3 Days Before Roswell,
Portland Buzzed By Saucers

By Phil Sanford

Say I'm slightly unhinged or even that I'm trying to kick back and relax a little after all that Goldschmidt stuff. But I'd still like to know what really happened on July 4, 1947, when scores of flying saucers were spotted over Portland.
And I'm not making this up, either. It was on the front pages of both newspapers.
Two police officers, Walter Lissy and Robert Ellis - both World War II vets and civilian pilots - saw the first ones over Oaks Park. They were fast-moving, silvery discs, traveling in formation, Ellis and Lissy said.
According to the newspaper stories, the Portland Police Bureau was immediately placed on full alert.
That same day, Thomas Berry, who lived on Northeast Killingsworth, saw something, too. So did M.A. Deaton, who lived on Northeast 32nd.
Deaton said it was a disc, flying due east "faster than an airplane."
Downtown on Broadway at the Jackson Tower, where The Oregon Journal was then located, several employees saw a flyby of discs and if you can't trust a reporter to know a flying saucer when he sees one, I don't know who you could.
Three sheriff's deputies assigned to the harbor patrol spotted a cluster of discs at about 10,000 feet.
Another policeman, Earl Patterson, radioed in from his car at Southeast 82nd and Foster with another report of flying discs. He said they were aluminum or eggshell in color, traveling at a high rate of speed.
* * *
That evening, more strange discs were spotted by the pilot and crew of a United Airlines flight en route from Boise to Portland. Nine flying saucers, which they all described as bigger than their airplane, cruised along with them for 15 minutes.
The next day, The Oregonian, obviously looking for a positive angle on the story, reported that despite the numerous sightings of unidentified flying objects, no damage to the city had occurred.
Whatever it was, though, it was catching.
* * *
The Portland flyby came hardly a week after the first-ever recorded flying saucer sighting, by a private pilot near Mount Rainier in Washington. On June 24, one Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine shiny objects, which, as he told the first reporter he saw upon landing, skipped through the atmosphere like saucers at speeds of up to 1,700 miles per hour.
Although, as a check of the original news stories indicates, he also said they were shaped like boomerangs, the reports of "saucerlike" flying objects spread throughout the world. Over the next month or so, flying saucers were sighted in 23 states.
We can, nevertheless, take pride in the fact that the Portland sighting is generally acknowledged as the largest.
As you might expect, the newspapers sought out expert opinions on the subject.
Frederick Courts, a psychology professor at Reed College, thought it was a hallucination, brought on by "the nervousness of the public over reports of atomic warfare and guided projectiles."
The Rev. Jessie Falmer of Portland's Assembly of God church took it as a portent that the end was near.
Myself, I kind of lean toward the mass hallucination theory, if only because it's been 57 years now and the world's still with us.
And of course it could have been visitors from outer space, too. You tell me.



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