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UFO's over Our Nation's Capital, 1952 - 2002

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A 50 Year Anniversary (of sorts)
Dwight Eisenhower was President. Richard Nixon was Vice President. The general public was recuperating from World War II and existing in a state of unreal bliss even though we were in the midst of something called "The Cold War" between the two super-powers, Russia and the U.S. Enemies were everywhere. Distrust and fear were a part of military life.

July 1952
It was a quiet evening at Washington D.C. Airport. The radarscope was clear. It was 12:40 AM. Then unexpectedly, a group of bright blips appeared on the screen of the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The objects were estimated to be about fifteen miles southwest of Washington. As suddenly as they appeared, they disappeared. Then the mysterious blips reappeared over northeast Washington.

Harry Barnes, the senior controller, was dumbfounded. He watched the unidentified blips as the operator told him, "Here are some flying saucers for you." Barnes stopped laughing when the radar returns showed the objects popping up all over the screen. The objects carried out a variety of maneuvers. Sometimes they zipped across the screen and sometimes they moved slowly, making deliberate right angle turns. Barnes became worried when the objects began carrying out their aeronautical acrobatics over prohibited areas such as the White House. He called the control tower of Washington Airport.

Operators in the airport control tower reported the same unidentified blips on their radar, but the operators were more interested in estimating the speed of the objects. According to their calculations the objects were reaching the unheard of speed of 7,200 mph. Both groups of men at separate locations watched as the unidentified aircraft flew towards Andrews Air Force base. Barnes called the tower at Andrews. They reported nothing unusual on their screens, but they were physically watching an orange orb in the southern sky. Barnes decided it was time to call the Air Defense Command and report a possible threat over Washington. A flight of radar equipped jets from Delaware headed toward Washington. Before the American planes arrive, the radar blips vanished. When the jets departed the area, the blips returned. Sending jets into the area was pointless. The objects seemed to know what was going on and were playing a game of cat and mouse with the most sophisticated aircraft of the day.

That was the first night of a week of unidentified aircraft reports in the area. But it wasn't the culmination of the UFO invasion of Washington, D.C. It was Saturday; it was a quiet night. Again unidentified blips began to appear, but this time they were all over the screens of both radar stations at Washington Airport, as well as Andrews Airforce Base. The odd thing was that some people in terrestrial aircraft and some on the ground saw orange or white orbs in the night sky. Some didn't see a thing. The unidentified objects flew right over the Capital. Jets were sent up to intercept the unidentifieds, but every time the jets entered the same airspace as the unidentifieds, the radar blips of the unknowns vanished. The game of cat and mouse continued for hours with no success by the fighter planes. The next day the area newspapers carried headlines and photos of the nocturnal events.

UFO reports began coming in from all over the world. New York, Kentucky, Michigan, California, the atomic lab at Los Alamos, New Mexico, England, Korea, Saudi Arabia are but a few of the locations that reported strange lights in the sky or unidentified blips on radar screens. Meanwhile the Air Force began an "investigation". Air Force Major General Roger Ramey released their findings. The unusual blips in Washington were caused by "temperature inversions".

That report seemed incomplete to many, including the press corps that had witnessed the events on the radar screens. The Director of Air Force Intelligence, Major General John A. Samford, was the next to hold a press conference. He stated, "Air Force interest in the problem has been due to our feeling of an obligation to identify and analyze, to the best of our ability, anything in the air that has the possibility of a threat or menace to the United States.

"In pursuit of this obligation, since 1947, we have received and analyzed between one and two thousand reports. There have been a certain percentage of this volume of reports that have been made by credible observers of relatively incredible things. It is this group of observations that we are now attempting to resolve. We have, as of this date, come to only one firm conclusion with respect to this remaining percentage. It does not contain any pattern of purpose or of consistency that we can relate to any conceivable threat to the United States."

This was the last press conference given by a representative of the U.S. government on the subject of UFOs that was anything but a total whitewash of fact.

To this day there are unanswered questions surrounding the Washington D.C. flap. These are questions that will probably never have definitive answers. Were the events of July and August 1952 designed to make us realize that we are not the only thinking beings in the universe? Were they designed to make us realize that there is no such thing as a "cold war"? Were they designed to nudge our senses and open our minds? Did travelers from a far away place occupy the unidentified aircraft? Were the occupants playing games with the new kids on the block? Was it a test of our reactions to otherworldly beings? If it was, we failed because we met their overtures with jet fighters and hostile intent.

This is a period of history that should be remembered as a highlight for anyone living on planet Earth, for the summer of 1952 was the last time unidentified flying objects overtly checked in on this nation's capital.

Press Conference concerning UFO'S

Minutes of the Press Conference Held by Major General John A. Samford, Director of US Air Force Intelligence 27 July 1952" has generally not been available. Along with MG Samford, the USAF Director of Intelligence, participating in the press conference were Major General Roger M. Ramey, Director of Operations, USAF, COL Donald L. Bower, Technical Analysis Div., ATIC, CPT Roy L. James, Electronic Branch, ATIC, CPT Edward J. Ruppelt, Aerial Phenomena Branch, ATIC, and Mr. Burgoyne L. Griffing, Electronics Branch, ATIC.

Statements by Stamford and the others shows that they did not have the complete story at their fingertips. The questions from the press were pointed and inquiring. Stamford uttered his famous line about "creditable people reporting incredible things." Attendence at this press conference was the highest since World War II.

During the rather long press conference, MG Samford, in many answers, made carefully qualified remarks. His comments distilled down by the press in large headlines reported the conference as a debunking session. While there is not question that the Air Force wanted to regain control of the situation, the conference was not the complete debunking session that was later reported.

CPT Ruppelt, in his private papers, would later record Samford's disappointment with the press and especially Keyhoe. Ruppelt speculated that the latter was the cause of later withholding of UFO information.

It will be obvious from the text that Samford, Ramey, and the others were not well prepared to handle specific questions about the Washington, D. C. sightings. It is my impression that the temperature inversion explanation was just being floated as a trail balloon to give the Air Force a respite from constant press inquiries. Later, the explanation would be carved in stone.

The second paper prepared by the USAF Environmental Technical Application Center (ETAC) in April 1969 examined the inversion explanation in detail. UFO proponents will be shocked at the paper's conclusion. "Report #6112, Qulantitative Aspects of Mirages" by 1LT Frederick V. Menkello consulted a long list of publications on optics and UFOs. The Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, requested this report from ETAC. ETAC placed the following disclaimer on the report which almost invited further studies: "This report addresses a specific problem and is not intended to have application beyond that problem. We recommend that any questions on this or related problems be referred to USAF ETAC for further study."

Unfortunately this recommendation was not followed.

Fifty years the happened again!

July 26, 2002: F-16's scrambled as lights seen near Washington DC Fox News has reported that two F-16's have been scrambled to investigate several blue and orange lights observed near the U.S. capital.

The sightings, and what appears to have been a chase, occurred in the vicinity of Andrews Air Force Base, the military facility used by the President.

Callers to talk-back radio stations claimed the lights were streaking across the evening sky.

Norad confirmed two jets had been scrambled at but found nothing.

At 1am. NORAD saw something they could not identify in Maryland air-space, near the nation's capitol. The track it was taking caused them some concern.

NORAD would not provide details about the exact location, size or speed of the object they were tracking.

D.C National Guard confirmed that two F-16's from the 113th wing were vectored to intercept "whatever it was thet Norad were worried about."

When the pilots got to the where they were supposed to be, they claim to have seen nothing.

But a number of people living in Waldorf, Maryland called radio station WTOP saying they saw the lights and that they were being chased by military jets.

One witness said the jets were right on its tail claiming that "as the thing would move, the jet would be right behind it."

Investigations are underway.

National Guard spokesman, Sheldon Smith, said, "we don't have any information about funny lights."

Info from the WTOP, Waldorf web-site:

What was that bright light in Maryland's sky???

WTOP has learned that residents near Andrews Air Force base were shaken from their beds early Friday morning by some strange activity in the air.

"Incredible. Absolutely incredible" is what Renny Rogers of Waldorf calls it. Just before two in the morning, Rogers says he saw a large blue ball of light streaking across the sky. But it was the military jets that really startled him.

"(The jets) were right on its tail. As the thing would move, a jet was right behind it," Rogers recalls.

He is not the only one who saw it. Several people called WTOP Radio reporting seeing a bright blue or orange ball moving very fast, being chased by jets.

Rogers says there was no smoke coming from the object, no flashing lights, and says it was smooth, and eerily silent.

The Air National Guard confirms they scrambled the 113th squadron. Spokesman Sheldon Smith says they are investigating and in contact with NORAD.

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