The Socorro (Lonnie Zamora) UFO Incident

For Socorro police officer Lonnie Zamora high speed car chases down dusty New Mexico roads were an ordinary everyday occurrence, but on April 24,1964, while pursuing a speeding vehicle on U.S. Highway 85, Zamora was to witness something that was anything but ordinary, an incident so bizarre that it would change his life forever and make his name a household word in the UFO community.

His attention distracted, first by a roaring noise then by smoke and the glow of flames in the nearby hills, he broke off the chase and proceeded to investigate. Fearing the worst (a hut filled with dynamite was located nearby) he drove up a side road toward the area his police car bouncing and skidding on the bumpy gravel strewn surface. Reaching the top of a slope, he observed in the distance what he thought was an overturned vehicle alongside it two people dressed in overalls. After radioing police headquarters and reporting what he believed to be an automobile accident he continued up the road in order to get a better look first by car then on foot. What he allegedly saw is detailed in a CIA report:

“The object was on girder like legs, white . . . and egg shaped or oval. As he approached the object there were some noises, and flame and smoke began to come from the bottom of the vehicle. The noise increased from low pitch to high pitch, was different from that of a jet or helo (helicopter) and not like anything Sgt. Zamora had ever heard. The flame was blue like a welder’s torch, turning to orange or yellow at the ends. Thinking that the object was going to explode, he became frightened . . . He turned, ran back to get behind the police car, bumping his leg and loosing his glasses on the way. He crouched down, shielding his eyes with his arm while the noise continued for another 10 seconds. At this time the noise stopped and he looked up. The object had risen to a point about 15-20 feet above the ground and the flame had ceased to come from the object. The object had a red marking about 1 ft. or maybe 18 inches in height, shaped like a crescent with a vertical arrow and horizontal line underneath. The object hovered in this spot for several seconds and then flew off in a SW direction following the centre of the gully. It cleared the dynamite shack by not more than 3 feet. He watched the object disappear in the distance over a point on highway 85 about 6 miles from where he was standing. The object took about 3 minutes to travel that far. Disappearance was by fading in the distance and at no time did he observe the object rise more than 20 ft. off the ground.”

Sergeant Chavez of the New Mexico State Police, having intercepted Zamora’s radio call, had arrived on the scene three minutes after the object's disappearance and found the Socorro police officer shaken and upset. Though skeptical, Chavez investigated the alleged landing site and found marks and burns with some vegetation still smoking. The marks consisted of four depressions suggesting something heavy had recently been resting on the ground. Chavez placed stones around the indentations in order to insure they wouldn’t be disturbed then cordoned off the area and contacted military authorities.

A number of famous UFO researchers became involved in the Socorro incident including noted astronomer and Project Blue Book [1] investigator Dr. Allen Hynek and author Ray Stanford. It was Stanford who took a piece of rock, that had been pointed out to him by Zamora, to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for analysis of the metal particles purportedly scraped on it by one of the UFO’s landing legs. What happened next is extremely interesting considering that physical evidence is an exceedingly rare commodity in the controversial world of ufology.

The original agreement was that half of the particles would be removed from the rock for analysis the rest to be left where they were, however, when the rock was returned it was scraped clean. Dr. Henry Frankel who was conducting the analysis, explained that they had needed the entire sample in order for the analysis to be accurate and advised Stanford to call him in a few days for the results.

As per instructions Stanford called back a few days later and when Frankel answered he was both positive and informative:

“The particles are comprised of a material that could not occur naturally . . . there is something that is rather exciting about the zinc-iron alloy of which we find the particles to consist. Our charts of all alloys known to be manufactured on earth, the U.S.S.R. included, do not show any alloy of the specific combination or ratio of the two main elements involved. This finding definitely strengthens the case that might be made for an extraterrestrial origin of the object.”

The scientist then stated that he needed additional time for further analysis and would Stanford call back the following week. Over the next two weeks Stanford called back five times only to be given the brush off by secretaries on each occasion; the fifth time he left his telephone number along with a request that Frankel please call. The following day he received a call from Thomas P. Sciacca of NASA’s Spacecraft Systems Branch who informed him that Frankel was no longer involved in the matter, the earlier results Stanford were given were erroneous and that further testing had revealed the sample to be common silica.

Years later in an encounter between Stanford and Hynek the astronomer was to express surprise when told of the circumstance surrounding the analysis results and how NASA after first declaring the sample to be a unique zinc-iron alloy had later changed its mind declaring the material to be silica. “They haven’t given you the truth!” Hynek is purported to have exclaimed. “I would accept Frankel’s original report and forget the disclaimer.”

So, what is the truth? Both the undisputed character of the chief witness and the physical evidence seem to indicate that something landed in the hills just outside Socorro on April 24, 1964. The question is what?

While Project Blue Book simply ruled it “unexplained,” others differed, with opinions ranging from alien spacecraft (though upon reflection it would seem that a species capable of traveling between the stars would utilize propulsion systems more advanced than the one described by Zamora), to a manned hot air balloon or more recently to a test run for a Surveyor spacecraft an unmanned probe that was used to gather information, about the Moon, prior to manned Apollo landings.

Zamora fed up with the entire matter retired from the police force two years later and became the manager of a local gas station.

[1] Project Blue Book was a controversial U.S. Air Force study of the UFO phenomenon whose goal was ostensibly to determine both the validity of unidentified flying objects and whether or not they were a threat to American national security. Started in 1952 and terminated in 1969 it was considered by many in the UFO community to be little more than a government whitewash and part of a general cover up. Its final conclusion was that there was nothing either extraordinary or extraterrestrial about UFOs.

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