Such people may reason that a race of men capable of interplanetary travel have lived well into, or through, an atomic age. They have survived and they can tell us their secret of survival. Maybe the threat of an atomic war unified their planet and allowed them to divert their war effort to one of social and technical advancement. To such people a searchlight on a cloud or a bright star is an interplanetary spaceship.
If all the UFO reports that the Air Force has received in the past eight years could be put in this "psychological quirk" category, Project Blue Book would never have been organized. It is another class of reports that causes the Air Force to remain interested in UFO's. This class of reports are called "Unknowns."
In determining the identity of a UFO, the project based its method of operation on a well known psychological premise. This premise is that to get a reaction from one of the senses there must be a stimulus. If you think you see a UFO you must have seen something. Pure hallucinations are extremely rare.
For anything flying in the air the stimulus could be anything that is normally seen in the air. Balloons, airplanes, and astronomical bodies are the commoner stimuli. Birds and insects are common also, but usually are seen at such close range that they are nearly always recognized. Infrequently observed things, such as sundogs, mirages, huge fireballs, and a host of other unusual flying objects, are also known stimuli.
On Project Blue Book our problem was to identify these stimuli. We had methods for checking the location, at any time, of every balloon launched anywhere in the United States. To a certain degree the same was true for airplanes. The UFO observer's estimate of where the object was located in the sky helped us to identify astronomical bodies. Huge files of UFO characteristics, along with up-to-the-minute weather data, and advice from specialists, permitted us to identify such things as sun dogs, paper caught in updrafts, huge meteors, etc.
This determination of the stimuli that triggered UFO sightings, while
10.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
not an insurmountable task, was a long, tedious process. The identification of known objects was routine, and caused no excitement. The excitement and serious interest occurred when we received UFO reports in which the observer was reliable and the stimuli could not be identified. These were the reports that challenged the project and caused me to spend hours briefing top U.S. officials. These were the reports that we called "Unknowns."
Of the several thousand UFO reports that the Air Force has received since 1947, some 15 to 20 per cent fall into this category called unknown. This means that the observer was not affected by any determinable psychological quirks and that after exhaustive investigation the object that was reported could not be identified. To be classed as an unknown, a UFO report also had to be "good", meaning that it had to come from a competent observer and had to contain a reasonable amount of data.
Reports are often seen in the newspapers that say: "Mrs. Henry Jones, of 5464 South Elm, said that 10:00 A.M. she was shaking her dust mop out of the bedroom window when she saw a flying saucer"; or "Henry Armstrong was driving between Grundy Center and Rienbeck last night when he saw a light. Henry thinks it was a flying saucer." This is not a good UFO report.
This type of UFO report, if it was received by Project Blue Book, was stamped "Insufficient Data for Evaluation" and dropped into the dead file, where it became a mere statistic.
Next to the "Insufficient Data" file was a file marked "C.P." This meant crackpot. Into this file went all reports from people who had talked with flying saucer crews, who had inspected flying saucers that had landed in the United States, who had ridden in flying saucers, or who were members of flying saucer crews. By Project Blue Book standards, these were not "good" UFO reports either.
But here is a "good" UFO report with an "unknown" conclusion:
On July 24, 1952, two Air Force colonels, flying a B-25, took off from Hamilton Air Force Base, near San Francisco, for Colorado Springs, Colorado. The day was clear, not a cloud in the sky.
The colonels had crossed the Sierra Nevada between Sacramento and Reno and were flying east at 11,000 feet on "Green 3," the aerial highway to Salt Lake City. At 3:40 P.M. they were over the Carson Sink area of Nevada, when one of the colonels noticed three objects ahead of them and a little to their right. The objects looked like three F-86's flying a tight V formation. If they were F-86's they should have been lower, according to civil air regulations, but on a clear day some pilots don't watch their altitude too closely.
In a matter of seconds the three aircraft were close enough to the B-25
Project Blue Book and the UFO Story.11
to be clearly seen. They were not F-86's. They were three bright silver, delta wing craft with no tails and no pilot's canopies. The only thing that broke the sharply defined, clean upper surface of the triangular wing was a definite ridge that ran from the nose to the tail.
In another second the three deltas made a slight left bank and shot by the B-25 at terrific speed. The colonels estimated that the speed was at least three times that of an F-86. They got a good look at the three deltas as the unusual craft passed within 400 to 800 yards of the B-25.
When they landed at Colorado Springs, the two colonels called the intelligence people at Air Defense Command Headquarters to make a UFO report. The suggestion was offered that they might have seen three F-86's. The colonels promptly replied that if the objects had been F-86's they would have easily been recognized as such. The colonels knew what F-86's looked like.
Air Defense Command relayed the report to Project Blue Book. An investigation was started at once.
Flight Service, which clears all military aircraft flights, was contacted and asked about the location of aircraft near the Carson Sink area at 3:40 P.M. They had no record of the presence of aircraft in that area.
Since the colonels had mentioned delta wing aircraft, and both the Air Force and the Navy had a few of this type, we double-checked. The Navy's deltas were all on the east coast, at least all of the silver ones were. A few deltas painted the traditional navy blue were on the west coast, but not near Carson Sink. The Air Force's one delta was temporarily grounded.
Since balloons once in a while can appear to have an odd shape, all balloon flights were checked for both standard weather balloons and the big 100 foot diameter research balloons. Nothing was found.
A quick check on the two colonels revealed that both of them were command pilots and that each had several thousand hours of flying time. They were stationed at the Pentagon. Their highly classified assignments were such that they would be in a position to recognize anything that the United States knows to be flying anywhere in the world.
Both men had friends who had "seen flying saucers" at some time, but both had openly voiced their skepticism. Now, from what the colonels said when they were interviewed after landing at Colorado Springs, they had changed their opinions.
Nobody knows what the two colonels saw over Carson Sink. However, it is always possible to speculate. Maybe they just thought they were close enough to the three objects to see them plainly. The objects might have been three F-86's: maybe Flight Service lost the records. It could be that the three F-86's had taken off to fly in the local area of their base
12.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
but had decided to do some illegal sight-seeing. Flight Service would have no record of a flight like this. Maybe both of the colonels had hallucinations.
There is a certain mathematical probability that any one of the above speculative answers is correct - correct for this one case. If you try this type of speculation on hundreds of sightings with "unknown" answers, the probability that the speculative answers are correct rapidly approaches zero.
Maybe the colonels actually did see what they thought they did, a type of craft completely foreign to them.
Another good UFO report provides an incident in which there is hardly room for any speculation of this type. The conclusion is more simply, "Unknown," period.
On January 20, 1952, at seven twenty in the evening, two master sergeants, both intelligence specialists, were walking down a street on the Fairchild Air Force Base, close to Spokane, Washington.
Suddenly both men noticed a large, bluish white, spherical shaped object approaching from the east. They stopped and watched the object carefully, because several of these UFO's had been reported by pilots from the air base over the past few months. The sergeants had written up the reports on these earlier sightings.
The object was traveling at a moderately fast speed on a horizontal path. As it passed to the north of their position and disappeared in the west, the sergeants noted that it had a long blue tail. At no time did they hear any sound. They noted certain landmarks that the object had crossed and estimated the time taken in passing these landmarks. The next day they went out and measured the angles between these landmarks in order to include them in their report.
When we got the report at ATIC, our first reaction was that the master sergeants had seen a large meteor. From the evidence I had written off, as meteors, all previous similar UFO reports from this air base.
The sergeants' report, however, contained one bit of information that completely changed the previous picture. At the time of the sighting there had been a solid 6,000-foot-thick overcast at 4,700 feet. And meteors don't go that low.
A few quick calculations gave a rather fantastic answer. If the object was just at the base of the clouds it would have been 10,000 feet from the two observers and traveling 1,400 miles per hour.
But regardless of the speed, the story was still fantastic. The object was no jet airplane because there was no sound. It was not a searchlight because there were none on the air base. It was not an automobile spotlight
Project Blue Book and the UFO Story.13
because a spotlight will not produce the type of light the sergeants described. As a double check, however, both men were questioned on this point. They stated firmly that they had seen hundreds of searchlights and spotlights playing on clouds, and that this was not what they saw.
Beyond these limited possibilities the sergeants' UFO discourages fruitful speculation. The object remains unidentified.
The UFO reports made by the two colonels and the two master sergeants are typical of hundreds of other good UFO reports which carry the verdict, "Conclusion unknown."
Some of these UFO reports have been publicized, but many have not. Very little information pertaining to UFO's was withheld from the press - if the press knew of the occurrence of specific sightings. Our policy on releasing information was to answer only direct questions from the press. If the press didn't know about a given UFO incident, they naturally couldn't ask questions about it. Consequently such stories were never released. In other instances, when the particulars of a UFO sighting were released, they were only the bare facts about what was reported. Any additional information that might have been developed during later investigations and analyses was not released.
There is a great deal of interest in UFO's and the interest shows no signs of diminishing. Since the first flying saucer skipped across the sky in the summer of 1947, thousands of words on this subject have appeared in every newspaper and most magazines in the United States. During a six-month period in 1952 alone 148 of the nation's leading newspapers carried a total of over 16,000 items about flying saucers.
During July 1952 reports of flying saucers sighted over Washington, D.C., cheated the Democratic National Convention out of precious head- line space.
The subject of flying saucers, which has generated more unscientific behavior than any other topic of modern times, has been debated at the meetings of professional scientific societies, causing scientific tempers to flare where unemotional objectivity is supposed to reign supreme.
Yet these thousands of written words and millions of spoken words - all attesting to the general interest - have generated more heat than light. Out of this avalanche of print and talk, the full, factual, true story of UFO's has emerged only on rare occasions. The general public, for its interest in UFO's, has been paid off in misinformation.
Many civilian groups must have sensed this, for while I was chief of Project Blue Book I had dozens of requests to speak on the subject of UFO's. These civilian requests had to be turned down because of security regulations.
14.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
I did give many official briefings, however, behind closed doors, to certain groups associated with the government - all of them upon request.
The subject of UFO's was added to a regular series of intelligence briefings given to students at the Air Force's Command and Staff School, and to classes at the Air Force's Intelligence School.
I gave briefings to the technical staff at the Atomic Energy Commission's Los Alamos laboratory, where the first atomic bomb was built. The theater where this briefing took place wouldn't hold all of the people who tried to get in, so the briefing was recorded and replayed many times. The same thing happened at AEC's Sandia Base, near Albuquerque.
Many groups in the Pentagon and the Office of Naval Research requested UFO briefings. Civilian groups, made up of some of the nation's top scientists and industrialists, and formed to study special military problems, worked in a UFO briefing. Top Air Force commanders were given periodic briefings.
Every briefing I gave was followed by a discussion that lasted anywhere from one to four hours.
In addition to these, Project Blue Book published a classified monthly report on UFO activity. Requests to be put on distribution for this report were so numerous that the distribution had to be restricted to major Air Force Command Headquarters.
This interest was not caused by any revolutionary information that was revealed in the briefings or reports. It stemmed only from a desire to get the facts about an interesting subject.
Many aspects of the UFO problem were covered in these official briefings. I would give details of many of the better reports we received, our conclusions about them, and how those conclusions were reached. If we had identified a UFO, the audience was told how the identification was made. If we concluded that the answer to a UFO sighting was "Unknown," the audience learned why we were convinced it was unknown.
Among the better sightings that were described fully to interested government groups were: the complete story of the Lubbock Lights, including the possible sighting of the same V-shaped light formations at other locations on the same night; the story of a group of scientists who detected mysterious nuclear radiation when UFO's were sighted; and all of the facts behind such famous cases as the Mantell Incident, the Florida scoutmaster who was burned by a "flying saucer," and headline capturing sightings at Washington, D.C.
I showed them what few photographs we had, the majority of which everyone has seen, since they have been widely published in magazines and newspapers. Our collection of photographs was always a disappointment as far as positive proof was concerned because, in a sense, if you've
The Era of Confusion Begins.15
seen one you've seen them all. We had no clear pictures of a saucer, just an assortment of blurs, blotches, and streaks of light.
The briefings included a description of how Project Blue Book operated and a survey of the results of the many studies that were made of the mass of UFO data we had collected. Also covered were our interviews with a dozen North American astronomers, the story of the unexplained green fireballs of New Mexico, and an account of how a committee of six distinguished United States scientists spent many hours attempting to answer the question, "Are the UFO's from outer space?"
Unfortunately the general public was never able to hear these briefings. For a long time, contrary to present thinking in military circles, I have believed that the public also is entitled to know the details of what was covered in these briefings (less, of course, the few items pertaining to radar that were classified "Secret," and the names of certain people). But withholding these will not alter the facts in any way.
A lot has already been written on the subject of UFO's, but none of it presents the true, complete story. Previous forays into the UFO field have been based on inadequate information and have been warped to fit the personal biases of the individual writers. Well-meaning though these authors may be, the degree to which their books have misinformed the public is incalculable.
It is high time that we let the people know.
The following chapters present the true and complete UFO story, based on what I learned about UFO's while I was chief of Project Blue Book, the Air Force's project for the investigation and analysis of UFO reports. Here is the same information that I gave to Secretary of the Air Force, Thomas K. Finletter, to the Air Force commanders, to scientists and industrialists. This is what the Air Force knows about unidentified flying objects.
You may not agree with some of the official ideas or conclusions - neither did a lot of people I briefed - but this is the story.
July 1955 E. J. RUPPELT
The Era of Confusion Begins
On September 23, 1947, the chief of the Air Technical Intelligence Center, one of the Air Force's most highly specialized intelligence units, sent a letter to the Commanding General of the then Army Air Forces. The letter was in answer to the Commanding General's verbal request to make a preliminary study of the reports of unidentified flying objects. The letter said that after a preliminary study of UFO reports, ATIC concluded that, to quote from the letter, "the reported phenomena were real." The letter strongly urged that a permanent project be established at ATIC to investigate and analyze future UFO reports. It requested a priority for the project, a registered code name, and an over-all security classification. ATIC's request was granted and Project Sign, the forerunner of Project Grudge and Project Blue Book, was launched. It was given a 2A priority, lA being the highest priority an Air Force project could have. With this the Air Force dipped into the most prolonged and widespread controversy it has ever, or may ever, encounter. The Air Force grabbed the proverbial bear by the tail and to this day it hasn't been able to let loose.
16.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
The letter to the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces from the chief of ATIC had used the word "phenomena." History has shown that this was not a too well chosen word. But on September 23, 1947, when the letter was written, ATIC's intelligence specialists were confident that within a few months or a year they would have the answer to the question, "What are UFO's?" The question, "Do UFO's exist?" was never mentioned. The only problem that confronted the people at ATIC was, "Were the UFO's of Russian or interplanetary origin?" Either case called for a serious, secrecy shrouded project. Only top people at ATIC were assigned to Project Sign.
Although a formal project for UFO investigation wasn't set up until September 1947, the Air Force had been vitally interested in UFO reports ever since June 24, 1947, the day Kenneth Arnold made the original UFO report.
As Arnold's story of what he saw that day has been handed down by the bards of saucerism, the true facts have been warped, twisted, and changed. Even some points in Arnold's own account of his sighting as published in his book, The Coming 0f The Saucers, do not jibe with what the official files say he told the Air Force in 1947. Since this incident was the original UFO sighting, I used to get many inquiries about it from the press and at briefings. To get the true and accurate story of what did happen to Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947, I had to go back through old newspaper files, official reports, and talk to people who had worked on Project Sign. By cross-checking these data and talking to people who had heard Arnold tell about his UFO sighting soon after it happened, I finally came up with what I believe is the accurate story.
Arnold had taken off from Chehalis, Washington, intending to fly to Yakima, Washington. About 3:00 P.M. he arrived in the vicinity of
The Era of Confusion Begins.17
Mount Rainier. There was a Marine Corps C-46 transport plane lost in the Mount Rainier area, so Arnold decided to fly around awhile and look for it. He was looking down at the ground when suddenly he noticed a series of bright flashes off to his left. He looked for the source of the flashes and saw a string of nine very bright disk shaped objects, which he estimated to be 45 to 50 feet in length. They were traveling from north to south across the nose of his airplane. They were flying in a reversed echelon (i.e., lead object high with the rest stepped down), and as they flew along they weaved in and out between the mountain peaks, once passing behind one of the peaks. Each individual object had a skipping motion described by Arnold as a "saucer skipping across water."
During the time that the objects were in sight, Arnold had clocked their speed. He had marked his position and their position on the map and again noted the time. When he landed he sketched in the flight path that the objects had flown and computed their speed, almost 1,700 miles per hour. He estimated that they had been 20 to 25 miles away and had traveled 47 miles in 102 seconds.
I found that there was a lot of speculation on this report. Two factions at ATIC had joined up behind two lines of reasoning. One side said that Arnold had seen plain, everyday jet airplanes flying in formation. This side's argument was based on the physical limitations of the human eye, visual acuity, the eye's ability to see a small, distant object. Tests, they showed, had proved that a person with normal vision can't "see" an object that subtends an angle of less than 0.2 second of arc. For example, a basketball can't be seen at a distance of several miles but if you move the basketball closer and closer, at some point you will be able to see it. At this point the angle between the top and bottom of the ball and your eye will be about 0.2 of a second of arc. This was applied to Arnold's sighting. The "Arnold-saw-airplanes" faction maintained that since Arnold said that the objects were 45 to 50 feet long they would have had to be much closer than he had estimated or he couldn't even have seen them at all. Since they were much closer than he estimated, Arnold's timed speed was all wrong and instead of going 1,700 miles per hour the objects were traveling at a speed closer to 400 miles per hour, the speed of a jet. There was no reason to believe they weren't jets. The jets appeared to have a skipping motion because Arnold had looked at them through layers of warm and cold air, like heat waves coming from a hot pavement that cause an object to shimmer.
The other side didn't buy this idea at all. They based their argument on the fact that Arnold knew where the objects were when he timed them.
18.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
After all, he was an old mountain pilot and was as familiar with the area around the Cascade Mountains as he was with his own living room. To cinch this point the fact that the objects had passed behind a mountain peak was brought up. This positively established the distance the objects were from Arnold and confirmed his calculated 1,700-miles-per-hour speed. Besides, no airplane can weave in and out between mountain peaks in the short time that Arnold was watching them. The visual acuity factor only strengthened the "Arnold-saw-a-flying-saucer" faction's theory that what he'd seen was a spaceship. If he could see the objects 20 to 25 miles away, they must have been about 210 feet long instead of the poorly estimated 45 to 50 feet.
In 1947 this was a fantastic story, but now it is just another UFO report marked "Unknown." It is typical in that if the facts are accurate, if Arnold actually did see the UFO's go behind a mountain peak, and if he knew his exact position at the time, the UFO problem cannot be lightly sloughed off; but there are always "ifs" in UFO reports. This is the type of report that led Major General John A. Samford, Director of Intelligence for Headquarters, Air Force, to make the following comment during a press conference in July 1952: "However, there have remained a percentage of this total [of all UFO reports received by the Air Force], about 20 per cent of the reports, that have come from credible observers of relatively incredible things.
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