Do you believe in flying saucers? Are there craft from other worlds entering our atmosphere? Are there secret explanations behind sightings that remain classified as Unidentified Flying Objects?

For the present it is a matter of each individualís belief, says this science writer who has spent months of research to prepare a series of articles which will appear each Monday in The Journal.

Perhaps his efforts will help you decide.


Veil Of Secrecy

Report On Unidentified Objects Vanishes In Air Force Channels

BY CLIFFORD D. SIMAK
Minneapolis Star Science Writer

The Edmonton Journal
Monday, December 5, 1966


Kenneth Arnold saw his flying saucers over Mount Rainier on June 24, 1947.

There, on Sept. 23, the chief of the Air Technical Intelligence Centre (ATIC) wrote to the commanding general of the then Army air forces in reply to a verbal request by the general to make a preliminary survey of UFO reports.

The reply said that after such a preliminary study it appeared the reports phenomena were real and strongly urged that a permanent project be established. The recommendation was accepted and the Project Sign, the forerunner of today's Project Blue Book, came into existence.

No Doubt

At the time Project Sign was initiated, wrote Edward J. Ruppelt, who later served for two years as Blue Book chief, there seemed no doubt in Air Force ranks that UFOs actually existed. Matched with this was a confidence that the answer could be gotten in a few months.

The consensus was that they either were secret Russian aircraft or were of interplanetary origin.

So seriously did the Air Force regard the situation, according to Ruppelt, that the UFO security was tight as early as July, 1947. A newspaperman who inquired about UFOs at that time received approximately "the same treatment you would get today if you inquired about the number of thermonuclear weapons stockpiled in the U.S. atomic arsenal."

What little is known about the early history of the UFO investigation by the Air Force is contained in Ruppelt's book, "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects," published by Doubleday in 1956, three years after its author had left Project Blue Book. In the foreword to the book, Ruppelt called it a report - except for the style of writing, exactly what he would have written if he had been asked to write an official report.

In a revised second edition of his book, published in 1959, Ruppelt - either because of a change of conviction or perhaps pressure of some sort - switched his beliefs on UFOs. But the greater part of his book still stood unchanged so far as the history of the Air Force investigation was concerned.

He took over as head of the project in September 1951 and continued as its head until September 1953. The memorandums and correspondence in the files at the time he took over showed that in the early years the UFO situation was considered to be serious. The higher echelons in the Air Force wanted an answer quickly, and a confusion that at times amounted to panic ran through Project Sign.

Sharp Turns

By the end of 1947, however, and the project had settled down to a routine operation.

The idea that the UFOs might be Russian aircraft was quickly dispelled. A study showed that no man-made structure could hang together under the rapid acceleration and sharp turns made by the UFOs, nor could the bodies of a human crew.

In July, 1948, Ruppelt reported, an "estimate of the situation" was drafted. The estimate said that the UFOs were interplanetary. It started up through Air force channels, and no one stopped it until it reached the late Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, then chief of staff. Vandenberg rejected it.

Today the Air Force denies that such a document ever existed. But Ruppelt claimed he saw it. It was, he wrote, a thick document printed on legal-size paper, with a black cover with "Top Secret" printed across the cover.

After Vandenberg batted it down, most of the copies were burned. All of them were supposed to be, but Ruppelt was convinced that a few copies had been kept as souvenirs. It was well after all of them were supposed to have been consigned to the incinerator that he saw a copy.

Dewey J. Fournet Jr., who acted as liaison officer between ATIC and the Pentagon in 1952, confirmed that such a document did exist and said that he saw it. In a letter to Maj. Donald Keyhoe, director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), Fournet said, however, that since it was classified, he was not at liberty to reveal its contents.

By July, 1949, Ruppelt wrote, Air Force policy had changed. The official line now was that UFOs did not exist. Ruppelt traces this back to the "estimate of the situation." That document had tried to prove that they did exist and had been rejected. Now the official attitude was that they did not, which, after all, was easier to prove.

Project Sign on Feb. 11, 1949, became Project Grudge. When Ruppelt later asked the reason for the change, he was told that it was because Project Sign had been compromised. Just how it had been compromised, no one said.

Final Report

But the name change made no difference in the policy. It still was based on the premise that UFOs did not exist. Project Grudge lapsed into inactivity, and on Dec. 27, 1949, an Air Force press release announced that the project had been closed and that a final report would be made.

The report, when it came out, showed 23 per cent of the sightings unidentified. An appendix to the report, however, attempted to explain most of these away.

Within a short time, a letter came from the office of the director of intelligence, pointing out that there had been no order to end the project. The answer was that Grudge wasn't actually disbanded but that UFO reports now were being processed through normal channels.

The situation went along comfortably until September, 1951, when a report on a particularly intriguing sighting aroused the interest of Gen. C. 0. Cabell, then director of intelligence. Cabell asked ATIC for a personal report on the sighting. Learning, during the course of the report, the condition of the investigation setup, Cabell asked for a review of the last 18 months of its operation. Ruppelt was called on to put the report together.

Project Grudge was re-established Oct. 27, 1951. Because he had been assigned to review the project, Ruppelt was the UFO "expert" and was assigned as the new project head. His orders: Do the best job he could tracking down the UFO reports but make no wild speculation.

Staff Of 10

Ruppelt at that time had 10 men on his staff, as compared to the three cited in 1966 by the ad hoc committee that recommended the formation of the university teams to aid in UFO studies.

The name of the project was changed to Blue Book in March 1952.

At that time, some sentiment apparently was building up in the Air Force for a more serious consideration of the problem. One group of officers, Ruppelt reported, urged official recognition that the UFOs were real and that they were not from earth.

They also urged that the security classification of the project be raised to top secret until the Air Force had all the answers, at which time the information would be released to the public. The recommendation was not acted upon.

The Air Force convened a panel of scientists on Jan. 12, 1953, to weigh the UFO evidence thus far accumulated. When the panel finished its work, no conclusion was made public. Since then, two conflicting versions have been put forward.

In 1958, five years after the panel convened, the Air Force put out a summary of its recommendations. According to the summary, the panel concluded that the UFOs offered no physical threat to national security. There was no evidence of "foreign artifacts capable of hostile acts" and no need for revision of current scientific concepts. The panel suggested "an integrated program to reassure the public of the total lack of inimical forces behind the phenomena."

Every Detail

Ruppelt, in his book, said that the panel recommended that the project be expanded, the investigative force quadrupled in size and staffed by trained experts, that tracking instruments be set up in various parts of the country and that the public be told every detail of the investigation.

NICAP claimed that the 1953 panel was called by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), although it had no proof of this. This was in line with the belief of some other private UFO investigators that the CIA and possibly other governmental agencies were [as?] interested in the UFOs as the Air Force.

A few months ago it became apparent that the CIA was involved at least in the 1953 panel. At the request of John Lear, science editor of Saturday Review magazine, Maj. Hector Quintanilla, director of Project Blue Book, asked declassification of the panel's minutes. The request was granted by the CIA which, it then turned out, had summoned the panel.

The minutes, as released, were edited. It is impossible to know how much or how little editing was done. The minutes, as declassified, made it apparent that the Air Force 1958 summary was a more accurate statement than Ruppelt's. They also made apparent that the panel members were far from unanimous in their assessment of all phases of the situation.

Personnel Gap

A few weeks after the panel had completed its work, Ruppelt said that he got word that the recommendations (his version of them) would be carried out. They never were. When he tried to build up his staff, no personnel was available. Plans for manned tracking stations and for the use of cameras, tied in with radar, to track the UFO's were cancelled.

There was a new policy: Don't say anything.

No new historian has come forth to replace Ruppelt, so detailed information such as he furnished is lacking after 1953.

Since that time, the Air Force seems bent on reassuring the public that there is nothing to fear from the UFOs. For the most part, public relations are cordial, but not much meaningful information is available. This, explains the Air Force, is because there is no information. Almost all of the sightings are being explained as conventional phenomena.

Critics complain that many of the explanations are simply that, statements designed to explain the UFO sightings, without any real attempt to investigate them.

Time Will Tell

Ruppelt ended his book by saying that only time would provide the answer. The UFOs might be simply unidentified objects, or they might be interplanetary ships.

That was in 1953. In 1959, Doubleday issued a second edition of the book. Ruppelt added three new chapters and in those chapters argued that all UFOs could be explained in conventional terms.

Why did Ruppelt do it? No one can know. He died a short time later.

Critics of the Air Force cried "pressure." But that is sheer speculation. No one knows the answer.

Next: William Van Horn explains his theories on UFOs.

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