An aerial dogfight between a pilot of the North Dakota Air Guard and a UFO took place in the skies over Fargo on Oct. 1, 1948. The Air Guard pilot, George Gorman, was a seasoned flier. Not knowing the intention of the pilot of the object, Gorman, in his P-51 Mustang, decided to engage the object.

The 27-minute dogfight between the P-51 and the UFO was witnessed by two air traffic controllers in a tower at Hector Airport and the pilot of a Piper Cub who was in the air at the on-set of the action.

George F. Gorman was born July 7, 1923, to Norbert and Roberta Gorman.  He grew up in Fargo where his father was a Cass County agent.  During World War II, Gorman became a B-25 instructor for French aviation students. 

When the war was over, he returned to Fargo and was employed as the manager of a construction company.  On Jan. 16, 1947, the North Dakota Air National Guard was started.  They organized the 178th Fighter Squadron in Fargo, and Gorman joined the squadron as a second lieutenant.

On Oct. 1, 1948, Gorman was flying cross-country with other members of the Guard.  Shortly after 8:30 p.m., the other pilots landed at Hector Airport, but Gorman decided to get in some extra flying time.  While in the air about 20 minutes later, he was notified by the control tower that a small Piper Cub was in the area.  Gorman acknowledged that he could see the smaller plane about 500 feet below him. 

About five minutes later, he spotted a dimly lighted disk-shaped object slowly circling the city. Gorman contacted the tower asking about another plane and was told that there were the only two planes in the air over Fargo.

Deciding to investigate, Gorman approached the object and it suddenly brightened and accelerated. The object had been traveling about 250 mph, but as he began the chase, it sped up to about 600 mph.

Since the P-51 could only travel 400 mph, the object quickly outdistanced him.  It made a 180-degree turn and came straight at him.  Gorman tried to crash into it, but as they neared, it veered upward and passed over him.

When Gorman continued his pursuit, the object climbed to about 14,000 feet, the P-51 in its chase went into a power stall, and Gorman temporarily passed out.  At this point, the object turned in a northwest direction and disappeared.

Observing this action were Lloyd D. Jensen and H. E. Johnson, two air traffic controllers in the tower at Hector Airport.  Another eyewitness was Dr. Cannon, who was the pilot of the Piper Cub.  One of the characteristics that both controllers commented on was the rapid rate of speed of the lighted object and how it easily outdistanced the P-51.

Gorman was so shaken up by the incident that he had difficulty maneuvering his plane and had to make several approaches in order to land the P-51.  He then contacted his commanding officer, Major D.C. Jones.  The major received a signed statement from Gorman and referred the incident to U. S. Air Force intelligence.  On Oct. 4, an intelligence unit, headed by Major Paul Kubala, arrived in Fargo and questioned Gorman, Cannon and the two controllers. 

The Air Force came to the conclusion that the object was a weather balloon with a candle in it that had earlier been released from the airfield.  Gorman later found out from weather observer George Sanderson that “the time and altitudes didn’t fit, and the wind direction was wrong.”

With this evidence, Gorman insisted that it was not a weather balloon. The Air Material Command then warned Gorman that he was not to divulge any more information or he would be subject to a court marshal. 

Hoping to make a career with the Air Force, Gorman maintained his silence on the matter.  He was transferred to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and was then stationed at the Aviano Air Base in Lonigo, Italy, for five years. 

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After returning to the U.S., Gorman was stationed in Washington, D.C.; Lincoln, Neb.; Hampton, N.H.; Abilene, Texas; and finally New Braunfels, Texas.  He retired from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel. 

After his retirement, Gorman worked as a building contractor in New Braunfels.

Gorman never did talk publicly about his experience with the UFO even though he was contacted by a Life magazine reporter who was writing a story on UFOs for an April 1952 edition.

However, he did reveal to friends that “he was never convinced that he had been dueling with a lighted balloon for 27 minutes.”

He died on July 31, 1982

(Written by Curt Eriksmoen. Reach Eriksmoen at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.)

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