Project Grudge's report of August 1949


Tim Printy 2001

Project Grudge replaced Project Sign on 11 February 1949. The change in the name had been requested on December 16, 1948. Apparently, the name SIGN had been compromised and a new designation had to be assigned. Many UFOlogists look into the selection of a new name as something sinister and point to the disappearance of numerous prominent SIGN personnel as proof that it was a change to oust those favoring the Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) solution to UFO reports. However, it appears that the name and personnel change may also have been to further define the activities of the Air Technical Intelligence Division (ATID) in relation to UFO investigations. So subtle was the change that Dr. Hynek did not even know it had happened:

My final report, compiled with the able assistance of Mrs. Charles Summerson, was issued after Project Sign had somewhat mysteriously been transformed into Project Grudge, on February 11, 1949. I was not aware of the change as I continued to do my best to find logical astronomical explanations for as many of the 237 reports as possible. (Hynek 174)

Project Grudge resulted in UFO investigations entering the "dark ages" for the USAF according to Ruppelt. In April and May 1949, a series of articles by Sidney Shallet appeared in the Saturday Evening Post describing the efforts of "Project Saucer". The story goes that the USAF fed Shallet so that he would write the story they wanted him to write. However, Shallet's article did include many of the famous UFO unexplained UFO cases from the time. At one point, it is suggested that Shallet crossed the USAF. It seems the USAF did give access to their files to Shallet but I think Shallet wrote the article as he saw it. He may have put a skeptical slant towards his writing but this would have been standard for the day and since Shallet was interacting with Project Grudge, which was skeptical, then he would take that attitude in his writings. Grudge continued to maintain the skeptical attitude for the entire time period it investigated UFO reports.

Project Grudge really did not last long. By August 1949, Grudge issued its one major report (there were other reports at the begining of Bluebook that were titled from project Grudge). It was essentially a rehash of the sightings studied by Project Sign with detailed comments by Dr. J. Allen Hynek on the astronomical aspects of these reports. Out of the 244 sightings evaluated, there was a residue of 23% in the unknown category. The report made the following recommendations:

  1. That the investigation of study of reports of unidentified flying objects be reduced in scope.

a.That current collection directives relative to unidentified flying objects be revised to provide for the submission of only those reports clearly indicating realistic technical applications.

  1. That Conclusions 1 and 2 of this report, with sufficient supporting data be declassified and made public in the form of an official press release.
  2. That Psychological Warfare Division and other governmental agencies interested in psychological warfare be informed of the results of this study. (Condon 509)

On December 27, 1949, the USAF issued a press release stating that Project Grudge was closed.

Grudge’s conclusions were extremely anti-ETH. They were:

A. There is no evidence that objects reported upon are the result of an advanced scientific foreign development; and, therefore they constitute no direct threat to the national security. In view of this, it is recommended that the investigation and study of reports of unidentified flying objects be reduced in scope. Headquarters AMC will continue to investigate reports in which realistic technical applications are clearly indicated.

NOTE: It is apparent that further study along present lines would only confirm the findings presented herein. It is further recommended that pertinent collection directives be revised to reflect the contemplated change in policy.

B. All evidence and analyses indicate that reports of unidentified flying objects are the result of:

  1. Misinterpretation of various conventional objects.
  2. A mild form of mass-hysteria and war nerves.
  3. Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or to seek publicity.
  4. Psychopathological persons. (Condon 509)

UFOlogists use these conclusions to demonstrate that the USAF was more interested in stopping the investigation of UFO reports. The truth appears to be far beyond that. Edward Ruppelt, the first head of Project Blue Book (Grudge's successor), wrote:

But the Air Force was not trying to cover-up. It was just that they didn't want Keyhoe or any other saucer fans in the hair. They couldn't be bothered. They didn't believe in flying saucers and couldn't feature anybody else believing. Believing, to the people in ATIC in 1949, meant even raising the possibility that there might be something to the reports. (Ruppelt 65)

Additionally, Hynek addressed the idea of cover-up in his writings,

All my association with Blue Book showed clearly that the project rarely exhibited any scientific interest in the UFO problem...Such lack of interest belies any charge of "Cover-up"; they just didn't care. There is another argument for the "noncover-up viewpoint: the underlings in the military hierarchy (and all Blue Book Officers were such -generally captains or majors, two of which finally mad e lieutenant colonel but never full colonel) looked mainly toward tow things: promotion and early retirement. Therefore, on controversial issues it was always considered far wiser not to "rock the boat," to please superior officer rather than to make waves...Another factor added to the noncover-up theory. Turnover in the Blue book office was rather high. Sooner or later the officer in charge would be out of it, just that much closer to promotion and retirement, if he just sat tight...Thus one can have one's choice of whether Blue Book was a front or merely a foul-up. (Hynek 186-7)

Hynek's understanding of the military is somewhat limited and I disagree with his characterizations of the USAF officer's motives during their terms as head of Project Blue Book. This is the same group of individuals who Hynek told in 1959, "had done a good job of handling a very difficult program with the limited resources available" (Jacobs 166). Hynek's shifting opinions about Blue Book/Grudge/Sign seemed to shift with the years. However, his and Ruppelt's observations that there was no evidence of a cover-up demonstrates the claims by UFO groups are grossly exaggerated.

What really is in evidence is that the USAF determined that there was nothing to the reports that they could come to grips with. There was no apparent threat to the US and it was recommended the project group be disbanded and ATIC to follow up on only reports that were detailed and indicated craft of capabilities compatible with known technology at the time. The USAF was more interested in threats against the United States from some foreign power of this earth. If UFOs really were "spacemen", they obviously posed no threat to the United States and the USAF was not interested in chasing them.

Project Grudge’s termination handed the problem back to AMC. UFO reports dropped off between 1949 and 1951 while various private organizations began to develop interest in the phenomena. Writings by authors, such as Keyhoe, would ignite the imagination of many individuals and result in much publicity on the subject. Such publicity would shake the upper echelon and, as a result, a new Project Grudge would emerge.

Works Cited

Condon, E. U., et al., eds. Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. New York: Bantam 1968.

Hynek, J. Allen. The UFO Experience A Scientific Inquiry. New York: Marlowe & Company 1972.

Jacobs, David Michael. The UFO Controversy in America. Indiana University Press: Bloomington and London 1975.

Ruppelt, Edward. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. New York: Doubleday 1956.

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