The 1952 Washington, D.C., UFO Incident, Explained

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The Great 1952 Washington, D.C., UFO Incident

It was around 11:40 p.m. on Saturday night, July 19, 1952. Air traffic controller Edward Nugent was at his radar screen at Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., when he saw seven unusual blips on the screen. No known aircraft were in the area and there was no explanation for the presence of the objects. Nugent called his superior, Harry Barnes, to come and look. Together, they watched the mysterious objects dart across the sky. They even checked to make sure the radar was working properly.

Nugent and his boss checked with the control tower and learned that both controllers in the tower had also seen the blips. They called nearby Andrews Air Force Base, where controllers also saw strange objects on their radar screens.

Two of the objects clearly hovered over the White House, with another one over the Capitol. Controllers at both airports began tracking the objects, which they estimated to be traveling at about 130 mph when they suddenly disappeared from the radar screen. Then appeared again, zipping all around the sky. One made a 90-degree turn and another one suddenly went in reverse, both maneuvers that American airplanes could not make at the time.

An airline captain, S.C. Pierman, was waiting on the tarmac in the cockpit of his DC-4 at National Airport for authorization to take off. While waiting, he saw six objects moving about the sky. Over a 14-minute time period, Pierman would see the objects and then they would disappear, reappearing moments later. He was talking to controller Barnes this entire time. Every time Pierman reported a sighting, a blip appeared on Barnes’s radar screen. At 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, July 20, the objects disappeared entirely.

Were these really unidentified flying objects (UFOs)? Did they come back again on another day for a second look? What was the significance of the 1952 UFO sightings and how did the sightings become known as the Great UFO Flap of 1952?

The Objects Return on July 26, 1952

At around 8:15 p.m. one week later, a stewardess and a captain were on an inbound flight into Washington National Airport. They observed strange lights above their plane. At the same time, an officer at Andrews Air Force Base also observed the objects. Other pilots in the air at the time saw them, too. Similar to the occurrence from the week before, the “encore performance” of the UFOs ended around dawn on Sunday morning. The objects disappeared from sight and off of the airport radar.

News Headlines and UFO Publicity

After the UFO Washington, D.C. incident of July 19, 1952, the headlines from The Washington Post’s Monday edition declared, “’Saucer Outruns Jet, Pilot Reveals.” The article stated that the Air Defense Command sent a jet pilot up “to investigate the objects,” but was unable to overtake the moving glowing lights.

According to The Washington Post, the UFOs hovered only 1,700 feet above the White House lawn. An Air Force spokesperson said that their organization took steps to properly investigate the event, but the newspaper found the investigation veiled in secrecy. An unidentified traffic controller said the radar signals ruled out the possibility that the objects were due to weather conditions. He noted that they looked like an “aircraft in flight” on the radar screen.

The government created Project Blue Book to scientifically investigate all reported UFO sightings and relevant data to determine if they posed a threat to national security, which they terminated in January 1970. During its time in existence, from 1952 to 1970, it investigated 12,618 UFO reports. It found most of the occurrences coincided with natural phenomena. Only a handful remained unexplained.

As luck would have it, Air Force Captain, Edward J. Ruppelt, supervisor of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, was in Washington, D.C. He learned of the UFO incident from reading the newspaper and discussed the situation with Captain Roy James, a radar specialist. James thought unusual weather conditions could have been responsible for objects appearing to show on radar.

Official Air Force Explanation

On July 29, 1952, Air Force Major Generals John Samford, Director of Intelligence, and Roger Ramsey, Director of Operations held the largest press conference of any since the end of World War II. The official explanation of the July UFO sightings was that:

  • The objects were “misidentified aerial phenomena,” which could mean they were stars or meteors
  • The blips on the radar were due to temperature inversions Samford also said that the since the radar blips were not caused by any solid material, there was no threat to national security. He explained that when a weather inversion occurs, lights that are really on the ground may look like they are in the air and this caused the radar to misreport ground objects being in the sky.

The explanation was not well-received. Ruppelt, from Project Blue Book, noted that during the months of June, July and August in Washington D.C. “hardly a night passed” where there wasn’t a temperature inversion and there were not routine UFO sightings on the radar. All air traffic controller involved stated that even if the weather could cause a blip on the radar, it would be as a straight line and would not appear as lights.

In 1969, a scientific report released by the Air Force concluded that a temperature inversion strong enough to create the effect attributed to it by General Samford could not possibly occur in the Earth’s atmosphere. Even so, more than 50 years later, most people still accept the temperature inversion explanation.

The Robertson Panel

The CIA commissioned the Robertson Panel in January 1953, in response to the number of UFO sightings from the year prior. The CIA encouraged Project Blue Book to be more active in debunking sightings than investigating them. There was also a huge public relations push to decrease the public’s interest in UFOs.

1952: A Busy Year for UFOs

1952 is still one of the most active times in modern history for UFOs. Not only were there reports in Washington, D.C. during that time, but all over the world. In the first six months of 1952, there were about 300 unexplained UFO sightings, four times the number during the same time period of 1951. By the end of July, there were about 400 reports — more than there had been in any other year in history.

For UFO enthusiasts, 1952 remains an important year in history. To delve deeper into the mysterious events of 1952, be sure to watch the Dark Alliance episode of Deep Space.

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Nazi UFO Technology: Foo Fighters Exposed

It was just before Christmas in 1944. An American Air Force pilot was flying over enemy territory, carefully looking out for a German war plane, when he and his radio operator both saw round glowing objects approaching. The unidentified flying objects (UFOs) got behind the U.S. military plane and began following it. The American pilot tried several maneuvers in an attempt to lose the mysterious objects, but even a steep dive or sharp turns could not lose them. Suddenly, the objects disappeared. Surprisingly, during the entire encounter, neither the American pilot nor the mysterious objects fired any shots.

This is just one example of many similar incidents that occurred over the skies of Germany during the last few months of World War II. Sometimes, the objects showed up on radar screens. Other times, more than one person observed the objects but they did not show up on radar. What were the mysterious objects? Were they UFOs from extraterrestrials? Or were they some sort of Nazi Ufo experiment? No one can be sure, but there are a variety of theories.

The Foo Fighters

Toward the end of the war, U.S. pilots frequently reported nighttime sightings of these UFOs. The objects always traveled at great speeds and were able to make maneuvers to keep up with American planes. The Allies worried that Germany had created a new weapon even though no shots were ever fired.

The objects received the nickname “foo fighters” after a popular cartoon of the time called “Smoky Stover.” In the cartoon, the Smoky character often said, “Where there’s foo there’s fire.” The term caught on and even radar operators used the term “foo fighter” to alert pilots of sightings.

Although most of the encounters occurred over Europe, there were a few similar incidents that occurred over the Indian Ocean. Interestingly, after the war was over, the Allies discovered that the Axis powers had also seen the objects, and feared that the Allies had developed a secret weapon.

Also after the war ended, Rudolf Lusar, a major from the German Army, wrote a book about secret weapons used by Germany during the war. He described two types of golden ball-shaped objects the Allied pilots identified during the war. One version he referred to as the “Feuerball.” The other was the “Kugelblitz.”

According to Lusar, the devices were jet-propelled and guided automatically. Their purpose was to emit electrostatic discharges from Klystron tubes to disrupt the electrical systems of the Air Force bombers’ engines and prevent them from dropping bombs.

Although Lusar’s description seems plausible, researchers disagree about the validity of his account. For instance, not a single Allied plane ever reported complications from an encounter with a foo fighter. So, it seems that if the Germans had developed such a weapon, they would have been able to replace the ineffective klystron tubes with a substance that would have accomplished their goal.

To date, no conclusive explanation for the foo fighters have ever been found. So the question remains, what technology was available to the Germans and how did they use it?

German Development of Technology and Exploration of Antarctica

Maria Orsic and the Vril Society

It’s no secret that the Germans used all their available resources in an attempt to be the greatest nation in the world. One of their great pursuits at the time was space travel. To reach their goal, they used the information provided by psychic Maria Orsic and the Vril Society to assist them. When Orsic channeled the blueprints and instructions for building a circular flying machine, the Vril Society began paying for and assimilating parts from other industrial sources.

Maria Orsic and other Vril Society members met with Hitler, Himmler and others in January 1944 to discuss the circular flying machine project. There was at least one test flight late in the year which did not end as all had hoped for. The machine returned more damaged than expected after its flight to another planet.

Instead of continuing work on the project and channeling helpful information, Orsic disappeared. She was last seen in early 1945. On March 11, 1945, she sent a letter to members of her organization that ended with the statement, “niemand bleibt heir,” or “no man stays here.”

No Vril member, including Maria, was ever seen or heard from again. Did they escape to outer space? Meanwhile, did Germany continue its experimentation with circular spacecraft?

Viktor Schauberger and German UFOs

Viktor Schauberger was an Austrian physicist and inventor who rose to prominence in Nazi Germany. He was widely known for his vortex experiments using water and fish. He then developed turbines that could create anti-gravity propulsion.

In 1939, Hitler summoned Schauberger to Berlin for a meeting. At first, Hitler greeted Schauberger warmly and said he called the meeting to discuss Schauberger’s work. However, the meeting lasted for approximately 11 hours before Schauberger could leave.

In 1943, Schauberger was 58 years old and suffering from war wounds. Even so, he was drafted into the German Waffen-SS and placed under the direct control of Heinrich Himmler. Himmler forced Schauberger to research and develop a new secret weapon and threatened to kill him if he did not cooperate. Schauberger was then housed at Schloss Schoenbrunn so that engineers imprisoned nearby could assist him with his work.

Schauberger was not an easy pushover. Despite receiving death threats, he refused to work unless he could personally select the engineers to be on his team. He further demanded that his engineers gain freedom from the concentration camp, were properly clothed in civilian clothes, given adequate food, and were housed in civilian accommodations. He argued that if his workers feared for their lives, it would stifle their creativity and make them unproductive.

Surprisingly, the SS agreed to his demands. He chose approximately 30 engineers and other workers to leave the concentration camp and be housed in civilian housing exactly as he had demanded. When he first assembled his group, he lectured them about how important it was for them to work hard and never try to escape. He told them if any one of them tried to escape, he himself would face execution. They did what Schauberger told them to do and developed two machines. At the end of the war, the Allies confiscated the top secret information, forever concealing this technology from the public.

1930s German Exploration of Antarctica

In the late 1930s, Germany dedicated substantial resources to exploring Antarctica. In 1943, German Grand Admiral Donitz proudly proclaimed, “The German submarine fleet is proud of having built for the Fuhrer, in another part of the world, a Shangri-la land, an impregnable fortress.” During the 1938-39 expedition, the Germans claimed to find ice-free lakes with warm water and surrounding vegetation. The Germans named their new Antarctica colony “Neuschwabanland.”

There were reports that when the Nazis faced defeat, some scientists actually escaped in U-boats filled with mercury to head to their Antarctica fortress. Two of the boats had mechanical difficulties and surrendered in Argentina. One U-boat wrecked in Indonesia and another sank in a Norwegian fjord. Meanwhile, a large number of U-boats were never found. Could they have made it to their Antarctica destination?

Did Germany have more resources than the Allies believed? Where did the mercury come from, and what did the Germans plan to use it for?

Operation Paperclip Confirms Germans Had Brilliant Scientists And Advanced Technology

As the war came to an end, the United States recognized that Germany had technology that might be helpful to the U.S. As a result, General Patton captured German factories in Silesia that housed proprietary technology and weapons. There was substantial evidence that Germany was working on circular aircraft that could work not just in the Earth’s atmosphere, but also outside of it. It seemed obvious that the Germans had the technology and scientists but not the resources (such as oil, electricity and the necessary facilities) to produce such an advanced aircraft. For this reason, the U.S. attempted to extricate scientists from Germany and bring them to America. The program had a codename of Operation Paperclip.

The scientists, who specialized in aerodynamics, rocketry and chemical weapons, were of particular interest. They were silently and secretly relocated within the U.S. without going through the State Department’s strict approval process. Most notably among them was Wernher von Braun.

Before and during the war, von Braun was head of the Germans’ rocket development program. After coming to the U.S. by way of Operation Paperclip, he became a naturalized citizen and eventually became the director of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He is considered the father of the American space program.

Operation Highjump

Even as they were basking in the glory of the win, the Allies had suspicions that something was amiss.

In response to interrogations, some Germans revealed that there was a secret German base in Antarctica. The government decided to send famed Admiral Richard Byrd to investigate a concern that there still may be weapons stashed in the secret hideout.

In the late summer of 1946, Byrd headed to Antarctica with about 4,700 military personnel along with naval support ships. They had at least one aircraft carrier as they embarked on “Task Force 68,” nicknamed Operation Highjump. The expedition had several months to complete its mission, but ended after only about eight weeks due to heavy casualties.

On the way to their destination, Byrd and his crew reported experiencing a “mysterious UFO force” that destroyed several of their airplanes and ships and killed several crew members. Was this perhaps the “first known historical incident involving a battle between U.S. naval forces and an unknown UFO force stationed in Antarctica?”

Byrd continued onward. He found Neuschwabenland, which featured underground caverns flowing with warm water and signs of vegetation. But, he and his men could not stay long nor could they do any major exploration. They were continually bombarded by aircraft and forced to leave. Had they perhaps found a post-war hiding place for Nazis who had actually been able to escape?

On their way home, Byrd and his group stopped briefly in Santiago, Chile, where Byrd was interviewed while still aboard the expedition’s command ship. Byrd warned that although he was not trying to scare anyone, it was clear to him that if there was a new war, the U.S. could face attack via planes flying over one or both of the poles. He noted that with the “fantastic speed with which the world is shrinking” the U.S. would no longer be safe. After that interview, Byrd rarely spoke about his Operation Highjump experience.

In 2006, a Russian intelligence report included the testimony of two U.S. Navy Seamen who had been on Admiral Byrd’s Operation Highjump expedition. Both seaman recounted seeing brightly lit UFOs appear dramatically out of the ocean. They watched them soar into the sky and disappear. The troops fired at the UFOs, but the UFOs never fired back. Some on the expedition concluded that the UFOs had a mission to deter them and send them away, not to harm them.

Were the UFOs encountered by Admiral Byrd protecting Nazis hiding out in Antarctica? Were they exclusively built by German scientists to deter its earthly enemies or did they come from the Vril Society’s mysterious planet? The question still stands today, but there’s always more to learn.

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