Pokin Around: Springfield man says he was at White Sands Missile Range when he saw UFO in 1959
| Springfield News-Leader
I’m not into conspiracy theories but I have to wonder:
Was it coincidence that editor Amos Bridges mentioned that UFO stories were drawing big online audiences at other USA Today Network sites, and only days later Jack Hembree stopped me after church to report he once saw a UFO?
It made me think: What do I really know about Hembree?
Well, he is 92 years old. Has a wife named Carolyn, two children and four grandchildren. Goes to church.
“I was in the Korean War in the field artillery — thus, the hearing aids — and in Vietnam.”
In total, he was in the Army 22 years.
On Feb. 17, 1959, he was a captain at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It’s a military testing area operated by the Army, originally established as the White Sands Proving Ground on July 9, 1945.
The first atomic bomb (code named Trinity) was test detonated there on July 16, 1945.
In 1959, World War II was behind us. We were engaged in a Cold War against what was then called the Soviet Union, now Russia.
Hembree worked on the Redstone missile project. The PGM-11 Redstone was the first large American ballistic missile. It was in active service with the Army in West Germany from June 1958 to June 1964.
At White Sands, Hembree was the launch pad and control safety officer.
Launches had a countdown of 33 hours, he says.
He and several others stayed the night in a block house near the launch site. The launch was controlled from within the block house.
His normal residence at the time was with his wife and two children in family barracks at White Sands.
Hembree was up at sunrise that morning to inspect the site and to begin the fueling process. The launch was several hours off.
He was only one who saw it
He was standing near the launch tower, which was near the guided missile. The launch tower was on railroad tracks and could be moved.
Later, prior to launch, it would be moved farther back.
“All of a sudden I saw this huge bright object and, of course, it was not supposed to be there.”
“What I first thought was that it was a fireball. It was a globe-looking thing. But it wasn’t flaming.
“It was very, very bright and you could see through it.”
He saw three globes that moved as if connected. Each was about 30 feet in diameter.
“They were low, at my eye level. You could see through them. It seems to me there was a pause.”
Did you see anything inside the globes?
No, he says. They were bright, yet transparent.
The globes, which he estimated were about 150 feet away, departed in unison at a high rate of speed and moved over the other test launch sites on the grounds and quickly flew out of sight.
“The whole thing had to have taken place in 30 to 40 seconds.”
Did anyone else see it?
“Therein lies the problem — no.”
Did you tell anyone?
Yes, he immediately told others in the blockhouse, many of who were sleeping at the time he saw it.
“They said, ‘Oh yeah, what have you been drinking?”
Did you file any type of report?
Did you take personal notes?
Did you tell anyone?
“I told my wife.”
Have you ever told anyone else over the years?
“I have mentioned it to a few guys.”
Did local radar detect anything?
“I don’t know. I never checked.”
Ever told a reporter?
“No, just you.”
“I like the way you write and we go to church together.”
Were you angry that your fellow soldiers didn’t believe you?
“No. At that time we were getting sporadic reports from pilots on what was then called ‘flying saucers.'”
What did you think it was then and what do you think it was today?
“My best theory when it happened was that it somehow was a reflection caused by the sun but then it couldn’t have been because it was right around sunrise and the sun wasn’t even up.”
Then he thought perhaps the UFO was a Cold War espionage craft created by the Soviet Union.
“But that did not make any sense,” he says.
According to the New York Times, “The government still has no explanation for nearly all of the scores of unidentified aerial phenomena reported over almost two decades and investigated by a Pentagon task force.
“A total of 143 reports gathered since 2004 remain unexplained … Of those, 21 reports of unknown phenomena, involving 18 episodes, possibly demonstrate technological capabilities that are unknown to the United States: objects moving without observable propulsion or with rapid acceleration that is believed to be beyond the capabilities of Russia, China or other terrestrial nations.
“There is no evidence that any of the episodes involve secret American weapons programs, unknown technology from Russia or China or extraterrestrial visitations. But the government report did not rule out those explanations.”
OK, Mr. Hembree, time for the final question:
Do you believe that the object you saw in 1959 was the work of extra-terrestrials?”
“I really don’t know,” he says. “But when you rule everything else out, what’s left?”
This content was originally published here.