This chapter is mostly about one of my favorite sightings, the 1952 Washington D.C. flap. I’m sure we will do an episode on it soon. While we get a highly interesting inside look at the events, a few theories have emerged since this book was written. At any rate, one of my favorite chapters.
A few topics in the chapter that may or may not be interesting as a reference to people who may want to reference them:
Edward J. Ruppelt (July 17, 1923 – September 15, 1960) was a United States Air Force officer probably best known for his involvement in Project Blue Book, a formal governmental study of unidentified flying objects. He is generally credited with coining the term “unidentified flying object”, to replace the terms “flying saucer” and “flying disk” – which had become widely known – because the military thought them to be “misleading when applied to objects of every conceivable shape and performance. For this reason the military prefers the more general, if less colorful, name: unidentified flying objects. UFO (pronounced “Yoo-foe”) for short.”
Ruppelt was the director of Project Grudge from late 1951 until it became Project Blue Book in March 1952; he remained with Blue Book until late 1953. UFO researcher Jerome Clark writes, “Most observers of Blue Book agree that the Ruppelt years comprised the project’s golden age, when investigations were most capably directed and conducted. Ruppelt was open-minded about UFOs, and his investigators were not known, as Grudge’s were, for force-fitting explanations on cases.”[
An unidentified flying object (UFO) is any aerial phenomenon that cannot immediately be identified or explained. Most UFOs are identified on investigation as conventional objects or phenomena. The term is widely used for claimed observations of extraterrestrial spacecraft.
A flying saucer (also referred to as “a flying disc”) is a descriptive term for a supposed type of flying craft having a disc or saucer-shaped body, commonly used generically to refer to an anomalous flying object. The term was coined in 1947 but has generally been supplanted since 1952 by the United States Air Force term unidentified flying objects (or UFOs for short). Early reported sightings of unknown “flying saucers” usually described them as silver or metallic, sometimes reported as covered with navigation lights or surrounded with a glowing light, hovering or moving rapidly, either alone or in tight formations with other similar craft, and exhibiting high maneuverability.
Project Blue Book was one of a series of systematic studies of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) conducted by the United States Air Force (USAF). It started in 1952, the third study of its kind, following projects Sign (1947) and Grudge (1949). A termination order was given for the study in December 1969, and all activity under its auspices officially ceased on January 19th, 1970. Project Blue Book had two goals:
- To determine if UFOs were a threat to national security, and
- To scientifically analyze UFO-related data.
Thousands of UFO reports were collected, analyzed, and filed. As a result of the Condon Report (1968), which concluded there was nothing anomalous about UFOs, and a review of the report by the National Academy of Sciences, Project Blue Book was terminated in December 1969. The Air Force supplies the following summary of its investigations:
- No UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security;
- There was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as “unidentified” represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge; and
- There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as “unidentified” were extraterrestrial vehicles.
By the time Project Blue Book ended, it had collected 12,618 UFO reports, and concluded that most of them were misidentifications of natural phenomena (clouds, stars, etc.) or conventional aircraft. According to the National Reconnaissance Office a number of the reports could be explained by flights of the formerly secret reconnaissance planes U-2 and A-12. A small percentage of UFO reports were classified as unexplained, even after stringent analysis. The UFO reports were archived and are available under the Freedom of Information Act, but names and other personal information of all witnesses have been redacted.
Project Sign was an official U.S. government study of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) undertaken by the United States Air Force (USAF) and active for most of 1948. It was the precursor to Project Grudge.
Project Grudge was a short-lived project by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to investigate unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Grudge succeeded Project Sign in February, 1949, and was then followed by Project Blue Book. The project formally ended in December 1949, but continued in a minimal capacity until late 1951.
On May 21, 1951, the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) was established as a USAF field activity of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence under the direct command of the Air Materiel Control Department. ATIC analyzed engine parts and the tail section of a Korean War Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 and in July, the center received a complete MiG-15 that had crashed. ATIC also obtained[how?] IL-10 and Yak-9 aircraft in operational condition, and ATIC analysts monitored the flight test program at Kadena Air Base of a MiG-15 flown to Kimpo Air Base in September 1953 by a North Korean defector. ATIC awarded a contract to Battelle Memorial Institute for translation and analysis of materiel and documents gathered during the Korean War. ATIC/Battelle analysis allowed FEAF to develop engagement tactics for F-86 fighters. In 1958 ATIC had a Readix Computer in Building 828, 1 of 6 WPAFB buildings used by the unit prior to the center built in 1976. After Discoverer 29 (launched April 30, 1961) photographed the “first Soviet ICBM offensive launch complex” at Plesetsk;:107 the JCS published Directive 5105.21, “Defense Intelligence Agency”, the Defense Intelligence Agency was created on October 1, and USAF intelligence organizations/units were reorganized.
Radar is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves in the radio or microwaves domain, a transmitting antenna, a receiving antenna (often the same antenna is used for transmitting and receiving) and a receiver and processor to determine properties of the object(s). Radio waves (pulsed or continuous) from the transmitter reflect off the object and return to the receiver, giving information about the object’s location and speed.
Radar was developed secretly for military use by several nations in the period before and during World War II. A key development was the cavity magnetron in the United Kingdom, which allowed the creation of relatively small systems with sub-meter resolution. The term RADAR was coined in 1940 by the United States Navy as an acronym for “radio detection and ranging”. The term radar has since entered English and other languages as a common noun, losing all capitalization. During RAF RADAR courses in 1954/5 at Yatesbury Training Camp “radio azimuth direction and ranging” was suggested. The modern uses of radar are highly diverse, including air and terrestrial traffic control, radar astronomy, air-defense systems, antimissile systems, marine radars to locate landmarks and other ships, aircraft anticollision systems, ocean surveillance systems, outer space surveillance and rendezvous systems, meteorological precipitation monitoring, altimetry and flight control systems, guided missile target locating systems, self-driving cars, and ground-penetrating radar for geological observations. High tech radar systems are associated with digital signal processing, machine learning and are capable of extracting useful information from very high noise levels.
Other systems similar to radar make use of other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. One example is LIDAR, which uses predominantly infrared light from lasers rather than radio waves. With the emergence of driverless vehicles, radar is expected to assist the automated platform to monitor its environment, thus preventing unwanted incidents.
The 1952 Washington, D.C. UFO incident, also known as the Washington flap, the Washington National Airport Sightings, or the Invasion of Washington, was a series of unidentified flying object reports from July 12 to July 29, 1952, over Washington, D.C. The most publicized sightings took place on consecutive weekends, July 19–20 and July 26–27. UFO historian Curtis Peebles called the incident “the climax of the 1952 (UFO) flap” – “Never before or after did Project Blue Book and the Air Force undergo such a tidal wave of (UFO) reports.”
Langley Air Force Base (IATA: LFI, ICAO: KLFI, FAA LID: LFI) is a United States Air Force base located adjacent to Hampton and Newport News, Virginia. It was one of thirty-two Air Service training camps established after the entry of the United States into World War I in April 1917.
On 1 October 2010, Langley Air Force Base was joined with Fort Eustis to become Joint Base Langley–Eustis. The base was established in accordance with congressional legislation implementing the recommendations of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The legislation ordered the consolidation of the two facilities which were nearby, but separate military installations, into a single joint base, one of 12 formed in the United States as a result of the law.
Andrews Air Force Base (Andrews AFB, AAFB) is the airfield portion of Joint Base Andrews which is under the jurisdiction of the United States Air Force. In 2009, Andrews Air Force Base merged with Naval Air Facility Washington to form Joint Base Andrews. Andrews, located near Morningside, Maryland in suburban Washington, DC, is the home base of two Boeing VC-25A aircraft with the call sign Air Force One when the president is on board, that serve the President of the United States.
The host unit at Andrews is the 316th Wing, assigned to the Air Force District of Washington. It is responsible for maintaining emergency reaction rotary-wing airlift and other National Capital Region contingency response capabilities critical to national security and for organizing, training, equipping and deploying combat-ready forces for Air and Space Expeditionary Forces (AEFs). The 316th Wing also provides installation security, services and airfield management to support the President, Vice President, other U.S. senior leaders and more than 50 tenant organizations and federal agencies.
The 316th Wing provides security, personnel, contracting, finance and infrastructure support for 5 Wings, 3 Headquarters, more than 80 tenant organizations, 148 geographically separated units, 6,500 Airmen in the Pentagon, as well as 60,000 Airmen and families in the national capital region and around the world. The 316th Wing supports contingency operations in the capital of the United States with immediate response rotary-assets. It also provides security for the world’s highest visibility flight line and is responsible for ceremonial support with the United States Air Force Band, Honor Guard and Air Force Arlington Chaplaincy.
Bolling Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base in Washington, D.C. In 2010 it was merged with Naval Support Facility Anacostia to form Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling. From its beginning, the installation has hosted elements of the Army Air Corps (predecessor to today’s Air Force) and Navy aviation and support elements.
The Martin B-26 Marauder was an American twin-engined medium bomber that saw extensive service during World War II. The B-26 was built at two locations: Baltimore, Maryland, and Omaha, Nebraska, by the Glenn L. Martin Company.
After entering service with the United States Army aviation units, the aircraft quickly received the reputation of a “widowmaker” due to the early models’ high accident rate during takeoffs and landings. This was due to the fact that the Marauder had to be flown at precise airspeeds, particularly on final runway approach or when one engine was out. The unusually high 150 mph (241 km/h) speed on short final runway approach was intimidating to many pilots who were used to much slower approach speeds, and whenever they slowed to speeds below those stipulated in the manual, the aircraft would often stall and crash.
The B-26 became a safer aircraft once crews were re-trained, and after aerodynamics modifications (an increase of wingspan and wing angle-of-incidence to give better takeoff performance, and a larger vertical stabilizer and rudder). The Marauder ended World War II with the lowest loss rate of any USAAF bomber.
A total of 5,288 were produced between February 1941 and March 1945; 522 of these were flown by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. By the time the United States Air Force was created as an independent military service separate from the United States Army in 1947, all Martin B-26s had been retired from U.S. service. After the Marauder was retired the unrelated Douglas A-26 Invader then assumed the “B-26” designation which led to confusion between the two aircraft.
The Lockheed F-94 Starfire was a first-generation jet aircraft of the United States Air Force. It was developed from the twin-seat Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star in the late 1940s as an all-weather, day/night interceptor. The aircraft reached operational service in May 1950 with Air Defense Command, replacing the piston-engined North American F-82 Twin Mustang in the all-weather interceptor role.
The F-94 was the first operational USAF fighter equipped with an afterburner and was the first jet-powered all-weather fighter to enter combat during the Korean War in January 1953. It had a relatively brief operational life, being replaced in the mid-1950s by the Northrop F-89 Scorpion and North American F-86D Sabre. The last aircraft left active-duty service in 1958 and Air National Guard service in 1959.
Absent Without Leave
According to the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice, desertion is defined as:”(a) Any member of the armed forces who–(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently;(2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or(3) without being regularly separated from one of the armed forces enlists or accepts an appointment in the same or another one of the armed forces without fully disclosing the fact that he has not been regularly separated, or enters any foreign armed service except when authorized by the United States; is guilty of desertion.(b) Any commissioned officer of the armed forces who, after tender of his resignation and before notice of its acceptance, quits his post or proper duties without leave and with intent to remain away therefrom permanently is guilty of desertion.(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.”
1. Purpose and Scope. This Letter sets forth Air Force responsibility and reporting procedures for information and materiel pertaining to unidentified flying objects. All incidents observed by Air Force personnel or received at any Air Force installation from a civilian source will be reported in accordance with this Letter, except that all airborne sightings by Air Force personnel, Civilian Air Patrol, and regularly scheduled United States airline pilots will also be reported as provided by JANAP 146 series (CIRVIS).