Kenneth Arnold Sighting

Date: June 24, 1947
Location: Mount Rainer, Washington, USA
Appearance: Sickle shape, silvery, shiny, no tail
Sources: Newspapers; interviews with Arnold
Summary: Pilot Kenneth Arnold saw 9 UFOs

On June 24, 1947, the modern UFO era began when private pilot Kenneth Arnold saw nine nine, shiny unidentified flying objects fly at high speed near Mount Rainer, Washington. He described them as crescent (sickle shape of the waxing or waning moon), silvery and shiny, and flying in a "V" formation. He clocked them from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Adams and estimated their speed at about 1200 miles an hour (1900 km/h).

The familiar phrase "flying saucer" is the result of a reporter's error.
After interviewing Arnold, a reporter wrote that Arnold saw objects that looked like saucers.

Arnold stated that the objects "flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water", not that what he saw resembled an actual saucer.

Mr. Arnold stated: "What kept bothering me as I watched them flip and flash in the sun right along their path was the fact that I couldn't make out any tail on them, and I am sure that any pilot would justify more than a second look at such a plane" and "I should judge their span would have been as wide as the furtherest engines on each side of the fuselage of a DC-4".

The sighting got nationwide news coverage in the USA. A prospector on Mt. Adams saw the objects at around the same time as Arnold. There were at least 16 other reported UFO sightings on the same day as Arnold's in the Washington state area. Numerous sightings were reported over the next two to three weeks, and photographs were published in the newspapers.

On the 7th of July a meeting was held at the Pentagon in the office of General Schulgen, Chief of the Air Forces' Air Intelligence Requirements Division. It was decided that reports from "more qualified' observers of flying discs" should be selected for follow-up investigation, and Project Sign was born. The U.S. Air Force investigators deemed both Mr. Arnold and the prospector to be credible witnesses, but concluded that what they had seen was a mirage, not actual flying crafts.

In the name of national security, Air Force General Nathan Twining launched Project SIGN (originally named Project SAUCER) in 1948, the first official military-intelligence program to collect information on UFO sightings. Its investigators dismissed the vast majority as hoaxes or misidentifications of known aircraft or natural phenomena.