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The Kenneth Arnold UFO Sightings

Updated on June 17, 2012
Kenneth Arnold
Kenneth Arnold

June 24, 1947

Kenneth Arnold, a private pilot claimed to have spotted a string of nine shiny UFOs flying past the Mount Rainier location. These objects were traveling at supersonic speeds, which was unheard of at the time. Arnold recorded the speeds at a minimum of 1,200 miles per hour. In the United States, this is known as the first UFO sighting after World War II that received national news coverage and is considered in history as the first of the modern era UFO sightings, and was the sighting that coined the term "flying saucers."

Over the next two or three weeks there were numerous other sightings. Kenneth Arnold described the aircraft as saucer or disc shaped. Skeptic investigator Philip J. Klass says Mr. Arnold might have seen a fireball bolide (a large meteor that explodes in the atmosphere).

Radio broadcast: Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting interview

mount rainier:
Mt Rainier, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington 98304, USA

get directions

The area where private pilot Kenneth Arnold saw the unidentified flying objects

Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting illustration
Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting illustration
DC-4 Airliner
DC-4 Airliner

What was he doing?

American pilot and businessman Kenneth Arnold was on a business trip. He changed course after hearing about a $5,000 reward for anyone who can discover the location of a U.S Marine Corps C-46 transport plane that crashed in the Mt. Rainier area. He says the sky was clear and mild winds were about. While around 9,200 feet in altitude near Mineral, Washington about 3p.m., he stopped searching for the crashed craft and headed towards Yakima when he saw a bright flashing light. The light was similar to sunlight shining off a mirror as he described it.

He feared he was very close to another craft so he scanned the skies and saw a DC-4 about 24 kilometers away from him. 30 seconds later, he seen a series of flashes to his left, coming from the northern side of Mt. Rainier 20-25 miles away from his location. Arnold began testing to see if the airplane windows were making the reflections so he rotated the plane side to side, removed his glasses, and rolled down the window but it was still visible. The reflections were coming from solid figures.

The UFOs passed by Mt. Rainier and started "flipping." He described the objects as convex shaped craft that were "invisibly thin." One of the UFOs he seen during the sighting were crescent shaped and began skipping on water. He said the objects were about 23 miles away from him, with an estimated width of 60 feet wide, and the absolute size as being larger than a DC- airliner.

The objects were grouped together, kind of like a perfect horizontal line. Kenneth Arnold calculated the objects were a few miles away from each other but still in a straight line. They weaved from side to side, passing through valleys and mountain peaks. Arnold originally thought he was seeing test flights of a new United States military aircraft.

When he finally had time to calculate the speeds of the craft, he concluded that they were traveling well over 1,700 mph. In 1947 those speeds were 3+ times faster than any known man-made aircraft in the world. They were cutting corners and constantly disappearing from view because the UFOs were traveling at extreme speeds but not breaking any sound barriers.

The story is out, UFO investigation begins

Kenneth Arnold landed around 4p.m. in Yakima and told friends and Al Baxter, the airport general manager, what he saw while flying. He discussed the story with the airport staff as well. Arnold later claimed that Al Baxter didn't believe the story he was telling him. After the conversations, he proceeded to fly to Pendleton, Oregon, where an air show was taking place. Someone phoned in and told them of Kenneth Arnold's story before he arrived.

While being question about the UFO encounter by personnel there, he studied his map and determined the distance between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams, calculating the speeds at which the craft were traveling. He told several pilots and even wrote the situation to the AAF intelligence. The AAF Intelligence told him he may have seen guided missiles but Kenneth didn't believe this explanation was adequate. He said former Army pilots confided in him, saying they had been briefed before combat that they may see some objects very similar to what Arnold seen. They assured him that what he saw was real.

The military began investigating Arnold's claims about the UFO sighting. The first UFO investigation was done by Lt. Frank Brown and Capt. William Davidson of Hamilton Field in California. They conducted an interview on Kenneth on July 12, 1947. They concluded that Mr. Arnold actually saw what he reported to have seen and he was a man of integrity and highly unlikely to lie about the subject matter.

Three years later, Kenneth Arnold reported that he seen similar objects to the 1947 incident on three separate occasions. These reports were written in an interview with a journalist named Edward R. Murrow. He claims other pilots seen them as well, as much as eight times. During the interview he didn't initially say it was of alien origin but stated "being a natural born American, if it's not made by our science or our Army Air Forces, I am inclined to believe it's of an extraterrestrial origin."


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