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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Mar > Mar 17

Kenneth Arnold's Saucer-like Descriptions

From: David Rudiak <DRudiak@aol.com>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 21:14:22 EST
Fwd Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999 07:37:08 -0500
Subject: Kenneth Arnold's Saucer-like Descriptions

From: Tim Matthews <matthews@zetnet.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 1999 18:21:04 -0000
Fwd Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 07:21:38 -0500
Subject: Re: {100} Part 2 - United Kingdom UFO Network

>Date: Sun, 14 Mar 1999 23:50:09 -0500
>From: Bruce Maccabee <brumac@compuserve.com>
>Subject: Re: {100} Part 2 - United Kingdom UFO Network
>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>

>><T_Matthew>Yes, I've got all the documents (well nearly all) and spent
>>a great deal of time looking into them and asking people all the
>>difficult questions. To me the thing starts off with a lie; "On 24th
>>June 1947....Kenneth Arnold saw 9 flying discs". No he didn't. There

Bruce Maccabee:
>>Huh?  He didn't see 9 flying discs?  Then what did Arnold report?

Tim Matthews:
>Good question Bruce and I think we've debated this before. One
>of his drawings was of a Horten wing

As is detailed below, _all_ of Arnold's initial descriptions and
his initial drawing were of disc-shaped objects.  Arnold later
added the description and drawing that applied to only one of
the objects, what Tim Matthews refers to as a "Horten wing."
But Arnold said 8 of the 9 objects were clearly disc-like or
saucer-like in shape.

>but as you have agreed there are tremendous problems with the

Bruce Maccabee has never said there were anything like there
were "tremendous problems" with the sighting.  He has said
Arnold probably got his estimate of object altitude wrong and
may have overestimated the width to thickness ratio. But that's
about it.  These are actually minor points that have no bearing
on more important aspects of Arnold's sighting, such as his
calculations of supersonic speed.

>It was the media who decided to give birth to the terms 'flying
>saucers' - and not really Kenneth Arnold who was attempting to
>describe the motion of the objects he saw..........

Pure unadulterated rubbish, and boy is it time to get rid of
that hoary old myth.  In fairness to Tim Matthews, the same
erroneous statement appears in many "saucer" books and from
people who should know better.

Kenneth Arnold very definitely used terms like "saucer" and
"disc" to describe the _shape_, not the motion of what he saw.
Here are some of the contemporaneous quotes from Arnold:

Associated Press, e.g., Tacoma News Tribune and Portland Oregon
Journal, June 26, 1947: "Arnold described the objects as 'flat
like a pie-pan.'"

Portland Oregon Journal, June 27:  "They were half-moon shaped,
oval in front and convex in the rear.   ...There were no bulges
or cowlings; they looked like a big flat disk."

Norman Oklahoma Transcript, June 26:  "They were shaped like
saucers and were so thin I could barely see them..."

Chicago Tribune, June 25:  "They were silvery and shiny and
seemed to be shaped like a pie plate."

Radio interview, June 25:  "They looked something like a pie
plate that was cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in
the rear."

Pendleton East Oregonian (article by Bill Bequette, first
newsman to interview Arnold), June 26:   "[Arnold] described the
objects as 'flat like a pie-pan and somewhat bat-shaped.'"

Portland Oregonian, July 11, 1947:  "'I actually saw a type of
aircraft slightly longer than it was wide, with a thickness
about one twentieth as great as its width.'   '...I reckoned the
saucers were 23 miles away,'  he said..."

On July 12, less than three weeks after the sighting, Arnold was
interviewed by A.F. intelligence and filed a written report.
Several times within the report he referred to the objects as
"saucer-like."  At the end of the report he drew a picture of
what the objects appeared to look like at their closest approach
with Mt. Rainier or other snow-capped peaks as a backdrop.  He
wrote, "They seemed longer than wide, their thickness was about
1/20th their width."

The picture Arnold drew of the objects looked something like
(and please excuse the difficulty of trying to draw rounded
shapes using only text -- use nonproportional font like Courier
to view properly):

             (        *
             )          \
            (            )         -==========-
             )          /
             (  ____  *

               Profile                 Edge-on

Compare to some of Arnold's verbal descriptions: "half-moon
shaped, oval in front and convex in the rear" like "a big flat
disk."  Or,  "They looked something like a pie plate that was
cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in the rear.  Or,
"flat like a pie-pan and somewhat bat-shaped."

Please tell us where the "Horten flying wing" is in all this?
Starting two months later, during the weird Maury Island
incident, Arnold added a description like this to only one of
the objects, the one he said was in the lead.  But all other
objects he described right from the very beginning as thin,
flat, saucer-like, disk-like, half-moon-shaped,
pie-plate-shaped, etc. If there was any question, his drawing a
little less than three weeks later makes it abundantly clear he
was _not_ describing a Horten flying wing shape in his early

As to _motion_, not shape, were the following contemporaneous

Pendleton East Oregonian and Portland Oregon Journal, June 26:
"He also described the objects as 'saucer-like' and their motion
'like fish flipping in the sun.'"

[Again notice the clear distinction between _shape_ and

Portland Oregon Journal, June 27:  "Arnold said that the objects
waved 'like the tail of a Chinese kite.'"

Radio interview, June 25:  "I noticed to the left of me a chain
which looked to me like the tail of a Chinese kite, kind of
weaving..."  " they seemed to flip and flash in the sun, just
like a mirror..." "They didn't fly in a conventional formation
that's taught in our army, they seemed to kind of weave in and
out right above the mountaintops, and I would say that they even
went down into the canyons in several instances, oh, probably a
hundred feet..."

Tacoma News Tribune, June 27:  "[Arnold] clung to his story of
the shiny flat objects, each as big as a DC-4 passenger plane,
racing over Washington's Cascade mountains with a peculiar
weaving motion, 'like the tail of a kite.'"

Chicago Tribune, June 26:  "'I am sure they were separate
units,' he said, 'because they weaved in flight like the tail of
a kite.'"

Associated Press, e.g. Los Angeles Times,  Salem Oregon
Statesman, June 26: "They flew with a peculiar dipping motion,
'like a fish flipping in the sun,' he said.  ...  He said they
appeared to fly almost as if fastened together -- if one dipped,
the others did, too."

Pendleton East Oregonian, June 25:  "He said that in flight they
appeared to weave in and out in formation."

Pendleton East Oregonian, June 26:  "Mostly, he said, he was
surprised at the way they twisted just above the higher peaks,
almost appearing to be threading their way along the mountain
ridge line.  'No orthodox plane would be flying like that,' he
commented.  'Ten thousand feet is very low for anything going at
that speed.'"

Written report, July 12:  "They flew like many times I have
observed geese to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as if
they were linked together. They seemed to hold a definite
direction but rather swerved in and out of the high mountain
peaks."  He also spoke of how they would "flip and flash in the

Years later in his book, Arnold gave these descriptions:  " As I
described them at the time their flight was like speed boats on
rough water or similar to the tail of a Chinese kite that I once
saw blowing in the wind. Or maybe it would be best to describe
their flight characteristics as very similar to a formation of
geese, in a rather diagonal chain-like line, as if they were
linked together. As I put it to newsmen in Pendleton, Oregon,
they flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the
water. They fluttered and sailed, tipping their wings
alternately and emitting those very bright blue-white flashes
from their surfaces."

It seems to be this latter description, not the ones that
actually appeared in the newspapers or in Arnold's written
report to air intelligence, that seems to be the source of the
confusion.  Here Arnold, years later, claims he told the
Pentleton newsmen (i.e., Bill Bequette of the East Oregonian)
that "they flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the

One has to wonder if Arnold ever said it in exactly that way.
People talk of skipping flat rocks off of water, but skipping
saucers off of water is not exactly a common pastime.  It would
be an extremely peculiar metaphor for Arnold to have used while
groping to describe the unusual motion in a way that would make
sense to others.  Rather it seems a case of Arnold later mixing
metaphors, using his description of shape, where he clearly used
"saucer- like," with the skipping motion off water of what one
would associate with a similarly shaped flat rock.

In any event, the skipping motion description never seems to
have made it into1947 newspaper reports, nor into Arnold's own
written description to AF intelligence.  As noted above, Bill
Bequette on June 26 reported the shape and motion thusly:  "He
also described the objects as 'saucer-like' and their motion
'like fish flipping in the sun."  Elsewhere in the article was
another description of shape:  "[Arnold] described the objects
as 'flat like a pie-pan and somewhat bat-shaped.'"

And in a surviving radio interview of the same day, Arnold
described the shape as: "They looked something like a pie plate
that was cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in the
rear."  As to motion, Arnold said they flew in a chain, weaving
like a Chinese kite, and they flipped and flashed in the sun.
This wasn't Arnold filtered through some newspaper reporter, but
Arnold speaking for himself.

Arnold clearly distinguished between shape and motion.  The
shape was "saucer- like," a term Arnold himself used several
times in his letter to air intelligence and elsewhere.  This was
not an invention of the newspapers. Arnold also used words like
discs or pie-pans or half-moon-shaped.  His drawing to air
intelligence was of a thin, flat, circular object somewhat
chopped and slightly pointed to the rear, exactly the same as
some of his verbal descriptions.  Arnold held back the
description of the singular crescent-shaped, or flying
wing-shaped object until later.

The motion, as reported in 1947, was like the objects were tied
together.  The objects appeared to move together, like the tail
of a kite.  They dipped together and weaved around mountain
peaks in a long chain.  They flipped and flashed in the sun like
fish might in water.  But nothing, anywhere, of Arnold saying
they skipped like saucers or anything else on water.

David Rudiak

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