Letter from Forrest D. Perkins to Stanton Friedman, 14 August 1975
Received your articles and letter and read them all with interest. This letter will be unorganized, but rather than worry about format and continuity, I will just start out and get this to you quickly.
I was a member of the U.S.A.F. from Dec 46 to Apr 67. I
retired at Altus AFB Okla at that time. It should be obvious that
the Air Force had me at their instant disposal if they wished to
investigate this occurrence and report for that entire period.
Not once was I contacted, questioned or written to, by anyone. As
to my background, I was a Control Tower Operator from 1947 thru
1950, I became an Air Traffic Control Technician in 1950 or 1951
and worked either in ATCC's or Approach Control locations until
1952. I worked with radar for the first time at Westover AFB Mass.
in 1952 and 1953 using an early version of a modified MPN-1 or
what was later called an MPN-11. I then went to Lakenheath in Sep
1953 and helped set up a RATCC using surveillance scopes remoted
from the GCA CPN-4. The CPS-5 was installed and a new RATCC was
started in the Control Tower building about June 195
or perhaps before that date, There were several problems
encountered when we started because the CPS-5 is AC&W
equipment and was not designed for Air Traffic Control Center use.
I believe the vector scanning [sic.] and height finding was
either disconnected or simply not used after the first month or
two. The rotation of the surveillance antenna was increased to
one revolution every 9 seconds. This is what we were using, no
vector scanning, no elevation data. This is one reason I could
not "see" the Unidentified Target circle behind the
interceptor and had to rely on the other controllers but I also
took into account that the interceptor no longer had his guns
locked on the target. They were still very close, both on the
same heading or track, if the unidentified target was in front
why didn't the aircrafts radar lock on again at least once
throughout these next ten minutes? With reference to the antenna
speed, the CPN-4 used by the GCA crew to watch is faster so they
may have called and brought this to our attention. I was pretty
busy relaying what was happening to all the people that I had
patched in on our phone so things like that could have occurred.
On the difference in the phraseology used by the pilot of the intercept and by us, anyone that has made out formal TWX's and other reports in the military knows that each rewrite gets polished. I told the UFO Project at Colorado University, as close to the actual words as I could remember, I also wrote them in my original report to my superiors. It seems simple to me that the pilots words, such as "I've got my guns locked on him." would be translated by the office personnel sending out the report to a more acceptable phraseology such as "Target on radar, locking on." and the comments of the two pilots talking was obviously deleted from the report because it contained what was then considered profanity.
With respect to the possible discrepancy as to where the first intercept was picked up, since the fighter took off from Waterbeach which is 20 mi SW and if he took off from that airport to the sothwest (which was usual as we generally landed planes on runway 24 due to prevailing westerly winds) and if the fighter made a normal climb and turn to come to Lakenheath I see nothing incompatible in these statements, we certainly wouldn't have been able to see him until he was above 2,000 feet and he probably would have travelled an additional 10 to 15 miles executing his climb and turn. I cannot be sure about the first vector where the pilot reported a bright white light. It does ring a bell but I simply can't remember for sure. I was fairly confident of the position of intercept and I believe the Blue Book report is probably the more accurate.
There was a small delay before we saw any targets after we were asked to look out for them, but certainly not two hours, minutes rather, perhaps ten to twenty, certainly not more. We alerted our GCA to see if they had anything unusual. We must have both noticed the stationary object at about the same time because when we asked if they had it on their scopes they answered yes.
The reason I thought it was Sculthorpe was because the only way Bentwaters could call us was through our Sculthorpe switch. I didn't take the original call on the Sculthorpe line so either just assumed it was Sculthorpe or the Bentwaters operator didn't identify which station he was calling from. Both Sculthorpe and Bentwaters are East of Lakenheath though Bentwaters is south of Sculthorpe it is possible that this error could have had us looking in the wrong place but on a circular scope that covers all quadrants and very little air traffic it seems impossible we would have missed anything.
I have had the same experience as other radar operators with ghost echoes, birds, skip-range targets and all the problems with MTI. We are not completely uneducated on the subject as these phenomena have caused accidents. But to suggest that several radars can be simultaneously chasing a ghost or a vagary of MTI is ludicrous.
As I mentioned on the phone, throughout these events I was giving a running account of the unidentified object, the confirming information supplied by others (GCA etc) to many people including the Base Commander Ellery D Preston Jr. Colonel, my Squadron Commander who was either William C Wilson Jr. Captain or Harold J. Millington Captain, the Controller at 7th Air Division London, the Commanding General of the 3rd Air Force and an RAF Liaison Officer that was located somewhere near London or High Wycombe. The first thought each of these had was "Could it be something of ours? This was quickly discounted by both Americans and British. The next question was "Could it be one of theirs" meaning the Russians. This resulted in the descision to scramble the intercepts. At this time we had the U-2 being tested at lakenheath. It made everyone super security conscious as no one knew anything about it nor could get near it when it was on the ground, including the Base Commander. It was not flying that night, it was on the ground.
One point about the radar. It had a variable range display. If we were looking at something close to the station we wouldn't be using 200 mile range but probably 40 mile range. The smaller the range the closer you can track a target to the station. I can't remember the exact range choices we had available on the CPS-5 but it was probably 20 miles. This is necessary for making patterns at the feeder position or even surveillance finals when necessary. Of course in the pick-up position you would keep the scope on fairly long range.
I wrote to the UFO Commission primarily to call this incident to their attention so they could investigate it. I was as accurate in my recall as I could be but there are obviously things that will not be remembered after a few years. I believed that they could get the original reports as well as locating and interviewing the RAF Intercept Pilot if they were sincere. All telephones, microphones and even controller chit chat was recorded on an excellent recorder and it was my hope that these had been retained by the Air Force for such an investigation. But, evidently not.
I not only wrote a detailed report for my supervisors but I had one man making progressive maps of the entire flight path of the unidentified target as well as the RAF intercept planes. These probably went the same place my report went. It is interesting to note that at no time did we lose radar contact with the unidentified target thruout its maneuvers. Ghosts, MTI vagaries, skip range targets and other atmospheric phenomena that cause false targets are noted for inconsistent and weak returns as well as blooming targets. But then who am I to argue with and expert [like] klass.
That is a damned lie Klass says (232) that the second intercept was directed by the Lakenheath station to the vicinity of the UFO blips on its scopes. He didn't even get near the Unidentified Object. He declared Engine Malfunction just seconds after he called us, it might have been immediately on radio contact, I know it was very soon after if not on first radio contact. We had heard him talking with the first intercept pilot so his message came as no surprise though it didi give us a laugh. He never got within twenty miles of the unidentified target I don't believe.
I spent twenty years looking for aircraft either out of Control tower windows or scanning radar scopes. In that entire time period I was involved in and reported two sightings of unidentified phenomena. The other case was at Westover in 1952 or 1953 We had a stationary object on our scope, we went outside and looked up and there was something going straight up, just like a rocket. It wasn't a balloon, too fast and too straight but whatever it was it was gone in just a few minutes. I bitterly resented the UFO Commissions questionnaire to find out if I was looney. I wasn't asking them to believe me, all I wanted was for them to investigate their own official Air Force records and I was just helping to point them in the right direction to start looking.
Now, as to the personnel on duty with me. The midnight shift made relief in the middle of all this so perhaps thre of these people got in on the last part. I've listed the people that might have been on duty with me that night but I may be wrong. Hope you can find them if you try.
Thomas Emerick (now a CMSGT) 3953 C Falcon Cts North, McGuire
AFB N.J 08641 He is in charge of the RAPCON there.
Robert H Bell AF16350624
Nicholas Dalesandre AF16424111
Kenner E Feagans AF13447646
John P Foundos AF12401642
Paul J MacFadden AF13439509
Glenn A Glaze AF14561714
Ronald F Lerche AF21959471
Alden F Kieffer AF 16402045
Clyde A Dill AF14572120
George Messier AF11288188
You can probably call Emerick but since he works days better call him on the weekend or nights. He may be able to tell you who was working that night, maybe not.
If I come up with any more thoughts after I've read through the articles again I'll send them on. Do you want your articles returned? I'll keep them till I hear.
Bye for now
Forrest D. Perkins