1952 Flying Saucer "Shoot Down" Stories

On July 29, 1952, International News Service (INS) announced that the Air Force had ordered its jets to shoot down any flying saucers.  The order was confirmed by an AF spokesperson.  The order came on the heels of a flood of flying saucer reports, particularly along the East Coast, climaxing in overflights of Washington D.C. that were picked up on radar, with jets being ordered to intercept.  On the afternoon of July 29, the Air Force called an emergency press conference to debunk the sightings and quiet the panic.  It was the largest press conference since WWII.  Leading the press conference were Generals John Samford, USAF chief of intelligence, and Roger Ramey, USAF director of operations, who was in charge of jet scrambles.  In July 1947, Ramey had headed the 8th Army Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas, and led the debunking of the Roswell crashed flying disk, saying it was simply a mistaken weather balloon.  Samford and Ramey were called the Air Force's top two saucer experts.

Below are some of the stories that appeared in newspapers about the shootdown order.  One example from the San Francisco Examiner has an additional story about Dr. Lincoln La Paz, New Mexico astronomer and secretly a consultant to the USAF on flying saucers.  La Paz said the saucers were quite real, not mirages, but denied they were space ships.  Some military intelligence officers (e.g. see affidavit of Earl Zimmerman) have stated that La Paz was brought in after the Roswell crash to try to determine the trajectory of the crash object.  In late 1948, he was brought in again to try to understand the mysterious Green Fireballs that suddenly started appearing over New Mexico, the "southwest phenomena" that La Paz refers to in the story below (see 1952 LIFE Magazine article).  In 1954, he was involved with astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in trying to track 2 orbiting satellites that had suddenly appeared.  (See 1954 orbiting satellite story in Ramey and UFOs section and New York Times articles.)

New 2010! 
  • Major Donald Keyhoe gives his theories as to why the shootdown order was in place (to allegedly find out exactly what the saucers were and to calm public panic).  Also gives his usual opinion that they are extraterrestrial.  Mentions an unnamed "Canadian official" who he has been consulting, almost undoubtedly Wilbert Smith (link 1, link 2) of the Dept. of Transport, who was heading the Canadian UFO investigation Project Magnet, and who had been briefed in 1950 that the saucers were real, extraterrestrial, and highly classified. (see Smith papers)
  • Charleston Gazette, July 29, 1952:  Another version of the INS article, with the Pentagon also issuing a press statement that the saucers were no threat to the U.S. and there was no evidence "the objects are being controlled by a "reasoning body".

See also:
    Protest telegrams against shootdown order sent to White House
    August 1, 1952 column about nation's airports being surrounded by antiaircraft batteries because of the flying saucers.
    Story of a piece being shot off a small disk near Washington at this time, told by Canadian engineer Wilbert Smith, who headed Canadian UFO investigations, and confirmed by Vice Admiral Herbert Knowles, who said Smith showed him the piece lent to him by the U.S. for analysis.