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When an Air Force Jet Scrambled to Intercept a UFO and Disappeared

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Article by Darryn King                       January 7, 2020                     (history.com)

• On the night of November 23, 1953, US Air Defense Command noticed a blip on the radar of a UFO in restricted air space over Lake Superior at the U.S.-Canadian border. An F-89C Scorpion jet, from Truax Air Force Base in Madison, Wisconsin was dispatched to intercept. The two crew members in the jet were the experienced pilot, First Lieutenant Felix Moncla, and radar operator Second Lieutenant Robert Wilson.

• In his 1955 book: The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, Donald Keyhoe wrote about the incident calling it “one of the strangest cases on record.” According to Keyhoe, the Air Force jet had trouble following the UFO which kept changing course. Flying at 500 miles per hour and with ground control radar directing them, the Scorpion gradually closed in on the UFO. As the jet dropped from 25,000 feet to 7,000 feet to intercept, radar operators on the ground watch as the pair of radar blips merged about 70 miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan.

• Once the two radar blips merged, the F-89 simply “disappeared from the ground statin’s radar scope, according the official 1953 Air Force Accident Report (see here). Then the radar return for the UFO itself ‘veered off and vanished’. The US Air Force, US Coast Guard and Canadian Air Force all conducted an extensive search-and-rescue effort. No wreckage or sign of the pilots were ever found.

• The Air Force put out an official news release to the Associated Press about how the Scorpion jet simply vanished from radar, and the Chicago Tribune published the story with the headline “Jet, Two Aboard, Vanishes Over Lake Superior”. But the Air Force retracted their original story, and claimed that ground control had ‘misread’ their radar. They insisted that the F-89 Scorpion had successfully intercepted the UFO, which they identified as a Royal Canadian Air Force C-47 Dakota flying some 30 miles off course. Then, according the revised story, the pilot Lieutenant Moncla was ‘probably’ stricken with vertigo and crashed the jet into Lake Superior. The Air Force attributed the ‘abnormal radar behavior’ to unusual “atmospheric conditions”.

• Canadian officials, however, said that no military flights had taken place in the area that night. Then, two separate Air Force representatives provided Lieutenant Moncla’s widow with contradictory explanations. One told her that the pilot had crashed into the lake, while the other told her that the jet exploded at a high altitude. The wreckage could not be found in the deep water of Lake Superior.

• Private civilian UFO investigators later discovered that all mention of the incident had been expunged from official military records. The Air Force’s National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena says, “There is no record in the Air Force files of sighting at Kinross AFB on 23 November 1953… There is no case in the files which even closely parallels these circumstances.”

• Private investigative UFO groups came up with two explanations. One said that the Air Force jet had crashed into the UFO’s protective beam and disintegrated. The other suggested that the jet had been “scooped” out of the air and taken aboard the alien spacecraft.


The night an Air Force jet mysteriously disappeared over Lake Superior—November 23, 1953—was a stormy one.

          First Lieutenant Felix Moncla

Near the U.S.-Canadian border, U.S. Air Defense Command noticed a blip on the radar where it shouldn’t have been: an unidentified object in restricted air space over Lake Superior, not far from Soo Locks, the Great Lakes’ most vital commercial gateway. An F-89C Scorpion jet, from Truax Air Force Base in Madison, Wisconsin, took off from nearby Kinross AFB to investigate, with two crew members on board. First Lieutenant Felix Moncla—who had clocked 811 flying hours, including 121 in a similar aircraft—took the pilot’s seat, while Second Lieutenant Robert Wilson was observing radar.

The men would not return from their intercept mission.

What followed, according to Donald Keyhoe, the former Marine Corps naval aviator and UFO researcher who wrote about the incident in his 1955 book The Flying Saucer Conspiracy—was “one of the strangest cases on record.”

                 F-89C Scorpion jet

Once airborne, Lieutenant Wilson had difficulty tracking the unknown object, which kept changing course. So with ground control directing the aviators over the radio, the Scorpion gave chase. The jet, traveling at 500 miles per hour, pursued the object for 30 minutes, gradually closing in.

On the ground, the radar operator guided the jet down from 25,000 to 7,000 feet, watching one blip chase the other across the radar screen. Gradually, the jet caught up to the unknown object about 70 miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan, at an altitude of 8,000 feet, approximately 160 miles northwest of Soo Locks.

At that point, the two radar blips converged into one—“locked together,” as Keyhoe would put it later. And then, according to an official accident report, the radar return from the F-89 simply “disappeared from the GCI [ground-controlled interception] station’s radar scope.”

                        Donald Keyhoe

And then the first radar return, indicating the unidentified object, veered off and vanished too.

The United States Air Force, United States Coast Guard and Canadian Air Force conducted an extensive search-and-rescue effort. No wreckage, or sign of the pilots, was ever found.



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