The Washington Invasion, July 26/27, 1952
by Richard Hall

On the evening of July 26, 1952, while UFOs were being tracked on radar at Washington National Airport, newsmen were asked to leave the room on the pretext of security. The real reason for the press dismissal,said Capt. Ruppelt, was [the belief] that this night would be the big night in UFO history, the night when a pilot would close in and get a good look at a UFO and they didnt want the press to be in on it.(Ruppelt, p. 219.)

When unexplained solid returns began showing up on Air Route Traffic Control radar and at the Washington National Airport control tower about 9:30 p.m., Air Force investigators were called to the scene. Among those who responded and observed the evenings events were Al Chop, Maj. Dewey Fournet, Pentagon  Monitor of the UFO project, and  Navy Lieutenant Holcomb, an electronics expert on assignment to Air Force intelligence. All three saw the radar targets and listened to the radio communications as jet fighters tried to intercept the UFOs.

Maj. Fournet and Lt. Holcomb  wrote  a  report  of their personal observations and information obtained via interviews for an  Air Force general, excerpts from which follow:

This incident involved u/I [unidentified] targets observed on the radar scopes at the Air Route Traffic Control Center and the tower, both at Washington National Airport, and the Approach Control Radar at Andrews AFB. In addition, visual observations were reported to Andrews and Bolling AFB and to ARTC Center, the latter by pilots of commercial a/c [aircraft] and one CAA a/c...

This report covers the facts obtained from Washington National A/P personnel, the USAF Command Post and the AFOIN [Air Force  Office  of  Intelligence] Duty Officer log....

Varying numbers (up to 12 simultaneously)  of  u/I  targets   on   ARTC radar scope. Termed by CAA personnel as generally, solid returns,similar to a/c return except slower. No  definable  pattern  of maneuver except at very beginning about 2150 EDT, 4  targets in rough line abreast with about 1-1/2 mile spacing moved slowly together [estimated less than 100 m.p.h.] on a heading of 110.  At the same time 8 other targets were scattered throughout the scope.

ARTC checked Andrews Approach Control by telephone at 2200 EDT and ascertained that they were also picking up u/I targets ...  intermittently for another 3+ hours .... ARTC Center controllers also report that a CAA flight inspector, Mr. Bill Schreve, flying a/c #NC-12  reported at 2246 EDT that he had visually  spotted 5 objects giving off a light glow ranging from orange to white; his altitude at time was 2200 ft. Some commercial pilots reported visuals ranging from cigarette  glow(red-yellow) to a light.

At 2238 EDT the USAF Command Post was notified of ARTC targets. Command Post notified ADC [Air Defense Command] and EADF [Eastern Air Defense Command] at 2245, and 2 F-94s were scrambled from Newcastle [AFB, Delaware] at 2300 EDT. ARTC controlled F-94s after arrival in area and vectored them to targets with generally negative results.... However, one pilot mentioned seeing 4 lights at one time and a second time as seeing a  single light ahead but unable to close whereupon light went out.

[Fournet and Holcomb arrived on the scene at 12:15 a.m.] Lt. Holcomb observed scopes and reported 7  good, solid targets.He made a quick check with airport Weather Station and determined that there was a slight temperature inversion (about 1 degree) from the surface to about 1000 ft. However, he felt that the scope targets at that time were not the result of this inversion and so advised the Command Post with the suggestion that a second intercept flight be requested.

The second flight of F-94s was sent, but no strong radar targets remained when they arrived and no further events of significance occurred that morning. In a section labeled Remarks,Fournet and  Holcomb  added:

Some [ARTC radar crew members] commented that the returns appeared to be from objects capable of dropping out of the pattern at will.Also that returns had creeping appearance.One member of crew commented  that one object to which F-94 was vectored just disappeared from scopeshortly after F-94 started pursuing. All crew members emphatic that most u/I [unidentified] returns were solid.

Maj. Fournet called Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt at 5:00 a.m., July 27, to brief him on what had transpired overnight. The reporters and photographers were asked  to  leave the radar room on  the  pretext  that classified radio frequencies and procedures were being used in vectoring the interceptors,Ruppelt  later  reported. All  civilian air traffic  was cleared out of the area and the jets moved in.But  he knew that pretext was absurd.

The real reason for the press dismissal, I learned, was that not a few people in the radar room were positive that this night would be the big night in UFO history - the night when a pilot would close in and get a good look at a UFO - and they didnt want the press to be in on it.

Just as the two F-94s arrived in the area, the radar targets all disappeared. At the same time unidentified radar targets appeared in the vicinity of Langley AFB near Newport News, Virginia, and unidentified  bright  lights were observed rotating and giving off alternating colors.(Note: The UFOs also were observed over the Eastern Shore of Maryland shortly after they disappeared from the Washington, D.C., area, as reported in Eastern Shore newspapers.)

An F-94 pilot in the vicinity of Newport News was vectored toward a UFO, saw a light and got a radar lock-on, but it was broken in a few seconds. He obtained two more brief radar lock-ons before giving up the pursuit.

Ruppelt continued: A few minutes after the F-94s left the Washington area, the unidentified  targets  were back on  the  radarscopes in that same area. ...  A few minutes after the F-94 over Newport News had the last lock-on broken, the targets came back on the scopes  at  Washington  National.

When Maj. Fournet completed his briefing, Ruppelt said his first question was whether the radar targets could have been caused by the weather. Dewey said that everybody in the radar room was convinced that the targets were very probably caused by solid metallic objects. There had been weather targets on the scope too, he said, but those were common to the Washington area and the controllers were paying no attention to them.    (Ruppelt, pp.  217-222)

These sightings were, in a very real sense, the last straw. President Harry Truman  wanted  to  know  what  was going on. Newsmen and the public were clamoring for the facts, and the Air Force was forced to hold a major press conference to explain the reports.