Updated: May 6, 2021
The modern age of flying saucers began with the Arnold sighting. Although it was by no means an isolated incident in 1947, it was the most extraordinary. Arnold's story, soon transmitted worldwide by the radio and the press, prompted the U.S. Air Force to begin its investigation of UFO reports.
To facilitate the study, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who for 20 years was to serve as consultant for the U.S. Air Force on Projects Sign and Blue Book, divided the many reports of UFO's into categories.
The first major category included sightings of UFO's at a distance of more than 500 feet. These were subdivided into three kinds: Nocturnal Lights—well- defined lights that cannot be explained in terms of conventional light sources; Daylight Disks—oval or saucer like metallic-appearing objects; and Radar Visuals—unidentified blips on radar screens that confirm simultaneous visual sightings.
The second major category, for sightings from a distance of less than 500 feet, was broken down as follows: Close Encounters of the First Kind - those in which there is no interaction between the UFO and the environment; Close of the second Kind - those manifesting some interaction, such as interference with car ignition systems, burns on the ground, and physical effects upon animals or humans; and Close Encounters of the Third Kind—those in which UFO occupants from outer space are reportedly seen.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, formerly an astronomer at Northwestern University, became involved with UFOs as a consultant to the air force's Project Blue Book. He began as a skeptic but found that about 20 percent of the sightings were unidentified.
In recent years UFO witnesses have described personal contact with the occupants, and even temporary detainment. These cases are often referred to as Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind.
The following accounts, chosen for interest and credibility, are arranged by category and are but a fraction of literally thousands of UFO reports stemming from every part of the globe over the 100 years.
The Gorman “dogfight” as it is called, which for 27 minutes involved Lt. George F. Gorman of the North Dakota Air National Guard and a UFO over Fargo, North Dakota, on the night of October 1, 1948, is one of the early classics of the genre.
Gorman, who had been on a cross-country flight with his squadron, had decided to stay up after the other planes had landed and log some more night-flying time. At about 9 p.m.he was preparing to land when the control tower informed him of another craft—a Piper Cub—in the vicinity. Gorman could see this plane clearly below him, but then what appeared to be the tail light of another plane flashed by him on the right. When the tower informed him that they knew of no other plane in the vicinity, Gorman decided to investigate. He pulled his F-51 up and toward the moving light. When he was within about1,000 yards of it, he could see the object clearly:
It was about six to eight inches in diameter, clear white, and completely round without fuzz at the edges. It was blinking on and off. As I approached, however, the light suddenly became steady and pulled into a sharp left bank. I thought it was making a pass at the tower.
A new History Channel show about UFOs featured this National Guard pilot’s 1948 encounter above Fargo in its first episode. Michael Vosburg (Photos from www.grandforksherald.com)
I dived after it and brought my manifold pressure up to sixty inches, but I couldn’t catch up with the thing. It started gaining altitude and again made a left bank. I put my F-51 into a sharp turn and tried to cut the light off in its turn. By then we were at about 7000 feet. Suddenly it made a sharp right turn, and we headed straight at each other. Just when we were about to collide, I guess I got scared. I went into a dive and the light passed over my canopy at about 500 feet. Then, it made a left circle about 1000 feet above, and I gave chase again.
Gorman cut sharply toward the light, which again was coming straight at him. Just when the collision seemed unavoidable, the UFO streaked straight up in a steep climb and disappeared. When Gorman tried to pursue the object, his plane went into a power stall at about 14,000 feet, and he did not see the object again. The total chase had lasted from 9 p.m. to 9:27 p.m.
Gorman was so distraught by his encounter that he had trouble landing his plane. He said he had noticed no sound, odor, or exhaust trail from the UFO and no deviation on his instruments.
Corroboration of the incident was provided by the two traffic controllers on duty, Lloyd D. Jensen and H. E. Johnson, who saw the strange light at the same time they saw the Piper Cub. They described it in very much the same terms as Gorman—“a round light, perfectly formed, with no fuzzy edges or rays leaving its body”—and they noted its apparent high rate of speed. Two further witnesses, the pilot of the Piper Cub and his passenger, not only saw the swiftly moving light while in radio communication with the tower, but after landing they also observed the object and Gorman's plane in pursuit.
Gorman stated that he was convinced that the UFO demonstrated “thought” in its maneuvers and that he was chasing an extraordinary“guided” craft of some kind. No satisfactory conventional explanation for the Gorman “dogfight” has ever been offered.
The Encyclopedia of UFOs, Ronald D. Story, ed., pp.151-52