Return to the main index
This is an excerpt from the book, "The UFO Experience - A Scientific
Inquiry", authored by J. Allen Hynek. Published by Henry Regnery
Company, 1972. Library of Congress Catalog Number: 76-183827
This excerpt covers pages 182-187. I found this especially illuminating
in regards to why not much got accomplished during Project Blue Book's
time and in Hynek's words as to why it was that way.
** Begin Excerpt **
The popular impression through the years was that Blue Book was a
full-fledged, serious operation. The public perhaps envisioned a spacious,
well-staffed office with rows of file cabinets, a computer terminal for
querying the UFO data bank, and groups of scientists quietly studying
reports, attended by a staff of assistants.
The actual situation was unfortunately the opposite. The operation was
generally headed by an officer of lesser rank. In the military the
importance attached to a mission is usually in direct proportion to the
rank of the commanding officer. The relatively low-ranking officers in
charge of Blue Book were usually assisted by a lieutenant and sometimes
only by a sergeant. For one long period of time a sergeant with little
technical training was given the chore of evaluating most of the incoming
This was not exactly a first-line, high priority operation. Blue Book had
much too small a staff to do justice to a phenomenon that so often greatly
concerned the public. Compounding the problem, the staff was able to devote
only part of its time to the technical problem at hand. During my regular
visits to Blue Book across the years I observed that much of the work in
the office was devoted to peripheral matters all done at a leisurely pace.
Further, Blue Book's low-ranking officers had no leverage to initiate the
type of investigations that were needed and for which I frequently asked.
The military is entirely hierarchical; a captain cannot command a colonel
or a major at another base to obtain information for him. He can only
request. As long as Blue Book did not have at least a full colonel in
command, it was impossible to execute its assigned task properly. In
reviewing cases that had come in during the previous month, I often asked
that additional, often crucial information on a case be obtained. The
results were at best minimal; officers at other bases were generally too
busy to bother to investigate further. Why should they? They all knew it
was a finger exercise anyway.
Blue Book was a "cover-up" to the extent that the assigned problem was
glossed over for one reason or another. In my many years association with
Blue Book, I do not recall ever one serious discussion of methodology, of
improving the process of data gathering or of techniques of comprehensive
interrogation of witnesses.
The reader may well ask at this point why I did not either lay siege to the
Pentagon, demanding action, or simply resign in disgust. Temperamentally, I
am one who can easily bide his time. I also dislike a fight, especially
with the military. But most importantly, Blue Book had the store of data
(as poor as they were), and my association with it gave me access to those
data. In a sense I played Kepler to Blue Book's Tycho Brahe.
As far as demanding action from the Pentagon, I knew only too well the
prevailing climate and recognized that had I been too outspoken, I would
have quickly been discredited, labeled a UFO nut, lost access to data, and
certainly would have lost all further effectiveness. I have always been of
the turn of mind that "truth will out" if given time; if there was indeed
scientific "paydirt" in the UFO phenomenon, as time went on and the
gathering of data improved, even the most hostile skeptics would be
powerless to sweep it under the carpet. The astronomer traditionally adopts
a very long time scale.
By and large, however, Blue Book data were poor in content, and even worse,
they were maintained in virtually unusable form. With access to modern
electronic data processing techniques, Blue Book maintained its data
entirely unprocessed. Cases were filed by date alone, and not even a
rudimentary cross-indexing was attempted. Had the data been put in line
readable form, the computer could have been used to seek patterns in the
reports, to compare the elements of one report with those of another, and
to delineate, for instance the six basic categories of sightings used in
this book. Since all the thousands of cases were recorded only
chronologically, even so simple a matter as tabulating sightings from
different geographical locations, from different types of witnesses etc.
was impossible except by going through, manually, each and every report. A
proposal for elementary computerization of the data in the Blue Book files,
devised by Jacques Vallee and myself and submitted by me directly to Major
Quintanilla at Blue Book, was summarily turned down.
In view of the above and of the frequently contradictory and inane public
relations statements concerning UFO reports, which even the man on the
street found unconvincing, it is hardly a wonder that the charge was
frequently made that the publicly visible air force "investigation" of UFOs
was merely a front for a real investigation being carried on somewhere
Were I the captain of a debating team whose job it is, of course, to
marshall the facts favorable to his side and studiously to avoid the
other's, I could defend either side of the argument. At no time, however
did I encounter any evidence that could be presented as valid proof that
Blue Book was indeed a cover-up operation. However, many indications, bits
of information, and scraps of conversation could be force-fitted into a
yes for the cover-up thesis. Thus, for instance, one time when I inquired
into the specifics of a certain case, I was told by the Pentagon's chief
scientist that he had been advised by those at a much higher level to tell
me "not to pursue the matter further." One can make of that what one will.
In a country as security conscious as is ours where central intelligence is
a fine art, it frequently seemed to me that very provocative UFO reports
were dismissed without any seeming follow-up - certainly an illogical if
not dangerous procedure unless one knew a priori that the report really was
of no potential information value to the security of the country (or that
it was but was being taken care of elsewhere). As an example, the report of
five rapidly moving discs, made by a member in good standing of the 524th
Intelligence Squadron stationed in Saigon and observed by him from the roof
of the squadron's headquarters, went untouched by Major Quintanilla and
Blue Book on the grounds that "the sighting was not within the continental
limits of the United States." It would seem almost inconceivable that the
intelligence officer in question would not have been further interrogated
by some agency; certainly in an active battle area his sighting might have
presaged a new military device of the enemy.
Another example, one of many, was this, on the first day of August, 1965,
and on the following two days there occurred the "Midwest flap." From
several states strange Nocturnal Lights were reported by ostensibly
reliable police officers on patrol at various places over an area of
several hundred square miles. Blue Book dismissed this event as "stars seen
through inversion layers," although I know of no astronomer who has ever
witnessed inversion effects that produced these reported effects. Both past
experience and calculations show that such illusory effects, in which stars
move over at a considerable arc of the sky, simply cannot be produced by
However, police officers weren't the only ones to report. The following is
a direct transcript of a Blue Book memo: In the early morning hours of
August 1, 1965, the following calls were received at the Blue Book oifices
by Lieutenant Anspaugh, who was on duty that night:
1:30 A.M. - Captain Snelling, of the U.S. Air Force command post near
Cheyenne, Wyoming, called to say that 15 to 20 phone calls had been
received at the local radio station about a large circular object emitting
several colors but no sound, sighted over the city. Two officers and one
airman controller at the base reported that after being sighted directly
over base operations, the object had begun to move rapidly to the
2:20 A.M. - Colonel Johnson, base commander of Francis E. Warren Air Force
Base, near Cheyenne, Wyoming, called Dayton to say that the commanding
officer of the Sioux Army Depot saw five objects at 1:45 A.M. and reported
an alleged configuration of two UFOs previously reported over E Site. At
1:49 A.M. members of E flight reportedly saw what appeared to be the same
uniform reported at 1:48 A.M. by G flight. Two security teams were
dispatched from E flight to investigate.
2:50 A.M. - Nine more UFOs were sighted, and at 3:35 A.M. Colonel Williams,
commanding officer of the Sioux Army Depot, at Sydney, Nebraska, reported
five UFOs going east.
4:05 A.M. - Colonel Johnson made another phone call to Dayton to say that
at 4:00 A.M., Q flight reported nine UFOs in sight; four to the northwest,
three to the northeast, and two over Cheyenne.
4:40 A.M. - Captain Howell, Air Force Command Post, called Dayton and
Defense Intelligence Agency to report that a Strategic Air Command Team at
Site H-2 at 3:00 A.M. reported a white oval UFO directly overhead. Later
Strategic Air Command Post passed the following: Francis E. Warren Air
Force Base reports (Site B-4 3:17 A.M.) - A UFO 90 miles east of Cheyenne
at a high rate of speed and descending - oval and white with white lines on
its sides and a flashing red light in its center moving east; reported to
have landed 10 miles east of the site.
3:20 A.M. - Seven UFOs reported east of the site.
3:25 A.M. - E Site reported six UFOs stacked vertically.
3:27 A.M. - G-1 reported one ascending and at the same time, E-2 reported
two additional UFOs had joined the seven for a total of nine.
3:28 A.M. - G-1 reported a UFO descending further, going east.
3:32 A.M. - The same site has a UFO climbing and leveling off.
3:40 A.M. - G Site reported one UFO at 70' azimuth and one at 120' . Three
now came from the east, stacked vertically, passed through the other two,
with all five heading west.
When I asked Major Quintanilla what was being done about investigating these
reports, he said that the sightings were nothing but stars! This is certainly
tantamount to saying that our Strategic Air Command responsible for the defense
of the country against major attacks from the air, was staffed by a notable set
of incompetents who mistook twinkling stars for strange craft. These are the
people who someday might have the responsibility for waging a nuclear war.
For some, incidents such as the above would be prima facie and conclusive
evidence that the cover-up hypothesis was the correct one, on the grounds
that no group charged with serious defense responsibilities for the country
could have been so stupid.
On the other hand, our hypothetical debating team captain could amass an
even more impressive cache of evidence to conclude quite the opposite: that
the entire Blue Book operation was a foul-up based on the categorical
premise that the incredible things reported could not possibly have any
basis in fact. After all, science pretty well understands the physical
world and knows what's possible and what is not. Since the reported actions
of UFOs clearly didn't fit this world picture, they simply _had to be_
figments of the imagination produced in one way or another.
All my association with Blue Book showed clearly that the project rarely
exhibited any scientific interest in the UFO problem. They certainly did not
address themselves to what should have been considered the central problem of
the UFO phenomenon: is there an as yet unknown physical or psychological or
even paranormal process that gives rise to those UFO reports that survive
severe screening and still remain truly puzzling?
Such lack of interest belies any charge of "cover-up"; they just didn't
care. There is another argument for the "noncover- up" viewpoint: the
underlings in the military hierarchy (and all Blue Book officers were such
- generally captains or majors, two of which finally made lieutenant
colonel but never full colonel) looked mainly toward two things, promotion
and early retirement. Therefore, in controversial issues it was always
considered far wiser not to "rock the boat," to please the superior officer
rather than to make waves. Thus, when the superior officers, who did not
know the facts but were wedded to a rigid framework of military thinking
handed down from above, let it be known in any controversial issue (whether
UFOs or not) what the "right way" of thinking is, no underling officer was
going to oppose or even question it unless, of course he was 99 percent
certain that he could prove himself correct in the controversy - and
Since the Pentagon had spoken in no uncertain terms about UFOs, no Blue Book
officer in his right promotion-conscious military mind was going to buck
that, even if he had private opinions on the matter.
Another factor added to the noncover-up theory. Turnover in the Blue Book
office was rather high. Sooner or later the officer in charge would be out of
it, just that much closer to promotion and retirement, if he just sat tight.
>From 1952 to 1969 the office was headed in turn by Captain Ruppelt (who did not
make his own views known until he was out of the air force), Captain Hardin
(who had ambitions to be a stock broker), Captain Gregory (to whom promotion
was the be-all and end-all of existence), Major Friend, and finally Major
Quintanilla, who had the longest term of office. Of all the officers I served
with in Blue Book, Colonel Friend earned my respect. Whatever private views he
might have held he was a total and practical realist, and sitting where he
could see the scoreboard, he recognized the limitations of his office but
conducted himself with dignity and a total lack of the bombast that
characterized several of the other Blue Book heads.
Thus one can have one's choice of whether Blue Book was a front or merely a
foul-up. But that there was certainly foul-up and complete divorce from the
scientific community within Blue Book was apparent. The members of the
scientific fraternity were, of course, wedded to the misperception-delusion
hypothesis (there was no need for interchange of ideas with Blue Book, which
held the same views), and some members rose to heights of vitriolic verbiage in
denouncing reporters of UFOs. This phase of the total phenomenon had many of
the aspects of a modern witchhunt.
** End excerpt **
Don Allen - via ParaNet node 1:104/422
Return to the main index