Kenneth Arnold’s UFO encounter with crescent-shaped silver objects while flying near Mt. Rainier on June 24, 1947 inspired the term “flying saucer.”
Pilot Kenneth Arnold with a sketch of one of the UFOs he saw near Mt. Rainier in 1947
Pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying near Mt. Rainier in Washington state on June 24, 1947, when he witnessed nine shiny aircraft unlike anything he had seen before. Arnold described eight of the objects as thin, flat, pie-pan, or disk-shaped, while the ninth was a crescent coming to a point in the back. They were flying ahead of him in formation, moving erratically.
In interviews later, Arnold described the motion like a kite-tail in the wind, or a saucer skipping on the water. He calculated their speed to be approximately 1,200 miles an hour. Although he said he had an “eerie” feeling, Arnold didn’t believe he had seen an extraterrestrial craft. He believed it to be nothing more than some some type of experimental jet.
When he landed, Arnold told a friend about what he saw.
People have been seeing unknown objects flying in the sky since long before humans had achieved flight, but Arnold’s encounter was the first reported post-war UFO sighting in the US – the news spread quickly.
The June 26th edition of The Chicago Sun ran the headline “Supersonic Flying Saucers Sighted by Idaho Pilot,” which is believed to be the first use of the term flying saucer.
About two weeks later, on July 8, a story broke about a flying saucer crash on a ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. The incident has notoriously become a source of ongoing contention among ufologists, as government officials claimed the wreckage, along with the small dead bodies described by witnesses, was just a downed weather balloon.
Was the crash in Roswell actually one of the unknown craft Arnold had encounter the previous month?
1947 became a banner year for UFO reports. Newspapers around the US and Canada reported 853 sightings of unidentified, saucer-like craft, at least 250 of which have been deemed credible by investigators due to the reputation of the sources or the accuracy of the details reported.
Arnold’s sighting is commemorated every year on June 24th as Flying Saucer Day.