July 1952 - Washington, D.C., Area Radar-Visual Sightings and Related Events.


AFOSI - Air Force Office of Special Investigations report, from Project Blue Book files, National Archives microfilm collection.

AF Int - Air Force Intelligence Report, most obtained by Citizens Against UFO Secrecy via the Freedom of Information Act, declassified Jan. 1985.

UFOE - The UFO Evidence, National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, Washington, D.C., May 1964. (NICAP)

CAA - Civil Aeronautics Administration (later FAA, Federal Aviation Admin.)

ARTC - Air Route Traffic Control radar center approach-control radar, CAA.

(Note: Though Eastern Daylight Savings Time (EDT) was in effect during these sightings, AFOSI reports used Eastern Standard time. They have been converted to EDT here.)

July 13: 0400 EDT.

National Airlines plane en route to National Airport, about 60 mi. SW of the city observed a blue- white ball of light hovering to the west.   Object then "came up to 11,000 ft. [and] then maintained a parallel course, on the same level, at the same speed, until the aircraft pilot turned on all lights.   Object then departed from the vicinity at an estimated 1000 m.p.h.   Weather was excellent for observation." The crew said the object "took off up and away."  No other air traffic was reported in the area at the time.   (AF Int.)

July 14: 2012 EDT.

Newport News, Va. Southbound Pan American Airways plane at 8,000 ft. nearing the Norfolk, Va, area observed six glowing red, circular objects approaching below the airliner; objects flipped up on edge in unison and then sped from behind and under the airliner and joined the in-line formation, which "climbed in a graceful arc above the altitude of the airliner." "Then the lights blinked out one by one, though not in sequence."   Next day the crew was thoroughly interrogated by AFOSI, and advised that they already had seven other reports of red discs moving at high speed and making sharp turns.  (UFOE, p. 38-39.)

July 16: 2200 EDT.

Hampton Roads, Va.  A Government aeronautical research engineer observed two amber-colored lights approaching from the south at about 500 m.p.h.  These slowed and made a U-turn, revolved around each other at a high rate of speed, then joined by two other objects from different directions, the four sped off to the south at about 500 m.p.h.  "They moved jerkily when moving slowly.  Their ability to make tight circling turns was amazing."   (UFOE, p. 57; Ruppelt , p. 210-211, gives time as 2100 hrs.)

July 18: 0200 EDT

Washington, D. C. Radio station chief engineer observed 6-7 bright orange discs moving in single file.  Each in turn veered sharply upward and disappeared.   (UFOE, p. 160; Associated Press story, July 19.)

July 19: 2340 EDT.

ARTC at National Airport began picking up unidentified targets on radar. (UFOE, p. 160; AFOSI; Ruppelt, p. 211)

July 20: 0100 EDT.

Herndon, Va. Capital Airlines flight from National Airport called by control tower to check on unidentified radar targets saw three objects, and three more between there and Martinsburg, W. Va. "like falling stars without tails [which] moved rapidly up, down, and horizontally.  Also hovered."   Chief CAA air traffic controller Harry Barnes later said in a newspaper interview: "His [the pilot's] subsequent description of the movement of the objects coincided with the position of our pips [radar targets] at all times while in our range."   (UFOE, p. 159; AFOSI; CAA evaluation report on radar-UFO sightings.)

July 20: 0105 EDT.

Andrews AFB, Md. (Nr. Washington, D.C.). Five witnesses visually observed three reddish-orange objects moving erratically. (AFOSI.)

July 20: 0300 EDT.

Capital Airlines flight incoming to National Airport reported that an unidentified light followed his airliner from the vicinity of Herndon, Va., to within about 4 miles west of the airport, confirmed on ARTC radar.  (AFOSI;  UFOE, p.159.)

July 20: 0430-0630 EDT.

Additional unidentified targets on ARTC radar at National Airport.   (AFOSI.)

July 20: mid-evening.

Air Force radar operators at Andrews AFB weather tower tracked 10 UFOs for 15-20 minutes.   Objects approached runway, scattered, made sharp turns and reversals of direction.   (UFOE, p.160, based on detailed report to NICAP from AF weather observer.)

July 25:

July 26: 2115 EDT (to 0020 EDT July 27).

Sharp UFO targets on ARTC radar at National Airport.  Civilian pilots saw glowing white objects on four occasions, including a United Airlines pilot near Herndon, Va., and two CAA pilots over Maryland.   National Airlines pilot near Andrews AFB at 1700 ft. saw a UFO "flying directly over the airliner."   (AFOSI;  AF Int;   UFOE, p. 159-162;  Ruppelt, p. 218-221.)

July 26: 2130 EDT.

ARTC radar at National airport tracked a UFO on radar ("big target"), confirmed by Andrews AFB radar. (AF Int.)

July 26: 2150 EDT.

ARTC radar at National Airport tracked "solid returns" of "four targets in rough line abreast," and eight others scattered over the radar scope.   (AF Int.)

July 26: 2154 EDT.

Andrews AFB, Md., surveillance radar tracked 10-12 UFOs in Washington, D.C. area. (AFOSI.)

July 26: 2157 EDT.

Wash. Natl [ ] 10-12 objs on radar (AFOSI)

July 26: 2215 EDT.

[*] From this time into following morning, "good sharp targets" of 4-8 UFOs on ARTC radar at National Airport. (AFOSI.)

July 26: 2238 EDT.

Air Force Command Post notified of unidentified radar targets.   Two F-94 jet interceptors scrambled from New Castle AFB, Delaware, to investigate. (AF Int, AFOSI.)

July 26: 2304 EDT. 2323 EDT.

July 27: 0015 EDT.

Maj. Fournet (Project Blue Book Officer in Pentagon) and Lt. Holcomb (Navy electronics expert) arrived at National Airport ARTC Center.   Observed "7 good, solid targets."   Holcomb checked on temperature inversions, but they were minor and could not explain what was going on.   He so advised AF Command Post, requesting interception mission.   By the time the F-94 jets arrived from Delaware, no strong unidentified targets remained and no visual contacts were made.   (AF Int.)

July 27: 0020 EDT.

[*] F-94 jet interceptors scrambled from New Castle AFB, Del., to investigate Washington, D.C., radar- UFOs.  One F-94 pilot made visual contact and appeared to be gaining on target; both F-94 and UFO were observed on radar and "appeared to be travelling at the same approximate speed."   When the F-94 pilot tried to overtake the UFO, it disappeared visually and on radar.   The pilot remarked about the "incredible speed of the object." (AFOSI.)

July 27: 1930 EDT.

Air Force Lieutenant at Andrews AFB saw a dark disc moving slowly northeast with "oscillating rolling motion."   Clouds were moving southeast.  UFO entered base of clouds.   (UFOE, p. 161, from CAA report.)

July 27: 2100 EDT.

Air Force personnel and others at National Airport saw a large round object reflecting sunlight, apparently hovering over the Capital Building.   After about a minute, the object "wavered then shot straight up disappearing from sight." (AF Int.)

July 28:

Daily papers headlined a United Press story from Washington, D.C., that the Air Defence Command had ordered its jet pilots to pursue, and if necessary "shoot down, " UFOs sighted anywhere in the country.

July 29: 0130-0500 EDT.

Many unidentified targets tracked by CAA radar, 8-12 on the radarscope at a time, moving southeast in a belt 15 miles wide near Washington, D.C. (CAA report.)

July 29: 0300 EDT.

Eastern Airlines pilot asked to check on ARTC radar targets, reported seeing nothing.  CAA official said the targets disappeared from the radar screen when the plane was in their area, "then came back in behind him." (UFOE, p.162)

July 29: 1500 EDT.

Air Force pilot sighted three round white UFOs 10 miles southeast of Andrews AFB.   Other UFOs tracked by ARTC radar during the afternoon. (CAA report.)

July 29: 1600 EDT.

Air Force press conference at which the sightings were attributed to temperature inversions causing "radar mirages," typically ground lights reflected in the sky under freak atmospheric conditions.  Also announced new scientific program to evaluate sightings.   (UFOE, p. 162; Ruppelt, p. 223.)

[*]  These AFOSI documents date the events as occurring on the night of July 25/26, rather than July 26/27 as indicated by all other sources.   It is assumed here that the latter dates are correct.

As a result of the of UFO sightings over Washington DC, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked the Secretary of State for Air: “What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to?”

The Air Ministry responded that all incidents reported could be explained by natural phenomena, misperceptions of aircraft, balloons and birds, optical illusions, psychological delusions and deliberate hoaxes.  Churchill was told that an earlier investigation, carried out by Project Grudge — known to the public as Project Saucer — in 1948-9 had reached a similar conclusion and that “nothing has happened since 1951 to make the Air Staff change their opinion, and, to judge from recent Press statements, the same is true in America.”

Lord Cherwell, the government's Chief Scientist, agreed with the Air Ministry's response and dismissed the American preoccupation with saucers as “a product of mass psychology.”  Duncan Sandys, the Minister of Supply, replied to Cherwell: “There may, as you say, be no real evidence of the existence of flying saucer aircraft, but there is in my view ample evidence of some unfamiliar and unexplained phenomenon.”

The government scientists demanded solid physical evidence of “flying saucer aircraft” before taking the reports seriously.  Without that, the establishment view remained that the subject of “flying saucers” could be dismissed as “mass hysteria”.

SEP 29, 1952 — N.Y. World-Telegram and Sun

Green Fireballs Called Man Made

Expert Says Flying Blobs May Have Copper Content

Scripps-Howard Staff Writer.

ALBUQUERQUE, Sept. 29.—The man who knows green fireballs best (without being in on the secret) leans to a theory they are man-made.

Dr. Lincoln Lapaz of the University of New Mexico, head of the world's only Institute of Meteoritics (unless the Russians have one), has taken this tack in his thinking at the risk of:

      1.    Disappointing living-room voyagers of outer space, or

      2.    Throwing a scare into folks with the idea that the Russians may have been drawing a fireball bead on our atomic Southwest, or

      3.    Lulling others into a conclusion that U.S. scientists have been pitching those kelly-green flashes.

*   *   *  

Dr. Lapaz doesn't talk about flying saucers.  Not his line.  All the saucer reports that get mixed into meteoritic and fireball matters he passes on to the proper authorities.

The University's Institute of Meteroitics (sic) has become the clearing house for information in the public domain on green fireballs.  But the 55-year-old scientist doesn't tell all he has learned.

For example, he's mum on the velocity and altitude of the green fireballs (or at least the one he personally saw).  He feels security bound not to disclose these calculations because of the “classified” auspices under which they were made.

As Dr. Lopaz (sic) explains, he is working closely with military intelligence.  So far as official interest goes, there's no telling whether it's real or pretended.  But it would surprise Dr. Lapaz if government scientists hadn't already taken spectrograph readings of the hurtling yellowish-green blobs and come up, secretly, with an appraisal of their substance—if they haven't known it all along.

*     *     *

The color of the fireballs, as described by nonmilitary witnesses, suggests a copper—or uranium—content.

A woman drove 60 miles to tell Dr. Lopaz (sic) about a fireball and fingered her kelly-green scarf to indicate color.  Sometimes it is described as “copper green” or “neon green.”  These color descriptions, says Dr. Lapaz, distinguish the postwar green fireballs from the usual brand of meteors.

I asked Dr. Lapaz to tell me at what point in his thinking he started to consider the green fireballs as possibly man made.

It was on reading an article by Col. C. H. Lanza in the Field Artillery Journal, he said.  The article discussed green fireballs sighted over the Baltic and Sweden as long ago as 1946.  The possible explanation there was that the Russians were testing guided missiles, using knowledge and materials captured from the Germans.

There is evidence that the Germans had been using copper-berylium alloys for their missiles.  Copper nitrate in the flame of a bunsen burner glows keliy green.

For more information on the “Green Fireball” phenomenon, see Joel Carpenter's Green Fireball Introduction

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