Chapter   5


UFO Fleets over Washington, D.C.


            Within the historical record of UFO sightings in the United States, the month of July 1952 * stands out prominently as representing the peak period for numbers of reported sightings.  The United States Air Force issued a statement on July 31, 1952, to the effect that the largest number of sightings of any month since the saucers were first reported in 1947 came in the month of June 1952, the total of 114 for the month being just three above the preceding June total.   Although no similar statement of monthly totals has, to the writer's knowledge, been made since by Air Force officials, it would appear from close informal attention to published reports since that date that the size of the monthly frequency has not yet even approximated that peak frequency of almost five years ago.

            For the period of 15 days from July 14 to July 29, 1952 the concentration of sightings seems to be significant in two respects:  (1) UFOs appearing in groups or fleets, frequently in echelon formation and (2) unusual concentration of these UFO fleets over Washington, D. C., and vicinity, in the area surrounding the nation's capitol.

            It does not appear that any attempted explanation of this concentration has been made so far, but to the conscientious student of aerial phenomena these facts can hardly be dismissed as being non-significant. There have been other concentrations at other times and over other parts of the world,


*M. K. Jessup in the UFO Reporter, supplement to his book The Case for the UFO (Citadel) lists 18 separate reports of sightings in the State of Florida alone during the period from July 22 to July 30, 1952. He comments: "When the UFOs were plaguing Washington, D. C., in the summer of 1952, there was a veritable rash of UFO phenomena centered around Miami, Florida." Michigan newspapers reported sightings at seven different localities in Michigan and three places in Indiana on the night of July 27, 1952. 


and it would be well for those students in foreign countries who would be in a position to gather more complete data with­in their own national boundaries to make known pertinent details of such occurrences. Through coordinated correlation of such worldwide happenings, progress could no doubt be made in the interpretation and understanding of UFO phenomena.

            Dr. C. Albert Perego* a specialist in aeronautics of Rome, has indicated that during the month of October, 1954, there were hundreds of observations of UFOs in his country. According to Doctor Perego, on November 5, 1954, something like 100 UFOs staged a spectacular performance over Rome in various echelon formations, including a Greek cross formed at an estimated altitude of from 8,000 to 9,000 meters high over the Vatican. Doctor Perego further indicates that during the month following he observed minor groups of UFOs on 31 different occasions.

            One of the highlights of the recent board meeting of NICAP in Washington, D. C. January 1957; was a program which included a review by Captain William B. Nash, of Pan American Airlines, of his famous sighting** of a fleet of UFO's about 130 miles south of the nation's capital, near Newport News, Virginia, on the night of July 14, 1952 at 8:12 p. m.

            The details of this well-recorded incident are well known. This is one of the classics in the history of UFOlogy. The two observers, Captains Nash and Fortenberry, are experienced airline pilots and thus are competent and intelligent observers of aerial phenomena. They witnessed a remarkable display of aerial navigation by UFOs under the most favorable conditions of sighting. It will be recalled that these two men flying at an altitude of about 8,000 feet practically encountered a fleet of six large discs travelling in an echelon formation a few thousand feet below the DC-4 which they were piloting. The six discs each about 100 feet in diameter, moving with a speed later calculated to be 8,000 miles an hour, performed a sudden reversal of direction, at the moment to be joined by two others coming from the direction opposite to which the six were originally travelling.

            The calculated acceleration of at least 1, 000 G would have, produced forces that in accordance with known physical laws would have been a hundred times greater than the human body could withstand. Shortly after, following this incident, several sightings of fleets of UFOs were reported in the United States,


*Dr. C. Albert Perego, Via Ruggero Fauro 43, Rome: "I have seen over 100 Flying Saucers in the sky of Rome on November 6, 1954"--a report to the Italian people.


* True Magazine.   October, 1952. 


the most spectacular of which were observed both by radar and visually over the nation's capital.

            There is given below a chronological listing of sightings of fleets of UFOs which, of course, does not include the numerous reports of sightings of single objects. The list is not considered complete but does represent a compilation from the various sources available to the writer.

            July 16, 1952 at 9:35 a. m.  In Salem, Massachusetts, Coastguard Photographer Snell Alpert glanced out of the window and saw four bright lights shimmering in the morning sunshine. Startled by what he observed, he watched them wavering for a few seconds and then dim down by the time he was able to focus a camera. Calling his companion, Thomas Flaherty, to verify what he was seeing, he noted that the lights were again burning brightly and he snapped what later turned out to be one of the important photos of UFOs, four unknown objects flying in "V" formation. An instant later there was a momentary flash and the flights disappeared.

            July 17, 1952 at 3:00 a. m. Captain Paul L. Carpenter, an American Air Lines Captain for 24 years, flying a DC-6 on a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, when near the city of Denver sighted four round lighted objects about 100 miles from his plane. He estimated that these objects were speeding at about 3, 000 miles per hour. First Officer George Fell and Flight Engineer Lee Quilici also saw the objects.

            July 17, 1952. Within hours of the Denver sighting, hundreds of residents of Veronica, Argentina, watched six discs maneuvering and circling in the sky.

            July 18, 1952. Radio broadcaster Frank Edwards reported that on the morning of July 18, seven orange-colored flying saucers flashed over Arlington, Virginia, in the vicinity of the nation's capital, in single file. Mr. Edwards observed, referring to the Nash and Fortenberry incident, that this was the second time in one week that a group of UFOs was observed in this area.

            July 18, 1952. On the night of July 18 a "V" formation of five flying saucers was observed over the New York City area. The 'witnesses were Mrs. Josephine Hetzel, a housewife, and Frank Gondar. Gondar's small son saw them, too. Mrs. Hetzel reported: "I almost fainted when I looked up at the sky and saw what looked to me like five large dinner plates flying through  


the sky. They came from the direction of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and appeared to be headed for Manhattan. They were up high and had a silver glow and were silent. They were in formation. The red glow from the rims was outstanding. They were flying as fast as jet planes. "

            July 18, 1952. On the night of July 18, airmen at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida observed four strange discs circling near the field. Shortly after they turned away a fifth saucer came out of the west. Angling in over the base, it made a 180-degree turn, like a plane in a traffic pattern. Then, accelerating at terrific speed, it raced back to the west and vanished.

            July 20, 1952 at 12:40 a. m. Shortly after midnight, Saturday July 19, in the radar room of the Air Traffic Control at Washington National Airport, eight traffic experts headed by Senior Controller Harry G. Barnes observed seven sharp blips of UFOs appear suddenly on the radar screen. When first observed, the scope indicated that the objects were in an area nine miles in diameter about 15 miles south of Washington. Unknown objects were observed visually and by radar over the Washington area until dawn. During the first hour the objects were observed over all sectors of the radar screen which covers an area around Washington some 70 miles in diameter. This meant that they had been over the restricted areas of Washington, including the White House and the Capitol.

            The speed of the objects appeared to be 100 to 130 miles an hour. Their movements seemed to be at random. At one time towards daybreak 10 objects were counted over Andrews Field just outside Washington. Most of the time eight were visible. Radar operator Barnes reported: "I can safely deduce that they performed gyrations which no known aircraft could perform. By this I mean that our scope showed that they made right-angle turns and complete reversals in flight. Nor in my opinion could any natural phenomena such as shooting stars, electrical disturbances, or clouds, account for these spots on our radar. "

            July 26 and 27, 1952. The Civil Aeronautics Administration Control Center, located across the Potomac River from Washington, first picked up mysterious objects on its radar screens at 8:08 p.m. Saturday, July 26. In the next four hours before the objects disappeared the CAA reported as many as 12 of the unidentified blips appearing on the radarscope at the same time. Glowing white lights were spotted visually by Air Force and  


commercial pilots, and by radar. Radar continued to show unidentified objects through the night until 6 a. m. the next morning (Sunday, July 27).

            July 27, 1952, at 10:30 a. m.  A. E. Gutteridge, of Coconut Grove, in the southern part of Miami, saw five "steam" colored objects flying in formation over South Miami.

            July 27, 1952, at 6:35 p. m. Eight men including an ex-Navy pilot observed what appeared to be a large silvery ship flying at terrific speed over Manhattan Beach in California. Directly over Manhattan Beach the ship turned south. Then to the group's amazement, it separated into seven round objects. Swiftly three of the discs took up a "V" formation, the others following in pairs, flying abreast. "It appeared as if a stack of coins had smoothly separated," the pilot told an intelligence officer. "The entire operation was very gracefully executed. The turns, too, were very smooth. "After circling for a few minutes, the formation took up a north-northeast heading and rapidly went out of sight.

            July 27, 1952, at 10:15 p.m.  Mrs. R. D.  Davis, Battle Creek, Michigan, housewife, said she saw 14 very bright objects, blurred at the edges, at 10:15 p.m. Harrison Howes, an accountant living across the street from her, came out of the house in time to see one of the objects. He said it looked like a giant bulb.

            July 27, 1952.  Radio broadcast by Frank Edwards over CKLW on July 28: "Last night, Air Force jets chased a flight of flying saucers near Mount Vernon, Virginia, over the home of Major Keyhoe."

            July 29, 1952.  Radiobroadcast of Frank Edwards over CKLW on July 29: "A few minutes past 1 a. m. this morning, unidentified objects were picked up on the radar screens in Washington, D. C. Eight and sometimes 12 UFOs were in view on the radar screens at the same time and were in view for almost three hours. They operated in a 10-mile arc between the National Airport and the Military Base at Andrews Field. "

            August 5, 1952.  Radio broadcast of Frank Edwards over CKLW on August 6: "Scores of flying saucers were over the city of Washington, D. C. last night, going back and forth. They were picked up on radar." Fleets of from 2 to 10 were observed late at night on August 5 and in the early morning of August 6. 


            In summing up on the data of the above list of chronological events it is noted that between the dates of July 14 and July 20 several fleets of UFOs were observed in the United States. On three different dates within this interval they were observed over the area of the nation's capital, on July 14, July 18, and July 20, being especially conspicuous on July 20.

            Then again, a few days later, the sightings of fleets of these objects seemed to concentrate about the nation's capitol, appearing for the fourth time over this area. On the night of July 26 and the early morning of July 27, exactly one week from the prolonged performance of July 20, UFOs put on a 10-hour dis­play of gyrations over Washington.

            Appearing for the fifth time over the area, according to the report of Frank Edwards, radio broadcaster, Air Force jets chased the fleet. As has ever been the case in such pursuits, the jets could not begin to get near the objects, so completely are jet planes out-maneuvered by them.

Again on the night of July 28, for the sixth time, UFOs appeared over the Capitol. On the morning of July 29 they were in view for almost three hours.

            Ten days later scores of UFOs again were observed over the Washington area, making the seventh appearance in the space of 22 days. On three of these seven occasions, the fleets of UFOs performed gyrations for hours at a time.

            Nothing like this aeries of occurrences has .happened before or since in the skies over the United States of America. More­over, these remarkable happenings were especially concentrated over the Nation's Capitol. The question yet to be answered is "What does it all mean?" 


C.A.M. June 1957