Having last year waded into a topic that reporters seem perpetually ill-equipped to handle—unidentified flying objects—The New York Times has done it again. In the August 3, 2018, edition, reporter Laura M. Holson revisited the July 1952 “invasion of Washington” flap with the obvious intention of peddling a mystery, along with selling newspapers. The Times checked in with pro-UFO groups and cautious government sources, while largely ignoring science-based UFO investigators.
The 1952 Washington, D.C., light show was the main event in what is now known as the Great UFO Flap of that year. It was a time when the public’s attention was increasingly drawn to the skies, and science fiction had popularized the notion of extraterrestrial visitations.
The first of two series of sightings took place in the area during July 19–20. It began before midnight on July 19 when Air Route Traffic Control (ARTC) at Washington National Airport observed seven radar targets—first on their long-range radar, then confirmed by short-range radar. Andrews Air Force Base was notified, and an airman called in to report having seen several bright objects. A tower operator stated he saw a fiery object with a tail. Then, over the course of several minutes, an airline pilot observed six lights—some moving fast, others hovering. Another pilot reported a light seeming to follow his plane. A second wave of sightings occurred July 26–27.