Flying Saucer Day 2010

Flying Saucer Day 2010

June 24, 1947: Kenneth Arnold is flying a small plane near Mr. Rainer, Washington.  He is looking (on his own) for a downed plane, but reports seeing something very different.

He sees nine objects of some sort, flying in an odd and down motion….like a rock does when you skip it across water.  He can’t identify them…but the term “unidentified flying object (UFO)” is not in use at this time. 

He uses the term “saucer” in describing the motion or the objects (there is some debate about that), and the press uses the term “flying saucers”.

It becomes a huge story, a national fad.  Over the next few weeks, many “flying saucer” and “flying disc” stories appear.

One of the most common hypotheses was that they were Russian secret weapons, which made sense.  Remember, this was 1947…just two short years since the most devastating secret weapon of all time had been used in World War II. 

The Germans had been technically innovative (especially in the use of rockets), and the Russians and Americans both tried to capture that technology.  They were on the same side of the war in World War II…but it was clear competition and not cooperation were on the horizon after the war.

The state of Washington was certainly close enough to Russia for aircraft to have reached it.  Alaska, although a US territory, wouldn’t become a state for more than a decade.

Yes, some people suggested “men from Mars”…aliens.  Other hypotheses were around, and more would follow.

On July 8th, less than a month after the Arnold sighting, the Roswell Army Air Field announced that they had recovered a flying disc.  Aliens weren’t really much of the story then…that came decades later.  When the military announced what had been found was a balloon, the story disappeared.  While flying saucer writers would write about crashed discs, Roswell was rarely mentioned.

When the first full-length book on the subject was released in 1950, it was a bestseller.  It was called Behind the Flying Saucers.  It didn’t mention Roswell, but it did talk about Kenneth Arnold.

You can read it: a non-profit organization (OPUS) for which I am on the advisory board, has digitized it (I worked on that process) and made it available for free


Flying saucers have been part of our culture since that June 24th.  Movies, TV shows, novels…and reports that are still made.

I don’t advocate for any particular explanation for what people say they see.  I am intrigued by the emotion and conviction people display: both “true believers” and Skeptics. 

Whatever you believe (or consider) about flying saucers, we can say…they are part of our cultural lives.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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