by B.J. Booth
During the dawn of Ufology in the United States, unidentified
flying objects made themselves known to the leaders of the free world in
1952, buzzing over the White House, the Capitol building, and the
Pentagon. Seemingly the unknown objects were defying the very governmental
agencies sworn to protect the United States from foreign
Washington National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base
picked up a number of UFOs on their radar screens on July 19, 1952,
beginning a wave of sightings still unexplained to this day. These blips
were objects traveling at about 100 m.p.h. but with the ability to
accelerate to the unbelievable speed of 7,200 m.p.h.
Washington National sighting was confirmed by other local radar,
and then Andrews Air Force Base was contacted.
Washington Tower: Andrews Tower, do you read? Did you have
an airplane in sight west-northwest or east of your airport moving
Andrews: No, but we just got a call from the
center. We're looking for it.
Washington: We've got a big
target showing up on our scope. He's just coming in on the west edge of
your airport-the northwest edge of it eastbound. He'll be passing right
through the northern portion of your field on an east heading. He's
about a quarter of a mile from the northwest runway-right over the edge
of your northwest runway now.
Andrews: What happened to
your target now?
Washington: He's still eastbound. He went
directly over Andrews Fields and is now five miles
Andrews: Where did he come
Washington: We picked him up ourselves at about
seven miles east, slightly southeast, and we have been tracking him ever
since then. The Center has been tracking him farther than
Andrews: Was he waving his
Washington: Holding steady course, due east
Andrews: This is Andrews. Our radar tracking says
he's got a big fat target out here northeast of Andrews. He says he's
got two more south of the field.
Washington: Yes, well the
center has about four or five around the Andrews Range station. The
Center is working a National Airlines - the center is working him and
vectoring him around his target. He went around Andrews. He saw one of
them - looks like a meteor. (Garbled)... Went by him... or something. He
said he's got one about three miles off his right wing right now. There
are so many targets around here it is hard to tell as they are not
moving very fast.
Andrews: What about his
Washington: Well, must be over 8,000 feet as we
don't have him in radar any more.
Andrews Air Force Base notified the U.S. Air Force Air
couple of F-94 night fighters were ordered to the skies, but runway
repairs held their mission up for several hours. By the time they were
airborne, the mysterious objects were gone.
The fighters returned
home, but soon the objects again showed up on the radar screens. For the
next several hours, the fighters chased the illusive targets, but to no
They were able to sight the UFOs, but lights of the unknown
objects would darken as they were approached. Constant communication was
kept with ground radar, and as the pilots lost sight of the UFOs, they
also disappeared from ground radar. The UFOs were also separately
witnessed by the crew of a B-29, and other commercial
After a quiet week, the objects reappeared on July 26.
After multiple radar operators confirmed the objects, the F-94s again
began their search for the enigmatic lights over Washington. The results
of their pursuit were identical to the week before. They could see the
lights, but when they drew near, the lights would black out.
their fruitless journey, the planes returned home, only to hear that the
objects again were being tracked by radar.
of the pilots stated his fear and frustration by air to ground radio.
"They've surrounded my plane, what should I do?"
phenomenal sights would bring about an Air Force press conference on July
29, with Major General John A. Samford in charge.
official explanation was "temperature inversions," which supposedly caused
ground lights to bounce off of clouds, giving the appearance of lighted
craft in the skies. The naive and trusting press accepted this explanation
at first, in lieu of any other "reasonable" one.
was scoffed at, however, by Ufologists, knowing that it just did not
explain what was seen by pilots and radar operators. Even Project Bluebook would also
dismiss the "temperature inversion" explanation, as it later labeled the
Washington sightings as "unknown." The radar operators offered their own
reason for the rejecting the Air Force explanation.
Radar controller Barnes would state,
"Inversion blips are always recognized by experts, we are
familiar with what weather conditions, flying birds, and [other] such
things can cause on radar.
Temperature inversions on radar are
typically weak returns and move at a slow ground speed. These blips were
distinctly clear, reported as a very good return, solid and often
traveled at unbelievable speeds."
Washington D.C. sightings are a solid case of UFO activity. Literally
hundreds of eyewitnesses saw the objects, and photographed them. Many of
these were Air Force personnel, considered as reliable.
Many of them made comment of the sightings, one was a Sergeant
"I saw the ... light moving from the Northeast toward the range
station. These lights did not have the characteristics of shooting
stars. There was no trails and seemed to go out rather than disappear,
and traveled faster than any shooting star I have ever seen."
sightings continued throughout the month of
Washington Newspaper Article
Transcript of article:
"Saucer" outran jet, pilot reveals
- Investigation on in secret after chase over
Radar spot blips like aircraft
for nearly six hours - only 1.700 feet up
by Paul Sampson
July 28, 1952
Military secrecy veils an investigation of the
mysterious, glowing aerial objects that showed up on radar screens in
the Washington area Saturday night for the second consecutive
A jet pilot sent up by the Air Defense Command to
investigate the objects reported he was unable to overtake the glowing
lights moving near Andrews Air Force Base.
The CAA reported
reported the objects traveled at "predominantly lower levels" - about
1700 feet. July 19.
Air Force spokesmen said yesterday only that
an investigation was being made into the sighting of the objects on the
radar screen in the CAA Air Route Traffic Control Center at
Washington National Airport, and on two other radar screens .
Methods of the investigations were classified as secret, a spoken
"We have no evidence they are flying saucers; conversely we
have no evidence they are not flying saucers. We don't know what they
are," a spokesman added.
The same source reported an expert from the Air Technical
Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio, was
here last week investigating the objects sighted July 19.
expert has been identified as Capt. E. J. Ruppelt. Reached by
telephone at his home in Dayton yesterday, Ruppelt said he could make no
comment on his activity in Washington.
Capt. Ruppelt confirmed he
was in Washington last week but said he had not come here to investigate
the mysterious objects. He recalled he did make an investigation after
hearing of the objects, but could not say what he
Another Air Force spokesman said here yesterday the
Air Force is taking all steps necessary to evaluate the sightings.
"The intelligence people," this spokesman explained, "sent
someone over to the control center at the time of the sightings and
did whatever necessary to make the proper
Asked whether the radar equipment might have been malfunctioning,
the spokesman said,
"radar, like the compass is not a perfect instrument and is
subject to error."
He thought, however, the investigation would be made by persons
acquainted with the problems of radar.
Two other radar screens in
the area picked up the objects. An employee of the National Airport
control tower said the radar scope there picked up very weak "blips" of
the objects. The tower radar's for "short range" and is not so powerful
as that at the center. Radar at Andrews Air Force Base also registered
the objects from about seven miles south of the base.
control center spokesman said the nature of the signals on the radar
screen ruled out any possibility they were from clouds or any other
"The returns we received from the unidentified objects were
similar and analogous to targets representing aircraft in flight," he
"flying saucer or what have you, appeared on the radar scope at
the airport center at 9:08 PM. Varying from 4 to 12 in number, the
objects appeared on the screen until 3:00 AM., when they
At 11:25 PM., two F-94 jet fighters fro Air Defense Command
squadron, at New Castle Delaware, capable of 600 hundred mph speeds,
took off to investigate the objects.
Airline, civil and military
pilots described the objects as looking like the lit end of a cigarette
or a cluster of orange and red lights.
One jet pilot observed 4
lights in the vicinity of Andrews Air Force Base, but was not able to
over-take them, and they disappeared in about two minutes.
same pilot observed a steady white light in the vicinity of Mt Vernon at
11:49 PM. The light, about 5 miles from him, faded in a minute.
The lights were also observed in the Beltsville, MD., vicinity.
At 1:40 AM two-other F-94 jet fighters took off and scanned the area
until 2:20 AM., but did not make any sightings.
Visible two days
Although "unidentified objects" have been picked
up on radar before, the incidents of the last two Saturdays are believed
to be the first time the objects have been picked up on radar-while
visible to the human eye.
Besides the pilots, who last Saturday
saw the lights, a woman living on Mississippi Ave., told the Post she
saw a very,
"bright light streaking across the sky towards Andrews Air
Force Base about 11:45 PM. Then a second object with a tail like a
comet whizzed by, and a few seconds later, a third passed in a
different direction toward Suntland," she said.
Radar operators plotted the speed of "Saturday night's visitors"
at from 38 to 90 mph, but one jet pilot reported faster speeds for the
light he saw.
The jet pilot reported he had no apparent "closing
speed" when he attempted to reach the lights he saw near Andrews Air
Force Base. That means the lights were moving at least as fast as his
top speed-a maximum of 600 mph.
One person who saw the lights
when they first appeared in this area did not see them last night. He is
E.W. Chambers, an engineer at Radio Station WRC, who spotted the
lights while working early the morning of July 20 at station's
Chamber's said he was sorry he had seen the
lights because he had been skeptical about "flying saucers" before. Now
he said, he sort of "wonders" and worries about the whole
Leon Davidson, 804 South Irving St. Arlington, a
chemical engineer who made an exhaustive study of "flying saucers" as a
hobby, said yesterday reports of saucers in the East, have been
Davidson has studied the official report on the
saucers, including some of the secret portions never made public, and
analyzed all the data in the report.
Davidson, whose study of
saucers is impressively detailed and scientific, said he believes the
lights are American "aviation products" - probably "circular flying
wings," using new type jet engines that permit rapid acceleration and
relatively low speeds. He believes, they are either "new fighter,"
guided missiles, or piloted guided missiles.
He cited some of the
recent jet fighters, including the Navy's new "F-4-D, which has a
radical "bat-wing," as examples of what the objects might
Davidson thinks the fact that the lights have been seen
in this area indicates the authorities may be ready to disclose the "new
aircraft" in the near future.
Previously, most of the "verified saucers" have been seen over
sparsely inhabited areas, Davidson explained, and now, when they appear
here, it may indicate that "secrecy" is not so important any