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While searching for a missing troop transport near Yakima, Washington, pilot Kenneth Arnold got the surprise of his life. He spotted nine discs flying in formation. After he landed, a news conference was held in which Arnold called the unknowns flying saucers, the first time the phrase was used.
There have been UFO sightings ever since man roamed the Earth. There exist many paintings of centuries past that depict unusual flying objects in the sky. Folklore of many early peoples are filled with stories of strange objects flying through the skies. However, most Ufologists credit pilot Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting of 1947 as the beginning of the modern UFO age.
Search for Missing Plane:
On June 24, 1947, businessman Arnold was using his plane to help search for a missing aircraft. He was flying over the Cascade mountains. As he scanned the landscape below him, he would notice some flashes in his eyes, like reflecting sunlight. He told the Chicago Daily Tribune, "The first thing I noticed was a series of flashes in my eyes as if a mirror was reflecting sunlight at me... "
No Tails on Object:
Arnold soon found the source of the flashes - a series of fast moving objects. He described them as silvery and shiny. The most startling aspect of the object was a lack of a tail. The objects appeared to be shaped like a pie plate. This description almost certainly meant that the objects had a raised top, or cupola on them.
"I Must Believe My Eyes.":
The stunned pilot was seeing something that he had never seen before in his many years of flying. He estimated the objects' altitude as between 9,500 and 10,000 feet. He began to clock their flight from Mt. Ranier to Mt. Adams. This information would be used to estimate the objects' speed at 1,200 mph, an unbelievable speed for the era.
"It seemed impossible," he said, "but there it is... I must believe my eyes."
The Term, "Flying Saucer":
Although the term saucer was used in a 1930 UFO report in Texas, it was meant to show the relative size of the object from arm's length. Arnold told a newspaper reporter that the objects moved "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." Arnold was indicating how the objects bounced across the atmosphere, not the shape of the object, Yet, newspaper reporter Bill Bequette's report on the AP news wire used the term "flying saucer" to describe the objects' shape. A phrase was coined.
Military Takes Action:
As was the custom of the day, the U.S. military, though aware of the Arnold report, at first tried to simply ignore the matter. But, the story broke big across the nation, and the military had to make some statement on the sighting. On July 7, a meeting was held to determine how to respond to the report. This conference could also have been prompted by the [link url=http://ufos.about.com/od/bestufocrashcases/p/roswell.htm] Roswell Crash which was also making headlines.
Arnold Called for Interview:
Chief of the Army Air Force Air Intelligence Requirements Division, General Schulgen would head the group. Under pressure to give the public some reassurance, the decision was made to hear from "qualified" reporters of UFO sightings. In a couple of days, Arnold was called in for an interview.
Place in History:
Although there had already occurred several excellent UFO cases before the Arnold sighting, his account will always have a place in UFO history. Over 800 hundred reports would make U.S. media by the end of July, 1947 alone, and Arnold's was one of the most important.
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