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A Dogfight Testimonial: Lieutenant Gorman Vs. UFO

Lieutenant George F. Gorman, a veteran pilot in the North Dakota Air National Guard, has gone down in history as the subject of an amazing close encounter with a still-unidentified flying object. Taking place on the night of October 1st, 1948, Lieutenant Gorman’s encounter was one of the earliest reported pilot testimonies regarding a UFO, and remains a classic case to this day.

Lt. Gorman was a member of the North Dakota Air National Guard and upon returning to Hector airport in Fargo from a cross-country flight with his squadron, he decided to keep his F-51 Mustang in the air to log some night-flight hours. So while the rest of the squadron landed, Gorman stayed aloft, circling the town of Fargo. As he prepared to land, the air traffic control tower at Hector airport advised him that there was another aircraft below him, specifically a Piper Cub. Lt. Gorman acknowledged and saw the plane about 500 feet below him. Soon after, he saw something resembling the tail light of another aircraft quickly pass him on his right side.

Alerting the control tower to the latter presence, the tower radioed back saying  there were no other craft in his vicinity except for the Piper Cub. Wanting to investigate further, Lt. Gorman radioed the tower to let them know of his intentions, and pursued the the object. Upon approaching within 1,000 yards of the object, Lt. Gorman estimated that the lighted object was small, about six to eight inches in diameter. What happened next is best described by Lt. Gorman’s own words, found in an excerpt from one case report:

“’It was about six to eight inches in diameter, clear white, and completely round without fuzz at the edges.  It was blinking on and off. As I approached, however, the light suddenly became steady and pulled into a sharp left bank. I thought it was making a pass at the tower. I dived after it and brought my manifold pressure up to sixty inches, but I couldn’t catch up with the thing. It started gaining altitude and again made a left bank,’ he said. ‘I put my F-51 into a sharp turn and tried to cut the light off in its turn. By then we were at about 7,000 feet. Suddenly it made a sharp right turn and we headed straight at each other. Just when we were about to collide, I guess I got scared. I went into a dive, and the light passed over my canopy at about 500 feet.’” 

An F-51 Mustang similar to the one flown by Lieutenant Gorman.

An F-51 Mustang similar to the one flown by Lieutenant Gorman.

Immediately following this near-miss, Lt. Gorman said he made a sharp turn to continue his pursuit at which point the object was again heading straight for him on another collision course. Just when it appeared they would collide again, however, Lt. Gorman said the object shot straight up in a steep climb and disappeared. Wanting to continue his pursuit, Lt. Gorman also pulled his F-51 into a climb, but it stalled and so he returned to the airport. He was so disturbed and shaken by what had just happened, that despite being a veteran pilot and flight instructor (during World War II), he had difficulty landing his airplane.

According to another case report, Lt. Gorman would later make a statement to Major D.C. Jones, commander of the squadron which landed at Hector airport, that he believed there was some degree of thought behind the maneuvers exhibited by the craft he was pursuing. He also said: “I am also convinced that the object was governed by the laws of inertia because its acceleration was rapid but not immediate, and although it was able to turn fairly tight at considerable speed, it still followed a natural curve.”

the Air Force’s official explanation, made by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt (head of Project Blue Book) was that Lt. Gorman saw and pursued a lighted balloon. Dr. H. Menzel, an astronomer from Harvard University, saw some flaws in the Air Force’s balloon explanation, and additionally  proposed that what Gorman was chasing was along the lines of an optical illusion of the planet Jupiter.

As always, I think it’s important to maintain a vigilant skepticism no matter how convincing such cases may be. Nonetheless, the aforementioned explanations seem to be almost an insult to Lt. Gorman’s intelligence and veteran, war-time flying experience. Thankfully, there were at least three corroborators (the chief of the air traffic control tower at Hector airport as well as two men in the Piper Cub) who saw most of the so-called dogfight through their binoculars. Some of Lt. Gorman’s testimony was also included in a 1952 issue of LIFE magazine: “For 27 hair-raising minutes Gorman pursued the light through a series of intricate manoeuvres. He said it was about 6 inches in diameter and going faster than his F-51 (300-400 mph). It made no sound and left no exhaust trail.”

It is also interesting to view Lt. Gorman’s case in comparison to the recently covered videos of Damien Nott in episode 12.04, the ones in which there are clearly some white spherical shapes making quick accelerations and sharp turns. While the size of the objects are difficult to determine in Nott’s videos, it still seems as though some eerie comparisons can be made. Regardless, Lt. Gorman’s case is an extraordinary one which I thought warranted a place in the annals of Mysterious Universe.

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