Dogfight with an alien: the strange story of George F Gorman’s UFO duel

Over the years, many pilots have reported close encounters with UFOs. But only one has ever been in a “dogfight” with an alien craft.

US fighter pilot George F. Gorman, a veteran of World War II, was on a practice flight over Fargo, North Dakota, in October 1948.

He had been flying in his P-51 Mustang in formation with a group of other National Guard airmen. When they turned towards Fargo’s Hector Airport for landing, Gorman decided to stay aloft to get a little more night flying practice.

Just before 9pm, Gorman checked in with Fargo’s control tower to get clearance for landing. He was told that there was only one aircraft nearby, a two-seat Piper Cub.

Gorman confirmed that he could see the civilian aircraft passing around 500 feet below him, but said he could see what appeared to be the lights of another place off to his right.

After being told that the unidentified aircraft was not showing up on radar, Gorman banked his fighter and closed to within 1,000 yards of the object.

“It was about six to eight inches in diameter, clear white and completely without fuzz at the edges,” he later reported. “It was blinking on and off. As I approached, however, the light suddenly became steady and pulled into a sharp left bank. I thought it was making a pass at the tower.”

Gorman's P-51 was capable of speeds up to 440mph, but he was unable to catch the intruder
Gorman’s P-51 was capable of speeds up to 440mph, but he was unable to catch the intruder
(Image: Liverpool Echo)


For almost half an hour the mystery object duelled with Gorman in the skies over Fargo at speeds of over 400mph, performing impossible manoeuvres that the 25-year-old fighter ace couldn’t match.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Gorman told reporters. “If anyone else had reported such a thing I would have thought they were crazy.”

Gorman told his commanding officer that he was convinced the object, whatever, it was, had been under intelligent control, with “definite thought behind its manoeuvres”.

Gorman drew a detailed diagram of the mysterious encounter
Gorman drew a detailed diagram of the mysterious encounter
(Image: The Project Blue Book Archive/The United States Air Force)

He added that, while it climbed at a rate his Mustang couldn’t match, it still behaved like an aircraft.

“The object was governed by the laws of inertia because its acceleration was rapid but not immediate,” he said. “Although it was able to turn fairly tight at considerable speed, it still followed a natural curve.

“When I attempted to turn with the object,” he reported, “I blacked out temporarily due to excessive speed.

“I am in fairly good physical condition and I do not believe that there are many if any pilots who could withstand the turn and speed effected by the object, and remain conscious.

“The object was not only able to out turn and out speed my aircraft … but was able to attain a far steeper climb and was able to maintain a constant rate of climb far in excess of my aircraft.”

Observers at Fargo's Hector Airport also saw the unexplained object that Gorman was chasing
Observers at Fargo’s Hector Airport also saw the unexplained object that Gorman was chasing

Whatever Gorman saw, it wasn’t an optical illusion, because it was also visible to Dr. A. E. Cannon, the pilot of the Piper Cub, and his passenger as well as the two air traffic controllers in Fargo Airport’s tower – Lloyd D. Jensen and H.E. Johnson.

Johnson reported that he could see all three objects – the UFO, the Piper Cub, and Gorman’s p-51 at the same time.

He said the object was who reported seeing the Piper Cub and the UFO at the same time, the object was “only a round light, perfectly formed, with no fuzzy edges or rays leaving its body.”

The incident was investigated by US Air Force officers who recorded that Gorman’s plane revealed signs of having been near a radioactive substance, although that finding was later explained as just a by-product of high-altitude flying.

A Geiger counter showed unexpectedly high levels of radiation along one side of Gorman's Mustang
A Geiger counter showed unexpectedly high levels of radiation along one side of Gorman’s Mustang
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The official explanation for the sighting was that Gorman had encountered a weather balloon, and Dr Travis S. Taylor, aerospace engineer and author of Introduction to Rocket Science and Engineering, notes that “We were doing Project Mogul at the time, which was high-altitude balloons…that we were trying to listen to see if the Soviets were doing above-ground nuclear testing,”

Project Mogul was also blamed for the notorious Roswell Incident a year before.

Officials from the US Air Weather Service said that they had released a lighted weather balloon shortly before 9pm that evening, and that it would have been in the vicinity of Fargo Airport at around the time of the sighting.

The 'balloon' repeatedly outpaced and out-turned Gorman's nimble fighter
The ‘balloon’ repeatedly outpaced and out-turned Gorman’s nimble fighter
(Image: Liverpool Echo)

UFO researcher Jerome Clark wrote that “unlike some Air Force would-be solutions this one seems plausible”.

But an experienced pilot like Gorman would surely have encountered balloon before.

Gorman never spoke publicly about the incident again, retiring from the US Air Force at the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1969 and dying in 1982.

However, he reportedly told friends that “he was never convinced that he had been duelling with a lighted balloon for 27 minutes.”



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