The 1949 Rogue River UFO Incident

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
August 19, 2019
Last Updated
October 13, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
7 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Cover-Ups

What is perhaps most interesting, and important, about the UFO sighting over Rogue River in Oregon in 1949 is the backgrounds of several of the witnesses, who themselves worked in aeronautics and had security level clearances at least above secret, possibly higher.

The witnesses would not get any closer than two or three miles from the object. And the incident would last a matter of only two to three minutes. However, it quietly offers credence and credibility to the abundance of UFO sightings during this time, both in the United States and throughout the world.

A superimposed UFO over a river

Did a UFO visit the Rogue River in 1949?

Perhaps of most interest, though, was the evidence that would come to light of a covering up and purposefully muddying of the waters by the United States air force, operating under various projects and operations.

MUFON consultant, Bruce Maccabee would conduct an extensive investigation of the incident years later. And as Maccabee notes, he would uncover some interesting, if discreet facts and details along the way. It is, for the most part, from Maccabee’s extensive notes that we examine this most curious case. Incidentally, the witnesses remain anonymous due to their identities being expunged from the official records before their public release.

A Strange, Shiny, Circular Object Out Of The Northeast

At around 5 pm on the 24th May 1949, several employees of an aeronautical laboratory sat in a small boat on Rogue River in Oregon. There were three men and two women in all in the group. Each enjoying the late afternoon sun as they fished in the glistening water.

Two of the witnesses were employees of the Ames Research Laboratory near San Francisco in California. With them, they had their Navy binoculars and would scan the surface of the water for signs of jumping fish. However, instead, they witnessed a “strange circular object” heading out of the sky in their direction.

It then appeared to remain east of their location hovering in the sky for several minutes. In awe and surprise, each of the witnesses watched the bizarre craft as the sun bounced off its seemingly metallic frame.

A depiction of a UFO over a river

A depiction of a UFO over a river

They would later describe looking, from a distance, like a shiny coin “with the flat surface parallel to the ground”. It was approximately a mile above the surface and perhaps double that in distance from them. The two men with the binoculars would later describe the object as a “shape similar to that of a pancake”. Furthermore, there was a “vertical fin” on the upper surface but “no wings, no antenna, no lights, (and) no propellers”.

After a little over two minutes, the object would take off at breakneck speed towards the southwest. All throughout the encounter none of the witnesses heard any sounds or noise that they would normally associate with a nearby aircraft. Especially one so seemingly advanced. This, of course, would bring into question just what engine and means of propulsion the craft was using.

The Reinvestigation Of Project Stork

It would be several weeks before the two Ames Research Laboratory employees made their report of the sighting to their superiors. They, in turn, would forward a full report to AFOSI. Several years later, however, in 1952 under Project Blue Book, the incident, along with many others that had occurred since 1947 was subject to the Project Stork investigation.

The Rogue River incident was one of the most detailed, in part due to the witnesses. Its findings were part of the Project Blue Book Special Report Number 14 and are intriguing, to say the least. [1]

A cover of a Project Blue Book report

A cover of a Project Blue Book report

For example, much is made about the two witnesses from the Ames Research Laboratory. Not only that they had secret (and/or) top-secret clearance, but also, in part because of this, would very likely have been familiar with advanced air designs. Furthermore, that same expertise will have also likely been able to spot a hoax had it been one.

With that in mind, then, a hoax is unlikely, as it surely would have been spotted. Further still, that the two witnesses were the perpetrators of such a hoax is equally unlikely. As Maccabee points out, the fact that the witnesses reported the incident to their own superiors, and three weeks later at that, is not in line with the mentality of someone attempting to gain monetary reward or notoriety. A report directly to the media would have been more in sympathy with such a stance.

The Missing Cards

Bruce Maccabee would also make further interesting discoveries while searching through the eventually full-released Project Blue Book files. Part of those files states that the United States Air Force had two files for sightings on the 24th May 1949 – the date of the Rogue River incident. However, only one of the sightings was numbered. This was, according to a note on the microfilm, because “the cards were missing”.

Maccabee explains:

This means that the copy of the AFODI investigation report, which was originally sent to Project Grudge, had been removed from the sighting file by someone many years before the file was microfilmed and released (to the public) in 1975! [2]

The MUFON investigator would continue, however, that the original AFOSI report remained at their headquarters as opposed to those once under the command of Project Blue Book. This meant that upon the release of the joint AFOSI-Blue Book files, Maccabee was able to track down the missing cards and match them back up.

Whether there was any deeper reason to remove the cards or whether it was simply a case of sloppy file keeping is perhaps open to debate. It is, however, still a detail that we should note. As are the details contained in the missing cards.

A Purposeful Separation Of Evidence

One of those, for example, on the numbered report (402) was an interview with one of the female witnesses. Allegedly the last witness to be interviewed. She would tell of how the five of them were fishing on Rogue River when they witnessed a strange object “round in shape, silver in color, and about the size of a C-47 aircraft”.

It is interesting to note that the comparison to a C-47 was merely because this was the only aircraft this particular witness was familiar with as her son would point them out to her “as they flew over Gold Beach”. However, because of this one reference, air force investigators would put the sightings down to nothing more than “an aircraft”.

Sketch of the Rogue River craft

Sketch of the Rogue River craft

As Maccabee notes, though, the original investigators essentially “ignored her claim that the object was circular”. Furthermore, they had given the impression with their record-keeping this last witness was giving an account of a separate incident. One completely different to that of the other four witnesses. Was this a purposeful attempt to murky the waters of the UFO and alien question? Even as far back as the early 1950s?

Maccabee then turned his attention to the second report, unnumbered report. The one that investigators claimed were “kites”.  And once more, evidence of a purposeful clouding of the facts is clear.

Finding Evidence To Fit The Conclusion

The second report, which contained the interviews and accounts of the remaining four witnesses, would include the two employees of Ames Research Laboratory. It would come to the conclusion that the object was merely a radar kite. And what’s more, it would appear that the drive behind the investigation revolved around this. And finding evidence to fit this preconceived conclusion.

For example, they would fail to find any corresponding official records of aircraft in the area. Investigators would then seemingly zero in on a military radar installation near San Francisco in neighboring California. This facility would launch “radar kites” twice a day. These are balloons with metallic diamond-shaped radar reflectors approximately five feet in length.

Upon reaching a certain altitude, the gas expands the balloons, so they burst, sending the “kites” back to the ground. It was proposed by investigators that one of these radar kites had drifted north from California. And then came floating down over Rogue River.

A "radar kite"

A “radar kite”

However, the explanation, which sat unexamined for several years, is simply not at all satisfactory. Not least, as Maccabee notes, because these radar kites are “not pancake-shaped” like the object the witnesses claimed they saw. Furthermore, given the sightings were in daylight, the balloons, especially with the Navy binoculars two of the witnesses had at their disposal, would have been perfectly visible. And, had the balloons already burst, the objects would have continued to descend and not hover. And they certainly would not have taken off at the speed with which the witnesses claimed they did.

Why, then, was there an obvious desire to dismiss the case and have it discredited as a mistaken sighting?

The Death Valley UFO Incident, Late-Summer, 1949 – Another Suppressed Incident?

Several months later, in August 1949 in Bakersfield, California, [3] another little-known UFO incident occurred. A report of the incident appeared in the 21st August edition of The Bakersfield Californian on page 13.

On the evening of the 19th August, two prospectors, Buck Fitzgerald, and Mace Garney, claimed to witness a strange disc-shaped craft crash in the desert of Death Valley. They would go on to claim that the object appeared to be flying around 300 miles per hour and was approximately 24 feet across.

A depiction of a UFO over a river at sunset

A depiction of a UFO over a river at sunset

Following its crashing into the sand dunes of the desert, “two small creatures” – most definitely humanoid – exited the crippled craft. Instinctively, the two witnesses began running towards the two occupants in an attempt to apprehend them. However, being that it was the middle of summer, and despite the time of day, the heat was simply too much for them to run through. Besides, the two humanoids were much faster than either of them.

Perhaps most bizarre part of the incident, however, occurred the pair returned to the crash site. Only now, the craft was no longer there. Where it went is an absolute mystery. As is what became of the two creatures.

There is very little else on record concerning the incident. The report in The Bakersfield Californian, however, very much suggests that something happened in the deserts of California that evening in the late summer of 1949. And perhaps the fact that it seemingly then disappears from the record with no apparent follow-up investigation of any kind is at the very least suspicious. And possibly smacks of the same cover-up tones as the Rogue River incident several months previously.

A Little-Known Case That Speaks Volumes About The UFO World

The incident over Oregon’s Rogue River tells us several things. Not least that a desire to cover over and confuse the records of such incidents goes back almost to the very beginnings of the modern UFO era. And given the plethora of alleged accounts before then, it very likely goes back longer than many of us might think.

What, then, should we think of the countless sightings and reports that have come since? And of the incidents with only “limited” information? Perhaps there are many sightings, despite the reports in good faith, that have simply not gone on record? And while this is pure speculation, there does appear, in the cases we have examined here, and in many others, to be a purposeful agenda. If not to suppress the truth, then to misrepresent it. And have it perceived in a very specific and predetermined way.

Of course, most of us who have spent any amount of time in such circles accept this is the case. And are, for the most part, willing to sift through the doubletalk and misleading statements. All in order to get to the genuine information. However, such cases as the Rogue River incident, and the discreet but highly effective way such information was hidden in plain sight, might make even the most enthusiastic and optimistic of us question the best way to go about deciphering such a complex web of misdirection.

With all that said, there has perhaps never been a better time, with the UFO community as a whole never better placed to access such information. And, in turn, piece together the true picture of the UFO and alien question.


1 Project Blue Book Special Report 14
2 An Assessment of the UFO Sighting at Rogue River, Bruce Maccabee, NICAP
3 Crash: When UFOs Fall From the Sky: A History of Famous Incidents, Conspiracies, and Cover-Ups, Kevin D. Randle, ISBN 9781601 637369 (page 135-136)

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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