Written By: Ken Hulsey
When it came to explaining away UFO reports there were two things that government sponsored programs like Project Sign, Project Grudge, and Project Blue Book could use to convince the public that the whole mess (UFO sightings) was nothing more than simple misidentification of known celestial objects, namely the planet Venus and weather balloons from the Navy's Project Skyhook.
The later was used rather frequently to explain such famous UFO events as the alleged Roswell crash and the death of Air Force pilot Thomas Mantell, who the government insisted was chasing a balloon, not a craft of unearthly origin, when his P-51 plummeted to the ground.
Yet all that seemed to unravel on April 24, 1949 when several members of Skyhook's crew saw a UFO of their own.
The unit that witnessed the strange craft was under the command of Robert B. McLaughlin, a veteran Navel officer and expert on guided-missiles, at White Sands Proving Grounds in the New Mexico desert. Just after launching a test balloon to establish wind patterns for weather experiments, that were to take place later that day, a strange flying object appeared on their tracking equipment.
As McLaughlin reported in an article he wrote for True (magazine) entitled "Flying Saucers Are Real", the object was elliptical, flat white in color and roughly 105 feet in diameter. Engineers on hand for the sighting calculated that the UFO was at an altitude of 56 miles and was traveling at 18,000 miles per hour. The event only lasted about a minute, but in the minds of all of the eyewitnesses, what they saw was indeed a flying saucer, and not one of their balloons.
After the sighting the unit continued on with their high-altitude experiments noting that at no time did their balloon either look, or act like, the object that they had seen earlier.
McLaughlin's article caused a major uproar amongst agencies in the government who wanted nothing more than to debunk every single UFO report that came their way, and the growing number of UFO enthusiasts who wanted some sort of answer to just what was going on in the skies over America.
Here was a case that Project Grudge could not just merely sweep under the rug, this time the witnesses were US military personnel and trained engineers with high-tech research and tracking equipment. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that the Navy itself had cleared McLaughlin's article for publication without clearing it through Grudge first, a sign to many that the Navy was in some way trying to provide proof of UFOs to the general populace.
It should also be noted that McLaughlin's article just didn't mention his own personal sighting of a UFO, but also reports by other servicemen from the other branches of the military that seemed to suggest that 'beings' unknown to us were monitoring atomic testing and bases throughout the American southwest.
That is, unless, it was simply just the planet Venus?
See Also: Classic UFO Case - UFO Shoots Down Air Force Fighter Over Kentucky? / Classic UFO Case - The Albuquerque Mystery Light - Circa 1980
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