The 1952 UFO Incident Over Washington: What Really Happened?

Up till 1952, a lot of the protection of “alien craft” within the American media remained unsympathetic to the concept that some uncommon new phenomenon was showing in our skies. That was the case, at the very least, till Saturday Evening Fever erupted over our nation’s capital, marking probably the most well-known, and infrequently written about UFO flaps in American historical past.

It was nearly midnight on the night of Saturday, July 19, 1952. Air-traffic controller Ed Nugent (to not be confused with a specific raucous guitarist with an analogous title) was working the tower at Washington Nationwide Airport, when he noticed one thing odd on the radar display in entrance of him: it gave the impression to be a gaggle of six or seven slow-moving objects shifting collectively over the area, nicely exterior the flight paths of any identified plane, army or civilian, within the space at the moment.

At the moment, it had been handled as one thing of a joke (Nugent reportedly advised his supervisor, tongue planted firmly in cheek, that he had simply noticed a complete “fleet of alien craft”). Nonetheless, shortly thereafter one other of the ATC operators observed one thing odd and misplaced: a wierd gentle within the distance, which appeared to speed up and disappear “at unbelievable velocity.”

Thereafter, the incident obtained notable protection within the press, with many articles emphasizing the USAF’s obvious curiosity within the matter. This was notably the case following an announcement given to the press by Main Normal John A. Samford, who appeared on digital camera on July 31, 1952, addressing the “alien craft” seen over Washington, DC:

“The Air Power right this moment investigated stories that a number of ‘alien craft’ had been noticed by radar nearly in its personal yard on the outskirts of the nation’s capital,” journalist Jack Rutledge later wrote of the incident for Louisiana’s Monroe Information-Star. “Not solely have been unidentified objects seen on radar–indicating precise substance as a substitute of merely gentle–however two airline pilots and a newsman noticed lights becoming the final description of alien craft the identical evening.”

Certainly, quite a lot of pilots claimed to have seen lights just like these noticed from Washington Nationwide Airport. Nonetheless, among the many most notable accounts had been that given by Captain S. Casey Pierman of Detroit, who was flying Capital Airways Flight 807 on the evening in query, headed southbound from Nationwide Airport, who noticed seven objects whereas en route from Washington to Martinsburg, West Virginia. Pierman described the objects as at instances “hanging immobile” like stars, whereas at different instances “shifting at large velocity” and resembling “falling stars with out tails.”

In an announcement Pierman gave to the press, he famous that “In my years of flying I’ve seen quite a lot of falling or capturing stars… however these have been a lot sooner… They couldn’t have been plane. They have been shifting too quick for that. They have been about the identical measurement and because the brighter stars, and have been a lot larger than our 6000-foot altitude.”

A few years have handed since this now well-known incident, permitting loads of time for inquiries to be raised so far as what, exactly, may need been noticed on the evening in query (which, in reality, had been one among a number of related incidents occurring close to Washington at the moment). Nonetheless, even within the years shortly after the collection of sightings over Washington happened, there have been those that have been of the thoughts that the phenomenon had stemmed from secret U.S. army actions, fairly than extraterrestrial “saucers” from one other world.

Leon Davidson, Ph.D, an early proponent of the concept that UFOs have been largely a results of applied sciences and misdirection from our personal authorities, famous that radar expertise had existed by 1950 that might have allowed the creation of “false positives” that would simply have defined the radar traces noticed by ATC controllers at Washington Nationwide. The query, fairly than being one among what the “objects” have been, was one among who could be behind such actions, which have been apparently deliberately geared toward complicated the general public, the media, and even members of the army?

Davidson wrote an attention-grabbing article on this, which appeared within the Saucer Information in 1959, titled “ECM + CIA = UFO, or How you can Trigger a Radar Sighting.” In it, Davidson wrote:

By about 1950, ECM (digital countermeasures) was commonplace tools on our superior bombers and was being developed for missiles. Commercials began to seem about 1956 displaying that this tools might be used for creating simulated targets for coaching radar operators. I quote from an article in Aviation Analysis and Improvement, March 1957, pg. 22:


“A brand new radar shifting goal simulator system — which generates a show of as much as 6 particular person targets on any commonplace radar indicator — has been developed … to coach radar operators … and for in-flight testing of airborne early-warning personnel… Goal positions, paths, and velocities can … simulate … life like flight paths… Speeds as much as 10,000 knots (about 11,500 mph) are simply generated… The goal might be made to show left or proper… For every goal there’s … adjustment to supply a practical scope presentation.”


The reader ought to hold this citation in thoughts when studying about radar sightings of excessive velocity UFOs.

Davidson raises quite a lot of good factors, and the outline he supplies does resemble the circumstances offered in quite a lot of the higher identified UFO radar stories from over time. Nonetheless, if the objects in query had certainly merely been the results of such experimental “battle video games” being carried out covertly, as Leon Davidson instructed (the CIA was a favourite wrongdoer for this in Davidson’s narratives), can the thought of bodily lights noticed by pilots be equally defined ultimately?

We could by no means know the total story behind the objects seen and tracked on radar over Washington in 1952. Nonetheless, relating to army applied sciences used for misdirection of the general public, nothing might be dominated out, as Davidson was already suggesting inside years of when the preliminary sightings happened. Within the ever advanced annals of Ufology, one factor that ought to at all times be saved in thoughts is that if there’s a will, there’s a means… or as instances like this may occasionally point out, if there’s a means, then somebody can discover an excuse for a will. 

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