Today, the Washington State Quarter Coin remembers the hoopla of 68 years ago with the first modern sightings of “flying saucers” in America.
Businessman and pilot Kenneth Arnold saw nine flying objects near Mount Rainier on June 24, 1947.
Shortly thereafter, newspapers reported the story:
From the Lodi-News Sentinel:
Kenneth Arnold, a veteran pilot and fire control engineer, today clung stoutly to his story that he saw nine, shiny crescent-shaped plains or pilotless missiles fly in formation at a speed of at least 1200 miles per hour over the Mt. Rainier plateau.
“It’s God’s truth—I will swear it on a Bible. I saw them, and I clocked them. They traveled 48 to 50 miles in one minute and 42 seconds.
(A plane traveling 48 miles in one minute 42 seconds would be moving at a speed of 1,692 mph.) Arnold said he saw the objects flying in a “weaving formation” in a line at 10,000 feet as he piloted his own small private plane over Mineral, Washington. He said he flew at a right angle to the line of flashing objects.
When he landed at Pendleton, en route to Boise, Idaho, Arnold told his story and stuck to it.
“Some of the pilots thought it over and said it was possible. Some of them guessed that I had seen some secret guided missiles. People began asking me if I thought they were missiles send over the North Pole. I don’t know what they were. But I know this—I saw them.”
Arnold, general manager and owner of the Great Western Fire Control Company, said he first saw the “objects” when they flashed in the sun low over the slopes of Mt. Rainier.
“Then I saw them weaving and ducking in and out as they came south not more than 500 feet over the plateau. They looked like they were rocking. I looked for the tails but suddenly I realized they did not have any. They were half-moon shaped, oval in front and convex in the rear.
“I was in a beautiful position to watch them. I thought they might be jet planes, and I clocked them. Then when I saw they had no tails, and when I realized how fast they were going, I knew they were like nothing I had ever hears of before.
“There were no bulges or cowlings. They looked like a big flat disc. They were larger than the ordinary jet plane, but slightly smaller than a DC-4, if you don’t count the rear fuselage.”
Arnold said the objects waved “like the tail of a Chinese kite.”
“They hugged the hogsback between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams, and the flashing they made in the sun reminded me of the reflection of a great mirror.”
Washington. June 26 (UP) —Conservatism has not marked all the claims made about high speed aircraft by Army and Navy aviation spokesmen.
But they conceded today that they have nothing in their aeronautical bag of tricks to equal the flying saucers an amateur pilot “saw” scooting across southwestern Washington state at 1,200 miles an hour.
These “saucer-shaped” planes are strictly out of this planet, military experts agreed.
On a different note, another newspaper ran the story of Arnold’s regret at having seen the flying objects.
The Bend [OR] Bulletin printed this article:
Kenneth Arnold said today he would like to get on one of his 1200-mile-an-hour “flying saucers” and escape from the furor caused by his story of mysterious aircraft flashing over southern Washington. “I haven’t had a moment of peace since I first told the story,” the 32-year-old Boise, Idaho, businessman-pilot sighed.
He said a preacher called him from Texas and informed him that the strange objects Arnold claims to have seen batting along through the ozone actually were harbingers of doomsday.
Arnold said he didn’t get the preacher’s name during their phone conversation, but the minister said he was getting his flock “ready for the end of this world.”
That was unnerving, according to Arnold but it wasn’t half as disconcerting as the episode in a Pendleton cafe.
Arnold said a woman rushed in, took one look at him and then dashed out shrieking “there’s the man who saw the men from Mars.” She rushed out of the eating place “sobbing that she would have to do something for the children,” Arnold added with a shudder.
Arnold, a representative of a fire control equipment firm, startled the country yesterday by reporting he had seen nine shiny round objects skimming through the air in formation between Mt. Rainier, Washington and Mt. Adams. Arnold said he was able to clock them with the stop watch on his own plane’s instrument panel. He said they were spinning off a neat 1,200 mph.
“This whole thing has gotten out of hand,” Arnold went on. “I want to talk to the FBI or someone.”
“Half the people I see look at me as a combination Einstein, Flash Gordon and screwball. I wonder what my wife back in Idaho thinks.”
But all the hoopla and hysterics haven’t caused Arnold to change his mind or back down. He doesn’t care if the experts laugh him off. He said that most of his aviator friends tell him that what he saw were probably either one of two things: new planes or guided missiles still in the U.S. army air force’s secret category. Some theorized they were experimental equipment of another nation, probably Russia.
“Most people,” he said, “tell me I’m right.”
But meanwhile, aeronautical experts in Washington and elsewhere were toeing off on Arnold’s story with facts and figures straight out of the books.
Their principle point seemed to be that if Arnold’s saucers moved as fast as he claimed, they couldn’t have been tracked with anything short of radar.
The fastest man has yet flown is 647 miles per hour—a record set recently by Col. Albert Boyd in a P-80.
Times change, but people still see “flying saucers.”
The Washington State Quarter Coin shows against a view of Mt. Rainier.