In the United States we briefed various scientific meetings and groups. To get the word to the other countries, we enlisted the gratis aid of scientists who were planning to attend conferences or meetings in Europe. We would brief these European bound scientists on all of the aspects of the UFO problem so they could informally discuss the problem with their European colleagues.
The one thing about these briefings that never failed to amaze me, although it happened time and time again, was the interest in UFO's within scientific circles. As soon as the word spread that Project Blue Book was giving official briefings to groups with the proper security clearances, we had no trouble in getting scientists to swap free advice for a briefing. I might add that we briefed only groups who were engaged in government work and who had the proper security clearances solely because we could discuss any government project that might be of help to us in pinning down the UFO. Our briefings weren't just squeezed in either; in many instances we would arrive at a place to find that a whole day had been set aside to talk about UFO's. And never once did I meet anyone who laughed off the whole subject of flying saucers even though publicly these same people had jovially sloughed off the press with answers of "hallucinations," "absurd," or "a waste of time and money." They weren't wild eyed fans but they were certainly interested.
Colonel S. H. Kirkland and I once spent a whole day briefing and talking to the Beacon Hill Group, the code name for a collection of some of the world's leading scientists and industrialists. This group, formed to consider and analyze the toughest of military problems, took a very serious interest in our project and gave much good advice. At Los Alamos and again at Sandia Base our briefings were given in auditoriums to standing room only crowds. In addition I gave my briefings at National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics laboratories, at Air Research and Development centers, at Office of Naval Research facilities and at the Air Force University. Then we briefed special groups of scientists.
Normally scientists are a cautious lot and stick close to proven facts, keeping their personal opinions confined to small groups of friends, but when they know that there is a sign on a door that says "Classified Briefing in Progress," inhibitions collapse like the theories that explain all the UFO's away. People say just what they think.
192.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
I could jazz up this part of the UFO story as so many other historians of the UFO have and say that Dr. So-and-So believes that the reported flying saucers are from outer space or that Dr. Whosita is firmly convinced that Mars is inhabited. I talked to plenty of Dr. So-and-So's who believed that flying saucers were real and who were absolutely convinced that other planets or bodies in the universe were inhabited, but we were looking for proven facts and not just personal opinions.
However, some of the questions we asked the scientists had to be answered by personal opinions because the exact answers didn't exist. When such questions came up, about all we could do was to try to get the largest and most representative cross section of personal opinions upon which to base our decisions. In this category of questions probably the most frequently discussed was the possibility that other celestial bodies in the universe were populated with intelligent beings. The exact answer to this is that no one knows. But the consensus was that it wouldn't be at all surprising.
All the briefings we were giving added to our work load because UFO reports were still coming in in record amounts. The lack of newspaper publicity after the Washington sightings had had some effect because the number of reports dropped from nearly 500 in July to 175 in August, but this was still far above the normal average of twenty to thirty reports a month.
September 1952 started out with a rush, and for a while it looked as if UFO sightings were on the upswing again. For some reason, we never could determine why, we suddenly began to get reports from all over the southeastern United States. Every morning, for about a week or two, we'd have a half dozen or so new reports. Georgia and Alabama led the field. Many of the reports came from people in the vicinity of the then new super-hush-hush Atomic Energy Commission facility at Savannah River, Georgia. And many were coming from the port city of Mobile, Alabama. Our first thought, when the reports began to pour in, was that the news papers in these areas were possibly stirring things up with scare stories, but our newspaper clipping service covered the majority of the southern papers, and although we kept looking for publicity, none showed up. In fact, the papers only barely mentioned one or two of the sightings. As they came in, each of the sighting reports went through our identification process; they were checked against all balloon flights, aircraft flights, celestial bodies, and the MO file, but more than half of them came out as unknowns.
When the reports first began to come in, I had called the intelligence officers at all of the major military installations in the Southeast unsuc-
193. Digesting the Data
cessfully trying to find out if they could shed any light on the cause of the sightings. One man, the man who was responsible for UFO reports made to Brookley AFB, just outside of Mobile, Alabama, took a dim view of all of the proceedings. "They're all nuts," he said.
About a week later his story changed. It seems that one night, about the fourth night in a row that UFO's had been reported near Mobile, this man and several of his assistants decided to try to see these famous UFO's; about 10:00 P.M., the time that the UFO's were usually reported, they were gathered around the telephone in the man's office at Brookley AFB. Soon a report came in. The first question that the investigator who answered the phone asked was, "Can you still see it?"
The answer was "Yes," so the officer took off to see the UFO.
The same thing happened twice more, and two more officers left for different locations. The fourth time the phone rang the call was from the base radar station. They were picking up a UFO on radar, so the boss himself took off. He saw the UFO in air out over Mobile Bay and he saw the return of the UFO on the radarscope.
The next morning he called me at ATIC and for over an hour he told me what had happened. Never have I talked to four more ardent flying saucer believers.
We did quite a bit of work on the combination radar visual sighting at Brookley. First of all, radar visual sightings were the best type of UFO sightings we received. There are no explanations for how radar can pick up a UFO target that is being watched visually at the same time. Maybe I should have said there are no proven explanations on how this can happen, because, like everything else associated with the UFO, there was a theory. During the Washington National Sightings several people proposed the idea that the same temperature inversion layer that was causing the radar beam to bend down and pick up a ground target was causing the target to appear to be in the air. They went on to say that we couldn't get a radar visual sighting unless the ground target was a truck, car, house, or something else that was lighted and could be seen at a great distance. The second reason the Brookley AFB sighting was so interesting was that it knocked this theory cold.
The radar at Brookley AFB was so located that part of the area that it scanned was over Mobile Bay. It was in this area that the UFO was detected. We thought of the theory that the same inversion layer that bent the radar beam also caused the target to appear to be in the air, and we began to do a little checking. There was a slight inversion but, according to our calculations, it wasn't enough to affect the radar. More important was the fact that in the area where the target appeared there were no
194.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
targets to pick up - let alone lighted targets. We checked and rechecked and found that at the time of the sighting there were no ships, buoys, or anything else that would give a radar return in the area of Mobile Bay in which we were interested.
Although this sighting wasn't as glamorous as some we had, it was highly significant because it was possible to show that the UFO couldn't have been a lighted surface target.
While we were investigating the sighting we talked to several electronics specialists about our radar visual sightings. One of the most frequent comments we heard was, "Why do all of these radar visual sightings occur at night?"
The answer was simple: they don't. On August 1, just before dawn, an ADC radar station outside of Yaak, Montana, on the extreme northern border of the United States, picked up a UFO. The report was very similar to the sighting at Brookley except it happened in the daylight and, instead of seeing a light, the crew at the radar station saw a "dark, cigar shaped object" right where the radar had the UFO pinpointed.
What these people saw is a mystery to this day.
Late in September I made a trip out to Headquarters, ADC to brief General Chidlaw and his staff on the past few months' UFO activity.
Our plans for periodic briefings, which we had originally set up with ADC, had suffered a bit in the summer because we were all busy elsewhere. They were still giving us the fullest co-operation, but we hadn't been keeping them as thoroughly read in as we would have liked to. I'd finished the briefing and was eating lunch at the officers' club with Major Verne Sadowski, Project Blue Book's liaison officer in ADC Intelligence, and several other officers. I had a hunch that something was bothering these people. Then finally Major Sadowski said, "Look, Rupe, are you giving us the straight story on these UFO's?"
I thought he meant that I was trying to spice things up a little, so I said that since he had copies of most of our reports and had read them, he should know that I was giving them the facts straight across the board.
Then one of the other officers at the table cut in, "That's just the point, we do have the reports and we have read them. None of us can understand why Intelligence is so hesitant to accept the fact that something we just don't know about is flying around in our skies - unless you are trying to cover up something big."
Everyone at the table put in his ideas. One radar man said that he'd looked over several dozen radar reports and that his conclusion was that the UFO's couldn't be anything but interplanetary spaceships. He started to give his reasons when another radar man leaped into the conversation.
195. Digesting the Data
This man said that he'd read every radar report, too, and that there wasn't one that couldn't be explained as a weather phenomenon - even the radar visual sightings. In fact, he wasn't even convinced that we had ever gotten such a thing as radar visual sighting. He wanted to see proof that an object that was seen visually was the same object that the radar had picked up. Did we have it?
I got back into the discussion at this point with the answer. No, we didn't have proof if you want to get technical about the degree of proof needed. But we did have reports where the radar and visual bearings of the UFO coincided almost exactly. Then we had a few reports where airplanes had followed the UFO's and the maneuvers of the UFO that the pilot reported were the same as the maneuvers of the UFO that was being tracked by radar.
A lieutenant colonel who had been sitting quietly by interjected a well chosen comment. "It seems the difficulty that Project Blue Book faces is what to accept and what not to accept as proof."
The colonel had hit the proverbial nail on its proverbial head.
Then he went on, "Everyone has a different idea of what proof really is. Some people think we should accept a new model of an airplane after only five or ten hours of flight testing. This is enough proof for them that the airplane will fly. But others wouldn't be happy unless it was flight tested for five or ten years. These people have set an unreasonably high value on the word 'proof.' The answer is somewhere in between these two extremes."
But where is this point when it comes to UFO's?
There was about a thirty second pause for thought after the colonel's little speech. Then someone asked, "What about these recent sightings at Mainbrace?"
In late September 1952 the NATO naval forces had held maneuvers off the coast of Europe; they were called Operation Mainbrace. Before they had started someone in the Pentagon had half seriously mentioned that Naval Intelligence should keep an eye open for UFO's, but no one really expected the UFO's to show up. Nevertheless, once again the UFO's were their old unpredictable selves - they were there.
On September 20, a U.S. newspaper reporter aboard an aircraft carrier in the North Sea was photographing a carrier take-off in color when he happened to look back down the flight deck and saw a group of pilots and flight deck crew watching something in the sky. He went back to look and there was a silver sphere moving across the sky just behind the fleet of ships. The object appeared to be large, plenty large enough to show up in a photo, so the reporter shot several pictures. They were developed right
196.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
away and turned out to be excellent. He had gotten the superstructure of the carrier in each one and, judging by the size of the object in each successive photo, one could see that it was moving rapidly.
The intelligence officers aboard the carrier studied the photos. The object looked like a balloon. From its size it was apparent that if it were a balloon, it would have been launched from one of the ships, so the word went out on the TBS radio: "Who launched a balloon?"
The answer came back on the TBS: "Nobody."
Naval Intelligence double checked, triple checked and quadruple checked every ship near the carrier but they could find no one who had launched the UFO.
We kept after the Navy. The pilots and the flight deck crew who saw the UFO had mixed feelings - some were sure that the UFO was a balloon while others were just as sure that it couldn't have been. It was traveling too fast, and although it resembled a balloon in some ways it was far from being identical to the hundreds of balloons that the crew had seen the aerologists launch.
We probably wouldn't have tried so hard to get a definite answer to the Mainbrace photos if it hadn't been for the events that took place during the rest of the operation, I explained to the group of ADC officers.
The day after the photos had been taken six RAF pilots flying a formation of jet fighters over the North Sea saw something coming from the direction of the Mainbrace fleet. It was a shiny, spherical object, and they couldn't recognize it as anything "friendly" so they took after it. But in a minute or two they lost it. When they neared their base, one of the pilots looked back and saw that the UFO was now following him. He turned but the UFO also turned, and again it outdistanced the Meteor in a matter of minutes.
Then on the third consecutive day a UFO showed up near the fleet, this time over Topcliffe Aerodrome in England. A pilot in a Meteor was scrambled and managed to get his jet fairly close to the UFO, close enough to see that the object was "round, silvery, and white" and seemed to "rotate around its vertical axis and sort of wobble." But before he could close in to get a really good look it was gone.
It was these sightings, I was told by an RAF exchange intelligence officer in the Pentagon, that caused the RAF to officially recognize the UFO.
By the time I'd finished telling about the Mainbrace Sightings, it was after the lunch hour in the club and we were getting some get-the-hell-out of-here looks from the waiters, who wanted to clean up the dining room. But before I could suggest that we leave, Major Sadowski repeated his
197. Digesting the Data
original question - the one that started the whole discussion- "Are you holding out on us?"
I gave him an unqualified "No." We wanted more positive proof, and until we had it, UFO's would remain unidentified flying objects and no more.
The horizontal shaking of heads illustrated some of the group's thinking. We had plans for getting more positive proof, however, and I said that just as soon as we returned to Major Sadowski's office I'd tell them what we contemplated doing.
We moved out onto the sidewalk in front of the club and, after discussing a few more sightings, went back into the security area to Sadowski's office and I laid out our plans.
First of all, in November or December the U.S. was going to shoot the first H-bomb during Project Ivy. Although this was Top Secret at the time, it was about the most poorly kept secret in history - everybody seemed to know all about it. Some people in the Pentagon had the idea that there were beings, earthly or otherwise, who might be interested in our activities in the Pacific, as they seemed to be in Operation Mainbrace. Consequently Project Blue Book had been directed to get transportation to the test area to set up a reporting net, brief people on how to report, and analyze their reports on the spot.
Secondly, Project Blue Book was working on plans for an extensive system to track UFO's by instruments. Brigadier General Garland, who had been General Samford's Deputy Director for Production and who had been riding herd on the UFO project for General Samford, was now chief at ATIC, having replaced Colonel Dunn, who went to the Air War College. General Garland had long been in favor of trying to get some concrete information, either positive or negative, about the UFO's. This planned tracking system would replace the defraction grid cameras that were still being developed at ATIC.
Thirdly, as soon as we could we were planning to gather together a group of scientists and let them spend a full week or two studying the UFO problem.
When I left ADC, Major Sadowski and crew were satisfied that we weren't just sitting around twiddling our UFO reports.
During the fall of 1952 reports continued to drop off steadily. By December we were down to the normal average of thirty per month, with about 20 percent of these falling into the "Unknown" category.
Our proposed trip to the Pacific to watch for UFO's during the H-bomb test was canceled at the last minute because we couldn't get space on an airplane. But the crews of Navy and Air Force security forces who did
198.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
go out to the tests were thoroughly briefed to look for UFO's, and they were given the procedures on how to track and report them. Back at Dayton we stood by to make quick analysis of any reports that might come in - none came. Nothing that fell into the UFO category was seen during the entire Project Ivy series of atomic shots.
By December work on the planning phase of our instrumentation program was completed. During the two months we had been working on it we had considered everything from giving Ground Observer Corps spotters simple wooden tracking devices to building special radars and cameras. We had talked over our problems with the people at Wright Field who knew about missile tracking equipment, and we had consulted the camera technicians at the Air Force Aerial Reconnaissance Laboratory. Astronomers explained their equipment and the techniques to use, and we went to Rome, New York, and Boston to enlist the aid of the people who develop the Air Force's electronic equipment.
Our final plan called for visual spotting stations to be established all over northern New Mexico. We'd picked this test location because northern New Mexico still consistently produced more reports than any other area in the U.S. These visual spotting stations would be equipped with a sighting device similar to a gun sight on a bomber. All the operator would have to do would be to follow the UFO with the tracking device, and the exact time and the UFO's azimuth and elevation angles would be automatically recorded. The visual spotting stations would all be tied together with an interphone system, so that as soon as the tracker at one station saw something he could alert the other spotters in the area. If two stations tracked the same object, we could immediately compute its speed and altitude.
This visual spotting net would be tied into the existing radar defense net in the Albuquerque-Los Alamos area. At each radar site we proposed that a long focal length camera be synchronized to the turning radar antenna, so that any time the operator saw a target he could press a button and photograph the portion of the sky exactly where the radar said a UFO was located. These cameras would actually be astronomical telescopes, so that even the smallest light or object could be photographed.
In addition to this photography system we proposed that a number of sets of instruments be set out around the area. Each set would contain instruments to measure nuclear radiation, any disturbances in the earth's magnetic field, and the passage of a body that was giving off heat. The instruments would continually be sending their information to a central "UFO command post," which would also get reports directly from the radars and the visual spotting stations.
199.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
This instrumentation plan would cost about $250,000 because we planned to use as much surplus equipment as possible and tie it into existing communications systems, where they already existed. After the setup was established, it would cost about $25,000 a year to operate. At first glance this seemed like a lot of money, but when we figured out how much the UFO project had cost the Air Force in the past and how much it would probably cost in the future, the price didn't seem too bad - especially if we could solve the UFO problem once and for all.
The powers-that-be at ATIC O.K.'d the plan in December and it went to Washington, where it would have to be approved by General Samford before it went to ADC and then back to the Pentagon for higher Air Force official blessing. From all indications it looked as if we would get the necessary blessings.
But the majority of the effort at Project Blue Book during the fall of 1952 had gone toward collecting together all of the bits and pieces of data that we had accumulated over the past year and a half. We had sorted out the best of the "Unknowns" and made studies of certain aspects of the UFO problem, so that when we could assemble a panel of scientists to review the data we could give them the over-all picture, not just a basketful of parts.
Everyone who knew about the proposed panel meeting was eager to get started because everyone was interested in knowing what this panel would have to say. Although the group of scientists wouldn't be empowered to make the final decision, their recommendations were to go to the President if they decided that the UFO's were real. And any recommendations made by the group of names we planned to assemble would carry a lot of weight.
In the Pentagon and at ATIC book was being made on what their recommendations would be. When I put my money down, the odds were 5 to 3 in favor of the UFO.
The Radiation Story
The idea for gathering together a group of scientists, to whom we referred as our "panel of experts," had been conceived early in 1952 - as soon as serious talk about the possibility that the UFO's might be interplanetary
200.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
spaceships had taken hold in both military and scientific circles. In fact, when Project Grudge was reorganized in the summer of 1951 the idea had been mentioned, and this was the main reason that our charter had said we were to be only a fact finding group. The people on previous UFO projects had gone off on tangents of speculation about the identity of the UFO's; they first declared that they were spacecraft, then later, in a complete about face, they took the whole UFO problem as one big belly laugh. Both approaches had gotten the Air Force into trouble. Why they did this I don't know, because from the start we realized that no one at ATIC, in the Air Force, or in the whole military establishment was qualified to give a final yes or no answer to the UFO problem. Giving a final answer would require a serious decision - probably one of the most serious since the beginning of man.
During 1952 many highly qualified engineers and scientists had visited Project Blue Book and had spent a day or two going over our reports. Some were very much impressed with the reports - some had all the answers.
But all of the scientists who read our reports readily admitted that even though they may have thought that the reports did or did not indicate visitors from outer space, they would want to give the subject a good deal more study before they ever committed themselves in writing. Consequently the people's opinions, although they were valuable, didn't give us enough to base a decision upon. We still needed a group to study our material thoroughly and give us written conclusions and recommendations which could be sent to the President if necessary.
Our panel of experts was to consist of six or eight of the top scientists in the United States. We fully realized that even the Air Force didn't have enough "pull" just to ask all of these people to drop the important work they were engaged in and spend a week or two studying our reports. Nor did we want to do it this way; we wanted to be sure that we had something worth while before asking for their valuable time. So, working through other government agencies, we organized a preliminary review panel of four people. All of them were competent scientists and we knew their reputations were such that if they recommended that a certain top scientist sit on a panel to review our material he would do it.
In late November 1952 the preliminary review panel met at ATIC for three days.
When the meeting ended, the group unanimously recommended that a "higher court" be formed to review the case of the UFO. In an hour their recommendation was accepted by higher Air Force authorities, and the men proceeded to recommend the members for our proposed panel.
201. The Radiation Story
They picked six men who had reputations as being both practical and theoretical scientists and who were known to have no biased opinions regarding the UFO's.
The meeting of the panel, which would be held in Washington, was tentatively scheduled for late December or early January - depending upon when all of the scientists who had been asked to attend would be free. At Project Blue Book activity went into high gear as we made preparations for the meeting. But before we were very far along our preparations were temporarily sidetracked - I got a lead on the facts behind a rumor. Normally we didn't pay attention to rumors, but this one was in a different class.
Ever since the Air Force had become interested in UFO reports, the comment of those who had been requested to look them over and give a professional opinion was that we lacked the type of data "you could get your teeth into." In even our best reports we had to rely upon what someone had seen. I'd been told many times that if we had even one piece of information that was substantiated by some kind of recorded proof - a set of cinetheodolite movies of a UFO, a spectrum photograph, or any other kind of instrumented data that one could sit down and study - we would have no difficulty getting almost any scientist in the world interested in actively helping us find the answer to the UFO riddle.
The rumor that caused me to temporarily halt our preparations for the high level conference involved data that we might be able to get our teeth into.
This is the way it went:
In the fall of 1949, at some unspecified place in the United States, a group of scientists had set up equipment to measure background radiation, the small amount of harmless radiation that is always present in our atmosphere. This natural radiation varies to a certain degree, but will never increase by any appreciable amount unless there is a good reason.
According to the rumor, two of the scientists at the unnamed place were watching the equipment one day when, for no apparent reason, a sudden increase of radiation was indicated. The radiation remained high for a few seconds, then dropped back to normal. The increase over normal was not sufficient to be dangerous, but it definitely was unusual. All indications pointed to equipment malfunction as the most probable explanation. A quick check revealed no obvious trouble with the gear, and the two scientists were about to start a more detailed check when a third member of the radiation crew came rushing into the lab.
Before they could tell the newcomer about the unexplained radiation they had just picked up, he blurted out a story of his own. He had driven
202.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
to a nearby town, and on his return trip, as he approached the research lab, something in the sky suddenly caught his eye. High in the cloudless blue he saw three silvery objects moving in a V formation. They appeared to be spherical in shape, but he wasn't sure.
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 |