When, in 2006, the British Ministry of Defence declassified its three-year study of UFOs known as Project Condign, former USAF Sgt. John Burroughs pretty much skipped it. Initially stamped “Secret UK Eyes Only” by authorities, the 1997-2000 analysis attempted to soft-peddle The Great Taboo by swapping out the UFO acronym for the less incendiary Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAP). And it went to great pains to reassure the “Eyes Only” crowd there were no intelligent forces in play, just rare haphazard confluences of meteorological elements broadly referred to as “buoyant plasma formations.”
Based on reported and observed effects, Condign went on to describe what was undoubtedly some of the damnedest and most fearsome highly-localized weather you’d ever want to see. Generating electromagnetic anomalies forcing pilots to take potentially catastrophic evasive action, subjecting observers to radiation exposure, and even provoking hallucinations and “lost time” events, UAP — reported Condign — even held promise for weaponization. “The relevance of plasma and magnetic fields to UAP was an unexpected feature of the study,” wrote the unnamed authors. “It is recommended that further investigation should be [undertaken] into the applicability of various characteristics in various novel military applications.”
At the time, it was all gobbledy-gook to Burroughs. Burroughs was more preoccupied with high technology and hardware, the kind of stuff he and fellow first-responder Jim Penniston insist they confronted in the woods outside a U.S. airbase in southern England in late December 1980. Now regarded as one of the most famous UFO episodes in history, the controversy about what went down in the wilderness separating adjacent American military bases in Bentwaters and Woodbridge has provided grist for documentary and cable-channel programming for years. But it it refuses to go away, because whatever these retired 81st Security Police and Law Enforcement Squadron veterans encountered in Rendlesham Forest continues to plague their health today.
What Burroughs didn’t realize — at least, not until he revisited Condign in 2008 and gave it a more careful read — was that the MoD’s formerly classified assessment also included references to his own life-altering encounter:
“The well-reported Rendlesham Forest/Bentwaters event is an example where it might be postulated that several observers were probably exposed to UAP radiation for longer than normal UAP sighting periods,” it stated. “There may be other cases which remain unreported. It is clear that the recipients of these effects are not aware that their behavior/perception of what they are observing is being modified.”
Meteorological behavior modification -- really. But wait, it gets worse: “Any pursuit of this process of identification or elimination [of EM radiation] is pointless if the UAP radiation is other than EM radiation as we know it.” After all, Condign continues, “It is not certain that the radiation/fields are conventional and electromagnetic in nature.”
Reconnecting after nearly 30 years to compare notes of their mutual incredulity, Burroughs and Penniston discovered they were both suffering from multiple health issues. Their subsequent efforts to acquire their military medical records have been stonewalled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the VA under fire (again) for screwing veterans over, the timing probably couldn’t be better for the release of Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, their first-person recollections of that almost impossibly complex event, written by former MoD agent Nick Pope.
For now, leave aside all notions about ETs and alien spacecraft. This is an ongoing story about doctored service records, hot-potato buck-passing among allies, and (finally) intervention from Sen. John McCain’s office. With VA critics calling for Secretary Shinseki's scalp and all eyes focused on veteran' grievances, this Cold War mystery might finally gain some traction. We'll take an even closer look next time.
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