I acquired an early interest in unidentified flying objects [UFOs]. I was a teletype operator in the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro Marine Air Control Squadron as a lowly private first class [PFC] during April to June 54. I read many messages that were the subject of reported UFOs. My job as the duty teletype operator was to acknowledge and forward the messages to Air Station units with a need to know of the reported sightings. I may have been a bit naive but still I realized the pilots who reported sighting UFOs had in fact experienced what they described and were not imagining the sightings. UFOs were a new phenomenon in the early 1950s and I was particularly intrigued by them. However, I stopped being interested in UFOs when I reported to NAS Pensacola, Florida Pre-Flight School at the end of June.
Three years later, after graduating from Flight School and spending a tour of duty in VMA-211, I was transferred from the tactical AD-4B Skyraider squadron VMA-211 to the Operations Department at NAAS Edenton, NC. I was assigned five SOJs of which one job was Air Station Safety Officer for NAAS Edenton. My primary source of flight time became a single piloted, 4 place Skyraider designated the AD-5N. One morning in late 1957, I received a call from an agitated woman in a small town near Plymouth, NC. She said a flying saucer had flown over her house the night before. She described fire coming from underneath the object but she saw no other lights. She said the flying saucer crashed in the town dump. When queried how she knew where the saucer crashed, she said because she had heard the racket from it hitting all the trash at the dump which was located just south of where she lived. I called the CO of the Station and reported the anxious woman's phone call. The Commanding Officer said, "It sounds like a wild imagination to me but go out and conduct an informal inquiry into the sighting anyway. Let me know what you find out about the flying saucer." He was chuckling as he hung up the phone.
NAAS Edenton Main Gate photograph taken by Bill Holmes
I checked out a Staff Car with a duty driver and headed off base. We drove over the four mile bridge across Albermarle Sound and on to a place called Pleasant Grove. When I arrived at the puddle jumper town of maybe a hundred or so where the sighting occurred, I found the woman caller waiting outside her house with some supportive neighbors. Following brief introductions, I began writing down the information as the women talked excitedly about the flying saucer they saw pass overhead the previous night. When the witnesses reported the time of the occurrence as being around 10:30 to 11:00 PM, I paused in my note taking. I Suddenly realized that the sighting time coincided with the approximate time I had flown near the town on the previous night. Since I had my lights turned off, the witnesses would only have seen the fire from the exhaust stacks on each side of the engine of my AD-5N. Although still in the middle of the inquiry, I had sorted out the time, place and event enough to realize that the evidence pointed to my flyover the night before.
I had played chicken with a freight train on the long straight shot of railroad tracks southwest of Edenton. The light of the train's engine had been visible from many miles away. Switching off all my lights, I descended down to about twenty feet or so above the tracks and headed right for the oncoming freight train. My descent must have taken me directly over the little town near Roper and Pleasant Grove. Aiming directly at the slow moving train headlight at 180 knots, about 2 miles from the train I turned on the lights master switch, which controlled the navigation, operating, and landing lights. The train and the plane were closing at nearly four miles a minute. As we appeared about to merge, I extinguished all lights by flipping off the master light switch. I pulled up quickly to clear the train and rapidly rolled the plane into a 90 degree banked turn to the right towards home. Looking down, I could see red sparks on the rails from the train trying to stop. I can imagine the noise that train made when it locked the brakes.
Realizing I was probably investigating myself, I concluded the inquiry without visiting the town dump where the woman said the UFO crashed. We returned to Naval Auxiliary Air Station Edenton. I explained to the Commanding Officer about the very unsophisticated witnesses who had most probably only seen a plane fly over. He said "File your report." I filled in the form as an unidentified flying object [UFO] report, stamped it "Action Completed" and filed the report in Station Operations.
Back to Back We Face the Past
Donald Cathcart LtCol USMC Ret.