My Story
"Moncla Memories"

Last Days in Madison

Note: Unless otherwise noted, these are purely my "memory recalls" that I experienced like they were my own memories, even though I know they could not be my memories. I have no way of knowing if any of these were experienced by pilot Gene Moncla.

The Lincoln Statue

Lincoln StatueAbraham Lincoln Statue in front of Bascom Hall, University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin

This is probably the weirdest "possible memory" that I have experienced that might somehow be related to Gene's life in Madison and the Kinross Incident.

This goes back to the time after I first read about the Kinross Incident and had experienced a sense that I was somehow tied to the incident and the pilot. In the weeks that followed, I slowly turned my interest to the home base of the pilot and radar observer. Because I had never been to Madison, I was curious about what the place looked like. At the time, I was using the Webshots website as a source of photos for my Webshots screen saver on my computer. I liked the natural scenic pictures and pictures of space and space discovery.

On one of my visits, I discovered there was a searchable database of community webshots, so I decided to see if there were any pictures of Madison. I found quite a few, and chose the ones that seemed most interesting to me. Most of the ones I selected were pictures of the State Capital and State Street, but there was also one photo of a statue of Abraham Lincoln and another that had the caption "scary roof" which showed a roof through some bare tree branches.

Sometimes, I would see these photos flash by on my screen saver, and I would get a funny feeling. One thing about the Lincoln statue was I kept associating it with the statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, and after that, any time I saw pictures of the Lincoln Memorial on TV or in movies, I would get a similar funny feeling, like I had been there before.

When news came out that Tim Burton was releasing a new version of "Planet of the Apes", I was quite keyed up about seeing it. I could vividly remember going to see the original movie with my parents. I think we had all liked the ending and I remember that my dad certainly thought it was a rather interesting idea.

At the time, I had also recently had a conversation with a cop in Surrey, who was a fan of the original. He had some interpretation of the meaning of the movie being that "this is the planet of the apes, and we are the apes". I think he might have been making some comment on us being primitive.

So when the movie came out, I had to go see it, just to see what sort of ending would be woven into the plot. I guess everyone was expecting a surprise of sorts like the original. Anyways, as the final moments of the movie were happening, I was experiencing them in a very heightened and suspenseful state. It was as if I was the astronaut in that pod, flying back from the planet of the apes, passing the moon, seeing the earth, plunging down towards a city on the east coast of North America. I am hearing the radio warning me "you are entering restricted airspace" and I know that I am flying into Washington DC, and I am thinking "Oh, This is the 1952 UFOs over Washington!". But then the pod is seen streaking around the Washington Monument and splashing and skipping over the reflecting pool to come to a crashing stop at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I am feeling the experience of the astronaut as he emerges and walks up the steps to look inside the memorial at the Lincoln's Statue. The camera pans up and we see the head of Lincoln is not that of the president, it is the face of an ape, more specifically that of General Thade, the evil general from the Planet of the Apes.

At this moment, I experience a most strange flashback to a memory of standing in front of the Lincoln Statue in Madison. It is night. I am standing with someone I had met at a lecture at the Science Building on the campus of the University of Wisconsin. He had asked me to go with him to see this statue. It is raining and windy and leaves are blowing off the trees. We get to the statue, and look up to see … the head of an ape! I look at it with shock but then realize that it must be a college prank from Halloween, which has just passed. I go behind the statue to read something that is written on the wall…

I left the theatre with what can only be described as a sense of true weirdness.

It was a few months later when I made my first trip to Madison. One of my first stops was a visit to Capital Square. I got there just as all the food booths from "Taste of Madison" were packing up. There were still some stages set up and a reggae band was singing "I shot the sheriff…"

Science HallScience Hall at University of Wisconsin, Madison

After meandering around Capital Square, I walked down State Street. When I got to the edge of the university, I decided to cross the square in front of me past the Historical Society building which would later prove important in my investigation. I turned a corner and I found myself facing a large impressive old red brick building. I was thinking, I know this building, and as I got closer, I saw it was labeled "Science Building".

"This is it! This is the building!" I thought to myself with building nervous excitement. I walked up to it and crossed the street. "The Lincoln Statue must be nearby" I thought. I looked over to my left, I could see steps that led up to a grass covered hill. I walked towards it thinking, "I think this is the way". I took out my camcorder and started recording. I felt "this feels so weird – like this was the place remember that night".

As I got onto the hill, I could see at the top, there was a seated statue. "That must be it."

I walked up the hill, recording the whole event, when I got to the statue, I panned the front of the statue "Lincoln looks okay now", took in the Lincoln's view, then saw there was a quote carved into the wall below a bench that curved round the back of the statue. I was walking behind the statue, and panning the words as I said them aloud, "LET US HAVE FAITH, THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY"

Clock TowerBell Tower University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin

As I finished, I panned over to the back of Lincoln's throne where an eagle or phoenix was rising up from the flames. Just at that moment, the hourly bells from the nearby bell tower started to toll, in an ominous and sad "Bong … Bong… Bong… Bong…." And I was thinking of another famous quote "Ask not for whom the bell tolls".

I am not sure about this, but I do have a sense that something very strange happened that night when I remember that Moncla went behind the statue. I remember that he had some sort encounter with someone who looked quite human. I think at some point, Moncla was told they would be asking for volunteers for a temporary assignment to another base in a few days. My recollection is that Moncla was told that he should volunteer.

It was a few days after my visit to the statue that I was back in Madison, looking at the newspaper archives when I discovered that Moncla had lived at Sherman Terrace. It was the night after my first visit to Sherman Terrace when I had this memory of sitting in the apartment at night. I later realized that this memory had probably happened the same night as Moncla had the encounter at the statue, which I remember as happening just after Halloween. One clue was that Moncla had got home late, because he had been at a lecture at the university. The other clue was that I remember Moncla being very disturbed and sitting down in the dark and wondering what was going to happen to him. I think this was somehow connected with what he was told behind the statue.

In this memory, I had arrived home about eight in the evening, and Bobbie was just putting the kids to bed. I asked if she needed help, but she told me she would do it herself and said I should just sit down and relax. I don't know if she was aware that Gene was in a very agitated mood. Gene sits there in the armchair for a long time, just thinking and trying to sort through his emotions. I recall that he was in an armchair that backed onto the same wall as the front door. The living room was in front of him on the right and the dining table was to his left. Looking out the window in the dining area, he could see John Schmidt's apartment. I recall that the Schmidt apartment was on the first floor. After Bobbie put kids to bed, she went to bed herself. Gene sat up for awhile and tried to sort through all his emotions. I later determined that this event probably occurred the same night after Gene had his encounter at the statue.

Volunteering for Kinross Assignment

I'm not sure when I experienced this "memory recall", but it was some time after I had remembered being in the apartment at night.

The memory is that I am sitting in a room with other pilots and radar observers from the squadron. One of the senior commanding officers is at the front and has asked for volunteers for a temporary assignment at Kinross Air Force Base in northern Michigan. I put up my hand to volunteer. They ask if there is anyone else. Lt. Wilson, who is sitting behind me a couple of rows, puts up his hand. When they ask for any other volunteers, no one else raises their hand, so they have to assign another pilot and radar observer.

I recently saw a picture of an USAF officer's briefing room, and I realized that Moncla must have been in a similar briefing room (if/when) this incident occurred. What was interesting to me was that the layout of chairs. The rows were fairly wide, but there weren't that many rows. That is similar to what I remember.

Meeting John Schmidt Downtown

Capitol Sculptural FriezeCapital Square 1953 approximate area where I remember Gene parking his car on Capital Square(from Wisconsin Historical Society Archives)

I'm not sure when it was that I remembered this incident. My recall is that Gene did not see much of John Schmidt after they got back from the fishing trip in La Crosse. I guess for one thing that even though they were in the same squadron, they were assigned to different flights. But my recall is that the last time Gene saw John was when Gene was downtown doing his banking business, a few days before he was scheduled to leave for his assignment at Kinross. I think that Gene had parked his car on Capital Square on the opposite side from his bank as was his usual routine. When he got back to his parked car from banking, he ran into John Schmidt. John knew that Gene was headed up to Kinross in a few days and told Gene that he would be co-pilot on a C-119 Flying Boxcar that would be used to ferry personell from Truax up to Kinross. I think John had been hoping that they might get to spend some time together on the flight up. Unfortunately, Gene had already made arrangements to drive his car up to Kinross to use as his personal transportation to and from his lodging at the Campbell Tourist Court in Sault Ste. Marie. To my recall, this was the last time that Gene saw John before his tragic death in the crash of his F-89, the same day as Gene disappeared over Lake Superior.

Like all these "memories", I really have no way of knowing if this meeting happened, but I do think it is possible that John did fly Truax crews up to Kinross as his flight records indicate he flew copilot on the C-119 nearly nine hours (with 4 landings) on November 13th, which is the approximate date that the crews flew up to Kinross from Truax.

Flying BoxcarFairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar" (from