The beginning of the modern UFO era is often traced back to June 24, 1947, when businessman Kenneth Arnold sighted "a formation of very bright objects" while flying over the Cascade mountains of Washington State.

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.

The June 26 issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune quoted Arnold in a page one story:

"The first thing I noticed was a series of flashes in my eyes as if a mirror was reflecting sunlight at me... I saw the flashes were coming from a series of objects that were traveling incredibly fast. They were silvery and shiny and seemed to be shaped like a pie plate . . . What startled me most at this point was . . . that I could not find any tails on them.

I counted nine of them as they disappeared behind the peak of Mount Rainier.  Their speed was apparently so great I decided to clock them. I took out my watch and checked off one minutes and 42 seconds from the time they passed Mount Rainier until they reached the peak of Mount Adams . . . All told the objects remained in view slightly less than two minutes from the time I first noticed them."

Arnold described the objects as moving "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water.".  Bill Bequette, a reporter with the East Oregonian newspaper, recalled Arnold's description when he later placed his story on the AP wire. His use of the phrase "saucer-like" gave the phenomenon a name: "flying saucers"

The military's initial reaction to Arnold's June 24 sighting was muted, but as 'saucer' reports continued to stream in it was obvious some action needed to be taken. On the 7th of July a meeting was held at the Pentagon in the office of General Schulgen, Chief of the Army Air Forces' Air Intelligence Requirements Division. It was decided that 'saucer' reports from "more 'Qualified' observers of flying discs" should be selected for follow-up investigation.

On the 10th of July, a cable from ConAC (Continental Air Command) arrived at 4th Air Force Headquarters, Hamilton Air Force Base, California, requesting that Kenneth Arnold be interviewed.

4th Air Force dispatched two Counter Intelligence Corps investigators to interview Kenneth Arnold, and the resulting documents located in the Project Blue Book files can be found on the Kenneth Arnold Page. This page also contains the CIC investigator's report, and excerpts from a later radio interview with Arnold conducted by Edward R. Murrow.

Kenneth Arnold's sighting was one of the first of over 850 UFO reports to appear in the US media by the end of July, 1947. Approximately 150 reports made their way into the files of Technical Intelligence, T-2, at Wright Field. Today these files are part of the USAF Project Blue Book files located at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

The Roswell Incident

Perhaps even better known than Kenneth Arnold's sighting is the so-called Roswell Incident, the alleged retrieval and cover-up of a crashed flying disc somewhere near Roswell, New Mexico, in June/July, 1947.

Visit the PROJECT 1947 Roswell Page for documents and articles relating to one of UFOlogy's most enduring controversies.

"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".

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