They had tried to measure the altitude, with no success. First they tried to compare the lights to the height of clouds but the clouds were never near the lights, or vice versa. Next they tried a more elaborate scheme. They measured off a base line perpendicular to the objects' usual flight path. Friends of the professors made up two teams. Each of the two teams was equipped with elevation-measuring devices, and one team was stationed at each end of the base line. The two teams were linked together by two-way radios. If they sighted the objects they would track and time them, thus getting the speed and altitude.
Unfortunately neither team ever saw the lights. But the lights never seemed to want to run the course. The wives of some of the watchers claimed to have seen them from their homes in the city. This later proved to be a clue.
The professors were not the sole observers of the mysterious lights. For two weeks hundreds of other people for miles around Lubbock reported that they saw the same lights. The professors checked many of these reports against the times of the flights they had seen and recorded, and many checked out close. They attempted to question these observers as to the length of time they had seen the lights and angles at which they had seen them, but the professors learned what I already knew, people are poor observers.
Naturally there has been much discussion among the professors and their friends as to the nature of the lights. A few simple mathematical calculations showed that if the lights were very high they would be traveling very fast. The possibility that they were some natural phenomena was, of course, discussed and seriously considered. The professors did a lot of thinking and research and decided that if they were natural phenomena they were something altogether new. Dr. George, who has since died, studied the phenomena of the night sky during his years as a professor at the University of Alaska, and he had never seen or heard of anything like this before.
This was the professors' story. It was early in the morning when we returned to Reese AFB. I sat up a few more hours unsuccessfully trying to figure out what they had seen.
The next day I again met the intelligence officer and we went to talk to Carl Hart, Jr., the amateur photographer who had taken the pictures of the lights. Hart was a freshman at Texas Tech. His story was that on the night of August 31 he was lying in his bed in an upstairs room of the Hart home. He, like everyone else in Lubbock, had heard about the lights but he had never seen them. It was a warm night and his bed was pushed over next to an open window. He was looking out at the clear night sky, and had been in bed about a half hour, when he saw a formation of the lights appear in the north, cross an open patch of sky, and disappear over his house. Knowing that the lights might reappear as they had done in the past, he grabbed his loaded Kodak 35, set the lens and shutter at f 3.5 and one tenth of a second, and went out into the middle of the back yard. Before long his vigil was rewarded when the lights made a second pass. He got two pictures. A third formation went over a few minutes later and he got three more pictures. The next morning bright and early Hart said he took the roll of unexposed film to a friend who ran a photo-finishing shop. He explained that he did all of his film processing in this friend's lab. He told the friend about the pictures and they quickly developed them.
I stopped Hart at this point and asked why he didn't get more excited about what could be the biggest news photos of the century. He said that the lights had appeared to be so dim that he was sure he didn't have anything on the negatives; had he thought that he did have some good pictures he would have awakened his friend to develop the negatives right away.
When he developed the negatives and saw that they showed an image, his friend suggested that he call the newspaper. At first the paper wasn't interested but then they decided to run the photos. I later found out that they had done some checking of their own.
We went with Hart into his back yard to re-enact what had taken place. He described the lights as being the same dull, glowing bluish- green color as those seen by the professors. The formation was different, however. The lights Hart saw were always flying in a perfect V. He traced the path from where they appeared over some trees in the north, through an open patch of sky over the back yard, to a point where they disappeared over the house. From the flight path he pointed out, the lights had crossed about 120 degrees of open sky in four seconds. This 30-degree-per-second angular velocity corresponded to the professors' measured angular velocity.
We made arrangements to borrow Hart's negatives, thanked him for his information, and left.
Armed with a list of names of other observers of the mysterious lights, the intelligence officer and I started out to try to get a cross-section account of the other UFO sightings in the Lubbock area. All the stories about the UFO's were the same; various types of formations of dull bluish-green lights, generally moving north to south. A few people had variations. One lady saw a flying Venetian blind and another a flying double boiler. One point of interest was that very few claimed to have seen the lights before reading the professors' story in the paper, but this could get back to the old question, "Do people look up if they have no reason to do so?"
We talked to observers in nearby towns. Their stories were the same. Two of them, tower operators at an airport, reported that they had seen the lights on several occasions.
It was in one of these outlying towns, Lamesa, that we talked to an old gentleman, about eighty years old, who gave us a good lead. He had seen the lights and he had identified them. Ever since he had read the story in the papers he had been looking. One evening he and his wife were in their yard looking for the lights. All of a sudden two or three appeared. They were in view for several seconds, then they were gone. In a few minutes the lights did a repeat performance. The man admitted he had been scared. He broke off his story of the lights and launched into his background as a native Texan, with range wars, Indians, and stagecoaches under his belt. What he was trying to point out was that despite the range wars, Indians, and stagecoaches, he had been scared. His wife had been scared too. We had some difficulty getting back to the lights but we finally made it. The third time they came around, he said, one of the lights emitted a sound. It said, "Plover." The old gentleman had immediately identified it as a plover, a water bird about the size of a quail. Later that night, and on several other occasions, they had seen the same thing. After a few more hair-raising but interesting stories of the old west Texas, we left.
Our next stop was the federal game warden's office in Lubbock. We got the low-down on plovers. We explained our interest and the warden was very helpful. He had been around west Texas all of his life so he was familiar with wildlife. The oily white breast of a plover could easily reflect light, but plovers usually didn't travel in more than pairs, or three at the most. He had never seen or heard of them traveling in a flock of fifteen to thirty but, of course, this wasn't impossible. Ducks, yes, but probably not plovers. He did say that for some unknown reason there were more than the usual number of plovers in the area that fall.
I was anxious to get the negatives that Hart had lent us back to the photo lab at Wright Field, but I had one more call to make. I wanted to talk to the two ladies who had seen a strange object hovering near their car, but I also wanted to write my report before I left Lubbock. Two Air Force special investigators from Reese AFB offered to talk to the ladies, so I stayed at the air base and finished my report.
That night when the investigators came back, I got the story. They had spent the whole day talking to the ladies and doing a little discreet checking into their backgrounds.
The two ladies, a mother and her daughter, had left their home in Matador, Texas, 70 miles northeast of Lubbock, about twelve-thirty P.M. on August 31. They were driving along in their car when they suddenly noticed "a pear-shaped" object about 150 yards ahead of them. It was just off the side of the road, about 120 feet in the air. It was drifting slowly to the east, "less than the speed required to take off in a Cub airplane." They drove on down the road about 50 more yards, stopped, and got out of the car. The object, which they estimated to be the size of a B-29 fuselage, was still drifting along slowly. There was no sign of any exhaust blast and they heard no noise, but they did see a "porthole" in the side of the object. In a few seconds the object began to pick up speed and rapidly climb out of sight. As it climbed it seemed to have a tight spiraling motion.
The investigation showed that the two ladies were "solid citizens," with absolutely no talents, or reasons, for fabricating such a story. The daughter was fairly familiar with aircraft. Her husband was an Air Force officer then in Korea, and she had been living near air bases for several years. The ladies had said that the object was "drifting" to the east, which possibly indicated that it was moving with the wind, but on further investigation it was found that it was moving into the wind.
The two investigators had worked all day and hadn't come up with the slightest indication of an answer.
This added the final section to my now voluminous report on the Lubbock affair.
The next morning as I rode to the airport to catch an airliner back to Dayton I tried to put the whole puzzle together. It was hard to believe that all Fd heard was real. Did a huge flying wing pass over Albuquerque and travel 250 miles to Lubbock in about fifteen minutes? This would be about 900 miles per hour. Did the radar station in Washington pick up the same thing? I'd checked the distances on the big wall map in flight operations just before leaving Reese AFB. It was 1,300 miles from Lubbock to the radar site. From talking to people, we decided that the lights were apparently still around Lubbock at 11:20P.M. and the radar picked them up just after midnight. They would have had to be traveling about 780 miles per hour. This was fairly close to the 900-mile-per-hour speed clocked by the two radars. The photos of the Lubbock Lights checked with the description of what the AEC employee and his wife had seen in Albuquerque. Nobody in Lubbock, however, had reported seeing a "flying wing" with lights. All of this was swimming around in my mind when I stepped out of the staff car at the Lubbock airport.
My plane had already landed so I checked in at the ticket counter, picked up a morning paper, and ran out and got into the airplane. I sat down next to a man wearing a Stetson hat and cowboy boots. I soon found out he was a retired rancher from Lubbock.
On the front page of the paper was an account of a large meteor that had flashed across New Mexico, west Texas, and Oklahoma the night before. According to the newspaper account, it was very spectacular and had startled a good many people in Lubbock. I was interested in the story because I had seen this meteor. It was a spectacular sight and I could easily understand how such things could be called UFO's. My seat partner must have noticed that I was reading the story of the meteor because he commented that a friend of his, the man who had brought him to the airport, had seen it. We talked about the meteor. This led to a discussion of other odd happenings and left a perfect opening for him to bring up the Lubbock Lights. He asked me if I'd heard about them. I said that I had heard a few vague stories. I hoped that this would stave off any detailed accounts of stories I had been saturated with during the past five days, but it didn't. I heard all the details all over again.
As he talked on, I settled back in my seat waiting for a certain thing to happen. Pretty soon it came. The rancher hesitated and the tone of his voice changed to a half-proud, half-apologetic tone. I'd heard this transition many times in the past few months; he was going to tell about the UFO that he had seen. He was going to tell how he had seen the bluish-green lights. I was wrong; what he said knocked me out of my boredom.
The same night that the college professors had seen their formation of lights his wife had seen something. Nobody in Lubbock knew about the story, not even their friends. He didn't want anyone to think he and his wife were "crazy." He was telling me only because I was a stranger. Just after dark his wife had gone outdoors to take some sheets off the clothesline. He was inside the house reading the paper. Suddenly his wife had rushed into the house, as he told the story, "as white as the sheets she was carrying." As close as he could remember, he said, this was about ten minutes before the professors made their first sighting. He stopped at this point to tell me about his wife, she wasn't prone to be "flighty" and she "never made up tales." This character qualification was also standard for UFO storytellers. The reason his wife was so upset was that she had seen a large object glide swiftly and silently over the house. She said it looked like "an airplane without a body." On the back edge of the wing were pairs of glowing bluish lights. The Albuquerque sighting! He said he didn't have any idea what his wife had seen but he thought that it was an interesting story.
It was an interesting story. It hit me right between the eyes. I knew the rancher and his wife couldn't have possibly heard the Albuquerque couple's story, only they and a few Air Force people knew about it. The chances of two identical stories being made up were infinitesimal, especially since neither of them fitted the standard Lubbock Light description. I wondered how many other people in Lubbock, Albuquerque, or anywhere in the Southwest had seen a similar UFO during this period and hesitated to mention it.
I tried to get a few more facts from the rancher but he'd told me all he knew. At Dallas I boarded an airliner to Dayton and he went on to Baton Rouge, never knowing what he'd added to the story of the Lubbock Lights.
On the way to Dayton I figured out a plan of attack on the thousands of words of notes I'd taken. The best thing to do, I decided, was to treat each sighting in the Lubbock Light series as a separate incident. All of them seemed to be dependent upon each other for importance. If the objects that were reported in several of the incidents could be identified, the rest would merely become average UFO reports. The photographs taken by Carl Hart, Jr., became number one on the agenda.
As soon as I reached Dayton I took Hart's negatives to the Photo Reconnaissance Laboratory at Wright Field. This laboratory, staffed by the Air Force's top photography experts, did all of our analysis of photographs. They went right to work on the negatives and soon had a report.
There had originally been five negatives, but when we asked to borrow them Hart could only produce four. The negatives were badly scratched and dirty because so many people had handled them, so it was difficult to tell the actual photographic images from the dust spots and scratches. The first thing that the lab did was to look at each spot on the negatives to see if it was an actual photographic image. They found that the photos showed an inverted V formation of lights. In each photo the individual image of a light was badly blurred due to motion of the camera, but by careful scrutiny of each blurred image they were able to determine that the original lights that Hart had photographed were circular, near pinpoint sources of light. Like a bright star, or a distant light bulb. Next they made enlargements from the negatives and carefully plotted the position of each light in the formation.
In each photograph the individual lights in the formation shifted position according to a definite pattern.
One additional factor that was brought out in the report was that although the photos were taken on a clear night no images of the stars could be found in the background. This proved one thing, the lights, which were overexposed in the photograph, were a great deal brighter than the stars, or the lights affected the film more than the light from the stars.
This was all that the photos showed. It was impossible to determine the size of each image of the group, speed, or altitude.
The next thing was to try to duplicate what Hart said he had done. I enlisted the aid of several friends and we tried to photograph a moving light. When we were talking to Hart in Lubbock, he had taken us to his back yard, where he had shot the pictures. He had traced the flight path of fights across the sky. We had him estimate the speed by following an imaginary flight of lights across the sky. It came out to about four seconds. We had a camera identical to the one that Hart had used and set up a light to move at the same speed as the UFO's had flown. We tried to take photographs. In four seconds we could get only two poor shots. These were badly blurred, much worse than Hart's, due to the one-tenth-of-a-second shutter speed. We repeated our experiment several times, each time with the same results. This made a lot of people doubt the authenticity of Hart's photos.
With the completed photo lab report in my hands, I was still without an answer. The report was interesting but didn't prove anything. All I could do was to get opinions from as qualified sources as I could find. A physiologist at the Aeromedical Laboratory knocked out the timing theory immediately by saying that if Hart had been excited he could have easily taken three photos in four seconds if we could get two in four seconds in our experiment. Several professional photographers, one of them a top Life photographer, said that if Hart was familiar with his camera and was familiar with panning action shots, his photos would have shown much less blur than ours. I recalled what I heard about Hart's having photographed sporting events for the Lubbock newspaper. This would have called for a good panning technique.
The photographs didn't tally with the description of the lights that the professors had seen; in fact, they were firmly convinced that they were of "home manufacture." The professors had reported soft, glowing lights yet the photos showed what should have been extremely bright lights. Hart reported a perfect formation while the professors, except for the first flight, reported an unorderly group. There was no way to explain this disagreement in the arrangement of the lights. Of course, it wasn't impossible that on the night that Hart saw the lights they were flying in a V formation. The first time the professors saw them they were flying in a semicircle.
The intensity of the lights was difficult to explain. Again I went to the people in the Photo Reconnaissance Laboratory. I asked them if there was any possible situation that could cause this. They said yes. An intensely bright light source which had a color far over in the red end of the spectrum, bordering on infrared, could do it. The eye is not sensitive to such a light, it could appear dim to the eye yet be "bright" to the film. I asked them what kind of a light source would cause this. There were several things, if you want to speculate, they said, extremely high temperatures for one. But this was as far as they would go. We have nothing in this world that flies that appears dim to the eye yet will show bright on film, they said.
This ended the investigation of the photographs, and the investigation ended at a blank wall. My official conclusion, which was later given to the press, was that "The photos were never proven to be a hoax but neither were they proven to be genuine." There is no definite answer.
The emphasis of the investigation was now switched to the professors' sighting. The meager amount of data that they had gathered seemed to be accurate but it was inconclusive as far as getting a definite answer was concerned. They had measured two things, how much of the sky the objects had crossed in a certain time and the angle from one side of the formation to the other. These figures didn't mean a great deal, however, since the altitude at which the formation of lights was flying was unknown. If you assumed that the objects were flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet you could easily compute that they were traveling about 3,600 miles per hour, or five to six times the speed of sound. The formation would have been about 1,750 feet wide. If each light was a separate object it could have been in the neighborhood of 100 feet in diameter. These figures were only a guess since nobody knew if the lights were at, above, or below 10,000 feet. If they had been higher they would have been going faster and have been larger. If lower than 10,000 feet, slower and smaller.
The only solid lead that had developed while the Reese AFB intelligence officer and I were investigating the professors' sightings was that the UFO's were birds reflecting the city lights; specifically plover. The old cowboy from Lamesa had described something identical to what the professors described and they were plover. Secondly, whenever the professors left the vicinity of their homes to look for the lights they didn't see them, yet their wives, who stayed at home, did see them. If the "lights" were birds they would be flying low and couldn't be seen from more than a few hundred feet. While in Lubbock I'd noticed several main boulevards lighted with the bluish mercury vapor lights. I called the intelligence officer at Reese AFB and he airmailed me a city map of Lubbock with the mercury-vapor-lighted streets marked. The place where the professors had made their observations was close to one of these streets. The big hitch in this theory was that people living miles from a mercury-vapor-lighted boulevard had also reported the lights. How many of these sightings were due to the power of suggestion and how many were authentic I didn't know. If I could have found out, it would have been possible to plot the sightings in Lubbock, and if they were all located close to the lighted boulevards, birds would be an answer. This, however, it was impossible to do.
The fact that the lights didn't make any perceivable sound seemed as if it might be a clue. Birds or light phenomena wouldn't make any sound, but how about some object of appreciable size traveling at or above the speed of sound? Jet airplanes don't fly as fast as the speed of sound but they make a horrible roar. Artillery shells, which are going much faster than aircraft, whine as they go through the air. I knew that a great deal of the noise from a jet is due to the heated air rushing out of the tail pipe, but I didn't know exactly how much of the noise this caused. If a jet airplane with a silent engine could be built, how much noise would it make? How far could it be heard? To get the answer I contacted National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Laboratory at Langley AFB, a government agency which specializes in aeronautical research. They didn't know. Neither they nor anybody else had ever done any research on this question. Their opinion was that such an aircraft could not be heard 5,000 or 10,000 feet away. Aerodynamicists at Wright Field's Aircraft Laboratory agreed.
I called the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, to find out why artillery shells whine. These people develop and test all kinds of shells so they would have an answer if anybody did. They said that the majority of the whine of an artillery shell is probably caused by the flat back end of the shell. If a perfectly streamlined shell could be used it would not have any perceivable whine.
What I found out, or didn't find out, about the sound of an object moving at several times the speed of sound was typical of nearly every question that came up regarding UFO's. We were working in a field where there were no definite answers to questions. In some instances we were getting into fields far advanced above the then present levels of research. In other instances we were getting into fields where no research had been done at all. It made the problem of UFO analysis one of getting opinions. All we could do was hope the opinions we were getting were the best.
My attempts to reach a definite conclusion as to what the professors had seen met another blank wall. I had no more success than I'd had trying to reach a conclusion on the authenticity of the photographs.
A thorough analysis of the reports of the flying wings seen by the retired rancher's wife in Lubbock and the AEC employee and his wife in Albuquerque was made. The story from the two ladies who saw the aluminum-colored pear-shaped object hovering near the road near Matador, Texas, was studied, checked, and rechecked. Another blank wall on all three of these sightings.
By the time I got around to working on the report from the radar station in Washington State, the data of the weather conditions that existed on the night of the sighting had arrived. I turned the incident folder over to the electronics specialists at ATIC. They made the analysis and determined that the targets were caused by weather, although it was a borderline case. They further surmised that since the targets had been picked up on two radars, if I checked I'd find out that the two targets looked different on the two radarscopes. This is a characteristic of a weather target picked up on radars operating on different frequencies. I did check. I called the radar station and talked to the captain who was in charge of the crew the night the target had been picked up.
The target looked the same on both scopes. This was one of the reasons it had been reported, the captain told me. If the target hadn't been the same on both scopes, he wouldn't have made the report since he would have thought he had a weather target. He asked me what ATIC thought about the sighting. I said that Captain James thought it was weather. Just before the long-distance wires between Dayton and Washington melted, I caught some comment about people sitting in swivel chairs miles from the closest radarscope. . . . I took it that he didn't agree the target was caused by weather. But that's the way it officially stands today.
Although the case of the Lubbock Lights is officially dead, its memory lingers on. There have never been any more reliable reports of "flying wings" but lights somewhat similar to those seen by the professors have been reported. In about 70 per cent of these cases they were proved to be birds reflecting city lights.
The known elements of the case, the professors' sightings and the photos, have been dragged back and forth across every type of paper upon which written material appears, from the cheapest, coarsest pulp to the slick Life pages. Saucer addicts have studied and offered the case as all-conclusive proof, with photos, that UFO's are interplanetary. Dr. Donald Menzel of Harvard studied the case and ripped the sightings to shreds in Look, Time, and his book, Flying Saucers, with the theory that the professors were merely looking at refracted city lights. But none of these people even had access to the full report. This is the first time it has ever been printed.
The only other people outside Project Blue Book who have studied the complete case of the Lubbock Lights were a group who, due to their associations with the government, had complete access to our files. And these people were not pulp writers or wide-eyed fanatics, they were scientists—rocket experts, nuclear physicists, and intelligence experts. They had banded together to study our UFO reports because they were convinced that some of the UFO's that were being reported were interplanetary spaceships and the Lubbock series was one of these reports. The fact that the formations of lights were in different shapes didn't bother them; in fact, it convinced them all the more that their ideas of how a spaceship might operate were correct.
This group of scientists believed that the spaceships, or at least the part of the spaceship that came relatively close to the earth, would have to have a highly swept-back wing configuration. And they believed that for propulsion and control the craft had a series of small jet orifices all around its edge. Various combinations of these small jets would be turned on to get various flight attitudes. The lights that the various observers saw differed in arrangement because the craft was flying in different flight attitudes.
(Three years later the Canadian Government announced that this was exactly the way that they had planned to control the flying saucer that they were trying to build. They had to give up their plans for the development of the saucer-like craft, but now the project has been taken over by the U.S. Air Force.)
This is the complete story of the Lubbock Lights as it is carried in the Air Force files, one of the most interesting and most controversial collection of UFO sightings ever to be reported to Project Blue Book. Officially all of the sightings, except the UFO that was picked up on radar, are unknowns.
Personally I thought that the professors' lights might have been some kind of birds reflecting the light from mercury-vapor street lights, but I was wrong. They weren't birds, they weren't refracted light, but they weren't spaceships. The lights that the professors saw—the backbone of the Lubbock Light series—have been positively identified as a very commonplace and easily explainable natural phenomenon.
It is very unfortunate that I can't divulge exactly the way the answer was found because it is an interesting story of how a scientist set up complete instrumentation to track down the lights and how he spent several months testing theory after theory until he finally hit upon the answer. Telling the story would lead to his identity and, in exchange for his story, I promised the man complete anonymity. But he fully convinced me that he had the answer, and after having heard hundreds of explanations of UFO's, I don't convince easily.
With the most important phase of the Lubbock Lights "solved"—the sightings by the professors—the other phases become only good UFO reports.
The New Project Grudge
While I was in Lubbock, Lieutenant Henry Metscher, who was helping me on Project Grudge, had been sorting out the many bits and pieces of information that Lieutenant Jerry Cummings and Lieutenant Colonel Rosengarten had brought back from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and he had the answers.
The UFO that the student radar operator had assumed to be traveling at a terrific speed because he couldn't lock on to it turned out to be a 400-mile-an-hour conventional airplane. He'd just gotten fouled up on his procedures for putting the radar set on automatic tracking. The sighting by the two officers in the T-33 jet fell apart when Metscher showed how they'd seen a balloon.
The second radar sighting of the series also turned out to be a balloon. The frantic phone call from headquarters requesting a reading on the object's altitude was to settle a bet. Some officers in headquarters had seen the balloon launched and were betting on how high it was.
The second day's radar sightings were caused by another balloon and weather—both enhanced by the firm conviction that there were some mighty queer goings on over Jersey.
The success with the Fort Monmouth Incident had gone to our heads and we were convinced that with a little diligent digging we'd be knocking off saucers like an ace skeet-shooter. With all the confidence in the world, I attacked the Long Beach Incident, which I'd had to drop to go to Lubbock, Texas. But if saucers could laugh, they were probably zipping through the stratosphere chuckling to themselves, because there was no neat solution to this one.
In the original report of how the six F-86's chased the high-flying UFO over Long Beach, the intelligence officer who made the report had said that he'd checked all aircraft flights, therefore this wasn't the answer.
The UFO could have been a balloon, so I sent a wire to the Air Force weather detachment at the Long Beach Municipal Airport. I wanted the track of any balloon that was in the air at 7:55A.M. on September 23, 1951. While I was waiting for the answers to my two wires, Lieutenant Metscher and I began to sort out old UFO reports. It was a big job because back in 1949, when the old Project Grudge had been disbanded, the files had just been dumped into storage bins. Hank and I now had four filing case drawers full of a heterogeneous mass of UFO reports, letters, copies of letters, and memos.
But I didn't get to do much sorting because the mail girl brought in a copy of a wire that had just arrived. It was a report of a UFO sighting at Terre Haute, Indiana. I read it and told Metscher that I'd quickly whip out an answer and get back to helping him sort. But it didn't prove to be that easy.
The report from Terre Haute said that on October 9, a CAA employee at Hulman Municipal Airport had observed a silvery UFO. Three minutes later a pilot, flying east of Terre Haute, had seen a similar object. The report lacked many details but a few phone calls filled me in on the complete story.
At 1:43P.M. on the ninth a CAA employee at the airport was walking across the ramp in front of the administration building. He happened to glance up at the sky—why, he didn't know—and out of the corner of his eye he caught a flash of light on the southeastern horizon. He stopped and looked at the sky where the flash of light had been but he couldn't see anything. He was just about to walk on when he noticed what he described as "a pinpoint" of light in the same spot where he'd seen the flash. In a second or two the "pinpoint" grew larger and it was obvious to the CAA man that something was approaching the airport at a terrific speed. As he watched, the object grew larger and larger until it flashed directly overhead and disappeared to the northwest. The CAA man said it all happened so fast and he was so amazed that he hadn't called anybody to come out of the nearby hangar and watch the UFO. But when he'd calmed down he remembered a few facts. The UFO had been in sight for about fifteen seconds and during this time it had passed from horizon to horizon. It was shaped like a "flattened tennis ball," was a bright silver color, and when it was directly overhead it was "the size of a 50- cent piece held at arm's length."
But this wasn't all there was to the report. A matter of minutes after the sighting a pilot radioed Terre Haute that he had seen a UFO. He was flying from Greencastle, Indiana, to Paris, Illinois, when just east of Paris he'd looked back and to his left. There, level with his airplane and fairly close, was a large silvery object, "like a flattened orange," hanging motionless in the sky. He looked at it a few seconds, then hauled his plane around in a tight left bank. He headed directly toward the UFO, but it suddenly began to pick up speed and shot off toward the northeast. The time, by the clock on his instrument panel, was 1:45P.M.—just two minutes after the sighting at Terre Haute.
When I finished calling I got an aeronautical chart out of the file and plotted the points of the sighting. The CAA employee had seen the UFO disappear over the northwestern horizon. The pilot had been flying from Greencastle, Indiana, to Paris, Illinois, so he'd have been flying on a heading of just a little less than 270 degrees, or almost straight west. He was just east of Paris when he'd first seen the UFO, and since he said that he'd looked back and to his left, the spot where he saw the UFO would be right at a spot where the CAA man had seen his UFO disappear. Both observers had checked their watches with radio time just after the sightings, so there couldn't be more than a few seconds' discrepancy. All I could conclude was that both had seen the same UFO.
I checked the path of every balloon in the Midwest. I checked the weather—it was a clear, cloudless day; I had the two observers' backgrounds checked and I even checked for air traffic, although I knew the UFO wasn't an airplane. I researched the University of Dayton library for everything on daylight meteors, but this was no good. From the description the CAA employee gave, what he'd seen had been a clear-cut, distinct, flattened sphere, with no smoke trail, no sparks and no tail. A daylight meteor, so low as to be described as "a 50-cent piece held at arm's length," would have had a smoke trail, sparks, and would have made a roar that would have jolted the Sphinx. This one was quiet. Besides, no daylight meteor stops long enough to let an airplane turn into it.
In a few days the data from the Long Beach Incident came in and I started to put it together. A weather balloon had been launched from the Long Beach Airport, and it was in the vicinity where the six F- 86's had made their unsuccessful attempt to intercept a UFO. I plotted out the path of the balloon, the reported path of the UFO, and the flight paths of the F-86's. The paths of the balloon and the F-86's were accurate, I knew, because the balloon was being tracked by radio fixes and the F-86's had been tracked by radar. At only one point did the paths of the balloon, UFO, and F-86's coincide. When the first two F-86's made their initial visual contact with the UFO they were looking almost directly at the balloon. But from then on, even by altering the courses of the F-86's, I couldn't prove a thing.
In addition, the weather observers from Long Beach said that during the period that the intercept was taking place they had gone outside and looked at their balloon; it was an exceptionally clear day and they could see it at unusually high altitudes. They didn't see any F- 86's around it. And one stronger point, the balloon had burst about ten minutes before the F-86's lost sight of the UFO.
Lieutenant Metscher took over and, riding on his Fort Monmouth victory, tried to show how the pilots had seen the balloon. He got the same thing I did—nothing.
On October 27, 1951, the new Project Grudge was officially established. I'd written the necessary letters and had received the necessary endorsements. I'd estimated, itemized, and justified direct costs and manpower. I'd conferred, inferred, and referred, and now I had the money to operate. The next step was to pile up all this paper work as an aerial barrier, let the saucers crash into it, and fall just outside the door.
I was given a very flexible operating policy for Project Grudge because no one knew the best way to track down UFO's. I had only one restriction and that was that I wouldn't have my people spending time doing a lot of wild speculating. Our job would be to analyze each and every UFO report and try to find what we believed to be an honest, unbiased answer. If we could not identify the reported object as being a balloon, meteor, planet, or one of half a hundred other common things that are sometimes called UFO's, we would mark the folder "Unknown" and file it in a special file. At some later date, when we built up enough of these "Unknown" reports, we'd study them.
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.
By the latter part of November 1951 I knew most of what had taken place in prior UFO projects and what I expected to do. The people in Project Sign and the old Project Grudge had made many mistakes. I studied these mistakes and profited by them. I could see that my predecessors had had a rough job. Mine would be a little bit easier because of the pioneering they had done.
Lieutenant Metscher and I had sorted out all of the pre-1951 files, refiled them, studied them, and outlined the future course of the new Project Grudge.
When Lieut. Colonel Rosengarten and Lieutenant Cummings had been at the Pentagon briefing Major General Cabell on the Fort Monmouth incidents, the general had told them to report back when the new project was formed and ready to go. We were ready to go, but before taking my ideas to the Pentagon, I thought it might be wise to try them out on a few other people to get their reaction. Colonel Frank Dunn, then chief of ATIC, liked this idea. We had many well-known scientists and engineers who periodically visited ATIC as consultants, and Colonel Dunn suggested that these people's opinions and comments would be valuable. For the next two weeks every visitor to ATIC who had a reputation as a scientist, engineer, or scholar got a UFO briefing.
Unfortunately the names of these people cannot be revealed because I promised them complete anonymity. But the list reads like a page from Great Men of Science.
Altogether nine people visited the project during this trial period. Of the nine, two thought the Air Force was wasting its time, one could be called indifferent, and six were very enthusiastic over the project. This was a shock to me. I had expected reactions that ranged from an extremely cold absolute zero to a mild twenty below. Instead I found out that UFO's were being freely and seriously discussed in scientific circles. The majority of the visitors thought that the Air Force had goofed on previous projects and were very happy to find out that the project was being re-established. All of the visitors, even the two who thought we were wasting our time, had good suggestions on what to do. All of them offered their services at any future time when they might be needed. Several of these people became very good friends and valuable consultants later on.
About two weeks before Christmas, in 1951, Colonel Dunn and I went to the Pentagon to give my report. Major General John A. Samford had replaced Major General Cabell as Director of Intelligence, but General Samford must have been told about the UFO situation because he was familiar with the general aspects of the problem. He had appointed his Assistant for Production, Brigadier General W. M. Garland, to ride herd on the project for him.
Colonel Dunn briefly outlined to General Samford what we planned to do. He explained our basic policy, that of setting aside the unknowns and not speculating on them, and he told how the scientists visiting ATIC had liked the plans for the new Project Grudge.
There was some discussion about the Air Force's and ATIC's responsibility for the UFO reports. General Garland stated, and it was later confirmed in writing, that the Air Force was solely responsible for investigating and evaluating all UFO reports. Within the Air Force, ATIC was the responsible agency. This in turn meant that Project Grudge was responsible for all UFO reports made by any branch of the military service. I started my briefing by telling General Samford and his staff about the present UFO situation.
The UFO reports had never stopped coming in since they had first started in June 1947. There was some correlation between publicity and the number of sightings, but it was not an established fact that reports came in only when the press was playing up UFO's. Just within the past few months the number of good reports had increased sharply and there had been no publicity.
UFO's were seen more frequently around areas vital to the defense of the United States. The Los Alamos-Albuquerque area, Oak Ridge, and White Sands Proving Ground rated high. Port areas, Strategic Air Command bases, and industrial areas ranked next. UFO's had been reported from every state in the Union and from every foreign country. The U.S. did not have a monopoly.
The frequency of the UFO reports was interesting. Every July there was a sudden increase in the number of reports and July was always the peak month of the year. Just before Christmas there was usually a minor peak.
The Grudge Report had not been the solution to the UFO problem. It was true that a large percentage of the reports were due to the "mis- identification of known objects"; people were seeing balloons, airplanes, planets, but this was not the final answer. There were a few hoaxes, hallucinations, publicity-seekers, and fatigued pilots, but reports from these people constituted less than 1 per cent of the total. Left over was a residue of very good and very "unexplainable" UFO sightings that were classified as unknown.
The quality of the reports was getting better, I told the officers; they contained more details that could be used for analysis and the details were more precise and accurate. But still they left much to be desired.
Every one of the nine scientists and engineers who had reviewed the UFO material at ATIC had made one strong point: we should give top priority to getting reasonably accurate measurements of the speed, altitude, and size of reported UFO's. This would serve two purposes. First, it would make it easy to sort out reports of common things, such as balloons, airplanes, etc. Second, and more important, if we could get even one fairly accurate measurement that showed that some object was traveling through the atmosphere at high speed, and that it wasn't a meteor, the UFO riddle would be much easier to solve.
I had worked out a plan to get some measured data, and I presented it to the group for their comments.
I felt sure that before long the press would get wind of the Air Force's renewed effort to identify UFO's. When this happened, instead of being mysterious about the whole thing, we would freely admit the existence of the new project, explain the situation thoroughly and exactly as it was, and say that all UFO reports made to the Air Force would be given careful consideration. In this way we would encourage more people to report what they were seeing and we might get some good data.
To further explain my point, I drew a sketch on a blackboard. Suppose that a UFO is reported over a fair-sized city. Now we may get one or two reports, and these reports may be rather sketchy. This does us no good—all we can conclude is that somebody saw something that he couldn't identify. But suppose fifty people from all over the city report the UFO. Then it would be profitable for us to go out and talk to these people, find out the time they saw the UFO, and where they saw it (the direction and height above the horizon). Then we might be able to use these data, work out a triangulation problem, and get a fairly accurate measurement of speed, altitude, and size.
Radar, of course, will give an accurate measurement of speed and altitude, I pointed out, but radar is not infallible. There is always the problem of weather. To get accurate radar data on a UFO, it is always necessary to prove that it wasn't weather that was causing the target. Radar is valuable, and we wanted radar reports, I said, but they should be considered only as a parallel effort and shouldn't take the place of visual sightings.
In winding up my briefing, I again stressed the point that, as of the end of 1951—the date of this briefing—there was no positive proof that any craft foreign to our knowledge existed. All recommendations for the reorganization of Project Grudge were based solely upon the fact that there were many incredible reports of UFO's from many very reliable people. But they were still just flying saucer reports and couldn't be considered scientific proof.
Everyone present at the meeting agreed—each had read or had been briefed on these incredible reports. In fact, two of the people present had seen UFO's.
Before the meeting adjourned, Colonel Dunn had one last question. He knew the answer, but he wanted it confirmed. "Does the United States have a secret weapon that is being reported as a UFO?"
The answer was a flat "No."
In a few days I was notified that my plan had been given the green light. I already had the plan written up in the form of a staff study so I sent it through channels for formal approval.
It had been obvious right from the start of the reorganization of Project Grudge that there would be questions that no one on my staff was technically competent to answer. To have a fully staffed project, I'd need an astronomer, a physicist, a chemist, a mathematician, a psychologist, and probably a dozen other specialists. It was, of course, impossible to have all of these people on my staff, so I decided to do the next best thing. I would set up a contract with some research organization who already had such people on their staff; then I would call on them whenever their services were needed.
I soon found a place that was interested in such a contract, and the day after Christmas, Colonel S. H. Kirkland, of Colonel Dunn's staff, and I left Dayton for a two-day conference with these people to outline what we wanted. Their organization cannot be identified by name because they are doing other highly secret work for the government. I'll call them Project Bear.
Project Bear is a large, well-known research organization in the Midwest. The several hundred engineers and scientists who make up their staff run from experts on soils to nuclear physicists. They would make these people available to me to assist Project Grudge on any problem that might arise from a UFO report. They did not have a staff astronomer or psychologist, but they agreed to get them for us on a subcontract basis. Besides providing experts in every field of science, they would make two studies for us; a study of how much a person can be expected to see and remember from a UFO sighting, and a statistical study of UFO reports. The end product of the study of the powers of observation of a UFO observer would be an interrogation form.
Ever since the Air Force had been in the UFO business, attempts had been made to construct a form that a person who had seen a UFO could fill out. Many types had been tried but all of them had major disadvantages. Project Bear, working with the psychology department of a university, would study all of the previous questionnaires, along with actual UFO reports, and try to come up with as near a perfect interrogation form as possible. The idea was to make the form simple and yet extract as much and as accurate data as possible from the observer.
The second study that Project Bear would undertake would be a statistical study of all UFO reports. Since 1947 the Air Force had collected about 650 reports, but if our plan to encourage UFO reports worked out the way we expected this number could increase tenfold. To handle this volume of reports, Project Bear said that they would set up a complete UFO file on IBM punch cards. Then if we wanted any bit of information from the files, it would be a matter of punching a few buttons on an IBM card-sorting machine, and the files would be sorted electronically in a few seconds. Approximately a hundred items pertaining to a UFO report would be put on each card. These items included everything from the time the UFO was seen to its position in the sky and the observer's personality. The items punched on the cards would correspond to the items on the questionnaires that Project Bear was going to develop.
Besides giving us a rapid method of sorting data, this IBM file would give us a modus operandi file. Our MO file would be similar to the MO files used by police departments to file the methods of operations of a criminal. Thus when we received a report we could put the characteristics of the reported UFO on an IBM punch card, put it into the IBM machine, and compare it with the characteristics of other sightings that had known solutions. The answer might be that out of the one hundred items on the card, ninety-five were identical to previous UFO reports that ducks were flying over a city at night reflecting the city's lights.
On the way home from the meeting Colonel Kirkland and I were both well satisfied with the assistance we believed Project Bear could give to Project Grudge.
In a few days I again left ATIC, this time for Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I wanted to find out how willing ADC was to help us and what they could do. When I arrived I got a thorough briefing on the operations of ADC and the promise that they would do anything they could to help solve the UFO riddle.
All of this co-operation was something that I hadn't expected. I'd been warned by the people who had worked on Project Sign and the old Project Grudge that everybody hated the word UFO—I'd have to fight for everything I asked for. But once again they were wrong. The scientists who visited ATIC, General Samford, Project Bear, and now Air Defense Command couldn't have been more co-operative. I was becoming aware that there was much wider concern about UFO reports than I'd ever realized before.
While I traveled around the United States getting the project set up, UFO reports continued to come in and all of them were good. One series of reports was especially good, and they came from a group of people who had had a great deal of experience watching things in the sky—the people who launch the big skyhook balloons for General Mills, Inc. The reports of what the General Mills people had seen while they were tracking their balloons covered a period of over a year. They had just sent them in because they had heard that Project Grudge was being reorganized and was taking a different view on UFO reports. They, like so many other reliable observers, had been disgusted with the previous Air Force attitude toward UFO reports, and they had refused to send in any reports. I decided that these people might be a good source of information, and I wanted to get further details on their reports, so I got orders to go to Minneapolis. A scientist from Project Bear went with me. We arrived on January 14, 1952, in the middle of a cold wave and a blizzard.
The Aeronautical Division of General Mills, Inc., of Wheaties and Betty Crocker fame, had launched and tracked every skyhook balloon that had been launched prior to mid-1952. They knew what their balloons looked like under all lighting conditions and they also knew meteorology, aerodynamics, astronomy, and they knew UFO's. I talked to these people for the better part of a full day, and every time I tried to infer that there might be some natural explanation for the UFO's I just about found myself in a fresh snowdrift.
What made these people so sure that UFO's existed? In the first place, they had seen many of them. One man told me that one tracking crew had seen so many that the sight of a UFO no longer even especially interested them. And the things that they saw couldn't be explained.
For example: On January 16, 1951, two people from General Mills and four people from Artesia, New Mexico, were watching a skyhook balloon from the Artesia airport. They had been watching the balloon off and on for about an hour when one of the group saw two tiny specks on the horizon, off to the northwest. He pointed them out to the others because two airplanes were expected into the airport, and he thought that these might be the airplanes. But as they watched, the two specks began to move in fast, and within a few seconds the observers could see that "the airplanes" were actually two round, dull white objects flying in close formation. The two objects continued to come in and headed straight toward the balloon. When they reached the balloon they circled it once and flew off to the northwest, where they disappeared over the horizon. As the two UFO's circled the balloon, they tipped on edge and the observers saw that they were disk-shaped.
When the two UFO's were near the balloon, the observers also had a chance to compare the size of the UFO's with the size of the balloon. If the UFO's were as close to the balloon as they appeared to be they would have been 60 feet in diameter.
After my visit to General Mills, Inc., I couldn't help remembering a magazine article I'd read about a year before. It said that there was not a single reliable UFO report that couldn't be attributed to a skyhook balloon.
I'd been back at ATIC only a few days when I found myself packing up to leave again. This time it was for New York. A high-priority wire had come into ATIC describing how a Navy pilot had chased a UFO over Mitchel AFB, on Long Island. It was a good report.
I remember the trip to New York because my train passed through Elizabeth, New Jersey, early in the morning, and I could see the fires caused by an American Airlines Convair that had crashed. This was the second of the three tragic Elizabeth, New Jersey, crashes.
The morning before, on January 21, a Navy pilot had taken off from Mitchel in a TBM. He was a lieutenant commander, had flown in World War II, and was now an engineer at the Navy Special Devices Center on Long Island. At nine-fifty he had cleared the traffic pattern and was at about 2,500 feet, circling around the airfield. He was southeast of the field when he first noticed an object below him and "about three runway lengths off the end of Runway 30." The object looked like the top of a parachute canopy, he told me; it was white and he thought he could see the wedges or panels. He said that he thought that it was moving across the ground a little bit too fast to be drifting with wind, but he was sure that somebody had bailed out and that he was looking at the top of his parachute. He was just ready to call the tower when he suddenly realized that this "parachute" was drifting across the wind. He had just taken off from Runway 30 and knew which direction the wind was blowing.
As he watched, the object, whatever it was (by now he no longer thought that it was a parachute), began to gradually climb, so he started to climb, he said, staying above and off to the right of the object. When the UFO started to make a left turn, he followed and tried to cut inside, but he overshot and passed over it. It continued to turn and gain speed, so he dropped the nose of the TBM, put on more power, and pulled in behind the object, which was now level with him. In a matter of seconds the UFO made a 180-degree turn and started to make a big swing around the northern edge of Mitchel AFB. The pilot tried to follow, but the UFO had begun to accelerate rapidly, and since a TBM leaves much to be desired on the speed end, he was getting farther and farther behind. But he did try to follow it as long as he could. As he made a wide turn around the northern edge of the airfield he saw that the UFO was now turning south. He racked the TBM up into a tight left turn to follow, but in a few seconds the UFO had disappeared. When he last saw it, it had crossed the Long Island coast line near Freeport and it was heading out to sea.
When he finished his account of the chase, I asked the commander some specific questions about the UFO. He said that just after he'd decided that the UFO was not a parachute it appeared to be at an altitude of about 200 to 300 feet over a residential section. From the time it took it to cover a city block, he'd estimated that it was traveling about 300 miles an hour. Even when he pulled in behind the object and got a good look, it still looked like a parachute canopy— dome-shaped—white—and it had a dark undersurface. It had been in sight two and a half minutes.
He had called the control tower at Mitchel during the chase, he told me, but only to ask if any balloons had been launched. He thought that he might be seeing a balloon. The tower had told him that there was a balloon in the area.
Then the commander took out an aeronautical chart and drew in his flight path and the apparent path of the UFO for me. I think that he drew it accurately because he had been continually watching landmarks as he'd chased the UFO and was very careful as he drew the sketches on the map.
I checked with the weather detachment at Mitchel and they said that they had released a balloon. They had released it at nine-fifty and from a point southeast of the airfield. I got a plot of its path. Just as in the Long Beach Incident, where the six F-86's tried to intercept the UFO, the balloon was almost exactly in line with the spot where the UFO was first seen, but then any proof you might attempt falls apart. If the pilot knew where he was, and had plotted his flight path even semi-accurately, he was never over the balloon. Yet he was over the UFO. He came within less than 2,000 feet of the UFO when he passed over it; yet he couldn't recognize it as a balloon even though he thought it might be a balloon since the tower had just told him that there was one in the area. He said that he followed the UFO around the north edge of the airfield. Yet the balloon, after it was launched southeast of the field, continued on a southeast course and never passed north of the airfield.
But the biggest argument against the object's being a balloon was the fact that the pilot pulled in behind it; it was directly off the nose of his airplane, and although he followed it for more than a minute, it pulled away from him. Once you line up an airplane on a balloon and go straight toward it you will catch it in a matter of seconds, even in the slowest airplane. There have been dogfights with UFO's where the UFO's turned out to be balloons, but the pilots always reported that the UFO "made a pass" at them. In other words, they rapidly caught up with the balloon and passed it. I questioned this pilot over and over on this one point, and he was positive that he had followed directly behind the UFO for over a minute and all the time it was pulling away from him.
This is one of the most typical UFO reports we had in our files. It is typical because no matter how you argue there isn't any definite answer. If you want to argue that the pilot didn't know where he was during the chase—that he was 3 or 4 miles from where he thought he was—that he never did fly around the northern edge of the field and get in behind the UFO—then the UFO could have been a balloon.
But if you want to believe that the pilot knew where he was all during the chase, and he did have several thousand hours of flying time, then all you can conclude is that the UFO was an unknown.
I think the pilot summed up the situation very aptly when he told me, "I don't know what it was, but I've never seen anything like it before or since—maybe it was a spaceship."
I went back to Dayton stumped—maybe it was a spaceship.
Project Blue Book and the Big Build-Up
Just twenty minutes after midnight on January 22, 1952, nineteen and a half hours after the Navy lieutenant commander had chased the UFO near Mitchel AFB, another incident involving an airplane and something unknown was developing in Alaska. In contrast with the unusually balmy weather in New York, the temperature in Alaska that night, according to the detailed account of the incident we received at ATIC, was a miserable 47 degrees below zero. The action was unfolding at one of our northernmost radar outposts in Alaska. This outpost was similar to those you may have seen in pictures, a collection of low, sprawling buildings grouped around the observatory- -like domes that house the antennae of the most modern radar in the world. The entire collection of buildings and domes are one color, solid white, from the plastering of ice and snow. The picture that the outpost makes could be described as fascinating, something out of a Walt Disney fantasy—but talk to somebody who's been there—it's miserable.
At 0020, twenty minutes after midnight, an airman watching one of the outpost's radarscopes saw a target appear. It looked like an airplane because it showed up as a bright, distinct spot. But it was unusual because it was northeast of the radar site, and very few airplanes ever flew over this area. Off to the northeast of the station there was nothing but ice, snow, and maybe a few Eskimos until you got to Russia. Occasionally a B-50 weather reconnaissance plane ventured into the area, but a quick check of the records showed that none was there on this night.
By the time the radar crew had gotten three good plots of the target, they all knew that it was something unusual—it was at 23,000 feet and traveling 1,500 miles an hour. The duty controller, an Air Force captain, was quickly called; he made a fast check of the targets that had now been put on the plotting board and called to a jet fighter-interceptor base for a scramble.
The fighter base, located about 100 miles south of the radar site, acknowledged the captain's call and in a matter of minutes an F-94 jet was climbing out toward the north.
While the F-94 was heading north, the radar crew at the outpost watched the unidentified target. The bright dots that marked its path had moved straight across the radarscope, passing within about 50 miles of the site. It was still traveling about 1,500 miles an hour. The radar had also picked up the F-94 and was directing it toward its target when suddenly the unidentified target slowed down, stopped, and reversed its course. Now it was heading directly toward the radar station. When it was within about 30 miles of the station, the radar operator switched his set to a shorter range and lost both the F-94 and the unidentified target.
While the radar operator was trying to pick up the target again, the F-94 arrived in the area. The ground controller told the pilot that they had lost the target and asked him to cruise around the area to see if he and his radar operator could pick up anything on the F-94's radar. The pilot said he would but that he was having a little difficulty, was low on fuel, and would have to get back to his base soon. The ground controller acknowledged the pilot's message, and called back to the air base telling them to scramble a second F-94.
The first F-94 continued to search the area while the ground radar tried to pick up the target but neither could find it.
About this time the second F-94 was coming in, so the ground radar switched back to long range. In a minute they had both of the F-94's and the unidentified target on their scope. The ground controller called the second F-94 and began to vector him into the target.
The first F-94 returned to its base.
As both the second F-94 and the target approached the radar site, the operator again switched to short range and again he lost the jet and the target. He switched back to long range, but by now they were too close to the radar site and he couldn't pick up either one.
The pilot continued on toward where the unidentified target should have been. Suddenly the F-94 radar operator reported a weak target off to the right at 28,000 feet. They climbed into it but it faded before they could make contact.
The pilot swung the F-94 around for another pass, and this time the radar operator reported a strong return. As they closed in, the F- 94's radar showed that the target was now almost stationary, just barely moving. The F-94 continued on, but the target seemed to make a sudden dive and they lost it. The pilot of the jet interceptor continued to search the area but couldn't find anything. As the F-94 moved away from the radar station, it was again picked up on the ground radar, but the unidentified target was gone.
A third F-94 had been scrambled, and in the meantime its crew took over the search. They flew around for about ten minutes without detecting any targets on their radar. They were making one last pass almost directly over the radar station when the radar operator in the back seat of the F-94 yelled over the interphone that he had a target on his scope. The pilot called ground radar, but by this time both the F-94 and the unidentified target were again too close to the radar station and they couldn't be picked up. The F-94 closed in until it was within 200 yards of the target; then the pilot pulled up, afraid he might collide with whatever was out in the night sky ahead of him. He made another pass, and another, but each time the bright spot on the radar operator's scope just stayed in one spot as if something were defiantly sitting out in front of the F-94 daring the pilot to close in. The pilot didn't take the dare. On each pass he broke off at 200 yards.
The F-94 crew made a fourth pass and got a weak return, but it was soon lost as the target seemed to speed away. Ground radar also got a brief return, but in a matter of seconds they too lost the target as it streaked out of range on a westerly heading.
As usual, the first thing I did when I read this report was to check the weather. But there was no weather report for this area that was detailed enough to tell whether a weather inversion could have caused the radar targets.
But I took the report over to Captain Roy James, anyway, in hopes that he might be able to find a clue that would identify the UFO.
Captain James was the chief of the radar section at ATIC. He and his people analyzed all our reports where radar picked up UFO's. Roy had been familiar with radar for many years, having set up one of the first stations in Florida during World War II, and later he took the first aircraft control and warning squadron to Saipan. Besides worrying about keeping his radar operating, he had to worry about the Japs' shooting holes in his antennae.
Captain James decided that this Alaskan sighting I'd just shown him was caused by some kind of freak weather. He based his analysis on the fact that the unknown target had disappeared each time the ground radar had been switched to short range. This, he pointed out, is an indication that the radar was picking up some kind of a target that was caused by weather. The same weather that caused the ground radar to act up must have caused false targets on the F-94's radar too, he continued. After all, they had closed to within 200 yards of what they were supposedly picking up; it was a clear moonlight night, yet the crews of the F-94's hadn't seen a thing.
Taking a clue from the law profession, he quoted a precedent. About a year before over Oak Ridge, Tennessee, an F-82 interceptor had nearly flown into the ground three times as the pilot attempted to follow a target that his radar operator was picking up. There was a strong inversion that night, and although the target appeared as if it were flying in the air, it was actually a ground target.
Since Captain James was the chief of the radar section and he had said "Weather," weather was the official conclusion on the report. But reports of UFO's' being picked up on radar are controversial, and some of the people didn't agree with James's conclusion.
A month or two after we'd received the report, I was out in Colorado Springs at Air Defense Command Headquarters. I was eating lunch in the officers' club when I saw an officer from the radar operations section at ADC. He asked me to stop by his office when I had a spare minute, and I said that I would. He said that it was important.
It was the middle of the afternoon before I saw him and found out what he wanted. He had been in Alaska on TDY when the UFO had been picked up at the outpost radar site. In fact, he had made a trip to both the radar site and the interceptor base just two days after the sighting, and he had talked about the sighting with the people who had seen the UFO on the radar. He wanted to know what we thought about it.
When I told him that the sighting had been written off as weather, I remember that he got a funny look on his face and said, "Weather! What are you guys trying to pull, anyway?"
It was obvious that he didn't agree with our conclusion. I was interested in learning what this man thought because I knew that he was one of ADC's ace radar trouble shooters and that he traveled all over the world, on loan from ADC, to work out problems with radars.
"From the description of what the targets looked like on the radarscopes, good, strong, bright images, I can't believe that they were caused by weather," he told me.
Then he went on to back up his argument by pointing out that when the ground radar was switched to short range both the F-94 and the unknown target disappeared. If just the unknown target had disappeared, then it could have been weather. But since both disappeared, very probably the radar set wasn't working on short ranges for some reason. Next he pointed out that if there was a temperature inversion, which is highly unlikely in northern Alaska, the same inversion that would affect the ground radar wouldn't be present at 25,000 feet or above.
I told him about the report from Oak Ridge that Captain James had used as an example, but he didn't buy this comparison. At Oak Ridge, he pointed out, that F-82 was at only 4,000 feet. He didn't know how the F-94's could get to within 200 yards of an object without seeing it, unless the object was painted a dull black.
"No," he said, "I can't believe that those radar targets were caused by weather. I'd be much more inclined to believe that they were something real, something that we just don't know about."
During the early spring of 1952 reports of radar sightings increased rapidly. Most of them came from the Air Defense Command, but a few came from other agencies. One day, soon after the Alaskan Incident, I got a telephone call from the chief of one of the sections of a civilian experimental radar laboratory in New York State. The people in this lab were working on the development of the latest types of radar. Several times recently, while testing radars, they had detected unidentified targets. To quote my caller, "Some damn odd things are happening that are beginning to worry me." He went on to tell how the people in his lab had checked their radars, the weather, and everything else they could think of, but they could find absolutely nothing to account for the targets; they could only conclude that they were real. I promised him that his information would get to the right people if he'd put it in a letter and send it to ATIC. In about a week the letter arrived—hand-carried by no less than a general. The general, who was from Headquarters, Air Materiel Command, had been in New York at the radar laboratory, and he had heard about the UFO reports. He had personally checked into them because he knew that the people at the lab were some of the sharpest radar engineers in the world. When he found out that these people had already contacted us and had prepared a report for us, he offered to hand-carry it to Wright-Patterson.
I can't divulge how high these targets were flying or how fast they were going because it would give an indication of the performance of our latest radar, which is classified Secret. I can say, however, that they were flying mighty high and mighty fast.
I turned the letter over to ATIC's electronics branch, and they promised to take immediate action. They did, and really fouled it up. The person who received the report in the electronics branch was one of the old veterans of Projects Sign and Grudge. He knew all about UFO's. He got on the phone, called the radar lab, and told the chief (a man who possibly wrote all of the textbooks this person had used in college) all about how a weather inversion can cause false targets on weather. He was gracious enough to tell the chief of the radar lab to call if he had any more "trouble."
We never heard from them again. Maybe they found out what their targets were. Or maybe they joined ranks with the airline pilot who told me that if a flying saucer flew wing tip to wing tip formation with him, he'd never tell the Air Force.
In early February I made another trip to Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs. This time it was to present a definite plan of how ADC could assist ATIC in getting better data on UFO's. I briefed General Benjamin W. Chidlaw, then the Commanding General of the Air Defense Command, and his staff, telling them about our plan. They agreed with it in principle and suggested that I work out the details with the Director of Intelligence for ADC, Brigadier General W. M. Burgess. General Burgess designated Major Verne Sadowski of his staff to be the ADC liaison officer with Project Grudge.
This briefing started a long period of close co-operation between Project Grudge and ADC, and it was a pleasure to work with these people. In all of my travels around the government, visiting and conferring with dozens of agencies, I never had the pleasure of working with or seeing a more smoothly operating and efficient organization than the Air Defense Command. General Chidlaw and General Burgess, along with the rest of the staff at ADC, were truly great officers. None of them were believers in flying saucers, but they recognized the fact that UFO reports were a problem that must be considered. With technological progress what it is today, you can't afford to have anything in the air that you can't identify, be it balloons, meteors, planets or flying saucers.
The plan that ADC agreed to was very simple. They agreed to issue a directive to all of their units explaining the UFO situation and telling specifically what to do in case one was detected. All radar units equipped with radarscope cameras would be required to take scope photos of targets that fell into the UFO category—targets that were not airplanes or known weather phenomena. These photos, along with a completed technical questionnaire that would be made up at ATIC by Captain Roy James, would be forwarded to Project Grudge.
The Air Defense Command UFO directive would also clarify the scrambling of fighters to intercept a UFO. Since it is the policy of the Air Defense Command to establish the identity of any unidentified target, there were no special orders issued for scrambling fighters to try to identify reported UFO's. A UFO was something unknown and automatically called for a scramble. However, there had been some hesitancy on the part of controllers to send airplanes up whenever radar picked up a target that obviously was not an airplane. The directive merely pointed out to the controllers that it was within the scope of existing regulations to scramble on radar targets that were plotted as traveling too fast or too slow to be conventional airplanes. The decision to scramble fighters was still up to the individual controller, however, and scrambling on UFO's would be a second or third priority.
The Air Defense Command UFO directive did not mention shooting at a UFO. This question came up during our planning meeting at Colorado Springs, but, like the authority to scramble, the authority to shoot at anything in the air had been established long ago. Every ADC pilot knows the rules for engagement, the rules that tell him when he can shoot the loaded guns that he always carries. If anything in the air over the United States commits any act that is covered by the rules for engagement, the pilot has the authority to open fire.
The third thing that ADC would do would be to integrate the Ground Observer Corps into the UFO reporting net. As a second priority, the GOC would report UFO's—first priority would still be reporting aircraft.
Ever since the new Project Grudge had been organized, we hadn't had to deal with any large-scale publicity about UFO's. Occasionally someone would bring in a local item from some newspaper about a UFO sighting, but the sightings never rated more than an inch or two column space. But on February 19, 1952, the calm was broken by the story of how a huge ball of fire paced two B-29's in Korea. The story didn't start a rash of reports as the story of the first UFO sighting did in June 1947, but it was significant in that it started a slow build-up of publicity that was far to surpass anything in the past.
This Korean sighting also added to the growing official interest in Washington. Almost every day I was getting one or two telephone calls from some branch of the government, and I was going to Washington at least once every two weeks. I was beginning to spend as much time telling people what was going on as I was doing anything about it. The answer was to get somebody in the Directorate of Intelligence in the Pentagon to act as a liaison officer. I could keep this person informed and he could handle the "branch office" in Washington. Colonel Dunn bought this idea, and Major Dewey J. Fournet got the additional duty of manager of the Pentagon branch. In the future all Pentagon inquiries went to Major Fournet, and if he couldn't answer them he would call me. The arrangement was excellent because Major Fournet took a very serious interest in UFO's and could always be counted on to do a good job.
Sometime in February 1952 I had a visit from two Royal Canadian Air Force officers. For some time, I learned, Canada had been getting her share of UFO reports. One of the latest ones, and the one that prompted the visit by the RCAF officers, occurred at North Bay, Ontario, about 250 miles north of Buffalo, New York. On two occasions an orange-red disk had been seen from a new jet fighter base in the area.
The Canadians wanted to know how we operated. I gave them the details of how we were currently operating and how we hoped to operate in the future, as soon as the procedures that were now in the planning stages could be put into operation. We agreed to try to set up channels so that we could exchange information and tie in the project they planned to establish with Project Grudge.
Our plans for continuing liaison didn't materialize, but through other RCAF intelligence officers I found out that their plans for an RCAF-sponsored project failed. A quasi-official UFO project was set up soon after this, however, and its objective was to use instruments to detect objects coming into the earth's atmosphere. In 1954 the project was closed down because during the two years of operation they hadn't officially detected any UFO's. My sources of information stressed the word "officially."
During the time that I was chief of the UFO project, the visitors who passed through my office closely resembled the international brigade. Most of the visits were unofficial in the sense that the officers came to ATIC on other business, but in many instances the other business was just an excuse to come out to Dayton to get filled in on the UFO story. Two RAF intelligence officers who were in the U.S. on a classified mission brought six single-spaced typed pages of questions they and their friends wanted answered. On many occasions Air Force intelligence officers who were stationed in England, France, and Germany, and who returned to the U.S. on business, took back stacks of unclassified flying saucer stories. One civilian intelligence agent who frequently traveled between the U.S. and Europe also acted as the unofficial courier for a German group— transporting hot newspaper and magazine articles about UFO's that I'd collected. In return I received the latest information on European sightings—sightings that never were released and that we never received at ATIC through official channels.
Ever since the fateful day when Lieutenant Jerry Cummings dropped his horn-rimmed glasses down on his nose, tipped his head forward, peered at Major General Cabell over his glasses and, acting not at all like a first lieutenant, said that the UFO investigation was all fouled up, Project Grudge had been gaining prestige. Lieutenant Colonel Rosengarten's promise that I'd be on the project for only a few months went the way of all military promises. By March 1952, Project Grudge was no longer just a project within a group; we had become a separate organization, with the formal title of the Aerial Phenomena Group. Soon after this step-up in the chain of command the project code name was changed to Blue Book. The word "Grudge" was no longer applicable. For those people who like to try to read a hidden meaning into a name, I'll say that the code name Blue Book was derived from the title given to college tests. Both the tests and the project had an abundance of equally confusing questions.
Project Blue Book had been made a separate group because of the steadily increasing number of reports we were receiving. The average had jumped from about ten a month to twenty a month since December 1951. In March of 1952 the reports slacked off a little, but April was a big month. In April we received ninety-nine reports.
On April 1, Colonel S. H. Kirkland and I went to Los Angeles on business. Before we left ATIC we had made arrangements to attend a meeting of the Civilian Saucer Investigators, a now defunct organization that was very active in 1952.
They turned out to be a well-meaning but Don Quixote-type group of individuals. As soon as they outlined their plans for attempting to solve the UFO riddle, it was obvious that they would fail. Project Blue Book had the entire Air Force, money, and enthusiasm behind it and we weren't getting any answers yet. All this group had was the enthusiasm.
The highlight of the evening wasn't the Civilian Saucer Investigators, however; it was getting a chance to read Ginna's UFO article in an advance copy of Life magazine that the organization had obtained—the article written from the material Bob Ginna had been researching for over a year. Colonel Kirkwood took one long look at the article, sidled up to me, and said, "We'd better get back to Dayton quick; you're going to be busy." The next morning at dawn I was sound asleep on a United Airlines DC-6, Dayton-bound.
The Life article undoubtedly threw a harder punch at the American public than any other UFO article ever written. The title alone, "Have We Visitors from Outer Space?" was enough. Other very reputable magazines, such as True, had said it before, but coming from Life, it was different. Life didn't say that the UFO's were from outer space; it just said maybe. But to back up this "maybe," it had quotes from some famous people. Dr. Walther Riedel, who played an important part in the development of the German V-2 missile and is presently the director of rocket engine research for North American Aviation Corporation, said he believed that the UFO's were from outer space. Dr. Maurice Biot, one of the world's leading aerodynamicists, backed him up.
But the most important thing about the Life article was the question in the minds of so many readers: "Why was it written?" Life doesn't go blasting off on flights of space fancy without a good reason. Some of the readers saw a clue in the author's comments that the hierarchy of the Air Force was now taking a serious look at UFO reports. "Did the Air Force prompt Life to write the article?" was the question that many people asked themselves.
When I arrived at Dayton, newspapermen were beating down the door. The official answer to the Life article was released through the Office of Public Information in the Pentagon: "The article is factual, but Life's conclusions are their own." In answer to any questions about the article's being Air Force-inspired, my weasel- worded answer was that we had furnished Life with some raw data on specific sightings.
My answer was purposely weasel-worded because I knew that the Air Force had unofficially inspired the Life article. The "maybe they're interplanetary" with the "maybe" bordering on "they are" was the personal opinion of several very high-ranking officers in the Pentagon—so high that their personal opinion was almost policy. I knew the men and I knew that one of them, a general, had passed his opinions on to Bob Ginna.
Oddly enough, the Life article did not cause a flood of reports. The day after the article appeared we got nine sightings, which was unusual, but the next day they dropped off again.
The number of reports did take a sharp rise a few days later, however. The cause was the distribution of an order that completed the transformation of the UFO from a bastard son to the family heir. The piece of paper that made Project Blue Book legitimate was Air Force Letter 200-5, Subject: Unidentified Flying Objects. The letter, which was duly signed and sealed by the Secretary of the Air Force, in essence stated that UFO's were not a joke, that the Air Force was making a serious study of the problem, and that Project Blue Book was responsible for the study. The letter stated that the commander of every Air Force installation was responsible for forwarding all UFO reports to ATIC by wire, with a copy to the Pentagon. Then a more detailed report would be sent by airmail. Most important of all, it gave Project Blue Book the authority to directly contact any Air Force unit in the United States without going through any chain of command. This was almost unheard of in the Air Force and gave our project a lot of prestige.
The new reporting procedures established by the Air Force letter greatly aided our investigation because it allowed us to start investigating the better reports before they cooled off. But it also had its disadvantages. It authorized the sender to use whatever priority he thought the message warranted. Some things are slow in the military, but a priority message is not one of them. When it comes into the message center, it is delivered to the addressee immediately, and for some reason, all messages reporting UFO's seemed to arrive between midnight and 4:00A.M. I was considered the addressee on all UFO reports. To complicate matters, the messages were usually classified and I would have to go out to the air base and personally sign for them.
One such message came in about 4:30A.M. on May 8, 1952. It was from a CAA radio station in Jacksonville, Florida, and had been forwarded over the Flight Service teletype net. I received the usual telephone call from the teletype room at Wright-Patterson, I think I got dressed, and I went out and picked up the message. As I signed for it I remember the night man in the teletype room said, "This is a lulu, Captain."
It was a lulu. About one o'clock that morning a Pan-American airlines DC-4 was flying south toward Puerto Rico. A few hours after it had left New York City it was out over the Atlantic Ocean, about 600 miles off Jacksonville, Florida, flying at 8,000 feet. It was a pitch-black night; a high overcast even cut out the glow from the stars. The pilot and copilot were awake but really weren't concentrating on looking for other aircraft because they had just passed into the San Juan Oceanic Control Area and they had been advised by radio that there were no other airplanes in the area. The copilot was turning around to look at number four engine when he noticed a light up ahead. It looked like the taillight of another airplane. He watched it closely for a few seconds since no other airplanes were supposed to be in the area. He glanced out at number four engine for a few seconds, looked back, and he saw that the light was in about the same position as when he'd first seen it. Then he looked down at the prop controls, synchronized the engines, and looked up again. In the few seconds that he had glanced away from the light, it had moved to the right so that it was now directly ahead of the DC-4, and it had increased in size. The copilot reached over and slapped the pilot on the shoulder and pointed. Just at that instant the light began to get bigger and bigger until it was "ten times the size of a landing light of an airplane." It continued to close in and with a flash it streaked by the DC-4's left wing. Before the crew could react and say anything, two more smaller balls of fire flashed by. Both pilots later said that they sat in their seats for several seconds with sweat trickling down their backs.
It was one of these two pilots who later said, "Were you ever traveling along the highway about 70 miles an hour at night, have the car that you were meeting suddenly swerve over into your lane and then cut back so that you just miss it by inches? You know the sort of sick, empty feeling you get when it's all over? That's just the way we felt."
As soon as the crew recovered from the shock, the pilot picked up his mike, called Jacksonville Radio, and told them about the incident. Minutes later we had the report. The next afternoon Lieutenant Kerry Rothstien, who had replaced Lieutenant Metscher on the project, was on his way to New York to meet the pilots when they returned from Puerto Rico.
When Kerry talked to the two pilots, they couldn't add a great deal to their original story. Their final comment was the one we all had heard so many times, "I always thought these people who reported flying saucers were crazy, but now I don't know."
When Lieutenant Rothstien returned to Dayton he triple-checked with the CAA for aircraft in the area—but there were none. Could there have been airplanes in the area that CAA didn't know about? The answer was almost a flat "No." No one would fly 600 miles off the coast without filing a flight plan; if he got into trouble or went down, the Coast Guard or Air Rescue Service would have no idea where to look.
Kerry was given the same negative answer when he checked on surface shipping.
The last possibility was that the UFO's were meteors, but several points in the pilots' story ruled these out. First, there was a solid overcast at about 18,000 feet. No meteor cruises along straight and level below 18,000 feet. Second, on only rare occasions have meteors been seen traveling three in trail. The chances of seeing such a phenomenon are well over one in a billion.
Some people have guessed that some kind of an atmospheric phenomenon can form a "wall of air" ahead of an airplane that will act as a mirror and that lights seen at night by pilots are nothing more than the reflection of the airplane's own lights. This could be true in some cases, but to have a reflection you must have a light to reflect. There are no lights on an airplane that even approach being "ten times the size of a landing light."
What was it? I know a colonel who says it was the same thing that the two Eastern Airlines' pilots, Clarence Chiles and John Whitted, saw near Montgomery, Alabama, on July 24, 1948, and he thinks that Chiles and Whitted saw a spaceship.
Reports for the month of April set an all-time high. These were all reports that came from military installations. In addition, we received possibly two hundred letters reporting UFO's, but we were so busy all we could do was file them for future reference.
In May 1952 I'd been out to George AFB in California investigating a series of sightings and was on my way home. I remember the flight to Dayton because the weather was bad all the way. I didn't want to miss my connecting flight in Chicago, or get grounded, because I had faithfully promised my wife that we would go out to dinner the night that I returned to Dayton. I'd called her from Los Angeles to tell her that I was coming in, and she had found a baby sitter and had dinner reservations. I hadn't been home more than about two days a week for the past three months, and she was looking forward to going out for the evening.
I reached Dayton about midmorning and went right out to the base. When I arrived at the office, my secretary was gone but there was a big note on my desk: "Call Colonel Dunn as soon as you get in."
I called Colonel Dunn; then I called my wife and told her to cancel the baby sitter, cancel the dinner reservations, and pack my other bag. I had to go to Washington.
While I'd been in California, Colonel Dunn had received a call from General Samford's office. It seems that a few nights before, one of the top people in the Central Intelligence Agency was having a lawn party at his home just outside Alexandria, Virginia. A number of notable personages were in attendance and they had seen a flying saucer. The report had been passed down to Air Force intelligence, and due to the quality of the brass involved, it was "suggested" that I get to Washington on the double and talk to the host of the party. I was at his office before 5:00P.M. and got his report.
About ten o'clock in the evening he and two other people were standing near the edge of his yard talking; he happened to be facing south, looking off across the countryside. He digressed a bit from his story to explain that his home is on a hilltop in the country, and when looking south, he had a view of the entire countryside. While he was talking to the two other people he noticed a light approaching from the west. He had assumed it was an airplane and had casually watched it, but when the light got fairly close, the CIA man said that he suddenly realized there wasn't any sound associated with it. If it were an airplane it would have been close enough for him to hear even above the hum of the guests' conversations. He had actually quit talking and was looking at the light when it stopped for an instant and began to climb almost vertically. He said something to the other guests, and they looked up just in time to see the light finish its climb, stop, and level out. They all watched it travel level for a few seconds, then go into a nearly vertical dive, level out, and streak off to the east.