Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting

Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting

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The Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting was an incident on June 24, 1947, where private pilot Kenneth Arnold
Kenneth Arnold
Kenneth A. Arnold was an American aviator and businessman. He is best-known for making what is generally considered the first widely reported unidentified flying object sighting in the United States, after claiming to have seen nine unusual objects flying in a chain near Mount Rainier, Washington...

 spotted a string of nine, shiny unidentified flying objects flying past Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier is a massive stratovolcano located southeast of Seattle in the state of Washington, United States. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of . Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most...

 at then unheard of supersonic
Supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 speeds that Arnold clocked at a minimum of 1,200 miles an hour. This was the first post-War sighting in the United States that garnered nationwide news coverage and is credited with being the first of the modern era of UFO sightings, including numerous reported sightings over the next two to three weeks. Arnold's description of the objects also led to the press quickly coining the terms flying saucer
Flying saucer
A flying saucer is a type of unidentified flying object sometimes believed to be of alien origin with a disc or saucer-shaped body, usually described as silver or metallic, occasionally reported as covered with running lights or surrounded with a glowing light, hovering or moving rapidly either...

and flying disc as popular descriptive terms for UFOs. Based on subsequent analysis, skeptical investigator Philip J. Klass
Philip J. Klass
Philip Julian Klass was an American journalist and UFO researcher, known for his skepticism regarding UFOs. In the ufological and skeptical communities, Klass tends to inspire strongly polarized appraisals. Klass has been called the "Sherlock Holmes of UFOlogy"...

 concluded that Arnold may have seen a fireball bolide breaking up as it traveled through the Earth's atmosphere.

Sighting



On June 24, 1947, Arnold was flying from Chehalis, Washington
Chehalis, Washington
Chehalis is a city in Lewis County, Washington, United States. The population was 7,259 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Lewis County.-History:...

 to Yakima, Washington
Yakima, Washington
Yakima is an American city southeast of Mount Rainier National Park and the county seat of Yakima County, Washington, United States, and the eighth largest city by population in the state itself. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 91,196 and a metropolitan population of...

 in a CallAir A-2 on a business trip. He made a brief detour after learning of a $5,000 reward for the discovery of a U.S. Marine Corps C-46
C-46 Commando
The Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando was a transport aircraft originally derived from a commercial high-altitude airliner design. It was instead used as a military transport during World War II by the United States Army Air Forces as well as the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps under the designation R5C...

 transport airplane that had crashed near Mt. Rainier. The skies were completely clear and there was a mild wind.

A few minutes before 3:00 p.m. at about 9200 feet (2,804.2 m) in altitude and near Mineral, Washington
Mineral, Washington
Mineral is a small town in Lewis County, Washington just off State Route 7 near the Pierce/Lewis county line. Mineral originally began as a mining town. Prospecters searching the area for gold instead found coal and arsenic. Though the mines failed early in Mineral's history the town found new life...

, he gave up his search and started heading eastward towards Yakima. He saw a bright flashing light, similar to sunlight reflecting from a mirror
Mirror
A mirror is an object that reflects light or sound in a way that preserves much of its original quality prior to its contact with the mirror. Some mirrors also filter out some wavelengths, while preserving other wavelengths in the reflection...

. Afraid he might be dangerously close to another aircraft, Arnold scanned the skies around him, but all he could see was a DC-4 to his left and behind him, about 15 miles (24.1 km) away.

About 30 seconds after seeing the first flash of light, Arnold saw a series of bright flashes in the distance off to his left, or north of Mt. Rainier, which was then 20 to 25 miles (40.2 km) away. He thought they might be reflections on his airplane's windows, but a few quick tests (rocking his airplane from side to side, removing his eyeglasses, later rolling down his side window) ruled this out. The reflections came from flying objects. They flew in a long chain, and Arnold for a moment considered they might be a flock of geese, but quickly ruled this out for a number of reasons, including the altitude, bright glint, and obviously very fast speed. He then thought they might be a new type of jet and started looking intently for a tail and was surprised that he couldn't find any.

They quickly approached Rainier and then passed in front, usually appearing dark in profile against the bright white snowfield covering Rainier, but occasionally still giving off bright light flashes as they flipped around erratically. Sometimes he said he could see them on edge, when they seemed so thin and flat they were practically invisible. According to Jerome Clark, Arnold described them as a series of objects with convex shapes, though he later revealed that one object differed by being crescent
Crescent
In art and symbolism, a crescent is generally the shape produced when a circular disk has a segment of another circle removed from its edge, so that what remains is a shape enclosed by two circular arcs of different diameters which intersect at two points .In astronomy, a crescent...

-shaped. In Arnold's initial descriptions he likened their movement to saucers skipping on water, without comparing their actual shapes to saucers, as news reporters would subsequently quote him. At one point Arnold said they flew behind a subpeak of Rainier and briefly disappeared. Knowing his position and the position of the (unspecified) subpeak, Arnold placed their distance as they flew past Rainier at about 23 miles (37 km).

Using a dzus
Dzus fastener
Dzus is a proprietary name for a type of quarter-turn fastener often used to secure skin panels on aircraft.It was invented and patented by a native Ukrainian William Dzus in the early 1930s. Quarter-turn fasteners are used to secure panels in equipment, airplanes, motorcycles, and racing cars...

 cowling
Cowling
A cowling is the covering of a vehicle's engine, most often found on automobiles and aircraft.A cowling may be used:* for drag reduction* for engine cooling by directing airflow* as an air intake for jet engines* for decorative purposes...

 fastener as a gauge to compare the nine objects to the distant DC-4, Arnold estimated their angular size as slightly smaller than the DC-4, about the width between the outer engines (about 60 feet). Arnold also said he realized that the objects would have to be quite large to see any details at that distance and later, after comparing notes with a United Airlines crew that had a similar sighting 10 days later (see below), placed the absolute size as larger than a DC-4 airliner (or greater than 100 feet (30.5 m) in length). Army Air Force analysts would later estimate 140 to 280 feet (85.3 m), based on analysis of human visual acuity
Visual acuity
Visual acuity is acuteness or clearness of vision, which is dependent on the sharpness of the retinal focus within the eye and the sensitivity of the interpretative faculty of the brain....

 and other sighting details (such as estimated distance).

Arnold said the objects were grouped together, as Ted Bloecher writes, "in a diagonally stepped-down, echelon formation
Echelon formation
An echelon formation is a military formation in which members are arranged diagonally. Each member is stationed behind and to the right , or behind and to the left , of the member ahead...

, stretched out over a distance that he later calculated to be five miles". Though moving on a more or less level horizontal plane, Arnold said the objects weaved from side to side ("like the tail of a Chinese kite" as he later stated), darting through the valleys and around the smaller mountain peaks. They would occasionally flip or bank on their edges in unison as they turned or maneuvered causing almost blindingly bright or mirror-like flashes of light. The encounter gave him an "eerie feeling", but Arnold suspected he had seen test flights of a new U.S. military aircraft.

As the objects passed Mt Rainer, Arnold turned his plane southward on a more or less parallel course. It was at this point that he opened his side window and began observing the objects unobstructed by any glass that might have produced reflections. The objects did not disappear and continued to move very rapidly southward, continuously moving forward of his position. Curious about their speed, he began to time their rate of passage: he said they moved from Mt. Rainer to Mount Adams
Mount Adams (Washington)
Mount Adams is a potentially activestratovolcano in the Cascade Range and the second-highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington.Adams is a member of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, and is one of the arc's largest volcanoes,...

 where they faded from view, a distance of about 50 miles (80.5 km), in one minute and forty-two seconds, according to the clock on his instrument panel. When he later had time to do the calculation, the speed was over 1700 mi/h. This was about three times faster than any manned aircraft in 1947. Not knowing exactly the distance where the objects faded from view, Arnold conservatively and arbitrarily rounded this down to 1200 miles (1,931.2 km) an hour, still faster than any known aircraft, which had yet to break the sound barrier
Sound barrier
The sound barrier, in aerodynamics, is the point at which an aircraft moves from transonic to supersonic speed. The term, which occasionally has other meanings, came into use during World War II, when a number of aircraft started to encounter the effects of compressibility, a collection of several...

. It was this supersonic
Supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 speed in addition to the unusual saucer or disk description that seemed to capture people's attention.

Arnold shares the story


Arnold landed in Yakima at about 4.00 p.m., and quickly told friend and airport general manager Al Baxter the amazing story, and before long, the entire airport staff knew of Arnold's claims. He discussed the story with the staff, and later wrote that Baxter didn't believe him.

Arnold flew on to an air show Pendleton, Oregon
Pendleton, Oregon
Pendleton is a city in Umatilla County, Oregon, United States. Pendleton was named in 1868 by the county commissioners for George H. Pendleton, Democratic candidate for Vice-President in the 1864 presidential campaign. The population was 16,612 at the 2010 census...

, not knowing that somebody in Yakima had phoned in ahead to say that Arnold had seen some strange new aircraft. It was at this time that Arnold studied his maps, determined the distance between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams, and calculated the rather astonishing speed. He told a number of pilot friends, and wrote in his account to AAF intelligence that they did not scoff or laugh. Instead they suggested that maybe he had seen guided missiles or something new, though Arnold felt this explanation to be inadequate. He also wrote that some former Army pilots told him that they had been briefed before going into combat "that they might see objects of similar shape and design as I described and assured me that I wasn't dreaming or going crazy." (See Foo fighter
Foo fighter
The term foo fighter was used by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFOs or mysterious aerial phenomena seen in the skies over both the European and Pacific Theater of Operations....

.)

Arnold wasn't interviewed by reporters until the next day (June 25) when he went to the office of the East Oregonian
East Oregonian
The East Oregonian is a daily newspaper published in Pendleton, Oregon, United States and covering Umatilla and Morrow counties. The newspaper was established in 1875 as a weekly by M. P. Bull. In 1882, C. S. "Sam" Jackson purchased the EO. Within a year it had become a semiweekly, and in 1888,...

in Pendleton. Any skepticism the reporters might have harbored evaporated when they interviewed Arnold at length; as historian Mike Dash
Mike Dash
Mike Dash is a Welsh writer, historian and researcher. He is best known for his books and articles looking at unusual historical events, anomalous phenomena, and strange beliefs.-Biography:...

 records:
Arnold had the makings of a reliable witness. He was a respected businessman and experienced pilot ... and seemed to be neither exaggerating what he had seen, nor adding sensational details to his report. He also gave the impression of being a careful observer ... These details impressed the newspapermen who interviewed him and lent credibility to his report.


Arnold would soon complain about the effects of the publicity on his life. On June 27 he was reported saying, "I haven't had a moment of peace since I first told the story." He then said a preacher had called and told him that the objects he saw were "harbingers of doomsday" and that the preacher was preparing his congregation "for the end of the world." But that wasn't half as bad as an encounter he had with a woman in a Pendleton cafe who looked at him and dashed out shrieking, "There's the man who saw the men from Mars." She ran out "sobbing she would have to do something for the children" Arnold was reported saying "with a shudder".

He then added that, "This whole thing has gotten out of hand. I want to talk to the FBI or someone. Half the people look at me as a combination of Einstein, Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon is the hero of a science fiction adventure comic strip originally drawn by Alex Raymond. First published January 7, 1934, the strip was inspired by and created to compete with the already established Buck Rogers adventure strip. Also inspired by these series were comics such as Dash...

 and screwball. I wonder what my wife back in Idaho thinks."

Arnold talks of possible non-earthly origins


On July 7, 1947, two stories came out where Arnold again was raising the topic of possible extraterrestrial origins, both as his opinion and those who had written to him. In an Associated Press story, Arnold said he had received quantities of fan mail eager to help solve the mystery, none of it calling him a "screwball". Like the earlier doomsday preacher Arnold spoke of, many of the writers placed a religious interpretation on his sighting. But others, he said, "suggested the discs were visitations from another planet." Arnold added he had purchased a movie camera, which he would now take with him on every flight, hoping to obtain photographic proof of what he had seen.

In the other story, Arnold was interviewed by the Chicago Times:
"...Kenneth Luis Arnold ...is not so certain that the strange contraptions are made on this planet. Arnold... said he hoped the devices were really the work of the U.S. Army. But he told the TIMES in a phone conversation: 'If our government knows anything about these devices, the people should be told at once. A lot of people out here are very much disturbed. Some think these things may be from another planet. But they aren’t harming anyone and I think it would be the wrong thing to shoot one of them down—even if can be done. Their high speed would completely wreck them…'

"Arnold, in pointing to the possibility of these discs being from another world, said, regardless of their origin, they apparently were traveling to some reachable destination. Whoever controlled them, he said, obviously wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. …He said discs were making turns so abruptly in rounding peaks that it would have been impossible for human pilots inside survived the pressure. So, he too thinks they are controlled from elsewhere, regardless of whether it’s from Mars, Venus, or our own planet."


Arnold would make similar statements when interviewed by journalist Edward R. Murrow
Edward R. Murrow
Edward Roscoe Murrow, KBE was an American broadcast journalist. He first came to prominence with a series of radio news broadcasts during World War II, which were followed by millions of listeners in the United States and Canada.Fellow journalists Eric Sevareid, Ed Bliss, and Alexander Kendrick...

 in 1950. (See below)

Corroboration


Arnold's sighting was partly corroborated by a prospector named Fred Johnson on Mt. Adams, who wrote AAF intelligence that he saw six of the objects on June 24 at about the same time as Arnold, which he viewed through a small telescope. He said they were "round" and tapered "sharply to a point in the head and in an oval shape." He also noted that the objects seemed to disturb his compass. An evaluation of the witness by AAF intelligence found him to be credible. Ironically, Johnson's report was listed as the first unexplained UFO report in Air Force files, while Arnold's was dismissed as a mirage, yet Johnson seemed to be describing a continuation of the same event as Arnold.

The Portland
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

 Oregon Journal reported on July 4 receiving a letter from an L. G. Bernier of Richland, Washington
Richland, Washington
Richland is a city in Benton County in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Washington, at the confluence of the Yakima and the Columbia Rivers. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 48,058. April 1, 2011 estimates from the Washington State Office of Financial Management put the...

 (about 110 miles (177 km) east of Mt. Adams and 140 miles (225.3 km) southeast of Mt. Rainier). Bernier wrote that he saw three of the strange objects over Richland flying "almost edgewise" toward Mt. Rainier about one half hour before Arnold. Bernier thought the three were part of a larger formation. He indicated they were traveling at high speed: "I have seen a P-38 appear seemingly on one horizon and then gone to the opposite horizon in no time at all, but these disks certainly were traveling faster than any P-38. [Maximum speed of a P-38 was about 440 miles an hour.] No doubt Mr. Arnold saw them just a few minutes or seconds later, according to their speed." The previous day, Bernier had also spoken to his local newspaper, the Richland Washington Villager, and was among the first witnesses to suggest extraterrestrial origins: "I believe it may be a visitor from another planet."

About 60 miles (96.6 km) west-northwest of Richland in Yakima, Washington
Yakima, Washington
Yakima is an American city southeast of Mount Rainier National Park and the county seat of Yakima County, Washington, United States, and the eighth largest city by population in the state itself. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 91,196 and a metropolitan population of...

, a woman named Ethel Wheelhouse likewise reported sighting several flying discs moving at fantastic speeds at around the same time as Arnold's sighting.

When military intelligence began investigating Arnold's sighting in early July (see below), they found yet another witness from the area. A member of the Washington State forest service, who had been on fire watch at a tower in Diamond Gap, about 20 miles (32.2 km) south of Yakima, reported seeing "flashes" at 3:00 p.m. on the 24th over Mount Rainier (or exactly the same time as Arnold's sighting), that appeared to move in a straight line. Similarly, at 3:00 p.m. Sidney B. Gallagher in Washington state (exact position unspecified) reported seeing nine shiny discs flash by to the north.

A Seattle newspaper also mentioned a woman near Tacoma who said she saw a chain of nine, bright objects flying at high speed near Mt. Rainier. Unfortunately this short news item wasn't precise as to time or date, but indicated it was around the same date as Arnold's sighting.

However, a pilot of a DC-4
Douglas DC-4
The Douglas DC-4 is a four-engined propeller-driven airliner developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. It served during World War II, in the Berlin Airlift and into the 1960s in a military role...

 some 10 to 15 miles (24.1 km) north of Arnold en route to Seattle reported seeing nothing unusual. (This was the same DC-4 seen by Arnold and which he used for size comparison.)

Other Seattle area newspapers also reported other sightings of flashing, rapidly moving unknown objects on the same day, but not the same time, as Arnold's sighting. Most of these sightings were over Seattle or west of Seattle in the town of Bremerton
Bremerton, Washington
Bremerton is a city in Kitsap County, Washington, United States. The population was 38,790 at the 2011 State Estimate, making it the largest city on the Olympic Peninsula. Bremerton is home to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Bremerton Annex of Naval Base Kitsap...

, either that morning or at night. Altogether, there were at least 16 other reported UFO sightings the same day as Arnold's in the Washington state area. maptable of Washington state sightings

The flap continues



The primary corroborative sighting, however, occurred ten days later (July 4) when a United Airlines
United Airlines
United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees (which includes the entire holding company United Continental...

 crew over Idaho en route to Seattle also spotted five to nine disk-like objects that paced their plane for 10 to 15 minutes before suddenly disappearing. The next day in Seattle, Arnold met with the pilot, Cpt. Emil J. Smith, and copilot and compared sighting details. The main difference in shape was that the United crew thought the objects appeared rough on top. This was one of the few sightings that Arnold felt was reliable, most of the rest he thought were the public seeing other things and letting their imaginations run wild. Arnold and Cpt. Smith became friends, met again with Army Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 intelligence officers on July 12 and filed sighting reports, then teamed up again at the end of July in investigating the strange Maury Island incident
Maury Island incident
The Maury Island Incident is said to be an early modern UFO encounter incident, which allegedly took place in June 1947, three days before the famous sighting by Kenneth Arnold, widely considered the original encounter with flying saucers. It is also one of the earliest reported instances of an...

.

A similar sighting of eight objects also occurred over Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa is the second-largest city in the state of Oklahoma and 46th-largest city in the United States. With a population of 391,906 as of the 2010 census, it is the principal municipality of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area, a region with 937,478 residents in the MSA and 988,454 in the CSA. Tulsa's...

 on July 12, 1947. In this instance, a photo was taken and published in the Tulsa Daily World
Tulsa World
Tulsa World is the daily newspaper for the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the primary newspaper for the northeastern and eastern portions of Oklahoma, and is the second-most widely circulated newspaper in the state, after The Oklahoman. It was founded in 1905 and remains an independent newspaper,...

the following day (photo at right). Interestingly, the photographer, Enlo Gilmore, said that in blowups of the photo, the objects resembled baseball catcher's mitts
Baseball glove
A baseball glove or mitt is a large leather glove that baseball players on the defending team are allowed to wear to assist them in catching and fielding balls hit by a batter, or thrown by a teammate.-History:...

 or flying wings. He was of the opinion that the military had a secret fleet of flying wing
Flying wing
A flying wing is a tailless fixed-wing aircraft which has no definite fuselage, with most of the crew, payload and equipment being housed inside the main wing structure....

 airplanes. He had been a gunnery officer in the Navy during the war, and using information from another witness, also a veteran, he performed a triangulation
Triangulation
In trigonometry and geometry, triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points at either end of a fixed baseline, rather than measuring distances to the point directly...

 and arrived at an estimation of speed of 1700 mi/h, or essentially the same estimate as Arnold's. One of the objects, he said, seemed to have a hole in the middle.http://www.roswellproof.com/Texas_UFO_Reports.html#anchor_3733

Two or three photos of a similar, solitary object were taken by William Rhodes over Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is the capital, and largest city, of the U.S. state of Arizona, as well as the sixth most populated city in the United States. Phoenix is home to 1,445,632 people according to the official 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data...

 on July 7, 1947, and appeared in a local Phoenix newspaper and some other newspapers. The object was rounded in front with a crescent back. These photos also seem to show something resembling a hole in the middle, though Rhodes thought it was a canopy.http://www.roswellproof.com/Rhodes_Phoenix.html Rhodes's negatives and prints were later confiscated by the FBI and military. However, the photos show up in later Air Force intelligence reports.http://www.kevinrandle.blogspot.com/2006_11_01_archive.html

Arnold was soon shown the Rhodes photos when he met with two AAF intelligence officers. He commented, "It was a disk almost identical to the one peculiar flying saucer that had been worrying me since my original observation — the one that looked different from the rest and that I had never mentioned to anyone." As a result, Arnold felt that the Rhodes photos were genuine.

Publicity and origins of term "flying saucer"


Arnold's account was first featured in a few late newspaper editions on June 25, appeared in numerous U.S. and Canadian papers (and some foreign newspapers) on June 26 and thereafter, often on the front page. Without exception, according to Bloecher, the Arnold story was initially related with a serious, even-handed tone. The first reporters to interview Arnold were Nolan Skiff and Bill Bequette of the East Oregonian
East Oregonian
The East Oregonian is a daily newspaper published in Pendleton, Oregon, United States and covering Umatilla and Morrow counties. The newspaper was established in 1875 as a weekly by M. P. Bull. In 1882, C. S. "Sam" Jackson purchased the EO. Within a year it had become a semiweekly, and in 1888,...

in Pendleton, Oregon on June 25, and the first story on the Arnold sighting, written by Bequette, appeared in the newspaper the same day.

The term appears


Starting June 26 and June 27, newspapers first began using the terms "flying saucer" and "flying disk" (or "disc") to describe the sighted objects. Thus the Arnold sighting is credited with giving rise to these popular terms. The actual origin of the terms is somewhat controversial and complicated. Jerome Clark cites a 1970 study by Herbert Strentz, who reviewed U.S. newspaper accounts of the Arnold UFO sighting, and concluded that the term was probably due to an editor or headline writer: the body of the early Arnold news stories did not use the term "flying saucer" or "flying disc." However, earlier stories did in fact credit Arnold with using terms such as "saucer", "disk", and "pie-pan" in describing the shape. (see quotations further below)

Bequette interview


Years later, Arnold claimed he told Bill Bequette that "they flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water." Arnold felt that he had been misquoted since the description referred to the objects' motion rather than their shape. Thus Bequette has often been credited with first using "flying saucer" and supposedly misquoting Arnold, but the term does not appear in Bequette's early articles. Instead, his first article of June 25 says only, "He said he sighted nine saucer-like aircraft flying in formation..."

The next day in a much more detailed article, Bequette wrote, "He clung to his story of shiny, flat objects racing over the Cascade mountains with a peculiar weaving motion ‘like the tail of a Chinese kite.' ...He also described the objects as 'saucer-like' and their motion 'like fish flipping in the sun.' ...[Arnold] described the objects as 'flat like a pie-pan and somewhat bat-shaped'." It wasn't until June 28 that Bequette first used the term "flying disc" (but not "flying saucer").

A review of early newspaper stories indicates that immediately after his sighting, Arnold generally described the objects’ shape as thin and flat, rounded in the front but chopped in the back and coming to a point, i.e., more or less saucer- or disk-like. He also specifically used terms like "saucer" or "saucer-like", "disk", and "pie pan" or "pie plate" in describing the shape. The motion he generally described as weaving like the tail of a kite and erratic flipping.

For example, in a surviving recorded radio interview from June 25, Arnold described them as looking "something like a pie plate that was cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in the rear." His motion descriptions were: "I noticed to the left of me a chain which looked to me like the tail of a Chinese kite, kind of weaving... they seemed to flip and flash in the sun, just like a mirror... they seemed to kind of weave in and out right above the mountaintops..." http://www.konsulting.com/audio_clips.htm

Subsequent quotes


The following day (June 26) were the following quotations attributed to Arnold: http://ufoupdateslist.com/1999/mar/m17-009.shtml
  • United Press: "They were shaped like saucers and were so thin I could barely see them..."
  • Associated Press
    Associated Press
    The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

    : "He said they were bright, saucer-like objects--he called them 'aircraft'. ...He also described the objects as ‘saucer-like’ and their motion 'like a fish flipping in the sun.’ ...Arnold described the objects as 'flat like a pie pan'."
  • Associated Press: "They flew with a peculiar dipping motion, 'like a fish flipping in the sun,' he said. ... He said they appeared to fly almost as if fastened together -- if one dipped, the others did, too."
  • Chicago Tribune
    Chicago Tribune
    The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, and the flagship publication of the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" , it remains the most read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region and is...

    : "They were silvery and shiny and seemed to be shaped like a pie plate.... I am sure they were separate units because they weaved in flight like the tail of a kite."


On June 27 was the following quotation:
  • Portland Oregon Journal: "'They were half-moon shaped, oval in front and convex in the rear. ...There were no bulges or cowlings; they looked like a big flat disk.’ ...Arnold said that the objects weaved 'like the tail of a Chinese kite'."


Two weeks later, Arnold was still referring to the shape of the objects as "saucers" or "saucer-like." In the Portland Oregonian on July 11, he was quoted saying, "I actually saw a type of aircraft slightly longer than it was wide, with a thickness about one twentieth as great as its width. ...I reckoned the saucers were 23 miles away."

Statement to the army



In a written statement to Army Air Forces (AAF) intelligence the following day (July 12), Arnold several times referred to the objects as "saucer-like." At the end of the report he drew a picture of what the objects appeared to look like at their closest approach to Mt. Rainier. He wrote, "They seemed longer than wide, their thickness was about 1/20th their width." (document with Arnold's drawing at right) As to motion, Arnold wrote, "They flew like many times I have observed geese to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as if they were linked together. They seemed to hold a definite direction but rather swerved in and out of the high mountain peaks." He also spoke of how they would "flip and flash in the sun." text of written report

A variant object


To complicate the shape descriptions further, a month after his sighting, Arnold was to become involved in the bizarre Maury Island incident
Maury Island incident
The Maury Island Incident is said to be an early modern UFO encounter incident, which allegedly took place in June 1947, three days before the famous sighting by Kenneth Arnold, widely considered the original encounter with flying saucers. It is also one of the earliest reported instances of an...

. Arnold was dispatched by a magazine publisher to Tacoma
Tacoma, Washington
Tacoma is a mid-sized urban port city and the county seat of Pierce County, Washington, United States. The city is on Washington's Puget Sound, southwest of Seattle, northeast of the state capital, Olympia, and northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. The population was 198,397, according to...

 to investigate it, although he eventually turned the investigation over to the AAF. In a meeting with two AAF intelligence officers (the same ones who interviewed him on July 12 and for whom he wrote his report), Arnold first revealed one of the nine objects was different, being larger and shaped more like a crescent coming to a point in the back. It was at this time that Arnold was also shown the Rhodes photos of a crescent-shaped object over Phoenix, which Arnold deemed authentic because of the unusual shape.

Some note the object in the drawing bears an uncanny similarity to the WW2 German design, the Horten Ho 229
Horten Ho 229
The Horten H.IX, RLM designation Ho 229 was a late–World War II prototype fighter/bomber designed by Reimar and Walter Horten and built by Gothaer Waggonfabrik...

, sometimes further claiming it was captured German technology being tested. But there is no historical evidence of any kind supporting this.

Widespread UFO reports after Arnold sighting


In the weeks that followed Arnold's June, 1947 story, at least several hundred reports of similar sightings flooded in from the U.S. and around the world — most of which described saucer-shaped objects. A sighting by a United Airlines crew of another nine, disk-like objects over Idaho on July 4 probably garnered more newspaper coverage than Arnold's original sighting, and opened the floodgates of media coverage in the days to follow.

Bloecher collected reports of 853 flying disc sightings that year from 140 newspapers from Canada, Washington D.C, and every U.S. state save Montana. This was more UFO reports for 1947 than most researchers ever suspected. Some of these stories were poorly documented or fragmentary, but Bloecher argued that about 250 of the more detailed reports (such as those made by pilots or scientists, multiple eyewitnesses, or backed by photos) made a persuasive case for a genuine mystery.

Adding intrigue to Arnold's story, the U.S. military denied having any planes at all in the area of Mount Rainier at the time of his sighting. Likewise, on July 6, speculation arose in newspaper articles that the objects being sighted were due to either the "flying wing
Flying wing
A flying wing is a tailless fixed-wing aircraft which has no definite fuselage, with most of the crew, payload and equipment being housed inside the main wing structure....

" or "flying flapjack," a disc-shaped aircraft, both experimental planes under development by the U.S. military at the time (see military flying saucers
Military flying saucers
The development of military disc-shaped aircraft apparently dates back to World War II. A number of disc-shaped aircraft have been proposed over the years, a few being built.-Nemeth Umbrella Plane:...

). The military repeated that neither aircraft could account for the sightings, which is also born out by historical records.

The most famous UFO event during this period was the Roswell UFO incident
Roswell UFO incident
The Roswell UFO Incident was the recovery of an object that crashed in the general vicinity of Roswell, New Mexico, in June or July 1947, allegedly an extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Since the late 1970s the incident has been the subject of intense controversy and of...

, the alleged military recovery of a crashed flying disk, the story of which broke on July 8, 1947. To calm rising public concern, this and other cases were debunked by the military in succeeding days as mistaken sightings of weather balloon
Weather balloon
A weather or sounding balloon is a balloon which carries instruments aloft to send back information on atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed by means of a small, expendable measuring device called a radiosonde...

s.http://www.roswellproof.com/militarydebunk.html Just before the Roswell story came out, the Army Air Forces in Washington issued a press statement saying they had the matter under investigation and had decided the flying discs definitely were not "secret bacteriological weapons designed by some foreign power," "new-type army rockets," or "space ships."

Military investigation of Arnold story


The first investigation of Arnold's claims came from Lt. Frank Brown and Capt. William Davidson of Hamilton Field
Hamilton Air Force Base
Hamilton Air Force Base was a United States Air Force base located along the western shore of San Pablo Bay, south of Novato, California.-History:...

 in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, who interviewed Arnold on July 12. Arnold also submitted a written report at that time. Regarding the reliability of Arnold's sighting, they concluded:
"It is the present opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold actually saw what he stated he saw. It is difficult to believe that a man of [his] character and apparent integrity would state that he saw objects and write up a report to the extent that he did if he did not see them."


Despite this, the Army Air Force's formal public conclusion was that Arnold had seen a mirage.

In addition, on July 9 AAF intelligence, with help from the FBI, secretly began an investigation of the best sightings, mostly from pilots and military personnel. Arnold's sighting, as well as that of the United Airline's crew, were included in the list of best sightings. Three weeks later they came to the conclusion that the saucer reports were not imaginary or adequately explained by natural phenomena; something real was flying around. This laid the groundwork for another intelligence estimate in September 1947 by Gen. Nathan Twining, commanding officer of the Air Materiel Command, which likewise concluded the saucers were real and urged a formal investigation by multiple government agencies. This in turn resulted in the formation of Project Sign
Project Sign
Project Sign was an official U.S. government study of unidentified flying objects undertaken by the United States Air Force and active for most of 1948....

 at the end of 1947, the first publicly acknowledged USAF UFO investigation. Project Sign eventually evolved into Project Grudge
Project Grudge
Project Grudge was a short-lived project by the U.S. Air Force to investigate unidentified flying objects . Grudge succeeded Project Sign in February, 1949, and was then followed by Project Blue Book. The project formally ended in December 1949, but actually continued on in a very minimal capacity...

, and then the better known Project Blue Book
Project Blue Book
Project Blue Book was one of a series of systematic studies of unidentified flying objects conducted by the United States Air Force. Started in 1952, it was the second revival of such a study...

.

The personnel of the U.S. Air Force's Project Sign
Project Sign
Project Sign was an official U.S. government study of unidentified flying objects undertaken by the United States Air Force and active for most of 1948....

 (1947–1949) also later studied Arnold's story. According to Major Edward J. Ruppelt
Edward J. Ruppelt
Edward J. Ruppelt was a United States Air Force officer probably best-known for his involvement in Project Blue Book, a formal governmental study of unidentified flying objects...

,
I found that there was a lot of speculation on this report [amongst Sign personnel]. Two factions ... joined up behind two lines of reasoning. One side said that Arnold had seen plain, everyday jet airplanes flying in formation ... The other side didn't buy this idea at all. They based their argument on the fact that Arnold knew where the objects were when he timed them ...

There was an old theory that maybe Arnold had seen wind whipping snow along the mountain ridges, so I asked Air Force investigators about this. I got a flat "Impossible."

Skeptical explanations



One skeptical objection raised is that Arnold was suspiciously precise in his descriptions (for example, "approaching Mt. Rainier at about 170 degrees" and "passed almost directly in front of me, but at a distance of about 23 miles"), perhaps calling into question Arnold's reliability as a witness.

Steuart Campbell
Steuart Campbell
Steuart Campbell is an Edinburgh-based sceptic and investigative science writer born in Birmingham. Campbell trained as an architect and worked as one until the mid-1970s. He then gained a degree in mathematics and science from the Open University .He has written books on science and...

 has argued that the objects Arnold reported could have been mirages of several snow-capped peaks in Cascade Range. Campbell's calculation of the objects' speed determined that they were travelling at roughly the same speed as Arnold's plane, indicating that the objects were in fact stationary. Mirages could have been caused by temperature inversions over several deep valleys in the line of sight.

Philip J. Klass
Philip J. Klass
Philip Julian Klass was an American journalist and UFO researcher, known for his skepticism regarding UFOs. In the ufological and skeptical communities, Klass tends to inspire strongly polarized appraisals. Klass has been called the "Sherlock Holmes of UFOlogy"...

 cited an article by Keay Davidson of the San Francisco Examiner in arguing that Arnold might have misidentified meteor
METEOR
METEOR is a metric for the evaluation of machine translation output. The metric is based on the harmonic mean of unigram precision and recall, with recall weighted higher than precision...

s on June 24, 1947. In rebuttal, optical physicist Bruce Maccabee
Bruce Maccabee
Bruce Maccabee is an American optical physicist formerly employed by the U.S. Navy, and a leading ufologist.- Biography :MacCabee received a B.S. in physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., and then at American University, Washington, DC,...

 pointed out a meteor theory would require impossibly slow speeds and durations for brightly glowing meteors on a horizontal trajectory.

James Easton was the first of several skeptics to suggest that Arnold may have misidentified pelican
Pelican
A pelican, derived from the Greek word πελεκυς pelekys is a large water bird with a large throat pouch, belonging to the bird family Pelecanidae....

s: the birds live in the Washington region, are rather large (wingspans of over three meters are not uncommon), have a pale underside that can reflect light, can fly at rather high altitudes, and can appear to have a somewhat crescent-shaped profile when flying.

Richard Carrier
Richard Carrier
Richard Cevantis Carrier is an American historian. He is best known for his writings on Internet Infidels, otherwise known as the Secular Web, where he served as Editor-in-Chief for several years....

 recently claimed to have seen the same UFOs as Arnold described, "ovoid objects flying in formation" "rotating along their axis of motion, like footballs, with one side black and one bright white, so they alternated in color while they spun." He later realized it was a flock of seagulls. He claimed that Arnold's account showed that Arnold was incorrectly estimating his height, believing himself level to mountains four thousand feet below him giving him erroneous estimates of the level, distance, and speed of the objects.

Maccabee argues it is impossible for a bird to be as bright as reported by Arnold—the objects' brightness was what Arnold said initially attracted his attention. Further, Arnold was flying at roughly 110 miles (177 km) an hour on a parallel course to the objects. Arnold reported the objects rapidly moving forward of his position as he observed them flying southward on a parallel course between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. No bird could fly faster than Arnold's plane; instead birds would have steadily moved backward, not forwards, relative to his position.

Donald Menzel's explanations


Donald Menzel was a Harvard astronomer and one of the earliest UFO debunker
Debunker
A debunker is an individual who attempts to discredit and contradict claims as being false, exaggerated or pretentious. The term is closely associated with skeptical investigation of, or in some cases irrational resistance to, controversial topics such as U.F.O.s, claimed paranormal phenomena,...

s. Over the years, he offered several mutually exclusive explanations for the Arnold's 1947 UFO sighting. Bruce Maccabee
Bruce Maccabee
Bruce Maccabee is an American optical physicist formerly employed by the U.S. Navy, and a leading ufologist.- Biography :MacCabee received a B.S. in physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., and then at American University, Washington, DC,...

 rebutted Menzel's explanations in a 1986 monograph, arguing that Menzel often left out data that conflicted with a given 'explanation'.
  1. In 1953, Menzel argued that Arnold had seen clouds of snow blown from the mountains south of Mt. Rainier. Maccabee noted that such snow clouds have hazy light, not the mirror-like brilliance reported by Arnold. Further, such clouds could not be in the rapid motion reported by Arnold, nor would they account for Arnold first seeing the bright objects north of Rainier.
  2. In 1963, Menzel argued that Arnold had seen orographic clouds or wave cloud
    Wave cloud
    A wave cloud is a cloud form created by atmospheric internal waves.-Formation:The atmospheric internal waves that form wave clouds are created as stable air flows over a raised land feature such as a mountain range, and can form either directly above or in the lee of the feature. As an air mass...

    s; Maccabee noted that this conflicted with testimony from Arnold and others that the sky was clear, and again can't account for the brightness of the objects or their rapid motion over a very large angular region.
  3. In 1971, Menzel argued that Arnold had merely seen spots of water on his airplane's windows; Maccabee notes that this contradicts Arnold's testimony that he had specifically ruled out water spots or reflections shortly after seeing the nine UFOs. For example, the early Bill Bequette article of June 26 in the East Oregonian has Arnold saying he at first thought that maybe he was seeing reflections off his window, but "he still saw the objects after rolling it down."

Other sightings by Arnold and his opinion


In a 1950 interview with journalist Edward R. Murrow
Edward R. Murrow
Edward Roscoe Murrow, KBE was an American broadcast journalist. He first came to prominence with a series of radio news broadcasts during World War II, which were followed by millions of listeners in the United States and Canada.Fellow journalists Eric Sevareid, Ed Bliss, and Alexander Kendrick...

, Arnold reported seeing similar objects on three other occasions, and said other pilots flying in the northwestern U.S. had sighted such objects as many as eight times. The pilots initially felt a duty reporting the objects despite the ridicule, he said, because they thought the U.S. government didn't know what they were. Arnold did not assert that the objects were alien spacecraft, although he did say: "being a natural-born American, if it's not made by our science or our Army Air Forces, I am inclined to believe it's of an extraterrestrial origin." Then he added that he thought everybody should be concerned, but "I don't think it's anything for people to get hysterical about."

The first issue of Fate (1948) featured the article The Truth About The Flying Saucers by Arnold. In 1952 he described his experiences in the book The Coming of the Saucers, which he and a publisher friend named Raymond A. Palmer
Raymond A. Palmer
Raymond Arthur Palmer was the influential editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949, when he left publisher Ziff-Davis to publish and edit Fate Magazine, and eventually many other magazines and books through his own publishing houses, including Amherst Press and Palmer Publications...

 published themselves.

External links