Six to 16 bright lights, appearing and disappearing in sequence, were seen by several independent witnesses. Some witnesses reported seeing the outline of an object to which the lights were apparently attached. Investigation showed that the lights were ALA-17 flares dropped from a B-52 aircraft as part of an USAF aircrew training program.
At least 17 witnesses in ten independent groups reported seeing six to 16 bright objects or as many lights associated with a single object, in the northeastern sky at about 9:30 p.m. EDT. Most of the reports indicated that the lights were visible for 10-15 sec., although a few claimed durations up to five minutes.
The first report was made by a group of six teenagers who said they saw a noiseless "flying saucer" with six yellow lights 200 ft. in the air over the concession stand on the beach. They reported the object to be about 20-35 ft. across with a "round thing on the top and bottom."
Publication of this report was followed by numerous reports of similar observations that had been made at the same time. These observations were from four different beaches, an airport, and a fishing boat off-shore. The reports varied in detail, but agreed that the sighting was sometime between 9:15-9:45 p.m.; several reports placed the time within five minutes of 9:30. They all agreed that the lights appeared in the northeast. Elevation angles that were indicated varied from 5-30o above the horizon. The lights were described as blinking on and off; some descriptions indicated that they appeared
in sequence from left to right and blinked off in reverse sequence, right to left. Most observers saw five or six yellow lights in a roughly horizontal line, each light being comparable in brightness with the planet Venus. One private pilot observing from the ground at an airport saw a horizontal string of six to eight pairs of lights, one yellow and one red light in each pair. The array moved toward the horizon and seemed to get larger for five to seven seconds, stopping four to five seconds, then beginning to retrace the approach path before blinking out about four seconds later. While most observers saw only lights, at least one witness, in addition to the teenagers at the original beach, reported seeing a large disc-like object encompassing the lights. Other of the witnesses "had the feeling the lights were attached to an object."
Six witnesses in this northeastern area were interviewed directly, most of them at the locations from which they saw the lights. Others were contacted by telephone. The multiplicity of consistent reports indicated that unusual lights in the sky had indeed been seen; it was not certain whether they were separate lights or were lights on a single object.
Reports of these UFO sightings, when they had been telephoned to the nearest Air Force Base by observers, had been disregarded there. No unusual unidentified radar images had been recorded at the nearest FAA Center.
The observations as described did not resemble airplane activity or meteorological or astronomical phenomena. No blimps or aircraft with lighted advertising signs were in the vicinity of the sighting at the time.
Since reports of UFO sightings had been frequent in this region, the investigating team spent several late hours observing the sky in hopes of getting first-hand information about the lights or objects that had been seen. No UFOs appeared during the watches.
One of the witnesses to the original sighting, a high-school senior, reported seeing "that object" again on a subsequent evening. He guided the investigating team around a golf-course, describing a large saucer with surrounding windows which he had seen there just a few yards above his head. This report was judged to be a fabrica- tion.
A few weeks after the project team returned to Colorado, the NICAP Subcommittee Chairman, Raymond E. Fowler, learned that 16 flares had been dropped at 9:25 EDT on the night in question from a B-52 aircraft 25-30 mi. NE of the beach area. Information about the flare drop was furnished, at Mr. Fowler's request, by the Wing Information Officer.
The Strategic Air Command had initiated an aircrew training program for dropping ALA-17 flares on the day before with aircrews releasing as many as 16 flares per drop. The flares are released over controlled areas at 20,000 ft. or more. They burn with a brilliant white light, and are easily visible at distances in excess of 30 mi.
In view of the close coincidence in time, location, direction and appearance between the flares dropped and the UFOs sighted on the same day, it seems highly likely that the witnesses saw the flares and not unusual flying objects. It also seems highly likely that the suggestion of an outline of an object as reported by a few witnesses was, in fact, a product of their expectation to see lights in the sky on something rather than floating about by themselves.