Project Blue Book

Project Blue Book

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Project Blue Book'
Start a new discussion about 'Project Blue Book'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Project Blue Book was one of a series of systematic studies of unidentified flying object
Unidentified flying object
A term originally coined by the military, an unidentified flying object is an unusual apparent anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable to the observer as any known object...

s (UFOs) conducted by the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

. Started in 1952, it was the second revival of such a study (the first two of its kind being Projects Sign
Project Sign
Project Sign was an official U.S. government study of unidentified flying objects undertaken by the United States Air Force and active for most of 1948....

 and Grudge
Project Grudge
Project Grudge was a short-lived project by the U.S. Air Force to investigate unidentified flying objects . Grudge succeeded Project Sign in February, 1949, and was then followed by Project Blue Book. The project formally ended in December 1949, but actually continued on in a very minimal capacity...

). A termination order was given for the study in December 1969, and all activity under its auspices ceased in January 1970.

Project Blue Book had two goals:
  1. to determine if UFOs were a threat to national security
    National security
    National security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic, diplomacy, power projection and political power. The concept developed mostly in the United States of America after World War II...

    , and
  2. to scientifically analyze
    Scientific method
    Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

     UFO-related data
    Data
    The term data refers to qualitative or quantitative attributes of a variable or set of variables. Data are typically the results of measurements and can be the basis of graphs, images, or observations of a set of variables. Data are often viewed as the lowest level of abstraction from which...

    .

Thousands of UFO reports were collected, analyzed and filed. As the result of the Condon Report, which concluded there was nothing anomalous about UFOs, Project Blue Book was ordered shut down in December 1969 and the Air Force continues to provide the following summary of its investigations:



By the time Project Blue Book ended, it had collected 12,618 UFO reports, and concluded that most of them were misidentifications of natural phenomena (cloud
Cloud
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water and/or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. They are also known as aerosols. Clouds in Earth's atmosphere are studied in the cloud physics branch of meteorology...

s, star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s, etc.) or conventional aircraft. According to the National Reconnaissance Office
National Reconnaissance Office
The National Reconnaissance Office , located in Chantilly, Virginia, is one of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. It designs, builds, and operates the spy satellites of the United States government.-Mission:...

 a number of the reports could be explained by flights of the formerly secret reconnaissance planes U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 and A-12. A small percentage of UFO reports were classified as unexplained, even after stringent analysis. The UFO reports were archived and are available under the Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of information legislation
Freedom of information legislation comprises laws that guarantee access to data held by the state. They establish a "right-to-know" legal process by which requests may be made for government-held information, to be received freely or at minimal cost, barring standard exceptions...

, but names and other personal information of all witnesses have been changed.

Previous projects


Public USAF UFO studies were first initiated under Project Sign
Project Sign
Project Sign was an official U.S. government study of unidentified flying objects undertaken by the United States Air Force and active for most of 1948....

 at the end of 1947, following many widely publicized UFO reports (see Kenneth Arnold
Kenneth Arnold
Kenneth A. Arnold was an American aviator and businessman. He is best-known for making what is generally considered the first widely reported unidentified flying object sighting in the United States, after claiming to have seen nine unusual objects flying in a chain near Mount Rainier, Washington...

). Project Sign was initiated specifically at the request of General Nathan Twining, chief of the Air Force Materiel Command
Air Force Materiel Command
Air Force Materiel Command is a major command of the United States Air Force. AFMC was created July 1, 1992 through the reorganization of Air Force Logistics Command and Air Force Systems Command....

 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base in Greene and Montgomery counties in the state of Ohio. It includes both Wright and Patterson Fields, which were originally Wilbur Wright Field and Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot. Patterson Field is located approximately...

. Wright-Patterson was also to be the home of Project Sign and all subsequent official USAF public investigations.

Sign was officially inconclusive regarding the cause of the sightings. However, according to US Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt
Edward J. Ruppelt
Edward J. Ruppelt was a United States Air Force officer probably best-known for his involvement in Project Blue Book, a formal governmental study of unidentified flying objects...

 (the first director of Project Blue Book), Sign's initial intelligence estimate (the so-called Estimate of the Situation
Estimate of the Situation
The Estimate of the Situation was a document supposedly written in 1948 by the personnel of United States Air Force's Project Sign -including the project’s director, Captain Robert R. Sneider - which explained their reasons for concluding that the extraterrestrial hypothesis was the best...

) written in the late summer of 1948, concluded that the flying saucers were real craft, were not made by either the Russians or US, and were likely extraterrestrial
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 in origin. (See also extraterrestrial hypothesis
Extraterrestrial hypothesis
The extraterrestrial hypothesis is the hypothesis that some unidentified flying objects are best explained as being extraterrestrial life or non-human aliens from other planets occupying physical spacecraft visiting Earth.-Etymology:...

.) This estimate was forwarded to the Pentagon, but subsequently ordered destroyed by Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg
Hoyt Vandenberg
Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg was a U.S. Air Force general, its second Chief of Staff, and second Director of Central Intelligence....

, USAF Chief of Staff, citing a lack of physical proof. Vandenberg subsequently dismantled Project Sign.

Project Sign was succeeded at the end of 1948 by Project Grudge
Project Grudge
Project Grudge was a short-lived project by the U.S. Air Force to investigate unidentified flying objects . Grudge succeeded Project Sign in February, 1949, and was then followed by Project Blue Book. The project formally ended in December 1949, but actually continued on in a very minimal capacity...

, which had a debunking
Debunker
A debunker is an individual who attempts to discredit and contradict claims as being false, exaggerated or pretentious. The term is closely associated with skeptical investigation of, or in some cases irrational resistance to, controversial topics such as U.F.O.s, claimed paranormal phenomena,...

 mandate. Ruppelt referred to the era of Project Grudge as the "dark ages" of early USAF UFO investigation. Grudge concluded that all UFOs were natural phenomena or other misinterpretations, although it also stated that 23 percent of the reports could not be explained.

The Captain Ruppelt era


According to Captain Edward J. Ruppelt
Edward J. Ruppelt
Edward J. Ruppelt was a United States Air Force officer probably best-known for his involvement in Project Blue Book, a formal governmental study of unidentified flying objects...

, by the end of 1951, several high-ranking, very influential USAF generals were so dissatisfied with the state of Air Force UFO investigations that they dismantled Project Grudge and replaced it with Project Blue Book in early 1952. One of these men was Gen. Charles P. Cabell
Charles P. Cabell
Charles Pearre Cabell was an United States Air Force General and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.-Early life:...

. Another important change came when General William Garland joined Cabell's staff; Garland thought the UFO question deserved serious scrutiny because he had witnessed a UFO.

The new name, Project Blue Book, was selected to refer to the blue booklets used for testing at some colleges and universities. The name was inspired, said Ruppelt, by the close attention that high-ranking officers were giving the new project; it felt as if the study of UFOs was as important as a college final exam. Blue Book was also upgraded in status from Project Grudge, with the creation of the Aerial Phenomenon Branch.

Ruppelt was the first head of the project. He was an experienced airman, having been decorated for his efforts with the Army Air Corps during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and having afterwards earned an aeronautics degree. He officially coined the term "Unidentified Flying Object", to replace the many terms ("flying saucer" "flying disk" and so on) the military had previously used; Ruppelt thought that "unidentified flying object" was a more neutral and accurate term. Ruppelt resigned from the Air Force some years later, and wrote the book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, which described the study of UFOs by United States Air Force from 1947 to 1955. Swords
Michael D. Swords
Michael D. Swords is an American scientist.In 1962 Swords graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.S.. He studied biochemistry at Iowa State University , and at Case Western Reserve University Michael D. Swords is an American scientist.In 1962 Swords graduated from the University of...

 writes that "Ruppelt would lead the last genuine effort to analyze UFOs".

Ruppelt implemented a number of changes: He streamlined the manner in which UFOs were reported to (and by) military officials, partly in hopes of alleviating the stigma and ridicule associated with UFO witnesses. Ruppelt also ordered the development of a standard questionnaire for UFO witnesses, hoping to uncover data which could be subject to statistical analysis. He commissioned the Battelle Memorial Institute
Battelle Memorial Institute
Battelle Memorial Institute is a private nonprofit applied science and technology development company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Battelle is a charitable trust organized as a nonprofit corporation under the laws of the State of Ohio and is exempt from taxation under Section 501 of the...

 to create the questionnaire and computerize the data. Using case reports and the computerized data, Battelle then conducted a massive scientific and statistical study of all Air Force UFO cases, completed in 1954 and known as "Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14" (see summary below).

Knowing that factionalism had harmed the progress of Project Sign
Project Sign
Project Sign was an official U.S. government study of unidentified flying objects undertaken by the United States Air Force and active for most of 1948....

, Ruppelt did his best to avoid the kinds of open-ended speculation that had led to Sign’s personnel being split among advocates and critics of the extraterrestrial hypothesis
Extraterrestrial hypothesis
The extraterrestrial hypothesis is the hypothesis that some unidentified flying objects are best explained as being extraterrestrial life or non-human aliens from other planets occupying physical spacecraft visiting Earth.-Etymology:...

. As Michael Hall writes, "Ruppelt not only took the job seriously but expected his staff to do so as well. If anyone under him either became too skeptical or too convinced of one particular theory, they soon found themselves off the project." In his book, Ruppelt reported that he fired three personnel very early in the project because they were either "too pro" or "too con" one hypothesis or another. Ruppelt sought the advice of many scientists and experts, and issued regular press releases (along with classified monthly reports for military intelligence).

Each U.S. Air Force Base had a Blue Book officer to collect UFO reports and forward them to Ruppelt. During most of Ruppelt's tenure, he and his team were authorized to interview any and all military personnel who witnessed UFOs, and were not required to follow the chain of command
Chain of Command
Chain of Command may refer to:* Chain of command, in a military context, the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed* "Chain of Command" , the fifth episode of the first season of Beast Wars...

. This unprecedented authority underlined the seriousness of Blue Book's investigation.

Under Ruppelt's direction, Blue Book investigated a number of well-known UFO cases, including the so-called Lubbock Lights
Lubbock Lights
The Lubbock Lights were an unusual formation of lights seen over the city of Lubbock, Texas, from August-September 1951. The Lubbock Lights incident received national publicity and is regarded as one of the first great UFO cases in the United States....

, and a widely publicized 1952 radar/visual case over Washington D.C.. According to Jacques Vallee
Jacques Vallée
Jacques Fabrice Vallée is a venture capitalist, computer scientist, author, ufologist and former astronomer currently residing in San Francisco, California....

, Ruppelt started the trend, largely followed by later Blue Book investigations, of not giving serious consideration to numerous reports of UFO landings and/or interaction with purported UFO occupants.

Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek was the scientific consultant of the project, as he had been with Projects Sign and Grudge. He worked for the project up to its termination and initially created the categorization which has been extended and is known today as Close encounter
Close encounter
In ufology, a close encounter is an event in which a person witnesses an unidentified flying object. This terminology and the system of classification behind it was started by astronomer and UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek, and was first suggested in his 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific...

s. He was a pronounced skeptic when he started, but said that his feelings changed to a more wavering skepticism during the research, after encountering a minority of UFO reports he thought were unexplainable.

Ruppelt left Blue Book in February 1953 for a temporary reassignment. He returned a few months later to find his staff reduced from more than ten, to two subordinates. Frustrated, Ruppelt suggested that an Air Defense Command unit (the 4602nd Air Intelligence Service Squadron) be charged with UFO investigations.

Robertson panel


In July 1952, after a build-up of hundreds of sightings over the previous few months, a series of radar detections coincident with visual sightings were observed near the National Airport in Washington, D.C. (see 1952 Washington D.C. UFO incident
1952 Washington D.C. UFO incident
The 1952 Washington D.C. UFO incident, also known as the Washington flap or the Washington National Airport Sightings, was a series of unidentified flying object reports from July 12 to July 29, 1952, over Washington D.C. The most publicized sightings took place on consecutive weekends, July 19–20...

). Future Arizona Senator and 2008 presidential nominee John McCain
John McCain
John Sidney McCain III is the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 United States election....

 is alleged to be one of these witnesses.

After much publicity, these sightings led the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 to establish a panel of scientists headed by Dr. H. P. Robertson, a physicist of the California Institute of Technology, which included various physicists, meteorologists, and engineers, and one astronomer (Hynek). The Robertson Panel first met on January 14, 1953 in order to formulate a response to the overwhelming public interest in UFOs.

Ruppelt, Hynek, and others presented the best evidence, including movie footage, that had been collected by Blue Book. After spending 12 hours reviewing 6 years of data, the Robertson Panel concluded that most UFO reports had prosaic explanations, and that all could be explained with further investigation, which they deemed not worth the effort.

In their final report, they stressed that low-grade, unverifiable UFO reports were overloading intelligence channels, with the risk of missing a genuine conventional threat to the U.S. Therefore, they recommended the Air Force de-emphasize the subject of UFOs and embark on a debunking campaign to lessen public interest. They suggested debunkery through the mass media, including The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue. Founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt and Roy Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt Disney Productions established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into...

, and using psychologists, astronomers, and celebrities to ridicule the phenomenon and put forward prosaic explanations. Furthermore, civilian UFO groups "should be watched because of their potentially great influence on mass thinking… The apparent irresponsibility and the possible use of such groups for subversive purposes should be kept in mind."

It is the conclusion of many researchers that the Robertson Panel was recommending controlling public opinion through a program of official propaganda and spying. They also believe these recommendations helped shape Air Force policy regarding UFO study not only immediately afterwards, but also into the present day. There is evidence that the Panel's recommendations were being carried out at least two decades after its conclusions were issued (see the main article for details and citations).

In December 1953, Joint Army-Navy-Air Force Regulation number 146 made it a crime for military personnel to discuss classified UFO reports with unauthorized persons. Violators faced up to two years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.

Aftermath of Robertson panel


In his book (see external links) Ruppelt described the demoralization of the Blue Book staff and the stripping of their investigative duties following the Robertson Panel.

As an immediate consequence of the Robertson Panel recommendations, in February 1953, the Air Force issued Regulation 200-2, ordering air base officers to publicly discuss UFO incidents only if they were judged to have been solved, and to classify all the unsolved cases to keep them out of the public eye.

The same month, investigative duties started to be taken on by the newly formed 4602nd Air Intelligence Squadron (AISS) of the Air Defense Command. The 4602nd AISS was tasked with investigating only the most important UFO cases with intelligence or national security implications. These were deliberately siphoned away from Blue Book, leaving Blue Book to deal with the more trivial reports.

General Nathan Twining, who got Project Sign started back in 1947, was now Air Force Chief of Staff. In August 1954, he was to further codify the responsibilities of the 4602nd AISS by issuing an updated Air Force Regulation 200-2. In addition, UFOs (called "UFOBs") were defined as "any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object." Investigation of UFOs was stated to be for the purposes of national security and to ascertain "technical aspects." AFR 200-2 again stated that Blue Book could discuss UFO cases with the media only if they were regarded as having a conventional explanation. If they were unidentified, the media was to be told only that the situation was being analyzed. Blue Book was also ordered to reduce the number of unidentified to a minimum.

All this was done secretly. The public face of Blue Book continued to be the official Air Force investigation of UFOs, but the reality was it had essentially been reduced to doing very little serious investigation, and had become almost solely a public relations outfit with a debunking mandate. To cite one example, by the end of 1956, the number of cases listed as unsolved had dipped to barely 0.4 percent, from the 20 to 30% only a few years earlier.

Eventually, Ruppelt requested reassignment; at his departure in August 1953, his staff had been reduced from more than ten (precise numbers of personnel varied) to just two subordinates and himself. His temporary replacement was a noncommissioned officer. Most who succeeded him as Blue Book director exhibited either apathy or outright hostility to the subject of UFOs, or were hampered by a lack of funding and official support.

UFO investigators often regard Ruppelt's brief tenure at Blue Book as the high-water mark of public Air Force investigations of UFOs, when UFO investigations were treated seriously and had support at high levels. Thereafter, Project Blue Book descended into a new "Dark Ages" from which many UFO investigators argue it never emerged. However, Ruppelt later came to embrace the Blue Book perspective that there was nothing extraordinary about UFOs; he even labeled the subject a "Space Age Myth."

The Captain Hardin era


In March 1954, Captain Charles Hardin was appointed the head of Blue Book. However, most UFO investigations were conducted by the 4602nd, and Hardin had no objection. Ruppelt wrote that Hardin "thinks that anyone who is even interested [in UFOs] is crazy. They bore him."

In 1955, the Air Force decided that the goal of Blue Book should be not to investigate UFO reports, but rather to reduce the number of unidentified UFO reports to a minimum. By late 1956, the number of unidentifed sightings had dropped from the 20-25% of the Ruppelt era, to less than 1%.

The Captain Gregory era


Captain George T. Gregory took over as Blue Book's director in 1956. Clark writes that Gregory led Blue Book "in an even firmer anti-UFO direction than the apathetic Hardin." The 4602nd was dissolved, and the 1066th Air Intelligence Service Squadron was charged with UFO investigations.

In fact, there was actually little or no investigation of UFO reports; a revised AFR 200-2 issued during Gregory's tenure emphasized that unexplained UFO reports must be reduced to a minimum.

One way that Gregory reduced the number of unexplained UFOs was by simple reclassification. "Possible cases" became "probable", and "probable" cases were upgraded to certainties. By this logic, a possible comet
Comet
A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

 became a probable comet, while a probable comet was flatly declared to have been a misidentified comet. Similarly, if a witness reported an observation of an unusual balloon-like object, Blue Book usually classified it as a balloon, with no research and qualification. These procedures became standard for most of Blue Book's later investigations; see Hynek's comments below.

The Major Friend era


Major Robert J. Friend was appointed the head of Blue Book in 1958. Friend made some attempts to reverse the direction Blue Book had taken since 1954. Clark writes that "Friend's efforts to upgrade the files and catalog sightings according to various observed statistics were frustrated by a lack of funding and assistance."

Heartened by Friend's efforts, Hynek organized the first of several meetings between Blue Book staffers and ATIC personnel in 1959. Hynek suggested that some older UFO reports should be reevaluated, with the ostensible aim of moving them from the "unknown" to the "identified" category. Hynek's plans came to naught.

During Friend's tenure, ATIC contemplated passing oversight Blue Book to another Air Force agency, but neither the Air Research and Development Center, nor the Office of Information for the Secretary of the Air Force was interested.

In 1960, there were U.S. Congressional hearings regarding UFOs. Civilian UFO research group NICAP
National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena
The National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena was a civilian unidentified flying object research group active in the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s.-Overview:...

 had publicly charged Blue Book with covering up UFO evidence, and had also acquired a few allies in the U.S. Congress. Blue Book was investigated by the Congress and the CIA, with critics—most notably the civilian UFO group NICAP asserting that Blue Book was lacking as a scientific study. In response, ATIC added personnel (increasing the total personnel to three military personnel, plus civilian secretaries) and increased Blue Book's budget. This seemed to mollify some of Blue Book's critics, that but it was only temporary. A few years later (see below), the criticism would be even louder.

By the time he was transferred from Blue Book in 1963, Friend thought that Blue Book was effectively useless and ought to be dissolved, even if it caused an outcry amongst the public.

The Major Quintanilla era


Major Hector Quintanilla
Hector Quintanilla
Hector Quintanilla JR. was a United States Air Force Lt Colonel best known as the last chief officer of Project Blue Book, the USAF's official unidentified flying object investigative arm.-Biography:...

 took over as Blue Book's leader in August 1963. He largely continued the debunking efforts, and it was under his direction that Blue Book received some of its sharpest criticism. UFO researcher Jerome Clark goes so far as to write that, by this time, Blue Book had "lost all credibility."

Physicist and UFO researcher Dr. James E. McDonald
James E. McDonald
James Edward McDonald was an American physicist. He is best known for his research regarding UFOs. McDonald was senior physicist at the Institute for Atmospheric Physics and professor in the Department of Meteorology, University of Arizona, Tucson.McDonald campaigned vigorously in support of...

 once flatly declared that Quintanilla was "not competent" from either a scientific or an investigative perspective. However, McDonald also stressed that Quintanilla "shouldn't be held accountable for it", as he was chosen for his position by a superior officer, and was following orders in directing Blue Book.

Blue Book’s explanations of UFO reports were not universally accepted, however, and critics — including some scientists — suggested that Project Blue Book was engaged in questionable research or, worse, perpetrating cover up
Cover Up
Cover Up is an American action/adventure television series that aired for one season on CBS from September 22, 1984 to April 6, 1985. Created by Glen A. Larson, the series stars Jennifer O'Neill, Jon-Erik Hexum, Antony Hamilton, and Richard Anderson....

. This criticism grew especially strong and widespread in the 1960s.

Take for example, the many mostly nighttime UFO reports from the midwestern and southeastern United States in the summer of 1965: Witnesses in Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 reported "multicolored lights" and large aerial objects shaped like eggs
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

 or diamonds. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported that Tinker Air Force Base
Tinker Air Force Base
Tinker Air Force Base is a major U.S. Air Force base, with tenant U.S. Navy and other Department of Defense missions, located in the southeast Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area, directly south of the suburb of Midwest City, Oklahoma.-Overview:...

 (near Oklahoma City
Oklahoma city
Oklahoma City is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Oklahoma.Oklahoma City may also refer to:*Oklahoma City metropolitan area*Downtown Oklahoma City*Uptown Oklahoma City*Oklahoma City bombing*Oklahoma City National Memorial...

) had tracked up to four UFO’s simultaneously, and that several of them had descended very rapidly: from about 22000 feet to about 4000 feet in just a few seconds, an action well beyond the capabilities of conventional aircraft of the era. John Shockley, a meteorologist from Wichita, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas
Wichita is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kansas.As of the 2010 census, the city population was 382,368. Located in south-central Kansas on the Arkansas River, Wichita is the county seat of Sedgwick County and the principal city of the Wichita metropolitan area...

, reported that, using the state Weather Bureau radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

, he tracked a number of odd aerial objects flying at altitudes between about 6000 and 9000 feet. These and other reports received wide publicity.

Project Blue Book officially determined the witnesses had mistaken Jupiter
Jupiter
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet within the Solar System. It is a gas giant with mass one-thousandth that of the Sun but is two and a half times the mass of all the other planets in our Solar System combined. Jupiter is classified as a gas giant along with Saturn,...

 or bright star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s (such as Rigel
Rigel
Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation Orion and the sixth brightest star in the sky, with visual magnitude 0.18...

 or Betelgeuse
Betelgeuse
Betelgeuse, also known by its Bayer designation Alpha Orionis , is the eighth brightest star in the night sky and second brightest star in the constellation of Orion, outshining its neighbour Rigel only rarely...

) for something else.

Blue Book’s explanation was widely criticized as inaccurate. Robert Riser, director of the Oklahoma Science and Art Foundation Planetarium
Planetarium
A planetarium is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation...

 offered a strongly worded rebuke of Project Blue Book that was widely circulated: “That is as far from the truth as you can get. These stars and planet
Planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

s are on the opposite side of the earth from Oklahoma City at this time of year. The Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 must have had its star finder upside-down during August."

A newspaper editorial from the Richmond News Leader opined that "Attempts to dismiss the reported sightings under the rationale as exhibited by Project Bluebook (sic) won’t solve the mystery … and serve only to heighten the suspicion that there’s something out there that the air force doesn't want us to know about", while a Wichita-based UPI reporter noted that "Ordinary radar does not pick up planets and stars."

Another case that Blue Book's critics seized upon was the so-called Portage County UFO Chase
Portage County UFO Chase
The Portage County UFO Chase was an unidentified flying object encounter that began in Portage County, Ohio on the morning of April 17, 1966, when police officers Dale Spaur and Wilbur Neff observed a metallic, disc shaped object flying in the skies....

, which began at about 5.00am, near Ravenna, Ohio
Ravenna, Ohio
* Chris Bangle; automobile designer* Bill Bower, last surviving pilot of the Doolittle Raid* David D. Busch; best-selling author* William Rufus Day; U.S. Supreme Court justice* Calvin Hampton; Classical organist* Robert B...

 on April 17, 1966. Police officers Dale Spaur and Wilbur Neff spotted what they described as a disc-shaped, silvery object with a bright light emanating from its underside, at about 1000 feet in altitude. They began following the object (which they reported sometimes descended as low as 50 feet), and police from several other jurisdictions were involved in the pursuit. The chase ended about 30 minutes later near Freedom, Pennsylvania
Freedom, Pennsylvania
Freedom is a borough in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, United States, along the Ohio River northwest of Pittsburgh. In the early years of the twentieth century, the chief industries were the production of oil, caskets, and monuments. In 1900, 1,783 people lived in Freedom; in 1910, 3,060 people...

, some 85 miles away.

The UFO chase made national news, and the police submitted detailed reports to Blue Book. Five days later, following brief interviews with only one of the police officers (but none of the other ground witnesses), Blue Book's director, Major Hector Quintanilla
Hector Quintanilla
Hector Quintanilla JR. was a United States Air Force Lt Colonel best known as the last chief officer of Project Blue Book, the USAF's official unidentified flying object investigative arm.-Biography:...

, announced their conclusions: The police (one of them an Air Force gunner during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

) had first chased a communications satellite
Communications satellite
A communications satellite is an artificial satellite stationed in space for the purpose of telecommunications...

, then the planet Venus.

This conclusion was widely derided, and was strenuously rejected by the police officers. In his dissenting conclusion, Hynek described Blue Book's conclusions as absurd: in their reports, several of the police had unknowingly described the moon, Venus and the UFO, though they unknowingly described Venus as a bright "star" very near the moon. Ohio Congressman William Stanton
William Stanton
William A. "Bill" Stanton , a United States career diplomat, is the current Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Taipei Office. His tenure began on August 28, 2009. The position that serves as de facto U.S...

 said that "The Air Force has suffered a great loss of prestige in this community … Once people entrusted with the public welfare no longer think the people can handle the truth, then the people, in return, will no longer trust the government."

In September 1968, Hynek received a letter from Colonel Raymond Sleeper of the Foreign Technology Division. Sleeper noted that Hynek had publicly accused Blue Book of shoddy science, and further asked Hynek to offer advice on how Blue Book could improve its scientific methodology. Hynek was to later declare that Sleeper's letter was "the first time in my 20 year association with the air force as scientific consultant that I had been officially asked for criticism and advice [regarding] … the UFO problem."

Hynek wrote a detailed response, dated October 7, 1968, suggesting several areas where Blue Book could improve. In part, he wrote:


  1. ... neither of the two missions of Blue Book [determining if UFOs are a threat to national security and using scientific data gathered by Blue Book] are being adequately executed.

  2. The staff of Blue Book, both in numbers and in scientific training, is grossly inadequate...

  3. Blue Book suffers … in that it is a closed system ... there is virtually no scientific dialogue between Blue Book and the outside scientific world...

  4. The statistical
    Statistics
    Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

     methods employed by Blue Book are nothing less than a travesty.

  5. There has been a lack of attention to significant UFO cases ... and too much time spent on routine cases ... and on peripheral public relations tasks. Concentration could be on two or three potentially scientific significant cases per month [instead of being] spread thin over 40 to 70 cases per month.

  6. The information input to Blue Book is grossly inadequate. An impossible load is placed on Blue Book by the almost consistent failure of UFO officers at local air bases to transmit adequate information...

  7. The basic attitude and approach within Blue Book is illogical and unscientific...

  8. Inadequate use had been made of the Project scientific consultant [Hynek himself]. Only cases that the project monitor deems worthwhile are brought to his attention. His scope of operation ... has been consistently thwarted ... He often learns of interesting cases only a month or two after the receipt of the report at Blue Book.



Despite Sleeper's request for criticism, none of Hynek's commentary resulted in any substantial changes in Blue Book.

Quinatnilla's
Hector Quintanilla
Hector Quintanilla JR. was a United States Air Force Lt Colonel best known as the last chief officer of Project Blue Book, the USAF's official unidentified flying object investigative arm.-Biography:...

 own perspective on the project is documented in his manuscript, "UFOs, An Air Force Dilemma.” Lt. Col Quintanilla wrote the manuscript in 1975, but it was not published until after his death. Quintanilla states in the text that he personally believed it arrogant to think human beings were the only intelligent life in the universe. Yet, while he found it highly likely that intelligent life existed beyond earth, he had no hard evidence of any extra terrestrial visitation.

The Condon Committee


Criticism of Blue Book continued to grow through the mid-1960s. NICAP's membership ballooned to about 15,000, and the group charged the U.S. Government with a cover-up
Cover-up
A cover-up is an attempt, whether successful or not, to conceal evidence of wrong-doing, error, incompetence or other embarrassing information...

 of UFO evidence.

Following U.S. Congressional hearings, the Condon Committee
Condon Committee
The Condon Committee was the informal name of the University of Colorado UFO Project, a group funded by the United States Air Force from 1966 to 1968 at the University of Colorado to study unidentified flying objects under the direction of physicist Edward Condon...

 was established in 1966, ostensibly as a neutral scientific research body. However, the Committee became mired in controversy, with some members charging director Edward U. Condon with bias, and critics would question the validity and the scientific rigor of the Condon Report.

In the end, the Condon Committee suggested that there was nothing extraordinary about UFOs, and while it left a minority of cases unexplained, the report also argued that further research would not be likely to yield significant results.

The End


In response to the Condon Committee's conclusions, Secretary of the Air Force Robert C. Seamans, Jr. announced that Blue Book would soon be closed, because further funding "cannot be justified either on the grounds of national security or in the interest of science." The last publicly acknowledged day of Blue Book operations was December 17, 1969. However, researcher Brad Sparks, citing research from the May, 1970 issue of NICAP's UFO Investigator, reports that the last day of Blue Book activity was actually January 30, 1970. According to Sparks, Air Force officials wanted to keep the Air Force's reaction to the UFO problem from overlapping into a fourth decade, and thus altered the date of Blue Book's closure in official files.

Blue Book's files were sent to the Air Force Archives at Maxwell Air Force Base
Maxwell Air Force Base
Maxwell Air Force Base , officially known as Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, is a United States Air Force installation under the Air Education and Training Command . The installation is located in Montgomery, Alabama, US. It was named in honor of Second Lieutenant William C...

 in Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

. Major David Shea was to later claim that Maxwell was chosen because it was "accessible yet not too inviting."

Ultimately, Project Blue Book stated that UFOs sightings were generated as a result of:
  • A mild form of mass hysteria.
  • Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax
    Hoax
    A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment, or rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences or April Fools' Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes.-Definition:The British...

     or seek publicity.
  • Psychopathological persons.
  • Misidentification of various conventional objects.


These official conclusions were directly contradicted by the USAF's own commissioned Blue Book Special Report #14. Psychological factors and hoaxes actually constituted less than 10% of all cases and 22% of all sightings, particularly the better-documented cases, remained unsolved. (See section below for details and Identified flying object
Identified flying object
Identifying Unidentified Flying Objects is a difficult task due to the normally poor quality of the evidence provided by those who report sighting the objects. Nevertheless, most officially investigated UFO sightings, such as from the U.S...

.)

As of April 2003, the USAF has publicly indicated that there are no immediate plans to re-establish any official government UFO study programs.

USAF current official statement on UFOs


Below is the United States Air Force's official statement regarding UFOs, as noted in USAF Fact Sheet 95-03:

Post-Blue Book U.S.A.F. UFO activities


An Air Force memorandum (released via the Freedom of Information Act) dated October 20, 1969 and signed by Brigadier General C.H. Bolander states that even after Blue Book was dissolved, that "reports of UFOs" would still "continue to be handled through the standard Air Force procedure designed for this purpose." Furthermore, wrote Bolander, "Reports of unidentified flying objects which could affect national security … are not part of the Blue Book system." To date, these other investigation channels, agencies or groups are unknown.

Additionally, Blum reports that Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act (United States)
The Freedom of Information Act is a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure...

 requests show that the U.S. Air Force has continued to catalog and track UFO sightings, particularly a series of dozens of UFO encounters from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s that occurred at U.S. military facilities with nuclear weapons. Blum writes that some of these official documents depart drastically from the normally dry and bureaucratic wording of government paperwork, making obvious the sense of "terror" that these UFO incidents inspired in many U.S.A.F. personnel.

Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14


In late December 1951, Ruppelt met with members of the Battelle Memorial Institute
Battelle Memorial Institute
Battelle Memorial Institute is a private nonprofit applied science and technology development company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Battelle is a charitable trust organized as a nonprofit corporation under the laws of the State of Ohio and is exempt from taxation under Section 501 of the...

, a think tank based in Columbus, Ohio. Ruppelt wanted their experts to assist them in making the Air Force UFO study more scientific. It was the Battelle Institute that devised the standardized reporting form. Starting in late March 1952, the Institute started analyzing existing sighting reports and encoding about 30 report characteristics onto IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

 punched cards for computer analysis.

Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14 was their massive statistical analysis of Blue Book cases to date, some 3200 by the time the report was completed in 1954, after Ruppelt had left Blue Book. Even today, it represents the largest such study ever undertaken. Battelle employed four scientific analysts, who sought to divide cases into "knowns", "unknowns", and a third category of "insufficient information." They also broke down knowns and unknowns into four categories of quality, from excellent to poor. E.g., cases deemed excellent might typically involve experienced witnesses such as airline pilots or trained military personnel, multiple witnesses, corroborating evidence such as radar contact or photographs, etc. In order for a case to be deemed a "known", only two analysts had to independently agree on a solution. However, for a case to be called an "unknown", all four analysts had to agree. Thus the criterion for an "unknown" was quite stringent.

In addition, sightings were broken down into six different characteristics — color, number, duration of observation, brightness, shape, and speed — and then these characteristics were compared between knowns and unknowns to see if there was a statistically significant difference.

The main results of the statistical analysis were:
  • About 69% of the cases were judged known or identified (38% were considered conclusively identified while 31% were still "doubtfully" explained); about 9% fell into insufficient information. About 22% were deemed "unknown", down from the earlier 28% value of the Air Force studies.
  • In the known category, 86% of the knowns were aircraft, balloons, or had astronomical explanations. Only 1.5% of all cases were judged to be psychological or "crackpot" cases. A "miscellaneous" category comprised 8% of all cases and included possible hoaxes.
  • The higher the quality of the case, the more likely it was to be classified unknown. 35% of the excellent cases were deemed unknowns, as opposed to only 18% of the poorest cases. This was the exact opposite of the result predicted by skeptics, who usually argued unknowns were poorer quality cases involving unreliable witnesses that could be solved if only better information were available.
  • In all six studied sighting characteristics, the unknowns were different from the knowns at a highly statistically significant level: in five of the six measures the odds of knowns differing from unknowns by chance was only 1% or less. When all six characteristics were considered together, the probability of a match between knowns and unknowns was less than 1 in a billion.


(More detailed statistics can be found at Identified flying object
Identified flying object
Identifying Unidentified Flying Objects is a difficult task due to the normally poor quality of the evidence provided by those who report sighting the objects. Nevertheless, most officially investigated UFO sightings, such as from the U.S...

s.)

Despite this, the summary section of the Battelle Institute's final report declared it was "highly improbable that any of the reports of unidentified aerial objects... represent observations of technological developments outside the range of present-day knowledge." A number of researchers, including Dr. Bruce Maccabee
Bruce Maccabee
Bruce Maccabee is an American optical physicist formerly employed by the U.S. Navy, and a leading ufologist.- Biography :MacCabee received a B.S. in physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., and then at American University, Washington, DC,...

, who extensively reviewed the data, have noted that the conclusions of the analysts were usually at odds with their own statistical results, displayed in 240 charts, tables, graphs and maps. Some conjecture that the analysts may simply have had trouble accepting their own results or may have written the conclusions to satisfy the new political climate within Blue Book following the Robertson Panel.

When the Air Force finally made Special Report #14 public in October 1955, it was claimed that the report scientifically proved that UFOs did not exist. Critics of this claim note that the report actually proved that the "unknowns" were distinctly different from the "knowns" at a very high statistical significance
Statistical significance
In statistics, a result is called statistically significant if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance. The phrase test of significance was coined by Ronald Fisher....

 level. The Air Force also incorrectly claimed that only 3% of the cases studied were unknowns, instead of the actual 22%. They further claimed that the residual 3% would probably disappear if more complete data were available. Critics counter that this ignored the fact that the analysts had already thrown such cases into the category of "insufficient information", whereas both "knowns" and "unknowns" were deemed to have sufficient information to make a determination. Also the "unknowns" tended to represent the higher quality cases, q.e. reports that already had better information and witnesses.

The result of the monumental BMI study were echoed by a 1979 French GEPAN
GEIPAN
GEIPAN , formerly known as GEPAN and SEPRA , is a unit of the French Space Agency CNES whose brief is to investigate unidentified aerospace phenomena and make its findings available to the public....

 report which stated that about a quarter of over 1,600 closely studied UFO cases defied explanation, stating, in part, "These cases … pose a real question." When GEPAN's successor SEPRA
GEIPAN
GEIPAN , formerly known as GEPAN and SEPRA , is a unit of the French Space Agency CNES whose brief is to investigate unidentified aerospace phenomena and make its findings available to the public....

 closed in 2004, 5800 cases had been analyzed, and the percentage of inexplicable unknowns had dropped to about 14%. The head of SEPRA, Dr. Jean-Jacques Velasco, found the evidence of extraterrestrial origins so convincing in these remaining unknowns, that he wrote a book about it in 2005.http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc1627.htm

Hynek's criticism


Hynek was an associate member of the Robertson Panel
Robertson Panel
The Robertson Panel was a committee commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1952 in response to widespread reports of unidentified flying objects, especially in the Washington, D.C. area. The panel was briefed on U.S...

, which recommended that UFOs needed debunking
Debunker
A debunker is an individual who attempts to discredit and contradict claims as being false, exaggerated or pretentious. The term is closely associated with skeptical investigation of, or in some cases irrational resistance to, controversial topics such as U.F.O.s, claimed paranormal phenomena,...

. A few years later, however, Hynek's opinions about UFOs changed, and he thought they represented an unsolved mystery deserving scientific scrutiny. As the only scientist involved with US Government UFO studies from the beginning to the end, he could offer a unique perspective on Projects Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book.

After what he described as a promising beginning with a potential for scientific research, Hynek grew increasingly disenchanted with Blue Book during his tenure with the project, leveling accusations of indifference, incompetence, and of shoddy research on the part of Air Force personnel. Hynek notes that during its existence, critics dubbed Blue Book "The Society for the Explanation of the Uninvestigated."

Blue Book was headed by Ruppelt, then Captain Hardin, Captain Gregory, Major Friend, and finally Major Hector Quintanilla. Hynek had kind words only for Ruppelt and Friend. Of Ruppelt, he wrote "In my contacts with him I found him to be honest and seriously puzzled about the whole phenomenon." Of Friend, he wrote "Of all the officers I worked with in Blue Book, Colonel Friend earned my respect. Whatever private views he may have held, he was a total and practical realist, and sitting where he could see the scoreboard, he recognized the limitations of his office but conducted himself with dignity and a total lack of the bombast that characterized several of the other Blue Book heads."

He held Quintanilla in especially low regard: "Quintanilla's method was simple: disregard any evidence that was counter to his hypothesis." Hynek wrote that during Air Force Major Hector Quintanilla
Hector Quintanilla
Hector Quintanilla JR. was a United States Air Force Lt Colonel best known as the last chief officer of Project Blue Book, the USAF's official unidentified flying object investigative arm.-Biography:...

's tenure as Blue Book's director, “the flag of the utter nonsense school was flying at its highest on the mast.” Hynek reported that Sergeant David Moody, one of Quintanilla’s subordinates, “epitomized the conviction-before-trial method. Anything that he didn’t understand or didn’t like was immediately put into the psychological category, which meant ‘crackpot’.”

Hynek reported bitter exchanges with Moody when the latter refused to research UFO sightings thoroughly, describing Moody as “the master of the possible: possible balloon, possible aircraft, possible birds, which then became, by his own hand (and I argued with him violently at times) the probable.”

Project UFO


Project Blue Book was the inspiration for the 1978–1979 TV show Project UFO
Project UFO
Project UFO was an NBC television series which lasted two seasons, from 1978 to 1979. Based loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book, the show was created by Dragnet veteran Jack Webb, who pored through Air Force files looking for episode ideas...

(which was also called Project Blue Book), which was supposedly based on Project Blue Book cases. However, the show frequently went against the actual project conclusions, suggesting on many occasions that some sightings were real extraterrestrials.

Twin Peaks


Project Blue Book played a major role in the second season of the 1990–1991 TV series Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks is an American television serial drama created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. The series follows the investigation headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper , of the murder of a popular teenager and homecoming queen, Laura Palmer...

. Major Garland Briggs, an Air Force officer who worked on the program, approaches protagonist Dale Cooper
Dale Cooper
FBI Special agent Dale Bartholomew Cooper is a fictional character from the television series Twin Peaks, portrayed by Kyle MacLachlan. He is the lead protagonist of the series, and briefly appears in the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me....

 and reveals that Cooper's name turned up in an otherwise nonsensical radio transmission intercepted by the Air Force, which inexplicably originated from the woods surrounding the town of Twin Peaks. As the season progresses, it is revealed that the source of the transmission is the transdimensional realm of The Black Lodge
Black Lodge
The Black Lodge is a fictional setting featured in the television series Twin Peaks. It is an extradimensional place which seems to include, primarily, the "Red Room" first seen by Agent Cooper in a dream early in the series...

, inhabited by beings which feed on the human emotions of pain and suffering; it eventually comes out that Briggs worked with Cooper's rival, corrupt FBI agent Windom Earle
Windom Earle
Windom Earle is a fictional character in the American TV series Twin Peaks, played by Kenneth Welsh.He is a former FBI agent, and the former partner and best friend of Agent Dale Cooper. He features in the second half of the second season. He is an evil genius and a master of disguise, well-versed...

, on Project Blue Book, and that the two men apparently uncovered evidence of the Lodge during the course of their work.

Galactica 1980


Every episode of the original Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica is an American science fiction franchise created by Glen A. Larson. The franchise began with the Battlestar Galactica TV series in 1978, and was followed by a brief sequel TV series in 1980, a line of book adaptations, original novels, comic books, a board game, and video games...

spin-off series Galactica 1980
Galactica 1980
Galactica 1980 is a science fiction television series, and a spin-off from the 1978–1979 series Battlestar Galactica. It was first broadcast on the ABC network in the United States from January 27 to May 4, 1980.-Development:...

ended with a short statement about the U.S. Air Force's 1969 Project Blue Book findings that UFOs are not proven to exist and "are not a threat to national security".

External links