Radar control room of CAA at Washington airport tracked the strange objects on the large
scope in center foreground. It shows position of aircraft within a radius of 70 miles.
The Sheboygan Press
August 4, 1952
By DOUGLAS LARSEN
NEA Staff Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NEA) -- The flying saucers are back.
And their return to the headlines has been the result of a startling new development:
For the first time, numerous and simultaneous visual sightings have been positively confirmed by official Civil Aeronautics Administration radar observations. This has happened twice under almost identical circumstances on two successive saturday nights.
Up until now official and unofficial saucer debunkers have produced credible theories to explain away reports of visual sightings as natural phenomena.
They have done the same for individual radar sighting reports. But none of this reasoning satisfactorily explains away visual sightings absolutely confirmed by radar.
This remarkable new chapter in the weird flying saucer story was written in the skies over Washington for six hours before dawn on Sunday, July 20, and again one week later. The details and implications of what took place are now confirmed by the CAA and the Air Force.
Since the Air Force has quietly said it was closing to the press its special section at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, which has been studying flying saucer reports. In addition, all information concerning that group's personnel, activities and budget is now strictly classified.
Full details of what happened the first night are being revealed for the first time by NEA Service.
These are the facts:
Beginning shortly after midnight, and continuing until dawn, eight experienced CAA radar operators and technicians, manning the air route traffic control center in hanger No. 6 at National Airport, tracked down from seven to ten unidentifiable and mysterious objects performing strange gyrations in the skies in a 30-mile radius above Washington.
Harry G. Barnes, who has been with CAA for nine years, mostly in radar work, was in charge of the group. After making sure that the object were not known aircraft and that the radar was operating perfectly he checked his findings with the radar operators in the control tower. They instantly confirmed what he saw and continued to do so. The two radars are completely separated units.
Large Radar scope at Washington National Airport presents
a picture like this to CAA traffic controllers. Mystery pips
were tracked from midnight until dawn on the first night.
Later the radar at nearby Andrews Air Force Base has also confirmed the sightings.
When the center radar showed one of the unidentified objects in a low position in the northwest sky, the operators in the tower were able to see it. One of them, Howard Cocklin, who has been with CAA for five years, described it:
"It was a good-sized light, yellow to orange in color. At first it looked like a great big star. Then it began to move in a manner which made you realize it couldn't be a star. There was no unusual speed about its movement and at times it seemed to hover. We could see it moving around like that for about 15 minutes. It just disappeared from the northwest sky."
There are no windows in the center Barnes was operating. None of the eight men could leave to go outside to try to check their own radar sightings visually.
As is normal at that time air traffic was very light. But at the first opportunity an operator in Barnes' office contacted Capital Airlines pilot Capt. S.C. Pierman.
"Before the other night I always discounted flying saucers as atmospheric phenomenon. But now I have actually seen some active strange objects which defy explanation."
Another Capital Airlines pilot also reported seeing a light off his wing, which showed up in that position on the radar scope. Other pilots in the air that night, Barnes reveals, appeared to be reluctant to discuss the subject with him on the radio.
The mystery of the flying saucers had its start on June 24, 1947, when a Boise, Idaho, businessman, Kenneth Arnold, flew his private plane over the jagged peaks of Washington's Mt. Rainier. When he landed, he breathlessly reported to having seen "a chain of nine saucer-like objects playing tag at fantastic speeds."
Since then there have been thousands of sightings all over the world, many obviously reported by crackpots. But a substancial number have been so strange and reliably described, even the Air Force has had to admit that they were unexplainable.
Many books have been written on the subject. Hundreds of magazine articles have treated all aspects of the question. However, a review of most of what has been written and officially reported on the subject points up several unique aspects to the recent Washington sightings:
It's the first time that three separate radar sets have reported identical sightings.
It's the first time they have remained under observation in one area for so long a time.
It's the first time so many completely responsible men, including radar operators, and pilots, all observed and reported the same thing at the same time, with all reports checking so accurately.
Both nights there were scores of unofficial stories of persons in the area who claim to have seen one or more strange lights moving about in the sky.
Saul Pett, a news service reporter in River Edge, New Jersey, wrote a detailed story on one that he saw just before seven objects appeared on the CAA radar screen at National Airport. He said:
"It looked like a sphere, so deeply orange colored that it appeared almost the shade of rust. It was moving too fast and evenly to be a balloon. I saw a flying saucer and you can't convince me that there is no such animal."
He said it disappeared in the direction of Washington.
The Air Force has the responsibility of finding out what there is to the saucer reports. After two years' study it finally reported in 1950.
"All evidence and analyses indicate that the reports of unidentified flying objects are the results of: (1) Misinterpretation of various conventional objects; (2) a mild form of mass hysteria; (3) or hoaxes."
Lt. Col. DeWitt R. Scarles, an Air Force press officer, was given the job of officially denying the existence of saucers from then on. His file on the subject was labeled "death of the saucers."
On June 17 of this year, however, Col. Searles was forced to reveal a slight alteration in the Air Force stand on saucers. He issued a statement which said:
"No concrete evidence has yet reached us to either prove or disprove the existence of the so-called flying saucers. However, there remains a number of sightings which have not been satisfactorily explained. As long as this is true the Air Force will continue to investigate flying saucers reports."
Air Force reaction to the recent Washington sightings has been curious, and its reports have been conflicting. A few minutes after CAA confirmed its sightings on the 20th it reported the fact to the Air Force in a normal but classified procedure.
For the next several days the Air Force claimed that its radar at nearby Andrews Air Force base did not confirm the findings of the CAA radar. Later, however, the Air Force admitted that its Andrews radar had practically identical sightings to the other two all evening.
The first night no fighter planes went aloft to investigate the sightings. A week later, however, the Air Force sent up jets to try to get a closer look at the objects.
The only report from the fighter pilots was that they saw strange lights, moving too fast for the 600-mph jets to intercept.
Another conflicting Air Force report concerns a saucer expert from the now barricaded unit at Dayton, Capt. E. J. Ruppelt. He "happened" to be in town at the time. An AF spokesman said that he would interview all of the persons involved in the sightings.
A week later, however, capt. Ruppelt had left town and had not contacted a single one of the CAA persons involved. Col. Searles reported that he had taken a copy of Barne's brief summary report in long hand over the telephone next day. That constitutes the Air Force's only official recognition of the events of the 20th. The AF, however, now promises to make a thorough investigation of the events of both nights.
In the unofficial category of saucer study is the theory of Dr. Donald H. Menzel, a Harvard professor of astrophysics. It seems to have had most effect in debunking saucer reports among the experts.
He says visual sightings could be ordinary lights when they are reflected from warm layers of air. And he says radar can produce a false pip in the same way.
According to several experts in Washington, who asked not to be quoted, Menzel's theory does not account for the simultaneous visual and radar sightings.
Further, it isn't likely that any warm layer of reflecting air would have remained constant for so long a period over Washington that night.
Coincidental with the recent Washington sightings and increased reports of saucer sightings all over the U.S. this summer, has been increased rumours around the Pentagon and from other government agencies attempting to explain saucers. And they appear to be coming from more reliable sources, although these sources continue to let themselves be identified.
Most persistent rumour is that Boeing Airplane Co. in Seattle, Wash, is either making flying saucers or has been in charge of the engineering of the project.
The rumour goes that very small parts of the saucers are being made by widely scatered subcontractors and that the finished items have been assembled at some remote site.
A Boeing spokesman in Seattle flatly denies this rumour, as does the Air Force.
The descriptions of that saucers which have been sighted indicates that some radically new source of power would be needed to make the objects move as fast as they did.
If this were true it doesn't make sense that the Air Force would be expending such as tremendous effort to improve its present jet engines, which would be made completely obsolete by the new source of power. Nor would the Air Force be likely to have its saucer practice maneuvers early Sunday morning around Washington.
In the weirder category of rumours is the one that the saucers are either Russian or from another planet and that several of them crashed and have been picked up by the Air Force. It goes on to theorize that the Air Force has been able to repair some of them and make them operate and at the same time is trying to build some of his own just like them.
This would account for the Air Force being extremely interested in some sightings, and apparently very disinterested in others.
Col. Searles, who has had more experience in denying saucers than anyone in the Pentagon, just laughs at the idea.
But nobody is really laughing at the strange objects tracked by radar over the nation's capital.
Airline pilot S.C. Pierman
saw six "objects" at the same
time the CAA radar did.
Towerman Howard Cocklin
after watching one of the
objects, is sure it wasn't a