May 3 (correction May 2), 1957; Edwards AFB, California:40 It was the morning of a tracking day at Edwards, and the two-man crews were out at their stations where the permanent Askania theodolites were being stocked with film and readied. At one station, about 1½ miles from the Edwards perimeter, veteran civilian operators Jack Gettys and James Bittick were prepared for their part of the first test. But there in the sky, a different object awaited them. It was distant, but obviously a shiny domed disk. Gettys and Bittick called to the base operation controller, Frank Baker, and asked for permission to shoot some of their film at the object. Base operations took three or four minutes to decide while the theodolite crew watched the disk, sometimes through the small tracking telescope mounted on the Askania. Base then said: “go ahead.” Gettys and Bittick shot 200 to 300 feet of film at 30 frames per second, as the object moved away. The two men took the film canister to base and made their report. The film was developed on base and everyone involved got a look at it, including team leader Baker. These men were veteran “object spotters” and had seen all manner of plane, missile, balloon, bombing run, object drop, and parachute, right up to the U-2 spy plane. All of them knew that what they saw on this film was none of those things. The visual reports agreed on a shiny-as-if-metallic domed disk, and the film, if viewed with a magnifying glass, supported that conclusion, according to Baker. Both Bittick and Baker thought that there was a series of black dots near the dome, which might have been portholes. Gettys did not remember seeing that. Nevertheless, here was a domed disk on film seen by highly credible observers at our nation’s top air technology base.

The next morning, the intelligence boys were at Edwards to grill Gettys and Bittick. In an interview much later in time, Bittick remembers their interrogators as FBI, but that is unlikely. The agents were probably plainclothes but part of Air Force intelligence, or even, as occasionally happened in the continental U.S., CIA. Either way, the grilling was insulting. Gettys and Bittick were derided with statements like: you know what it is like when you have stayed out too late at night (they had not), or too long in the sun (it was the start of their 8 a.m. shift), and the desert sun will do funny things to you. Bittick got so angry that he got up and barked: “Do I have to listen to this ---- [deleted]!?” Unsuccessful in getting the trackers to admit that they were mistaken in their report, the questioners told the two to “go home and keep your mouth shut, you understand?” Recalling those moments, Bittick said: “It’s a funny thing how they try to cover up what they know and use a stupid answer for it.”41

The “stupid answer” was that Gettys and Bittick had seen and filmed a balloon. This is not obviously stupid, even in the face of the witnesses saying that it looked like no balloon and moved faster than any balloon and they had seen many, many balloons in their spotting scopes, and this was not one. Still, a balloon had been launched at 7:40 a.m. from Edwards, so . . . No one from Blue Book, ADC, or from wherever the interrogators had originated bothered actually to look into the possibility of a balloon misidentification. Fortunately, there was in this case a conscientious Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations at Edwards AFB who did so. Lt. Colonel Raymond Klein checked on the balloon launch and obtained the data on it (it was being followed and recorded at ten-minute intervals). Klein knew exactly where that balloon was throughout the theodolite filming experience, and wrote ATIC with his analysis: “Based on the above track made and the location of the observers at the time of sighting, the weather balloon released at Edwards could not have been the unidentified object reported.”42

Back at Blue Book such information made no difference. The case solution to this day reads “Confirmed balloon.” Incidents such as this one at Edwards AFB are stunning examples of what depths Blue Book had reached. It was doing something. But that something had nothing to do with the nature of UFOs.

40 Blue Book microfilm Roll 27; and McDonald files, University of Arizona archives; and James Bittick interview, 28
October 2002, The UFO Oral History Project, Thomas Tulien, administrator, Minneapolis, MN; and Frank E. Baker
(similar); 20 October 2002.
41 Quotes are from the Bittick Oral History above.
42 Blue Book microfilm Roll 27, and McDonald's notes (reference 40, above).