PROJECT BLUE BOOK: A Retrospective

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In 1969, the U.S. Air Force closed down their “Project Blue Book” investigation of “Unidentified Flying Objects” by claiming their evaluations of more than 12,000 sightings had not yielded a single instance where a UFO had ever posed a threat to national security, nor demonstrated technology “beyond the range of present day scientific knowledge”, nor been categorized as extraterrestrial. Headquartered at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio where legend long suggests recovered salvage from the 1947 Roswell incident was taken for further research and development, all of the project’s declassified records were allegedly transferred to the National Archives and Records Service. But did the Air Force really shut down the project, or just move it into a private sphere where the public could be kept at arm’s length? A handful of government documents have slipped out over the years pointing to the latter scenario. A look back at Project Blue Book is insightful here, for knowledge of how the project evolved remains relevant to modern assessments as well as the effort to gauge what current high-level insiders might know. Historical information indicates that the Army Air Force took serious attention to UFOs when reports of “foo fighters” started coming in from pilots during World War II. Further sightings at military installations in 1947 led to classified orders that UFO reports be sent to division offices at Wright-Patterson Air Field where General Nathan Twining was selected to oversee any type of evaluation. Twining authored the now legendary September 23, 1947 classified memo to Air Force General George Schulgen in which he responded to a request for information about “flying saucer sightings” by reporting his team’s opinion that, “The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious.” This apparently catalyzed the Air Force’s decision to open an official investigation into the UFO phenomenon, as Project Sign was then established near the end of 1947. Major General L. C. Craigie sent a directive to Twining to collect and evaluate information “concerning sightings and phenomena in the atmosphere which can be construed to be of concern to the national security.” A precursor to Project Blue Book, Project Sign was where Ohio State University astronomy professor Dr. J. Allen Hynek first became involved with the government study of UFOs. Hynek was contracted by the project to analyze UFO reports and determine if objects observed were misidentified astronomical phenomena. Generally skeptical, Hynek still found that roughly 20 percent of the reports could not be explained in such a manner.

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