,000 feet over Point Pleasant, New Jersey, spotted a dull silver, disk-like object far below him. He described it as 30 to 50 feet in diameter and as descending toward Sandy Hook from an altitude from a mile or so. He banked the T-33 over started down after it. As he shot down, he reported, the object stopped its descent, hovered, then sped south, making a 120-degree turn, and vanished out to sea.
The Fort Monmouth Incident then switched back to the radar group. At 3:15 PM, they got an excited, almost frantic call from headquarters, to pick up a target high and to the north - which was where the first "faster-than-a-jet" object had vanished - and to pick it up in a hurry. They got a fix on it and reported that it was traveling slowly at 93,000 feet. They also could see it visually as a silver speck.
What flies 18 miles above the Earth?
The next morning two radar sets picked up another target that couldn't be tracked automatically. It would climb, level off, climb again, go into a dive. When it climbed it went almost straight up.
The two-day session ended that afternoon when the radar tracked another unidentified slow-moving object and tracked it for several minutes.
Edward J. Ruppelt, Captain
Later in Ruppelt's book, "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects", he stated that Lieutenant Henry Metscher, who was "helping him" on Project Grudge, had been "sorting out the many bits and pieces of information that Lieutenant Jerry Cummings and Lieutenant Colonel Rosengarten had brought back from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and he had the answers".
"The UFO that the student radar operator had assumed to be traveling at a terrific speed because he couldn't lock on to it turned out to be a 400-mile-an-hour conventional airplane. He had just gotten fouled up on his procedures for putting the radar set on automatic tracking. The sighting by the two officers in the T-33 jet fell apart when Metscher showed how they'd seen a balloon."
I never bought this answer in the very beginning, but wasn't sure how Ruppelt felt about Metscher's "explanations". Later, after Ruppelt passed away, some of his notes surfaced. On January 17th, 1998, I received a 6-page double-spaced set of Ruppelt's notes from Robert Swiatek, of the Fund for UFO Research that sheds some light on these "explanations". See "Update: Ruppelt Notes on Fort Monmouth Incident".