27 February 2023


Kevin D. Randle, The Washington Nationals. Flying Saucers over the Capital. Flying Disk Press, 2022.

This is an update of Randle’s earlier Invasion Washington and retells the classic story of the radar/visual UFO sightings over Washington D.C. in the summer of 1952. The clusters of reports caused a sensation at the time and have since gone down in UFO history.
What became known as the Washington Nationals, began on 19 July when two radars at the Air Routing and Traffic Control Center (ARTC) picked up seven unidentified targets at 11.40 pm. Air Traffic Controller Edward Nugent’s radar scope indicated they were 15 miles south southwest of Washington D.C. The blips accelerated faster than any aircraft of that period. The Washington National Airport’s control tower radar also displayed unidentified blips and the two controllers saw a bright light move at incredible speed. When these blips indicated the objects were over the White House and the Capital two fighter jets were scrambled to investigate them.

Ten miles away at the Andrews Air Force Base, some unknown objects were also tracked on radar and an airman saw a fast moving bright ball of light. Just before the fighters arrived over Washington at 3am the objects disappeared from the radar scope. The jet pilots saw nothing in the area, but when they left the unexplained blips returned.

Not surprisingly the story hit the headlines throughout the nation. And, the following Saturday, 26 July, after 8pm, unexplained lights were again observed by radar at the National Airport and Andrews AFB. One pilot of a jet sent to intercept them said he saw four white glows 1,000 feet below him but they were travelling too fast for him to chase them.

As these objects flew with impunity over the nation’s capital it caused as much debate as the present Chinese Spy Balloon scare. It brought into action the CIA-backed secret Robertson Panel meetings held on 14th to 18th January 1953, where they noted: ‘It was the Panel's opinion that some of the Air Force concern over U.F.O.'s (notwithstanding Air Defense Command anxiety over fast radar tracks) was probably caused by public pressure.’

At the time a hastily held and chaotic press conference explained to the public that the radar returns observed in July 1952 were caused by temperature inversions. What seems likely is that sightings were caused by the expectation of seeing something to account for these radar blips. Some could and were explained as due to weather balloons and meteors. Mark Pilkington in his book The Mirage Men states that the radar blips might have been caused by electronically produced ghost aircraft to secretly test military and public reactions to such an ‘invasion’.

Randle accepts there were misidentifications but when they are eliminated it proves to him that extraterrestrial craft were responsible for the Washington Nationals.

An appendix carries a listing of ‘Unidentifieds in the Summer of 1952’ that puts the Washington sightings in the context of a nationwide UFO scare during that period.

This is a handy guide to the 1952 sightings but Randle does not explain why he thinks they had anything to do with extra-terrestrial craft, other than that some sightings remain ‘unexplained’.
  • Nigel Watson

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