Sunday, August 09, 2009

Former World War II Fighter Pilot Bud Clem’s 1945 UFO Experience at the Hanford Plutonium Production Plant

Hanford Plutonium Plant Aerial View
By Robert Hastings
ufohastings.com
© 8-8-09

On the Anniversary of the Destruction of Nagasaki:

Robert Hastings     When World War II ended, in September 1945, Clarence R. “Bud” Clem was a Lieutenant Junior Grade (Lt. jg) in the U.S. Naval Reserves, serving as an F6F Hellcat fighter pilot assigned to Air Group 50 aboard the U.S.S. Cowpens CVL25. In an email, Clem told me, “[After the Japanese surrendered,] the Cowpens was the first aircraft carrier to arrive in Tokyo Bay and I was with the first flight to land at Yokasuka Naval Air Station (NAS) that day.”

However, almost a year earlier, the Hellcat squadron had been based at NAS Klamath Falls, Oregon. “Our group was deployed to NAS Pasco, Washington for ground support training in March 1945.” Clem wrote, “The Hanford Ordnance Works was just across the Columbia River from Pasco and designated TOP SECRET. We experienced an unknown object over the Hanford site in March/April, 1945. I did not fly after the object, as two members of our squadron did, but I did assist in trying to determine what was going on. I am 84 and I do not know if any other members of our squadron are still alive [who] could add more information. If you have any information about our experience, I would like to see what the official report stated.”

I wrote to Clem, saying that I didn’t have any official reports relating to the incident. I then asked for more details. Clem responded:
One night, shortly after the evening meal, the officers were gathered at the Officers Club for relaxation when the duty officer at the tower called our commander with a request. Lt. Commander Richard Brown took the call, as the Captain was in conference. Ensign C.T. Neal and I were with Brown and he asked us if we would volunteer to go with him to the flight line for possible duty. We both agreed and a jeep was waiting at the door to take us to the flight line. We learned that an unknown ‘bogy’ was over the Hanford Ordnance Works, according to the radar operator located on an auxiliary field just across the Columbia River from Hanford reservation.

We had been instructed upon arrival that the Hanford Ordnance Works was Top Secret and NO flights over any part were permitted...We did not know about the radar, but the duty officer stated that something was in the sky over the area and wanted someone to investigate. A plane was [already] armed and warmed-up on the tarmac. Brown stated he would go and Neal was to stand-by in another plane, in case of trouble. I was to join the [controller] in the tower and communicate info from radar to the pilots.

Brown quickly found the object, a bright ball of fire, and took chase. But he could not close, even with water injection that gave a quick boost in speed. The object headed out NW towards Seattle and was quickly lost by radar. Brown returned to base and we three retired to the club, still shaking and wondering what we had encountered.

Memory does not recall details of two similar experiences—I think Neal was to take the next chase—but the object disappeared before he got airborne. I was assigned to fly the entire [Hanford] reservation at low altitude (200 feet or so) to give the radar operator the blind spots [caused by the terrain]…

The third, and last attempt on our part to ‘catch’ and identify the object came just shortly before we returned to Klamath Falls, and then on to California and Hawaii, before joining the 7th Fleet in combat. I do not know if any other incidents occurred after we left Washington. None of the above information was mentioned in the ‘history’ of our squadron but I wonder what is on record at NAS Pasco.1
I asked Clem, “During the first incident, how long did it take for the aircraft to get to Hanford?” He replied, “Not long. An aircraft was always ready to fly on short notice to intercept the Japanese incendiary balloons. If you’ve read the history of that project, and the concern the balloons caused, it would have been logical to intercept them before they could reach Hanford.”

I asked Clem if the pilot on the first night, Lt. Commander Brown, had described the object in detail, either over the radio or back at the Officers Club. Clem replied, “He just said it was so bright that you could hardly look directly at it. As he closed on it, it took off to the northwest at a high rate of speed. No maneuvers really, just a straight-line course.”

Other questions to Clem added few details. He later sent me his military records which revealed that the fighter squadron was actually at Pasco from January 9 to February 15, 1945, not during March and April, as he had first indicated. Perhaps significantly, Hanford began plutonium-separation processing on January 20, 1945. Some of that material was used in the “Fat Man” bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, on August 9, 1945.

But Bud Clem’s account is not unique. Another former World War II fighter pilot, Rolan D. Powell, has revealed that he too had been involved in a UFO intercept attempt at the Hanford plant, possibly in July 1945. That incident was first mentioned in a self-published book by Byron D. Varner: an aviation cadet during World War II, whose naval career included a 13-year stint as a Navy Public Affairs Officer.

Upon learning of Powell’s report, Walt Andrus, former International Director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), located and interviewed him. According to a short article available at nicap.org, Powell told Andrus that while he was unaware of the whereabouts of the other five aviators who had been involved in the action, and did not even remember their full names, they had nevertheless belonged to a squadron of 12 veteran fighter pilots who had survived combat in the Pacific as members of Air Group 3, while assigned to the U.S.S. Yorktown [CV-10].

According to the article:
Powell estimated that the event took place six weeks before the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945, which puts the sighting in the middle of July 1945.

Powell told Andrus that six F6F [aircraft] made visual contact with the object, [which was] described as the size of three aircraft carriers side-by-side, oval shaped, very streamlined, like a stretched-out egg, and pinkish in color. Powell reported that some kind of vapor was being emitted around the outside edges from portholes or vents. He speculated that the vapor was being discharged to form a cloud for disguise. The object was observed at noon in a clear sky at an estimated altitude of 65,000 feet.

The F6Fs went up as high as 42,000 feet, well above their rated ceiling of 37,000 feet, but could not reach the large object, which hovered above the Hanford nuclear reactor for an additional 20 minutes, before going straight up as the six Hellcats gave up the intercept.2
A rather dramatic account, to say the least! Hopefully, at least some of the other members of Powell’s squadron who participated in this action can be located and interviewed. Efforts are currently underway to do just that.

In any case, given Bud Clem’s recent report to me, it now appears likely that UFO surveillance at America’s nuclear weapons sites began at least several months prior to the successful test of the first atomic bomb, in the New Mexico desert, on July 16, 1945. Moreover, if Rolan Powell’s estimate of the date of his encounter at Hanford is reasonably accurate, the event he describes would have occurred around the time of the test. (That said, Bud Clem’s initial estimate of his squadron’s presence at the Pasco NAS was off by some two months, perhaps not unreasonably, given that the reported event occurred over 60 years ago. Similarly, Powell’s estimate of the time-frame for his own experience may be somewhat inaccurate as well.)

References

1. Bud Clem to Robert Hastings, personal communication, April 2, 2009

2. http://www.nicap.org/ncp/ncp-hanford45.htm

7 comments :

  1. Although intriguing, a good look at the history of the Hanford site is needed to fully research this story. In my opinion, what Bud Clem could have witnessed was the Xenon effect from reactor startup operations. This same effect is documented to have been experienced in the initial startup of B Reactor at the Hanford site.

    Xenon "produces a brilliant white flash of light when it is excited electrically and is widely used in strobe lights. The light emitted from xenon lamps is also used to kill bacteria and to power ruby lasers."

    Although not quite accurate (large scale plutonium production at Hanford began December 28, 1944), the following excerpt is important because at the time he could have seen this is the same time period that the reactors were starting up - from the story:

    "Other questions to Clem added few details. He later sent me his military records which revealed that the squadron was actually at Pasco from January 9 to February 15, 1945, not during March and April, as he had first indicated. Perhaps significantly, Hanford started plutonium separation on January 20, 1945."


    Hanford's B Reactor (the first of 3) went critical on September 26, 1944 and they documented their experience of the Xenon effect.

    History of the Plutonium Production Facilities at the Hanford Site, Chapter 1, pages 28 & 29:

    “Tuesday evening, September 26, 1944, the largest atomic pile (reactor) yet assembled on earth was ready…The operators withdrew the control rods in stages just as Fermi had once directed at CP-1…The pile (reactor) went critical a few minutes past midnight; by 2 A.M. it was operating at a higher level of power than any previous chain reaction. For the space of an hour all went well…Early Wednesday evening 8 pile died…Early Thursday morning the pile came back to life. By 7 A.M. it was running well above critical again. But twelve hours later it began another decline. Princeton theoretician John A. Wheeler…had been “concerned for months about fission product poisons.” B pile’s heavy breathing convinced him such a poisoning had occurred.” – Rhodes 1986, pp. 557-558

    To determine if this were the case, Crawford Greenewalt, also present for the startup, called Samuel Allison at the Argonne laboratory to test Wheeler’s theory using the CP-3 reactor: “Disbelieving, {Walter} Zinn started the 300-kilowatt reactor up again and ran it at full power for twelve hours. It was primarily a research instrument and it had never been run for so long at full power before. He found the xenon effect…Groves received the news acidly. He had ordered Compton to run CP-3 at full power full time to look for just such trouble” (Rhodes 1986, p. 559).



    Fortunately, Wheeler had anticipated fission poisoning and had convinced Du Pont to increase the count of uranium channels for a margin of safety. The channels were already in place but not connected to the water supply – that took 2 months. But because of the extraordinary schedule pressures they operated “with sufficient reactivity to overcome fission product poisoning effects”. This does not say that they eliminated the Xenon effect but just that the process was “sufficient”.

    ReplyDelete
  2. D Reactor went critical December 28, 1944 and it is documented fact that they took shortcuts:

    In the face of intense pressure from Oppenheimer in Los Alamos and Groves in Washington, D.C., Matthias continuously pressed Du Pont to produce more plutonium. In response, Du Pont not only “ran the reactors above their rated power level” (Findlay and Hevly 1995, p. 50), but also reduced the radiological cooling period for irradiated fuel elements to potentially unsafe levels to meet immediate demands: “Throughout the spring and easrly summer of 1945, metal cooling times fell, as HEW rushed to produce plutonium for the Trinity and Nagasaki bombs. Exactly how short the metal decay periods became is unclear, but it is known that they fell below 30 days and to perhaps as low as a few weeks” (Gerber 1994a, p. 1).



    F Reactor went online February 25, 1945 and I would venture to say it would have experienced some of the same effects that B & D Reactors did at startup.


    Now, with that said, there is a question in my mind about whether the light made by the Xenon effect would have escaped reactor containment. To answer this and other questions, I will call on the expertise of a long-time family friend who is very experienced in reactor startup and operations and who was present at the Hanford facility during the startup of the three reactors there.

    To be continued...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Afternoon "I,"

    [As stated at ATS] As I haven't looked into the matter yet, my initial questions would be if the phenomenon would show up on radar as was the claim in the report; also, did the effect have range limitations?

    The report states that:

    "the large object, which hovered above the Hanford nuclear reactor for an additional 20 minutes, before going straight up as the six Hellcats gave up the intercept"

    Cheers,
    Frank

    ReplyDelete
  4. Robert Hastings writes:

    Iamonlyhuman wrote: In my opinion, what Bud Clem could have witnessed was the Xenon effect from reactor startup operations. This same effect is documented to have been experienced in the initial startup of B Reactor at the Hanford site.

    RH responds: You are forgetting that the object was tracked on radar at a nearby air field, which is what first drew attention to it. The phenomenon you describe would not explain that fact.

    Also, according to Clem, just after the fighter pursuit was initiated, the object rapidly moved away, NW, in a straight line course, until it was lost on radar. That description clearly would not fit with your theory. The speed-enhancing water-injection technique mentioned by Clem means that the Hellcat was conceivably flying near its top speed of 375 m.p.h. and yet the mysterious light left it in the dust.

    I will check into the date I mentioned for the Plutonium prossessing start-up, to find out where I read that. You may well be right about the other dates you mentioned.

    More importantly, however, declassified Air Force, FBI, and CIA documents confirm hundreds of sightings of UFOs (some daylight discs) hovering over Hanford, Los Alamos, Sandia, Oak Ridge and other nuclear facilities from the late 1940s through the 1950s. Other sightings at Savannah River began in 1952. If you wish to read the specifics, please email me.

    --Robert Hastings
    ufohastings.com
    hastings444@att.net

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you Frank.

    Those are all good questions, for sure. I am not versed well enough in the physics of this effect in order to render an answer. But I know someone who is and I will update as soon as I talk to him.

    I have emailed Robert Hastings in response to his offer of "declassified Air Force, FBI, and CIA documents confirm hundreds of sightings of UFOs (some daylight discs) hovering over Hanford, Los Alamos, Sandia, Oak Ridge and other nuclear facilities from the late 1940s through the 1950s. Other sightings at Savannah River began in 1952. If you wish to read the specifics, please email me."

    I certainly am interested in this information as I have been a sort of amateur DOE site history buff for a while and, as can be expected, had not heard of this information in the official histories.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good Mornin' Iamonlyhuman,

    I certainly appreciate your input and participation in this thread; you may wish to key word search "Hanford, "Los Alamos," "Sandia," "Oak Ridge" to find historic articles re UFOs reported over or near these sites.

    Here's one:

    http://tinyurl.com/savannahUFO

    Cheers,
    Frank

    ReplyDelete
  7. Iamonlyhuman,

    That was here on The UFO Chronicles by the way . . .

    -FW

    ReplyDelete

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