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There aren’t many crash/retrieval stories that took place on a military base. The vast majority of UFO accounts come from civilians who happened to be around when an exceptional event occurred. The reported destruction of a craft in 1962, not far from Nellis Air Force Base south of Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of the few UFO cases that need further investigation.

The Las Vegas case, like many other accounts of UFO crashes, was largely disregarded by the UFO research community. Frank Edwards, who mentioned the Roswell case in his 1966 book “Flying Saucers-Serious Business,” shared more information about the crash near Las Vegas in his 1964 book Strange World.

Edwards claimed that a craft seen over Oneida, New York, was traveling west. Reports came in from Kansas and Colorado, and there were hints of something nearby outside of Eureka, Utah. Something bright enough to illuminate the streets of Reno, Nevada before turning toward Las Vegas. At a height of 10,000 feet, it blazed brightly before disappearing from the radar scopes of the Nellis Air Force Base.

On the evening of April 18, 1962, thousands of people witnessed this object as it traveled across the nation. It was quickly assumed as a bright meteor by the air force and debunkers because it was so dazzling that it could illuminate the darker terrain like the sun in the afternoon.

According to Edwards, only one newspaper reported on the exploding object. Without speaking to a single witness personally, Edwards used the account that was published in the Las Vegas Sun as the foundation for his article.

Brilliant red explosion flares were seen in the Las Vegas sky, according to a report in the Sun on April 19, 1962. A ground hunt was initiated for an odd unidentified flying object that put the air force on alert in multiple states, according to the opening paragraph by Las Vegas Sun reporter Jim Stalmaker.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Rolph of North American Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs, the first witnesses had reportedly seen a blazing red orb traveling west from Oneida, New York. It vanished in a matter of seconds while being quite high up and silent.

Operators watched the object as it sped through the Midwest after being detected by radar. Numerous bases were made aware, including Nellis in Las Vegas, by the Air Defense Command. According to reports, fighters were dispatched from Luke Air Force Base, which is close to Phoenix.

The glowing red object was reportedly seen by witnesses in Nephi, Utah, according to the Las Vegas Sun. There was a noise that resembled jet engines before it vanished.

Nevada UFO Crash 1962
The front page of the Las Vegas Sun was apparently the only reporting of the April 18 1962 UFO Incident that was witnessed by thousands over ten different states.

Edwards speculated that it might have come from the interceptors’ engines as they pursued the UFO. Then, according to the claims, the UFO crashed outside Eureka, Utah, cutting off power to a nearby power plant. A few minutes later, it departed, traveling to the west.

It was spotted over Reno, Nevada, made an apparent wide turn to the south, and then vanished from radar screens east of the strip, where most of the hotels in Las Vegas are currently situated.

An explosion in Clark County, Nevada, caused a huge number of phone calls to the sheriff’s office. Witnesses reported that up until the final explosion coming from Mesquite, Nevada, the object was moving almost horizontally northeast of Las Vegas.

The search and rescue team was led by Sheriff’s Deputy Walter Bun, who drove the team into the Spring Mountain area in jeeps to look for wreckage. In a November 1988 phone interview with retired Army lieutenant colonel Kevin D. Randle, Bun stated that they used aircraft to continue their search after dawn after searching all night.

Kevin D. Randle
Kevin D. Randle is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot and Aircraft Commander. In 2003, he deployed to Iraq as an intelligence officer. He served on active duty with the Army and later the Air Force. He was a member of the Iowa National Guard on his deployment into the Middle East. He retired from the National Guard in 2009. Image Credit: Coast to Coast AM

Except for some ashes that might have been the remains of a campfire set by a hunter weeks ago, they didn’t discover anything significant. Bun and the other deputies suspended their search after receiving no reports of a downed or missing aircraft.

Mr. Randle found a person named Frank Maggio, a photographer on staff at the Las Vegas Sun, who was also referenced in the article. However, Maggio was unable to offer anything new to the newspaper article. He described the UFO as a “tremendous flaming sword.” There was a series of bright explosions that broke up the trail across the sky. It vanished east of Las Vegas.

According to the Blue Book files, on April 18, there was a radar sighting at Nellis Air Force Base that was at first labeled as “Unidentified” but later changed to “Insufficient Data for a Scientific Analysis.” On the Project Record Card (ATIC FORM 329) the case was summarized as a:

“Radar sighting. Speed of object varied. (Important to note that] Initial observation at 060, no elevation. Disappearance at 105 [degrees] az [at] 10,000 feet altitude. Heading tentatively NE, however disappeared instantly to S. Observed by search and height radars. ‘No visual.”

The Project Record Card claimed: “Object came in over Cuba and apparently landed in rough terrain West of Eureka, Utah. Bright enough to trip photo electric cell which controlled city street lights.” They also note, “Multiple rpts. Attempted recovery by Col. Friend and Dr. Hynek.” They finish by noting the explanation is “Astro, probably meteor.”

According to Captain Herman Gordon Shields, who was interrogated at Hill Air Force Base by Douglas M. Crouch, the chief of the criminal investigation sections:

“I was flying a C-119 aircraft from the left seat [captain’s seat]. We were approximately two miles west of La Van, Utah flying at 8500 feet MSL. Our true airspeed was a little less than 170 knots. We were making a right turn from a heading of about 068 degrees to 165 degrees. We were approximately 25 degrees of bank on the aircraft and we had turned for about 30 degrees to a heading of about 098 or 100 degrees, somewhere in there, when it began to get very bright in the, cockpit.

The illumination was from above. It built up slowly. My first impression, while the intensity was low, was that it was the landing lights of another aircraft. Of course, when the intensity increased this was ruled out automatically. The cockpit was illuminated from above. In the C-119 aircraft, there is an instrument panel in the middle of the cockpit up above the ceiling of the cockpit.

The light source was coming from this area that was blanked out, in other words, straight behind this instrument panel because neither Lieutenant Larson, who was in the fight seat nor I saw the source of the illumination. We continued the turn. The light intensity increased until we could see objects [on the ground] as bright as day for a radius of five to ten miles from the aircraft.

This would probably be a diameter of twenty miles or so. Objects on the ground, on the hills around us, were clearly distinguishable. Colors were distinguishable. It was as bright as daylight. The intensity of the light diminished faster than it had increased. After the light had decreased in intensity we were still looking for the light source, and I noticed an object to my left between the wing and the lower part of the fuselage of the aircraft against the hills. By this time the light had decreased so that the hills were dark.

It was night again. And this object which I saw was illuminated. It had a long slender appearance comparable to a cigarette in size, that is, the diameter with respect to the length of the object. The fore part, or the lower part of the object was very bright, intense white such as a magnesium fire. The second half, the aft section, was a clearly distinguishable yellowish color. I would say the object was just about divided in half, the fore part being intensely white, the aft section having a more yellow color to it.”


Later in the same report, Captain Shields said, “I saw only a slender object. I don’t know what the shape was. It was only a slender object … There was no exhaust, no trail following after it. It was clearly defined. I saw it for a period of maybe one to two seconds.”

Also available in the Eureka file was an unclassified intelligence report that ran to seven single-spaced pages on legal- sized sheets. Many of the witnesses reported only a ball of fire passing overhead. They reported a series of explosions after the object was gone (sonic booms?) and a trail of gray smoke.


A ma in Silver City, Utah, whose name was omitted by air force personnel in 1976, stated that the object was a glimmering soccer-ball-sized ball of light. It was described by him as being white with a yellowish tint and having a brilliant, jagged flame emerging from the back (confirming the description of Captain Shields). The unnamed witness asserted:

As the object passed over Robinson [Utah), it slowed down in [the] air, and after, [a] gasping sound was heard, the object spurted ahead again. After this procedure was repeated three or four times, the object arched over and began descending to earth after which the object turned bluish color and then burned out or went dark. After the object began to slow down it began to wobble or “flshtail” in its path.

At the end of the report, Crouch wrote:

“The preparing officer is Chief Criminal Investigator, OS-9, Security and Law Enforcement Division, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Preliminary analysis indicates that each of the observers interviewed were logical, mature persons, and that each person was convinced that he had observed some tangible object, not identifiable as a balloon or conventional type aircraft. The theory that the object was a manned aircraft was abandoned due to the described shape and color and flaming tail of the object, plus the fact there are no reports of missing aircraft in this area. No unusual meteorological or astronomical conditions were present which would furnish an explanation for the sighting. No missile test firings are conducted in the immediate area other than static tests. The hypotheses that the object was a falling meteor is questioned due to the statements of three observers describing the flat trajectory, plus the description of sounds emanating from the object. Due to the inaccessibility of the valley, ten miles wide by 15 miles long in which the object apparently came to earth, no further search for the object is contemplated. With the completion of this initial report, no explanation has been developed for the brilliant illumination of the area, the object itself, or the explosion in the wake of the object.”

Douglas M. Crouch and Major Charles W. Brion, chief, Sec. and Law Enforcement Division, both at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. both signed the final report.

A subsequent Air Force examination into the incident revealed that the object had actually fallen close to Eureka, Utah. There have been reports of an orange blazing object there, bright enough to turn off the photoelectric cells.

After this strange series of events, the Air Force would do its best to brush it all off. They claimed it was anything from a meteorite to a U2 spy plane or weather balloons. Allen Hynek of Project Blue Book, along with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Friend, who, after a rudimentary, cursory investigation, quickly concluded that the object was a fireball or a very bright exploding meteorite.

It wasn’t until Mr. Randle took a closer look at it, when the Air Force declassified their Blue Book files in the 1990s, that it became clear just how bizarre the whole incident really was. Randle carefully reviewed these files and searched for witnesses, shedding light on the once-forgotten case and eventually coming to the conclusion that what he saw could not be explained by meteorites, planes or weather balloons.

This was a UFO event witnessed by thousands of people in ten states, many of whom were classified as traditionally reliable witnesses such as law enforcement officers, radar operators, pilots and military personnel, all of whom were confident that what they seen was not a meteorite, balloon or known aircraft, and it was tracked by several radar installations. The object changed course and altitude, slowed down and accelerated, even landed at one point, and also appeared on the radar for 32 minutes, so most likely it was not a meteor.

There were never any reports of aircraft of any kind shot down or missing, no U2 aircraft or weather balloons that should have been in the area at the time, Various descriptions of the object’s appearance also don’t fit with any of these explanations, and no known aircraft would fly so erratically.

“Something extremely extraordinary happened on the night of April 18, 1962. The air force offered a series of explanations ignoring the facts. But the witnesses who were there know the truth. They saw something from outer space, and it was not a meteor. It was a craft from another world,” wrote Mr. Randle.

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