Summary: This final article in a six-part series on unidentified flying objects (UFOS) examines one of the most talked about and controversial incidents in the area, what has been termed a meteorite by some and an alien craft by others, which crashed in Kecksburg December 9, 1965.
This final article in a six-part series on unidentified flying objects (UFOS) examines one of the most talked about and controversial incidents in the area, what has been termed a meteorite by some and an alien craft by others, which crashed in Kecksburg December 9, 1965.
The object was first seen streaking across the sky, with thousands from Michigan to New York witnessing a brilliant ball of fire which left a smoke trail, visible for about 20 minutes after it passed.
Many, including pilots who observed it, thought it was an aircraft which was on fire. Reports of debris from the object were made in many states, and an Ohio fire department was called to extinguish 10 small fires in an area where witnesses said they saw flaming fragments falling from the sky.
Shock waves were reported by pilots, and a seismograph near Detroit recorded a shock, wrote investigator Stan Gordon, of Pennsylvania Association for the Study of the Unexplained (PASU) in a recent journal article. The crash has been a pet project of the Greensburg man "since the night it happened," he said, noting he is still trying to obtain information on the incident.
Although the military eventually labeled the object a meteor, as did the Associated Press account published in The Bulletin the day after the crash, Gordon says recent evidence, including the discovery of a man who saw the object, supports the idea that the object was a true UFO.
"I was a teen-ager then," said John (not his real name). "It was in the early part of December and there was a little snow and a little rain, and mud."
He was called to the scene after the 4:44 p.m. crash as a fireman from the Latrobe area, to search for the crashed object.
"I had seen a fiery object in the sky. I can't say exactly which direction but it was coming from the north. It was not too much longer and the fire whistle went off," he said. "I answered the call and was told they needed a search team because at the time they believed it was a downed aircraft. And I thought, 'My God, this is what I have just seen'."
When firemen arrived at the Kecksburg Fire Hall, maps were reviewed and groups were given sections to search.
"It was getting semi-dusk and we had flashlights. We were taken in the back of a truck and dropped off and told to go 'this way' which we did. I was not on the initial contact team. Another team found the object.
"It was definitely, unequivocally, positively, absolutely no aircraft, plane, helicopter or rocket, at least not to my knowledge. It was in an area that was part field and part woods and we went down to investigate," he said.
"We found the object had crashed at a 30 to 40 degree angle, and had broken off numerous tree branches in its impact path. My initial reaction was 'This is no airplane.' I observed no shrapnel, no breaking up of the fuselage. It was one solid piece, no doors, no windows.
"Preliminary searches found no bodies or casualties. It was shaped like an acorn, laying on its side, like the acorn nut is in its shell when it's on a tree," he explained. "I've been a machinist for 24 years and I've worked with a tremendous amount of different metals, and I have never seen any type of metal that looked even close to that."
John said the object was not broken, "not even cracked, just dented a bit. It did not give off smoke, steam or vapors, at least none that we could see."
Reports from neighbors in the area said it had given off a faint trail of blue smoke, which disappeared after the crash.
He described the portion visible as between eight and 10 feet long, six and seven feet across, and said a man of average height would probably have had little trouble standing up inside it. The crater it plowed into the ground was "rectangular in shape."
John said the state police were there and the area was soon quarantined.
"They drove us out. It was late at night when we finally got back to the fire hall and it had been completely taken over by the military. They were carrying in large pieces of equipment, radios and such, and they had armed guards posted outside so nobody could get in or out. The firemen were thrown out. We weren't even allowed in to use the bathroom.
"The military had control of the whole operation," John recalled. "After a while we saw a flat bed truck come by with some other military equipment, a crane or something.
"It was not too much longer, an hour, an hour and a half, when the trucks came back and there was a large object on the back of the flat bed, covered by a tarp, with military escorts front and back. I got the feeling that if you had stepped on the road you were dead meat. They weren't stopping for anything."
Although the object was later said to be a meteorite, John doesn't buy that explanation.
"It had writing on it, not like your average writing, but more like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. It had sort of a bumper on it, like a ribbon about six to 10 inches wide, and it stood out. It was elliptical the whole way around and the writing was on this bumper. It's nothing like I've ever seen, and I'm an avid reader. I read a lot of books on Egypt, the Incas, Peruvians, Russians and I've never to this day come across anything that looked like that."
John notes that later it was denied that the object was even a meteorite, and the military "denied they were even in the area. But I know there were Air Force and Army personnel involved. It was like they just came out of the woodwork."
Gordon's research has revealed that one of the military groups involved was most likely to be the 662nd Radar Squadron, based at the Oakdale Armory, located near Greater Pittsburgh International Airport.
The squadron was found to be under the control of the Aerospace Defense Command, and attempts to get information on the Kecksburg crash, through the Freedom of Information Act, have not provided much to go on.
One response said there had been no record of the squadron being activated on that date, Gordon said, wondering how so much equipment and personnel could be activated while the monthly report showed no entry on Dec. 9.
Through his research, Gordon says he knows the Air Force was still investigating UFO cases at the public level then, and that it was apparently the Project Blue Book staff which contacted the 662nd squadron. Subsequent reports have led him to theorize that even the Project Blue Book staff was not made aware of objects which could "affect national security," and that some intelligence teams investigated crashes of "foreign space vehicles."
Another strange occurrence that night, Gordon said, was reports by some civilians that radiation was released. He explained that some children playing in the area had reportedly been told by military personnel that that was a possibility, and men in decontamination suits were allegedly seen at the site later the next day.
Although he has considered the possibility that the object could have been space debris or a test device, Gordon says documents and evidence obtained in the last few years lead more in the direction of it being a "true UFO."
"It was definitely not of this planet. At the time I was a skeptical teen, but when you see something like that you don't forget it. When you get called out like that from the fire department you think you're going out looking for an aircraft of some sort, not a UFO.
"I'll never forget it. I still want to know what the hell it was."