Some UFO witnesses come with an impeccable pedigree, and really serve to bolster the claims that something weird is going on in our skies. When talking about a credible witness, the credentials of U.S. Senator Richard Brevard Russell, Jr. are beyond reproach. A politician from the state of Georgia, he served 38 years in the Senate, becoming one of its most powerful and influential members during his service from 1937 to 1963, and also served as the Governor of Georgia from 1931 to 1933, as well as chairman of the Armed Services Committee from 1951 to 1969, even seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1952 unsuccessfully, and at the time of his death in 1971 he was one of the most senior and influential senators of all time. He would certainly seem to be an incredibly qualified witness, and he would have a UFO sighting that would be covered up and show that even the highest up can have such experiences.
In 1955, Russell was the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and was on a fact-finding trip through Russia along with his military aide Lt. Col. Hathaway and interpreter Ruben Efron. On October 4, 1955, they were travelling by train through the remote Transcaucasus region when Russell looked out the window and spotted two disc-shaped UFOs taking off from a spot near the tracks. He immediately called for his aide and interpreter, who also saw the strange sight. Col. Hathaway would later say of the incident:
I doubt if you are going to believe this, but we all saw it. Senator Russell was the first to see this flying disc we’ve been told for years that there isn’t such a thing, but all of us saw it. One disc ascended almost vertically, at a relatively slow speed, with its outer surface revolving slowly to the right, to an altitude of about 6000 feet, where its speed then increased sharply as it headed north. The second flying disc was seen performing the same actions about one minute later. The take-off area was about 1-2 miles south of the rail line.
The three men reported the sighting to the U.S. Air Force, being interviewed by a Lieut. Col. Thomas Ryan, who was the air attaché at the U.S. embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia, shortly after the incident. who said “The three observers were firmly convinced that they saw a genuine flying disc.” They were also interviewed by the CIA, as well as a fourth unnamed witness whose name would be redacted, and who said the objects had a “slight dome” and a “white light” on top. The CIA found that the three witnesses described visibility as excellent during the encounter, that they had seen no sign of a trail or any discernible noise from the craft, which had a pinkish glow, and that the objects “rose vertically with the glow moving slowly around the perimeter in a clockwise direction, giving the appearance of a pinwheel.” The Air Force then went about putting it completely under wraps, as did the Russian government, and it was labelled top secret. Senator Russell also refused to go public with the matter, keeping tight-lipped about it all in the aftermath of the sighting. He refused to talk about it any further, and when approached by the Los Angeles Examiner’s Tom Towers Russell in 1956 he told him:
Permit me to acknowledge your letters relative to reports that have come to you regarding aerial objects seen in Europe last year. I received your letter, but I have discussed this matter with the affected agencies of the government, and they are of the opinion that it is not wise to publicize this matter at this time. I regret very much that I am unable to be of assistance to you.
It seems as if the whole affair was being subdued by the government, and it would all remain top secret until it got out into the open in 1985 when it was declassified after numerous Freedom of Information Act requests by Dr. Bruce Maccabee, of the Fund for UFO Research. Maccabee was very excited about the release of these documents, saying:
These long secret documents are of major importance because they show for the first time that one of the most powerful U.S. Senators witnessed and reported a UFO. Because they were no doubt advised not to talk. These documents provide startling new evidence that UFOs exist.
It is a curious case, in that the witness is so traditionally reliable, and the object was seen by others within his entourage, making it difficult to fully write off. There seems to be no reason why such a respectable politician would want to make up such a tale, and further making it curious are the efforts made to keep it all hush hush, prevent Russell from talking about it, and hide it from the public eye. What is the meaning of this encounter and what place does it have in the UFO phenomenon? There seems to be no further information, and it will probably remain another compelling, if ultimately frustrating account that we will never get to the bottom of.