Sign Historical Group





Introduction by Jan L. Aldrich

On two previous occasions the Congress of the United States has conducted open hearings on the subject of Unidentified Flying Objects. On April 5, 1966 the House Armed Services Committee held public hearings, and on July 29th, 1968, the U. S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science and Astronautics convened a one-day Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects, chaired by then-Indiana Congressman J. Edward Roush.

However, these two occasions were not the only time that the subject was discussed by legislators. Project Blue Book documents, newspaper stories and letters in the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) files show that on a number of occasions UFOs had been privately discussed in executive session of various committees and subcommittees. However, the July 29, 1968 Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects was unique in the respect that it provided Congressmen and Committee staff with the opportunity to ask questions of the participants, and the results were made accessible to the public through the government printing office.

Since the late fifties, NICAP had struggled to get Congressional attention focused on the UFO phenomenon and the official handling of UFO investigations. During this period the Project Blue Book files had only been available to a few select individuals. While the Blue Book files contained an extensive collection of UFO reports, they were hardly definitive. In fact, NICAP probably had just as many well-investigated cases in its own files. However, the denial of public access to the Project's files seemed like a cover up, and something on which to focus the request for Congressional action. NICAP developed a number of proposals they hoped Congress would help implement:

Congressman L. C. Wyman requested the type of hearings that NICAP proposed and entered a resolution into the House to authorize the Committee on Science and Astronautics to conduct a wide-ranging hearing, complete with witnesses and subpoena powers. Indiana Congressman J. Edward Roush, an advocate of serious attention for the UFO problem, thought the action premature, and wanted to wait until the Condon Committee, then underway at the University of Colorado, had delivered its final report. In the meantime he proposed a Symposium and became the driving force behind it.

The Symposium that resulted was not what NICAP had hoped for. Rather than examining the USAF's handling of UFO investigations, or the details of the then in-progress University of Colorado study, the discussion was confined to an exchange of views and evidence presented by the participants.

The Symposium consisted of six scientists presenting their views on UFOs to the committee:

These scientists also participated in discussions with the Congressmen and their staff after the initial presentations and some had written statements read into the record.

A number of other scientists who did not appear before the committee but submitted written statements were:

The Symposium represented a variety of opinions on UFOs, from the advocacy of Dr. James McDonald to the skepticism of Dr. Donald H. Menzel, who felt that any consideration of the problem was a complete waste of time.

Representative Roush's defeat in the next Congressional elections was the end of UFO hearings "On the Hill." With the nation's interest consumed by the war in Viet Nam there could be no further action into public hearings without the support of at least one dedicated Congressman from the committee.

J. Edward Roush maintained his interest in UFOs and later accepted a position on NICAP's Board of Governors.

In his introduction to the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Dr. Condon pointed out that the Symposium might be viewed as a counterbalance of opposing views to the University of Colorado study. While to a certain extent this may be true, most of the scientists' presentations were introductory in nature and did not go into detailed analyses. Regardless, the Symposium represents diverse opinions on UFOs that were held among a number of scientists who had taken more than a cursory glance at the phenomenon.

The Sign Historical Group wishes to express its thanks to the National Capital Area Skeptics (NCAS) for their assistance in placing this record of the Symposium online.–August, 2002.

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