Washington Post: The month that E.T. came to D.C._Featured_, UFO Saturday, July 21st, 2012
By John Kelly, Columnist
You’ve written recently about weather balloons in Washington. How about weather balloons that weren’t weather balloons? In July 1952, Washington was supposedly visited by multiple unidentified flying objects — or “flying saucers,” as all UFOs seemed to be known at the time. Can you look into this?
— Brian Kraft, Washington
This month marks the 60th anniversary of the Great Alien Invasion of 1952 or, as it might more appropriately be called, the Great Alien Reconnaissance of 1952. The UFOs allegedly just flew around; no one saw them land.
But were they aliens? This much is undisputed: Late on the evening of July 19, 1952, air traffic controllers at Washington National Airport spotted a curious cluster of seven blips on their radar screens. Similar blips were sighted by radar operators at Andrews and Bolling Air Force bases.
National’s control tower contacted commercial aircraft in the vicinity and asked their pilots if they had seen anything unusual. Why yes, Capt. S.C. “Casey” Pierman of Capital Air Flight 807 radioed back. He saw six bright lights streaking across the sky, “like falling stars without tails.”
F-94 jets were scrambled from Delaware’s New Castle Air Force Base (the runway at Andrews was under repair), but the pilots saw nothing.
The Pentagon was already studying the escalating number of UFO sightings — under the aegis of Project Blue Book — and the officer in charge added the Washington outbreak to his growing list. Then, the next weekend, it happened all over again. National Airport’s air traffic controllers tracked a dozen unexplained blips. Fighter jets were again scrambled, and on their second circuit, pilots saw bright lights speeding away from them.
“I tried to make contact with the bogies below 1,000 feet,” pilot William Patterson later told investigators. “I was at my maximum speed but . . . I ceased chasing them because I saw no chance of overtaking them.”
The media had a field day. A headline on the front page of The Washington Post read: “ ‘Saucer’ Outran Jet, Pilot Says; Air Force Puts Lid on Inquiry.”
After the earlier outbreak, a reporter for the Washington Daily News had written: “Recent attempts to explain ‘saucers’ as optical illusions have been shaken by recent radar sightings. Illusions don’t show up on a radar screen.”