Blog: Project Blue Book

Project Blue Book has been the source of many a conspiracy theory. With a new hit show surrounding the topic airing January 8th on the History Channel, I thought this would be a perfect subject matter prior to its arrival tomorrow. 

KEY PLAYERS

Project Blue Book it was established in 1952 by the United States Air Force and then terminated in December of 1969. It had two goals: the first, to determine if you have the UFOs were a threat to national security and the second, to analyze the UFO data that they gleaned. There were quite a few key players, of which the new show will be based upon. The first person of interest is Edward Ruppelt, as he was the first head of Project Blue Book. He was also a WWII vet, had an Aeronautics degree and he coined the term UFO. He eventually went on to write The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Ruppelt was instrumental in this project in a number of ways: first, he streamlined reporting of UFO sightings by developing a standard questionnaire to ask people and second he took all of this data from these questionnaires and he computerized all of it. This was a pretty large endeavor, especially for the time period that Project Blue Book was active. He remained objective throughout this entire study he didn’t allow anyone on his task force to sway results one way or the other. If you were a member of his task force, and you became too excited one way or the other you were undoubtedly going to be removed from the project. In addition to remaining objective, Ruppelt also sought expert opinion from scientists, physicists, etc.—whoever he needed in order to help study the case files. In addition to his neutral demeanor, Ruppelt often held press releases for the public. This is likely my favorite aspect about him as he was an advocate of including the American people. His forthcoming nature is also most likely why he was shut down as well. In 1953, he takes a temporary reassignment with the military–I don’t believe it was a reassignment that he wanted but rather, it was asked of him. When he came back to Project Blue Book, it had pretty much completely changed. It was not as he left it, the staff had dwindled, and the validity of the content had changed drastically. In August of 1953, Ruppelt asked to be reassigned, as he saw the impending doom of the study that he had worked so hard to build up in all of those years.

The second key player, J. Allen Hynek, and whom the series on the History Channel will mostly be following, was an astronomer and a scientific consultant on the project. He was also associated with Project Sign and Project Grudge. He is most known for developing the close encounter scale (CE). If you follow Dr. Greer’s work, you will hear him talk about CE-5–Dr. Greer built upon the scale that J. Allen Hynek developed. What does CE stand for? This acronym stands for “close encounter.” A CE-1 is a visual sighting of an unidentified flying object seemingly less than 500 feet away that show angular extension and considerable detail so. CE-2 is a UFO event in which a physical effect is alleged–this can be interference in the functioning of a vehicle or electronic device, animals reacting a psychological effect such as paralysis/heat/discomfort, and the witness or some physical trace of like impressions in the ground scorched or otherwise affected vegetation or a chemical trace. The moral of the story on a CE-2, is there needs to be some type of physical evidence that can be verified. A CE-3 is UFO encounter in which an animated creature is present–this includes humanoid robots and humans who seem to be occupants or pilots of a UFO. That is a pretty broad-based definition. Hynek did not limit it down to only an extraterrestrial. He was saying that it could be alien (government-induced), it could be robotic, it could be human, or it may actually be extraterrestrial. So those are the three categories that J. Allen Hynek coined. If you go on to look at the other CE categories that came after the Project Blue Book study, the one that’s most familiar these days is the one associate associated with Dr. Greer and that’s the CE-5. What makes a CE-5 is the process in which humans reach out to extraterrestrials in a peaceful manner to make contact with them. If you’ve ever watched Greer’s documentaries you’ve witnessed that he has CE-5 groups all around the USA, and all around the world. These groups are a part of a coalition that is committed to reaching out to extraterrestrials in peace.

PROJECT SCOPE

Moving on from the key players and looking more so into the project scope, what we’re dealing with here is over the span of the project they collected 12,618 reports in which 701 of those were classified as “unidentified.” In many cases, a majority of the reports they concluded were misidentifications of natural phenomena or conventional aircraft. I can totally understand this: if you go outside you look up at your night sky (if you’re able to see your night sky—sorry city folks) you can see a lot of what’s going on celestially at any given time. There undoubtedly will be several planes flying over. We have satellites that orbit the Earth and then there are natural celestial occurrences that if not familiar with, you may misidentify what those phenomena are. So, the misidentifications make sense, and there is nothing out of the ordinary to me in that statement. However, humans are full of error, so it’s possible that the Project concluded some reports were misidentifications that truly were not. The 701 reports that were classified as “unexplained” did carry the label of “there is no conventional method in which we can explain this phenomena.” For those of you who are interested in seeing those reports, fortunately, under the Freedom of Information Act we were able to get access to these as an American people under that particular Act but of course, anything that was personal information, such as names, addresses, etc. were redacted.

THE CONDON REPORT

In 1966, a pretty significant report that kicked Project Blue Book right in the knees was the Condon Report, established as a neutral, scientific body. I say neutral very lightly because there was not a lot of neutrality that centered on this report. This study was riddled in controversy with Edward Condon being the leader of the study. He was very biased in his opinions, which led to a lot of the controversy and scientific plot holes in his findings. The committee chalked things up to certain explainable elements of science that just didn’t even make sense. The findings of the report were: no UFO reported investigated or evaluated was an indication of a threat, no evidence submitted or discovered that sightings represented technological developments, and there is nothing extraordinary about UFOs. That lack of technology finding is laughable—one can see what kind of technology we have today. There is a lot of technology we have in the Black Budget that we don’t get to see that we could definitely mistake for “extraterrestrial,” but the fact that they said that there were no technological developments, that is just laughable. Those were the findings that were pushed upon the American people so that they would stop talking about this Project altogether. If you read the Condon Report for yourself, you will just find that it has problems through and through, therefore, take it with a grain of salt. Again, it was issued by the government so don’t expect a lot of truth out of any kind of those reports. The Condon Report did not change my opinion of UFOs or extraterrestrial life, but unfortunately, it did have a strong hand in shutting down Project Blue Book, which is unfortunate.

Circling back to Ruppelt and J. Allen Hynek, they had their hands in similar studies prior to Project Blue Book. In 1947, Project Sign comes online and that project was under General Twining. In 1949, we have Project Grudge, and if you look at the history of that particular project there’s not a real figurehead that is identified with this project. Various leaders had their hands in it, but it moved around a bit. The whole purpose of Project Grudge was to debunk what happened in Project Sign, so low and behold the first attempt at a smear campaign via the government. After Project Sign and Grudge we, of course, have Project Blue Book come online in 1952, which we know was eventually decommissioned.

THE ROBERTSON PANEL

Like the Condon Report, but headquartered out of the CIA, we then have the Robertson Panel. The CIA establishes a panel after Project Blue Book gains notable publicity. It’s headed up by Dr. HP Robertson, who was a scientist at Caltech at this time. The first meeting was held on January 14, 1953, and it concluded that most reports that came through Project Blue Book could be explained and that it wasn’t worth the effort (in a nutshell). They recommended that the United States Air Force discontinue the study because it was “clogging channels.” On top of that recommendation, they also went as far as to recommend that the USAF should embark on a debunking campaign to decrease public interest. I would like to say this is unbelievable, however, it is not. Thus begins more smear campaigns from our beloved government. The disinformation campaigns keep on coming: joint Army Navy Air Force regulation #146 makes it a crime for military personnel to discuss classified UFO reports. Basically, if you don’t shut up on your own we’re going to make you. Individuals in violation of this regulation could be imprisoned for up to two years or fined up to $10,000. This is absolutely crazy, right? So, if you are military personnel you cannot discuss anything you see/hear/feel/etc. that is classified with your officer next to you, otherwise, you would face the consequences. In steps AISS that takes on any serious UFO matters.  AISS is tasked with anything that is an actual UFO encounter/sighting/etc., and Project Blue Book gets any of the reports that are trivial.  In short, Project Blue Book basically gets all of the busy work. After we witness all of these intentional disinformation campaigns and the silencing of Project Blue Book, the heads of the Project Blue Book change hands multiple times. It passes through the hands of General Hardin, General Gregory, General Friend and General Quintanilla in a short amount of time. The project had so much stability there at the beginning with Ruppelt, and then it goes through this transformation that involves a whole host of ordeals that ultimately is the government not wanting people to get too interested in UFOs.

NICAP

The public gets wind of what is happening, and thus births NICAP, the largest civilian UFO research group at the time. They charge Project Blue Book with covering up UFO evidence. This charge was backed by several members of Congress. NICAP, at this time, was 15,000 members strong in the mid-1960s. That was a pretty well-organized group for the era. Eventually, a non-profit group named MUFON becomes the new NICAP, which we will get to momentarily. Project Blue Book eventually ends due to the bogus reports (which were in my opinion setups by the government), the lack of scientific evidence, the mistaken planetary systems, and natural phenomena, and then the eventual bad press. All of these items led to the demise of Project Blue Book, which is a shame, because I truly believe that Ruppelt set out with good intentions for an objective study of UFOs. Due to all of these smear reports coming out–the Condon Report and the Robertson Panel– the Secretary of the Air Force, Robert Seaman’s Jr. announces that Project Blue Book will be closed due to “unjustifiable further funding.” The publically acknowledged close date of the project was 12/17/1969, however, NICAP did an audit and they believed that it really closed on 1/30/1970. All of the files that were associated with Project Blue Book were sent to the Air Force Archives at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, and there they went to die until the Freedom of Information Act opened them up. We did eventually find out via the Act that in December of 2017, $20 million dollars funded an Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program from 2007 to 2012. WELL, THAT’S INTERESTING–because they closed Project Blue Book because it didn’t produce any knowledgeable report or anything of the like that is deemed worthwhile to the United States military. If you recall, the Condon Report findings stated: that UFOs are not a threat to the United States that the military was not going to talk about anymore. They wanted the public craze to stop, therefore they end the project publically and then it, of course, moves into the Black Budget. That’s what happens with any public study that the government conducts when they’ve deemed that the public is getting too interested in it–they close it and then they move it to their Black Budget so that’s untraceable by civilians. The project closes in 1970 according to NICAP and that kind of just seems to be the end of it–or is it?  

MUFON

Enter stage left: a private group by the name of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network). They were established 5/31/1969. Project Blue Book closed at the end of 1969/beginning of 1970, and MUFON that sets up shop in the middle of 1969. I’m not sure what happened here—perhaps civilians caught wind that the project would be ending so a civilian group stepped in because they knew the government wasn’t going do it anymore? Perhaps. MUFON is a non-profit, currently headquartered in Newport Beach, CA. Their mission is the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity. Currently, their membership numbers are 3,000+. The International Director, Jan Harzan, is a retiree from IBM after 37 years. Harzan attended UCLA, School of Engineering and received his BS in Nuclear Engineering. Harzan was named Executive Director of MUFON on 8/1/2013.

The purpose of MUFON is to study UFOs for the benefit of humanity through investigations, research, and education. MUFON is a part of this UFO Research Coalition. Also, a part of this coalition is the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies and The Fund for UFO Research. This UFO Research Coalition, in which these three organizations make up, is a collaborative effort between the three investigative organizations, in which they share personnel and other research resources to promote the scientific study of UFO phenomena. Personally, I believe this to be a great idea as alternative media topics such as these are incredibly hard to get funding for. If you converse with a lot of scientists they don’t generally want to touch subject matters such as these with a ten-foot pol due to the stigma that is associated with said topics. It’s really great that they have formed a coalition in order to pool resources and get the biggest bang for their buck.

MUFON leadership and founders start with Walter H. Andrus, Allen Utke, John Schuessler and a few others. There are the chapters in every state, with most states having more than one chapter. In total, there are 390 field investigators plus a specialized team to investigate physical evidence. In order to become an investigator for MUFON, one must pass an exam on a 265-page manual along with successfully passing a background check. They are definitely serious about the process to become an investigator–they have a reputation that they want to protect and they don’t want any stigmas or stereotypes to infiltrate their studies. MUFON holds an annual symposium with notable keynote speakers. They publish a monthly journal named MUFON UFO Journal.

GEORGIA MUFON MEETUP

I did have the opportunity in December to attend a Georgia MUFON Meetup. It was definitely a cool experience, and I have included some pictures and information:

Location: Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library, Atlanta

Headcount: 37 (15 female; 22 male)

Speaker: Scott Cantrell, GA MUFON State Director | www.gamufon.org

The meeting started off with the MUFON rules and regulations. Those rules were as follows: be respectful of others ideas and opinions, keep politics out of the discussion, submit UFO reports through the submittal process via www.mufon.com, discontinue phone use and have positive interactions with others.

Next, we moved to some history about MUFON. The following facts were communicated: MUFON has 3,500 members currently. It was founded post-Project Blue Book (5/31/1969). The headquarters are currently in Los Angeles. It has chapters in all of the United States and forty countries. The online database has a collection of over 89,000+ records.

Then, we moved to facts about Georgia MUFON. The following facts were communicated: it was established in 1974 in Georgia. The GA MUFON chapter has 47 international members. In addition, it houses 9 field investigators that handle about 150 reports per year. There are also four consultants that work on special projects when needed.

We then learned about the mission statement and goals of MUFON, followed by membership information.

Our main topic was “UFOlogy Today: What we’ve learned and what we want to learn.” We went over the three levels of classification, followed by the investigative procedure and tools, and then we closed with the “what do we want to learn” portion which was open to group discussion.

Overall, this was a good experience for me and I was happy that I attended. I did expect to glean more educational information than I did, but that is not to say that the brainstorming session didn’t provide some education, as it did. I think it is great that there is a meeting place for others of like mind who are interested in the topics of UFOs. Often times this subject matter is ridiculed by outsiders, and having a serious conversation about the matter is often difficult.

MUFON CONCLUSION

MUFON has received a little bit of criticism over the years. They have been in existence since 1969–that’s not anything to scoff at, as that’s a long time for an organization that has mainly volunteers running the operation. Nonetheless, we do need to discuss some of the bad press MUFON has received: MUFON uses pseudoscience as part of their investigative protocols, which this is the part that the scientific community mocks. The mockery of methods that aren’t conventional is a shame, as we tend to try to fit knowledge that is superior to our own into little boxes. This is very frustrating to me with modern-day scientists that aren’t willing to look at things outside of the box. It’s as if the subject matter does not fit the scientific experiment cloud, they don’t want to look at it or they just want to put it off to the side and say that subject matter such as that is for somebody else to evaluate. That’s not science! If there is any group of people that should be looking at phenomena or things that can’t be repeated twice I would think it would be our scientists! For whatever reason, between the smear campaigns and all of the stuff that the government does to push people away from studying topics such as these, scientists don’t want to be involved. Over the years there has been a slight paradigm shift, where more credible people talking about alternative subject matters. In the last ten years, physicists now recognize theories that they would have never recognized approximately 20 years ago. It is moving in the right direction, but I don’t know that it’s moving fast enough.

Another element for critique with MUFON is they have become much more liberal in their investigative approaches and methods since their inception. They have become a little bit more relaxed, again this comes back to the use of pseudoscience. Finally, the last criticism that is worth mentioning is the fact that they did receive some bad press in terms of some of their higher up members being associated with some pretty severe alternative-right ideals, for example, extreme racist comments made by higher up officials within MUFON. Allegedly, MUFON did not disassociate themselves with these particular bad eggs, therefore they did get negative publicity for that.

If you are interested in becoming a member, please visit their website: http://www.MUFON.com. I’m looking forward to the History Channel airing their show, Project Blue Book, on January 8th. It stars Aidan Gillen as J. Alan Hynek–I believe that to be a great casting. He’s one of my favorites from Game of Thrones, you just love to hate Littlefinger; I know you do!  We’ll see what the show has to offer. I hope that it’s historically accurate. I don’t like when film folk take creative liberties on historical series–I just hope that it follows what we know to be true, as we will find out TOMORROW!

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