The Norwood Searchlight Incident
August 19, 1949


Scenes from Norwood Searchlight incident. On left is Sgt. Donald Berger and the 8 million candlepower searchlight which he was operating when he discovered the "space platform". Photo courtesy Cincinnati Post. On right is one of a series of photos showing the searchlight beam illuminating the object which was computed to be 10,000 feet in diameter.

Leonard H. Stringfield
If we were to use another exemplary case in which photographs, including movies, play a prominent part, not only as evidence but again illustrating a possible legerdemain, I would cite the Norwood searchlight incident. 

But as the facts stand, this one case is exemplary in more ways than photography. To me, it is one of the best cases on civilian record in regards to testimonial evidence, that is, if we accept as evidence certain scientific statements and evaluations, plus thousands of witnesses, including members of the Catholic clergy, the press and the military. 

The incident begins August 19, 1949, during a carnival on the grounds of the St. Peter and Paul Church in Norwood, Ohio, a city of 35,000 population "within" the city of Cincinnati. For such occasions, Reverend Gregory Miller, pastor of the church had purchased from army surplus, an 8 million candle power searchlight. Borrowed to operate it was Sergeant Donald R. Berger of ROTC of the University of Cincinnati. It was during the height of festivities when Sgt. Berger's sweeping searchlight suddenly flashed across a stationary circular object in the sky. Rev. Miller was called to the scene, later others joined in. That was the beginning. From that date until March 10, 1950, when the object was last seen, Sgt. Berger, who thought he had picked up a "space platform", began logging the events, which follows: 

August 19, 1949. Place: St. Peter and Paul Church, Norwood, Ohio. 2015 to 2300 hours. While operating for festival, picked up object at 1585 mils elevation. The object was stationary, appearing as glowing disc. When I moved the searchlight away the disc continued to glow. Estimated range: 4 or 5 miles. The sky was clear with thin haze at high altitude. I took no action, but next day articles appeared in two local papers re object. 

Sept. 11, 1949. Place: St. Gertrude Church, Madeira, Ohio. 1915 to 2315 hours. 

Picked up object at 15,000 to 20,000 ft. at 1620 mils elevation. The object disappeared within a few seconds, traveling straight up. I picked it up again at much greater altitude. Then, when I changed carbons I lost it again until 2115 hrs. As soon as it reappeared, I phoned Wright-Patterson Field. The sky was clear with no visible clouds or haze. Several thousand people also saw object. 

Sept. 17, 1949. Place: Milford, Ohio. 1900 to 2000 hours. Testing the searchlight about dusk, I had it set at 1600 mils. I could see an object which looked like a white glow. When I turned the light off, I could see nothing. I did this several times. As soon as it became dark I turned on the light at same elevation and caught object in the beam. 

Oct. 23, 1949. Place: St. Peter and Paul, Norwood. 1915 to 2245 hours. I turned on the light and picked up object at 1600 mils. Among those present were William Winkler, Father Gregory Miller, Robert Linn (Managing Editor, Cincinnati Post) and Leo Hirtl (Post reporter). Reverend Miller and Linn phoned Wright-Patterson and reported object to Intelligence Officer. About 2200 hours, two distinct groups of triangular-shaped objects seemed to come out of the main disc. Each group had about five objects. They came down the beam then turned out of the beam. The same performance was repeated about half hour later. The disc was still visible when I turned out the light for the night. 

Oct. 24, 1949. Place: St. Peter and Paul. 1915 to 2100 hours. Set light at 1600 mils. The object appeared immediately in the beam. ATIC agent and Lou Gerhart with me at the time. Held object in beam for about half hour until covered by clouds. 

Nov. 19, 1949. Place: Norwood, Ohio. 1830 to 2245 hrs. At 1915 hours the beam of the light flashed on the object. Guiding the light back on the object, it then disappeared immediately. About a minute later I picked it up again much higher. The elevation was between 1605 and 1610 mils. Many witnesses, including William Winkler. Sky was covered with low broken clouds. At time objects appeared much brighter. 

Dec. 20, 1949. Place: Norwood, Ohio. 2015 to 2200 hours. Turned light on at 2015 and picked up object immediately. At first it was faint and small. As haze cleared, object brightened. At 2130 it got much brighter and spread out almost as large as beam, then disappeared. Present were D. A. Wells (Un. of Cincinnati physicist), Dr. Paul Herget (Un. of Cincinnati astronomer), two OSI members52, Father Miller, the mayor of Norwood (K. Ed Tepe) and Reginald Myers. 

Jan. 11, 1950. Place: Norwood, Ohio. 1930 to 2115 hrs. Turned on light, but didn't find object until about 1945 hours when haze blew away. Observed it for about 15 minutes, very clearly, then it dimmed. It was called to my attention that some smaller objects were passing through the beam. I saw at least two objects several times. Also present were William Winkler and M/Sgt. K. Ekleberry, M/Sgt. John Savage and Sgt. W. Pflueger of the Air National Guard. 

March 9,1950. Place: Norwood, Ohio. 2000 to 2200 hours. About 2000 I picked up object with the light. About 2045 hrs. two small objects came out of the disc and it looked as if the disc was pushed out of the beam. In about ten minutes, the disc moved back into the beam. The sky was clear. Eleven people were present. 

March 10, 1950. Place: Norwood, Ohio. 1900 to 2300 hours. Caught object in beam at 1600 mils. At 1945 hours the object moved up and across the beam and disappeared. Half hour later, object reappeared in beam in same position. Object stayed in beam until I turned light off for the night. Present were Father Miller, Capt. Wilks, K. Myers, Wm. Winkler and others. Capt. Wilks phoned Wright-Patterson Field. Capt. Wilks watched the object with glasses while I moved the light. 

Had I awakened several months earlier in 1950 from my great oblivion, I might have been lucky to glimpse the searchlight-illumined object but as fate had it, it was not until 1952, while appearing as a guest on a special "saucer" program on WCPO-TV, that I got a proper perspective into the case. Among the program's participants, which included local saucer sighters, was Rev. Gregory Miller who reviewed Sgt. Berger's log and described his own observations. Also present was Harry Mayo, City Editor of the Cincinnati Post, who wasn't talking because of laryngitis, and Leo Hirtl, a Post columnist, who honked skeptically at saucers because he thought that the small objects seen on the eventful night of October 23 were "geese". Tempers flaring, Rev. Miller reminded Hirtl that geese do not have tail lights, and I, not to be outdone, put in my interplanetary two cents worth. After the program, and with the cast once again becalmed, Rev. Miller called me aside. From his side pocket, he handed me several photographs. "They'll show you the object in the searchlight beam", he said, "-If you and your wife have time I'd like to show some movies..." 

Needless to say, I accepted Rev. Miller's offer with enthusiasm and with the least of persuasion he got the studio's attendants to run the reel in the projection room. While Rev. Miller commented freely, Dell and I watched the screen in amazement as the giant stationary disc appeared, glowing intensely in the sweeps of searchlight's beam. 

Cameraman for the movie, on request of Rev. Miller, was Sgt. Leo Davidson of the Norwood Police Department. Filming most of it on October 23, he used three rolls, 25 feet each and a Hugo-Meyer F-19-3" camera with telephoto lens. Commenting on the smaller objects, Davidson said, "they were visibly the size of pinheads but they didn't have the intensity to register clearly on the film". He pointed out, however, that to the naked eye, he and all others present saw two groups of five small objects leaving the parent object, each, with halos, brighter than the searchlight beam. Said Davidson, we watched each group fade out of view". 

Davidson also took ten "still" photographs using a Speed-Graphic camera with a 14 inch Wallensach telephoto lens. Two of these were exceptional shots, said Davidson, showing both the parent object and its brood. 

But, the two prize shots had a mysterious fate. Last to see them was Harry Mayo, who, as a correspondent for Time-Life, had prepared a feature story for Time, which included the two photos. But Mayo's story and Miller's photos were not used in Time or Life and in spite of requests by Rev. Miller of Mayo and his publishers, the photos were never returned. 

In 1955, I received permission from Rev. Miller to try to reclaim this film. Suspecting Time-Life of consorting with the Air Force, as had been suggested in the case of the Tremonton film, I wrote to Captain R. C. White of OPI, in Washington. His reply of May 20, 1955 denied that the Air Force had ever received the two photos. Said White, in part, ". . . we have made a thorough check of our files and they are not in our possession. Moreover, we have made a check of our correspondence as well as our photographic fi1e53 and can find no reference to such photographs, either by name or by location. As I pointed out in our telephone conversation, the chances are that these photographs went no farther than to the magazine." 

Long before cameras entered the Norwood scene, lending substantiation to the big object, the press on the very first night of the series of events, found supporting evidence. Said the Post, August 20, 1949, "Balls of fire hung over Cincinnati during the night. . . A Weather Bureau official said, 'One of our men who was working last night saw them. He said they looked like two weather ceiling balloons but they weren't moving. There was a wind of 25 to 32 miles an hour, so if they'd been balloons they would have moved'. Another witness saw 'two balls of fire' about 4 a.m. 'They seemed to grow dim, and then get bright again,' he said." 

The most eventful night, according to Berger's log and according to the testimony of others was October 23, 1949. Again the point of observation was the church grounds, this time about 50 persons witnessing the phenomenon. Using a telescope, William Winkler, a businessman, said he observed one of the two groups of five smaller objects leave the parent object describing them as "triangular". Rev. Miller and his brother, Rev. Cletus Miller, agreed they were shaped "like the apex of Indian arrow heads". When I interviewed Robert Linn, Managing Editor of the Post, he admitted that he saw the searchlight beam "bounce off some definite object" but said the smaller objects were "something like bits of paper". However, Linn was concerned enough to join Rev. Miller in reporting the incident to Intelligence at Wright-Patterson AFB. From another source I learned that the Cincinnati Enquirer was called about the Norwood object and while they did not publish the story of the night's activities, they did admit receiving reports of unidentified lights in the sky - and beyond the vicinity of Norwood! 

While no one among the thousands of Cincinnatians, including the experts, who saw the object, could guess its identity, Harry Mayo of the Post wrote a feature article April 6, 1950 under the headline, "What Glows on Here? Norwood Muses". At the close of the article, Mayo wrote, "Dr. D. A. Wells, professor of physics at the University of Cincinnati, and Paul Herget, U.C. professor of astronomy, took a look. Said Dr. Wells: 'In my opinion its an optical illusion'. Said Prof. Herget, 'It's not a fake. I believe it may be caused by the illumination of gas in the atmosphere. We need an explanation to squash people's fears.'" 

But as I have since learned, Herget's words, "We need an explanation to squash people's fears' were closer to the truth than his guess about the gas. While I cannot publish Herget's exclamation while he viewed the object on December 20, 1949 because of a confidence entrusted me, I can say that Herget's reactions and utterances indicated anything but indifference. Nor can I publish, for the same confidence, the actions and behind-scenes maneuvers of Dr. Wells which are veritable guideposts pointing to and confirming some of my conclusions toward saucer secrecy. I can say, however, that Dr. Wells, was there with camera and protractors and was in frequent hush-hush huddles with two 0SI members also present. Computations of the object's size were made and then confirmed by Dr. Wells. Like something out of Gulliver's Travels, the size was approximated to be 10,000 feet in diameter.

The Mayor of Norwood, R. Ed Tepe, now deceased, told me during an interview in 1954 that he also was present during the computing and heard Dr. Wells confirm the object's approximate size. Tepe, who gave me a clear-cut unbiased report of his observations, firmly believed that the object was a solid round body. "It had ridges or ribbing" he said, "which were very discernible". Tepe also said that "when the searchlight beam moved away, the target was lost". 

And so concludes, in brief, the story of the Norwood searchlight incident and of Sgt Berger's speculative 'space platform". Perhaps Berger's guess is right which leaves only one remaining question, who put it there, we or they? 

On this question, opinion is divided - of course. If the computers were correct in their estimating the size of the object at 10,000 feet in diameter, then I believe, by sheer logic, that it was "they". Certainly something of this tremendous size, harboring at least five or ten smaller craft, would have to land somewhere. And another point: Air Force interceptors were secretly sent up to investigate. If then, the satellite-sized object were a U.S.A. device, as suggested, why bother to investigate when Intelligence at Wright-Patterson AFB, would have already known of its secret rendezvous in the restricted and vulnerable Cincinnati-Dayton area? 

52 According to Rev. Miller, their names were suspiciously alike, one Eichleberger and the other Eichlebarger. In discussing this, we agreed the similarity seemed more than just coincidence.

53 What other legitimate photos lie in this file?

Source: Inside Saucer Post ...3-0 Blue, 73