Kenneth Arnold

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Kenneth Albert Arnold
Born(1915-03-29)March 29, 1915
DiedJanuary 16, 1984(1984-01-16) (aged 68)
Alma materUniversity of Minnesota
OccupationBusinessman, aviator

Kenneth Albert Arnold (March 29, 1915[1] – January 16, 1984[2]) was an American aviator and businessman. He is best known for making what is generally considered the first widely reported modern unidentified flying object sighting in the United States, after claiming to have seen nine unusual objects flying in tandem near Mount Rainier, Washington on June 24, 1947.

Early life and career[edit]

Arnold was born in Sebeka, Minnesota, but grew up in Scobey, Montana. He attended the University of Minnesota,[3] where he was coached in football by Bernie Bierman.

Arnold began Great Western Fire Control Supply in Boise, Idaho in 1940, a company that sold and installed fire suppression systems, a job that took him around the Pacific Northwest.[citation needed]

Arnold was regarded as a skilled and experienced pilot, with over 9,000 total flying hours, almost half of which were devoted to Search and Rescue Mercy Flyer efforts.[4]

He ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of Idaho in 1962.[citation needed]

UFO sighting[edit]

On June 24, 1947, Arnold claimed that, while flying near Mt. Rainier in Washington State, he had seen nine unusual objects flying in the skies. Arnold also claimed to have seen UFOs on several subsequent occasions.

Arnold originally described the objects' shape as "flat like a pie pan", "shaped like a pie plate", "half-moon shaped, oval in front and convex in the rear", "something like a pie plate that was cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in the rear", or simply "saucer-like" or "like a big flat disk" (see quotes), and also described their erratic motion being "like a fish flipping in the sun" or a saucer skipped across water. From these, the press quickly coined the new terms "flying saucer"[5] and "flying disc" to describe such objects, many of which were reported within days after Arnold's sighting. Later Arnold would add that one of the objects actually resembled a crescent or flying wing.

The U.S. Air Force formally listed the Arnold case as "unknown".[5] According to Project Blue Book leader Edward J. Ruppelt, some in the Air Force favored the possibility of nearby jet airplanes seen distorted through a mirage;[5] this is one of many explanations that have been disputed by critics, and researchers Jerome Clark, author of The UFO Book (1998)[6] and Ronald Story, editor of The Encyclopedia of UFOs (1980).[7] Both argue that there has never been an entirely persuasive conventional explanation of the Arnold sighting.

After his UFO sighting, Arnold became a minor celebrity, and for about a decade thereafter, he was somewhat involved in interviewing other UFO witnesses or contactees. Notably, he investigated the claims of Samuel Eaton Thompson, one of the first contactees. Arnold wrote a book and several magazine articles about his UFO sighting and his subsequent research.

By the 1960s, Arnold had tired of his notoriety and UFOs in general, and he eventually declined all interviews. On June 24, 1977, however, he attended the First International UFO Congress in Chicago, curated by Fate to mark the 30th anniversary of the "birth" of the modern UFO age. Some of his comments at the event reflected his displeasure at the general ignorance concerning the matter:

… well, right here we’ve seen something, I’ve seen something, hundreds of pilots have seen something … in the skies. We have dutifully reported these things. And we have to have 15 million witnesses before anybody is going to look into the problem … seriously? Well this is utterly fantastic. This is more fantastic than flying saucers or people from Venus or anything as far as I am concerned.

Personal life[edit]

Arnold and his wife Doris had four daughters. He died, aged 68, from colon cancer at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Washington.[8]



  1. ^ Project 1947, "Some life data on Kenneth Arnold"
  2. ^ Find a grave, Cremated, and ashes given to his wife
  3. ^ Arnold, Kenneth. "PROJECT 1947". Kenneth Arnold's Biography. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  4. ^ Diana Palmer Hoyt, "UFOCRITIQUE: UFO's, Social Intelligence and the Condon Committee"; Master's Thesis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, 2000; read it online
  5. ^ a b c Edward J. Ruppelt, The Report on the Unidentied Flying Objects, Ballantine, 1960.
  6. ^ Jerome Clark, The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial. Visible Ink, 1998. ISBN 1-57859-029-9
  7. ^ Story, Ronald, editor, The Encyclopedia of UFOs, Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc, 1980, ISBN 0-385-13677-3
  8. ^ Collins, Curt (March 15, 2017). "UFOs, Kenneth Arnold and the American Bible". Archived from the original on January 20, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  • Arnold, Kenneth; Palmer, Ray (1952), The coming of the saucers: a documentary report on sky objects that have mystified the world, Boise, Wisconsin: Privately published by the authors, p. 192, 3021444
  • Clark, Jerome, The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the Beginning, Volume 2, A-K, Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1998 (2nd edition, 2005), ISBN 0-7808-0097-4
  • Campbell, Steuart, The UFO Mystery Solved, Explicit Books, 1994, ISBN 0-9521512-0-0
  • Obituary, Idaho Statesman, January 22, 1984

External links[edit]