Although the history of UFOs can be traced back to early cave drawings, pictures, and folklore, the modern era of the study of UFOs is usually believed to be the 1947 sighting report of nine “flying saucers” made by pilot Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947.
Arnold was aiding in the search for a missing plane when the sighting occurred. He did not believe his story would be believed, but swore that it was true. Arnold related his sighting to the Chicago Daily Tribune: “The first thing I noticed was a series of flashes in my eyes as if a mirror was reflecting sunlight at me…”
“I saw the flashes were coming from a series of objects that were traveling incredibly fast. They were silvery and shiny and seemed to be shaped like a pie plate…What startled me most at this point was…that I could not find any tails on them.”
Arnold estimated that the objects were flying at an altitude between 9,500 and 10,000 feet, and at a great speed. After clocking them from Mt. Ranier to Mt. Adams, he arrived at an estimated speed of 1,200 miles per hour. “It seemed impossible,” he said, “but there it is…I must believe my eyes.”
The term “flying saucer” was coined, not by Arnold, but a reporter. Arnold made the statement that the objects moved, “like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water.” East Orengonian newspaper reporter Bill Bequette paraphrased Arnold’s statement when he placed the story on the AP news wire. Arnold’s term “saucer-like” became “flying saucers.”
The US military attempted to ignore the press reports of Arnold’s sighting, but as the story grew, they felt compelled to take action. A meeting to discuss a course of action was held at the Pentagon on July 7, 1947, only a few days after the Roswell crash. Taking charge was Chief of the Army Air Force Air Intelligence Requirements Division, General Schulgen.
The group made the decision to follow up on “qualified” observers’ reports of flying discs. Three days later, Arnold received a request from Continental Air Command to appear for an interview, regarding his report. Two Counter Intelligence Corps investigators would carry out the investigation. The results of this session were included in Project Blue Book.
Arnold’s report was one of the first of 850 different UFO reports to make US media by the end of July, 1947. More than anything else, Arnold was in the right place at the right time to forever be an important part of the history of UFOs.