One of the very first articles posted on this site was a comprehensive piece titled “UFOs during the Vietnam War,” which included both first and second-hand accounts collected by me and evidence from documents and official statements released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). These included the famous October 1973 remarks by General George S. Brown, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, that UFOs sighted in Vietnam “weren’t called UFOs. They were called enemy helicopters.”
Now, thanks to the blog of Dr. David Clarke – Folklore and Journalism, a professor of journalism at Sheffield Hallam University who works closely with the British Ministry of Defence on their periodic release of UFO files, I found a new fascinating UFO case reported during the Vietnam War. This one is particularly interesting because it involves an apparent landing of an egg-shaped object on January 6, 1969 at a major American military base in Indochina, the Chu Lai harbor on the China Sea about 40 miles southeast of Da Nang. It’s also quite significant that the discovery was made by Joe Gillette, an archivist with the U.S. National Archives and reported in their official blog titled, “The Text Message – The Blog of the Textual Archives Services Division at the National Archives.” The title of the piece written by Gillette, posted on June 6, 2011, is quite telling: “No Enemy Contact, but Alien Contact…”
“shaped like a big egg”
Joe Gillette’s blog begins his article by explaining that, “during the Vietnam War, American army commands maintained daily journals documenting assorted events. Most entries were relatively mundane, documenting staff meetings, personnel travel, incoming or outgoing messages, and the like. Some were more administratively significant, such as changes in command, the awarding of medals, or the filing of reports. Naturally, many contain descriptions of combat against the enemy. Then there are entries that more closely resemble an episode of the X-Files than a war movie.”
One particular entry in this “X-Files” category appeared in “the January 6, 1969 daily journal of the 23rd Infantry Division’s Chu Lai Defense Command.” Gillette adds that “base defenses included a system of numbered observation towers ringing the base” which “routinely reported anything unusual or potentially threatening to the base.” Precisely at 0152 (1:52 am), one of these Towers, “Twr 72,” made the following tantalizing entry on that day’s journal records:
Twr 72 rpts [reports] object flying into their area about 700m infront [sic] of them, AZ 310°. Object came in slow over the ASP [Ammunition Supply Point] & landed. When object moves it has a glowing light. It is about 15 – 20 ft across. It is shaped like a big egg. Control twr rpts their radar did not pick anything up. Object also does not seem to have any sound to it when it moves.
Gillette adds that “the only logged follow-up action was notification of the Duty Officer” and that no other data about the incident is contained in the records. “Peculiarly (if one is conspiratorially-inclined),” he continues, “the journals for the next two days, January 7 & 8, are missing.” Dr. Clarke elaborates a bit further on the mystery of the missing records in his blog: “Those looking for evidence of a cover-up will no doubt find significance in the fact that journals for the next two days, 7 & 8 January, are missing. But past experience has shown that ‘missing files’ are often only significant when seen in hindsight (the military regularly lose bits of paper, as everyone else does).”
Gillette’s analysis of the case
Joe Gillette ends his piece by analyzing all the possible conventional explanations that could have triggered such an unusual report, such as flares or drug use, although he doesn’t find them particularly convincing. His analysis is worth quoting in full:
Possible conventional explanations for the sighting exist. Tracer rounds and flares both create illumination. But tracer rounds don’t float to the ground and certainly aren’t shaped like an ‘egg’, and flares might float to the ground, but aren’t egg shaped either. Additionally, drug use by soldiers, particularly by 1969, was a known problem in Vietnam. But two or more soldiers typically manned these towers. Assuming this was a drug-induced vision, it’s difficult to imagine they each experienced the same hallucination, although if they were observing something they could not readily identify, one might have convinced the others they were seeing a UFO. Boredom too could have resulted in a bout of creative storytelling, but if discovered, the soldiers risked disciplinary action. So while potential conventional explanations exist for both the sighting and the report, nothing in the journals tells us which of those might have been at work.
The truth may be out there, but it isn’t in these records.
Although the log entry is quite short, some of the characteristics described do match those of UFOs reported elsewhere in the literature. The unnamed soldiers state the object was flying slow just before it landed and that it had “a glowing light.” It was not picked up by radar (common in many UFO cases and now available also in military stealth technology) and it didn’t make any sound—common again in countless UFO sightings. The object’s egg-shape, if not the most typical, can certainly be found in ufological records. One famous case that comes to mind is the Socorro, New Mexico, landing of April 1964 reported by policeman Lonnie Zamora, which was definitely shaped like an egg, and there are many others in the UFO annals.
The Chu Lai base
Another blog titled “Chu Lai Coastal Division 16” provides some basic facts and history about this key wartime facility: “The primary US Navy activity at Chu Lai was the logistics support for both the Marine Air Units and Army Americal Division. This was accomplished by material offloading of supplies from LST and other small cargo vessels proceeding from the larger ports at Da Nang, Qui Nhon and Cam Ranh Bay. The provisions for the Swift Boat contingent formed a minor portion of that material support.” As for its history, the blog informs that “the words ‘Chu Lai’ are not Vietnamese, but a Mandarin Chinese abbreviation for the family name of US Marine General Victor Krulak, who selected the area around Dung Quat Bay for construction of an air field and base to supplement the major facility at Da Nang. When told by his staff that the area had no name associated with it on the maps of the day, he immediately decided that it would be called Chu Lai. Rank has its privileges. The new Vietnamese government has continued to maintain both the facility and its name.”
A “Unit History” of the 198th Infantry Brigade adds that Chu Lai served, among other things, as “the headquarters of the Americal Division. The sprawling base complex utilizes some 17,000 men and provide the necessary logistical support to the infantrymen in the field.” The 23rd Infantry Division, better known as the Americal Division of the U.S. Army, traced its history to World War II when it was created in 1942 in the jungles of the island of New Caledonia, later playing a key role during the Vietnam War.
Whether we’ll get additional data on this fascinating 1969 landing incident in Chu Lai is probably unlikely, but hopefully some of the witnesses (the record is unclear but there must have been at least a few) will come forward at some point, or perhaps additional documents will be discovered. However, the mere fact that this case of “Alien Contact” was discovered and posted in an official website of the National Archives is already quite significant. Let’s hope that other UFO incidents will continue to be posted in the future.