Saucers Over Washington

Saucers Over Washington 1952 Cartoon

The Sighting

Just before midnight on July 19th, 1952, an air-traffic controller at Washington National Airport spotted seven slow-moving unidentified objects on his radar screen. He called his supervisor over and even joked about the objects being a “fleet of flying saucers.” At the same time, two other air-traffic controllers at the Airport also spotted a strange luminous object hovering out in the distance, which suddenly zipped away at an incredible speed.

Washington National Airport

(Washington National Airport)

At Andrews Air Force Base, less than 20 miles from the Airport, radar operators also noticed the same unidentified objects. They started slowly at first but then accelerated at speeds exceeding 7,000 miles per hour. Additionally, a commercial airline pilot reported seeing six bright streaking lights while flying over the Virginia and Washington, D.C. area. The unidentified objects were reportedly sighted on the Airport control center’s scope over restricted areas of Washington, including the White House and the Capitol building.

Control Tower at Washington National Airport

(Control Tower at Washington National Airport)

When radar operators at the Airport saw the objects zip past this restricted airspace, they stopped the UFO jokes and began taking the objects much more seriously. Two F-94 interceptor jets were even sent out to intercept the unidentified objects, but each time they approached the locations, the mysterious radar blips would simply disappear.

The Press

In the immediate two weeks following the initial sightings of July 19th, 1952, a media frenzy broke out with major newspapers reporting on how Flying Saucers were tracked on radar. Various reports quoted radar personnel, while many papers also featured flying saucers headlines.

Newsclippings on the 1952 Washington UFO Flap

(Newsclippings on the 1952 Washington UFO Flap)

Due to the immense media coverage of the unidentified objects over Washington, an official Air Force press conference was held at the Pentagon on July 29th, 1952. The topic of conversation, of course, Flying Saucers. Major General John A. Samford hosted the conference. Other top military personnel and so-called Flying Saucers experts were also present among the newsmen. In attendance, specifically, was General Roger Ramey of the Roswell Army Air Field, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt of Project Blue Book, and distinguished flying saucer researcher Donald Keyhoe. Samford assured reporters that flying saucers were likely just attributable to weather phenomena, among other things.

The truth of the matter is that a great deal of attention was brought to the UFO phenomenon by the Air Force in 1952. This single press conference brought the idea of saucers in our airspace to the mainstream. After all, it was the largest press conference since World War 2. Even 70 years later, the 1952 Washington UFO Flap is considered one of the most significant mysteries in history.

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