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The Kenneth Arnold sighting, June 24, 1947:

How the Arnold sighting was given to the public.

This article is to narrate in a chronological manner how the sighting reported by Kenneth Arnold on June 25, 1947, was told to the public by the media, essentially the by Press spreading the articles by the United Press and the Associated Press.

I tell the chronology of the information that was spread, and the explanations attenpts, or lack thereof, that were spread to the public.

Note that this is not per se an evaluaton of what Kenneth Arnold said he saw, as this does not contain the complete information Arnold gave in his own words.

This article is to answer questions such as: what was told to the public? How were the objects Arnold said he saw described in the Press? what did the Press members, the public, the officials say about it?

Short reminder:

Kenneth arnold was born in Subeka, Minnesota, and was 32-yar-old in 1947. He was a businessman of Boise, Idaho, elling and installing of automatic fire-fighting equipment as owner of the Great Western Fire Control Supply company. He had a wife and two daughters. His business took him through the western United States since 1938, when he had been a salesman and then district manager for Red Comet, Inc. of Littleton, Colorado, before leaving to start his own company. To cover this vast territory, he had bought a CallAir A-2 three seater, single engine, mountain plane for $5,000. On the early morning of June 24, 1947, he had installed fire-fighting equipment for the Central Air Service of Chehalis, Washington. Before taking off from Chehalis, he had heard talk of a lost C-46 Marine transport plane which had crashed in the mountains in 1946 and was never located - it would be located on July 25, 1947. Arnold decided to look for it as there was a $5,000 reward and as the area near Mount Rainier where the plane supposedly crashed was near his route to Yakima, Washington.

How it started.

June 25, 1947

At lunch time on Wednesday, June 25, 1947, in Pendleton, a small town in the northeast Oregon, USA, two journalists of the East Oregonian newspaper, Nolan Skff and Bill Becquette meet Kenneth Arnold who tells them what he saw the day before at 02:58 p.m.

Impossible! Maybe, But Seein' Is Believin', Says Flier

Kenneth Arnold, with the fire control at Boise and who was flying in southern Washington yesterday afternoon in search of a missing marine plane, stopped here en route to Boise today with an unusual story -- which he doesn't expect people to believe but which he declared was true.

He said he sighted nine saucer-like aircraft flying in formation at 3. p.m. yesterday, extremely bright -- as if they were nickel plated -- and flying at an immense rate of speed. He estimated they were at an altitude between 9,500 and 10,000 feet and clocked them from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Adams, arriving at the amazing speed of about 1200 miles an hour.

"It seemed impossible", he said, "but there it is - I must believe my eyes."

He landed at Yakima somewhat later and inquired there, but learned nothing. Talking about it to a man from Ukiah in Pendleton this morning whose name he did not get, he was amazed to learn that the man had sighted the same aerial objects yesterday afternoon from the mountains in the Ukiah section!

He said that in flight they appeared to weave in an [sic, "and"] out in formation.

The journalists also sent to the Portland, Oregon, Associated Press bureau, by the newswire, a short article which would be reproduced in numerous newspapers all acrros the US. It said:

PENDLETON, Ore., June 25 (AP). -- Nine bright saucer-like objects flying at "incredible" speed at 10,000 feet altitude were reported here yesterday by Kenneth Arnold, Boise, Idaho, pilot, who said he could not hazard a guess as to what they were.

Arnold, a United States forest service employee engaged in a search for a missing plane said he sighted the mysterious objects Thursday at 3 p.m. They were flying between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in Washington state, he said, and appeared to weave in and out of formation. Arnold said he clocked them and estimated their speed at 1,200 miles an hour.

He said the "aircraft" were extremely bright - "as if they were nickle-plated" - and appeared to weave in and out of formation.

Inquiry at Yakima (Wash.) brought only blank stares, he said, but he added he talked with an unidentified man from Ukiah, Cal., south of here, who said he had seen similar objects over the mountains near Ukiah Tuesday.

"It seems impossible," Arnold said, "but there it is."

In Washington, the War Department said it had no information on the Oregon sky mystery.

An Army spokesman expressed interest in any object which would fly at an estimated speed of 1,200 miles per hour, declaring, "As far as we know, nothing flies that fast except a V-2 rocket, which travels at about 3,500 miles an hour - and that's too fast to be seen."

June 26, 1947

This Associated Press article was published entirely or in part by a small number of evening newspapers across the U.S. as soon as June 25, 1947, actually (example here), and very widely published in the entire US starting on the next day June 26, 1947. I counted that at the minumum, the AP story ran in 500 newspapers on June 25 and 26, 1947.

Note that it is out of the question that I publish all these newspaper articles; however, I published a representative sampler here. In this article, I refer to this sample and provide links to specific Press articles when it is useful.

As it was the use, the newspapers topped the AP story with their own headlines. Examples are:

The article usually appeared on page 1 of the newspapers, occasionally on inside pages.

In these first publications headlines, there was an occasional error by some newspapers headlining that the sighting was "in Pendleton" or "in Oregon". It was over the Cascade mountain range near Mineral in the state of Washington.

In these first publications headlines, the objects Arnold saw were called differently: "mystery airplanes", "mystery missiles", "mystery aircraft", "strange planes", "flying saucers", "strange objects", "mystery objects", "objects"... But also "flying pies", "whatizits", "whizzits"...

Arnold later made several sketches of the objects he said he saw, but no newspaper published any sketch. In the first AP story, the only description of the object is that they were "saucer-like". The only other reported "strangeness" is their speed, that Arnold said he clocked at 1200 miles an hour. So the newspapers headlines reflected this. The affair was strange either because the objects were "saucer-like" and/or because they flew at 1200 mph.

The description that they looked like "nickle-plated" cannot be considered a strangeness as jet planes were generally just like that; the weaving in and out of formation also looks like something planes could do.

The AP story indicates that there was already an "investigation" by Arnold or one or the two journalists. One or more of the three men obviously had contacted the War Department in Washington D.C. A spoekesman there replied with apparent interest, probably some skepticism at least about the speed: ""As far as we know, nothing flies that fast except a V-2 rocket, which travels at about 3,500 miles an hour - and that's too fast to be seen."

Of course, the idea that a V-2 rocket could not be seen as it flies at 3500 mph is plain silly. Of course, V-2 rockets can be seen in many circumstances. Needles to say, what Arnold Saw was not a flight of nine V-2 rockets - I guess I do not have to explain why this cannot be.

As of Arnold himself, it was told in this first publicized information that "he could not hazard a guess as to what they were."

Contrarily to a widespread belief that the "flying saucers" were never thought to be anything out of this world before Major Keyhoe suggested this in 1947, the idea that the objects were from another world appeared in at least one newspaper headline as soons as of June 26, 1947, as the La Grande Observer newspaper, La Grande, Oregon, USA, on page 4, titled "Pilot Sees Planes From Other World".

(This may look like a singularity, an exception, but I will tell more about this later, and will will see that the "Martian" origin of the saucers was actually there in the minds of the people even if a quick look at Press articles does not seem to reflect it. After all, many "skeptics" have claimed that people started to see flying saucers because of science-fiction, and it is quite odd that sometimes the very same "skeptics" argue that nobody aver thought in 1947 that Arnold had seen something from another world...)

We also see that on June 25, 1947, already, another, similar sighting report was mentionned, when Arnold said a man from Ukiah, Calfornia, told him "he had seen similar objects over the mountains near Ukiah" one day before Anronold's sighting. Unfortunately, I found no other information about it so far.

June 26, 1947, also saw newspaper articles that were not based on the AP story:

June 26, 1947, also saw newspaper articles based on a second AP story also for June 25, 1947:

In addition to what was already told, this second AP newpbrief added that Arnold "stuck to his story tonight while experts said they had no explanation as to what the 'objects' could be." And it gave more details about the sighting:

He said they were bright, saucer-like objects - he called them "aircraft" - flying at 10.000 feet altitude. A flash of reflected sunshine brought them to his attention and for a second he was stunned by their "incredible" speed, he told a reporter.

He rolled down the window of his plane, thinking it might have caused the reflection, but he still saw them with the window down, Arnold continued.

They flew with a peculiar dipping motion, "like a fish flipping in the sun," he said. "They were extremely shiny, and when they caught the sun right it blinded me," he added.

He said they were about 25-30 miles away when first sighted flying south. He glanced at his instrument clock and timed them between Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, a distance of 47 miles, he said.

It took 1.42 minutes, Arnold reported, adding that after he landed, he got out a map and by triangulation figured the speed of the "objects" at 1200 miles an hour.

"I might have missed a second or two in my timing, but the speed still would be near 1.200 miles," he asserted.


Arnold also said a DC-4 was flying in the vicinity and he estimated the "objects" were about the same site as the four-engined passenger ships, although the "objects" did not have wings.

"One thing that struck me," he said, "was that they were flying so low. Ten thousand feet is very low for anything going at that speed."

He said they appeared to fly almost as if fastened together - if one dipped, the others did too.

Source for the above: see for example The Statesman Journal of Salem, Oroegon, july 26, 1947.

Some bnewspapers published a longer version of this second AP article:

Flying Businessman Sticks To Tale Of "Super" Planes

PENDLETON, Ore., June 26 (AP) -- A tale of nine mysteerious objects - big as airplanes - whizzing over Western Washington at 1200 miles an hour got skepticism today from the army and air experts.

The man who reported the objects, Kenneth Arnold, a flying Boise, Idaho, businessman, clung, however to his story of the shiny, flat objects, each big as a DC-4 passenger plane, racing over Washington's Cascade mountains with a peculiar weaving motion "like the tail of a kite."

An army spokesman in Washington, D. C., commented "As far as we know, nothing flies that fast except a V-2 rocket, which travels at about 3500 miles an hour - and that's too fast to be seen."

The spokesman added that the V-2 rockets would not resemble the objects reported by Arnold, and that no high-speed experimental tests were being made in the area where arnold said the objects were.

A civil aeronautics administration inspector in Portland, Ore., added, "I rather doubt that anything would be traveling that fast."

Arnold described the objects as "flat like a pie-pan," and so shiny that they reflected the sun like a mirror.

He said he was flying fast at 2:58 p.m. two days ago toward Mt. Rainier when they appeared directly in front of him 25-30 miles away at 10,000 feet altitude.

Timed by clock

By his plane's clock he timed them at 1:42 minutes for the 47 miles from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Adams, Arnold said, adding that he later figured by triangulation that their speed was 1200 miles an hour.

"I could be wrong by 200 or 300 miles an hour" he admitted, "but I know I never saw anything so fast."

He said at first he thought they were geese, "but quickly saw they were too big - as big as a DC-4 that was about 20 miles away, he said. The DC-4 pilot reported nothing unusual sighted. Then Arnold said he thought of jet planes and started to clock them, "but their motion was wrong for jet jobs."

"I guess I don't know what they were - unless they were guided missiles," said Arnold, who continued here on a business trip.

"Everyone says I'm nuts," he added ruefully, "and I guess I'd say it too if someone else reported those things. But I saw them and watched them closely. It seems impossible, but there it is."

Arnold sayd he was 25-30 miles west of Mt. Rainer, en route from chelais to Yakima, when he sighted the objects. He explained he had decided to look for a marine corps plane, missing since last January, while he was in the area.

Blinding Flashes

He told a reporter the planes remained visible by the bright, "almost blinding" flashes of reflectd sunshine as far as 50 miles away.

Arnold admitted the angle from which he viewed the objects would make difficult a precise estimation of their speed, but inisted any error would not be grave "for that speed."

The DC-4 was closer than the objects, but at 14,000 feet and somewhat north of him, he said, adding that he could estimate the distance of the objects better because an intervening peak once blocked his view of them. He found the peak was 25 miles away, Arnold related.

He also said they flew on the west sides of Rainier and Adams, adding that he believed this would make more difficult for them to be seen from the ground.

The Boise man said that at first he thought the window of his plane might be causing the reflections, but that he still saw the objects after rolling it down.

He also described the objects as "saucer-like" and their motion "like a fish flipping in the sun."

Threaded Through Hills

"Ten thousand feet is very low for anything going at that speed," he said.

Arnold was flying a three-passenger, single-engined plane at 9200 feet at the time, he said, adding that his own speed was about 105 miles an hour.

He landed here yesterday and said he would remain another day or two before returning to Boise.

See for example: The Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oregon, USA, on page 2, on June 26, 1947.

Years later, astronomer and "UFO debunker" Donald Menzel, anf others, claimed Arnold saw "reflections on his plane's window". We see that Arnold had actually thought it could be some reflection on his window, and specified as early as June 25, 1947, that he had rolled down the window to make sure he was not seeing some reflections. And he did this before anyone ever suggested he had seen some reflections on his plane's window.

One of the "skeptical" explanation of his sighting was that he had seen birds, pelicans were generally proposed. We see that as soon as June 26, Arnold had told that it had occurred to him that the objects were birds - geese - but that they were not; they were too big.

He then thought, as a third potential explanation, that they might be jets, but he also excluded this because the motion was not that of jet planes.

So we have to admit Arnold behaved in a very rational manner, going through the "escalation of hypothesis": reflections on the window, flock of geese, jet planes. He checked each of these ideas and exluded each of them by observing or experimenting. He did this immediately, this was not a posteriori arguments offered to counter "skeptical" explanations, but his own attempt to explain the sighting and check the explanations that came to his mind.

June 26 also saw the first other report of flying disc, a single one this time, also seen by a pilot but from the ground. One Byron Savage of Oklahoma City was quoted in newspapers articles, for example on page 1 of the above newspaper:

Strange Flying Objects Pose Mystery For Pilots

OKLAHOMA CITY, June 26 (AP) Don't sell those strange flying objects reported whizzing over western Washington short until the returns are all in - a flyer claimed today he saw one flash over Oklahoma City.

"It was about five or six weeks ago, as near as my wife and I can remember," said Byron Savage, 38, Oklahoma City businessman pilot.

"I was standing in my front yard at the time, about dusk, with a little sunlight in the sky, when a flat, disc-like object came across the city from just a little east of south and was gone in about four of five seconds.

"The machine, or whatever it was, was a very shiny, silvery color - very big - and was moving at a terrific rate of speed.

"The funny thing about it was that it made no noise. I don't think it had any kind of internal combustion engine."

Referring to a claim by Kenneth Arnold, flying Boise, Idaho, businessman that he saw nine objects in western Washington similar to the one Savage described, the Oklahoma City pilot declared:

"I know that boy up there (Arnold) really saw them."

Savage said he told his wife about the object at the time, but "she thought I must have seen lightning," and he also told some skeptical pilot friends.

"I kept quiet after that," he continued "until I read about that man seeig nine of the same things I saw and I thought it only fair to back him up."

Mrs Savage said today that she now was convinced her husband saw the object.

"He was very much worked up about it when he read about the man in Washington," she declared.

Savage said the object he saw was high in the air - "somewhere around 10,000 feet. I could'nt be sure, judgin it from the ground where I was."

(See Arnold Story on Page 2)

The report by Baron Savage appeared in many other newspapers on June 26, generally in a very condensed form. His report of course is "backdated", that is, he talked publicly of his sighting that occured before Arnol'd only after Arnold's report appeared in the Press. In fact, from july 26, 1947 and on, a number of such backdated reports appeared in the Press, presented sometinmes as "corroboration" of Arnold's flying discs, sometimes as a "craze", in a "psychosocial" attemps to explain the flying discs as imaginary or contamination in which trivial phenomena suddenly became "flying discs" because of Arnold's report.

Oregon newspapers often recalled that there had been earlier "mystery missile" reports in Oregon. One fell on the Hill Military academy grounds in Portland and later was attributed to thaw blowing out an ice cap from an hollowed-out piece of metal. On another occasion a nurse in Vancouver, Washington state, found a red-hot egg-shaped object, and geologists said it was "not of meteorite composition." The Statesman journal said "It never has been explained satisfactorily." Of course, both instance do not seem to have any resemblance with the object Arnold said he saw.

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