Navy Monitored UFOs in Pasco During World War II
The Pasco Naval Air Station, which is now largely the site of the Pasco Airport and Bergstrom Aircraft, saw its share of activity during World War II. Besides training hundreds of Navy pilots who later saw duty aboard aircraft carriers in the Pacific, pilots and crew experienced something else, out of the this world perhaps?
We noticed an entry on the Facebook page Remembering the Tri-Cities, that grabbed our interest. A member of the page shared a fascinating story about unidentified flying objects that were picked up on radar in the area during December 1944, and January and February 1945.
The installation had some pretty good radar and electronic equipment, because it was one of the bigger training bases on the West Coast. According to the Facebook post, transcribed from a letter written by a Commander R.W. Hendershot, on numerous occasions radar operators saw unidentified blips appear out of nowhere on their screens.
In fact, on one occasion, officials sent up a fully armed F6F Hellcat fighter plane, with instructions to shoot down whatever they found if it appeared to be "hostile." Generally, officials don't do that unless they are rather concerned. On another occasion, an SNJ Patrol plane was sent up with the intention of trying to make contact with the objects.
However, neither pilots nor crew were able to make a conclusive visual confirmation of the blips. They appeared to be flying very high, perhaps too high to make a sighting. However, the trained operators were convinced they were not seeing 'ghosts' or their equipment was malfunctioning. They were convinced something was up there.
The UFO website waterufo.net makes a reference to unusual flying object activity at the Naval Air Station, backing up the reports that 'something' was picked up in the area during that time.
Commander Hendershot was apparently the pilot of the SNJ aircraft that was sent up to try to contact the "bogies" or unidentified objects as they were often called. His letter was part of some testimony before a Congressional Committee that met in 1961. The NICAP, or National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, was busy during that decade with what seemed to be a lot of UFO reports.
A report from the NICAP website seems to indicate the F6F pilot sent up from Pasco did indeed see something, but it was far too high for him to get close to.
For several decades after World War II, the Air Force also conducted what was called Project Blue Book, which was the official, serious pursuit of UFO's and investigations of sightings. It was begun in 1952 and ended in 1970.
Many UFO-ologists, as they are often called, believe the unusual activity was linked to the developments at Hanford, where the first ever atomic bombs were being built. They point to the evidence that these objects didn't show up until after the nuclear reactors were built, but then activity faded after the bombs were finished and sent off to be dropped on Japan in 1945. These UFO watchers believe creatures from other planets were aware we had discovered how to split the atom and unleash some of the most powerful forces in nature, and they were here to "observe."
Either way, it makes for a great story and legend as part of the history of the Tri-Cities.