Modern UFO era (1)
June 19, 2007 3:06am CST
The post World War II UFO phase in the United States began with a reported sighting by American businessman Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947 while flying his private plane near Mount Rainier, Washington. He reported seeing nine brilliantly bright objects flying across the face of Rainier towards nearby Mount Adams at “an incredible speed”, which he calculated as at least 1200 miles per hour by timing their travel between Rainier and Adams. His sighting subsequently received significant media and public attention. Arnold would later say they “flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water” and also said they were “flat like a pie pan”, “shaped like saucers,” and “half-moon shaped, oval in front and convex in the rear. ...they looked like a big flat disk.” (One, however, he would describe later as being almost crescent-shaped.) Arnold’s reported descriptions caught the media’s and the public’s fancy and gave rise to the terms flying saucer and flying disk. Arnold’s sighting was followed in the next few weeks by several thousand other reported sightings, mostly in the U.S., but in other countries as well. Perhaps the most significant of these was a United Airlines crew sighting of nine more disc-like objects over Idaho on the evening of July 4. This sighting was even more widely reported than Arnold’s and lent considerable credence to Arnold’s report. For the next few days most American newspapers were filled with front-page stories of the new “flying saucers” or “flying discs.” Starting with official debunkery that began the night of July 8 with the Roswell UFO incident, reports rapidly tapered off, ending the first big U.S. UFO wave. Starting July 9, Army Air Force intelligence, in cooperation with the FBI, secretly began a formal investigation into the best sightings, which included Arnold’s and the United crew’s. The FBI was told that intelligence was using “all of its scientists” to determine whether or not “such a phenomenon could, in fact, occur.” Furthermore, the research was “being conducted with the thought that the flying objects might be a celestial phenomenon,” or that “they might be a foreign body mechanically devised and controlled.” (Maccabee, 5) Three weeks later they concluded that, “This ‘flying saucer’ situation is not all imaginary or seeing too much in some natural phenomenon. Something is really flying around.” A further review by the intelligence and technical divisions of the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field reached the same conclusion, that “the phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious,” that there were objects in the shape of a disc, metallic in appearance, and as big as man-made aircraft. They were characterized by “extreme rates of climb [and] maneuverability,” general lack of noise, absence of trail, occasional formation flying, and “evasive” behavior “when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar,” suggesting either manual, automatic, or remote control. It was thus recommended in late September 1947 that an official Air Force investigation be set up to investigate the phenomenon. This led to the creation of the Air Force’s Project Sign at the end of 1947, which became Project Grudge at the end of 1948, and then Project Blue Book in 1952. Blue Book closed down in 1970, ending the official Air Force UFO investigations.