A few minutes before midnight on Saturday, July 19, 1952, an air traffic controller at National Airport in Washington, D.C., noticed some odd blips on his radar screen. Knowing that no aircraft were flying in that area –15 miles to the southwest of the capital — he rushed to inform his boss, Harry G. Barnes.
Barnes recalled a few days later, “We knew immediately that a very strange situation existed. . . . Their movements were completely radical compared to those of ordinary aircraft.” They moved with such sudden bursts of intense speed that radar could not track them continuously.