RUNNING CODE: THE NIGHT THE ALIEN
By Richard H. Hall
PROLOGUE. This article originally was drafted as a
sample chapter for a proposed book on the 1978 McGuire AFB case. It was
hoped that a publishing contract with an advance on royalties would enable
me to tie up some important loose ends in my investigation. These included
a planned face-to-face meeting with another primary witness living in a
distant state and acquiring additional documentation. Despite two
promising prospects, no contract was ever obtained.
Although I am
well aware that investigation is far from complete, it seemed important to
report for the record what I have found out so far. Having met the primary
witness on numerous occasions and corresponded with him over many years, I
have a full picture of his family background and professional career.
Today he has a Masters Degree in Human Relations and a B.S. in Business
and Management, both from major universities.
He has cooperated
fully, answered all questions, and provided important details as well as
leads to additional information. On one occasion when he lived in
Virginia, I met with him and his wife and colleagues at their home. On
another occasion, Len Stringfield (who requested my help in his
investigation and introduced me to the witness) arranged for him to meet
with my brother, Bill, and Bruce Maccabee. Later, the witness agreed to
the taking of a formal legal deposition which was witnessed by, among
others, Don Berliner and Rob Swiatek of the Fund for UFO Research.
This Prologue is necessary in order to make it clear that the
witness is a known quantity. At this point there is no doubt in my mind
whatsoever that the report is authentic, and since it literally represents
a case of corpus delicti it is of first order importance. The fact that
several of the officers involved have denied to other investigators having
any knowledge of the incident is not surprising at all under the
circumstances. I have long since come to the conclusion that this case is
so important and held in such complete secercy that it will take a
thorough Congressional investigation to pry loose the full story.
Here, then, is the story of the incident that literally changed
the life of a conscientious young air policeman who was carrying on a
family tradition of police service, and who later was subjected to
repeated threats and intimidation for talking about the experience to Len
Stringfield and me. This report was prepared with his direct input and
based on descriptive details that he provided in writing at my request.
As night wore on into morning, Sgt. Jeff Morse and his Air Force
security police partner, Sgt. Mark Larimer, were patrolling their assigned
area on the grounds of McGuire AFB, New Jersey, an important Military
Airlift Command base that housed combat aircraft and nuclear weapons. As
members of the 418th Security Police Squadron, they were responsible for
base security and law enforcement.
What started out as a
routine--almost boring--11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift assignment gradually
took on nightmarish qualities as time passed, and began to resemble
something out of the Twilight Zone. By about 1:00 a.m. they had checked
the offbase housing areas and the main base, performed some building
checks, and were settling in for a peaceful evening. Everything seemed in
order. Morse could afford a little time to reflect on how well his chosen
career was developing.
Several of his family members had been in
law enforcement work, so Morse was carrying on a family tradition. He had
been assigned to McGuire for OJT (on-the-job-training) in police work for
just over a year, since graduating from Air Force law enforcement school
at Lackland AFB, Texas. He had also undergone combat training at Camp
Bullis Training Center in San Antonio. The assignment at McGuire was for
three years. At age 18, He considered it a privilege to be guarding such
an important base.
The night of January 18, 1978, was crisp and
clear, the air very cold, windy and dry. The stars were sparkling
brightly. A gibbous moon hung in the sky, due to set about 8:00 a.m. The
military patrol car, a sedan, had a balky heater, so Morse fiddled with it
trying to get it adjusted.
Although he often worked alone, on this
night he had a partner from the security police side, Mark Larimer. Morse,
whose assignment was general law enforcement, was showing him the ropes
about that side of Air Force police work, which was similar to civilian
police work but included base security work as well.
enforcement and security police wore identical uniforms and insignia. Both
were "Blue Berets," Air Force police with formal schooling. They had
SECRET clearances and were authorized to carry arms and to make arrests.
Their boss, the commander of the security police squadron, was the Air
Force equivalent of an Army provost marshal: "chief cop." The main
responsibility of the security police was to guard airplanes and nuclear
weapons against possible foreign agents or saboteurs.
linking the patrol car with the desk sergeant on duty in the command post
was quiet, as it normally was at that time of night in mid-winter. Not
much was happening, so Morse decided to show Larimer the procedures
involved in guarding base entry points such as the numbered gates. Some
time after 1:00 a.m. he radioed into the command post offering to relieve
the gate guards for food and rest room breaks.
The desk sergeant
checked the logs, then dispatched Morse and Larimer to Gate #5 on the rear
side of the base, the one gate in that area near the fence line adjoining
Fort Dix. Gate #5 was a little-used gate in a very dark, remote area of
the base, a miserable assignment for any self-respecting cop to guard. The
guy on duty no doubt would welcome a break.
As they were en route
to the gate, the radio suddenly crackled alive. Morse and Larimer heard a
tense voice admonish them that sightings of unusual lights in the sky
flying in formation had started coming in from scattered locations; that
they should be on the alert for anything out of the ordinary. At first
they treated the information as a joke, until they stopped the patrol car
and got out to look up at the sky to see for themselves what was going on.
High in the sky formations of odd looking bluish-green lights were
cavorting over the base. At first Morse and Larimer were shocked by the
sight, wondering what they were looking at. It was an intriguing
spectacle. They were single lights, not the familiar running lights of
aircraft. And they were performing some pretty amazing aerobatics.
The objects continued to fly back and forth, changing formation
several times, passing over the base and then turning back for another
fly-by. Morse counted 12 distinct objects in a formation headed south to
north, and then apparently the same formation of 12 objects returning on a
north to south pass. The high level of aerial activity at this time of
night, including the formation flights, was totally unprecedented for any
type of aircraft they knew about.
Morse noted that the first
formation was of two parallel lines of objects, with the individual
objects staggered in line. Then two arrow-shaped formations were visible
at different angles. The final formation was arrayed in a crescent shape,
until the objects abruptly dispersed and flew off in different directions.
What sort of aerial "fireworks" were these? After a while they stopped
watching the repetitive flights and went back to work, but the sightings
continued for a long period of time.
Morse's friend, Bill
Cleninger, another sergeant of equal rank, had been assigned dispatch duty
as desk sergeant that night. On the radio he sounded somewhat upset,
confused, and very excited by the sightings. Part of his responsibility
was to prioritize events for response and to issue follow-up assignments,
while keeping superior officers informed of what was going on if something
out of the ordinary occurred. Right now he had his hands full as the UFO
reports continued to pour in, confirmed by personnel in the base control
At approximately 0330 hours, Morse heard the sirens of
civilian police vehicles running code (sirens
wailing and lights flashing) on the roadway outside the perimeter of the
base fence line. In the distance he could see a New Jersey State Police
car passing by on Wrightstown-Cookstown Road in hot pursuit, heading in
the direction of Fort Dix Army base. Fort Dix bordered on the
south-southeast fence line of McGuire AFB, and security personnel of the
two bases shared a radio channel to coordinate law enforcement activities.
Following the state police car was a Fort Dix military police
patrol, also running
"Code 3," lights and sirens. Morse thought this was rather unusual
since the Fort Dix MPs ordinarily never left their areas. He speculated
that they must have taken a break at the nearby 7-11 store or Ernie's
pizza parlor just outside of Gate #1.
At first he and Larimer
thought the police activity outside the base could have been something
routine, perhaps pursuit of a speeding car from some off-base incident.
Fort Dix, as an open base, often attracted traffic violators who sought
refuge there while trying to elude pursuit. But then the dispatcher
informed him that the New Jersey State Police were attempting to gain
entry to the air base at Gate #5, near the secluded rear runway adjoining
Sgt. Cleninger instructed them to proceed to Gate #5 to
assist the state trooper. As they approached the gate, they heard
Cleninger communicating on another frequency with the Fort Dix Army
dispatcher. Both were talking very excitedly, and trying to speak with an
Army MP patrol that was in hot pursuit of something nearby and,
apparently, in the process of making contact with the "violators." Then
there was something about a shooting.
Arriving at the gate, Morse
allowed the state trooper to enter the base, asked him the nature of his
mission. The officer replied that he and the Army MP patrol had been
chasing an unidentified low-flying object that, whatever it was, was
headed in the direction of the southeast fence line. The MP had radioed a
description to his base: an oval object giving off a bluish green glow. A
sense of urgency and near panic set in when the transmission from the MP
was abruptly cut off. They didn't know exactly where he was or what was
Sgt. Cleninger, meanwhile, informed Morse by radio that
he was now in contact with the Fort Dix dispatcher by telephone. He
instructed Morse to call him on the phone at the gate so he could relay
what he had just been told. Over the telephone line, Cleninger told Morse
that radio contact had been regained with the Army MP, and it was learned
that he had had a close encounter with the unidentified object, and
apparently with one of its occupants as well.
The MP said that the
object was hovering very close to his vehicle, and that out of nowhere a
"thing" (in his words), a being of some sort, had suddenly appeared
directly in front of his vehicle. It was about four feet tall, grayish
brown in color, with a proportionally large head, long arms, and a slender
body. Badly frightened, the MP had panicked and fired five rounds from his
.45 caliber pistol into the creature, and one upwards into the object
hovering above him.
The object responded by accelerating straight
up into the night sky, apparently abandoning the wounded creature. High
overhead the object had rejoined the other eleven blue-green objects which
were moving slowly, sort of hovering in position. In fact, Morse and his
partner had seen a single object joining in with the larger group of
objects at high altitude, but they had not seen where it came from.
The frantic MP said that the wounded being had fled toward the
McGuire fence line, but they had lost track of it there. Following orders,
Morse led the state trooper to the inactive runway near the fence line
where they used their headlights and spotlights to search for anything out
of the ordinary. This area was only used by the Air National Guard.
Several F-4 fighter jets were parked on the flight line, and several
munitions storage areas were nearby.
Morse inquired of the desk
sergeant, asking what exactly they were looking for. The answer startled
him: "Whoever or whatever the MP shot." Since it had fled toward the
McGuire fence line, it may have entered the base, he was told. So they
were looking for an injured someone or something.
It was getting
very late, and the state trooper and Morse drove their separate vehicles
along at a crawl, windows down, getting colder and colder, their
spotlights searching through the darkness. The state trooper was getting
impatient, saying that he was too busy to be playing games and that after
they made a pass at searching the fence line and runway he intended to
wrap it up. Seeing nothing unusual near the fence line they next headed
for the area of the taxiway leading to the active runway.
they could see Army personnel on the other side of the fence line using
spotlights to search there. There seemed to be a lot of discussion, and a
group forming near a particular area of the fence line where the inactive
runway made a sharp right turn in an easterly direction. Perhaps they had
found the mysterious person or thing, and the thought crossed Morse's mind
that after all this trouble they were going to miss out on it.
of a sudden the two vehicles abruptly braked to a stop, as their
headlights revealed a motionless figure lying prone on the cold concrete
in the middle of the inactive runway, about 50 feet directly in front of
them. There was no sign of how it got over or through the fence. They sat
awestruck for a few seconds, then Morse grabbed his microphone and quickly
informed the desk sergeant about their discovery.
"What does it
look like?," Sgt. Cleninger asked. "It's about 4 feet in length, grayish
brown in color, with a fat head and long arms," Morse replied, struggling
to come to grips with what he was looking at.
Morse and the
trooper got out of their vehicles and were about to approach the body,
noticing a pungent, ammonia-like stench in the air. As the trooper and the
two security police stood side by side gaping at the body, they asked each
other simultaneously, "What the hell is that thing?"
By now it was
obvious to Morse that Cleninger, back at security police headquarters, was
taking instructions from higher authorities and passing their orders on to
him. Before they had ventured much closer to the body, he was instructed
to escort the
New Jersey state policeman off the base and to set
up an entry control point (ECP).
The trooper protested, but this
was now standard military police business: a body had been found on the
base within their jurisdiction. All civilians must now leave the area. The
point where it lay on the old runway was a crime scene, and it was Morse's
duty to secure the area while senior officers and investigators marshaled
their forces and made their way to the site.
He retrieved several
poles and lengths of rope from the trunk of the patrol car and began to
set up a perimeter, instructing his partner, Larimer, to escort the
trooper off the base. While setting up the rope standards Morse was joined
by two additional security patrols that began to set up a perimeter to the
northern side of the controlled area around the "crime scene."
About this time the radio traffic became very intense, almost
frantic, and they were ordered to switch to a "secure" channel. To Morse,
the channel didn't sound secure. Usually, a secure channel provided a
one-to-one link between the investigating officers and the desk sergeant,
but in this case it seemed to him that everyone and their grandmother were
on the channel all trying to talk at once.
Morse's duty was to
relay information to the desk sergeant on what was happening in general,
who was showing up at the ECP, and who was asking permission to enter the
secure area. Authorized officials had to be separated from curiosity
seekers trying to gain entry. But due to the chaotic communications, he
had difficulty getting in a word at all.
Individuals who were
authorized to enter the controlled area were given a mathematical
clearance code by the desk sergeant, assigned by protocol, and
acknowledged by a simple sign language between officials and the policeman
at the ECP. The code could be as simple as the security policeman holding
up three fingers and awaiting a correct response of five fingers by the
person requesting entry, to equal the number eight.
allowed important personnel to gain faster access than would the
cumbersome procedure of checking all IDs and asking for verification of
their authorization to enter the area. For security reasons, however, the
code would only remain valid for about 30 minutes maximum. It would be
continuously changed or upgraded according to the level of security
Within 30 minutes of their finding the body, Morse saw
a group of about a dozen security police that he first took to be law
enforcement "augmentees" arrive in a step van and take charge of the
investigation, but that didn't make any sense. The new arrivals did not
look or act like augmentees at all, whose normal role would be to back up
the regulars. They would have arrived one by one, not in an organized
group, and would have been assigned to the perimeter while the regulars
conducted the investigation. Furthermore, they were armed with M-16 rifles
and grenade launchers. They weren't the recognizable professional
investigators of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI)
In the Air Force police "augmentee" system, law
enforcement police cross-trained on the security police side at times. On
this fateful night, Mark Larimer was cross-training as an "augmentee" for
regular law enforcement. Law enforcement personnel also conducted
investigations, but in the event of a felony or major crime would be
pre-empted by the OSI. Organization charts and procedural matters like
these would take on new importance to Jeff Morse later on, while trying to
understand what he observed that night.
Although the armament of
the newly arrived security police might not have been unusual if the
senior officers thought some kind of serious base incursion was
threatened, heavy weapons were kept in an armory and would not have been
readily accessible on such short notice. Morse was armed only with a .38
revolver. On the radio he heard the special group referred to as the
"recovery team." He had never encountered them before.
ECP some distance away, Morse watched as senior officers and emergency
personnel arrived on the scene and the recovery team went through a
seemingly well-rehearsed procedure. Morse also noticed that they were all
senior enlisted men, wearing the chevrons of rank but no patches or
insignia that would identify their unit. He wondered what was going on,
but was primarily occupied in performing his assigned duty and didn't give
that much thought to it at the time.
In the next 24 to 48 hours
the "strangeness" level increased, as a number of peculiar events
transpired. Only then did Morse began to piece together in his own mind
that he must have been involved in something of a truly extraordinary
nature. All he knew at the moment was that the body did not appear to be
human, but even that did not fully register at first. From 50-75 feet away
the body appeared slimy, almost snakelike in texture. Then there was the
The thought occurred that maybe it was one of the homeless
persons known to live in the nearby woods. But if so, why all the high
level of response? As he stood guard on the perimeter, he saw the base
commander, the security police squadron commander, and the OSI commander
at the scene. They apparently knew all about the "recovery team," because
they watched without interfering as it performed its functions.
EPILOGUE. By morning, Morse and Latham had watched from slightly
different perspectives as base clinic personnel sprayed the body with
something from a backpack, and the "recovery team" crated it, and
forklifted the crate onto an Air Force cargo plane that had arrived from
Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio. After the plane took off, the other
The air police on the scene were debriefed,
sworn to secrecy, and shortly afterwards shipped to various bases around
the world. Morse was transferred to Guam. Before departure, however, he
was subjected to intimidating interrogation at Wright-Patterson AFB by a
quartet of men in civilian clothes.While stationed on Guam, shortly before
his enlistment was up, Morse heard Len Stringfield talking on Armed Forces
Radio about his studies and contacted him. This eventually led to several
episodes of threats and intimidation over the years, and when Morse
attempted to apply for a position in a Federal law enforcement agency, he
found that he was blackballed
© Richard Hall