By The Greater Astoria Historical Society
The year 1952 will be remembered as the summer of UFOs on the East Coast. Since the 1947 sightings of unidentified flying objects over Roswell, N.M., Americans from various parts of the country had been reporting seeing strange phenomena in the night skies.
July 1952 was a banner month for close encounters. On July 18, the Star-Journal advised readers, “If you see a flying saucer, call Mitchel Field [on Long Island] right away. That’s official. It’s a complete reversal of policy on the part of the big Air Force base. The number to call is Garden City 3-4000. Tell the operator, ‘I want to report a flying saucer.’”
“The Air Force promises you won’t get the brush-off. Major John Barron, public information officer at Mitchel Field, said today that all flying saucer reports received locally will be relayed to Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio. They will be ‘co-ordinated’ there — which means that Air Force technicians are taking the flying saucers seriously. In Dayton, Captain E.J. Ruppelt, head of Operation Bluebook, the Air Force group studying reports of unidentified aerial objects, said ground radar had tracked some aerial objects at speeds ranging between 1,500 and 2000 miles per hour.
“‘We’re convinced that persons making these reports actually see something in the sky,’ Rappelt said. ‘But what they see is another question.’”
On the night of July 19, there were several reports of strange lights in the skies over Washington, D.C. Radar at the capital’s airports picked up strange objects traveling at high speeds. And on July 23, the Star-Journal broke the news in a banner headline: “3 Astounded Astoria Housewives Spot Queens’ First Flying Saucer.”
A strange globular object glowing with its own light was seen gliding “higher than any plane could go” across the starlit skies of Queens at 10:35 last night” by three local residents.
Florence Carver admitted she could not be sure she had seen one of “those flying saucers, but it certainly was the strangest object I’ve ever seen in the sky.”
Emily Stone and May Curbs were also with Carver and bear witness to the strange flying disc. The women agreed the mysterious object was a round disc, larger than a star and reddish-orange in color.
“It couldn’t possibly be a plane,” Mrs. Carver said indignantly. “We certainly know what a plane looks like, here in Astoria. But this thing was far too high for any plane, and it was going too fast. And it’s easy to see that it was perfectly round.’”
The following day, on July 24, the Star-Journal’s count was up: 50 sightings of saucers had been reported in the past five days by Queens and Long Island residents.
The account by Mrs. Daniel Etheridge was typical. Shortly after midnight on the night of July 23, she saw what she described as a “fireball” circling over Flushing.
“It was orange with a small green glow at one edge,” she said. “It was very high and moving at a speed that an ordinary airplane could not match.”
And as the reports came flooding in, Astoria’s claim to be first in the flying saucer stakes was called into question.
Francis Exkeben, of Fresh Pond Road in Maspeth, reported he spotted an “oval-shaped light, blue-green in color, and faster than any airplane,” over Maspeth July 15.
“Perhaps these things are a new type of jet plane,” he wrote.
For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.