Dogfight With A UFO
In 1948, there were three cases of UFO contact with airplanes: The “Gorman Dogfight,” and the Thomas Mantel Incident and Chiles-Whitted Encounter. The Gorman story is the most famous.
On October 1, in the skies above Fargo, North Dakota, Lieutenant George F. Gorman of the North Dakota Air National Guard encountered something he would never forget…a 27 minute dogfight with a UFO.
After flying a cross-country flight with his
squadron Gorman, then manager of a Fargo construction company, elected to log
in some night flying time. He flew over the lighted Fargo football stadium, circled
the city and then decided to land at Hector Airport.
At 9:00 PM the control tower gave clearance for him to land but was also warned of a Piper Cub close by which he could see about 500 feet below him. Then, he saw what he thought were tail lights from another plane. Gorman contacted the tower and asked them to check the traffic again. Again, he was told his P-51 Mustang and the Piper Cub were the only two planes in the vicinity. Gorman decided to investigate.
Gorman was able to get within 1,000 feet of the UFO and got a good look at it. Gorman later stated: "It was blinking on and off. As I approached, however, the light suddenly became a steady glow and it pulled into a sharp left bank. I thought it was making a pass at the tower” he explained. “I dived after it and brought my manifold pressure up, but I couldn't catch up with the thing. It started gaining altitude and again made a left bank. I put my P-51 into a sharp turn and tried to cut the light off in its turn. By then we were at about 7,000 feet." The last thing Gorman expected was a dogfight with an unidentified flying object. He also described the object as round and somewhat flattened.
The UFO then
sped up, seemingly trying to outrun him. Suddenly it turned and headed straight
for his aircraft. When the object came to about five hundred feet away, Gorman
dove downwards to avert a collision. The object again reversed its course and
repeated the maneuver. This time Gorman stayed his course. Just before it
collided with Gorman's plane it shot straight upward. Gorman's engine stalled
at 14,000 feet and ended the encounter.
Severely shaken, although he was a veteran pilot and flying instructor during World War II, Gorman returned to the Fargo airfield. His story was substantiated by the two air traffic controllers, Lloyd D. Jensen and H.E. Johnson, who reported seeing a light such as the one Gorman described. Both the light and the Piper Cub were seen simultaneously by all three.
Gorman said he felt "there was definite thought behind [the object's] maneuvers.” Gorman admitted to losing consciousness temporarily due to the high rate of speed needed to pursue the object. Later, the Air Force tried explaining away the event as a weather balloon or a Canadian jet. When these explanations were ruled out the Air Force said it was merely a reflection of Gorman's own aircraft movements.
It was later labeled the "Gorman Dogfight" in the Air Force's official UFO investigations, “Project Blue Book” and witnessed by three others in addition to Gorman. The pilot was ordered not to discuss the incident under threat of court martial. The Air Force however, continued investigating UFO sightings.
During the encounter Gorman had noticed no sound, odor, exhaust trail or deviation on his instruments from the object during the "dogfight.” At times he had pushed his plane to full power, sometimes reaching 400 mph.
Traffic controller H. E. Johnson described what he saw. "After passing to the east of the airport it seemed to take a northwest heading," Johnson said. "The object seemed to be at about 2,000 feet and appeared to be traveling at quite an excessive speed compared to a Piper Cub that was east of the field at the time.
According to Gorman, the object appeared to be only a round light, perfectly formed, with clear cut edges. The only unusual characteristic was the high rate of speed at which it was traveling."
But within a few hours, military officers from “Project Sign,” Blue Book’s predecessor, arrived to investigate. Project Sign was created in late 1947 to investigate UFO reports. The officers checked Gorman’s plane for radiation. They found it significantly more radioactive than other fighters which had not flown for several days. It was readily assumed Gorman had flown close to an "atomic-powered" object. Investigators also concluded the lighted object was not another aircraft or weather balloon." UFO historian, Curtis Peebles writes the Air Force thought "that something remarkable had occurred."
However, further investigation by Project Sign soon unraveled the previous findings:
- A plane flying at high altitudes is less-shielded from radiation.
- The Air Weather Service revealed it had released a lighted weather balloon from Fargo at 8:50 PM on October 1. By 9 PM it would have been in the area where Gorman and the piper cub were.
- Project Sign's investigators also believed the object’s amazing maneuvers of the object were a reflection of Gorman's own maneuvers as he chased the light.
- Project Sign personnel also noted none of the witnesses in the Fargo Airport control tower reported the remarkable maneuvers described by Gorman.
UFO historian Jerome Clark wrote, "unlike some Air Force would-be solutions this one seems plausible" and that, in his opinion, "After the Mantell incident the Gorman sighting may be the most overrated UFO report in history .”