“Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”: The Rendlesham Forest Incident – PART I

“You Can't Tell the People” - Georgina Bruni

In December 1980, a series of unexplained strange lights were reported near Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk in England. The events occurred outside RAF Woodbridge.

At the time, RAF Woodbridge was used by the United States Air Force (USAF), alongside RAF Bentwaters on the other side of the Rendlesham forest, made up NATO’s largest base in Europe.

USAF personnel including Deputy Base Commander Colonel Charles I. Halt, claimed to see beams of orange, red and blue lights coming from nearby Rendlesham forest for three consecutive nights, from 26th to 28th of December.

There was also physical evidence of triangular markings embedded in the forest floor, and above background radioactivity on scorched trees and soil.

This was in a memorandum written by Deputy Base Commander Colonel Halt to the Ministry of Defense entitled “Unexplained Lights” – Known as the “Halt memo”, which was made public in the United States under the U.S Freedom of Information Act in 1983.

The night of December 26, around 3 A.M. (reported as December 27 in Halt memo) a security patrol near the east gate of RAF Woodbridge saw “unusual lights” descending into nearby Rendlesham forest, which was thought of as a downed aircraft.

Upon entering the forest to investigate, according to Halt, “The individuals reported seeing a strange glowing object in the forest. The object was described as being metallic in appearance, triangular in shape”

“It illuminated the entire forest with a white light.” Halt continued. “The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank(s) of blue light underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the object, it maneuvered through the tree and disappeared.”

One of the servicemen, Sergeant Jim Penniston, claimed to have encountered a “craft of unknown origin” in the forest accompanied by Airman First Class John Burroughs after being engulfed in a white bright light. He said that he walked around and touched a black triangular object that felt like glass. Sergeant Penniston also stated that he felt what he described as hieroglyphic-like characters or symbols engraved on the side of the craft. Although his statement was not publicized at the time, and there was no corroboration from other eyewitnesses.

Sergeant Jim Penniston UFO Sketch

After a daybreak on the morning of December 26, servicemen returned to the forest where the object had been sighted, and found three small impressions on the ground that form a triangular pattern, with burn marks and broken branches on nearby trees.

Photograph showing the triangular pattern depressions left by the UFO on the ground

In the early hours of December 28 (reported as December 29 in Halt memo), Deputy Base Commander Colonel Halt visited the site with other servicemen. They took radiation readings from the triangular depressions and in the surrounding areas using an AN/PDR-27 military radiation survey meter.

“The next day, three depressions 1 ½ inches deep and 7 inches in diameter were found where the object had been sighted on the ground. The following night (29 Dec 80) the area was checked for radiation. Beta/Gamma readings of 0.1 milliroentgens were recorded with peak readings in the three depressions and near the center of the triangle formed by the depressions. A nearby tree has moderate (.05 and .07) readings on the side of the tree towards the depressions.” Reads paragraph 2 of the Halt memo.

During this investigation, a flashing “red-sun like” light was seen across the field to the east. According to Halt memo: “Later in the night, a red-sun light was seen through the trees. It moved about and pulsated. At one point, it appeared to throw off glowing particles then broke into five separate white objects and then disappeared. Immediately thereafter, three star-like objects were noticed in the sky, two objects to the north and one to the south, all of which were about 10 degrees off the horizon. The objects moved rapidly in sharp angular movement and displayed red, green and blue lights. The objects to the north appeared to be elliptical through an 8-12 power lens. They then turned to full circles. The objects to the north remained in the sky for an hour or more. The object to the south was visible for two or three hours and beamed down a stream of light from time to time. Numerous individuals, including the undersigned, witnessed the activities in paragraphs 2 and 3.”

In 1984, a copy of a recorded tape known as the “Halt Tape” was publicly released by Colonel Sam Morgan after succeeding Ted Conrad as Halt’s superior. This tape features Halt’s investigation the night of December 28 including the radiation readings, the flashing lights between the trees, and the star-like objects that were mentioned in his memo.

The U.K Ministry of defense has stated that the event posed no threat to national security, and so it was never investigated as a security matter. Sceptics have supposedly debunked the sightings being just lights emitted from the nearby Orfordness Lighthouse, or bright stars, including also planet Mars as a possible explanation.

Rendlesham Forest UFO Trail

In 2005, the U.K Forestry Commission used lottery revenue to create its own official UFO trail in Rendlesham forest, based on what the USAF personnel had seen.

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