UFO Dives at Military Police Officers, and
a US Army "Serious Incident Report"
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. 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. With the heading “Wreck at Hunter Field”, the article reads, in part:
“Two military policemen at Hunter Army Airfield reported early Saturday that an unidentified flying object swooped out of the sky, dove towards their vehicle and forced them off the road during a routine patrol around the perimeter of the base. The UFO hovered near the policemen as they worked to remove their car from a ditch and then pursued them as they returned to MP Headquarters to report the incident.
The pre–dawn sighting Saturday marked the third day of UFO sightings reported in Chatham County. Previous sightings were reported near Savannah Beach Thursday night, near Medrim Friday night and near Lake Mayer late Friday night and early Saturday morning.
The UFO reported at Hunter at 2:20am Saturday followed a reported sighting parallel to Lynes Parkway South at approximately 1:45am. Military Police at Hunter said two military policemen, Spec. 4. Bart J. Burns and Spec 4. Randy Shade, were on a routine patrol when they sighted the object around 2:20am. The first of three separate sightings was reported near Cobra Hall on the base, which is adjacent to the Forest River–Armstrong State College area. Burns, in a report filed at 4pm Saturday, said he noticed an object with “quick flashing lights travelling at a high rate of speed from east to west about 2,000 feet above ground level.”
The two men continued on their patrol and were driving along the perimeter road adjacent to Montgomery Crossroad when the object “came in at treetop level and made a dive” according to Burns’ report. The dive occurred near the 702nd Radar Squadron building, located near the gold course and the ammunition dump. The UFO dove toward the MP sedan and passed above a blue warning light on top of the vehicle, forcing the patrol car off the road and into a ditch. Chatham County police officers watched the UFO dive during surveillance, according to MP officials.
While the two men worked to remove their car from the ditch, the UFO hovered about 200 yards in front of the car, flashing bright blue, white and amber lights. The men later reported that the UFO remained in that position while they spent 15 minutes removing their car from the ditch. While en route to headquarters, the object followed the car staying within a 50–100 feet range. The object “broke away” and left the MP’s as they approached headquarters.
A Federal Aviation Administration official at Travis Field said he had no way of knowing if the object registered on radar Saturday morning. “Our radar is full of objects” he said. The report did not indicate the size or shape of the UFO, but added that the multi–coloured lights were flashing brilliantly. Neither MP could be reached for comment. Lt. David Anderson, a Hunter–Fort Stewart public information officer, notified the Pentagon of the UFO report “since there are no normal channels for a communication of this type”. Anderson said the report of the sighting and car ditch collision was the same as any other type of report for an accident.”
The article is imaged below.
Amazingly, as we shall see, the account given in this newspaper article would be mirrored in official US Army records and other primary information. Usually with alleged UFO incidents, the version of events offered in newspapers is misleading, or deliberately lurid. Vital information is frequently omitted, or the descriptions of the UFO(s) is embellished. In the case of the Hunter Army Airfield UFO encounters, this was not the case. Other newspapers ran similar pieces. Highlighting all of them here, however, would make for lengthy reading indeed, and takes too much focus from the truly primary records I aim to present. Having said that, early newspaper accounts do offer some important citations worth noting, and I endeavour to do so in due course.
In the days that followed, local media interest waned as quickly as it had begun. Nothing else unusual, that we know of at least, was reported specifically around Hunter. Furthermore, there is almost no indication of any pertinent field investigation by researchers, and nothing in the historical record demonstrating further comment by members of the 298th MP Company, or anyone else from Hunter or Fort. Stewart. Nearly two years later, however, the most prolific Freedom of Information Act (FOI) user in the history of the UFO topic would mount a formidable letter–writing and FOI campaign to see that official records were released.
Hailing from Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Robert G. Todd is legendary. His capacity for legally binding FOI submissions and firebrand correspondence was nothing short of inexhaustible. His FOI work, or, rather, the once–classified files that were begrudgingly supplied to him, have helped shape our understanding of the US government’s response to the UFO problem, and his thankless contribution cannot be understated. Amazingly, much of work hasn’t even been assessed yet.
Todd found out about the Hunter Army Airfield UFO case in May, 1975, and immediately begun a typical, multi–pronged series of correspondence efforts with nearly a dozen US Army components and commands. As we shall see, his energies did not go unrewarded. Unfortunately, unlike most of his FOI casework, we don’t have copies of the letters Todd sent to the Army. But we do have their detailed replies.
In 1975, the 298th MP Company’s administrative responsibilities were handled by Headquarters, 1st Brigade, 24th Infantry Division, as well as the local Provost Marshall’s office, both of which were located at Fort Stewart. On the 28th of May, 1975, Todd evidently asked, under the FOI Act, for copies of the Hunter Army Airfield “Duty Officer Log” for the 8th of September, 1973, which was, of course, when the UFO inicdent occurred. In a reply letter, dated the 11th of June, 1975, Cap. Francis A. Dahmer Jr., who was the Information Officer at the 1st Brigade Headquarters, sent Todd a short reply. Referencing Todd’s initial FOI request, Cap. Dahmer Jr. laid out what became of Hunter’s daily records. He stated:
“I write in reply to your letter of 28 May 1975.
The Duty Officer Log for 8 September 1973 for Hunter Army Airfield was destroyed upon deactivation of that installation. The destruction occurred on or about 1 October 1973 and was accomplished in accordance with directives in effect on that date.
As your inquiry does not state the substance of your interest, it has not been possible to be of further assistance in this matter. If I may be of further assistance in the future, feel free to contact me.”
The above detailed letter is imaged below.
Todd replied on the 19th of June, 1975, and obviously asked for any other records relating to the Hunter UFO incident. On the 24th of June, 1975, Cap. Dahmer Jr. again had the job of handling Todd’s correspondence. His reply stated, in part:
“In reply to your letter of 19 June requesting information on a reported UFO sighting at Hunter Army Airfield, I am attaching three newspaper articles concerning the incident which I was able to locate.
To my knowledge, this is the only information available at this installation.”
Thus, it is established that Headquarters, 1st Brigade, of the 24th Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, likely had no retrievable documents regarding the UFO event. Having said that, Cap. Dahmer Jr. doesn’t actually state that all Hunter records were sent to Fort Stewart after the deactivation of the Hunter base, so the statement “this is the only information available at this installation” may be irrelevant. We also know, from Cap. Dahmer Jr’s first letter of the 11th of June, 1975, that certain records were destroyed anyway. Whatever the situation, one does at least get the impression that the 1st Brigade Headquarters was probably the right place for Todd to be corresponding with. Finally, Cap. Dahmer Jr’s letter enclosed three lengthy newspaper articles about the case, all dated the 9th of September, 1973, which was merely a day after the alleged UFO event. Military personnel, even in public affairs roles, were not usually so helpful, and one could speculate that Cap. Dahmer Jr. was sympathetic to the UFO issue. His letter is imaged below.
Robert Todd very quickly replied on the 29th of June, 1975, and while we do not have a copy of his letter, we do have the 1st Brigade’s reply. Prepared on the 28th of July, 1975, Cap. Dahmer Jr’s letter states:
“I am in receipt of your letter of 29 June requesting additional information on the reported 1973 UFO incident at Hunter Army Airfield.
Further inquiries here indicate that a Serious Incident Report was submitted by the Fort Stewart Provost Marshal to the Department of the Army following the incident. The newspaper clippings furnished to you contain essentially the same information as in the SIR. The incident was reported through Provost Marshal channels since the Provost Marshal is responsible for physical security.”
This short, frank reply contains several surprising revelations. Firstly, the 1st Brigade’s Cap. Dahmer Jr. is now admitting that important records were, in fact, available, which was the opposite of what his previous letter had stated. It is impossible to know whether this was merely an administrative oversight, or, a deliberate ploy to misinform Todd in the hope he would cease FOI action. Either way, the Army were confessing to holding vital records on the UFO incident. Secondly, Cap. Dahmer Jr., specifies that the type of record being held was a Serious Incident Report. This is important, as we shall discover. Thirdly, and most remarkably, Cap. Dahmer Jr. states that the Serious Incident Report contains “essentially the same information” as what was in the rather sensational newspaper clippings he sent to Todd in his letter of the 24th of June, 1975. Finally, it is learned that the UFO incident was reported “through Provost Marshal channels”. The letter is imaged below.
As we can see from the date–stamp, Todd received the above–mentioned letter on the 31st of July, 1975. As noted, Cap. Dahmer Jr. revealed that a Serious Incident Report had been utilised to report the UFO incident, and the local Provost Marshal at Fort Stewart had handled everything. Somehow, even before this letter arrived, Todd had already ascertained that the Provost Marshal was involved. On the 27th of July, 1975, which was a day before Cap. Dahmer Jr. penned his letter, Todd wrote to the office of the Provost Marshal assigned to Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart asking for information on the UFO sighting. What prompted this second avenue of enquiry is unknown. Again, like Todd’s other pieces of correspondence, we do not have a copy Todd’s sudden letter of the 27th of July, 1975. But we do have a reply which references it. On the 11th of August, 1975, Maj. Daniel R. Perry, the Deputy Provost Marshal for Hunter and Fort Stewart, sent a reply letter to Todd stating, in part:
“The following information is provided as a result of your written request of 27 July 1975 concerning UFO sightings on 8 September 1973 at Hunter Army Airfield.
A report was forwarded only within Department of the Army channels. This report, a Serious Incident Report (SIR), was forwarded directly to Department of the Army, with an information copy provided to Commander, US Army Forces Command.
The normal procedure for reports of UFO sightings at Fort Stewart is that such sightings will be reported to the Military Police Desk where an information MP Report is prepared. In this specific case, a Military Police Report was prepared. There is no record of any other investigative effort available at this office.
Copies of the Serious Incident Report are available from this office. In accordance with Army policy and federal law, the names and military occupational speciality will be omitted from the reports for all personnel…”
Maj. Perry’s letter must have been a very positive development for Todd. Maj. Perry had confirmed that a Serious Incident Report had been utilised to report the UFO incident, just as Cap. Dahmer Jr. had previously stated. Further, the SIR had been forwarded to Department of the Army (DOA), with an information–only copy sent to the Commander, US Army Forces Command (USAFORSCOM). This admission may have been the first time that anyone in the UFO research community had learned that local Army units were prepared to inform senior Army leadership of UFO incidents. Put simply, if the Provost Marshal and Military Police personnel at Hunter and Fort Stewart did not want the UFO case reported right up the chain of command, they wouldn’t have used a Serious Incident Report in the first place. Someone certainly assumed that the confrontational UFO inicdent should be assessed by senior officers.
There are several other curious issues in Maj. Perry’s letter. It is stated that the “normal procedure” for reporting “UFO sightings” involves the preparing of a “Military Police Report”. This type of report is distinct from a Serious Incident Report, and presumably of lesser gravity. Todd was never offered a copy of the applicable Military Police Report for the Hunter UFO incident, and surprisingly there is nothing in the correspondence indicating he even asked. Furthermore, regarding those “normal procedures” for UFO reporting, one is bound to ask about any “abnormal”, or less utilised, procedures? This may seem like an issue of semantics, but Commanders did indeed have other UFO reporting options available to them. UFO reporting was, in the 1970’s, specifically categorised and exemplified in a series of “Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings” (CIRVIS) procedures. CIRVIS reporting was promulgated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in a piece of published doctrine titled “Joint Army Navy Air Force Publication 146” (JANAP 146–E). It may also be worth noting that in Maj. Perry’s mentioning of the Military Police Report, he stated “…There is no record of any other investigative effort available at this office…”. If one reads this statement exactly how it was written, it implies that Military Police Reports contained an investigative element to them. Maj. Perry’s letter is imaged below.
Further correspondence between Todd and Headquarters, 1st Brigade went back–and–forward over the next three weeks, though none of it contains significant information regarding the alleged UFO incident or the documents it apparently generated. In it, Todd questioned the FOI costings the Army were assessing for document search time and reproduction costs. Todd’s final letter to Headquarters, 1st Brigade, presumably enclosed a cheque for FOI fees, and was authored by him on the 6th of September, 1975. On the 10th of September, 1975, Maj. Perry sent Todd a letter which stated:
“In response to your letter of 6 September 1975, I am enclosing the Serious Incident Report you requested.
I apologise for the delay. It was due to an oversight that the report was not sent earlier.”
With this, the Serious Incident Report was released. Maj. Perry’s letter is imaged below.
The enclosed records constituted a series of electronically–generated Automatic Digital Network (AUTODIN) sheets which constituted a transmittable Serious Incident Report. Unsurprisingly, it was sent from “CDRUSAG FT STEWART GA //AFZP–PM//”, which obviously translates as Commander, US Army Garrison, Fort Stewart. The distribution list includes “DA[TPNG] WASHINTON DC //DAPM–CPA//” as the main recipient of the report, and “CDRFORSCOM FT MCPHERSON GA //AFPM–PL//” as a secondary addressee. The former is the Department of Army, Headquarters, Washington DC, and the latter is Commander, Forces Command, Fort McPherson, Georgia. The report was transmitted on the 10th of September, 1973, but there are two date–time–groups listed. One is printed and reads “102000Z”. The other is handwritten and reads “102120Z”. The local time, thus, was either 4:00pm or 5:20pm. The security classification is listed as “FOUO”, or, “For Official Use Only”, which is quite low as far as content sensitivity goes. The precedence of the transmission was Priority, and it was “Encrypted For Transmission Only”, or, “EFTO. For the “SUBJ” line, we see “Serious Inicdent Report [SIR] [RCS PNG 114 [MIN]]”. Several other lines of form–text appear, but are administrative in nature, or are answered with “N/A”, meaning “Not Applicable”. Further down the page, the “Type of Incident” section is followed with “Unidentified Flying Object Sightings (Alleged)”. The “Time, Date of Incident” section is followed with “At approx 0220 hrs, 8 Sep 73, and at approx. 0430 hrs, 9 Sep 73”. The final section for this page is the “Personnel Involved” segment, but it is devoid of any text. This is because the page simply doesn’t have enough space, as we shall see. The aforementioned material is imaged below.
The second page of the report continues the “Personnel Involved” section and contains information quite unexpected. We recall that Maj. Daniel R. Perry’s letter to Robert Todd, dated the 11th of August, 1975, clearly stated that “in accordance with Army policy and federal law, the names and military occupational speciality will be omitted from the reports for all personnel.”. Yet, this entire page that contains almost nothing but the personal information of both MP’s. For starters, witnesses Bart J. Burns and Randy Shade are clearly named. The term “Witness” is recorded for the “Involvement” category for both men. Then, their “Race/Nationality/Ethnic Gp.” is recorded as “Cau” for “Caucasian”. The “Grade” for both men are listed as “E–4”. Their “Unit/Station of Assignment” is recorded as “2nd PLT, 298th MP Company, Hunter Army Airfield”. The “Position” they both hold is listed as “Military Police Patrolman”. Even their Social Security Numbers (SSN) are given. This is a massive release of personal information. If the data was extremely old, it would be understandable. But Todd received these documents just two years after they were created. Amazingly, further pages of the Serious Incident Report contain even more such material. The page in question is imaged below.
The third page continues the “Personnel Involved” section. The first line states “Military” and has next to it the statement “No change from Initial Report”. This means, essentially, that the “initial report” by the military witnesses had not been updated or altered. One may ask then, what “initial report”? Likely, it refers to the Military Police Report that Maj. Perry mentioned in his letter of the 11th of August, 1975, which had probably been destroyed, but we can’t be sure. Further, the categories of “Civilian” and “Dependent” are listed, to which the term “None” is entered. This merely means that only military personnel were directly involved in the incident. The next section, titled “Publicity”, states that “News coverage has diminished rapidly following the incident. No further publicity is expected at this time”. For the “Summary of Incident” section, it is stated “No further sightings have been reported by personnel at Hunter Army Airfield, Savanah, GA.”. The next section, “Commander Reporting to HQDA”, or Headquarters, Department of the Army, lists “Frank L. Dietrich, Colonel, Infantry, Commanding, HQS, Ft. Stewart, GA.”. A final line of text states “Protective marking excluded from automatic termination (Para 13, AR 340–16)”. This relates to the handling of certain Army records as governed by “Army Regulation 340–16, Office Management, Safeguarding ‘For Official Use Only’ Information” (AR 340–16), which was published by Headquarters, Department of the Army, on the 1st of May, 1970. This doctrine states that Army records which carry “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) protective markings should be rendered as UNCLASSIFIED after three years. Some categories, however, of FOUO records are exempt from such downgrading, and Serious Incident Reports are one of them. The page in question is imaged below.
The next page of the Serious Incident Report appears very similar to page two and three, and it appears to have been typed out some time before the records I have already presented. In fact, the pages I have already highlighted may have actually been additional report add–ons or updates. Whatever the exact situation, this new page starts off with what looks like another “Personnel Involved” section. This time, however, only Military Policeman Alexander S. Murray Jr. is recorded. His “Involvement” is listed as “Witness”, and he was “On Duty”. His “Grade” is recorded as “E–5”, and his “Position” is recorded as a “Military Desk Sergeant”. The “Unit/Station of Assignment” is recorded as “2nd PLT, 298th MP Company, Hunter Army Airfield”. Even MP Murray’s Social Security Number and ethnicity is given, just as it was for MP Bart J. Burns and MP Randy Shade.
Beyond this we see the alleged UFO incident finally reported. The “Publicity” states “Widespread publicity, including national news agencies has occurred.”. Thus, this part of the overall report must have been written during the two–day period where media attention was highest. As we know, this time period was the 9th and 10th of September, 1973. Lastly, the “Summary of Incident” section contains a narrative of both the close encounter event during the early hours of the 8th of September, and the additional sighting just on the 9th. The incident summary, which goes into another page, states:
“At approximately 0220 hrs, 8 Sep 73, an unidentified flying object was sighted by two military policemen, SP4 BURNS and SP4 SHADE at Hunter Army Airfield while in the course of a routine patrol of the installation perimeter. When in the vicinity of Cobra Hall they noticed an ‘object’ traveling at what appeared to them to be a high rate of speed traveling east to west at approximately 2000 feet altitude and crossing the post perimeter. Approximately then (10) minutes later they resighted the ‘object’ when it appeared at ‘treetop’ level and made an apparent dive at their vehicle. The ‘object’ again reappeared at another location and came to hover for approximately fifteen (15) minutes in front of them. The unidentified object appeared to have brilliantly flashing lights, blue, white, and amber in color. They then returned to the main post area and were ‘followed’ by the unidentified object 50 to 100 feet away at tree top level until it finally veered off and visual contact was lost. The ‘object’ made np noise. The alleged UFO was described as round or oval in shape and between 35 and 75 feet across. SGT Murray and SP4 Burns reported that at approximately 0430 hrs, 9 Sep 1973, while sitting in their vehicle at the end of the airfield at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., they observed what they first believed to be the red light of an aircraft some distance away. The light then moved rapidly and disappeared into the woods.”
This narrative of events is noted as being “…based upon information furnished by the above witnesses”. The “Commander Reporting to Army Headquarters” is “Frank L. Dietrich, Colonel, Infantry, Commanding, HQS, Ft. Stewart, GA.”. It may be important to note that in these two pages of the overall Serious Incident Report, it is MP Murray who has generated the chronology of events, and only after the two separate nights of UFO sightings. He has, here, first written up the close–up UFO encounter that MP Burns and MP Shade experienced on the 8th of September, and then supplemented that event with the sighting he and MP Burns had the next night. The two pages in question are imaged below. It is worth mentioning that these copies are acquired directly from the 1984 book “Clear Intent” by Barry Greenwood and Lawrence Fawcett.
As if the Serious Information Report paperwork wasn’t enough, Robert Todd continued submitting FOI requests to various entities of the US Army until March, 1976. Some of those commands and offices included the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, the Army’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and the Army’s Communications Command. Nothing more, at least in the form of raw paperwork relating directly to the UFO sighting, was released. As I have detailed, the original “Military Police Report” was apparently never found, and any other Military Police Desk paperwork, including the daily Duty Officer Log, had probably been destroyed as per standard documents management directives. Also, as we know, Hunter Army Airfield was in a deactivated state when the UFO sighting occurred. We can thus assume that the base was lacking key administrate manpower, such as a Base Commander or Base Executive Officer, normally needed to assess an intrusive UFO event. In other words, it is highly unlikely that any records were produced under the Hunter Army Airfield letterhead. Having raised these points, there was every possibility that at least some additional records were retrievable. For example, Todd never did specifically discover where the administrative and operational records of the 298th Military Police Company were being routinely archived. After all, it was personnel from the 298th MPC who reported the UFO while serving on the base, so any raw paperwork generated at the time could have been useful. Moreover, as discussed, the Serious Incident Report was received by Army Headquarters in Washington DC, and Army Forces Command in Georgia, so one is bound to ask if those commands produced any internal records of their own.
Robert Todd did get one piece of additional information from the Army, though it wasn’t in the form of a raw document about the UFO sighting. Sometime in early 1976, Todd wrote to the Army’s Reserve Components Personnel and Administration Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Evidently, Todd had asked for the home addresses of MP Bart Burns and MP Randy Shade. On the 25th of Feburary, 1976, Lt. Col. James S. Miller, the Director of Personnel Services for the aforementioned center, sent a candid reply to Todd’s query:
“This is in reply to your request for the home addresses of two individuals.
Mr. Bart J. Burns, 353–40–1819, is no longer on active duty. Department of the Army no longer releases home addresses. Home addresses are considered privileged information, release of which would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
However, the restrictions do not pertain to the military duty addresses of members serving on active duty in the Army of the United States. A search reveals that SP5 Randy Shade, 287–46–7111, is currently on active military duty and assigned to: 3 CS Det Aviation Service, APO San Francisco, 96212.
I am happy to be of assistance to you.”
Todd received Lt. Col. Miller’s letter on the 4th of March, 1976. Obviously, the home addresses of Army personnel, whether on active duty or otherwise, were never going to be released. The Army, however, were prepared to release the military addresses, and social security numbers, of serving members. In this case, MP Burns had apparently left the Army, but MP Shade was still on active duty with an aviation detachment near San Francisco, California. There is nothing in Todd’s files to indicate any follow–up correspondence with MP Shade, and, to my knowledge, no else did either. Lt. Col. Miller’s letter is imaged below.
As I highlighted at the beginning of this study, one of the newspapers which carried the Hunter UFO case was The Savannah Morning News. Titled “Wreck at Hunter Field”, the date of publication was the 9th of September, 1973. This was, of course, only a day after the main UFO sighting. The article raises numerous interesting issues. For example, a Lt. David Anderson is cited as saying that “the Pentagon” were “notified” directly because a specific UFO reporting channel didn’t exist. This notification must have been immediately after the UFO sighting, or it couldn’t have been known to newspaper staffers. As we know, the Serious Incident Report was sent on the 10th of September, so the Pentagon being “notified” must be another report entirely. Of interest here, also, is the fact that Lt. Anderson is quoted as stating “…there are no normal channels for a communication of this type”. This is untrue. As mentioned previously, real–time UFO reporting was, in the 1970’s, specifically categorised and exemplified in a series of “Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings” (CIRVIS) procedures which were laid out in “Joint Army Navy Air Force Publication 146” (JANAP 146–E) doctrine. This established system applied to the US Army just as it did to the other three branches of the military. All base Commanders, unit Commanders, and other military leadership, were at least supposed to be aware of the CIRVIS system, if not actually willing to use it. Maybe those at Hunter were not.
Furthermore, the newspaper article obviously sought the opinion of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) staffer at nearby Travis Field Airport, which is now known as Savanah Airport. The unnamed individual stated that he had “no way of knowing if the object registered on radar Saturday morning”, and that the primary radar “is full of objects”. This is somewhat misleading. While the second part of the statement is arguably true, the first part is a lazy fob off. The FAA’s air traffic control centres, as well as those of the United States Air Force (USAF) and the other military branches, were mandated, even in the early 1970’s, to retain raw primary radar data on magnetic tapes for at least thirty days. Of course, we have no way knowing if they even checked. Also, if Travis Field did happen to see something unusual on radar, experience tells us they wouldn’t be discussing it with newspaper reporters. Worth mentioning too is a reference to the local 702nd Radar Squadron (702nd RS). The 702RS was based at Hunter Army Airfield from February, 1962 until its deactivation on the 5th of June, 1979. Assigned to the 20th Air Division (20AD) of the Aerospace Defence Command (ADCOM), the small 702nd RS performed aerospace surveillance for Fort Lee’s 20AD Headquarters in Virginia. Again, we have no way of knowing if anything untoward was picked up on radar before or after the UFO sighting
Other newspapers ran stories about the Hunter case, as well as other sightings on the 8th of September, 1973. For example, on the 9th of September, The Atlanta Consitution published an article titled “Saucers Sighted At Savannah”. It cites Chatham County Police Department as admitting that some twenty early phone calls had been taken by local police stations over UFOs. Also, police officers themselves were amongst the witnesses. Lt. L. B. Fields is quoted as saying, “I observed it myself from several miles away… …It disappeared after I watched it for about ten minutes”. Another police officer described the same object as “being similar to a mercury vapor light” which hovered “about five–thousand feet above the ground”. Data from the National Weather Service is quoted, with cloud cover at some nine–thousand feet, and another layer at twenty–five thousand feet. So serious were the Chatham County Police Department over the UFO, or UFOs, that they attempted to have a pilot on standby at Travis Field in case the unknowns returned the next day. Even the United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) Savannah Air Station was asked for assistance. The article states that nothing was being picked up on radar, though doesn’t cite any source. The article is imaged below.
In sum, the US Army were involved in a significant and unsolved UFO event in September, 1973, at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia. Official records, while disordered and probably incomplete, are testament to that fact. The Pentagon was “notified” immediately, and both a Military Police Report and a Serious Incident Report were prepared and transmitted to Army Headquarters and Army Forces Command. Numerous witnesses, both on the base and nearby, reported UFOs, and local law enforcement officers admitted that they too witnessed highly unusual airborne objects. Further, the use of a Serious Incident Report is an example of yet another channel that a branch of the US military has used for UFO reporting. One wonders how many other UFO cases have been reported using this channel. Be yond the 1970’s, I am unaware of anyone who has followed up this case in detail. At the time of the sighting, MP Burns was twenty–two years old, and MP Shade was twenty–three. As such, both men would be in their late sixties now. A new interview, despite the passage of time, would be fruitful.