Public interest in the possibility of unusual objects flying around in American airspace may be experiencing a resurgence thanks to the revelation that the Pentagon had been secretly funding investigations into the phenomena as recently as 2012, but the American military has already had a long and storied history of playing cat and mouse with mysterious lights in the sky (and elsewhere).
From sightings of “Foo Fighters” over the European theater in World War II to reports of Air National Guard P-51 Mustangs chasing lights through the skies of North Dakota in 1948, it’s clear that the United States military has had an interest in unexplained sightings reported by trained aviators dating back decades, and some would contend that this interest is justified. All professional pilots develop a keen understanding of norms in the sky, but military aviators—perhaps better than any—have been trained to look for and identify potential threats on the horizon. They know better than most what is and isn’t actually there, despite the sky’s propensity for weather-system-based tomfoolery.
It’s because of that trust in the judgment of military aviators that many of the most intriguing and long-lasting UFO-related mysteries tend to revolve around such reports. The eyewitness account of now-retired Navy Commander David Fravor regarding a series of attempted intercepts over the USS Nimitz carrier battle group in 2004, for instance, has served as an interesting—and troubling—addition to FLIR footage captured from the nose of his F/A-18 Super Hornet as he and another fighter attempted to intercept the unusual object that seemed to toy with them in the airspace around their carrier. The combination of video evidence, official Navy reports, and the clear and sober recollection of a fighter pilot have made the Nimitz incident perhaps the most prominent UFO sighting in modern history…but then, there have been some spectacular sightings in the past that seem to fall away from the American consciousness over time. That includes some that have involved scrambled fighters, official reports, and credible eyewitness accounts.
Back in July of 1952, while (it’s important to note) America was gripped by both the pop-culture phenomenon of “flying saucers” and a growing concern for Soviet aggression, a series of unusual blips appeared on the radar screens of Washington National Airport in the nation’s capital. These seven radar signatures were first spotted by controller Ed Nugent, who quickly got the attention of his supervisor, Harry G. Barnes.