By Carl Slaughter: On July 29, 1952, the Pentagon held a press conference about flying saucers.
The flying saucer phenomenon began on June 24, 1947, after Kenneth Arnold reported to his airport tower sighting nine saucer-shaped vessels flying at extremely fast speed in echelon formation over the mountains of Washington state. When Arnold landed, the local media was waiting for him. The wire services picked up the story. Within 24 hours, newspapers all over the country ran front page headlines about the Arnold report. Suddenly more and more people claimed flying saucer sightings. UFOs had entered American culture.
On January 7, 1948, Kentucky Air National Guard pilot Captain Thomas Mantell crashed and died while in pursuit of a UFO. The public and the military began to take flying saucer sightings much more seriously because Mantell’s death indicated a possible alien hostile presence on Earth. (Another concern was that the vessels might be Soviet. This was at the beginning of the Cold War.) On October 1, 1948, North Dakota Air National Guard second lieutenant George Gorman engaged in an extended chase with a UFO that had speed and maneuverability far beyond any human vessel at the time.
In response to these and other UFO encounters, the Pentagon launched Project Bluebook and other investigation projects. The CIA launched the Robertson Panel and Congress launched the Condon Committee. Project Bluebook was finally shut down in 1970.
Whether or not you believe in UFOs, this documentary is an excellent history of the UFO phenomenon.