Hampton Roads’ Long, Strange History With UFOs
Article by Katherine Hafner, Matt Jones and Gordon Rago August 2, 2019 (pilotonline.com)
• There have long been reports of UFOs buzzing above Hampton Roads. Located in Southeastern Virginia, Hampton Roads, which includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach, is home to several military installations and NASA facilities. Reports of UFOs in the region can be traced back to 1813, when a Portsmouth tavern owner claimed to have watched “a ball of fire” weave over Norfolk County. He wrote about the incident to Thomas Jefferson.
• Jimmi Bonavita was a Virginia Beach police officer in the summer of 1975. He was sitting in his patrol car about 2 am when he saw five crescent-shaped “semi-translucent” globes coming over the horizon several miles out at treetop level. The five objects were traveling in formation, moving up and down as if bouncing. Then four Navy fighter jets armed with missiles flew by, apparently chasing the UFOs. Bonavita followed them, driving north toward the Oceanfront tourist area (pictured above). He saw the objects reach the beach and disappear over the Atlantic Ocean, outdistancing the Navy fighter jets. Says the now retired Bonavita, “I know that what I saw was real. It wasn’t an illusion.”
• On July 14th, 1952, flight officers William Nash and William Fortenberry were alone in the cockpit of their Pan American Airways Douglas DC-4, en route from New York to Miami. As they cruised over the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay, they spotted six glowing discs, each about 100 feet wide. Two more UFOs joined the formation over the Newport News peninsula, then entered a steep climb and disappeared into space. Nash told the AP, “There is no doubt in our minds that we saw missiles of some kind operating under intelligent control.” Days later, three Norfolk residents confirmed seeing the UFOs that day. Air Force officials at Langley AFB on the peninsula said that the pilots had seen rockets or tracers being fired at a nearby bombing range.
• More local sightings soon followed in July of 1952, making national news. A Hampton couple told the Daily Press newspaper that they had seen eight yellow-orange lights near the Chesapeake Bay coastline. A commercial airline pilot said he saw two pulsating white lights. Finally, radar at the National Airport picked up a formation of UFO’s over the nation’s capital and scrambled Air Force fighter jets in the infamous Washington, DC sighting.
• In 1957, it was reported in a Pilot newspaper article that an “experienced Ground Observer Corps member” at Langley Field in Newport News saw a “flattened-oval object” hovering in the sky. After watching it for about ten seconds, the object disappeared.
• In 1958, a Pilot newspaper reporter at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront saw a long silvery cylindrical object hovering stationary in the sky for several minutes. It then slowly began to move south toward North Carolina, emitting a stream of white exhaust. The reporter described it as “no known plane or missile”.
• During the 1960’s 70’s and 80’s, folks in Hampton Roads reported waves of UFO sightings. A 15-year-old boy fired two shotgun blasts at a UFO he saw in Poquoson (on the peninsula). In 1983, an Alexandria, Virginia man sued the Air Force, claiming the Langley base in Hampton was hiding “long-dead creatures from outer space packed in ice.”
• In 1965, a sheriff in Western Virginia became alarmed by the number of citizens carrying arms, and asked whether they had the “right to mow the (UFOs) down? ” The Virginia Attorney General ruled that there was no law against shooting “little green men’ from outer space”.
• While UFO sightings have been routinely dismissed, that changed in the spring of 2019 when several Navy pilots in the “Red Rippers” fighter squadron at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach reported routinely seeing UFOs from Virginia to Florida for several years, starting around 2014. They told the New York Times that the objects flew up to 30,000 feet in the air at hypersonic speeds, had no exhaust plumes, and moved in ways impossible for humans, with sudden stops and turns. One UFO was described as “a sphere encasing a cube.” (see Navy video of UFO flying off of the Virginia coast in 2015 below)
• Navy spokesman Joseph Gradisher told The Virginian Pilot newspaper, “For quite some time, and especially within the past few years, there’s been an increase of observed incursions into our training areas, especially off of the Virginia capes” down to Florida. These sightings have occurred on a quite frequent basis.” In a policy reversal, Navy officials have gone down to the Oceana Master Jet Base to encourage pilots to report new sightings as soon as they happen.
• In 2003, Virginia Beach native, Cameron Pack, was driving when he and a friend saw triangular lights with “no structure, no shape, no outline,” flying low above the treetops. The lights flew straight over their car, then turned and moved away. It made a “God-awful noise,” Pack said. “Not like a jet noise but… like alive, almost. But still in a machine way. … We kind of knew it was something not normal and not from here.”
• Pack sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the city’s police department. In response, he received dozens UFO sighting reports made by local citizens. Between 1976 and 2008, the Virginia Beach Police Department collected detailed UFO reports, passing them along to a central UFO hotline. Among these accounts: November 1995, a caller’s daughter witnessed a circular object with lights on the bottom and making a humming sound, flying very low to the house; May 1988, someone reported a group of lights stopped still in the sky, then shot straight up; One woman reported an object with lights had followed her car from Salisbury, Md., to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
• Kelly Herbst is an astronomy curator at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, and a UFO skeptic. When she gets calls from people seeing a UFO in the sky, she says that 9 times out of 10 it is the planet Venus. Says Kelly, “Your brain wants to explain these things. By nature, we do pattern recognition. So it’s trying to fit what it sees into its known experience.” According to the American Meteor Society, meteors can move in unusual paths, burn different colors depending on their chemical composition or explode and disappear in a flash of light. Kelly Herbst says that “Just about anything that appears in the sky can end up being misidentified.” Kelly thinks that what Virginia Beach police officer Jimmi Bonavita saw back in 1975 was a meteor. Kelly also blames fast-moving birds, weather balloons, Chinese lanterns, drones, military aircraft, clouds and the aurora borealis for mistaken UFOs.
• Carter Bulger of Virginia Beach is a volunteer field investigator with the Mutual UFO Network, known as MUFON. Over the past three years, he’s been assigned about thirty local UFO cases. Someone from Newport News reported seeing a “small disc shaped object” glide in front of his truck about 60 feet in the air. It “looked transparent, but sunlight reflected off of rippled edges.” Bulger conducts recorded interviews with witnesses. He goes out to the scene and takes photos and videos. He checks weather records and submits public document requests to the Navy and Federal Aviation Administration seeking radar records. For the most part, Bulger has concluded his cases were indeed UFOs.
• [Editor’s Note] I won’t even go into the depth of cognitive dissonance that someone like Kelly Herbst must have to dismiss all UFO sightings across the board with such flimsy and boiler-plate explanations – birds, clouds and the aurora borealis. She basically says that Navy fighter jets were chasing a meteor over Virginia Beach in 1975. But I do find it very interesting that on July 14th, 1952, Pan Am pilots flying south to Miami spotted eight large glowing discs over the Virginia peninsula, with many others on the ground reporting the same. Newspapers across the country reported on the glowing lights seen flying in formation over Washington D.C. from July 12th thru the 29th, 1952 (see ExoArticle here), and insiders such as William Tompkins and Corey Goode have revealed that these were early models of Antarctic Nazi-German electromagnetic/anti-gravity spacecraft buzzing the nation’s capital in order to put pressure on government and military authorities to assent to entering into a secret treaty with the Antarctic Germans, which Eisenhower did soon thereafter. It would make sense that the Antarctic Germans would also buzz the Norfolk Naval Base to demonstrate their technical superiority.
Five crescent-shaped objects were traveling in formation, moving like saucers bouncing off the top of water. Up and down. Up and down.
Jimmi Bonavita, then a Virginia Beach police officer, saw the “semi-translucent” globes coming over the horizon, several miles out at treetop level. He revved up his patrol car.
It was early, around 2 a.m., in midsummer 1975.
Then four Navy fighter jets came buzzing by, seemingly chasing the flying objects. Bonavita followed suit, zooming down the city’s roads to keep up. He wanted to keep them in sight.
The UFOs eventually went toward the Oceanfront and disappeared over the sea, outmaneuvering the pilots, said Bonavita, who’s now retired.
The scene, which could be straight out of a sci-fi movie, stuck with him the rest of his life — including the image of a jet flying right over his car.
“These planes were armed,” Bonavita, now a game warden with the Department of Defense and well-known local expert on snakes and other reptiles, recalled in an interview. “They had Sidewinder missiles. You don’t fly armed jets over a populated area unless it’s national security.”
It was his third and last UFO sighting. “I’ve long since given up what people think of me,” Bonavita said. “I know what I saw. I know that what I saw was real. It wasn’t an illusion. Can I explain it? No. But I’m not going to worry about it.”
There have long been reports of unidentified flying objects buzzing around Hampton Roads skies. It makes sense, with the region home to several military installations and NASA facilities.
Such reports can be traced as far back as 1813, when a Portsmouth tavern owner claimed to have watched “a ball of fire” weave over Norfolk County. He even wrote about the incident to Thomas Jefferson.
But often the sightings have been easily dismissed, written off and not taken seriously. That changed this spring.
The Navy updated its protocol for reporting what it calls unexplained aerial phenomena, and several pilots came forward saying they’d seen UFOs as close as Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. The move by military brass brought the topic out of the shadows, providing a sense of legitimacy to obsessed amateur sky watchers.
And to what they’ve seen.
Police and news reports, interviews and emails are full of flashing lights and objects that move like no other. Astronomers and others offer logical explanations for some sightings — but not all.
Read their accounts, and see: You just might find yourself wondering what’s out there when you look up.
36 second Navy jet video of “fast moving” UFO off of the Virginia coast in 2015 (USA Today)
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