Nash-Fortenberry UFO Sighting: Two Pilots, A Group Of UFOs & An Unexplained Air Force Investigation

In 1952, over Chesapeake Bay, Captain William Nash and his co-pilot, First officer William Fortenberry, flying a Pan American Airway DC-4 had a fascinating encounter with UFOs. The incident led to a large Air Force investigation and resulted in the incident being declared unexplained.


The Nash-Fortenberry UFO incident of 1952 is still catergorised as unexplained
The Nash-Fortenberry UFO incident of 1952 is still categorized as unexplained

Eight thousand feet above Chesapeake Bay, at 8.12 pm on the clear evening of July 14, 1952, Captain William B Nash and his co-pilot, First Officer William H Fortenberry, aboard a Pan American Airway DC-4, saw six crimson dots at 30 degrees.


The dots, streaking in their direction, were at 2000 feet altitude, approximately a mile lower in the sky than the airliner. As they got closer, they resolved into reddish-orange circles, apparently 100 feet in diameter and 15 feet thick, with sharply defined edges. Nash would recall that the objects "were holding a narrow echelon formation - a stepped-up line tilted slightly to our right, with the leader at the lowest point and each following craft slightly higher."

The lead object suddenly slowed, so suddenly, in fact, that the two behind it wavered and nearly overran it. Within seconds the discs were almost underneath the DC-4 and slightly to the right, and in unison "they flipped on edge". In Nash's words:

"They flipped on edge, the sides to the left of us going up and the glowing surfaces facing right. Though the bottom surfaces did not become clearly visible, we had the impression that they were unlighted. The exposed edges, also unlighted, appeared to be about 15 feet thick, and the top surface at least seemed flat. In shape and proportion, they were much like coins. While all were in the edgewise position, the last five slid over and past the leader so that the echelon was now tail foremost, so the speak, the top or last craft now being nearest to our position. Then, without any arc or swerve at all, they all flipped back together to the flat and darted off in a direction that formed a sharp angle with their first course, holding their new formation...
Immediately after these six lined away, two more objects just like them darted out from behind and under our airplane at the same altitude as the others".

When the two new UFOs - which were even brighter than the others joined the formation, the lights of all eight blinked out momentarily, then came on again. Together they sped westward north of Newport News, Virginia, before climbing in a graceful 45-degree arc above the airliner's altitude. At that point, the lights of each went out in irregular sequence.


The entire sighting had occurred over a mere 15 seconds. Using charts and navigation equipment, Nash and Fortenberry calculated that the UFOs had traveled 50 miles in that time. That meant, they deduced, that the objects had been moving at 12,000 mph. Nash radioed in to report what had happened.



The plane landed in Miami some hours later, and in the morning a team from the nearest Air Force Office of Special Investigations detachment, at McDill Air Force Base, Tampa, interviewed the two men, at first separately, then together. Nash remembered, "The investigators advised us that they already had seven other reports. One was from a lieutenant commander and his wife. They described a formation of red discs traveling at high speed and making immediate direction changes without turn radius."


At the conclusion of the Air Force investigation, the case was declared to be unexplained. An effort by debunker Donald H Menzel to explain the sighting as caused by city lights reflecting off "stratified clouds or inversion layers of temperature and/or humidity" fell afoul of weather records attesting to the absence of clouds, inversions, or haze.


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