Air Force’s UFO program looked for aliens, found silliness: 5 things to know

Editor’s note: This story first published on March 21, 2017.

Nathan Robert “Rosie” Rosengarten never found extraterrestrials among the UFO sightings he investigated for 18 years.

But due to the retired Air Force colonel's death last week at 101, some are learning for the first time about Project Blue Book, a declassified program that examined thousands of puzzling flying phenomenon from 1952-1970.

» RELATED: Wright-Patt was ground zero for UFO investigation program

5 things to know about the project: 

Thousands of sightings probed: Project Blue Book at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and forerunners known as Project Sign and Project Grudge studied 12,618 sightings reported around the world.

March 1967 report from Dayton typical: A 34-year-old reported white and red revolving lights traveling at high speed and then hovering and disappearing over the horizon, without the object making any noise or smoke.

The man wrote he was certain it was not a star, an airplane, a helicopter, a weather balloon or a case of swamp gas.

“I personally do not care whether you believe me or if anyone believes me,” he reported. “I know what I saw and I am convinced that it was something alien to me.”

Hundreds of sightings never explained: Of thousands of reports, 701 were never explained, according to a January 1985 letter issued by Wright-Patterson officials. More than half of reports were sightings of U-2 and SR-71 spy planes, a declassified 1992 CIA report concluded.

No aliens discovered: The conclusions of Project Blue Book were that no UFO ever reported, investigated or evaluated by the Air Force threatened national security. Nor did any evidence show that the objects sighted behaved any different than then-present-day scientific knowledge. There was also no evidence that sightings could possibly be extraterrestrial vehicles.

Blue Book now in cyberspace: The project was retired in 1969 and Wright-Patt no longer documents or investigates UFO reports. Though records from Project Blue Book had been declassified for some time, they were stored on microfiche at the National Archives. The records were made more accessible in early 2015 when California UFO researcher John Greenewald Jr. put nearly 130,000 pages up on the website Black Vault.

» READ MORE: One of the Air Force’s original UFO hunters dies at 101

About the Author