Ghost Rockets Over America: An Unusual, Early Military Pilot UFO Encounter

Something unusual was happening in the skies over Scandinavia in the summer of 1946.

The July 12, 1946 edition of the London Daily Telegraph featured a report on this curious new phenomenon, which read as follows:

“For some weeks a fair number of ‘ghost rockets’ going from south-east to north-west have been reported from various parts of the eastern coast of Sweden. Eye witnesses say that they look like glowing balls and are followed by a tail of smoke more or less visible. So many reports cannot be put down to pure imagination in the matter. As there is no definite evidence that the phenomena are of meteoric origin, there is growing suspicion that they are a new kind of radio-controlled V-weapon on which experiments are carried out.”

Of course, it might be assumed that one variety of these unusual aerial objects had already begun to turn up prior to the end of the war. Colorful reports of strange lights that dogged aircraft over parts of Europe would soon be known as “Foo Fighters,” of which at least a majority of reports could have entailed things like lightning sprites observed by pilots.

However, while the “ghost rocket” craze was well underway in Europe and Scandinavia, a very different kind of rocket was being seen in other parts of the world.

One of the most remarkable incidents involving an unidentified flying object, which occurred prior to the subject’s popularity coinciding with Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 sighting, involved Captain Jack Puckett, the assistant chief of flying safety, Tactical Air Command. On the morning of August 1, 1946, Puckett was piloting a twin engine C-47, and had left Langley Field for MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida.

Puckett was thirty miles from his destination when what appeared to be a long, brightly illuminated object nearly collided with his C-47. Puckett filed an incident report after he landed, according to which he stated:

“[The aircraft] continued toward us on a collision course, at our exact altitude. At about 1,000 yards, it veered to cross our path. We observed it to be a long, cylindrical shape approximately twice the size of a B-29 bomber, with luminous portholes.”

Puckett and his crew aboard the C-47 watched the object in amazement, until it disappeared over the horizon, traversing an estimated 100 miles over the course of three minutes.

In my book The Ghost Rockets: Mystery Missiles and Phantom Projectiles in Our Skies, I note the rocket like functions of this unusual aircraft, in relation to rocket technologies that were being developed in Germany during the war:

The object Puckett witnessed also produced a strange, sparkling tail, much like a rocket would; this detail would certainly present a lot of confusion among aviation officials at the time, in addition to increasing speculation about new kinds of technologies that might be under development elsewhere in the world. The technical information about rocketry advancements spearheaded in Nazi Germany during World War II, along with many of the leading experts in this field, were acquired by the British, Soviet, and American governments during and immediately following the war. America had previously gained access to V-2 rocket technology the Allies recovered at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp near Nordhausen, where an underground German rocket base known as the Mittelwerk factory, had been located. British forces managed to take away a wealth of information prior to the later Soviet occupation of the area. By late 1945, this information formed the basis of what became Operation Backfire, a program where British V-2 rockets were built and launched for purposes of demonstrating their capabilities.

The significance of Puckett’s encounter goes beyond the mere recollection of a “mystery aircraft” for a number of reasons. For one, as mentioned earlier, this sighting took place well in advance (by almost a year) the sighting of objects over Mount Rainer, Washington, that sparked the eventual “flying saucer craze.” In addition to the sighting taking place prior to the swelling of reports that accompanied Kenneth Arnold’s initial UFO sightings over the northwest, the fact that the assistant chief of flying safety with Tactical Air Command would report an aircraft of this sort, and only months after the conclusion of the Second World War, would likely have been considered to be of sincere concern as far as national security; to have fabricated such a report would have meant severe repercussions for Puckett and his crew.

Additionally, the object in question had initially been considered a meteor by Puckett and his crew, while still at a fair  distance from them. “This object continued toward us on a collision course at our exact altitude,” he continued in his incident report. “At about 1000 yards it veered to cross our path. We observed it to be a long, cylindrical shape approximately twice the size of a B-29, with luminous portholes.” It would seem unusual indeed that the pilot and crew would see a meteor, and then mistake the meteor as it traversed their altitude for being a massive aircraft of some kind, adorned with “luminous portholes”.

Finally, the idea that the object had been a misidentification of some variety of natural phenomenon seems unusual, since Puckett and his crew’s description matched a number of similar UFO reports that would follow, most notably the famous 1948 Chiles and Whitted UFO encounter (dramatized in the image above), along with a similar observation that occurred shortly afterward in France.

Granted, by the time the Chiles and Whitted sighting occurred, the “UFO craze” was already well underway. Indeed, Captain Jack Puckett’s unusual observation of a weird, “ghost rocket” over the American Southeast remains one of the most unusual, and perhaps significant observations of unexplained aerial activity in the modern era.

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Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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