Wilbert B. Smith
Wilbert B. Smith, a Radio Engineer and world expert in
electromagnetism and telecommunications, is recognized today as the
pioneer of UFO research in Canada and was instrumental in generating
Department of Transport (DOT) - sponsored research in 1950 which
yielded some startling findings.
Mr. Smith was one of the first scientists to suggest that UFO's
represented a probably by-product of advanced extraplanetary
technology. In the early 1950's in Washington DC, he first proposed to
his superior, DOT Deputy Minister John Baldwin, the need for
government-sponsored UFO studies. The dramatic increase of sightings in
the coming months added considerable support to his proposal.
By December of 1950, Mr. Smith was given the green light by
Commander G. P. Edwards, then Deputy Minister of Transport for Air
Services, to go ahead with a UFO study which came to be known as
Project Magnet. Authorized by DOT engineers to draw on UFO reports from
across Canada, Mr. Smith embarked on this historical venture with the
assistance of his colleagues from within his own Broadcast and
As of this writing, July 1998, many of the Project Magnet findings
remain classified material, with two notable exceptions - a small-scale
study of twenty-five 1952 UFO sightings, released in May 1968; and the
public disclosure of an unprecedented instrument recording in August
1954, of a suspected UFO over the Project Magnet sighting station at
Shirley's Bay, ten miles west of Ottawa.
The 1952 study clearly demonstrated that the majority of cases
compiled in the eight-month period from May 1 to December 31 could not
be explained as natural identifiable phenomena. Of the twenty-five
sightings analyzed, sixteen - or 64 per cent - were either circular,
elliptical, ring-like or cone-shaped vessels unlike any known man-made
craft. From this cross section of nation-wide cases, As stated in the
Project Magnet Report, Radio and Electrical Engineering Division,
National Research Council, released May 9, 1968 (Ottawa), Mr. Smith was
able to draw the following conclusions;
"They are a hundred feet or more in diameter; they can travel at
speeds of several thousand miles per hour; they can reach altitudes
well above these which would support conventional aircraft or balloons;
and ample power and force seem to be available for all required
maneuvers. Taking these factors into account, it is difficult to
reconcile this performance with the capabilities of our technology, and
unless the technology of some terrestrial nation is much more advanced
than is generally known, we are forced to the conclusion that the
vehicles are probably extra-terrestrial, in spite of our prejudices to
Even though DOT had initially given Mr. Smith full authorization
and co-operation, it soon became evident that his controversial
findings led to a downgrading of Project Magnet by the Canadian
government. This view was so far from the mainstream and scientific
findings notwithstanding, so potentially politically damaging that when
portions of its report were declassified on May 9, 1968, it became
clear that the government had entirely disassociated itself from both
the mandate and conclusions of the project. This was indelibly stated
in a disclaimer signed by Dr. Peter Millman, then head of Upper
Atmosphere Research of the National Research Council, and former
chairman of the Second Storey Committee;
"I have been informed by the Department of Transport that although
Project Magnet was officially authorized by the Department, work on
this Project was carried out almost entirely by Mr. W. B. Smith and was
in the nature of a spare time activity. The conclusions reached in this
report are entirely those of Mr. Smith and do not represent an official
opinion of either the Department of Transport, or of the Second Storey
Committee". (Project Magnet Report, Radio and Electrical Engineering
Division, National Research Council, Note on Project Magnet Report,
Forward, released May 9, 1968 (Ottawa).
Politics and Mr. Smith's highly publicized instrument recording in
August 1954, heralded by the press as the world's first; and the wake
of excitement generated by his 1952 findings, led the government to
paradoxically quickly distance itself from Project Magnet, even though
a poll taken in July of 1950, by the Canadian Institute of Public
Opinion, found that:
"Half of the adult population of Canada believe that these
mysterious disks are not just imagination and that they are not just a
natural phenomena" (Weekend Magazine Vol. 7, No 27 (1957) p 4)
In mid-1953, Mr. Smith had received approval to set up a UFO
detection station at DOT's electronic establishment at Shirley's Bay -
which still exists today, albeit modernized from the original 12 foot
square laboratory - and was equipped with an assortment of
sophisticated electronic equipment including a gamma ray detector, a
radio wave detector, an ionospheric recorder to monitor activity and
changes in the ionized layer of gases sixty miles from the Earth's
surface, and a gravimeter, designed to detect magnetic and gravity
fluctuations in the atmosphere. Assisting Mr. Smith were Professor J.
T. Wilson of the University of Toronto; Dr. James Wait, a theoretical
Physicist with the Defense Research Board, and Dr. G. D. Garland,
gravitational expert at the federal Mines and Technical Survey
Once the station was in operation, Mr. Smith and his colleagues
instituted a twenty-four hour vigil. Nothing unusual was recorded until
eight months later when on Sunday, August 8, 1954 at 3:01 PM, the
station's alarm bells rang out, signaling that the gravimeter had been
tripped. Fortunately, Mr. Smith was on hand to observe the instrument
activation and reported the following;
"The deflection in the line (drawn by an electronically operated
pen) was greater and more pronounced than we have seen even when a
large aircraft has passed overhead. I ran outside to see what might be
in the sky. The overcast was down to a thousand feet, so that whatever
it was that caused the sharp variation was concealed behind the clouds.
We must now ask ourselves what it could have been."
Although the evidence was inconclusive, Mr. Smith was convinced
that no known atmospheric phenomenon could account for the unusual
Uncomfortable with the extensive press coverage sparked by the
incident, Department of Transport officials unceremoniously
discontinued Project Magnet, two days later. This surprise move,
described years later by Mr. Smith, as "premature", coincided with a
tightening of military secrecy on UFO's in the United States, following
repeated leaks about tragic mishaps and mysterious disappearances of
military pilots who had pursued UFOs. It is almost as if a Canadian -
US accord had been reached on the UFO issue.
The Canadian government was so shaken by disclosures made by
unimpeachable Canadian military sources, that the Royal Canadian Air
Force quickly adopted a United States intelligence reporting procedure
known as JANAP 146. This directive imposed heavy penalties on personnel
who released such UFO-related material. This move was designed to
silence further disclosures once and for all, and work could be done
behind the scenes.
It soon became apparent that Mr. Smith had been persuaded to
publicly downplay the Project Magnet findings. When he appeared before
the House of Commons Special Committee on Broadcasting on May 17, 1955,
he made this surprising admission;
"On the basis of our measurements which were nil, we came to the
conclusion that we had very little data of any nature to go on"
For Wilbert Smith to be forced to make such an admission, in spite
of documented witnessed evidence of his station's instruments, the
pressure from the Canadian government must have been formidable.
However, Mr. Smith was still allowed to pursue his interests in
UFO's privately; but without DOT co-operation, he was forced to scale
down his research. Prior to his untimely death in 1962, he restated his
beliefs in an interview with Weekend Magazine;
"From the weight of the evidence, I think they come from outer
space, but I can't prove it. The best I have is data on which you can
put a probability figure...look at it this way, if a stock promoter
told you that there was a 60 per cent probability that a certain stock
would go up, I don't think you would invest with him. But if the
weatherman told you there was a 60 per cent probability that a
hurricane was going to hit your area, I think you'd hurry up and bring
in the lawn furniture. It's a question of viewpoint. You have to make
up your own mind how significant you think the matter is."
The documents relating to the Shirley's Bay operation have
remained classified to this day (July 1998). The following classical
case of parliamentary "double-talk" took place in the House of Commons
on December 7, 1963, and demonstrates the government's preoccupation
with secrecy. Government spokesman Yvon Dupuis (Parliamentary Secretary
to the Secretary of State) responded to questions from Harold Winch
Winch: Is Canada co-operating with the special United States
Program for investigation of unidentified flying objects and if so, is
this entitled "Project Magnet"?
Dupuis; The United States program known as "Project Magnet" is not
directed to the investigation of unidentified flying objects.
Winch: Is "Project Magnet" an unpublicized world-wide operation
using specially equipped, Super Constellations, non-uniformed pilots
and civilian scientists?
Dupuis: "Project Magnet" is a program conducted by the naval
oceanographic office of the U.S. Navy concerned with the compilation of
geo-magnetic data covering all the nations of the world.
Winch: Is any data available from "Project Magnet" to the general
Dupuis: It is understood that data obtained in "Project Magnet" in
the form of geo-magnetic charts is available upon the application to
the Naval Oceanographic Office of the U.S. Navy.
It is interesting to note that this policy of denial, misdirection
and outright lying has been the cornerstone of government response
around the world. With the recent sightings in Mexico, Brazil, and the
U.S., world governments appear to have a united coordinated common
methodology in dealing with UFO sightings, reports, collection and
suppression of information.
The bulk of the information on Mr. Wilbert Smith, is taken from
UFO Canada, by Yurko Bondarchuk. in my opinion, this is the definitive
Canadian book on the subject.
UFO photographs have been available as far back as August 12,
1883, when an interesting observation was made by Professor Jose A. Y.
Bonilla, a professional astronomer. He and his colleagues at the
Observatory at Zacatecas, Mexico, made history by photographing some
opaque bodies which were passing between their observatory and the face
of the sun. Even with the slow plates available to them, it was not
difficult to make photographs against such a light source. Professor
Bonilla, unquestionably a professional astronomer, since he headed the
Observatory, says in his report of that memorable day;
"I had not recovered my surprise when the same phenomenon was
repeated! And that with such frequency that in the space of two hours,
I counted up to 283 bodies crossing the solar disc. Little by little,
however, clouds hindered the observation. I could not resume the
observation until the sun had crossed the meridian, and then only for
The record of the Observatory for that day shows that the objects
were streaming across the face of the sun in a straight path. Singly
and in pairs they came, round and apparently dirigible-shaped things.
In about one minute of time, the traversed the solar disk, but
sometimes so many crossed at the same time that Bonilla was unable to
count them accurately, as he admitted.
They were presumably smooth surfaced, perhaps even polished, for
at certain angles they reflected the light of the sun with dazzling
Altogether, Professor Bonilla and his colleagues photographed
several hundred of these things, including 116 of them the following
day, when the strange procession came to an end. Bonilla had notified
other Mexican Observatories (at Mexico City and Puebla) of this
incredible spectacle, but they were unable to locate the objects from
their viewpoints. This probably indicates, as Professor Bonilla
commented, that the objects were somewhere in space relatively close to
earth, where the optical law known as parallax prevented the other
Observatories finding them by following Bonilla's information.
The pictures taken at Bonilla's Observatory represented
incontrovertible proof and are still in existence. some of them were
published in contemporary astronomical journals and look much like the
UFO's which are seen today.