A women in Fallon, about 130 miles NW of Tonopah, 60 miles E of Reno, and 55 miles SSW of Lovelock, viewed the object at about the same time as the witnesses in Lovelock (~9:00 p.m.).  She described it as a brilliant, intense light in the northeast sky.  It created a ”smoke trail” of three huge circles in only a minute or so of time, traveling at an “unbelievable speed” in making the spiral trail.

She called to her family, but by the time they got outside it had disappeared, leaving only the giant spiral trail. Her husband, a columnist for the local newspaper, estimated the diameter of the circles at 10 miles and the altitude at 25,000-30,000 feet [lower edge of trail?].  Using the estimated size and time as starting points, the object would have traveled over 90 miles in only about a minute.  The speed works out to about 5600 mph or 9000 km/hr.  The centripetal acceleration in making such circles so quickly would be about 80 g’s, i.e. 80 times that of Earth’s gravity.

This was yet another example of the object clearly maneuvering, alone ruling out natural phenomena like meteors.  The enormous speed and acceleration are also clearly unconventional.  Even if one halved the size of the circles and doubled the observation time, the speed would still have been around 1400 mph and the centripetal acceleration still a spectacular 40 g’s.

(New!  2009)  A Reno family traveling near Fernley, about halfway between Reno and Fallon, also spotted the object around 9:00 p.m. (PST).  They discounted the idea that it might be a meteor because it left a trail shaped like a figure 3.  As in other reports, they said the trail was luminous, fading to orange before disappearing.

Hundreds of people saw the luminous spiral trail from eastern Nevada in Ely starting at 8:45 p.m.  The Ely witnesses said it was due west of town.  Since Fallon is 220 miles due west of Ely, the residents were likely seeing the trail at a distance of about 200 miles.  Two other witnesses on the highway, probably south of Ely, noted the spiral trail lighting up the whole northern sky (perhaps a newspaper misquote—western or northwestern sky would be consistent with other reports) at about 9:05.  The trail was said to persist for about half an hour.

Another witness from eastern Nevada was at a silver mine near Pioche, about halfway between Ely and Las Vegas.  He too described it as looking like a huge "figure three"  (It was unclear, however, if this witness was looking south during the early part of the sighting or east or NE later in the sighting.)

The UA pilot sighting from southern California started right about sunset at 8:08 p.m. (PST).  The sightings continued up through northern Nevada in Lovelock just after dark about 1 hour later.  Collective witness descriptions were generally of a cigar-shaped object, luminous or shooting red flames out the rear, leaving a large, highly luminous, twisted vapor trail (spiral, '3' or 'E'-shaped), and traveling at high speed and altitude.

The persistent luminosity of the vapor trail was possibly due to the lateness of the sighting, right at sunset and afterwards, when the setting sun's rays would reflect brightly off any high clouds while contrasted against a darkening sky.  Initial luminosity, however, may have been due to the object itself, which was said to be brilliant as it created the trail (such as Fallon eyewitness description above).

As we shall soon see below, a very similar sighting had taken place the day before, where the unknown again left a twisted, very persistent, and highly luminous trail.  So perhaps the luminosity was an innate characteristic of the phenomenon itself.

What Was It?

The object could not have been a meteor fireball because it was reported by various witnesses as maneuvering or changing direction plus being observed over an extended period of time, much longer than any meteor.  To give but one example, in southern California, three independent sets of experienced witnesses (UA crew, Naval pilot and CAA control operators) placed the duration of their sightings at 3-20 minutes with the object eventually disappearing to the west (after heading north at some point).  But nearly an hour later in northern Nevada, dozens of witnesses (private pilots on ground plus CAA control operators) had the object coming out of the south and disappearing to the north.  How does a meteor fireball do that?

Or how does it make three large circles, as reported in Fallon, or dart back and forth inside its spiral trail (for 15 minutes), as reported in Tonopah?  Meteors fly straight, not in giant corkscrews.  (Irregular meteors can wobble in flight and make slightly spiral smoke trails, but not large ones, as reported here.)

In addition, all estimates of altitude by experienced aerial observers, mostly pilots flying at the time, placed the object at between 50,000 to 100,000 feet.  Again this was much too low to have been a meteor.

Also the object seemed to fly too fast at times to be a plane but too slow to be a meteor.  The Naval pilot in southern California estimated the speed at 1000-1500 mph.  Based on the eyewitness descriptions in Fallon of the size of the spiral trail and time needed to make it, the speed could have been as high as 5600 mph.  Conservatively reducing that crude estimate by a factor of 4 would still leave 1400 mph.

Had this been the mid- to late 1950's, the U-2 spy plane might have been a possible explanation.  The supersonic U-2 flew at high altitudes above 70,000 feet at speeds up to 1400 mph.  Furthermore, it was tested and initially flew out of south-central Nevada from the infamous Area 51 secret base, right in the region where many of the sightings took place.  But testing of the U-2 didn't begin until 1954, and this sighting dates from 1950!

The most anomalous and consistently reported characteristic of this event was the huge spiral trail.  No conventional natural or artificial object seems to be able to account for what was observed by hundreds of people from many vantage points.  This was a true unknown craft.

Meanwhile, in Central  and Western California...

At 9:05 p.m. (also reported as 8:49 p.m.), at about the exact time that the object was spotted flying south to north over Lovelock, Nevada, a bright orange ball of fire trailing smoke was reported flying north to south at great speed over the San Joaquin Valley north of or over Modesto, California.  Besides Modesto,  reports came from the San Francisco Bay Area (50 miles west of Modesto),  military personnel at Castle AFB in Merced (50 miles south of Modesto), Fresno (100 miles south of Modesto), Tollhouse (25 miles NE of Fresno in the Sierra Nevada foothills), and Centerville (15 miles east of Fresno).

Details in newspaper accounts were sparse, but understandably the object was explained as a meteor fireball.  Ordinarily, this would be a completely plausible explanation, except for the simultaneous occurrence of the other flaming object flying over Nevada and leaving a giant spiral trail.  Was this just simple coincidence or something else?

If the given 9:05 p.m. time was Daylight Savings rather than Standard time, i.e. 8:05 PST, then it is conceivable there is a link and the two objects were the same, since the United Airlines crew near Baker, CA gave a time of 8:08 PST as the start of their sighting.  This would require the object over Modesto to rapidly dart 300 miles to the southeast  in 3 minutes, then double back to the west and emit the spiral trail to be seen by the UA crew in southern California.  An object traveling about 6000 mph could do this, which is about the speed calculated above for the object in Fallon, Nevada, making three big circles. (Using the alternatively given 7:49 PST would add 16 minutes to the flight time and drop the required speed, but still require the object to travel 300 miles in 19 minutes, or over 900 mph.)

Alternatively, the object, which seems to have disappeared after Lovelock, could have turned around and made a "mad dash" across the Sierra Nevada mountains to appear over Modesto, 220 air miles away.  Again, at 6000 mph, this would have taken a little over 2 minutes.  However, these scenarios are all highly speculative.

Yet another fireball emitting a loud roaring sound was reported by two witnesses about 11:15 p.m. that night as flying south over San Jose, California (50 miles south of San Francisco).  Again, in isolation, a meteor fireball might make sense as an explanation, but how likely is it to have multiple large meteor fireballs all in the same region and at about the same time?

(New!  2009) Exactly 2 hours later, at 1:15 a.m. in Wasco, CA, about 20 miles NW of Bakersfield, a judge reported being alerted by a loud roaring sound, something between a locomotive and an airplane, went outside and witnessed two "flying saucers" flying almost directly overhead.  One was large, round, and pale red, about the size of a full moon, and flying straight; the other was yellow, elliptical, about a quarter of the size of the other, and doing acrobatics around the larger object. They glowed as if the light emanated from the whole object.  There was no trail, no blinking lights, as would be required of a regular aircraft, and the judge was also emphatic that the smaller objects acrobatics were impossible for a conventional craft.  They were in sight for 7 or 8 seconds before disappearing with "incredible swiftness" towards Bakersfield.  

The judge was apparently the only eyewitness, but four residents from nearby Shafter, 9 miles south, said they also heard the unusual "roar."  One woman said she was awakened from her sleep by it and compared it to a streamliner train.  Three days before (June 21), a Shafter family said they saw four "flying saucers" flying in formation near sunset.  "They changed position several times, but always returned to a perfect formation."  They were shiny, had no wings or tails, and were flying much faster than a regular airplane.  Earlier the same day (around 1:30 a.m.) at  Hamilton AFB, north of San Francisco, a well-known and widely-reported sighting was made by three control tower operators of a fast-moving, saucer-shaped object making multiple passes over the base.  It too seemed to be emitting a flame, and, in at least some reports, was also giving off a loud roaring sound.

There seemed to be a large number of "fireballs" being reported at this time, such as in the case immediately below from the previous day, and also in the following week up in Alaska (two cases) on July 1 and July 3, and a "yellow banana" shooting across the northwestern U.S. around midnight July1/2   One would not expect such a heavy concentration of large meteor fireballs flying in all sorts of directions, even during a meteor shower (of which there were none of note at this time).

Similarity to June 23 Fireball

Almost exactly 24 hours before the June 24 UFO sighting, a similar event was reported in the southern U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico. Witnesses numbered in the thousands and, again, at least a four state area was involved, from Alabama to Texas.  The usual time given in newspaper accounts was about 7:40 p.m., but report times of 20-60 minutes before to 20 minutes afterwards also occurred.   Perhaps part of the confusion of times was because this was an extended event, just as it was for June 24.

An Associated Press story stated that there were a large number of descriptions and times reported, not all of them consistent, and theories ranged from a short-lived meteor fireball to a high-flying jet plane catching the late rays of the sun, or maybe people were seeing both, or maybe even a flying saucer.  

The most common description was of "a great ball of fire" trailing a smoke or vapor trail.  After it went out it left a curving trail of shining vapor.  A Beaumont, Texas newspaper reported that hundreds of people in town saw a "ball-shaped object shooting flames out of its side and back."  The newspaper said the object passed directly over them.

According to various news articles, the spectacle was seen by ship as far as 350 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico from Galveston, Texas.  Being able to see the event at such distances indicates that the altitude must have been at least 20 miles, too high to be explained away simply as a high-flying jet plane.

Another odd item appeared in the New York Times.  Officers at Biggs Field in El Paso said a high flying jet plane had just landed there, and associated its vapor trail with what people had seen.  But then after making this announcement, said the Times, "secrecy was imposed."  Why would there be any need for secrecy if it was a jet plane or meteor?

A USAF weather recon plane flying in the Gulf of Mexico, about 250 miles S of Alabama and 200 miles W of Florida, also saw it and gave a detailed description of the phenomenon.  (Description from Brad Sparks list of UFO unknownsUSAF Project Blue Book report

1950 California-Nevada Cigar-Shaped UFO
Copyright 2005 by David Rudiak
Newspaper Reports

Most details of this sighting were compiled from a survey of regional newspapers in Nevada, Utah, and southern California.  However, the sighting finally received national coverage because the pilot and copilot of a United Airlines passenger plane flying from  Denver to Los Angeles held a press conference in Los Angeles three days later.  (For a compendium of these stories, click here.  For a summary graphic of the sightings, click here or on picture at right.)  Korean War news, however, seems to have severely limited the number of newspapers that carried the United sighting wire service stories.  

The UA plane was flying about 80 miles southwest of Las Vegas, near the tiny Mojave Desert town of Baker, CA, and near CAA communicators located at Silver Lake, a few miles north of Baker.  At the press conference, the UA pilots said they had never seen anything like it, had no explanation for the object, and that the crew of 5 and most passengers on the plane (25-50) saw it as well.  It was cylindrical, cigar, or dirigible-shaped, bluish in the center with an orange outer tint.  Long trails of light streamed behind it that flashed like a theater marquee.  Initially it looked more like a brightly lit '3' (perhaps referring to the twisted vapor trail described by others) but later changed to look more dirigible-shaped. The pilots thought that maybe the apparent change of shape was due to a change in the object's course such that they were viewing the object and trail from a different perspective.  (Other accounts immediately below suggest the object swung off to the north and they were later seeing it tail on.)
On June 24, 1950, exactly 3 years after the first widely publicized U.S. UFO sighting by pilot Kenneth Arnold, a cigar-shaped UFO emitting a red flame and leaving a huge corkscrew trail was seen over a four-state area.  Also coincidentally (or perhaps not), the incident happened on the same day the Korean War broke out, almost to the hour.

This case is largely forgotten, but I consider it remarkable because the object was reported by hundreds of witnesses over a distance of 300 to 400 miles from southern California through northern Nevada, including northern Arizona and southeastern Utah, or over an approximately 150,000 square mile area. Witnesses included pilots, crews, and passengers on at least five commercial airliners, at least two military plane crews, dozens of civilian pilots on the ground, many CAA control tower operators, and hundreds of other ground witnesses.  Thus there is no question something very odd was up in the sky.  The question is what was it?
Last updated: May 9, 2021

The object was initially north of them perhaps 20-30 miles and flew at high speed (faster than their 290 mph, they said) on a parallel course (10-20 minutes) before fading from view.   If the distance estimate was accurate, this would have placed the object at the beginning of the sighting somewhere in the vicinity of Death Valley, CA, near the California/Nevada border and maybe 50-60 miles west of Las Vegas.  (However, when I recently reviewed National Park records from Death Valley, either the event was not seen or not noted by park personnel in the spotty monthly summary statements.)  Triangulating position from other sightings at other vantage points would probably place the object at double to triple the UA crew's initial estimated distance at some point, or north of Death Valley, perhaps after veering off to the north.

They notified other planes in the area and CAA ground control.  The pilot of a nearby Naval plane, about 100 miles NE of Los Angeles, was contacted by the UA pilot and he and his crew soon spotted the object as well.  Eventually he filed a report with the civilian UFO organization NICAP, who printed it up in "The UFO Evidence" (1964). 

He described it as dark gray or gun-metal in color, but with a faint, shimmering heat-radiation appearance in the rear.  Estimated speed was 1000-1500 mph.  It was in view for about 3 minutes, initially flying north (perhaps corresponding to the course change reported by the UA crew where they were viewing the object end on), but then it turned west and showed its tail end before speeding from view.  This was just one of several reports indicating that the object maneuvered in flight rather than flying a straight, passive trajectory, like a meteor would.

The pilot estimated the angular size at about 4 minutes of arc.  Had the object been at 20-30 miles distance, as the UA crew estimated, it would have had a size of about 120 to 180 feet.

Two CAA operators at Silver Lake, CA, ~75 miles SW of Las Vegas (~150 miles NE of Los Angeles), said they saw it for 7 to 10 minutes and were in communication with the nearby United crew.  (New!  2009)  They said it was about 15 degrees above the northern horizon when first spotted.  "It appeared to be a big ball of fire with a large luminous vapor trail."  They guessed it might have been a meteor but didn't really know what it was.  Toward the end, it appeared to be falling (consistent with perspective of an object moving away from them to the north), but then, similar to the report from the Naval pilot, "it swung off toward the west and disappeared."   Four other pilots on the ground at Silver Lake saw it as well.  CAA personnel in Las Vegas and also at Daggett, ~130 miles SW of Las Vegas near Barstow, CA, also reported seeing something (with no details provided).

Using the 15 degree elevation figure provides a rough estimate of the altitude if the distance is known.  The United crew estimated the distance at 20-30 miles, which would make the altitude about 28,000 to 42,000 feet.  However, most estimates of altitude by the various pilots who witnessed the phenomenon placed it at between 50,000 to 100,000 feet, which would roughly double the likely distance figure (and size of the object).

(New!  2009)  The object was also seen at about the same time by multiple witnesses northeast of Las Vegas in Cedar City, Utah, about 150 miles away, and the small town of Bunkerville, Nevada, about halfway between the two (see map of sightings).  According to the Cedar City newspaper, "several" residents spotted the "strange" object west of town about 9:00 p.m. (probably MST, judging by the other southern California/Nevada reports, or 8:00 p.m. PST).  More interesting, 14 residents in Bunkerville said they watched it "approach and vanish in the opposite direction."  Similar to the UA pilots and CAA controllers, "they described the object as circular, trailing streams of fire or exhaust."  If the time is accurate, this may have been the earliest sighting of the object, possibly approaching from the west, then reversing direction and soon being spotted by the UA pilots as initially being on a parallel course as they headed west towards Los Angeles.

The pilots of three American Airlines passengers planes also spotted the object while flying near Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah (50 miles east of Cedar City) and northern Arizona near Williams (25 miles west of Flagstaff) and Winslow (60 miles east of Flagstaff).  It was described as an "exceedingly bright object that seemed to leave a vapor trail."  The pilot near Winslow said it was "extremely high and seemed to burn out at about 18,000 feet."  None described it as a "flying saucer."  Airline officials, putting the pilots' reports together, pinpointed the object as being approximately over Tonopah, Nevada.  If accurate, the pilots were viewing the bright object at distances varying from about 250 to 400 miles.  The time given was 9:13 p.m PDT or 8:13 PST, 5 minutes after the UA crew first spotted the object.

Meanwhile in Tonopah, about 100 miles north of the reports from southern California, a licensed pilot (plus his family) said he saw the unfamiliar object darting back and forth inside its vapor trail.   After maneuvering for about 15 minutes, it suddenly took off and disappeared.  The time given was 8:10-8:25 p.m., or roughly overlapping with the UA and AA plane crew sightings.  

Taken collectively, these multiple sightings from widely varying vantage points might suggest the object was further north towards Tonopah at some point (perhaps after turning north) than the UA crew originally estimated.

Another likely sighting of this object came from the Fresno, CA area by more CAA operators plus deputies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, who described it as having a "twisting smoke trail."  The object was estimated to be about 60 miles southeast of Fresno at the time of the sighting, or roughly 100 miles northwest of the various pilot sightings in southern California..  The CAA authorities in Fresno said they had no explanation and were turning all information over to the Air Force for investigation as a possible "flying saucer."
Further north, and about 40 minutes later, in Lovelock, Nevada (60 miles NE of Reno and 170 miles NNW of Tonopah), dozens of private pilots on the ground witnessed the object flying north at a terrific rate of speed and spewing intense red flames and a vapor trail out the rear.  The editor of the town newspaper said that as the object flew past, it dipped down towards the town and then flew up again at tremendous speed.  Because of cloudy weather and darkness, the overall shape could not be seen, but the vapor trail persisted for about 20 minutes.  Nearby CAA control operators confirmed the vapor trail "was definitely made by a mechanical, flying object."
Dr. James McDonald in Congressional testimony  (1968) [link1link2]  likewise noted similarities to other sightings while discussing the Chiles-Whitted case:

Air Force Capt. Jack Puckett, flying near 4000 ft. over Tampa in a C-47 on August 1, 1946), 
described seeing "a long, cylindrical shape approximately twice the size of a B-29 with luminous 
portholes", from the aft end of which there came a stream of fire as it flew near his aircraft. 
Puckett states that he, his copilot, Lt. H. F. Glass, and the flight engineer also saw it as it came 
in to within an estimated 1000 yards before veering off. Another somewhat similar airborne 
sighting, made in January 22, 1956 by TWA Flight Engineer Robert Mueller at night over 
New Orleans, is on record. Still another similar sighting is the AAL case cited below 
(Sperry case May 29, 1950). Again, over Truk Is., in the Pacific, a Feb. 6, 1953, mid-day 
sighting by a weather officer involved a bullet-shaped object without wings or tail. Finally, within 
an hour's time of the Chiles-Whitted sighting, Air Force ground personnel at Robins AFB, 
Georgia, saw a rocket-like object shoot overhead in a westerly direction. In none of these
instances does a meteorological or astronomical explanation suffice to explain the sightings.

Apparently McDonald wasn't familiar with the 1950 California/Nevada object, or he  probably would have included it in the list as well.

Statistics of all cases from 1942-1963 compiled in NICAP's "The UFO Evidence" indicated about 8% of all UFO sightings were of cigar-shaped objects, many with "windows" or "ports," in a few cases with a rear flame and trail.  Two or three dozen such examples were listed.

April-July 1950 UFO Sightings

As is often the case, the June 24, incident did not occur in a vacuum.  The year 1950, especially the period around June, is considered to be a sparse time for UFO sightings, but when the newspapers and other sources are reviewed, there were actually numerous UFOs reported before and after the June 24 event.  In particular, according to NICAP's "The UFO Evidence," there seemed to be a dramatic increase in high-quality pilot sightings from April to June. 

Below is a summary of 50 U.S. UFO events (plus a few interesting oddball items that might be related)  that I found for April-July, 1950. Cigar-shaped or elliptical objects are indicated by an exclamation point (!).  Pilot, CAA, and/or military sightings are indicated by an asterisk (*).  A dollar sign ($) indicates scientist, engineer, meteorologist, or aviation employee sightings.  A percent sign (%) indicates photographic cases.

Note that 8 cases out of 50 (16%) listed below (April 7May 29June 25, and July) of other ellipsoidal or cigar-shaped objects, one with a trail (July 1), and three other cases of objects seeming to trail flames (June 21, 23, July 1).  The June 23 event also left a prominent trail, as already described above. 

In addition, was the following break-down, showing that most of these cases were of high quality, involving many experienced witnesses, such as pilots, control tower operators, military personnel, meteorologists,  scientists/engineers, and aviation employees.:

As aviation pioneer Cpt. Eddie Rickenbacker was to publicly comment in June 1950, "Flying saucers are real. Too many good men have seen them, that don't have hallucinations." 

!* April 7, Logan Airport, Boston, Mass. Four CAA controllers saw a deep-blue ellipsoid object in the W at 15° elevation moving SW-NE opposite the winds.  It split into 2 blue lights revolving around each other, then separated, changed to white, then cherry-red, increasing to 45° elevation, disappearing in NE. (Brad Sparks Blue Book unknown file)

April 8, Kokomo, Indiana, 2 a.m.:  Earl Baker saw a grey metallic disc, 50 ft in diameter, 15 ft thick, top-shaped with a "conning tower" at the top and three ports on the rim giving off a blue light.  Hovered for 2 mins about 200 ft away, slowly spinning and oscillating, then flew away to the N. (Sparks )

* April 10, Brookley AFB  and Bates Field, Mobile, Alabama, 2 p.m.: USAF control tower operator, civilian tower operator and pilots of 2 aircraft saw an object flying to the NE or E over Brookley AFB at 3,500 ft altitude about 45° elevation from Brookley tower.  (Sparks)

* April 14, Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey,. 2:30 p.m.: Army M/Sgt. James saw 4 rectangular, amber objects, about 3 ft by 4 ft, change speed and direction rapidly, rising and falling as a group. (Sparks )

*% April 16, Fort Worth, Texas:  A veteran Air Force pilot with 8600 flying hours said he saw a classic-looking "flying saucer" object accompanied by six other aircraft, which appeared more banana-shaped.  They had no tails, made no noise, and were moving fast.  He said he took pictures, and the pictures showed they left some sort of vapor trail. (Billings MT Gazette, 4/19/50)

$ April 17, Los Alamos, N.M., 3:30 p.m.  A University of California scientist observed through a telescope an erratically tumbling, bright metallic disk, very thin in profile, about 9 feet across  and moving faster than a conventional aircraft.  It was at about 2000 feet, and oscillated widely up and down and slightly side to side.  He lost sight of it after 15-30 minutes.  Two other UC scientists plus eight others also briefly saw the bright, oscillating object from a security station.  It was noted that the two latter scientists did not want to be interviewed because of fear of ridicule from colleagues.  (Project Blue Book files, pp. 376-380, AFOSI sighting reports)

* April 18, Near Memphis, Texas. 9 a.m. -12:40 p.m. (CST): CAA observers in Clarendon, Texas, saw an unidentified object to the SE while observers in Childress about 50 miles SE saw the object to the NW. They triangulated a stationary object midway between them near Memphis, for 3+ hrs beginning at 9 a.m., which did not move significantly despite winds aloft.  A Northrop engineering test pilot and two observers were asked to intercept the object in a    F-61C  from Amarillo, and a B-36 also took off from Ft. Worth to intercept. At about 12:20 p.m., F-61C crew reached 20,000 ft near Memphis and saw a translucent silver, spherical-shaped object to the SE at "considerable distance" at 30,000+ ft with "prominent detents" top and bottom with a dark vertical streak. Streak tilted occasionally resulting in object moving laterally slowly and briefly, with no visible means of propulsion. No other aircraft were in the area at high altitude. The Northrop crew flew 10 mins at 200+ mph  toward object but could not overtake, though they got closer.  The object appeared possibly a weather balloon, however CAA Amarillo denied the possibility due to winds and extreme length of observation. The object then seemed to play a cat-and-mouse evasion game in and out of clouds for about 10 more minutes with the F-61.  At one point the F-61 managed to catch a glimpse of the object at closer range where it appeared to be about half the angular size of the full moon. (Sparks)

* April 27, Plymouth, Mass., 9:00 a.m.:  USAF pilot flying an F-86 saw a light brown flat oval object climb to 28,000 feet and turn. (Sparks)

*% April 27, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.  Four UFOs were tracked and photographed by theodolite.  Data reduction and triangulation afterwards indicated they were about 30 feet across and flying at about 150,000 feet at high speed.  This case was listed as Project Blue Book unknown.  See similar White Sands cases May 24 and May 29.   (NICAP's "UFO Evidence"Dr. Bruce Maccabee, "The White Sands Proof."  Maccabee notes that the scientific data analysis afterwards proving high-flying objects present was suppressed ) 

*$ April 27, near Goshen, Indiana (near South Bend), 8:25 p.m.:  TWA pilot Robert Adickes stated that an object "glowing cherry red" flew alongside his plane for about 5 minutes. It was also described as looking "like a big red wheel rolling along" or a rising blood red moon. He said all members of the crew plus 19 passengers saw it as well, including 2 Boeing engineers plus several Boeing execs.  It finally left at high speed.  Adickes was convinced it was a mechanical device, but not a machine from Mars or other planet.  (UP story, Hood River (OR) Daily Sun, April 28; NICAP's "The UFO Evidence" ; Dr. James McDonald's Congressional Testimony based on NICAP report plus interviews with pilots; Sparks )

May 7, Nine miles south of Ely, Nevada, 6:45 p.m. Witnesses: Mr. and Mrs. George Smith and their grandson. One silvery white object hovered at 100' altitude, moved back and forth for 10 minutes and then flew up and away.  Listed as USAF Project Bluebook unknown. (NICAP )

% May 11, 1950, near McMinneville, Oregon, 7:30 p.m.: Farmer Paul Trent took 2 famous photos of a pie-pan-shaped UFO with a "conning tower" on top.  Also witnessed by his wife. Photos deemed authentic and case unexplained by Condon Commission in 1969.  Most scientific analyses of photos deem them authentic.  Photos first started appearing in newspapers June 8-10, then in the June issue of LIFE magazine. (For best photos of UFO and most complete analysis, see Bruce Maccabee's web site

$ May 20, Flagstaff, Arizona, 12:10-12:15 p.m.:  Astronomer Seymour Hess of the Lowell Observatory sighted  "a bright object, a visible disc" moving at 100-200 mph across the wind. Observations were by eye and through binoculars. (Flagstaff Arizona Daily Sun, May 22; "The UFO Evidence" )

*% May 24, Holloman AFB, Alamogordo, N.M.:  During a bomb test, theodolite operators observed 8 unknown objects, then tracked and filmed 2 of them.  Another theodolite station filmed one of the objects. (Sparks )

*% May 29, White Sands, NM.  One or two huge UFOs spotted by two theodolite stations before firing of missile.  The object(s) was (were) tracked and photographed by both stations. Project Blue Book unknown. Allegedly the film was seized and suppressed by the CIA. ("The UFO Evidence"

!* May 29, 7 miles west of Mt. Vernon, Virginia, near Washington DC, 9:20-9:30 p.m.:  Pilot Willis Sperry and the crew of an American Airlines plane (plus a few passengers) saw a UFO, about 150 feet long, with a brilliant bluish light on the leading edge approach the plane, stop, dart left, then circle to the right.  Silhouetted against the moon it appeared cigar/torpedo-shaped or narrowly elliptical.  Finally it sped away at a "fantastic" speed, "without a doubt beyond the limits of any known aircraft speeds."  ("The UFO Evidence,"  Sparks ; interview with Sperry)

June 8:  Paul Trent UFO photos first appear in the McMinnville Telephone-Registerfollowed by numerous other newspapers over the next few days.  Also published in LIFE Magazine on June 26.

June 9:  In an interview, aviation pioneer Cpt. Eddie Rickenbacker commented that too many credible people have seen them and that  flying saucers were real, but thought they belonged to the USAF, not Russia or Mars.  (Many newspapers, June 12, e.g. Portland Oregonian, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

June 10:  The Gallup poll revealed that the term "flying saucers" was familiar to 94% of the public, by far the best-known term commonly-appearing in the news, easily beating out others like "universal military training" (75%), "bookie,", "wire-tapping" and"tariff" (67%), "monopoly" (64%), "cold war" (58%), and "fillibuster" (54%).  Terms like "welfare state" and "electoral college" polled a meager 36% and 34%.  (San Francisco News, June 10;  Los Angeles Times, June 10)

$ June 12, 1950, California, about 4:00 p.m.  A geologist and a civil engineer watched 3 silvery discs pass up through a plane's vapor trail, then make several horizontal or vertical loops around the plane.  ("The UFO Evidence" )

June 13, 1950.  UP story.  “Royal Air Force experts said today that the ‘flying saucers’ sighted recently actually were whirlpools of air.”  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 13)

* June 16, 1950. E of Tucson, Ariz., 8:25 p.m.:  Air National Guard C-47 pilot saw a triangular object pass the aircraft at 700 mph. (Sparks )

June 20,  Flagstaff, Ariz., 5:02 p.m.:  Five people said they saw two bright, silver-colored flying saucers with a dark spot at the center of each saucer.  They were high in the sky.  One disappeared in the east; the other in the northeast.  (Flagstaff Arizona Daily Sun, June 21)

* June 21, Hamilton Field (near San Francisco), 1:35 a.m.:  Three Air Force control tower operators saw a strange object make 3-5 passes over the field and control tower.  The witnesses said that through binoculars it "appeared to be circular, with a thick center tapering to the edges.  It was traveling at a speed of from 1000 to 1500 miles an hour... so its size could not be estimated.   ...The disk was accompanied by  'a thunder-like roar,' and blue flames, like those from an acetylene torch shot from it."  However, later they said they heard no sound.  (Many newspapers, e.g. San Francisco News, June 21, San Francisco Examiner, June 22, San Jose Mercury, June 22, Louisville Courier-Journal, June 22; Longview (WA) Daily News, June 22)

June 21, near Shafter, CA (20 miles NW of Bakersfield), sunset.  A Shafter family reported seeing four shiny "flying saucers" with no wings or tails flying at high speed in formation, several times moving apart, but always returning to "perfect formation."  There were in sight about three minutes.  (Bakersfield Press, 6/22/50; Shafter Press, 6/22/50)

*$ June 23, at least four states from Alabama to Texas, usual time given 7:40 p.m., but also reported 20-60 min. before and 20 min. afterwards: Thousands of people saw "a great ball of fire" trailing a smoke or vapor trail.  A USAF weather plane in the Gulf of Mexico described a descending fireball south of Louisiana that left a sinuous, brilliant white trail that persisted for 20 minutes, then evolving into a brilliant, erratically flying object leaving a long trail. Also seen by a National Air Line pilot near Mobile, Alabama and CAA controllers in Houston and other cities   (numerous newspapers, e.g. N.Y. Times, Dallas Morning News, June 24; Sparksmore details above and in newspaper article section).

!* June 24southern California to northern Nevada 8:08 - ~9:10 p.m. PST:  Hundreds of people on the ground and in the air saw a cigar-shaped object shooting red flames out the rear leaving behind a very large, luminous, spiral vapor trail that persisted from 20-30 minutes. It was 50,000 to 100,000 feet high and traveling at high speed. Some saw it maneuver, including making huge circles to create the spiral trail. (main case above, newspaper article section).

* June 24, central California near Modesto, 9:05 p.m. [PST?}  A brilliant orange fireball emitting a smoke trail was seen by multiple witnesses, including CAA control operators and military personnel, flying north to south at high speed.  CAA officials thought it was a meteor.  (included in discussion of main case above; newspaper article section)

June 24, San Jose, California, ~11:15 p.m.  Two witnesses reported another fireball flying south over San Jose and emitting a loud, roaring sound.  Military authorities from Bay Area air bases had no comment.  (also discussed in main section; San Jose Mercury, June 25; newspaper article section)

* June 24, near Commerce, Texas (~40 miles NE of Dallas), unspecified time.  Veteran commercial pilot Cpt. Harry Logsdon of Central Airlines reported that he followed "a saucer-shaped object" for about 20 miles before it pulled away from his airliner in a sudden burst of speed.  He estimated the object's speed "in excess of 400 miles an hour."  It was also seen by a passenger. (UP story in Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, June 25, submitted to USAF headquarters from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma City, in Project Blue Book files See p. 1091) 

! June 25, Washington, D.C. , 9:25 a.m.  A Washington resident notified the FBI that he had seen a silvery cigar-shaped UFO with one end tilted down, moving to the east.  He estimated the altitude at 20,000-25,000 feet.  No other details.  (FBI UFO files, Part 7, p. 45)

June 25:  Korean War began.

* June 26, Between Newburgh, N.Y. and West Point, 9:00 p.m. to midnight.  Vincent Connolly, a reporter for the Newburgh Newsand at least 2 other people reported seeing four disk-like lights "flying in formation" over the U.S. Military Academy at an altitude of about 10,000 feet.  Connolly was an experienced wartime aircraft spotter and said the lights were unlike those used on the wings of airplanes.  He also stopped his car and killed the motor, but could hear no aircraft engines.  (N. Y. Times, June 27)

$ June 27, 1950, Texarkana, Texas, 7:50 a.m. Two employees of Red River Arsenal saw a bright object shaped like two dishpans face-to-face, which flew straight, level, and fast for 4-5 seconds.  Listed as a USAF Blue Book unknown. (NICAP

June 27, Bennington, Vermont:  The town was battered by large hailstones, some of which contained "mystifying bits of black or bluish metal." (Washington Post, June 28)

June 27, Cairo, Illinois, 4:00 p.m.:  Five egg-shaped objects with a chrome-like finish were reported by five residents.  One remained stationary for a few minutes before veering off to the southwest.  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 28)

% June 27, Louisville, Kentucky, 4:15 p.m.:  Al Hixenbaugh, a staff photographer at the Louisville Times, shot 50 feet of movie film showing a bright, disk-shaped object overhead that was initially motionless.  The newspaper printed several frames of the film on their front page the next day.  While shooting  film, a DC-3 also flew through the picture.  The object appeared to have a slight corona around it.  Then it moved and got smaller, eventually vanishing to the west.  The newspapers said military intelligence was interested in examining the film. Clandestine investigations by USAF intelligence and R&D then began.  Hixenbaugh very reluctantly told me he did meet with military intelligence and had the film up until that time, but refused to say more. (Louisville Times, June 28;  St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 28; personal communication;  FBI UFO files Part 7, pp. 29-35; for some of USAF intelligence's cloak-and-dagger attempts to obtain the film,  including trying to get the FBI to "shill" for them so that USAF interest in the matter wouldn't be revealed, see these Blue Book documents, pp. 218-219--note direct involvement by heads of both USAF intelligence and counter-intelligence.)

* June 28, Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage, Alaska:  Brig. Gen. Donald R. Hutchinson, base commander, issued a categorical denial to reports that an alert was caused after unidentified planes were sighted over Alaska.   [Oakland (CA) Tribune, June 28]

* June 29, Itazuke Air Base, Japan, 10:05 p.m.:  An "unidentified aircraft" flew near the base but disappeared when U.S. fighters flew to intercept.  Air raid sirens sounded for the first time since 1945.  Speculation was that Communists were undertaking a reprisal blow at U.S. installations in Japan, but the official account of the alert was ambiguous about the identity of the craft.  In addition,  "There was no explanation of a bright flash which appeared on the horizon a few minutes before the all-clear." (UP stories, Humboldt Star, Winnemucca, NV, Boise Idaho Evening Stateman, June 29)

* June 29/30, 9 miles W of Kingman, Kansas (~60 miles W of Wichita), a few minutes before midnight until about 12:10-12:15 a.m.:  A minister, who was also a former Air Force pilot, said he saw "a flying saucer the size of a B-29" while driving.  It was also seen by his wife, daughter, and another motorist and his two daughters, one of whom had spotted the object earlier near Greensburg (~50 miles W of Kingman).  It initially appeared as a stationary red light, then white light, about 300-500 feet in the air. (Later he determined it had a white light on top, a red light on the north side, and green one on the south side.) When he approached and drove under it he could make out its saucer shape, a perfect circle, and noticed a rotary movement on an outer ring about 10-15 feet thick.  From a distance he saw it edge-on where it appeared discus-shaped, except for a small canopy 10-15 in diameter raised about 2 feet on top. After observing it with the other motorist for several minutes he attempted to drive under it again, but it shot off at a 45 degree angle at "terrific speed.  I have never seen such acceleration in my life."  It made no noise.   (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 30; "The UFO Evidence" , Project Blue Book files, pp. 1348-1354, which reprinted detailed articles on the sighting from the Wichita Beacon and Wichita Eagle, June 30.  The Eagle article also mentioned a UFO report from two Sheriff's deputies from a few nights before.  Early in the morning they saw a "red streak of fire" shoot upward at a 45 degree angle and zoom out of sight.  They heard no noise.)

* June 30/July 1Royal Canadian Naval Air Station, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (now CFB Shearwater), 11:15 p.m. - 12:31 a.m.  Multiple unknown objects were seen on radar and visually, hovering, moving out to sea and back to land, and moving back and forth.  Objects were also clocked at 1000 mph, beyond aircraft of the time.  When a UFO overflew the base, a scrambled interceptor Sea Fury plane, armed with rockets and capable of 460 mph, closed to within 2 miles; the UFO suddenly "took off like a shot" and disappeared.  (NICAP files; Don Ledger, Maritime UFO Filesexcerpt.)

!$ July (unspecified), Cincinnati, Ohio, 1:45 p.m.:  CAA flight engineer of 11 years experience observed a "wingless, fuselage-shaped" UFO.  It climbed at a steep angle, dove, then sped away at an estimated 5000 mph.  It made no sound and left no trail. ("The UFO Evidence" )

! July 1Chicago, Illinois, 1:00 a.m.:  A railroad night watchman and FBI informant saw a cigar-shaped object pass overhead from the NW to SE at an excessive rate of speed, passing over the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, IL. No wings, support, or means of propulsion was obvious and it made no sound.  The front two thirds glowed like a kerosene lamp, but the rear third was dark.  It left a bluish-white trail behind it about three times the length of the object. The flight was straight and level and he estimated the altitude at 15,000 to 20,000 feet.  It moved much faster than a conventional aircraft, but not nearly as fast as a shooting star. He said it was unlike any shooting star or meteor he had ever seen.  The USAF apparently reviewed the case and wrote it off as a shooting star. (FBI UFO files,  Part 7, p. 40)

!* July 1, Fairbanks, Alaska, 10:15 p.m. (daylight)   Multiple civilian and military personnel reported an object resembling a "guided missile" flying over Fairbanks.  Don McCune, a Fairbanks radio announcer, said he and his family saw the thing, which was shaped like an ice cream cone.  "It was about as round as a wash tub and flew at a parallel with the earth.  From its rear end we could see exhaust flames of blue and orange."  A university student said he and several companions saw the object streaking up from the horizon.  It appeared to be about 2000 feet high as it passed over them.  After passing, it leveled off and disappeared north of them going so fast they couldn't tell what it was.  It was much faster than the jet plane that flew past 30 minutes later.  The official explanation several days later was a meteor.  Details of this sighting were badly confused in newspaper accounts with yet another similar sighting over Fairbanks 2 days later.  See July 3 below for more details.  (San Francisco News, July 4)

!*$ July 1/2, Spokane, Wash. to Missoula, Helena, Great Falls, Mont., midnight to shortly after midnight   At least six witnesses, including 2 CAA control operators, 2 CAA communicators, and a weather observer, plus CAA, Air Force, and airline officials, reported a yellow or yellow-orange cigar- or dirigible-shaped object streaking overhead.  The first report was in Spokane and the last in Great Falls and 120 miles to the SE (~400 miles east of Spokane), and came within minutes of one another according to an examination of check points along the path (suggesting speeds of several thousand miles per hour).  Two CAA control operators at the Air Force base in Spokane said it came right over their tower and "scared the devil out of me for a minute," said one.  Quickly thereafter, a CAA communicator in Missoula, 160 miles east, reported an orange-yellow Zeppelin-shaped object moving NE towards Great Falls..  A Northwest Airline employee and his girlfriend saw it NE of Helena towards Great Falls.  He was certain it wasn't any sort of airplane.  About the same time in Great Falls, a U.S. weather service observer at Gore Field saw the object flash overhead.  He discounted the theory of a Helena weatherman, who said he hadn't see the object, but had seen a spectacular heat lightning.display.at the time.  Finally another CAA communicator 120 miles SE of Great Falls said he saw the "brilliant object" flying eastward a few minutes after it was seen in Great Falls.  He watched it for a few seconds through his binoculars.  (Boise Idaho Evening Statesman, 7/3; Cheyanne Wyoming Eagle, 7/4; Los Angeles Times, 7/3)

!* July 3, Fairbanks and Big Delta (~70 miles SE of Fairbanks), Alaska, either 6:00 a.m. PDT or 10:00 a.m. Fairbanks time   Multiple civilian and military personnel reported another object resembling a "guided missile" flying SE over Eileson Field and Ladd AFB in Fairbanks and an Army camp at Big Delta, traveling at about 600 mph at maybe 2000 feet.  (Some details of sighting may be confused with details from July 1 Fairbanks sighting, which newspapers mixed together.) Initially the USAF would neither confirm nor deny the reports, but the UP story indicated that they were trying to invoke secrecy.  "Air Force intelligence officers were taking the names of persons who reported seeing the object and instructing them not to discuss it."  Further, "Air llne company officials said reports concerning the object were carried on their plane radios, but they refused to tell what the reports said, explaining that military authorities issued orders classifying the subject as confidential."  The next day, Alaska Air command at Anchorage issued a short announcement  that the flaming object was a meteor.  However, the public information officer at Ladd AFB, Fairbanks, also stated the investigation would be continued.  Further Lt. General Nathan Twining, chief of Alaska command, admitted an unidentified "small, phenomenal object" was seen over Fairbanks and the object reportedly "bounced around in the sky" before disappearing to the SE.  Twining said that according to witnesses, the object had a little tail like a shooting star. but he also said there was no jet or rocket-like trail behind it.  (However, an officer at Eileson AFB said witnesses told him the object was trailing smoke.)  Twining added planes couldn't get off the field fast enough to track it .  However, he stated, "In my opinion, it definitely was not a  missile, guided or otherwise. You might say it was an astronomical phenomenon.  You see some queer things (like the northern lights) in the air up here."  He suggested it might be a shooting star "or something like that." He finished by saying he had submitted a full report to USAF headquarters in Washington and any further evaluation would have to come from there.  He also said he had no information on the unknown object that passed over Fairbanks the night of July 1.  ( UP stories, Boise Evening Statesman, 7/3, 7/4; Cheyanne Wyoming Eagle, 7/4;  Denver Rocky Mountain News,  7/4;  San Francisco News,7/4; 7/5; New York Times, 7/4, 7/5; San Diego Union, 7/4;  INS story, Boise Idaho Daily Statesman, 7/4, San Francisco Examiner, 7/4) 

July 3, Cottage Grove, Oregon, morning.  Residents watched a tear-drop shaped object fly slowly in a half-circle around the town in about an hour's time.  One estimate placed the height at 5000 feet.  The point of the teardrop pointed upward and was silver colored.  (San Diego Union, July 4)

$ July 4Downers Grove, Illinois (20 miles west of Chicago), 9:38 p.m.  A meteorologist for United Air Lines and his wife observed "a large, bright, silvery object" at approximately 10,000 feet moving in a N, NW direction over Downers Grove.  Estimated speed was 700 to 800 mph compared to motion of commercial airplanes.  He insisted the object was not a plane nor a fireworks display.  The report was phoned into the FBI 15 minutes after the observation.   (FBI UFO files, Part 7, p. 43)

July 5, Williamina, Oregon (near McMinnville), 7:30-8:00 p.m.:  Three firemen plus another witness saw an object similar to that photographed nearby by farmer Paul Trent two months previously, but seemed to be higher and further away (est. altitude 1500 feet).  The object was north of them and reflected the sun's light brilliantly. It seemed to hover motionless in the sky for 7 to 8 minutes before disappearing.  (McMinnville Telephone-Register, July 6, the first newspaper to publish the Trent photos on June 8)

*$ July 5/6, Los Angeles, CA, midnight.  William Grant, a former Marine Corps aerial photographer, and Gilbert Magdill, president of a firm doing helicopter research, reported seeing a brilliantly lit circular object, about 50 feet in circumference and about 1000 feet high when first seen.  It was in view for about 45 seconds and increased in speed from about 100 mph to 500 mph before disappearing behind the Hollywood hills. (Oakland (CA) Tribune, July 6; New York Times, July 7)

July 6, Topeka, Kansas, about 9:00 p.m. (also given as “afternoon”): Four doctors at the Menninger Clinic saw a round, shiny object (also “white and very round”) flying over Topeka “very high in the sky” ( estimated altitude 10,000-12,000 feet).  It was visible for 5-10 min.  One doctor said it wasn’t a plane because it was moving too fast.  Another doctor, formerly with a radar unit during WWII, said it sure looked like a disc or saucer.  A third opined he didn’t think it was a balloon.  A check with the weather bureau showed that no balloons were released locally or winds were wrong for the weather station to the east in Fort Leavenworth.  The object disappeared to the SW at about 9:10 p.m. (originally reported Topeka Daily CapitalProject Blue Book files, p. 1362)

July 7, 1-1/2 miles W of Richland Corners, Kansas (~5 miles SE of Topeka), 7:45 a.m.  Four electrical linemen while driving to work saw a blindingly bright “flying saucer.”  Initially it looked like a “shiny football,” but when it moved and turned it looked like a “platter.”  They followed it in their car.  It was definitely not a plane because it was too small and slow.  They couldn’t tell the height, but it was well beneath the clouds.  The story was related to the Topeka State Journal on July 8 by the wife of one of the men. The official USAF explanation was they had seen a balloon. (Project Blue Book files, p. 1355)

* July 11, near Osceola, Arkansas, nighttime:  While flying, two Naval pilots and an electronics instructor spotted an unknown, helmet-shaped object visually and on radar.  It was in sight for about 3 minutes and came within about a mile of them.  The Navy declined comment.  (Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal, July 12, NICAP files )

* July 13Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana.  11:51 a.m.-12:04 p.m.:  USAF photo recon flight crew of four (pilot, copilot, engineer, and scanner) saw four groups of round, metallic, silver objects.  The first two groups were of 5 objects each; the second two of 1 object each.  The objects were about 5000 feet below the aircraft, about 15-20 feet across, and clocked at speeds of 450 mph. In each case, objects were flying straight and level and would pass under the plane traveling either SE or NW, then vanish from view.  By the time the plane changed direction to continue observation, the objects were always gone.  The official USAF explanation was balloons. (Sparks ; detailed report in Project Blue Book filesp. 1365)  

$ July 131950; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. 5 p.m. Witnesses were two skilled Arsenal employees.  The object was shaped like a bow-tie and like polished aluminum. It flew straight and level, then one triangle rotated 1/4 turn in the opposite direction and returned to its original position. The object then made a right-angle turn and accelerated away after at least 30 seconds. ( "The UFO Evidence" )

$ July 15, Los Alamos, N.M., 2:15 p.m. MST:  An unidentified AEC employee working in the “Gamma Building” saw a “bright metallic, aluminum colored object” shaped like a flying wing with a transparent section in the center and no fuselage.  It was in view for about a minute at a distance of about 15 miles, flying E to W over a mountain range at about 300 mph.  It flew in a straight line and left no trail.  Official explanation was an aircraft.  (Project Blue Book files, pp. 490-492, p. 37)

* July 31, 20-25 miles N of Albuquerque, N.M., 11:54 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. MST:  An F-51 pilot in the N.M. National Guard observed and chased an amber/bronze-colored, teardrop-shaped object.  It was slightly smaller than his plane. He pursued it for 26 min. at 340 mph about 3000 feet behind as it descended from about 14,000 to 10,000 ft. on a steady course.  It finally disappeared into a large cloud bank.  Until then it appeared to avoid clouds on its flight path and left no perceivable effect on them.  It left no trail and he heard no sound.                        (Project Blue Book files, pp. 494-496) 

A similar report came from a fireman in Jackson, Miss. "It looked like a grapefruit and was spouting fire like a roman candle, and was followed by a white vapor trail.  It made a loop and then a white light came on."  Then, he said, "it dove down and back, "the light went out," followed by it emitting a long, "white stream of vapor."

A weather observer in New Orleans similarly commented about a later-appearing trail, "It started out like a shooting star, a blue flash, and a vapor trail appeared about five or six minutes later."

According to the USAF crew, the approximate position of the object sighted was just south of Louisiana about 270 miles away (perhaps determined by triangulation of the persisting trail over a 20 minute period).  This largely agreed with several mainland descriptions, also placing the center of the primary fireball event high in the skies over SW Louisiana or E. Texas.   (The fireball was reported directly overhead in both Beaumont, Tex. and Lake Charles, La., which are about 50 miles apart.) 

In addition to the military crew, a National Airlines pilot flying near Mobile, Alabama also reported seeing something, though details are currently lacking.  Newspapers also reported CAA controllers and weather observers in different cities amongst the many witnesses.

The very bright, very persistent, wavy trail has some similarity to the trail descriptions for the object the next day, as were some descriptions of the main object trailing flames or fire.  Also similar was the description of how the appearance changed in time.  E.g., for the June 24 sighting, the UA copilot was quoted as saying,  "When we first sighted the thing, it looked like a brilliantly lighted number '3.'  Then when it appeared to be moving at a tremendous speed it changed into a dirigible like shape." 

In eastern Nevada at Ely, witnesses similarly reported that "the shape of the phenomena changed from a spiral shape to that of a disc before disappearing."  

As mentioned before, the spiral shape was the trail with possibly the object generating it inside, as described by some of the Nevada witnesses, whereas the dirigible/disc shape was likely the object isolated outside the trail.

Despite some similarities, the June 23 sighting over the southern U.S. was not as bizarre as the one the next day with the huge spiral trail over California and Nevada.  It could conceivably be explained as a meteor fireball coupled with a coincidental sighting of a high-flying aircraft (a military jet flying from Virginia to Texas was described in the newspapers as a possibility).  Then again, if the USAF weather plane crew report of the fireball descending in a spiral for 1-1/2 min. is accurate, or the Mississippi fireman's account of how the fireball made a loop, then dove down and back is correct, this was something other than a meteor fireball.  Meteors don't fly this slowly, last this long, or make loops or spirals.  Nonetheless, the official USAF conclusion was that this was a meteor fireball.

Similarity to Other UFO Sightings

1950 sightings

UFOs sporting trails are fairly unusual.  Nonetheless, there are a number of other newspaper stories of UFOs producing vapor trails or smoke trails reported in 1950.  From the newspaper descriptions, most of these sound like high-flying jet aircraft emitting vapor trails, commonplace today, but not so in 1950, as military jets were relatively new and commercial jets nonexistent.  Another case sounds like a classic meteor fireball sighting.

However, several of these cases are not so easily explained.  On March 9, a disc was seen hovering over Orangeburg, South Carolina for 15 minutes.  When it disappeared, it left a vapor trail.  Six members of the local newspaper reported seeing it, saying it kept changing its orientation.  At least four other witnesses saw it 15 miles outside of town.  This story was nationally reported by United Press.

On April 16, a veteran Air Force pilot in Fort Worth, Texas said he saw a classic-looking "flying saucer" object accompanied by six other aircraft of some kind more banana-shaped.  They had no tails, made no noise, and were moving fast.  He said he took pictures, and the pictures showed they left some sort of vapor trail.

On September 8 over Du Bois, Pennsylvania, 80 members of the 229th Field Artillery Battery said they saw a flying saucer hovering over the Du Bois airport.  It was rotating, about 30 feet in diameter, 4000 feet up, and had a metallic finish.  It looked "cigar-shaped" from the side "like two saucers stuck together."  It left a vapor trail.  The story was nationally reported by Associated Press.

No doubt the most spectacular incident was another largely forgotten UFO mass sighting by hundreds to thousands over Tucson, Arizona, on February 1.  (New, 2009!  Text newspaper storiesOriginal Newspaper articles)  A fiery object sped over the city at dusk (about 6:30) trailing an enormous black smoke trail that spread out to over a mile wide.  A CAA official at the airport stated that at one point the "thing zipped" through a 30,000 foot cloud, and the local paper likewise placed the altitude at 30,000 feet  It moved in a perfectly straight line from east to west at very high speed, though some witnesses thought it noticeably slowed down when directly over the city and perhaps wavered as it disappeared over the mountains.   It moved so fast, all witnesses agreed they couldn't make out a shape to the object that generated the trail. It was visible for perhaps only 30 seconds, according to one witness.  Some witnesses said it definitely stopped producing the trail once it cleared the mountains to the west.  The high speed object was also spotted by a deputy 120 miles to the west in the small Arizona town of Ajo, but quickly vanished, again leaving a black trail.  (As a rough estimate of speed, if the quick-moving object was seen for 2 minutes from horizon to horizon, a distance of about 60 miles between mountains east and west of Tucson, then it would have been traveling about 30 miles per minute or 1800 miles per hour, far in excess of any conventional aircraft of the time.)

Nearly everybody agreed it was silent, though one witness, a reporter, said she thought she heard a hum. A local university astronomer ruled out a meteor or any other natural phenomena. He said a meteor wouldn't have created such a massive discharge of smoke.  (Absence of sound and an apparent low altitude would have ruled out a meteor as well.) The Tucson Daily Citizen added that no other expert could provide a plausible explanation either.  Checks by the CAA ruled out any unknown airplanes and White Sands Proving Grounds said it wasn't one of their missiles.

At first thinking it might be a distressed plane with a smoking engine, nearby Davis-Monthan AFB sent a B-29 flying at the time to chase after it, but it was easily outdistanced (top speed of a B-29 is 350 mph) .  The pilot placed the altitude at only 20,000 feet (perhaps based on flying up into the actual trail), said he didn't know what it was, but discounted the idea it was a flying saucer.  Later two other pilots also said to be involved in the chase changed the story, saying it must have been a new type of jet plane trailing a vapor trail that only appeared dark because it was late. (In reality, at sunset high clouds and vapor trails, unless backlit, appear luminous, not black, as the sky darkens and the clouds reflect the sun's rays.)

The Air Force further tried to debunk the event by sending up some jet planes the following day to generate vapor trails over the city for several hour, again trying to suggest it had been one of their high-flying jets, never identified.  However, the editor of the Daily Citizen wasn't buying the explanation.  In a jaundice front-page editorialhe wrote that the "thin, puny" vapor trails of the jets didn't remotely resemble the "heavy smoke [that] boiled and swirled in a broad, dark ribbon fanning out at least a mile in width and stretching across the sky in a straight line." If anything, he said, the Air Force demonstrated the trail could not be generated by any conventional aircraft.

The incident is mentioned briefly by Donald Keyhoe in the opening of his 1950 book, The Flying Saucers Are Real, where he quoted from the Daily Citizen articles.  Keyhoe thought there was evidence the story was kept off the newswires.  "The Associated Press and other wire services in Washington had no report. Requests for details by Frank Edwards, Mutual newscaster, and other radio commentators ran into a blank wall. At the Pentagon I was told that the Air Force had no knowledge of the sighting or the vapor-trail maneuvers."  However, using microfilm and electronic newspaper searches, I did find several Associated and United Press stories in a few western newspapers.  One detailed AP story summarized the event and the fact that no plausible explanation was forthcoming.  There was also a descriptive UP article with the information from the CAA official of the object passing through a 30,000 foot cloud, eliminating any possibility of something like a meteor.  However, a short UP follow-up article the next day had two USAF pilots supposedly involved in chasing the object proclaiming it must have been a jet emitting a contrail.  NICAP's The UFO Evidence also briefly lists the event, and cites its source as the Los Angeles Daily Mirror, February 2, 1950.  It is possible the story had some limited release in the West, but was killed back East, but further research is necessary.

Other years

The June 24 cigar-shaped object with reddish flames also has similarities to other well-known sightings, such as the famous Chiles-Whitted  Eastern Airline pilot sighting of July 24, 1948.  This object, seen at a distance of under a mile, was similarly described as rocket-shaped or fuselage-shaped and surrounded with a deep blue glow, but with an orange-red flame tail.  It seemed to have a double row of windows or ports glowing intensely like bright magnesium.  It abruptly pulled up after passing the plane and suddenly disappeared.  However, unlike the 1950 object, no smoke or vapor trail was reported.

Only three days before the Chiles-Whitted sighting, the same or similar object was seen over The Hague, Netherlands.  It too was reported as rocket-shaped with a double row of windows along the side.

Recently declassified Australian UFO documents cite one case from Oct. 27, 1952, where 5 witnesses, 3 of them military, observed a cigar-shaped object near Woomera, Australia.  One of the military witnesses said it flew straight and level faster than any aircraft he had ever seen and was definitely not a falling star.  It had two portholes which seemed to emit light from within.  (Reported in Feb. 2005 Nexus Magazine, from Australian National Archives)

An elliptical object that did emit a prominent trail was seen and photographed over Peru on July 19, 1952.  (Photo below).  The trail persisted for about 15 minutes.  When the trail settled to the ground it turned out to be a mass of thin fibrous threads.  A Peruvian newspaper reported that the color of the head or nucleus of this disc was an intense orange. Based on sightings about 120 km (73 miles) and about 4 minutes apart, its speed was computed at around 1100 mph. The object, which was flying at low altitude and emitting a buzzing sound, also reportedly knocked out radio communications, indicating that it was causing intense electromagnetic interference.  (link)
While heading NNW at 7:44 p.m., the crew of four saw a "huge ball of fire" off to their left in a slow "spiral descent." It formed a "curving erratic" or "zigzag", elongated "S"-shaped path from at least 50,000 ft to 20,000 ft (or from 50-70 miles down to 30 miles according to one crew member).  The fireball faded after about 1-1/2 min., leaving an extremely bright glowing bluish or bluish-white smoke or vapor trail that persisted for 20-30 minutes.  It didn't dim for the first 15 minutes, then finally faded into a soft blur at about 8:00 p.m.  The bright trail seemed to "elongate itself in an upward motion and then later seeming to dive toward the earth." A drawing by the navigator from the official report is shown at the right.