Letter from Gordon David
Thayer to Martin Shough
15 July 1987
Yes, I received both your 4-4-87 letter and your letter of 6 June. I have - as you correctly surmised - been "up to my armpits in alligators." I am taking the time now to dash off a brief note to you between jobs, so to speak.
The information you reported to me in your most recent letter is indeed most interesting. Please keep me informed to the extent that you feel free to do so. I assure you that I mil most certainly keep this information strictly confidential. I, too, am wary of what the intelligence community might do, and not just in this instance. I regard them somewhat the way one might regard an insane asylum in which the inmates were equipped with submachine guns and hand grenades. As you know, I once proposed to Klass that the CIA (together with, presumably, your intelligence people) might have hushed up the Lakenheath incident in order to better protect their cover stories relating to the presence of at least one U-2 aircraft at that field. The little newspaper clipping that I sent you with my previous letter is also apropos this point - perhaps you missed the significance of that clipping (it would be my fault for not having pointed it out). The incident involving the nuclear warhead occurred just a few weeks prior to the Lakenheath UFO incident. The article states that the British government had been "plunged into the 1956 Suez Canal crisis only the day before." This dates the incident at 27 July 1956, since Nasser's announcement nationalizing the canal was made on 26 July. Our UFO incident occurred, therefore, less than three weeks later. The presence of nuclear warheads at Lakenheath at the time makes it even more likely that the intelligence spooks would have overreacted. As I told Phil, I smell a cover-up. The CIA detests having the "lowly" intelligence people of the armed services becoming overly privy to their precious secrets and covert activities.
As to the controversy about the Bentwaterss fast-tracks, I'm afraid there is not much that can be said about it with any certainty. I am not convinced by your interpretation any more than you are by mine. By the way, I do not believe that my conjecture (and that's all it is) is necessarily what did happen. I only say that it is a distinct possibility that this is the case. I believe the fact that you and I are able to put together what are, to ourselves at least, sufficiently plausible explanations of the Bentwaters events but which are, nevertheless, totally at odds with each other, is evidence of the sad state of the extent of our real knowledge of what happened there on that particular night. Unfortunately, the official reports do as much to muddy the waters as they do to clear them.
In defense of my own conjecture, all I can say is that I have examined many such reports from Air Force sources, and such a confusion of sightings as I have postulated not only occurs but is actually the rule rather than the exception. This is why I seem so ready to accept seemingly disparate testimony as representing one and the same event. In a number of other reports in which this kind of confusion occurred, we had independent corroboration of the events that exposed the confusion for what it was. Unfortunately, with respect to the Bentwaters events and their correlation with the Lakenheath reports, we have no such corroboration, and I fear we never shall.
We do, however, have at least a few concrete examples of this sort of confusion that can be documented directly from the official USAF reports on the Bentwaters (& Lakenheath) incidents. I have copies of both Air Intelligence Information Report IR-1-56 (the number indicates that this was the first such report for the year 1956 filed in that region) and what the USAF called "Extract A" of that report. I also have the Project 10073 Record Card, which is, so to speak, the "master" record of the Bentwaters-Lakenheath UFO episode. The Project 10073 Record Card unfortunately adds nothing to our understanding of this case. Extract "A" of Report IR-1-56, however, yields some interesting results upon close perusal. The summary paragraph of this report details the tracks of two fast track UFOBs (as well as the group tracked by Whenry). These tracks are stated to have been;
(1) from "approximately 55 miles SE of Bentwaters to
approximately I5 miles NW of Bentwaters at a speed estimated at
more than 4000 miles an hour."
(2) from "approximately 30 miles E. of Bentwaters flying a westerly course to about 30 miles west of Bentwaters . . . ."
In the body of the report we find the following details of these fast tracks, the same as those contained in IR-1-56 itself:
(1) from Whenry's report:; "...object was tracked on the
radar screen for approximately 16 seconds. Course of the object
being tracked was from about 30 miles east of Bentwaters to
approximately 25 miles west of this station." Note that this
already conflicts with the data given in the summary paragraph
above! Whenry's report further adds that "speed of this
object was estimated to be in excess of 4000 miles per hour."
(2) from Vaccare's report: "...object was picked up at an estimated 25 to 30 miles east south-east of Bentwaters and flew a constant course of 295 degrees to the vanishing point on the scope, which was 15 to 20 miles west north-west of Bentwaters . . . Vaccare estimated the speed of this object to be in the vicinity of 4000 miles an hour."
Now we already have four different UFOs if we are to take the data exactly as reported! The summary report says that the UFO tracked "at more than 4000 miles per hour" was travelling SE to NW. In the body of the report the UFO going "in excess of" 4000 mph is Whenry's, which moved E to W, not SE to NW. Furthermore, Whenry stated that the disappearance point was 25 miles west of the station, not 30 miles west as stated in the summary paragraph. Vaccare's UFO (presumably) is stated as moving SE to NW when Vaccare in fact stated that it moved ESE to WNW - discrepancy of 15 degrees. Furthermore, Vaccare did not say it moved from 25 miles SE to 15 miles NW of station, he stated 25 to 30 miles ESE to 15 to 20 miles WNW. None of the data agree! And this is within the body of a single, presumably coherent report prepared by one person from data that he had sitting right in front of him, and which he could re-read any time he felt unsure of himself. And still he botched it up royally! I think you can begin to see by now why I don't place much stock in the reported differences between the two fast tracks. Furthermore, as to the difference in vanishing modes between the two tracks, consider the actual statements made by the two men: Whenry: "All returns appeared normal . . . except for the last return, which seemed slightly weaker than the rest." Vaccare: "The blip diminished in size and intensity to the vanishing point before crossing the entire screen." I find nothing disparate between these two statements. Vaccare does not even imply that the blip diminished in anything like a monotonic manner while crossing the scope, merely that it diminished to the vanishing point before it had gotten completely across the screen. Whenry says precisely the same thing: there was one weaker blip and then the thing was gone, as if it had moved out of the radiation pattern of the antenna. In other words, it "diminished to the vanishing point before crossing the entire radar screen." Again, I see no conflict in these testimonies.
The TWX messages from Lakenheath (IDO-7335 and BOI-485) give the fast track as moving from "thirty miles east of the station . . . disappeared 30 miles west of station on scope." This agrees perfectly with (1) from the summary paragraph (and, indeed, may be the source of those numbers). The direction of movement is, in fact, identical to what Whenry reported - east to west. The only discrepancy - if you can even call it that in view of all the confusion going 'round among these various reporters--is between the 30 miles west of the TWX UFO reports and Whenry's 25 miles west as given in the body of IR-1-56. In view of all this I think you should at least be able to see why I (as well as Phil Klass - bless his pointy little head! - and Brad Sparks - whose opinion I value highly) believe that these three reports may, in fact, represent one and the same object. Notice that I wrote "may"?
There are also further discrepancies in these reports,
Whenry's report states that the object was tracked for about 16
seconds - but that implies a speed of over I2000 mph, not 4000 (I
know, you believe that's a type) for 36, but even that comes out
5500 mph, so why didn't he say "more than 5000 mph"? -
the trouble with postulating typos is that one can get almost
anywhere with such a scheme). Vaccare stated that his blip was
followed for "approximately" (all these "approximately"s
bother me, too!) 30 seconds. Using the range of distances that
Vaccare gave as the starting and ending points for his blip
yields speed estimates anywhere from 4800 mph to 6000 mph. The
investigating officer wrote: "Vaccare added that some idea
of the speed of the object could be computed from the fact that
each time the GCA antenna completed a revolution the blip from
this object moved 4 to 5 miles on the radar screen. The GCA
antenna completes a revolution once every two seconds."
WRONG The antenna in fact rotated once every 4 seconds. Where did
Capt. Holt get that idea? Surely not from Vaccare! Wouldn't he
know his equipment better than that? The rotation rate of the
antenna is one of the most basic of data about a radar set (I was
a radar repairman while in the US Army in 1952-1954). Vaccare's
estimate of 4000 mph is, however, consistent with the 4 to 5 mile
movement every 4 seconds (giving 4000 to 4500 mph).
If my conjecture is correct, then Vaccare's is the more accurate of the two reports, refining the direction as ESE to WSN, but Whenry's is the one that was relayed to Lakenheath: E to Wl, with the 25 miles rounded off to 30 - perhaps the personnel there only remembered the "30" and forgot the "25." After all, in all this confusion a mere 5-mile discrepancy is hardly worth bothering about is it? - especially in view of all the "approximately "
As to the discrepancy between the 2155 and 2200 Z, it also is hardly worth bothering about. In the firstt place, Whenry stated ''about 2200." 2155 surely qualities as "about 2200" wouldn't you say? Besides, how do we know where the 2155 came from? For example, the caller from Bentwaters could have said "about 10 minutes ago" and the receiver at Lakenheath looks at his watch, notices that the time is about 2205 (perhaps it was actually 2206, for instance), and he notes the time of the sighting as 2155 based on simple arithmetic. I suppose there are about a million such hypotheses that could be made in this case. I think the only real bone of contention here is the one hour difference - that is, 2255 vs 2155. But who knows? In the excitement the receiver of the phone call could have forgotten to subtract the hour when working 10 minutes back from 2205 (in the event that my conjecture above is correct). There is plenty of time (gaps, that is) in Perkins' letter to account for an hour between the time this call was received and the time he began tracking the UFO. After all, the first call was not to Perkins, but to the 60th AAA at Lakenheath, and to Sculthorpe. It may have been some time before Lakenheath RATCC was notified.
It's too bad we'll never know who's right about this - at least, I don't think we ever will. I surely would love to know the answer!
As to the group echoes, your basic assumptions about "angels" are correct. In real life, however, things are seldom that simple. In the first place, this sort of echo tends to travel at a direction that is only approximately the same as the upper winds. There is almost always some component of wave motion involved that causes the echo, or group of echoes, to move at an angle with respect to the prevailing winds. (Note that ordinary atmospheric phenomena also exhibit such behavior. Thunderstorms often move at an angle to the wind direction, and groups of such storms almost always do so.) The difference of 35 degrees between the upper winds and Whenry's "approximate" direction of the echo movement is well within the normal pattern of such occurrences, at least in my experience. The reports of stationary episodes, sudden weakening of the echoes, or convergence of blips (caused by expansion of the individual echoes), are all well within the known behavior of radar angels. Also, the fruitless search for a source o-f these echoes in the T-33 jet trainer, a search which covered quite well the reported position of the echoes at the time, is a rather strong argument that whatever caused those echoes was not visible to the human eye. I would much prefer to suppose they were produced by atmospheric effects than by a covey of invisible UFOs!
I wrote earlier that the Project 10073 Record Card added nothing to our knowledge of this case. That is not quite true. It does show that the Bentwaters and Lakenheath reports were considered as a consolidated whole. At the top of the project card, under "Date-Time Group," the times 2120-2220 (13 Aug) and 0010-0330 (14 Aug) appear. The ATIC summary states:
"At first glance, the 2 messages (TT Msgs BOI-485, 16 Aug 56 and IDO-7335, 21 Aug 56) reporting this sighting may give the impression that observations, radar, ground and air, were simultaneous. A review of detailed report IR-1-56, dtd 31 Aug 56, indicates that, although the observations took place within the periods given, they cannot be considered as concurrent. This is confirmed by the original report BO-I485, which states that the radar sightings occurred at a later time than the ground sightings."
The conclusion here is faulty, since the statement in BOI-485 may mean merely that radar observations occurred at times when the ground sightings were no longer being reported. This summary does, however, show that the two reports were considered as a cohesive whole. There is absolutely no evidence in this summary report that there was ever any report from Bentwaters other than IR-I56. The hypothesis that Capt. Holt was directed to confine his attention to events at Bentwaters prior to 2200 is without foundation in this report.
In addition, I have in my files one more pertinent document. It has no identifying number or title (at least, not any more), but is evidently a memorandum of transmittal from a group called AFOIN-4E4 to (an evidently superior group) AFOIN-4EIthis is Project Bluebook, I believe. It is dated 7 Nov 56. The first paragraph of this document reads:
"1. Attached herewith is AIIR-1-56, England (Inclosure #1) containing pertinent information on the Lakenheath-Bentwaters sighting which was reported to this Center on 13 August 1956 with a request for immediate evaluation by Headquarters USAF. It is believed this report [IR-1-56] is in response to this Center's request for additional information (see Inclosure #2)."
"Inclosure" is US Army-ese for "enclosure." They insist on this usage. If you have ever been in the army (ANY army) I'm sure you discovered that there are three ways of doing anything - the right way, the wrong way, and the army's way. But at least we know who asked for the information that Capt. Holt gathered at Bentwaters. Unfortunately, in the list of "inclosures" at the bottom of this memo, #2 is carefully deleted, so that we do not know even the code title of the document making the request, nor the date of that document. It had to be between 14 Aug and 30 Aug, obviously. If we could only get hold of a copy of "Inclosure #2'''' we would at least find out what restraints, if any, were placed on Capt. Holt as regards his collection of additional information on the UFOs observed at Bentwaters that night.
The third paragraph of this document reads:
"3. Inasmuch as Headquarters USAF has expressed a desire for an expeditious evaluation of this UFO sighting (Inclosure #3), it is requested that this report be reviewed, together withhh the original data, for the purpose oi arriving at a more firm conclusion."
"Inclosure #3" is listed at the bottom as "TI T56-23446-1, 10 Oct 56 (S)." The "(S)" indicates that this document was classified Secret. Enough of the line originally specifying the contents of the 2nd enclosure remains to determine that it, too, was classified Secret. But why it was obliterated on the copy of the memorandum remains a mystery.
Now to answer your questions - to the extent I can, anyway. Your briefing hypothesis sounds good to me, and I do not have any particular objections to your proposed timetable, inasmuch as it addresses primarily the events at the Lakenheath RATCC and Neatishead. In fact, I think you have done a rather nice job of tying in Perkins account with the times reported by Freddie W. Also, I agree with you that Freddie is probably trying to "cover up" a lapse in memory with regards to the radio messages, etc.
. . . Well, for a short note I see that I have already written more than 5 pages worth, so I'd best sign off now. By the way, I would be very interested to see copies of your writings on this subject, which you mentioned previously. I'll get to some of your other questions the next time I write . . . .
P.S; I have enclosed some materials I copied for you,
including Brad Sparks carefully prepared transcript of BOI-485 (=IDO
7335) and his corrected copy of Perkins' original letter to the
Condon UFO Project, a copy of IR-1-56 (which I had to type out
myself using Extract "A" as a guide, as my copy of the
document itself is almost unreadable in places), and last but not
least, copies of the letters from Perkins and Wimbledon that you
asked about in your letter of 4 April. The cost of the copies is
negligible - you will notice that I had them double up front to
back wherever possible,which saves postage as well as copying
costs. Please don't worry about reimbursing me for the expense of
the copies - I'm sure it will cost you a bit to send me copies of