Captain Edward Ruppelt - The first head of project Blue Book (Flammonde)
PROJECT BLUE BOOK
By Tim Printy Ó 2001
THE NEW PROJECT GRUDGE: RUPPELT TAKES THE HELM
After Project Grudge was essentially terminated, the Air Technical Intelligence Division (which became the Air Technical Intelligence Center - ATIC- in 1951) was not very interested in investigating UFO reports. Ruppelt was an intelligence officer assigned to ATIC and, since ATIC handled UFO reports, he became somewhat involved in these sightings. For the first ten months he watched the operations of what was left of Project Grudge and how things were handled. Most of what was conducted was cursory and minimal effort was expended. With the advent of the Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey radar-visual event, the Pentagon woke up and began to ask questions. The director of Intelligence himself, General Cabell, had called wanting a response. Lieutenant Cummings, the head of UFO investigations at the time, had to go to the Pentagon to explain the events and the status of UFO investigations. Cummings brought up the fact that since the termination of project Grudge, investigations had been lackluster at best. Ruppelt was asked to step in and assume a leadership role for UFO investigations. The new Project Grudge was back in business in October of 1951.
By March of 1952, the project had acquired the name Blue Book with Ruppelt as its head. He made changes right away and wanted thorough and unbiased investigations. According to Ruppelt,
As long as I was chief of the UFO project, this was our basic rule. If anyone became anti-flying saucer and was no longer capable of making an unbiased evaluation of a report, out he went. Conversely anyone who became a believer was through. We were too busy during the initial phases of the project to speculate as to whether the unknowns were spaceships, space monsters, Soviet weapons, or ethereal visions. I had to let three people go for being too pro or too con. (Ruppelt 114)
Ruppelt wanted to collect all the sightings as rapidly as possible. AF letter 200-5, dated 29 April 1952, directed all intelligence officers to report UFO sightings to ATIC immediately by wire. A more detailed follow-up report was to be sent to ATIC by airmail or other means. By June 1952, Ruppelt felt he had his group working according to plan. He only had a permanent staff of eight and they did not conduct all of the investigations. Ruppelt explains,
Only the best reports we received could be personally investigated in the field by Project Blue Book personnel. The vast majority of the reports had to be evaluated on the basis of what the intelligence officer who had written the report had been able to uncover, or what data we could get by telephone or by mailing out a questionnaire. (Ruppelt 140)
Blue Book would classify all the sightings in three major categories:
Identified: Sufficient specific information has been accumulated and evaluated to permit a positive identification or explanation of the object.
Insufficient Information: One or more elements of information essential for evaluation are missing.
Unidentified (At the time called "unknown"): A report apparently contains all pertinent data necessary to suggest a valid hypothesis concerning the cause or explanation of the report but the description of the object or its motion cannot be correlated with any known object or phenomena.
(USAF Project Blue Book 6)
A major complaint by UFOlogists were that the insufficient information and identified categories were lumped together to improve their numbers. This is what happened but it seems for less than sinister reasons. Ruppelt just seemed more interested in weeding out the unidentified cases to study them than wasting effort over reports that could never be solved one way or the other. The lumping together with the identifieds became policy and, unfortunately, resulted in a somewhat skewed result when examining how many cases were actually unsolved.
1952: BLUE BOOK GETS IT FEET WET AND IT'S HEAD DUNKED
With his team in place, Ruppelt began to evaluate the UFO reports that began to trickle in the first few months. During the spring there was a build up of reports but not so much that Blue Book could not handle the load. By summer the trickle of reports turned into a flood. Ruppelt wrote,
To anyone who had anything to do with flying saucers, the summer of 1952 was just one big swirl of UFO reports, hurried trips, midnight telephone calls, reports to the Pentagon, press interviews, and very little sleep. (Ruppelt 141)
The United States Air Force saw the greatest number of UFO reports generated in 1952 than in any other year of the project. With such a vast number of reports, Ruppelt, with his small staff, had difficulty in resolving them. They received 1501 reports in 1952 according to USAF records. Of these, 303 were classified as unidentified. Considering the size of his staff, one would think that an 80% solution rate would be impressive but in reality not that many were solved. A significant number of the remaining 1198 were classified as insufficient information (roughly 20% of the total number). The actual solution rate was more like 60%. Again, one must consider the limited staff that Ruppelt had at his disposal. With the total number of reports for just the month of July 1952 peaking at 536, it was easy for his staff to become overwhelmed. The caseload also made it difficult for investigators to obtain all the necessary information to try and resolve a case. In addition to the limited personnel resources, Ruppelt's staff was just learning how to do their job, as he wanted them. The massive number of sightings and inexperience at working with the reports were key factors to consider when evaluating the "unknowns/insufficient informations" recorded for 1952.
In December 1952, Ruppelt gave a briefing for Air Defense Command Units. Ruppelt starts off the briefing with an introduction into Blue Book's attitude on the subject,
As you have been told, this briefing is about Unidentified Flying Objects or "flying saucers if you insist. We don't like the name "flying saucers" and only rarely use it because it seems to represent weird stories, hoaxes, etc., sort of a joke. We don't take "flying saucers" too seriously either, but we do take the problem of Unidentified Flying Objects seriously. The definition of an Unidentified Flying Object is an airborne object that by performance, aerodynamic characteristics or unusual features does not conform to any presently known type of aircraft or missile, or which cannot be identified as a known object or phenomena. (Steiger 394)
Ruppelt then proceeds to explain the "current situation".
It can be stated now that as far as the current situation is concerned, there are no indications that the reported objects are a direct threat to the United States nor is there any proof that the reported objects are any foreign body over the United States or, as far as we know, the rest of the world. This always brings up the question of space travel. We have gone into this with many people and it is the opinion of most scientists or people that should know that it is not impossible for some other planet to be inhabited and for this planet to send beings down to earth. However, there is no, and I want to emphasize and repeat the word "No", evidence of this in any report the Air Force has received. (Steiger 397)
After showing the statistics of all the sightings Blue Book had catalogued, Ruppelt then discusses the unknowns and the problems associated with them. Ruppelt laments, "It might well be that if we had more data on the sighting, it could easily be explained" (Steiger 400). This does sound like the insufficient information category but the key difference between unknown and insufficient information had to do with "reliability" of the observer and if others could verify the report. If the observer's reliability was in question or he was the sole witness, the report may be classified under insufficient information. However, if the observer was considered reliable or somebody else reported seeing the UFO as well, the report may have been listed as an unknown. Therefore, in at least some cases, the unknowns were based on the observer and not so much the information. This was the continuing quandary of Blue Book. What role should the subjective eyewitness "reliability" factor play in the final classification of a case. In his conclusion Ruppelt writes, "We admit we cannot explain every report but we believe we know enough about the unknowns to say they are not anything to invoke undue speculation" (Steiger 405).
BLUE BOOK SPECIAL REPORT NUMBER 14 GIVES NO JOY TO THE USAF
Shortly after taking over, Ruppelt engaged a team of scientists from the Battelle Memorial Institute to evaluate the sightings. They agreed to take on the study and conducted analysis for almost two years on the subject. The final result of this examination of the evidence was what became known as "Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14". The report states the following concerning the data from Blue Book's files:
...the data were subjective, consisting of qualified estimates of physical characteristics rathre than of precise measurements. Furthermore, most of the reports were not reduced to written form immediately. The time between sighting and report varied from one day to several years. Both of these factors introduced an element of doubt concerning the validity of the original data, and increased it s subjectivity. This was intensified by the recognized inability of the average individual to estimate speeds, distances, and sizes of objects in the air with any degree of accuracy...The danger lies in the possibility of forgetting the subjectivity of the data at the time that conclusions are drawn from the analysis. It must be emphasized, again and again, that the conclusions contained in this report are based NOT on facts, but on what many observers thought and estimated the true facts to be. (United States Air Technical Intelligence Center 3-4)
It was the USAF and Battelle institutes belief that when the best reports were examined, there would be few, if any, unknowns. However, statistics are often misleading. If one is using data that is subjective, as stated in the report, how good could the analysis of data be? This is the "garbage in, garbage out" explanation. It is known that even the best observers can make mistakes and the nature of the data is what the report played up, while downplaying the statistics. For instance, we read the following:
The reaction, mentioned above, that after reading a few reports, the reader is convinced that "Flying saucers" are real and are some form of sinister contrivance, is very misleading. As more and more of the reports are read, the feeling that "saucers" are real fades, and is replaced by a feeling of skepticism regarding their existence. The reader eventually reaches a point of a saturation, after which the reports contain no new information at all and are no longer of any interest. (United States Air Technical Intelligence Center 93)
The Battelle report resolved nothing and the USAF continued its business of trying to evaluate all the reports presented to it.
1953-1963: HELP ARRIVES AND CHANGES AT THE TOP
In early 1953, a panel of distinguished scientists was convened with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to examine the UFO "problem". The CIA became interested after the events of 1952 showed that there was a possible security risk involved. The panel (called the Robertson Panel) reviewed the workings of Blue Book and examined some important cases during the five days they met. The panel did not give a favorable evaluation of the investigations and felt the unknowns were not indicative of anything unusual. However, they felt that UFO reports represented a security risk in that an opposing force could use them to flood communications channels as a prelude to a sneak attack. The scientists involved desired the government remove the mythological status of UFO reports by educating the public and "debunking" each sighting as it was reported. UFOlogists focus on the term "debunking" to show that these scientists (one of which won the noble prize) were biased against the phenomena. Reading the panel's evaluation, it is fairly clear the Robertson panel was more interested in the security aspects of UFO reports than trying to downplay investigation of new phenomena by interested scientists.
Blue Book realized that some changes were needed to better analyze the reports. Foremost would be the need for more personnel to help sort out and gather pertinent data for the sightings. In late 1952, Ruppelt was able to acquire the services of the 4602nd Air Intelligence Service Squadron (AISS). The groups normal job was to interrogate captured airmen after being shot down. Since there was no significant action for these men, it was felt their talents could be put to use in UFO investigations. The use of the 4602nd AISS would make a significant impact on how Blue Book operated in the following years.
Blue Book began to take on changes as the head of the project changed. Ruppelt temporarily left Blue Book in 1953. When he left, Lt. Robert Olsson took charge but when he returned five months later, he found it in charge of a non-commissioned officer (Max Futch)! It seems UFO investigations had lost their importance during this time period. In March of 1954, a new head of Blue Book was appointed, Captain Charles Hardin. As 1954 progressed, the 4602nd AISS became more involved in the investigations. Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Project Blue Books astronomer consultant, and Hardin both briefed the staff of the 4602nd on the workings of Blue Book. The 4602nd was to make sure all the information on a sighting was obtained. Prior to this, the form was mailed to the individual and it was not done or incorrectly completed. This often resulted in an "insufficient information" listing. It was the job of the 4602nd to obtain the pertinent data as quickly as possible and follow up in locating the stimulus. As before, anything that could not be identified was sent to Blue Book. Once the 4602nd became more experienced, the number of unknowns began to drop quickly and by 1956, the values were near 1-2%. Hynek complains it was due to unfair statistical analysis and the crackdown requested by the Robertson Panel. The first may be true but the second seems unlikely since it was not until 1955 that the percentages dropped. If Hynek was correct, then 1953 and 1954 should have been low percentage years as well. A more likely scenario is that the 4602nd was starting to have an effect, as they became better at conducting investigations. Hardin was criticized for allowing the 4602nd to take control and not giving direction to the investigations. However, he was using the resources that he had at hand and the 4602nd seemed to be doing a good job. In April of 1956, Hardin was replaced by Captain George Gregory, who according to Jerry Clark, "led it into an even firmer anti-UFO direction than had the apathetic Hardin" (Clark 468). The comment about Hardin, is interesting because Ruppelt wrote the following:
Methods of investigation and analyzing UFO reports have improved a hundredfold since 1947 and they are continuing to be improved by the diligent work of Captain Charles Hardin, the present chief of Project Blue Book, his staff, and the 4602nd Air Intelligence Squadron. (Ruppelt 243)
If Hardin was so apathetic, Ruppelt seemed satisfied with his efforts at the time of writing his book. It was the increased manpower of the 4602nd that turned the tide in resolving cases by getting all the pertinent information to Blue Book.
Captain Gregory's reputation is one of a "Zealous UFO debunker" (Jacobs 142) in most UFO circles. This was because of his attitude towards UFOs. By 1956 most of the original Blue Book personnel were gone from ATIC. Gregory had a free hand at making his mark on the project without much questioning. Only Dr. J. Allen Hynek could have made much of a difference and he was not about to rock the boat at this point. Gregory made several changes in the way Blue Book classified cases. The classifications of probable/possible plane, meteor, etc. were placed in the solved category. In addition, reports by persons under age 18 were listed as more imagination than actual observation of something. Recall that sometimes the "insufficient information" cases differed from the "unknowns" based on the reliability of the observer. At best an observation by a 14-year-old could be an "insufficient information" if the individual was the sole observer of the event. While UFO groups question the motives of Gregory his efforts could be interpreted as being focused on trying to free up his personnel for investigating the tough cases.
In mid-1957, the 4602nd's involvement was disbanded and the 1006th AISS assumed the role of investigations. Eventually, the 1006th had it's funding reduced and, as a result, their involvement was curtailed. Still, during the next peak UFO period in the fall of 1957 (After the launch of Sputnik and during a Mars close opposition), the events of 1952 were not repeated. The totals for that year were 14 unknowns and 191 insufficient datas (600 of the 1006 sightings that year were in the last three months). One might reason that Gregory's "debunker methods" were the reason for the low number of "unknowns". However, in the 1970's, Hynek reevaluated all the cases and could only find 25 "unknowns" for 1957. This is still only 2-3%. It appears that Blue Book was capable of handling a large caseload even though its funding and extra assistance was reduced.
UFO groups disliked the way Blue Book handled investigations and "force-fitting" explanations during the time frame of 1953-1958. UFOlogists point to AFR 200-2, which stated, "Air Force activities must reduce the percentage of unidentifieds to the minimum" as an anti-UFO stance by the USAF. However, any one reading the entire 200-2 would realize the context with this was written. The full passage read:
Air Force activities must reduce the percentage of unidentifieds to the minimum. Analysis thus far has explained all but a few of the sightings reported. If more immediate, detailed, objective data on the unknowns had been available, probably these, too could have been explained. However, because of the human factors involved, and the fact that analyses of UFO sightings depend primarily on the personal impressions and interpretations of the observers rather than on accurate scientific data or facts obtained under controlled conditions, the elimination of all unidentifieds is improbable. (Condon 530)
Note that there is a desire to rapidly get to the location of the sighting and to obtain information. This was important for anyone trying to talk to a witness. The longer the lag time, the less fresh the impressions of the event would be. If they were attempting to "force-fit" explanations, there would not be this kind of direction. Rather than being an attempt to force explanations it seems that AFR 200-2 was more of a directive to make exhaustive attempts at resolving cases.
In late 1958, Major Friend took over as head of Blue Book and began to give greater involvement to Dr. J. Allen Hynek. He had been involved with UFO cases since project Sign and his involvement became more pronounced as the years went by. Initially, Hynek was just interested in solving cases but as more reports came in, his interest changed. He began to "believe" in the UFO phenomena as something other than misperceptions/hoaxes. Still Hynek continued to assist the Air Force in his role. At the time, he admitted that the USAF "had done a good job of handling a very difficult program with the limited resources available" (Jacobs 166). In later years, that opinion would change to accuse the Air Force of mismanagement and poor methodology.
One of Dr. Hynek's great accomplishments at Blue Book was to get more scientists involved during the period of Major Friend's term. He convinced Friend to bring in scientists from Wright-Patterson to help evaluate the truly puzzling UFO reports each month. The Major had some scientific training during his college years and this impressed Hynek. Hynek could converse with the man on his own level. Dr. J. Allen Hynek had the most respect for Friend,
Whatever private views he might have held, he was a tota1 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. (Hynek The UFO Experience 187)
Friend worked with Hynek but there was not much funding for such expenses in Blue Book. These study groups were short-lived and stopped after 1960. They accomplished nothing of significance and many of these cases were still classified as "unknown" (now called "unidentified"). Major Friend left his position in 1963 leaving Dr. Hynek with a new head of Project Blue Book to "enlighten".
1963-66: THE DOCTOR BECOMES A DILEMMA
Major Quintanilla (Flammonde)
The new head of Project Blue Book was Major Hector Quintanilla. Again, the size of the Blue Book staff shrank. Quintanilla had to work using only two officers, one sergeant, and a civilian. Almost right away Quintanilla began to have, what he described as, "Doctor Troubles". Dr. Hynek, whom Quintanilla revered initially, began to strongly criticize the way things were run.
When Major Quintanilla came in, the flag of the utter nonsense school was flying at its highest on the mast. Now he had a certain Sgt. [David] Moody assisting him...[Moody] 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." He would not ever say that the person who reported a case was a fairly respectable person, maybe we should look into it, or maybe we should find out. He was also 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; he said, well, we have no category "possible" aircraft. It is therefore either unidentified or aircraft. Well, it is more likely aircraft; therefore it is aircraft.... An "unidentified" to Moody was not a challenge for further research. To have it remain unidentified was a blot... and he did everything to remove it. He went back to cases from Captain Gregory's days and way back in Ruppelt's days and redid the files. A lot that were unidentified in those days he "identified" years and years later. (Clark 473)
Hynek made a lot of claims towards Moody but in his book, The Hynek UFO Report, he discusses how his group went back and reinvestigated all the Bluebook files. The end result of the reinvestigation of all the cases was that there were 640 unknowns. This is less than the Air Force totals at the end of Blue Book. Compare the number of unidentifieds of Hynek's reevaluation with those of Bluebook.
|Year||Unidentifieds (Blue Book)||Unidentifieds (Hynek)|
(Hynek The Hynek UFO Report 254)
I find it interesting to note that only 1966 and 1968, did Hynek produce more unknowns than the USAF did during the period of Quintanilla's leadership. Even then, it was only a handful of cases and he seems to have identified many more in the other years. It hardly seems that Moody/Quintanilla were far from the mark. Additionally, his accusations about Moody going back to "fix the books" in previous years were not that good either. Ruppelt and Gregory served in the years 1951- 1954, 1956-1958. The Ruppelt unidentifieds were less in Hynek's study than Project Blue Books. The Gregory unidentifieds were greater for Hynek but it seems the blanket accusations thrown out by Hynek are more exaggeration than fact. Recall that Gregory was considered to be a "debunker" and his explanations, as well as Moody's, would be subject to change. These claims by Hynek about Sergeant Moody and Major Quintanilla seem to be more an emotional response than one of unbiased appraisal.
Dr. J. Allan Hynek was a big problem over the years for Major Quintanilla and Blue Book
Hynek had reason to dislike Moody. Quintanilla writes:
Prior to April, 1964, I had very little trouble with Hynek. He complained to me that Dave Moody was not treating him according to his scientific stature or some crap like that. I talked to Dave about it the first couple of times and Dave would come back that he was too busy to baby sit or kiss the Doctors ass and that if he would get busy and evaluate the cases that were referred to him, that he wouldnt have time to worry about scientific stature. Dr. Hynek and Dave had a thing going and I decided to study it. After I analyzed the situation, I had to agree with Dave. Dr. Hynek would come into the office and he would spend the first couple of hours socializing or gossiping or telling us a lot of nonsense about who was writing books, articles, etc. It was during one of these distracting sessions that I raised my voice and asked Dr. Hynek to confine his visit to case studies and let the rest of the staff proceed with their work. (Quintanilla 67)
So it seems that Hynek's real problem was the way he got along with Moody. According to this, Hynek spent more time in "deep scientific thought" than in helping with case studies. Moody, being an enlisted man, did not have Hynek's schooling. However, he did have a job to do in identifying cases and did not have the time to cater to the Doctor's ego. Investigating unidentified cases was not an easy job and Moody probably had plenty on his plate. To see Hynek pontificating about this and that probably irritated Moody (and eventually Quintanilla) to no end. As for Hynek's other assertions, it is likely that Moody explained away cases but not as Hynek suggests. It was more likely that it was after looking at what data he had and not with a wave of the hand. Hynek's own numbers concerning the reevaluation during the time period in question suggest this. Hynek's real problem with the whole process is that it was not a scientific study. Hyenk forgot that Blue Book was never considered a "scientific study" but an evaluation of the phenomena by the department responsible for the defense of the country's air space. Moody was just trying to conduct investigations/evaluations while Hynek wanted something else and, for this, Hynek vilified Moody.
Quintanilla realized that Hynek did not care for his handling of the project. There definitely was a problem between the two men as Quintanilla notes,
Up to this time, Hynek had taken a fairly stable stand with regards to UFOs and the associated phenomena. As the wind changed the desert, so Hynek began to change and I never knew what was coming next. He embarrassed me and the Air Force on a number of occasions; but I kept my cool in public, and wasted no words with him in private. Time and time again I asked him to clarify his comments and remarks and all Id get would be a weasel word explanation. I had become concerned because at times I couldnt believe what I read in print. For example: In April, 1966, Dr. Hynek stated before the House Armed Services Committee that he had twenty cases which he had "certified as well reported" and was unable to explain. In a letter to Science Magazine of October 21, 1966, he stated that, "I have in my files several hundred reports which are real brain teasers and could easily be made the subject of profitable discussion among physical and social scientists alike". In the December 17, 1966 article of the Saturday Post, Dr. Hynek stated, "of the 15,000 cases that have come to my attention, several hundred are puzzling, and some of the puzzling incidents perhaps one in twenty-five, are bewildering". According to my calculations, this would come to about sixty cases. Im not surprised at this statement, some of the cases that were puzzling to him were not at all puzzling to me, Dave Moody, Bill Marley, or Dr. Menzel. The Post article, which was by-lined by "J. Allen Hynek" was captioned as follows: "For years the Air Force has dismissed them as hoaxes, hallucinations, or misidentifications. Now the Air Forces own scientific consultant on Unidentified Flying Objects declares that many of the sightings cannot be so easily explained." I would like to reiterate that Dr. Hynek was never the Air Forces consultant on UFOs... A head-on confrontation between Dr. Hynek and it was apparent and after the Congressional hearing I was never to trust him again. It came to my attention that on a number of occasions he tried to undermine my official position. Somewhere in the Pentagon, there is a letter addressed to Dr. Harold Brown, Secretary of the Air Force, in which Dr. Hynek recommended that Major Hector Quintanilla Jr., Chief of Project Blue Book, be replaced by Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend, my predecessor. I have a copy of Dr. Browns reply to Dr. Hynek, it was dated February 7, 1967. Dr. Brown expressed satisfaction with my work and the following year I received two letters of Commendation, one from General LeBailley and one from General Giller. (Quintanilla 67-70)
When Hynek was approached about the numbers he discussed, he backtracked. In a letter to Foreign Technology Division's (FTD - the new name for ATIC) Chief Scientist, he jumped about finally stating the best number was fifty. Quintanilla remarked:
I am not going to comment on Dr. Hyneks reply to Dr. Cacioppos letter except to say Im sure glad I didnt waste all those years getting a Ph.D. so I could write letters which make statements such as, "If I have 600 cases, then I also have 20 in the sense that a man who has $100.00 certainly has $3.00." If you dont recognize this as a bunch of bull-shit, then you and I didnt go to the same school together. Dr. Cacioppo, myself, and the Pentagon didnt accept his reply as a valid explanation and as far as I know that is the way it stands today. Dave Moody was right, "Bull shit is bull shit no matter who slings it". Dave was an old Navy Swabee and he could recognize it from a long way off. (Quintanilla 70)
Like Moody, Quintanilla was frustrated with Hynek's inability to work with the team.
Hynek, who initially did not want to be recognized by the press, now seemed interested in grabbing headlines. When Qunitanilla sent Hynek to investigate the Socorro case, the report that was sent back was less than desirable:
it was one of his typical reports which contained few technical details and added practically nothing to what had already been submitted by Connor and Moody. Actually, Hynek added very little to the investigation, however, his typical press interviews added more flame to the fire. (Quintanilla 32)
Even more frustrating was the situation that occurred in the Dexter, Michigan UFO sighting, which prompted the "swamp gas" answer by Hynek.
Hynek called early in the morning and told me that reporters and TV cameramen were dogging him everywhere he went. I told him hed just have to put up with it and do the best he could, but I could tell he was pouting. He claimed that he just couldnt do the job with so many people around. He asked me if he could have a news conference and I said no. This was setting a precedent and I didnt like it. The next day Hynek called again, and informed me that he had a possible solution to Frank Mannors sighting and I asked him for the details. My secretary, Marilyn Beaumer Stancombe, was on the line taking all the information in short hand. He told me that the solution was "Swamp Gas". I told him to check this out with his colleagues at the university and let me know their reaction. In the meantime, I would check it out with the chemists and botanists on the base. He also wanted me to arrange for a press conference from the Information Office at Selfridge AFB. I was against this from the beginning, but he was insistent and I told him Id check it out with the Pentagon. I talked to Major Davis and Sara Hunt of SAFOI about the press conference and neither one of them was enthusiastic about the idea, however, in this particular case it could have its merits. Since it was setting a precedent, the decision would have to be made at the top. That evening at 6:30 p.m. I got a call from the Pentagon. It was Major Davis, and General Garland had made an affirmative decision with regards to the press conference. This time it would be an exception; however, I was not to submit requests of this type in the future. Hynek called me at the house at around nine oclock that night and I gave him the news. The first thing the next morning I called up Selfridge and told them to arrange the conference. Someone suggested the Detroit Press Club as the site of the conference and I couldnt see any objection to that. The reason for the change of sites was the convenience to reporters. The DetroitPress Club is much more accessible than the Selfridge Information office.
I did have specific instructions for Hynek. I wanted to see a copy of his news release before he distributed it to the reporters. I also wanted him to read his release to Sara Hunt at SAFOI, two hours before the conference, so that we could prepare copies for release to the National Media from the DoD press desk. Hynek read his release to Sara and copies were ready for distribution at the designated time. While Hynek was holding his news conference in Detroit, the Pentagon was releasing his finding to the Media in Washington, D.C.
The project took its lumps because many people had not heard of "Swamp Gas", Misama, Foxtails, Jack OLanterns, Will Othe Wisp, Foolish Fire, or Ignis Fatuces. The news media played this sighting to the hilt. The publicity that this sighting received was unbelievable. Hynek became an instant celebrity and the sightings started pouring in. We had a total of 1,112 sightings in 1966 and that total has never been equaled since. (Quintanilla 51-2)
The Michigan flap sparked a congressional hearing. The result was that both Quintanilla and Hynek would have to see General Corbin and the secretary of the Air Force on the subject. According to Quintanilla, the General asked Hynek if he would make a public statement during the hearing and Hynek said no. However, at the congressional hearing, Hynek opened his remarks with a public statement! Quintanilla writes:
General Corbin was seated behind me and to my left. When Hynek announced that he would make a statement, I heard General Corbin say, "Oh crap!". He didnt say it very loud but I knew he was upset. Nobody really gave a damn whether Hynek made a statement or not. I remember being extremely angry. I wasnt angry because of his profound statement; the truth of the matter is that Hynek has never made a meaningful or profound statement with regards to UFOs since Ive been on the program. I was angry because I felt he had been disloyal to General Corbin. He had told Corbin that he was not going to make a statement and then he pulled out a five page neatly typed statement from his briefcase. As far as I was concerned, he had deliberately and with premeditated motives lied to General Corbin. I had been losing confidence in Hynek for some time and after the hearing he never regained my original confidence. (Quintanilla 55-6)
Hynek's continuing efforts to make Quintanilla and the USAF look bad essentially led to his contract not being renewed in June of 1969. Despite Hynek's efforts to have him replaced, Quintanilla ironically notes that, in the end, he had control over Hynek's position. This may have resulted in a publicity disaster for Blue Book had not other events overshadowed Hynek's dismissal.
1966-1969: THE END OF BLUE BOOK
In March of 1966 the USAF scientific advisory board concerning project Blue Book filed a report recommending that a new study be initiated. This was referred to as the O'Brien committee, after it's Chairman Dr. Brian O'Brien. The committee did many things including a review of the Robertson Panel's investigations and a review of case histories with specific emphasis on the unidentifieds. The committee noted that the amount of resources applied to the problem were inadequate and recommended that a more thorough investigation be initiated by University scientific teams through a contract. The panel also made a point concerning the "unidentified" cases, "it appears to the Committee that most of the cases so listed are simply those in which the information available does not provide an adequate basis for analysis" (Condon 813). Of course, this would move these cases to those of insufficient information. The O'Brien committee did not stop with the unidentifieds. They also mention the USAF identifieds,
Moreover, some of the case records which the Committee looked that were listed as "identified" were sightings where the evidence collected was too meager or too indefinite to permit positive listing in the identified category. (Condon 814)
Perhaps Hynek was correct in stating there was undo haste in identifying cases but we also have to wonder about the infamous unidentifieds as well. What it seems to boil down to is that many UFO reports just do not provide adequate information for resolution either way. The key resolution problem being the accuracy of the witnesses/report. Based on the O'Brien committee's remarks, it seems both identifieds and unknowns could easily have been classified as "insufficient information".
The finale of Project Blue Book was the contract given to the University of Colorado based on the recommendations of the O'Brien report. Dr. Edward Condon headed the study and the results of the study resolved nothing. There were claims of "cover-up" and "whitewash" by the UFO groups. Dr. Condon's ridiculing of many aspects of the phenomena did not assist in making matters easy. Many UFO groups felt Condon was very biased towards "debunking" all UFO cases. Hynek felt Condon was far too biased concerning the UFO problem. Perhaps Dr. Roy Craig, who was one of the key investigators, wrote the best appraisal of the investigation,
Believers in extraterrestrial visitation wanted the Condon Report at least to leave the question open, to consider some sightings unexplainable as ordinary phenomena, and the mystery to remain alive and healthy. To the extent that the Condon Report did not do this, and therefore destroy illusion, the public got more than it wanted. For human beings do not want to give up their illusions. Many, of course, will not do so, and will rationalize their illusions and simply reject non-conforming evidence. (Craig 240)
With the acceptance of the Condon Report by the National Academy of Sciences as a valid study of the problem, the USAF quickly terminated any more involvement in the study of UFOs. The Condon Study had, in effect, proven the USAF correct that there was nothing behind the reports except for misperceptions, misidentifications, and hoaxes.
According to Hector Quintanilla, the US government had wasted twenty million dollars during the 19 years the USAF was involved in the study of such reports. During the Colorado study, Dr. Condon had come under fire for voicing the same opinion. Project Blue Book officially ended on 17 December 1969 with the following conclusions:
1) No UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security.
2) There has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as "unidentified" represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present day scientific knowledge.
3) There has been no evidence indicating the sightings categorized as "unidentified" are extraterrestrial vehicles. (USAF Fact Sheet)
When one looks at the early days of Blue Book/Grudge/Sign, we discover similar conclusions being made. Quintanilla and Condon were correct in that it was a waste of taxpayer money. While Blue Book has its critics, it has been over thirty years since it closed down and nobody has presented any evidence to contradict the conclusions reached.
Clark, Jerry. The UFO Book. Detroit: Visible Ink Press 1998.
Craig, Roy. UFOs: An Insider's View of the Offfical Quest for Evidence. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1995.
Condon, E. U., et al., eds. Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. New York: Bantam 1968.
Flammonde, Paris. UFO Exist! New York: Ballantine 1976
Hynek, J. Allen. The UFO Experience A Scientific Inquiry. New York: Marlowe & Company 1972.
Hynek, J. Allen. The Hynek UFO Report. New York: Barnes & Nobles, 1997.
Jacobs, David Michael. The UFO Controversy in America. Indiana University Press: Bloomington and London 1975.
Quintanilla, Hector. "UFO's: An Air Force Dilemma." Unpublished Manuscript. National Institute for Discovery Science, 1974
Ruppelt, Edward. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. New York: Doubleday 1956.
Steiger, Brad. Project Bluebook. New York: Ballantine 1976.
USAF Fact Sheet. Information on UFOs. Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Public Affairs. Washington D.C.
USAF. Project Blue Book Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Public Affairs. Washington D.C.1 February 1966
United States Air Technical Intelligence Center. Project Blue Book Special Report NO. 14: Analysis of Reports of Unidentified Aerial Objects. Project No. 10073. 5 May 1955
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