Gary Johnson Jr. was taking out his garbage Wednesday night when he saw a UFO.
Johnson, 45, said he is a retired military man with no idea what was floating quietly off in the distant sky over the east side of town.
“It was pretty strange,” he said this morning.
From his home in the 600 block of West Ridgeway Avenue, Johnson said he watched four bright orange lights arranged as though they were the corners of a large square. He didn’t know how big it was, but said it blocked out stars.
The lights slowly rotated, he said, and then one went out, leaving what looked like a triangle. Soon after, the other two lights also went out.
About a minute later, he said, two Piper airplanes — small, single-engine types — flew into the area, but the object seemed to have disappeared.
Johnson discounted notions such as flares or military craft.
“I know what I saw,” he said. “I never expected to see anything like that.”
Johnson phoned in the sighting to Hermiston police at 8:23 p.m. The police log indicated officers were unable to find the object.
Johnson was not alone. A woman at 8:34 p.m. reported she saw lights in the sky. She told dispatchers, “the lights floated up above the tree line and flickered out.”
Eastern Oregon has a historical connection to unidentified flying objects.
Pilot Kenneth Arnold refueled his private plane on June 24, 1947, at the airport in Pendleton, where he told East Oregonian reporter Bill Bequette and editor Nolan Skiff the story that began the modern UFO era. Arnold said that while flying past Mount Rainier shortly before 3 p.m. that day he had seen nine gleaming, disc-like objects flying “like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water.”
The Associated Press picked up the story, and on June 26 it was national news.
The term “flying saucer” quickly followed, though Bequette and Skiff had never used the phrase in their original story.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.