The case that sparked the "Estimate of the situation" - The Chiles-Whitted event (Klass)

Project SIGN: Nocturnal Lights, Flying Discs, Rockets and the Estimate of the Situation

(Note: This was previously titled Project Sign and the Estimate of the situation but I discovered that Michael Swords already used this title and felt it was necessary to change it.)

Tim Printy 1999 (Updated January 2002)

In the summer of 1947, the phenomena of "flying discs" became public knowledge and a wary government, began to become concerned about possible incursions into US airspace by unknown aircraft. The country, having survived the Second World War, was now becoming involved in a "cold war" with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union hid behind a veil of secrecy that was difficult for American Intelligence to penetrate. The US intelligence agencies had very little idea what the Soviets were capable of and what technologies they had captured from the Germans. These objects, having only recently been sighted, hinted at the possibility that the Russians had developed incredible craft that could outfly anything in the US arsenal. The newly formed US Air Force, tasked with the nation's air defense, was about to begin a twenty-year campaign of investigating UFO reports.

By the fall of 1947, there were recommendations for a study to be formed in order to collect data on these mysterious events. The result was Project SIGN, which was created on December 30, 1947, by a SECRET directive written by Major General Craigie, head of Air Force Research and development. Project SIGN's mission was, " collect, collate, evaluate and distribute to interested government agencies and contractors all information concerning sightings and phenomena in the atmosphere which can be construed to be of concern to the national security" (Condon et al. 896). In a nutshell, SIGN was to gather data and figure out what these objects were and what threat they posed to the United States. This directive had originated from two memos written by the director of Air Force Intelligence, Maj. General George C. McDonald and the head of Air Material Command (AMC), Lieutenant General Nathan Twining. Both documents were classified SECRET and had concluded that an investigation was necessary.

The newly formed project SIGN began work on UFOs in early 1948 and was assigned to AMC's Technical Intelligence Division (ATID later to be called ATIC). The staff already had an incident that was high on their list of investigation. This was the case of Captain Mantell, whose P-51 crashed while attempting to pursue a UFO. The initial reports seemed to indicate that Captain Mantell had died because of a UFO encounter. Originally, it was thought that Captain Mantell was chasing the planet Venus. However, research has shown that he was chasing a "Skyhook" balloon. Mantell, without Oxygen in his craft, blacked out after he flew too high, passed out, and then crashed. There was no evidence that the UFO "shot him down" and pilot error appears to be the real reason for that Captains death. Some UFOlogists mention Captain Mantell's pilot record and state he could never have made such a mistake. This is a false presumption on their part. Experienced pilots are not immune from pilot error. In fact, complacency by experienced pilots is a sure way to cause a crash. Captain Mantell was not immune from failing to take into account a lack of oxygen. As for the "Skyhook" balloon, Project SIGN was unaware of these and it was not until years later that the connection was made.

SIGN continued to collect data and presented an initial report on 23 April 1948, as required by Maj. Gen. Craigie's directive. In this initial report, we read that SIGN was to make the next report on 1 July 1948 (no such report has been found to the best of my knowledge). We also read, Colonel Howard McCoy discussing the following:

Representatives from this headquarters visited Dr. Irving Langmuir of the research laboratories, General Electric Company, Schenectady, N.Y. to discuss project "SIGN". It was the opinion of this scientist that present available data does not encompass sufficient information to enable a positive identification to be made. Dr. Langmuir was reluctant to consider the so-called "flying disks" as a reality. However, it is believed at this headquarters that it is possible to construct a low aspect ratio aircraft that would duplicate many of the appearance and performance characteristics of reported "flying disks". Experts have agreed that this would be possible through the intelligent application of boundary layer control. (Greenewald, Blackvault Online)

The report has an enclosure entitled the "Biology of Flying Saucers". Someone called A.R. Weyl for a magazine apparently called "The Aeroplane" wrote the article. His writing discusses the use of low aspect ratio aircraft for supersonic flight and, towards the end, mentions the Horton Brothers. These brothers were developing low aspect ratio aircraft for the Luftwaffe in World War II. General Schulgen's memo of 30 October 1947 went into great discussion about the Horton brothers and specifically mentioned that the Russians could be working on the Horton "Parabola" model. It was suggested that this model would be jet-powered and highly maneuverable. Enclosure 5 of the initial SIGN report shows a photograph of a Horton "Parabola" aircraft. When one examines this photograph, one can make a connection between this and the shapes reported by some observers. It is crescent shaped and appears much like the craft described by Kenneth Arnold. A 13 April 1948 memo from Colonel McCoy writing to the Chief of Staff and requesting information about interviews with the Horten brothers preceded the initial report. It appears that SIGN was concerned at this early stage that German designed low aspect ratio aircraft were being used by the Soviets and had been modified for supersonic flight. The staff seemed to be gathering data on this possibility, when something "unique" occurred.

On July 24, 1948, SIGN's second major event, the Chiles-Whitted sighting, occurred. Two pilots flying a late night airplane flight over Alabama sighted a "flying fuselage" type UFO. Both saw a rocket-shaped object in the night sky fly by their airplane. A passenger on the aircraft only reported a bright light streaking by but the aircrew recalled seeing windows on the dark cylinder as it flew past. When Professor Hynek investigated this case, he felt it might have been a brilliant meteor. However, Hynek could not justify his conclusion because of the pilot's descriptions. In 1968, the Zond IV incident demonstrated how the pilots could have been mistaken. Dr. William K. Hartman, from the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary laboratory, conducted a detailed study of the Zond IV incident for the Condon Report and drew parallels to the Chiles-Whitted sighting. In conclusion, he stated:

The present discussion provides definitive evidence that fireballs can be described in just the way reported by Chiles and Whitted. The investigator is faced with the perfectly conceivable possibility that Chiles and Whitted, suffering from the "airship effect," became excited and reported a misconception - a cigar shaped object with windows and flames - just as a fraction of witnesses to spectacular fireballs are now known to do. (Condon et al. 581)

According to Ed Ruppelt, a former head of the follow-on study Project Bluebook, the Chiles-Whitted sighting excited the SIGN staff and prompted them to write an "Estimate of the Situation" (EOTS) that indicated UFOs were extraterrestrial in nature. The craft described seemed to be technically feasible and it was a solid report. It was not a Horton designed craft and appeared to be more like a V-2 rocket. With this bit of information in their hands, the staff decided to look at these events in a different light. If Ruppelt is correct, they began to grasp the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) as the solution to their problem. According to Michael Swords, the unpublished writings of Ruppelt stated the following:

In intelligence, if you have to say something to say about some vital problem you write a report that is known as "Estimate of the Situation." A few days after the DC-3 was buzzed, the people at ATIC decided that the time had arrived to make an "Estimate of the Situation." The situation was UFO's; the estimate was that they were interplanetary!

It was a rather thick document with a black cover and it was printed on legal-sized paper. Stamped across the front were the words TOP SECRET.

It contained the Air Force's analysis of many of the incidents I have told you about plus many similar ones. All of them had come from scientists, pilots, and other equally credible observers, and each one was an unknown.

It concluded that UFO's were interplanetary. As documented proof, many unexplained sightings were quoted. The original UFO sighting by Kenneth Arnold; the series of sightings from the secret Air Force Test Center, MUROC AFB; the F-51 pilot's observation of a formation of spheres near Lake Mead; the report of an F-80 pilot who saw two round objects diving toward the ground near the Grand Canyon; and a report by the pilot an Idaho National Guard T-6 trainer who saw a violently maneuvering black object.

As further documentation, the report quoted an interview with an Air Force major from Rapid City AFB (now Ellsworth AFB) who saw twelve UFO's flying a tight diamond formation. When he first saw them they were high but soon they went into a fantastically high-speed dive, leveled out, made a perfect formation turn, and climbed at a 30 to 40 degree angle, accelerating all the time. The UFO's were oval-shaped and brilliant yellowish-white.

Also included was one of the reports from the AEC's Los Alamos Laboratory. The incident occurred at 9:40 A.M. on September 23, 1948. A group of people were waiting for an airplane at the landing strip in Los Alamos when one of them noticed something glint in the sun. It was a flat, circular object, high in the northern sky. The appearance and relative size was the same as a dime held edgewise and slightly tipped, about fifty feet away.

The document pointed out that the reports hadn't actually started with the Arnold Incident. Belated reports from a weather observer in Richmond, Virginia, who observed a "silver disk" through his theodolite telescope; and F-47 pilot and three pilots in his formation who saw a "silvery flying wing"; and the English "ghost airplanes" that had been picked up on radar early in 1947 proved the point. Although reports on them were not received until after the Arnold sighting, these incidents had all taken place earlier.

When the estimate was completed, typed, and approved, it started up through the channels to higher command echelons. It drew considerable comment but no one stopped it on its way up. (Randle 58-60)

Attempts to recover the EOTS via Freedom of Information Act have not been successful and many UFO investigators have attempted to locate it. Ed Ruppelt describes it in his book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Major Dewey Fournet, who also worked at Bluebook, confirms the existence of the EOTS. They both state that one copy existed to remind them of the good old days of Project SIGN and when the ETH was considered seriously by the Air Force. Fournet, a long time UFO advocate, had attempted to convince the 1953 Robertson panel that some UFO sightings were extraterrestrial in nature. The Robertson Panel replied in their report:

However, the panel could not accept any of the cases cited by him because they were raw unevaluated reports. Terrestrial explanations were suggested in some cases and in others the time of the sighting was so short as to cause suspicion of visual impressions. (Condon et al. 911)

Despite the potential prosaic explanation for the Chiles-Whitted case, the staff at SIGN reportedly wrote their estimate supporting the ETH. SIGN was supposed to provide quarterly status reports but these reports are not evident after the initial report in April 1948. The EOTS could have been the quarterly report of October 1948 but this appears unlikely. There appears to be no reference to the EOTS anywhere in the SIGN files. However, there are several directives that were issued at the time of the Chiles-Whitted incident, which is when the EOTS was started according to Ruppelt. The first document, Air Corps letter 80-10, dated 21 July 1948, is only three days before the Chiles-Whitted incident. It is referenced in Project SIGN's final report:

A special study has been initiated with the Rand Project in accordance with Air Corps Letter No. 80-10 dtd 21 July 1948 to present information that would serve to evaluate the remote possibility that some of the observed objects may be spaceships or satellite vehicles. (Steiger 170)

However, in the final SIGN report, we read Dr. James Lipp of the Rand Project stating:

Although visits from outer space are believed to be possible, they are believed to be very improbable. In particular, the actions attributed to the "flying objects" reported during 1947 and 1948 seem inconsistent with the requirements of space travel. (Steiger 214)

The Rand Project report stated:

...we have found nothing which would seriously controvert simple rational explanations of the various phenomenon in terms of balloons, conventional aircraft, planets, meteors, bits of paper, optical illusions, practical jokers, psychopathological reporters and the like. (Hall Sign ref. no. 42)

Although a study for the ETH, the Rand project report was not completed until 1949 and probably does not fit the scenario painted by Ruppelt. A second document comes to light in an 11 October 1948 memo by Colonel Brooke Allen to General Cabell. It references a 27 July 1948 request by General Cabell to his staff to, "determine the tactics of flying objects and the probability of their existence" (Pflock 37). This is only three days after the Chiles-Whitted sighting. Could it be that this memo is what caused SIGN to move towards writing the EOTS? The resultant study of the air staff was classified TOP SECRET and was titled: "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the US". The memo by Colonel Allen states that suggestions had been made to SIGN "for pursuing flying object phenomena to the end that positive identification might be achieved" (Pflock 37). Also in the memo, are these words: exhaustive study was made of all information pertinent to the subject in this Division (Air Force Intelligence) and the Intelligence Division of Air Material Command...Because the subject matter is of such an elusive nature, this study is presented as a preliminary report to be reconsidered when information on hand warrants it...Some type of flying objects have been observed, although their identification and origin are not would be unwise to overlook the possibility that some of these objects may be of foreign origin. (Pflock 37)

Jan Aldrich points out a Memorandum for the Record that states the first interim report was transmitted up the chain by 11 August. However, the memorandum states:

An interim report on the progress of the study was submitted in 11 August 1948, and outlined the methods of analysis being utilized in the preparation of the required study and the methods suggested to Project "Sign" personnel at Headquarters, Air Materiel Command, for pursuing flying object phenomena to the end that positive identifications might be achieved. (Aldrich 1948)

Aldrich seems to miss the statement that the report was not the final report described by Allen in his letter to Cabell. The interim report was merely information being sent up the chain following the Cabell request of 27 July. It was not a completed report or even the report that Allen states in his 11 October memo. The actual study no longer exists in the government files but according to Karl Pflock, the updated version does and is the document often referred to as "The Ghost of the Estimate". This document is identified as Air Study #203 and is also classified TOP SECRET. Pflock points out that it uses similar language stated by Allen in his original study. Air study #203 was prepared by Air Force Intelligence in conjunction with the office of Naval Intelligence. This study was begun on 6 August. This is confirmed in a report from the director of Air Force Intelligence to the Joint Intelligence Committee. It states that:

...the collection, analysis and investigation activities directed by the project personnel at Hq, Air Material Command, Air Intelligence Memorandum dated 6 August 1948, subject: "Flying Saucers", required that a study be made by the Air Intelligence Division to examine the pattern of tactics of reported flying saucers and develop conclusions as to their probability. The results of this analysis were prepared as Air Intelligence Division (DI/USAF-ONI) Study No. 203, "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States." (Aldrich Joint)

Air Study No. 203 bears a remarkable resemblance to the EOTS, as we will later discuss. Can Air Study #203 be the famed EOTS? It is hard to say. Amazingly, the suspicions stated in the initial report of 23 April 1948 seems to have come back in Air Study #203. Again the Horton brothers are mentioned and various low-aspect ration aircraft are discussed. Air Study #203 states:

The origin of the devices is not ascertainable. There are two reasonable possibilities:

  1. The objects are domestic devices, and if so, their identification or origin can be established by a survey of the launchings of airborne devices. Domestic flying wing type aircraft observed in various aspects of flight might be responsible for some of the reported flying objects, particularly those described as disks and rough cigar shapes. (See Appendices "C" and "D".) Among those which have been operational in recent years are the XF5U-1 ("Flying Flapjack") developed by Chance-Vaught, the Northrup B-35, and the turbo-jet powered Northrup YB-49. The present existence of any privately developed flying-wing type aircraft has not been determined but one such aircraft, the Arup tailless monoplane, was operational at South Bend, Indiana, prior to 1935.
  2. Objects are foreign, and if so, it would seem most logical to consider that they are from a Soviet source.information on a number The Soviets possess of German flying-wing type aircraft such as the Gotha P60A, Junkers EF 130 long-range, high-speed jet bomber and the Horten 229 twin-jet fighter, which particularly resembles some of the description of unidentified flying objects (See Appendix "D"). As early as 1924 Tscheranowsky developed a "Parabola" aircraft, an all wing design, which was the outcome of considerable Soviet experimentation with gliders of the same general form. Soviet aircraft based on such designs might have speeds approaching trans-sonic speeds attributed to some flying objects or greater over-all performance assuming the successful development of some unusual propulsion device such as atomic energy engine. (Aldrich Air)

Therefore, it appears that the USAF is concerned about the Soviets as the source. This is exactly what was considered in the first report. Clearly, if study #203 were the EOTS, Ruppelt was completely misinformed of its contents. Study #203 does include many of the sightings described to have been included in the EOTS. Could this be just a coincidence?

Ruppelt states that the EOTS was completed just before the third big incident of 1948, which was the Fargo N.D. incident involving Lt Gorman and a small circular light that danced around his airplane. He was unable to keep up with the object's maneuvers and it seemed to possess intelligent abilities. Truth is stranger than fiction and shortly after this, it was determined that Gorman was "dog-fighting" a lighted weather balloon. As we can see from the Colonel Allen memo, the initial TOP SECRET study was completed by October 11, 1948. The Gorman case happened on October 1, 1948. While Aldrich points out that AMC does not seem to be involved in this study, one has to look closely at Allen's memo, where it stated that "an exhaustive study" was done by both the Intelligence Division and AMC. It appears that AMC may have been involved and was asked to provide their input. This input would not have been in the interim status report of 11 August 1948 but would have been in the final version made before 11 October. Perhaps the EOTS was used to provide input for the study or maybe Ruppelt confused the study with the EOTS. The study and the EOTS were being executed at the same time. If the study and the EOTS were arriving at different conclusions at the same time, one has to wonder what data each group was using.

According to Ruppelt, the EOTS made it's way to General Vandenberg and proposed that alien spaceships were the source of UFOs. However, "It got to the late General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, then Chief of Staff, before it was batted back down. The general wouldn't buy interplanetary vehicles. The report lacked proof. A group from ATIC went to the Pentagon to bolster their position but had no luck, the Chief of Staff just couldn't be convinced" (Ruppelt 45). There seems to be no evidence indicating that such a meeting took place. Wendy Connors suggests a meeting at the National Bureau of Standards on 12 November but there is no evidence that some members of the SIGN team were there for that purpose. Ruppelt admits that the report lacked any proof. This appears to be the reason that Vandenberg shot it down and not as a form of cover-up to hide proof of the ETH.

However, there are no indications that any such document went up the chain in the SIGN files. There are interesting memos that do exist in the SIGN files during this period. On 7 October 1948 there are three memos written by Colonel Howard McCoy addressed to the various intelligence agencies. Each memo contains the same wording, "To date, no concrete evidence as to the exact identity of any of the reported objects has been received. Similarly the origin of the so-called "flying discs" remains obscure" (Hall Sign ref nos. 13-15). There is no indication that Colonel McCoy, the military head of Project SIGN, considered that the ETH was the likely solution according to these memos. Following the October 7th memos, we have an October 22, 1948 memo requesting the Rand Corporation do a study on the UFO problem. In the guidelines given in exhibit A, we read:

The possibility that some of the unidentified aerial objects that have been reported both in the United States and in foreign lands may have been experimental spaceships, or test vehicles for the purpose of assisting in the development of spaceships, has been given consideration by this command.

If such craft actually have been sighted, it is believed more likely that they represent the effort of a foreign nation, rather than a product from beyond Earth. (Hall Sign ref no.19)

This had already been discussed and the Rand Corporation found no evidence of alien spaceships in their evaluation of the data.

Probably the most interesting letter in the SIGN files is the one addressed to Project SIGN and written by Maj. General Cabell demanding an answer to the Flying Saucer question. Cabell, after having received his TOP SECRET report from Colonel Allen, was not pleased as indicated by his memo:

Identification and the origin of these objects is not discernible to this headquarters. It is imperative, therefore, that efforts to determine whether these objects are of domestic or foreign origin must be increased until conclusive evidence is obtained. (Hall Sign ref no.24)

Cabell, wanted some sort of action and was apparently pushing AMC for a better answer than the one he received from Allen. Reading further, Cabell states:

Request immediate information as to your conclusions to date and your recommendations as to the information to be given to the press. Your recommendation is requested also as to whether that information should be offered to the press or withheld until it is actively sought by the press. (Hall Sign ref no. 24)

McCoy's response to Cabell on November 8 clearly indicates that the ETH was not being given serious consideration.

The possibility that the reported objects are vehicles from another planet has not been ignored. However, tangible evidence to support conclusions about such a possibility are completely lacking...There is as yet no conclusive proof that unidentified flying objects, other than those which are known to be balloons, are real aircraft. (Hall Sign ref no. 25)

If the EOTS were finished only a month prior to this, wouldn't Colonel McCoy make reference to it? Both he and Cabell seem oblivious to its existence. Clearly, Cabell had not seen the EOTS but it was supposed to have been sent up the chain of command by this point.

The only item that appears to have gone up the chain of command during this period was the report filed by Colonel Allen, which eventually turned out to become Air Study #203 issued on 10 December 1948. Besides the inclusion of many of the incidents described by Ruppelt, Air Study #203 matches the EOTS in other ways. Ruppelt stated that it was, "...a rather thick document with a black cover and it was printed on legal sized paper. Stamped across the front were the words TOP SECRET" (Ruppelt 41). UFOlogist Dr. Bruce Maccabee provides the following description of Air Study #203:

About 14 years ago I held in my hot sweaty little grubbyfingers a legal sized (8.5 by 14 inch) document, typed ,double-spaced, original, with a TOP SECRET stamp across the to and bottom which was enclosed in a black, stiff cover. (Maccabee)

This may be a coincidence. However, when Study #203 was recovered there were several items attached to it. One of these is a memo written by Dewey Fournet. He discusses what to do with the remaining copy and whether to declassify it. His conclusions were:

It is not considered advisable to declassify Study No. 203 inasmuch as it contains such speculation on the possible origin of unidentified flying objects, information on the Soviet AOB and atomic energy activity. In addition, the study contains a treatise on possible Soviet intentions in utilizing controlled aerial missiles over the U.S. (Aldrich 1948)

There was also a memo routing slip attached, which stated, "All published copies of this document have been ordered destroyed. This document for record purpose only not to be disseminated." (Aldrich 1948)

There are additional circumstances surrounding the TOP SECRET Air Study #203 that mirror the EOTS. Ruppelt stated about what happened to the famous EOTS, "Some months later it was completely declassified and relegated to the incinerator. A few copies, one of which I saw, were kept as mementos of the golden days of the UFO's" (Ruppelt 45). Is it that much of a coincidence that the study had a similar fate? Maybe all documents were handled in a similar fashion. However, the fact that Dewey Fournet actually handled study #203 adds to the coincidence between the EOTS and this study.

In 1992, Dewey Fournet, when presented with a copy of study #203, denied that it was the EOTS:

The report of which you sent me a copy is definitely NOT the often referred to 'Estimate of the Situation. This was strictly a 'study' within the USAF Intelligence organization...On the other hand, the Estimate of the Situation (it's actual name) was intended for dissemination up through channels to the USAF Chief of Staff. Whether it ever made it to that level, I'm not sure, it could have been disapproved and bounced back at any intervening echelon of command. (Connors) 

One must wonder how truthful Fournet is concerning the document. In a letter to NICAP discussing documents pertaining to UFOs with NICAP on May 4, 1958, Dewey mentions two secret documents he had seen during his time at Blue Book. NICAP presents the first one as evidence of the EOTS. Of this document, Fournet stated it was, "An intelligence summary on UFOs prepared in 1948 by the organization which later became the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB" (Hall Evidence 110). This easily describes Air Study #203 but does not seem to describe the EOTS (Recall he stated in 1992 that this was its actual name). In fact, Dewey does not mention the EOTS by name in this letter, nor does he call this document the EOTS. Lastly, according to the story, the document was left about to remind everyone about the "good old days" of SIGN. Since it was declassified, most anyone involved with Project Grudge/Blue Book should have seen it. Chief among these would have been Dr. Hynek. Unfortunately, Hynek never saw the document and there are very few individuals, who have seen it. Is it a wonder that the EOTS has taken on mythical proportions? All efforts to locate it have met with dead ends. Even more interesting is that, according to Jan Aldrich, Ruppelt never mentions Air Study #203 in his writings, "He seemed to know nothing about AIR 203 or JIC report" (Aldrich Ruppelt). Clearly, Ruppelt did not have all the facts concerning the EOTS, if it existed at all.

According to Ruppelt, General Vandenberg could not accept the existence of alien spaceships because there was insufficient evidence and, by all appearances, he was correct. UFOlogists look for the EOTS as some form of "Holy Grail". However, their search may be misplaced. If the EOTS exists and is found, they will probably discover that there is no new evidence to support the ETH. The SIGN staff appears to have jumped the gun in their conclusions. Even Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the father of modern UFOlogy, agreed that these early reports were not very good. He stated, "The earliest reports, particularly those I first studied in Project Sign, were of very much poorer quality than those that began to come in later. Some were limited to a few dozen words, with details necessary for adequate evaluation missing" (Hynek 175). Four of the eleven sightings claimed to be in the EOTS by Ruppelt are also included in the Air Study #203 Appendix "C". Many of the others mentioned were in the Sign files. Clearly, none of these are earth shattering events and if Dr. Hynek could not be convinced by these early sightings that the ETH was convincing, how could the staff of Project SIGN feel this was true? In addition, the one sighting by the AEC group is confusing since it happened at the same time the EOTS was supposedly being finished! Apparently the authors did not even investigate the sighting and simply packaged it into the EOTS. I have not located this sighting in any of the Bluebook unidentifieds (although case #208 from San Pablo, California is the same date). Ruppelt may have been confused in what he recalls was actually included in the EOTS. However, the fact that Air Study No. 203 included these events indicates the study was similar to the EOTS. The interesting point is that the AEC sighting was supposedly included (without investigation) indicates that Ruppelt's memory of the EOTS may not have been as accurate as we are lead to believe. This discrepancy could be resolved by Ruppelt's failure to recall exactly what sightings were included.

The three big incidents during Project SIGN were the Gorman, Chiles-Whitted, and Mantell incidents but each of these sightings, eventually, was to have a prosaic explanation. Either SIGN was manned by a bunch of "eager beavers", who were quick to accept an exciting theory without adequate research, or the EOTS is overemphasized by Ruppelt. The EOTS would be, at best, a suggestion of the possibility of the ETH being the answer. To produce no other conclusion, with so small a sample of data and no physical evidence, would be a "leap of faith" and not a scientifically arrived at answer. Dewey Fournet confirms this:

...Vandenberg would never sign it, and I think with damn good reason...there simply was not enough to go on - there wasn't enough hard evidence to arrive at such a conclusion [ETH]...but coming up with a conclusion such as they did at that point in time when there was so little evidence to substantiate that claim...naturally anybody in the position such as Vandenberg would say, 'I am not going to sign it.' least there was enough open-mindedness in the project that they were acknowledging this as a possibility. (Connors)

Project SIGN was ended on February 11, 1949 and redesignated Project GRUDGE, which according to UFOlogists, ended any consideration towards the ETH as an answer to the UFO question. There is no proof of this other than the claims of Ruppelt and a few others. The fact is that SIGN was redesignated GRUDGE by a December 16, 1948 letter from Director of Research and Development (This document is unavailable). There are several reasons for renaming the project besides a shift in attitude of the project personnel. One that Ruppelt offered is that the project name "SIGN" had been compromised. This is possible and references in the GRUDGE material indicate that it was just an extension of SIGN. However, I think it appears that the renaming of the project was because of the goals of the project had been redefined to produce a more detailed study of the phenomena. GRUDGE may have been the next step in the analysis. In the original direction, the goals of SIGN were to " collect, collate, evaluate and distribute"(Condon et al. 896) the data. GRUDGE was defined as a, "Detailed Study of Flying Discs" (Aldrich, Joint). Was it possible that SIGN did not have enough assets in place to perform a detailed study and the USAF chose to incorporate new personnel into the study? This is also possible but the real reason may be found in the 16 December 1948 letter. Its recovery could clarify the whole situation.

The studies by the Rand project, Dr. Hynek, and Dr. Valley indicated that the only possible answer to the UFO question was misperceptions by witnesses. All of these studies indicated that there was no reason to conclude that these craft could have originated from outer space. GRUDGE had a one-year duration and was temporarily terminated in December of 1949. It was reactivated in October 1951 and was renamed BLUEBOOK in March of 1952. There is a wealth of documentation supporting the evolution of BLUEBOOK from SIGN. However, all supporting documentation indicates the Air Force never gave very much consideration towards the ETH. If the EOTS does exist, it did not contain any earth shattering evidence and is, more than likely, a hastily written report that did not give serious consideration to all the data available.

Works Cited

Aldrich, Jan L. "Air Study No. 203." Project 1947. Online. Internet. Available: WWW:

Aldrich, Jan L. "1948 UFO Documents: Background." Project 1947. Online. Internet. Available: WWW:

Aldrich, Jan L. "Joint Intelligence Committee Report on UFOs -1949." Project 1947. Online Internet Available WWW:

Aldrich, Jan. "P-47: Ruppelt the Liar?" 23 April 1999. Online posting. UFO Updates Mailing List. Available WWW:

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

Connors, Wendy. "A Five-Sided Estimate Part 2." Project Sign Research Center. Online Internet Available WWW:

Greenewald, John Jr. The Blackvault. Online Internet Available WWW:

Hall, Richard ed. Project SIGN Air Force Documents 1948-1949. Mount Ranier, MD: Fund for UFO Research 1998.

Hall, Richard ed. The UFO Evidence. 1964. New York: National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena/Barnes & Nobles Inc. 1997.

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

Klass, Philip. UFOS Explained. New York: Random House, 1974.

Maccabee, Bruce. "Re: Failure Of The 'Science' Of Obergian Debunking." 30 October 1998. Online posting. UFO Updates Mailing List. Available WWW:

Pflock, Karl. "For Your Eyes Only." Fortean Times. September 1998, 34-38.

Randle, Kevin. Conspiracy of Silence. New York: Avon Books 1997.

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

Steiger, Brad. Project Bluebook. New York: Ballantine 1976.


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