Date: November 23, 1953
Location: Lake Superior, MI
One of the strangest cases on record occurred in 1953, and it has received considerable publicity, some of the follow up developments are not generally known.
On the night of November 23, 1953, an F-89 all-weather interceptor was scrambled at Kinross AFB, to check on a UFO flying over the Soo Locks. The jet had a crew of two, Lt. Felix Moncla, the pilot, & Lt. R.R. Wilson, the radar observer. Guided by an AF GCI, Ground Control Intercept, radar station, Moncla followed the unknown machine out over Lake Superior, flying at 500 mph. Minutes later, a GCI controller was startled to see the blips of the jet and the UFO merge on the radar scope. Whatever had happened, one thing was certain, The F-89 and the UFO were locked together. As the combined blip went off the scope, the controller hurriedly radioed Search and Rescue. Moncla & Wilson might have bailed out before the event. Both had life jackets and self inflating life rafts, even in the cold water they could survive for a while. All night, U.S. and Canadian search planes with flares circled low over the area. At daylight, a score of boats joined the hunt, as the pilots criss crossed the lake for a hundred miles. But no trace was found of the airmen, the jet or the UFO.
The search was still on when Truax AFB gave the Associated Press this official release:
The plane was followed by radar until it merged with an object 70 miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan.
In view of AF secrecy this was a surprising admission.
The statement appeared in an early edition of the Chicago Tribune, headed:
JET, TWO ABOARD, VANISHES OVER LAKE SUPERIOR.
Then AF Headquarters killed the story. Denying the jet had merged with anything, the AF said that radar operators had misread the scope. The reported UFO, it stated, had been an off course Canadian airliner which the F-89 had intercepted and identified. After this, the AF speculated, the pilot evidently had been stricken with vertigo and the jet had crashed in the lake. The Canadian airlines quickly denied any flights in the area. Expert pilots also hit at the AF explanation. As customary, the AF sent two officers to the families of the lost airmen to give them official messages of sympathy. According to letters which a relative of Moncla sent, here is what followed:
Explaining the accident, the AF representative told Monclas widow that the pilot had flown too low while identifying the supposed Canadian airliner and had crashed in the lake. By some headquarters mix up, a second AF officer was sent to offer condolences to the Moncla family. When Monclas widow asked if her husbands body might be recovered the officer said there was no chance, the jet had exploded at a high altitude, destroying the plane and its occupants.