Chiles-Whitted UFO Incident: US Air Force Ordered The Destruction Of The Report By Two Pilots
In 1948 two pilots flying an Eastern Airlines DC-3 claimed to have observed a torpedo-shaped UFO with windows flying above them. Their claims were backed up by other witnesses and the report was ordered to be destroyed by the United States Air Force.
A classic incident in the early history of UFO encounters took place on July 24, 1948, at 2:45 am. The main witnesses were Captain Clarence S Chiles and his co-pilot John B Whitted, they were flying an Eastern Airlines DC-3 at 5000 feet on a clear night. The sky and ground were illuminated by a bright full moon.
Twenty miles southwest of Montgomery, Alabama, the two pilots saw, just above them and to their right, something moving rapidly in their direction. They said the object was shaped like a torpedo, wingless, and about 100 feet long, it appeared to be "powered by some jet or other type of power shooting flame from the rear some 50 feet", Chiles said in his report. "There were two rows of windows, which indicated an upper and lower deck, from inside these windows a very bright light was glowing. Underneath the ship there was a blue glow of light", he added.
Chiles told investigators from the Air Force's Project Sign: "The fuselage appeared to be about three times the circumference of a B-29 fuselage. The windows were very large and seemed square. I estimate that we watched the object for at least five seconds and not more than 10 seconds. We heard no noise nor did we feel any turbulence from the object. It seemed to be at about 5500 feet."
The light it cast, both from the windows and from the flame behind it, almost blinded them for a few moments. The object shot past them to their right. It was half a mile away and moving, the pilots guessed, at something around 700 mph. Chiles recalled how "After it passed, it pulled up into some light broken clouds at 6000 feet altitude and was lost from view."
Almost all the passengers on board were sleeping, however, one of them was awake and happened to be looking out a window on the right side and caught a glimpse of the passing UFO.
Clarence L McKelvie of Columbus, Ohio, said, "I suddenly saw this strange eerie streak. It was very intense, not like lightning or anything I had ever seen before, I could not get my eyes adjusted to it before it was gone."
The two pilots landed in Atlanta at 3:49 am and were taken to radio station WCON for an interview. Newspaper reporter William Key also spoke with Chiles and Whitted, who rejected the suggestion that they had seen a meteor. What they had just seen "was a man-made thing," they insisted.
The Pentagon initially claimed that the pair had observed a weather balloon, but this unlikely explanation was quickly dismissed and withdrawn. A spokesman in Washington for the Air Force conceded the obvious when he remarked that "this country has no plane resembling a double-decked, jet-propelled, wingless transport shooting a 40-foot flame out of its back end."
Before long the Air Force discovered that the same or similar object had been seen from the ground one hour earlier by a grounds-maintenance crewman at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
At around 1:40 am, Walter Massey saw a "stream of fire" coming out of the north. "As it got overhead," he said, "it was a fairly clear outline and appeared to be a cylindrical-shaped object, with a long stream of fire coming out of the tail end. I noticed a faint glow on the belly of the wingless object - a phosphorescent glow."
He was sure it was not a meteor: "A shooting star falls perpendicular. This object was on a straight and level plane. When it disappeared, it disappeared from sight due to distance, rather than drop. It looked like it was about the size of a B-29. It might have been a little larger, in circumference. It was too large for a jet. It seemed to be of a dark color and constructed of an unknown metallic type material." - Walter Massey.
Investigators also contemplated a report from The Hague, Netherlands, from July 20. Through broken clouds high above, witnesses had seen a fast-moving rocket-shaped object with two rows of windows along its sides.
Asked for his assessment, astronomer and Sign consultant J Allen Hynek remarked that "no astronomical explanation" was possible "if we accept the report at face value." Nonetheless, the "sheer improbability of the facts as stated makes it necessary to see whether any other explanation, even though far-fetched, can be considered."
Perhaps Massey was mistaken; perhaps he had made his sighting of the object at the same time as Chiles and Whitted; so "the object must have been an extraordinary meteor" whose train produced the "subjective impression of a ship with lighted windows."
But other Sign investigators disagreed. Captain Robert Sneider considered the wingless rocket shape aerodynamically feasible and devoted a page of his report to a discussion of the engineering aspects. He wrote, "That this development possibly being of foreign origin would seem to be a logical premise."
By "foreign origin" Sneider was not referring to a craft from another nation. As Project Blue Book head Edward J Ruppelt would write, "According to the old-timers at ATIC (Air Technical Intelligence Center), this report shook them worse than the Mantell Incident."
To Sign personnel the Chiles-Whitted case proved what their investigations had already led them to suspect: UFOs were extraterritorial spacecraft. A few days later they prepared an "Estimate of the Situation" stating this conclusion. The document, whose very existence was denied by the Air Force for years, was eventually rejected by General Hoyt S Vandenberg, Air Force Chief of Staff, and all copies were ordered to be burned.
Though the Chiles-Whitted case was listed as an "unknown" for a time, as public Air Force attitudes hardened into insistence that all reports were explainable, Hynek's self-described "far-fetched" fireball explanation became the official solution.
In the 1960s, physicist, James E McDonald reviewed the Air Force files and interviewed the two major witnesses separately. He wrote:
Both pilots reiterated to me, quite recently, that each saw square ports or windows along the side of the fuselage-shaped object from the rear of which a cherry-red wake emerged, extending back 50-100 feet out of the object. To term this a 'meteor' is not even qualitatively reasonable. One can reject the testimony; but reason forbids calling the object a meteor. Cash-Landrum UFO Incident 1980: A Diamond Shaped UFO, Military Helicopters & Long Term Illnesses