Photo of the Day

Saw First UFO–Meridian, Idaho, retired businessman Kenneth Arnold, 62, points to a drawing he made after seeing nine pulsating objects in the sky over Mt. Rainier in Washington State on June 24, 1947.?It’s the first widely reported UFO sighting in the United States, and, thanks to Arnold’s description of what he saw, leads the press to coin the term flying saucer.

The Man Who Introduced the World to Flying Saucers

The flying saucer phenomenon go back to the case that started it all, Kenneth Arnold’s sighting of nine objects speeding by Mount Rainier on a sunny June afternoon.

Seventy years ago, Idaho pilot Kenneth Arnold saw something near Mount Rainier that brought the term ?flying saucers? into the lexicon. It was the viral story of its day. What he saw remains a mystery.

Before June 24, 1947, terms such as UFOs and flying saucers had not entered popular vocabulary. Then, on that afternoon 70 years ago, it all changed because of Kenneth Arnold:

?Supersonic Flying Saucers Sighted by Idaho Pilot?

Arnold reported seeing near Mount Rainier nine ?circular-type? objects flying in formation at more than twice the speed of sound.

His was the first widely reported UFO sighting in this America, and it set off a wave of other reported sightings. Arnold would pay the price for describing something so fantastic.

At the time it was a sensation which made the front page of newspapers across the nation. Faster than any airplane of the era, Arnold’s objects were a puzzle that eluded quick solution. The pilots of such craft would have claimed victory in the race to break the sound barrier, but none ever came forward. Officials in the American military denied it was anything of theirs. Russian spokesmen denied they had anything to do with it. Reports of flying saucers multiplied in the wake of the mystery surrounding Arnold’s objects and never entirely stopped.

In a now-declassified document, the?Air Force Materiel Command wrote it off: ?The report cannot bear even superficial examination, therefore, must be disregarded.? Another?Air Force document concluded, ?It is the Air Force conclusion that the objects of this sighting were due to a mirage.?

For Arnold, it stung. He didn’t consider himself some kind of kook. He had over 4,000 hours of mountain high-altitude pilot time; he was in the Idaho search and rescue.

?I have been subjected to ridicule, much loss of time and money, newspaper notoriety, magazine stories, reflections on my honesty, my character, my business dealings,? Arnold wrote in his 1952 book, ?Coming of the Saucers.?

Kenneth Arnold died in 1984 at age 68, and in all those years, he never wavered in his descriptions.

Kenneth Arnold with his CallAir A-2 mountain plane.

Funny how your life can get turned upside down just because you see something. Kenneth Arnold?s story is the story of a pretty straight guy. He was an Eagle Scout when he was a teen-ager. He worked for the Red Cross. He was an All-State football player in high school, with hopes of being a college star until a knee injury cut his football career short.

After college, Arnold became a salesman and learned to fly, combining the two by flying from small town to small town selling fire control equipment, eventually owning the Great Western Fire Control Supply Company. He was a member of the Sheriff?s ?aerial posse?of Ada County, Idaho, he was a relief U.S. Marshall, and he sometimes flew prisoners to the Federal Penitentiary. Flying his light plane, a Callair, was the basis of his livelihood.

In other words, he was the perfect UFO witness: a solid citizen, honest and trustworthy, married, with two daughters.

On June 24, 1947, he was returning home from a business trip when he made a detour into the Yakima, Washington area to help in an aerial search for a missing C-46 marine transport plane that was believed to have gone down in the area.

At around 3:00 in the afternoon, he was flying at about 9,000 feet, near Mount Rainier, when a flash of light caught his eye. He turned and saw a procession of nine very strange objects flying from north to south in front of his plane. They were flat and rather heel-shaped, very shiny, and they moved erratically, like a ?saucer would if you skipped it across water.? You can see Arnold?s drawing of what he saw here. Arnold estimated their size at about two-thirds that of a DC-4, and he calculated their speed at over 1500 mph by timing their travel between two mountain peaks of known distance.

When he arrived at Yakima, Washington, Arnold told several other pilots about his sighting. The consensus among them was that it was some type of military ?secret weapon?. However, Arnold would later find that the U.S. military was as mystified by the objects as he himself was.

In Pendleton, Oregon, Arnold went to make a report to the FBI, but the local office was closed, so he talked to the editor of the East Oregonian newspaper instead and it was the editor who put the story on the newswires. Because of Arnold?s background and reliability as a witness, the story got wide circulation.

What did Arnold see? Skeptics said everything from clouds to blowing snow on the mountain, to droplets of water on his airplane window.

The June 25, 1947 issue of the Pendleton (Oregon) East Oregonian carried the very first report of Arnold’s sighting at the bottom of page 1:

Impossible! ? Maybe, But Seein’
Is Believin’, Says Flier

? ? ? Kenneth Arnold, with the fire control at Boise and who was flying in southern Washington yesterday afternoon in search of a missing marine plane, stopped here en route to Boise today with an unusual story — which he doesn’t expect people to believe but which he declared was true.

He said he sighted nine saucer-like aircraft flying in formation at 3. p.m. yesterday, extremely bright — as if they were nickel plated — and flying at an immense rate of speed. ? He estimated they were at an altitude between 9,500 and 10,000 feet and clocked them from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Adams, arriving at the amazing speed of about 1200 miles an hour. ? “It seemed impossible,” he said, “but there it is — I must believe my eyes.”

He landed at Yakima somewhat later and inquired there, but learned nothing. ? Talking about it to a man from Ukiah in Pendleton this morning whose name he did not get, he was amazed to learn that the man had sighted the same aerial objects yesterday afternoon from the mountains in the Ukiah section!

He said that in flight they appeared to weave in an (sic) out in formation.

This image from a 1952 issue of Coronet Magazine shows an illustration depicting Kenneth Arnold?s sighting. (Coronet Magazine)

It had been business and not the reward which had brought 32-year old businessman Kenneth Arnold of Boise, Idaho to the Pacific Northwest in those early summer days of 1947. Arnold’s business was the sale and installation of automatic fire-fighting equipment. As owner of the?Great Western Fire Control Supply?company, his business took him through the western United States, a territory he had covered since 1938, when he had been a salesman and then district manager for Red Comet, Inc. of Littleton, Colorado, before leaving to become an independent distributor.
And business apparently was good. In January, Arnold had bought a CallAir A-2 mountain plane for $5,000. And for the kid from Subeka, Minnesota — later by way of Minot, North Dakota — it must have represented the fulfillment of a dream.

As the Fourth of July weekend for 1947 approached, Kenneth Arnold found himself very much in need of a rest. Just a week before, the thirty-two year old from Boise, Idaho had been propelled virtually overnight from everyday anonymity into the spotlight of intense nationwide attention and speculation.
It had all started when the businessman-pilot reported that while he was flying his private plane near Washington’s Mt. Rainier he had seen nine odd aircraft in an unusual formation flying more than 1,200 miles per hour — an unheard of technological achievement for the time. Stopping by afterwards at the offices of the Pendleton-based?East Oregonian?Arnold’s sighting was reported in a very short piece fed across the Associated Press newswire. Press reaction was so hot, swift and widespread that Arnold had gotten little rest over the next three days, and could conduct virtually no business.

?I made my report because I thought it was my duty. It was the only proper and American thing to do. I saw what I saw,? he said.

Arnold was an unlikely candidate to become embroiled in such a controversy.

He lived in Meridian, Idaho, and sold fire-extinguishing equipment. About as unusual as his life got was that he piloted a small airplane to get to his clients around the Northwest.

Above: July 5, 1947 edition of the Lowell Sun.

Unusual aerial phenomena, all well acknowledge, long pre-date the Arnold case, but his report set fire to a controversy which made it a benchmark in the history of the subject. Whether it should be called a classic or a significant case is a thorny issue dependent mainly on one’s perspective. In terms of cultural influence, no case could be more important. In terms of weight of evidence for an extraordinary phenomenon requiring the belief of extraterrestrials or some new set of scientific concepts, the Arnold case sinks below a landscape of multiple-witness cases, physical traces, and photographically documented UFOs. In its initial presentation, the Arnold case was a single witness case with no corroboration. The pilot of a DC-4 that was twenty miles away reported nothing unusual could be seen.?Jacques Vallee termed it “by no means one of the best reports.”?In a 1965 survey asking UFO groups for the most significant cases, neither APRO or NICAP listed the Arnold sighting.

Even so, the credibility of that single witness seemed good. Arnold was an experienced pilot. Skeptical journalists were readily convinced of his honesty.?The report he offered doesn’t have the taste of a tall tale in the sense that it is devoid of supernatural trappings. The speed of the objects isn’t merely stretching current aviation wonders; it is bizarrely over double what the fastest planes were doing at the time. It is also pointlessly over-complicated, most particularly in the details concerning erratic motions by the objects and an echelon formation that was backward from that practiced by the Air Force. It is almost as if he is going out of his way to be disbelieved when he has nine objects going at these record speeds. Why not simply report a single snazzy-looking jet on a bullet-straight trajectory rushing past the nose of his plane? That alone would have been enough to grab attention if publicity was the intent.

Here?s how it first appeared from the Associated Press:

PENDELTON, Ore., June 25 (AP) — Nine bright saucer-like objects flying at “incredible speed” at 10,000 feet altitude were reported here today by Kenneth Arnold, a Boise, Idaho, pilot who said he could not hazard a guess as to what they were.

Arnold, a United States Forest Service employee engaged in searching for a missing plane, said he sighted the mysterious objects yesterday at 3 P.M. They were flying between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams, in Washington state, he said, and appeared to weave in and out of formation. Arnold said he clocked and estimated their speed at 1,200 miles an hour.

The news release actually got it wrong; the objects were not saucer-shaped, but rather Arnold had said the objects “flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water.” He said the objects “were not circular,” but the reporter apparently misunderstood and thus arose the term, “flying saucer.”

It has become a widely retailed legend that Arnold never described disc-like objects at all. Many modern accounts assert that he originally reported nine ?boomerangs? or ?crescents,? but that a description of their motion ? ?like saucers skipped over water? ? was misinterpreted by a journalist who thus invented the totally fictitious image of ?flying saucers.? The journalist responsible has widely been identified, even in some quite recent literature, as Bill Bequette, author of the original story that went out on the AP wire from the Portland East Oregonian on June 25 1947. The true part of this legend is that Arnold did indeed claim, years later, that he had offered the simile of saucers skipping over water as a description of the objects? motion. But the rest is a can of worms. Although several different motion similes appear in early published sources, and in Arnold?s own Air Force report, it should be noted that the ?skipping saucers? image is nowhere among them.

The original sources contain other motion similes: ?like the tail of a Chinese kite, kind of weaving and going at a terrific speed?; ?they flipped and flashed along?; ?they flew like many times I have observed geese to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as though linked together?; ?like fish flipping in the sun?; and ?like speedboats on rough water?.1 The claim that they flew ?like they take a saucer and throw it across the water? doesn?t appear in the record until Arnold offered it 3 years after the sighting in a ?phone interview with radio broadcaster Ed Murrow in 1950: ?when I described how they flew, I said that they flew like they take a saucer and throw it across the water. Most of the newspapers misunderstood and misquoted that too. They said that I said that they were saucer-like; I said that they flew in a saucer-like fashion.

Kenneth Arnold in front of his CallAir plane.

A month after Arnold was in the news, a now-declassified report made in July 1947 by?Army Air Force Counter-Intelligence Corps Officer Frank M. Brown said, ?Mr. Arnold is a man of 32 years of age, being married and the father of two children ? It is the personal opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold actually saw what he saw ? To go further, if Mr. Arnold can write a report of the character that he did while not having seen the objects that he claimed he saw, it is the opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold is in the wrong business, that he should be writing Buck Rogers fiction.?

That was one of the few sympathetic portrayals in government documents of Arnold?s sighting.

Arnold?s sighting of the craft was the 1947 version of a story going viral.

?It was a beautiful day. Just as clear as a bell,? Arnold said. He was flying from Chehalis to Yakima and decided to spend an hour or so searching for a downed C-46 Marine transport that had crashed into the southwest side of Mount Rainier.

There was a $5,000 reward for finding it.

It was at 3 p.m., he remembered, ?when a very bright flash lit up the plane and the sky around me.? At first, Arnold thought it was the sun reflecting off another plane.

?But the flash happened again, and that?s when I saw where it was coming from. It came spasmodically from a chain of nine circular-type aircraft way up from the vicinity of Mount Rainier,? said Arnold.

?? I could not find any tails on these things. They didn?t leave a jet trail behind them. I judged their size to be at least 100 feet in widespan. I thought it was a new type of missile.?

His plane had a big sweep 24-hour clock on the instrument panel. Arnold measured that the craft covered the distance between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in 1 minute 42 seconds.

?That figured out to something like 1,760 miles an hour, which I could hardly believe. I knew that figure couldn?t be entirely accurate, but I?d say it was within a couple of hundred miles accurate,? he said.

From Yakima, Arnold then flew to an air show in Pendleton, Oregon. The next day, on June 25, he stopped by the local newspaper, the East Oregonian. He wanted to know if the military had been testing secret warplanes?in the area.

He ended up talking to reporter Bill Bequette, who, in subsequent years, remembered that Arnold ?came off as honest, level headed and credible,? said a story in the East Oregonian. So Bequette wrote a brief story about what Arnold said he witnessed.

But the brief also went out to The Associated Press, got picked up by numerous newspapers, and the furor began. For the first time, a mass-media story and subsequent headlines used the term, ?flying saucers.?

There were no reported riches for Arnold because of his notoriety. Instead, he complained to Frank Brown, the Air Force investigator, ?that his business had suffered greatly ? at every stop in his business routes, large groups of people were waiting to question him ??

Brown concluded his report, ?Mr. Arnold stated further that if he, at any time in the future, saw anything in the sky, to quote Mr. Arnold ? ?If I ever saw a ten story building flying through the air I would never say a word about it,? due to the fact that he has been ridiculed by the press to such an extent that he is practically a moron in the eye of the majority of the population of the United States.?

Despite that statement to Brown, in the coming years Arnold was driven to prove he was right. There were ?many long hours of fruitless flying with a camera, trying and failing to find anything like his saucers again,? says Martin Shough, a well-regarded researcher of the UFO phenomena?who has written a detailed analysis?of Arnold?s account.

Shough, who lives in the Highlands of Scotland, says, ?I am resigned to never knowing what Arnold saw.?

He concludes, ?Seventy years on, when so much of the flying saucer mythology that Kenneth Arnold triggered has been explained away, it is somewhat embarrassing that Arnold?s own sighting remains obstinately resistant.

?But there it is.?

June 26, 1947 Associated Press national wire story as printed in the Montreal Gazette. The story gets wrong Kenneth Arnold’s profession (he was a business owner on a sales trip) and the headline gets wrong the location of the sighting (near Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington.)

From the June 28, 1947 edition of the Boise, Idaho?Statesman

Harassed Saucer-Sighter Would Like to Escape Fuss?
PENDLETON. June 28 (UP) — Kenneth Arnold said today he would like to get on one of his 1200-mile-an-hour “flying saucers,” and escape from the furore caused by his story of mysterious aircraft flashing over southern Washington.
“I haven’t had a moment of peace since I first told the story,” the 32-year-old Boise, Idaho, business man-pilot sighed…
“This whole thing has gotten out of hand,” Arnold went on. “I want to talk to the FBI or someone.”
“Half the people I see look at me as a combination Einstein, Flash Gordon, and screwball. I wonder what my wife back in Idaho thinks.”
WON’T CHANGE MIND
But all the hoopla and hysterics haven’t caused Arnold to change his mind or back down. He doesn’t care if the experts laugh him off. He said most of his aviator friends tell him that what he saw were probably either one of two things: new planes or guided missiles still in the United States Army air forces’ secret category. Some theorized they were experimental equipment of another nation, probably Russia.
“Most people,” he said, “tell me I’m right.”
But meanwhile, aeronautical experts in Washington and elsewhere were teeing off on Arnold’s story with facts and figures straight out of the books.
Their principal point seemed to be that if Arnold’s saucers moved as fast as he claimed, they couldn’t have been tracked with anything short of radar.
The fastest man has yet flown is 647 miles per hour — a record set recently by Col. Albert Boyd in a P-80.

One aspect of this question concerns Arnold?s fitness to see what he said he saw and to accurately describe it to people in the days and weeks afterwards. Was Arnold a ?reliable witness?? What does that mean? What is this quality of reliability? Is there any way of measuring it? By definition no saucer mythology yet existed. But as time went by, what Arnold saw and said he saw became entangled with what society at large came to believe that Arnold saw.

Arnold was an unlikely candidate to become embroiled in such a controversy.

He lived in Meridian, Idaho, and sold fire-extinguishing equipment. About as unusual as his life got was that he piloted a small airplane to get to his clients around the Northwest. A month after Arnold was in the news, a now-declassified report made in July 1947 by?Army Air Force Counter-Intelligence Corps Officer Frank M. Brown said, ?Mr. Arnold is a man of 32 years of age, being married and the father of two children ? It is the personal opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold actually saw what he saw ? To go further, if Mr. Arnold can write a report of the character that he did while not having seen the objects that he claimed he saw, it is the opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold is in the wrong business, that he should be writing Buck Rogers fiction.?

That was one of the few sympathetic portrayals in government documents of Arnold?s sighting. In another declassified intelligence report in July 1947, First Lt. Hal L. Eustace of the Army Air Corps?put Arnold?s report as part of ?silly-season episodes.? The lieutenant wrote that Arnold ?seems to be reasonably well balanced, although excitable, and has no apparent ulterior motive ? other than to prove he is not ?nuts.??? The lieutenant wrote that Arnold revealed ?an antagonistic attitude toward the Army? by stating, ?Well, if the Army doesn?t know what they are, it sure ought to be trying to find out!?

Arnold would later write…

?I can’t begin to estimate the number of people, letters, telegrams, and phone calls I tried to answer. After three days of this hubbub I came to the conclusion that I was the only sane one in the bunch… In order to stop what I thought was a lot of foolishness and since I couldn’t get any work done, I went out to the airport, cranked up my airplane and flew home to Boise.
It wasn’t long after I arrived home when Dave Johnson called on me. Dave Johnson is aviation editor of?The Idaho Statesman newspaper, and a man of respected ability and intelligence in matters related to military and civilian aviation. When I caught the look in his eye and the tone of his words, flying saucers suddenly took on a different and a serious significance. The doubt he displayed of the authenticity of my story told me, and I am sure he was in a position to know, that it was not a new military guided missile and that if what I had seen was true it did not belong to the good old U.S.A. It was then I really began to wonder.?

But Johnson wasn’t the only reporter to get hold of Arnold after his return to Boise. For Johnson was affiliated with the Associated Press, and the following story without a byline was filed by someone from its arch-rival, the United Press.

From the June 28, 1947 edition of the Tucson, Arizona?Daily Citizen

Flying Disc Tale Stands
BOISE, IDA., June 28. (U.P.) — Kenneth Arnold, businessman-pilot who made the headlines with his story of sighting strange disk-like flying missiles in southern Washington, was back in his home town of Boise Saturday — and his story hasn’t changed a bit.
“I saw what I saw,” he said, “No one can change my mind.
“I’ll match my judgment, position, and everything on what I saw with my own eyes. I never suffered from snow-blindness, spots before my eyes, or hallucinations. Physically, I’m 100 percent. I’ll submit to any kind of test. I only reported what any pilot would report. I certainly have nothing to gain in a business way with all this hullaballoo.”
Arnold resides on a ranch near here. He uses a hayfield for an airport. He sells fire-control equipment.
Arnold said he saw strange “flying saucers” — nine of them — near Mt. Rainier while flying to Yakima, Wash., this week.
He said he is more concerned with the fact that neither the FBI nor the Army appears interested in his story.
“If I were running the country,” he said, “and someone reported something unusual, I’d certainly want to know more about it.”

Arnold would eventually get his wish to talk to someone from the government
but in the meantime he would first go fishing.

?No one could have watched the news wires closer than I did between June 28 and July 3. Not only flying saucers were being seen, but phenomena of one kind or another appeared to be happening everywhere. At home we began to feel like we were living in Grand Central Station. When my friend, Colonel Paul Wieland, who had just returned from Germany where he had served on the Malmedy case and on the Nuremberg trials as a judge, phoned me and said, “Let’s go fishing,” I took him up on it, but quick. We got our tackle together, left our wives home to guard the fort, and took off for Sekiu, Washington. Sekiu is way out on the Olympic Peninsula. The fishing should have been at its best, and it was a long way from people.
We had a beautiful flight and the afternoon of the following day landed in what I think is the only cow pasture in Sekiu. All during the flight I had my newly purchased movie camera ready — just in case. The only part of our conversation up to the time we arrived at Sekiu that I thought really interesting was when Colonel Paul told me definitely that artillery shells could be seen quite easily traveling at six to seven hundred miles an hour if you are in the right position, and they are quite small compared to a plane. It seems that some press reporter had made the remark that aircraft traveling at speeds of twelve hundred miles an hour or more would be invisible to eyesight. This only confirmed in my mind that my calculation and timing were not nearly so inaccurate as some newspaper experts were leading people to believe.
After tying the airplane solidly to a couple of fence posts we got permission to leave our plane there. The rancher was extremely kind and drove us down to the village by the ocean inlet. We were all set for a good rest with the prospect of good fishing the next day when we found out that most of the fishermen were not in their boats and had not even gone out fishing. The water was as red as blood. Thousands of Chinook salmon with which the inlet was teeming were dying from a mysterious red tide. I looked at Colonel Paul, and the Colonel looked at me. It was all very puzzling. In talking to the townspeople we found that they had buried a man that morning who had eaten oysters evidently infected by the peculiar, red, jelly-like substance that could be found everywhere in the sea.
The next morning, in spite of the red tide, we took a short boat trip around the inlet. Even if the fish were worth eating they couldn’t have been caught. Hundreds of them were leaping out of the water, some as high as six feet, trying to shake off the jelly-like substance that was poisoning them. There was nothing for us to do but turn around and fly home. In leaving the cow pasture that day and circling high over the little village of Sekiu we could plainly see the edges of the red water below us. It looked to me rather like a gob of something had fallen out of the sky. Even though the scientists had a name for it, I admitted red tides into my collection of phenomena along with flying saucers…
Colonel Paul Wieland and I took our last disappointed look at Sekiu and the red water and headed towards Seattle.

And it would be in Seattle where Arnold would discover that while he had been on a retreat from the public spotlight, the flying saucers had seemingly made a spectacular and very public reappearance.

The cover of the first issue of Fate depicted a highly sensationalized version of Ken?neth Arnold’s encounter.
MARY EVANS PICTURE LIBRARY

While there are no grounds to question Arnold?s sincerity, some ufologists express reservations about the psychology of the man. His unorthodox speculations about UFOs being space animals with the ability to change their density have bothered Frank Salisbury and Ronald Story.?The relevance of this belief to the 1947 sighting has never been articulated however. Others have branded Arnold a “repeater” because of several other UFO sightings he has reported seeing in subsequent years. Particularly notable is a 1952 report of two living transparent UFOs that Arnold felt was aware of him.?This sounds suggestive of a delusion of observation and the possible presence of paranoia.

On the positive side of the ledger, paranoia is frequently associated with enhanced perception and could be regarded as grounds for trusting the basic validity of the experience.?We may accept he saw something and reported it accurately, but his interpretation of it and the choice of which details are important might be skewed. What he was looking at may not be identical to what he saw. Arnold’s initial belief that the objects were secret experimental aircraft is bizarre on the face of it. Besides the impossible speed for the era, you would not expect an experimental craft to be flown in a group of nine and for all of them to display erratic motion. You would expect one craft with perhaps a conventional plane tagging along to keep an eye on it. If it was aiming for new speeds, the introduction of erratic fluttering motions sounds suicidal. It also makes little sense to test a craft near Mount Rainier, a tourist spot and major landmark, if you want it to remain a secret.

One problem that stands out in any attempt to make the Arnold case a True-UFO is the drawing in the Air Force files. The shape of the object in the top view is roughly similar to a shoe heel. Not only is it not round as all good flying saucers ought to be, it is for most practical purposes unique. Only one or two other cases even come close — the 1947 Rhodes photo and perhaps the 1993 backdated recollections of Frank Kaufman concerning Roswell. The distinctiveness calls into question whether it should be considered part of the UFO phenomenon at all.

Allen Hynek also offered an argument which should be addressed since it is repeated by both critics and proponents of the case unaware it is partially erroneous. Hynek asserts that the eye cannot resolve objects that subtend an angle appreciably less than 3 minutes of arc. If we accept that Arnold was right in saying the objects were 25 miles away and that each object’s length was 20 times its width, then a bit of trigonometry would put their size as 2000 feet in length. This being between a third and a half mile, it is simply too bloody huge to believe. Such a titan-size fleet would blot out the sun and a fair portion of sky to people beneath its flight path. How could only one person 25 miles away see this and everybody closer in miss it?

This is the drawing of Arnold’s objects from the original report in the Air Force files. Source: Brad Steiger, Project Blue Book, Ballantine, 1976.

Bruce Maccabee challenges the single witness character of the Kenneth Arnold classic in a paper titled?True?UFOs: Fantasy or Reality? He recounts a report by a prospector named Fred Johnson who saw several objects on the same day around the same time of the afternoon. Maccabee is impressed by the fact that Johnson was working on Mt. Adams, which is a reference point in Arnold’s report and thus also puts him the same general locale. The objects were travelling on a southeasterly path which is in general agreement with Arnold?s objects’ trajectory. The prospector was working at about the 5,000 foot level and they flew over at an altitude not too far above him. This is vague, but consistent with Arnold’s 9,200 ? 1,000 foot estimate. He also spoke of their speed as “greater than anything I ever saw.”

There are, however, differences. There seem to be only six or seven objects instead of nine. Arnold emphasizes he couldn’t make out any tail on them in the original Air Force report and in his UFO Congress memoir?he exclaimed, “I couldn?t discern any tails on them, and I had never seen an aircraft without a tail!” He adds, I kept looking for their tails.” Johnson apparently found them. He reported “an object in the tail end” that “looked like a big hand of a clock shifting from side to side.” One could ascribe such differences to two or three objects breaking formation for unknown ends and Johnson possibly being closer to the objects than Arnold. The corroborative value is however reduced by such assumptions.

Maccabee notes a further feature of Johnson’s account that lends it a historical uniqueness — a physical effect. While the objects were in view the needle of his compass waved from side to side. They were dismissed, by the effect ?caused by a trembling of the hand engendered by the excitement of the sighting. Maccabee counters an experienced prospector would realize his compass would wobble if he didn?t hold it steady. This sounds fair only out of the context of Menzel’s discussion. He discounts this observation because faith in its validity would imply an immense magnetic field, which proponents of the ETH (Extraterrestrial Hypothesis) had argued was proof of a magnetic drive operated by extraterrestrials. Menzel believed such a notion was pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo. It is far easier to believe the prospector erred than that such a motive mechanism powers alien aeroforms sightseeing above the earth?s surface. An alternative psychological mechanism incidentally could be at work here. The hand might have been making small movements in synchrony with the swaying clock hand feature being observed by the witness. This happens below the level of awareness and has been known to some psychologists as the phenomenon of rhythmic entrainment. It underlies other phenomena like Ouija board pendulums and subtle body cuing experienced in social interactions.

There is another candidate for corroborative witness in Loren Gross?s,?Charles Fort, The Fortean Society & Unidentified Flying Objects. Details are very scant. A member of the Washington State fire service was on lookout at Diamond Gap, just south of Mount Rainier. At 3 o’clock, the same time of Arnold?s sighting, he observed “flashes in the distance quite high up in the east.” Like Arnold?s objects they “seemed to be going in a straight line and made a strange noise, higher pitched than most airplanes make.” Whistling swans sing only in flight and the notes are loud, striking, and, though varied, can include a high flageolet note. This account is perilously lacking any information on which to evaluate any kind of interpretation of it. One warning must be posted to anyone hoping to argue this buttresses the position that Arnold’s objects are True UFOs:?why did this guy report hearing a high pitched noise and not a sonic boom?

Although a formal project for UFO investigation wasn’t set up until September 1947, the Air Force had been vitally interested in UFO reports ever since June 24, 1947, the day Kenneth Arnold made the original UFO report.

“Operation Charlie:” An Investigation into UK’s “Ghost Planes”

“Six months before Kenneth Arnold’s seminal sighting of a formation of nine strange objects above the Cascade Mountains, unidentified flying objects were tracked by Britain’s Air Defence radars…”

British Researchers David Clarke and Martin Shough document and analyze Britain’s official investigations into “unidentified flying objects” in early 1947, a project code-named Operation Charlie.

You can draw a direct line between what Arnold repeatedly recounted in detail to FBI and military investigators and our collective fascination with the possibility that aliens have visited us. That direct connection goes from?Area 51 allegedly hiding an alien craft, to the Roswell UFO Incident; and from movies such as ?Close Encounters of the Third Kind,? to the TV series ?The X-Files.?

It?s become so much a part of our culture that even the CIA website has a section titled ?Take a Peek Into Our ?X-Files? that is chock-full of declassified files.

The CIA helpfully lists ?Top 5 CIA Documents Mulder Would Love To Get His Hands On,? and ?Top 5 CIA Documents Scully Would Love To Get Her Hands On.?

Interested in a 1952 drawing of ?flying saucers over Belgian Congo uranium mines?? It?s in the CIA files.

PROJECT 1947 – Kenneth Arnold

Kenneth Arnold – Facts & Summary – HISTORY.com

PROJECT 1947 – UFO REPORTS: 1947

The Man Who Introduced the World to Flying Saucers – The Atlantic

June 24, 1947: They Came From … Outer Space? | WIRED

Kenneth Arnold – Wikipedia

Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting – Wikipedia

1947: Kenneth Arnold Sighting – Think About It Docs

The Kenneth Arnold “Flying Saucer” Sighting – – The Debunker’s Domain

Kenneth Arnold Sighting, UFO Case files, UFO Casebook

On June 24, 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold reports seeing nine objects …

What Was the First UFO Sighting? – Live Science

Kenneth Arnold UFO Sighting (1947) – Paranormal Encyclopedia

The Singular Adventure of Mr Kenneth Arnold – Nicap

‘Flying saucers’ became a thing 70 years ago Saturday with sighting …

Kenneth-Arnold-Interview – DocumentCloud

Corroboration For Kenneth Arnold’s Flying Saucers? | Mysterious …

The Kenneth Arnold Case (1947) – AllUFOs.com

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