Official reports on UFOs
The US Air Force have investigated UFO reports under several headings. These include Project Sign, 1948–9; Project Grudge, 1950–3; Project Blue Book, 1953–69. Although officially denied, there are claims that a further investigation, known as Operation Majestic, took place.
In January 1948 the USAAF initiated an investigation of unidentified flying objects, which was called Project Sign. It involved the collection of information about UFO sightings with a view to discovering whether they presented a security threat. In late July 1948, the staff of Project Sign prepared an intelligence report called ‘Estimate of the Situation’. This was classified as ‘Restricted – not Top Secret’. Several unconfirmed reports at that time and later said that the ‘Estimate’ concluded that many UFOs were interplanetary vehicles. But the report was never published and Air Force Chief of Staff, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, to whom it was addressed, refused to accept it for publication because it allegedly lacked proof to support its conclusions. The report was ordered to be destroyed, although a few clandestine copies are said to exist. Project Sign made its final report, which was classified ‘Secret’ in February 1949, but it was declassified in 1961. It is thirty-five pages long and concludes that:
Future activity on this project should be carried on at the minimum level necessary to record, summarize and evaluate the data received on future reports and to complete the specialized investigations now in progress. When and if a sufficient number of incidents are solved to in-dicate that these sightings do not represent a threat to the security of the nation, the assignment of special project O status to the activity could be terminated.
Project Sign, it would appear, shifted in emphasis from an investigation of possible ETA to a security inquiry in the context of Cold War military activity.
Project Sign continued to investigate UFO reports until 11 February 1949, but in 1950 it was reorganized and its new title, Project Grudge, indicated a change of policy, in which an altered attitude was shown towards UFOs and UFO reports were evaluated on the premise that the existence of alien spacecraft was unlikely. Reports of sightings offered to Project Grudge were not accepted at face value and treated with a degree of scepticism. Project Grudge issued one report which was classified ‘Secret’ but declassified on 1 August 1952. It was concerned with a detailed study of 244 sightings; 32 per cent were considered to be astronomical objects; 12 per cent weather balloons; 33 per cent hoaxes; and a residual 23 per
cent ‘unknown’. There was a degree of controversy over the residue; some said they had not been adequately investigated, while others thought that they had. Among the conclusions of Project Grudge’s report was a remark that future inquiries be reduced in scope. ‘There is no evidence,’ said the report, ‘that objects reported upon are the result of an advanced scientific foreign development.’ The main thrust of the report appears to have been an investigation into whether UFO sightings were in any way connected with aggressive attitudes of the Soviet Union. For the most part UFO sightings were dismissed as a misinterpretation of conventional objects, hoaxes, individuals seeking publicity, psychopathological persons, a mild form of mass hysteria or war nerves. There was concern – in the Cold War context – that UFO reports could be attributed to a form of psychological warfare. Fears had been expressed by the military that the enemy would issue a surprise attack when information channels were clogged up by UFO reports. Critics, holding positions which favoured ETA explanations, argued that the subject had been under-researched.
Project Blue Book
On 27 October 1951 Project Grudge was reorganized, but still under control of the USAAF. It was now called Project Blue Book and given the task of collecting all data on UFOs. There never was a Blue Book, this was the name given to the project which contained 13,134 reports on its files (Hynek, 1977: 8). Project Blue Book issued a series of status reports, initially classified ‘Secret’ but declassified as of September 1960, although copies were not available until 1968. It concluded that UFOs did not pose a security threat. These investigations took place against the background of high profile newspaper reports of sightings and a stream of publications concerning ETA. Many of these publications made allegations of military cover-ups. The USAAF did little to allay speculation and conducted their investigation in an atmosphere of secrecy, which only added fuel to cover-up theories. Project Blue Book finally concluded that: ‘there has been nothing in the way of evidence or other data to indicate that here unidentified sightings were extraterrestrial vehicles under intelligent control’ (Blue Book Information Office, 1968). Generally, Project Blue Book cited weather balloons and other balloons used as sporting devices, which can reflect light and travel at speeds of over 200 mph in high-altitude jet windstreams. Other explanations were in terms of psychological phenomena, such as autokinesis, which can be observed when a pilot stares at a fixed light in an otherwise dark environment and suddenly experiences an illusion that the light has begun to move erratically. Burns from jet engines, bright stars, planets, comets, fireballs, meteors and other celestial bodies were also deemed responsible, as were searchlights, birds, kites, clouds, spurious radio indications, hoaxes, ice crystals and fireworks displays. There was also an ‘Insufficient Category’, which included details of sightings where essential details were lacking. Sometimes, this might include reports without
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