Archive Index

Reconstruction


Possibly related radar incidents around the North Sea region in August/September 1956


1.) Denmark, Aug/Sept. 1956

The following items are catalogued in [NICAP, 1964]:

The date of the latter incident should be September 3 according to a cutting from an unnamed Lausanne, Switzerland, newspaper dated Sept. 4, 1956, reproduced in [Gross, 1994/2003] and translated as follows:

Reappearance of the Flying Saucers

Mysterious craft have flown over Copenhagen yesterday in the first hours of the day. Dozens of persons have seen the objects which had the form of fireballs or of Flying Saucers. Radar bases have registered the passage of UFOs and jet planes have been sent up in pursuit, but have not been able to catch them. Radar indicated a height of 5,000 metres and a speed of 3,000 kilometres per hour.

(With reference to the 'fireballs' on September 3, note that Earth had passed through and out of the Perseid meteor stream probably by about August 17, and certainly by August 20 when events over the Baltic began. Of course there is always some minor shower or other in progress. It should also be remembered that the August 13-14 events over East Anglia were completely unknown outwith military intelligence circles until 1968.)

Evidence that there was some substance to these stories can be found in the USAF Project Blue Book files. Examination of the official papers shows that the Danish incidents were being considered together with the Lakenheath incidents as related phenomena which caused alarm at high levels within NATO, SHAPE, USAFE and HQ USAF Washington.

Four SECRET teletype messages were sent from England to the USAF Chief of Staff, Washington, on Aug 22 & 23 from the FRE (Field Representative, Europe) of an unknown command on behalf of the Air Deputy, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). The FRE was stationed in Buckinghamshire - probably RAF Fighter Command, High Wycombe. From the Pentagon the messages were retransmitted to the Air Defence Command (ADC) Ent AFB, Colorado, and to Project Blue Book at ATIC in Dayton.

The messages described several radar targets detected by the strategically-important NATO radar site on Bornholm Island in the Baltic (site of the 1944 German V-1 crash so vital to allied intelligence, and of much activity during the 1946 'ghost rocket' affair). For three hours the targets moved on various straight headings and in orbits at speeds up to 1000 km/h in the vicinity of the Polish coast. No border violations occurred and there were no visual sightings on this occasion; nevertheless SHAPE(Air) was definitely concerned, and the concern was shared in Washington.

As late as October 9 1956 a message to ATIC from the Director of Intelligence, HQ USAF, advised that the Bornholm and Lakenheath events were still causing 'considerable concern' within Air Force Intelligence. This was more than a month after Washington had received Blue Book's final conclusions dismissing both cases as "anomalous propagation" on Aug 31 and Sept 5 respectively:

FROM: HEDUSAF WASHDC
TO: COMATIC WRIGHT PATTERSON AFB OHIO

[blanked] FROM AFOIN-1A 57218 COMATIC FOR OIN-4. THE NUMBER OF UFOB REPORTS SUBMITTED FROM THE USAFE AREA DURING AUGUST HAS GENERATED CONSIDERABLE INTEREST AND CONCERN WITHIN AFOIN. OF PARTICULAR INTEREST ARE THOSE SIGHTINGS THAT OCCURRED NEAR LAKENHEATH ON 16 AUGUST AND THE BORNHOLM ISLAND SIGHTINGS OF 22 AUGUST. REQUEST YOU FORWARD YOUR EVALUATION OF THESE INCIDENTS ASAP MARKED FOR THE ATTENTION OF AFOIN-1A3.
BT
[blanked]

The next day, October 10, a joint messageform classified SECRET with an "ACTION: PRIORITY" precedence went back to Washington from Blue Book chief Capt. Gregory:

FROM: COMDR ATIC
TO: D/I HQS WASHINGTON DC

FROM AFOIN 4-E4
[blanked] REFERENCE YOUR MESSAGE 57218 DATED 9 OCTOBER 1956 REGARDING REQUEST FOR EVALUATION OF LAKENHEATH AND BORNHOLM SIGHTINGS. EVALUATION OF BORNHOLM SIGHTING SUBMITTED TO D/I, HEADQUARTERS, USAF ON 31 AUGUST 1956. CITE AFOIN-2A1-55586. ALSO MEMO ON SAME SUBJECT TO GENERAL LEWIS, SUBMITTED THROUGH AFOIN-X, 4 OCTOBER 1956. EVALUATION OF LAKENHEATH SIGHTINGS SUBMITTED TO D/I, HEADQUARTERS USAF ON 11 SEPTEMBER 1956, CITE BOI 485 AND IDO 7-3351, INFO COPIES TO CINCUSAFE, WIESBADEN GERMANY WITH PASS ON TO 3910TH COMABGRU, ENGLAND.

This exchange is noteable for the facts that the date of the Lakenheath incident is mistakenly given as "16 August" by Washington, and that the date of transmittal of Blue Book's final evaluation is mistakenly given as "11 September" by Capt. Gregory. The correct dates are 14 August and 5 September respectively.

Such inattention to detail is characteristic of Blue Book's analyses of both incidents. Nevertheless an internal ATIC transmittal letter (from AFOIN-4E4 to AFOIN-4E1 dated 28 August 1956) accompanying the reports recently received from Bornholm via England shows that the Bornholm and Lakenheath phenomena were from the first regarded by ATIC as connected:

Report for Analysis - UFO Radar Reports from Bornholm, England

28 Aug 56

  1. In accordance with established ATIC policies for the review and analysis of UFO reports, request your analysis and comments of the attached four reports with respect to the radar and related aspects of the phenomena reported.
  2. The reports originated from the FRE in England and are believed related to the same sightings reported by the SAC Commander, 3910th Bomb Group, England and CINCUSAFE, Wiesbaden, Germany. A request for a review and analysis of these sightings was submitted to your office by DF, dated 23 August 56.
  3. A copy of these reports has been submitted to the Commander's office, as they are considered out of the ordinary, and warrant attention of higher echelons.

Henry A. Miley
AFOIN-4E4

4 incls.

  1. TT, S 462, 22 Aug 56
    (T56-19342-5)
  2. TT, S 463, 22 Aug 56
    (T56-19344-5)
  3. TT, S 464, 23 Aug 56
    (T56-19343-5)
  4. TT, S 465, 23 Aug 56
    (T56-19341-5)

Whether Dr.Miley was aided in making this immediate association between the Bornholm and Lakenheath trackings by his mistaken belief that Bornholm was located in England (see header of above message) is uncertain. But the same association was made by Capt.Gregory in writing up Blue Book's conclusion on the Bornholm case for the file:

Bornholm Case (RAF Base): The "electronics-temperature inversion" approach towards explaining this sighting submitted to CINCUSAFE and HQs USAFE was considered appropriate, considering the limited information.

[handwritten] Bornholm Case
There is insufficient track data to determine the nature of the track - whether it is erratic, changing speed and direction rapidly, (as is usual in most of these sightings) or whether the acceleration and course changes are smooth.
The reference to picking up "3 to 5 unidentified objects" at time 0850
Z at least infers that the targets were not steady, but were appearing and disappearing. If this is true, these targets are acting in a similar manner to those sighted at Lakenheath, and appear, therefore, to probably due to anomalous propagation or weather returns.

This acknowledgement of insufficient data on Bornholm mirrors the situation with the Lakenheath case. In both cases it appears that Blue Book had made requests - repeatedly in the case of Bornholm - for additional track data to complete an evaluation, but in neither case had they received any information, despite the fact that SHAPE-Air and HQ D/I Washington were themselves approaching Blue Book for re-evaluations of both cases over a month later. (It was not until the end of October that IR-1-56 from Bentwaters finally reached Blue Book via Washington. Henry Miley noted that this was "believed to be a response to this center's request for additional information" on the Lakenheath case. This was the sole follow-up report of any kind in relation to either case.)

The final Blue Book record card entry on the Bornholm affair is reconstructed below (Note - it appears that the 'Ground-Visual' box in part 4 has also been checked but later struck out):

PROJECT 10073 RECORD CARD

1.DATE

22 August 1956

2. LOCATION

Bornholm, Denmark

12. CONCLUSIONS

n Was Balloon
x Probably Balloon
n Possibly Balloon

n Was Aircraft
x Probably Aircraft
n Possibly Aircraft

n Was Astronomical
x Probably Astronomical
n Possibly Astronomical

x other Anomalous Propagation
n Insufficient Data for Evaluation
n Unknown

3. DATE-TIME GROUP

LOCAL ________________
GMT_
22/2050Z to 2359Z

4. TYPE OF OBSERVATION

n Ground-Visual
x Ground-Radar
n Air-Visual
n Air-Intercept Radar

5. PHOTOS

n Yes
x No

6.SOURCE

Relayed by Hqs USAF
Bornholm Radar,

7. LENGTH OF OBSERVATION

approximately 3 hours

8. NUMBER OF OBJECTS

four

9. COURSE
10. BRIEF SUMMARY OF SIGHTING

Radars first reported 2-3 objects on an easterly heading at 700 knots, no altitude given. Approximately 2 hours later 4 appeared, but were orbiting over the location (53 dgr, 30 min N - 18 dgr 00 min E) at 25,000ft altitude and 700 knots. About 1 hours later tracks faded.

11. COMMENTS

The appearing and disappearing of tracks on the radar scope is characteristic of "spurious blips". The fact that the objs were "orbiting" over one spot at 700 knots supports this conclusion. Location surveyed is approximately 50 miles south of Danzig, Poland. The above characteristics (orbit at high speed) make it highly improbable these objects, if actual, were Soviet guided missiles.

ATIC FORM 329 (REV 26 SEP 52)

The implication that four targets moving in a tight orbit at 700 knots is behaviour symptomatic of AP is completely ludicrous. What is really being said here is that echoes not ascribable to Soviet missiles or aircraft simply must be "spurious". No possibility outside this narrow box can be contemplated.

The location given for this behaviour, about 150 miles from the radar site at 25,000', implies a bore-sight elevation of less than 2 which is not itself inconsistent with possible ducting or scattering; but aside from this Capt. Gregory is asking his evaluation of "weather returns" to bear an insupportable weight. The most basic information is missing. It should also be noted that the time of "0850Z" given in Gregory's handwritten discussion (above) is at variance with the time of "2050Z" given on the case record card, suggesting some confusion between 12-hour and 24-hour timekeeping.

From a technical intelligence point of view Blue Book's contribution to the Bornholm affair was completely useless. Given the expressed level of concern in Europe and in Washington no doubt proper analysis of pertinent technical data was done by cognizant experts at ADC and elsewhere without regard for the opinions of Capt. Gregory. But all in all Blue Book's conclusion should, in candor, have been "insufficient data for evaluation".


2.) Finland, Aug/Sept 1956

This sketchy report found its way to ATIC from Blue Book's semi-official civilian UK correspondent Julian Hennessey. It was retained for information only. A military radar target heading N-S down the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia towards the Baltic could not be visually identified by two nearby civil aircrews:

DATE: August or September 1956

Captain Ilpo Koskinen was piloting a FINNAIR DC-3 at an altitude of 3500 feet en route from Turku to Vaasa. It was evening and the weather was cavok. The lights of another FINNAIR DC-3, travelling on the same course as Captain Koskinen from Turku to Pori, were visible ahead at an altitude of 2500 feet.

Over the radio, Captain Koskinen received a message from a militaryradarstation at Pori that an unidentified target was approaching the aircraft head on at about 250 kts. Although the radar station gave the radar position of the unkown target, and it passed between the two DC-3s, neither Captains of the aircraft could see the target which proceeded southbound on a steady course and vanished from the radar screen.

Below is a sketch showing the position of the two DC-3s and the path of the unidentified target.


3.) Kent, England, August 30 - September 1 1956

The ATIC Project Blue Book file contains the following excitable entry:

No Case (Information Only)

30 August 1956
London, England

1956, Aug.30 - London, England - 10pm - Radar "Blip" alerts fighter-Command RadarStations in London! Half-hour later, a Plane at West Malling reported an odd light in the sky! Ground-Control saw it, too. It was at about 4 or 5,000ft! Search-Planes flew to 6,000ft., but couldn't find the dull light . . .

According to author Arthur Constance the British Air Ministry announced that an unexplained radar target was also detected for several hours on September 1 by a number of south coast radar stations [Constance 1956]. These events were reported as follows in Flying Saucer Review's World Roundup of UFO Sightings and Events, pp.76-77:

"Radar defence stations were alerted on September 1 by a UFO which set the Air Ministry a pretty problem.

"For hours the radar screens showed a 'blip' which should not have been there. Jet aircraft sent to investigate were plotted across the screens -- and their tracks went right through the mystery 'blip.' The crews reported 'we have seen nothing'.

"The Chief of Air Staff, Sir Dermot Boyle and the A.O.C.-in-Chief of Fighter Command were told.

"Fighter Command radar stations in London first saw the 'blip' at 10 p.m. on Thursday, August 30. Half an hour later a Meteor crew preparing to land at West Malling (Kent) saw 'an odd light' in the sky.

"Ground control told them: 'We can see it, too, but we can't identify it.'

"Flight-Lieutenant Harry Goldstone, navigator in a Mk XI Meteor, said: 'We were at about 2,000 feet. The light was a few thousand feet above us, but it didn't have a star's intensity of light. I don't subscribe to flying saucers, but I don't know what this light was. Nor does anyone else.'

"Search planes were sent up to fly at 6,000 feet and above in case the object was a balloon trailing cables.

"The Air Ministry had no report of a balloon breaking away."


4.) Lincolnshire, England, 22 September 1956

Sunday Times, London, 24 September 1956
A 'flying saucer' was sighted both visually and by radar over Manby, Lincs., yesterday afternoon. The object was at 54,000 feet and remained apparently stationary for about an hour, though there was a wind of more than 40 m.p.h. at that height. Meteorologists reported it as having a diameter of 80 feet.

Two fighter aircraft were sent up to investigate. When they arrived at the point where the object had been seen they found nothing, nor could it any longer be seen from the ground.

Flying Saucer Review reported this incident as follows:

"THOUSANDS SEE 80-FT. SAUCER OVER LINCOLNSHIRE

"A flying saucer was sighted both visually and by radar over Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England, on Saturday afternoon, September 22.

"High over the promenade the mystery sphere glittering in the blue sky. Thousands watched it hovering high overhead.

"'It looked a glass globe with something white inside,' said an eyewitness.

"The Object was at 54,000 feet and remained apparently stationary for about an hour, though there was a wind of more than 40 m.p.h. at that height.

"Meteorologists reported it as having a diameter of 80 feet. A Meteorological Office spokesman at Manby R.A.F. Station, who studied the object through a telescope, said: 'I don't know what it is. It certainly is not a balloon from here.'

"Two fighter aircraft were sent up to investigate. When they arrived at the point where the object had been seen they found nothing, nor could it any longer be seen from the ground."

A fragmentary Project Blue Book file card summary shows that reports of unusual radar indications continued to come from one or more USAF sites in England in early October:

Numerous GCA observations which included targets the size of a B-36 on October 5 and more numerous targets the size of an L-20 on 6 and 7 October. No unusual weather on either night.

With particular thanks to Jan Aldrich and Project 1947 for help in compiling the material on this page