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A Close Encounter of the “Cold Case” Kind That Could Still Go Hot

Just a few days ago I was asked an interesting question. It basically went something like this: are there any really good “cold cases” (so to speak) that might advance our knowledge of the UFO phenomenon? Well, there’s one case in particular that I have addressed occasionally – as have various other researchers of the UFO subject, too. It’s a case that goes back to 1978. The location: Bolivia. It’s an eye-opening case for one particular reason: there is a substantial body of official, U.S. government documentation on the mysterious affair. Yes, 1978 is a long time ago; but, the Roswell event was quickly forgotten when it occurred, and wasn’t resurrected by Bill Moore, Stan Friedman and Charles Berlitz until the mid-1970s. And, although I don’t think that aliens crashed outside of Roswell, you’ll get my point: old cases can often result in the discovery of fascinating data and startling testimony. To a major degree, the 1978 incident has largely been forgotten. But, it doesn’t have to be. So, with that said, perhaps someone will decide to tackle this case and see if anything new surfaces.

It was on May 15, 1978 that the story began to take off. We know this thanks to documentation that has surfaced through the terms of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. In a U.S. State Department titled “Report of Fallen Space Object,” the following was stated: “The Bolivian newspapers carried this morning an article concerning an unidentified object that apparently recently fell from the sky.  The object was discovered near the Bolivian city of Bermejo and was described as egg-shaped, metal and about four meters in diameter. The Bolivian Air Force plans to investigate to determine what the object might be and from where it came. I have expressed our interest and willingness to help. They will advise. Request the department check with appropriate agencies to see if they can shed some light on what this object might be. The general region has had more than its share of reports of UFOs the past week. Request a reply ASAP.”

Whether the object was a UFO, the remains of a satellite, or something else entirely, someone at least was looking at things from a UFO perspective. The story was far from over. On May 15, 1978, the CIA prepared a document on what its staff had learned about the incident. Again, the documentation surfaced via the FOIA: “Many people in this part of the country claim they saw an object which resembled a soccer ball falling behind the mountains on the Argentine-Bolivian border, causing an explosion that shook the earth. This took place on May 6. Around that time some people in San Luis and Mendoza provinces reported seeing a flying saucer squadron flying in formation. The news from Salta confirms that the artificial satellite fell on Taire Mountain in Bolivia, where it has already been located by authorities. The same sources said that the area where the artificial satellite fell has been declared an emergency zone by the Bolivian Government.”

The CIA had much more to say. On May 16, the agency prepared a second document. Its title: “Reports Conflict on Details of Fallen Object.” It reads as follows: “We have received another phone call from our audience requesting confirmation of reports that an unidentified object fell on Bolivian territory near the Argentine border. We can only say that the Argentine and Uruguayan radio stations are reporting on this even more frequently, saying that Bolivian authorities have urgently requested assistance from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration in order to determine the nature of that which crashed on a hill in Bolivian territory.”

Even more was to come from the CIA: “Just a few minutes ago Radio El Espectador of Montevideo announced that there was uncertainty as to the truth of these reports. Argentine sources indicated that the border with Bolivia had been closed but that it might soon be reopened. They also reported that an unidentified object had fallen on Bolivian soil near the Argentine border and that local Bolivian authorities had requested aid from the central government, which, in turn, had sought assistance from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration to investigate the case. A La Paz newspaper said today that there is great interest in learning about the nature of the fallen object, adding that local authorities for security reasons had cordoned off 200 km around the spot where the object fell. The object is said to be a mechanical device with a diameter of almost 4 meters which has already been brought to Tarija. There is interest in determining the accuracy of these reports which have spread quickly throughout the continent, particularly in Bolivia and its neighboring countries. Is it a satellite, a meteorite, or a false alarm?”

May 18 was the day on which the U.S. Embassy in La Paz got involved in the very strange story. The recipient of the findings of the Embassy’s staff was the U.S. Secretary of State: “Preliminary information provided has been checked with appropriate government agencies. No direct correlation with known space objects that may have re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere near May 6 can be made; however, we are continuing to examine any possibilities. Your attention is invited to State Airgram A-6343, July 26, 1973 which provides background information and guidance for dealing with space objects that have been found. In particular any information pertaining to the pre-impact observations, direction of trajectory, number of objects observed, time of impact and a detailed description including any markings would be helpful.”

The U.S. Defense Attaché Office in La Paz reported: “This office has tried to verify the stories put forth in the local press. The Chief of Staff of the Bolivian Air Force told DATT/AIRA this date that planes from the BAF have flown over the area where the object was supposed to have landed and in their search they drew a blank. Additionally, DATT/AIRA talked this date with the Commander of the Bolivian army and he informed DATT that the army’s search party directed to go into the area to find the object had found nothing. The army has concluded that there may or not be an object, but to date nothing has been found.”

It wasn’t just elements of the U.S. Government who were following this story. So were UFO researchers. Leonard Stringfield was someone who collected numerous stories of crashed UFOs from the mid-to-late 1970s  to the early 1990s, said. In the summer of 1979, Stringfield corresponded with an Argentinian UFO researcher named Nicholas Ojeda. He told Stringfield:  “There is a report of a group of investigators who vanished mysteriously in the area. I really think something big happened in Salta. NASA investigated, but there was no news of it. I have to tell you that in La Paz, Bolivia, a huge Hercules C-130 carried ‘something’ from the area where the UFO crashed.”

Yes, this is – as I said at the beginning – very much a case that could still go far. There are more than a few leads to follow up. There may well be more documents on the case that have still not surfaced via FOIA, but which just might appear if someone is prepared to do the research. And opening some doors may result in even more doors opening. How about digging into the words of Nicholas Ojeda? What about the NASA connection? It’s clear that this story is rich in data and government records. Who is up for the challenge?

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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