Letter from Gordon David
Thayer to Martin Shough
7 March 1987
Dear Mr. Shough,
I received your letter in good shape and have read and re-read it with great interest. Please pardon me for not having written back sooner; I have been busier than the proverbial one-armed paperhanger.
I would be most interested to know whether or not your continuing investigations into the Lakenheath case have uncovered anything significant.
I am not quite sure where to begin or what to send you. I have a voluminous file of reports and correspondence on this case, but I am unsure as to what parts of these materials you might already be in possession of. With the relatively high cost of overseas mail (even by surface, let alone by air) I am hesitant to send anything without knowing whether or not it would be of any use to you. Perhaps the best course of action would be for each of us to send the other some sort of listing of the materials in our possession. I am accordingly enclosing such a listing as an addendum to this letter. I am also enclosing a copy of an article I prepared in 1980 for publication in a magazine that Dr. Hynek was publishing at the time (it folded before the article could appear), titled "The Lakenheath UFO: What Was It?" In addition, I am enclosing a copy of a conjectural reconstruction of the entire Lakenheath-BentwatersSculthorpe-Neatishead incident that I made for Brad Sparks ca. 1981.
The business about the two fast track sightings at Bentwaters is one of the few things that Phil Klass and I have ever agreed about. I believe that all three of the fast track reports from Bentwaters are probably of one and the same object. I should be the first to admit, however, that this is still very much a conJectural point. I see no reason why the IR-1-56 report should have been confined to incidents prior to 2200 Z. It is normal USAF procedure to request a separate follow-up report on unusual incidents from each base that was involved in such an incident. A request was, in fact, made for such a follow-up report from Lakenheath, but there is no evidence that such a report was ever made (for various reasons, I suspect a hush-up job, probably instigated by either the CIA [a U-2 was stationed at Lakenheath] or SAC [there were nuclear bombs stored at Lakenheath]). In addition, it appears that no original UFOB report was submitted by Bentwaters, so that IR-1-56 was required to get those reports into the record at all. Verbal notification - and that is all that the reports given in IDO 7-3351 and BOI-485 were - given to personnel at Sculthorpe or Lakenheath by Bentwaters personnel would not have constituted a UFO report under the existing USAF regulations.
Concerning the two fast tracks reported from Bentwaters, the differences in the reports are very slight, Whenry seems to be adding an account of a UFOB tracked by someone else ("was tracked") whereas Vaccare said that "he tracked" the UFOB. Aside from the time (2130 vs. 2200) only the difference between E...W and ESE...WSW (15 degrees) and differences of 0 to 5 miles in the starting range and 5 to 10 miles in the ending range separate the two reports. The 2130 object is reported only by Vaccare; the 2200 object, by Whenry. If the two do indeed represent different objects, isn't it strange that neither Whenry nor Vaccare mentions another sighting? The third report - that is, the second-hand report relayed to Lakenheath - agrees with Whenry's description of the 2200 fast track except for the ending range, which is 5 miles greater. It does add what appear to be three significant items that are missing in the report from Bentwaters (IR-l-56): (1) the target disappeared "two miles east of station and [reappeared] three miles west of station" (2) Bentwaters tower personnel reported a bright object streaked over them at the same time, (3) the pilot of an aircraft reported a bright object streaked under his aircraft at the same time. The absence of the first of these three from IR-1-56 is easily understood. Any target at the reported altitude of the UFOB would have been expected to "disappear" while over the station because of the limitations of beam coverage by the GCA radar. Vaccare ought to have known that. It seems highly probable that he either realized it later or was reminded of it by a fellow radar operator, and subsequently omitted it from his report to the investigating officer as being irrelevant - which indeed it was. I am at a loss to explain why the second and third of these items should have been omitted from IR-1-56. But there are a lot of strange things about IR-1-58 (as well as almost all other UFOB reports on file!), not the least of which is why was the sweep rate of the Bentwaters GCA radar reported as "once every two seconds" when in fact it was once every four seconds? I'm afraid that this detail is typical of the way facts get garbled in USAF reports, even hard facts such as the sweep rate of a radar, let alone details about the behavior of UFOBs! By the way. Brad Spark's identification of the 2255 as being British Summer Time for 2155 (= approx. 2200) GMT rests heavily on whether or not BST was in effect at that time. I have never been able to verify that. Perhaps you might be able to shed some light on this matter?
Perkins supplied Stanton Friedman with a detailed listing of most of the air controllers and related personnel that were on duty at Lakenheath at the time of the incident. Friedman was going to try to locate some of these people, but the only one I know of that he located could not supply anything, I don't know if he ever came up with anything or not. I would suggest writing to him directly; if you don't have his address I can supply it. I know he would be more than glad to correspond with you about this case. As far as Klass goes, I don't know. The last I heard from him (1980) he had discovered that the sweep rate on the Lakenheath radar could be changed by simply adjusting a potentiometer located inside the equipment somewhere. This would account for the rather strange sweep rate reported by Perkins - it was as far as the potentiometer would go. I maintain that Perkins was remembering the change to MTI, and that the service personnel installing the MTI equipment made the sweep rate change while doing the main job they were there for. Klass seems to think this throws Perkins' whole account into doubt. I don't. It is the sort of detail that would be easy to forget over the years. Perkins' memory that the night shift came on duty while the UFO incident was under way, however, I do not think is the kind of thing that would be mis-remembered. I still think Perkins' account (as detailed in his 1968 and subsequent letters) is basically accurate.
As for the Venom pilot's radio conversations, note that Perkins states in his 1968 letter, "Then #1 switched frequencies to his home Base frequency." It is obvious from this that some frequency-switching was going on. At any rate, I find it impossible to assume that the USAF personnel made up all of those conversations out of whole cloth.
Yet, I still wonder about that UFO - what the devil was it?
s/ D. David Thayer