In January, 1974, I visited the U.S. Air Force Archives at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Ala., to review the files of Project Blue Book as the first step toward writing a book on the subject.
In a full week, I read all the “unexplained” cases in the original files and made extensive notes, including the names and other identifying information on all witnesses where given. The cooperation of the staff of the Archives was excellent, and no restrictions were placed on my work.
A few months later, the files were withdrawn from public view so they could be prepared for transfer to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. This process involved making a xerox copy of almost 30 file drawers of material, blacking out the names and other identifiers of all witnesses, and then microfilming the censored xerox copy. The microfilm has been available to the public at the National Archives since 1976. The original Project Blue Book files remain under lock and key at the Archives.
On almost every page of the 12,000+ case files, there are big black marks where information that could be used to cross-check Project Blue Book’s controversial work has been censored. This includes the names of witnesses to widely-publicized cases, and even names in newspaper clippings!
As it was perfectly legal for me to copy witness’ names when I visited the Air Force Archives, those names can be found in this report of 585 (less 13 missing) unexplained cases. And since the Privacy Act, which motivated the Air Force to censor the files in the first place, does not apply to reporters or anyone else outside the Government, they can be used as the reader pleases.
Inasmuch as the book I planned to write has never progressed beyond the manuscript stage, I see no reason to keep this information under wraps any longer. Perhaps it will encourage others to re-investigate cases and make the results known.
“Unidentified” says a great deal…and it says almost nothing. Probably the most controversial aspect of the entire Air Force investigation of UFOs was its handling of individual cases. The means by which one case was determined to be “identified” and another “unidentified” has no doubt fueled more arguments about Project Blue Book than anything else it did.
For many years, Blue Book’s most vocal opponents have insisted that the standards by which cases were allegedly explained were grossly unscientific. Blue Book’s goal, according to those who held it low esteem, was to attach some explanation to every case, regardless of logic or common sense. Examples of Blue Book saying a violently maneuvering disc was an aircraft, or of blaming a puzzling radar tracking on a supposedly malfunctioning radar set which it never bothered to check out, are numerous in the popular UFO literature.
And they are even more numerous in the files of Project Blue Book. The urgency with which Blue Book officials tagged answers onto cases without having done the proper investigation is obvious, though not proven. But if the Air Force was so eager to label cases “identified”, despite the lack of supporting evidence, then those few cases which it labeled “unidentified” presumably withstood every attempt to apply every other kind of label. And so it may be that those cases are truly unidentifiable in familiar terms.
Indeed, the Air Force defines “unidentifiable” cases as those which “apparently contain all pertinent data necessary to suggest a valid hypothesis concerning the lack of explanation of the report, but the description of the object or its motion cannot be correlated with any known object or phenomenon.”
To meet such criteria, a report must obviously come from a reputable source, and it must not bear any resemblance to airplanes, balloons, helicopters, spacecraft, birds, clouds, stars, planets, meteors, comets, electrical phenomena, or anything else known to frequent the air, the sky, or nearby space.
Unfortunately, the Air Force failed to stick to its own rules. Some of the “unidentifiable” cases most certainly can be correlated with known objects or phenomena. But most of them cannot. Moreover, many of the so-called “identified” cases cannot honestly be so correlated. But we are primarily concerned here with those cases which Project Blue Book openly admits it tried to explain and failed.
The amount of detail in these cases varies enormously. Some cases -frequently those which were well publicized at the time of the event – contain considerable information, while others are vague and seriously incomplete. Project Blue Book generally placed the blame for such incompleteness on the witnesses, but it should take its own share of the responsibility. ‘In thousands of cases, there is no completed questionnaire in the Project files, nor even any indication that one was sent to the witness. And in most of the instances where a questionnaire was filled out, it was never followed up to get more complete answers to questions which the witnesses failed to deal with properly. For much of the life of Project Blue Book and its predecessors, there was no satisfactory questionnaire at all. And one of those used for a lengthy period was so badly organized that a witness should not be held to blame for giving incomplete answers.
Yet, despite all the roadblocks, many reports are sufficiently complete to tell a pretty clear story of a puzzling experience. With this data now available, any psychic investigator or ufologist can look at Project Blue Book’s “unidentified” UFO reports and make up his own mind.