A handful of foo fighter sightings could be dismissed as pilot error, but there were hundreds, if not thousands. Could they really just be the hallucinations of tired or terrified men? Call me Einstein, Flash Gordon or just plain crazy, but I know what I saw! declared civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold, referring to the nine strange aircraft he'd seen flying rapidly in formation over Mount Rainier, Washington on the afternoon of 24 June 1947.
It was, however, not the shape of the craft themselves but the way they had moved through the sky that would fix itself in the popular imagination. They flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across water, Arnold told reporter Bill Bequette of the East Oregonian who then went on to use the term flying saucer for the first time in the national press.
A few weeks later, when the July 8 edition of the Roswell Daily Record appeared in New Mexico with the front page headline Army Air Force Captures Flying Disc in Roswell Region, the transformation of motion into archetypal form was complete. Although both stories originated in local newspapers, they were quickly picked up all over the world, and the lure of the flying saucer, the promise implied in its ellipsoid shape, has subsequently pervaded modern popular culture.
Whatever the truth of these two controversial incidents, they established flying-saucer science as one part Einstein, one part Flash Gordon, with just a creative dash of craziness.