What was Project Blue Book?

Tom DeMary – 18 February 2005

What are the known problems with the reports?

Air Force solutions for many UFO reports have been controversial, even to the point of being ridiculed. Many solutions may seem perfectly reasonable, while others clearly conflict with the descriptions in the reports themselves. Even some of the seemingly reasonable solutions are simply possible ones, assigned after only a casual assessment of the case. It is well known that through most of its history, PBB was under considerable pressure to explain away all reports, and that some of their solutions were arbitrarily chosen and tacked on to reports, without regard for the facts of the case. The PBB crew never had much scientific expertise, and did not always take advantage of the expertise available to it.

The report index indicates a number of “missing cases.” The summary cards remain for some of these cases, and entire reports are missing for others. Much of this is due to poor maintenance over the years. It was probably never envisioned that there would be a public release of the files. Some reports which were loaned out were never returned. There has been some pilfering and souvenir collection over the years–Ruppelt mentions such activity in his book. Some pages evidently disappeared during the review-for-release process.

Some other reports existed at other locations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In a few such cases the summary card indicates the report is in the “classified vault” or some other location. These reports are probably missing because they were not included in the transfer of files to Maxwell AFB in early 1970.

In other cases the investigative files were not sent to Project Blue Book. The UFO report files of the 4602d Air Intelligence Service Squadron (AISS), one of the organizations that carried out UFO investigation for PBB between 1953 and the early 1960s, contains only paper files, not microfilm by NARA. The 4602d AISS in some cases simply sent one line summaries of the cases to Project Blue Book, so these full case files are not in the Archive. Copies of other “missing cases” have been found in certain official files, such as those of the originating organizations, Air Force unit histories, and activities which supervised or had an interest in the UFO program. Copies of some “missing cases” have been found in Dr. Hynek’s files at CUFOS.

When evaluating the reports, it should be remembered that the events in the reports were sometimes very mysterious to the witnesses. The ability of witnesses to describe their experience varies greatly, and the resulting testimony can be inaccurate or contradictory. Witnesses often state size-distance-speed numbers, which are no more than guesses. This does not necessarily negate a report. Additionally, some of the unit intelligence officers who wrote up the cases demonstrate a real interest in, and a good grasp of, the elements of the case, while others demonstrate little understanding of the technical details of report. As a result, some documents are well-written, while others are quite poorly or carelessly written. Each document must be carefully evaluated on its own merits.

In addition to the particular problems of the PBB documents, there are the usual problems associated with archival documents. Legibility of documents can be a problem. Sometimes it will be a single document; other times a poorly reproduced microfilm roll. Most of the documents were prepared by clerks and secretaries, not the authors of the documents. Individual documents can contain typographical errors, or misstatements not caught at the proofreading stage. Some documents may be poor or incomplete interpretations of other documents, and a careful researcher should examine the entire case before assuming that the writer has correctly interpreted other documents himself.

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