U.S.S. Stone County LST-1141 pacific, enroute to Saipan
This sighting was aboard the U.S.S. Stone County, LST-1141 while enroute to Saipan, Guam, Philippines and finally Vietnam in early 1968, I believe the month was around May, I find I failed to put the date on any of my notes about the event, or have misplaced the page on which it was entered.
I was serving as First Lieutenant onboard at the time and was the officer of the deck at the time of the sighting. The sighting was at approximately 8:15 p.m, just shortly after I had relieved the watch for the 8:00 p.m. to midnight shift.
On the day prior to the sighting another bridge crew had seen a very peculiar light show on the southern horizon that had lasted for 20 minutes or so, and was being thoroughly ribbed about UFO's and Little Green Men, the usual humor that seems to hover around such sightings. At the time we assumed the light show had somehow been caused by the U.S.S. Polk County, another LST, Landing Ship Tank, we had been steaming in company with since leaving San Diego. Four days out of Saipan from Pearl Harbor we had separated, the Polk steaming directly for Subic Bay. We thought they were south of our position but later learned that they had actually been North of us so couldnít have been the cause of the light show.
I was not present on the bridge during this show and cannot comment on it.
The following night, about three days NNE of Saipan while proceeding at our normal cruising speed of 8.5 knots, these were the old WWII style LSTís that resemble 300í shoe boxes with wedding cake superstructures on the stern, in beautiful southern Pacific weather, no clouds, wind from the east, approx 10-15 knots, temperatures in the 70ís was when our sighting occurred.
In the tropics, sunset is a peculiar event, in clear weather darkness comes from the east, much like a shade is being drawn from east to west, leaving the sky quite bright in the west long after the sun has set. This was the condition on this night, no moon, I donít recall if it was to come up later or not, but it wasnít in the sky at the time. At 7:45 p.m. I relieved the watch on the Navigation Bridge, which is two levels above where the steering bridge is located. On the Nav. Bridge were myself, the JOOD, the Quartermaster of the watch, two lookouts, one to each side and the signalman in the signal shack astern of the bridge. There is a catwalk around the little Conn station, looks much like a large telephone booth with a catwalk around it, to each side were the lookout stations on extensions of the catwalk, at the beginnings of which were mounted large Aldis lamp signaling lamps for flashing light communication. There was a great deal of banter at the beginning of the watch about UFOís and such but it quickly settled down. The starboard lookout called out a contact at about 8:00 p.m. as a UFO.
We all quickly moved to the starboard side with binoculars and were able to see a small light moving from north to south very high above the horizon, being somewhat suspicious I went inside the Conn and looked in the Navigational Ephemeris, and sure enough there was a satellite transit entered for exactly that time, that track and that elevation, right on time.
We all ribbed the lookout a little, then went back to the business of the watch. I was standing in the door of the Conn, talking with the signalman, when the Starboard lookout called very softly:
Mr. Graham, Iíve something real strange over here Sir.
The tone of his voice and the softness alerted me very quickly, and I turned to his side with my Navy 7x50 Binoculars in my hand, asking what it was. The sky to the west was still quite bright and I could make him out quite easily standing out on the end of the starboard wing, pointing aft and said:
Looking where he was pointing I made out immediately what he was referring to. Just slightly to the starboard side of direct astern, at an elevation angle of approximately 15į elevation was a brilliant white light, about the size of a dime held at armís length. It was very bright hanging against the black eastern sky, had much the quality of a fluorescent lamp, precisely round, very sharply defined with no discernible beam. I put the binoculars to my eye but could see no difference in the light for perhaps five seconds or so.
The light then suddenly seemed to grow slightly larger, not brighter, just a little bigger, as the white light swelled there slowly came into view a larger, perhaps three times larger, amber light, directly on a centerline with the white light, then slowly two more of these amber lights came into view, all on a centerline, and all of the same sharply defined circle quality like fluorescent circles cut out of black paper. As the light aspect changed I had the impression of something quite large behind them moving.
If youíve ever been in a very dark building with very large machines in it, ones you canít really see but more feel their dimensions, you have some idea of what I felt. As the lights continued to close to a position directly abeam of us there finally came into view at the back, one very small white light above a small red light above a small white light, in a vertical line, approximately the same distance behind the amber lights as the white light in front was ahead of them. At this time I was watching the object with my 7x50 binoculars and the lights precisely filled the field of vision. One of the then new destroyer leaders at about 800í long will do that at a distance of approximately 1500 yards. There was no sound, we were not radiating our radar at the time so I do not know if there was any return there, we were not in radio communication with anyone then either so I have no idea if that was interfered with. We did loose the broadcast teletype link then I found out later but that was something that was always happening, we did find that the magnetic compass error when compared with the gyro compass had somehow acquired a sudden increase of almost 14į of error during the space between 30 minute checks. The object stayed directly abeam of us for perhaps 90 seconds, at 8.5 knots when the signalman asked me if I wanted him to call them on the flashing light. I said sure, and he lit off the starboard Aldis lamp and flashed CQ or unknown station identify yourself approximately six times. The object then suddenly accelerated away, straight ahead, very rapidly, the lights disappearing in order, the small white in front first, then each of the amber ones and finally the white over red over white until they went beyond the range of the resolution of the binoculars, maintaining the same elevation angle until out of sight. This disappearing act took perhaps, five to ten seconds. The entire sighting lasted perhaps 3 to five minutes at the outside, the feeling of all the people that saw the object was summed up by the starboard lookout with his comment:
Gee, I wonder what dutyís like on a ship like that?Ē
There was no question in any of our minds that we had seen a ship of some kind from somewhere, but none of us had the slightest idea of where. There was never any sound, nor was there ever any beam or halo effect from the lights. That quality of the lights, like round fluorescent circles was to me one of the most striking aspects of the entire experience, aside from the demonstrated speed changes from very raid approach, to pacing an 8.5 knot ship to extremely rapid acceleration and departure. All in all a most interesting experience, and one that made a believer of me, though Iím still not sure just what a believer in. The sighting was entered in the shipís rough deck log by the quartermaster and in the smooth deck log by myself, though I cannot remember if it was signed by myself or our Executive Officer at the time, a Lt. Richard Dunn. He would occasionally sign the deck log himself for reasons best known to him. He and I did not get along well at the time and later he was removed from the ship in the combat zone for psychiatric reasons, after he had tried to have me court martialed. I was promoted to his position as XO after he was removed from the ship and cleared of all charges. I know a message was written of Flash Priority as required by ComSeventhFlt instructions regarding any sighting of UFOs at the time. I do not know if the message was ever sent, and to the best of my knowledge nothing ever came of it.
Description, In Exact Words of Witness Number Two: Reporting this because I just got through reading the single eye witness report that was aboard the U.S.S. Stone County LST-1144, by Mr. Graham. I too was stationed aboard and observed a UFO but not as Mr. Graham had explained.
I was on the 8:00 p.m. to midnight watch on the forward portion of the ship, specifically in the gun director tub which stands atop a high steel frame. We were off the coast of Viet Nam, I think, the night this encounter happened. While I was on watch, a friend of mine, a radioman third class was also on watch from the bridge. It was a very clear night, one could see all the stars and like Mr. Graham had mentioned in his observation, no moon. My friend and I were both were practicing our Morse code via our red lens flashlights when one of us, I forgot which one spotted it first, made mention of a distant white light on the port side. We both spoke with one another via our headsets. We observed a small white light which seemed to be on the horizon. The light quickly went out as if one would turn off a flashlight and then it came back on. Only this time when the light came back on, it was miles closer and then quickly, the light went out. I couldn't help but be in awe at the perceived speed this object was flying and doing a very quick stop. It repeated one more time, again being miles closer to the ship and then went out. All this time of observation there was absolutely no sound of an aircraft. I asked my friend to signal the flying object but it did not respond. After the last sighting of the light going out, we waited for a few seconds. All of a sudden the whole ship was momentarily lit up as if the sun was out and as quickly it went out then came back on again miles out on the port side. We watched the light going on and off in reverse in which it came.
The light was very bright and was very clear, crisp without any soft lighting as one would see with a normal light as the light would fade with distance. This particular night for some reason, had only the two of us as observers at that point in time which only took about five minutes maybe less. We did not say anything to anyone at the time. Probably because we thought nobody would believe us. I know I had shared this story with some of my friends over the years but now wish I could remember the name of my friend, the radioman to validate what I have written here. But then again, over time one's memory does tricks and this could have been the same sighting, although I distinctly remember me seeing the UFO on the port side, and no action that I could see coming from the bridge.
Description, In Exact Words of Witness Number Three: Hi there, I just read about he UFO sighting that the U.S.S. Stone County Executive Officer reported off of Saipan in 1968. I was the Lead Damage Controlman. Bob Babcock, Damage Controlman 2nd Class, E-5, at that time. I wasn't aware of the sighting at the time, but I do recall that our radar went out a couple days before reaching Saipan and we were all on the bow actually looking for Saipan. I do remember that the sister ship that followed us from San Diego wasn't the Polk County it was the Floyd County, as I had a friend on her at that time.