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
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
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
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
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
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
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.