During the early 1950's a number of official, semi-official, and private attempts to investigate unidentified flying objects appeared on the scene. Some were well known, others more obscure. In August 1952, North Carolina newspapers carried short news items from local Civil Defense officials. The Greensboro, North Carolina News of August 6th, 1952, carried the following:
Army Names Man to Collect Data on Flying Disks
Seen any "flying saucers" lately?
If any of the mysterious craft are seen in the Greensboro area, Army intelligence is interested. In fact, the Army's Sherlock Holmes staff is so interested, it has named Col. Ralph L. Lewis as collector of information on the aerial discs.
Lewis, who is a top officer of the civil defense organization in Greensboro, said he will be glad to receive and investigate any and all reports on airborne crockery at any time day or night...
In a telephone conversation with Project 1947's Jan Aldrich, Col. Lewis' son remembered well his father's involvement in the Greensboro Civil Defense organization, but never recalled him saying anything about flying saucers.
Items appeared in the newspapers all over North Carolina echoing an earlier appeal by North Carolina's head of Civil Defense, E. Z. Jones. Jones revealed in later newspaper stories that he received a large volume of mail in response to his request.
Available documents in the North Carolina State archives reveal that the supervising agency for its Civil Defense was the US Third Army. In 1952 there were no Ground Observer Corps organizations operating in North Carolina. No documents concerning any North Carolina UFO investigations were present in the available Civil Defense records.
Some other examples of early investigations include:
- US Navy Office of Naval Research - investigations set up by Secretary of the Navy Dan Kimball after aircraft carrying him and the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Calvin Bolster were separately "buzzed" by UFOs over the Pacific. Later attempts by Dr. James McDonald to question Kimball and the civilian head of the project failed. Despite numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act, to date no documents concerning the investigations have been located.
- OPERATION INTERLOPER - Major Dewey Fournet left the Pentagon with a number of documents entitled "Operation Interloper." The documents, while incomplete, are all listed as unclassified, included: a bibliography of Flying Saucers in the magazine and journal articles; pre-1947 UFO reports from the Fortean and other published sources; magazine articles; and reports from various official and other sources. It appears that "Operation Interloper" might have been an extracurricular effort of Fournet and others in government, as well as their close advisers such as Jesuit astronomer Father Hayden.
- PROJECT A - Ohio Northern University. This effort shut down with a short press release saying that the project was unable to get sufficient reports for their investigation. John Timmerman, an investigator for Project A in Lima, Ohio, was able to give additional details in a Sign Oral History Project Interview. The fate of the project's records are unknown.
- PROJECT EYEFUL - Lou Corbin, WFBR radio News Director, used his reporters, other station personnel, and local informants, as a local investigative network. Corbin, a Reserve US Army intelligence officer had excellent contacts in and out of government. Major Donald E. Keyhoe often used Corbin as a character reference. His files passed to his son who probably disposed of them prior to his death. WFBR successor station owners were unaware of the whereabout of news records. A few audio tape records of Lou Corbin and other WFBR UFO materials were transferred to the Sign Historical Group by John Lutz, a former WFBR reporter who investigated UFOs for Corbin in the 1960s.
- CIVILIAN SAUCER INVESTIGATIONS-Los Angeles - Composed of a cadre of engineers from various aviation firms, with world-wide membership, this group collected a large number of UFO reports in its short tenure. Most of the sighting files are in the hands of the Center for UFO Studies and the Donald E. Keyhoe Archives. (Other tantalizing leads indicate that several small UFO groups existed, composed of employees of various aviation firms. Some of these groups seemed to have company sponsorship.)
- AERIAL PHENOMENA RESEARCH ORGANIZATION (APRO) - the Lorenzens' organization lasted for over thirty years, building extensive files. In 1972, reports and news clippings in the sighting files were microfilmed. The paper files are currently unavailable, as are two of the later microfilms. The first microfilm covering the period pre-1947 to December 1956 is in the hands of the Sign Historical Group. A number of copies of reports from the APRO files exist in other organization's and individuals' files so a significant portion of APRO files are available to researchers today. James Moseley donated a large collection of South American and other foreign UFO newspaper clippings from a worldwide clipping service for the earlier 1950s. This material is not on the APRO microfilm.
- INTERNATIONAL FLYING SAUCER BUREAU - New Britain, Connecticut, carried a world-wide membership with affiliates, Australian Flying Saucer Bureau and the British Flying Saucer Bureau. The latter became independent after IFSB closed down. The British FSB, lead by Capt. E. L. Plunkett, continues to this day under his son, while the Australian organization ceased operations a few years after IFSB ended. No significant files are know to exist, while the British organization claims to have extensive files.
- DELAWARE FLYING SAUCER INVESTIGATIONS ASSOCIATES - Supposedly headed by a National Guard general, and having pilots and aeronautical engineers as members. It folded quickly. Attempts to locate the organization's files have not been successful. However, it is claimed the records were taken over by another UFO group.
- FLYING SAUCER REVIEW, New York - A group formed by Elliot Rockmore, which collected large amounts of newspaper stories and first hand accounts. Some of the news clippings were copied or incorporated into the Civilian Saucer Intelligence files. Barry Greenwood obtained some of the material. Capt. William B. Nash had copies of sighting reports made from material in Rockmore's files.
- THE AMARILLO FLYING SAUCER SIGHTING CENTER - A short-lived local organization run by John Garbult. Supposedly, its scrapbooks of clippings and other material were still in existence into the 1960s.
- PROJECT VORTEX, - Wisconsin. Put together by US Army Signal Corps reservists with electronic expertise.
- CIVILIAN SAUCER INTELLIGENCE of New York City - This was a later entry into the UFO investigation field. At first it attracted many New Age and similarly inclined people, but eventually became more serious. Its files passed to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomenon (NICAP), and then to CUFOS.
There were several such early groups formed overseas:
- ADELAIDE AERIAL PHENOMENA RESEARCH GROUP - Grew out of an earlier ad hoc group. Not much is known in the US about this organization.
- INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE FLYING SAUCERS - France. Marc Thirouin and author Jimmy Guieu formed this organization which for decades published OURANOS. For a time a companion publication, URANUS, was published in England, but the two became separate. The fate of the commission's files is unknown.
- CIVILIAN SAUCER INVESTIGATIONS of New Zealand - formed in September, 1952. It carried on until 1959. Most of its files and those of its President, RNZAF Sergeant Harold H. Fulton, are currently in the hands of Murray Bott, who has preserved large amounts of historic UFO material from several individuals and organizations in Australia and New Zealand.
[The Sign Historical Group welcomes further information on these and other early UFO investigative groups, and the whereabouts of personnel and files. We would also welcome knowledgeable histories on any of these and other early UFO groups.]
In late August, 1952, newspapers in the northwestern United States and western Canada published a column by meteor tracer and astronomer J. Hugh Pruitt, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon, asking for reports of flying saucers. Pruitt indicated that this was for a government study which he was not at liberty to talk about further. Pruitt's personal papers at the university reveal that he corresponded with newspaper editors about his desire for good UFO reports, but no clues were thought to exist regarding for whom or what agency he was collecting this information. Pruitt died shortly after this, but his meteor tracing work was continued by his sister Elizabeth until her death. When she died, there were apparently no close relatives or friends to transfer these papers to the University of Oregon. A newspaper reporter who helped her with her columns on meteor tracing, but had never met her face to face, wrote her obituary. Unfortunately, as with other important UFO material, oftentimes the records are destroyed upon the death of UFO researchers. Interestingly enough, while looking at some UFO case folders awaiting filing at the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies in Chicago, a December 1952 file was discovered revealing a hint for whom Pruitt was working. An extensively investigated case with a cover letter addressed to Hynek seems to have solved this mystery. Hynek had previously reported his survey of astronomers' opinions concerning UFOs to Battelle Memorial Institute's Project White Stork and Project Blue Book. Pruitt was one of the few astronomers mentioned by name in Hynek's report.
Perhaps Pruitt's request was the inspiration for a semi-official study of UFOs by Hynek. In the early 1950's there were advertisements for an insecticide named “Flit”. Many of them pictured a harassed housewife being attacked by flying insects, calling to her husband, "Quick Henry, the Flit!"
As Hynek's assistant, Jennie (Gluck) Zeidman recalled, "Project Flit" was a little too obvious, but "Project Henry" was more neutral.
Hynek made up analysis forms and corresponded with UFO witnesses and others who could assist in gathering UFO information or could forward other UFO reports. Also, on-the-spot investigations were conducted under the Project Henry name.
Project Blue Book chiefs, Capt. Edward Ruppelt and 1Lt. Robert M. Olsson forwarded cables containing UFO reports to either Project White Stork or directly to Hynek, which appear in Project Henry files with interesting little notes. Frederick C. Durant III, and Dr. H. P. Robertson from the Central Intelligence Agency's Robertson Panel were mentioned in some of the memos.
In the 11 February 1953 group of UFO cables from Project Blue Book is the following note:
Note to Dr. Hynek:
Fred Durant called and said that during the meeting you have promised to send him some pencilled notes on a contact you had with the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization. I believe this is the name of the organization. Anyway, it was an incident where some organization requested you attend one of their meetings but you sent a graduate student instead. It had something to do with some new, red-hot type of propulsion or something. Fred was very anxious to get this information. In case you do not have his address, it is:
On 13 July 1953 this note is appended:
At present I am writing up a press release to be released in the event of a flap, a copy of which I will send up withe next group of reports.
You might be interested in knowing that we sent five of our best unsolved reports to Dr. Robinson [Dr. Robertson] on the West Coast for his perusal. These include Luke AFB, Continental Divide, Port Austin, etc., or our pinch bottle cases will be interesting to get his comments on these.
Hope to see you in the near future.
Hand written comment: "Regards to Miss Gluck." This document was classified RESTRICTED.
On 20 July, this note:
Dear Dr. Hynek:
It has been sometime since we have received any comments on the sightings and are anxious to see your opinion on same. When do you expect to leave for your summer vacation? I am clearing base on 31 July but will hope to see you or at least call you before I leave. Am going to Washington on Wednesday and Thursday this week on Press Release and new AF regulation for this Project and to tie up my projects in general.
Capt Ruppelt is due back today and am anxious to see him, and as I think I have told you. He will be part-timing this project until my replacement arrives.
This document was classified RESTRICTED.
[Both Durant and Robertson remained involved in UFO investigations in some fashion after the Robertson Panel. Robertson was briefed about Project Blue Book again in 1957 at the Air Technical Intelligence Center, and Durant arranged for the Condon Committee to obtain copies of the Montana and Utah films, and corresponded with Condon concerning official investigations in Norway.
Reproduced here is a report on Project Henry activities and goals by Jennie Zeidman.
— Jan L. Aldrich.