In the summer of 1952, Washington DC was witness to one of the most substantiated UFO sightings in US History.
Over the course of 2 weekends, several flying saucers entered Washington DC airspace and were not only seen by thousands of eyewitnesses, they were also tracked on civilian and Air Force radars.
On Saturday July 19th, 1952 at 11:40 PM, an air traffic controller by the name of Ed Nugent reported seeing seven objects on his radar screen at Washington National Airport (now known as Ronald Regan Airport). The objects were following no known flight plans and were 15 miles SSW of the city. Nugent reported the sighting to a senior air-traffic controller (Harry Barnes) who validated that the equipment was working properly, and then contacted another radar center who confirmed that they also had the objects on their radar.
Soon after, multiple other objects started to appear at all sectors of the radar. Barnes immediately called Andrews Ai Force Base. At Andrews Air Force Base, the tower reported seeing “an orange ball of fire, trailing a tail”. When Airman William Brady tried to alert other personnel in the tower, the object “took off at an unbelievable speed.” The tower at Andrews Air Force base later reported tracking several unknown objects, and Staff Sgt Charles Davenport reported seeing a light to the south that “would appear to stand still, then make an abrupt change in direction and altitude”.
Back at the National Airport, a DC-4 awaiting permission to take off reported seeing six “white, tailless, fast-moving lights” over a fourteen minute period. Harry Barnes reported of the DC-4’s sightings “each sighting coincided with a pip we could see near his plane. When he reported that the light streaked off at a high speed, it disappeared on our scope.”
At around 3:00 AM, two F-94 Starfire Fighter Jets from New Castle Air Force Base in Delaware were sent to intercept the unknown craft. Shortly before they arrived over Washington DC, all unknown craft disappeared from radar. The fighters patrolled the sky with no signs of the craft. However, after the 2 F-94s ran low on fuel, and returned to base, the objects returned which led to speculation that the unknown craft were monitoring radio traffic.
The objects were last detected on radar at about 5:30 AM. About the same time that E.W. Chambers, a civilian radio engineer in Washington’s suburbs, observed “five huge disks circling in a loose formation. They tilted upward and left on a steep ascent.”
The following Saturday at about 8:15 PM, both radar centers at the National Airport, and Andrews Air-Force Base began tracking the unknown objects again. The radar blips were visually confirmed by a master sergeant at Andrews Air-Force Base who visually observed the objects, as well as a pilot and stewardess on a National Airlines flight who observed strange lights above their plane.
Albert M. Chop, the press spokesman for Project Blue Book, arrived at National Airport around 9:30 PM, and denied reporters request to photograph the radar screens. At this time, the unknown objects were being picked up in ever sector. At times the objects traveled slowly; at other times they reversed direction and moved across the radarscope at speeds calculated at 7,000 mph.
At 11:30 PM, two F-94;s were again scrambled from New Castle Air Force Base. One of the pilots reported seeing 4 white “glows” and chased them. In the pursuit, the “glows” turned around and surrounded the F-94. After a moment, they sped away and disappeared.
Major Dewey Fournet, Project Blue Book’s liaison at the Pentagon, and Lieutenant John Holcomb, a United States Navy radar specialist, arrived at the radar center at National Airport after midnight on July 27th. Fournet reported that that the unknown radar targets were most likely caused by solid metallic objects.
Two other F-94 Fighters were scrambled later that night. As before, one saw nothing. The other fighter reported chasing a white light which vanished when he closed in on it.
As with the previous weekend, the objects vanished around sunrise.
In response to the incident, An Air Force public information officer, Lt. Col. Moncel Monte stated, “The jet pilots are, and have been, under orders to investigate unidentified objects and to shoot them down if they can’t talk them down.”
Officially, Project Blue Book would label the Washington radar objects as “mirage effects caused by double inversion” and the visual sightings as “meteors coupled with the normal excitement of witnesses.”
Eyewitnesses to the DC UFOs of 1952
The sightings in Washington DC in the summer of 1952 were not restricted to the two weekends mentioned above. Thousands of sightings in the area were reported over the summer. I had a close friend who was a child at the time and lived in nearby West Virginia. While on a family trip to Washington DC that summer, he once told me that he could see about a dozen craft in the sky over the capital one night. My friend had later gone on to work in the aeronautics field, and became a pilot himself. He assured me that the craft he had seen in the skies above DC were doing maneuvers that US Aircraft were not capable of doing in 1952.