Believe It Or Not…UFOs Over Kern

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Fox Mulder is a dirty, rotten liar. The truth isn’t out there. Sure, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has given us a lot to be suspicious about over the years. And recently, those dark-suited, sunglasses-wearin’ secret agents have pulled a Disney and opened up their secret vault of files documenting unexplained phenomenon.
But instead of helping us solve the riddles about Roswell, UFOs, and creepy bright lights in the night sky, these documents have only raised more questions. One of those being: what exactly happened out at Muroc Air Force Base (now Edwards) in the summer of 1947? shipThe day? July 8.
The time? About 9:45 a.m.
First Lt. Joseph C. McHenry, Sgt. Joseph Ruvolo, Sgt. Gerald E. Nauman, and one Miss Jannette Marie Scotte reported seeing two “saucer or disc-shaped objects” both silver and apparently metallic, fly northwest towards Mojave in a wide, circular pattern at about 7,500-8,000 feet, going approximately 400 miles per hour.
According to these witnesses, and as documented with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena “before the first two objects disappeared a third similar disc or spherical silver object reflecting sunlight was seen.” There were an additional five people who saw this supposed “third disc” which flew through the air for three to four minutes, providing no sound or contrails. Sgt. Nauman went on to swear in an affidavit that, “This object—to my knowledge of aircraft—could not have been an airplane because of the very tight maneuver it was undergoing. I have been flying in and have been around all type of aircraft since 1943 and never in my life have I seen anything such as this.”
Now, had that been the only incident, perhaps these military men could have written off the experience. But not even two hours later, a little before noon, “experimental test pilot Capt. John Paul Strapp, Mr. Lenz from Wright Field, and two others in an observation truck at Area 3 of Rogers Dry Lake for a P-82 ejection seat test saw a round silver or aluminum-white object [about 25 feet wide] at first thought to be a parachute.”

But it wasn’t.
“It appeared to have an oval outline with two thick fins or knobs on the upper surface which seemed to rotate or oscillate, no propellers, slowly disappearing below the mountain tops in the distance after ninety seconds.”

And then?
Noon. “Other witnesses, independently, including Muroc CO Col. Signa A. Gilkey and engineer Major Richard R. Shoop and his wife saw, from a different location about five miles away, the same falling object—a thin metallic aluminum colored object…reflecting sunlight and oscillating, descend to ground level, then rise again” before moving off into the distance.
Forty miles from Muroc Army Air Field, the pilot of an F-51 was flying at around 20,000 feet when he spotted a “flat object of a light reflecting nature,” whatever that means. Also, this object was lacking the vertical fins of one of the previously spotted “discs.” The pilot tried to climb up to the object but his F-51 would not climb high enough! He contacted all the air bases in the area but none reported having any aircraft in the vicinity.

The months and years following these incidents brought with them a long, exhaustive documenting process, including confidential affidavits from those involved, by the U.S. Government and the FBI. While these documents, many of which are signed by J. Edgar Hoover, never sparked their own X Files episode, they were made up of eye-witness accounts and attempting to rationalize what had been seen by most people, even though everyone who recounted their experience swore that these objects couldn’t possibly be hallucinations, or, as Mr. Lenz from Wright Field said in his affidavit, “a fancies of a sense.” Gotta love ‘40s lingo.
None of these documents attempted to prove or deny the existence of these UFOs.
But that sunny day in July of ‘47 was not the only time Kern County’s skies were the scene of unexplained phenomena.
In ‘74 (which, for all you conspiracy theory buffs, is just ‘47 in reverse), Ronald Reagan, who was just wrapping up his second term as California’s governor, was soaring in the skies near Bakersfield. The plane, piloted by Air Force Colonel Bill Paynter, was just about to start its descent into our fair city when Reagan noticed a strange light coming from behind the plane.
According to Paynter, who detailed the story later to numerous people, Reagan wanted to follow the light (probably because he’d had a similar experience years earlier  while flying to a party and wanted to investigate). Paynter said, “it appeared to be several hundred yards away [and it was] a fairly steady light until it [began] to accelerate. Then it appeared to elongate. Then the light took off. It went up a forty-five degree angle at a high rate of speed…”
Reagan himself later told Norman Miller, the Washington Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal that, “We followed it for several minutes. It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens.”
Paynter tried to rationalize it, but found he couldn’t explain what they had seen.
“The UFO went from normal speed…to a fantastic speed instantly. If you give an airplane power, it will accelerate, but not like a ‘hot rod,’ and that’s what this was like. Governor Reagan expressed amazement. I told the others I didn’t know what it was.”
Everyone involved admitted later that they never filed a report on the object because of the scrutiny involved with admitting to seeing a UFO. Or, as Paynter said, “they considered you a nut.”
Reagan, in his discussion of the sighting with Miller, explained that he told his wife, Nancy, about the UFO, and the couple began researching UFOs extensively.
When Miller concluded that Reagan’s animated storytelling and attention to detail meant our future president actually believed in UFOs, he asked, “Governor, are you telling me that you saw a UFO?”
At that moment, according to Miller, Reagan realized that he was talking to a reporter. And he quickly clammed up and purportedly said, “Let’s just say that I’m an agnostic.”
While Reagan would later bring up his experiences in a speech and in a meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, he never spoke with reporters about the incident after that.
Maybe because he began to question what he saw. Or maybe it was because he didn’t want to face further judgment from UFO naysayers, which, let’s face it, is most people. Or perhaps he was visited by a few “men in black.”
Even though the FBI documents are hardly conclusive, and most include a number of military men trying to be as impartial as they could, there’s still a shred of doubt expressed by all the witnesses of the events on July 8, 1947, and by the pilot of Reagan’s Cessna. So were these actual alien space crafts or simple unexplained, unregistered aircraft? Optical illusions? Cloud reflections? There are people who vehemently deny the existence of aliens, but our Commander in Chief wasn’t one of them. And those trained pilots out at Muroc certainly weren’t crackpots out in the woods who tried garnering attention with their tales of abduction. But will we ever learn if the events in Independence Day could actually happen? What kind of proof will we need?
Even though Mulder is sure the truth will eventually be revealed, we’re not holding our breath.

Image by iStock/Darumo/Thinkstock

Article appeared in our 30-5 Issue – December 2013

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