- MOREAUVILLE -- It was a cold,
cloudy night above Lake Superior nearly 50 years ago when 27-year old Avoyelles
Parish native and Air Force pilot 1st Lt. Felix E. "Gene" Moncla
Jr. and 2nd Lt. Robert Wilson met a mysterious fate, trying to intercept
what some believe was a UFO.
- Family, friends and investigators want to know what happened
to this well-liked Moreauville man so many years ago.
- One of those people is Canadian UFO investigator and
computer systems analyst Gordon Heath, of Surrey, British Columbia.
- Heath, 48, grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, along the
north shore of Lake Superior, and said he has been interested in Great
Lakes mysteries since he was a boy. He came across the Moncla story on
the Internet after having heard about it years ago. He spent some time
in Avoyelles Parish last fall, researching old copies of the Avoyelles
Journal and interviewing friends and family of Moncla.
- While researching in Avoyelles Parish, Heath found that
Moncla had been based at Truax Field in Madison, Wis.
- Moncla, with 1,000 hours of flight time, had been temporarily
transferred to Kinross Air Force Base in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, shortly
before he disappeared.
- On the night of Nov. 23, 1953, Moncla and Wilson were
instructed to fly their Northrup F-89C jet aircraft to identify a large
unidentified craft flying over restricted airspace at the Soo Locks along
the American-Canadian border. The duo, flying at approximately 500 mph,
descended rapidly from 30,000 feet to 7,000 feet in order to seek out the
unusual object. They were traveling at a slightly slower speed than normal,
- This incident occurred when the Cold War was beginning
to heat up, so American jets often were ordered to investigate unknown
craft on the assumption that enemy pilots could fly them. And just a year
earlier, a flying saucer flap had gripped the United States, resulting
in unknown objects flying over restricted airspace in Washington, D.C.
- As Moncla's jet approached the craft, Heath said a radar
operator at Houghton, Mich., noted that it was not long before the two
blips on the radarscope had merged. Suddenly, Moncla and Wilson's jet had
disappeared and the "bogey" (as UFO's and other unknown craft
are called in Air Force parlance) continued on a northward track over Canada
and rapidly vanished off the radar screen.
- A search team was immediately dispatched over Lake Superior,
west-northwest of Michipicoten Island. Rescue craft scoured the American
and Canadian coasts, but no remains of the jet or the bodies of the two
pilots ever were found.
- "Visibility was a variable that night," Heath
said. "There had been plenty of clouds and light snow conditions reported."
- However, all researchers agree that conditions were not
inclement enough to imperil Moncla's top-notch jet.
- At first, the Air Force said the F-89 and the bogey did
merge on the radar scope and the Associated Press ran a story with that
information. But then the Air Force backtracked and gave different stories
about what happened that night, even saying that the object they had been
chasing was a Canadian jet.
- In fact, Air Force investigators would later report that
Moncla may have experienced vertigo and crashed into the lake. The Air
Force said Moncla was known to experience vertigo from time to time.
- If Moncla was known to experience vertigo, Heath asked,
why would the Air Force have him on active duty flying critical missions?
- And the Royal Canadian Air Force disputed the Air Force
theory that the object Moncla chased was an RCAF jet aircraft flying a
night mission from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Sudbury, Ontario, Heath said.
- Heath said the vertigo theory is weak since it was very
likely Moncla was looking at instruments rather than visuals at the time.
- Heath said a researcher in Royal Oak, Mich., John Tenney,
found out through his own research that an Air Force communications officer
claimed to have heard Moncla's Cajun drawl over the radio long after it
had been reported that he had vanished. Heath said Air Force investigators
discounted this because they were of the mind that the aircraft disappeared
and crashed and the idea that Moncla was still flying around after he crashed
into the lake didn't fit their idea of what happened.
- Tenney could not be reached for comment for this article.
- Heath compiled an interesting account of the Moncla mystery
in the winter 2003 of the UFOBC Quarterly magazine.
- Following the "accident," it would be a month
before Moncla and Wilson were listed as officially dead by the U.S. Air
Force. And surprisingly, the Air Force did not hold a memorial for the
two crewmen as was customary for members who died in the line of duty.
- Moncla's widow did, however, receive an American flag
from the Air Force, Heath said. Heath wants to know why the Air Force did
not conduct a memorial.
- "Was it because they had reason to suspect that
the two crewmen might still be alive?" Heath asked.
- Fifteen years after the mysterious incident, in 1968,
some prospectors near the Canadian city of Sault Ste. Marie, found wreckage
from a jet along the rocky and remote Lake Superior shoreline. A newspaper
account of the discovery mentions that the wreckage may have been from
Moncla and Wilson's lost F-89. However, inquiries to the Canadian government
and civilian agencies by Heath about the found wreckage, have proven fruitless.
Heath said the F-89, developed in the late 1940s, had some design flaws
but that those design flaws had been corrected before 1953 and that the
jet had a very good safety record.
- Coincidentally, an F-89 on a training mission from Truax
Field crashed near Madison, Wis., the same night Moncla's F-89 disappeared.
- Heath said that until his disappearance, Moncla had led
a successful life. He was the son of Yvonne and Felix E. Moncla Sr. and
had grown up in Moreauville. Heath said Moncla graduated from Moreauville
(Avoyelles) High School in the 1940s and went on to attend Southwestern
Louisiana Institute in Lafayette (ULL), where he received a bachelor's
of science degree.
- It was while Moncla was attending the LSU School of Medicine
to become a doctor that he applied for a commission in the Air Force. He
was called to active duty shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War
and ended up at Truax Field.
- Heath said he is of the opinion that Moncla and Wilson
met an unusual fate and that they may have been spirited away by whatever
force was behind the object seen on the radarscopes that night. Heath said
some radar operators strongly believe that the plane was "swallowed
up by the UFO."
- At the time of the accident, Moncla had a wife and two
young children, including his son, David Moncla, who lives in Alexandria.
He declined to be interviewed for this story.
- In the Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Moreauville,
a memorial was erected that reads: "(Moncla) Disappeared Nov. 23,
1953, intercepting a UFO over Canadian border as pilot of a Northrup F89
- Heath said that the Avoyelles Commission of Tourism is
planning on building a museum, which may feature a specific display relating
to the Moncla disappearance.
- Carlos Mayeux Jr., who grew up in the Moreauville area
when Moncla was living, confirmed that there is such a project in the works.
At the time, Mayeux was a teenager and recalled hearing the terrible news.
- "It was a tragedy," Mayeux said.
- Felix Moncla's wife, Bobbie Moncla Nabors, later remarried
an Air Force officer in Alabama.
- Buddy Moncla, 77, a cousin of the lieutenant who lives
in the Avoyelles Parish community of Moncla, said he wants to know what
happened to his cousin nearly 50 years ago. Buddy Moncla said he and his
cousin Gene grew up together. He remembers Gene as good looking, popular
and somewhat reserved.
- Both attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute (ULL)
in the early 1950s.
- "We used to watch him play football," Buddy
- After Buddy Moncla married Beryl, he saw less of his
cousin because he was still single. Moncla and his wife were living in
Cape Girardeau, Mo., when he said his mother called and informed him of
- "All we were told was that their plane went down
and they never were found," Beryl Moncla said.
- It wasn't until many years later that he began to hear
more details about the case and the unusual circumstances surrounding his
- Buddy Moncla said he is open to the idea that a UFO snatched
Gene and his co-pilot.
- "I was told that the last transmission recorded
was (Gene) saying, "I'm going in for a closer look," Buddy Moncla
said. "That is the last they heard."
- Buddy Moncla said that means his cousin saw something
high over Lake Superior.
- "He saw something and the radar saw something. The
radar made the story more controversial because the image of Gene's plane
and the unknown object converged into one blip and then it disappeared.
What happened?" he asked. "They say he may have passed out at
the high altitude, but what about his co-pilot?"
- Asked whether he believes a UFO abducted his cousin,
Wilson and the jet that night, Buddy Moncla replies in all seriousness,
"There's no questions. What else? No one can prove otherwise."
- He said that UFO's are just that, unidentified flying
- "Whether it was an item Uncle Sam was experimenting
with or something else, we'll probably never know," he said. "It's
an interesting story."
- He said he and his wife are glad there is some interest
in the story. And having met with investigator Heath during his visit to
Avoyelles Parish, Buddy Moncla said the Canadian UFO researcher "came
across as a straight shooter."
- He added that he would like the U.S. Air Force to reopen
the case and offer some closure on the subject, considering all the unanswered
questions surrounding the mysterious incident.
- Leoni M. Shannon, Moncla's older sister who now lives
in Loveland, Colo., said the incident deeply affected her family.
- "My mother was never the same; he was her only son.
He was sweet to her. She tried to put up a brave front but you knew it
was devastating for her," Shannon said. "After that incident
I was constantly looking in the sky every night. I never saw anything.
It's a puzzle."
- Shannon said the Air Force and other governmental agencies
were not helpful in providing the family with straight answers.
- "We still know nothing about it," Shannon said.
"I don't think the government wants to let us know about what really
happened to him."
- When asked if she believes it is possible a UFO or some
other unknown force could have been behind her brother's disappearance,
Shannon doesn't hesitate, "I think that something like that could've
- Meanwhile, back in British Columbia, Heath continues
to write the Canadian and American governments searching for answers as
to what fate really befell Moncla and Wilson those many years ago. He is
confident the American government engaged in a cover up that continues
to this day.
- "I have a strong inclination where this is all going,"
Heath said. "That Moncla and Wilson were captured by a UFO."
- Andrew Griffin email@example.com
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