UFOs in Wartime: A Long History of Strange Encounters

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Was a UFO the “shining silver shield” seen in the air by Alexander the Great’s army? (Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay)

Since the beginning of history, mankind has engaged in countless wars. In our own brief existence, America has fought Britain, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Japan, North Korea, Iraq and many others. Name a recent conflict and most American could relate at least one fact about the enemy of that war. But history also holds that combatants across the ages were often dogged by otherworldly observers. The question now being considered by Congress is “What do we really know about these enigmatic friends or potential foes?”

To get a start on what we may know, what we have known for some time – and who our armed forces have recently encountered – we spoke with Mack Maloney, author of the book UFOs in Wartime: What They Didn’t Want You To Know (Berkley, 2011.)

LAPX: Thank you for taking some time to speak with us today. You may recall that we spoke for a bit a few years ago after your “UFOs at Wartime” presentation at the Mysteries of Space & Sky conference. I’ve been reminded of that presentation over these past few weeks, as more keeps coming out about unexplained encounters witnessed by U.S. Navy pilots and radar operators. In many ways, these recent Navy sightings seem unprecedented. However, in your book you state that these sort of unearthly encounters are nothing new. What does appear new is that we are now getting official acknowledgments instead of the usual denials. Is that how you’re seeing these latest UFO stories unfold?

Maloney: Yes, I’ve been thinking about the same thing. That is what has changed, and the thing is I don’t know why. I would love to be able to say, ‘Well it’s because of this and that’ but it is so unlike the military and especially the Navy.

Just do a little dive into history, back in World War Two — when they called UFOs ‘Foo Fighters’ — the Army ran the Air Force. If anyone was asking any questions, you went to the Army Air Force. At the end of the war, the Army did release some of its ‘Foo Fighters’ files, as did the British. There were no conclusions, but at least they released some of the files about what people had reported. The Navy never did that, and there was just as many foo fighter instances in the Pacific war as in the European war. The Navy has always been particularly tight lipped, and that’s what’s really puzzling to me. Of all the services (to speak up) they’d be the last to come forward with this stuff.

LAPX: Please tell us a little about your background and your interest in the UFO phenomenon.

UFOs in Wartime author Mack Maloney.
(Photo credit: Jeff Smith)

Maloney: I’m basically a novelist, and I’ve been doing that for many years, but like a lot of kids growing up I had a fascination with flying saucers and other strange things. When I was able to start writing about the military — mostly military novels — I mentioned to my editor one day that it seemed like people saw UFOs more in war time than in peacetime. That’s what really started the whole thing. I did a bunch of interviews, and a lot of radio shows and now we have our own radio show. So it’s always been an interest, but these days, I’m glad that I got a little deeper into it.

LAPX: So this is a subject you also discuss with some frequency on your radio show?

Maloney: Yeah. It’s called Mack Maloney’s Military X Files, the weekly show started out as a radio show, and now we’re a podcast. What is different about us is that our co-hosts have actually worked for intelligence agencies or the government in intelligence positions. We don’t have anyone on who’s full of BS. It’s a high energy show, as they call it, but we want serious conversations about the most baffling cases having to do with the military.

LAPX: Would I be correct in assuming that, during World War Two, these flying objects were not only seen by Army and Navy ground personnel, but by fighter pilots and high altitude bomber crews?

Maloney: Yes, and on all sides of the war. When the war was over, they had briefings of German and Japanese generals and asked them pointed questions about some of their encounters. Basically the reply from everyone involved was, “We thought it was your secret weapon.”

LAPX: One concern I’ve heard bandied about, is that what our Navy may be seeing is some fantastic Russian or Chinese weaponry. Could that possibly be what’s happening here?

Maloney: I would give that a very, very low possibility because of what people are seeing and what people have been saying all along. I mean, we’re talking about it now but some of those videos were made in 2004. They have some age on them. And the aeronautics abilities of what you see? It’s beyond … I mean … I don’t know everything, but it would be highly unlikely that what we’re seeing came from us or anyone else on Earth.

LAPX: In other words, you believe something extraterrestrial is doing this?

Maloney: Yeah, I do you.

LAPX: When I talk with people in UFOlogy, there seems to be a divide between those who think that this phenomena is strictly other-worldly and those who believe it’s inter-dimensional. Have you ever delved into that question?

UFOs in Wartime book cover (Berkley Publishing)
UFOs in Wartime book cover (Berkley Publishing)

Maloney: Well, you know, how can we tell? The more I became involved in this, the more I came to believe it cannot be as simple as little green men from Mars. It has to be something that is beyond our understanding, just as an automobile is beyond the understanding of a duck. Just going back to the aerodynamics of these objects, we see them right on video doing things that are impossible in the world of what we know is physics. And there’s all kinds of theories, like they’re able to move time in front of them and stuff like that. I mean, it has to be something like that.

Inter-dimensional? You know, we’ve talked on our show about people seeing airplanes that look like they’re about 20 years ahead of their time. In 1946, people saw rockets over Sweden. Some pilots flew right up next to them and they match almost exactly the description of a Tomahawk cruise missile — which didn’t exist until the 80s. So, you know, something like ‘out of time’ or ‘the dimension next door.’ We could speculate all day.

LAPX: Today, we’ve got advanced technology that can record these things, but back in the day, it was basically just eyewitness accounts?

Maloney: Correct. Right up until the 1950s. The Korean War actually changed that because by the time the Korean War came along, we had radars on the ground and on ships, but also in individual airplanes. There are a lot of instances where these things were picked up on our radar on a ship out to sea, and also on radar on an airplane. That proves to a certain point that whatever they encountered existed and it wasn’t just some kind of a technological issue with a certain radar. And you could record them back then too. These days, everybody can follow them. I always tell people the US military knows UFOs exist. They have lots of evidence with film and video, but there’s a difference between proving and knowing, and there’s no way they know what they are.

LAPX: What do you think is going come out of the disclosure hearings that are happening now?

Maloney: I don’t know. I wish I had a really good quote or something for you, but I just don’t know. What might come out is more evidence, more videos, things of that nature. That’s probably going to happen. But what has been the sticking point it seems, is that the US military has never come out before and said, ‘We don’t know what these things are’. The old idea was they’re getting a trillion dollar budget every year, so you can’t say. ‘Sorry, we can’t protect you. We don’t know what this is; we don’t know if this is a security threat; we don’t know…” For them to make any kind of admission that begins with, “We don’t know” — that’s going to be the bombshell.

LAPX: Do you think it’s wise to use the military as the sole investigative arm of an unknown phenomenon which could cause them embarrassment? I mean, weren’t there serious questions surrounding the Air Force’s Project Blue Book?

A cylinder-shaped UFO seen streaking across the sky by a Post-Examiner reader named Alexis

Maloney: Well, Project Blue Book was setup to kind of deflect a lot of stuff that they did on purpose. I mean, let’s say they got five reports a day: two of them were Venus while the other three they couldn’t explain. So they would just “solve” the two Venus sightings and forget about the others. I think now we’ve found out they have been investigating this stuff all along — they just haven’t been telling us about it.

Also keep in mind how the government normally works. They probably contracted some of this work out to the different companies. You know, there are companies out there that basically are contract spies and scientists and stuff like that. That’s another way to kind of hide the paper trail — just to have some military contractor do this. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. But to answer your question, they’re probably the worst people to be looking into it, but they’re the only people who have the ability to look into it, so we’re kind of stuck with them.

LAPX: We were just talking about World War Two and the Korean War, but one of the things I found surprising in your book is that you talk about incredible incidents from as far back as Alexander the Great to as recently as the Gulf War.

Maloney: Yes, I mean my UFO timeline basically starts around 300 BC, and it goes right up to the Gulf War. We’ve called them by different names, but they have always been around.

LAPX: What similarities and/or differences did you find when comparing the ancient reports to what’s going on now?

Maloney: Well people have always seen things in the sky. One of the stories in my book quotes a story from Alexander the Great. His army was invading Tyre and there was a report that they saw “arrows and shields” coming out of the sky. Arrows and shields. Or was it flying saucers and rocket ships?

In Japan, people would see these things and call them teacups because that’s what they looked like to them.

There is a famous case from Nuremberg in the mid-1500s where the entire population watched this battle in the sky between different objects. An artist named Hans Glaser did a woodcut of it. This wasn’t just a few people — this was a lot of witnesses.

They’re in the Bible; people see them all the time. So maybe we’re gonna finally find something out. I don’t think so, but if we’re going to learn anything definitive, this is the time.

Himmelserscheinung_über_Nürnberg_vom_14._April_1561_Public Domain
The celestial phenomenon over the German city of Nuremberg on April 14, 1561, as printed in an illustrated news notice in the same month. (Public Domain)

LAPX: You stated earlier that you believe there is a correlation between war and increased appearances of UFOs. Are these things strictly benign or do they get involved with our earthly conflicts?

Maloney: Well, with more eyes in the sky, there are more chances to witness these passing objects. But there are also very well documented instances from the 1970s where UFOs would hover over an ICBM site and then take off, and the technicians would go down into the silos and find out that the targeting had been changed or the power had been turned off.

That happened in Russia as well. So, maybe someone is out there telling us “We know you can do this stuff. You should know that we know.” I mean, it’s great science fiction. If there was some guardian angel looking in on us and saying, “Y’all don’t push the button,” I’d be happy about that, but how can we ever really know?

LAPX: Have either the Americans or the Russians ever said what sort of changes were made to the coordinates of the missiles? I mean, let’s say that instead of aiming for Moscow or Washington they were altered to drop into the middle of the Pacific?

Maloney: I don’t know, they’re very close lipped about what actually went on inside. But the UFOs definitely had the ability to shut off the power and in some cases they changed the targeting mechanisms. That kind of stuff is a real problem for the military on both sides.

LAPX: There have also been problems with trying to engage these entities?

Maloney: Yes, there is a famous case near Fort Knox in the early 50s of guy named Captain Thomas F. Mantell, who was chasing a UFO in an F-51 Mustang. He saw this disc in the sky and started chasing it – ascending beyond the flight capabilities of the airplane. He was found dead about an hour later in the crash of the plane.

There’s another one that happened over one of the Great Lakes, where an F-89 Scorpion night fighter jet – a big, big plane – was sent out to investigate a UFO. People saw right on radar the plane merging with the UFO and then just disappearing. They never found the wreckage. The pilots families were told a misleading story by the Air Force. I believe that one of the pilots wives sued to get more information and so on, but those two stories come to mind. There are others, but those are the ones that are kind of the most spooky.

LAPX: Any final thoughts about this week’s disclosure hearings in D.C.?

Maloney: Oh boy. You know, I’m waiting with the rest of us. I think what they usually do is have closed hearings and then an open hearing. But I believe the military has to tell what they know about UFOs, I mean, in one sentence, and whether that means a report will be an oral report, or whether we’re gonna see it on CNN. Who knows?

LAPX: In the end, could the result be another thousand-page Warren Commission-type report that raises as many questions as answers?

Maloney: Yep. Now, they do tend to paper over stuff. But in this case, if they do have 1000 pages and then release it to the public, there’s gonna be a lot of people reading every one of those words.

LAPX: And a lot of sentence parsing, no question about that. So, at what point – delicate sensibilities and national security be damned – do people have a right to know the truth?

Maloney: There may be someone sitting in Washington right now, pondering that exact question …