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  • Writer's pictureSven Piper

The UFO Phenomenon - Part 2

Updated: 7 days ago

Kenneth Arnold
Kenneth Arnold

In the first part of our multi-part special on the UFO phenomenon, we dealt with the role of the military and secret military prototypes. In the following part, we will describe the UFO experiences of well-known scientists, astronauts, politicians, and pilots. Firstly, those who believe that famous astronomers or astronauts are better suited to explaining the phenomenon will be disappointed, as various opinions are reflected here.

Even before the Roswell incident, when flying saucers seemed to be reported everywhere in America, there were already reports of mysterious luminous phenomena. The so-called foo fighters existed during the Second World War, although it is no longer clear what they were. What is certain is that there are no reports of injuries caused by them, and they were observed not only by pilots over Europe but also over other theaters of war, including the Pacific.

The Allied pilots initially thought that it was a German weapon system, which is why this phenomenon is also known as “Kraut fireballs”. The claim that it was German tracer ammunition, as some sources suggest, is difficult to substantiate. Surviving reports describe variations in color and size, and many pilots also reported that the 'Foo-Fighters' accompanied them and performed various flight maneuvers. Occasionally it is also reported that they had a metallic surface. (A Google image search returns several results).

The simplest explanations are St. Elmo's Fire, which involves electrical spark discharges that often occur on aircraft in thundery weather conditions, and the mysterious ball lightning, which has not yet been conclusively researched.

After the end of the war, the “ghost rockets” made the headlines. From February to December 1946 alone, there were hundreds of sightings in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden. At first it was thought that these were meteorites or Soviet missile tests of captured V2s. However, this could not explain all the reports and flight characteristics of the objects, especially as there was a UFO landing on May 18, 1946 (today the Ängelholm UFO memorial stands on this site). Naturally, this called the American Air Force into action and they met with representatives of the Swedish Air Intelligence Service. In the formerly classified “Top Secret” report dated November 4, 1948, the report reveals that several trustworthy Swedish experts came to the conclusion:

"These phenomenon are obviously the result of a high technical skill which cannot be credited to any presently known culture on earth. They are therefore assuming that these objects originate from some previously unknown or unidentified technology, possibly outside the earth."
Declassified “Top Secret” report of the US Air Force
Declassified “Top Secret” report of the US Air Force

Report from Arnold to the US military
Report from Arnold to the US military

The first reported UFO sighting in the USA after the Second World War was made by amateur pilot Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947, when he saw nine unusual flying objects near Mount Rainier in Washington State. He is said to have described the objects as “elliptical”, “extremely shiny” and with a “bell jar” on top (although Kenneth Arnold is also quoted in various media as having other characteristics). There is a picture of Kenneth Arnold with a drawing of the objects he claims to have seen at the beginning of this article, though his handmade sketches provide a slightly different account (see right).

The story was picked up by the Associated Press and spread around the country, and his statement 'they flew erratically, like a saucer if you skip it across the water' led to the term 'flying saucer'. This was followed by an inflation of sightings all over the world. [1]

One of the most famous UFO sightings came from none other than Clyde W. Tombaugh, the American astronomer who discovered the dwarf planet Pluto. Tombaugh had his UFO sighting one night in August 1949 in New Mexico. His wife and mother-in-law also saw the noiseless blue-green triangles for about 3 seconds. [2]

„I have done thousands of hours of night sky watching, but never saw a sight so strange as this.”
"I doubt that the phenomenon was any terrestrial reflection, because... nothing of the kind has ever appeared before or since... I was so unprepared for such a strange sight that I was really petrified with astonishment."

Around the same period, there were also repeated reports of green fireballs in New Mexico. Dr. Lincoln La Paz, an astronomer from the University of New Mexico and an expert on meteors, was told of the experiences of aircraft crews who had seen the “luminous phenomenon” before he himself saw a green fireball on December 12, 1948. Subsequently, numerous other sightings were reported from Los Alamos, where eventually every scientist and technician had observed the phenomenon. The frequency of the sightings ruled out the possibility of this being a mundane phenomenon, leading to initial suspicions of a Soviet espionage operation. This speculation continued until Life magazine ran the headline 'Have We Visitors From Space?' in 1952. [3]

Despite his skepticism, noted astronomer Donald Howard Menzel, president of the American Astronomical Society, wrote numerous books on the UFO phenomenon, saying that the UFO phenomenon was due to misinterpreted terrestrial phenomena, he too saw these “luminous apparitions” in May 1949 as he and his chauffeur were leaving Holloman Air Force Base. He wrote about it in his book Flying Saucers (1953): “that he cannot explain the phenomenon in every detail.” [4]

On US television, the German author and missile specialist Dr. Willy Ley (1952) said in the Longines Chronoscope program:

“Flying saucers are not new, if you had the time to read old journals, especially meteorological journals, you would find things that are now called flying saucers, which fits in with the idea that it is a natural phenomenon.” [5]

While Hermann Oberth (1894-1989), one of the fathers of rocketry, told The American Weekly on October 24, 1954:

"It is my thesis that flying saucers are real, and that they are space ships from another solar system. I think that they possibly are manned by intelligent observers who are members of a race that may have been investigating our earth for centuries. I think that they possibly have been sent out to conduct systematic, long-range investigations, first of men, animals, vegetation and more recently of atomic centers, armaments and center of armaments production."  

Systematic investigation of the phenomenon

The 'Project Blue Book' was founded in 1952, following 'Project Sign' (1947-1948) and 'Project Grudge' (1949-1951), and it investigated sightings of UFO apparitions until 1969. Of the 12,618 cases investigated, 701 could not be solved (5.5% of cases). Investigators assessed whether the phenomenon posed a danger and contained new technological developments. Critics, including renowned researchers, complain that more was “covered up” than clarified and that the aim was to play down the UFO phenomenon from the outset. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, these documents are now freely accessible, including through the Internet as a microfilm archive.

For example, an incident from the summer of 1965 involved numerous eyewitnesses, including several police officers from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and meteorologists who tracked the objects with weather radar. They reported strange 'luminous phenomena', which demonstrates the 'educational work' of the project team. The members of “Project Blue Book” explained that the eyewitnesses had only seen the planet Jupiter and bright stars such as Rigel and Betelgeuse. However, the director of the Oklahoma Science and Art Foundation, Robert Wiser, contradicted this:

“That is as far from the truth as you can get. These stars and planets are on the opposite side of the earth from Oklahoma City at this time of year. The Air Force must have had its star finder upside-down during August." [6]

The world-famous astronomer and popular scientist Carl Sagan devoted significant attention to the phenomenon of UFOs during the 1960s. In his books, he concluded that interstellar travel was not feasible, even for extraterrestrials, due to the immense distances between the stars. [7]

In an interview shortly before his death, he said:

“As a scientist, I am most concerned about the inability to think critically... because I believe the natural sciences are proven and accurate, they are not perfect, but they are the best we have and to abandon them and their rigorous standards is to go back to the Dark Ages.” [8]

The German astrophysicist and longtime UFO researcher Illobrand von Ludwiger wrote in his book “Stand der UFO-Forschung” 1994 on p. 349:

“For most scientists who deal with UFOs, it is not this phenomenon that is actually incomprehensible, but the way in which our society (scientists, politicians and the media) manages to ‘overlook’ one of the most disturbing phenomena of our time. You can joke about it, deny the facts - but simply not taking note of them for decades is an achievement that will astonish the psychologists and sociologists who will later study the behavior of the people of our time.”

Astronauts and their UFO experiences

But not only famous astronomers saw UFOs, astronauts did too. Both Edgar Dean Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, and Gordon Cooper, a Mercury and Gemini astronaut, reported unexplained UFO sightings. Cooper saw his first UFO, described as a metallic silver flying saucer, in 1951 over West Germany. However, the best-known case of a UFO sighting by NASA astronauts was eventually explained by a mundane cause. [9] [10] [11]

U.S. presidents have also seen UFOs

First, Jimmy Carter (US President from 1977-1981) reported that he had a UFO experience in October 1969, which he himself described as a “self-luminous” object and “bright as the moon”. It is reported that he observed the UFO for ten to twelve minutes, along with ten members of the Lions Club in Leary, Georgia. Later, during the 1976 election campaign, he promised to reveal the full truth about the UFO phenomenon. However, as president-elect, he backtracked and said that the revelation had “defense implications”. [12]

Jimmy Carter also filled out a UFO report in 1973. Available in the National Archives
Jimmy Carter also filled out a UFO report in 1973. Available in the National Archives

Later, Ronald Reagan (U.S. President from 1981-1989) also reported seeing a UFO from a Cessna over Bakersfield in 1974, when he was Governor of California. This was also seen by the pilot of the plane, Bill Paynter, as well as two security guards. [13]

"We followed it for several minutes. It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield, and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens."

Potential extraterrestrial threat as a topic of discussion at the summit meeting

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev also discussed a potential extraterrestrial threat at their Geneva summit meeting on November 19, 1985. Reagan asked Gorbachev if the Soviet Union would support the United States if it were attacked from space, and Gorbachev replied that there was no doubt about it. [14]

Speech to the United Nations

Ronald Reagan also took up this issue in his speech to the UN General Assembly in September 1987. Reagan said:

"In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside universal threat. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world."

UFO-Crash in Texas?

Article from The Dallas Morning News, April 17, 1897
Article from The Dallas Morning News, April 17, 1897

On April 17, 1897, a UFO and its pilot (the Wright brothers did not fly until December 1903, mind you) are said to have crashed in the small Texas town of Aurora, as reported in newspapers of the time such as The Dallas Morning News (see left). However, there were numerous reports of mysterious “airships” between 1880 and 1890. [15]

When it crashed, the metallic vehicle allegedly destroyed a windmill, a water tank, and the garden of the local judge. The pilot, described as horribly disfigured and not of this world, led to speculation. Some theorized he might have come from Mars, given that the characters found on the ship resembled unknown hieroglyphics.

The ship was so badly damaged that it was impossible to determine its construction or propulsion system. The materials found suggested a mixture of aluminum and silver.

Because of the events, many people gathered at the site to see the body and the strange metals.

Today there is a sign in the cemetery in Aurora that reads:

"This site is also well-known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash, was buried here."

Sources and further links:





[5] Documentation "Die UFO Story" from Matthias Unterburg (Phoenix)



[8] Documentation from Eric Handley






[14] (ab 2:15 Minuten)


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