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
Seemingly the unknown objects were defying the very governmental
agencies sworn to protect the United States from foreign powers.
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
The Washington National sighting was
confirmed by other local radar, and then Andrews Air Force Base was
Washington Tower: Andrews Tower, do
you read? Did you have an airplane in sight west-northwest or east of
your airport moving east-bound?
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 east.
Andrews: Where did he come from?
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 that.
Andrews: Was he waving his course?
Washington: Holding steady course, due east heading.
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 altitude?
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 Defense
A 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 avail.
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 flights.
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.
After their fruitless journey, the planes returned home, only to hear that
the objects again were being tracked by radar.
One of the pilots stated his fear and
frustration by air to ground radio.
"They've surrounded my plane, what should I
The phenomenal sights would bring about an Air
Force press conference on July 29, with Major General John A. Samford
The 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.
This explanation 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
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."
The 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
Many of them made comment of the sightings, one
was a Sergeant Harrison:
"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."
The sightings continued throughout the month of
Transcript of article:
"Saucer" outran jet, pilot reveals -
Investigation on in secret after chase over capital
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 week.
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 said.
"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
The 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 investigated.
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
A traffic control center spokesman said the nature of the signals on the
radar screen ruled out any possibility they were from clouds or any
other "weather" disturbance.
"The returns we received from the
unidentified objects were similar and analogous to targets
representing aircraft in flight," he said.
"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 disappeared.
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
The 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
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 Hyattsville tower.
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 thing.
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 relatively
Davidson has studied the official report on the saucers, including some
of the secret portions never made public, and analyzed all the data in
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
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 more.