Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a flying saucer!
At least, that’s what pilot Kenneth Arnold thought he saw over Washington’s Mount Rainier 75 years ago on Friday.
America’s craze over Unidentified Flying Objects — UFOs — and the potential for little green men inside them exploded in July 1947 when a “flying disk” was found near Roswell, New Mexico.
But it was about two weeks before Roswell, on June 24, that Boise-based pilot Arnold was on a flight between Chehalis to Yakima, Washington, when he reported seeing nine large metallic-looking objects flying at an immense speed near Mount Rainier.
Arnold reported the sighting to the U.S. military, but an explanation was never found for what he claimed he saw. But between Arnold’s sighting and Roswell, a seed was planted in the American psyche. Thousands upon thousands of UFO sightings across the country have continued in the years since.
Seventy-five years from Arnold’s sighting, credited as the first major UFO sighting in America, UFO-spotting groups are in no short supply. Chief among them is the Mutual UFO Network, which has chapters across the U.S., including Washington and Idaho. The National UFO Reporting Center maintains a state-by-state database of reported sightings, though unverified.
With such a dedicated task force and thousands of reports available over the past 75 years, here are some facts about UFOs that’ll get you in the alien-hunting mood.
Why Are They Called Flying Saucers?
A reporter for United Press International, a U.S.-based wire service, was the first person to interview Arnold about his sighting, according to Time Magazine.
Arnold told the reporter that the objects flew across the sky “like a saucer if you skip it across the water.”
The reporter interpreted this as the unidentified objects looking like saucers and described them as “flying saucers” in their story, which was quickly repeated in news outlets across the nation.
By the time the Roswell Incident occurred two weeks later, hundreds more “flying saucer” sightings were reported to authorities across the country, according to Time.
Arnold Wasn’t the Only One to See Them
Although Arnold is credited with the sighting of the nine flying objects, he isn’t the only one who claims to have seen the UFOs on that fateful afternoon in 1947.
Project 1947 is a website that has compiled a collection of newspaper articles reporting either on Arnold’s sighting or from other people who claim to have seen the same thing.
South of Washington on the same day, the Portland-based Oregon Daily Journal reported that two Midwestern men also spotted nine shiny objects in the sky. One of the men from Oklahoma City said that the objects were “a shiny silvery color — very big — and was moving at a terrific rate of speed.”
The Journal also reported that a man in Kansas City, Missouri, saw the objects when working on a roof and said that “they were flying so fast I barely had time to count them before they were gone. They were leaving vapor trails.”
Meanwhile, the Idaho Statesman reported that a preacher called Arnold from Texas and told him that the UFOs were “harbingers of doomsday.”
Live UFO Map
The website https://ufostalker.com/ provides a live map of all UFO sightings in the United States and even the occasional reported alien encounter. As of Thursday afternoon, 206,478 UFOs all-time had been reported to either the authorities or a UFO-spotter site.
Over 120 of those have come in just the last week. There have been countless sightings around Puget Sound, especially around the Tacoma region. Boise has also seen its fair share of sightings over the past year, and an alien encounter was reported in central Oregon on Dec. 31, 2021.
U.S. Government 2021 Report
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report in June 2021 on “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” or UAPs. The nine-page report doesn’t say a lot, but it does acknowledge that there is a UAP Task Force that looks into UFO reports from 2004 onward and that UAPs “clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security.”
In May 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives held a congressional hearing in which top Pentagon officials confirmed that the number of UAPs reported by service members had grown to about 400.
Of the 144 UAP reports that have come from U.S. Government personnel, such as the military, since 2004, 80 of those have been detected by multiple sensors, which include radar, infrared, electro-optics, weapon seekers, and visual observation.
Of those 144 reports, 18 described “unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics,” such as the objects remaining steady in winds aloft, maneuvering abruptly, or moving at considerable speed without any visible means of propulsion.