Robertson Panel

Named for its leader, physicist H.P. Robertson, who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Department, the Robertson Panel consisted of scientists and military personnel who were called together in 1953 by the U.S. government, supposedly to determine the true nature of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). However, the panel was actually created in order to end what the government perceived as mass hysteria over the idea that extraterrestrials might be visiting Earth. Within a month after a widely publicized 1947 sighting of UFOs near Mount Rainier, in Washington, nearly a thousand people had reported seeing UFOs that they believed were alien spacecraft, and by 1952 these reports had increased so dramatically in number that they were overwhelming government agencies. Consequently, U.S. officials wanted to put an end to them.

By this time the U.S. Air Force had already assembled a group of scientists to look into UFOs, but the CIA, concerned about possible leaks caused by sharing documents with other agencies, decided to create its own investigation. The Robertson Panel was the result; its first official meeting took place on January 14, 1953, and its last meeting took place just three days later. All of the panel members were known sceptics in regard to the possibility that UFOs were spacecraft, and during the four days that they examined evidence related to UFOs, they heard from only one person who supported the idea that extraterrestrials might be visiting Earth. After just twelve hours of discussion at the end of their hearings, the members of the panel concluded that most UFO sightings were due to the misidentification of ordinary phenomena like airplanes and weather balloons, and the remainder were due to hallucinations, mass hysteria, or outright fabrications. In addition, the panel recommended that the U.S. Air Force aggressively work to dismiss or discredit these sightings, so that what its members called “UFO hysteria” would end.

As a direct result of this recommendation, the U.S. Air Force effectively ended its own investigation into UFOs, and air force personnel were ordered not to discuss any UFO case publicly unless they could convincingly argue that it had a logical, ordinary explanation. In addition, government operatives apparently began working to discredit ufologists and spread the idea that anyone who claimed to have seen a UFO must be mentally ill.

SEE ALSO:

  • Kenneth Arnold
  • Project Blue Book

SOURCE:

The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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