Washington DC 1952
July 26, 1952; Washington, D.C. 8 p.m. until after midnight. Witnesses: radar operators at several airports, airline pilots. Many unidentified blips tracked by radar all over Washington area, at varying speeds. Pilots spotted unidentified lights. Just four days after the Nash-Fortenberry incident over the Chesapeake Bay, a fantastic series of sightings nearby set everyone's UFO antennae twanging. This time the drama began at Washington's National Airport, a few miles from the White House.
The first occurred at 11:40 on the night of July 19, when air controllers at National picked up seven slow-moving objects on two radar scopes. According to the senior controller, Harry G. Barnes, the radar showed the objects to be about 15 miles from the airport and traveling between 100 and 130 miles per hour.
Barnes called the airport tower and learned that the local radar operator was picking up the same images. Fifteen miles away, across the Potomac River in Maryland, controllers at Andrews Air Force Base were seeing the identical blips on their radar.
At 3:00 A.M., Barnes officially notified the U.S. Air Force Air Defense Command. It took the air force half an hour to respond, but finally a pair of radar-equipped F-94 night fighters roared in, made a few noisy passes over the field, scanned the nearby skies - and found nothing.
As soon as the jets departed, the blips magically reappeared on the radar screens and remained there, moving slowly until daybreak.
The air force said nothing, but the news leaked out and the story broke like a thunderclap in the morning papers. The tight-lipped air force refused to admit to clamoring reporters that it had actually scrambled jets to intercept the UFOs.
Professor Menzel once again called the incident a case of temperature inversion. He correctly pointed out that in such cases ghostly blips have been known to appear on radar scopes, something that most people did not know. But controller Barnes did not accept the explanation. "Inversion blips are always recognised by experts," he declared. "We are familiar with what weather conditions, flying birds, and such things can cause on radar. There was no rebuttal from Menzel.
The UFOs returned to Washington a week later, on July 26. At 10:30 that evening, the air traffic radar at National Airport again picked up blips. There were five or six objects, which seemed to be moving south. Once more, Harry Barnes checked with the Andrews tower in Maryland; the controllers there also had unknown targets showing on their scopes. And the pilots of departing and arriving airliners radioed reports of strange sightings near the airport.
At 11:00 P.M., Barnes called the Pentagon, which responded with no more alacrity than before. At 11:25, a pair of F-94s came howling over Washington. Again the UFOs instantly disappeared from the radar screens. After ten minutes of fruitless search , the interceptors headed home. Back came the UFOs. At 3:20 A.M., with the UFOs constantly on radar, the air force sent in another pair of F-94s. But now the UFOs remained visible on the screens, and one of the jet fighters reported a visual sighting of four lights. At one point, the pilot radioed that the lights were surrounding his plane. What should he do? he asked the ground controllers. Before the controllers could respond, the lights sped away.
Next morning, the Pentagon was inundated with queries. Even President Harry Truman asked an aide to find out what in the world - or out of it - was going on. Finally, on July 29, Major General John A. Samford, director of air force intelligence, held a press conference. He told reporters he was convinced that all the sightings over Washington in the past two weeks had been caused by temperature inversions. The general said that outside scientists would be asked to examine the reports more closely - but there is no evidence that such a panel was ever assembled.
July 26. Sharp UFO targets on 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."
July 26. Radar at National airport tracked a UFO on radar ("big target"), confirmed by Andrews AFB radar.
July 26. Radar at National Airport tracked "solid returns" of "four targets in rough line abreast," and eight others scattered over the radarscope.
July 26. Andrews AFB, Md., surveillance radar tracked 10-12 UFOs in Washington, D.C. area.
July 26. National Airport, 10-12 objects on radar.
July 26. "Good sharp targets" of 4-8 UFOs on ARTC radar at National Airport.
July 26. Air Force Command Post notified of unidentified radar targets. Two F-94 jet interceptors scrambled from New Castle AFB, Delaware, to investigate.
Hot Spot : Washington DC - 1952
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