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Tuesday, November 6, 2007   

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Acadiana Diary: Everybody saw something in sky after Sputnik launch

Fifty years ago, in November 1957, the Russians had scared us silly by launching Sputnik I and, just months later, the dog-carrying Sputnik II.

A nation that had never thought much about space suddenly began to panic, and folks with overactive imaginations began to talk about the dangers of a Russian attack from Out There, but also about Superior Intellects from Outer Space.

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In fact, the month of November 1957 was the single most active period so far recorded for UFO sightings ever. In that one month the Air Force acknowledged 414 reports of sightings and admitted that there were probably many more that were not reported.

Some of the sightings came from fairly reputable people.

Two reports scared the bewhillikers out of us on Nov. 6. The first came from a missile engineer named James Stokes, who reported seeing a "brilliant colored, egg-shaped object" that he said stalled cars in New Mexico.

According to the Associated Press, other reliable witnesses reported the same, including "startled citizens, peace officers, and servicemen." They said that 10 cars were stalled on U.S. 54 between White Sands Proving Grounds and Alamagordo, N.M.

The account said this object resembled a "big ball of fire" that had been seen flitting around west Texas a few days earlier. But, even scarier, that same day a Coast Guard cutter reported tracking a UFO that hung over the Gulf of Mexico for more than 10 minutes. The radio report from the Cutter Sabago described something brilliant in the sky moving at "a tremendous rate of speed." It was 300 miles out into the Gulf, due south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

We got more details the next day, when the Coast Guard ship returned to its base in Mobile.

The navigator of the ship said he estimated the UFO's speed at between 1,000 and 3,500 miles per hour - pretty fast for anything in 1957.

The commander said that there might have been more than one of whatever it was, because the "target" appeared on the radar screen speeding in one direction, then reappeared, speeding in the opposite direction, then appeared to hover near the ship.

The radar operator said that whatever it was appeared on his screen to be about the size of a 10,000 ton ship. (By comparison, Sputnik II, the biggest man-made object launched from Mother Earth, weighed about 1,000 pounds.)

A crew member described the object as brilliant white, with a glow so intense that he could not see its shape.

Nobody heard any sound as it passed nearby. Officials have officially debunked the idea that this was a UFO, but nobody's said what it really was.

It might be worth mentioning, though, that on that very same day, a handful of people in Sarasota, Fla., reported a strange, round, orange-colored object that hovered over land for a few seconds before speeding away.

Contact Jim Bradshaw at 289-6315 or jbradshaw@theadvertiser.com.



StoryChat Post a CommentPost a Comment   View all CommentsView All Comments

Seriously, alot of people claimed to see Sputnik, but they could not have because it was only about the size of a basketball. They most likely saw the booster before it reentered the atmosphere. It was quite a while before either side put up a satellite big enough to see unaided

We had the capibilty to beat the Soviets, but because of interservice rivalry, Von Braun's Army team was not allowed to attempt Explorer until after Sputnik. Also Sputnik was nothing more than a transmitter that sent out beeps. Explorerer I was carried acutal scientific experiments. Most people don't realize that we were years ahead of the Soviets in technology, we just didn't use it properly, much like today.

Posted by: TheLastJedi on Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:26 am

The evening sky was a lot darker back then. Not nearly as many street lights to blot out the stary sky. People been seeing things in the sky for thousands of years. It's only been in the past 75 or so years that what's been seen in the sky as been atributed to alien life. I've never seen any of those things but I won't be bold enough to say that everything seen in the sky was not a UFO. I believe it may be possible and I won't make fun of those who say they saw something they believe was a UFO,...unless they dress up in foil and paint their faces.

Posted by: whisperingoaks on Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:16 am

This story proves that Cajuns aren't the only big drinkers around.

Posted by: TheLastJedi on Sun Nov 04, 2007 6:37 am

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Originally published November 4, 2007

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