In my quest to verify UFO information that has been reprinted and analyzed for years, and as I was working on my last UFO book, I began looking at the UFO sightings at White Sands Missile Range on November 3, 1957. To put this into context, the Levelland sightings took place during the evening and night of November 2. About the time the sightings were ending in Levelland, they were beginning at White Sands some 250 miles away. Those who made the first reports in New Mexico had not heard of the sightings in Texas and were unaware of what was happening.
Two MPs on patrol out near the Trinity Site, on the northern edge of the missile range saw something strange. In a sworn statement given to his commanding officer written on the day of the event, November 3, Glenn Toy said:
At about 0238 – 0300 Sunday Morning [November 3, 1957] I, CPL X [Glenn H. Toy] and PFC Y [James Wilbanks] were on patrol in Range Area when we noticed a very bright object high in the sky. We were proceeding north toward South Gate and object kept coming down toward the ground. Object stopped approximately fifty (50) yards from the ground and went out and nothing could be seen. A few minutes later object became real bright (like the sun) then fell in an angle to the ground and went out. Object was approximately seventy-five (75) to 100 yards in diameter and shaped like an egg. Object landed by bunker area approximately three (3) miles from us. Object was not seen again. /END OF STATEMENT
Wilbanks also gave a statement to his commander. Later Toy would be interviewed by an Air Force investigator but Wilbanks was unavailable. According to the files, he was on a three-day pass. Thinking about it, and knowing what I know about Army regulations, this made no sense to me. A three-day pass has a limited travel radius because the Army didn’t want soldiers attempting to travel farther than was safe. They didn’t want soldiers killed in traffic accidents. Besides that the soldier had to leave contact information. Had the Army wanted him to return, they could have gotten him back so that the Air Force could interview him. Why hadn’t that been done?
According to one source who had been there in 1957, Wilbanks was not available because he was in the hospital, the result of the sighting. That information was kept out of the Air Force file and to cover the point, the story of the three-day pass was created.
For those who have only bothered to look at the Air Force file on the case, we see that these two soldiers were young, Toy was 21 (according to one document in the Project Blue Book files) at the time and Wilbanks younger. The Air Force thought that discussions of flying saucers might have influenced their reports by, according to the Air Force records, “the famous Levelland case,” though nothing had been reported prior to Toy and Wilbanks’ sighting. Both suggested they had heard nothing about this until after the event.
The Air Force eventually solved the sighting. According to the Project card, Toy and Wilbanks were “very young (18 20), impressionable & on duty in a lonely, isolated desert post. Interviewers agreed that their sightings were magnified out of proportion.” According to the Air Force, it was the moon.
To get to that point, the Air Force ignored the information from the witnesses which suggested that the object was close to the ground. They ignored the estimate of the size and that there were references on the ground to help Toy and Wilbanks in those estimates. It wasn’t as if the object was a pinpoint of light in a dark sky with no points of reference.
While it seems that the Air Force made a solid investigation, they actually spent little time on it, sent a single officer to White Sands, and then slapped an explanation on it as quickly as possible. Reinhold Schmidt who claimed to have been taken on-board a UFO that had landed in Nebraska in the days that followed the White Sands sightings, was interviewed by officers from the Continental Air Defense Command and Army Intelligence. For some reason they thought this case more important, though Schmidt had a shady background and he was talking about seeing the inside of the craft, escorted by alien creatures.
The point here? The Air Force, in 1957, was not engaged in investigating UFOs, but was more interested in offering explanations. These cases prove the point. Ignore the reliable reports from military personnel, slap ridiculous explanations on them with little or no real investigation, and move onto the obvious frauds which can be explained easily. Make it seem as if there is a real interest in all UFO cases, but remember, they controlled the sighting at White Sands. It wasn’t very dramatic so there wasn’t a widespread interest in it.
Instead, make a real show of investigating a case that was an obvious fraud. Send in several officers and then explain the sighting with solid information. It creates a mindset in the general public that allows the Air Force to avoid having to answer any tough questions about UFOs. It buries the important sightings at White Sands where people were injured by the UFO (this would be the Stokes UFO sighting on November 5 not far from Alamogordo and that might include Wilbanks), and focuses on the ridiculous.
These White Sands sightings deserve another look. They deserve a proper investigation and there are enough problems with the official files that show something more was happening there at the time. But then, the Air Force didn’t want an answer for the case, other than one they dreamed up. Looking at the facts might suggest something other than the moon.
Kevin, I've searched Ancestry.com looking for a "James Wilbanks" born circa 1938-39 (or 18 in 1957) and tried to cross-correlate with military records. No luck so far. The only military Wilbanks I can find are born a few years earlier. How sure are we about his age. Any lead on middle initials? There seem to be an unfortunate number of "James Wilbanks" born in the 1930s.
I might add here that UFOs were also seen intruding at low level by security guards and a Texas highway patrolman on the night of Nov. 7, 1957, at the Pantex Atomic Energy Commission ordnance plant near Amarillo, Texas, as reported by the Amarillo Globe-Times on Nov. 8. as a major front page story. No doubt they were also mistakenly IDing the moon.
According to story, starting at about 7:45 p.m., three flashing objects hovered for about 30 minutes over the plant only 50 feet in the air. The highway patrolman said the guards were "all shook up" when he got there. One of the objects reportedly landed offsite. The guards attempted to approach it, but every time they got near, the object would slip away.
This sounds very much like the Trinity site landing only a few days early, with again an atomic energy theme, ala Robert Hastings and his "UFOs and Nukes" book.
See Donald Menzel: THE WORLD OF FLYING SAUCERS, p.180-181 for an analysis of these sightings. Unfortunately the AF press release writer got the explanations in the wrong order.
An object 100 yards wide at 2 or or 3 miles distance would NOT be "like a grapefruit at arms length" (as implied in the witnesses' description). From this, you can draw your own conclusions as to the accuracy of their observation.
Granted, 100 yards wide at 2 to 3 miles implies an angular size of only 1 to 1.5 deg., or 1 to 1.5 cm at arm's length, more like a large grape than a grapefruit .
But this I consider a typical skeptical nitpick, easily resolvable by the object being bigger and/or closer than estimated, let's say a factor of 2 off in estimated size and distance. (Or possibly the public press report not getting the facts accurate, thus not necessarily a mistake by the witnesses themselves.)
The key point is they reported a large, very bright, EXTENDED object off in the distance, not a point of light, and still substantially bigger than the moon, which doesn't normally appear "real bright (like the sun)", drop from "high in the sky" down to ground level, suddenly "go out", or appear in the northern sky. (The moon at the time was due west, partially full, and very near the horizon, about 45 min. from setting, not north and high in the sky.)
They also weren't the only guards or other people to report strange objects in the sky in this early November 1957 UFO flap that started within an hour of the launching of Sputnik II, beginning with the numerous car stallings in Levelland, Texas, again a very large, bright, oval-shaped object. I mentioned another very similar sighting 4 days later over the Pantex AEC nuclear ordnance plant near Amarillo. I didn't mention the Amarillo newspaper reporting numerous other people reporting strange objects in the area, including reporters going to the site to cover the story.
There was also the widely publicized White Sands engineer James Stokes' report of the a large, oval object stalling numerous cars on the highway near Orogrande, N.M., the strange oval shaped object reported at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, also Nov. 4 (which the Condon Commission frivolously dismissed as a high-performance private aircraft, for which there wasn't a bit of evidence and didn't remotely fit the report), and many, many other UFO sightings in the southwest in those first few days of November 1957.
And over in the Gulf of Mexico, was another widely reported UFO story of the Coast Guard cutter Sebago reporting a UFO both visually and on radar on Nov. 5.
Quibbling over whether two witnesses got their estimates of size and distance exactly right sort of misses the point. There was a huge UFO flap going on, with most people reporting large, oval shaped objects coming close to, or landing on the ground, and often associated with car stallings. Several of these also clearly involved intrusions into sensitive, military nuclear weapons sites (Trinity A-bomb site, Kirtland AFB, Pantex).
I'm not ssure that in this case I would use Menzel. He used the information from the Blue Book files and that information was inaccurate. As far as I know, he never spoke to any of the witnesses. I did... and yes, you can say that their memories are faulty, but agree with the statements they made in 1957. The Air Force file contains gaps that should have been resolved in 1957 but were not.
"...the Air Force didn’t want an answer for the case, other than one they dreamed up. Looking at the facts might suggest something other than the moon."
Never let the reported facts get in the way of a poorly fabricated story seems to have been the motto of the USAF Project Blue Book at the time.
In Alamogordo at 1957 nov 3 the Moon down entirely at accurately 02:50 according to SkyMap Pro.
So that time the very bright object seen at high level (position) cannot be the Moon.
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