Senator Richard Russell’s UFO

richard russell ufo

By Jim Miles

In 1985 the United States government declassified twelve formerly top secret CIA, Air Force, and FBI files which detailed a UFO sighting made 30 years earlier in the USSR by Georgia Senator Richard B. Russell, one of the most important members in the U.S. Congress.

Russell was on a fact-finding mission in the Trans-Caucasian region of the Soviet Union.  At 7:10 p.m. on October 4, 1955, his train was ten minutes out of Atjaty, bound for Adzbijabul along the Caspian Sea.  It was nearly dusk when Russell, feeling ill, left his companions, Lieutenant Colonel E.U. Hathaway, a U.S. Army staff officer assigned to the Senate Armed Forces Committee and acting as his aide, and Ruben Efron, a Committee Consultant and interpreter, and went to his sleeping compartment.  He had extinguished the light and laid down when he noted a greenish-yellow ball rising rapidly outside the window.  Russell ran into the adjoining compartment and blurted out, “I just saw a flying saucer!”  When the lights were doused, the two assistants saw nothing in the clear, darkening skies.

“Where?” they asked skeptically.

“I just saw it coming up over there,” Russell said and pointed.  “Here it is coming again!”

Suddenly a second glowing yellow ball sped into the sky a minute after the first.  The shape of the UFO was difficult to distinguish, and its size was also indeterminate due to a lack of reference points, but the three witnesses thought it was the size of a small rocket.  Believed to be one to two miles distant, the object ascended smoothly, almost vertically, into the sky, and seemed to be rotating.  Then it greatly increased speed in level flight and disappeared over the train.  The sighting lasted 10 seconds.

Russell said, “We saw a flying saucer.  I wanted you boys to see it so that I would have witnesses.”  All agreed they had observed an unconventional aircraft.

On October 12 Russell and his party reached the American Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  There U.S. Air Attaché Thomas S. Ryan, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, debriefed all but Russell.  When Hathaway confided that he needed to report an extremely important matter, “something that we’ve been told by your people doesn’t exist,” Ryan advised him to wait until they could speak in a secure facility.

At nine the following morning Hathaway and Ruben were interviewed in the presence of Ryan and Colonel Thomas Dooley, U.S. Army Attaché.  The witnesses talked and made sketches of the UFO they had seen back in the USSR.

Ryan described the three as “highly reliable United States citizens” who were “firmly convinced that they saw a genuine flying saucer.”   Ryan believed the sighting was “remarkable and lends credence to many ‘saucer reports.’”

The CIA later interviewed all three witnesses, including Russell.  John Foster Dulles, the U.S. Secretary of State, was briefed on the incident on October 18, 1955.

According to the observers, there were no prominent protrusions on the craft, although one saw stubby wings and another a slight dome on top.  Color could not be determined because of darkness, but they suggested a yellowish-green color.  There was a discrepancy regarding the lights: number, two to four; color, white, green, and red; and placement and whether they or the UFO rotated.  The object was variously described in shape as round, a ball, a discus, or a flying saucer; a square; or an equilateral triangle with the point to the rear.  All witnesses described its speed as very fast, “tremendous…much faster than a jet,” said one,  Two saw flames or sparks and one thought a glow moved slowly around the perimeter in a clockwise motion, “giving the appearance of a pinwheel.”

The declassified collection of “Top Secret” reports was revealed through inquiries sponsored by The Fund for UFO Research through the Freedom of Information Act.  The organization felt the case was important because “one of the most powerful U.S. senators witnessed and reported a UFO.”  The case was “unique because the CIA took the sighting seriously,” and the documents were called “startling new evidence that UFOs exist.”

The FBI seemed to agree, for a memo from the Bureau, dated November 4, 1955, stated that Hathaway’s testimony “would support existence of a flying saucer.”

Richard Brevard Russell, Jr. was born on November 2, 1897, in Barrow County.  He spent ten years in the Georgia General Assembly, became Georgia’s youngest lieutenant governor and won six straight terms in the U.S. Senate.  He served as President Pro Tempore of the Senate and chairman of two powerful committees, Appropriations and Armed Services.  He held the latter from 1951 until 1969.  Russell was one of the most influential senators during a number of world-shaping events-the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, and Vietnam-four decades of dramatic history.  He sat on the Warren Commission, which investigated President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  Russell was Georgia’s most powerful politician of the twentieth century, a confidant of presidents and a major power broker.  He died in office on January 21, 1971, 14 years before his UFO sighting was made public. He is buried in the Russell Cemetery behind the family home in Barrow County.

From Weird Georgia (2000).

Jim Miles is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at

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