One of the many curious aspects of the UFO phenomenon is that relative to so-called “waves” and “flaps.” Over the years, there have been more than a few occasions upon which UFOs have intruded into our airspace to a significant degree. I’m talking about the likes of the summer of 1947; the Washington, D.C. invasion of July 1952; the wave of close encounters that hit the United States in 1973; and the Belgian “Flying Triangle” encounters of 1989/1990. And then there’s the curious matter of the UFO/ “phantom helicopter” wave of 1975. It’s not only curious, but disturbing, too. Chiefly because a great deal of concern was exhibited by the U.S. military, despite the fact that the Air Force’s UFO program, Project Blue Book, closed its doors six years earlier, in 1969. Notably, and thanks to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, we can see just how seriously matters were taken.
Even a cursory examination of the history of the UFO phenomenon demonstrates that sightings of so-called “black helicopters,” “phantom helicopters,” and even “silent helicopters” abound. They were particularly in evidence during the cattle-mutilation wave of the mid-seventies. Alien abductees report being pursued and intimated by such craft. There are suspicions that at least some of the helicopters originate with so-called “black projects” that operate outside of the regular conventions of the military. There are even claims that the helicopters are “UFOs in disguise,” which is surely the most controversial of all the theories offered to explain the phenomenon! All of which brings us back to that aforementioned wave of 1975.
Official documentation on the encounters has surfaced from the Air Force, the FBI, and the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). One particular document, titled Suspicious Unknown Air Activity, provides the following:
“Since 28 Oct 75 numerous reports of suspicious objects have been received at the NORAD CC. Reliable military personnel at Loring AFB Maine, Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan, Malmstrom AFB, MT, Minot AFB, ND, and Canadian forces station Falconbridge, Ontario Canada have visually sighted suspicious objects. Objects at Loring and Wurtsmith were characterized to be helicopters. Missile site personnel, security alert teams and air defense personnel at Malmstrom, Montana report an object which sounded like a jet. FAA advised there were no jet aircraft in the vicinity. Malmstrom search and height finder radars carried the object between 9500 ft. and 15,000 ft. at a speed of seven knots.”
The odd saga proceeded to get even stranger: “…personnel reported the object as low as 200 ft. and said that as the interceptors approached the lights went out, after the interceptors had passed the lights came on again…Minot AFB on 10 Nov reported that the site was buzzed by a bright object the size of a car at an altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 ft. There was no noise emitted by the vehicle.”
The relevant paperwork makes it very clear that the military was not only concerned about the phenomenon itself, but also by the potential reactions on the part of the media and the public:
“Be assured that this command is doing everything possible to identify and provide solid factual information on these sightings. I have also expressed my concern to SAFOI that we come up soonest with a proposed answer to queries from the press to prevent over reaction by the public to reports by the media that may be blown out of proportion. To date efforts by Air Guard helicopters, SAC helicopters and NORAD F106s have failed to produce positive ID.”
Then there was a notable document titled Defense Against Helicopter Assault. In part, it reads: “The past two evenings at one of our northern tier bases, an unidentified helicopter has been observed hovering over and in the near vicinity of the weapons storage area. Attempts to identify this aircraft have so far met with negative results.” In other words, something intruded upon the most secure part of the base and no-one was able to determine what was afoot or even why.
Of particular note is Unidentified Helicopter Sighted at Low Level Over Loring AFB, a file that adds further weight to the theory that there had been major, serious invasions of secure facilities – facilities that appeared to be not so secure, after all. Consider the following:
“On 28 Oct 75, Lewis…advised that the a/c [aircraft] was first observed by Clifton W. Blakeslee, Sgt. [deleted] and William J. Long, SSgt., both assigned to the 42 SPS, who were on duty at the storage area. The initial sighting took place at approximately 1345. The a/c was observed approximately 1,000 meters north of LAFB. The a/c was subsequently observed by Lewis and others intermittently for the next hour and a half. Subsequent to the sighting by Long and Blakeslee, the a/c did not come nearer to the northern perimeter of LAFB than approximately 3 miles. Lewis observed a flashing white strobe light and red navigation lights on the a/c. The operator of the a/c either turned the lights off periodically or the a/c flew below a point from which the lights could be observed. The a/c disappeared from view and did not reappear. A search of the vicinity of the northern perimeter of LAFB by 42 SPS personnel met with negative results.”
The unsettling affair was nowhere near over:
“On 28 Oct 75, Commander, 42 8W, advised that he responded to the area from which the unidentified a/c was observed. He arrived at approximately 1955. The a/c bore a white flashing light and an amber or orange light. The speed and movement in the air suggested that the a/c was a helicopter. From 1345-2020, the a/c was under constant observation. Subsequent to that time the a/c would appear and disappear from view. The a/c definitely penetrated the LAFB northern perimeter and on one occasion was within 300 yards of the munitions storage area perimeter [emphasis mine]. Efforts to identify the a/c through Maine State Police and local police departments were not successful.”
Log reports from Malmstrom AFB, from November 7, reveal an amazing series of events. It all began at 10:35 a.m.: “Received a call from the 341st Strategic Air Command Post, saying that the following missile locations reported seeing a large red to orange to yellow object: M-1, L-3, LIMA and L-6. The general object location would be 10 miles south of Moore, Montana and 20 miles east of Buffalo, Montana.”
Then, at 1:19 p.m. there was this: “SAC advised K-1 says very bright object to their east is now southeast of them and they are looking at it with 10 x 50 binoculars. Object seems to have lights (several) on it, but no distinct pattern. The orange/gold object overhead also has small lights on it. SAC also advises female civilian reports having seen an object bearing south from her position six miles west of Lewsitown.” The events were never explained.
A NORAD document of November 11 provides the following, which demonstrates even more high-strangeness: “This morning, 11 Nov 75, CFS Falconbridge reported search and height finder radar paints on an object up to 30 nautical miles south of the site ranging in altitude from 26,000 to 72,000 feet. The site commander and other personnel say the object appeared as a bright star but much closer. With binoculars the object appeared as a 100 ft. diameter sphere and appeared to have craters around the outside [emphasis mine].”
The documentation I have cited above is just a fraction of the overall puzzle. Literally hundreds of pages of material on the 1975 wave has now surfaced via the FOIA. While the papers in question definitely suggest that a helicopter (or something that, superficially at least, looked like a helicopter) was the culprit, other reports are not so easy to explain. Such as the NORAD document of November 11, as referred to in the paragraph directly above. And, it’s very important to note that in the Loring AFB encounters of October 1975, it was “…the speed and movement in the air” of the object which “…suggested that the a/c was a helicopter.” In other words, a case can be made that the only reason the object was deemed to be a helicopter was because it moved like a helicopter. That’s to say, it may have flown vertically, backwards, and even hovered. Perhaps, then, the theory that the UFOs were helicopters was not as solid as some assumed.
The mystery of the “phantom helicopter” wave of 1975 was never resolved. Like so many earlier waves (the aforementioned 1947, 1952, 1973, and 1989/1990) the UFOs – or the helicopters – vanished as mysteriously as they first arrived.
One of the most prolific Fortean writers on the planet, Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including Men in Black, Chupacabra Road Trip, and The Bigfoot Book. He can be contacted at his blog, “World of Whatever,” at nickredfernfortean.blogspot.com