saucer flap of 1947

Extensive media coverage of the first so-called 'flying saucers' observed, on June 24, 1947, near Mount Rainier by businessman Kenneth Arnold opened the floodgates to a deluge of similar sightings. Within three weeks of the Arnold incident, the U.S. military had logged 850 reports from around the nation. Most of these were readily accounted for in terms of astronomical objects, aircraft, hoaxes, and the like. However, inevitably, a few cases proved more difficult to resolve and these provided fertile ground for speculation.


Several factors conspired to see the United States, in the summer of 1947, firmly in the grip of saucer fever. It was only a decade since the mass panic instigated by the The War of the Worlds radio play. That broadcast had gone out on the eve of war in Europe, at a time when the sight and sound of Hitler's fanatical storm-troopers in Berlin was bringing home to people everywhere the very real possibility of invasion by a powerful, single-minded enemy. Now the War was over, Germany and Japan had been defeated, but a general nervousness pervaded America about the new threat of communism. The public and military alike were alive to the possibility of preemptive aerial attack by the Soviets, perhaps using weapons of advanced design smuggled out of Nazi Germany. It is not difficult to understand, following the media hype surrounding Arnold's sighting, people's preoccupation with what might be going on in the skies overhead, nor the ease with which, in all the excitement, it was possible for even commonplace phenomena to be misinterpreted. Those who believed the saucers (or "flying disks," as they were also known) were both real and artificial, could choose between the theory that they were man-made and the extraterrestrial hypothesis.