Back in the summer of 1947 – 64 years ago this week – Seattle had flying disc fever. It was sparked that June 26 when the P-I ran an Associated Press story from Pendleton, Ore., telling the story of pilot Kenneth Arnold seeing “nine bright, saucer-like objects flying at ‘incredible’ speed at 10,000 feet altitude.”
Arnold, a U.S. Forest Service employee, reported seeing the discs weaving in and out of formation between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. If one dipped, Arnold said, the others did, too.
“It seems impossible,” he told a reporter, “but there it is.”
His account generated worldwide publicity and launched the flying-saucer frenzy. Rewards were offered for evidence. A pastor said “flying saucers” signaled the end of the world. A man found bleeding from the head claimed he was hit by a flying disk.
That summer, a group of “witnesses” in Seattle met with P-I editors to argue that they could not all be crazy. The paper’s files filled with the names of hundreds of citizens reporting saucer incidents. Within two months, the P-I ran at least 50 separate stories on flying disks.
On July 4, 1947, a Lake City man claimed to have caught a photo of one.
Yeoman Frank Ryman, off duty from his job with Coast Guard public relations, said he saw a shiny disc flying across the Seattle skies. Ryman rushed into his home in Lake City, then outside the Seattle city limits in King County.
“I grabbed my Speed Graphic (press camera) and field glasses and ran back outside,” the 26-year-old told the P-I. “The disc came over about 9,000 or 10,000 feet. It was flashing brilliant silver in the sun.
The picture, he said, was taken while the disc was directly overhead. He used Super-XX film, a 1/50 shutter speed with a f 22 lens opening.
“There was no noise,” he said, adding he watched it with binoculars. “No sound of engines. And I am positive there were no wings or fins in sight. It definitely was not a plane.”
After spotting the object and talking with neighbors, Ryman called the Post-Intelligencer and rushed to the newspaper’s darkroom.
“Enlarged many times the disc showed up clearly as a slightly blurred whitish object,” the newspaper’s account read.
That day, the P-I ran several reports of flying objects. In Twin Falls, Idaho, 35 flying discs were reported in a 20-minute period. A United Airlines pilot, Capt. E. Smith, also reported seeing three to five discs at 7,500 feet over Ontario, Ore., the night of July 4. A deputy sheriff also told the P-I he saw a flying disc that day on his trip north from the Clark County Courthouse.
“Yesterday alone, hundreds of people between San Diego and Seattle reported seeing the plate-like gleaming objects winging northward high in the sky at near supersonic speeds,” the P-I’s front page story read.
On June 21, 1947 – about two weeks before the Lake City incident – Harold Dahl was salvaging logs near the shore of Maury Island. Dahl said that at 2 p.m. he saw six doughnut-shaped aircraft, about 100 feet in diameter.
He said five of the metallic aircraft, which didn’t appear to have signs of propulsion, circled above one, which dropped to about 500 feet and spewed what he thought was 20 tons of metal and molten rock. Dahl reported to co-worker Fred Crisman that the falling debris injured his 15-year-old son, killed their dog and damaged the boat’s wheelhouse.
It was three days later that Arnold reported seeing the flying saucers.
The day after Dahl’s sighting, a man in a black suit arrived at his Tacoma home in a black 1947 Buick, Dahl said later. Books by UFO historians say the man in black threatened Dahl, saying that if he cared about his family, he’d never speak of the incident again.
He spoke of it at least one more time in July 1947, when he met with Arnold in a secret meeting in Room 502 of Tacoma’s Winthrop Hotel. Arnold wrote about the meeting in his 1952 book, and said they were also joined by the Smith, the United Airlines pilot, as well as Air Force Lt. Frank M. Brown and Capt. William L. Davidson.
Smith told The Idaho Statesman that Brown and Davidson were given six pieces of “metal or lava.” The chunks were loaded onto a B-25 bomber at McChord Field to be shipped to a California military base, according to the now-defunct Tacoma Times.
It was still dark in the early morning of Aug. 1, 1947, when a fire erupted in the left engine of the B-25. Longview police officers reported watching the B-25 circle over Longview and Kelso, leaving a streak of smoke behind the burning motor.
When attempts to extinguish the fire failed, two other crewmembers – Sgt. Elmer L. Taft and Tech. Sgt. Woodrow D. Matthews – parachuted to safety. Brown and Davidson, who some believe knew there were UFO parts on the plane, stayed with the bomber.
The B-25 crashed into the base of three alder trees. One initial newspaper report said Brown and Davidson’s mangled bodies were thrown clear.
On Aug. 3, 1947, an Associated Press report said the men died investigating flying saucers.
Some people who believe in UFOs are sure there was something suspicious about the crash. Many others say it was a simple tragedy, and newspapers at the time were caught up in the flying disc rumors.
Nearly 60 years later, in April 2007, a Kelso resident went to the crash site. In the north fork of Globe Creek a friend of the Kelso man found a black chunk slightly larger than a softball.
Later that month, University of Washington research engineer Bill Beaty analyzed the black fragment and said it was probably a meteor chunk or old lava “because it’s all full of little gas pockets, and gas pockets have crystals coating the inner walls.”
Beaty said he thought Dahl’s Maury Island UFO incident was just an exploding stony meteor, which would have explained what Dahl saw.
In 2007, Dahl’s daughter Louise Bakotich of Aberdeen told the P-I she didn’t know anything about her father’s UFO claim until 2003 when a man from Sacramento sent her research about it. Her brother, Charles Dahl, who was supposedly injured by the falling debris, didn’t confirm the injuries before his death.
The Army and Air Force have repeatedly denied that UFO fragments were on the B-25 flight, and the multiple flying saucer claims have been dismissed. But some still believe, and the legend remains.
WORLD’S FAIR UFO SIGHTINGS IN SEATTLE WASHINGTON
Date of Sighting: Summer, 1962
Time of Sighting: Mid-Day
Date Reported: April 17, 2005
Location of Sighting: Seattle World’s Fair Complex
Number of Witnesses: (At Least Two)
Description (In Witness’s Own Words): I was 10 years old and at the Seattle World’s Fair with my dad. We were walking in the area by the base of the Space Needle and we approached a crowd of people, who were looking up. Both my dad and I looked up and saw approximately 8, maybe 12 round, gray in color objects, hovering in a straight row. I recall seeing heat waves coming off of them. And in super fast speed, the objects started “reshuffling” but staying at the same height, then stopping in a line again. Then, again in super fast speed, they all took off straight up to a point where they were just dots in the blue sky, then came back down to the same level they were, again in a straight line. They then did another “reshuffle, went back into a straight line, hovered, and then straight up again and gone. About 2 years ago, I brought this up to my dad to see if he recalled this, or was I just imagining it. He said with great certainty, that the events as I described them, did in fact happen. I have scoured the internet, trying to find any report from the time and nothing. This was a sighting in the middle of a clear, sunny summer day. There was absolutely no question that what we saw was real. I’m sorry that I don’t remember the exact date. I am curious to hear if you have any reports on this sighting though.
Investigator’s Notes: This sighting is most interesting considering that it happened during the daytime at an event attended by thousands of people (Seattle World’s Fair). The witness was 10 years old at the time and vividly recalls the 8 to 12 hovering objects. His father also corroborates his experience. I will be checking other UFO databases and the Air Force Project Bluebook files to see if this sighting was reported. New information will be posted. NOTE: The above image is CGI.
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