Begun in 1952, Project Blue Book was the last in a series of U.S. Air Force investigations into the nature of UFOs. UFO enthusiasts say, however, that its purpose was not to examine UFO sightings objectively but instead to find earthly explanations for these sightings in order to stamp out the belief that extraterrestrials might be visiting Earth. To this end, the members of Project Blue Book were charged with examining more than twelve thousand UFO sightings and finding ways to dismiss them. They were able to come up with ordinary explanations for 80 per cent, but this result did not please government officials, who wanted the result to be 100 per cent.
In fact, the military had already eliminated two predecessors to Project Blue Book, Project Sign and Project Grudge, because they were unable to show that UFOs could not possibly be extraterrestrial spacecraft. Project Sign, created in 1947 in response to a UFO sighting by pilot Kenneth Arnold, was shut down in 1948 after it concluded that there was enough evidence to suggest that UFOs were alien spacecraft. (This information was kept from the public.) Project Grudge, established in 1948 to debunk UFO sightings and discredit the people who reported them, was shut down in 1952 after it concluded that 23 per cent of UFO sightings could not be explained by any normal phenomena.
Faced with a similar failure, military officials ordered the members of Project Blue Book to reduce their 20 per cent to 0 per cent. As a result, the members soon reported that only 6 per cent of the sightings could not be explained. Then, with more urging, they stated that less than 1 per cent were unexplainable. They did this, in most cases, by saying that the sightings were due to mass hysteria. As for the remaining few unexplainable cases, the members of Project Blue Book were ordered not to discuss them with the public. In 1953 the project was shut down, after another government investigation, the Robertson Panel, recommended that all such studies into UFOs be discontinued.
Nonetheless, one of the project’s participants, astronomer J. Allen Hynek, decided that there were enough curiosities related to the dismissed sightings that they, and UFOs in general, deserved further study. Though he had started the project as a sceptic, as a result of his work on Project Blue Book Hynek became an outspoken critic of government attempts to dismiss UFO sightings without investigating them seriously. He consequently established his own group dedicated to studying UFOs, the Center for UFO Studies.
As to why government and military officials worked so hard to convince people that UFOs were not extraterrestrial spacecraft, some later claimed that they wanted to avoid mass panic over something that was not, after all, real. Ufologists, however, have suggested that the government was actually trying to cover up the fact that extraterrestrials really had been visiting Earth. Some have also said that by the time of Project Blue Book, the government had acquired crashed alien spacecraft and perhaps the bodies of aliens found at crash sites as well.
- Kenneth Arnold
- J. Allen Hynek
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning