By Ronald Ducker
One of the best documented - and most disturbing - southern UFO incidents changed the life of a dark-haired 26-year-old ex-Marine who's been transformed into a self-confessed "flying saucer freak" since he battled an unidentified object in mid air over South Carolina.
Bennie D. Morris, from Greenville, SC is a shy young man who doesn't like to publicize his interest in UFOs. It's for this reason that Morris's story has never appeared in print before. Transformed overnight from a skeptic to a believer, Morris wants people to know that he regards UFOs as a subject for serious research - not a "fad" or a "craze."
It happened just after dusk on an unseasonably warm, cloud-filled night.
A lance corporal in the Marine Corps, Morris was wearing flight fatigues and was braced in the door gun position of a UH-1E helicopter as it lifted off from Quantico, VA for a routine flight to Beaufort, SC.
Also aboard the chopper which was attached to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, were two officers, a pilot and copilot. At Morris's request, because these men were party to spraying machine gun bullets all over the South Carolina sky, his crew mates will not be named here.
As the helicopter climbed over darkening farmland, Morris was battered by the windblast in the open doorway and clung to the mount of his M-60 machine gun for support. "Nice view from down here," he told the two men seated above him in the flight cabin. His voice sounded squeaky over the intercom.
" Not much to see," proclaimed the pilot.
Then, suddenly, one of the officers exclaimed, "Hey, wait a minute! What's that over there?"
Morris saw it at almost the same instant. About a mile off the starboard side of the helicopter, a luminous silver object appeared to be matching the craft's course.
At first, Bennie Morris thought it was a commercial airliner. Then he realized that the craft was tear-shaped, surrounded by a halo of opaque white light, and moving from side to side!
"That's not an aircraft---" he began.
The silver-white UFO seemed to turn, approaching the UH-1E as it flew through the night sky. Morris heard his copilot reporting the sighting over the radio. He and the pilot chattered nervously on their intercom:
Pilot: "I think that's a UFO! You know, unidentified-----"
Morris: "It's on a collision course, sir! It's coming straight at us!"
Plot: "We're trying to get instructions. Hold tight! I'm going to take evasive action."
With brutal force, Morris's stocky, 160 pound body was flung across the chopper's interior as the pilot went into a violent, bone-jarring turn.
The young Marine staggered to his feet, tasted blood in his mouth, and reached desperately for support. In his earphones, he heard the panicky voice of the copilot on the radio: "..hostile...I say again, the object is behaving in a hostile manner...request instructions..."
Through his open door, Morris saw that the UFO had matched the pilot's sudden turn and was drawing alongside. He now saw that the UFO was round and flat. There appeared to be no marks on its luminous, metallic surface, and no sign of portholes or windows, yet the craft was obviously flying under intelligent control.
A cold chill gripped the young Marine. He knew that by "instructions," the copilot meant he wanted permission to fire at the hostile craft. He also knew, from the long gap in radio transmissions, that somebody down on the ground was having a hell of a time trying to make a decision.
Morris: "What about it? That things is less than 100 feet away! I can't be sure, but I think he wants to ram us."
Pilot: "Arm your gun and stand by, Bennie. I repeat, stand by! Don't fire!"
The UFO grew to monstrous size in front of Morris's eyes, blotting out the South Carolina countryside below. His entire field of vision was filled by the giant, luminous saucer. He gripped his gun and swung it around, a cold sweat drenching him, certain that the UFO and his helicopter were about to collide.
Pilot: "Where the hell are those instructions? We're in trouble."
Copilot: "They're asking what to do. They..."
Pilot: "Damn it, they're not up here! That crazy thing is going to hit us! Bennie, are you tracking it?
Morris paused. The frighteningly large mass of the UFO spread out in front of his machine gun sight. He couldn't miss it. But he didn't know what would happen if he fired.
"I'm tracking it," he acknowledged.
"OK. Never mind the regulations. Open fire on that damned thing!"
Swaying in the windblast and the violent wash from the helicopter's rotors, Morris bent over the gun and pressed the trigger.
The booming crash from the machine gun's muzzle sounded over the engine noise. The gun threw out a long tongue of flame and sent tracers stabbing at the UFO -- at point-blank range.
Now, Morris feared, we'll see the reaction.
Whatever he'd expected, this wasn't it. The great silvery object backed away, widening the gap until it was more than 1,000 feet off the right side of the helicopter. Unable to see any damage from his shots, Morris squeezed off another burst.
The UFO shuddered, wobbled in mid air, and then began to climb. The object accelerated rapidly and Morris realized that it was racing away and was thousands of feet above them.
In moments, the UFO was a fading white speck in the night sky.
Where he lives today in Alexandria, VA, ex-Marine Bennie Morris sat down one evening with the author and explained that he, and his crew mates, made every effort to report their brief "battle" with a UFO. "All of us signed notarized statements about what happened," Morris says. "They were accepted as a routine report of an unusual incident, but I don't know what happened to them. It's possible somebody in the Marine Corps is keeping records on UFO sightings..."
Possible. But not admitted. Now working as an electrical parts salesman and living quietly with his brunette wife, Dorothy, Bennie Morris doesn't want to make an issue of the strange encounter which, after all, lasted less than two minutes. "I can't be certain that I wasn't shooting at a mirage or a distortion of light waves. Or something. But I've searched for an explanation and I keep coming back to the same thing -- to that silver UFO being an alien spaceship piloted by intelligent creatures..."
The incident transformed Morris into an amateur but dedicated UFO researcher. He subscribes to UFO publications, attends meetings of research groups, and has made a report to the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). In allowing his tale to be told here, Morris cautions, "I have a serious interest in the subject and I hope other people will take it seriously, too..."
In his new role as ufologist, Bennie Morris even has a theory to answer that nagging question: Why do so many UFO incidents occur in the South?
"There's an established pattern of UFO activity in recent years and it suggests that UFOs cluster around military installations, industrial facilities, and power plants. The South has more than its share of all three of these..."
Morris's conclusion isn't dramatic, it's very obvious: "UFOs are reconnoitering Earth and they're looking closest at the places that worry them the most..."
This view is shared by NICAP's Dr. Drew D. Johnson, who says, "It's easy to postulate a situation where aliens from space are sizing up our airfields, nuclear reactors, and electrical power stations. It could be prelude to an attack. Nobody knows, of course, but the thought keeps me awake at night..."