Summary: "Several UFO incidents, including multiple-witness sightings by military personnel and ground traces with above normal radioactive readings, were reported in late December 1980 at the Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, England." An overview of the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident, as presented in the Case Histories section of the UFO Briefing Document.
Several UFO incidents, including multiple-witness sightings by military personnel and ground traces with above normal radioactive readings, were reported in late December 1980 at the Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, England. The site was near two then-important NATO bases leased to the U.S. Air Force: RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge. Although details and dates reported by various investigators in the past decade are somewhat confusing, there is an official record of the case in a memorandum to the British Ministry of Defence (MOD), signed by USAF Lt. Col. Charles I. Halt, Bentwaters Deputy Base Commander:
"SUBJECT: Unexplained Lights
"1. Early in the morning of 27 December, 1980 (approximately 0300L, or 3 a.m. local time), two USAF security police patrolmen saw unusual lights outside the back gate at RAF Woodbridge. Thinking an aircraft might have crashed or been forced down, they called for permission to go outside the gate to investigate. The on-duty flight chief responded and allowed three patrolmen to proceed on foot. The individuals reported seeing a strange glowing object in the forest. The object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two to three meters [7 to 10 ft.] across the base and approximately two meters [6.5 ft.] high. It illuminated the entire forest with a white light. The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank of blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the object, it maneuvered through the trees and disappeared. At this time, the animals on a nearby farm went into a frenzy. The object was briefly sighted approximately an hour later near the back gate."94
In addition to Col. Halt's summary, testimony was provided by the USAF patrolmen involved in the case. Law enforcement airman John Burroughs wrote an official deposition of his experience after spotting some lights while on patrol near Woodbridge's East Gate:
"We stopped the truck where the road stopped and went on foot. We crossed a small open field that lead into the trees where the lights were coming from and as we were coming into the trees there were strange noises, like a woman was screaming, also the woods lit up and you could hear the farm animals making a lot of noise and there was a lot of movement in the woods. All three of us hit the ground and whatever it was started moving back towards the open field and after a minute or two we got up and moved into the trees and the lights moved out into the open field."95
Burroughs drew a sketch of the object in his official statement. (see sketch below) In a 1990 interview, Burroughs described the object as:
"A bank of lights, differently colored lights that threw off an image of like-a-craft. I never saw anything metallic or anything hard."
Yet the most interesting part of his testimony is not the presence of the lights, but rather his sensation of an altered state of consciousness:
"Everything seemed like it was different when we were in that clearing. The sky didn't seem the same... it was like a weird feeling, like everything seemed slower than you were actually doing, and all of a sudden when the object was gone, everything was like normal again."96
The testimonies of Burroughs and the other members of the USAF security patrol were confirmed the following day by the finding of ground traces with radioactive readings in the forest. Col. Halt summarized the events in his memorandum to the MOD:
"2. The next day, three depressions 1.5 feet [.5 m.] deep and 7 feet [2 m.] in diameter were found where the object had been sighted on the ground. The following night (29 December, 1980) the area was checked for radiation. Beta/gamma readings of 0.1 milliroentgen were recorded with peak readings in the three depressions and near the center of the triangle formed by the depressions. A nearby tree had moderate (.05-.07) readings on the side of the tree toward the depressions."97
Col. Halt, moreover, became directly involved in the UFO incidents when he led a second patrol into the forest two nights later. He made an audio tape recording describing live the puzzling events of that night. While the tape runs for about 20 minutes, it covers a span of over three hours, so there are obviously cuts in between. The tape describes their efforts to carry on the radiation readings quoted above and, as the night goes on, the voices become increasingly excited as strange lights appear in the forest:
"OK, we're looking at the thing, we're probably about two or three hundred yards. It looks like an eye winking at you. It's still moving from side to side and when you put the starscope [a night vision device] on it, it's like this thing has a hollow center, a dark center. It's a bit like a pupil of an eye looking at you, winking, and the flash is so bright through the starscope that it almost burns your eye."98
Col. Halt summarized these events in the third part of his memo to the MOD:
"3. Later in the night, a red sun-like light was seen through the trees. It moved about and pulsed. At one point, it appeared to throw off glowing particles and then broke into five separate white objects and then disappeared. Immediately thereafter, three star-like objects were noticed in the sky, two objects to the north and one to the south, all of which were about 10 degrees off the horizon. The objects moved rapidly in sharp angular movements and displayed red, green and blue lights. The objects to the north appeared to be elliptical through an 8-12 power lens. They then turned to full circles. The objects to the north remained in the sky for an hour or more. The object to the south was visible for two or three hours and beamed down a stream of light from time to time. Numerous individuals, including the undersigned, witnessed the activities in paragraphs 2 & 3."99
Charles Halt discussed the case again after retiring from the USAF with the rank of full colonel. He told the TV program Unsolved Mysteries in 1991:
"I was very skeptical. I found what allegedly had taken place hard to believe, and I was really going to debunk it quite frankly; and as events unfolded I became more and more concerned that there maybe is something to this... I kept telling myself that there had to be some type of explanation for it, but I certainly couldn't find one and even to this day I can't explain what happened."
Col. Halt alluded to the military implications of the event when describing beams from the object pointing to the weapons storage area a Woodbridge:
"We could very clearly see it... I noticed other beams of light coming down from the same object falling on different places on the base. My boss was standing in his front yard in Woodbridge and he could see the beams of light falling down, and the people in the weapons storage area and other places on the base also reported the lights."100
Many accounts and commentaries have been published on the Rendlesham Forest or Bentwaters incidents. Some, like the appearance of ghost-like entities, are still enveloped by controversy. The Rendlesham events have been mentioned in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and looked into by Nebraska Senator James Exon.101
A re-examination of the Rendlesham Forest UFO incidents was undertaken recently by Nick Pope during his 3-year tour as head of the MOD Secretariat Air Staff (AS2) office, which inherited the UFO reporting function from DS8. Mr. Pope checked with radiation experts as to the significance of the 0.1 milliroentgen of beta/gamma readings taken by Col. Halt's patrol:
"I went to an organization called the Defense Radiological Protection Service, which is a unit attached to the Institute of Naval Medicine near Gosport, Hampshire, and they told me that the levels of radiation reported by Col. Halt in that memo were ten times what they should be in that area compared to their background samples."102
British author and researcher Ralph Noyes was for four years the head of Defense Secretariat 8 (DS8), retiring in 1977 with the rank of Under Secretary of State. He wrote regarding this case:
"Our worried skeptical colleagues have already had to advance an extraordinary hotch-potch of explanations: space debris, a bright meteor, a police car, drink and drugs, a lighthouse, other lights on the coast, dear old Sirius.
"Occam, you will remember, urged us to cut away unnecessary complications in our attempts to explain phenomena and to look for the simplest explanation. The simplest explanation of Halt's memorandum is that he was reporting - as precisely as wondrous events permit - what he and 'numerous individuals' encountered on December 29/30, together with such facts as he had been able to ascertain from his subordinates about the occurrences of December 26/27."103
94. Halt, Lt. Col. Charles I., USAF, Memorandum to MOD, "SUBJECT: Unexplained Lights," January 13,1980.
95. Huneeus, Antonio, "The Testimony of John Burroughs," Fate, September 1993.
97. Halt, C. I., ibid.
98. Transcript of Col. Halt's audio recording published in Good, T., Above Top Secret, Quill, William Morrow, 1988.
99. Halt, C. I., ibid.
100. Interview with Col. (Ret.) Halt, Unsolved Mysteries, "U.S. military officers discuss a 1980 sighting of an unidentified flying craft near a U.S. air base in England," originally broadcast on NBC-TV on September 18, 1991.
101. See Butler, Street & Randles, Sky Crash, Neville Spearman, 1984; Randles, J., From Out of the Blue, Global Communications, 1991; "The Bentwaters Incident," articles by Jenny Randles, Ray Boeche and Antonio Huneeus, Fate, September 1993.
102. Pope, Nick, lecture at the New Hampshire MUFON Conference, Portsmouth, September 10, 1995.
103. Noyes, Ralph, "UFO lands in Suffolk - and that's Official," chapter in Timothy Good's anthology, The UFO Report 1990, Sidgewick & Jackson, 1989.