Air Force, Just Put a Sock in It
UFO By BILLY COX

billy.cox@heraldtribune.com

Friday, Jan. 25, 2008-So the Air Force reverses itself Wednesday and cops to a mistake in its initial statements on the Jan. 8 UFO sighting in Stephenville, Texas. But why? Why bother? It’s dumb.

“Their irrational behavior is just fascinating,” says longtime UFO investigator Don Berliner from his home in Alexandria, Va. “They’d be better off just shutting up. You can’t jump on them for anything if they don’t say anything.”

Imagine being the one getting hung out to dry. That’d be Maj. Karl Lewis. For a Jan. 14 Associated Press story, the spokesman for the 301st Fighter Wing announces that no military aircraft whatsoever were in the area that evening.

Lewis says the UFO — seen by dozens of eyewitnesses, some of whom describe it as longer than three football fields, with lights as harsh as welders’ torches — is probably a high-altitude passenger liner ... despite the fact that many of those witnesses reported seeing the UFO being pursued by jet interceptors, most likely F-16s.

“I’m 90 percent sure this was an airliner,” the poor guy insists. “With the sun’s angle, it can play tricks on you.”

Later, Lewis says — whoops — there’s been “an internal communications error.” And the 457th Fighter Squadron press release adds, uh, yeah, we had 10 F-16 fighters performing “training operations” near Stephenville at the time. But we can’t release details due to “operations security.”

So why make any public statement at all? The USAF looks foolish, and its embarrassing admission extends the shelf life of a story destined to go away anyway. Because the media always goes away. Always.

“And now, it’s even on ... NPR,” says documentary producer Tom Tulien of Minneapolis. “They should’ve just let it die.”

For nearly 10 years, Tulien has been collecting first-person stories from the early postwar UFO era and compiling them into the Sign Oral History Project. He takes the long view on these things and suspects the USAF had few attractive options on Stephenville because of the media attention.

“I suspect they (USAF) were probably getting some pressure,” he says. “Maybe a lot of people down there were calling their congressmen. That does happen.”

And sometimes, with extraordinary results, most notably in March 1966. That’s when 87 college coeds and a couple of cops saw a huge glowing UFO in the night skies above Michigan. In an age when the media were far more skeptical of official explanations than they are today, USAF-contracted astronomer Allen Hynek uttered his infamous “swamp gas” bromide, which insulted everybody.

Bottom line: House Minority Leader Gerald Ford was forced to mollify constituent incredulity. Enough political levers were pushed to shuffle the USAF’s ongoing public UFO investigation over to the University of Colorado. The Colorado study, known as the Condon Report, turned out to be bunk, but so what? It let the Air Force off the hook, and it cooled the kettle.

The USAF continues to collect UFO data today, but it doesn’t have to say anything because those back-channel studies remain unofficial. Silence is always its best policy, as demonstrated during the countdown to the 50th anniversary of the 1947 Roswell incident.

In the 1990s, contradicting many eyewitnesses testifying to the recovery of a crashed flying saucer, USAF authorities issued two reports with alternative explanations. The silliest attributed tales of alien bodies to a mixup with military parachute dummies from the 1950s.

“Those Roswell reports were so full of errors, you didn’t even have to be familiar with the case to understand the problems,” says Berliner, who once investigated the phenomenon as a member of the prestigious National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. “And the crash-dummy report was just laughable. If that’s the best we can do, we might as well surrender. I don’t know to who, but ...”

Why did the Stephenville incident create enough heat to lure the USAF out of its bunker? Who knows. President Bush’s ranch in Crawford is just 60 miles to the southeast (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

But here’s a check that won’t bounce: The USAF won’t be making another screwup like this anytime soon. And without another sighting, or an MSM appreciation of its richer context, Stephenville will fade like a summer tan.

source and references:

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20080125/BLOG32/314794086&start=1

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