The Rendlesham Forest Incident must be one of the most talked about, divisive subjects in the world of Ufology in the last 35 years.
When Charles Halt (Colonel USAF Retired) returned in July 2015 to talk about the incident for the first time in Suffolk in 35 years, the Rendlesham Forest Incident community flocked to hear him speak.
News of Colonel Halt's return was a big deal.
It doesn't get much bigger than when a key military figure in a world renowned UFO incident returns to the place where it all happened. Colonel Halt was Deputy Base Commander at RAF Woodbridge in 1980 when 'something' happened in the woods adjacent to the USAF Airbase where he worked. The Rendlesham Forest Incident was possibly his worst nightmare come true.
RAF Woodbridge and its neighbouring twin base RAF Bentwaters were key US military installations during the long and hard-fought Cold War with Russia
The Rendlesham Forest Incident is as big today as it was 35 years ago.
The Rendlesham Forest Incident is as big today as it was 35 years ago. In fact, some would say it is even bigger. Click To Tweet
In fact, some would say it is even bigger.
The passage of time has allowed for more and more people to get on board the RFI train and for stories to grow ever more elaborate.
Many of the newer fans of the Rendlesham Forest Incident are too young to remember it and some, were not even born when it occurred.Many of the newer fans of the Rendlesham Forest Incident are too young to remember it and some, were not even born when it occurred. Click To Tweet
Much of the information that has been circulating for years relies on hearsay accounts from civilians who were not actually there. Perhaps some have a vested interest in keeping certain versions alive.
When it was announced that Colonel Halt was coming back to speak, the UFO/paranormal/RFI community waited in eager anticipation of the revelations he would bring with him regarding the Rendlesham Forest Incident.
World famous - Rendlesham Forest looms on the edge of the old US airbase where Colonel Halt was stationed.
At this stage, I should say I am not a part of the Rendlesham Forest Incident community - I am a writer who has several friends within the RFI community.
I also do not have a Rendlesham Forest Incident book to sell.
As a few of the RFI key players live close by, I have been fortunate enough in the last year, to meet up with some of them and listen to their stories.
The group I have started getting to know is made up of a few gentle souls who are at the heart of a community which spans the globe, thanks to the internet.
The Rendlesham Forest Incident - Key Players In the Local Community
Brenda Butler - original local civilian Rendlesham Forest Incident investigator
Brenda Butler and friend Dot Street are two of the original civilian Rendlesham Forest Incident researchers/investigators in Suffolk.
Brenda lives very close to the Rendlesham Forest Incident site and has co-authored several books on the subject.
She is well-known as a speaker on the Rendlesham Forest Incident and she is recognised by many as being the voice of the British witnesses.
She lives about 30 minutes away from me and along with her partner Bernie, she regularly visits mutual friend, Derek Savory.
The three of them, along with a few other RFI fans occasionally work as unpaid volunteers to help facilitate local RFI events put on by a UK publisher.Brenda Butler and friend Dot Street are two of the original civilian Rendlesham Forest Incident researchers/investigators in Suffolk. Click To Tweet
Brenda and her group of friends help make these events happen for the publisher, who is not local and may find it hard to stage events without local assistance.
They are an amiable group of people who enjoy the social side of being interested in UFOs and the paranormal.
Rendlesham Forest Incident fans from all over the country often come to visit Brenda, Bernie, Derek and other local friends.
They all enjoy exploring the forest together and sharing ideas about what may have happened.
The RFI is so much more to them than a vehicle for selling books; it has almost become a way of life that provides a community atmosphere.
The Rendlesham Forest Incident could be described as a way of life that connects them to others who share their interests.
Some of the things they discuss when they get together would make some people run for cover!
But the warmth and simplicity of their friendships is endearing in a world where many people are too busy to share simple evenings like this.
Folklore and fantasy play a huge part in their interests and evenings with them are very entertaining.
Through their contacts in the wider UFO research world, I have recently met two of the biggest names in the ongoing saga of the Rendlesham Forest Incident.
I spent a few hours with him and recorded interviews. From that experience, I found Larry to be a hugely entertaining, warm, complex and interesting person.
At the time of the Rendlesham Forest Incident, he was a 19 year old Security Police Officer in the USAF based at Bentwaters, home of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing during the Cold War.
As someone who was there in 1980, Larry has a story to tell. His story cannot and should not, be taken away from him.
For better or worse, it has had a profound effect on his life.
And make no mistake, whatever anyone thinks of Larry Warren, he has a legion of fans across the world who will stick by him no matter what.
Larry Warren - Rendlesham Forest - May 2015
Many people, it seems, are fiercely protective of Larry. Their loyalty should not be underestimated; this is a man who is loved by many.
He is quick to point out he is probably disliked by just as many too.
In life, it is the easiest thing in the world to have an ill-informed opinion on absolutely anything. Talk after all, is cheap.
However, having an informed opinion is a little harder because it requires work and research or better still - first-hand experience of the subject.
How many of the non-local people who claim to be authorities on the Rendlesham Forest Incident or have strong opinions one way or the other were living in Suffolk at the time and have any genuine first-hand knowledge of it?How many of the non-local people who claim to be authorities on the Rendlesham Forest Incident or have strong opinions one way or the other were living in Suffolk at the time and have any genuine first-hand knowledge of it? Click To Tweet
I mean knowledge that has not come via someone else or from a book. Only a very few civilian Rendlesham Forest Incident researchers come directly from the area and actually remember the events of December 1980.
On the military side, Larry Warren was living and working smack bang in the middle of it all at the time and therefore has first-hand knowledge that other people coming into the saga years later do not have.
Like it or not, Larry Warren was an A list participant in certain aspects of the Rendlesham Forest Incident.
Regardless of whether you believe him or whether you don't, Larry Warren has something most other people do not have - actual knowledge and experience of the Rendlesham Forest Incident at the time it happened.
In whatever capacity and on whatever day, Larry Warren was there. We should not forget that.
If he stood up tomorrow and said he lied about any aspect of it - I suspect people would not care because it is Larry the man who people are drawn to, not Larry the incident participant.
There is a huge difference - people like him for who he is and it goes far beyond the Rendlesham Forest Incident.
I do not pretend to know Larry beyond my first impressions on meeting him.
However, I do know he is loved worldwide by many in the UFO community. So it may have been a bad idea for anyone to allow a character assassination of him to take place in public.
An interview was arranged for me by the conference promoter through Brenda Butler, the day before Colonel Halt's long awaited return to the Rendlesham Forest Incident arena.
He was here to take the stage and speak publicly about it in Suffolk for the first time in 35 years.
Charles Halt (Colonel USAF Retired) after our interview in Woodbridge, UK.
Colonel Halt was Deputy Base Commander at RAF Woodbridge at the time of the Rendlesham Forest Incident; he then went on to become the Base Commander at a later date.
We met at his hotel where I spent an hour recording our interview. Colonel Halt came across as a highly intelligent, witty, charismatic military man who seems deeply tired of the history he is inextricably linked to.
That was the impression I was left with. After 35 years of the same questions from a never-ending stream of people with a 'right' to know 'The Truth', Colonel Halt, I believe, is bored out of his military brain with the whole saga.
He is, it appears, stuck in a no-win situation. Thirty-five years after the event, he is still expected to explain himself to new generations of 'truth-seekers'.
Throughout the interview, as he talked at length about what happened that night, the same phrase kept popping into my head - 'loose lips sink ships'.
There was a war on at the time. The twin bases of Bentwaters and Woodbridge were not holiday camps.
A reminder of the Cold War at local level - Dave Baynes of Lazy Co. Cold War US. Living History and Airsoft Group at a Bentwaters Cold War Museum event.
The bases were military installations engaged in a deadly Cold War with Russia.
Detailed knowledge of the enemy's capabilities and hardware were of paramount importance to international security.
We only have to think of the Cuban Missile Crisis to remind ourselves exactly how serious the Cold War was.
Highly top-secret 'stuff' went on. 'Stuff' no-one dare even breathe about at the time because, if Joe Public knew the state secrets regarding how vital intelligence was being collected, then so would the Russians.
Loose lips really do sink ships or in this case, could have annihilated us all. I believe that Colonel Halt had an extremely challenging job to do in December 1980 when he was called out of a Christmas party on base to find the Rendlesham Forest Incident unfolding.Loose lips really do sink ships or in this case, could have annihilated us all. I believe that Colonel Halt had an extremely challenging job to do in December 1980 when he was called out of a Christmas party on base to find the… Click To Tweet
It is my belief that he may have come out to find his worst nightmare unfolding on the wrong side of the perimeter fence.
Perimeter fence at the old RAF Woodbridge Air Base in 2015
Perhaps the various levels of security clearance that are vital in wartime made Colonel Halt's life extremely complicated that night and the nights that followed.
Covert recovery of whatever came down in the woods on the wrong side of the military fence cannot have been easy to handle.
Did a large proportion of the lower-ranking military workforce need to remain unaware of what they were dealing with for international security reasons?
Was a cover story necessary to preserve secrets about how highly sensitive intelligence was being obtained?
Why did a mystery person turn up at the house of Brenda Butler, a locally known ghost-hunter and investigator of the paranormal at the time and offer the information that 'aliens' had crashed in the woods the night before?
What needed covering up so desperately that this fantastic story was given to the local community immediately to 'explain' a strange occurrence in the woods?
These are questions I ask myself after feeling that something is not quite right with the official story. Of course, it is just my opinion.
But it is an opinion based on reading between the 'official' lines spoken by Colonel Halt during our interview and then again, when they were repeated almost word for word the following evening during his presentation to the public.
The 'official' story was run off both times as if by rote. All the anecdotes, diversions and asides in the same places throughout.
There is an ordinary, friendly family man behind the robotic military figure who trots out the military line when asked about the RFI.
When he finally took the stage on the night of the long awaited 'Colonel Halt Briefing', many people seemed deeply disappointed in the content of his talk.
Although it isn't clear what people were expecting him to say, it was very clear that most people were not expecting the attack on Larry Warren. Or for that matter on his book Left At East Gate (co-written with author Peter Robbins).
The Colonel speaks.
The way Colonel Halt delivered his diatribe against Larry Warren came across to me as a final snapping of patience.
It was almost as if the Colonel could no longer stand the continued insubordination of a young airman to his superior ranks.
However, this is 2015 and neither are in the military anymore.This just seemed like a parent losing his temper with a naughty child during a tantrum.
But this was in the public arena after a 'tantrum' lasting 35 years. The curious thing was, Colonel Halt seemed not to be in the least bothered about potential repercussions.
He was very confident about what he was saying. He knew he was being recorded.
There was no provision made for rebuttal from Larry but no-one seemed to care.
The rumour is that he was asked to stay away from the event. Larry has since confirmed this and stated he was 'categorically banned' from attending by the organisers.
However, he has seen the controversial film of the event made by Ben Emlyn-Jones. Ben's film has now been removed from YouTube amid accusations of copyright infringement. (Update - the film was reinstated several weeks later after YouTube found that there had been no copyright violation)
Was UK Copyright law misused?
Larry was naturally very angry about the claims made by Colonel Halt and was, at one stage, considering legal action.
He was also understandably upset that none of the many friends he had there stood up for him. Has Larry Warren suffered enough from a horrific experience he had 35 years ago? Did he really deserve further pain from it?
Larry's crime, at the time of the incident, may have been to keep on asking questions that the top military brass did not want asked and could not, safely, answer.
GIs are expected to carry out orders without asking awkward questions. That is the nature of being in the military.
Loose lips do need to be silenced in wartime, even a Cold War and I am sure the military has ways of securing silence and creating deliberate confusion inside GI minds when needed.Loose lips do need to be silenced in wartime, even a Cold War and I am sure the military has ways of securing silence and creating deliberate confusion inside GI minds when needed. Click To Tweet
But what happens when you are just 19 years old and you get caught up in the middle of something that seems so terrifying you need to talk about it and get answers?
What happens when 'they' mess with your head because 'they' don't know how much you saw and who you might tell?
What happens when espionage goes wrong and a bewildered young serviceman has no choice but to end his career and spend the next 35 years trying to make sense of what happened?
These are the questions that run through my mind when I consider some of the more scientific explanations for the Rendlesham Forest Incident.
Whatever 'The Truth' is, there are no winners here. And how guilty are we, the public, for continuing to scratch at other people's old wounds?
How much more can Colonel Halt or Larry Warren say? Maybe it is time to leave them both alone with their very different accounts of December 1980 and accept that the public just doesn't know what happened and probably never will.
I suspect that Larry's hell has been vastly different to Colonel Halt's as they were at opposite ends of the military command chain with vastly different security clearances.
But still, it appears they have both suffered in their own ways for 35 years - as have many of the other key players in the RFI. How much more can any of them say?
Since the 'Colonel Halt Briefing' event on July 11th a new 'cold war' has allegedly broken out with mature adults slinging mud and various accusations being made.
Excuses are being made by people who did not stand up and challenge the Colonel. But the simple truth is, we are British and sadly we just don't do that. We are too 'polite'.
I am told that 'unfriendings' have happened on Facebook and rifts have developed between various factions involved in the whole event.
Apparently, this is the norm after a UFO event. I would find it all vaguely amusing if it were not so tragic that supposedly educated people can behave this way.
At the end of all this, I am left wondering why we have such an interest in looking outward from our planet to see if there is any intelligent life 'out there'.
As human beings, we don't appear to have that much intelligent life on earth.
We bicker, fight, jostle for limelight, lie, cheat, kill and make life generally unpleasant for each other in the most ridiculous situations, usually in the name of making money or scoring points.
It is shameful. If there is any intelligent life out there they may well have visited us already. Some people claim they live among us.
If they had any sense, they would get back in their spaceships and go as far away as possible from us. We are not ready to receive visitors from Outer Space.
We can't even get along with 'aliens' from other countries - never mind from other planets!
Rendlesham Forest 2015 - Normal stuff happens here too.
Who are we to judge what 'intelligent life' is?
As a species we are about as stupid as it gets because we are wrecking the beautiful planet we live on and killing each other in the process.
As for the interview I did with Colonel Halt, I will probably never publish it because I don't want to scratch away at Larry Warren's old scars.
And as for my own film of the event, I will leave it up to Larry whether or not anyone sees it because he, after all, is the one who stands to hurt the most from what was said.
From my brief encounters with both, I liked Larry and I liked Colonel Halt.
In my opinion, they experienced the same event from different angles and from different ranks. They will never agree. Maybe we should leave them both alone. The Cold War is long gone - let's not keep this new one going.
You can find Larry's book here on Amazon.
You can read about my personal view of the copyright infringement claim against Ben Emlyn-Jones by clicking here.
A presentation given by Colonel Halt in 2007 can be seen by clicking here Colonel Halt Presentation 2007
A 1993 interview with Larry Warren can be seen by clicking here Larry Warren Interview 1993
There are many more interviews and a huge amount of Rendlesham Forest Incident information online - they can be found very easily with simple Google searches.