had held since World War II, convened at 4:00P.M., General Samford made an honest effort to straighten out the Washington National Sightings, but the cards were stacked against him before he started.He had to hedge on many answers to questions from the press because he didn't know the answers. This hedging gave the impression that he was trying to cover up something more than just the fact that his people had fouled up in not fully investigating the sightings. Then he had brought in Captain Roy James from ATIC to handle all the queries about radar. James didn't do any better because he'd just arrived in Washington that morning and didn't know very much more about the sightings than he'd read in the papers. Major Dewey Fournet and Lieutenant Holcomb, who had been at the airport during the sightings, were extremely conspicuous by their absence, especially since it was common knowledge among the press that they weren't convinced the UFO's picked up on radars were weather targets.
But somehow out of this chaotic situation came exactly the result that was intended -- the press got off our backs. Captain James's answers about the possibility of the radar targets' being caused by temperature inversions had been construed by the press to mean that this was the Air Force's answer, even though today the twin sightings are still carried as unknowns.
The next morning headlines from Bangor to Bogota read:
The Washington National Sightings proved one thing, something that many of us already knew: in order to forestall any more trouble similar to what we'd just been through we always had to get all of the facts and not try to hide them. A great deal of the press's interest was caused by the Air Force's reluctance to give out any information, and the reluctance on the part of the Air Force was caused by simply not having gone out to find the answers.
But had someone gone out and made a more thorough investigation a few big questions would have popped up and taken some of the intrigue out of the two reports. It took me a year to put the question marks together because I just picked up the information as I happened to run across it, but it could have been collected in a day of concentrated effort.
There was some doubt about the visual sighting of the "large fiery- orange-colored sphere" that the tower operators at Andrews AFB saw when the radar operators at National Airport told them they had a target over the Andrews Radio range station. When the tower operators were later interrogated they completely changed their story and said that what they saw was merely a star. They said that on the night of the sighting they "had been excited." ( According
to astronomical charts, there were no exceptionally bright stars where the UFO was seen over the range station, however. And I heard from a good source that the tower men had been "persuaded" a bit. )
Then the pilot of the F-94C changed his mind even after he'd given the press and later told me his story about vainly trying to intercept unidentified lights. In an official report he says that all he saw was a ground light reflecting off a layer of haze.
Another question mark arose about the lights that the airline pilots saw. Months after the sighting I heard from one of the pilots whom the ARTC controllers called to learn if he could see a UFO. This man's background was also impressive, he had been flying in and out of Washington since 1936. This is what he had to say:
The most outstanding incident happened just after a take-off one night from Washington National. The tower man advised us that there was a UFO ahead of us on the take- off path and asked if we would aid in tracking it down. We were given headings to follow and shortly we were advised that we had passed the UFO and would be given a new heading. None of us in the cockpit had seen anything unusual. Several runs were made; each time the tower man advised us we were passing the UFO we noticed that we were over one certain section of the Potomac River, just east of Alexandria. Finally we were asked to visually check the terrain below for anything which might cause such an illusion. We looked and the only object we could see where the radar had a target turned out to be the Wilson Lines moonlight steamboat trip to Mount Vernon. Whether there was an altitude gimmick on the radar unit at the time I do not know but the radar was sure as hell picking up the steamboat.
The pilot went on to say that there is such a conglomeration of lights around the Washington area that no matter where you look you see a "mysterious light."
Then there was another point: although the radars at Washington National and Andrews overlap, and many of the targets appeared in the overlap area, only once did the three radars simultaneously pick up a target.
The investigation brought out a few more points on the pro side too. We found out that the UFO's frequently visited Washington. On May 23 fifty targets had been tracked from 8:00 p.m. till midnight. They were back on the Wednesday night between the two famous Saturday- night sightings, the following Sunday night, and again the night of the press conference; then during August they were seen eight more times. On several occasions military and civilian pilots saw lights exactly where the radar showed the UFO's to be.
On each night that there was a sighting there was a temperature inversion but it