The UFO Attack of Oct. 19, 1959: Echoes of the Shot UNheard 'round
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
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
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
Washington" -- lamented the fact that no-one at Langley had chosen
investigate the case. The mimeographed report summarized a series
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
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
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.
(1) From an OFFICIAL USE ONLY memo sent to HQ USAF spokesman Maj.
Tacker: "1. ... c. On 12 November 1959 a confidential
this Directorate with a copy of an incomplete document entitled "From
Within the Blackout: An Analysis of Secrecy on the Local UFO Scene,"
Larry W. Bryant, director of the Air Research Group. 2. Attached
your information is one copy of the above-cited document and one copy
letter from Bryant dated 1 November 1959. The attachments are for
retention. 3. No investigation is being conducted of subject
Directorate." [Signed by F. L. Welch, Assistant Chief,
Counterintelligence Div., Directorate of Special Investigations, the
(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
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
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.
Larry W. Bryant, who reported the sighting to Langley AFB, was
investigated by OSI. Mr. Bryant was at one time employed in the
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:
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
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
Within the Blackout," then you can see how such a bunker mentality
helped spawn the intelligence-agency abuses of the sixties and early
So much for the human drive to kill the messenger of (UFOlogical) bad
news. Throughout my civil service career, I came to expect more
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
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)
to have them interrogated at separate times in May 1960. According
the (unnamed) interrogator's summary sheets, the boys' accounts
coincided too much. What's more, he concludes: "The publicity
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
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
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
And neither has he told any family member otherwise. Several months
ago, I tried to locate Muza for a follow-up interview. The only
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