September 24, 1959
When queried about the official explanation for this sighting, the Air Force replied: "The Portland Oregon UFO sighting of 24 September 1959 is carried on the records of ATIC as 'insufficient information.' The ATIC account of the sighting fails to reveal any evidence of radar tracking or any success of the attempted intercept. It is the ATIC opinion that this object was probably a balloon as evidenced by its relatively long period in the area (more than an hour), and the fact that, unless equipped with reflectors, balloons are not good radar reflectors. The average direction and strength of the wind at the time of the sighting was south at 15 knots [NICAP: The UFO reportedly moved south, where it showed on radar after the visual sighting had ended]." (Maj. Lawrence J. Tacker, USAF, Public information Division Office of Information, 1-19-60).
NICAP obtained wind data from the U.S. Weather Bureau showing steady winds from the southeast throughout the morning, from 3-7 knots, until nearly five hours after the sighting. No balloon had been launched locally at the time of the sighting, and even if one had been, it almost certainly would have traveled on a northerly course. Later, the Air Force dropped the balloon explanation.
After NICAP publicity on the case drew Congressional attention, the Air Force issued a much more detailed account (admitting that six jet interceptors had been scrambled, but denying that radar had tracked a UFO). Air Force letters to Members of Congress attributed the radar sighting to an error on the part of their Ground Control Intercept radar station. ''It was determined by the four senior controllers on duty during the period of the search that this radar return on the ground station scope was a radar echo from a gap filler antenna located on a mountain at the 8010-foot level. This radar return did not move during the entire period of the search. [NICAP: The FAA logs state, "Altitude has been measured on height finder at altitudes that vary from 6000 to 54,000 feet."] . . . The fact that this radar return did not move is in complete disagreement with ground observers who sighted the UFO visually. They all testified it maneuvered rapidly and at times hovered." (Col. Gordon B. Knight, Chief, Congressional Inquiry Division, Office of Legislative Liaison, to Senator Warren G. Magnuson, 4-27-60.)
On March 25, 1960, the Pentagon UFO spokesman had written to NICAP that ". . because of the information contained in the FAA logs, your correspondence and the copies of the logs have been forwarded to ATIC for possible additional consideration.
Based upon all the present data on this sighting, the finding of 'insufficient data' is definitely valid." As of CoL. Knight's April 27, 1960, letter to Senator Magnuson, the case still was classified as "insufficient data."
An Air Force information sheet circulated in 1963 attributes the UFO to ''the refraction of light from the planet Venus." (The sheet also accuses NICAP of ''exploitation" of the FAA logs which contradicted the Air Force story). NICAP astronomy advisors had already checked this possibility, and knew Venus was prominent in the eastern sky that morning. The witnesses were queried on this specific point and stated they did not see Venus during the UFO sighting, but did see it and identify it afterwards.
NICAP concedes that, if the radar target was perfectly stationary throughout, it was not the UFO observed visually. When trying to establish the balloon explanation, the Air Force emphasized the long period of observation (The FAA log indicates the visual sighting lasted about 10 minutes.) When dissociating the radar sighting from the visual sighting, the Air Force emphasized the high maneuverability of the UFO. Finally, the UFO which "maneuvered rapidly and at times hovered" has been explained as the planet Venus.
Source: The UFO Evidence (1964), page 113.