Home / Articles / UFOs over atomic plants – Part 1
Part one of a three-part series highlighting UFO-nuke documents.

UFOs over atomic plants – Part 1

The subject of UFOs spotted at missile bases and other sensitive nuclear facilities has received quite a bit of attention in recent years thanks to the great research of longtime ufologist Robert Hastings, author of the book UFOs and Nukes – Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites. Hastings was also the sponsor of a significant panel of former military witnesses of these incidents at the National Press Club (NPC) in Washington, DC on September 27, 2010. He wrote the cover story, “UFO/Nuclear Connection,” for Open Minds magazine issue 7 (April/May 2011), where he discussed the media impact of his NPC event.

The Nevada Test Site in the 1950s. The development of atomic energy pretty much coincided with the beginning of the flying saucer era. (Credit: Atomic Testing Museum)

Long before all this I had treaded some of the same territory for a three-part series I wrote in early 1982, under the pseudonym of A. Hovni, for the supplement UFOs and other Cosmic Phenomena, published weekly by the longtime defunct New York City newspaper The News World. I did extensive research on the declassified UFO files of the CIA, FBI, USAF, U.S. Army and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which had then been recently released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The files clearly showed that the military and intelligence agencies were quite worried during the early period of the flying saucer era in the late forties and early fifties by the large amount of UFO sightings over sensitive nuclear facilities. Many resulted in the scramble of fighter planes. This was the height of the Cold War and a climate of “red menace” paranoia was rampant in at least parts of the U.S. government. Many of the UFO-nuke documents come under the heading of “Protection of Vital Installations.”

I have transcribed the article exactly as it was published back in February of 1982, except for the correction of a few typos. However, I’ve added at the end some of the official documents mentioned in the original story, so you can read the full document and not just the quotes excerpted in the article.

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The News World, New York City, February 20, 1982

UFO surveillance of A-plants

U.S. documents show atomic link to saucers

By A. Hovni
Special to The News World

First in a three-part series

We often hear the statement that UFOs, whatever they are, have a tendency to buzz atomic plants and other similarly sensitive military and industrial installations. This is naturally used to support the theory that UFOs are extraterrestrial devices which understandably are engaged in a systematic surveillance of the Earth’s military and industrial resources. And yes indeed, there is enough evidence to verify the assertion that UFOs do fly over atomic plants.

This is not based on hearsay or unconfirmed press accounts, but rather on dozens of declassified U.S. government documents from agencies such as the CIA, the FBI, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army, and last but not least, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). These documents have been obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Dr. Bruce Maccabee, now with the Fund for UFO Research, and New York City attorney Peter Gersten, for Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS) and Ground Saucer Watch (GSW). But let’s plunge into the evidence.

UFOs—an energy link noted

Because the flying saucer phenomenon followed closely the growing development of atomic energy, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both subjects became mixed up in more than one opportunity. Take, for instance, a July 18, 1947 FBI memorandum concerning the opinions of an informant, a nuclear scientist from Stamford, Connecticut, about “flying saucers.” The memo’s sub-headline reads “Atomic Energy Act,” and the scientist (name deleted) had worked at the MIT’s Radiation Laboratory during the Manhattan project, and was employed at the time the memo was written with the American Cyanamid Research Laboratory in Stamford.

He told an FBI agent in New Haven that, “it is quite possible hat actually the ‘flying saucers’ could be radio controlled germ bombs or atom bombs which are circling the orbit of the earth and which could be controlled by radio and directed to land on any designated target at the specific desire of the agency or country operating the bombs.”

The possibility that UFOs were really “nuclear-propelled missiles” was discussed in another lengthy FBI memo, dated January 10, 1949. An FBI agent in Knoxville, Tenn. had received a “voluntary” visit by a Mr. Roterman, who was “the principal army technician at the Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft Research Center at Oak Ridge, Tennessee,” according to the document. Flying saucers had already been sighted and reported at Oak Ridge itself, and a concentrated flap would follow in 1950, as we shall see in our next article.

In any event, it was Roterman’s personal opinion that “there is only one possible fuel which could be utilized (in UFOs) which is in accord with present theory, and that is the utilization of atomic energy.” To support his theory, Roterman “called attention to the vapor trail and gaseous corona described as a ball of fire, which he states might give some evidence to the fact that a radioactive field is present.”

The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the key facility for World War II’s Manhattan Project atomic bomb, and site of many 'fireball' sightings in the late 40s and early 50s. (Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

When the Central Intelligence Agency became seriously involved in the flying saucer situation during the early ’50s, they seemed to be much more cautious about confusing saucers with missiles, although they certainly did notice and research a link between UFOs and atomic energy. For example, a CIA document based on a briefing with the Air Force, dated August 22, 1952, states that “a study of ‘flying saucer’ sightings on a geographical basis showed them to be more frequent in the vicinity of atomic energy installations,” to which the CIA added in parenthesis, that this could be “explained by the greater security consciousness of persons in those areas.” Yet the fact remains undisputed that before 1953, when President Eisenhower launched his famous “Atoms for Peace” campaign, UFOs had been spotted frequently over all of America’s top nuclear research facilities, including the restricted areas around Los Alamos and Sandia Base in New Mexico, the Hanford AEC plants and waste disposal sites in Washington State, the Oak Ridge nuclear facilities in Tennessee, and the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina.

This would lead some “CIA consultants” to state that the solution of the UFO conundrum “would probably be found on the margins or just beyond the frontiers of our present knowledge in the fields of atmospheric, ionospheric, and extraterrestrial phenomena, with the added possibility that the present dispersal of nuclear waste products might also be a factor.”

Understandably, the CIA would elaborate further on this possibility, which is mentioned in several documents, memoranda and position papers from the time. Speculating that “UFOs may be electromagnetic or electrostatic in character,” one of the documents from the summer of ’52 added that, “effects of interaction between these natural phenomena and radioactive material in the air can only be conjectured.” It gave as possible evidence the fact that UFO sightings had been reported at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge, “at a time when the background radiation count had risen inexplicably.” But convenient as this explanation seemed, the CIA was nevertheless cautious to conclude that “here we run out of even ‘blue yonder’ explanations that might be tenable, and we still are left with numbers of incredible reports from credible observers.”

Last page of an Aug. 15, 1952 paper by a CIA consultant with an interesting quote about sightings at nuclear facilities. (Credit: CIA)

With Headquarters in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, the Fourth Army was responsible during the early post-World War II era with the protection of Los Alamos and Sandia Base in New Mexico, and Camp Hood in Texas. All these restricted areas were the subject of numerous unexplained sightings between 1948 and 1950. One Fourth Army document, dated July 2, 1949, gives a complete “Summary of Observations of Aerial Phenomena, Camp Hood, Texas,” indicating that “over 100 men and officers have observed and reported the phenomena.” Termed “fireballs” for lack of a better name, some objects were described “round” and others with “diamond or oblong shape.” Beginning on March 6, 1949, the phenomenon was said to appear at Camp Hood “on the average of every nine days,” and it was determined that no conventional aircraft had been flying at the time.

Dr. Lincoln La Paz, the well known expert on meteorites at the University of New Mexico, who took a preeminent role in the investigation of the mysterious fireballs for the U.S. government. (Credit: www.angelfire.com/indie/anna_jones)

Other documents show that similar fireballs “of an intense white or greenish white” had been observed several times by “security inspectors at Los Alamos AEC project,” as well as by sentries at Sandia Base and Kirtland Field. Furthermore, meteorologist and astronomer Dr. Lincoln La Paz, from the University of New Mexico, was pproached by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) to cooperate in the ongoing investigation. One of the Fourth Army documents states that “Dr. La Paz has, from descriptions of observations furnished him and, BY PERSONAL OBSERVATION, determined that the objects sighted are NOT natural meteoric phenomena.” (Capital letters and emphasis in the original).

The FBI also became aware of the problem, as we can see from a memo written on January 31, 1949 by the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) in San Antonio to Director J. Edgar Hoover, summarizing the series of sightings “toward the apparent ‘target’, namely, Los Alamos.” Besides repeating both the sightings and hypothesis mentioned already, the memo cites a letter by a woman whose name has been deleted. Although the agent says “she has generally been considered unreliable and possibly mentally unbalanced”—presumably deduced from her numerous letters “to Military Authorities concerning her theories regarding Atomic Energy”—nevertheless he added that “she, however, has submitted to Military Authorities the only theory thus far known that has any credibility at all, namely, that the lights are manifestations of cosmic rays which are directed toward a specific point. She further theorizes that such rays may interfere with the ignition of motors and may account for various unexplained air crashes.”

In his classic book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, the late former Project Bluebook Head, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, revealed that at one point the government was so concerned with the fireballs around Los Alamos that a high level scientific conference was called in. Dr. Edward Teller, the father of the H bomb, Dr. Lincoln La Paz, and other luminaries were among the participants. Eventually the Air Force established Project Twinkle, under Dr. La Paz, to study, photograph and measure the phenomenon with three “cinetheodolite stations” near White Sands, New Mexico. It is generally recognized, however, that by the time Project Twinkle finally became operational, the concentration of fireballs had also began to die out, so that no significant data was obtained. Yet the presence of “flying discs” around vital atomic plants was by no means over. (See the enclosed letter from USAF Lt. Col. Doyle Rees to the Director of AFOSI in Washington, Brig. Gen. Joseph Carroll, covering the entire fireball issue. The document was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and disseminated by attorney Peter Gersten).

Sample Official Documents


July 13, 1947 FBI memo, re. “Atomic Energy Act,” with information provided by an informant who was a nuclear scientist at the American Cyanamid Research Labs in Connecticut.


USAF Briefing to the CIA, dated Aug. 22, 1952, with quote (point IV) about “flying saucer sightings . . . in the vicinity of atomic energy installations.”


Confidential report from Los Alamos, dated Dec. 13, 1948, regarding Dr. Lincoln La Paz’s own sighting of a fireball.


December 1948 document from Headquarters Fourth Army in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, re. “Unidentified Flying Objects New Mexico,” summarizing the investigation of the so-called green fireballs seen in Los Alamos and other sensitive locations.


July 2, 1949 “Summary of Observations of Aerial Phenomena” from the G-2 Headquarters of the Fourth Army in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.


May 25, 1950 comprehensive report from Lt. Col. Doyle Rees, AFOSI’s District Commander, to his boss, Brig. Gen. Joseph F. Carroll, USAF Director of Special Investigations, re., “Summary of Observations of Aerial Phenomena in the New Mexico Area, Dec. 1948 – May 1950.”

About Antonio Huneeus

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Open Minds Investigative Reporter J. Antonio Huneeus has covered the UFO field from an international perspective for over 30 years. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Japan. He was also the co-author of the Laurance Rockefeller-funded “UFO Briefing Document – The Best Available Evidence” and edited the book “A Study Guide to UFOs, Psychic & Paranormal Phenomena in the USSR.” Huneeus studied French at the Sorbonne University in Paris and Journalism at the University of Chile in Santiago in the 1970s. He has lectured at dozens of UFO Conferences all over the world and been interviewed by many media outlets including The Washington Post, the Sy-Fy and History Channels, Nippon-TV, etc. He received the “Ufologist of the Year” award at the National UFO Conference in Miami Beach in 1990 and the “Courage in Journalism” award at the X-Conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 2007.

One comment

  1. avatar

    Am teaching a course to senior citizens at Widener University’s Exton Pennsylvania campus. It is funded by a foundation the OSHER LIFELONG LEARNING INSTITUTE (OLLI). It is for enrichment only and has no credit value toward any degree. Class is enthusiastic about Extraterrestrial intelligence and communication with mankind. That is the name of the course. I am a retired trial lawyer with an abiding interest in the UFO phenomenon. Any videos that you can supply or that I can download on the topic of UFOs and nuclear power plants and/or ICBM stations would be appreciated.

    Charles F (Charlie) Quinn

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