From its inception as Yuma Test Station in 1951, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground has been a natural desert laboratory for testing equipment destined for use by soldiers.
It is a place where the scientific method trumps superstition and wild speculation, where unexplained phenomena are methodically identified and fixed. Yet, at least once in the proving ground’s distant past, personnel viewed something in the sky that was never definitively explained.
It was a bit after 3 p.m. Thursday, April 17, 1952, and 13 soldiers were in the midst of a field familiarization hike three miles south of Yuma Test Station, near what today is a vehicle mud course. We can’t say with certainty what the temperature was that afternoon — YPG’s weather records only go back to 1956 — but presumably it was warm enough for the men to enjoy resting beneath a shade tree in between a canal bank and the Colorado River. Suddenly, they saw almost directly overhead a flat-white circular object heading toward the mountain-lined southeastern horizon, emitting an intermittent vapor trail. About a quarter inch wide when judged at arm’s length from the ground, the object disappeared within seven seconds. . . .