Sunday, April 29, 2018

James E McDonald's interest in Project Blue Book cases - Warren, Michigan


This blog post continues my look at sightings from the USAF Project Blue Book files which interested the late Professor James E McDonald

The sighting:

At about 7.05 to 7.10 pm CDT (UTC-5 hours), on 18 August 1958, Alex Donald Chisholm, a business machine mechanic, aged 30, of Warren, Michigan (42:27N; 83:03W) was in his back yard when he observed a flight of four aircraft, which then drew his attention to an extremely bright "star," motionless in the sky at 70-75 degrees elevation, azimuth 300 degrees. The "star" was brighter than the Moon. He drew Walter Moilanion's (his neighbour) attention to it.

Chisholm then viewed the light through 8x30 field glasses, and then  again with the naked eye (through spectacles.) After 7-8 minutes, the object which had remained motionless until then, moved slightly. At this point, Chisholm (viewing through the field glasses) and Moilanion (with naked eye) pictured it as a circular object, light gray in colour, and shaped like the planet Saturn (as it was circular surrounded by a ring.) Chisholm estimated that the object was between 75-600 miles above the earth, and about 60 feet in diameter. After 30 seconds after first moving, it "vanished as if in a fast vaporised movement." There was no associated sound at any stage.


a. 18 August 1958 - a five page letter from the witness to NICAP.

Page 1 of the letter

b. 19 August 1958 - a three page report from 661st ACWRON Selfridge AFB.
c. 20 August 1958 - a three page report from 1st FTR WG Selfridge AFB.

Page from one of the Selfridge AFB reports

d. 25 August 1958 - a two page NICAP report form completed by the witness.

Page one of the NICAP report form

e. Undated - a two page letter from witness to NICAP which NICAP received on 27 August 1958.
f. It should be noted that the other male witness did not submit an independent report form.

Astronomical sky:

a. The Sun was three degrees above the horizon at azimuth 285 degrees. Thus the object was 15 degrees azimuth to the right of the setting Sun (sunset was at about 7.30pm) but 70 degrees higher up in the sky, The witness stated that the Sun was slightly above the horizon.

b. The Moon was at 21 degrees elevation; azimuth 235 degrees, i.e. 65 degrees to the left of the object, and 20 % illuminated. It was 4.3 days old. The witness however, stated that the Moon, although at last quarter was not visible in  the sky. This is incorrect.


c. The witness stated that the sky was clear, no clouds were visible. The 19 August teletype from Selfridge AFB stated the sky was cloudless, and that the wind was blowing from 330 degrees, to 35 knots. Weather Underground shows that at nearby Detroit, Michigan, the surface wind was from the NNW (roughly 330 degrees.)

Other details:

d. Most of my summary above is taken from the 18 August 1958 typed letter from the witness to NICAP.

e. Most interesting is the description of the way in which the object was lost to view:

1.  Documentation b says "object faded very rapidly without noticeable diminishment in size, vaporized."

2. Documentation a says "it vanished as if in a fast vaporised moment."

f. The object was not constantly viewed through optical aid for the entire observation.

Cause of the sighting?

The Project Blue Book documentation assigns an incorrect date of 17 August 1958 to the sighting. However, their  final evaluation was that the sighting was "unidentified."

Recent discussion on the NICAP googlegroups forum, centred around the suggestion that the object was perhaps a stratospheric balloon, launched from Anota, Minnesota on 17 August 1958.


Thank you to Barry Greenwood from Boston in the USA, for supplying the NICAP letters/report form.

The full documentation may be read on the NICAP website. 

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