Newport News, VA
July 14, 1952
Dr. James E. McDonald:
Another case in which experienced pilots viewed UFOs below them, and hence had helpful background-cues to distance and size, occurred near 8:12 p.m. BST, July 14, 1952. A Pan American DC-4, en route from New York to Miami, was at 8000 ft over Chesapeake Bay, northeast of Newport News, when its cockpit crew witnessed glowing, disc-shaped objects approaching them at a lower altitude (estimated at perhaps 2000 ft). First Officer Wm. B. Nash, at the controls for Capt. Koepke (who was not on the flight deck during the sighting) and Second Officer Wm. H. Fortenberry saw six amber-glowing objects come in at high velocity and execute a peculiar flipping maneuver during an acute-angle direction-change. Almost immediately after the first six reversed course, two other apparently identical discs shot in under the DC-4, joining the other six. I am omitting here certain other maneuver details of significance, since these are on record in many accounts (4, 5, 10, 11, 25). Although I have not interviewed Nash (now in Germany with PAA, and Fortenberry is deceased), I believe that there has never been any dispute as to the observed facts. Nash has stated to T. M. Olsen (author of Ref. 11) that one of the most accurate accounts of the facts has been given by Menzel (Ref. 25), adding that Menzel's explanation seems entirely out of the question to him. A half-dozen witnesses on the ground also saw unknowns at that time, according to official investigators.
The objects had definite edges, and glowed "like hot coals", except when they blinked out, as they did in unison just after the first six were joined by the latter two. When the lights came back on, Nash and Fortenberry saw them climbing westward, eight in line, north of Newport News. The objects climbed above the altitude of the DC-4 and then blinked out in random order and were seen no more.
Discussion. -- Menzel explains this famous sighting as resulting from a searchlight playing on thin haze layers, an almost entirely ad hoc assumption, and one that will not account for the amber color, nor for the distinct edges, nor for the final climb-out of the objects. The rapid motion, abrupt course-reversal, and the change from negative to positive angles of elevation of the line of sight to the unknowns seem to preclude any meteorological-optical explanation, and there is, of course, no possibility of explaining cases like this in terms of bail lightning, meteors, balloons, or many of the other frequently adduced phenomena. Nash has stated that he feels these were "intelligently operated craft" This case is officially "Unidentified."
Source: Statement before the House Science & Astronautics Committee, 1968, Page 47.