On the evening of July 14,1952, a Pan American World Airways DC-4 was on a routine flight, ferrying from New York to Miami with ten passengers and a crew of three, including, Captain F. V. Koepke, First Officer William B. Nash and Second Officer William H. Fortenberry. The sun had set an hour before though the coastline was still visible, and the night was clear and almost entirely dark. With the aircraft set on automatic pilot, while cruising at 8000 feet over the Chesapeake Bay approaching Norfolk, Virginia, they were due to over fly the VRF radio range station in six minutes and make a position report. In the mean time, since this was Fortenberry’s first run on this course, Nash, in the left pilot’s seat, was orientating Fortenberry by pointing out landmarks and the distant lights of the cities along the route. Nash had just pointed out the city of Newport News and Cumberland, ahead and to the right of the plane, when unexpectedly a red-orange brilliance appeared near the ground, beyond and slightly east of Newport News. The brilliance seemed to have appeared all of a sudden and both pilots witnessed the startling appearance at practically the same moment. In the excitement someone blurted out, “What the hell is that?” Captain Nash later described their initial observations… “Almost immediately we perceived that it consisted of six bright objects streaking toward us at tremendous speed, and obviously well below us. They had the fiery aspect of hot coals, but of much greater glow, perhaps twenty times more brilliant than any of the scattered ground lights over which they passed or the city lights to the right. Their shape was clearly outlined and evidently circular; the edges were well defined, not phosphorescent or fuzzy in the least and the red-orange color was uniform over the upper surface of each craft.” “Within the few seconds that it took the six objects to come half the distance from where we had first seen them, we could observe that they 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. At about the halfway point, the leader appeared to attempt a sudden slowing. We received this impression because the second and third wavered slightly and seemed almost to overrun the leader, so that for a brief moment during the remainder of their approach the positions of these three varied. It looked very much as if an element of “human” or “intelligence” error had been introduced, in so far as the following two did not react soon enough when the leader began to slow down and so almost overran him.” What occurred next utterly astonished the pilots. The procession shot forward like a stream of tracer bullets, out over the Chesapeake Bay to within a half-mile of the plane. Realizing that the line was going to pass under the nose of the plane and to the right of the copilot, Nash quickly unfastened his seat belt so that he could move to the window on that side. During this interval, Nash briefly lost sight of the objects, though Fortenberry kept them in view below the plane and both would later recollect.
“All together, they flipped on edge, the sides to the left going up and the glowing surface 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. The 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 to speak, the top or last craft now being nearest to our position.” This shift had taken only a brief second and was completed by the time Nash reached the window. Both pilots then observed the discs flip back from on-edge to the flat position and the entire line dart off to the West in a direction that formed a sharp angle with their initial course, holding the new formation. The pilots had noticed that the objects seemed to dim slightly just prior to the abrupt angular turn and had brightened considerably after making it. Attempting to describe the objects extreme actions, Nash proposed, “The only descriptive comparison we can offer is a ball ricocheting off a wall.” An instant later, two more identical objects darted out past the right wing, from behind and under the airplane at the same altitude as the others and quickly fell in behind the receding procession. They observed that these two seemed to glow considerably brighter than the others, as though applying power to catch up. As they stared after them dumbfounded, suddenly the lights of all of the objects blinked out, only to reappear a moment later, maintaining low altitude out across the blackness of the bay, until about 10 miles beyond Newport News when they began climbing in a graceful arc that carried them well above the plane’s altitude. Sweeping upward they randomly blinked out and finally vanished in the dark night sky. Describing the disappearance of the objects some years later, Nash wrote, “As they climbed, they oscillated up and down behind one another in a irregular fashion, as though they were extremely sensitive to control. In doing this, they went vertically past one another, bobbing up and down, (just as the front three went horizontally past one another, as the initial six approached us. This appeared to be an intelligence error, ‘lousing up the formation’)—they disappeared by blinking out in a mixed-up fashion, in no particular order.” NOTE: The above image is a rendering.