1947: First Flying Saucer Report

On June 24th, 1947, Army Air Corps pilot Kenneth Arnold reported an unusual sighting while returning from a mission to find a reported downed plane. Out of the incident was born a new term: flying saucer.
As Arnold recalled, the afternoon was crystal clear, and he was cruising at an altitude of 9,200 feet. A minute or two after noting a DC-4 about 15 miles behind and to the left of him, he was startled by something bright reflecting off his plane. At first he thought he had nearly hit another aircraft but as he looked off in the direction the light had come from, he saw nine “peculiar-looking” aircraft flying rapidly in formation toward Mount Rainier.

As these strange, tailless craft flew between his plane and Mount Rainier and then off toward distant Mount Adams, Arnold noted their remarkable speed — he later calculated that they were moving at around 1,700 mph — and said he got a pretty good look at their black silhouettes outlined against Rainier’s snowy peak. He later described them as saucer-like disks … something the gentlemen of the press glommed on to very quickly.

At the time, Arnold said, the appearance of these flying saucers didn’t particularly alarm him, because he assumed they were some kind of experimental military aircraft. If they were, nobody in the War Department (soon to be merged into the Department of Defense) was saying.

The official position of the Army Air Corps was that Arnold saw a mirage or was hallucinating. The term "flying saucer" received lots of publicity and many other reports rolled in shortly afterward. The incident marked the beginning of the UFO craze. Link

(Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

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What he said he saw was not really "disks", but boomerang shaped craft that seemed to "skip through the air like stones being thrown across a pond." He actually put down in his report to the FAA that the craft had points on the ends of the "wings" and in the center of the structure. His sighting wasn't the first or the last. In the 1800's an "airship" apparently crashed and an occupant died and was buried in a graveyard in a Texas town. Now I'd like to dig that one up!
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I think that D Bozko's comment above concerning 1947 is actually very pertinent. Many people (myself included) feel that the so-called "Roswell incident" would have been a complete non-event and would have been seen easily to have had a common, simple (non-UFO) explanation if it wasn't fot the fact that the general public, including local officials and military personnel had not been whipped up into a state of near-hysteria by the media's sensationalism of the sighting described in this post. The incident at Roswell happened at the very peak of the news coverage and most everyone involved was already pretty much convinced that an alien invasion was in progress and jumped to a lot of probably erroneous conclusions as a result....
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While the term "flying saucer" may have been coined from Arnold's sighting this was hardly the beginning of UFOs. Most civilizations have stories such as we have now of unidentified things in the sky. History tells of sightings of "air ships", "flying discs" and other various sky phenomena dating back to ancient times. 1947 is significant in that it gave us the Roswell incident just a few weeks after this.
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