Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Second-Season Premiere of ‘Hangar 1: The UFO Files’

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Makes sense, but prove it

By Billy Cox
De Void

    The second-season premiere of “Hangar 1: The UFO Files” last Friday night on The History Channel’s H2 subsidiary was, as feared, a stylistic rehash of season one’s attention-deficit-jangled format — overproduced, amped up with gratuitous audio elements, and presenting speculation as fact. Don’t like the narrator's voice? No problem — “Hangar 1” relies on three voices to tell the single story of an alleged UFO encounter with U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1968. Is 43 minutes worth of programming on a single incident too much? No worries there, either. Six segments, roughly seven minutes apiece on multiple cases. You won’t need coffee, man.

What’s a little more disconcerting is how the opening installment, “UFOs at War,” seems to undermine the efforts of the Mutual UFO Network — from whom the case files are ostensibly borrowed — to advance its credibility even as the cable show attempts to broaden its base. Having survived 45 years now largely on the strength of its volunteer members, many of whom are sticklers for accuracy, its televised incarnation is clearly willing to cut corners for drama. Let’s focus on the main takeaway line from last week’s debut: “Lessons learned in Korea and Vietnam eventually led to a change in military protocol that prohibited any engagement with these unidentified aircraft.”

Given the potentially catastrophic countermeasures documented by military pilots, domestic and foreign, during close encounters over the last half century, backing away from a dogfight seems like a prudent option. But MUFON gives no source whatsoever for its claim. Jan Aldrich, an Army veteran who maintains the indispensable historical archives at Project 1947, is puzzled by “Hangar 1’s” logic. “The military always retain the right of self-defense, so a possible hostile act could have a reaction esp. in a war zone,” he states in an email. “... What protocol? No reference given. If you are going to make such a statement, better be prepared to back it up.”

In fact, during the 1950s, the Defense Department took an aggressive stance against UFOs’ repeated and infuriating affronts to sovereign American air space, especially during the Cold War. “The jet pilots are and have been under orders to investigate unidentified objects and to shoot them down, if they can’t talk them down,” stated a USAF flack, one Lt. Col. Moncel Monts. If only someone had saved the memo. But committing that policy to paper, and/or reversing that policy on paper, would be a risky move, according to former NICAP investigator Don Berliner.

“There were a lot of protests back then against the shoot-down orders, but I never saw those orders in print,” recalls Berliner, who went on to establish the Fund for UFO Research. “Maybe those orders were passed from person to person, but writing them down seems unlikely. That would actually confirm their existence and that would blow the lid off this thing.”

Ever the diplomat, Robert Powell, MUFON’s director of research, takes a pass when asked to comment on “Hangar 1.”

Suspicious of USAF behavior during and after the 2008 incident in which a monstro-sized UFO appeared to buzz President Bush’s Texas ranch, Powell co-authored MUFON’s analysis of federal radar records to reconstruct the chronology. Strange how the USAF failed to contribute anything at all to that end, even as the FAA and the National Weather Service had no trouble complying with FOIA laws. Strange how no sentinel F-16s were anywhere near the untranspondered bogey as it prepared to puncture restricted air space above the “Western White House,” especially considering how the warbirds pounced all over conventional planes that broke the zone in 2004, 2007, and later in 2008.

Still, proving the military has a non-engagement policy regarding UFOs is as tall an order as proving it had an open-season directive.

“Unless you’re in a war zone, I don’t think a military pilot would have the authority to fire on an unknown without somebody above them authorizing it,” says Powell. “And opening fire on something just because it’s unknown? What if you screw up and shoot down an airplane or a helicopter? And you risk hurting somebody on the ground, even if you’re in a military operating area. These things are almost mystical — when you fire on them it doesn’t do anything to them anyway.

“I think if we ever shoot at one, it’d have to be over open water, in the ocean.”

So yeah, if you’re going to do a story about what’s fair game in the sky, then please, j-school 101, source the freakin’ policy. Unless, of course, you’re not doing journalism. Then you’re doing “Hangar 1.”

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