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Project Blue Book:
A Good Idea Gone Bad

Project Blue Book, beginning in 1952, was not the first formal investigation of UFOs. There had been two earlier projects (Projects Sign and Grudge) the first of which was started in 1947. All the projects were carried out by the United States Air Force.

The idea behind the original investigation was to ascertain what all the sudden increase in sightings of UFO sightings was about. The first estimate of them was that flying saucers were real craft, were not made by either the Russians or U.S., and were likely extraterrestrial in origin.

It would be nice to report that Project Blue Book (the longest running study) was effective, efficient or held in high regard by the USAF. It is not the case.

Only the first officer in charge, Major Ruppelt, was in any way serious about the work. Indeed, he was the person responsible for coining the term 'unidentified flying object'. There were too many terms, such as 'flying saucer' and 'flying disk' and Ruppelt wanted a more dispassionate term.

He was also responsible for a more detailed and orderly reporting system, allowing for better statistical analysis.

Although Project Blue Book began well under Ruppelt, its subsequent history is one of neglect and downright prejudice.

The Robertson Panel

In fact, it did not take long for Project Blue Book to be downgraded. This happened in 1953 after a panel of experts gathered by the CIA (known as the Robertson Panel) debated what to do about the growing public interest in UFOs.

After 12 hours reviewing 6 years data collected by the Project, their conclusion was that the large number of UFO reports was stopping intelligence agencies from spending time assessing genuine threats to the U.S.

What they recommended was, basically, a campaign to debunk the whole area. They advocated the use of mass media and of public figures and scientists. Additionally, civilian UFO groups "should be watched because of their potentially great influence on mass thinking… The apparent irresponsibility and the possible use of such groups for subversive purposes should be kept in mind."

There doesn't seem to be much of an open mind is that, does there?

In fact, after this, Project Blue Book was ordered to reduce the number of unidentified cases to a minimum.

Subsequent history

There were four other heads of Blue Book after Ruppelt requested re-assignment in 1953. None of them had any real interest in investigating UFOs.

There was a lack of funding, the research was sketchy and unscientific and there were cries from some quarters that it was covering up UFOs rather than investigating them.

Suspicions about dubious research and / or a cover up became loudly vocal in the 1960's with Project Blue Book's hugely inept handling of a couple of cases which had attracted widespread attention.

The worst was in 1966 after a widely publicized chase of UFO's involving many police officers across Ohio and into Pennsylvania. Skimpy investigation and only one officer being interviewed led to Project Blue Book's director stating that the police (one of them an Air Force gunner during the Korean War) had first chased a communications satellite, then the planet Venus.

It was widely derided as absurd, the police officer himself rejecting it.

To me, the most important aspect of this was what an Ohio congressman, William Stanton said about the conclusion. He said that "the air force has suffered a great loss of prestige in this community … Once people entrusted with the public welfare no longer think the people can handle the truth, then the people, in return, will no longer trust the government."

And isn't this exactly what has happened? Isn't this the reason why there are now so many conspiracy theories and allegations of dirty deeds and secrets?

The end of Blue Book

Project Blue Book was officially closed either in December 1969 or January 1970, according to varying reports.

Its conclusion was that UFOs sightings were generated as a result of:

  • A mild form of mass hysteria.
  • Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity.
  • Psychopathological persons.
  • Misidentification of various conventional objects.

In fact, crackpots counted for less than 10% of all sightings and 22% remained unsolved. (You can see the total numbers of sightings and how many were unidentified each year at the FBI website (page 4 of the pdf).)

The 'unknowns' can all be seen at this website.

You can see all of the Blue Book papers currently on microfilm at this website (Note. This site is currently down as it's changing hosts. The new url will be posted as soon as it is up again).

So what's the significance?

I think that one of the results of Project Blue Book was that the public did lose confidence in the government and allowed the rise of conspiracy theories and undercover deeds to gain ground.

I think also that the numbers of unidentified flying objects remaining after even this sloppy investigation really does make it quite clear that such things exist. It is, in a sense, proof of UFOs.

I think also that the subsequent debacle of the project has led many to think that there is a UFO cover up taking place. This is fueled primarily by a memo from Brigadier General C.H. Bolander in 1969 stating that after Blue Book was dissolved, that "reports of UFOs" would still "continue to be handled through the standard Air Force procedure designed for this purpose." Furthermore, "Reports of unidentified flying objects which could affect national security … are not part of the Blue Book system."

This, of course, leads to speculation as to who, precisely, is now responsible for dealing with such information.

Maybe Project Blue Book really is alive and thriving somewhere....?

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