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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Rendlesham Forest UFO Sighting, Part 1, The First Night

Sources:, 12-5-2014, Whitley Strieber’s interview with Linda Moulton Howe on Dreamland.
Larry Warren and Peter Robbins, Left at East Gate: A First-Hand Account of the Bentwaters-Woodbridge UFO Incident, its Cover-Up, and Investigation, New York, Marlowe and Co., 1996.  interviews, TV shows, 2010 Disclosure Conference in Washington DC.
SciFi Channel, “Declassified Special, UFO Incident at Rendlesham,” 2003, with Bryant Gumbel, Part 1 and 2,

They say it was Britain’s Roswell. According to Nick Pope, former employee of British Ministry of Defense, it’s bigger than Roswell. As TV journalist Bryant Gumbel indicated, “This is the most important story you’ve never heard.”

Bentwaters and Woodbridge were two U.S. Air Force bases (now decommissioned) that lay about 3 miles apart in Suffolk County, on the east coast of England. They were two of the largest NATO bases in the world, secretly housing hundreds of nuclear weapons. They were commissioned in the 40’s after WW II, turned over to the US in 1951, and expanded in the 60’s. Security was always tight. No one could fly over the bases or get onto them without proper clearance. In spite of the seriousness of the storage responsibilities, life there was fairly routine. The most serious local events involved rumors of local witchcraft and sightings of the two ghosts that haunted the woods. There were also random sightings of lights in the sky over the UK, but no one paid much attention to those except the people who saw them. The events that began Christmas evening of 1980 turned the two bases on their heads and changed the lives of the many participants forever.

In spite of multiple witnesses telling and retelling their stories to public media, there are a few points of confusion in the saga. There are discrepancies as to what happened on which night. The events were so stunning and disorienting, the airmen were focusing on what happened more than on which exact date things occurred. The events crossed from late evening to early morning over a period of 72 hours, so the listener is sometimes unsure whether the date refers to p.m. or a.m.

Another difficulty in the retelling arose from the fact that the participants often had memory lapses. One airman would be told by other witnesses that a certain event happened at a certain moment, but that individual had no recollection of the event. This is a classic effect of UFO encounters. The men had a desire to get together and compare stories, but initially they were warned not to talk about it. In fact, they were threatened with death if they did. They were then reassigned in ways that kept them separated. Many were kept under surveillance for years. Larry Warren was determined that this stunning story, that really surpasses Roswell in importance, would get to the public. It was decades later, when almost all the witnesses were retired, that the story began to flow freely from those that were at the center of it.

Warren wrote a book, others went to a conference, another confided in UFO research experts, and several were interviewed on various TV documentaries. Former Deputy Base Commander Charles Halt and James Penniston thought that their testimonies were contradicting each other until, on a documentary for SciFi Channel, they discovered that they were describing events at different locations. The retelling brought a sense of relief, but such experiences can never fully be dismissed, nor can the ongoing PTSD and health problems that still plague many of those that saw the thing in the forest.

Larry Warren arrived at Bentwaters Base on Dec. 1. He was informed by Steve LaPlume that about two weeks before the main event, he and another airman were on swing shift duty at the guard post just inside the East Gate of Woodbridge AFB. The men saw “an unusual light formation moving slowly and silently over Rendlesham Forest” (behind the base), p. 68. They notified Central Security Control (CSC), and were told to stay put and keep watching. Shortly thereafter, Deputy Base Commander Charles Halt, Wing Commander Gordon Williams, Colonel Sawyer and other officers arrived, some with wives and children. Steve thought it very odd that they all went marching off into the woods with flashlights and cameras! He was puzzled that, at least to him, the response was more remarkable than the event itself.

So, late Christmas night, 1980, Staff Sgt Coffey at Bentwaters AFB saw a small light moving down into Rendlesham Forest behind Woodbridge (Staff Sgt Stevens (sp?) was also mentioned on one of the videos as alerting Penniston. One of the aforementioned Staff Sgts notified Tech Sgt Jim Penniston, who grabbed John Burroughs, Ed Cabansag, and possibly one other soldier some time after midnight, December 26. Cabansag was new on the base and suspected he was going to be the victim of a prank in which he would be thrown into a mud puddle. Penniston was sure a plane had crashed in the woods and he would find bodies and wreckage. Since the intrusion was off the base, the men had to leave their weapons behind. Approaching 3 am, armed only with radios and Jim’s notebook, they drove down logging road, then all three trekked through the woods on foot. There were men stationed along the path as possible relay if needed. Meanwhile, a group of security people, including at least one Flight Commander, gathered on the road to await the return of the 3 explorers.
 Ed Cabansag

Along the way, their radios ceased to work, so they were unable to communicate with Central Security (CSC). Static electricity filled the air. They could feel it on their skin and scalp. They felt tingly. Time seemed to slow down, and muscles became less responsive. They began to be alarmed when they saw a white glow in the woods. A much later hypnotic regression revealed that Penniston told Burroughs to shoot at the lights, but since they were off base, they had no weapons.

 Jim Penniston and John Burroughs

Eventually, they came upon a glowing craft. At first it seemed to be somewhat insubstantial, as it if were just shaped light and fog. It was approximately 9’ across and 7’ high, with three landing struts that were difficult to see, so that it appeared to hover just over the ground. It was essentially triangular in shape, curved in the back, pointed in the front. The white glow of light was also strobing orange, yellow, and blue lights around the perimeter of the craft. There were no windows or doors.


Penniston touched it, running his hand across the surface. It was warmer than the cool air in the woods. It was like black glass with 3-inch high symbols on it, which he recorded in his notebook. Penniston always carried a notebook. He drew a sketch of it, recorded the size, and described various impressions. He felt his job there was to report everything as well as he could. [Symbols are often associated with UFOs and aliens. Linda Moulton Howe suggested on Dreamland that they may be a kind of mathematical language somehow involved with the functioning of the UFO.]

Penniston claims that at some point, he received a ‘download.’ First, he intuited that the craft was not from outer space but from our own future. Whether he was ‘told’ that or just got that impression is still uncertain. He was also given a clear mental image of ones and zeros. Today we recognize it as binary code, but in 1980 it was just one more incomprehensible mystery that overwhelmed Penniston. A telepathic voice told him to write it down. He didn’t want to, but the images would not leave his mind, so he filled 12 pages in his journal with the images, then forgot about them until many years later when he and others were working on a documentary with Linda Moulton Howe. Analysis by experts has not fully explained the message of the code.

Suddenly, the craft moved a quarter mile back away from them with no sound, no air disturbance, and no crashing into trees. It rose a bit, hovered, seemed to become reduced in size, then took off quickly into the night sky. By this time the airmen were totally awed, frightened, and confused. Other mysteries surfaced. The men were wet and could not recall how they got that way. On the way back, they found that they had crossed a creek, but didn’t remember going through it. Nothing looked familiar. A group of security men were waiting for them when they got back to the road about 5 a.m. By then the radios were working again. They were informed that radio contact had been lost for a total of 45 minutes, something that the AF denies. The three explorers were surprised because it had seemed they were in the forest for much less time than that.

There were other witness…Rick Vogul (sp?), the soldier in the guard tower who saw a ball of light land in the forest, the radar operator that saw the blip over Rendlesham Forest, and the occasional civilian on the road who saw lights in the sky. A debriefing took place. Burroughs and Penniston gave a sanitized version of it all. Jim tried to be thorough, but he didn’t mention his notebook or the plaster casts that he made of the landing pod indentations the next morning. Had he done so, they would be lost to history today. Objects ‘borrowed’ or confiscated by an intelligence service are never seen again. And, he was still at a loss to understand what he saw, let alone explain it to another. He still has the notebook and the 3 plaster casts. All the witnesses were told to drop the whole subject and not talk about it with anyone.

The witnesses were utterly unprepared to see what they saw and deal with the consequences for years to come. They wanted it to go away. They thought it would. It didn’t. It came back in spades, and that is the topic for Part 2.