An aerial dogfight between a pilot of the North Dakota Air National Guard and a UFO took place in the skies over Fargo on Oct. 1, 1948.
The Air Guard pilot, George Gorman, was a seasoned flier. Not knowing the intention of the pilot of the object, Gorman, in his P-51 Mustang, decided to engage the object. The 27-minute dogfight between the P-51 and the UFO was witnessed by two air traffic controllers in a tower at Hector Airport in Fargo and the pilot of a Piper Cub who witnessed it.
Gorman was born July 7, 1923, to Norbert and Roberta Gorman. He grew up in Fargo, where his father was a Cass County agent. During World War II, Gorman became a B-25 instructor for French aviation students. When the war was over, he returned to Fargo and was employed as the manager of a construction company.
The North Dakota Air National Guard was started on Jan. 16, 1947. Members organized the 178th Fighter Squadron in Fargo, and Gorman joined the squadron as a second lieutenant.
On Oct. 1, 1948, Gorman was flying cross-country with other Guard members. Shortly after 8:30 p.m., the other pilots landed at Hector, but Gorman decided to get in some extra flying time. While in the air, he was notified by the control tower that a small Piper Cub was in the area. Gorman acknowledged he could see the smaller plane about 500 feet below him.
About five minutes later, he spotted a dimly lit disk-shaped object slowly circling the city. Gorman contacted the tower asking about another plane and was told there were only two planes in the air over Fargo. Gorman approached the object to investigate and it suddenly brightened and accelerated.
The object had been traveling "about 250 miles per hour," but as Gorman began the chase, it speeded up to "about 600 miles per hour." The P-51 could only travel 400 mph, so the object quickly outdistanced Gorman. It then made a "180-degree turn and came straight at him." Gorman "attempted to crash into it," but as they neared, it veered upward and passed over him. When Gorman continued his pursuit, the object climbed "to about 14,000 feet," the P-51 in its chase went into a power stall, and Gorman temporarily passed out. At this point, the object turned in a northwest direction and disappeared.
Observing this action were Lloyd D. Jensen and H.E. Johnson, two air traffic controllers in the tower at Hector. Another eyewitness was Dr. Cannon, a Fargo physician, who was the pilot of the Piper Cub. Both controllers noted the object's rapid rate of speed and how it easily outdistanced the
Gorman was so shaken up he had difficulty maneuvering his plane and had to make several approaches to land the
P-51. He then contacted his commanding officer, Maj. D.C. Jones. The major received a signed statement from Gorman and referred the incident to U.S. Air Force intelligence. On Oct. 4, an intelligence unit headed by Maj. Paul Kubala arrived in Fargo and questioned Gorman, Cannon and the two controllers.
Gorman signed another sworn statement on Oct. 23, stating: "I am convinced that there was definite thought behind its maneuvers. I am further convinced that the object was governed by the laws of inertia because its acceleration was rapid but not immediate and although it was able to turn fairly tight at considerable speed, it still followed a natural curve. When I attempted to turn with the object I blacked out temporarily due to excessive speed... I do not believe that there are many if any pilots who could withstand the turn and speed effected by the object and remain conscious. The object was not only able to out turn and out speed my aircraft, but was able to attain a far steeper climb and able to maintain a constant rate of climb far in excess of my aircraft."
The Air Force concluded that the object was a weather balloon with a candle in it that had earlier been released from the airfield. Gorman later found out from weather observer George Sanderson that "the time and altitudes didn't fit, and the wind direction was wrong." With this evidence, Gorman insisted that it was not a weather balloon. The Air Material Command then warned Gorman not to divulge any more information or he would be subject to a court-martial.
Gorman maintained his silence. He was transferred to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and was then stationed at the Aviano Air Base in Lonigo, Italy, for five years. After returning to the U.S., Gorman was stationed in Washington, D.C.; Lincoln, Neb.; Hampton, N.H.; Abilene, Texas; and finally New Braunfels, Texas. He retired from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel. After retiring, Gorman was a building contractor in New Braunfels.
Gorman never talked publicly about his experience with the UFO, even though he was contacted by a Life magazine reporter who was writing a story on UFOs for an April 1952 edition. He did reveal to friends that, until his death on July 31, 1982, "he was never convinced that he had been dueling with a lighted balloon for 27 minutes."
"Did You Know That" is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments
or corrections to the Eriksmoens at email@example.com.