Thursday, March 29, 2018

UFO Dives at Military Police Officers

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Saucers Sighted at Savannah - The Atlanta Consitution 9-9-1973
"Suddenly, the phenomena 'dropped to treetop level' and 'came straight towards' them. It quickly became apparent that the lights were 'only a cluster underneath a metallic looking saucer–shaped body'. The mass of the object wasn’t self–illuminating, but, rather, was lit up from beneath."
     During the early hours of September the 8th, 1973, the United States Army’s historic Hunter Army Airfield, located near Savannah, Georgia, was apparently the scene of a provocative, “close encounter” UFO incident. Two military policemen, MP Specialist Bart Burns and MP Specialist Randy Shade, who were assigned to the 298th Military Police Company (298th MPC) at Hunter, were the main witnesses. The local Provost Marshall at nearby Fort Stewart was involved, and event was the subject of a US Army “Serious Incident Report”. Two years later, Army officers at Headquarters, 1st Brigade, 24th Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, would have to deal with the event all over again.
Paul Dean
By Paul Dean
Considerable media attention was given to the UFO sighting, and both witnesses were able to make statements to reporters. In fact, press coverage was so swift that it appears that local the Army units were caught somewhat off guard. Furthermore, the next night, on the 9th of September, 1973, MP Burns, and other military police officer, MP Murray, would report another UFO in the vicinity of Hunter, though this secondary incident was little more than a light–in–the–sky event. Ultimately, in a rare coup, the Army would officially release significant documentation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In the late 1960’s, Savannah’s Hunter Army Airfield operated in conjunction with the much larger Fort Stewart, located some forty miles to the south–west. The combined bases were home to the Army’s Flight Training Center (USAFTC) which provided educational instruction and flying training for new AH–1G Cobra attack helicopter crews, who included pilots from not just the Army, but the Republic of Vietnam too. At Hunter, the elite Attack Helicopter Training Department, located in a facility known as “Cobra Hall”, was particularly respected. But as the Vietnam War stagnated, and Army priorities changed, the USAFTC mission was terminated in mid–1972, and both Hunter and Fort Stewart were downgraded to Garrison status. By August, 1973, Hunter was deactivated, with only security and basic administrative staff assigned to the base. Fort Stewart wasn’t far behind. An exciting reversal of fortunes, for both sites, would come in soon after. Fort Stewart became the proud home of the Army’s re–activated 24th Infantry Division in October, 1974, and Hunter followed suit in 1975 as a support facility. Both bases continue operational activities today.

During Hunter Army Airfield’s deactivation and caretaker status, in the mid–1970’s, the base was guarded by personnel from the 298th Military Police Company (298th MPC). The 298th was a US Army Forces Command (USAFORSCOM) unit but remained independent. Though designated a Company, it was nearly the size of a full Battalion, and reported to the local Provost Marshall at Fort Stewart, who in turn reported to Fort Stewart’s Garrison Commander. The role of 298th MPC police personnel at Hunter was to investigate suspicious activity, perform security checks on various facilities, and perform base perimeter checks through regular patrols. It is worth mentioning too that the United States Air Force’s (USAF) small 702nd Radar Squadron (702RS), which was assigned to Aerospace Defence Command (ADCOM) at the time, maintained a primary radar facility at the base, though its mission and functions were unrelated to the Army.

In September, 1973, Georgia saw an increase in reported UFO sightings. Witnesses were numerous and varied, and local newspaper outlets published the more soundly described occurrences with a degree of sense and caution. But it was the close–up–and–personal UFO incident at Hunter that was the most provoking. Drawing from numerous primary sources, including US Army records, witness interview testimony, and local newspaper accounts, a chronology of events can be established. Around 2:30am, on the 8th of September, 1973, MP Bart Burns and MP Randy Shade were driving amongst Hunter’s installations, as part of their routine patrols, when they noticed a bright cluster of multi–coloured, flashing lights tracking across the sky. The sky was cloudy, with cloud layers at both nine–thousand feet and twenty–five thousand feet. MP Burns, who had previously served as a helicopter crew chief, didn’t feel it was the lighting on an aircraft, but had to assume it was anyway. He estimated the altitude of the lights to be no greater than two thousand feet, but admitted that it was “difficult to judge”. In any event, the curious lights disappeared behind tall trees. No sound, or other stimuli, was apparent, and the MP’s continued on their patrol towards the disused runways.

Shortly later, at 2:45am MP’s Burns and Shade were patrolling the taxiways near the northern permitter of the base, and the unidentified lights returned. MP Shade, who was driving, would state that they “sure looked like the same collection of flashing lights” as what they had seen moments earlier, and that they now “hovered near the end of the runway”. Perplexed, MP Shade stopped the patrol car to get a stable look at the phenomena, which hung motionless in the sky. At this point, the MP’s were still prepared to believe that the object, somehow, could be a helicopter, despite the lack of noise. Suddenly, the phenomena “dropped to treetop level” and “came straight towards” them. It quickly became apparent that the lights were “only a cluster underneath a metallic looking saucer–shaped body”. The mass of the object wasn’t self–illuminating, but, rather, was lit up from beneath. Shade admitted that they both “just sat there absolutely amazed”. The men estimated it to be some fifty feet in diameter. Abruptly, the object “swooped” towards them. It was at that point MP Shade made the decision to act.

The officers made “like hell” back to the main guard building. Reaching speeds of nearly one–hundred miles an hour, the vehicle was shadowed by the UFO so closely that Shade had trouble seeing through the windshield due to the whirling maelstrom of colored lights above them. Both men would report that the object, if any closer, would have potentially contacted the top of the car. Ultimately, before making it to the guardhouse, Shade lost control of the vehicle and ran off the road into a grassy ditch. While the men attempted to remove their car from its resting place, the UFO hovered in front of them, but at a more comfortable distance. Eventually, it departed thereafter, “skimming off into the distance” as the MP’s regained some semblance of composure and drove to back to their station. In summing up their ordeal, Shade admitted that he had “…never believed in UFO’s in the past”. Burn’s likewise confessed the he was “terrified”, and that he had “crouched down under the dash–board” when the UFO stuck with them before they came off the road.

As the night progressed, the MP’s would make an official “Military Police Report” back at the Provost Marshall’s office at Fort Stewart, and, seemingly, the Pentagon were notified. The Chief Public Information Officer for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Lt. David Anderson, saw that immediate checks were made regarding local aircraft movements and radar coverage, but no one could shed any light on the UFO inicdent. Local law enforcement officials with Chatham County were likewise notified, and, as it turned out, they too had had civilian reports of a low–level concentration of lights in the area. In fact, one local press report would quote that police officers explicitly witnessed the “UFO dive” at Hunter during a surveillance operation. If correct, this would mean that MP Shade and MP Burns had off–site witnesses to their close encounter. Barely twenty–four hours later, MP Burns would have a second sighting, but this time he was with an MP Murray, who was also with the 298th MP Company. At 430am, on the 9 Sep 1973, the two MP’s were patrolling the Hunter runway when they observed what they “first believed to be the red light of an aircraft some distance away”. Moving off quite rapidly, the light “disappeared into the woods”. This, of course, is hardly a noteworthy sighting, but it appears in official report paperwork, so it needs to be mentioned.

Amazingly, the main Hunter Army Airfield UFO encounter was in the local press almost immediately. Some newspaper articles correctly referenced MP Burns and MP Shade as witnesses, and even managed to glean statements directly from them, and other Hunter personnel. Often, military–sourced UFO reports take weeks or months to be picked up, if at all. Moreover, easy access to military personnel regarding UFO sightings is seldom given to pesky journalists. As noted, the UFO encounter occurred in the early hours of the 8th of September, 1973. Impressively, The Savannah Morning News ran a two–page story, just a day later, on the 9th of September. (See below - click on image[s] to enlarge).

Wreck at Hunter Field - The Savannah Morning News 9-9-1973

Wreck at Hunter Field (-cont) - The Savannah Morning News 9-9-1973

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