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.