It would appear I tried to practice my break-dancing in the shower early this morning. Unfortunately, at 4 a.m., I did not farewell. Enough said on that. Mona had to run a couple of our family into the ER in Seward, which took nearly 7 hours. One of the people is now in Anchorage being seen and the other issued medications. Such things happen all to often around here, its the battle we fight and would appreciate all your prayers.
I have a couple short tales I wish to share with you over the next few days. True events that occurred in my life, while I was stationed at Edward Air Force Base, California. They might sound unbelievable, but they actually did take place. This first one, which I wrote down way back then, as to not forget it, happened back in the summer of 1975. Edward AFB is located in the Upper Mojave Desert, some 85-miles from Los Angeles. In this first story, I was working as Desk Sergeant for C Flight, working the midnight to 8 a.m. shift. This was the best shift to work during the Mojave's summer heat-spells, with the darkness cooling the desert down.
With my 4.5 years at Edwards and all my searching of this strange place, a vast desert to fuel the imagination and offer one a series of mirages on the hot dreary days. Still, I discovered a lot of sites no longer used for testing-underground hangers and offices. Locations going back to WWII, when the land was leased from Pancho Barnes, famous female pilot and owner of the executive House of Ill-repute, known by many an officer and politicians who visited the spot as the "Ranch", It had another name, but we will go with Ranch for now. Many of these men visited this location when they came out to see some test take place or they became employed in the testing of new aircraft. If you ever watched "The Right Stuff", the ranch is shown as a major meeting place for test pilots. Most of them simply came for the liquor and beer, probably to settle their nerves after near death experiences in an experimental aircraft. There is only rubble now and so many artifacts of an ancient tribe and military mementos were destroyed in a fire.
I was working Desk Sergeant one very early morning when my flight-line patrol radioed in about how they came upon an odd-duck of a man snooping around the Test Pilot's School and Administration building. I was curious what the odd-duck part of the man was and advised the patrol to kindly escort the man and his vehicle up to our headquarters so I could get a look at him and find out what he was doing "snooping".
When they arrived, I was in the flight sergeant's office having a cup of coffee and sharing some future plans with Tech Sergeant Harrel. A great supervisor, he had become a good friend in our couple of years together. I was often told our yelling matches over procedures and report writing could be heard throughout the building. But thankfully, headquarters was deserted during our late shift. Otherwise such poor protocol would have never occurred. He wore two more stripes than I did and one does not yell at a supervisor, not without going to jail. He would often win the arguments by just pointing at his stripes- no fair!
My desk area back then was an elevated room, just big enough for all the electrical gizmos we needed and provide spots for the Desk Sergeant and Assistant Desk Sergeant. The assistant's job was primarily to monitor all the alarms for 35 or more facilities, learn my job and what it entailed and look over the radio when I needed to run down the hall for anything. My assistants came and went and I could never find someone on my shift who could handle the stress. We both answered phones to take calls that needed police at the scene; mostly burglaries or domestic problems for our late shift. But running the radio and handling the dispatch of 30 patrols and being there when an officer needs help, this can be hard on a person. You needed to have the map of Edwards practically engraved in your mind. So, when they brought our gentleman into the visitors area I came out to meet him and left my assistant to manage the radios. Thankfully, this kid could type and I was still learning my own three finger method.
Coming into the room I felt as if I had suddenly gone back in time and I was looking at a 1950's style B-movie scientist. Black slacks, slightly dusted from the desert, black loafers with white socks, a white short-sleeve button down shirt and a pocket protector in his left shirt pocket that had to contain at least 20 pens and pencils. The gentleman also wore a thin long black tie, which hung loose. He was clean shaven, square-jawed and had graying hair cut into an old-fashioned buzz-cut style. This could also be termed a "flat-top". I judged him to be in the late 50's and he wore heavy black-framed glasses with coke bottle lenses. I was handed a California driver's license that showed he was 61-years old and lived in Los Angeles. His eyes were a gray in color and his license verified his description, but they were seriously bloodshot. I approached him to shake his hand and also to get a whiff, to see if he had been drinking and maybe simply got lost from confusion. Back then two highways ran through our base and we had no gates. (This has all changed now, the base has a series of gates.)
I gave the driver's license over to the assistant Desk Sergeant and asked him to run the gentleman through the system, to see if he had any warrants out on him or possibly a want, like maybe he escaped from a mental health facility. I conferred with my flight-line patrolman to ask how the man was driving- possible signs of intoxication? The man was driving a 1957 Cadillac, black in color. Radio check with Mojave County Sheriff had shown the license was valid, but he had no wants or warrants outstanding. The flight-line patrolman had given us the vehicle's plate number earlier and it was clean. Primaries now done I asked what I could do for our visitor and why was he on our flight-line at nearly 3 a.m. in the morning.
He spoke in a clear voice, with some tone of authority to his voice and calmly said he had found one of our missing aircraft. He had been out on the Mojave studying insects, plants and various rock formations. While doing so he had come upon a rather unique Air Force aircraft, but no one was around it and the craft was all locked up. He had tried to enter in the event the crew was all injured or possible dead, but he didn't see any damage to the craft. He banged on the outside with a rock when he couldn't make entry, but no one responded and he saw no way to enter the aircraft. He advised me of how he was convinced the aircraft belonged to us by the military look of the thing and he new Edwards was always testing new aircraft and this one appeared extremely advanced, especially since it didn't have any wings or vertical stabilizer. The rock he used to make noise had not even left a scratch and he was envious, his Cadillac was always getting scratches on it.
I began to suspect we had a desert crazy on our hands- they showed up now and then over the years. Several were old-fashion gold miners, complete with mule. But this one figured he should finish his work from today, have a meal he cooked for himself over a small fire, and then catch some sleep. He planned to come in during work day hours and find out if the crew were okay and show where he located the craft. But he couldn't sleep and decided he would come in now. He then explained it was cigar shaped, some 10-12 feet high and 20-25 feet wide. No windows and a silvery metal in color. I then asked a few questions and I took him over to a base map hanging in the visitors area and he showed me where the craft was positioned. Yes, he had spotted what ever he spotted in the southwest corner of Edwards. This was close to where the west dry lake-bed began and traveled for 20-miles or so. A lot of testing went on in the lake-bed, but the military and NASA did not abandon its aircraft for eerie middle-aged sci-fi nuts to locate.
Our gentleman couldn't sleep, so he thought he would come in tonight to report it. Not having been on Edwards before he stopped at the first building he came upon, one that was all lit up and this ended up being the Test Pilot building. I thought from the way he described it, maybe it was possibly a privately owned craft and he should speak with the one of our two county sheriffs. Though if an aircraft was missing we would have been notified. This is Because Edwards is 300 square miles plus, takes both Los Angeles County and Mojave County Sheriff's for jurisdiction, which they shared with us and the California Highway Patrol.
Then he asked if we would like to see some of the photos he had taken of the craft and produced half-a-dozen black and white Polaroid shots. This was when my eye grew wide and my jaw nearly dropped with the first one photo. Here was an all metal craft laying in the desert, with Joshua trees surrounding it. This gave me some degree of size reference. But right here in my hands I was looking at an unidentified craft, no markings of any kind and strangely without any sign of a cockpit or running lights. Not quite saucer shaped, he took one photo from about 15-feet away and the photo showed his left hand up to give some form of size parameters. It had killed some of the Joshua trees with its landing, but I wondered why it didn't use the lake bed. I then asked him if there were any skid marks of the plane sliding into its final stop and he told me no.
I asked him to have a seat with my patrolman to entertain him, while I took the photos in to show TSgt Harrel. He looked them over and then told me to phone the Base Command Post and ask to be transferred to the Base Commander's phone. I reminded him of the hour, but he pointed me at the phone. I had a hotline to the Command Post and within two rings I was speaking with a Major, who was in charge of the night shift. I first request to be passed through to the Base Commander's phone, but he was reluctant to do this even with the strange information I had. He decided to call the Man and if the Colonel wanted to speak with me, he would call within the next 10-minutes or so.
Within 5 minutes I was talking to the Base Commander and I detailed the craft in the photos and approximately where the aircraft was located. I also described the man who reported this information and the vehicle he was operating. In those few minutes, I had also asked the patrolman to give the Cadillac a once over-front and back seat, glove box and trunk, too. He came back reporting the vehicle was a mess with rocks, official looking papers, binoculars and various cameras. But no liquor bottles, no evidence of drugs and only a .410 shotgun we felt the man probably carried for rattlesnakes, while stomping through the desert. I later learned he was employed by LA County School District as a Biology and Natural Sciences Teacher. He used his summers off to hike the hills and desert areas of California, but he had never come across an aircraft like this one. When I asked him about wearing a tie, he explained he was headed to Bakersfield today for a wedding. Everything sounded simple enough, except for what I saw in those prints and his attire out of the 50's. But I had a biology teacher who often wore clothes that made him resemble a logger. Never did see him wear a tie and he always wore socks and sandals, while teaching class.
Following a few moments of silence, which told me he was calling someone else, the Base Commander later came back on line and issued me a set of orders. He then hung-up. In the years to follow I would end up talking with the Base Commander numerous times, I liked him.
I was to have a patrolman escort the man to any departure point on Edwards he wished, but with the warning that if he ever returned he would be arrested and turned over to civil authorities for trespassing on a military installation. I was to confiscate all of the photos and film found during a search of his vehicle to ensure there were no other photos of this unusual craft. We have these huge warning signs one can't help but see upon entry to the base, in how all vehicles and persons were subject to search and seizure upon entry to a military installation. I was to have all photos transported to the Command Post by an NCO and signed for. Receipt to be turned over to my flight chief, who would turned them over to the NCO of Law Enforcement, a Senior Master Sergeant.
I felt like I was being a heel to the gentleman, but I carried out my orders and briefed TSgt Harrel on same. All was taken care of, leaving half a dozen of us wondering what it was all about. That early morning I got off duty an hour late, because my running shift blotter had to be redone. This also slowed things down for the oncoming Desk Sergeant who was forced to write down his early blotter items to transfer onto the 24-hour blotter. I needed to leave out anything and everything that had to do with that strange man and the police report...which was already begun, was turned over to our squadron commander, along with the original blotter. Police report numbers are listed in order, so the numbered log needed to be whited-out and the 24-hour blotters replaced and retyped without our friend's visit. Fortunately we began new ones with my shift- running 0001 hundred hours to 2400 hours- 12:00 a.m. through 11:59 p.m.
Still, all in all, I felt something really screwy was happening here. During my next days off I drove down into that area the man reported finding the aircraft. After some doing, about 3 hours worth, I located the spot the craft had left. Physical evidence was all over; crushed plants and smashed rocks. I also found some strange burn marks on several hundred rocks, which I could not explain. I took a few of them and kept them for a while. But eventually they got lost before I left Edwards. Probably in my move from the barracks to base housing. I walked back on to the lake bed and found no evidence of any vehicles having been driven out there. A craft this size, based on those photos and what I found, had to have been loaded onto a massive tractor-trailer rig with a monstrous mobile crane. There was no jet exhaust evidence or any fuel spills, which often happens with our aircraft, even with those experimental ones being tested... No, it was simply gone. Now this really made me antsy; who,what and where did this thingy go? Now this craft was much larger than the lifting-bodies NASA was using to drop from our B-52 #0008, while testing for glide paths our Space Shuttle would soon be using. Besides, the lifting bodies had no engines and would have required a mobile crane, plus they would've left a mess shooting across the desert. If you're old enough, you will recall the 6 Million Dollar Man with Lee Majors. The crash at the beginning was factual and it sure made a mess breaking up upon hitting the ground. Plus, they were much to heavy for the Army's cargo helicopter, as this one was too large in shape. So, I shook my head and drove back to the main base area. I'd inform TSgt Harrel of what I found and give him a couple of the burn marked rocks.
TSgt Harrel later died following retirement and a short while on US Customs and Immigration. He worked the Mexico checkpoint at the border with Southern California, last time we talked. He had served in Italy, his favorite assignment and in Vietnam.
Yes, Edwards has a lot of strange and downright eerie things going on. Reports of strange creatures lurking about and even stranger servicemen. We often received reports on UFOs from outside the base and during some of these times the military had nothing in the air, nor did NASA. Now when those lifting bodies flew, one was even tear shaped, we expected calls from off-base because they looked like television UFOs. Still, with all the nights I spent out on that desert, there were a lot of lights up in that night's sky I couldn't explain, shooting about in various directions and much faster than humanly possible. Comets, meteors or someone's sky boat for interplanetary travel. Only time will tell, but doubtful in my lifetime. But like the man said, if there's no life up there it would be such a waste.
God Bless, BILL
Tomorrow or the next day, I'll have another very strange story from my time at Edwards. We call this, "Old Blue Eyes".