The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt was commissioned on October 27, 1945, shortly after the end of World War II. The following year, the ship was the first American aircraft carrier to launch and recover a jet aircraft. It also participated in what is still considered the longest flight ever from an aircraft carrier after a P2V Neptune naval bomber took off from its deck near Jacksonville, FL, and landed in San Francisco the following day.
The FDR also took part in NATO’s first ever naval war games, and that’s when its bizarre connection to UFOs began.
The war games were called Operation Mainbrace, they took place over twelve days in September 1952. The U.S. Navy was the major contributor, but navies from the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, Denmark, France, Belgium, Holland and Portugal also took part. The newly honed NATO fleet boasted more than 200 ships, 1,000 aircraft and 80,000 men.
The object of the war games was to repel an imaginary Soviet attack on Norway and Denmark, as such, the NATO armada was spread out over four large bodies of water: the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Barents Sea and the North Sea.
Chester Grusinski who had a sighting from the ship in 1958 has since sought more information of the ship, and it's sightings, the following is information his efforts have produced.
The centerpiece of this vast flotilla was the six participating U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, including the USS Wasp, the Midway, and the FDR. The weirdness began on September 13, 1952. A Danish destroyer taking part in Mainbrace was sailing just south of Sweden when its commander and some of his crew spotted a triangular shaped UFO streak overhead, traveling southeast. The witnesses said the object was moving at nearly 1,000 mph.
On September 19, a British jet fighter returning to its home base in the UK arrived with a UFO on its tail. Witnesses on the ground described the object as a large rotating disk. Stopping in midair, the UFO lingered briefly over the airfield, then took off at tremendous speed, eventually disappearing to the southeast. The next day, three Danish Air Force officers spotted a shiny metallic disk streaking across the sky. They reported seeing it coming from the direction of the massive NATO fleet and then vanishing to the east.
That same day, a newspaper photographer who was on the FDR covering the war games at sea saw a group of crewmen looking at something overhead. It was a large spherical object moving extremely fast across the sky. The photographer quickly snapped off a few photos before the object disappeared. On studying these photos, the carrier’s intelligence officers decided the large spherical object had to be either a weather balloon, or something else.
The FDR quickly sent a message to all the ships in the NATO fleet, asking if any had released a weather balloon. The answer that came back was unanimous, no. None of the ships had sent up a balloon.
Then, Grusinski pointed out, other researchers uncovered a UFO sighting in which three photographs were taken of a flying disk, also from the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was during Operation Mainbrace in which the UFO overtook the NATO fleet.
The next day, September 21, Six RAF pilots flying above the North Sea spotted a bright spherical object heading in the direction of the NATO fleet. The jets started chasing it, but it quickly rocketed away. They returned to base, but just as they were landing, one pilot saw that the UFO was following him. He turned to chase it, but the UFO sped off.
On September 27 and 28, there were hundreds of UFO reports from West Germany, Denmark, and southern Sweden. Over Hamburg, a luminous object trailing a comet’s tail was seen by many people for a long period of time. Other witnesses elsewhere in Germany saw three small UFOs orbiting a much larger UFO.
The USS FDR, Sixth fleet flagship, 1952, a crew member writes:
We were north and east of England with the NATO fleet in the North Atlantic. About 1:30 a.m., through the stormy rain and lightening, this big blue white light appeared right off starboard bow. It came down to 100' of the water and just hung there as we cruised by it. This UFO was easy to see when the lightening flashed. It then rose straight and left. 4 of us saw it. Here's the kicker. General Ike, who'd flown over by chopper with the Admiral, had just come out on the signal bridge wearing PJ's and robe, looking for coffee.
We were sitting and making small talk when the bright light came on. We all watched it ten minutes, then just stood there staring at each other. After a while, Gen. Eisenhower said: I better go check this out, and left. He also told us to: Forget about it for now.
Next day and ever after, nothing was ever said about it. I don't know what it was or why it was hushed, but I saw it.
Once the war games were over, though, the UFOs went away.
The following year, the FDR went on maneuvers in the Caribbean. Having just gone through a refit at the navy shipyard in Portsmouth, NH, it was on its shakedown cruise. One night it was anchored off the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, when a UFO appeared above it.
Leon Treadwll who served on the FDR from 1956 to 1958 wrote to Mr. Grusinski about his experiences:
I was part of the crew that put the FDR back into commission on April 6, 1956 at Bremerton, WA. She had the best radar in the fleet. The FDR was to report to Mayport, FL. We took her around the Horn, since she was too large to fit the Panama Locks. Our last stop before Mayport was Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
At this time I was RD3, and on the night of July 26, 1956 I was duty P.O. in the radar shack, C.I.C., on anchor detail. One other 3rd class was with me. Four lookouts were topside. While at anchor only surface radar was on line. Our VL radar, height radar, was down. One lookout and then another called in that two strange objects were in the air, but did not know what. I put a VL into operation, went topside to see for myself. I called in the duty officer and he in turn called others.
These objects finally vanished with tremendous speed. When first sighted the objects were suspended in mid air over one another with several hundred feet between them. A radar fix placed them several miles from the FDRs position at a height of 2000'. Two rows of bright counter rotating lights could be seen through the middle of each object that made them appear to be round in shape. For several minutes they never moved. Then the upper one released a fireball object that dropped into the top of the lower one. Within seconds they both vanished with tremendous speed. Radar contact was almost impossible. It was estimated the objects could have been between 75' and 100' in length.
All involved were told to keep a tight lip on what we saw. A report was filed, signed and sent to the Defense Department, along with a color sketch by me, of what was watched that night by many.
These things were watched by many for about 5 to 7 minutes. My original sketch went to the Defense Department.
Mr. Grusinski had this sighting confirmed by another witness, CWO4 John C. Hau, who wrote of the event in August, 1983 as follows:
At about 9:30 p.m. on July 25 or 26, 1956, I was standing a signal watch in USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, CVA 42, then anchored in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The sky was clear. As I recall, the signal bridge was called by Combat Information Center asking for visual verification of an air search radar contact in our vicinity, holding stationary. Inspection revealed a cigar shaped object estimated to be at 5,000', close by the zenith. It was displaying at least one row of white lights. I do not remember if any were flashing.
After about 10 or 15 minutes, it suddenly started moving in a northerly direction, accelerating smoothly and rapidly, until it disappeared from view in one or two minutes. It may have disappeared more quickly than that, as CIC later said it went off their radar scope in two or three sweeps. Unfortunately, I did not think to ask what range scale they were using at the time. Mr. Hau wrote that the sighting was reported to the officer of the deck and, he is sure, to the Commanding Officer, Captain John T. Hayward, as well.
A letter was received from Capitan Hayward dated December 7, 1992 which reads:
Yes I was the skipper of the FDR in Rio but have no knowledge of any UFO sightings.
An undated letter was received by Mr. Grusinski from William H. Boots Pierce, Cdr., USN Ret. which read in part:
Unfortunately though, I had debarked from FDR by 1958 and was instructing at Pensacola. I did not make the cruise mentioned in your letter, but I did hear about the sighting at Gitmo. In fact, FDR's log will show a UFO sighting during 1953 when we took her to the Med, both a visual sighting from the bridge and on C.I.C.'s radars. It was an interesting thing of which I was a part.
A letter dated March 21, 1978 from C.L. Burbage, Executive Officer, USS Roosevelt, reads in part as follows:
This is in reference to your letter concerning an alleged incident in 1958 or 1959 of an object hovering over the flight deck of the Franklin D. Roosevelt. I regret that I cannot glamorize such an incident as it would undoubtedly make for good reading and further lend credence to the theory of flying objects. However, I know no such thing happened during the shakedown period at Guantanamo Bay or at any other place. I was aboard for the entire period and am sure I would be aware of such an incident had it happened.
An undated letter from John S. Lawrence to Mr. Grusinski provides some information about at least one Gitmo sighting:
I first went aboard the FDR in the fall of 1950 and served on her until my discharge in May of 1953. I was an Electronics Technician and was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the Mark 25 Gun Fire Control radar, of which there were two, one above the bridge and one on a tower aft of the island structure. I do not remember the month or year, but the ship went on a shake down cruise to Gitmo immediately after leaving the ship yard at Portsmouth. The ship was anchored in Guantanamo Bay after a day of training maneuvers. As I mentioned, our berthing compartment opened up to the cat walk around the flight deck, and one night I was in my bunk reading when my compartment buddies, who were outside, called for me to come out quick. They pointed an object out to me that was in the sky. It looked like a very bright star that moved in an erratic pattern, accelerating very rapidly, would stop for a short period of time, and again accelerate very rapidly and again stop. We followed the object across the sky, with this same start/stop action and not in a straight line, until we lost it in the light of the moon, which was just starting to come up. To this day I am not sure what we saw. I think we mentioned it to our Electronics Officer but, to my knowledge, no official report was ever filed.
The FDR was decommissioned in 1977.
Myself and other UFO researchers have searched the logs, we also used the Freedom of Information Act, going as far back as 1980. I had also got a copy of the ship's deck logs from the year 1958-59, a lot of information was blackened out.
The year was 1958. Chester Grusinski was only 18, a crew member on the USS Aircraft Carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt, cruising the Carribean near Cuba.
At between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., when a small light appeared and started following us and then headed straight for us. The sky was clear, the air warm, and, as I was not on duty I had gone up on to the flight deck, where I should not rightly have been. Initally, I was down below when I was told to go topside to see something strange, says Chester, 56 as of this writing. So I went up and couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw a bright white ball of light. It headed straight for us, getting bigger and brighter. It was spherical, approximately 75' to 100' long. It turned red orange and I could feel the heat on my face. As this was going on, the man on watch was yelling into the intercom for an officer to get up on deck.
I could see silhouettes of figures looking at us. They had no features and you could tell they weren’t human. Then the bottom turned cherry red and it vanished in a flash.
Soon after the incident crew members who talked about it were transferred. Then the CIA came on board to investigate a so called gambling problem. It was a massive coverup, notes Grusinski. There was no gambling.
Over the years he remembered the strange sighting. Then about 1977-78 he read in a newspaper clipping that a citizens’ group in New York had hired a law firm to go after the CIA and the US government to release top secret UFO information. He sent them a letter about his sighting. The group attempted to get him some information with little success.
Grusinski was visiting libraries and doing research. He decided to try and locate fellow crew members who had also witnessed the 1958 event. He ran ads in Naval Affairs and other military magazines. Then in 1988 he learned from DAV Magazine about a USS FDR reunion. The reunion revealed that 8 to 10 separate UFO sightings were connected with this ship. He located several witnesses.
One incident took place off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 26, 1956.
Two disk objects were suspended in mid air. They were over one another, they had two rows of counter rotating lights. The upper disk released a fireball object that dropped into the top of the lower. Within seconds they both vanished with tremendous speed. These were seen by Leon Treadwell, Petty Officer Third Class. All involved witnesses were told to keep a tight lip. Treadwell had to sign papers that he would tell no one for 20 years. Another one for the same time period, the 25th or 27th of July, 1956, a cigar shaped object was seen and tracked on radar. And the C.I.C. radars said it went off the scope in two or three sweeps. That was witnessed by John C. Hau, Chief Warrant Officer.
Why were so many sightings attached to the FDR? Grusinski has his own reasons for this. He said the FDR was the first US carrier to carry nuclear weapons and, at the time, the only one to carry the hydrogen bomb. UFO sightings are common around military installations where nuclear devices are stored. This is especially true of NATO installations.
Strangely, these incidents have been removed from the ship's logs.
The FDR was decommissioned in 1977. He says: Myself and other UFO researchers have searched the logs, we also used the Freedom of Information Act, going as far back as 1980. I had also got a copy of the ship's deck logs from the year 1958-59, a lot of information was blackened out.
After his story appeared in UFO Magazine, he was contacted by Sightings. They also interviewed a gunnery officer who was a witness to the 1952 UFO sightings on the FDR. Grusinski located this man through the FDR reunion. Overall, Grusinski felt the TV presentation was very good.
Around September or October we were on a shakedown cruise near Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was dark outside, and I was down below decks at the time. There was a bunch of men who came running up from the engine room, and a couple of minutes later another bunch came running up and I followed them.
How many different sightings have you been able to link with the FDR?
About 6 UFO sightings on the same ship.
This reference: Michigan MUFON Newsletter, p. 11.
As the light came closer, Grusinski said, it appeared to be a cigar shaped figure about 75' to 100' long. He said the UFO floated midair for several minutes and he could feel the heat on his face.