Exciting release of Air Force UFO archives
It's up early on Wednesday morning and on the ferry a little later. When you live on Lolland and are specially invited to visit one of Denmark's important military centres, situated in mid?Jutland, you need to get a move on. 28 January 2009 is also a special day, because the visit concerns Tactical Air Command in Karup, where the Air Force has chosen to make public, present and hand over its UFO files to Scandinavian UFO Information (SUFOI), and thereby to the public.
In the past few years countries such as France and Britain have chosen to make public their previously secret UFO files. Other countries such as the USA and Spain have done this earlier. On several occasions I've commented to the media that, if there was somewhere in the Danish military where there could be files relating to UFO sightings, a good place to ask would be Tactical Air Command (TAC). In fact 36 years ago copies of internal documents and reports were released to me on a specific case I was investigating for SUFOI.
Contacts in the Air Force made it clear during 2008 that there actually exists a so-called „UFO folder“ with archived UFO reports at TAC, and that SUFOI and other interested parties could have access to its contents.
One of the journalists at TAC's press office, Niels Toftegaard, has now written an article on the UFO folder's contents for publication in the February edition of the Air Force newspaper Flyvevåbnet (in English), so an invitation to see the material before the article's publication must be said to be especially welcome.
In the early morning I manage to catch an interview on the radio station P3 with Captain Thomas Pedersen (TAC) about the fact that the Air Force is releasing its UFO files today. Before I get in the car I take a quick look at TAC's website. The release is discussed there, as well as a very nice mention for SUFOI. I think to myself that it hasn't received much media coverage nevertheless.
But here I'm completely wrong. I've barely started my drive to Karup before my mobile phone begins to glow. First it's my contacts at TAC, who ask about my arrival time and other arrangements, and then it's Denmark Radio's (DR) TV News, who ask whether they can send a camera crew to follow my arrival and visit to TAC. I inform my wife and SUFOI's chairman Kim Møller Hansen about the development.
On my arrival at the main entrance to Karup Air Base I've just been supplied with a portable microphone by TV News, when my mobile rings again with TV2 Funen on the line. They've been on TAC's website and naturally would like to do a piece with a local slant. They want to get hold of the 15-year-old boy who in 1982, on an early summer morning on Funen, caught sight of a glowing object on the ground with five small creatures around it. I know the sighting well and have seen the accompanying drawing, which at one point was sent out by SUFOI as part of some press material. It's apparently ended up in the UFO files.
I must disappoint them. It won't be possible to locate the boy 27 years later, as at the moment SUFOI's report material is at UFO Sweden for scanning and registration. Next you would have to find the now 42-year-old man and get his permission (which is SUFOI's policy in these circumstances) before his name is given to the press. I refer them to Ole J. Knudsen, the planetarium leader at Steno Museum in Århus, who has a UFO background from Svendborg and SUFOI's hotline over many years. He can maybe give them a local angle for their story.
Say hello to journalists Niels Toftegaard and Rune Dyrholm from TAC's press office, as well as Captain Thomas Pedersen, who's responsible for the more official „release“. I'm provided with a pass to the air base and I'm filmed by TV News driving through the main entrance, and we do a few extra takes.
It's agreed that it's suitable for the presentation of the UFO folder and its contents to take place in the premises where the Air Force Historical Collection (FLYHIS) is situated, near to the air base. It's Wednesday, so a large group of engaged and historically-minded former employees are carrying out their weekly work with the collection.
The TV News crew set their gear up in a suitable room, and recording begins.
Why release this material now, it is asked, and Captain Thomas Pedersen (TAC) explains that for several years the folder has been sitting on the shelf in his office. As there isn't actually anything secret in it, the idea gradually developed to release the contents, as has been done in other places around the world.
The Air Force has for many years registered and taken notes when people have phoned and told them about unusual things in the sky. In some cases other parts of the Armed Forces were contacted to find out whether there was anything unusual on the radar screens, or whether there were exercises taking place using flares or other things. The mystery could perhaps be solved like that, otherwise nothing else was actually done with the case, says Thomas Pedersen.
The Air Force has not normally carried out other types of investigation of UFO reports. It's not really our job, he continues. The Air Force's task is to determine whether the things observed are a threat to the nation's security, and if they're not, then it's no longer our concern.
Captain Thomas Pedersen explains further that the folder's contents haven't actually been classified as such. This had also been stated when, at various times, the media had enquired about a „secret UFO archive“. When TAC had pointed out that the press could just drop by and look at the material, interest had slowly diminished and nothing more ever came of it. But now it had been agreed to carry out a more official release and hand the material over to SUFOI.
It's obviously incredibly exciting to be officially „presented“ with the folder itself and leaf through it for the first time. All the so-called sensitive information such as names, addresses and telephone numbers are removed from the reports, in accordance with the practice from the foreign UFO archives. I can however recognise some of the reports, which I sent myself over the years on SUFOI's behalf.
Also a larger case dealing with the falling of clumps of ice into a garden bears the hallmarks of SUFOI's thorough investigation work, which showed that the gradually bad-smelling material originated from an aircraft toilet.
The report material covers the time from 1978 to 2002, and by far the most reports are written on the old form number 3622, which I know all too well. It has old Danish spelling and dates all the way back to 1946, when it was developed by Major Per Winge for his investigation of the so-called "ghost rockets" that were observed over the whole of Scandinavia - also from Denmark.
The UFO folder contains only a single photographic case, says Captain Thomas Pedersen, and he shows a picture of a sort of jellyfish up in the sky over Viborg in 1974. I also know that case very well, as years ago I carried out a thorough investigation of it for SUFOI, and what's more with much help from TAC.
Earlier in the month I had offered to help TAC with the practical task of removing sensitive information from the old archive material as well as scanning the papers, as TAC lacked the manpower and this work was not exactly of the highest priority. Fortunately TAC was able to get the work done by a temporary press officer, Rune Dyrholm, who very efficiently got that part of the process completed in a short time.
The 329 pages of material are collected in a PDF file of 30 Mb and can now be downloaded by anyone interested from Tactical Air Command's website at this address:
We say goodbye to the history enthusiasts at FLYHIS, who told riveting stories of fast?flying radar echoes from the time when they had less advanced equipment to work with. But I'll have to save these and other accounts for another time.
On to Tactical Air Command's new building beside the old bunker from the Second World War that housed TAC for many years. New setting up of cameras and lights, etc and more recording. Amongst other things I've brought along a video clip taken by Leo Nygaard in Odense on 15 September 1996, and some of us look through it and comment. Can it be a helicopter, a balloon, a…? We don't reach any conclusion.
The mobile phone rings several times during the course of the day. Amongst others TV2 News in Odense, who would like to know the possibility of an interview. They've also sent a cameraman to TAC to shoot some background clips for a piece on the 10 pm news. I refer them locally to Leo Nygaard, as it's important to get his video shown to a wide audience in the vain hope that someone can come forward with a good and serious suggestion as to what he and his wife had filmed that September day in 1996.
We go through some of the material I've brought for my visit to TAC. Some of this material is, curiously enough, copies of correspondence and reports from TAC that predate the material now made public.
Captain Thomas Pedersen makes the press aware that UFO reports should in future be reported to SUFOI at the address www.ufo.dk. I can add to that by pointing out the excellent cooperation SUFOI has had from Tactical Air Command and other military authorities such as Naval Operational Command in Århus.
DR's Deadline are on the phone. It ends up with Captain Thomas Pedersen going to the TV studio in Holstebro and being interviewed for the broadcast at 5 pm. So I get the UFO files copied and returned to me, before Thomas takes his leave after a rewarding day for both parties.
There's also time for a little more private chat over a cup of coffee in TAC's OPSCENT with one of SUFOI's good contacts, who has been incredibly helpful for many years with information on military traffic in Danish airspace in a given time period. I say hello to several members of staff who come by, and suddenly up pops an old UFO acquaintance who I haven't seen for 35 years. It's a small world indeed.
After a brief visit to the press office I can say goodbye after an exciting day with Tactical Air Command and their dedicated staff.
Were my expectations of the visit fulfilled? Yes, definitely! After so many years waiting it was both interesting and exciting as the first civilian to finally have this material in my hands. I wasn't expecting the material to contain any great UFO secrets. And it didn't. That's not to say that it can just go into SUFOI's archive. The folder's contents will now be studied more closely, and certain reports will presumably be written up for publication.
From an historical point of view it's definitely the right decision by TAC to release this material in an attempt to demystify things. SUFOI can only welcome this.
The phone is still warm, and SUFOI's chairman Kim Møller Hansen can report that his phone hasn't been quiet for the last four hours because of requests for interviews from various media.
On to Lystrup in Århus, where SUFOI's webmaster, Flemming O. Rasmussen, lives, to get the UFO folder's material copied over to his server for later use. Also transfer the photos I've taken during the day to his server, so I don't have to burden my minimal Internet connection more than absolutely necessary.
Over the phone I'm given an account of the story on Deadline at 5 pm with Thomas Pedersen. As expected a splendid piece. TV2 are on the line again and ask whether I can manage to come to Kvægtorvet in Odense for a brief comment on the piece they're thinking of putting out at 10 pm. Yes, we can manage that.
The phone rings again. Now it's about the TV News story on the UFO files' release. It's apparently a splendid result. But anyway I still wonder, as a normal viewer, how two and a half hours' work gets turned into a two or three-minute piece. But it's not the world's greatest event - and not even those get many minutes in the "fast" media.
After a long drive to Odense, setting up in the TV station's famous, long hall with lights and camera and microphone, it results in a brief comment that concludes their piece at 10 pm, most of which is an interview with Leo Nygaard and showing his video recording.
From Odense on to Lolland. It means a drive over the Great Belt Bridge, as it's now too late to catch the ferry from Langeland. On the way I brief the local press on the day's events.
Home again after midnight, and so to answering emails - most of them from foreign contacts who have heard about the release and very much want more details as well as pictures of the material. It's past 3 am before bed beckons, but now I can get a good night's sleep…until just after 7 am, when North Jutland Radio are on the mobile asking whether I can take part in a direct interview on the story here and now. Yes, it was certainly an exciting, exhausting, but totally rewarding day.
Translation: Mark Smith