keg of loaded flying saucers.
When the keg blew the best laid schemes of the mice and men at ATIC, they went the way best laid schemes are supposed to. The first one of the highly publicized Washington national sightings started, according to the CAA's logbook at the airport, at 11:40P.M. on the night of July 19 when two radars at National Airport picked up eight unidentified targets east and south of Andrews AFB. The targets weren't airplanes because they would loaf along at 100 to 130 miles an hour then suddenly accelerate to "fantastically high speeds" and leave the area. During the night the crews of several airliners saw mysterious lights in the same locations that the radars showed the targets; tower operators also saw lights, and jet fighters were brought in.
But nobody bothered to tell Air Force Intelligence about the sighting. When reporters began to call intelligence and ask about the big sighting behind the headlines, INTERCEPTORS CHASE FLYING SAUCERS OVER WASHINGTON, D.C., they were told that no one had ever heard of such a sighting. In the next edition the headlines were supplemented by, AIR FORCE WONT TALK.
Thus intelligence was notified about the first Washington national sighting.
I heard about the sighting about ten o'clock Monday morning when Colonel Donald Bower and I got off an airliner from Dayton and I bought a newspaper in the lobby of the Washington National Airport Terminal Building. I called the Pentagon from the airport and talked to Major Dewey Fournet, but all he knew was what he'd read in the papers. He told me that he had called the intelligence officer at Bolling AFB and that he was making an investigation. We would get a preliminary official report by noon.
It was about 1:00P.M. when Major Fournet called me and said that the intelligence officer from Bolling was in his office with the preliminary report on the sightings. I found Colonel Bower, we went up to Major Fournet's office and listened to the intelligence officer's briefing.
The officer started by telling us about the location of the radars involved in the incident. Washington National Airport, which is located about three miles south of the heart of the city, had two radars. One was a long-range radar in the Air Route Traffic Control section. This radar had 100-mile range and was used to control all air traffic approaching Washington. It was known as the ARTC radar. The control tower at National Airport had a shorter-range radar that it used to control aircraft in the immediate vicinity of the airport. Bolling AFB, he said, was located just east of National Airport, across the Potomac River. Ten miles farther east, in almost a direct line with National and Bolling, was Andrews AFB.
It also had a short-range radar. All of these airfields were linked together by an intercom system.
Then the intelligence officer went on to tell about the sighting.
When a new shift took over at the ARTC radar room at National Airport, the air traffic was light so only one man was watching the radarscope. The senior traffic controller and the six other traffic controllers on the shift were out of the room at eleven-forty, when the man watching the radarscope noticed a group of seven targets appear. From their position on the scope he knew that they were just east and a little south of Andrews AFB. In a way the targets looked like a formation of slow airplanes, but no formations were due in the area. As he watched, the targets loafed along at 100 to 130 miles an hour; then in an apparent sudden burst of speed two of them streaked out of radar range. These were no airplanes, the man thought, so he let out a yell for the senior controller. The senior controller took one look at the scope and called in two more of the men. They all agreed that these were no airplanes. The targets could be caused by a malfunction in the radar, they thought, so a technician was called in -- the set was in perfect working order.
The senior controller then called the control tower at National Airport; they reported that they also had unidentified targets on their scopes, so did Andrews. And both of the other radars reported the same slow speeds followed by a sudden burst of speed. One target was clocked at 7,000 miles an hour. By now the targets had moved into every sector of the scope and had flown through the prohibited flying areas over the White House and the Capitol.
Several times during the night the targets passed close to commercial airliners in the area and on two occasions the pilots of the airliners saw lights that they couldn't identify, and the lights were in the same spots where the radar showed UFO's to be. Other pilots to whom the ARTC radar men talked on the radio didn't see anything odd, at least that's what they said, but the senior controller knew airline pilots and knew that they were very reluctant to report UFO's.
The first sighting of a light by an airline pilot took place shortly after midnight, when an ARTC controller called the pilot of a Capital Airlines flight just taking off from National. The controller asked the pilot to keep watch for unusual lights -- or anything. Soon after the pilot cleared the traffic pattern, and while ARTC was still in contact with him, he suddenly yelled, "There's one -- off to the right -- and there it goes." The controller had been watching the scope, and a target that had been off to the right of the Capitaliner was gone.
During the next fourteen minutes this pilot reported six more identical lights.
About two hours later another pilot, approaching National Airport from the