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- The Flying Saucers are Real - 20/38 -
was on December third? Then the Las Vegas sighting was only a few days later. It was the first week of the month, I'm positive."
"Those light reports have got me stumped," I said. "A light just can't fly around by itself. And those two-foot disks--"
"You haven't worked on the Gorman case?" asked Redell.
I told him I hadn't thought it was coming up on my schedule.
"Leave these sketches here," he said. "Look into that Gorman sighting. Then check on our plans for space exploration. I'll give you some sources. When you get through, come on back and we'll talk it over."
The Gorman "saucer dogfight" had been described in newspapers; the pilot had reported chasing a swiftly maneuvering white light, which had finally escaped him. Judging from the Project "Saucer" preliminary report, this case had baffled all the Air Force investigators. When I met George Gorman, I found him to be intelligent, coolheaded, and very firmly convinced of every detail in his story. I had learned something about his background. He had had college training. During the war, he had been an Air Force instructor, training French student pilots. In Fargo, his home, he had a good reputation, not only for veracity but as a businessman. Only twenty-six, he was part owner of a construction company, and also the Fargo representative for a hardware-store chain. Even knowing all this, I found it hard at first to believe some of the dogfight details. But the ground observers confirmed them.
It was about nine o'clock in the evening, October 1, 1948. Gorman, now an Air National Guard lieutenant, had been on a practice flight in an F-51 fighter. The other pilots on this practice patrol had already landed. Gorman had just been cleared by the C.A.A. operator in the Fargo Airport tower when he saw a fast-moving light below his circling fighter.
From his altitude, 4,500 feet, it appeared to be the tail light of a swiftly flying plane. As nearly as he could tell, it was 1,000 feet high, moving at about 250 m.p.h.
Gorman called the tower to recheck his clearance. He was told the only other plane in the area was a Piper Cub. Gorman Could see the Cub plainly outlined below him. There was a night football game going on, and the field was brightly lighted.
But the Cub was nowhere near the strange light.
As the mystery light raced above the football field. Gorman noticed an odd phenomenon. Instead of seeing the silhouette of a plane, he saw no shape at all around the light. By contrast, he could see the Cub's outline clearly.
Meantime, the airport traffic controller, L. D. Jensen, had also spotted the queer light. Concerned with the danger of collision--he said later that he, too, thought it a plane's tail light--he trained his binoculars on it. Like Gorman, he was unable to distinguish a shape near the light. Neither could another C.A.A. man who was with him in the tower, a Fargo resident named Manuel E. Johnson.
Up in the F-51, Gorman dived on the light, which was steadily blinking on and off.
"As I closed in," he told Project "Saucer" men later, "it suddenly became steady and pulled up into a sharp left turn. It was a clear white and completely roundabout six to eight inches in diameter.
"I thought it was making a pass at the tower. I dived after it and brought my manifold pressure up to sixty, but I couldn't catch the thing."
Gorman reported his speed at full power as 350 to 400 miles per hour. During the maneuvers that followed, both the C.A.A. men watched from the tower. Jensen was using powerful night glasses, but still no shape was visible near the mysterious light. The fantastic dogfight continued for twenty minutes. Gorman described it in detail.
"When I attempted to turn with the light, I blacked out temporarily, owing to excessive speed. I am in fairly good physical condition, and I don't believe there are many, if any, pilots who could withstand the turn and speed effected by the light and remain conscious."
During these sharp maneuvers, the light climbed quickly, then made another left bank.
"I put my fifty-one into a sharp turn and tried to cut it off," said Gorman. "By then we were at about seven thousand feet, Suddenly it made a sharp right turn and we headed straight at each other. Just when we were about to collide I guess I lost my nerve. I went into a dive and the light passed over my canopy at about five hundred feet. Then it made a left circle about one thousand feet above and I gave chase again."
When collision seemed imminent a second time, the object shot straight into the air. Gorman climbed after it at full throttle.
Just about this time, two. other witnesses, a private pilot and his passenger, saw the fast-moving light. The pilot was Dr. A. D. Cannon, an oculist; his passenger was Einar Nelson. Dr. Cannon later told investigators the light was moving at high speed. He thought it might be a Canadian jet fighter from over the border. (A careful check with Canadian air officials ruled out this answer.) After landing at the airport, Dr. Cannon and Mr. Nelson again watched the light, saw it change direction and disappear.
Meanwhile, Gorman was making desperate efforts to catch the thing. He was now determined to ram it, since there seemed nothing solid behind it to cause a dangerous crash. If his fighter was disabled, or if it caught fire, he could bail out.
But despite the F-51's fast climb, the light still outdistanced him. At 14,000 feet, Gorman's plane went into a power stall, He made one last try, climbing up to 17,000 feet. A few moments later, the light turned in a north-northwest direction and quickly disappeared.
Throughout the dogfight, Gorman noticed no deviation on his instruments, according to the Project "Saucer" report. Gorman did not confirm or deny this when I talked with him. But he did agree with the rest of the Project statement. He did not notice any sound, odor, or exhaust trail.
Gorman's remarks about ramming the light reminded me of what Art Green had said. When I asked Gorman
about the court-martial rumor, he gave me a searching glance.
"Where did you hear that?"
"Several places," I told him. "At Chicago, in Salt Lake City--in fact, we've been hearing it all over."
"Well, there's nothing to it," Gorman declared. He changed the subject.
Some time afterward, a Fargo pilot told me there had been trouble over the ramming story.
"But it wasn't Gorman's fault. Somebody else released that report to the A. P. The news story didn't actually say there was an Air Force order to ram it, but the idea got around, and we heard that Washington squawked. Gorman had a pretty rough time of it for a while. Some of the newspapers razzed his story. And the Project 'Saucer' teams really worked on him. I guess they were trying to scare him into saying he was mistaken, and it was a balloon."
When I asked Gorman about this, he denied he'd had rough treatment by the Project teams.
"Sure, they asked about a thousand questions, and I could tell they thought it might be a hoax at first. But that was before they quizzed the others who saw it."
"Anybody suggest it was a balloon?" I said casually.
"At first, they were sure that's what it was," answered Gorman. "You see, there was a weather balloon released here. You know the kind, it has a lighted candle on it. The Project teams said I'd chased after that candle and just imagined the light's maneuvers--confused it with my own movement, because of the dark."
Gorman grinned. "They had it just about wrapped up--until they talked to George Sanderson. He's the weather observer. He was tracking the balloon with a theodolite, and he showed them his records. The time and altitudes didn't fit, and the wind direction was wrong. The balloon was drifting in the opposite direction. Both the tower men backed him up. So that killed the weather-balloon idea."
The next step by Project "Saucer" investigators had been to look for some unidentified aircraft. This failed, too. Obviously, it was only routine; the outline of a conventional
plane would certainly have been seen by Gorman and the men in the tower.
An astronomical check by Professor Hynek ruled out stars, fireballs, and comets--a vain hope, to begin with. The only other conventional answer, as the Project report later stated, was hallucination. In view of all the testimony, hallucination had to he ruled out. Finally, the investigators admitted they had no solution.
The first Project "Saucer" report, on April 27, 1949, left the Gorman "mystery light" unidentified.
In the Saturday Evening Post of May 7, 1949, Sidney Shallett analyzed the Gorman case, in the second of his articles on flying saucers. Shallet suggested this solution: that Gorman had chased one of the Navy's giant cosmic-ray research balloons. Each of these huge balloons is lighted, so that night-flying planes will not collide with the gas bag or the instrument case suspended below. Shallett concluded that Gorman was suffering from a combination of vertigo and confusion with the light on the balloon.
As already mentioned, these huge Navy balloons are filled with only a small amount of helium before their release at Minneapolis. They then
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