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Heyl: Air Force files shed no light on truth about Kecksburg's UFO incident

| Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, 11:12 p.m.

The truth about the Kecksburg UFO incident is out there somewhere.

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, you won't find it among 130,000 declassified Air Force documents recently posted online.

They detail military investigations of UFO activity in American airspace from 1947 to 1969, including a 1965 sighting in Kecksburg so noteworthy it has its own Wikipedia page and a monument of sorts in the tiny Westmoreland County town.

It's a model of the spaceship that supposedly crashed there, built for a 1990 episode of the “Unsolved Mysteries” TV show that focused on the incident. Sitting near the Kecksburg Volunteer Fire Department, it's shaped like an enormous acorn and undoubtedly triggers paroxysms of excitement in UFO aficionados and passing squirrels.

In December 1965, observers in six states reported a large fireball in the sky, including Pennsylvania. Kecksburg residents reported that an object some believe to be the giant squirrel snack fell from the sky into nearby woods.

State police investigated, roped off the area and summoned the military, which immediately sparked suspicion. The military was at war in Vietnam in 1965, and flying folks in from there had to be expensive.

Along with a 1947 sighting in Roswell, N.M., and one in Exeter, N.H., in 1965, Kecksburg composes the holy trinity of America's signature UFO events. Yet locating it in the massive database of UFO records proved impossible until I contacted Stan Gordon of Greensburg.

Gordon, 65, perhaps is the region's foremost self-described researcher on UFOs and Bigfoot. He likely is its only retired electronics salesman peddling a Kecksburg documentary DVD on his personal website.

Gordon explained that the Kecksburg report was online but mislabeled as having occurred in Indiana. I asked him if he thought that was done intentionally to keep people from its shocking findings.

“No,” he said. “I just think someone made a mistake.”

Perhaps he was correct, because the 34-page document contained the same information officially offered for decades. Investigators found no evidence of a spacecraft or other cosmic debris in the woods and concluded people observed a meteor that night.

A meteor? C'mon. How common are they?

I called the Air Force public information office in Washington to ask if all Kecksburg files were made available for online posting. I also wanted to know if people there had checked behind the cabinets for any potentially revealing misplaced documents.

The Air Force issued a statement that didn't directly address those queries, but said, “No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security. … There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified' were extraterrestrial vehicles.”

Will we ever know what really happened in Kecksburg?

“Over the years I've been hopeful about that,” Gordon said. “But now I'm not sure it will happen in my lifetime.”

With a possible cover-up continuing, only the squirrels should be satisfied with the status quo.

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or

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