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The Yellowstone Yo-Yo

Excerpted from Intercept—But Don’t Shoot by Renato Vesco.

On July 7, 1947, a twin-engined P-38 fighter that had been converted into a photoreconnaissance plane for the photo-graphic service of U.S. Army Ordnance was flying at about 30,000 feet in the direction of the Air Force base in Bozeman, Montana.

The sky along the extreme northern edge of Yellowstone National Park was completely free of clouds. Except for a little trouble with the oil system of the engines—a not particularly serious matter, in any case—the flight was proceeding rou-tinely.

Suddenly the photographer shouted: “Look! They’re coming! They’ve almost caught up with us!”

“What? Who’s coming?” asked the astonished pilot. What could possibly threaten this lonely flight? The war had been over, definitely over, for some time.

“Those things the papers are always talking about.”

For a few moments the sinister shadow of a new Pearl Harbor hovered in the minds of the American airmen. The “cold war” was by then an unpleasant but obvious political state of affairs, and hadn’t the immense Asian north shown it-self to be an impenetrable fortress hostile to tlie Western peoples?

The European news release of an American wire service that had somehow learned about this militarily “classified” episode quoted Lieutenant Vernon Blair:
“. . . And then turning around to speak to the photographer I saw the yo-yo behind me, I call it a yo-yo because I surpris-ingly thought of that toy that I used to play with as a child. We had orders to shoot them down at any cost, but I didn’t remember that until afterwards, and although I was flying at 360 miles per hour, the strange aircraft quickly overtook me. I was, however, able to observe it for a few seconds; it had the shape of a very flat oyster and was, as it seemed to me, about fifteen feet or so broad, and about three feet thick. It was flying without making any sound, I mean any sound louder than that produced by my own plane, and emitting a light, luminous trail. Then, as soon as it had overtaken me and 1 was about to try to follow it, 1 saw it open in two, just like an oyster, and flutter down. 1 noticed that it was catching up with at least a dozen yo-yos proceeding in an irregular formation, almost like fighters peeling off for an attack.”

“Are you sure that they were metallic objects and not, for example, simply shiny spots moving of their own accord or the effect of some such mirage?”

“The mysterious aircraft seemed to be made of aluminum. They were pearl-gray in color and on the upper side they all had a shining bubble of some transparent material.”

“Did you see who was flying them? And why didn’t you take any pictures?”

“We wasted some time watching them fly by and trying to determine whether there was anyone on board. They moved quicker than we could act!”

“Did the leader by any chance graze your plane?”

“No, absolutely not. I have no idea why he fell. Perhaps he was already having mechanical trouble or perhaps he accidentally got into my slipstream and was torn apart. As I said, we were going pretty fast.””

The photographer confirmed that he did not have time to aim his large vertical camera at the formation because the objects flew by too rapidly, and his report on the event coincided in its main particulars with that of the pilot (who was described by his direct superiors as a “serious and honest officer, who takes his job seriously”). He added that since he had concentrated his attention on one of the craft that had briefly approached the P-38 more closely than the others, it seemed to him that he had glimpsed a man, the pilot, inside, lying flat in the cabin and looking out the glass porthole in the front of the bubble.

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