The creation of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was predicted by John Hendrix (1865-1917) forty years before the founding of the city. In 1942, Major General Leslie Groves chose the rural site as the location for developing materials for the Manhattan Project. Late in 1942, two K-25, S-50, and Y-12 plants were built in Oak Ridge to separate uranium 235 from natural uranium. A permanent town was built at the end of the valley to accommodate the large number of workers who would be participating in the project. Before the end of the war, the population of Oak Ridge had swelled to 70,000 people. Oak Ridge was shifted to civilian control in 1947. However, for a few days in October 1950, it seemed that UFOs were taking over the new town.
The first encounter took place on October 13, Atomic Energy Security Patrol Trooper Edward D. Rymer and John Moneymaker, a caretaker from the University of Tennessee Research Farm observed some sort of aircraft making an outside loop about 12,000 to 15,000 feet above Solway Gate in the “Control Zone.” The pear-shaped object, which left behind a distinct vapor trail, went into a dive and then slowly flew parallel to the ground. When Trooper Rymer walked toward the object, it suddenly shrank in size and began moving southeaster. In a complex series of maneuvers, the object managed to clear a nine-foot chain link fence, a Willow tree, and telephone lines before soaring over a hill a mile away. Joe Zarzecki, Captain of the Atomic Energy Commission Security Patrol, also saw the unidentified flying object, and his description matches that of Rymer and Moneymaker.
On October 20 at 3:27 p.m. Pilot Wolf with the 5th AW-Fighter Squad was sent on a mission to investigation a radar sighting of several “targets.” Wolf radioed back that the objects were between and twenty-five miles away from the Knoxville Airport. He was unable to identify any of the objects.
Another eye-witness account of a UFO occurred on October 20 at 4:55 p.m., Larry P. Riordan, the Superintendent of Security in the “Control Zone,” was driving on the to the Oak Ridge agricultural farm when he saw a balloon-like object directly above the University of Tennessee Agricultural Research Farm. Something seemed to be hanging below the bottom of the object. The “balloon,” which was gun-metal gray in color and between eight and ten feet long, hovered about a quarter mile away from Riordan. He said that as he drove around a curve, the object seemed to grown “thinner.” Riordan saw his UFO at exactly the same time that Pilot Wolf saw his.
On October 23, an unidentified man was driving on the Benton Valley when he saw an object flying between 1,000 and 2,000 feet over the Scarboro School, which is within the Control Zone. He described the object as an “aluminum flash,” which was moving southeast at first. After it crossed the road, it entered a rapid descent and noiselessly disappeared over the ridge. At the same time, a Geiger counter in the area registered a reading for Alpha and Beta particles.
On October 24 at 6:45 p.m., William B. Fry, Assistant Chief of Security, was watching a movie at a drive-in theater with his family when he noticed a flying object moving back and forth horizontally within thirty degrees of his line of sight. The color of the glowing object changed from red to green, to blue-green, to blue, and to orange. The object was also seen by Fry’s wife and by the projectionist. Ten minutes later, Air Force Major Lawrence Ballweg observed the same flying object from his house. He continued watching it until it disappeared at 7:20 p.m.
The four-day sightings in Oak Ridge are still a mystery. The declassified FBI reports from which this information was taken took care to point out that most of the witnesses were level-headed individuals who worked either as military or as security personnel. The Security Division of Oak Ridge, the Air Force Radar and Fighter squadrons, and the FBI rejected insect swarms, flights of birds, flying kites, objects thrown from the ground, mass hysteria, balloons of any description, and practical jokers as possible explanations. The more imaginative residents of Oak Ridge wonder if alien visitors were attracted to the “Atomic City” by the role it played in the Manhattan Project only a few years before.