Today’s post is written by Joe Gillette, a processing archivist at Archives II.
During the Vietnam War, American army commands maintained daily journals documenting assorted events. Most entries were relatively mundane, documenting staff meetings, personnel travel, incoming or outgoing messages, and the like. Some were more administratively significant, such as changes in command, the awarding of medals, or the filing of reports. Naturally, many contain descriptions of combat against the enemy.
Then there are entries that more closely resemble an episode of the X-Files than a war movie.
One such entry appears in the January 6, 1969 daily journal of the 23rd Infantry Division’s Chu Lai Defense Command. The command’s mission was to coordinate ground defense of the Chu Lai Defense Sector on the Vietnamese coast about 40 miles southeast of Da Nang. Base defenses included a system of numbered observation towers ringing the base. Towers routinely reported anything unusual or potentially threatening to the base. At 0152 hours (1:52 am), the day’s journal records Tower 72 making such a report:
Twr 72 rpts object flying into their area about 700m infront [sic] of them, AZ 310°. Object came in slow over the ASP & landed. When object moves it has a glowing light. It is about 15 – 20 ft across. It is shaped like a big egg. Control twr rpts their radar did not pick anything up. Object also does not seem to have any sound to it when it moves.
The only logged follow-up action was notification of the Duty Officer. Subsequent journals provide no further information on the incident. Peculiarly (if one is conspiratorially-inclined), the journals for the next two days, January 7 & 8, are missing.
Possible conventional explanations for the sighting exist. Tracer rounds and flares both create illumination. But tracer rounds don’t float to the ground and certainly aren’t shaped like an “egg”, and flares might float to the ground, but aren’t egg shaped either. Additionally, drug use by soldiers, particularly by 1969, was a known problem in Vietnam. But two or more soldiers typically manned these towers. Assuming this was a drug-induced vision, it’s difficult to imagine they each experienced the same hallucination, although if they were observing something they could not readily identify, one might have convinced the others they were seeing a UFO. Boredom too could have resulted in a bout of creative storytelling, but if discovered, the soldiers risked disciplinary action. So while potential conventional explanations exist for both the sighting and the report, nothing in the journals tells us which of those might have been at work.
The truth may be out there, but it isn’t in these records.