1951-1969 (Part 2)
In April 1956 the zealous debunker Captain George T. Gregory assumed leadership of Blue Book after Captain Hardin transferred to other duty. Other ATIC veterans also left in 1956, creating a loss of awareness in the project of its own history. During Gregory’s tenure UFO reports were carelessly and thoughtlessly classified. For example, if a child reported a UFO, policy dictated it automatically be attributed to an overactive imagination. Any reports coming out of Canada were put into the insufficient data category and overseas sightings were rarely recorded. Gregory, however, was not a poor officer. In Hynek’s words, “promotion was the be-all and end-all of existence” to this career-minded man.
That’s what Blue Book had become by 1956—a carefully controlled project run by those who could follow orders. No one wanted another Ruppelt who would run off to a comfortable highly paid civilian job and write (what they thought was) a tell-all book. The manner in which Air Force Headquarters required ATIC and thus Blue Book to handle UFO reports was by design, aimed more at public relations than investigation. Blue Book chiefs were made to believe that by dissuading public attention on UFOs, a correlation would result in decreasing numbers of those bothersome sightings. That became a form of results much easier to show to the Pentagon than the more difficult task of conducting expensive investigations into a complex phenomena. It might even mean a promotion and certainly guaranteed every career officer’s goal—a paid retirement.
In October 1958 Blue Book received a very needed shot in the arm when Major Robert Friend replaced Captain Gregory as head of the project. His presence significantly bolstered morale because Friend had substantial scientific training and approached his job in a fair and impartial way just as Ruppelt had. But by that time, Blue Book had many limitations Ruppelt never faced. Friend tried very hard to organize a then chaotic project. Fearing many UFO files had been taken as souvenirs just as had been done prior to Ruppelt’s time, he proposed microfilming reports. He also suggested cataloging sightings which would create an index to evaluate common characteristics. Both of these plans required funds that Friend was never able to acquire from his superiors, although he did succeed in establishing monthly meetings with an unofficial scientific advisory group chaired by Dr. Hynek to discuss the unexplained cases and hopefully discern trends. (Friend kept in almost daily contact with Hynek throughout his term at Blue Book.) Hynek’s panel met with Friend until the end of 1960 and included astronomer L.V. Robinson, public relations expert Theodore J. Hieatt, chaplain Captain R. Pritz, physicist V.J. Handmacher, and psychologist Leroy D. Pigg.
An important suggestion that arose during Friend’s tenure urged UFO research to be transferred from ATIC to the more scientifically inclined Air Research and Development Command. ATIC did push for this, but ARDC commander, Lieutenant General Bernard Schriever, apparently did not want the burden of controversy that came with UFOs. In 1961 ATIC became part of the Air Force Foreign Technology Division of the Air Force Systems Command. At that time ATIC again tried to pass off UFO investigations onto other agencies like NASA or the National Science Foundation, but neither wanted the public relations nightmare that came with it.
Friend had so few resources by that late date in the project’s history that few cases could be investigated. In February of 1958 the Air Force revised regulation 200-2 for the fifth time. It stated that “Air Force activities must reduce the percentage of unidentified to the minimum.” In the wake of this change Blue Book started to look more and more like a mere repository of files with little investigative authority.
Back in July of 1957 ATIC was told that if it deemed further investigation warranted on a particular case, it could assign personnel of the 1006th Air Intelligence Service Squadron or AISS who were to take over the job from the 4602nd—disbanded by the Air Defense Command. By 1958, however, the Air Force cut the AISS’s budget, making it impossible to implement effective investigative procedures. By July of 1959 even that system ended when responsibility for follow up investigations was transferred from the 1006th to the 1127th Field Activities Group stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. But the 1127th completed very little work on UFO cases.
In 1963 Friend, by then a Lieutenant Colonel, retired as head of Blue Book—replaced by Major Hector Quintanilla. Quintanilla served merely as a caretaker of the project until it disbanded in 1969. A career-tracked officer, he always stressed the official line of public relations over investigation in strict accordance with orders. Quintanilla had no personal interest in UFOs and as the years went on strained the patience of the more eclectic Dr. Hynek due to his insistence on following Air Force policy at all times.
By 1965 a new UFO wave was well underway, proving to be the largest in history. Reports would flood in from all over the world but prove most numerous in the USSR and the United States. Dreading another onslaught of reports like the 1952 wave, the Air Force considered ways to extricate itself from the whole situation. They still had not overcome the public relations nightmare that UFOs presented and were tired of what they saw as not only an embarrassing problem, but an expensive one as well.
As the USAF continued to downplay sightings, NICAP, a large civilian research and lobbying coalition, became a very vocal critic. But as in the 1952 wave, the military had more on its mind than UFOs. The Cold War remained a real concern as the Robertson Panel’s words of forebodings continued to seem just as pertinent as they had been a decade earlier. U.S. involvement in Vietnam escalated in the mid 1960s and civil rights demonstrations continued as America became less and less interested in the mysteries of the universe and more focused on its own problems. Actually the entire Western world entered a period of disillusionment in that decade, spawned not just by European decolonization, but a Third World population explosion, global hunger, and environmental pollution.
Yet even in the midst of that world-wide unrest, The U.S. Congress focused on UFOs but only briefly. Although the Air Force would take considerable heat during the inquiry, they would also learn how to resolve their nagging problem. As the most sensational wave of all time transpired, the Air Force used its authority on the subject to fund a university study into the phenomenon. On the surface it would appear as a purely independent and impartial scientific inquiry. At first it did exactly what the Air Force hoped it would do. NICAP praised the formation of what became known as the Condon Committee and Congress appeared pacified too. As time wore on, however, it became obvious that the committee did not have the desire to enter into a meaningful scientific inquiry. The motivation simply was not there—leading to a poorly organized study, and a very expensive one at that, costing the American taxpayers over a half million dollars. When the committee presented its final report, it recommended the Air Force drop UFO investigations, allowing them to gracefully bring a halt to Project Blue Book in 1969. Because it was published under the respected name of project leader Dr. Edward Condon, the scientific community automatically accepted the conclusions. Most scientists did this without ever reading it let alone even taking the time to pick up a copy of the report.
As America landed men on the moon, the public became even less fascinated with spaceships from other worlds. They now had spaceships of their own and were very proud of them. In connection with the Condon Report, great accomplishments like Apollo made science seem a solution to all of man’s problems. This had been a perception since the technological leaps in the 1890s, but prior to the space age, science still seemed a realm full of unlimited magical possibilities. With America’s acceleration in education following Sputnik, science lost that mystical veil, becoming a practical tool of even the layman. Yet, out of enlightenment came a hypocrisy which chose to only recognize the scientific laws men were able to utilize at hand.
It is interesting to note however that in 1968 the Committee on Science and Astronautics conducted a symposium at the urging of Representative J. Edward Roush of Indiana. Roush was a confirmed NICAP supporter. He outlined to Congress serious concerns he had developed after talking to Dr. James McDonald about the scientific profundity of the Colorado project. Roush then attracted attention through an interview he gave to the Denver Post, in which he talked about the implications of the Air Force’s influence on the Condon committee.
Six distinguished scientists from major universities attended the symposium including sociologist Dr. Robert L. Hall, Dr. Hynek, Dr. Carl Sagan, and Dr. McDonald. Two engineers, Dr. James A. Harder and Dr. Robert M. Baker, also sat on the panel. The committee was prohibited from getting entangled with the Condon committee or criticizing the Air Force as such statements could only have been discussed in a session of the Armed Services Committee.
Dr. Hynek used this as the first public forum to openly indicate that there may indeed be “scientific pay dirt” in the phenomenon. He also freely admitted that the Air Force had little interest in investigating UFO reports after 1953—having come to the conclusion that they did not present a threat to national security. He stressed that a small handful of contactees and pulp magazines had for years made UFOs an illegitimate subject in scientific circles. While he in no way suggested that UFOs were of an extraterrestrial origin, he made it clear that there was no way to even discuss the possibility without generating ridicule. Hynek then suggested the formation of an official “UFO Scientific Board of Inquiry” using the United Nations as a forum for an interchange of sighting reports.
Overall, the conclusions of the committee members stated that UFOs merited serious study and should be given closer and more objective attention. Some, like Sagan and Hall, questioned if UFOs were of an extraterrestrial nature but admitted that it was possible although unlikely. Both agreed with the need to study the subject further and Dr. Hall warned the government that it should release its files on UFOs to defuse concern over the issue. Dr. James Harder of the University of California went so far as to state: “On the basis of the data and ordinary rules of evidence, as would be applied in civil or criminal courts, the physical reality of UFOs has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” He went on to say that the objects were “interplanetary.”
Dr. Robert Baker, a former UCLA professor of astronomy and engineering and editor of the Journal of the Astronomical Science, concluded—expressing an opinion that the old Newhouse and Mariana Films were most probably of anomalistic objects. He revealed that the Air Defense Command, (which by then could monitor outer space for a possible Soviet missile attack) had produced “a number of anomalistic alarms.” Dr. Baker commented that he felt this was the only surveillance system that even had a “slight opportunity” of detecting advanced space visitors. Papers from the long time UFO debunker Dr. Donald Menzel as well as five other scientists with less pessimistic views including Stanton Friedman were then read into the record.
Unfortunately, the symposium’s dialogue became completely overshadowed by the release of the Condon Committee’s final report in the fall. Its 1,485 page hard back version studied 91 total cases, 61 of which were identified as misperceptions or hoaxes. The rest were classified as unidentified. Some famous UFO cases were reexamined like Major Lewis D. Chase’s July 1957 incident in an RB-47. But just as during the Robertson Panel discussions, very few of the thousands of cases available were studied. NICAP had donated some of its best cases and less than one percent were examined. The scientific community, unaware of this, praised the efforts of the Condon report and the press then soon followed with an overall endorsement of its work.The conclusions everyone focused on, especially the Air Force, stated: There has been no advance to science through the study of UFOs in the past, and there likely will be no advance in the future. Consequently, the Air Force should give up its official project. There are, therefore, three main elements to the conclusion:
1. There has been no advance.
2. There almost surely never will be.
3. Project Blue Book should close.
The Air Force, not surprisingly, agreed with the assessments. Condon in fact repeatedly urged in his conclusions that the government as a wholeshould not be involved with the study of UFOs and agreed with the Air Force’s conviction that the phenomenon presented no danger to national security. Condon even went so far as to warn that children in the school system could be “educationally harmed” by studying UFOs—recommending teachers discipline those having interest in the subject! (The Air Force, by the way, was then receiving approximately 3,000 letters per month from children desiring information to assist them in writing papers on UFOs for school projects.)
On December 17th of 1969, virtually a foregone conclusion after the Condon report, the new Secretary of the Air Force, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., announced the termination of Blue Book and all involvement in UFO investigations. The Air Force’s justification stated UFOs presented no threat to national security and had no scientific value for study. The dissolution of Blue Book marked the end of an official recognition of the subject. Afterwards, UFOs would occasionally be discussed, but always with the suggestion that they were merely a periodic fad.
Although Blue Book ended in 1969, the speculation continued that the government might still have a secret, high level investigation. The subject was discussed at a meeting at Hynek’s home on September 14, 1969, with his close friends affectionately known as the the “Invisible College.” Hynek told his friends Jacques Vallee and Bill Powers that there may indeed be another study but that it would undoubtedly have the same data that Blue Book collected. His colleagues, however, disagreed. They felt a real study would go beyond the scope of file clerks. It would have access to radar records that Blue Book was never allowed to see.
After that meeting Vallee made a significant entry in his diary that tells a great deal about the last days of Blue Book and Hynek’s association with it. It is so very critical to understanding the hypocrisy of the time:
I have to agree with Fred when he says that the Air Force has kept Hynek
around only as long as he was silent. I came to Evanston six years ago
and put pressure on him, urging him to change his stance. A string of
important cases forced the issue. When he started talking, arguing for a
new study, the Air Force simply pushed him aside. First they defused the
issue by getting their most vocal opponents to testify before bogus
congressional hearings; then they selected Ed Condon, a physicist who
was about to retire, and he signed his name to a report which was a
travesty of science, yet reassured the establishment. They used that
report to bring about the liquidation of Hynek’s position, but they were
careful not to fire him.
Allen is now fifty-nine years old. He still goes to Dayton regularly
and remains on the payroll as a part-time consultant. He never sees
Quintanilla, who still works there with a lieutenant and a couple of
secretaries. He is received personally by the commander, who hints he
might put him on his own list of consultants someday. Colonel
Winebrenner, a former military attache with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow
and in Prague, takes him to lunch at the officers’ club.
‘What do you talk about?’ asks Fred.
‘Oh, we talk about lots of things, ordinary things like the weather,’
answers Allen innocently. ‘We talk about the places we have both
traveled to. Foreign foods, European cuisine. He snaps his fingers and
old bottles of Chateau-Latour materialize on the table in front of us.
He speaks to me in Czech. He even gave me a copy of a UFO novel, The
Hynek has been charmed and neutralized by the Air Force. That doesn’t
mean anything, and it especially doesn’t mean there is an ongoing secret
study. It is highly undesirable for the air force of any country to have
the citizenry believe in the reality of a phenomenon against which our
jet fighters are powerless.
In the last year of its existence, Blue Book received 146 UFO reports of which only one received the unidentified classification. Virtually all of the cases that came in by that point were civilian sightings. Military personnel no longer reported UFOs—they weren’t supposed to. The Air Force claimed UFOs were no longer seen by the military simply because they are trained observers that cannot be fooled by such things. Historically, however, that was not true. For the 22 years that the Air Force investigated UFOs they received 12,750 reports of which 587 were classified as unidentified. (At one time Air Force files listed 701 unidentifieds but today only 587 are noted in the declassified index.)
A significant percentage of those came from trained military observers and pilots. It is also important to remember that the USAF on average only received reports from about ten percent of those seeing UFOs. Many of the sightings they did get were never investigated, but merely filed according to a predetermined category as Blue Book personnel saw fit. And not all of those reports were given case numbers—making the total count of incidents on file closer to 16,000.
These records are now available on microfilm from the National Archives for anyone to view. Other material can be studied at the Air Force Historical Center at Maxwell AFB. In addition, the Air Force has periodically declassified relevant material about UFO investigations. Combined with determined freedom of information requests filed by researchers from many fields of discipline, new information on UFO events since 1947 are still coming to light. In fact, at the time of this writing 240 pages of UFO-related records have been released from the National Security Agency. Several thousand pages of mid-1950s era UFO case files of the 4602nd Air Intelligence Service Squadron have also been released. The National Archives’ Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, despite stating for years that their Air Force intelligence files were destroyed in a fire, have also announced the existence of 910 pages of old Sign and Grudge files including many of the missing cases. What new evidence will these records and future releases tell us? The history of Blue Book is not complete—not without your help.
Project Bluebook Facts