Editor’s note: The Rendlesham Forest UFO sightings took place over several days in late December, 1980. Although exact dates have been disputed, according to the witnesses, it is likely the event began very late on December 25. The Rendlsham forest is flanked by two Royal Air Force (RAF) bases, RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge. At the time, both were on lease to the United States Air Force. Personnel from both bases reported seeing UFOs the night of the 25th into the early morning of the 26th.
When December comes around each year it always reminds me that what has been labelled as Britain’s foremost UFO incident took place. I refer of course to the events in late December 1980 in Rendlesham Forest, commonly referred to as the RFI. This incident is too big and too complicated to summarise here but for those who are not fully aware of it I would recommend you read the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendlesham_Forest_incident.
This year we have the new book The Halt Perspective, co-authored by Colonel Halt and John Hanson and published by ’Haunted Skies.’ To some, the RFI is THE case that can change ufology forever, while others dismiss it offering a variety of natural explanations to account for the observations in question. For those who do not know who Colonel Halt is, he was the Deputy Base Commander at RAF Woodbridge in 1980, and was an eye witness to some of the UFO events observed in December 1980.
I am not going to go over old ground, and my own opinion on the RFI remains open, but I am not convinced with a lot of the sceptical arguments against it. So, with all this in mind, I have recently taken the opportunity to interview one of the US Airmen that was on duty on one of the nights in question. To the best of my knowledge he has not gone on the record before. His name is Steve Longero. I spoke with Steve twice on the telephone on October 29th & 30th 2016.
Who is Steve Longero ?
My background: I worked as a Police Officer for Dept of Veterans Affairs 1986-1988. I was hired by the County of Santa Clara Dept of Correction in 1988, while working in the jails, I also was a Reserve Police Officer for the city of Manteca! I ended up retiring from the Sheriffs office in Santa Clara County where I was recognized by the courts as a gang expert. I held the title of training officer, as was a team leader for the emergency response team there, until I retired in 2012.
I was a former Sergeant – Honourable Discharge – at USAF Security Police (1980 – 1984). Yes. I was in the forest, I saw the lights, heard the conversations, talked about it and was told to be quiet! My roommate was Ed Cabansag! I really never talked about it to Penniston and Burroughs but I was there! Warren can tell you! Yes we were debriefed and told to keep quiet!
Interview with Steve Longero
Some of the following interview will be paraphrased while other parts will be verbatim.
Philip Mantle: Can you tell us when you joined the USAF.
Steve Longero: Yes, it’s been a long time. I joined in July, no June 1980.
Mantle: Were your stationed anywhere else before you went to Bentwaters?
Longero: No, that was my first duty. I was a security policeman. You know my job was patrolling the flight line and the weapons storage area (WSA).
Mantle: Do you remember the nights in question in late December 1980?
Longero: Yes, I sure do. I went on duty, what I remember that on one of those nights I was guarding the weapons storage area.
While on duty that night, we had a very sophisticated alarm system and everything just went off. And then, you know, I could see these lights over the treetops, and I was thinking, “What’s going on?” Then they started sending people out there and at first, you know, it was hard to believe, you know, all these bright lights. It was hard to take in. Well, from what I remember, the lights, fluorescent lights, kind of a glow, like a reddish glow. I remember going out there.
Steve went on to add that he went out into Rendlesham Forest and there were a lot of other people already there. The forest wasn’t that far from the perimeter. He was only a few hundred yards into the forest. He could not remember who ordered him to go out there. He remembered the flight chief being out there. He saw the lights in the forest. There were a number of others out there including Larry Warren and Jim Penniston and Cabansag. He was out in the forest from between one to two hours. A few days later they were told not to talk about it. Steve went on to confirm that OSI agents were there. He was asked to sign something and told not to talk about it.
He remembers seeing, among others, Larry Warren when they were told to obtain the ‘light alls’ (portable lights). These were used to light up the forest. So they were taken into the area.
Longero: I can’t remember verbatim what I saw that night but I was there.
Mantle: What I’d like to ask you again, Steve, is when you went out into the forest you could see the lights over the trees. Could you tell me what those lights looked like, please?
Longero: They looked like fluorescent coloured lights, like red and green, glowing lights and that’s what they looked like.
Mantle: How long did you view them for do you reckon?
Longero: I’d say ten to fifteen minutes, and I could see them hovering over the treetops, and it was just hovering over the treetops, and it was just, just, like an eye that was almost following everybody.
Mantle: When you went into the forest you mentioned others, can you remember anyone else who were there?
Longero: Yes, Penniston and Burroughs and Cabansag and, I remember others starting coming, we all kind of got dispatched there, if I remember, Larry was out there. Because, if I remember right, Larry was working at a gate and he got picked up by, I want to say, a Lt. Englund. I remember he was at the East Gate and I remember he, they transported people from there, like I said, they sent a lot of people out there.
Mantle: So when you were in the forest, can you explain to me what you saw and what was it like there?
Longero: It was real kind of quiet and, you know, this thing hovering over the trees, and you were like kind of tracking it and like, “What is this?,” you know, and it was like following, it was like watching us, that’s what it looked like to us. It seemed like something watching us.
Mantle: What colour was it?
Longero: From what I remember, it was like aglow. It was really glowing like a reddish, greenish light. It was a like, it war really glowing. You know what it looked like, like something was really hot and it was just glowing.
Mantle: Did you see Col. Halt? Was he there?
Longero: Col. Halt came afterwards, yes, he came afterwards, after all that was called in. I remember him turning up. That’s when they kind of gathered everyone around and said this is what we are going to do, and everybody kind of dispersed and did what they were told to do. I remember we had like a little briefing right there and everybody was just like, we just could not believe what we were seeing. Your adrenalin was flowing and I remember people saying like, “What is that?,” you know.
Mantle: Now, I know I have asked you this question before Steve, but some people believe that you misidentified the lighthouse. What do you say to that?
Longero: (laughs). I don’t think so.
Mantle: Could you see the lighthouse at the same time?
Longero: I won’t say it was the lighthouse; no, it was not the lighthouse. Not unless the lighthouse could move (laughs). Unless they could float that thing in the air. And then, you know, as we got, as people were getting close to this thing, it kind of came nearer to us and then it would go forward and then go back and all of a sudden it just disappeared, like something out of Star Trek. It was like warp speed and we were all, “What was that?” It was gone, and then that’s when they started doing all their investigations and I was just a, after we secured the area, they said, “Okay. You’re gone. Get out of here.”
Mantle: Was there a lot of talk about it back at base afterwards?
Longero: Oh yes. It was all over the base. It was a big topic.
Mantle: You said that you were debriefed a few days later. Is that right?
Longero: Yes, I want to say a day or two later. I remember that night we all used to go and eat at the chow hall and everybody was talking about it and I remember, in fact, I want to say I was sitting at the table where Penniston was sitting, and he was a Staff Sergeant, and he told all of us to stop talking about it. I remember that, you know, stop talking about it.
Mantle: You said, also, that Larry Warren was involved in helping set up the light-alls. Is that correct?
Longero: He was. Yes, that’s true.
Mantle: So who debriefed you Steve?
Longero: You know, Philip, I remember going in, they called us in individually, and I want to say that it was security police investigations, and I do believe that there was an OSI agent in there. I remember this OSI gentleman with a beard. I remember getting pulled in. I remember getting talked to by Major Zickler. I remember getting called into his office for something like that.
Mantle: Can you remember what the conversation was (with Major Zickler)?
Longero: Well, you know, what you saw, remember where you work in the weapons storage area. It was like you don’t need to talk about this you don’t need to make a big deal out of this.
Mantle: And we are talking about nuclear weapons here aren’t we?
Longero: Yes sir.
Mantle: So, there was a lot of talk, was there a consensus about what this thing was?
Longero: Yes. It was like, “What did we see? Was this an experimental aircraft?” I remember that was one of the things, you know, “What was that?”
Mantle: What do you think it was?
Longero: I think it was something not from this world. Just because the way it hovered and just the way it disappeared. That’s what I think. That’s what I’ve always thought.
Mantle: You know Larry Warren has been criticized quite a bit. What do have to say in answer to that?
Longero: I think there were a lot of haters out there who just didn’t like Larry Warren. I liked Larry. I went to tech school with him and I never had a problem with Larry, but I know there were people in that unit that didn’t like him for whatever reason. Maybe they didn’t like his personality, but I never had any issue with Larry.
Mantle: But you definitely remember seeing him there, don’t you?
Longero: I remember, what I remember is that we had something to do with these light-all things, I remember, yes. And that was out there, yes.
Mantle: Did you get to know any of the civilians in the area at the time?
Longero: No. After that, I just kind of kept myself to myself, and kind of thought, “I’ll do my bit and get out of here.”
End of interview
I have thanked Steve Longero for speaking to me and for going on the record for the very first time. Steve does not claim to be anything special, but he wanted to emphasize that there were a lot of others involved and who were witness to the events in question. Many of whom have yet to add their voice to these events.
Steve has confirmed the open secret that nuclear weapons were stored at RAF Bentwaters at the time, although, he did not personally witness any lights being shone onto the WSA. He has confirmed much of what Colonel Halt has already said on the record, and he is in no doubt that Larry Warren was there.
It is not the intention of this article to discuss what Steve and his colleagues may or may not have observed, nor is it my aim to support anyone’s story of whether they were there or not. One thing that is clear is that there are probably many others who were stationed there at the time and, as yet, have not gone on the record. Let us hope that in some small way this article might encourage some of them to come forward.
What is also clear is that despite the best efforts of some, this case will continue to be hotly debated for many years to come. Do the events in late December 1980 in Rendlesham forest have a conventional explanation, or is Steve Longero correct when he says it was “something not of this world?” I leave you to decide.