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Fukuoka, Japan, October 15, 1948:

This is an early radar visual case of 1948, in which a F-61 "Black Widow" night fighter crew on patrol over Japan picked up a UFO target on radar moving at about 200 m.p.h. The crew made six attempts to close in on the object, and each time it rapidly accelerated to about 1,200 m.p.h. leaving the interceptor behind.

On one pass the crew saw the silhouette of an object shaped like a "rifle bullet and apparently 20-30 feet. This case has the number 218 in USAF's Project Blue Book and is listed as an "Unknown."

In this file:

Click! The events, by Ed Ruppelt, and a summary by professor James E. McDonald.
This page The Fukuoka 1948 radar case, by Dr. James E. McDonald (This page).
Click! The Fukuoka 1948 radar case, by Dr. J. Allen Hynek.

Extract of Pr. James E. McDonald presentation:

This is an extract of the statement submitted by James E. McDonald, Senior Physicist, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, and professor, Department of Meteorology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics at July 29, 1968, Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects, Rayburn Bldg., Washington, D.C.


The skeptic who asks this question, and many do, is asking a very reasonable question. With so much radar equipment deployed all over the world, and especially within the United States, it seems sensible to expect that, if there are any airborne devices maneuvering in our airspace, they ought to show up on radars once in a while. They do indeed, and have been doing so for all of the two decades that radar has been in widespread use. Here, as with so many other general misconceptions about the true state of the UFO problem, we encounter disturbingly large amounts of misinformation. As with other categories of UFO misinformation, the only adequate corrective is detailed discussion of large numbers of individual cases. Only space limitations preclude discussion of dozens of striking radar-tracking incidents involving UFOs, both here and abroad; they do exist.

1. Case 35. Fukuoka, Japan, October 15, 1948:

A very early radar-UFO case, still held as an official Unidentified, involved an attempted interception of the unknown object by an F-61 flying near Fukuoka, Japan, at about 11:00 p.m. local time on 10/15/48. The official file on this incident is lengthy (Ref. 42); only the highlights can be recounted here. The F-61 (with pilot and radar operator) made six attempts to close with the unknown, from which a radar return was repeatedly obtained with the airborne radar. Each time the radarman would get a contact and the F-61 pilot tried to close, the unknown would accelerate and pass out of range. Although the radar return seemed comparable to that of a conventional aircraft,

"the radar observer estimated that on three of the sightings, the object traveled seven miles in approximately twenty seconds, giving a speed of approximately 1200 mph."

In another passage, the official case-file remarks that

"when the F-61 approached within 12,000 feet, the target executed a 180 degree turn and dived under the F-61."

adding that

"the F-61 attempted to dive with the target but was unable to keep pace."

The report mentions that the unknown

"could go almost straight up or down out of radar elevation limits,"

and asserts further that

"this aircraft seemed to be cognizant of the whereabouts of the F-61 at all times..."

The F-61 airmen, 1st Lt. Oliver Hemphill (pilot) and 2d Lt. Barton Halter (radarman) are described in the report as being

"of excellent character and intelligence and are trained observers."

Hemphill, drawing on his combat experience in the European theater, said that

"the only aircraft I can compare our targets to is the German ME-163."

The airmen felt obliged to consider the possibility that their six attempted intercepts involved more than one unknown. Hemphill mentions that, in the first attempted intercept,

"the target put on a tremendous burst of speed and dived so fast that we were unable to stay with it."

After this head-on intercept, Hemphill did a chandelle back to his original 6000-ft altitude and tried a stern interception,

"but the aircraft immediately outdistanced us. The third target was spotted visually by myself,"

Hemphill's signed statement in the case-file continues.

"I had an excellent silhouette of the target thrown against a very reflective undercast by a full moon. I realized at this time that it did not look like any type of aircraft I was familiar with, so I immediately contacted my Ground Control Station..."

which informed him there were no other known aircraft in the area. Hemphill's statement adds further that,

"The fourth target passed directly over my ship from astern to bow at a speed of roughly twice that of my aircraft, 200 mph. I caught just a fleeing glimpse of the aircraft; just enough to know that he had passed on. The fifth and sixth targets were attempted radar interceptions, but their high rate of speed put them immediately out of our range."

(Note the non-committal terminology that treats each intercept target as if it might have been a separate object.) A sketch of what the object looked like when seen in silhouette - against the moonlit cloud deck is contained in the file. It was estimated to be about the size of a fighter aircraft, but had neither discernible wings nor tail structures. It was somewhat bullet- shaped, tapered towards the rear, but with a square-cut aft end. It seemed to have "a dark or dull finish".


Ground radar stations never detected the unknown that was seen visually and contacted by airborne radar. The report indicates that this may have been due to effects of "ground clutter", though the F-61 was seen intermittently on the ground units. The airmen stated that no exhaust flames or trail were seen from this object with its "stubby, clean lines". The total duration of the six attempted intercepts is given as 10 minutes. We deal here with one of many cases wherein radar detection of an unconventional object was supported by visual observation. That this is carried as Unidentified cannot surprise one; what is surprising is that so many other comparable instances are on record, yet have been ignored as indicators of some scientifically intriguing problem demanding intensive study.

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