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The Coming of the Saucers

Last month saw the 70th anniversary of Kenneth Arnold’s UFO sighting which led to the popular usage of the phrase “flying saucer”

Arnold certainly wasn’t the first person to witness a UFO, that goes way, way back. The earliest recorded ufo sighting is found in 4th century Chinese texts

and there are biblical references and cave paintings that to us, seem to describe and depict UFOs.

Arnold’s sighting though was the first to become well known in the modern day era.

On the 24th of June 1947, private pilot and businessman Arnold was flying from Chehalis Washington to Yakima, Washington in a CallAir A-2 .

During his flight Arnold first saw a series of bright flashes to his left, which was to the north of Mt Rainer. They were reflections from flying objects which flew in a long chain. He described them as being convex in shape, with one being crescent shaped.

The objects may also have been witnessed by by a prospector named Fred Johnson on Mt. Adams, who saw six of the objects on June 24 at about the same time as Arnold, which he viewed through a small telescope.

Military intelligence investigators found two more possible witnesses. A

member of the Washington State forest service, who had been on fire watch at a tower in Diamond Gap, about 20 miles south of Yakima, reported seeing "flashes" at 3:00 p.m. on the 24th over Mount Rainier ( exactly the same time as Arnold's sighting), that appeared to move in a straight line. Similarly, at 3:00 p.m. Sidney B. Gallagher in Washington state reported seeing nine shiny discs flash by to the north.

In his initial description of the objects Arnold said they were shaped like a "saucer", "disc", "pie pan", or "half moon", although in later years he would say he had been misquoted and had likened their movement to saucers skipping on water, without comparing the actual shapes to saucers.

The sighting was reported in the press and by the 26th and 27th of June the terms flying disc and flying saucer were being used, so Arnold’s sighting is credited with giving us the popular term.

When interviewed in later years Arnold favoured the extraterrestrial hypothesis. In 1952 he described his experiences in the book The Coming of the Saucers.

Sceptical explanations have included flying pelicans, and a mirage of snow covered mountains.

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