1. Initial Activity: Project Sign.|
2. Project Grudge. Early Magazine Articles and Books.
3. The Robertson Panel.
4. Regulations Governing UFO Reports.
5. Orthoteny, the "Straight Line Mystery."
6. The O'Brien Report and Events Leading up to it.
7. Initiation of the Colorado Project.
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This chapter provides a concise historical account of the development of official and public interest in the UFO phenomenon, principally as it occurred in the United States from the initial sightings of Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947 to the present. It does not undertake to make a detailed study of the more famous of the past incidents, but merely to give a brief account of them as examples of the way in which interest in the subject developed.
The Kenneth Arnold sightings were accorded a large amount of newspaper publicity throughout the world. The most detailed account of the Arnold sightings is to be found in a book written and published by Arnold with the collaboration of Ray Palmer, a science fiction editor and author (Arnold and Palmer, 1952).
The Arnold sightings and the accompanying flurry of UFO reports occurred just before the Army Air Force was reorganized as the U. S. Air Force and made a part of the newly created Department of Defense.
In the first few months, the Army Air Force began to study UFO reports that came to its attention at the Air Technical Intelligence Center, (ATIC) located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. About the earliest formal action looking toward establishment of a study of flying saucers -- the term UFO was not coined until later -- was a letter dated 23 September 1947 from Lt. Gen. Nathan F. Twining, Chief of Staff of the U. S. Army to the Commanding General of the Army Air Force (Appendix R). This letter directs establishment of a study of UFOs. The new activity was given the code name, Project Sign, and assigned a priority 2-A in a letter dated 30 December 1947 from Maj. Gen. L. C. Craigie to the Commanding General of the Air Materiel Command (Appendix S).
Many of the attitudes which are held today began to be apparent almost at once, and many individuals in the public as well as in the military services began to adopt somewhat emotional positions. Some were ready to believe from the beginning that the UFOs were interplanetary or interstellar visitors, while others thought that UFOs were secret weapons of a foreign power, Russia being most frequently mentioned in this context. Still others tended to think that all UFOs were hoaxes or honest misidentifications of ordinary phenomena. Within the Air Force there were those who emphatically believed that the subject was absurd and that the Air Force should devote no attention to it whatever. Other Air Force officials regarded UFOs with the utmost seriousness and believed that it was quite likely that American airspace was being invaded by secret weapons of foreign powers or possibly by visitors from outer space. The time in question was just two years after the end of World War II. The period of difficult diplomatic relations between the United States and the U. S. S. R. had already started. Negotiations aimed at achieving international control of atomic energy had been under way for some time at the United Nations, but negligible progress was being made.
Four days after Arnold's sightings, an Air Force F-51 pilot saw a formation of five or six circular objects off his right wing while flying near Lake Meade, Nev. in the middle of the afternoon. That same evening near Maxwell AFB, Montgomery Ala., several Air Force officers saw a bright light that zigzagged across the sky at high speed and, when overhead, made a 90° turn and disappeared to the south. From White Sands Proving Ground in N. M. came a report of a pulsating light traveling from horizon to horizon in 30 sec. Reports poured in from many parts of the country.
On 4 July 1947 excitement was generated by the report of the first UFO photograph from Portland, Ore. This was later identified as a weather balloon, but only after the picture had been given newspaper publicity.
During World War II, the Navy had developed a plane designated as XF-5-U-1, and popularly referred to as the "flying flapjack," but this project had been abandoned. Nevertheless some thought that perhaps it was still being worked on and that this secret plane might be flying and giving rise to some of the UFO reports. This plane was never flown.
At the end of July 1947, the first tragedy associated with the UFO story occurred. It is known as the Maury Island Incident. Two Tacoma, Wash. "harbor patrolmen," declared that they had seen six UFOs hover over their patrol boat. A private citizen reported this to an intelligence officer at Hamilton AFB in Calif., claiming that he had some pieces of metal that had come from one of the UFOs.
As a result, Lt. Brown and Capt. Davidson flew from Hamilton to Tacoma and met the citizen in his hotel room at Tacoma. The citizen then told them that he had been paid $200 for an exclusive story by a Chicago publisher, but that he had decided the story ought to be told to the military. The two "harbor patrolmen" were summoned to the hotel room to relate their story to Brown and Davidson. In June 1947, the patrolmen said, they sighted the doughnut-shaped UFOs over Puget Sound about three miles from Tacoma. The UFOs were said to be 100 ft. in diameter with a central hole about 25 ft. in diameter.
One appeared to be in trouble and another made contact in flight with it. According to the story, the disabled UFO spewed out sheets of light metal and a hard rocklike material, some of which landed at Maury Island. The harbor patrolmen went to the island and scooped up some of the metal. They tried to use their radio but found so much interference that they could not communicate with headquarters three miles away. While this was happening, the UFOs disappeared.
The next morning, one of the patrolmen said, he had been visited by a mysterious man who told him not to talk. Photographs were taken during the encounter with the UFOs, but the film was badly fogged, the patrolman claimed.
During the interview between the harbor patrolmen and the Air Force officers, which occurred sometime after the event itself, Tacoma newspapers received anonymous tips about the interviews in the hotel room.
They returned to McChord AFB near Tacoma, and after conferring with an intelligence officer there, started the return flight to Calif. in the B-25 in which they ad come. The plane crashed near Kelso, Wash. Although the pilot and a passenger parachuted to safety, Brown and Davidson lost their lives.
In the investigation which followed the "harbor patrolmen" admitted that the whole story was a hoax intended to produce a magazine story for the Chicago publisher. The alleged photographs could no longer be found. The men admitted that they were not harbor patrolmen. one admitted to having telephoned tips on the interviews with Air Force officers to the Tacoma newspapers. The Air Force officers had already decided that the story was a hoax, which was why they did not take with them the metal fragments alleged to have come from the UFO.
This case is presented in somewhat more detail in Ruppelt (1956). Another version of the same case is given in Wilkins (1954). Life acknowledged the UFO wave with an article "Flying Saucers Break Out over the U. S." in its 21 July 1947 issue. Newsweek covered the story under the headline "Flying Saucer Spots Before Their Eyes" in the 14 July 1947 issue.
The following year another case ended in tragedy when Capt. Thomas Mantell lost his life on 7 January 1948. He was attempting to chase a UFO near Louisville, Ky. This is the first fatality on record directly connected with an UFO chase (Ruppelt, 1955).
At 1:15 p.m. reports from private citizens were made to the Kentucky State Highway Patrol describing a strange, saucer-shaped flying object, some 200 - 300 ft. diameter. Soon it was seen by several persons, including the base commander, at the control tower of Godman AFB, outside Louisville.
About this time a group of four F-51s arrived and the flight leader, Capt. Mantell, was asked by the base commander to have a look at the UFO. Three of the planes took up the investigation. Unable to see the UFO at first they followed directions from the control tower. After a while, Capt. Mantell reported that he had found the UFO ahead of him and higher. He told the tower that he was climbing to 20,000 ft. The other two planes remained behind. None of the three planes had oxygen. The others tried to call Mantell on the radio, but he was never heard from again. By 4:00 p.m. it was reported that Mantell's plane had crashed and that he was dead.
Initially it was concluded that Mantell had been chasing Venus. The case was restudied by Ruppelt in 1952 with the assistance of Hynek, who concluded that the UFO was probably not Venus, because although the location was roughly appropriate, Venus was not bright enough to be seen vividly in the bright afternoon sky. Ruppelt's later study led him to the belief that what Capt. Mantell chased was probably one of the large 100 ft. "Skyhook" balloons that were being secretly flown in 1948 by the Navy. Their existence was not known to most Air Force pilots. This explanation, though plausible, is not a certain identification.
Two other 1948 cases figure largely in reports of UFO sightings. On 24 July 1948 an Eastern Airlines DC-3, piloted by Clarence S. Chiles and John B. Whitted, was on a regular run from Houston, Tex. to Atlanta, Ga. At 2:45 a.m. they saw a bright light dead ahead coming rapidly toward them. They pulled to the left to avoid a collision. Looking back they saw the UFO go into a steep climb. The pilots described it as a wingless B-29 fuselage and said that the underside had a deep blue glow. Two other reports from the general vicinity at the same time gave a similar description.
On 1 October 1948, at 9:00 p.m. Lt. George F. Gorman of the North Dakota National Guard was approaching Fargo, N. D. in an F-51. The tower called his attention to a Piper Cub which he saw below him. As he prepared to land, suddenly what he took to be the tail-light of another plane passed him on his right, but the control tower assured
him no other planes were in the area. Chasing the light, he got within 1,000 yd. of it. It had been blinking but suddenly became steady and started to move rapidly with the F-51 pursuit. There followed a complicated chase in which Gorman had to dive on one occasion to avoid collision. Suddenly the light began to climb and disappeared.
Some months later, 24 January 1949, the Air Weather Service provided ATIC with an analysis which indicated that Gorman had been chasing a lighted balloon. This explanation is not accepted by Keyhoe (1953), who says that although the Weather Bureau had released a weather balloon, it had been tracked by theodolite and found to have moved in a different direction from that in which Gorman had his UFO encounter.
In late July 1948 an incident occurred of which much is made by critics of Air Force handling of the UFO problem. The staff of Project Sign, on the basis of study of cases reported in the year since the original Arnold sightings prepared an "Estimate of the Situation." This is said to have been classified "Top Secret" although "Restricted" was the general classification applicable to Project Sign at that time. The intelligence report was addressed to Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg.
According to the unconfirmed reports, the "Estimate" asserted that the staff of Project Sign were convinced that the UFOs were really interplanetary vehicles. This report never became an official document of the Air Force, because Gen. Vandenberg refused to accept its conclusions on the ground that the Project Sign "Estimate of the Situation" lacked proof of its conclusion. Copies of the report were destroyed, although it is said that a few clandestine copies exist. We have not been able to verify the existence of such a report.
Some Air Force critics make much of this incident. As they tell it, the Estimate contained conclusive evidence of ETA, but this important discovery was suppressed by arbitrary decision of Gen. Vandenberg. We accept the more reasonable explanation that the evidence presented was then, as now, inadequate to support the conclusion.
Project Sign at ATIC continued its investigations of flying saucer reports until 11 February 1949 when the name of the project was officially changed to Project Grudge.
The final report of Project Sign was prepared and classified "Secret" February 1949, and was finally declassified 12 yr. later. It is a document of vii + 35 pages officially cited as Technical Report-TR-2274-IA of the Technical Intelligence Division, Air Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
This report concludes with these recommendations:
Future activity on this project should be carried on at the minimum level necessary to record, summarize and evaluate the data received on future reports and to complete the specialized investigations now in progress. When and if a sufficient number of incidents are solved to indicate that these sightings do not represent a threat to the security of the nation, the assignment of special project status to the activity could be terminated. Future investigations of reports would then be handled on a routine basis like any other intelligence work.
Of particular interest even today, as indicating the way in which the problem was being attacked in that early period are Appendices C
and D of the report which are reproduced here as our Appendices D and T. Appendix C is by Prof. George Valley of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was at that time a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, attached to the Office of the Chief of Staff. Appendix D is a letter by Dr. James E. Lipp of the Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif., to Brig. Gen. Donald Putt who was then the Air Force's director of research and development, which discusses Extra-Terrestrial Hypotheses. Historically it serves to show that the Air Force was in fact giving consideration to the ETH possibility at this early date.
A curious discrepancy may be noted: On page 38 of the paperback edition of Keyhoe's Flying Saucers from Outer Space (Keyhoe, 1954) there is given a two-paragraph direct quotation from the Project Sign report. However a careful examination of the report shows that these paragraphs are not contained in it.
After 11 February 1949, the work at ATIC on flying saucers was called Project Grudge. It issued one report, designated as Technical Report No. 102-AC 49/15 - 100, dated August 1949, originally classified "Secret," and declassified on 1 August 1952. The report concerns itself with detailed study of 244 sighting reports received up to January 1949. Comments on individual cases from an astronomical point of view by Dr. Hynek predominate. About 32% of the cases were considered to have been explained as sightings of astronomical objects.
Another 12% were judged to have been sightings of weather balloons on the basis of detailed analysis of the reports made by the Air Weather Service and the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory. Some 33% were dismissed as hoaxes or reports that were too vague for explanation, or as sightings of airplanes under unusual conditions. A residue of 23% was considered as "Unknown."
Although the report was declassified in 1952, not many copies are in existence. We were supplied a copy by the Air Force for our work on this project. The report is discussed in some detail by Ruppelt (1956).
He implies that the investigations of the residue were incomplete and inadequate.
Examination of the record indicates that many of the reports were too vague for interpretation and that if anything, the Air Force investigators gave them more attention than they deserved. Two of the reports are reproduced here as a sample of the kind of material involved, and the kind of comment on it that was made by Air Force investigators:
Incident No. 40. 7 July 1947, 1600 hours, Phoenix, Arizona. One observer witnessed an elliptical, flat gray object, measuring 20-30 ft. across, flying 400-600 mph, spiraling downward to 2000 ft. from 5000 ft then ascending at a 450 angle into an overcast. Observer ran into a garage where he obtained a Kodak Brownie 120 box camera, and snapped two pictures; one negative, and a print of the other, are contained in project files. The negative displays a small apparently flat object rounded on one end, and pointed on the other. The object appears to have a hole in the center. The image is in stark contrast with the background of clouds. From the print, the object appears to be jet black with sharp outlines. Four expert photographers concur in the opinion that the image is of true photographic nature. However, they disagree with each other as to the possibility of filming such an occurrence under the conditions described. Considering the object was gray as described, and at a distance of 2000 ft., it seems unlikely that it would appear pure black on the print. In subsequent correspondence to the reporter of this incident, the observer refers to himself as Chief of Staff of Panoramic Research Laboratory, the letterhead of which lists photography among one of its specialties. Yet, the negative was carelessly
cut and faultily developed. It is covered with streaks and over a period of six months, has faded very noticeably. An OSI agent discovered that a letter by this observer was published by Amazing Stories magazine early this year. In this letter he stated that he had been interviewed by two Federal agents, had given them pictures of "flying discs" and that the pictures had not been returned. He requested the advice of the magazine as to how to proceed to sue the Government. This individual is aware of the whereabouts of these pictures, but has never requested their return. There are other undesirable aspects to this case. The observer's character and business affiliations are presently under investigation, the results of which are not yet known. Dr. Irving Langmuir studied subject photographs, and after learning of the prior passage of a thunderstorm, discounted the photographed object as being merely paper swept up by the winds.
The Grudge Report contains these recommendations:
In accordance with the recommendations, a press release announcing the closing of Project Grudge was issued on 27 December 1949.
A fuller statement of Conclusions and Recommendations is given on page 10 of the Grudge Report and is quoted here in full:
It is, therefore, recommended that Conclusions I and 2 of this report, with sufficient supporting data, be declassified and public 4 the form of an official press release. This action would aid in dispelling public apprehension, often directly attributable to the sensationalistic reporting of many of these incidents by the press and radio.
The remarks under B. and C., originally dated August 1949, indicate that the Air Force was aware of the public relations problem involved in the UFO situation. The Air Force was also aware that public concern with the problem could be used in psychological warfare. This was just two years after interest in the subject had been generated by newspaper publicity about the Kenneth Arnold sighting. The same kind of problem in a slightly different form was an important consideration when the problem was again reviewed by the Robertson panel in January 1953.
Even in 1968 opinion remains sharply divided as to whether or not the Air Force should have done more or less to investigate UFOs.
By 1950 magazine and book publishers had discovered that money could be made in the UFO field. The first major magazine article appeared
in the issue of True magazine dated January 1950. It was entitled "The Flying Saucers are Real ," written by Donald Keyhoe. True magazine is an unusual place in which to announce a major scientific discovery, but that is what this article did: it unequivocally asserted that flying saucers are vehicles being used by visitors from outer space to scrutinize the earth. The 1950 Keyhoe article was the subject of a great deal of radio, television, and newspaper comment.
In the March 1950 issue, True extended its coverage of UFOs with an article entitled "How Scientists Tracked Flying Saucers," written by Commander R. B. McLaughlin, U.S.N. CDR McLaughlin came out on the side of Extra Terrestrial Hypothesis. Describing an UFO he had seen at White Sands, he declared, "I am convinced that it was a flying saucer, and further, these discs are spaceships from another planet, operated by animate, intelligent beings." True continued to establish its position by publishing a collection of seven UFO photographs in its April 1950 issue.
More serious interest developed in the news media. The New York Times (9 April 1950) published an editorial entitled, "Those Flying Saucers -- Are They or Aren't They?" and the U. S. News and World Report (7 April 1950) carried a story relating the flying saucers to the Navy's abandoned XF-5-U project. Edward R. Murrow produced (9 September 57 ) an hour-long television roundup on the subject. In its 26 June 1950 issue, Life published an article on "Farmer [X's] Flying Saucer" based on the photographs taken at the witness' farm near McMinnville, Ore. (see Section III, Chapter 3 [Note: This is Case 46]).
The first three books on flying saucers also appeared in 1950. The smallest of these was a 16-page booklet by Kenneth A. Arnold entitled, "The Flying Saucer as I Saw It." Next there appeared a book by the Hollywood correspondent of Variety, Frank Scully, entitled "Behind the Flying Saucers" published by Holt and Co., New York. In the fall of 1950, Donald Keyhoe's first book, "The Flying Saucers are Real" appeared, published by Fawcett Publications of Greenwich, Conn. It was essentially an expansion of his article in the January 1950 issue of True.
A new field for book publishing had been established: each year since 1950 has seen the publication of an increasing number of books on the subject.
In accordance with policy decisions based on the final report of Project Grudge, the activity was discontinued as a separate project and ATIC's investigation of UFO reports was handled as a part of regular intelligence activities. Then, on 10 September, 1951, an incident occurred at the Army Signal Corps radar center at Fort Monmouth, N. J. An UFO was reported seen on radar travelling much faster than any of the jet planes then in the air. Later it turned out that the radar operator had miscalculated the speed and the "UFO" was identified as a conventional 400 mph jet airplane.
Before this explanation was discovered, however, the case attracted the attention of Maj. Gen. C. P. Cabell, director of Air Force Intelligence. He ordered a re-activation of Project Grudge as a new and expanded project under the direction of E. J. Ruppelt (1956). Ruppelt headed the new project Grudge from its former establishment on 27 October 1951, and later under its new designation as Project Blue Book in March 1952, until he left the Air Force in September 1953.
Starting in November 1951, Project Grudge and later Project Blue Book issued a series of "Status Reports" numbered 1 through 12. Numbers 1 through 12 were originally classified "Confidential," while 10, 11, 12 were classified "Secret." All were declassified as of 9 September 1960 but copies were not readily available until 1968 when they were published by NICAP.
The story of the Fort Monmouth sightings is told in Special Report No. 1, dated 28 December 1951, and is quoted in part here both for its intrinsic interest and as representative of the way in which the investigations were reported:
On 10 September 1951 an AN/MPG-1 radar set picked up a fast-moving low-flying target (exact altitude undetermined) at approximately 1100 hours southeast of Fort Monmouth at a range of about 12,000 yards. The
target appeared to approximately follow the coastline changing its range only slightly but changing its azimuth rapidly. The radar set was switched to full-aided azimuth tracking which normally is fast enough to track jet aircraft, but in this case was too slow to be resorted to.
Here is a quotation from the report of another sighting at Fort Monmouth made the next day:
On 11 September 1951, at about 1330, a target was picked up on an SCR-584 radar set, serial number
315, that displayed unusual maneuverability. The target was approximately over Havesink, New Jersey, as indicated by its 10,000 yard range, 6,000 feet altitude and due north azimuth. The target remained practically stationary on the scope and appeared to be hovering. The operators looked out of the van in an attempt to see the target since it was at such a short range, however, overcast conditions prevented such observation. Returning to their operating positions the target was observed to be changing its elevation at an extremely rapid rate, the change in range was so small the operators believed the target must have risen nearly vertically. The target ceased its rise in elevation at an elevation angle of approximately 1,500 mils at which time it proceeded to move at an extremely rapid rate in range in a southerly direction once again the speed of the target exceeding the aided tracking ability of the SCR-584 so that manual tracking became necessary. The radar tracked the target to the maximum range of 32,000 yards at which time the target was at an elevation angle of 300 mils. The operators did not attempt to judge the speed in excess of the aided tracking rate of 700 mph.
Meantime the news media continued to give the UFO stories a big play. In August 1951, the incident now known to all UFO buffs as "The Case of the Lubbock Lights," attracted a great deal of attention (Ruppelt 1956).
In the closing months of 1951, Ruppelt arranged for the technical assistance of "a large well-known research organization in the Mid-West" for his reactivated Project Grudge. This organization was assigned the task of developing a questionnaire for formal interviewing of UFO sighters. It was also to make a detailed statistical analysis of the UFO reports on hand at that time and later.
At the beginning of 1952, public interest had reached a point at which the first of the amateur study organizations to function on a national scale was formed. This was the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) of Tucson, Ariz., founded by Mrs. Coral Lorenzen. Its first mimeographed bulletin was mailed out to 52 members in July. In 1968 this organization claimed 8,000 members.
With the change of name from Project Grudge to Project Blue Book in March 1952 there soon followed a step-up in support and authority for UFO study at ATIC. The instructions to Air Force bases relative to the new level of effort are contained in Air Force Letter 200-5, dated 29 April 1952. Among other things it specifies that early UFO reports from the bases throughout the country are to be sent by telegram both to ATIC and to the Pentagon, followed by fuller reports to be submitted by air mail.
The big event of 1952 was the large number of reports of UFOs seen visually and on radar in the Washington, D. C. area during June and July. This was a big year for UFO reports elsewhere as well, the largest number on record having come to the Air Force during that year. Table 1 gives the number of UFO reports received at Wright-Patterson for each month from January 1950 to the present. Inspection of Table 1 shows the great variation of reports that exists from month to month and from year to year. It is not known whether these fluctuations
Number of UFO Reports Received each Month by Project Blue Book.
(Sum of those received from Air Force Bases and those received directly from the public.)
reflect a real actual variation in number of sightings by the public, or are largely the result made up of shifts in the propensity of the public to make reports. Attempts have been made to correlate the maxima with waves of press publicity, with oppositions of Mars, and with other events, but none have yielded very convincing evidence of a real association between the events. For an appreciation of the perils inherent in the statistical analysis of such data, the reader is referred to Section VI, Chapter 10 of this report.
On 19 August 1952 there occurred the case of Scoutmaster D. S. Desvergers in Fonda, which Ruppelt, (1956) has called the "best hoax in UFO history." It is also discussed in Stanton (1966) and Lorenzen (1962).
The scoutmaster was taking three scouts home about 9:00 p.m., driving along a road near West Palm Beach. He thought he saw something burning in a palmetto swamp and stopped to investigate, leaving the boys in the car. As he drew nearer he saw that the light was not from a fire but was a phosphorescent glow from a circular object hovering overhead. From it emerged a flare that floated toward him.
When, after some 20 min., the scoutmaster had not returned, the boys summoned help from a nearby farmhouse. A deputy sheriff was called. V/hen he and the boys returned to the car they found the scoutmaster emerging in a dazed condition from the palmetto thicket. His forearms had been burned and three small holes were found burned in his cap.
In the investigation that followed some grass near where the "saucer" had been was found scorched at its roots but not on top. How this could have happened is not clear.
According to Ruppelt's account, the scoutmaster was an ex-Marine whose military and reformatory record led the Air Force investigators ultimately to write his story off as a hoax.
News media and the magazines continued to build up interest in the flying saucer stories. Table 2 is a partial tabulation of the treatment of the subject in the major magazines of America.
Partial list of UFO articles in major U. S. magazines in 1952.
|American Mercury||Flying Saucer Hoax||October||61-66|
|Collier's||"How to Fly a Saucer"||4 October||50-51|
|Life||Have We Visitors from Outer Space?||4 April||80-82|
|Saucer Reactions||9 June||20|
|New Republic||New Saucer Epidemic||18 August||49|
|Saucer Season||11 August||56|
|Saucers Under Glass||18 August||49|
|New Yorker||Reporter at Large||6 September||68|
|Popular Science||Flying Saucers are Old Stuff||May||145-47|
|How to see Flying Saucers||September||167-70|
|Hollywood Builds Flying Saucers||November||132-34|
|Reader's Digest||Flying Saucers, New in Name Only||July||7-9|
|Time||"Those Flying Saucers"||9 June||54-56|
|Blips on the Scopes||4 August||40|
|Something in the Air||11 August||58|
|Theology of Saucers||18 August||62|
|Wind is Up in Kansas||8 September||86|
Project Grudge Report No. 6 reports the following concerning the public response to the 4 April articles in Life:
During the period of 3 April to 6 April approximately 350 daily newspapers in all parts of the United States carried some mention of the article and some mention of the fact that the Air Force was interested in receiving such reports.
The subject was also beginning to attract journalistic attention in Europe, for example France Illustration of Paris published "Une Enigme Sous Nos Yeux" in its 5 May 1951 issue and "Soucoupes Volantes" on 4 October 1952.
Table 1 indicates that the number of UFO reports in 1952 was some eight times the number for the previous two years. The investigation, however, continued to give no indication of a threat to national security, and no "hard evidence" for the truth of ETH.
Blue Book Report No. 8, dated 31 December 1952, says that an astronomical consultant to the project had interviewed 44 professional
astronomers as to their attitude on UFOs. He found their attitudes could be classified as
The Air Force's astronomical consultant commented:
Over 40 astronomers were interviewed, of [whom] five made sightings of one sort or another. This is a higher percentage than among the populace at large. Perhaps this is to be expected, since astronomers do, after all, watch the skies. On the other hand, they will not likely be fooled by balloons, aircraft, and similar objects, as may be the general populace.
brand the astronomer as questionable among his colleagues. Since I was able to talk with the men in confidence, I was able to gather very much more of their inner thoughts on the subject than a reporter or an interrogator would have been able to do. Actual hostility is rare; concern with their own immediate scientific problems is too great. There seems to be no convenient method by which problems can be attacked, and most astronomers do not wish to become involved, not only because of the danger of publicity but because the data seems tenuous and unreliable.
Some persons in the Defense establishment began to worry about the trend of public interest in UFOs from a different viewpoint, namely, the possibility that the military communication channels might be jammed with sighting reports at a time when an enemy was launching a sneak attack on the United States. On the other hand, there was the possibility that an enemy, prior to launching such an attack, might deliberately generate a wave of UFO reports for the very purpose of jamming military communication channels. The Central Intelligence Agency undertook to assess the situation with the assistance of a Special Panel of five scientists who had distinguished themselves in physics research and in their contributions to military research during and after World War II. The panel spent a week studying selected case reports and examining such UFO photographs and motion pictures as were available at that time. In mid-January, 1953, the panel produced a report which was classified secret until it was partly declassified in 1966 (Lear, 1966). The report is still partially classified to the extent that the names of some of the members are deleted from the declassified record of the proceedings.
The late Prof. H. P. Robertson of the California Institute of Technology served as chairman of the panel. He had been a member of the Mathematics Department of Princeton University form 1928 to 1947
when he joined the faculty of Calif. Inst. of Tech. In academic work he distinguished himself by his research in cosmology and the theory of relativity. During the war he made important contributions to operation research of the Allied forces in London (Jones, 1968). After the war he served from 1950-52 as research director of the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group in the office of the Secretary of Defense and in 1954-56 was scientific advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
Prof. Samuel A. Goudsmit, with Prof. George Uhlenbeck, discovered electron spin while they were young students in Leiden, Holland, in 1925. Soon after that both came to the University of Michigan where they developed a great school of theoretical physics which contributed greatly to the development of research in that field in America.
Goudsmit is best known outside of academic physics circles as having been scientific chief of the Alsos Mission toward the end of the war. This mission was the intelligence group that was sent to Germany to find out what the Germans had accomplished in their efforts to make an atom bomb (Goudsmit, 1947; Groves, 1962; Irving, 1967). Most of the post-war period he has served on the physics staff of the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island.
Luis Alvarez is a Professor of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley and vice-president of the American Physical Society (1968).* During World War II he was a member of the Radiation Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he made a particularly outstanding contribution in the development of a micro-wave radar system for guiding plane landings in heavy fog. The research then known as Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) was of decisive importance in the war. The location of the incoming aircraft is followed closely by the radar system on the ground whose operator instructs the pilot how to bring the plane onto the runway for a safe landing. In the latter part of the war he served under J. Robert Oppenheimer on the great team that developed the atom bomb at Los Alamos. In the post-war period, Alvarez
* Alvarez was awarded the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physics.
has made many great research contributions in high-energy physics. At present he is engaged in using cosmic ray absorption in material of the Egyptian pyramids near Cairo to look for undiscovered inner chambers.
Lloyd Berkner, born in 1905, was an engineer with the Byrd Antarctic Expedition as a youngster in 1928-30. Most of the pre-war period he was a physicist in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. At the beginning of the war he became head of the radar section of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics, and for a time at the end of the war was executive secretary of the Research and Development Board of the Department of Defense. In 1949 he was special assistant to the Secretary of State and director of the foreign military assistance program. While in the Department of State he prepared the report which led to the posting of scientific attaches to the principal American embassies abroad. From 1951 to 1960 he was active in managing the affairs of Associated Universities, Inc., the corporation which operates Brookhaven National Laboratory, and toward the end of that period was its president. In 1960 he went to Dallas, Tex. where he organized and directed the new Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. During most of his life he was a member of the U. S. Naval Reserve, and rose to the rank of rear admiral. The concept of an International Geophysical Year, (1957-58) -- the greatest example of international scientific cooperation that has yet occurred -- was his brainchild.
Prof. Thornton Page has been professor of astronomy at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. since 1958. During the war he did research at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, mostly in connection with design of underwater ordnance and operations research on naval weapons. This year (1968) he is vice-president for astronomy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In astronomy he has worked mostly on the atomic spectra of planetary nebulas.
The panel has been criticized for not having spent more time studying its problem. But in January 1953, the subject only had a
four and a half year history and it was really quite possible for a group of this competence to review the whole situation quite thoroughly in a week. The panel has also come under incessant fire from UFO enthusiasts because of its recommendations.
It might have been possible to put together other panels that would have performed as well, but it would not have been possible to choose one superior in scientific knowledge, background of military experience, and soundness of overall judgment.
The Robertson panel report was originally classified "Secret" and declassified in the summer of 1966. Because of its central importance to the UFO story, and especially because it has been the subject of many misrepresentations, we present here the text of its main conclusions, and in Appendix U the full text of the declassified report just as it was released to the public with the names of certain participants deleted.
foreign artifacts capable of hostile acts, and that there is no evidence that the phenomena indicates a need for the revision of current scientific concepts.
Table 3 shows the number of cases studied by Project Blue Book in the years 1953-1965 and how the Air Force classified them.
So far as can be determined, little was done to implement the recommendations contained under 4a and 4b of the report of the Robertson panel. It would have been wise at that time to have declassified all or nearly all of the previous reports of investigations of flying saucer incidents such as those waking up the bulk of the Project Grudge and Project Blue Book reports 1 - 12. In fact they were not declassified until 9 September 1960. Had responsible press, magazine writers, and scientists been called in and given the full story, or had a major presentation of the situation been arranged at a large scientific convention, such as at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, they would have seen for themselves how small was the sum of all the evidence and in particular how totally lacking in positive support was the ETH idea. The difficulty of attempting to base a careful study on the anecdotal gossip which was the bulk of the raw material available for the study of UFOs would have been clear.
But secrecy was maintained. This opened the way for intensification of the "aura of mystery" which was already impairing public confidence in the Department of Defense. Official secretiveness also fostered systematic sensationalized exploitation of the idea that a government conspiracy existed to conceal the truth.
There are those who still cling to this idea of a government conspiracy to conceal a portentous "truth" from the American people. Soon after our study was announced a woman wrote me as follows:
UFO Cases Classified by Categories by Project Blue Book, 1953-1965.
EDITORS' NOTE: This table was originally displayed on two pages, with 1953-59 data on page 872 and 1960-65 on page 873. NCAS has combined the data into a single table.
|Stars and planets||101||44||52||131||144||56||40||45||78||36||23||55||135|
Since your committee is using moneys appropriated by the people, it is your duty to level with the citizens of this country and tell the truth. Don't bend facts to suit the Silent Group. People are intelligent. Have faith in the adaptability of our citizens to take the truth. The public didn't collapse under the facts of A bombs, H bombs and the L bombs. It took our space program in stride. It adopted the use of "miracle" drugs. We, as citizens, can manage to live with the truth about saucers. DO NOT knuckle under to the censorship boys. If you want a place in history that is honorable -- report the truth to the public about UFOs, because millions of us already know and believe. I have seen "flying saucers". I have heard a man talk who has been to Mars and he can prove it, I'm sure. Of course the planets and stars are inhabited. Our government is acting like the small child who was punished for an act which endangered the lives of his brothers and sisters. Our government should be big enough to face facts as our citizens are able to face the facts. JUST TELL THE TRUTH. It is the easiest way and the only way.
Where secrecy is known to exist one can never be absolutely sure that he knows the complete truth. There is an ironic recognition of this fact in Lt. Gen. Nathan Twining's letter of 23 September 1947 (See p.884) in which he acknowledges that consideration must be given to "the possibility" that UFOs "are of domestic origin -- the product of some high security project not known to AC/AS-2 or this Command."
We adopted the term "conspiracy hypothesis" for the view that some agency of the Government either within the Air Force, the Central Intelligence Agency, or elsewhere knows all about UFOs and is keeping the knowledge secret. Without denying the possibility that this could
be true, we decided very early in the study, that we were not likely to succeed in carrying out a form of counter-espionage against our own Government, in the hope of settling this question. We therefore decided not to pay special attention to it, but instead to keep alert to any indications that might lead to any evidence that not all of the essential facts known to the Government were being given to us.
Although we found no such evidence, it must be conceded that there may be a supersecret government UFO laboratory hidden away somewhere of whose existence we are not aware. But I doubt it. I do not believe it, but, of course, I can not prove its non-existence!
About half way through this study, a young woman on the editorial staff of a national magazine telephoned from New York to Boulder. She wanted my comment on a report that had come to her editor that the Colorado study was merely pretending to be a study of UFOs, that this was a cover story. What we were really doing, she was told, was to carry on a "Top Secret" study for the Defense Department's "Martian Invasion Defense Program (MIDP)," that is, a war plan for a response by our defense forces in the event of an invasion of Earth by the Martians. She wanted to know whether this was true!
I could only tell her, "If it were true, I think it would certainly be Top Secret; then I would not be at liberty to tell you about it. This being the case, if I tell you that it is not true, you do not have the slightest idea as to whether I am telling the truth or not."
Her problem was like that of the man who thought his wife was unfaithful. He set all kinds of clever traps to catch her, but he never got any evidence. From this he concluded that she was deucedly clever about her infidelity.
In 1953 the general level of suspicion and mistrust was pervasive. The new administration was re-opening old security cases. The whole system of security investigations was being elaborated. This was the peak year in the career of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy. This was the year that charges were made against the late J. Robert Oppenheimer, culminating in AEC denial of his clearance in the spring of 1954.
In this atmosphere all kinds of dark suspicions could and did take root and grow -- including the belief -- and the commercial exploitation of the pretended belief -- that the government knew much about UFOs that it was concealing, or that the Government was woefully ignorant of the real truth.
In 1956 the National Investigations Committee for Aerial Phenomena was founded by Donald E. Keyhoe, a retired Marine Corps major. As its director he now claims that NICAP has some 12,000 members. Although organized for the purpose of studying UFO cases on an amateur basis, a large part of its effort has gone into promulgation of attacks on the government's handling of the UFO matter. In October 1953, Keyhoe 's second book appeared, Flying Saucers from Outer Space and soon was found on best-seller lists. Of it, E. J. Ruppelt commented, "To say that the book is factual depends entirely upon how one uses the word. The details of the specific UFO sightings that he credits to the Air Force are factual, but in his interpretations of the incidents he blasts way out into the wild blue yonder." (Ruppelt, 1956).
Here is how Keyhoe links the conspiracy hypothesis with the ETH:
Three years ago this proposal would have amazed me. In 1949, after months of investigation, I wrote an article for True magazine, stating that the saucers were probably interplanetary machines. Within 24 hours the Air Force was swamped with demands for the truth. To end the uproar the Pentagon announced that the saucer project was closed. The saucers, the Air Force insisted, were hoaxes, hallucinations, or mistakes.
when I asked them to prove it by showing me the secret sighting reports, I ran into a stone wall...(Keyhoe, 1953).
Another sensational book of this period was Harold T. Wilkins' Flying Saucers on the Attack (Wilkins, 1954). It is characterized by its publishers as "A book of facts that is more astounding and incredible than science fiction and which is an introduction to events that may dwarf our civilization. Has the invasion of Earth by beings from another world already begun? The most startling revelations yet made about mysterious visitors from outer space." Wilkins too professed to believe that the government was concealing these "astounding and incredible" facts from the people.
The late newscaster, Frank Edwards, found the Air Force's secrecy baffling and difficult to deal with. In Flying Saucers -- Serious Business (Edwards, 1966) he recalled:
Through the Washington grapevine, various friends in the news business had told me that the Pentagon was very unhappy because I continued to broadcast reports of UFO sightings. By late 1953 the news services had virtually ceased to carry such reports; if they were carried at all it was on a strictly local or regional basis. The major leak -- and just about the only major leak in the censorship of UFO's -- was my radio program.
Developments of this kind leave no doubt in my mind that a serious mistake was made in early 1953 in not declassifying the entire subject and making a full presentation of what was known, as recommended in the report of the Robertson panel.
Another major recommendation of the Robertson panel favored the launching of an educational program to inform the public about UFOs. If any attention was given to this proposal the effort was so slight that there was no discernible effect. But in any event such a program could hardly have been expected to be effective while the "aura of
mystery" continued because of continued secrecy surrounding much of Project Blue Book's activities.
Much of the attack on the Robertson panel report centers on the fact that the report declared that a broad educational program should have two major aims, "training and 'debunking'". Training would be broadly concerned with educating pilots, radar operators, control tower operators and others in the understanding and recognition of peculiar phenomena in the sky. The panel concluded that, "this training should result in a marked reduction in reports caused by misidentification and resultant confusion."
The word debunking means to take the bunk out of a subject. Correctly used, one cannot debunk a subject unless there is some bunk in it. Over the years, however, the word has acquired a different coloration. It now sometimes means presenting a misleading or dishonest account of a subject for some ulterior purpose. The critics of the Robertson panel insist that this latter meaning is what the group had in mind. That the earlier definition of debunking was what the panel meant is evident from the following statement explaining how the "debunking" would be carried out:
The "debunking" aim would result in reduction in public interest in "flying saucers" which today evokes a strong psychological reaction. This education could be accomplished by mass media such as television, motion pictures and popular articles. Basis of such education would be actual case histories which had been puzzling at first but later explained. As in the case of conjuring tricks, there is much less stimulation if the "secret" is known. Such a program should tend to reduce the current gullibility of the public and consequently their susceptibility to clever hostile propaganda.
So far as we can determine, no official steps were ever taken to put into effect the training and "debunking" recommendations of the
Robertson panel. A private effort was not to be expected, since such a program would not be commercially attractive and would conflict with books that were beginning to make money by exploiting popular confusion about the ETH and alleged government conspiracies.
In 1953, Donald H. Menzel, then director of the Harvard College Observatory published an excellent book (Menzel, 1953). It emphasizes the optical mirage aspects of the subject (Section VI, Chapter 3), and is generally regarded as "debunking" and "negative." Menzel's book never achieved a large enough market to be issued as a paperback and is now out of print.
By contrast, a book, by D. Leslie and George Adamski entitled, Flying Saucers Have Landed was published in 1953 (Leslie and Adamski, 1953). Best known for its full account of Adamski's alleged interview with a man from Venus on the California desert on 20 November 1952, it enjoyed widespread popularity in hardcover and paperback editions.
It is difficult to know how much of the UFO literature is intended to be taken seriously. For example, Coral Lorenzen's first UFO book was first published under the title, The Great Flying Saucer Hoax, but in the paperback edition it became, Flying Saucers: the Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space, subtitled "An exposure of the establishment's flying saucer cover-up." (Lorenzen, 1962, 1966).
The paperback edition contains an introduction by Prof. R. Leo Sprinkle of the department of psychology of the University of Wyoming. In this introduction, Prof. Sprinkle writes:
Coral Lorenzen has been willing... to describe her fears about potential dangers of the UFO phenomena; to challenge sharply the statements of those military and political leaders who claim that citizens have not seen "flying saucers;" and to differ courageously from those who take a "head in the sand" approach... She realizes that censorship is probably controlled at the highest levels of governmental administration...
the United States. However, regardless of the intent of UFO occupants, it behooves us to learn as much as possible about their persons, powers and purposes. Mrs. Lorenzen realizes that her present conclusions may not all be verified, but she is also aware that it may be too late for mankind to react to a potential threat to world security. It is to her credit that she has avoided feelings of panic on one hand and feelings of hopelessness on the other. She has demonstrated a courageous approach: the continuation of the process of gathering, analyzing, and evaluating of information, and the encouragement of the efforts of others to come to grips with the emotional and political and scientific aspects of the UFO phenomena.
Her book is largely taken up with vivid accounts of UFO incidents that are alleged to be factual and to support the idea of ETA, of actual visits to Earth of extra-terrestrial intelligences. A sample of the kind of material presented is the following condensation of an incident in Brazil which is said to have occurred on 14 October 1957 (p. 64 et seq.).
On that evening Antonio Villas-Boas was plowing a field with a tractor when an UFO shaped like an elongated egg landed about 15 yd. away from him. The tractor engine stopped and Villas-Boas got out of the tractor and tried to run away when he "was caught up short by something grasping his arm. He turned to shake off his pursuer and came face-to-face with a small 'man' wearing strange clothes, who came only to his shoulder." He knocked the little fellow down and several more came to the aid of the first one. They "lifted him off the ground and dragged him toward the ship," which had a ladder reaching to the ground.
There follows a description of the interior of the ship and of the way in which the unearthly visitors talked with each other which
"reminded Antonio of the noises dogs make, like howls, varying in pitch and intensity." He was forced to undress and to submit to various medical procedures, but then:
"After what seemed like an eternity to Villas-Boas the door opened again and in walked a small but well built and completely nude woman." There follows a description of her voluptuous, distinctly womanly figure.
"The woman's purpose was immediately evident. She held herself close to Villas-Boas, rubbing her head against his face. She did not attempt to communicate in any way except with occasional grunts and howling noises, like the 'men' had uttered. A very normal sex act took place and after more pettings she responded again... The howling noises she made during the togetherness had nearly spoiled the whole act for they reminded him of an animal."
Villas-Boas' clothing was then returned to him and he was shown to the UFO's door. "The man pointed to the door ... then to the sky, motioned Antonio to step back, then went inside and the door closed. At this, the saucer-shaped thing on top began to spin at great speed, the lights got brighter and the machine lifted straight up..."
Meanwhile, back at the tractor, Villas-Boas consulted his watch and concluded that he had been aboard for over four hours.
Mrs. Lorenzen comments:
The above is condensed from a 23-page report which was submitted to APRO by Dr. Olivo Fontes, professor of medicine at the Brazilian National School of Medicine... My own first reaction was almost one of scoffing until I began to add up some important factors:
but it would be much more efficient to pick a male by some means. If a human female subject were used, the chances of no conception, or conception followed by miscarriage, would be great due to the considerable nervous strain of removing that female subject from her familiar surroundings to a completely foreign location and alien companions, and then literally subjecting her to forcible rape. It should be quite well known, especially to an advanced culture, that the psychological makeup of women, especially where sex is concerned, is considerably more delicate than that of her male counterpart. The ideal situation, then, would be for the experimenters to pick their own female subject whose ovulation period would be known beforehand and proceed exactly as the strange UFO occupants apparently did with Villas-Boas.
She says that it was not possible at that time to have Villas-Boas examined by a psychiatrist and that Villas-Boas has subsequently married and "does not care to dwell on the subject because of his wife's feelings in the matter. Preliminary examination by Dr. Fontes, however seems to assure us that Villas-Boas is stable, not a liar, and certainly not knowledgeable about certain information which he would have to have in order to concoct such a logical tale."
Mrs. Lorenzen's final comment is: "It is unnerving to me that, along with the thousands of sightings of flying, landed and occupied unconventional aerial objects, an incident such as the above could take place and not be objectively scientifically and logically analyzed because of emotional predisposition!" But in her account there is no indication of any corroboration: the story stands or falls entirely on the veracity of Villas-Boas.
Her book is a compilation of reported incidents of which the preceding is fairly typical. What is of particular interest for a scientific study of UFOs is that in many instances the investigations,
like that of the Villas-Boas case in Brazil, are carried out by a person having an advanced degree and an academic position. The next one in the book describes the case of some men who were bow-hunting on 4 September 1963 near Truckee, Calif. One of them became separated from the others and was chased up a tree by some "robots" also called "entities," who belched out puffs of smoke which would cause the man to lose consciousness. She writes:
He said he felt that the "robots" were guided by some kind of intelligence, for at times they would get "upwind" of him to belch their sleep-inducing "smoke."
After a harrowing night the man escaped and "dragged himself toward camp, finally collapsing on the ground from exhaustion."
In this case the APRO investigator who supplied the details to Mrs. Lorenzen was Dr. James A. Harder, associate professor of civil engineering at the University of California in Berkeley. Dr. Harder received his bachelor's degree from the California Institute of Technology, and his doctorate at Berkeley, served as a design engineer for the Soil Conservation Service, and served in the Navy during World War II. He was one of those who took part in a symposium on UFOs before the House Science and Astronautics Committee, sitting under the chairmanship of Congressman J. Edward Roush of Indiana (29 July 1968). In this Congressional testimony, Dr. Harder said:
...there have been strong feelings aroused about UFOs, particularly about the extra-terrestrial hypothesis for their origin. This is entirely understandable, in view of man's historic record of considering himself the central figure in the natural scene; the extra-terrestrial hypothesis tends inevitably to undermine the collective ego of the human race. These feelings have no place in the scientific assessment of facts, but I confess that they have at times affected me...
Indeed, there are flying saucer cultists who are as enthusiastic as they are naive about UFOs -- who see in them some messianic symbols -- they have a counterpart in those individuals who exhibit a morbid preoccupation with death. Most of the rest of us don't like to think or hear about it. This, it seems to me, accurately reflects many of our attitudes toward the reality of UFOs -- natural, and somewhat healthy, but not scientific.
In the second Lorenzen book, a considerably more detailed account of the Truckee, Calif. incident than the first one is given including this comment:
At present the preliminary interviews by a qualified psychiatrist have been made preparatory to either sodium amytol or hypnotic trance questioning. We feel that Mr. S. [the man who was up the tree] may have information buried at a subconscious level which may shed considerably more light on the whole incident. We are reasonably certain that the whole incident took place and was a true physical experience, and therefore the trance questioning will not be done to attempt to discredit him in any way.
Initially Project Blue Book operated under instructions set forth in Air Force Letter 200-5, issued 29 April 1952. This provided that telegraphic reports on UFOs were to be sent promptly both to Blue Book at Wright-Patterson and to the Pentagon, and followed by a more elaborate letter reporting the details. Experience showed that this procedure was unnecessary when applied to all UFO reports, so a simpler procedure was authorized in Air Force Regulation 200-2, classed under "Intelligence Activities" and continued in force with minor changes until it was superseded by AFR 80-17 on 19 September 1960 and AFR 80-17A on 8 November 1966. The new regulation classes the activity under "Research and Development" (Appendix B).
This regulation establishes the UFO Program to investigate and analyze UFO's over the United States.
Such investigation and analysis are directly related to Air Force responsibility for the defense of the United States. The UFO program provides for the prompt reporting and rapid reporting needed for successful "identification", which is the second of four phases of air defense -- detection, identification, interception and destruction. All commanders will comply strictly with this regulation.
Critics of the Air Force have made much of paragraph entitled "Reduction of Percentage of UFO 'Unidentifieds'" which says:
Air Force activities must reduce the percentage of unidentifieds to the minimum. Analysis thus far has explained all but a few of the sightings reported. These unexplained sightings are carried statistically as unidentifieds. If more immediate, detailed, objective data on the unknowns had been available, probably these, too could have been explained. However, because of the human factors involved, and the fact that analyses of UFO sightings depend primarily on the personal impressions and interpretations of the observers rather than on accurate scientific data or facts obtained under controlled conditions, the elimination of all unidentifieds is improbable.
Critics of the Air Force have tried to read into this paragraph an exhortation that investigation is to result in common-place identifications at all costs, not excluding that of stretching the truth. But reasonable people will read this paragraph as a straightforward instruction to Air Force personnel to take the job of investigation seriously, without making shortcuts, in an effort to arrive at an accurate understanding of as many UFO reports as possible. Honestly read, there is nothing in the wording which rules out ETH, that is, the possibility of identifying an UFO as a visitor from outer space is not excluded by the instructions given.
Critics have also attacked AFR 200-2 and the similar provisions in AFR 80-17 for the fact of its centralization of public relations in the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Information. The relevant section of AFR 80-17 states:
B-4. Response to Public Interest. The Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Information (SAF-01) maintains contact with the public and the news media on all aspects of the UFO program and related activities. Private individuals or organizations desiring Air Force interviews, briefings, lectures, or private discussions on UFOs will be instructed to direct their requests to SAF-01. Air Force members not officially connected with UFO investigations will refrain from any action or comment on UFO reports which may mislead or cause the public to construe these opinions as official Air Force findings.
Critics have charged that this provision imposes censorship on UFO reports. But reasonable people will see in such a provision an arrangement designed to minimize the circulation of wild stories and premature reports before an investigation is completed. At the beginning of our study, we found certain elements of the news media extremely willing to give us their cooperation. One Denver newspaperman was willing to stand ready at all times to take us to various places in his private plane. In return he wanted us to give him a full account of what we were doing as we did it, before we had a chance to check and evaluate our field data. Of course, we could not accede to such an arrangement.
AFR 80-17 contains one exception, but one which is frustrating to newspapermen who are trying to build up a spot news story: It is Section 5c Exceptions:
In response to local inquiries regarding UFOs reported in the vicinity of an Air Force base, the base commander may release information to the news
media or public after the sighting has been positively identified. If the stimulus for the sighting is difficult to identify at the base level, the commander may state that the sighting is under investigation and conclusions will be released by SAF-01 after the investigation is completed. The commander may also state that the Air Force will review and analyze the results of the investigation. Any further inquiries will be directed to SAF-01.
These provisions reflect the traditional conflict between authorities who are responsible for carrying out a careful investigation without premature and irresponsible publicity, and the representatives of the news media who wish to have a live story while the news is still hot. At such a time nothing can be more frustrating to a reporter than to be told that one has to wait for the completion of an investigation. It is also true that these rules could actually be used to keep the public from learning promptly about a real visitor from outer space if one should appear, but in practice the Air Force has not sought to "control the news" in this way, and the restraint required by the regulation has usually resulted in the release of more accurate information than was available before the promulgation of AFR 200-2.
Another regulation which includes UFOs in its scope and which has frequently been used as a basis for criticizing the Air Force' handling of UFO reports is Joint Army Navy Air Publication-146. For example, Frank Edwards (Edwards, 1967) commented that Air Force personnel are reminded of severe penalties for "making public statements without approval!"
JANAP-146 is not a classified document. It has been issued with various revisions over the years. The copy we have is JANAP-146 (E), the revision that is dated 31 March 1966. Its title is "Canadian - United States Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings." It is issued in the United States by the Joint Chiefs of Staffs. In its Letter of Promulgation it says that it "contains military
information and is for official use only," but it also explicitly says, "Copies and Extracts may be made from this publication when such are to be used in the preparation of other official publications." On that basis a discussion of some of its contents is presented here.
Section 102a defines its scope in these words: "This publication is limited to the reporting of information of vital importance to the security of the United States of America and Canada and their forces, which in the opinion of the observer, requires very urgent defensive and/or investigative action by the U. S. and/or Canadian armed Forces."
Reports made from airborne or land-based sources are called CIRVIS reports; those from waterborne sources, MERINT reports. The relevant section on security for CIRVIS reports is as follows:
208. Military and Civilian. Transmission of CIRVIS reports are subject to the U. S. Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and the Canadian Radio Act of 1938, as amended. Any person who violates the provisions of these acts may be liable to prosecution thereunder. These reports contain information affecting the national defense of the United States and Canada. Any person who makes an unauthorized transmission or disclosure of such a report may be liable to prosecution under Title 18 of the US Code, Chapter 37, or the Canadian Official Secrets Act of 1939, as amended. This should not be construed as requiring classification of CIRVIS messages. The purpose is to emphasize the necessity for the handling of such information within official channels only.
JANAP-146 lists the categories of sightings which are to be reported as CIRVIS reports as follows:
|(a)||Hostile or unidentified single aircraft or formations of aircraft which appear to be directed against the United States or Canada or their forces.|
|(c)||Unidentified flying objects.|
The presence of item (c) in the list can be interpreted to signify that the presence of UFOs in the air space over and near the United States and Canada is officially regarded as information of vital importance to the security of the United States and Canada, but such an implication is totally misleading. The essential thing about an UFO is that the observer does not know what it is. For this reason alone it may have defense significance. Since in military matters especially it is better to be safe than sorry, it is quite appropriate that observers be explicitly notified of their obligation to report UFOs, that is, all puzzling things, rather than take a chance on their not being significant.
Provision is made in JANAP-146 for the prompt transmission of cancellation messages. If something has been seen, but is later identified by the sighter as having no defense significance, it is important that the defense headquarters be notified at once.
Air, sea and land surveillance activities are conducted continuously to guard against sudden hostile activities. JANAP-146 provides for the transmission of reports on suspicious circumstances to proper authorities for analysis and appropriate defense action. It would be most unwise
that the military response to such circumstances be publicized, nor for that matter should the circumstances themselves be a matter of public knowledge.
The mid-1950s also produced an attempt to find statistical regularities or a "pattern" in UFO sightings. Aime Michel (1958), a French journalist who has studied and written about UFOs, believed that he had found a pronounced statistical tendency for the places where UFOs are reported within a short time interval such as 24 hours to lie on a straight line, or more correctly, on a great circle on the earth's surface.
To describe this supposed tendency he coined the word "orthoteny" in 1954, deriving it from the Greek adjective "orthoteneis," which means stretched in a straight line.
He first noticed what seemed to him a tendency for the locations to lie on a straight line with regard to five sightings reported in Europe on 15 October 1954. These lay on a line 700 mi. long stretching from Southend, England to Po di Gnocca, Italy.
Another early orthotenic line which has been much discussed in the UFO literature is the BAYVIC line which stretches from Bayonne to Vichy in France. Six UFO sightings were reported on 24 September 1944 in the location of the ends and along the line.
When Michel first started to look for patterns he plotted on his maps only those reports which he had described as "good" in the sense of being clearly reported. Later he decided to plot all reports, including the "poor" ones, and found the straight line patterns in some instances.
A peculiarity of the supposed orthotenous relation is that the appearance of the UFOs in these various reports along a line may look quite different, that is, there is no implication that the sequence represents a series of sightings of the same object. Moreover the times
of seeing the UFOs do not occur in the order of displacement along the line, as they would if the same object were seen at different places along a simple trajectory.
Continuing his work he found other cases of straight line arrangements for UFO reports in France during various days in 1954. At this time there were an unusually large number of such reports, or a French "flap." But not all reports fell on straight lines. To these which clearly did not he gave the name "Vergilian saucers" because of a verse in Vergil's Aeneid, describing a scene of confusion after a great storm at sea: "A few were seen swimming here and there in the vast abyss."
Without understanding why the locations of UFO reports should lie on straight lines, this result, if statistically significant, would indicate some kind of mutual relationship of the places where UFOs are seen. From this it could be argued that the UFOs are not independent, and therefore there is some kind of pattern to their "maneuvers."
The question of statistical significance of such lines comes down to this: Could such straight line arrangements occur purely by chance in about the same number of instances as actually observed? In considering this question it must be remembered that the location of a report is not a mathematical point, because the location is never known with great precision. Moreover the reports usually tell the location of the observer, rather than that of the UFO. The direction and distance of the UFO from the observer is always quite uncertain, even the amount of the uncertainty being quite uncertain. Thus two "points" do not determine a line, but a corridor of finite width, within which the other locations must lie in order to count as being aligned... The mathematical problem is to calculate the chance of finding various numbers of 3-point, 4-point ... alignments if a specified number of points are thrown down at random on a map.
Michel's orthoteny principle was criticized along these lines by Menzel (1964), in a paper entitled, "Do Flying Saucers Move in
Straight Lines?" This triggered off a spirited controversy which included a number of papers in the Flying Saucer Review, for 1964 and 1965 by various authors.
The most complete analysis of the question to be published to date is that by Vallee and Vallee (1966). They summarize their work in these words:
The results we have just presented will probably be considered by some to be a total refutation of the theory of alignments. We shall not be so categorical, because our data have not yet been independently checked by other groups of scientists, and because we have been drastically limited in the amount of computer time that we could devote to this project outside official support. Besides no general conclusion as to the non-existence of certain alignments can be drawn from the present work. The analyses carried out merely establish that, among the proposed alignments, the great majority, if not all, must be attributed to pure chance.
In the years from 1953 to 1965, interest in UFOs or flying saucers continued to fluctuate. APRO had been founded in 1952, and NICAP was incorporated as a non-profit membership organization in 1956. In addition various local organizations flourished for a few years. Newspapers and magazines of large circulation seem not to have had a consistent policy toward the subject: More and more, but not always, they tended to make fun of flying saucer sightings. Not many of the press stories achieved national distribution by the wire services and many of those that did were handled as humorous features rather than as serious science.
As Table 1 shows, the number of UFO reports reaching Project Blue Book was well under a thousand for each of these years except for 1957 when the number was 1,006. Officers at Air Force bases and the small staff of Project Blue Book continued to investigate these reports to determine whether the things seen constituted a defense threat. In no case was a threat to national security discovered, a result consistent with that reached by the Robertson panel in 1953.
At the same time there continued to be published a considerable number of popular books and magazine articles. Most of these continued to insist that some UFOs really indicate the presence on Earth of visitors from superior civilizations elsewhere in the Universe.
Some of the books contain some rather startling assertions for which, however, no proof or corroboration is given. For example in Spacecraft from Beyond Three Dimensions (Allen, 1959) opposite page 98 is a full-page photograph showing two men holding hands with a miniature man about three feet tall, and carries the following caption, "A 'saucer crewman' very much like the moon man (or spirit) described by Swedenborg in his writings about the inhabitants of different planets of the solar system with whom, he stated, he had conversations. This photograph is from Germany (note trench coats and North European types), but the 'saucer crewman' is from a UFO that crashed near Mexico City; the corpses were sent to Germany for study. Was he based on Luna?"
The author of this book is employed by a major aircraft company in the Pacific Northwest. We got in touch with him, seeking more
specific information about the alleged crash near Mexico City, and about the circumstances of sending saucer crewman's corpses to Germany. Allen offered to give us additional information but only at what to us seemed to be an exorbitant price, considering that there was no indication of the validity of any of this story.
UFO enthusiasts are not one great happy family. They consist of a number of antagonistic sects marked by strong differences in their belief. Some of the schismatic tendencies seem to be related to personality clashes. One of the greatest points of difference between the groups is their attitude toward "contactee" stories.
Some writers, of whom George Adamski was a pioneer, have published detailed stories giving accounts of their conversations with visitors from Venus and elsewhere. Some have published accounts of trips in flying saucers, either involving high speed travel between points on Earth, or actual visits to other planets (Fry, 1966). Other writers heap scorn on those who believe in such contactee stories.
There is a particularly wide spectrum of attitudes to be found among UFO enthusiasts with respect to the late George Adamski. A periodical called UFO Contact is dedicated to his memory. The editor of UFO Contact is Ronald Caswell, 309 Curbers Mead, Harlow, Essex, England. It is published by IGAP, which is the acronym for "International Get Acquainted Program" at Bavnevolden 27, Maaloev, SJ, Denmark. According to an editorial announcement this organization was founded by Adamski in 1959. Of the periodical the editors say:
His hope was that as many as possible would discover the truth of the present age and turn to face the time to come -- to learn to accept, through conviction, the fact that we are all citizens of the Cosmos and children of the Cosmic Power whose Laws run through the entire cosmos. These Laws we can learn to comprehend through study and understanding of the "Science of Life" brought to our attention by the presence of friendly visitors from other worlds...
We shall try to detect any and every move in the direction of that truth which we have accepted, but which is not yet officially accepted or recognized in broader circles:
The magazine will make no attempt whatsoever to fight anyone, in spite of any action which might be launched against it. Only the truth, whatever its guise, will be brought to bear, to allow each to decide for himself what he can and will accept in this wonderful world on his march forward to new experiences.
In sharp contrast, is the comment about Adamski in the second of the Frank Edwards' books (Edwards, 1967):
The first and foremost among them [the contactees] was a fellow named George Adamski. He was a man of meager scholastic attainments, but he made up for that shortcoming by having an excellent imagination, a pleasing personality and an apparently endless supply of gall.
George established the ground rules for the contactees which they have dutifully followed. He was the first -- and he showed that there was considerable loot to be made by peddling tales of talking with space people. George instinctively realized that everything had to be pretty nebulous; he knew that details would be disastrous.
similar, to carry on their conversation. And then, as she prepared to leave him, she tapped out a message in the sand with her little boot. George realized that she wanted him to preserve this message (it was terribly important) and, having a pocket full of wet plaster of Paris (which he seemingly always carried with him on desert trips), George quickly made a plaster cast of the footprint with the message, which he eventually reproduced for the educational advancement of his readers, who were legion.
space was crossing millions of miles of the trackless void for the dubious privilege of conversing telepathically with former hamburger cooks. Adamski toured this country on the lecture circuit; then he branched out into Europe, where he even arranged a private confab with the Queen of The Netherlands, a maneuver which stirred up quite a bit of comment for the Queen, very little of which was favorable.
The remainder of Frank Edwards' Chapter 7 deals with other contactee stories in a similar vein.
During this period the UFO literature became very large indeed. It would require too much space to deal with it in detail. An excellent guide to this material is provided by a bibliography published by the Library of Congress.
By the early 1960s the pattern for UFO books and magazine writing had become quite clearly established: the text consisted of a stringing together of many accounts of reported sightings with almost no critical comment or attempts at finding the validity of the material reported, mixed with a strong dash of criticism of the Air Force for not devoting more attention to the subject and for allegedly suppressing the startling truth about visitors from outer space.
On the evening of 3 September 1965 a number of sightings were reported at Exeter, N. H. which were made the basis of a brief article
in the Saturday Review for 2 October 1965, and later of a book, Incident at Exeter by John C. Fuller (Fuller, l966a). The following year Fuller wrote another book, The Interrupted Journey (Fuller, 1966b) which dealt with the case of Barney and Betty Hill, who claimed to have been taken aboard a flying saucer while driving through N. H. This story was told in condensed form in Look magazine.
Probably the greatest furor in 1966 was generated by the Michigan sightings early in March. These occurred near Dexter, Mich. on the night of 20 March and near Hillsdale, Mich. on the next night.
These sightings received a great deal of newspaper publicity. They were investigated for the Air Force by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who suggested in a press conference the possibility that they might have resulted from burning swamp gas. This possibility has been known for years although it would be extremely difficult to obtain the kind of definite evidence that would make this possibility a certainty with respect to this particular case.
The swamp gas possibility has become the butt of a great many jokes and cartoons in the popular press. Although it is not established as a certainty, it seems to be quite genuinely a possibility. Here is the exact text of the Air Force press release that was issued as a result of the study of these sightings:
The investigation of these two sightings was conducted by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, scientific consultant to Project Blue Book; personnel from Selfridge Air Force Base, Mich.; and personnel from Project Blue Book office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
reporting by the young ladies at Hillsdale College, certain young-men have played pranks with flares. It has also been determined that the photograph released yesterday through press was taken on March 17 just before sunrise near Milan, Mich., and have nothing to do with the cases in question. The photograph clearly shows trails made as a result of a time exposure of the rising crescent moon and the planet Venus.
The lights resemble tiny flames sometimes seen right on the ground and sometimes rising and floating above it. The flames go out in one place and suddenly appear in another, giving the illusion of motion. The colors are sometimes yellow, sometimes red, and sometimes blue-green. No heat is felt, and the lights do not burn or char the ground. They can appear for hours at a stretch and sometimes for a whole night. Generally, there is no smell and no sound except for the popping sound of little explosions such as when a gas burner ignites.
might be formed by reduction of naturally occurring phosphorus compound."
On 28 September 1965, Maj. Gen. E. B. LeBailly, who was then head of the Office of Information of the Secretary of the Air Force, addressed
a letter to the Military Director of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in which he said:
The Air Force has conducted Project Blue Book since 1948. As of 30 June 1965, a total of 9,265 reports had been investigated by the Air Force. Of these 9,265 reports, 663 cannot be explained.
Continuing, he wrote:
To date, the Air Force has found no evidence that any of the UFO reports reflect a threat to our national security. However, many of the reports that cannot be explained have come from intelligent and well qualified individuals whose integrity cannot be doubted. In addition the reports received officially by the Air Force include only a fraction of the spectacular reports which are publicized by many private UFO organizations.
As a result of this formal request, a group was set up under the chairmanship of Dr. Brian O'Brien which was known as the "Ad Hoc Committee to Review Project Blue Book." This group met on 3 February 1966 and produced a short report of its findings in March 1966.
The persons who served on this committee are as follows:
Dr. Brian O'Brien, now retired, received his Ph.D. in physics at Yale in 1922. He served as director of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester from 1946 to 1953, and as vice president and director of research of the American Optical Company from 1953-58,
after which he became a consulting physicist. He served as chairman of the division of physical sciences of the National Research Council from 1953-61, as president of the Optical Society of America in 1951-53, and received the President's Medal for Merit in 1948.
Dr. Launor F. Carter, psychologist, received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1941. After holding various teaching and research positions he became vice president and director of research of the Systems Development Corporation of Santa Monica in 1955. He has been a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board since 1955.
Dr. Jesse Orlansky, psychologist, received his Ph.D. in 1940 from Columbia University. He has been a member of the Institute for Defense Analyses since 1960 specializing on problems of behavioral science research for national security.
Dr. Richard Porter, electrical engineer received his Ph.D. at Yale in 1937, after which he joined the staff of the General Electric Company, where he was manager of the guided missiles department from 1950-55. He has been a member of the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences since 1958 and chairman of its international relations committee since 1959.
Dr. Carl Sagan, astronomer and space scientist, received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1960. Since 1962 he served as a staff astrophysicist of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge Mass., until the summer of 1968 when he joined the faculty of astronomy at Cornell University. He is a specialist in the study of planetary atmospheres, production of organic molecules in astronomical environments, origin of life, and problems of extra-terrestrial biology.
Dr. Willis H. Ware, electrical engineer, received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1951. Since then he has been head of the computing science division of the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica. He is a specialist on problems related to the applications of computers to military and information processing problems.
The report of this committee is brief. It is printed in full below:
studies, in spite of the large number of observing hours which have been devoted to the sky. As examples of this the Palomar Observatory Sky Atlas contains some 5000 plates made with large instruments with wide field of view; the Harvard Meteor Project of 1954-1958 provided some 3300 hours of observation; the Smithsonian Visual Prairie Network provided 2500 observing hours. Not a single unidentified object has been reported as appearing on any of these plates or been sighted visually in all these observations.
and technology. Nevertheless, there is always the possibility that analysis of new sightings may provide some additions to scientific knowledge of value to the Air Force. Moreover, some of the case records, at which the Committee looked, that were listed as "identified" were sightings where the evidence collected was too meager or too indefinite to permit positive listing in the identified category. Because of this the Committee recommends that the present program be strengthened to provide opportunity for scientific investigation of selected sightings in more detail and depth than has been possible to date.
It is thought that perhaps 100 sightings a year might be subjected to this close study, and that possibly an average of 10 man days might be required per sighting so studied. The information provided by such a program might bring to light new facts of scientific value, and would almost certainly provide a far better basis than we have today for decision on a long term UFO program.
Soon after it was received by the Secretary of the Air Force, the report was referred to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for action.
On 5 April 1966, the House Armed Services Committee held a one-day hearing on the UFO problem under the chairmanship of the Hon. H. Mendel Rivers of S. C. The transcript of the hearing is printed on pp. 5991- 6075 of the "Hearings by Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives, Eighty-ninth Congress, Second Session."
During this hearing, Air Force Secretary Harold Brown made the first public announcement, of the O'Brien Committee report. Secretary Brown commented: "Recommendations by the Board are presently under study and are expected to lead to even stronger emphasis on the scientific aspects of investigating the sightings that warrant extensive analysis."
He further said:
Although the past 18 years of investigating unidentified flying objects have not identified any threat to our national security, or evidence that the unidentified objects represent developments or principles beyond present-day scientific knowledge, or any evidence of extra-terrestrial vehicles, the Air Force will continue to investigate such phenomena with an open mind and with the finest technical equipment available.
Later in his testimony he commented further on his own views about the O'Brien committee recommendation in these words:
I believe I may act favorably on it, but I want to explore further the nature of such a panel, and the ground rules, before I go ahead with it. I don't want to have a group of people come in for just one day and make a shallow investigation. They have to be prepared to look into a situation thoroughly if they are to do any good.
Concluding his testimony he said, after pointing out that 95% of the reports are being explained:
This does not imply that a large part of the remaining 5%, the unexplained ones, are not also of this character, but we simply have not been able to confirm this because we don't have enough information about these sightings. It may also be that there are phenomena, the details of which we don't understand, which account for some of the sightings we have not identified. In certain instances, I think a further scientific explanation is a possibility. Therefore we will continue to develop this approach.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, UFO consultant to the Air Force since 1948, was also a principal witness. In his opening statement he said:
During this entire period of nearly twenty years I have attempted to remain as open minded on this subject as circumstances permitted, this despite the fact that the whole subject seemed utterly ridiculous and many of us firmly believed that, like some fad or craze, it would subside in a matter of months. Yet in the last five years, more reports were submitted to the Air Force than in the first five years.
In the discussion which followed, the Hon. William H. Bates, Congressman from Mass. returned to the question of visitors from outer space asking,
But Secretary Brown, you indicated no one of scientific knowledge in your organization has concluded these phenomena come from extra-terrestrial sources?
To which Secretary Brown replied,
That is correct. We know of no phenomena or vehicles, intelligently guided, which have come from extra-terrestrial sources. I exclude meteors, which do come from extra-terrestrial sources.
Asked the same question, Dr. Hynek replied:
This is also my conclusion. I know of no competent scientist today who would argue the sightings which do puzzle intelligent people. Puzzling cases exist, but I know of no competent scientist who would say that these objects come from outer space.
Asked by Congressman L. N. Nedzi of Mich. about the relation of UFOs to extra-terrestrial visitors, Hynek said:
I have not seen any evidence to confirm this, nor have I known any competent scientist who has, or believes that any kind of extra-terrestrial intelligence is involved. However, the possibility should be kept open as a possible hypothesis. I don't believe we should ever close our minds to it.
Congressman Bates introduced into the record a letter received from Raymond E. Fowler, chairman of the NICAP Massachusetts Subcommittee, which with its numerous attachments occupies pp. 6019-6042 of the hearing record. In addition to his NICAP affiliation, Fowler describes himself as a "project administrative engineer in the Minuteman Program Office for Sylvania Electric Products, Waltham, Mass."
Fowler wrote the committee in part as follows:
I do want to put myself on record as supporting the claims and views of NICAP and others which indicate that Congressional hearings on the matter of UFOs are long overdue.
program should be inaugurated that presents facts. I am urging you to support a full Congressional open inquiry on the UFO problem.
Although Fowler's letter strongly implies that important information is being withheld, it does not affirm a belief that UFOs are extra-terrestrial visitors.
Responsibility for the implementation of the recommendation of the O'Brien report was assigned to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) by the Secretary of the Air Force. In doing so, he gave them latitude for further study of the specific details of the recommendations and decision to depart from the exact formulation given in that report. As a result of study within that office, it was decided to concentrate the project in a single university rather than to make contracts with a number of universities.
Recommendation B was incorporated into AFR 80-17 which replaced AFR 200-2. This was made effective 19 September 1966.
The staff of the AFOSR studied the question of which University to invite to take on the study, and also took counsel on this question with a number of outside advisers. As a result of this inquiry in the late spring and early summer of 1966, they decided to ask the University of Colorado to accept a contract for the work, and in particular asked me to take on the scientific direction of the project.
This request was made to me on 31 July 1966 by Dr. J. Thomas Ratchford of the scientific staff of AFOSR, who was introduced by Dr. W. W. Kellogg, associate director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and at that time a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.
This request was unwelcome for a variety of reasons. I was planning to write a new book on the theory of atomic spectra and in fact had started on it. This was to replace one written more than thirty years earlier with Dr. G. H. Shortley (Condon and Shortley, 1935).
Despite its age it has been the standard work in the field for all those years but naturally is now quite out of date. I had at last arranged things so that I could do this writing and regarded it as the most useful professional activity in which I could engage before retirement.
Although I knew only a small fraction of what I now know, I was aware that the UFO subject had had a long history of confused and ambiguous observational material making a truly scientific study extremely difficult if not impossible. This would make the subject unattractive not only to myself but to scientific colleagues on whom one would have to call for help. Moreover, all of them were engaged in scientific work that was more to their liking, which they would be reluctant to set aside.
I had some awareness of the passionate controversy that swirled around the subject, contributing added difficulty to the task of making a dispassionate study. This hazard proved to be much greater than was appreciated at the outset. Had I known of the extent of the emotional commitment of the UFO believers and the extremes of conduct to which their faith can lead them, I certainly would never have undertaken the study. But that is hindsight. It may nevertheless be of value to some scientist who is asked to make some other UFO study in the future to have a clear picture of the experiences of this sort which we had.
These objections were met by counter-arguments in the form of an appeal to patriotic duty. A good deal of emphasis was placed on the shortness of the task, then envisioned as requiring only fifteen months.
I objected to the selection of myself, mentioning the names of various scientists of considerable distinction who had already taken an active interest in UFOs. To this the reply was made that these individuals were essentially disqualified for having already "taken sides" on the UFO question.
After several hours' discussion along these lines, I agreed to discuss the matter informally with a number of colleagues in the Boulder scientific community and, in the event that enough interest was shown in such preliminary conversations, to arrange a meeting at which
representatives of AFOSR could present the story to a larger group and answer their questions. From this would come an indication of the willingness of some of them to take part in such a project if it were set up.
At this stage there was also the question of whether the University should allow itself to be involved in so controversial an undertaking. Several members of the faculty had grave misgivings on this score, predicting that the University might be derided for doing so.
In preparation for the meeting with AFOSR staff which was set for 10 August 1966, Robert J. Low, then assistant dean of the graduate school, wrote some of his thoughts in a memorandum dated 9 August 1966 which he sent to E. James Archer, then dean of the graduate school, and T. B. Manning, vice president for academic affairs.
The Low memorandum has acquired undue importance only because a copy was later stolen from Low's personal files and given wide distribution by persons desirous of discrediting this study. Portions of it were printed in an article by John G. Fuller (Fuller, 1968) which misconstrues it as indicating a conspiracy on the part of the University administration to give the Air Force a report which would support its policies instead of those being advocated by NICAP.
Commenting on Fuller's article, Low wrote in July 1968,
The suggestion that I was engaged, along with Deans Archer and Manning, in a plot to produce a negative result is the most outrageous, ridiculous and absurd thing I ever heard of. My concern in writing the memo, was the University of Colorado and its standing in the university world; it was a matter of attitudes that the scientific community would have toward the University if it undertook the study. It had nothing to do with my own personal outlook on the UFO question.
Nor did it represent official policy of the University, since it was, at most, a preliminary "thinking out loud" about the proposed project by an individual having no authority to make formal decisions
for the administration, the department of physics, or any other university body. Indeed, one of the proposals Low makes in it runs exactly contrary to the procedure actually followed by the project. Low proposed "to stress investigation, not of physical phenomena, but rather of the people who do the observing -- the psychology and sociology of persons and groups who report seeing UFO's." It should be evident to anyone perusing this final report, that the emphasis was placed where, in my judgment, it belonged: on the investigation of physical phenomena, rather than psychological or sociological matters. It should be equally obvious that, had the University elected to adopt Low's suggestion, it would have hardly chosen a physicist to direct such an investigation.
I will, for purposes of record, go a step further in this regard. If nevertheless the University had asked me to direct this study along psychological and sociological lines, I would have declined to undertake the study, both on the ground that I am not qualified to direct an investigation having such an emphasis, and because in fact the views in the Low memorandum are at variance with my own. But the fact is that I was not aware of the existence of the Low memorandum until 18 months after it was written. This was long after the project had been set up under my direction, and, since I knew nothing of the ideas Low had expressed, they had no influence on my direction of the project.
The 10 August meeting lasted all day. At the end, it seemed that there was enough faculty interest to go ahead with the task for AFOSR. During September 1966, details of the proposed research contract were worked out in conferences between Low and myself and the staff of AFOSR. The contract was publicly announced on 7 October 1966, with work to start as soon after 1 November as possible. Because of other commitments, I could devote only half-time to the work. After 1 February 1968, I devoted full time to the project.
The O'Brien report had stressed the importance of using psychologists as well as physicists on the staff. Dr. Stuart Cook, chairman of the department of psychology, accepted appointment as a principal investigator on an advisory basis but could devote only a small fraction of his time to the study because of other commitments. In a short time he
made arrangements for the project to have the part-time services of three of his professors of psychology: Drs. David R. Saunders, William B. Scott, and Michael Wertheimer. Saunders had worked on machine statistics in relation to problems in educational psychology. Scott's field was social psychology. He made some useful initial contributions but soon found that his other duties did not permit him to continue. Wertheimer is well known as a specialist in psychology of perception. He worked with members of the field teams and has contributed a chapter to this report (Section VI, Chapter 1).
The initial staff also included Dr. Franklin E. Roach as a principal investigator. Roach is an astronomer who has specialized in the study of air glow and other upper atmosphere optical phenomena. He was at the time near retirement after a long career with the National Bureau of Standards and the Environmental Science Services Administration and so was able to devote full time to the project. His experience was valuable as including a wide range of working contacts with the astronomers of the world, and also as a consultant with the NASA program which brought him into working relations with the American astronauts.
Low was able to obtain a leave from his position as assistant dean and assumed full-time appointment as project coordinator. Besides administrative background, he brought to the project a wide general knowledge of astronomy and meteorology derived from some twenty years of work with Walter Orr Roberts on the staff of the High Altitude Observatory of the University of Colorado, and later with the National Center for Atmospheric Research during its formative years.
Announcement of the project received a large amount of newspaper attention and editorial comment. This was natural in view of the long history of UFO controversy, even extending into Congress, which had preceded the setting up of the study. Possibly the most prescient of comments was an editorial in The Nation for 31 October 1966, which declared, "If Dr. Condon and his associates come up with anything less than the little green men from Mars, they will be crucified."
The project's investigative phase ended on 1 June 1968, and the task of preparing a final report of the project's multifarious activities began. The results of those labors are presented here.
It seems hardly likely, however, that we have said the last word on this subject. Indeed, as this report is prepared the Library of Congress has announced publication of UFOs, an annotated bibliography. Prepared for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (OAR), and scheduled for publication in 1969 by the U.S. Government Printing Office, the bibliography contains more than 1,600 references to works on the subject of UFOs. It will be offered for sale by the Superintendent of Documents.
Private organizations or government-sponsored groups may well undertake to do more work on UFO phenomena, either in the name of science or under another rubric.
Meanwhile, the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects was brought to a definitive close when, on 31 October 1968, this final report on its researches was turned over to the Air Force for review by the National Academy of Sciences and subsequent release to the public. We thank those of the public who communicated to us their experiences and opinions. However, as the study is now at an end, it would be appreciated if no more UFO material is sent to the University of Colorado.
Adamski, George. Inside the Space Ships, New York: Abelard-Schuman, 1955.
Allen, W. Gordon. Spacecraft from Beyond Three Dimensions -- a New Vista of the Entirety from which Emerges the UFO, New York: Exposition Press, 1959.
Arnold, K. E. and R. Palmer. The Coming of the Saucers: a Documentary Report on Sky Objects that Have Mystified the World, Boise: K. A. Arnold, 1952.
Bloecher, Ted. Report on the UFO Wave of 1947, Copyright by Ted Bloecher, 1967 (no address).
Condon, E. U. and G. H. Shortley. The Theory of Atomic Spectra, New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 1935.
Edwards, Frank, Flying Saucers -- Serious Business, New York: Lyle Stuart, 1966.
Edwards, Frank. Flying Saucers -- Here and Now! New York: Lyle Stuart, 1967.
Fuller, John G. Incident at Exeter, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1966a.
Fuller, John G. The Interrupted Journey, New York: Dial Press, 1966b.
Fuller, John G. "Flying Saucer Fiasco," Look, 32: 58, (14 May 1968).
Goudsmit, S. A. Alsos, New York: Henry Schuman, Inc., 1947.
Groves, L. R. Now It Can Be Told, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1962.
Guieu, Jimmy. Les Soucoupes Volantes Viennent d'un autre monde, Paris: Fleuve Noir, 1954. English edition: Flying Saucers Come from Another World, London: Hutchinson, 1956.
Heard, Gerald. The Riddle of the Flying Saucers, London: Carroll and Nicholson, 1950.
House Committee on Armed Services, the transcript of the 5 April hearing occupies pp. 5991-6075 of the printed record of this committee for the second session of the Eighty-ninth Congress.
Keyhoe, Donald E. The Flying Saucers are Real, London: Hutchinson, 1950.
Irving, David. The Virus House, London: William Kimber, 1967.
Jones, R. V. "The Natural Philosophy of Flying Saucers," Physics Bulletin 19, (1968), 225-230, (reproduced as Appendix V).
Keyhoe, Donald E. Flying Saucers from Outer Space, New York: Henry Holt, 1953.
Lear, John. "The Disputed CIA Document on UFOs," Saturday Review, (3 September 1966), 45-50.
Leslie, Desmond and George Adamski. Flying Saucers Have Landed, London: Werner Laurie, 1953.
Leslie, Desmond and George Adamski. Flying Saucers Have Landed, New York: British Book Centre, 1953.
Lorenzen, Coral. The Great Flying Saucer Hoax: the UFO Facts and Their Interpretation, New York: William-Frederick Press, 1962. Paperback edition titled: Flying Saucers: the Startling Evidence of the Invasion From Outer Space, New York: New American Library, 1966.
McDonald, James. "Are UFOs Extraterrestrial Surveillance Craft?" talk given before the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Los Angeles, (26 March 1968).
Menzel, Donald H. Flying Saucers, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953.
Menzel, Donald H. "Do Flying Saucers Move in Straight Lines?" Flying Saucer Review, 10, 2, (1964), 3.
Michel, Aime. The Truth About Flying Saucers, New York : Criterion Books, Inc., 1956.
Michel, Aime. Mysterieux Objets Celestes, Paris: Arthaud, 1958. English edition: Flying Saucers and the Straight-line Mystery, New York: S. G. Phillips Co., 1958.
Ruppelt, Edward J. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, New York: Doubleday and Co., 1956.
Scully, Frank. Behind the Flying Saucers, New York: Holt, 1950.
Stanton, L. Jerome. Flying Saucers -- Hoax or Reality? New York: Belmont Books, 1966.
Vallee, Jacques and Janine. Challenge to Science -- The UFO Enigma, Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1966.
Wilkins, Harold L. Flying Saucers on the Attack, New York: Citadel Press, 1954.