‘More complex than we imagined’: Fort Bragg veterans weigh in on UFO sightings – The Fayetteville Observer

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UFO report: Pentagon finds no evidence of aliens but can’t rule it out

The New York Times and CNN reported a government report on “UFOs” does not provide evidence of aliens, but also doesn’t rule the possibility out.


Larry Roller remembers seeing whizzing lights.  

Dozens of objects, four inches in diameter, that appeared to have a pale-yellow glow streaked across the sky, Roller said.  

Roller saw the lights at about 3 a.m. when he was assigned to Fort Bragg in April 1947 for basic training.  

Headed out to oversee a fire watch to burn undergrowth in the woods in the early morning hours, Roller does not believe military aircraft was the source of what he saw.  

“They were too fast for anything we had and all across the sky,” the 93-year-old retired educator said during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in Mt. Sidney, Virginia. “They weren’t shooting stars and didn’t leave a trail.”  

Roller believes he saw unidentified flying objects — UFOs — and shared the account in a letter to the editor for the News Leader this month.  

He said he decided to share his account, as the Pentagon is expected to release a UFO report this week.  

Not alone

Roller isn’t the only one with a military connection who has made a claim of UFO sightings. 

Retired Col. John B. Alexander is the author of the book “UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities.”  

Alexander served with the 7th Special Forces Group and commanded an A-team during Vietnam, was in the Army for 32 years, and worked at the United States Army Laboratory Command, before retiring and being an adviser for several agencies to include the National Intelligence Council, according to his biography.  

He has been featured on several podcasts and documentaries to include “New Thinking Allowed,” when in 2017, he referenced an encounter he said he had with Cumberland County resident Chris Bledsoe near the Cape Fear River outside of Fayetteville.

More: New NASA chief doesn’t think UFOs are an optical illusion, according to interview

Alexander said Bledsoe was taking him to a site where he claimed he had seen UFOs.  

“All of a sudden, he says ‘Oh, I think they’re here,’” Alexander has recounted on numerous occasions. “And within maybe 10 seconds, this thing pops into view and goes zipping off, and it didn’t fly in from some place. I mean it literally materialized and zipped off to the south, and I saw it.”  

According to a Jan. 5, 2009, Fayetteville Observer article, Bledsoe, of Hope Mills, was featured on the Discovery Channel show “UFOs Over Earth” during which he said he saw UFOs while fishing along the Cape Fear River.  

Bledsoe claimed he, his son and three friends saw three bright yellow circular objects hovering over a wooded area as they were fishing on the Cape Fear River in 2007. 

“Imagine seeing something as big as a school bus hovering in the air,” Bledsoe told The Fayetteville Observer in 2009. “It scared the bejesus out of me.” 

Bledsoe said he didn’t believe in UFOs previously.  

Alexander, who gives lectures about UFOs and the government, raises the question of how people define UFOs during his various presentations on the subject.  

Some describe it as “balls of light” or a craft that is more than a mile long, he has said.  

“There are so many differences,” Alexander said during a presentation to the National Atomic Testing Museum in 2018. “How to define what you are talking about is really and truly difficult.”  

More local sightings

According to The Fayetteville Observer archives, “numerous UFO sightings” were reported in Robeson and surrounding counties overnight April 3, 1975.  

Archives state that the county’s communications center received more than 50 calls from residents, with authorities responding to at least eight reports of “objects resembling V-shaped crafts in the sky.”  

According to a Feb. 16, 1990, Fayetteville Observer article, former Air Force pilot Art Canady said he saw a UFO in Sampson County.  

Canady described what he saw as looking like a fluorescent bulb.  

The object was suspended in the air, motionless and did not make a sound, Canady said.  

“Any type of aircraft as we know it would have made some type of noise,” he said. 

Later in 1990, six Hoke County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home of Raeford resident Diana Messing, according to The Fayetteville Observer archives.  

Messing wasn’t sure what landed in the hayfield across from her home, but it was round, orange and as big as a swimming pool, the report stated.  

“I know this sounds crazy — but the first thing I could think of was a flying saucer,” Messing was quoted as saying.  

Messing was adamant that she didn’t drink or smoke pot, according to the article, and told the reporter she went to church and didn’t “believe in that stuff.”  

What she described as a circle the size of a swimming pool with orange windows was gone after she called authorities.  

She and her mother walked to the field the next day and noticed the grass was flat in the shape of a circle.  

Messing’s mother, Jackie Rijfkogel, said she, too, didn’t know what they saw.  

“The sad part is when you watch that stuff on TV there’s an ending. But when something happens to you in real life, there’s no ending,” Rijfkogel said in the article. “It leaves you hanging.”

In a follow-up story, Wanda Locklear, who ran a daycare center in Raeford, said she spotted a balloon near the Antioch Fire Department on N.C. 211, not too far south of where Messing reported her sighting the day before.

Officials at the control tower of Fayetteville’s airport at the time questioned if it was a blimp rented by grocery store owner Richard Bryan that had snapped a line and floated away.  

According to the newspaper report, the blimp got away three days after Messing and Rijfkogel reported their sighting. 

But Messing was adamant that whatever she saw was not a wayward balloon or blimp and questioned why it stopped then left. 

Rijfkogel said she also did not think what she and her daughter saw was a hot-air balloon, because their trailer rocked and the outdoor lights blinked off when whatever they saw passed.

Messing said the encounter was scary at the time, but she considered it exciting afterward. 

 “We sit around between 12:30 and 1 and hope it will come back,” Messing said in the follow-up article. “Nobody believes us.”

Sightings debunked

Air Force officials have said a supposed alien spacecraft discovered in July 1947 in Rosewell, New Mexico, was likely a secret Army Air Forces balloon designed to monitor Soviet nuclear testing, according to a report that was released in 1995.  

Speaking to The Fayetteville Observer in April 1997, Brig. Gen. Paul R. Dordal, who was then-commander of the 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope Air Force Base, said he became heavily involved in inquiries about reports of UFOs and space aliens in his previous assignment. 

“I can assure the American public there are no aliens out there,” Dordal said. “There is no truth to any of those reports. They have been discounted over and over again by the scientific community.” 

While archives aren’t clear on what exactly it is that Messing and others saw locally in 1990, Associated Press reports between Aug. 23, 1989, and Aug. 25, 1989, debunk UFO speculation in unrelated sightings. 

An Aug. 23, 1989, report states that four Onslow County sheriff’s deputies noticed unusual objects that appeared to be oval shape in the sky.  

A couple of days later, an official with the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization said the object was a test rocket launched by NASA for the Department of Defense to test the capabilities of the Delta Star satellite that had launched a few months prior from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  

In more recent years, an online user in December 2017 reported seeing “balls of light” that turned out to be a holiday show from the Army’s parachute demonstration team — the Golden Knights. 

Veterans not so skeptical 

In multiple interviews for podcasts or in giving presentations, Alexander, the retired Army Special Forces colonel, tells his conclusion on UFOS.  

The opening line of his book states “UFOs are real,” he said. But the last line states “whatever this is, it’s more complex than we imagined.”  

“We’re not at the point of asking the right questions — much less coming up with the answers,” he said.

Letter to the editor: Reader tells of experience witnessing UFO’s in 1947

Roller, the Virginia resident who still remembers what he saw at Fort Bragg in 1947, said he questioned what he saw at that time, but now firmly believes it was UFOs.  

“We didn’t know what the phenomena was at all, but there’s no doubt that intelligence was involved, and it was faster than a plane,” he said.  

Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at rriley@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3528.

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