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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Bell County
Postwar Secrets
Part 2

Attack on Camp Hood

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

Editor's note: This is Part 2 of two columns about the military's investigation of UFOs over Fort Hood in the late 1940s.
See Part 1

With construction complete, the Army began stockpiling its growing nuclear arsenal at Camp Hood. While military brass in Killeen and at the Pentagon assessed the big picture of the world scene, rank and file GIs stationed at the secret Texas site had only the protection of the underground facility’s perimeter to worry about. For them, that job amounted to routine peacetime soldiering -- at least until March 6, 1949.

At 8:20 p.m., a sergeant and a private saw something in the sky they had no means to challenge: An oblong, blue-white object moving southward in the airspace over the supposedly impenetrable A-bomb facility. Other patrol teams reported seeing something similar.

After midnight, a military policeman reported that at 1:30 a.m. on March 7, an orange-colored, teardrop-shaped object dropped from the sky right in front of him. Visible only a few seconds, the thing disappeared. Other soldiers said they saw it, too.

At 2 a.m. on March 8, infantrymen located a half-mile apart reported unknown lights in the sky over the bomb storage facility. One soldier said he saw a whitish light, and another GI described a lemon-shaped, yellowish-red light that appeared to be in level flight across the secure area.

Given the ultra-sensitivity of the site, the Army quickly opened an investigation. Federal authorities in the Southwest already had their figurative antenna up due to a series of unexplained aerial sightings around Los Alamos, NM, that had begun in mid-December 1948. On Jan. 31, 1949, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Antonio office sent a one-page memo to Director J. Edgar Hoover in Washington. The agent said representatives of Army intelligence (G-2), Office of Naval Intelligence, the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigation, and the FBI had been conducting weekly intelligence conferences and had recently discussed “the matter of ‘unidentified aircraft’...otherwise known as... ‘flying saucers’...” During the previous two months, the SAC told Hoover, “various sightings of unexplained phenomena” had been occurring at Los Alamos. The FBI man concluded: “Up to this time little concrete information has been obtained.”

A week after the Camp Hood sightings, an Army G-2 officer readied an experiment he assumed would prove the soldiers who reported the lights had merely been seeing flares connected to routine nighttime maneuvers at the post.

The assistant G-2 for the 2nd Armored Division intended to set off a series of flares to support his hypothesis. He stationed artillery observers at key points to report by radio what the flares looked like from various distances and angles. But before the experiment began, at 7:52 p.m. on March 17, the observers reported a series of white, red, and green lights that appeared to be flying in straight lines. No one had shot any flares yet. The captain reported the incident, which included seven separate sightings, and continued with more witness interviews.

Meanwhile, the mysterious sightings over the post continued.

While on patrol at 11:50 p.m. on March 31, a lieutenant observed what he described as a reddish-white fireball pass over the airstrip adjacent to the weapons storage site. When he used his field telephone to report the sighting, something caused interference on the frequency.

G-2 had been sending its reports on the unknown aerial activity at Killeen Base to the Air Force, but that branch of the military was preoccupied with the situation at Los Alamos. When the Army heard nothing back from the Air Force, it assumed its investigators had no interest in the Camp Hood situation.

But when the sightings above the military post continued—climaxed by virtually the entire garrison seeing a formation of lights pass overhead during retreat—the base commander decided to take decisive action. The general’s staff quickly developed a plan: Special four-man squads equipped with sighting apparatuses designed for artillery fire control would be positioned at selected points affording the best view across the secret facility. Operating on a special radio frequency, if a team saw an aerial anomaly, it would transmit the object’s azimuth angle and elevation to a command post. If multiple teams saw the object, the data could be triangulated for a fairly accurate reading of the object’s direction and speed.

As preparation for the exercise continued, so did the sightings. But by late summer, the Army had a far more tangible threat to worry about other than mysterious lights in the night sky over Camp Hood or New Mexico. On Aug. 29, 1949, the Soviet Union exploded an atomic bomb. The United States no longer enjoyed a nuclear monopoly.

A shocked citizenry read about the successful Russian nuclear test in their newspapers or heard about it on radio or television, but years would go by before the American public got any inkling that something unusual had been happening at domestic military instillations in Texas and New Mexico. In fact, the details of what happened at Camp Hood that spring did not surface publicly until 1956, when former Air Force Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt published his now classic book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Even then, Ruppelt would only say that the perplexing rash of UFO sightings in the spring of 1949 had occurred at “a highly secret area that can’t be named.”

Ruppelt said that while the description of the lights varied, “the majority of the observers reported a V formation of three lights.”

The Army's investigation plan was written as a field order, signed by the right people, and mimeographed for distribution to the appropriate personnel.

“Since the Air Force had the prime responsibility for the UFO investigation,” Ruppelt wrote, “it was decided that the plan should be quickly coordinated with the Air Force, so a copy was rushed to them. Time was critical...Everything was ready to roll the minute the Air Force said ‘Go.’”

But for reasons Ruppelt never learned, the Air Force nixed the Army’s Camp Hood UFO plan.

Judging from reports later released under the Federal Freedom of Information Act, the post commander at Hood decided to proceed with a coordinated UFO tracking effort despite the lack of Air Force buy-in. On the night May 6, two days after the system had been activated, artillery observers spotted an unidentified aerial object over the camp. At 7:40 p.m. the following day, observers tracked another UFO over the base. One officer noted a diamond-shaped object at 1,000 feet, moving northwest. The bright white light remained visible 57 and was estimated as traveling at 1,300 miles an hour. On May 8, three observers recorded another sighting, this one beginning at 10:08 p.m. and continuing for nine minutes. Severe radio interference occurred until the object was no longer visible. The final recorded sighting came at 9:05 p.m. on June 6.

Twenty years after the wave of Fort Hood UFO sightings, the Army shut down Killeen Base and removed all nuclear weapons. The former Q Area is now known as West Fort Hood and the former Gray Air Force Base is now operated by the Army.

What caused the rash of mysterious sightings above the then top secret facility has never been explained.

See Part 1

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" - April 14, 2016 Column


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