true story of
PART THREE OF TEN PARTS
June 26, 1947 Associated Press national wire story as printed in the Montreal Gazette. The story gets wrong Kenneth Arnold's profession (he was a business owner on a sales trip) and the headline gets wrong the location of the sighting (near Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington.)
AS THE FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND for 1947 approached, Kenneth Arnold found himself very much in need of a rest.
Just a week before, the thirty-two year old from Boise, Idaho had been propelled virtually overnight from everyday anonymity into the spotlight of intense nationwide attention and speculation.
It had all started when the businessman-pilot reported that while he was flying his private plane near Washington's Mt. Rainier he had seen nine odd aircraft in an unusual formation flying more than 1,200 miles per hour -- an unheard of technological achievement for the time. Stopping by afterwards at the offices of the Pendleton-based East Oregonian Arnold's sighting was reported in a very short piece fed across the Associated Press newswire. Press reaction was so hot, swift and widespread that Arnold had gotten little rest over the next three days, and could conduct virtually no business. From the June 28, 1947 edition of the Boise, Idaho Statesman...
Harassed Saucer-Sighter Would Like to Escape Fuss
PENDLETON. June 28 (UP) -- 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, business man-pilot sighed...
"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."
WON'T CHANGE MIND
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 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 United States Army air forces' 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 teeing off on Arnold's story with facts and figures straight out of the books.
Their principal 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.
Arnold would later write...
I can't begin to estimate the number of people, letters, telegrams, and phone calls I tried to answer. After three days of this hubbub I came to the conclusion that I was the only sane one in the bunch... In order to stop what I thought was a lot of foolishness and since I couldn't get any work done, I went out to the airport, cranked up my airplane and flew home to Boise.
It wasn't long after I arrived home when Dave Johnson called on me. Dave Johnson is aviation editor of The Idaho Statesman newspaper, and a man of respected ability and intelligence in matters related to military and civilian aviation. When I caught the look in his eye and the tone of his words, flying saucers suddenly took on a different and a serious significance. The doubt he displayed of the authenticity of my story told me, and I am sure he was in a position to know, that it was not a new military guided missile and that if what I had seen was true it did not belong to the good old U.S.A. It was then I really began to wonder.
But Johnson wasn't the only reporter to get hold of Arnold after his return to Boise. For Johnson was affiliated with the Associated Press, and the following story without a byline was filed by someone from its arch-rival, the United Press. From the June 28, 1947 edition of the Tucson, Arizona Daily Citizen...
Flying Disc Tale Stands
BOISE, IDA., June 28. (U.P.) -- Kenneth Arnold, businessman-pilot who made the headlines with his story of sighting strange disk-like flying missiles in southern Washington, was back in his home town of Boise Saturday -- and his story hasn't changed a bit.
"I saw what I saw," he said, "No one can change my mind.
"I'll match my judgment, position, and everything on what I saw with my own eyes. I never suffered from snow-blindness, spots before my eyes, or hallucinations. Physically, I'm 100 percent. I'll submit to any kind of test. I only reported what any pilot would report. I certainly have nothing to gain in a business way with all this hullaballoo."
Arnold resides on a ranch near here. He uses a hayfield for an airport. He sells fire-control equipment.
Arnold said he saw strange "flying saucers" -- nine of them -- near Mt. Rainier while flying to Yakima, Wash., this week.
He said he is more concerned with the fact that neither the FBI nor the Army appears interested in his story.
"If I were running the country," he said, "and someone reported something unusual, I'd certainly want to know more about it."
Arnold would eventually get his wish to talk to someone from the government
But in the meantime he would first go fishing.
Above: Sekiu, Washington circa 1940s. Courtesy of Craig Magnuson.
THE FISHING TRIP was the result of an impromptu suggestion. Arnold would later describe it in detail...
No one could have watched the news wires closer than I did between June 28 and July 3. Not only flying saucers were being seen, but phenomena of one kind or another appeared to be happening everywhere. At home we began to feel like we were living in Grand Central Station. When my friend, Colonel Paul Wieland, who had just returned from Germany where he had served on the Malmedy case and on the Nuremberg trials as a judge, phoned me and said, "Let's go fishing," I took him up on it, but quick. We got our tackle together, left our wives home to guard the fort, and took off for Sekiu, Washington. Sekiu is way out on the Olympic Peninsula. The fishing should have been at its best, and it was a long way from people.
We had a beautiful flight and the afternoon of the following day landed in what I think is the only cow pasture in Sekiu. All during the flight I had my newly purchased movie camera ready -- just in case. The only part of our conversation up to the time we arrived at Sekiu that I thought really interesting was when Colonel Paul told me definitely that artillery shells could be seen quite easily traveling at six to seven hundred miles an hour if you are in the right position, and they are quite small compared to a plane. It seems that some press reporter had made the remark that aircraft traveling at speeds of twelve hundred miles an hour or more would be invisible to eyesight. This only confirmed in my mind that my calculation and timing were not nearly so inaccurate as some newspaper experts were leading people to believe.
After tying the airplane solidly to a couple of fence posts we got permission to leave our plane there. The rancher was extremely kind and drove us down to the village by the ocean inlet. We were all set for a good rest with the prospect of good fishing the next day when we found out that most of the fishermen were not in their boats and had not even gone out fishing. The water was as red as blood. Thousands of Chinook salmon with which the inlet was teeming were dying from a mysterious red tide. I looked at Colonel Paul, and the Colonel looked at me. It was all very puzzling. In talking to the townspeople we found that they had buried a man that morning who had eaten oysters evidently infected by the peculiar, red, jelly-like substance that could be found everywhere in the sea.
The next morning, in spite of the red tide, we took a short boat trip around the inlet. Even if the fish were worth eating they couldn't have been caught. Hundreds of them were leaping out of the water, some as high as six feet, trying to shake off the jelly-like substance that was poisoning them. There was nothing for us to do but turn around and fly home. In leaving the cow pasture that day and circling high over the little village of Sekiu we could plainly see the edges of the red water below us. It looked to me rather like a gob of something had fallen out of the sky. Even though the scientists had a name for it, I admitted red tides into my collection of phenomena along with flying saucers...
Colonel Paul Wieland and I took our last disappointed look at Sekiu and the red water and headed towards Seattle.
And it would be in Seattle where Arnold would discover that while he had been on a retreat from the public spotlight, the flying saucers had seemingly made a spectacular and very public reappearance.
Above: July 5, 1947 edition of the Lowell Sun.
FRIDAY, JULY 4, 1947 was not the first day of corroborating accounts for Arnold's claim of strange objects in the sky. Fresh reports had been coming in every day since, primarily from the Pacific Northwest and American Southwest. These reports had been publicly countered by any number of theories, from pieces of bottle cap metal blowing out of a furnace to misidentification of meteors or jets, and also attributed to human foibles ranging from drunkenness to mass hysteria. But for decades afterward July 4, 1947 would be remembered as one of the most important days in the annals of the "flying saucer" phenomenon.
Across the Pacific Northwest on that fateful day switchboards were flooded with reports of sightings. In Portland, Oregon patrolmen were radioing in sightings of discs flying across the skies, their accounts verified by deputy sheriffs in Vancouver, Washington who reported sighting up to 20 at a time. Also in Portland news staff of the International News Service watched from their office window, stating "They were last seen heading south after circling sharply over the west side area." In Seattle Frank Ryman, a photographer for the Coast Guard, photographed and developed a picture of a flying disc. In Idaho John Corlett, the manager for United Press, wrote up his sighting, which included three other witnesses. Also in Idaho groups of picnickers reported repeated sightings of up to 35 discs at a time. Reports also came in from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana and Los Angeles, where a pilot reported a 40 to 50-foot disc flying 2000 feet above his plane. But perhaps the most spectacular was the report of a United Airlines crew on a flight from Boise to Seattle. From the July 5, 1947 edition of the Portland, Oregon Oregonian...
View of 'Flying Saucers' Over Ontario Dumbfounds Veteran Pilot, Other Crew Member of Airliner
Dumbfounded crewmen of a United Airlines plane flying from Boise to Portland Friday evening joined a horde of Portland-Vancouver area residents in describing "flying discs" seen Friday.
Discs also were reported in many other regions of the West, but the carefully qualified statements of Capt. E.J. Smith, First Officer Ralph Stevens and Stewardess Marty Morrow remained a new high in observations.
In an interview at Portland before taking off for Seattle, Captain Smith, a veteran of 14 years with United Air Lines said an object at first believed to be an approaching aircraft was sighted by Stevens, who was at the controls eight minutes after take-off from Boise at 9:04 P.M.
Landing Lights Flashed
Stevens flashed his landing lights as a signal there was another aircraft in the area. There was no response.
"What the devil is that?" Stevens demanded. Captain Smith said he looked and made out not only the "disc" Stevens had mistaken for a plane, but four others, about evenly spaced in a line to the south of it.
Smith estimated their distance at "about 30 miles," but said they were clearly visible against the afterglow of the setting sun.
They radioed a report to the Boise CAA tower, then called Stewardess Morrow to the flight deck to verify what they saw.
Shortly afterward, the five discs disappeared, then three more appeared in front of them, with a fourth flying "by itself, way off to the right," Smith said.
He radioed the Ontario, Ore., CAA communications tower and told the operator:
"Step outside and look to the southwest about 15 miles and see what you can find".
Ground View Lacking
The operator reported he could see nothing, which Smith said meant the discs were farther away than he had previously estimated since they were not visible to the tower operator.
He was some 30 miles from Ontario at the time, he said.
The airliner was at 10,500 feet when he saw the first disc, Stevens reported. The discs seemed to be flying in about the same direction and to be climbing about at the same rate as the airliner. However, when the plane reached a height of 8000 feet, the discs still were in sight and somewhat higher.
The first group veered to the left of the airliner before disappearing, then the second group in "loose formation," appeared. The objects finally "merged, then disappeared, then came back in sight and finally vanished, again in the northwest," Smith said. "When they did finally disappear, they went fast."
"You can see a big plane at a great distance for a long time before it disappears. But no object I know of could disappear so quickly as these things."
Both Smith and Stevens, who had been joking about sighting "flying discs" before taking off from Boise, were obviously embarrassed but earnest when telling of the strange objects. Stevens has been flying for United three years.
And for Kenneth Arnold, just landing in Seattle on his way back from his retreat, no news could have been more welcome, as he would later write...
It was on this same day, July 5, 1947, that I met Captain E.J. Smith and co-pilot Ralph Stevens. Colonel Paul Wieland and I took our last disappointed look at Sekiu and the red water and headed toward Seattle, flying at an elevation of about 4,000 feet. The sky was clear as crystal and we had a brisk west wind on our tail of about twenty miles per hour. It wasn't until I landed at Boeing Field to gas up my plane that I heard about the sighting and experience of United Airlines flight trip 105 which had left Boise, Idaho, at 9:04 p.m. the night before.
No better person in all the personnel of United Airlines could have been picked to verify my story that we were not alone in the air than Captain E.J. Smith. He is probably the most highly thought of and respected veteran pilot that flies the air lanes. His sighting was supported and verified by the entire crew of his DC-3.
I was so excited about their observation that I think I purchased every paper at the Terminal Building newsstand. In one of the papers there was even a photograph, the first photograph of a flying disk that I had seen. It had been taken by Frank Ryman, a coast Guard yeoman. He had taken his picture the night before.
In my excitement I completely forgot about Colonel Paul Wieland who was standing by my airplane. I rushed madly uptown to the Seattle offices of the International News Service to see the blown-up prints of the picture. I remember what a tough time I had finding the International News Service. I don't know how many hills Seattle has, but by the time I reached their office I was completely out of breath.
I asked to see the picture. Their reporter appeared happy enough to show it to me but demanded to know who I was. I had become reporter-shy by this time but had no alternative but to give him my name. When I did, he grabbed me by my arm and rushed me from his office down to the anteroom of the news building. There for the first time I met Captain E.J. Smith and his co-pilot, Stevens. They were gazing with lifted eyebrows at the photograph that had been taken by Frank Ryman.
As I recall it, I felt like a runt compared to Big Smithy. He towered head and shoulders above me and when I shook hands with him it was like shaking hands with the big transport he flies. A kinder or more friendly man I have never met and Ralph Stevens was justly proud to fly co-pilot with such an airman. After the International News Service had taken our picture observing this photograph, we all went out for coffee, all talking at the same time of our unusual experience.
Here is the story as Big Smithy told it to me.
"We landed our DC-3 at Boise, Idaho shortly before nine last night and, afraid to be late in our schedule, we took off promptly at 9:04. The weather was perfect. It was a funny thing, but just before take-off as I was climbing aboard our DC-3 someone in the crowd piped up and asked me if I had seen any flying saucers. Up to this time I not only hadn't seen any, but really didn't believe there were such things, though I was polite to the inquirer and yelled back at him that I would believe them when I saw them.
"Brother, you could have knocked me over with a feather when about eight minutes after take-off, at exactly 7,100 feet over Emmett, Idaho we saw not one, but nine of them. At first I thought it was a group of light planes returning from some Fourth of July celebration, but then I realized the things weren't aircraft, but were flat and circular.
"The first group of five appeared to open and close in formation, then veered to the left of the transport. At this time I picked up my radio microphone and called the Ontario, Oregon C.A.A. radio communication station which was about 45 miles north and west from Boise. I didn't tell them what I was seeing but said, "Step outside and look to the southwest, about fifteen miles, and see what you can find.' The operator came back over the microphone, stating he saw nothing.
"At this time my co-pilot informed me the first group of disks had disappeared. It was then the second group, three together and the fourth off by itself, appeared. By then the transport had reached 8,000 feet altitude and was cruising over the rugged country leading to the Blue Mountains, toward Pendleton, Oregon.
"My co-pilot saw exactly what I did when he stated that these objects seemed to merge, then disappear, then come back in sight, and finally they vanished again to the northwest. This second group seemed to be higher than our flight path and when they did leave, they left! Fast!
"I positively know they were nothing from the ground in the way of fireworks, reflections, or smoke. I know they were not aircraft that I am familiar with. I don't know how fast they were going, but we all saw them. They were flat on the bottom, circular and seemed rough on top. They were bigger than our aircraft.
When Big Smithy got through telling me this, and in spite of my own experience, I kept repeating to myself, "It's just amazing -- simply amazing! Positively amazing!" Big Smithy's sighting somehow made mine seem small and insignificant.
We were finishing our third cup of coffee when it dawned on me that I had left Colonel Paul alone at the airport. I hadn't even told him where I was going. I quickly shook hands with Smithy and Stevens, said jokingly that I'd see them on Mars or someplace, and hot-footed it back to the airport. Poor Colonel Paul -- there he was still standing by my plane with a really lost look on his face. It was probably the first time since he became a full colonel in the artillery that he had been left all alone. I could see he hardly knew how to cope with the situation. It's lucky he has a big heart or I would surely have been bawled out. He's just the man who could have done it! After I had explained to him what had taken place, he settled down beside me in the cockpit grumbling about his fishing and we took off for Boise, Idaho and home.
Hurried departure aside, it would not be the last time Arnold and Smith would meet.
And their most disturbing adventure would be in tandem, just weeks ahead.
Above: Enlargement of the photo taken by Coast Guardsman Frank Ryman on July 4, 1947 as published in the Milwaukee Sentinel. The caption for the photo noted, "Ryman said he sighted it in Lake City, a Seattle suburb. He estimates it was 10,000 feet in the air and travelling at 500 miles an hour. He estimated its speed by timing its travel over a distance he knew. Arrow points to disc."
THE NATIONAL FASCINATION continued to follow Arnold upon his return home, as he would write later...
For the next week I think all I did was read mail. Everybody was having a wonderful time solving the mystery. Not one letter that I recall, and I have most of them still in my files, had even a note of criticism. This, to me, was rather surprising since most of the newspapers were having a terrifically good time trying to make the public believe we were crazy, seeing visions, or recording corpuscles on the retina of our eyeballs. I was astounded at what newspapermen could dream up. News reporting must be a fascinating business.
During the month of July 1947 everyone appeared to be taking full advantage of our fundamental right of freedom of speech. I don't know what Captain Smith, Ralph Stevens, or Martie Morrow were thinking and doing but I was trying to keep my mouth shut and was spending my time gathering all the accounts I could of the strange phenomena that were happening. I began to note that foreign sightings of disk-like objects were starting to come in.
But one communication got Arnold's immediate attention. It's not known if it was by phone, telegram or letter, but the government had finally shown interest in Arnold's sighting...
I was requested to send a full report of my experience to the commanding officer of Wright-Patterson Field, which I was happy to do.
Arnold's report -- as it appears in the declassified Air Force files of Project Blue Book -- was divided into two parts. The first addressed Arnold's personal history...
SOME LIFE DATA ON KENNETH ARNOLD
I was born March 29, 1915 in Subeka, Minnesota. My father's name was Edward Erb Arnold; my mother's maiden name was Bertha E. Barden. I was a resident of Minnesota until I was six years old when my family moved to Scobey, Montana, where they homesteaded. My grandfather, Roland. C. Arnold also homesteaded in Scobey, Montana, and became quite prominent in political circles along with Burton K. Wheeler, the famous Montana senator.
I went to grade school and high school at Minot, North Dakota. I entered scouting at twelve years of age and achieved the rank of Eagle scout before I was fourteen. My former scout executive was H.H. Prescott, now a regional commissioner for the Boy Scouts in Kansas City, Kansas.
As a boy, I was interested in athletics and was selected as an all-state end in 1932 and 1933 in the state of North Dakota. I entered the U.S. Olympic trials in fancy diving in 1932; I was a Red Cross Life Saving Examiner during the years of 1932, '33 and '34. I taught swimming and diving at scout camps and the municipal pool in Minot, North Dakota. I went to the University of Minnesota, where I swam and did fancy diving under Neils Thorpe, and also played football under Bernie Bierman, but upon entering College I was unable to continue my football career because of an injured knee. My high school football coach was Glenn L. Jarrett, who is now the head football coach of the University of North Dakota. I had little or no finances, and my ambition in furthering my education in college was through my athletics. As a boy in Minot, North Dakota, I did a good deal of dog sled racing, placed first with my dog in 1930 in the Lions Club Dog Derby.
In 1938 I went to work for Red Comet, Inc. of Littleton, Colorado, manufacturer of automatic fire fighting apparatus. In 1939 I was made district manager for them over a part of the western states, and in 1940 I established my own fire control supply known as the Great Western Fire Control Supply. I have been working as an independent fire control engineer since, and I handle, distribute, sell and install all types of automatic and manual fire fighting equipment in the rural areas over five western states.
My flying experience started as a boy in Minot, North Dakota, where I took my first flying lesson from Earl T. Vance, who was originally from Great Falls, Montana. Due to the high cost at that time, I was unable to continue my flying and did not fly of any great consequence until 1943. I was given my pilot certificate by Ed Leach, a senior CAA inspector of Portland, Oregon, and for the last three years have owned my own airplane covering my territory with same and flying from forty to one hundred hours per month since. Due to the fact that I use an airplane entirely in my work, in January of this year I purchased a new Callair airplane, which is an airplane designed for high altitude take-offs and short rough field use.
In the type of flying that I do, it takes a great deal of practice and judgment to be able to land in most any cow pasture and get out without injuring your airplane; the runways are very limited and the altitude is very high in some of the fields and places I have to go in my work. To date, I have landed in 823 cow pastures in mountain meadows, and in over a thousand hours a flat tire has been my greatest mishap.
This was followed by Arnold's lengthy personal account of his sighting...
BY KENNETH ARNOLD
The following story of what I observed over the Cascade mountains, as impossible as it may seem, is positively true. I never asked nor wanted any notoriety for just accidentally being in the right spot at the right time to observe what I did. I reported something that I know any pilot would have reported. I don't think that in any way my observation was due to any sensitivity of eye sight or judgment than what is considered normal for any pilot.
On June 24th, Tuesday, 1947, I had finished my work for the Central Air Service at Chehalis, Washington, and at about two o'clock I took off from Chehalis, Washington, airport with the intention of going to Yakima, Wash. My trip was delayed for an hour to search for a large marine transport that supposedly went down near or around the southwest side of Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington and to date has never been found.
I flew directly toward Mt. Rainier after reaching an altitude of about 9,500 feet, which is the approximate elevation of the high plateau from which Mt. Rainier rises. I had made one sweep of this high plateau to the westward, searching all of the various ridges for this marine ship and flew to the west down and near the ridge side of the canyon where Ashford, Washington, is located.
Unable to see anything that looked like the lost ship, I made a 360 degree turn to the right and above the little city of Mineral, starting again toward Mt. Rainier. I climbed back up to an altitude of approximately 9,200 feet.
The air was so smooth that day that it was a real pleasure flying and, as most pilots do when the air is smooth and they are flying at a higher altitude, I trimmed out my airplane in the direction of Yakima, Washington, which was almost directly east of my position and simply sat in my plane observing the sky and the terrain.
There was a DC-4 to the left and to the rear of me approximately fifteen miles distance, and I should judge, at 14,000 foot elevation.
The sky and air was clear as crystal. I hadn't flown more than two or three minutes on my course when a bright flash reflected on my airplane. It startled me as I thought I was too close to some other aircraft. I looked every place in the sky and couldn't find where the reflection had come from until I looked to the left and the north of Mt. Rainier where I observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft flying from north to south at approximately 9,500 foot elevation and going, seemingly, in a definite direction of about 170 degrees.
They were approaching Mt. Rainier very rapidly, and I merely assumed they were jet planes. Anyhow, I discovered that this was where the reflection had come from, as two or three of them every few seconds would dip or change their course slightly, just enough for the sun to strike them at an angle that reflected brightly on my plane.
These objects being quite far away, I was unable for a few seconds to make out their shape or their formation. Very shortly they approached Mt. Rainier, and I observed their outline against the snow quite plainly.
I thought it was very peculiar that I couldn't find their tails but assumed they were some type of jet plane. I was determined to clock their speed, as I had two definite points I could clock them by; the air was so clear that it was very easy to see objects and determine their approximate shape and size at almost fifty miles that day.
I remember distinctly that my sweep second hand on my eight day clock, which is located on my instrument panel, read one minute to 3 P.M. as the first object of this formation passed the southern edge of Mt. Rainier. I watched these objects with great interest as I had never before observed airplanes flying so close to the mountain tops, flying directly south to southeast down the hog's back of a mountain range. I would estimate their elevation could have varied a thousand feet one way or another up or down, but they were pretty much on the horizon to me which would indicate they were near the same elevation as I was.
They flew like many times I have observed geese to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as if they were linked together. They seemed to hold a definite direction but rather swerved in and out of the high mountain peaks. Their speed at the time did not impress me particularly, because I knew that our army and air forces had planes that went very fast.
What kept bothering me as I watched them flip and flash in the sun right along their path was the fact that I couldn't make out any tail on them, and I am sure that any pilot would justify more than a second look at such a plane.
I observed them quite plainly, and I estimate my distance from them, which was almost at right angles, to be between twenty to twenty-five miles. I knew they must be very large to observe their shape at that distance, even on as clear a day as it was that Tuesday, In fact I compared a zeus fastener or cowling tool I had in my pocket with them - holding it up on them and holding it up on the DC-4 - that I could observe at quite a distance to my left, and they seemed smaller than the DC-4; but, I should judge their span would have been as wide as the furtherest [sic] engines on each side of the fuselage of the DC-4.
The more I observed these objects the more upset I became, as I am accustomed and familiar with most all objects flying whether I am close to the ground or at higher altitudes. I observed the chain of these objects passing another high snow-covered ridge in between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams and as, the first one was passing the south crest of this ridge the last object was entering the northern crest of the ridge.
As I was flying in the direction of this particular ridge, I measured it and found it to be approximately five miles so I could safely assume that the chain of these saucer like objects were at least five miles long. I could quite accurately determine their pathway due to the fact that there were several high peaks that were a little this side of them as well as higher peaks on the other side of their pathway.
As the last unit of this formation passed the southern most high snow-covered crest of Mt. Adams, I looked at my sweep second hand and it showed that they had travelled the distance in one minute and forty-two seconds. Even at the time this timing did not upset me as I felt confident after I would land there would be some explanation of what I saw.
A number of news men and experts suggested that I might have been seeing reflections or even a mirage. This I know to be absolutely false, as I observed these objects not only through the glass of my airplane but turned my airplane sideways where I could open my window and observe them with a completely unobstructed view. (Without sun glasses)
Even though two minutes seems like a very short time to one on the ground, in the air in two minutes time a pilot can observe a great many things and anything within his sight of vision probably as many as fifty or sixty times.
I continued my search for the marine plane for another fifteen or twenty minutes and while searching for this marine plane, what I had just observed kept going through my mind. I became more disturbed, so after taking a last look at Tieton Reservoir I headed for Yakima.
I might add that my complete observation of these objects, which I could even follow by their flashes as they passed Mt. Adams, was around two and one-half or three minutes -- although, by the time they reached Mt. Adams they were out of my range of vision as far as determining shape or form. Of course, when the sun reflected from one or two or three of these units, they appeared to be completely round; but, I am making a drawing to the best of my ability, which I am including, as to the shape I observed these objects to be as they passed the snow covered ridges as well as Mt. Rainier.
When these objects were flying approximately straight and level, they were just a black thin line and when they flipped was the only time I could get a judgment as to their size.
These objects were holding an almost constant elevation; they did not seem to be going up or coming down, such as would be the case of rockets or artillery shells. I am convinced in my own mind that they were some type of airplane, even though they didn't conform with the many aspects of the conventional type of planes that I know.
Although these objects have been reported by many other observers throughout the United States, there have been six or seven other accounts written by some of these observers that I can truthfully say must have observed the same thing that I did; particularly, the descriptions of the three Western Air Lines employees [Insert: "Cedar City, Utah"], the gentleman [Insert: "pilot"] from Oklahoma City and the locomotive engineer from Illinois, plus Capt Smith and Co-Pilot Stevens of United Air Lines.
Some descriptions could not be very accurate taken from the ground unless these saucer-like disks were at quite a great height and there is a possibility that all of the people who observed peculiar objects could have seen the same thing I did, but, it would have been very difficult from the ground to observe these for more than four or five seconds, and there is always the possibility of atmospheric moisture and dust near the ground which could distort one's vision.
I have in my possession letters from all over the Unites States and people who profess that these objects have been observed over other portions of the world, principally Sweden, Bermuda, and California.
I would have given almost anything that day to have had a movie camera with a telephoto lens and from now on I will never be without one - - but, to continue further with my story. When I landed at Yakima, Wash., airport I described what I had seen to my very good friend, Al Baxter, who listened patiently and was very courteous but in a joking way didn't believe me.
I did not accurately measure the distance between these two mountains until I landed at Pendleton, Oregon, that same day where I told a number of pilot friends of mine what I had observed and they did not scoff or laugh but suggested they might be guided missiles or something new. In fact several former Army pilots informed me that they had been briefed before going into combat overseas that they might see objects of similar shape and design as I described and assured me that I wasn't dreaming or going crazy.
I quote Sonny Robinson, a former Army Air Forces pilot who is now operating dusting operations at Pendleton, Oregon, "What you observed, I am convinced, is some type of jet or rocket propelled ship that is in the process of being tested by our government or even it could possibly be by some foreign government."
Anyhow, the news that I had observed these spread very rapidly and before the night was over I was receiving telephone calls from all parts of the world; and, to date, I have not received one telephone call or one letter of scoffing or disbelief. the only disbelief that I know of was what was printed in the papers.
I look at this whole ordeal as not something funny as some people have made it out to be. To me it is mighty serious and since I evidently did observe something that at least Mr. John Doe on the street corner or Pete Andrews on the ranch has never heard about, is no reason that it does not exist. Even though I openly invited an investigation by the Army and the FBI as to the authenticity of my story or a mental or a physical examination as to my capabilities, I have received no interest from these two important protective forces of our country; I will go so far as to assume that any report I gave to the United and Associated Press and over the radio on two different occasions which apparently set the nation buzzing, if our Military intelligence was not aware of what I observed, they would be the very first people that I could expect as visitors.
I have received lots of requests from people who told me to make a lot of wild guesses. I have based what I have written here in this article on positive facts and as far as guessing what it was I observed, it is just as much a mystery to me as it is to the rest of the world.
My pilot's license is 333487. I fly a Callair airplane; it is a three-place single engine land ship that is designed and manufactured at Afton, Wyoming as an extremely high performance, high altitude airplane that was made for mountain work. The national certificate of my plane is 33355.
At the end of the statement as found in Project Blue Book files was a sketch by Arnold, with hand-written notes...
And whether it was the report itself, or just the ever-increasing reports nationwide, the Air Force was finally stirred to follow up face to face with Arnold.
Above: July 5, 1947 national wire photo of Captain E.J. Smith, Kenneth Arnold, and First Officer Ralph Stevens.
A WEEK FOLLOWING Arnold's return from his fishing trip, and hot on the heels of Arnold's written statement, Arnold finally got his oft-expressed wish to talk to the government, as he would write later...
In the meantime, I was visited by two representatives of A-2 Military Intelligence of the Fourth Air Force, Lieutenant Frank M. Brown and Captain William Davidson. I was very happy to see them. I couldn't figure out why such an efficient body as Military Intelligence hadn't called on me before. Their visit was most interesting and my wife, Doris, and I were both impressed by their kindness and their consideration of the very peculiar position flying saucers had put me in.
We met them at the Hotel Owyhee in Boise. They treated us to a very wonderful dinner. We discussed various phases of my original observation. They said frankly and openly the didn't know what the flying saucers were. They had never seen one, they told us, but ever since my first report they were practically bug-eyed from watching the sky themselves. That evening, at about 9:30 Captain Smith was coming through Boise on his flight to the east from Seattle. I told Davidson and Brown that I intended to go out and say hello to Big Smithy. They were highly elated with the opportunity to meet Captain Smith for, as Brown said, he was on their list to call on. It was like killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.
After dinner we drove out to the Boise Municipal Airport. I was rather surprised to find Dave Johnson, the aviation editor for The Idaho Statesman, there. I wondered how he knew. Then it occurred to me that the military wanted to talk with him also. Only a few days previously he had attempted to photograph a disk-like object which he had observed from his National Guard AT-6 airplane while he was flying at 14,000 feet over Anderson Dam, a few miles to the east of Boise.
Characteristic of our other meetings, everybody was talking at the same time. As a result, during the brief stay that Smithy had between flights, none of us found out much. I did learn in the course of the conversation that Davidson and Brown had flown to Boise specially to see me in a military A-26 bomber. I was really impressed! About all I knew about planes was from the puddle-jumpers I had always flown and because these military craft are so big and so powerful I guess I had the idea that brains were sticking out all over anyone who could fly them.
After leaving the terminal in our car, Doris and I invited Davidson and Brown to come out to our home where we could talk under quieter circumstances. Our two children had been put to bed and we had the house to ourselves. I fully realized the seriousness of their visit and tried to cooperate in every way I possibly could. I stuck absolutely to the facts. I didn't consider my opinion important. I drew pictures for them and recounted my original observation as accurately as I could. For some reason, and I don't know why, I did not tell them that one of the flying disks in the formation I had observed appeared different from the rest. In fact, I had never even told Doris. I thought it was the angle from which I observed this particular one which made it look different and I wasn't completely positive about it. It was rather odd, too, because I kept thinking about this one flying saucer that looked different and I always intended to tell someone about it. However, every time I would be puzzling over the matter no one seemed to be around to tell it to.
Before leaving that night Davidson and Brown went through all the mail I had received outside of what various newsmen had helped themselves to. I noticed the mail they selected to take was mostly of the nature of societies or organizations that had written me asking for full accounts of my original experiences. I was happy they did go through my mail as I didn't feel capable of evaluating much of the contents of the letters I had received.
When we returned them to their hotel, Brown and Davidson quietly but firmly impressed me with the idea that if anything of an unusual nature came to my attention or if I needed help in anything way I was to phone them or wire them collect, in care of A-2, Fourth Air Force, Hamilton Field, California. They also mentioned that it would probably be better for all concerned if I refused to discuss my experiences further with outsiders. I can say that I was extremely impressed with my first meeting with Military Intelligence officers. Their courtesy, politeness, and consideration was beyond reproach.
The feeling was apparently mutual. From the report on the visit filed by Lt. Brown...
4AF 1208 I
16 July 1947
MEMORANDUM FOR THE OFFICER IN CHARGE:
1. On 12 July 1947, Mr. Kenneth Arnold, Box 387, Boise Idaho, was interviewed in regard to the report by Mr. Arnold that he saw 9 strange objects flying over the Cascade Mountain Range of Washington State on July 25th [sic, should be June 24th]. Mr. Arnold voluntarily agreed to give the interviewer a written report of exactly what he had seen on the above mentioned date. The written report of Mr. Arnold is attached to this report as Exhibit A.
AGENT'S NOTES: Mr. Arnold is a man of 32 years of age, being married and the father of two children. He is well thought of in the community in which he lives, being very much the family man and from all appearances a very good provider for his family. Mr. Arnold has recently purchased a home on the outskirts of Boise, recently purchased a $5,000 airplane in which to conduct his business to the extent of which is explained in the attached exhibit. It is the personal opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold actually saw what he stated that he saw. It is difficult to believe that a man of Mr. Arnold's character and apparent integrity would state that he saw objects and write up a report to the extent that he did if he did not see them. To go further, if Mr. Arnold can write a report of the character that he did while not having seen the objects that he claimed he saw, it is the opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold is in the wrong business, that he should be writing Buck Rogers fiction. Mr. Arnold is very outspoken and somewhat bitter in his opinions of the leaders of the U.S. Army Air Forces and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for not having made an investigation of this matter sooner. To put all of the statements made by Mr. Arnold in this report would make it a voluminous volume. However, after having checked an aeronautical map of the area over which Mr. Arnold claims that he saw the objects it was determined that all statements made by Mr. Arnold in regard to the distances involved, speed of the objects, course of the objects and size of the objects, could very possibly be facts. The distances mentioned by Mr. Arnold in his report are within a short distance of the actual distances on aeronautical charts of this area, although Mr. Arnold has never consulted aeronautical charts of the type the Army uses. Mr. Arnold stated that his business had suffered greatly since his report on July 25 [sic] due to the fact that at every stop on his business routes, large crowds of people were waiting to question him as to just what he had seen. Mr. Arnold stated further that if he, at any time in the future, saw anything in sky, to quote Mr. Arnold directly, "If I saw a ten story building flying through the air I would never say a word about it", due to the fact that he has been ridiculed by the press to such an extent that he is practically a moron in the eyes of the majority of the population of the United States.
1 Incl. Exhibit "A"
FRANK M. BROWN S/A CIC 4TH AF
Although Lt. Brown's report could be seen to imply that Arnold's report was written on the day of his visit, in fact it had been sent days before to Air Materiel Command at Wright Field, Ohio, which sent back its thanks by telegram from Lt. William C. Anderson of the Public Information Office...
DATE: 10 JULY 1947
TO: Kenneth Arnold
TELETYPE NO: TSPRO-1B1-7-28. THANK YOU FOR PHOTO, BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, AND FULL ACCOUNT OF UNIDENTIFIED AIRCRAFT INCIDENT. MATERIAL BEING RETAINED HERE, COPIES FORWARDED INTELLIGENCE WASHINGTON FOR INVESTIGATION. VARIOUS NEWS SERVICES REQUEST PERMISSION TO PRINT EXCERPTS FROM YOUR REPORT. PLEASE WIRE IMMEDIATELY PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, WRIGHT FIELD, IF OKAY. SIGNED PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE.
On the same day as the visit by Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown, Arnold would wire back his permission...
PENDLETON ORG JULY 12 1233A
WRIGHT FIELD DAYTON OHIO
DEAR SIR: YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO QUOTE GIVE OUT OR REPRINT MY WRITTEN ACCOUNT AND REPORT OF NINE STRANGE AIRCRAFT I OBSERVED ON JUNE 24TH IN THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON. THIS REPORT WAS SENT TO YOU AT REQUEST SOME DAYS AGO. IT IS WITH CONSIERABLE DISAPPOINTMENT YOU CANNOT GIVE THE EXPLANATION OF THESE AIRCRAFT AS I FELT CERTAIN THEY BELONGED TO OUR GOVERNMENT. THEY HAVE APPARENTLY MEANT NO HARM BUT USED AS AN INSTRUMENT OF DESTRUCTION IN COMBINATION WITH OUR ATOMIC BOMB THE EFFECTS COULD DESTROY LIFE ON OUR PLANET. CAPT. SMITH CO-PILOT STEVENS OF UNITED AIR LINES AND MYSELF HAVE COMPARED OUR OBSERVATIONS IN AS MUCH DETAIL AS POSSIBLE AND AGREED WE HAD OBSERVED THE SAME TYPE OF AIRCRAFT AS TO SIZE SHAPE AND FORM. WE HAVE NOT TAKEN THIS LIGHTLY. IT IS TO US A VERY SERIOUS CONCERN AS WE ARE AS INTERESTED IN THE WELFARE OF OUR COUNTRY AS YOU ARE.
BOISE IDAHO PILOTS LICENSE 24 333487
Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown would soon fly off again, but it would not be the last time Arnold would meet with the two men.
For they -- along with both Dave Johnson and Captain E.J. Smith -- would become embroiled in even more mysterious events as Kenneth Arnold came into contact with three other men... each with amazing stories all their own.
1. The title of this series is taken from two statements made by Kenneth Arnold -- once to the press and once to the military -- stating that his story was "positively true".
2. Sincere and deep thanks for the images of Sekiu, Washington go to Craig Magnuson, who generously agreed to share them.
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