The scientists knew everything that was going on in the U.S. and they knew that no country in the world had developed their technology far enough to build a craft that would perform as the UFO's were reported to do. In addition, we were spending billions of dollars on the research and development and the procurement of airplanes that were just nudging the speed of sound. It would be absurd to think that these billions were being spent to cover the existence of a UFO type weapon. And it would be equally absurd to think that the British, French, Russians or any other country could be far enough ahead of us to have a UFO.
The scientists spent the next two days pondering a conclusion. They reread reports and looked at the two movies again and again, they called other scientists to double check certain ideas that they had, and they discussed the problem among themselves. Then they wrote out their conclusions and each man signed the document. The first paragraph said:
We as a group do not believe that it is impossible for some other celestial body to be inhabited by intelligent creatures. Nor is it impossible that these creatures could have reached such a state of development that they could visit the earth. However, there is nothing in all of the so-called "flying saucer" reports that we have read that would indicate that this is taking place.
The Tremonton Movie had been rejected as proof but the panel did leave the door open a crack when they suggested that the Navy photo lab redo their study. But the Navy lab never rechecked their report, and it was over a year later before new data came to light.
After I got out of the Air Force I met Newhouse and talked to him for two hours. I've talked to many people who have reported UFO's, but few impressed me as much as Newhouse. I learned that when he and his family first saw the UFO's they were close to the car, much closer than when he took the movie. To use Newhouse's own words, "If they had been the size of a B-29 they would have been at 10,000 feet altitude." And the Navy man and his family had taken a good look at the objects - they
224.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
looked like "two pie pans, one inverted on the top of the other!" He didn't just think the UFO's were disk shaped; he knew that they were; he had plainly seen them. I asked him why he hadn't told this to the intelligence officer who interrogated him. He said that he had. Then I remembered that I'd sent the intelligence officer a list of questions I wanted Newhouse to answer. The question "What did the UFO's look like?" wasn't one of them because when you have a picture of something you don't normally ask what it looks like. Why the intelligence officer didn't pass this information on to us I'll never know.
The Montana Movie was rejected by the panel as positive proof because even though the two observers said that the jets were in another part of the sky when they saw the UFO's and our study backed them up, there was still a chance that the two UFO's could have been the two jets. We couldn't prove the UFO's were the jets, but neither could we prove they weren't.
The controversial study of the UFO's' motions that Major Fournet had presented was discarded. All of the panel agreed that if there had been some permanent record of the motion of the UFO's, a photograph of a UFO's flight path or a photograph of a UFO's track on a radarscope, they could have given the study much more weight. But in every one of the ten or twenty reports that were offered as proof that the UFO's were intelligently controlled, the motions were only those that the observer had seen. And the human eye and mind are not accurate recorders. How many different stories do you get when a group of people watch two cars collide at an intersection?
Each of the fifty of our best sightings that we gave the scientists to study had some kind of a loophole. In many cases the loopholes were extremely small, but scientific evaluation has no room for even the smallest of loopholes and we had asked for a scientific evaluation.
When they had finished commenting on the reports, the scientists pointed out the seriousness of the decision they had been asked to make. They said that they had tried hard to be objective and not to be picayunish, but actually all we had was circumstantial evidence. Good circumstantial evidence, to be sure, but we had nothing concrete, no hardware, no photos showing any detail of a UFO, no measured speeds, altitudes, or sizes - nothing in the way of good, hard, cold, scientific facts. To stake the future course of millions of lives on a decision based upon circumstantial evidence would be one of the gravest mistakes in the history of the world.
In their conclusions they touched upon the possibility that the UFO's might be some type of new or yet undiscovered natural phenomenon. They explained that they hadn't given this too much credence; however, if the
225. The Hierarchy Ponders
UFO's were a new natural phenomenon, the reports of their general appearance should follow a definite pattern - the UFO reports didn't.
This ended the section of the panel's report that covered their conclusions. The next section was entitled, "Recommendations." I fully expected that they would recommend that we as least reduce the activities of Project Blue Book if not cancel it entirely. I didn't like this one bit because I was firmly convinced that we didn't have the final answer. We needed more and better proof before a final yes or no could be given.
The panel didn't recommend that the activities of Blue Book be cut back, and they didn't recommend that it be dropped. They recommended that it be expanded. Too many of the reports had been made by credible observers, the report said, people who should know what they're looking at - people who think things out carefully. Data that was out of the circumstantial - evidence class was badly needed. And the panel must have been at least partially convinced that an expanded effort would prove something interesting because the expansion they recommended would require a considerable sum of money. The investigative force of Project Blue Book should be quadrupled in size, they wrote, and it should be staffed by specially trained experts in the fields of electronics, meteorology, photography, physics, and other fields of science pertinent to UFO investigations. Every effort should be made to set up instruments in locations where UFO sightings are frequent, so that data could be measured and recorded during a sighting. In other locations around the country military and civilian scientists should be alerted and instructed to use every piece of available equipment that could be used to track UFO's.
And lastly, they said that the American public should be told every detail of every phase of the UFO investigation - the details of the sightings, the official conclusions, and why the conclusions were made. This would serve a double purpose; it would dispel any of the mystery that security breeds and it would keep the Air Force on the ball - sloppy investigations and analyses would never occur.
When the panel's conclusions were made known in the government, they met with mixed reactions. Some people were satisfied, but others weren't. Even the opinions of a group of the country's top scientists couldn't overcome the controversy that had dogged the UFO for five years. Some of those who didn't like the decision had sat in on the UFO's trial as spectators and they felt that the "jury" was definitely prejudiced - afraid to stick their necks out. They could see no reason to continue to assume that the UFO's weren't interplanetary vehicles.
What Are UFO's?
While the scientists were in Washington, D.C., pondering over the UFO, the UFO's weren't just sitting idly by waiting to find out what they were - they were out doing a little "lobbying" for the cause - keeping the interest stirred up.
And they were doing a good job, too.
It was just a few minutes before midnight on January 28, 1953, when a message flashed into Wright-Patterson for Project Blue Book. It was sent "Operational Immediate," so it had priority handling; I was reading it by 12:30 A.M.. A pilot had chased a UFO.
The report didn't have many details but it did sound good. It gave the pilot's name and said that he could be reached at Moody AFB. I put in a long distance call, found the pilot, and flipped on my recorder so that I could get his story word for word.
He told me that he had been flying an F-86 on a "round robin" navigation flight from Moody AFB to Lawson AFB to Robins AFB, then back to Moody - all in Georgia. At exactly nine thirty five he was at 6,000 feet, heading toward Lawson AFB on the first leg of his flight. He remembered that he had just looked down and had seen the lights of Albany, Georgia; then he'd looked up again and seen this bright white light at "ten o'clock high." It was an unusually bright light, and he said that he thought this was why it was so noticeable among the stars. He flew on for a few minutes watching it as he passed over Albany. He decided that it must be an extremely bright star or another airplane - except it just didn't look right. It had too much of a definitely circular shape.
It was a nice night to fly and he had to get in so much time anyway, so he thought he'd try to get a little closer to it. If it was an airplane, chances were he could close in and if it was a star, he should be able to climb up to 30,000 feet and the light shouldn't change its relative position. He checked his oxygen supply, increased the r.p.m. of the engine, and started to climb. In three or four minutes it was obvious that he was getting above the light, and he watched it; it had moved in relation to the
227. What Are UFO's?
stars. It must be an airplane then, he'd decided - an airplane so far away that he couldn't see its red and green wing tip lights.
Since he'd gone this far, he decided that he'd get closer and make sure it was an airplane; so he dropped the nose of the F-86 and started down. As the needle on the machmeter nudged the red line, he saw that he was getting closer because the light was getting bigger, but still he couldn't see any lights other than the one big white one. Then it wasn't white any longer; it was changing color. In about a two second cycle it changed from white to red, then back to white again. It went through this cycle two or three times, and then before he could realize what was going on, he told me, the light changed in shape to a perfect triangle. Then it split into two triangles, one above the other. By this time he had leveled off and wasn't closing in any more. In a flash the whole thing was gone. He used the old standard description for a disappearing UFO: "It was just like someone turning off a light - it's there, then it's gone."
I asked him what he thought he'd seen. He'd thought about flying saucers, he said, but he "just couldn't swallow those stories." He thought he had a case of vertigo and the more he thought about it, the surer he was that this was the answer. He'd felt pretty foolish, he told me, and he was glad that he was alone.
Up ahead he saw the sprawling lights of Fort Benning and Lawson AFB, his turning point on the flight, and he'd started to turn but then he'd checked his fuel. The climb had used up quite a bit, so he changed his mind about going to Robins AFB and started straight back to Moody.
He called in to the ground station to change his flight plan, but before he could say anything the ground radio operator asked him if he'd seen a mysterious light.
Well - he'd seen a light.
Then the ground operator proceeded to tell him that the UFO chase had been watched on radar. First the radar had the UFO target on the scope, and it was a UFO because it was traveling much too slowly to be an airplane. Then the radar operators saw the F-86 approach, climb, and make a shallow dive toward the UFO. At first the F-86 had closed in on the UFO, but then the UFO had speeded up just enough to maintain a comfortable lead. This went on for two or three minutes; then it had moved off the scope at a terrific speed. The radar site had tried to call him, the ground station told the F-86 pilot, but they couldn't raise him so the message had to be relayed through the tower.
Rack up two more points for the UFO - another unknown and another confirmed believer.
228.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
Two or three weeks after the meeting of the panel of scientists in Washington I received word that Project Blue Book would follow the recommendations that the panel had made. I was to start implementing the plan right away. Our proposal for setting up instruments had gone to the Pentagon weeks before, so that was already taken care of. We needed more people, so I drew up a new organizational cable that called for more investigators and analysts and sent it through to ATIC's personnel section.
About this time in the history of the UFO the first of a series of snags came up. The scientists had strongly recommended that we hold nothing back - give the public everything. Accordingly, when the press got wind of the Tremonton Movie, which up until this time had been a closely guarded secret, I agreed to release it for the newsmen to see. I wrote a press release which was O.K.'d by General Garland, then the chief of ATIC, and sent it to the Pentagon. It told what the panel had said about the movies, "until proved otherwise there is no reason why the UFO's couldn't have been sea gulls." Then the release went on to say that we weren't sure exactly what the UFO's were, the sea gull theory was only an opinion. When the Pentagon got the draft of the release they screamed, "No!" No movie for the press and no press release. The sea gull theory was too weak, and we had a new publicity policy as of now - don't say anything.
This policy, incidentally, is still in effect. The January 7, 1955, issue of the Air Force Information Services Letter said, in essence, people in the Air Force are talking too much about UFO's - shut up. The old theory that if you ignore them they'll go away is again being followed.
Inside of a month the UFO project took a few more hard jolts. In December of 1952 I'd asked for a transfer. I'd agreed to stay on as chief of Blue Book until the end of February so that a replacement could be obtained and be broken in. But no replacement showed up. And none showed up when Lieutenant Rothstien's tour of active duty ended, when Lieutenant Andy Flues transferred to the Alaskan Air Command, or when others left. When I left the UFO project for a two month tour of temporary duty in Denver, Lieutenant Bob Olsson took over as chief. His staff consisted of Airman First Class Max Futch. Both men were old veterans of the UFO campaign of '52, but two people can do only so much.
When I came back to ATIC in July 1953 and took over another job, Lieutenant Olsson was just getting out of the Air Force and Al/c Futch was now it. He said that he felt like the President of Antarctica on a non expedition year. In a few days I again had Project Blue Book, as an additional duty this time, and I had orders to "build it up."
229. What Are UFO's?
While I had been gone, our instrumentation plan had been rejected. Higher headquarters had decided against establishing a net of manned tracking stations, astronomical cameras tied in with radars, and our other proposed instrumentation. General Garland had argued long and hard for the plan, but he'd lost. It was decided that the cameras with diffraction gratings over the lenses, the cameras that had been under development for a year, would suffice.
The camera program had started out as a top priority project, but it had lost momentum fast when we'd tested these widely publicized instruments and found that they wouldn't satisfactorily photograph a million candle power flare at 450 yards. The cameras themselves were all right, but in combination with the gratings, they were no good. However, Lieutenant Olsson had been told to send them out, so he sent them out.
The first thing that I did when I returned to Project Blue Book was to go over the reports that had come in while I was away. There were several good reports but only one that was exceptional. It had taken place at Luke AFB, Arizona, the Air Force's advanced fighter bomber school that is named after the famous "balloon buster" of World War I, Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. It was a sighting that produced some very interesting photographs.
There were only a few high cirrus clouds in the sky late on the morning of March 3 when a pilot took off from Luke in an F-84 jet to log some time. He had been flying F-51's in Korea and had recently started to check out in the jets. He took off, cleared the traffic pattern, and started climbing toward Blythe Radio, about 130 miles west of Luke. He'd climbed for several minutes and had just picked up the coded letters BLH that identified Blythe Radio when he looked up through the corner glass in the front part of his canopy - high at about two o'clock he saw what he thought was an airplane angling across his course from left to right leaving a long, thin vapor trail. He glanced down at his altimeter and saw that he was at 23,000 feet. The object that was leaving the vapor trail must really be high, he remembered thinking, because he couldn't see any airplane at the head of it. He altered his course a few degrees to the right so that he could follow the trail and increased his rate of climb. Before long he could tell that he was gaining on the object, or whatever was leaving the vapor trail, because he was under the central part of it. But he still couldn't see any object. This was odd, he thought, because vapor trails don't just happen; something has to leave them. His altimeter had ticked off another 12,000 feet and he was now at 35,000. He kept on climbing, but soon the '84 began to mush; it was as high as it would go. The pilot dropped down 1,000 feet and continued on - now he was below
230.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
the front of the trail, but still no airplane. This bothered him too. Nothing that we have flies over 55,000 feet except a few experimental airplanes like the D-558 or those of the "X" series, and they don't stray far from Edwards AFB in California. He couldn't be more than 15,000 feet from the front of the trail, and you can recognize any kind of an airplane 15,000 feet away in the clear air of the sub stratosphere. He looked and he looked and he looked. He rocked the F-84 back and forth thinking maybe he had a flaw in the Plexiglas of the canopy that was blinking out the airplane, but still no airplane. Whatever it was, it was darn high or darn small. It was moving about 300 miles an hour because he had to pull off power and "S" to stay under it.
He was beginning to get low on fuel about this time so he hauled up the nose of the jet, took about 30 feet of gun camera film, and started down. When he landed and told his story, the film was quickly processed and rushed to the projection room. It showed a weird, thin, forked vapor trail - but no airplane.
Lieutenant Olsson and Airman Futch had worked this one over thoroughly. The photo lab confirmed that the trail was definitely a vapor trail, not a freak cloud formation. But Air Force Flight Service said, "No other airplanes in the area," and so did Air Defense Command, because minutes after the F-84 pilot broke off contact, the "object" had passed into an ADIZ - Air Defense Identification Zone - and radar had shown nothing.
There was one last possibility: Blue Book's astronomer said that the photos looked exactly like a meteor's smoke trail. But there was one hitch:
the pilot was positive that the head of the vapor trail was moving at about 300 miles an hour. He didn't know exactly how much ground he'd covered, but when he first picked up Blythe Radio he was on Green S airway, about 30 miles west of his base, and when he'd given up the chase he'd gotten another radio bearing, and he was now almost up to Needles Radio, 70 miles north of Blythe. He could see a lake, Lake Mojave, in the distance.
Could a high altitude jet stream wind have been blowing the smoke cloud? Futch had checked this - no. The winds above 20,000 feet were the usual westerlies and the jet stream was far to the north.
Several months later I talked to a captain who had been at Luke when this sighting occurred. He knew the F-84 pilot and he'd heard him tell his story in great detail. I won't say that he was a confirmed believer, but he was interested. "I never thought much about these reports before," he said, "but I know this guy well. He's not nuts. What do you think he saw?"
I don't know what he saw. Maybe he didn't travel as far as he thought he did. If he didn't, then I'd guess that he saw a meteor's smoke trail. But if he did know that he'd covered some 80 miles during the chase, I'd say
231. What Are UFO's?
that he saw a UFO - a real one. And I find it hard to believe that pilots don't know what they're doing.
During the summer of 1953, UFO reports dropped off considerably. During May, June, and July of 1952 we'd received 637 good reports. During the same months in 1953 we received only seventy six. We had been waiting for the magic month of July to roll around again because every July there had been the sudden and unexplained peak in reporting; we wanted to know if it would happen again. It didn't - only twenty one reports came in, to make July the lowest month of the year. But July did bring new developments.
Project Blue Book got a badly needed shot in the arm when an unpublicized but highly important change took place: another intelligence agency began to take over all field investigations.
Ever since I'd returned to the project, the orders had been to build it up - get more people - do what the panel recommended. But when I'd asked for more people, all I got was a polite "So sorry." So, I did the next best thing and tried to find some organization already in being which could and would help us. I happened to be expounding my troubles one day at Air Defense Command Headquarters while I was briefing General Burgess, ADC's Director of Intelligence, and he told me about his 4602nd Air Intelligence Squadron, a specialized intelligence unit that had recently become operational. Maybe it could help - he'd see what he could work out, he told me.
Now in the military all commitments to do something carry an almost standard time factor.
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 |