Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Spain: Local Residents Phoned Air Base About “Something Weird in the Sky” (1968)

Source: Planeta UFO and El Norte de Castilla
Date: 01.10.2017
Article by Víctor Vela (Valladolid)

Spain: Local Residents Phoned Air Base About “Something Weird in the Sky” (1968)

The phones at the Villanubla air force base were ringing off the hook that Saturday in 1968. I’ve seen something strange, there’s something weird, it’s not an airplane, the lights are orange, it looks like it’s rising into the sky, it vanished suddenly…it was over in three minutes. There were several witnesses to the phenomenon that disturbed the habitual calm of the heavens over Tierra de Campos at 19:15 hours. The first one to call was a truck driver from Mazariegos. Then four more drivers. Also resident from the vicinity of Villalón and even from Palencia. They claimed having seen something in the sky. That very same evening, at 0:50 hours and due to the persistent phone calls, the base commandant submitted a telegram to the Minister of Air Defense, advising him of the phenomenon that transpired in that corner of Castile. “Nothing to report in the rest of the area,” ended the communiqué.

All these phone calls from residents of Villalón gave rise to an investigation that ended up in an official report: Document Number 681207 on the sighting of strange objects. UFO files, as the High Command dubbed such documents, and they are called such many years later. The Ministry of Defense has just declassified and published 80 official documents making reference to unidentified flying objects over Spain. The one over Villalón is among them, and like most, the case was closed without ever determining exactly what it was that so many people had seen in the sky.

There was something in the sky over Villalón on December 7, 1968. But, what was it? “We lack information that allows us to hazard a guess as to a likely explanation of the phenomenon,” concluded the official report, and that was that. In any event, none of the phone calls had exactly described “the shape or size of the light.” They only stressed that it was “something orange” with a clear ascending movement.

A genuine UFO fever raged in the year 1968. The government investigated up to 21 cases. What is more, the Air Defense Ministry was forced to issue a report that was a front-page item in El Norte de Castilla. “Regarding statements published with certain frequency in the press about sightings of unidentified flying objects in Spanish air space, the Air Defense Ministry asks any witnesses who believe they might be seeing the so-called UFOs, to make it known to the nearest air force authorities or the local authorities. This way, the news can reach the airspace authorities having jurisdiction.” It was December 6, 1968. The flood of calls from Tierra de Campos occurred the next day.

The public notice went on to say: “The Air Defense Ministry has a radar network that is able to detect any object capable of causing echoes in the air space. It has been hitherto attested that the objects believed to be unidentified by the public were weather balloons or airplanes in flight.”

This was a way of curtailing the rise in sightings reported from Soria, Cádiz, Almería, Bilbao or Valencia. The most famous of these took place in Madrid on September 5. The next day’s newspaper proclaimed: “UFO seen over Madrid was not picked up by radar.” The story included eyewitness accounts from dozens of people who claimed having seen a bright spot in the sky “about the size of a 25 peseta coin.” It seems that the strange object was, in fact, a French research balloon (launched from Aire-sur-L’adour), which after being dragged off course, landed between Aspe and Santa Pola (Alicante) on Saturday, December 7.

But saucer fever was raging. “An alarming rise in eyewitnesses,” said El Norte on October 13, 1968. It was already apparent – in spite of the “numerous scientists convinced of their existence” -- that the putative alien invasion was most likely an “error in appraisal.” They could be comets, shooting stares, car headlights reflected against the clouds, an electrostatic burst, meteorites…or the planet Venus, which was remarkably visible in the afternoons between November 1968 and February 1969.

The Air Defense Ministry had to intervene regularly through public statements to correct any possible errors of perception. For example, there was the time when notice was given – on October 30 – of the calibration of a radar station at Robledo de Chavela (Madrid). The operation required a fly-over by an airplane “equipped with a powerful beacon to enable locating the [radar facility] when the tests in question require nocturnal flights.”

Newspapers joined the fashionable UFO craze. In October 1968, El Norte published a story entitled “Los Invasores” (The Invaders) divided into chapters and published on subsequent days. It was authored by Larry Cohen and furnished by the Europa Press news agency. It was a piece of fiction, but it responded to a welcoming climate. Even the [pop group] Los Salvajes released a song that year called “Los platillos volantes” - «Los platillos volantes, los platillos flotantes, los platillos rodantes: todo el mundo los ve» (‘Flying saucers, floating saucers, rolling saucers, everybody sees them’), they sang.

[Translation © 2017 Scott Corrales, IHU with thanks to Guillermo Giménez, Planeta UFO]