The headline read “Thousands of people saw a huge fireball light up the dark New Mexico skies tonight”, it was hot off the wires and my friend Jim, from the Long Beach Press Telegram, was reading it to me. It was exactly midnight, September 18 1954 and Jim had woken me to tell me the exciting news.
The story went on to tell about how a “blinding green” fireball the size of a full moon had silently streaked southeast across Colorado and northern New Mexico at eight-forty that night. Thousands of people had seen the fireball. It had passed right over a crowded football stadium at Santa Fe, New Mexico, and people in Denver said it “turned night into day.” The crew of a TWA airliner flying into Albuquerque from Amarillo, Texas, saw it. Every police and newspaper switchboard in the two-state area was jammed with calls.
One of the calls was from a man inquiring if anything unusual had happened recently. When he was informed about the mysterious fireball he heaved an audible sigh of relief, “Thanks,” he said, “I was afraid I’d gotten some bad bourbon.” And he hung up.
Dr. Lincoln La Paz, world-famous authority on meteorites and head of the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics, apparently took the occurrence calmly. The wire story said he had told a reporter that he would plot its course, try to determine where it landed, and go out and try to find it. “But,” he said, “I don’t expect to find anything.”
When Jim Phalen had read the rest of the report he asked,
“What was it?”
“It sounds to me like the green fireballs are back,” I answered.
“What the devil are green fireballs?”
What the devil are green fireballs? I’d like to know. So would a lot of other people.
It was November 1948 when the green fireballs came into UFO history. Mysteriour ‘green flares’ were being reported by people in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The first reports mentioned only a “green streak in the sky,” low on the horizon. From the description the Air Force Intelligence people at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque and the Project Sign people at ATIC wrote the objects off as flares. After all, thousands of GI’s had probably been discharged with a duffel bag full of “liberated” Very pistols and flares.
But as days passed the reports got better. More people were reporting seeing the ‘flares’ and as the reports came in, they indicated they were increasing in size. It was doubtful if this “growth” was psychological because there had been no publicity—the ‘flare’ answer was reconsidered by the Air Force. They were in the process of doing this on the night of December 5, 1948, a memorable night in the green fireball chapter of UFO history.
At 9:27 P.M. 10 miles east of Albuquerque, an Air Force C-47 transport was flyinf at 18,000 feet on December 5. The pilot was a Captain Goede. Suddenly the crew, Captain Goede, his co-pilot, and his engineer were startled by a green ball of fire flashing across the sky ahead of them. It looked something like a huge meteor except that it was a bright green color and it didn’t arch downward, as meteors usually do. The green-colored ball of fire had started low, from near the eastern slopes of the Sandia Mountains, arched upward a little, then seemed to level out. And it was too big for a meteor, at least it was larger than any meteor that anyone in the C-47 had ever seen before. After a hasty discussion the crew decided that they’d better tell somebody about it, especially since they had seen an identical object twenty-two minutes before near Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Captain Goede picked up his microphone and called the control tower at Kirtland AFB and reported what he and his crew had seen. The tower relayed the message to the local intelligence people.
A few minutes later the captain of Pioneer Airlines Flight 63 called Kirtland Tower. At 9:35 P.M. he had also seen a green ball of fire just east of Las Vegas, New Mexico. He was on his way to Albuquerque and would make a full report when he landed.
When he taxied his DC-3 up to the passenger ramp at Kirtland a few minutes later, several intelligence officers were waiting for him. He reported that at 9:35 P.M. he was on a westerly heading, approaching Las Vegas from the east, when he and his co-pilot saw what they first thought was a “shooting star.” It was ahead and a little above them. The captain soon realised that whatever it was they saw had too flat a trajectory and was positioned far too low in the sky to be a meteor. As they watched, the object seemed to approach their airplane head on, changing color from orange red to green. The Captain tracked the DC-3 up in a tight turn as he was sure he was going to collide with the object as it became bigger and bigger,. As the green ball of fire got abreast of them it began to fall toward the ground, getting dimmer and dimmer until it disappeared. Just before he swerved the DC-3, the fireball was as big, or bigger, than a full moon.
After asking a few more questions the intelligent officers went back to their office. More reports, which had been phoned in from all over northern New Mexico, were waiting for them. By morning a full-fledged investigation was under way.
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