The New UFO Policy of the U.S. Air Force
Although a formal government project for the investigation of UFOs was not set up until September 1947, the United States Air Force has been vitally interested in sightings of these objects ever since June 24, 1947, the day Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine mysterious saucer-shaped craft travelling with tremendous speed in echelon formation over the Cascade Mountains between Mount Rainer and Mount Adams in the State of Washington.
On December 24, 1959, the Inspector-General of the Air Force issued a directive to Air Force personnel to the effect that "unidentified flying objects--sometimes treated lightly by the press and referred to as 'flying saucers'—must be rapidly and accurately identified as serious USAF business." In this directive instructions are given as to the manner in which this "serious business is to be handled at each Air Force base." A "specific officer" at each base is to "be designated as responsible." He is to have the "authority to obtain the assistance of specialists on the base." He is to be supplied with some simple scientific apparatus to be used in the detection and study of UFOs. The list of equipment is to include "binoculars, camera, Geiger counter, magnifying glass, and a source for containers in which to store samples."
From the above referred-to directive we are to conclude that it has taken the Air Force exactly twelve and one-half years to arrive at the conclusion that UFOs are real, and that the study of these phenomena does constitute "serious business."
Also in the directive is found the statement of the "Air Force concern" that "there's the inherent USAF responsibility to explain to the American people through public-information media what is going on in their skies."
From time to time within the past 13 years the USAF has given highly publicized statements with big headlines in the newspapers to the effect that the so-called flying saucers simply do not exist. For example, on October 26, 1955, the then Secretary of the Air Force stated "we believe that no objects such as those popularly described as flying saucers have over-flown the United States. " It should be noted that the Air Force Secretary based this statement upon a "study" made by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt concluded actually two years and one month earlier, and judged "worthless" by the man in charge of the study [Ruppelt] and other investigators who have taken time to analyze it.
About one year ago, on July 16, 1959, and preceding this latest directive by less than six months, the Air Force gave nationwide publicity to the following statement: "Investigation of unidentified flying objects has provided no evidence to confirm the existence of the popularly termed 'flying saucers' as interplanetary or interstellar space ships.”
Let it be pointed out that the USAF did not give any publicity to the content of its December 24, 1959 directive six months later, which officially recognized UFOs as "serious business" and which set up machinery for the ostensibly serious scientific investigation of these phenomena. It was the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), a nonprofit private organization with headquarters in the nation's capital, which gave the contents of this directive nationwide publicity.
Vice Admiral Hillenkoetter, NICAP Board member, made this comment in regard to this directive:
"Behind the scenes, high-ranking Air Force officers are soberly concerned about the UFOs.
"But through official secrecy and ridicule many citizens are led to believe the unknown flying objects are nonsense. To hide the facts, the Air Force has silenced its personnel through issuance of a regulation. Veteran airline pilots and other technically trained observers have been discredited. Hundreds of authentic reports, many confirmed by radar or photographs, have been labeled delusions or explained away by answers contrary to fact."
A good illustration of the USAF policy on the handling of UFO sighting reports over the years is to be found in the case of the UFO incident of February 24, 1959. One of the key observers of this phenomenon was Captain Peter Killian, a pilot for American Airlines. His plane was on a nonstop flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Detroit, Michigan, on the night of February 24.
When over Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania, at about 8:45 p. m. he observed three unidentified brightly-illuminated aerial objects trailing his plane. The plane was followed for 35 or 40 minutes by these objects, which were observed not only by the crew and 35 passengers of Captain Killian's plane, but by five other planes and numerous ground observers in the line of the trip.
Exhaustive details with respect to this incident are given in the 22-page printed report compiled by the Unidentified Flying Objects Research Committee of Akron, Ohio. NICAP also thoroughly checked the facts of this sighting, and so we have here an incident concerning which we have the most reliable information possible. The files of the Akron Committee contain the signed statements of several ground observers.
Concerning this sighting it can be reasonably concluded that the number and character of the witnesses establishes the validity of the incident beyond doubt.
Representatives of the Air Force made only the most superficial investigation of this incident, an investigation (if such a term could be used to dignify its semblance of effort) based on Captain Killian's brief preliminary statement made at the Detroit Office of American Airlines and upon a news report from the March 1 edition of the New York Herald Tribune.
The Akron Committee report states: "They (the Air Force) did not interview Captain Killian, the pilot, nor did they question co-pilot Dee, the stewardess, the passengers, nor the ground observers. As far as is known, none of these people were at any time contacted at ATIC (Air Technical Intelligence Center)."
Even though they had no first-hand information on this incident the Air Force issued official explanations of the sighting on three separate successive dates, all three explanations completely contradictory. These so-called explanations are as follows:
1. On the morning of February 28 the Air Force released to the press this official opinion: "Experts of the Technical Intelligence Agency said that they believed the pilots may have sighted stars, especially the formation Orion."
2. The March 1 edition of the New York Herald Tribune carried an official Air Force statement in direct answer to an inquiry about this sighting by six American and United Airline crews on February 24. Quoting the NICAP Bulletin, The UFGL Investigator, for February-March 1959: "Some [witnesses] were sarcastically labeled as persons who can't remember anything when they sober up the next day. The rest, implied the official Air Force spokesman, either were deluded by ordinary objects or were outright liars. "
3. Subsequent comments by the observers of this incident apparently disclosed to the public the errors of these judgments, and so, three weeks later, the Air Force offered an entirely different explanation, as follows: "The American Airlines sighting of February 24, near Bradford, Pennsylvania, was a B-47 type aircraft accomplishing night refueling from a KC-97 tanker."
In a statement to the Long Island Daily Press on March 24, Captain Killian said, "I don't care what the Air Force says; the objects I saw could travel at 2,000 miles an hour and were definitely not conventional aircraft."
"If the Air Force wants to believe that," he added (referring to the refueling operation explanation), "it can. But I know what a B-47 looks like and I know what a KC-97 tanker looks like; further, I know what they look like in operation at night. And that's not what I saw." Killian claimed that this was the Air Force's third explanation of his sighting, "all contradictory and none satisfactory."
Captain Killian is no longer discussing his sighting of the three unknown objects. After his initial comments in newspapers, exposing the obvious flaws in the Air Force's explanation, the muzzle was quickly applied. American Airlines, through Air Force insistence, was forced to silence Killian, their attitude being that good relations with officialdom must be maintained at all costs. Consequently, he was requested not to publicize "so controversial a subject.”
Captain Killian has commented: "I feel very deeply concerned with the loss of my own personal freedom." The first amendment of the constitution of the United States reads in part: "Congress shall make no law... prohibiting the freedom of speech or of the press."
While the silence order was imposed on Captain Killian, however, the same did not apply to Mrs. Killian. She remarked, "Although the Captain isn't talking, I can talk." She was asked if the Captain would be willing to go before the Space Committee hearings in Washington to relate his story. Mrs. Killian replied: "Definitely. In fact a Senator asked the Captain if he could come to Washington and tell his story. The Captain said “Yes, I would go, but you would have to subpoena me. Then, I could talk.'"
From the NICAP Bulletin of July - August 1959:
"In a recent development, the Air Force is now circulating a statement, allegedly from American Airlines, quoting Captain Peter Killian as saying that he had never seen jet refueling operations at night and that the UFOs he saw on February 24 could have been a jet refueling operation. The unsigned statement is in direct contradiction to the statements Killian made the NICAP Director, to the Long Island Daily Press, and in taped interviews. In effect, Killian's statements have been branded by the Air Force as lies, after they apparently requested American Airlines to silence him so he could not answer back. American Airlines had deliberately arranged some of Killian's early publicity before he was suddenly told to stop talking. Copies of the contradictory statements have been sent to several members of Congress."
On the night of November 6, 1957, about 11:30 p. m., Olden Moore, a plasterer, driving home from Painesville, Ohio, was startled by the sight of a disc-shaped bright object suddenly looming up in front of him, seemingly splitting apart, one section apparently disappearing, the other settling down in a field near the road. This locality is about 30 miles east of Cleveland. This incident is reported by George Popowitch, director of the Unidentified Flying Objects Research Committee of Akron, mentioned earlier. An account of the incident is published in the APRO Bulletin* of January 1958.
When the object landed, Mr. Moore shut off his car lights and pulled his car off the road. He got out of his car and watched the object for about 20 minutes. He noted a ticking sound, somewhat like the tick of a water meter.
At 11:30 a.m. the next morning his wife reported the incident to Geauga County Sheriff Louis A. Robusky. Later in the day Mr. Moore was questioned by various local authorities, United States Army representatives, and scientists from the Case Institute of Technology. Geiger counter readings taken in the middle of an area 50 feet in diameter where the object had landed, registered ten times normal background activity. At the perimeter of the area the Geiger counter readings were about 50 percent greater than normal.
It was learned that Mr. Moore had gone to Washington, D. C., in connection with this sighting of the UFO. On his return he indicated that he had talked to high officials and had been sworn to secrecy. Further details of the sighting were unavailable from Mr. Moore.
*Aerial Phenomena Research Organization: 4407. E. Linden, Tucson, Arizona.
This incident is given as an illustration to show a connection between the sighting of a UFO and the apparent great increase in background activity as registered by a Geiger counter in the vicinity of the sighting.
Let it be especially noted that the December 24 Directive of the Air Force specifically refers to the equipping of Air Force bases [UFO investigating units] with Geiger counters along with other scientific apparatus. The reason for providing bases with such equipment is, of course, obvious. The Air Force has information of many instances wherein UFOs have been observed visually and on radar, where Geiger counters in the vicinity of the sightings have registered the presence of greatly increased background radiation.
Captain Ruppelt, in charge of the Air Force investigation from early in 1951 until September 1953, in his book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, devotes an entire chapter (chapter 15) "The Radiation Story, " to relate the experience of government scientists who observed great increases in Geiger counter readings in connection with sightings of UFOs. Different groups of scientists in various locations in the United States encountered these phenomena, and determined by thorough and painstaking procedure that the great increases in background radiation associated with the sightings were in some way caused by the presence of the UFOs.
One of these groups became so interested in this strange type of coincidence that they began to develop elaborate arrays of scientific devices for the more thorough study of the phenomena. This promising scientific study came to the attention of high officials and was suddenly nipped in the bud. Higher-ups at Washington arranged for the transfer of the alert-minded Air Force colonel in charge of the project.
These same governmental authorities now at long last, without fanfare and without intentional publicity, have decided that UFOs are "serious business" and that the honest-to-goodness study of such phenomena should be undertaken by Air Force personnel. And so this December 24, 1959, directive was issued. Air Force personnel at the various bases are being supplied with apparatus and equipment which in competent and scientific hands could without doubt be used to gather valuable information concerning the nature of UFOs. One wonders whether or not Air Force personnel, lacking the rigorous training of experienced scientists, will be able to utilize such equipment to advantage
The problems presented by UFO phenomena are of such difficulty and of such tremendous significance that the study of them should be a wide-open worldwide program. The challenge presented by these navigated objects from outer space needs to be met by the world's best technological and scientific talent, unhampered by government restrictions, secrecy, red tape, and inefficiency.
C. A. M. October 1960