Warfare seems to be ingrained into us. Throuhout history humans have managed to fight about all manner of things, constantly one-upping ourselves and raising the stakeds of violence. Wars produce many tales of combat and valor, and these are the ones that tend to make it into the history books, but there are also many strange accounts that seem to have fallen through the cracks to fade into the mists of time. Chief among these are all of the unusual and often downright bizarre stories of UFOs showing up at places of war, and such tales go back from way back all the way up to the present.
One early account of UFOs on the battlefield goes all the way back during the U.S. Civil War. According to the account, which appeared in Vol.32 of the bulletin for the Aerial Research Organization (APRO), on a clear, cloudless day in October of 1863, a curious incident went down a few miles west of Lewisburg, Greenbrier County, Virginia, when Civil War soldiers and civilians alike witnessed something truly bizarre in the sky above the battlefield. According to the report, witnesses saw a large number of objects “resembling cotton or smoke and apparently the size and shape of doors” passing rapidly through the sky above “in beautiful order and regularity.” Apparently thousands of these objects passed by above, and then things got even weirder after they passed. The report reads:
In the deep valley beneath, thousands upon thousands of (apparently) human beings came into view, travelling in the same direction as the objects, marching in good order, some thirty or forty in depth, moving rapidly- ‘double quick’- and commenced ascending the almost insurmountable hills opposite, and had the stoop particular to men ascending a steep mountain. There seemed to be a great variety in the size of the men; some were very large, whilst others were quite small. Their arms, legs, and heads could be distinctly seen in motion. They seemed to observe strict military discipline, and there were no stragglers. There was uniformity of dress; white blouses or shirts, with white pants; they were without guns, swords, or anything that indicated ‘men of war.’ On they came through the valley and over the steep road, and finally passing out of sight, in a direction due north from those who were looking on.
What was going on here? An equally strange event was allegedly witnessed during the Spanish Civil War, fought from 1936 to 1939 between the Republicans and the Nationalists in Spain. On February 5, 1938, a battalion of soldiers valiantly defending the Peñón de la Mata position to the north fo the Province of Granada had their minds distracted from the biting, frigid cold when they witnessed something very odd in the sky above. A report at the time in the ABC Andalucía newspaper reads:
They guarded their position carefully under perfectly cloudless skies and our witness–a fighter with the 76th Brigade–suddenly became aware of the presence of something abnormal in the skies over Granada. Located at a considerable distance, and at an altitude of 200 meters, the soldier saw an object resembling “a Mexican hat” the color of flat aluminum. The sun’s rays, reflecting off its surface, enabled him to see that it was a metallic device. It flew slowly as it approached the witness’s position. It was then that he was able to observe it with greater detail. Seen from below, its shape was exactly that of a cartwheel. In its center, from where the spokes emerged, it had what looked like a photo camera lens and gave a sensation of depth. When the object approached even closer, passing almost directly overhead, the soldier was even able to make out some curved black windows which appeared on the side of the remarkable “Mexican hat."
When the main witness was approached and interviewed about his experience, he would add further details, saying:
It gave out a sort of vapor from its sides and gave the overall impression of having a small tail. I can’t tell you exactly where it was coming from, but as it came out it formed what I already said: a little tail. It made a slight skip as it moved away, similar to a pulse. Overall it looked like a Mexican hat, as I’ve told you, but with the detail that its ends formed straight angles. Afterward, as it approached and passed almost directly overhead, I was able to see that it had small windows and was completely round. It gyrated in a counterclockwise motion. At first I thought it was a truck tire that had exploded, but “that thing” seemed to have a life of its own, aside from the fact that had it been a truck tire, we would have seen it fall. Its diameter would have been approximately three meters.
Moving ahead in years we have an incident reported from the battlefields of the Korean War, fought between North Korea and South Korea from 1950 to 1953. In the Spring of 1951, a private first class (PFC) in the U.S. Army by the name of Francis P. Wall was with the Army infantry, 25th Division, 27th Regiment, 2nd Battalion on a mountainside at what was at the time known on the military maps as the Iron Triangle, near Chorwon. At the time there was artillery coming in, and they were on their way to warn civilians at a nearby village of the impending threat when they witnessed “a jack-o-lantern come wafting down across the mountain.” The object was headed towards the village, and was so quick and maneuverable that it was able to evade the center of an airburst of artillery and remain unharmed. As the shocked men looked on trying to process what they were seeing, the object turned and headed directly towards them, and Wall describes of what happened next:
Then this object approached us. And it turned a blue-green brilliant light. It’s hard to distinguish the size of it; there’s no way to compare it. The light was pulsating. This object approached us. I asked for and received permission from Lt. Evans, our company commander at that time, to fire upon this object, which I did with an M-1 rifle with armor-piercing bullets. And I did hit it. It must have been metallic because you could hear when the projectile slammed into it. Now why would that bullet damage this craft if the artillery rounds didn’t? I don’t know, unless they had dropped their protective field around them, or whatever. But the object went wild, and the light was going on and off. It went off completely once, briefly. And it was moving erratically from side to side as though it might crash to the ground. Then, a sound — we had heard no sound previous to this — the sound of, like, diesel locomotives revving up. That’s the way this thing sounded.
And then, we were attacked. We were swept by some form of a ray that was emitted in pulses, in waves that you could visually see only when it was aiming directly at you. That is to say, like a searchlight sweeps around and… you would see it coming at you. Now you would feel a burning, tingling sensation all over your body, as though something were penetrating you. So the company commander, Lt. Evans, hauled us into our bunkers. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We were scared. These are underground dugouts where you have peep holes to look out to fire at the enemy. So, I’m in my bunker with another man. We’re peeping out at this thing. It hovered over us for a while, lit up the whole area with its light, and then I saw it shoot off at a 45 degree angle, that quick, just there and gone. That quick. And it was as though that was the end of it.
But, three days later the entire company of men had to be evacuated by ambulance. They had to cut roads in there and haul them out. They were too weak to walk. They had dysentery. Then subsequently, when the doctors did see them, they had an extremely high white blood cell count which the doctors could not account for. Now in the military, especially the Army, each day you file a company report. We had a confab about that. Do we file it in the report or not? And the consensus was ‘No.’ Because they’d lock every one of us up and think we were crazy. At that time, no such thing as a UFO had ever been heard of, and we didn’t know what it was. I still don’t know what it was. But I do know that since that time I have periods of disorientation, memory loss, and I dropped from 180 pounds to 138 pounds after I got back to this country. And I’ve had great difficulty keeping my weight up. Indeed, I’m retired and disabled today.
The story was related by Wall to John Timmerman, an associate of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) in Chicago, Illinois, who deemed the witness to be honest and reliable, and we are left to wonder just what was going on here. From a few years later is a case from the Algerian War, also known as the Algerian Revolution or the Algerian War of Independence, waged between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front from 1954 to 1962. According to the account, in March of 1958, a witness known only as “Legionnaire N.G.” was on sentry duty at a fortified emplacement at a Foreign Legion camp at Bouamama, Algeria on a clear quiet night when he heard a strange whistling noise coming from above, and when he looked up he saw an enormous, roundish object descending towards him to stop and hover ominously approximately 100 to 120 feet above the ground. UFO researcher Joel Mesnard would interview the witness, and says of what happened next:
He estimated it to be as much as 350 meters wide (1,000 ft.). As seen by him slightly from below, during the arrival and take-off phases, it seemed to be elliptical in shape, quite independently of the perspective effect that makes a disc look elliptical when observed from a point outside the disc’s center-line. Its span might, he thought, have been in the neighborhood of 250 meters. He estimated the distance between himself and the nearest edge of the object at little more than 50 meters (150 ft.). The object was surrounded by pale green light, and an intense conical beam of emerald-green light was coming from the center of the under-part towards the ground.
Legionnaire N.G. did not fire his rifle, nor did he pick up the telephone. He just remembers staring at the object for 45 to 50 minutes. The pale green and emerald colors were the most beautiful, relaxing and fascinating colors he had ever seen. Legionnaire N.G. had forgotten all about the war. All nervous or psychological tension had gone from his mind. He was just feeling happy. Then came the noise again, like somebody blowing into a bottle, and the object started rising gently, until it had reached a height of about I(K) or 120 meters. Then it flew offal tremendous speed towards the North-West, climbing as it went. What the Legionnaire then felt was a sort of sadness at the disappearance of this beautiful sight. After a few minutes this feeling began to fade, yielding place to a return of his ordinary state of consciousness, until his full mental faculties were back. He quickly picked up the telephone and reported what he had seen.
Probably more for medical than for “ufological” reasons, the witness was thoroughly questioned by officers. He stuck to his original story, and the affair was considered to be quite amazing. He was sent lo the Military Hospital at Val dc Grace in Paris. There he was kept for a week under dose scrutiny by neurologists and psychiatrists. An electroencephalogram revealed nothing unusual. The conclusion of all the doctors was that N.G. was in a slate of good physical and mental health. He had not been notably affected by the strains caused by wartime service in Algeria. He had no tendency towards drinking, and was considered to be competent for service in the Foreign Legion, which means an especially hard way of life. Indeed, no man with a tendency towards dreaming or science-fiction, or with an over-developed imagination or analytical, critical mind would he selected for service in the Legion. Monsieur N.G. obviously is not seeking publicity. He just recounts his experience, in a natural manner, to his own close relatives, and when I met him in May 1970, he looked slightly reluctant for the first few minutes, and then answered my questions without emphasis on any particular feature.
Unfortunately, when the site was thoroughly examined there was no evidence of the object found, leaving what really happened out there a mystery. From the Vietnam War there is an incident that purportedly unfolded at Nha Trang, which was a heavily defended base in South Vietnam located along the coastline. In June of 1966, American GIs were dealing with heavy fighting in the area, and on this day there was a lull and some of them were enjoying some much deserved down time watching a film on a movie projector in one of the compounds. As the generator cranked away and the movie played out, there was a bright red flash outside, and the unnamed witness says:
At first we thought it was a flare which are going off all the time and then we found that it wasn’t. It came from the north and was moving from real slow to real fast…Some of the jet fighter pilots which were here…said it looked to be about 25,000 feet (in altitude) … then the panic broke loose. It dropped right towards us and stopped dead still about 300 to 500 feet up. It made this little valley and the mountains around look like it was the middle of the day; it lit up everything. Then it went up and I mean up. It went straight up and completely out of sight in about 2-3 seconds. Everybody is still talking about it. That really shook everyone is that it stopped, or maybe it didn’t, but anyway our generator stopped and everything was black. At the Air Force Base about one half mile from here all generators stopped. The engines on two planes that were the runway ready to take off stopped, and there wasn’t a car, truck, plane or anything that ran for about four minutes. In addition, the eight bulldozers working on nearby hills also ceased operating. A whole plane load of big shots from Washington got here this afternoon to investigate. It’s on the radio over here. Is it at home? I swear if somebody says they saw a little green man I won’t argue with them.
It would turn out that the case hadn’t made it to the news, and no one had ever even heard of it until the witness was interviewed by NICAP investigator Raymond Fowler, who found the account fascinating in that there were so many physical effects reported similar to an electromagnetic pulse effect. Fowler would remark:
The case could prove to be highly significant, despite the current lack of additional information. Compounding this problem is the witness’s inability to recall anything more than the nicknames of those he was serving with at Nha Trang. Of extreme interest to NICAP, and apparently of equal interest to the “big shots from Washington,” was the associated EM effects reportedly caused by the strange UFO. The fact that diesel and gasoline engines scattered throughout the base all ceased to operate at the same time and remained inoperative for more than four minutes provides added mystery to the event. Included in the list of engines that ceased running at the time of the sighting, according to the witness, were those of the two “Sky Raiders” warming up on the nearby runway. One can only speculate what might have happened had they suffered a power loss while airborne. NICAP is currently attempting to contact appropriate Army officials in an effort to obtain the names of other enlisted or officer personnel who might have witnessed the event. NICAP is also seeking to determine whether officials from Washington did in fact visit Nha Trang the next day to investigate the sighting.
The Vietnam War was chock full of accounts like this. One particularly bizarre incident occurred in 1970, at Lone-Jon Island, where a 5-man team of soldiers claimed that they were being hunted by bright lights measuring a mere 4 inches by 4 inches in size. These lights were described as disc-shaped and having what were called “black eyes,” and they were said to be capable of great feats of maneuverability, darting, zig-zagging, and hovering all over the place. The team claimed that when they fired upon the objects they would shift color to an angry glowing red, with the black eye part morphing into a bright green. These intimidating, menacing lights apparently stalked and attacked the team during both daylight and nighttime hours over a period of 5 days, often coming shockingly close, to within 5 feet of the team’s position. One of the men supposedly took several photos of the bizarre incident.
When the men got back from their harrowing ordeal and were debriefed they told of what had happened to them and were reportedly told to forget about it. Their equipment was also searched and some of it confiscated, including the pictures that had been taken. People were brought in to interview them extensively on what they had seen, and although it was unclear who they were, at least one of the men was convinced that they were CIA. Even odder still is that a few months later some American personnel allegedly showed up at the homes of the soldiers’ parents asking about any photographic materials that may have been sent to them. The whole thing adds the layer of a sinister cover-up to the already rather scary events depicted by the report.
American forces were certainly not the only ones apparently dealing with hostilities from UFOs. In the summer of 1968, a Ranger recon unit was operating along the DMZ in an area that what was referred to as the “North Country” in the early morning hours. The team was wary and on edge, completely attuned to their surroundings, as it had already been established that an enemy Viet Cong unit was positioned on the other side of the hill, so the enemy could have been anywhere creeping about in the jungle around them. At approximately 2AM, the team claimed that a bright, fluorescent blue light could be seen closing in on their position, and that the strange, unidentified object stopped to hover momentarily around a quarter of a mile away before moving towards the baffled unit once again. The entire time the flying object was said to be completely silent.
As the recon unit struggled to comprehend this bizarre sight that they were seeing, the NVA on the other side of the hill, after presumably gawking at the sight as well, did what humans do and reportedly began firing on the light in full force. The night lit up with tracer rounds blazing skyward towards the strange object floating there and it must have been quite a haunting, mesmerizing sight. For a few moments the object did not react, merely absorbing the assault without showing any sign of distress or damage. Indeed, it seemed to be completely unfazed by the barrage of bullets raging at it. Then, it was claimed that a blindingly bright beam of light lashed forth from the object and the NVA machine gun fire abruptly stopped to send the jungle into a sudden silence so profound that it was jarring, the instant quiet almost deafening in the wake of the cacophony that had exploded through the air just moments before. The light in the sky then reportedly cruised off in complete silence to leave nothing but the droning sounds of the nighttime jungle behind.
The next morning, the recon team decided to make their way to the NVA camp to see what had happened, sensing that they were going to find something weird at the very least and they would not be disappointed. They found the enemy camp to be seemingly abandoned, and strewn about were 12.7MM machine guns and other assorted firearms that looked as if they had been partially melted by a relentless, scorching heat. A closer inspection of the camp turned up what appeared to be piles of ashes and bits of what could have been charred bones scattered about. The leader of the team apparently took pictures of the scene, which he would later include in his report of the spooky incident. Shortly after, he went to rejoin his unit but was told that he had been reassigned to another team. When he asked about what had become of his report and the photos he was allegedly told that no such report existed, and that if he were to continue pressing the matter he could face prison time. Other members of the team were purportedly similarly intimidated with such threats.
Another incident involving the NVA was reported in the State Journal in Lansing, Michigan on Sept. 29, 1972, in a piece entitled What Was UFO Over Hanoi? The report claimed that a huge, luminous orange spherical UFO had appeared at a high altitude above Hanoi on a clear day, and then hovered in a stationary position. North Vietnamese air defenses had then almost immediately fired upon it with three consecutive surface-to-air missiles, but these were either unable to reach it or unable to harm it, although after the missiles were fired it was reported that the UFO diminished somewhat in intensity, becoming “less bright” than it had been before. Nevertheless it reportedly continued to hover over the city for a full one hour and 20 minutes before leaving. In a similar incident reported by the Russian publication Aura-Z, another UFO was supposedly seen over Hanoi and was also fired upon by missiles, which apparently did hit it but had no effect. In this case, the UFO is claimed to have fired a “fine, needle-like, light blue ray” at the defense batteries, completely destroying them and allegedly killing around 200 personnel in the process. This particular, no doubt spectacular report has been suspected of being a hoax, but it is intriguing nonetheless.
In some cases these strange objects in the skies have apparently been attacked by both sides of the Vietnam conflict at the same time. One amazing such account was published in The News World in a 1982 article entitled "Staten Is. researcher inspired by encounter in Vietnam War." The witness was a soldier by the name of Pete Mazzola, who was stationed in Vietnam from 1965 to 1970, and claimed that he had already seen plenty of unidentified lights in the sky during his tour even before the frightening incident that would change his life forever and truly convince him that UFOs were real.
According to Mazzola, in 1967 he had been a young soldier serving in a forward observation patrol that was tasked with radioing in the coordinates of enemy positions to US Navy ships waiting in the nearby South China Sea, which would then bombard them from the water. During their mission Mazzola’ patrol found itself under attack by an enemy unit and took cover in a patch of thick, tall grass. As they cowered there, flinching from the staccato gunfire and trying to figure out what to do, they were met with the bizarre sight of several bright objects rising up into the air over the trees. He would say of this strange sight:
I couldn’t believe what I saw. The other guys saw it too but afterwards were too shocked to talk much about it except to say, ‘What the hell was that?’
The lights proceeded to soar up over the rice paddies and palm trees, and as they did so were suddenly attacked by incoming shells from the American ships to the south, the thunderous explosions deafening to the terrified squad on the ground. Moments later, more shells and missiles began to bombard the mysterious lights, this time from NVA positions in the north, and it seemed as if both sides of the war had momentarily forgotten their differences to focus their booming violence on these mysterious, unearthly objects. Although shell after shell whizzed through the air towards the enigmatic lights, none of them appeared to actually meet their target, always exploding before making contact to leave a puff of black smoke hanging in the air well short of their quarry. Throughout it all, the objects were described by Mazzola as being quite calm, hovering “silently, gracefully,” until around 5 minutes into the onslaught, when they apparently had had enough and shot up into the sky in unison with blinding speed.
Mazzola would later speculate that the UFOs had been employing some sort of device that had somehow prevented the missiles and artillery shells from reaching them. The strange incident had such a profound effect on him that the once skeptical Mazzola, who in later years became a New York City Police detective, would go on to form an organization devoted to investigating the UFO phenomena, called the "Scientific Bureau of Investigation."
American and Viet Cong forces were not even the only victims of such frightening occurrences. On the evening of August 12, 1968, a team of engineers from the Soviet Union were near the remote area of Cao Bang, North Vietnam, working on plans to build a hydroelectric plant there. As they went about their duties a deep rumbling echoed out from above to reverberate through the area, and they feared that it was possibly an American B-52 bomber making a deadly run. The frightened Soviet engineers scurried to their tents to hide, and that was where they saw something quite odd indeed.
There hovering in the middle of their tent was an angular, diamond-shaped object which was described as being a deep black in color and glowing with a greenish-blue light. The bizarre floating object made no sound or movement, just hanging there with its inscrutable, unknowable purpose. Before they could even process what they were seeing there was a sudden burst of light and a shockwave that tossed everyone to the ground. The explosion destroyed the tent and scattered their equipment everywhere, destroying or heavily damaging most of it. The men themselves had managed to survive without injury, but were still deeply shaken by the strange event and excitedly consorted with each other about what had just happened. When they tried to call their base they found that no communications equipment seemed to work, leaving them in complete isolation out there in the dark with some unknown, possibly hostile force circling around them in the dim jungle.
The next morning, after a night with very little sleep, the radio was found to be in working condition again and they were able to report on what had happened to them the previous evening before continuing with their mission. Two days later, the team of engineers made a rather odd discovery when they stumbled across a black sphere around 3 meters across, lying 1 km from their camp. The bizarre sphere had many weird qualities, in that it did not cast a shadow and did not reflect any light. The surface of the sphere was apparently smooth to the touch and could not be damaged by a knife scraped across it. Upon radioing in their find the team was told by headquarters to move 20 meters away from the object and await further instruction, which they did, setting up a camp precisely 20 meters away from the inscrutable object.
That night, one of the engineers got up and ventured out into the forest, but no one really thought much of it, thinking he was just going out to relieve himself. When the man did not return, the others then nervously called out his name, very aware that that otherworldly sphere was still looming out there in the darkness. With no response, they warily got some flashlights and fanned out into the night to search for their comrade but could not find him. An hour later, another one of the men also reportedly got up and headed out into the brush in the same direction that the first had gone, toward the sphere as a matter of fact, and this time the man was noticed to be moving as if in a trance or daze. He too did not return.
The remaining men were by this time terrified, and decided to just wait at the camp rather than venture once more out into that unknown night, but the strangeness was not over, as yet another man wandered off into the wilderness, leaving only two of the engineers remaining there huddled in the flickering, dancing flames of their campfire. As they sat there, one of them stood up in a disjointed way as the other looked on in horror and he too stumbled off into the night. This was all so disturbing to the remaining engineer that he purportedly shot himself in the leg with his side arm just to prevent himself from being beckoned by whatever ominous force was drawing them in one by one. The pain and shock from this self-inflicted wound caused him to pass out as thoughts of those dazed men and that sphere danced about in his head. The next morning, the sole remaining engineer was awoken by a Soviet special forces team, and although he had lost quite a lot of blood he was still alive. He told the soldiers about the sphere and what had happened during the night, but no trace of any such object or the missing men could be found. Whatever happened here and what that black sphere was remain a mystery.
This has only been a selection of the many tales of alien strangeness recorded during wartime. What are we to make of such accounts? Why do wars draw to them so many strange instances of UFO phenomena? Are these entities interested in our more violent interactions? Are they looking for something, studying us perhaps? Or is it all tall tales and delusions? No matter what the case may be, battlefields continue to remain a wellspring of the strange, and these cases manage to swirl about as forgotten oddities in the history of warfare.