Radar And The Saucers

ISGP section: UFO press reports index

The Washington Post
July 25, 1952

Well, just when we believed that our astrophysical friend at Harvard, Dr. Menzel, had disposed of the problem of the flying saucers by proving to his own satisfaction and ours that they are the collaborative products of atmospheric phenomena and the ever-industrious human imagination, a disconcerting story comes out of the National Airport right here in Washington. The story is that in the early hours of Sunday morning nearly a dozen of these mysterious and troublesome pieces of celestial crockery were detected by the radar screens in the traffic control center. Now radar is, beyond doubt, a most ingenious piece of mechanism, but hardly clever enough to imagine and report what isn't there. To have made the outlines of the flying saucers appear on a screen, the waves sent out by radar transmission must have been bounced back into the receiving apparatus by something more substantial than the pure mirage or illusion. Obviously then, Dr. Menzel's theory is no longer applicable to all cases.

The electronic evidence of the radar screens has been supported by the visual evidence of at least two commercial pilots. One of them told of observing a bright moving light in the sky near Herndon, Va., which followed his plane almost into Washington. Another reported that he saw seven of the luminous, saucer-like things moving at tremendous speed early Sunday morning soon after he took off from the airport on a flight to Detroit. They looked to him "like comets or shooting stars without their tails."; and near Martinsburg, W. Va., they shot down toward earth in tremendous dives and he lost sight of them. This suggests a possibility that they may have been meteors and this possibility would, of course, be much strengtened if meteorites were to be found in the vicinity.

It is now just a half dozen years since the flying saucer legend began to spread over a world sick with atomic jitters. In this country saucers were first reported in the Northwest, but by the summer of 1947 they were being observed in almost all parts of the land and indeed in almost all parts of the world. Many of the reports were of course pure hoaxes; in other instances the fearsome apparitions could be easily identified as weather balloons or other such commonplace objects; but a large proportion of the reports came from experienced airplane pilots whose testimony could not always be laughed or explained away. Psychiatrists discoursed learnedly on the nature of mass hysteria, astronomers on the nature of astral phenomena, meteorologists on the existence of ice crystals at high altitudes. On the whole, credulity proved much stronger than skepticism and gradually the legend of interplanetary spaceships began to take hold of the popular imagination and was gravely accepted by some editors and perhaps some scientists.

Until now, the strongest argument against the objective reality of the flying saucers has been absence of any support by radar observation. At last, however, that argument has been removed, and we are accordingly confronted by the possibility that the mystery of the flying saucers may include many highly dissimilar and perhaps altogether unrelated phenomena, objective and subjective. In other words, the difference between one saucer and another may be even greater than the difference between the persons who report having seen them. So the best advice at this point would be to keep your mind open - and your fingers crossed.