The Washington Merry-Go-Round
No flying saucer report in the history of the UFO ever won more world acclaim than the Washington National Sightings.
When radars at the Washington National Airport and at Andrews AFB, both close to the nation's capital, picked up UFO's, the sightings beat the Democratic National Convention out of headline space. They created such a furor that I had inquiries from the office of the President of the United States and from the press in London, Ottawa, and Mexico City. A junior-sized riot was only narrowly averted in the lobby of the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington when I refused to tell U.S. newspaper reporters what I knew about the sightings.
Besides being the most highly publicized UFO sightings in the Air Force annals, they were also the most monumentally fouled-up messes that repose in the files. Although the Air Force said that the incident had been fully investigated, the Civil Aeronautics Authority wrote a formal report on the sightings, and numerous magazine writers studied them, the complete story has never fully been told. The pros have been left out of the con accounts, and the cons were neatly overlooked by the pro writers.
For a year after the twin sightings we were still putting little pieces in the puzzle.
In some aspects the Washington National Sightings could be classed as a surprise -- we used this as an excuse when things got fouled up -- but in other ways they weren't. A few days prior to the incident a scientist, from an agency that I can't name, and I were talking about the build-up of reports along the east coast of the United States. We talked for about two hours, and I was ready to leave when he said that he had one last comment to make -- a prediction. From his study of the UFO reports that he was getting from Air Force Headquarters, and from discussions with his colleagues, he said that he thought that we were sitting right on top of a big keg full of loaded flying saucers. "Within the next few days," he told me, and I remember that he punctuated his slow, deliberate remarks by hitting the desk with his fist, "they're going to blow up and you're going to have the granddaddy of all UFO sightings. The sighting will occur in Washington or New York," he predicted, "probably Washington."
The trend in the UFO reports that this scientist based his prediction on hadn't
gone unnoticed. We on Project Blue Book had seen it, and so had the people in the Pentagon; we all had talked about it.
On July 10 the crew of a National Airlines plane reported a light "too bright to be a lighted balloon and too slow to be a big meteor" while they were flying south at 2,000 feet near Quantico, Virginia, just south of Washington.
On July 13 another airliner crew reported that when they were 60 miles southwest of Washington, at 11,000 feet, they saw a light below them. It came up to their level, hovered off to the left for several minutes, and then it took off in a fast, steep climb when the pilot turned on his landing lights.
On July 14 the crew of a Pan American airliner en route from New York to Miami reported eight UFO's near Newport News, Virginia, about 130 miles south of Washington.
Two nights later there was another sighting in exactly the same area but from the ground. At 9:00P.M. a high-ranking civilian scientist from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Laboratory at Langley AFB and another man were standing near the ocean looking south over Hampton Roads when they saw two amber-colored lights, "much too large to be aircraft lights," off to their right, silently traveling north. Just before the two lights got abreast of the two men they made a 180-degree turn and started back toward the spot where they had first been seen. As they turned, the two lights seemed to "jockey for position in the formation." About this time a third light came out of the west and joined the first two; then as the three UFO's climbed out of the area toward the south, several more lights joined the formation. The entire episode had lasted only three minutes.
The only possible solution to the sighting was that the two men had seen airplanes. We investigated this report and found that there were several B-26's from Langley AFB in the area at the time of the sighting, but none of the B-26 pilots remembered being over Hampton Roads. In fact, all of them had generally stayed well south of Norfolk until about 10:30P.M. because of thunderstorm activity northwest of Langley. Then there were other factors -- the observers heard no sound and they were away from all city noises, aircraft don't carry just one or two amber lights, and the distance between the two lights was such that had they been on an airplane the airplane would have been huge or very close to the observers. And last, but not least, the man from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was a very famous aerodynamicist and of such professional stature that if he said the lights weren't airplanes they weren't.
This then was the big build-up to the first Washington national sighting and the reason why my friend predicted that the Air Force was sitting on a big powder