Guest Commentary

The UFO Attack of Oct. 19, 1959:  Echoes of the Shot UNheard 'round theWorld

Source: Larry W. Bryant

Let not the title of this piece mislead you.

The "attack" in question came not from a raygun-wielding tentacle of some grotesque alien-spacecraft crewmember bent on destroying his/her first contact upon Planet Earth during that fateful twilight hour of Oct. 19, 1959, in a town called Poquoson, near Langley Air Force Base, Va.

No, it came from the trembling hands of a 12-gauge-shotgun-toting 15-year-old named Mark George Muza, Jr.  He and his 14-year-old hunting companion, Harold Moore, Jr., had ventured out that afternoon into an old USAF restricted bombing range near their homes off Ridge Road. 

Somewhere about a mile into the Big Marsh, Muza heard a whirring sound, "like a flock of wild birds," coming from above.  Separated from Muza by about 100 yards, the other boy watched in amazement as a roughly 4-foot-diameter flying saucer slowly descended from about 100 feet to some 50 feet above Muza's head.  At that point, the terrified youngster aimed his gun at the craft and, over the course of about 90 seconds, pumped three shots into it.  All three blasts -- especially the third, heavy-duty "slug" -- produced a ricochet that, to Muza, sounded as if metal were scraping metal.

Apparently unaccustomed to such a hostile greeting, the saucer finally ceased its wobbly descent and proceeded to spin as a toy top, zooming straight up, out of sight.

That would've been "end of story" had not Muza's mother called the local newspaper (the Newport News Daily Press).

Complete with a photo of Muza holding his sketch of the craft, the article published on Oct. 21st gave me the opportunity to visit the site, to interview the two witnesses (and Muza's mother), and to publish my own report on the incident.  That report -- titled "From Poquoson to Washington" -- lamented the fact that no-one at Langley had chosen to investigate the case.  The mimeographed report summarized a series of correspondence between me, officials at Langley, certain Pentagon-based USAF officials, a fellow researcher from Norfolk, and his congressman (Porter Hardy, Jr.).  You might say that, besides providing me a favored best-evidence case for UFO reality, this confrontation with a recalcitrant officialdom helped propel me upon a 42-year-long career as an activist for greater freedom of UFO information.

In retrospect, the Poquoson case has confirmed what I and most privately funded researchers had suspected for years:  the Air Force's Project Blue Book of the 1952--1969 era operated as a thinly disguised public-relations effort to downplay UFO-sighting reports, and in the process to denigrate both UFO witnesses and UFO researchers whenever the opportunity arose.

Exactly where have I found that confirmation?

It surfaced in my recent visit to the U. S. National Archives annex in College Park, Md.  There, amongst the several dozen rolls of microfilmed Blue Book records, lies the entire USAF case file on the Poquoson encounter (including a copy of my entire 9-page report of Nov. 1, 1960).  Here you'll find some of the correspondence mentioned above -- as well as some revelatory official commentary whose originators had assumed would never see the light of archival exposure.

Some excerpts:

(1)  From an OFFICIAL USE ONLY memo sent to HQ USAF spokesman Maj. L. J. Tacker:  "1. ... c.  On 12 November 1959 a confidential source provided this Directorate with a copy of an incomplete document entitled "From Within the Blackout:  An Analysis of Secrecy on the Local UFO Scene," by Larry W. Bryant, director of the Air Research Group.  2.  Attached for your information is one copy of the above-cited document and one copy of letter from Bryant dated 1 November 1959.  The attachments are for your retention.  3.  No investigation is being conducted of subject by this Directorate."  [Signed by F. L. Welch, Assistant Chief, Counterintelligence Div., Directorate of Special Investigations, the Inspector General.]

(2) From a HQ USAF letter of May 20, 1960, to a staff member of the House Committee on Science:  "At your oral request, this office has further investigated the Poquoson ... incident and the correspondence relative thereto which has passed between this office and Congressman Hardy. ... you will note, as indicated in the newspaper article attached hereto, that Mr. Bryant is a self-appointed authority on unidentified flying objects and he, along with many others, considers himself entitled to be an unofficial advisor to the USAF Intelligence community. ... Please note further that the UFO detection device featured in the newspaper picture of Mr. Bryant appears to be nothing more than a common doorbell connected to two dry cell batteries.  Mr. Bryant is evidently of the opinion that such a device is cabable of supplying scientific proof that UFOs are flying objects from outer space.  Yet the Air Force has been unable to secure such evidence utilizing its entire worldwide air defense radar network and the facilities of the rest of the scientific community dedicated to satellite tracking."

(3)  From a June 9, 1960, Memorandum for Record (Subject:  UFO Sighting), written by Blue Book chief Maj. Robert Friend:  "...3. Mr. Larry W. Bryant, who reported the sighting to Langley AFB, was investigated by OSI.  Mr. Bryant was at one time employed in the Provost Marshal's Office at Ft Monroe, Va., but due to his attitude and evidence that he was a poor security risk, had been transferred to a less sensitive job at Ft Eustice [sic], Va."  [LWB comment:  Besides his misspelling of Fort Eustis, Friend has his facts wrong.  My entry-level job at Monroe in May 1958 was with the Adjutant General's section of the U. S. Continental Army Command.  It was through the good graces of the secretary to the commandant of the U. S. Army Transportation School that I'd learned of the promotional potential with a clerical vacancy there. I applied for the job, got selected, and progressed into various other positions requiring appropriate security-clearance updates.  If by "evidence" Friend is referring to my monograph "From Within the Blackout," then you can see how such a bunker mentality helped spawn the intelligence-agency abuses of the sixties and early seventies.]

So much for the human drive to kill the messenger of (UFOlogical) bad news.  Throughout my civil service career, I came to expect more of the same from those in authority who felt (and probably still feel) that I had no right to point a finger at the Naked Emperor of official UFO secrecy.  (But to present all that history would take at least a book or two.)

Killing the messenger ranks high enough on the scale of bureaucratic evil.  But consider that the Blue Book gang also had no compunction about killing the NEWS as well.  They pulled off this feat of legerdemain simply by discrediting, as much as possible, a given witness; and the more extraordinary the story, the easier became the act
of dismissing it.

In Muza and Moore's case, because of the congressional pressure, the Langley-based "UFO investigation officer" (a Maj. Paul Roberts) arranged to have them interrogated at separate times in May 1960.  According to the (unnamed) interrogator's summary sheets, the boys' accounts coincided too much.  What's more, he concludes:  "The publicity brought about by the newspaper article made it necessary for them to prepare a pat story and then stick to it to preserve face."  (A tall order for two teens from the tall marsh grass of Indian country!)  What would the investigator have concluded had the two accounts contained too many variations?  From this lose-lose situation, we now have this official dismissal of the story, as entered upon the BB "Project 10073 Record Card":  "Investigators believe sighting to be a hoax."

With the passage of time, Muza and Moore have had more than one opportunity to recant.  Back in 1983, for example, when reporter Larry Bonko of the Norfolk, Va., Ledger-Star contacted Muza (then a police detective for Newport News), Muza mused that he remembers the event as if it happened yesterday.  "I have no idea what I saw," he told Bonko. Had he hoaxed the whole thing in a moment of youthful indiscretion, he just as easily could've admitted that failing and moved on to non-history.

And neither has he told any family member otherwise.  Several months ago, I tried to locate Muza for a follow-up interview.  The only Muza listed in the Peninsula phone book turned out to be his nephew, who confirmed that Mark had stood by his story all these decades.

Unfortunately, as I learned from the nephew, Mark had died a few years ago -- a victim of cancer, then in his mid-fifties.

If anyone knows the whereabouts of Harold Moore, Jr., please let me know -- so that the resurgent echo of their story can be heard 'round the world



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