Felix Eugene Moncla Jr.
|Born||October 21, 1926|
Mansura, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||presumably November 23, 1953 (aged 27)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
United States Air Force
|Years of service||1945-1946 U.S. Army|
1950-1953 U.S. Air Force
First Lieutenant Felix Eugene Moncla Jr. (October 21, 1926 – presumed dead November 23, 1953) was a United States Air Force (USAF) pilot who disappeared while performing an air defense intercept over Lake Superior in 1953. Moncla's disappearance is sometimes known as the Kinross Incident, after Kinross Air Force Base, where Moncla was on temporary assignment when he disappeared.
The USAF reported that Moncla had crashed and that the object of the intercept was a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) aircraft. According to the report, the pilot of the Canadian aircraft was later contacted and stated that he did not see the intercepting plane and did not know that he was the subject of an interception. However, on several occasions, the RCAF denied that any of their aircraft was involved in any incident on that day, in correspondence with members of the public asking for further details of the intercept.
Moncla was born in Mansura, Louisiana, on October 21, 1926, to Felix Sr. (1894–1957), a high school science teacher, principal, and veteran of World War I, and Yvonne Beridon Moncla (1900–1961), a seamstress. He also had two older sisters, Leonie and Muriel Ann. Not long after his father had been hospitalized, Moncla's family moved to Moreauville, Louisiana, to live with his uncle and great aunt.
Moncla attended high school in Moreauville and, upon graduating from high school, accepted an athletic scholarship to Southwest Louisiana Institute, where he played football and received his Bachelor of Science degree. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army and served during World War II as part of the occupation force of Japan. After his service, Moncla attended the University of New Orleans, but reenlisted in the military at the start of the Korean War in 1950, this time joining the United States Air Force (USAF) as an officer pilot trainee.
After spending a few months at a desk job in Dallas, Texas, Moncla was sent to Connally Air Force Base in Waco for basic pilot training, where he met and married Bobbie Jean Coleman. He took his advanced pilot training at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, and further training on the F-89 Scorpion at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. In Panama City, Bobbie Jean gave birth to their first son. In July 1952, Moncla and his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and had a daughter born five months before Moncla's disappearance.
On the evening of November 23, 1953, Air Defense Command Ground Intercept radar operators at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, identified an unusual target over Lake Superior, near the Soo Locks. An F-89C Scorpion jet from Kinross Air Force Base was scrambled to investigate the radar return; the Scorpion was piloted by First Lieutenant Moncla, with Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson acting as the Scorpion's radar operator.
Wilson had a difficult time tracking the object on the Scorpion's radar, so ground radar operators gave Moncla directions towards the object as he flew. Moncla eventually closed in on the object at about 8,000 feet in altitude. Ground Control tracked the Scorpion and the unidentified object as two "blips" on the radar screen. The two blips on the radar screen grew closer and closer until they seemed to merge. Assuming that Moncla had flown either under or over the target, Ground Control anticipated that moments later, the Scorpion and the object would again appear as two separate blips. Donald Keyhoe reported that there was a fear that the two objects had struck one another, but the single blip continued on its previous course.
Attempts were made to contact Moncla via radio, but without success. A search and rescue operation by both the USAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was quickly mounted, but failed to find any trace of the plane or its pilots. Weather conditions were a factor in hampering the search.
USAF Accident Investigation Report
The official USAF Accident Investigation Report states the F-89 was sent to investigate an RCAF C-47 Skytrain which was travelling off course. The F-89 was flying at an elevation of 8,000 feet when it merged with the other aircraft, as was expected in an interception. Its IFF signal also disappeared after the two returns merged on the radar scope. Although efforts to contact the crew on radio were unsuccessful, the pilot of another F-89 sent on the search stated in testimony to the accident board that he believed that he had heard a brief radio transmission from the pilot about forty minutes after the plane disappeared.
USAF investigators reported that Moncla may have experienced vertigo and crashed into Lake Superior. The USAF said that Moncla had been known to experience vertigo from time to time: "Additional leads uncovered during this later course of the investigation indicated that there might be a possibility that Lt. Moncla was subject to attacks of vertigo a little more than the normal degree. Upon pursuing these leads, it was discovered that statements had been made by former members of Lt. Moncla's organization but were not first hand evidence and were regarded as hearsay." Pilot vertigo is not listed as a cause or possible cause in any of the USAF Accident Investigation Board's findings and conclusions.
The official accident report states that when the unknown return was first picked up on radar, it was believed to be RCAF aircraft "VC-912" but it was classified as "UNKNOWN" because it was off its flight plan course by about thirty miles. This assertion was emphatically denied by the pilot of this RCAF flight, Gerald Fosberg, when he was interviewed for the David Cherniack documentary "The Moncla Memories" produced for VisionTV's Enigma series.
The USAF also provided an alternative explanation to UFO investigator Donald Keyhoe. In his 1955 book, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, Keyhoe describes his investigation into the F-89's disappearance which began the night of the incident; when he received a telephone call telling him of "a rumor out at Selfridge Field that an F-89 from Kinross (sic) was hit by a flying saucer". A follow-up call to Public Information Officer Lt. Robert C. White revealed that "the unknown in that case was a Canadian DC-3. It was over the locks by mistake". The "locks" refers to the restricted air space over the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, on the U.S.–Canada border at the southeast end of Lake Superior.
Reports of parts found in 1968
It is possible that aircraft parts found near the eastern shore of Lake Superior in late October 1968 were from the missing F-89. A USAF officer confirmed the parts were from a military jet aircraft and news reports speculated these might be from Moncla's F-89. The identity of the parts was never published and the Canadian government states they have no record of the find.
2006 "Great Lakes Dive Company" hoax
In late August 2006, an email from a "Preston Miller" was sent to UFO researcher Francis Ridge which contained a quoted excerpt from an Associated Press (AP) story. The quoted "news story" claimed that a group of Michigan divers had discovered Moncla's F-89 at the bottom Lake Superior, in the approximate location where the jet had disappeared from radar. The email also contained a link to a website that had recently been created for the group of divers; they called themselves the "Great Lakes Dive Company".
Ridge forwarded the email to the Internet website "UFO Updates", a popular forum and message board for UFO researchers and writers. As a result, news of the purported discovery quickly spread through the UFO community and news media sources. Several reporters attempted to contact the "Great Lakes Dive Company" to obtain more information about the discovery. The reporters were placed in contact with a person who claimed to be the spokesman for the Great Lakes Company. Calling himself "Adam Jimenez", the man discussed the "discovery" with several investigators and journalists. "Adam Jimenez" was even interviewed by UFO researcher Linda Moulton Howe on the syndicated late-night radio talk show Coast to Coast AM.
The Great Lakes Dive Company's website initially presented two images of the purported discovery, both images stated as being output from side-scan sonar. The fuzzy, high noise images depicted an almost completely intact aircraft resting on the lakebed, its nose in the silt, with one exposed wing, tip tank and the upswept tail characteristic of the F-89 clearly displayed. The discovery initially caused excitement, as many felt that the discovery of the crashed jet would at last provide an answer as to what had happened to Moncla and Wilson.
However, as journalists and ufologists delved deeper into the case, their suspicions were raised as the story became more and more elaborate. It was soon stated that an unexplained metallic object had been found near the F-89 and "sonar images" of this discovery were soon published on the website. It was speculated that the "teardrop-shaped" object was possibly the UFO that the F-89 had merged with on radar.
Several factors about the alleged discovery led journalists to claim that the discovery was in fact a hoax. Several investigators began efforts to track down more information about the "Great Lakes Dive Company" and "Adam Jimenez". All efforts to find evidence of the existence of the company led to the conclusion that it did not exist. Efforts to obtain any biographical data on "Adam Jimenez" also turned up nothing. The only contact information anyone obtained for Jimenez were an email address and cellphone. Only three weeks after the discovery, the company's website suddenly disappeared without explanation and "Adam Jimenez" stopped answering emails and cellphone calls.
An investigation by James Carrion, at that time the International Director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), revealed that there was no evidence the AP had written the original "news story" that was quoted in the initial notice of the discovery, nor any record of the existence of the "Great Lakes Dive Company" beyond its fleeting presence on a website; "Adam Jimenez" refused to provide any further information on the principals of the company, the type of vessel they used, or any other information which might help to establish the existence of the organization. Carrion's investigation showed that many of Jimenez's statements about the discovery were untrue, including his suggestion that the Canadian government had withheld permission for site survey work to be resumed. It turned out no such permission had been requested.
Brendon Baillod, who is active in Great Lakes shipwreck hunting and maritime history circles, and is a director of the Association for Great Lakes Maritime History, stated that he had never heard of Jimenez or his group and that nobody he knew in his field had heard of them either. Baillod said that the sidescan images taken seemed to be authentic, but dismissed Jimenez's claim that they had been made with a fishfinder, particularly in 500 feet (150 m) depth of water. He further said that the images could not have been made with a hull mounted transducer as was claimed by Jimenez, but would have required a towfish (a towed scanner). As of 2009[update], the general consensus among journalists and UFO researchers who have investigated the purported discovery is that it is a hoax, and that Felix Moncla's F-89 jet remains undiscovered.
- Disappearance of Frederick Valentich, a similar case
- List of missing aircraft
- List of people who disappeared
- List of UFO sightings
- McCloskey, Keith Unsolved Aviation Mysteries: Five Strange Tales of Air and Sea (History Press March 2, 2020, ISBN 978-0750992589)
- Hall, Richard. "RCAF letter debunking AF claim". www.nicap.org. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
- "Second Truax Jet, 2 Fliers Missing". The Capital Times. November 24, 1953. p. 1. Retrieved July 2, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Fatal Crashes Fail to Halt Use of F89C Scorpion". The Fresno Bee – The Republican. November 26, 1953. p. 10C. Retrieved July 3, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- NUFORC Case Brief
- Aircraft Accident Board, USAF Accident Investigation Report for F-89 51-5853A, December 1953, Sect. "Findings"
- Aircraft Accident Board, USAF Accident Investigation Report for F-89 51-5853A, December 1953, Sect. "Testimony of Lt. William A. Mingenbach"
- Aircraft Accident Board, USAF Accident Investigation Report for F-89 51-5853A, December 1953, Sect. "Statement by Douglas A. Stuart"
- Cherniack, David (2006) "The Moncla Memories" documentary film for Vision TV's "Enigma" series
- Keyhoe, Major Donald E. (1955) The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, published by Henry Holt and Company, Pg.15.
- Keyhoe, Major Donald E. (1955) The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, published by Henry Holt and Company, Pg.18
- "Aircraft Parts Found in 1968". Sault Daily Star. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2008.
- Carrion, James. "Update on Kinross / Great Lakes Dive Company". Retrieved June 7, 2008.
- Baillod, Brendon (August 29, 2006). "About Brendon Baillod's Great Lakes Shipwreck Research". northernexpress.com. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved May 30, 2008.
- Sachs, Harley L. (August 29, 2006). "Truth or Hoax...Disappearence [sic] of F89". northernexpress.com. Archived from the original on September 3, 2009. Retrieved May 30, 2008.