UFO Landing Near Kirtland Air Force Base: Welcome to the Cosmic Watergate

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Note 2000: This article was written in 1985, several years before the initial MJ-12 documents (Eisenhower Briefing Document, Aquarius Document, etc.) became public knowledge and many years before the controversy over Richard Doty's activities. At the time, I was not interested in the Paul Bennewitz aspect of the Kirtland UFO activity. I was only interested in the report of actual sightings of unidentified objects at or near Kirtland Air Force Base. Hence the Bennewitz controversy (and Bill Moore's activities related to Bennewitz, activities not revealed until the late 1980's) are only discussed briefly.

This paper has been available from the Fund for UFO Research since 1985.

The morning of August 9, 1980, was only about 20 minutes old when a security guard spotted a "round disc shaped object" with a very bright light which had landed in a restricted test area east of Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Subsequently the object ascended rapidly into the air. Both the descent and the ascension were witnessed by a group of guards about five miles away at the time. A report of the landing, prepared by agent Richard Doty of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) at Kirtland, became public in the spring of 1983, apparently as a result of a "leak" which was followed by a Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIPA) request by a UFO investigator (Barry Greenwood). In the spring of 1984, I contacted Doty to find out if he had more information than was contained in the 1 1/2 pages which had been released. I was not surprised to hear him tell me that he had interviewed the witnesses, gone to the landing site. and had written a larger report. I was not surprised because I found it difficult to believe that the Air Force would overlook something as important as a landing of SOMETHING inside a restricted (nuclear) storage area. He also said that there was more that he couldn't tell me. He further suggested that I write to Headquarters (HQ/AFOSI) to obtain all releasable information. I therefore wrote to HQ/AFOSI and requested the follow-on document under the FOIPA. The Chief of the Information Release Division, Noah Lawrence, denied that there was another document because there was none on file at HQ/AFOSI. Subsequently, because of my insistence, he called Doty on the phone and Doty (evidently) told him there was no such document. I then had a long conversation with Lawrence and he admitted that there was a "discrepancy" between what Doty told me and what he told Lawrence. Lawrence then asked that Doty be interviewed by his commanding officer (Lawrence did not interview Doty himself). The commanding officer (evidently) reported back to Lawrence that Doty denied the existence of another document. According to Lawrence, without a specific name or a file location of this report continued requests are futile.

Unbeknownst to me, investigator Bill Moore had independently researched the case in 1982. After I had completed my investigation I told him what I had learned and he informed me of his investigation. The results of his investigation, which are included in a summary written by Moore and presented at the end of my paper, agree with my results, adding further evidence to my suspicion of a cover-up.

This report summarizes what is now known about the incident and my attempts to find a doorway into the "Cosmic Watergate" which prevents the public from knowing the truth about the involvement of military intelligence agencies with the UFO problem.

NOTE 2000: This paper was written in 1985. There has been no indication that the documents cited in this report are bogus. Instead, all investigation indicates that the event did happen. The events cited here are indirectly related to the Bennewitz affair and to the initial MJ-12 document (that refers to "Project Aquarius.") The document cited here was part of the initial connection between Bill Moore and his "inside contacts" that later led to the Eisenhower Briefing Document and other MJ-12 documents, the provenance of which is uncertain. Perhaps the leaking of this document to Moore was intended to establish the credibility of the leaker who would then provide further documents for whatever reason (unauthorized release of real documents or authorized release of disinforming documents?
Part 1: The Sightings

I begin the history of the Kirtland sightings with a list of the original sources for information (all dates are 1984 except, for Source A)

The Kirtland Landing Document dated Sept., 9, 1980; released by HQ/AFOSI, Spring, 1983 (A)
Interview with Doty at his office, Feb. 15,1984 (B)
Telephone conversation with Doty, morning,Feb. 17 (C)
Interview with Russ Curtis, Sandia Security, about noon, -Feb. 17 (D)
Discussion with Doty at his office, afternoon, Feb. 17 (E)
Telephone conversation with Doty, April 26 (F)

The Kirtland Landing Document (page 1)

The Kirtland Landing Document (page 2)

The sighting events, which occurred long before my involvement, can be reconstructed from information provided in Source A and from sources C and F. According to Source (A), Major Ernest Edwards of Central Security Control, Manzano Weapons Storage Area, reported the following information to Richard Doty at the AFOSI office at Kirtland, AFB, Albuquerque, N.M. A map is below.



(The main sighting) At about 10 minutes before midnight, Friday evening, August 9, 1980, three security policemen who were on duty at the Manzano Weapons storage area saw a "very bright light in the sky approximately 3 miles north-northeast of their position" (A) which was on the east side (A,C) of the Manzano storage area. (The storage area consists of a number of tunnels dug into three mountains that are just east of Kirtland AFB. The area is surrounded by a doubly fenced security perimeter. Nuclear devices are stored in the tunnels.)

NOTE 2000: Sometime in the 1990's the Manzano Weapons Storage Area was been dismantled and the security fence was removed.
The light travelled southward at a "great speed and stopped suddenly in the sky over Coyote Canyon." The guards at first thought they were looking at a helicopter but "after observing the strange maneuvers (stop and go), they felt that a helicopter couldn't have performed such skills" (A). The light evidently descended behind distant mountains because the guards reported that "the light landed in the Coyote Canyon Area", although they apparently could not actually see where it had landed (A,C. A topographical map of the Coyote Canyon area shows that the canyon runs in an east-northeasterly direction from an area South of the Manzano storage area, and lies generally east of the storage area. It shows several structures - buildings - scattered throughout the canyon.) The three guards contacted Central Security Control (CSC) inside Manzano and CSC then contacted "Sandia Security, who conducts frequent building checks on two alarmed structures in the area." Sandia Security "advised that a patrol was already in the area and would investigate" (A). The scene now shifts about 3 miles east of the Manzano Storage Area (C,F) to the "furthest bunker on the left" (C) of an access road running along Coyote Canyon. A guard "who wishes his name not be divulged for fear of harassment" (A) was driving east on the road as part of a routine security check of the "alarmed structure (the bunker mentioned above) at approximately 20 minutes past midnight, i.e., during the early morning of Saturday, August 9, about 1/2 an hour after the sighting by the three Manzano guards described above. "As he approached the structure he observed a bright light near the ground behind the structure" (A). (It is interesting to note the phraseology used here, "near the ground," implying that the light was at some distance above the ground.) "He also observed an object he first thought was a helicopter. But after driving closer, he observed a round, disc shaped object. He attempted to radio for a back up patrol but his radio would not work. As he approached the object on foot armed with a shotgun, the object took off in a vertical direction at a high rate of speed. The guard was a former helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Army and stated that the object he observed was not a helicopter" (A).

Returning to the three guards at Manzano, at an unstated time after they saw the bright light descend behind the hills east of them, they saw it "take off and leave proceeding straight up at a high speed and disappear" (A).

The preceding history of the landing of a "round, disk shaped object" at Kirtland on August 8-9 constitutes the total amount of information available to civilian UFO researchers. The lack of detail is frustrating. One can easily ask a number of questions related to the events reported by the Sandia Guard. In particular, did the radio work before he approached the object in his vehicle? (One would assume so since he was probably no more than seven miles from his home station.) Did the radio work after the the vehicle had departed? How close did he get to the Object? (Since the bunker, according to a topographical map, is about 400 feet from the road, it is possible that he was within 500 feet of it.) How large was the "round disk shaped object?" Could he see any details of the structure? How high was the bright light above the ground and was it a part of the object or was it attached to another object? Were there any traces left on the ground at the landing site (depressions, burns). Were there any effects on devices stored in the bunker?

Source A briefly mentions three other landings. The first landing was reported by "another (Sandia) security guard (who) observed a (sic) object land near an alarmed structure sometime during the first week of August." However the guard did not report it until shortly before Sept. 8 "for fear of harassment." The second landing, Aug. 8-9, has been discussed. The third landing was reported by a New Mexico State Patrolman who "sighted an aerial object land in the Manzano's (sic) between Belen and Albuquerque N.M." during the night of Aug. 10, l98O. This landing apparently occurred roughly south or south-southwest of the site of the Aug.8-9 landing described above. Finally, Source A reports that Major Edwards "advised on Aug. 22 (that) three other security policemen observed the same phenomena described by the first three. Again the object landed in Coyote Canyon. They did not see the object take off."

Thus it appears that four landings occurred at or near Kirtland AFB during August, 1980: the first during the first week, the second during the night of August 8-9, the third during the night of August 10, and the fourth at some unspecified date presumably just before Aug. 22. The remainder of this paper concentrates on my investigation of the second Kirtland landing.

Part 2: How The Afosi Learned Of The Landings

Evidently the lone security policeman who witnessed the August 9 landing did not hesitate to report his sighting to Sandia Base Security heaquarters. The sighting was during the early morning of August 9, a Saturday, and that was the date of the guard's report to Sandia Security. Sandia Security had to wait until Monday the 11th to report the incident to the AFOSI agent. According to Source A (which was written nearly a month after these events), "On 11 Aug 198O, Russ Curtis, Sandia Security, advised that on 9 Aug 8O, a Sandia Security Guard (who wishes his name not be divulged for fear of harassment)" related the sighting described above. One might well pause at this point and ask why Sandia security would report the sighting to the AFOSI since UFO sightings are not of interest to the Air Force, according to public statements. There are two answers to this question, both of which are supplied by Source A. First, Source A explicitly states that the Air Force investigates sightings over Air Force bases. Secondly, and perhaps of more importance, is the fact that the AFOSI is supposed to get all reports related to incidents near nuclear devices. That nuclear devices were in the vicinity of the "round disc shaped object" is definite since Source A states "The two alarmed Structures located within the area contains (sic) HQ CR 44 material." HQ CR 44 is "Headquarters Collection Requirement #44 which implements DOD Directive 5210.41, "Security Criteria and Standards for Protecting Nuclear Weapons." Although CR 44 is primarily concerned with the possibilities for sabotage by "persons not connected with the Department of Defense" and with counterintelligence, it also states (para. 4.c.2) that local A.F. base commanders responsible for safety and security of nuclear weapons "are required to inform AFOSI of local incidents posing a threat to the security of nuclear weapons." The local AFOSI office, in turn, fowards copies of such information to a number of AFOSI offices.

Although Source A does not specifically state that Doty initiated a search for witnesses who could corroborate the single guard's report, one can deduce that such a search was made from the fact that the Manzano and Sandia security organizations interviewed the Manzano guards. According to Russ Curtis, Sandia Security interviewed the Sandia guards who were on duty that night and reported the results to Doty (Sources D and E).

Reference A does not indicate when Major Edwards interviewed the Manzano guards, but it does state that on Aug. 22 Edwards reported the fourth landing (see discussion above) to Doty. Then, on Sept. 2, Major Edwards provided the full details of the sighting by the group of three guards who witnessed the second Kirtland Landing (Aug. 8-9). During the spring of 1983 reporter Dan Spurling interviewed Edwards by telephone. Edwards, who had been transferred to Hahn AFB in Germany, said, "The best I can say is something happened which I could not explain nor could I get any evidence of anything occurring at Manzano or in the Coyote Canyon area from any other military source that would have explained the situation and the happenings there. I really can't say for sure what it was. All I can say is that there was something that I guess matched a lot of the stories and reports of UFO sightings. I could not explain it nor could I come up with any reasonable explanation through any other source. "

According to Source A it was not until Sept. 8 that Doty learned of the first Kirtland landing (see the discussion above). However, Source A indicates that Doty learned of the third landing within a day of its occurrence. According to Source A, referring to the patrolman's sighting (see discussion above), "The patrolman reported the sighting to the Kirtland AFB Command Post, who later referred the patrolman to the AFOSI Dist 17. AFOSI Dist 17 advised the patrolman to make a report through his own agency. On 11 Aug 80 the Kirtland Public Information office advised the patrolman (that) the USAF no longer investigates such sightings unless they occur on a USAF base." Thus it appears that Doty learned of the patrolman's sighting on Aug. 11, the same date that he learned of the Aug.8-9 sighting. During the days or weeks following the landing Doty "Contacted all the agencies who utilize the test range and it was learned (that) no aerial tests are conducted in the Coyote Canyon area. Only ground tests are conducted" (Source A).

On Sept. 8, the date on which Doty learned of the first Kirtland landing, he wrote the 1 1/2 page report (Source A) and forwarded it to HQ/AFOSI. He sent it to a particular division, HQ/IVOS, which is the Security Projects Division, Counterintelligence Directorate, HQ/AFOSI.

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© copyright B. Maccabee, 2000. All rights reserved.