By The Black Vault
Cooper claimed to have seen his first UFO while flying over West Germany in 1951, although he denied reports he had seen a UFO during his Mercury flight.
In 1957, when Cooper was 30 and a Captain, he was assigned to Fighter Section of the Experimental Flight Test Engineering Division at Edwards AFB in California. He acted as a test pilot and project manager. On May 3 of that year, he had a crew setting up an Askania Cinetheodolite precision landing system on a dry lake bed.
This cinetheodolite system would take pictures at one frame per second as an aircraft landed. The crew consisted of James Bittick and Jack Gettys who began work at the site just before 0800, using both still and motion picture cameras. According to his accounts, later that morning they returned to report to Cooper that they saw a “strange-looking, saucer-like” aircraft that did not make a sound either on landing or take-off.
According to his accounts, Cooper realized that these men, who on a regular basis have seen experimental aircraft flying and landing around them as part of their job of filming those aircraft, were clearly worked up and unnerved. They explained how the saucer hovered over them, landed 50 yards away from them using three extended landing gears and then took off as they approached for a closer look. Being photographers with cameras in hand, they of course shot images with 35mm and 4×5 still cameras as well as motion picture film. There was a special Pentagon number to call to report incidents like this. He called and it immediately went up the chain of command until he was instructed by a general to have the film developed (but to make no prints of it) and send it right away in a locked courier pouch.
As he had not been instructed to not look at the negatives before sending them, he did. He said the quality of the photography was excellent as would be expected from the experienced photographers who took them. What he saw was exactly what they had described to him. He did not see the movie film before everything was sent away. He expected that there would be a follow up investigation since an aircraft of unknown origin had landed in a highly classified military installation, but nothing was ever said of the incident again. He was never able to track down what happened to those photos. He assumed that they ended up going to the Air Force’s official UFO investigation, Project Blue Book, which was based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
He held claim until his death that the U.S. government was indeed covering up information about UFOs. […]