First time testimony blows lid off famous Bentwaters UFO incident

By Ted Bonnitt on May 8th, 2013
First time testimony blows lid off famous Bentwaters UFO incident
James Penniston (L) and John Burroughs were close enough to touch the Bentwaters UFO
James Penniston (L) and John Burroughs were close enough to touch the Bentwaters UFO

Day two of the week-long Citizen Disclosure Hearings at Washington's DC's National Press Club offered startling, first time sworn testimony from two of the closest witnesses to the famous Rendlesham Forest/ Bentwaters UFO incident in December 1980.

Former UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) official, Nick Pope, who investigated UFOs for the MOD began the April 30, 2013 testimony with a general background of the case, which he said defied "prosaic explanations."

The craft appeared in the same area three nights in a row, and at times aimed a light beam at witnesses, including the deputy base commander.

On site follow-up investigations of the incident revealed physical trace evidence, including three small soil imprints in a triangular pattern beneath where the UFO hovered, scorch marks on surrounding trees and broken branches. Background radiation levels were high.

Pope testified the U.S. government withheld information from the British government about the contact and that the MOD data on the case was destroyed, "but not necessarily by intent."

Base police rush to the "downed aircraft"

The world famous UFO encounter occurred over a three night period just outside the boundaries of Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) Bentwaters base. The former base, now known as Bentwaters Park is about 80 miles northeast of London. It was used by the Royal Air Force during World War II, and then by the United States Air Force during the cold war before closing in 1993.

By the 1980s the base was controlled by the US Air Force and housed the largest tactical fighter wing in the world. There were likely nuclear weapons on site, which made it a very high security installation.

The first UFO encounter occurred at 3 AM on Friday, December 26, 1980 when about 40 base personnel and area residents observed a bright light descend into Rendlesham Forest just outside the base's boundary.

The base Security Police Supervisor, Sergeant James Penniston and Patrolman Sergeant John Burroughs saw the falling light and rushed to investigate what they thought was a downed aircraft. 

Penniston testified that in the two years he was stationed at the base, he had never seen lights in the Rendlesham Forest like he did that night.

"I thought I was going to die that night."

Testifying publicly for the first time about their ordeal at last week's hearing, Burroughs and Penniston detailed their remarkable encounter.

As the two walked into the nighttime woods to investigate the light, they saw a "nine by six foot triangle craft, with swirling yellow and blue lights" hovering about two feet off the ground.

Both men could feel static electricity emanating from the silent craft. Their radios malfunctioned.

After observing the motionless craft for 10 minutes, they decided that it did not pose a threat and approached.

As they got close to the UFO, they could see hieroglyphic symbols etched into the skin of the strange ship.

At one point the craft suddenly emitted an "explosion of light" that knocked both of them off their feet. Penniston told the committee, "I thought I was going to die that night."

Burroughs remained incapacitated by the light flash while Penniston did something that he testified was "probably the worst thing I ever did."

He touched the craft. Penniston ran his hand around the sides of the object. It felt like metal and was smooth as glass. The UFO was warm to the touch despite an outdoor temperature of 32 degrees that night.

The two men continued to examine the craft, at one point looking underneath it to see if the still object was somehow resting on the ground. After 45 minutes, Penniston said the craft brightened again and began to rise through the trees. As it reached tree top level, it took off at "an impossible" speed and disappeared.

Penniston added that when it began to depart he observed that there was no sense of conventional movement. "When the craft took off there was no air displacement or sound. The static electricity stopped when it left. It was under intelligent control when it turned and departed. To this day, I have not seen anything like what I saw that night."

About 40 personnel from the base's 81st police squadron witnessed the UFO that night, but Penniston and Burroughs were the only two people to get close enough to touch the craft.

Burroughs testified that both their watches were 45 minutes off when they returned to base.

That was the last time Penniston saw the UFO, but within three weeks both he and Burroughs fell seriously ill from what appeared to be radiation exposure. 

RAF Bentwaters, UK

The UFO returned for two more nights.

The following night, an unnamed female base security officer and her partner investigated the mysterious light when it returned to the forest area. The craft "shot a beam of light" at their vehicle and disabled it before flying off.

By now, the area was buzzing with news of the sightings and base command was looking to quell the growing concern. So, when the deputy base commander Lt. Col. Charles Halt was interrupted on the third night during a holiday party with news that the UFO "was back," he jumped into action.

Halt grabbed an audio tape recorder that he regularly used to take verbal notes when inspecting the base and headed to the scene to investigate the sighting area in the eastern edge of the forest. Halt began to record audio as he and his men approached the area where the UFO was spotted. The 17 minute-long tape was publicly released in 1983 and captured a remarkable scene where the witnesses at about 12 minutes into the recording can be heard becoming excited and frightened by the sight of strange flashing lights that began to shoot light beams to the ground. Halt and his men fled. 

About 60 people saw the craft on the third night, and Burroughs was there again to witness it again, something that Penniston said is inconceivable to imagine, considering the emotional toll. 

Both men developed a variety of serious health ailments soon after their encounter, many of which continue more than 30 years later. Burroughs, 52, developed life threatening heart problems soon after the encounter, received a pacemaker and carries a defibrillator with him. 

Within three weeks of the encounter both soldiers had difficulty walking from inner ear and eye problems and months later Penniston's gums "turned white," a sign of heavy radiation exposure.

"We were treated like POWs"

Burroughs said that on Sunday night, two days after their encounter, a US Air Force C5-A cargo plane arrived at Bentwaters from Langley, VA, home of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to deliver a special investigation team with their own helicopters and vehicles.

"Why did a team come in from Langley?", asked Burroughs. "If it (UFO) was off base, why was the US Air Force put in the lead of the investigation?" Technically, the UFO landed on British soil.

The newly arrived team included members from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Penniston said the OSI interrogators were threatening to them. They told him to write thorough notes on his experience, adding "If you write everything out, this will go away."  

Penniston wrote a four page detailed description on a yellow legal pad. Afterwards, the interrogators handed him a half page long sanitized version and ordered him to stick to their version of the story, saying that it was an ongoing investigation. "This is the official statement you will memorize," they ordered.

The sanitized account placed Penniston far enough away from the craft to make it appear that he was mistaken or "hallucinating" about what he saw.

Penniston had no choice but to accept his orders, as the OSI worked outside the base command structure. His own base commander never asked him a question about the UFO. Deputy Base Commander Halt, who saw the craft two nights later told Penniston and Burroughs that they "were messed with."

Penniston told the hearing committee that he had drawn a sketch of the glyphs that he saw that night on the skin of the craft and presented it to his OSI interrogators.  Oddly, he said, they were not interested in it.

"They knew!" someone shouted from the hearing gallery.

When Penniston underwent hypnosis in 1994 to help recall the events, he realized that he was interrogated again on February 1,1981 by two men unknown to him. One was American, the other British. This time he was administered sodium pentathol. "I think that is even illegal to use against prisoners of war," he testified.

The two men were reassigned to be "kept close by" authorities and sworn to secrecy about their experience, which they upheld for years. The two honored their secrecy oath to the point of lying to healthcare workers for years about being exposed to radiation, which hampered their care. They only decided to speak out about what happened at last week's hearings out of desperation over untreated personal health issues, a hell which they explained was greatly worsened by the government turning its back on them.

"What are they hiding today?" 

As part of keeping the incident a secret, the government has refused to release the two mens' military health records, even to them. This has prevented the two long time vets from receiving desperately needed health care at the Veterans Administration, or allowing them to give private health care providers necessary information to treat their ailments. 

Burroughs learned that the US Air Force once told his civilian health care providers that they don't have a record of him serving from 1979-1982. A nurse at a private healthcare facility told him that when she tried to get his medical records and was refused, "There are somethings we don't have a need to know."

When Burroughs submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for his medical records to the State Department, which investigated the Bentwaters UFO as a "foreign incident" he was told that although State has records of the case, they were controlled by the Air Force and were unable to release them to him. On follow-up, Burroughs was told by the Ar Force they had no records. His medical history remains trapped in a secrecy Catch-22.

The two's attorney, Patrick Frascogna, told the committee that he considers the military's treatment of his clients as "cowardly" leaving Penniston and Burroughs feeling as though they "were left behind on the battlefield."

Their testimony outraged the committee members.

The threats continue 32 years later

Attempts to intimidate the two men continue 32 years later. They ignored recent threats of perjury charges for testifying at last week's hearings.

Committee member Darlene Hooley D-OR was upset by what she heard. "I am embarrassed for our military for not stepping up and helping you with medical records."

Mike Gravel D-AK asked, "What are they hiding today?" adding, "This is gross incompetence and negligence on the part of the government and you should get more aggressive and pursue your interests."

Merrill Cook R-UT was also moved by the men's plight. "This is extremely interesting information we're hearing today. And I want to apologize for the government."

Cook vowed to help the men prepare a letter that he will send to the VA and President Obama demanding that their medical records be released on humanitarian grounds.

"It's not about secrecy, it's about power."

Burroughs concluded his testimony with thoughts about what they saw that fateful night. The two never assumed that it was of extraterrestrial origin, just unknown. As policemen, they explained, it was not their job to speculate.  

To this day, Penniston says he does not believe in "little green men."

Yet, they are discouraged about how the case has been maligned over the years. "Whatever we're dealing with, (including their experience) they (media) always bring up the "alien stuff" which automatically makes people shy away from it, due to years of conditioning."

"It's not about secrecy, its about power," said Penniston. "The technology is hidden for national defense reasons, because everyone's in a race to get this technology and use out against each other."

Penniston closed his remarks by saying that they are only speaking out now about what happened to put pressure on authorities to release theirs and 240 other witnesses' medical records so that the victims of this incident can get access to proper healthcare. "When we achieve what we want, you will never hear from us again," promised Penniston.

He asked the panel, "Why are they giving us so much grief?" 

Penniston concluded with his own theory about why unseen and publicly unaccountable authorities are keeping a lid on UFO disclosure. 

"It's not because they think we can't handle it. It's because they are lying about UFOs. They don't want to get caught with their pants down."

Penniston said that he's writing a book about their experience.

Next: Tuesday afternoon's hearing discussed repeated UFO sightings over US Air Force nuclear missile sites in Montana, some of which have resulted in unexplained shut downs of ICBM missile launch systems.

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