While flying around Mt. Rainier, Washington on June 24, 1947, amateur aviator Kenneth Arnold witnessed nine mysterious objects approaching him. As per Arnold, these objects were traveling at a massive speed of almost 1,700 miles per hour, which happened to be quite an unusual figure since aircraft at that time weren’t capable of moving around at such great speeds.
This incident spread like wildfire and resulted in the birth of the term, “flying saucer”. In the months that followed, other people started coming forward with their UFO sighting stories. Initially, it was perceived that the mysterious sightings might be nothing but the combative Soviet aircraft since the Cold War had already started by then.
Eventually, the government officially started to investigate this fiasco.
The Birth of Project Sign
Around 1948, the Air Force had launched “Project Sign”. The personnel linked to this project were required to collect and assess reports that fell under the category, “Unidentified Flying Objects”.
It didn’t take long for researchers to conclude that the UFOs weren’t being sent by the enemies. In fact, experts were quick to point out that the characteristics shown by such objects were vastly different from those boasted by manmade aircraft.
Moreover, various people who looked up UFOs for the government claimed that Project Sign came up with a report indicating that the sightings could be proof of extraterrestrial craft. However, the Air Force brass was quick to deny and get rid of the said report and cited the lack of evidence supporting the conclusions as the reason to do so.
The Launch of Project Blue Book
After the demise of Project Sign in 1948 and the failure of Project Grudge, a new program titled Project Blue Book was launched in 1951. In just about a year, this new project acquired about 1,501 sightings.
However, Major General John Samford was still not ready to accept that this mysterious phenomenon posed a threat to the US. However, several people in President Harry Truman’s administration thought the complete opposite.
Fast forward to January 1953, the CIA assembled a group of experts and assigned them under the supervision of renowned physicist H.P. Robertson. The said group was tasked with reviewing the flying-saucer fiasco. It was concluded that most such sightings could be dismissed as insignificant optical illusions or weather phenomena. However, the same panel urged the government to do more to debunk UFO events and calm down the people worrying about the same.
Enter J. Allen Hynek, a civilian astronomer who was a part of Project Blue Book. Hynek, along with other investigators assigned to the project in question, started debunking UFO sightings by giving different explanations. Many of these explanations, such as the infamous “swamp gas” theory, were criticized by the public.
Even Dr. Hynek himself criticized Project Blue Book. He said that required attention wasn’t paid to the matter that could have helped in the attainment of sufficient data to determine the nature of the UFO phenomenon.
The End of Air Force Investigations
After the demise in Project Blue Book’s credibility, Michigan congressmen demanded a “full-blown” Congressional investigation in order to debunk any claims stating that the Air Force was indulged in a cover-up. This resulted in the production of the Condon Report, headed by the physicist Edward U. Condon.
The said report issued a conclusion that nothing substantial had been obtained from UFO studies. This prompted the Air Force to finally shut down Project Blue Book.
The Secretary of the Air Force issued a memo on December 17, 1969, to declare that the UFO study was no longer required when it came to matters such as national security and the progression of science.
10 years later, then-President Jimmy Carter suggested NASA investigate the subject but his suggestion was denied due to the lack of tangible evidence requiring a study.