Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 24, 2013
Kenneth Arnold with drawing of UFO

Kenneth Arnold with drawing of UFO

June 24, 1947: Kenneth Arnold sees something in the clear blue sky. Arnold was a businessman who founded a company selling fire suppression systems. He was also an experienced pilot with more than 9,000 hours in the air. He spent about half his flying time working with Search and Rescue Mercy Flyer missions. He was also a swimmer and diver and as a young man, he tried out for the US Diving team. He was 32 years old in 1947.

Arnold was on a business trip, flying from Chehalis to Yakima – both in the state of Washington. He was piloting a CallAir A-2. He detoured after hearing about a $5,000 (≈ $46,000 today) reward for a lost US Marine Corps C-46 transport plane that had crashed near Mount Rainer. With clear skies and his experience in search and rescue, he went to find the plane. He was flying at ≈ 9,200 feet altitude. At 3 PM, he gave up the search and flew towards his business meeting.

Arnold changed course eastward and saw a flash similar to sun reflecting on a mirror. Looking carefully to assure himself of clear skies, he noted a DC-4 to his left and about 15 miles behind him. About 30 seconds after the first flash, he saw a series of flashes off to his left. He tried many things to test and make sure the flashes were not somehow a reflection from his own plane. The flashes were in a long chain. As the line moved between Arnold and Mt. Rainier, the objects could be seen as in dark profile against the snow-capped mountain. He saw one crescent-shaped object and eight circular-shaped objects.

Arnold used equipment on his plane to take measurements. The objects quickly flew out of range. When he landed at 4 PM in Yakima, he told a friend about his experience. There was corroboration from a prospector on Mt. Adams and there were many others on the ground in Washington who saw something that day. The pilot of the DC-4 was not one of the witnesses. The story was picked up by the press and by June 27 the term “flying saucer” was being used to describe the objects. The Army Air Force investigated and said it was all a mirage. Even so, the hunt for unidentified flying objects really took off.

“This whole thing has gotten out of hand. I want to talk to the FBI or someone. Half the people look at me as a combination of Einstein, Flash Gordon and screwball. I wonder what my wife back in Idaho thinks.” – Kenneth Arnold, June 28, 1947

“We have objects in the sky. . .they have been spotted millions of times worldwide.” – Joe Firmage

“The least improbable explanation is that these things UFO’s are artificial and controlled. My opinion for some time has been that they have an extraterrestrial origin.” – Dr. Maurice Biot

“At no time, when the astronauts were in space were they alone: there was a constant surveillance by UFOs.” – Astronaut Scott Carpenter (Carpenter photographed a UFO while in orbit on May 24, 1962. NASA still has not released the photograph.)

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: UFO or unidentified flying object is any anomaly in the sky (or near the ground, hovering, landing, or taking off). The term can also be UFOB and was officially created in 1953 by the US Air Force as a replacement for other more popular terms which described the shape of the anomaly, usually “discs” or “flying saucers”. Usually, the Air Force would investigate and be able to satisfactorily identify the object so the term was used only for those left unidentified. The term became more popular as the decade advanced. There have been a variety of studies done by both the government and by civilians and they have reached a variety of conclusions about the threat level of UFOs. Some see them as detrimental and some see them as benign. There are some who adhere to a government cover up concerning UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

Also on this day: The Cynic – In 1842, Ambrose Bierce was born.
Victory Parade – In 1945, a parade was held in Moscow.
Dance Fever – In 1374, St. John’s Dance broke out in Germany.

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