The mysterious flying objects showed up in Washington, D.C., on a hot, humid night in the summer of 1952. The air-traffic controllers at the airport saw them first, and then so did the operators at nearby Air Force bases—seven unexplained blips on their radar screens. A commercial pilot in the vicinity reported seeing bright lights in the darkness. The Air Force dispatched fighter jets but found nothing. A week later, it happened again. More blips. More jets. This time, an Air Force pilot even reported chasing a strange light before it got away. The newspapers were all over these sightings. “Jets Chase D.C. Sky Ghosts.” “Saucers Swarm Over Capital.” “Aerial Whatzits Buzz D.C. Again!”
Decades later, as America heads into another toasty summer, unidentified flying objects are in the headlines again. Many more of us are involved in the story this time, jammed together in the control tower of the internet, watching grainy, black-and-white videos from the U.S. Navy that purport to show something unexplainable and trying to figure out what we’re seeing. But just like in 1952, some people are making the leap from strange, cloud-skimming phenomena to aliens.
The videos aren’t new, but the footage has gained attention in recent weeks because a special Pentagon task force is expected to deliver a report to Congress about UFOs. The task force was created last year to help improve the Defense Department’s understanding of “the nature and origins” of the unidentified aerial phenomena detected by U.S. military aircraft. The report, out next month, is supposed to reveal what intelligence agencies know about these UFOs and what threat the objects pose to national security.