Inside the Archives: Exploring the Mysteries of Project Blue Book

When in December 1969 Project Blue Book officially came to an end, the Air Force didn’t seem to tell the public the whole truth with statements suggesting that UFOs presented no indication of threats to U.S. national security, no evidence of technological development beyond human’s scientific knowledge, and no signs to consider them vehicles of extraterrestrial origins. The end of Project Blue Book felt premature given a well-reported incident of a glowing red object hovering over the Malcolm Air Base in Montana, during which 10 nuclear missiles under the facility were simultaneously rendered useless. It remains unexplained and probably is only the tip of the iceberg.

A Sizable Mission

One UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) or UAP (Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon) case that really pushed the decision to launch a government-sanctioned investigative study about the matter was a sighting reported by well-respected private pilot Kenneth Arnold, who claimed to have witnessed a strange aircraft flying near Mount Rainier, Washington on June 24, 1947. He described the craft as skipping like saucers. Media coverage prompted a nationwide frenzy, and the term “flying saucers” was born. Just like the rumored UFO landing in Roswell, New Mexico that took place around the same time, Arnold’s report was largely regarded as a high-profile incident.

Project Sign was the first of its kind and active from 1947 to 1948 before Project Grudge replaced it in 1949. Although Project Grudge was said to have been officially ended in December the same year, the work continued despite in minimal capacity until five decades later. Project Blue Book came to existence in March 1952 until its formal termination in December 1969. Throughout the period, it investigated 12,618 UFO sightings.

Public Unease

Among the primary objects of Project Blue Book, was to put the public unease regarding possible alien invasion to a stop. People were growing more paranoia by the day, especially with reports of UFO spotted flying over the U.S. Capitol and White House. Whether the UFOs were extraterrestrial, the panic itself was seen as a serious threat by the U.S. military. The government just had to maintain order.

Skepticism was all around, but it did not change the fact that UFOs were taken pretty seriously and discussed among top government officials back then. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, the first Director of CIA, even said that UFOs were operating under intelligent control and therefore it was imperative to know their origin and purpose. He was convinced that neither Russia nor the U.S. itself had the technology to build something as fast and maneuverable as the reported UFOs.

Simple Explanations

Even when Project Sign was still in operation, a secret “Estimate of the Situation” report written by the staff concluded that UFOs most likely had interplanetary origin based on the available evidence. The estimate was outright rejected by General Hoyt Vandenberg, then Chief of Staff of the USAF, who insisted that more conventional explanations be established. His position on the matter basically terminated any further attempt to pursue any serious insight into the possibility that UFOs might be extraterrestrial.

Many of the cases within Project Blue Book’s investigative authority were closed with simple explanations. It didn’t matter if the reports were coming from credible people, from military pilots to Navy admirals. Among the most commonly cited causes of UFO sightings include weather balloons, temperature inversions, meteorological events, and even swamp gases.

One notable example was a witness report claiming to have seen a large white object about half the size of the moon (as observed from Earth) of which investigators concluded it was the sighting of a meteor; case closed. In a January 1961 report, a dark object with no wings spotted in Newark, New Jersey was deemed as a jet aircraft.

Insufficient Data

A case had either a simple explanation or none at all. More than 700 entries in Project Blue Book remain unexplained because of insufficient evidence or data. A particularly interesting incident happened in Socorro, New Mexico where a police officer reported seeing a strange aircraft during a vehicular pursuit in 1964. The officer stopped the pursuit and observed two child-sized beings existing the aircraft, which he also described as bearing red-colored insignia. The aircraft took off again, leaving trace evidence and scorch marks on the ground. Investigators put the incident under the “unexplained” category.

Unreleased Reports

Project Blue Book was an investigative task handled by the United States Air Force. With the release of Pentagon UFO videos and U.S. Intelligence Reports, which basically say that reported sightings of UFOs are not false readings, it makes little sense to assume other U.S. government entities take no participation in the investigation. At the very least, Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency are conducting studies of their own and still keeping the reports sealed tight.

We think that whatever the United States Air Force said regarding Project Blue Book, it never really stops investigating UFOs. Other government agencies also continued (and still do) to have a certain level of involvement in the investigations after the project’s formal closure. A once-classified memo, written by an Air Force Brigadier General Caroll H. Bolender and issued in October 1969, revealed that new programs and regulations had already been in place to look into UFO reports beyond the scope of Project Blue Book. Despite all statements to the contrary, authorities are still grappling with well-documented UFO encounters involving real radar data, testimonies from credible witnesses, physical traces recovered from the ground, and photographic evidences gathered from all across the country.

Have you read any declassified government reports about UFOs? Do you think we have enough evidence to believe confidently that intelligent extraterrestrial species have visited Earth? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

Is History Channel’s Project Blue Book accurate depiction of the actual events?

The series is based on – or at least inspired by – the actual Project Blue Book, but the show predictably adds many story elements that never happened and overdramatizes real investigative efforts.

What was the most famous UFO sighting ever reported?

While there have been quite a lot of high-profile sightings since decades ago, few could match the sense of bewilderment triggered by the 2006 event observed at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. Some pilots, mechanics, and airline management officials reported seeing a dark grey object about 6 to 24 feet in diameter. A few of them said the object was spinning like a Frisbee, while others claimed it wasn’t rotating; but all agreed the object generated no sound at all before climbing into the clouds and disappearing. The FAA refused to investigate on the report and dismissed it as a weather phenomenon.

What happened in Roswell in 1947?

Roswell suddenly became the center of a UFO conspiracy theory when a local rancher claimed to have recovered the debris of a flying saucer in his field. The debris, which included a thin foil, thick paper, and rubber strips, was then brought to the Roswell Army Air Force base. The military claimed that all the debris was from a weather balloon, but the base also contacted other facilities in Ohio and Texas for further study. When the story leaked, the media picked up and turned Roswell into a symbol of government conspiracies to cover-up the existence of extraterrestrial visitors.

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