Dakota Datebook

Gorman Dogfight

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

On this date in 1948, Lieutenant George F. Gorman wrote a letter stating, “…the Air Materiel Command has issued orders classifying the information as Secret. And this makes it a General Court Martial to release any more information. The Command has asked that my commanding officer and myself be court-martialed for releasing what information we did.”

The incident the young lieutenant was referring to has since become known as the Gorman Dogfight, one of the early “classics” in UFO history.

On the evening of October 1st, 1948, Lieutenant Gorman was returning from a cross-country flight with his squadron of North Dakota Air National Guard. When the pilots got to Hector airport in Fargo, Gorman decided to log some night-flying time, so he stayed up and circled his F-51 around the city. As he was preparing to land, the control tower advised him that a Piper Cub was in the air. Gorman saw the Piper 500 feet below, but then what appeared to be the taillight of another plane flashed by on the right. The tower insisted there weren’t any other planes in the sky, so Gorman told them he wanted to investigate and took off after the moving light.

He closed to within about l,000 yards to take a good look, later saying, “It was about six to eight inches in diameter, clear white, and completely round without fuzz at the edges.

It was blinking on and off. As I approached, however, the light suddenly became steady and pulled into a sharp left bank. I thought it was making a pass at the tower. I dived after it and brought my manifold pressure up to sixty inches, but I couldn’t catch up with the thing. It started gaining altitude and again made a left bank,” he said. “I put my F-51 into a sharp turn and tried to cut the light off in its turn. By then we were at about 7,000 feet. Suddenly it made a sharp right turn and we headed straight at each other. Just when we were about to collide, I guess I got scared. I went into a dive, and the light passed over my canopy at about 500 feet.”

Gorman said he cut sharply toward the light, which was once more coming at him. When it again appeared they’d collide, the object shot straight up in a steep climb-out, disappearing overhead. Gorman again went after it, but his plane went into a power stall, and the object disappeared. The dogfight had lasted 27 minutes. Gorman was so shook up, he had a hard time landing his plane, even though he was a veteran pilot and flight instructor.

The official explanation the Air Force gave was that the light was merely a lit weather balloon. But Gorman’s story wouldn’t die. In April, 1952, LIFE Magazine did a story on UFOs, stating, The Air Force is now ready to concede that many saucer and fireball sightings still defy explanation; here LIFE offers some scientific evidence that there is a real case for interplanetary saucers.

The article went on to describe the Gorman Dogfight: For 27 hair-raising minutes, Gorman pursued the light through a series of intricate maneuvers. He said it was…going faster than his F-51 (300-400 mph). It made no sound and left no exhaust trail. After Gorman landed, the light having suddenly flashed away in the upper air, he found support for his story – the chief of the control tower had followed the fantastic “combat” with binoculars.

That’s right. Both men in the control tower saw the whole thing, and so did the two men in the Piper Cub. The Gorman Dogfight has now become one of the most noted UFO encounters in PROJECT BLUE BOOK, the Air Force’s official record – and denial – of such things.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

« Go Back


50 Years
A Million Thanks

Public NewsRoom

Log-on and dig deep into the news of the day. It’s all online in our Public NewsRoom.

» Visit the Public NewsRoom

Breaking News

Support Radio

Your contributions make quality radio programming possible.

» Pledge your support today.

Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust