Suppose that a UFO is reported over a fair-sized city. Now we may get one or two reports, and these reports may be rather sketchy. This does us no good - all we can conclude is that somebody saw something that he couldn't identify. But suppose fifty people from all over the city report the UFO. Then it would be profitable for us to go out and talk to these people, find out the time they saw the UFO, and where they saw it (the direction and height above the horizon). Then we might be able to use these data, work out a triangulation problem, and get a fairly accurate measurement of speed, altitude, and size.
Radar, of course, will give an accurate measurement of speed and altitude, I pointed out, but radar is not infallible. There is always the problem of weather. To get accurate radar data on a UFO, it is always necessary to prove that it wasn't weather that was causing the target. Radar is valuable, and we wanted radar reports, I said, but they should be considered only as a parallel effort and shouldn't take the place of visual sightings.
In winding up my briefing, I again stressed the point that, as of the end of 1951 - the date of this briefing - there was no positive proof that any craft foreign to our knowledge existed. All recommendations for the reorganization of Project Grudge were based solely upon the fact that there were many incredible reports of UFO's from many very reliable people. But they were still just flying saucer reports and couldn't be considered scientific proof.
Everyone present at the meeting agreed - each had read or had been briefed on these incredible reports. In fact, two of the people present had seen UFO's.
Before the meeting adjourned, Colonel Dunn had one last question. He knew the answer, but he wanted it confirmed. "Does the United States have a secret weapon that is being reported as a UFO?"
The answer was a flat "No."
In a few days I was notified that my plan had been given the green light. I already had the plan written up in the form of a staff study so I sent it through channels for formal approval.
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It had been obvious right from the start of the reorganization of Project Grudge that there would be questions that no one on my staff was technically competent to answer. To have a fully staffed project, I'd need an astronomer, a physicist, a chemist, a mathematician, a psychologist, and probably a dozen other specialists. It was, of course, impossible to have all of these people on my staff, so I decided to do the next best thing. I would set up a contract with some research organization who already had such people on their staff; then I would call on them whenever their services were needed.
I soon found a place that was interested in such a contract, and the day after Christmas, Colonel S. H. Kirkland, of Colonel Dunn's staff, and I left Dayton for a two-day conference with these people to outline what we wanted. Their organization cannot be identified by name because they are doing other highly secret work for the government. I'll call them Project Bear.
Project Bear is a large, well known research organization in the Midwest. The several hundred engineers and scientists who make up their staff run from experts on soils to nuclear physicists. They would make these people available to me to assist Project Grudge on any problem that might arise from a UFO report. They did not have a staff astronomer or psychologist, but they agreed to get them for us on a subcontract basis. Besides providing experts in every field of science, they would make two studies for us; a study of how much a person can be expected to see and remember from a UFO sighting, and a statistical study of UFO reports. The end product of the study of the powers of observation of a UFO observer would be an interrogation form.
Ever since the Air Force had been in the UFO business, attempts had been made to construct a form that a person who had seen a UFO could fill out. Many types had been tried but all of them had major disadvantages. Project Bear, working with the psychology department of a university, would study all of the previous questionnaires, along with actual UFO reports, and try to come up with as near a perfect interrogation form as possible. The idea was to make the form simple and yet extract as much and as accurate data as possible from the observer.
The second study that Project Bear would undertake would be a statistical study of all UFO reports. Since 1947 the Air Force had collected about 650 reports, but if our plan to encourage UFO reports worked out the way we expected this number could increase tenfold. To handle this volume of reports, Project Bear said that they would set up a complete UFO file on IBM punch cards. Then if we wanted any bit of information from the files, it would be a matter of punching a few buttons on an
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IBM card sorting machine, and the files would be sorted electronically in a few seconds. Approximately a hundred items pertaining to a UFO report would be put on each card. These items included everything from the time the UFO was seen to its position in the sky and the observer's personality. The items punched on the cards would correspond to the items on the questionnaires that Project Bear was going to develop.
Besides giving us a rapid method of sorting data, this IBM file would give us a modus operandi file. Our MO file would be similar to the MO files used by police departments to file the methods of operations of a criminal. Thus when we received a report we could put the characteristics of the reported UFO on an IBM punch card, put it into the IBM machine, and compare it with the characteristics of other sightings that had known solutions. The answer might be that out of the one hundred items on the card, ninety-five were identical to previous UFO reports that ducks were flying over a city at night reflecting the city's lights.
On the way home from the meeting Colonel Kirkland and I were both well satisfied with the assistance we believed Project Bear could give to Project Grudge.
In a few days I again left ATIC, this time for Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I wanted to find out how willing ADC was to help us and what they could do. When I arrived I got a thorough briefing on the operations of ADC and the promise that they would do anything they could to help solve the UFO riddle.
All of this co-operation was something that I hadn't expected. I'd been warned by the people who had worked on Project Sign and the old Project Grudge that everybody hated the word UFO - I'd have to fight for everything I asked for. But once again they were wrong. The scientists who visited ATIC, General Samford, Project Bear, and now Air Defense Command couldn't have been more co-operative. I was becoming aware that there was much wider concern about UFO reports than I'd ever realized before.
While I traveled around the United States getting the project set up, UFO reports continued to come in and all of them were good. One series of reports was especially good, and they came from a group of people who had had a great deal of experience watching things in the sky - the people who launch the big skyhook balloons for General Mills, Inc. The reports of what the General Mills people had seen while they were tracking their balloons covered a period of over a year. They had just sent them in because they had heard that Project Grudge was being reorganized and was taking a different view on UFO reports. They, like so many other reliable observers, had been disgusted with the previous
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Air Force attitude toward UFO reports, and they had refused to send in any reports. I decided that these people might be a good source of information, and I wanted to get further details on their reports, so I got orders to go to Minneapolis. A scientist from Project Bear went with me. We arrived on January 14, 1952, in the middle of a cold wave and a blizzard.
The Aeronautical Division of General Mills, Inc., of Wheaties and Betty Crocker fame, had launched and tracked every skyhook balloon that had been launched prior to mid 1952. They knew what their balloons looked like under all lighting conditions and they also knew meteorology, aerodynamics, astronomy, and they knew UFO's. I talked to these people for the better part of a full day, and every time I tried to infer that there might be some natural explanation for the UFO's I just about found myself in a fresh snowdrift.
What made these people so sure that UFO's existed? In the first place, they had seen many of them. One man told me that one tracking crew had seen so many that the sight of a UFO no longer even especially interested them. And the things that they saw couldn't be explained.
For example: On January 16, 1951, two people from General Mills and four people from Artesia, New Mexico, were watching a skyhook balloon from the Artesia airport. They had been watching the balloon off and on for about an hour when one of the group saw two tiny specks on the horizon, off to the northwest. He pointed them out to the others because two airplanes were expected into the airport, and he thought that these might be the airplanes. But as they watched, the two specks began to move in fast, and within a few seconds the observers could see that "the airplanes" were actually two round, dull white objects flying in close formation. The two objects continued to come in and headed straight toward the balloon. When they reached the balloon they circled it once and flew off to the northwest, where they disappeared over the horizon. As the two UFO's circled the balloon, they tipped on edge and the observers saw that they were disk shaped.
When the two UFO's were near the balloon, the observers also had a chance to compare the size of the UFO's with the size of the balloon. If the UFO's were as close to the balloon as they appeared to be they would have been 60 feet in diameter.
After my visit to General Mills, Inc., I couldn't help remembering a magazine article I'd read about a year before. It said that there was not a single reliable UFO report that couldn't be attributed to a skyhook balloon.
I'd been back at ATIC only a few days when I found myself packing up
The New Project Grudge.121
to leave again. This time it was for New York. A high priority wire had come into ATIC describing how a Navy pilot had chased a UFO over Mitchel AFB, on Long Island. It was a good report.
I remember the trip to New York because my train passed through Elizabeth, New Jersey, early in the morning, and I could see the fires caused by an American Airlines Convair that had crashed. This was the second of the three tragic Elizabeth, New Jersey, crashes.
The morning before, on January 21, a Navy pilot had taken off from Mitchel in a TBM. He was a lieutenant commander, had flown in World War II, and was now an engineer at the Navy Special Devices Center on Long Island. At nine fifty he had cleared the traffic pattern and was at about 2,500 feet, circling around the airfield. He was southeast of the field when he first noticed an object below him and "about three runway lengths off the end of Runway 30." The object looked like the top of a parachute canopy, he told me; it was white and he thought he could see the wedges or panels. He said that he thought that it was moving across the ground a little bit too fast to be drifting with wind, but he was sure that somebody had bailed out and that he was looking at the top of his parachute. He was just ready to call the tower when he suddenly realized that this "parachute" was drifting across the wind. He had just taken off from Runway 30 and knew which direction the wind was blowing.
As he watched, the object, whatever it was (by now he no longer thought that it was a parachute), began to gradually climb, so he started to climb, he said, staying above and off to the right of the object. When the UFO started to make a left turn, he followed and tried to cut inside, but he overshot and passed over it. It continued to turn and gain speed, so he dropped the nose of the TBM, put on more power, and pulled in behind the object, which was now level with him. In a matter of seconds the UFO made a 180 degree turn and started to make a big swing around the northern edge of Mitchel AFB. The pilot tried to follow, but the UFO had begun to accelerate rapidly, and since a TBM leaves much to be desired on the speed end, he was getting farther and farther behind. But he did try to follow it as long as he could. As he made a wide turn around the northern edge of the airfield he saw that the UFO was now turning south. He racked the TBM up into a tight left turn to follow, but in a few seconds the UFO had disappeared. When he last saw it, it had crossed the Long Island coast line near Freeport and it was heading out to sea.
When he finished his account of the chase, I asked the commander some specific questions about the UFO. He said that just after he'd
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decided that the UFO was not a parachute it appeared to be at an altitude of about 200 to 300 feet over a residential section. From the time it took it to cover a city block, he'd estimated that it was traveling about 300 miles an hour. Even when he pulled in behind the object and got a good look, it still looked like a parachute canopy -- dome shaped --white -and it had a dark under surface. It had been in sight two and a half minutes.
He had called the control tower at Mitchel during the chase, he told me, but only to ask if any balloons had been launched. He thought that he might be seeing a balloon. The tower had told him that there was a balloon in the area.
Then the commander took out an aeronautical chart and drew in his flight path and the apparent path of the UFO for me. I think that he drew it accurately because he had been continually watching landmarks as he'd chased the UFO and was very careful as he drew the sketches on the map.
I checked with the weather detachment at Mitchel and they said that they had released a balloon. They had released it at nine fifty and from a point southeast of the airfield. I got a plot of its path. Just as in the Long Beach Incident, where the six F-86's tried to intercept the UFO, the balloon was almost exactly in line with the spot where the UFO was first seen, but then any proof you might attempt falls apart. If the pilot knew where he was, and had plotted his flight path even semi accurately, he was never over the balloon. Yet he was over the UFO. He came within less than 2,000 feet of the UFO when he passed over it; yet he couldn't recognize it as a balloon even though he thought it might be a balloon since the tower had just told him that there was one in the area. He said that he followed the UFO around the north edge of the airfield. Yet the balloon, after it was launched southeast of the field, continued on a southeast course and never passed north of the airfield.
But the biggest argument against the object's being a balloon was the fact that the pilot pulled in behind it; it was directly off the nose of his airplane, and although he followed it for more than a minute, it pulled away from him. Once you line up an airplane on a balloon and go straight toward it you will catch it in a matter of seconds, even in the slowest airplane. There have been dogfights with UFO's where the UFO's turned out to be balloons, but the pilots always reported that the UFO "made a pass" at them. In other words, they rapidly caught up with the balloon and passed it. I questioned this pilot over and over on this one point, and he was positive that he had followed directly behind the UFO for over a minute and all the time it was pulling away from him.
This is one of the most typical UFO reports we had in our files. It is
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typical because no matter how you argue there isn't any definite answer. If you want to argue that the pilot didn't know where he was during the chase - that he was 3 or 4 miles from where he thought he was - that he never did fly around the northern edge of the field and get in behind the UFO - then the UFO could have been a balloon.
But if you want to believe that the pilot knew where he was all during the chase, and he did have several thousand hours of flying time, then all you can conclude is that the UFO was an unknown.
I think the pilot summed up the situation very aptly when he told me, "I don't know what it was, but I've never seen anything like it before or since - maybe it was a spaceship."
I went back to Dayton stumped - maybe it was a spaceship.
Project Blue Book and the Big Build-Up
Just twenty minutes after midnight on January 22, 1952, nineteen and a half hours after the Navy lieutenant commander had chased the UFO near Mitchel AFB, another incident involving an airplane and something unknown was developing in Alaska. In contrast with the unusually balmy weather in New York, the temperature in Alaska that night, according to the detailed account of the incident we received at ATIC, was a miserable 47 degrees below zero. The action was unfolding at one of our northern-most radar outposts in Alaska. This outpost was similar to those you may have seen in pictures, a collection of low, sprawling buildings grouped around the observatory like domes that house the antennae of the most modern radar in the world. The entire collection of buildings and domes are one color, solid white, from the plastering of ice and snow. The picture that the outpost makes could be described as fascinating, something out of a Walt Disney fantasy - but talk to somebody who's been there - it's miserable.
At 0020, twenty minutes after midnight, an airman watching one of the outpost's radarscopes saw a target appear. It looked like an airplane because it showed up as a bright, distinct spot. But it was unusual because it was northeast of the radar site, and very few airplanes ever flew over
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this area. Off to the northeast of the station there was nothing but ice, snow, and maybe a few Eskimos until you got to Russia. Occasionally a B-50 weather reconnaissance plane ventured into the area, but a quick check of the records showed that none was there on this night.
By the time the radar crew had gotten three good plots of the target, they all knew that it was something unusual - it was at 23,000 feet and traveling 1,500 miles an hour. The duty controller, an Air Force captain, was quickly called; he made a fast check of the targets that had now been put on the plotting board and called to a jet fighter interceptor base for a scramble.
The fighter base, located about 100 miles south of the radar site, acknowledged the captain's call and in a matter of minutes an F-94 jet was climbing out toward the north.
While the F-94 was heading north, the radar crew at the outpost watched the unidentified target. The bright dots that marked its path had moved straight across the radarscope, passing within about 50 miles of the site. It was still traveling about 1,500 miles an hour. The radar had also picked up the F-94 and was directing it toward its target when suddenly the unidentified target slowed down, stopped, and reversed its course. Now it was heading directly toward the radar station. When it was within about 30 miles of the station, the radar operator switched his set to a shorter range and lost both the F-94 and the unidentified target.
While the radar operator was trying to pick up the target again, the F-94 arrived in the area. The ground controller told the pilot that they had lost the target and asked him to cruise around the area to see if he and his radar operator could pick up anything on the F-94's radar. The pilot said he would but that he was having a little difficulty, was low on fuel, and would have to get back to his base soon. The ground controller acknowledged the pilot's message, and called back to the air base telling them to scramble a second F-94.
The first F-94 continued to search the area while the ground radar tried to pick up the target but neither could find it.
About this time the second F-94 was coming in, so the ground radar switched back to long range. In a minute they had both of the F-94's and the unidentified target on their scope. The ground controller called the second F-94 and began to vector him into the target.
The first F-94 returned to its base.
As both the second F-94 and the target approached the radar site, the operator again switched to short range and again he lost the jet and the target. He switched back to long range, but by now they were too close to the radar site and he couldn't pick up either one.
Project Blue Book and the Big Build-Up.125.
The pilot continued on toward where the unidentified target should have been. Suddenly the F-94 radar operator reported a weak target off to the right at 28,000 feet. They climbed into it but it faded before they could make contact.
The pilot swung the F-94 around for another pass, and this time the radar operator reported a strong return. As they closed in, the F-94's radar showed that the target was now almost stationary, just barely moving. The F-94 continued on, but the target seemed to make a sudden dive and they lost it. The pilot of the jet interceptor continued to search the area but couldn't find anything. As the F-94 moved away from the radar station, it was again picked up on the ground radar, but the unidentified target was gone.
A third F-94 had been scrambled, and in the meantime its crew took over the search. They flew around for about ten minutes without detecting any targets on their radar. They were making one last pass almost directly over the radar station when the radar operator in the back seat of the F-94 yelled over the interphone that he had a target on his scope. The pilot called ground radar, but by this time both the F-94 and the unidentified target were again too close to the radar station and they couldn't be picked up. The F-94 closed in until it was within 200 yards of the target; then the pilot pulled up, afraid he might collide with whatever was out in the night sky ahead of him. He made another pass, and another, but each time the bright spot on the radar operator's scope just stayed in one spot as if something were defiantly sitting out in front of the F-94 daring the pilot to close in. The pilot didn't take the dare. On each pass he broke off at 200 yards.
The F-94 crew made a fourth pass and got a weak return, but it was soon lost as the target seemed to speed away. Ground radar also got a brief return, but in a matter of seconds they too lost the target as it streaked out of range on a westerly heading.
As usual, the first thing I did when I read this report was to check the weather. But there was no weather report for this area that was detailed enough to tell whether a weather inversion could have caused the radar targets.
But I took the report over to Captain Roy James, anyway, in hopes that he might be able to find a clue that would identify the UFO.
Captain James was the chief of the radar section at ATIC. He and his people analyzed all our reports where radar picked up UFO's. Roy had been familiar with radar for many years, having set up one of the first stations in Florida during World War II, and later he took the first aircraft control and warning squadron to Saipan. Besides worrying about
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keeping his radar operating, he had to worry about the Japs' shooting holes in his antennae.
Captain James decided that this Alaskan sighting I'd just shown him was caused by some kind of freak weather. He based his analysis on the fact that the unknown target had disappeared each time the ground radar had been switched to short range. This, he pointed out, is an indication that the radar was picking up some kind of a target that was caused by weather. The same weather that caused the ground radar to act up must have caused false targets on the F-94's radar too, he continued. After all, they had closed to within 200 yards of what they were supposedly picking up; it was a clear moonlight night, yet the crews of the F-94's hadn't seen a thing.
Taking a clue from the law profession, he quoted a precedent. About a year before over Oak Ridge, Tennessee, an F-82 interceptor had nearly flown into the ground three times as the pilot attempted to follow a target that his radar operator was picking up. There was a strong inversion that night, and although the target appeared as if it were flying in the air, it was actually a ground target.
Since Captain James was the chief of the radar section and he had said "Weather," weather was the official conclusion on the report. But reports of UFO's' being picked up on radar are controversial, and some of the people didn't agree with James's conclusion.
A month or two after we'd received the report, I was out in Colorado Springs at Air Defense Command Headquarters. I was eating lunch in the officers' club when I saw an officer from the radar operations section at ADC.
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