UFOs and the Vietnam War

Just occasionally we learn about a genuinely baffling UFO incident from a reliable primary source, such as a  military memoir or pilot’s logbook. One such gem was discovered hiding in a collection of journals covering daily events during the Vietnam War by an archivist working for the US National Archives.

Archivist and blogger Joe Gillette describes an 1969 entry in the daily journal of the 23 Infantry Division’s Chu Lai Defence Command as more resembling “an episode of the X-Files than a war movie.”

The command defended territory in the Chu Lai Defense Sector on the Vietnamese coast about 40 miles southeast of Da Nang. A network of observation towers ringed the base, with personnel tasked to report any unusual or threatening activity. One such entry, from the base journal, logged at 1.52 am on 6 January 1969 reads:

“…Twr 72 rpts object flying into their area about 700, infront [sic] of them, AZ 310 [degrees]. Object came in slow over the ASP & landed. It has a glowing light. It is about 15-20 ft across. It is shaped like a big egg. Control twr rpts their radar did not pick anything up. Object also does not seem to have any sound to it when it moves….”

According to Gillette, the only follow-up action taken on this remarkable report was notification of the duty officer and no mention is made of it in subsequent journal entries. Those looking for evidence of a cover-up will no doubt find significance in the fact that journals for the next two days, 7 & 8 January, are missing. But past experience has shown that “missing files” are often only significant when seen in hindsight (the military regularly lose bits of paper, as everyone else does).

The apparent lack of interest in or alarm about this sighting is equally familiar. Senior USAF officers who dealt with the sightings of “unusual lights” at RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk decided not to refer them up the chain of command for reasons that may appear suspicious today. Nevertheless, at the time this course of inaction appeared perfectly justified to the base commander (no hard evidence).

In the Da Nang case Joe Gillette suggests a number of conventional explanations for the incident, but dismisses them as unlikely. These include tracer rounds or flares, but these don’t float to the ground or appear egg-shaped. He also raises drug use by soldiers which, oddly enough, was also raised – and dismissed – as a possible factor in the Rendlesham incidents.

“Drug use by soldiers, particularly in 1969, was a known problem in Vietnam,” Gillette writes. “But two or more soldiers typically manned these towers. Assuming this was a drug-induced vision, it’s difficult to imagine they each experienced the same hallucination, although if they were observing something they could not readily identify, one might have convinced the others they were seeing a UFO.” He adds:

“Boredom too could have resulted in a bout of creative storytelling, but if discovered, the soldiers risked disciplinary action. So while conventional explanations exist for both the sighting and the report, nothing in the journals tell us which of those might have been at work.”

So what was it?  Could it have been some form of experimental drone being tested by the CIA or the Soviets? Or, more likely, was it a type of light phenomena described in the West as a “spook light” or “Jack o’Lantern”?  We will never know, but this – in my view – is another example of a Unidentified Aerial Phenomena or UAP, rather than a flying object.

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