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The Kenneth Arnold sighting, June 24, 1947:

The 1993 CIA website version:

This is a part of my file about Kenneth Arnold's observation on June 24, 1947, in the USA.

This is the part about Kenneth Arnold's sighting report, from an article about UFOs titeld "The Investigation of UFO's", by Major Hector Quintanilla, US Ar Force, published by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), USA, on their website, in 2016, at:

The Investigation of UFO's



22 SEPT 93


History and methodology of "flying saucer" intelligence.


Hector Quintanilla, Jr.

Unidentified flying objects are not a new phenomenon. In 593 B.C. Ezekiel recorded a whirlwind to the north which appeared as a fiery sphere. In 1254 at Saint Albans Abbey, when the moon was eight days old, there appeared in the sky a ship elegantly shaped, well equipped and of marvelous color. In 1520 in France there were sighted a round-shaped object with rotating lights and two fiery suns. In 1874 in Texas a farmer reported seeing a dark flying object in the shape of a disc cruising in the sky at a wonderful speed. These are a mere sampling of the many such events recorded by historians. The modern era of UFOs, however, can be dated from 24 June 1947, when a flyer made some strange observations which national news coverage and authors with a poetic license so played up as to excite public entertainment of a notion that our planet had been visited by unknown vehicles from outer space.

Supersonic Saucers

On that 24 June, Kenneth Arnold was out flying in his private plane. He was looking for a Marine transport that was supposed to have crash-landed somewhere on the southwest side of Mt. Ranier [sic, Rainier]. First he flew directly toward the mountain from the west at an altitude of approximately 9,500 feet, searching all of the various ridges for the downed plane. Then he made a sweep back to the west, found nothing, and headed again toward Mt. Ranier. The air was so smooth that it was a real pleasure flying; he trimmed out the aircraft and relaxed, admiring the crystal-clear sky and the terrain. There was a DC-4 to his left and rear at approximately 14,000 feet.

He hadn't flown more than two or three minutes on this course when a bright flash reflected on his airplane. He couldn't find where the reflection came from, but to the left, north of Mt. Ranier; he did observe a chain of nine peculiar-looking objects flying from north to south at approximately 9,500 feet. They were approaching Mt. Ranier very rapidly, and he at first assumed them to be jet aircraft. Every few seconds two or three of them would dip or change course slightly, so as to catch the sun at an angle and reflect brightly. They were too far away for him to determine their shape or formation.

As they approached Mt. Ranier, however, he observed their outline quite clearly-except that, oddly, he could not find their tails. He watched them pass the southern edge of Mt. Ranier flying directly south-southeast down the hog's-back of a range. Their elevation seemed to vary by as much as one thousand feet, but they remained very near the horizon, therefore around his own elevation. They flew rather like geese, in a diagonal chain as though they were linked together. They seemed to maintain their orientation while swerving in and out of the high mountain peaks.

Arnold estimated the distance from him to the objects at approximately 25 miles. Using a Zeus fastener and a cowling tool, he estimated their size to be about two-thirds that of the DC-4. Watching them pass a high snow-covered ridge between Mt. Ranier and Mt. Adams, he saw that as the first object was leaving its south crest the last one was entering its northern crest. Later the length of this ridge, and therefore that of the chain of objects, was determined to be about five miles. Arnold timed their flight from Mt. Ranier to Mt. Adams, 47 miles, at 1 min. 42 sec., a speed of 1,659 miles per hour.

In a subsequent interview with newsmen, Arnold described the objects as appearing like saucers skipping on water. This description, shortened to "flying saucers" by newsmen, gave rise to the popular term for UFOs. The sighting, like most, was not reproducible for purposes of investigation; it involved uncontrollable atmospheric conditions. The Air Force was left with one man's subjective interpretation of what he had experienced. Scientists who reviewed Arnold's sighting concluded that the objects were a mirage. The smooth, crystal-clear air that he noted indicated the very stable conditions which are associated with inversions and a high index of refraction of the atmosphere.

Although Arnold's experience could not be reproduced, another phenomenon in some respects similar and observed in the same area found a satisfactory explanation. Navy Commander W. J. Young reported in November 1948 that on several occasions he had seen over the Willamette valley and the plains of eastern Washington and Oregon what could easily have been mistaken for flying discs. One striking example occurred over the Willamette valley on a clear sunny day when the ever-present blue haze seemed somewhat thicker than usual. His aircraft was flying at altitudes between 1,000 and 5,000 feet when bright flying objects appeared, some on his beam and others on the bows or dead ahead. From time to time they would disappear and new ones appear.

Young finally determined that what looked to be aircraft at various altitudes were reflections of the sun from the aluminum roofs of farm buildings at great distance from his plane. The perspective of the land converging with the sky on the horizon, with limited ground visibility, made it appear as though the roof reflections were actually airborne at various altitudes in the haze. Thus one UFO sighting was solved by the observer himself. Although there is no uniform pattern among reported UFO phenomena, some characteristics of one may be found in others, as in Young's and Arnold's.

Sign and Grudge

Newspaper publicity for Arnold's flying saucers started an avalanche of other sightings. The Air Force began receiving reports from people in all walks of life. Before December 1947 no specific organization was responsible for investigating and evaluating these. Without any basis in measurable data or controlled experiment, the reported phenomena were variously assessed, even within the military structure, as due to a new aerodynamic configuration, to natural occurrences, to misinterpretation of conventional objects, or to space ships under intelligent control. The military interest touched the fields of air defense, R&D, and intelligence, responsibilities vested in many different organizations.

To end this confusion, the Chief of Staff directed on 30 December 1947 that a project be established to collect, collate, evaluate, and distribute within the government all information concerning sightings which could be construed as of concern to the national security. Responsibility for the project, assigned the code name "Sign," was given to the Air Technical Intelligence Center. In February 1949 Project Sign, having completed its evaluation of the 243 UFO cases submitted to it, issued a report:

No definite and conclusive evidence is yet available that would prove or disprove the existence of these unidentified objects as real aircraft of unknown and unconventional configuration. It is unlikely that positive proof of their existence will be obtained without examination of the remains of crashed objects. Proof of non-existence is equally impossible to obtain unless a reasonable and convincing explanation is determined for each incident.... Explanations of some of the incidents revealed the existence of simple and easily understandable causes, so that there is the possibility that enough incidents can be solved to eliminate or greatly reduce the mystery associated with these occurrences... Under wartime conditions, rapid and convincing solutions of such occurrences are necessary to maintain morale of military and civilian personnel.

With the backlog of cases disposed of, the project was continued on a reduced scale and under a new code name, "Grudge." Project Grudge completed its evaluation of 244 reports in August 1949, relying heavily on the work of university scientists and other outside consultants, as well as the USAF Air Weather Service and the U.S. Weather Bureau. The Grudge Report concluded that the UFO sightings signified nothing that would constitute a threat to the national security of the United States, that they were chargeable to misinterpretations of conventional objects, a mild form of mass hysteria or war nerves, and fabrications for the sake of hoax or publicity.

[...Continues with later events...]

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