The Project Blue Book Research Center presents
Perspectives On The Environment In Which Blue Book Operated During 1952  
Operation Skywatch
By Michael Hall
By Michael Hall

Following are a few very good news articles from the time that reflect the public’s perception of Operation Skywatch:

Washington [July 12, 1952]—President Truman made a bid Saturday for more volunteers to man lookout stations which will go on a round-the-clock watch Monday against air invaders.Without saying directly that his aim was recruitments for “Operation Skywatch” around America’s air frontiers, the President still put over the point in a statement saying the project is “a common sense precaution in which Americans can serve proudly.” He added that the watchers will be helping to prevent war. The first shifts of some 150,000 volunteers will take their posts early Monday at about 6,000 stations in 27 states to scan the skies for any raiders who might slip through the radar screen for a sneak attack that could set off World War III. The Air Defense Command is announcing the delayed start of the need for at least 350,000 more observers. The president pointed out the need for every possible second of warning in the event of attack, both to speed counter-action and to save lives and vital facilities. “Our greatest hopes for peace lie in being so strong and well prepared that our enemies will not dare attack.” Mr. Truman said, “Every citizen who cooperates in “Operation Skywatch” as well as in other defense activities, is helping prevent the war none of us wants to happen.” The Air Force wanted to start the watch in May, because the experts said weather conditions are most favorable for a long distance air assault from May through September. The Federal Air Defense Organization was forced to postpone start of the operation because not enough civilians had volunteered to make possible a round-the-clock operation. The Air Force has pressed for the start of the continuous ground observation because Russia now has the atomic bomb and long distance bombers capable of attacking the United States. The start of “Operation Skywatch” follows by a few weeks an Army announcement that antiaircraft men and their guns are now on continuous duty around key target areas across the nation. Despite great advances in electronics development, defense experts stress the essential need for human eyes and brains to spot and report aircraft in areas where natural obstacles, such as mountains, and the earth’s curvature, create blind spots for the radar screen that already is operating along the country’s coasts, northern borders and around vital areas such as atomic plants. All the New England states and all those in the northern third of the country are taking part in the sky watching. Along the East Coast, civilian observers will take their posts in the states extending southward through Virginia. The three Pacific Coast states are also tied into the
observer network."

Washington-July 24—An Air Force spokesman “emphatically” denied last night the new crop of “flying saucer” reports had anything to do with putting volunteer aircraft spotters on 24-hour duty. The civilian ground observer corps began standing a round-the-clock watch this month in coastal and northern border states, the most likely avenues of enemy plane approach. The spokesman noted that saucer reports come from every direction.

He said the sole function of the ground observers is to supplement the radar network of the Air Defense Command by watching for unidentified low-flying planes. Any flying saucers they see will be strictly incidental.

The Air Force denial followed reports from two New England “Operation Skywatch” stations that “silver discs” had been spotted in the sky Tuesday night and early today.

Charles Buck, an observer at Westfield, Me., said he saw three discs of different sizes flying at high altitude and heading southwest. Coast Guard Seaman Henry Armpriester said two disc-like objects circled the Nahant, Mass., Coast Guard station at about 2,000 feet and then headed out to sea. Other airborne objects of the flying saucer variety were sighted over Boston, Springfield, Mass. and over several New Jersey points."

Although no flying saucers, blips, discs, or whatever their name is, have been reported from the Austin Town Hall skywatch station, Lake and Central, volunteers there would know just what to do should any of the nocturnal apparitions show up.

This is the word of Fred. W. Bosserman, boss of the operation, and Town Hall director, who told The Austinite this week that he could use some more help.

He first explained how the station works by telling of a recent “dry run”.  In this instance, a passing commercial plane was the guinea pig. Sighting it, one of the volunteers noted its position, altitude, type and direction. He then grabbed a telephone and asked for “aircraft flash,” was promptly connected with the Air Defense Filter Center in the Museum of Science and Industry, and gave the operator there the information.

The Austin station, known as “Charles Mike 15 Black,” is one of 15 in the city and suburbs and is part of a 27-state network designated as “Operation Skywatch.”

Bosserman says he can use about 25 more persons for the 8 a. m. to 11 p. m. schedule on which the post is open. They are asked to stand watch only one day a week on one or the other of the following shifts:

8 to 10:30 a.m.
10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Heretofore, he added, it has been necessary for those wishing to volunteer to do so by filing applications at the Chicago Civil Defense Corps at 140 South Dearborn. Now they need only phone the Town Hall, Estebrook, 8-0126, or call in person.

Two persons are required for each shift and at the present time, a watcher can just about choose one suiting his convenience. Both men and women, 18 years and over, may volunteer, Bosserman declared. He said that no previous training is necessary. Austin residents, who may be in the prescribed area, were warned this week that an air raid siren test will be conducted Thursday."


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