Why mysterious green fireballs worried the U.S. government in 1948

(ABOVE – – A painting by Mrs. Lincoln LaPaz of a baffling green fireball seen numerous times over the Sandia mountains east of Albuquerque in late 1952.  Mrs. LaPaz’s husband, head of the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics, investigated the sightings but couldn’t find an explanation.  The painting was published in TIME Magazine in November 1951 and in LIFE magazine a few months later, an illustration of the nation’s Cold War obsession with UFOs.  

The reason I posted this item is simply because it was my late father who claimed to me that he had witnessed a “greenish ball of fire” slowly maneuvering over the bay of Yokohama, Japan, while he was night fishing late one summer night of 1947.  He used to tell of his sighting at the dinner table to my mother and sister when I was growing up in Japan.  That’s how later on I became seriously interested in this subject  (since around 1961)  when I was a high school student – – Norio Hayakawa.)


by Darryn King, HISTORY – – August 17, 2018



On February 29, 1949, the Los Alamos, New Mexico Skyliner newspaper ran a piece on what it referred to, in typical newspaper parlance, as “flying saucers”—and a possible conspiracy around them:

“Los Alamos now has flying green lights.  These will ‘o wisps seen generally about 2 a.m., have alerted the local constabulary and their presence is being talked about in Santa Fe bars.  But local wheels deny any official knowledge of the sky phenomena.  Each one passes the buck to another.”

The story ended with, “Have you seen a green light lately?”

In fact, a great many had, and would continue to do so – – enough to prompt TIME magazine, in November 1951, to publish a piece on the phenomenon called “Great Balls of Fire.”  What makes the multiple sightings of “flying green lights” in New Mexico in 1948 and onward such a significant chapter in UFO history is exactly that – – there were multiple sightings.

That was unnerving enough.  But most alarming – – particularly to the United States government – – was that the sightings were concentrated around the Los Alamos and Sandia atomic-weapons laboratories.  And other highly sensitive military installations, including radar stations and fighter-interceptor bases, weren’t far away.  That meant the sightings were reported by typically cool-headed pilots, weather observers, scientists, intelligence officers and other defense personnel, and led many to suspect the fireballs were Soviet spy devices.

Like a meteor—but not

On the night of December 5, 1948, two separate plane crews reported having seen a “green ball of fire,” heading west to east.  In one of these instances, the fireball raced head-on toward the plane itself, compelling the rattled pilot to swerve the plane out of the way.

One pilot, sometime later, would vividly describe the green fireballs: “Take a soft ball and paint it with some kind of fluorescent paint that will glow a bright green in the dark … Then have someone take the ball out about 100 feet in front of you and about 10 feet above you.  Have him throw the ball right at your face, as hard as he can throw it. That’s what a green fireball looks like.”

When a crew of intelligence officers, led by Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, head of the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics, plotted the fireball’s flight path and scoured the area a meteorite would have hit, they found nothing – – no meteor fragments, no debris, no craters, no evidence of fire.

The inexplicable sightings continued in the area, with sightings on December 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 20th and 28th.  December 20th proved a turning point, literally, and a particularly alarming one for those clinging to the theory that these were meteors: The balls of fire descended from the heavens at a 45-degree angle, then abruptly leveled off into a gravity-defying horizontal flight path.  And, as LaPaz would note in a letter to the district commanding officer of the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations, “none of the green fireballs has a train of sparks of a dust cloud…”

In the years since, there have been reports of green-fireball sightings around the world, from Alberta, Canada to South Africa.  In June 2018, a green fireball made an impressive appearance at a concert performance in the Netherlands by the Foo Fighters (coincidentally, the band named for the U.S. pilots’ term for UFOs during World War II).  And according to the International Meteor Organization there were more than 170 reported sightings of the fireballs that night, in at least five European countries.  The band’s reaction, according to their official Twitter account: “The sky IS a neighborhood.”

An alternate form of lightning?

The phenomenon came to the attention of the Australian physicist Dr. Stephen Hughes in 2006, when several green fireballs were spotted in the sky in Queensland and New Zealand.  “I came to the conclusion that there was something a bit strange going on,” he says.

Hughes went on to write a paper that theorized a possible connection between green fireballs and the well-documented, but still ultimately little – understood, phenomenon of ball lightning – – mysterious hovering orbs of electricity that have only been taken seriously by science since the 1960s, well after the New Mexico sightings.

There is still no conclusive theory of what ball lightning is, but hypotheses include antimatter, light bubbles, microwave interference, retinal after-images, electromagnetic knots, even primordial black holes.

Dr. Hughes’ own theory of ball lightning, which he believes fits the description of the New Mexico fireballs: electrified air.  “It occurred to me, sometimes when something shoots through the atmosphere, like a meteor, it could be creating a conductive pathway from the ionosphere – – a whole ocean of plasma above the Earth – – down to the ground. The air becomes electrified.”

The phosphorescent green color, Dr. Hughes says, is due to ionized oxygen, which also accounts for the striking greens of the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern lights.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory:

ABOVE – – The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where nuclear weapons were being designed for the Manhattan Project during WWII.  Numerous green fireball sightings were reported in the vicinity of this and several other highly sensitive military and weapons-development sites. (Credit: Jeffrey Markowitz/Getty Images)

Cold War spy craft…or extraterrestrial probes?

This potential explanation could not have occurred to those on the ground in New Mexico in 1948.  After interviewing more than a hundred witnesses, Dr. LaPaz went on to advise the military and the Atomic Energy Commission of his opinion that the fireballs were likely either top-secret “unconventional defensive devices” being tested by the U.S. – – or Soviet spying devices.

When Edward J. Ruppelt, director of the U.S. Air Force Project Blue Book UFO investigations, visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory in early 1952 to interview scientists and technicians, he noted that they became particularly animated when the idea of interplanetary vehicles was suggested.

“They had been doing a lot of thinking about this, they said, and they had a theory,” wrote Ruppelt in The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (1953).  They thought the fireballs were actually extraterrestrial probes “projected into our atmosphere from a ‘spaceship’ hovering several hundred miles above the Earth.”

Officially, government investigators concluded that the green fireballs were some kind of never-before-seen natural phenomenon.  Interest in, and investigation into, the fireballs dropped off at the outbreak of the Korean War.

“Writing these off as natural phenomena did not solve the problem,” says UFO researcher Jan Aldrich, who believes the green fireballs were related to aerial phenomena spotted in Fort Hood, Texas, in 1949.   “It just pushed it under the table.”

Nuclear fallout debris?

But that hasn’t stopped UFO researchers from speculating more recently.

In his 2008 book UFO and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites, Robert Hastings, drawing on declassified official documents, suggests that the fireball trajectories align with those of fallout-debris clouds associated with top-secret atomic testing.

But according to Dr. Hughes, there’s another reason to suspect those green fireballs were buoyant balls of plasma: All those unpredictable movements, which suggest their paths may have been following electric field lines above the Earth.

“Personally, I think that the erratic change in direction is reasonably conclusive proof that the phenomenon is electrical in nature,” says Dr. Hughes, citing the more familiar sharp angles of a lightning bolt streaking through the sky.

“If the ball lightning phenomenon was a solid mass, there would be enormous inertia, making it very difficult to explain the source of energy for such extreme acceleration.  In the case of a plasma ball, an internal energy source is not required – – in the same way that a bolt of lightning does not need some kind of electrical rocket motor to rapidly change direction on the way to the ground or between clouds.”

Still, at this stage, it’s hard to shake the sense that equating the green fireballs with ball lightning is tantamount to explaining a mystery with another mystery.

“I’m a believer in the sense I believe that UFOs exist,” says Dr. Hughes, who finds the name apt: “They are unidentified flying objects.  I just don’t think there are little green men at the controls.”




E-mail = noriohayakawa@gmail.com

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PALE HORSE RIDER – – William Cooper, the Rise of Conspiracy and the Fall of Trust in America…..a riveting new book written by Mark Jacobson

From the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, August 19, 2018:

A notorious conspiracy theorist searches for the hidden plan behind world events and his own existence in this revealing, claustrophobic biography.

Journalist Jacobson  (THE LAMPSHADE) explores the bumpy life of William Cooper, an influential conspiracist – he popularized the term “sheeple” – whose radio show THE HOUR OF THE TIME and bestselling book BEHOLD A PALE HORSE found fans as diverse as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and rappers the Wu-Tang Clan.

Jacobson follows Cooper’s convoluted theories about such subjects as UFOs and the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks; his great project was the unmasking of a “Luciferian” conspiracy, involving powerful groups from the Illuminati to the Clinton administration, that he believed was creating systemic shocks such as price hikes and staged terrorist attacks to impose an invisible but totalitarian mind-control regime.

In counterpoint to Cooper’s grand theory of everything is Jacobson’s picaresque account of Cooper’s chaotic personal life, full of abusive behavior, familial estrangement, and professional feuding, with a violent ending – – he was killed in a shoot-out with sheriff’s deputies at his Arizona home in 2001 – – brought on largely by his own paranoia.

Jacobson’s narrative is poker-faced about Cooper’s unorthodox beliefs but sympathetic towards the yearnings behind them and infused with colorful reportage on conspiracists.

The result is an enthralling portrait of a dark but potent strain in American culture.

This book will be available at bookstores nationwide on September 4, 2018.



By the way, it is of utmost importance to note that towards the end of his turbulent “career”,  Cooper distanced himself from the world of “UFOlogy“.   Click and read the following article:

“There are no aliens and no alien abductions”, said William ‘Bill’ Cooper, author of BEHOLD A PALE HORSE



E-mail = noriohayakawa@gmail.com

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A stronger, re-armed Japan is a must for Asia’s stability

by Norio Hayakawa

August 3, 2018

For too long, Japan has endured continual harassment from North Korea and even from Red China which keeps harping endlessly on Japan’s past atrocities in World War II.

Sure, what Japan had done during World War II to the people of the Korean peninsula, China and other nations of Southeast Asia was utterly horrible(What Japan had done to the U.S., the Philippines, Australia, etc. etc. was utterly horrible as well, i.e., Pearl Harbor, the Bataan March, etc., etc.) 

What Japan had done even way before World War II was illegal, i.e., the annexation of Taiwan in 1895 as well as the annexation of the Korean peninsula in 1910.

Those atrocious acts as well as illegal acts will never ever be forgotten by those who had suffered from the Japanese military.   And rightly so, even though Japan has many times profusely apologized and compensated sufficiently with economic grants and assistance for all its past atrocities it committed especially during World War II.

But it is very important to face reality now.  We now live in a different era.   We live in the present, and not in the past.

A few years ago,  North Korea test-flew its missile brazenly over Japan’s airspace.

North Korea also had snuck past Japan’s maritime boundary line and abducted its citizens.

North Korea still refuses to publicly admit its criminal conduct and to properly disclose the whereabouts of the abductees.

It’s about time that Japan re-arm itself and join the ranks of adult nations that have proper and sufficient defense capabilities.

It’s about time that Japan scrap its outdated Constitution which was imposed upon immediately after World War II and begin to arm itself sufficiently and assume more responsibility in this new century, lessening the burden for the U.S.

For too long, Japan has been seen simply as an economic monster whose sole interest was in becoming a dominant economic power.

With the creation of a respectable military, the defense industry of Japan will create more job opportunities for the people.

It will be beneficial for the youths of Japan who seem to live today with hardly any sense of national pride or identity.

Times are changing.  We cannot eternally go on living with a World War II mindset.

I fully support the creation of a full-fledged Japanese Army, Navy and Air Force that could defend on its own from such as North Korea.

The days of restrained Self-Defense Forces of Japan must come to an end.

I believe in a stronger Japan that will take more responsiblity than just concentrating on economic interests.

Japan should no longer kowtow to the harassment from North Korea or Red China.

Japan should re-arm itself fully so that it could, on its own, completely defend itself from any threats.

This is the only way to gain back respect.

This does not mean that Japan will revert itself back to the World War II mentality to dominate Asia.  It will never ever happen.   Japan learned its lessons fully.

But first,  Japan needs a strong leader who will be brave enough to disassociate himself with the controversial Yasukuni Shrine which became a burial site for past Japanese war criminals and which has virtually become a hated symbol of Japanese military atrocities, rightfully despised by many in Asia.

It is my sincere hope that such a brave leader will appear in Japan in the near future.

In the meantime, a strong U.S. – Japan bilateral relationship must continue.

Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and other Southeast Asian nations, together with the U.S., should work together politically and militarily to strengthen the defense of Asia from any rogue nations or any global terrorist groups and help consolidate the stability, peace and guarantee of democracy in Asia.



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