Jets Poised For Pursuit; 'Saucer' Peril Discounted

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Unexplained Objects Over Capital Believed Physical Phenomena But Planes Are Alert

The Washington Post
July 29, 1952
By John G. Norris
Post Reporter

Air Force jet interceptor planes are on the alert to take off in case of any further "flying saucer" manifestations, a spokesman said yesterday, despite the continued belief they are some sort of physical phenomenon.

Units of the Air Defense Command have no new or special orders to intercept "saucers," the spokesman said, but they will pursue any unexplained "glowing lights" or radar "blips" as part of their mission to protect the United States against any threat from the skies.

Officials concede there was a delay in putting jet fighters over Washington Saturday night after radar observers reported "unidentified objects" in the air near the Nation's Capital, but they deny any lack of alertness on the part of the Air Defense Command.

Didn't See Previous 'Blips'

A week earlier, Air Defense officials decided against sending up interceptors to investigate similar reports from CAA radar operators at the Washington National Airport. Then, Air Force radar observers at Andrews Air Base were unable to confirm the CAA "sightings."

Last Saturday, however, Andrews operators also saw unidentifiable "blips" on their radar scopes. But the two different "sightings" failed to place the objects in the same place at the same time.

Many top-ranking Pentagon officials were inclined to discount these latest "saucer sightings." A high Navy officer suggested they were a "revisitation of the ghosts of Nansie Shoto."

He referred to the rash of spots which appeared on many radar screens on many ships lying off Nansie Shoto in 1945 during the Battle for Okinawa, causing repeated "alerts" and calls to "general quarters." Never fully explained, they were believed generally to have been caused by sea gulls or "electronic noise" from the many radar sets operating in the area.

Disowned by Navy

"Certainly, these latest manifestations have no connection with anything the Navy is doing," said the Naval official, who asked that his name not be used. "Perhaps, it's due to the heavy use of TV during the conventions."

An Air Force official suggested the spots on the Washington area radars might have been caused by "windows" dropped by high-flying B-36 bombers in air defense exercises which have been under way for the past two weeks in the northern part of the United States. "Windows" are strips of tinfoil let loose by attack bombers to cause spots on radar screens and confuse intercepting fighters.

It was considered possible the strips might have been blown south, despite the fact that the prevailing winds are west to east over the United States.

Other Pentagon officials also denied that the recent appearance of unexplained lights and radar spots are connected with any experiments or tests conducted by the armed forces.

Believed No Menace

A high-ranking Air Force spokesman summed up the situation this way:

"If any Air Force activity or project sponsored by the Air Force is conducting any experiments or tests which could even remotely account for the manifestations we would know about it. There are none."

"Furthermore, if the Army, Navy, Atomic Energy Commission, or other Government agency had anything under way along this line, I am sure we would know about it, because of the necessity of advance coordination in anything affecting the air defense of the United States, which is our responsibility.

"What may they be? We don't know, but we can say this:"

"The Air Force is fairly well convinced there is nothing in the phenomena to indicate that it is a menace to the country. Second, while we cannot discount entirely that they are visitations from a foreign country or another planet, we learn more to the view that they are physical phenomena which we don't know enough about to identify."

Holding Nothing Back

"One thing I would like to do is to dispel the belief of some that we are holding something back. We are not."

A spokesman for the Naval Observatory said observers there had seen nothing in the skies Saturday night except the jet fighters sent up to investigate the "unexplained objects" seen on the radar scopes. The Observatory had some experiments under way last week involving a helicopter and balloons, but the CAA was informed of these and none were held on Saturday, it was said.

The Rev. Francis Heyden, S.J., astronomer at Georgetown University, told The Washington Post he had been watching through the telescope every clear night recently and had seen nothing except the Naval Observatory experiments. He declared many of the "low-hanging colored lights," reported of late undoubtedly were stars seen through the layer of hot air which was hung over the city recently.

Saucer stories have been recurring all over the country the last few days. The commanding officer of the Air Force Filter Center at South Bend, Ind., said he has been spending "a couple of hours a day" studying such reports.

Uriah B. Shockley, Jr., Of Frederick, Md., said he and his wife and another couple saw two mysterious lights zooming from east to southwesterly at a high altitude Sunday night. Shockley, an amateur astronomer, said the objects stopped, raised and themselves several times.