Sometimes when you are doing research on a subject, you accidently stumble upon the unexpected. This is one of those cases. While researching a fallen hero, and unrelated to his story, I came across a document on a UFO sighting that occurred in New Philadelphia, Ohio in 1968. There was no way I was not going to look into that! Out of respect for their privacy, I have left out the names of the witnesses.
The driving instructor was driving the 1968 Ford Falcon down Interstate 77 on the afternoon of July 1, 1968. Two student drivers in the back seat were patiently waiting their turn to take the wheel. The 27 year-old instructor had been teaching in the area for about 2 1/2 years, having graduated from Kent State University. As the car approached the interchange at the in-progress Route 250 bypass, something caught his eye. Off in the distance, in a patch of blue sky on a partly cloudy day, he noticed a bright white object moving erratically. Not sure if he was seeing things, he looked away thinking perhaps it was just a plane. When he looked back, the object was still there, still moving in a zig-zag pattern in the sky.
“Do you see what I’m seeing?” the instructor asked the students. The two students, both 16 years old, looked out of their windows. Both students replied that they were seeing the same, erratically moving, object. The driver stopped the car and the three watched the object’s odd movements for about 3 1/2 minutes. It then rapidly shot off into the distance, getting smaller and smaller until it was no longer visible. The instructor, apparently aware of the ongoing investigations into UFO’s by the United States Air Force, suggested that the three of them file a report. Two days after the incident, the instructor and his students drafted and mailed accounts of the UFO encounter to the “U.F.O. Department” at the Air Force.
Project Blue Book was the code name for the United States Air Force’s study of unidentified flying objects that began in March 1952. The project was based at Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The project’s principal goals were to determine if UFOs were a threat to national security and to try and scientifically review UFO-related information from witness reports. It is not surprising then that an educated Ohio native like the driving instructor would be aware of the project.
The Project Blue Book staff, within a week of receiving the reports, mailed questionnaires to the three witnesses in order to gather more detailed information. The nine page questionnaires asked witnesses to answer a number of questions about where they were, their eyesight, weather, etc. It also asked for details about the alleged UFO itself including size, color, movement, etc. Additionally, the Air Force investigators requested from Air Force meteorologists detailed information about the weather for the day that the alleged UFO was witnessed. Letters also went out to the Dover and New Philadelphia police departments asking them if they had received any reports of unusual activity.
All three witnesses of the alleged UFO made clear in their original letters, and later questionnaires, that what they saw was not an airplane, a bird, or anything that they had ever seen before. They all commented on the fact that the object gave off its own illumination, not a reflection of sunlight, and that it did not have any type of exhaust or vapor trail visible while it moved. One witness described the object as disc-shaped, while another stated it was more cigar-shaped. After having read the witnesses’ letters and their questionnaire answers, it is clear that they were sincere in their belief in what they saw.
Within a couple months of the July 1 sighting, there were other reports of unidentified flying objects, “flying saucers”, made to the New Philadelphia and Dover police on two separate occasions. One sighting near Tuscora Park and another near the intersection of Baker Avenue and Tuscarawas Avenue. Additionally, there had been a number of sightings in central Ohio during the spring and early summer of 1968.
After reviewing the information provided in the witness letters, questionnaires, and from the Air Force meteorologists, Lt. Colonel Hector Quintanilla submitted his report. The report noted inconsistencies in the witnesses’ recollections, suggested that perhaps they saw a piece of paper floating in the air or a reflection of light, and accused two of the witnesses of being “(so called) UFO fans” because one witness stated that “everyone thinks I am crazy.” In spite of all of this, the facts in this case remained and the Project Blue Book staff concluded that “in summary…it was, and will remain, a UFO.”
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.