General John A. Samford
It is now common knowledge that several official UFO projects came into being as a result of officialdom's concern over the presence of strange objects in our nation's skies - especially since the advent of the "Atomic Age." With the situation reaching critical mass in the late 1940s and '50s, Project Sign, then Grudge, and ultimately, Blue Book, was born.
Edward J. Ruppelt, a captain in the U.S. Air Force, was put in charge of the Project in 1951 and given the unenviable task of getting to the truth of the matter in the face of official obfuscation and stonewalling. A skeptic at heart, Ruppelt changed his tune eventually when confronted with the mounting evidence to the contrary. As a result, Blue Book's official conclusion was that there were a number of cases involving "Unknowns" that could not be explained away - a surprisingly candid admission under the circumstances.
It is in that spirit of truth and honesty that we've cooked-up the following exchanges from a mock hearing, circa 1956, during which Capt. Ruppelt (utilizing his actual quotes) testifies before a skeptical Congress. The Committee Chairman, Senator "Mo Lasses" - a man more interested in grandstanding than anything else - has the floor.
CC: Good morning, Captain Ruppelt.
CR: Good morning, sir.
CC: Captain Ruppelt, we understand that you were head of Project Blue Book for two years, from September 1951 to some time in 1954.
CR: Yes, Sir.
CC: So, tell me, Captain. Regarding your, uh, "flying saucers," has the Air Force ever taken the reports of these things seriously?
CR: Yes sir, it has. On September 23, 1947, the chief of the Air Technical Intelligence Center, one of the Air Force's most highly specialized intelligence units, sent a letter to the Commanding General of the then Army Air Forces. The letter was in answer to the Commanding General's verbal request to make a preliminary study of the reports of unidentified flying objects.
CC: And what, pray tell, did this letter say?
CR: The letter said that after a preliminary study of UFO reports, ATIC concluded that, to quote from the letter, the reported phenomena were real. The only problem that confronted the people at ATIC was, "Were the UFOs of Russian or interplanetary origin."
CC: Whoa! Slow down there. That's a lot for this ol' peapicker to digest.
(Spoken in his best Southern drawl, Senator Mo then takes a deep breath, using the pregnant pause to shift his immense heft around in his over-stuffed leather chair).
CC: All right now. Let's carry on. Do you know of any higher placed Air Force officers or Project scientists who actually bought into this?
CR: Into what sir?
CC: This outer-space idea? It's pretty far-fetched, to put it mildly.
CR: There was a group among intelligence circles that thought the UFO's were interplanetary spaceships. They ranged from generals and top-grade scientists on down. And "maybe they're interplanetary" - with the "maybe" bordering on "they are" - was the opinion of several high-ranking officers in the Pentagon, so high that their personal opinion was almost policy.
CC: Well how come we're just now hearing about it? Didn't any of these people attempt to tell the public their conclusions?
CR: Well, yes. There were two factions. One believed the spaceship answer but felt we should clamp down on information until we had all the answers. Another group favored giving more facts to the public, including the best cases, the unsolved movies of UFOs, and the Air Force conclusions. A press showing of the "Tremonton" UFO movie - which the Navy analysts said showed unknown objects under intelligent control - was planned early in 1953.
CC: Well, if that's so, what happened to this plan?
CR: A new policy went into effect: "Don't say anything!"
CC: A cover-up, in other words?
CR: Those would be your words, Sir.
CC: Okay. Then could you tell me what, if anything, transpired as a result of that letter?
CR: The (1947) letter strongly urged that a permanent project be established at ATIC to investigate and analyze future UFO reports. It requested a priority for the project, a registered code name, and an overall security classification.
CC: And whatever became of that?
CR: ATIC's request was granted and Project Sign, the forerunner of Project Grudge and Blue Book was launched.
CC: So that's when all of this started; this flying saucer business that got the Air Force's knickers in an uproar began in September of that year?
CR: Although a formal project for UFO investigation wasn't set up until September of 1947, the Air Force had been vitally interested in UFO reports since June 24, 1947, the day Kenneth Arnold made the original UFO report.
CC: The record, as I read it here says, that quite a few sightings occurred both before and after the Arnold sighting. Just how concerned was the Army Air Force about all this? How would you best describe the situation?
CR: By the end of July 1947 the UFO security lid was down tight. The few members of the press that did inquire about what the Air Force was doing got the same treatment you would get today if you inquired about the number of thermonuclear weapons stockpiled in the U.S.'s atomic arsenal.
CC: So this was considered a serious situation by the powers-that-be?
CR: These memos and pieces of correspondence showed that the UFO situation was considered to be serious, in fact, very serious.
CC: And confusion reigned until then, right? When would you say folks started to get a handle on the situation?
CR: This confused speculation lasted only a few weeks. Then the investigation narrowed down to the Soviets and took off on a much more methodical course of action.
CC: Well, naturally. So, by the end of the year things really must have calmed down.
CR: Yes sir. While they were still convinced that UFOs were real objects, the people at ATIC began to change their thinking. Those who were convinced that the UFOs were of Soviet origin now began to look towards outer space; not because of any evidence that UFOs came from there, but because of their conviction that UFOs existed and only some unknown race with a highly developed state of technology could build such vehicles.
CC: Yes, well that's a pretty fanciful notion, Captain. Was that ever put into writing?
CR: In intelligence, if you have something to say about some vital problem you write a report that is known as an "Estimate of the Situation." A few days after the DC-3 was buzzed [Chiles -Whitted case, July 24, 1948], the people at ATIC decided that the time had arrived to make an Estimate of the Situation.
CC: And what was that estimate?
CR: The "situation" was the UFOs; the "estimate" was that they were interplanetary!
CC: Whatever happened to this estimate?
CR: It got as far as General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, then Chief of Staff, before it was batted back down. The General wouldn't buy interplanetary vehicles. The report lacked proof. A group from ATIC went to the Pentagon to bolster their position but had no luck, the Chief of Staff couldn't be convinced.
CC: Sounds like my kind of soldier. What happened next?
CR: The top Air Force's command refusal to buy the interplanetary theory didn't have any immediate effect upon the morale of Project Sign because the reports kept pouring in.
CC: Would you continue to categorize those reports of being of serious nature, Captain?
(Whether it's due to his mush-mouthed delivery or the fawning, greased, obsequious leer that accompanies it, Senator Mo has a talent for making even an innocent question sound patronizing).
CR: Yes sir, I would. Then radar came into the picture. For months the anti-saucer faction had been pointing their fingers at the lack of radar reports, saying, "If they exist, why don't they show up on radarscopes?" When they showed up on radarscopes the UFO theory won some converts.
CC: So tell me, Captain Ruppelt. How many official reports had they gotten by this time?
CR: By the end of 1948, Project Sign had received several hundred good reports. Out of those, 167 had been saved as good reports. About three dozen were classified as "Unknowns." At the same time, more and more work was being pushed off to the other investigative organization that was helping ATIC. The kickback on the Top Secret Estimate of the Situation was beginning to dampen a lot of enthusiasm. It was definitely a bear market for UFOs. A bull market was on the way, however.
CC: And the "moonpies" who believed in the interplanetary explanation, whatever happened to them?
CR: These people weren't a bunch of nuts or crackpots, Sir. They ranged down through the ranks from generals and top-grade civilians. On the outside civilian scientists backed up their views.
CC: Well I guess I stand corrected. Please continue. Tell us what happened next?
CR: New people took over Project Grudge. ATIC's top intelligence specialists who had been so eager to work on Project Sign were no longer working on Project Grudge. Other charter members of project Sign had been "purged." These were the people who had refused to change their original opinions about UFOs.
CC: And what then became the policy about UFOs?
CR: Get rid of the UFOs. It was never specified this way in writing but it didn't take much effort to see that this was the goal of Project Grudge. This unwritten objective was reflected in every memo, report and directive.
CC: From my perspective, it looks as though some sanity had been restored.
(Captain Ruppelt looks down, shaking his head).
CC: What was the overall tone after that?
CR: The one thing that stood out to me, being indoctrinated in the ways of UFO lore, was the schizophrenic approach so many people at ATIC took. On the surface they sided with the belly-laughers on any saucer issue, but if you were alone with them and started to ridicule the subject, they defended it or at least took an active interest. I learned this after I'd been at ATIC about a month.
CC: Did you ever ask anyone about this so-called "explaining away" policy?
CR: I queried one fellow, who answered half-bitterly, "The powers-that-be are anti-saucer. And to stay 'in favor,' it behooves one to follow suit." As of February 1951, this was the UFO project.
CC: And did that policy ever undergo a revision?
CR: Yes sir, it did, in September of that year. Right after the Fort Monmouth radar incident there was a briefing at the Pentagon. Every word of the two-hour meeting was recorded on a wire recorder. The recording was so "hot" that it was later destroyed but not before I heard it several times. I can't tell you everything that was said, but to be conservative, it didn't exactly follow the tone of the official Air Force releases. Many of the people present at the meeting weren't as convinced that the "hoax, hallucination, and misidentification" answer was quite as positive as the Grudge Report and subsequent press releases made out.
CC: Well, taking these things to be real, honest-to-gosh, Unknowns for a minute, let me ask. Has there ever been any evidence to indicate that these things are some kind of threat to our national security?
CR: UFOs were seen more frequently around areas vital to the defense of the United States. The Los Alamos-Albuquerque area, Oak Ridge, and the White Sands Proving Ground rated high. Port areas, Strategic Air Command bases and industrial areas ranked next. UFOs had been reported from every state in the Union and from every foreign country. The U.S. did not have a monopoly.
CC: What was the attitude of those working on Project Blue Book when you were the head honcho? Did you receive much cooperation?
CR: Yes I did. The degree of cooperation I received wasn't something I expected. The people who had worked on Project Grudge and the old Project Sign had warned me that everyone hated the word "UFO," and that I'd have to fight for everything I asked for. But once again they were wrong. The scientists who visited ATIC, General Samford, Project Bear, and now Air Defense Command couldn't have been more cooperative. I was becoming aware that there was much wider concern about UFO reports than I'd ever realized before.
CC: And you are trying to tell me, and all the good folks here on this committee, that you were told to hide the truth from the public?
CR: I was continually being told to "tell them about the sightings reports we've solved. Don't mention the unknowns."
CC: I repeat, Captain. You're claiming in front of God and everybody in this hearing room today, that the Air Force policy was to lie to the American public - to explain away the sightings regardless of the facts?
CR: After the Air Force order of February 11th, 1949, which renamed the project as "Grudge," everything was evaluated on the premise that UFOs couldn't exist, Senator. "No matter what you see or hear, don't believe it."
CC: This committee has learned that when the UFOs were supposedly observed and tracked on radar over Washington, D.C. in 1952, for goodness sakes, that the media was ordered out of the radar room. Is this true?
CR: I later found out that the press had been dismissed on the grounds that the procedures used in an intercept are classified. I knew that this was absurd because any ham radio operator worth his salt could build equipment and listen in on any intercept. The real reason for the press dismissal, I learned, was that not a few people in the radar room thought this night would be the big night in UFO history; the night when a pilot would close in on and get a better look at a UFO, and they didn't want the press to be in on it.
CC: So what about the perfectly reasonable explanation, in my opinion, put forth by the Air Force regarding the Washington Nation radar sightings?
CR: In 1952, the press was led to believe the famous Washington Airport radar/visual sightings were only weather phenomena. Actually, they're still carried as unknowns. The press conference did take the pressure off Project Blue Book - but behind the scenes it was only the signal for an all-out drive to find out more about the UFOs.
CC: Well, following this line of reasoning to its illogical conclusion, did you ever find a flying saucer connection with atomic testing, let's say?
CR: In November or December [of 1952] the U.S. was going to shoot the first H-bomb during Project Ivy. Although this was Top Secret at the time, it was about the most poorly kept secret in history - everybody seemed to know about it. Some people in the Pentagon had the idea that there were beings, earthly or otherwise, who might be interested in the activities in the Pacific, as they seemed to be in Operation Mainbrace. Consequently, Project Blue Book had been directed to get transportation to the test area to set up a reporting net, brief people on how to report, and analyze their reports on the spot.
CC: On the other hand, Captain Ruppelt, if UFOs are explainable as a natural phenomena, something I'd much rather believe, wouldn't you expect the sightings to be concentrated in the areas with a higher population? In other words: more people, more sightings?
CR: According to the laws of normal distribution, if UFOs are not intelligently controlled vehicles, the distribution or reports SHOULD have been similar to the distribution of population in the United States. It wasn't.
CC: That's it? That's all you have to say? "It wasn't?"
CR: (Ruppelt repeats his previous statement) UFOs were seen more frequently around areas vital to the defense of the United States.....
CC: What about UFO behavior patterns? Did you come to any conclusions there, Captain?
CR: The study covered several hundred or our most detailed UFO reports. By a very critical process of elimination, based on the motion of the reported UFOs, [Major Dewey] Fournet told the [Robertson] panel how he and any previous analysis by Project Blue Book had been disregarded. And how those sightings that could have been caused by any one of the many dozens of known objects - balloons, airplanes, astronomical bodies, etc., were sifted out. This sifting took quite a toll, and the study ended up with only ten or twenty reports that fell into the "Unknown" category. Since such critical methods of evaluation had been used, these few reports proved beyond a doubt the UFO's were intelligently controlled by persons with brains equal to or far surpassing ours. Earthlings eliminated, leaving the final answer: Spacemen.
(Leaning forward in his leather chair as far as his enormous pot-belly will allow, Senator Mo draws a bead on the man in the hotseat and with the entire hearing room hanging on his every word, drawls the one question he believes is certain to rattle him).
CC: Captain Ruppelt_
CR: Yes Senator?
CC: As you know, the Air Force insists that its Project Blue Book Report #14 is proof that UFOs DON'T exist. I repeat: DON'T EXIST. So, in light of that, Sir, how do you reconcile that with your testimony here today?
CR: That report was a shock to me. I was the one that had the IBM [a computer punch card] system tried out. It didn't prove a thing, and I had written it off as worthless before I left the project_ Also, that report was drawn up in 1953, yet the Air Force released it as the latest hot dope in October, 1955.
(Ruppelt, with his response, simple, succinct and decidedly anti-climactic, manages to diffuse all the drama in the room leaving the slack-jawed Senator groping for words. Sensing that the mood in the room has turned, and with his belly crying out for sustenance, the Senator looks to break for lunch).
CC: Captain Ruppelt, you have been a most cooperative witness this morning and this committee thanks you for your time. Just a few more questions if you don't mind and I believe we can wrap up this morning session.
CR: I don't mind at all, Senator.
CC: Good_good. Well, let's see here. You are on record as saying that the movies taken of UFOs are the best evidence to date.
CR: That is correct.
CC: Not so much the photos of these objects, but the motion pictures. What makes the motion picture film better evidence?
CR: [In the case of the Newhouse and Tremonton films] the possibility that the movies had been faked was considered but quickly rejected because only a Hollywood studio with elaborate equipment could do such a job, and the people who filmed the movies didn't have this kind of equipment.
CC: And you had quite a few of these?
CR: We had or knew about four strips of movie film that fell into the "unknown" category. Two were cinetheodolite movies that had been taken at White Sands Proving Grounds in April and May of 1950, one was the Montana movie and the last was the Tremonton movie. These latter two had been subjected to thousands of hours of analysis.
CC: And every possibility was eliminated? They were deemed to be unknowns? Why couldn't the danged things be conventional aircraft, for example?
CR: In regard to the Newhouse film: We called in several fighter pilots and they watched the UFOs circling and darting in and out in the cloudless, blue sky. Their unqualified comment was that no airplane could do what the UFOs were doing.
CC: And finally: If the UFO situation is a real one as you claim - if they are solid objects - do you think that they actually could be spacecraft?
CR: If they are real, there is no other alternative, staggering as the implications may be.
CC: Once again, Captain Ruppelt, you have been most helpful. At this time we'll break for lunch and call on the testimony of some of the other men involved in the Air Force study concerning this fascinating, but puzzling subject.
Note: Though liberties were taken with Capt. Ruppelt's syntax on occasion, in order to match this format, none were taken with out the substance of his statements and/or the implications thereof intact. All of Ruppelt's quotes used in this article can be found in his book, "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects", which is on the NICAP site in its entirety. Fran Ridge researched the official statements by Ruppelt, and later Jerry Washington drafted the questions which a congressional committee would have asked.