Radar Operators Track 12 UFOs
Around DC In 1952
From Frank Warren

Radar On Night Watch
By William Daffron
Reporter - The Alexandria Gazette
July 29, 1952

"Until unidentified objects - we call them targets - began moving onto our radar scopes, I thought people who reported flying saucers were just seeing things...Now, I don't know what to the think."
Thus, Radar Specialist James M. Ritchey spoke to this reporter this morning when asked what he thought of the twin experiences he had on the past two Saturdays of watching the flying saucers over Fairfax-Arlington- Alexandria area.
"I have talked to representatives of the Air Force, and they say they can't explain the appearance of flying objects. Neither can we. All I can do is tell you what we saw on our instruments, and what the Air Force and commercial pilots reported when they tried to investigate," the 30 year old veteran of World War II continued, as we sat in the living room of his comfortable new brick bungalow at No. 5 Jamestown Rd in Hollin Hall just a few miles south of Alexandria.
The "we" he referred to, included his neighbor, buddy'and working partner for the last six years, James M.Copland, 28 year old former Navy pilot, who lives just three house away.
Copland, to use Ritchie's words, "is lucky'he put his wife and has four kids into his car,and took off for the beach. We have today and tomorrow off, then we change shifts."
Changing shifts has had no effect on the "ability" of the pair to pickup targets as their first encounter was at 12:30 a.m. July 20th when they picked up five or six objects on the Northwestern sweep of their radar set. The objects were cited intermittently until 6 a.m.. The second time began in the Herndon area, the objects were cited moving southeast at 9:08 p.m. Eastern daylight time on July 26.The second sighting involved a dozen objects and were picked up now and then until 6 a.m.
The set on which Ritchie and Copeland have watched the objects is a small scope that covers a 30 mile radius around the airport by means of a familiar revolving antenna on top of the main building of the airport.
Coinciding with the the movement of the antenna is a sweep arm rotating about the scope six times a minute. Every time the arm passes over a solid object within the radar radius it creates a "blip"- contact with a substance in the sky.
But to give you the account of the eyewitness as he saw it happen while working in the Washington Air Traffic Control Center: "It was 9:08 p.m. Saturday when the last unidentified objects moved into our scope from the Northwest."
"These objects were about 30 miles from the airport when we first made contact with them."
"We spotted 12 objects, and judged that they were moving in a southeasterly direction at a speed of about 40 mph. These objects were not acting as intelligently as the group we spotted the previous week and not moving half as fast."
"The Air Force sent some jet planes up to investigate, and we help 'vector' the pilots toward the objects. I should explain here that our radar scope is about two feet in diameter. When it showed a 'blip' we placed a plastic marker on the spot."
. "The radar beam swings around in a great circle, and when it returns to the same area it will make another contact, with the same object. If the object has moved, we move the marker, and after a number of repetitions we can determine the object's direction and aproximate speed."
"When we 'vector' a plane onto an object, we are in the radar contact with both the object and the plane, and also in radio contact with the pilot of the plane. We keep telling the pilot how to turn to approach the object until he makes a sighting." . "The first jet pilot to go out Saturday night reported that he sighted a steady white light that appeared to be about 10 miles distant. When we tried to draw closer, it just disappeared."
"A commercial pilot got much closer to one of the objects, and reported to us that sighted a yellow light that appeared to turn red and then yellow again. He reported to us that the object appeared to be about two miles away and the flying parallel with him."
"Radar confirmed that he was between two and three miles from the object."
"A third pilot sighted two bluish lights and later five more white lights. Our radar continued to show unidentified objects through the night, until 6 a.m. the next morning, but the pilots did not get closer to them."
"The blips on our radar were not similar to those sometimes caused by storm clouds. I don't think the objects were balloons or anything moving with the wind, because their speed was greater than that of the wind. I don't see how they could have been ducks, geese, or any kind of night birds- these can be picked up on radar, but they wouldn't explain the lights."
"As I said, I just don't have an explanation, and neither does anyone else as far as I know."
"The blips would disappear in reappear on the screen, indicating either that they were not solid objects, or that they moved in spurts of such tremendous speed that they would bounce to the other side of the scope while the sweep arm was moving around."
About this time, Little Miss Ann Marie, the eighteen month-old daughter of Ritchie and his wife, the former Ms. Rosemary Roediger of St. Louis, indicated she thought this reporter was taking up enough of Daddy's day off.
Not being one to argue with a woman, particularly a golden-haired miss of 18 months, your reporter departed as the Ritchey's took off for a swim.
Ritchey' a native of Altoona, PA. has been making his home in this area for the last six years and has been with the CAA since he got out of the Air Force.
While on duty in the Air Force, he served as a tower operator and saw combat duty in Hollandia, New Guinea and in the Philippines.
Sincere appreciation is given to R.H. for her on going efforts in gathering these documents.
Frank Warren
Flying saucers circled the Northern Virginia area again this morning.
Tha CAA says it's radar picked up the saucers about six straight hours early today as they circled between Herndon, and Andrews Field.
A CAA official estimated the ojects were traveling between 100 and 200 hundred miles per hour in this morning's flight.
Simultaneously the Air Force stymied by the failure of its supersonic jets to intercept the flying saucers Saturday night, announced it was equipping it's planes with special cameras to help solve the mystery.
Jet pilots from the 142nd Interceptor Squadron at Newcastle, Del., for some time now have been on orders to shoot down any "unidentified" aircraft which ignores "orders" to land. An Air Force spokesman from the Pentagon refused to say wether the saucers fall into the "aircraft" category.
He asid the planes have been on 24-hour alert to defend the skys ever since the out-break of the Korean War and the pilots have been issued no specific orders to shoot down "saucers."
Saucer experts from Wright Field, Ohio have been called to Washington for a special conference on the phenomenon. The group was scheduled to arrive last night, but was delayed by plane trouble and will insted meet today.
Pentagon officials are expected to issue a statement on the results of the investigation to date.
A high ranking Air Force official reiterated yesterday that the saucers are "not" some special experiment being conducted by "his" branch of the service. He stated, "that if the Army, Navy, Atomic Energy Commission, or any other government agency were conducting such experiments we would know about it."
"One thing I would like to do is dispel the belief by some that we are holding out something," he said. "We are not."
Scientists, military spokesman, and private citizens continue to offer a wide variety of explanations for the radar sightings at National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base.
An Air Force official said the spots on the screen might have been caused by tinfoil "windows" dropped by a B-36 bomber in recent Air Defense excercises up north. The tinfoil strips are used to "cloud" radar screens.
Scientists admitted little knowledge of sky phenomenon such as cosmic rays and electro-magnetic forces, but said they could cause radar reactions.
Still a third explanation traced to the "blips" registered on radar screens to the heavy use of television sets in the area during the convention.
In Alexandria, James H. Gillis, chief observer for The Air Defense volunteer observation post on Russell Rd.,said his crew has not seen any flying saucers, nor have they recieved specific orders to watch for flying saucers.
"Our orders are to report any strange objects in the skys," he said. "We pass our reports on to the filter station in Baltimore which in turn alerts the interceptor planes."
Gillis said his crew, supposed to operate on a 24-hour basis, has had so few volunteer workers, he is struggling to maintain a 4 to 10 p.m. sky watch.
The Air Force said in the past few years they have recieved and evaluated more then 1000 sightings of "unidentified flying objects." Of these only a small portion remained unexplicable after investigation.
New reports are coming in to follow-up Saturday night's weird "sky chase" over Mt Vernon.
Sylvanus Jones, 25, a State Department clerk from Washington, said he saw " a small light" floating in space over the capital. He said he was sure it was not a star or an airplane light.
State Police in Indianapolis, Indiana, said they watched three flying saucers cavort in the skies overhead yesterday.
The new-type cameras being installed in the jet interceptors are specially designed to shoot "luminous phenomenon," the Air Force said. They operate on the same principle employed by astomoners in determining the composition of the stars.
Air Force scientists hope to determine the physical make-up of the strange lights and thereby identify there source.
Sincere appreciation is given to R.H. for her on going efforts in gathering these documents.
Frank Warren


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