In the late 1960s, Thelma "Dee" Swope worked for Radiation, Inc., a civilian contractor at Holloman Air Force Base. Since the late 1940s, there had been reports of various kinds of unexplained phenomena in the region around White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base. Swope helped create one of them.

        The emerald laser project was the fun one. At the time, I was married to Captain Don Pearson, who was in Foreign Technology Development (FTD) out at Holloman. He decided he wanted to cross-train. He wasn't getting anywhere in Foreign Technology, and it was a little boring. He had his aeronautical engineering degree, so he wanted to get out of FTD and into something that was a little more hands-on. So he transferred into the laser research project, which had just begun. They had just started working with the ruby and the emerald lasers. When Don got his transfer, when he cross-trained into that department, I was working with Radiation, near where Don's offices were. They didn't have enough personnel, and according to Don, this was an Air Force thing. They didn't want a lot of civilians involved in it.
        So Don asked me, since we were married and since I was familiar with some of the basics that have to be done, if I would go out in the evenings and help him out at the [high speed test] track to do some distance, long-range testing with the beam….
        One of the interesting sidelines to working with the emerald laser was one time, it had come a really rainy season. It had rained and rained for a week, and so we hadn't been out at the track doing much work with the laser…. Finally, the rains had quit. Supposedly, it was not going to rain this night. We went out, and this was in July of '69, if I am not mistaken. We went out, set up the laser, did all of our testing, and we did increase the range another 20 to 30 feet….
        But while we were out there, the frogs were driving us nuts! They were reep, reep, rip, rip. It sounded like a million of them. They were so loud you could hardly hear yourself talk.… They were all over the place. It sounded so weird. Well, we had been really stretching the range of the laser…. The next evening, I picked up the Alamogordo Daily News. The front-page headline was something like, "Green Alien Light Seen in Desert." I read those headlines, and I thought, "Oh my gosh!" Because it was a top-secret thing we were working on…. There were two men working on some kind of pipeline or something outside of Holloman Air Force Base. They had heard the strange noises. Well, that was the frogs!… And the men said they had seen this green light that was running along the road out there. So they had an alien sighting.
        It was written like a UFO sighting. I showed that to my husband, and I said, "You know what, we have been discovered." We had to lay low. We had to stop the project for about a month. We could not afford to do any more testing while the public awareness was that great. But to this day, I think, "Well, I have the explanation for a UFO sighting that happened here in Alamogordo. I know where that one came from."
Space Pioneers in Their Own Words
Home
Excerpt
The Author
Space Pioneers in Their Own Words
The Book
Each month, a brief excerpt from a space pioneer's oral history will be featured on this page. This is the excerpt for December 2020:
Featured Excerpt
Featured Excerpt
 Home
Each month, a brief excerpt from a space pioneer's oral history will be featured on this page. This is the excerpt for December 2020:
In the late 1960s, Thelma "Dee" Swope worked for Radiation, Inc., a civilian contractor at Holloman Air Force Base. Since the late 1940s, there had been reports of various kinds of unexplained phenomena in the region around White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base. Swope helped create one of them.

        The emerald laser project was the fun one. At the time, I was married to Captain Don Pearson, who was in Foreign Technology Development (FTD) out at Holloman. He decided he wanted to cross-train. He wasn't getting anywhere in Foreign Technology, and it was a little boring. He had his aeronautical engineering degree, so he wanted to get out of FTD and into something that was a little more hands-on. So he transferred into the laser research project, which had just begun. They had just started working with the ruby and the emerald lasers. When Don got his transfer, when he cross-trained into that department, I was working with Radiation, near where Don's offices were. They didn't have enough personnel, and according to Don, this was an Air Force thing. They didn't want a lot of civilians involved in it.
        So Don asked me, since we were married and since I was familiar with some of the basics that have to be done, if I would go out in the evenings and help him out at the [high speed test] track to do some distance, long-range testing with the beam….
        One of the interesting sidelines to working with the emerald laser was one time, it had come a really rainy season. It had rained and rained for a week, and so we hadn't been out at the track doing much work with the laser…. Finally, the rains had quit. Supposedly, it was not going to rain this night. We went out, and this was in July of '69, if I am not mistaken. We went out, set up the laser, did all of our testing, and we did increase the range another 20 to 30 feet….
        But while we were out there, the frogs were driving us nuts! They were reep, reep, rip, rip. It sounded like a million of them. They were so loud you could hardly hear yourself talk.… They were all over the place. It sounded so weird. Well, we had been really stretching the range of the laser…. The next evening, I picked up the Alamogordo Daily News. The front-page headline was something like, "Green Alien Light Seen in Desert." I read those headlines, and I thought, "Oh my gosh!" Because it was a top-secret thing we were working on…. There were two men working on some kind of pipeline or something outside of Holloman Air Force Base. They had heard the strange noises. Well, that was the frogs!… And the men said they had seen this green light that was running along the road out there. So they had an alien sighting.
        It was written like a UFO sighting. I showed that to my husband, and I said, "You know what, we have been discovered." We had to lay low. We had to stop the project for about a month. We could not afford to do any more testing while the public awareness was that great. But to this day, I think, "Well, I have the explanation for a UFO sighting that happened here in Alamogordo. I know where that one came from."




Unless otherwise attributed, all SpacePioneerWords.com content is © Loretta Hall, 2013-2020.
Cover of "Space Pioneers: In Their Own Words"
Contact
Order it from Amazon.
Gold Medal Award from the Military Writers Society of America for Space Pioneers
Space Pioneers book cover
Sign up for free email alerts when new content is posted on this page:
Order it from Amazon.
Gold Medal Award from the Military Writers Society of America for Space Pioneers