What Happened to the F-89?
A third unanswered question is what happened to the F-89 after radar contact was lost with it?
The official USAF investigation board concluded that the F-89 crashed into Lake Superior at the time radar contact was lost with the aircraft or shortly afterwards. Later USAF correspondence suggested that the F-89 had probably crashed into Lake Superior on its way back to Kinross after the intercept was completed.
An Algoma Railway crew located at Limer, Ontario heard a jet crash into the bush east of Lake Superior some unspecified time after contact with the F-89 was lost, suggesting a possibility that the F-89 perhaps crashed into the bush east of Lake Superior.
Another possibility is that the F-89 was captured by the UFO it was chasing.
Did F-89 Crash into Lake Superior?
The report that was prepared by the Official Accident Investigation Board concluded on the fate of the F-89:
The aircraft probably crashed in the Canadian waters of Lake Superior just prior to or at the time of interception.
It was probably not possible for the investigation board to reach a more definitive conclusion due to the simple fact that no trace of the F-89 or its crew were found during the search of the lake and shoreline.
Given that the F-89's IFF signal was lost at the time the radar return from the F-89 was observed to merge with the return from the return from the unidentified aircraft, it does seem the most likely reason for the loss of both signals and the loss of radio communications would be that the F-89 crashed into the lake at this moment.
If the F-89 had crashed into the lake surface, it would probably have broken up with little intact wreckage. Only small pieces of floatable debris would remain on the surface along with fuel, oil and hydraulic fluid slicks. The fuel would soon evaporate and perhaps the oil slick would break up due to the action of waves and surface currents. Visibility was impaired by poor weather during the first day of the search. Under such search conditions, it is possible that it was not possible to locate the remnants from the crash.
Theoretically, it might still be possible to locate metal fragments from the F-89 at the bottom of Lake Superior by using a deep water submersible equipped with side scan sonar imaging to search the lake bed beneath the hypothetical crash site. Until such a search is made, it cannot be definitively concluded that the F-89 did crash at this site.
Without positive confirmation of the location of the F-89 wreckage, there will always be questions about what the real fate was of the jet and crew.
Did F-89 Crash into Bush East of Lake Superior?
Because the last place of contact with the F-89 was in Canadian airspace, the search of Lake Superior was coordinated by the RCAF Eastern Area Rescue Coordination Centre based in Trenton, Ontario. The US search efforts were led by the 49th Air Rescue Squadron from Selfridge AFB near Detroit, Michigan.
As was often the case in such search efforts, the search teams received many tips during the course of the SAR operation concerning observations submitted by members of the public who thought they may be related to the F-89 disappearance.
One such report was made by an Algoma Central Railway maintenance crew which was operating at Limer, a short distance east of Wawa, Ontario, on the night of the F-89's disappearance. The railway workers reported that they had heard a low flying jet followed by the sound of the plane crashing. Originally, investigators dismissed the report because the reported time for the incident was beyond the time the F-89 could have been in the air with its limited fuel supply. Later, a witness indicated that he was possibly wrong about the time. With coaxing from the father of 2nd Lt. Robert Wilson, the USAF reopened the search. This second search was conducted by the USAF in the spring of 1954. The second air search covered a large land area to the east of the south eastern shore of Lake Superior. The early part of the search was hampered by snow coverage of the rough terrain. The later part of the search was hampered by the ground being obscured by emerging leaves on deciduous trees. The search provided no new clues on the fate of the F-89.
Is it difficult to assess whether the reports of the jet crash were reliable. If the sound was from the F-89 it would first be necessary to explain how the F-89 could have flown from the middle of Lake Superior to the area of Wawa, Ontario without being detected by radar. From the reports I have read about the incident, it seems apparent that the incident was observed from at least three or four separate USAF radar sites. I have also heard that the incident was possibly observed from at least one Canadian radar installation. Surely, if the F-89 was still flying after radio and radar contact was lost at 18:55 EST, then some radar reflection of the F-89 should have been observed.
One interesting detail in the testimony from Lt. Stuart, is that the F-89 was intermittently painting a target return on radar. The return from the F-89 was displayed on some sweeps but was absent on others. It was also reported that radio communications between the F-89 and GCI were sporadic during parts of the F-89 intercept flight over the lake. Were radar and radio affected by some sort of electromagnetic interference from the unidentified aircraft/UFO or was this merely caused by the weather front which was advancing over the lake?
It is interesting that no similar radio communications or radar tracking problems were noted for the F-89 search flights piloted by Lt. Mingenbach, Lt. Nordeck and Capt. Bridges. The jets piloted by these air force officers all flew through the same weather front as Moncla and Wilson flew through earlier that evening.
It is also interesting to note Lt. Mingenbach's testimony regarding the radio transmission he heard about 40 minutes after radar and radio contact with the F-89. He reported that the transmission sounded like an accidental transmission from F-89 pilot, Lt. Moncla. He recognized Lt. Moncla's voice from his distinctive slow southern drawl. Does Lt. Mingenbach's testimony suggest the possibility that the F-89 did not crash when it was last seen on radar? If so, what could have happened to the plane and crew?
Was F-89 Captured by a Flying Saucer?
The theory that the F-89 was possibly captured by a UFO was proposed in Donald Keyhoe's book "The Flying Saucer Conspiracy".
The basis for this theory can be summarized as follows:
- Donald Keyhoe is woken by a phone call on the night the F-89 was lost and told of a rumor at Selfridge Air Force Base that the F-89 was lost after "colliding with a flying saucer".
- The USAF provides contradictory explanations for the intercept, suggesting a possible cover-up of the alleged UFO encounter.
- An aerial search of Lake Superior and the Lake Superior coastline provides no trace of the F-89 or crew.
- Keyhoe and a friend discussed the disappearance of the F-89 after it merged with an alleged UFO and the lack of any wreckage and conclude one possible explanation for was that the F-89 and crew were captured by the UFO.
To this day, we don't know who it was who phoned Donald Keyhoe and alerted him about the rumor that an F-89 had been lost after colliding with a flying saucer. We do know that Selfridge Air Force Base played key roles during the intercept and seach efforts. The alert was called by Selfridge so it is clear they were aware of the real reason for the alert - whatever it was. It seems apparent that several radar sites in the US were monitoring the flight of the F-89 so there were probably at least ten or twenty observers of the intercept at the three or four GCI sites. Most of these observers have kept a low public profile and have opted to remain silent about what they witnessed that night.
The contradictions in the USAF accounts of the intercept does suggest that they were conducting a coverup of the incident. It would be logical for the USAF to cover up the incident if the loss of the F-89 was related to a pursuit of a UFO. This is because it was official USAF policy to hide information about real unexplained UFO encounters from the public.
But are there other potential reasons for a coverup? I have tried to formulate alternative scenarios that would potentially lead to a coverup by the USAF.
My best formulation of a possible alternative scenario is this:
The USAF was involved in a preplanned training mission which simulated a real intercept of a soviet bomber over the Canadian border. They used the RCAF C-47 as the "dummy target" but never notified Canadian authorities about the training mission. They invented the excuse that the C-47 was flying 30 miles off track as a cover story to avoid controversy arising from unauthorized incursions into Canadian territory.
The problem with this scenario is that it unplanned incursions of US aircraft into Canadian air space were apparently not uncommon during this time period. Canadian incursions by RCAF aircraft were also not uncommon in this time period as such incursions werew viewed by both countries as good training to test the defense readiness of allies.
A second possibility is that some of the contradictions arose out of confusion and poor communication. One key question is whether the USAF ever did allege that the cause of the alert was a Canadian DC-3 airliner in restricted air space over Soo Locks. Keyhoe alleges he was told this by Lt. Robert C. White who served as a Public Information Officer for the USAF at the press desk in the Pentagon. Is there any evidence that Lt. White ever refuted this claim? Was Lt. White confused or ill-informed about the "real cause" of the incident?
Donald Keyhoe also stated that Frank Edwards had interviewed two pilots of the Canadian Airliner which had supposedly been observed in restricted air space over the locks. They had reportedly stated unequivically that they had not violated this retricted airspace. Are there any records of this interview? Who were these pilots? We know that this does not refer to the pilots of the RCAF C-47 as they were only contacted by the USAF and asked if they had seen the lost F-89. They were certainly not interviewed by Frank Edwards. Curiously, the allegation that the F-89 alert was caused by an incursion of an aircraft over Soo Locks never seemed to make it into any newspaper archives. I can't imagine that these archives have been tampered and falsified. So it is rather odd that no newspaper ever reported anything about unidentified traffic over Soo Locks on the night of the alert.
The failure to locate the aircraft keeps the mystery alive but it does not provide convincing evidence that a flying saucer was involved.