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A Brief History
When Orson Welles aired a 60-minute radio broadcast in 1938 about a Martian invasion of earth based on the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds, some Americans, when they first tuned in, mistakenly thought it was real news. By the time the film (a loose adaptation of Wells’ novel of the same name) was released in 1953, America enjoyed a flurry of reported flying saucer sightings, and a science fiction mania swept across the country. (There was also a remake of the film in 2005).
Major Donald E. Keyhoe began freelance writing when he retired from active duty in the period between the World Wars. In his classic book The Flying Saucers are Real, he advanced the theory that the flying saucers were alien spaceships and considered the idea that the US military was covering up the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors. He also wrote (among other works) Flying Saucers from Outer Space, which gives an account of areas of frequent sightings, and his otherwise rather science fictional book, Aliens from Space: The Real Story of Unidentified Flying Objects, in which he alludes to the advance testing of unusual aerial craft by the government.
Project Blue Book
Due to the continuing number of reports that were coming in, the ATIC put Edward J. Ruppelt in charge of bringing some kind of order to its now bulging files and responding to inquiries from the press or public in 1952. This was done under the codename Project Blue Book. The occurrence of dramatic sightings four months later in July of 1952 in the area of Washington, D.C. were a cause for alarm because they were hard to brush off.
Date: July 19/20, 1952
Scene: Air Traffic Control Center at Washington National Airport
It was a clear night and traffic was light when seven sharp strange blips suddenly appeared on the radar scope at 11:40 p.m. The senior controller confirmed the unidentified objects in the same locations with Andrews AFB. Visual sightings were also reported by tower men and pilots, but by the time Air Force jets arrived in Washington at almost 2:00 a.m., the UFOs had vanished, only to come back five minutes after the jets left.
Date: July 26/27, 1952
Scene: Andrews AFB and Washington National Airport
Many unidentified blips and lights at varying speeds were sighted and tracked by radar operators at several airports.
The USAF forwarded a deluge of reports of new sightings to Project Blue Book. There was concern that hysteria could effectively jam military communication channels, potentially setting the stage for a sneak missile attack by a ‘foreign power,’ particularly if real missiles were to land and explode without the USAF intercepting them if they were mistaken for UFOs. There was also apprehension that the fostering of independent UFO research and inquiry organizations could potentially invite unchecked clandestine intelligence activities. In 1953, a joint CIA/Air Force panel recommended that:
“…such organizations should be watched because of their great influence on mass thinking if widespread sightings should occur. The apparent irresponsibility and the possible use of such groups for subversive purposes should be kept in mind.”
These kinds of concerns may have induced the government to adopt a disinterested public policy toward the extraterrestrial enigma, providing a ready-made breeding ground for an array of conspiracy theories, particularly “debunking” and “disinformation.”
Casebook on the Men in Black cites cases which suggest that the government, as part of a “debunking” effort, dispatched intelligence men to caution witnesses against reporting their UFO sightings. We have to remember that jets, rockets and helicopters were new inventions shrouded in secrecy at the time, but some believe (as Keyhoe did) that the Air Force was covering up reports to avoid panicking the public.
At the same time, there’s been speculation that many intelligence agencies since the late 1940s and 50s have engaged in “disinformation” by simulating many incidents via special effects technologies, possibly to sell the E.T. (extraterrestrial) interpretation of secret terrestrial military aircraft and their maneuvers.
On the evening of March 13, 1997, hundreds of people reported seeing a V-shaped array of lights, known as the “Phoenix Lights” sightings. Were they some kind of propaganda show designed to cover for experimental maneuvers at Luke AFB with the added aim of gauging public reaction to urban legend for purposes of Psy Ops (psychological operations) research? After seeing the 2005 documentary, I’ll say that the witnesses who were interviewed seemed to be perfectly credible, and in a few cases, deeply affected in profound ways. It’s certainly compelling testimony.
Page published October 1, 2013 (Updated 5 Nov 2016)