It was a cold February day in suburban Washington DC when UFO investigator Elaine Douglass received a knock on her door. It was the mailman with an oversized envelope with no return address in its upper left-hand corner. The year was 1992. Douglass, who had been investigating UFOs and the UFO abduction experience since 1985 opened the envelope and was immediately enthralled by its contents. The envelope contained a report and pieces of other documents about a mysterious incident that happened in the deserts of the Mexican state of Chihuahua in August of 1974. Apparently, an unidentified flying object collided mid-air with a small private plane and both crafts crashed just outside of the small Mexican town of Coyame about 50 miles from the border with Texas. The documents supposedly came from someone who signed his or her name “J.S.” and declared that he or she was part of the “Deneb Team.” As the founder of Operation Right to Know, an organization that published information and sponsored public protests against UFO secrecy, Elaine Douglass seemed the perfect person for this information to be given to. Douglass had a master’s degree from MIT and she knew she must approach this information with a serious dose of skepticism no matter how excited she felt.
On August 25th 1974 at approximately 10:00 pm a young radar operator at US Air Defense detected an unknown object approaching American airspace from the Gulf of Mexico. When first spotted, the object was flying at over 2,500 miles per hour at an altitude of 75,000 feet. It was due to enter US territory 40 miles southwest of Corpus Christi when the object decelerated, turned and began a slow descent. It entered Mexican airspace about 50 miles south of the US border at Brownsville, Texas. The object continued its descent: 45,000 feet, then to 25,000 feet. Two different US military installations continued to track the object 500 more miles inland until it disappeared from the radar. It was originally assumed that this object was a meteor, but natural celestial objects falling from the sky do not change course and do not have abrupt changes in speed as this object did.
About an hour after the disappearance of this object from radar, chatter occurred on civilian radio: a small plane out of El Paso, bound for Mexico City, had gone down in the same area as the mysterious object’s disappearance. In the early morning of August 26th, Mexican authorities began looking for the downed plane, knowing nothing of the other object spotted on US military radar the night before. At around 10:30, a field of wreckage was spotted from the air and ground rescue and recovery operations commenced. Within minutes of this discovery, another crash was spotted a few miles away. This crash left no debris field. Instead, it appeared to be a banged up, smoldering metal disk of highly polished steel, about 16 feet across and 5 feet thick. There were no doors or windows or markings of any kind. The damage to the disk was described as one 12-inch hole and a dent about 2 feet across. After the report of this shiny disk-shaped object came over the airwaves, the Mexican authorities issued a complete radio silence on the search and rescue effort.
They had good reason to do this, as the CIA was listening. The CIA had been monitoring the radio transmissions closely and at the time of the report of the discovery of the disk, they were already assembling an extraction team at nearby Fort Bliss just outside of El Paso. The team included about a dozen men, a large Sea Stallion helicopter and 3 smaller helicopters. Researchers marvel at the speed with which this team was assembled, noting that the CIA must have done similar extraction operations in the past. While the CIA scrambled the team, requests were initiated between the American and Mexican governments using high diplomatic channels. All offers of assistance were denied or ignored. Meanwhile satellite data and reconnaissance aircraft flying above the area indicated that the wreckage of the plane and the crashed saucer were already loaded on to flatbed trucks by the Mexican military. Later images showed that the convoy was headed south.
Instead of letting the disk fall into the hands of the Mexican government, at this point the CIA made an “executive decision” and ordered the recovery team to enter sovereign Mexican territory to recover the disk. While readying the team to leave Fort Bliss, intelligence analysists monitoring the situation made an interesting observation: the Mexican convoy had stopped in the middle of a dirt road far away from any populated areas or major roads. Monitors also noticed that all communications from the convoy and its base of operations had ceased. What was going on?
The American recon operation arrived at the site of the stalled trucks later that afternoon. They beheld a grisly sight: all Mexican military personnel were dead, with most of them still in their trucks. There is great speculation as to why the Mexicans all died. Was it the radiation from the possible spacecraft? Was it a biological agent released from a leaky disk? Or, did the pilots of the disk escape and kill their human captors? Over 4 decades later, we might never know exactly what happened. The recon team had no time to ponder reasons for what they saw. They were prepared, however and were outfitted in bio-hazard suits. Immediately after they arrived, the recon team re-lashed the crashed disk and hoisted it out of the flatbed truck with their Sea Stallion helicopter. By all estimation, the object weighed about one thousand, five hundred pounds. Conflicting reports tell of what happened to the remains of Mexican convoy after this. Some say that everything, bodies and all, was incinerated or blown up in the desert to prevent contamination and to cover up any physical evidence of the event. Others say that the bodies and pieces of the wreckage of the plane were taken away for further study. We know this: The helicopters from this clandestine mission landed in a secret rendezvous point in Texas’ Davis Mountains just north of the town of Valentine. In the 2:00 hour in the early part of August 27th, he helicopters again took flight and met up with a convoy of trucks near Van Horn, Texas. The saucer was loaded on to the back of another flatbed truck and was carried along back roads and small highways. Its destination remains unknown. Some say it was taken to Atlanta, to the CDC possibly. Others say that it was taken to Fort Bliss. Yet another account says that the craft ended up at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Since that envelope arrived at Elaine Douglass’ door, there have been several investigations into what happened at Coyame. The seminal book on this incident was written by American UFO investigators Noe Torres and Ruben Uriarte in 2013. In their book, The Coyame Incident: UFO Crash Near Presidio, Texas, the two investigators talked to hundreds of people in and around Coyame to get a better idea as to what really happened. They discovered that there were few eyewitnesses to the crash and after 4 decades passing from the incident to the publication of their book, Torres and Uriarte found conflicting stories about related incidents. For example, in September of 1967 a Pershing mid-range missile launched from a base in the United States crashed in the area of the Chihuahua desert near where the 1974 crashed saucer wreckage was supposedly found. In 1980 Mexican military authorities conducted an extensive search of the area north of Coyame to recover drugs and cash scattered across the landscape from a plane crash of a failed drug run. Many people suspect that some residents of the area might be confusing other incidents with the supposed 1974 saucer crash.
While most of the focus of this case has been on the mysterious crashed saucer, little attention has been paid to the small private plane that supposedly collided with it. After several inquiries to the FAA, no documents have turned up regarding the crash of the small plane, perhaps because the crash occurred outside of the United States. One astute observer noted that had the plane filed a flight plan in El Paso then its disappearance would have triggered a search within minutes of loss of contact and we would at least have a name of the pilot of the plane. Also, if the aircraft was a non-jet airplane, Mexican air regulations at the time would have required the plane to land in the city of Chihuahua to clear customs and immigration. As Mexico only accepts air traffic into its airspace on designated routes, the Coyame crash would have been 80 miles outside the accepted air lane at the time. The fact that no tangible records exists of this small plane is particularly troubling to those investigating this seriously but seems to be glossed over by many researchers. Flight plans and investigations of downed airplanes leave verifiable facts behind. Could the lack of verifiable facts for the small airplane in the Coyame case be part of the whole cover-up?
Much time has passed since this incident which occurred back in August of 1974. The memories of local people seem foggy and any sort of official documentation as to what happened out in the Chihuahua desert so long ago seems non-existent. We are left wondering if that envelope given to UFO researcher Elaine Douglass that started this all was part of an elaborate hoax or if it was a piece of a genuine flying saucer mystery.
REFERENCES (Not a formal bibliography)
The Coyame Incident: UFO Crash Near Presidio, Texas by Noe Torres and Ruben Uriarte
History Channel Series in Mexico: “Contacto Extraterrestre.” Episode: “Secretos Militares” June 21, 2013 (in Spanish)
UFO Crash/Retrievals: Search for Proof in a Hall of Mirrors, Status Report VII by Len Stringfield