It’s the 75th anniversary of America’s love affair with Roswell, New Mexico. At the time, the United States and Russia were in the middle of the Cold War.
After the evening of 04 July 1947, a “spate” of local newspapers across the country reported “flying saucer” sightings. The idea of a “flying saucer” had been born on 24 June 1947 when amateur pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying near Mount Rainer in Washington.
Suddenly, as Arnold would later recall, he saw a bright light—just a flash, like a glint of sun as it hits a mirror when the glass is angled just so. It had a blue-ish tinge. At first, he thought the light must have been coming from another plane; when he looked around, though, all he could see was a DC-4. It seemed to be flying about 15 miles away from him. It was not flashing.
And then the lights came again—this time, in a series. Nine flashes, in rapid succession.
Arnold, still trying to figure out what he was looking at as he flew over Mount Rainier, decided to focus on the vehicles’ speed. He calculated the time it took the objects to travel between Mount Rainer and Mount Adams, a distance of about 50 miles: a minute and 42 seconds. Which was a rough approximation—but which would also mean that the objects were traveling at a rate, rough-approximation-wise, of 1,700 miles per hour. Which would mean that they were traveling around three times faster than any aircraft was capable of at the time. The formation of flying objects was flying, actually, more than twice the speed of sound. Chuck Yaeger wouldn’t make his supersonic flight—the one generally acknowledged to be the first—until later that year, in October.
On 08 July 1947, two weeks later, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information office would issue two news releases relating to flying saucers.
The first stated that the RAAF 509th Operations Group had found debris from a crashed “flying disc.”
The second, that the Army had found debris from a crashed experimental military weather balloon.
The announcements launched a cottage industry in UFO sightings.
In 1994, the federal government issued a report detailing an extensive investigation. The unidentified flying object was given a third descriptor: that of nuclear test monitoring tool; this “spy device” had been part of a now-declassified project, Project Mogul.
In 2022, the 75th year since Americans became obsessed with UFOs, the Pentagon reported at least 400 pilot encounters with “unidentified aerial phenomena” in testimony to Congress.
During a routine training mission with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz off the Southern California coast in November 2004, [Retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Alex Dietrich] and her then-commanding officer, fellow pilot David Fravor, were asked by another warship to investigate radar contacts in the area moving in an inexplicable fashion.
She recounted they first noticed an unusual “churning” of the ocean surface before seeing what she and Fravor have described as a smooth, white oblong object resembling a large Tic Tac breath mint flying at high speed over the water.
When Fravor in his jet turned to “engage with” the object, “it appeared to respond in a way that we didn’t recognize” because it seemed to lack “any visible flight control surfaces or means of propulsion,” Dietrich recalled.