Wright-Patt was ground zero for UFO investigation program

Project Blue Book curiosity remains


Get a behind-the-scenes look at artifacts at the National Museum of the Air Force related to UFOs at MyDaytonDailyNews.com

In Eagle River, Wisc., a witness in April 1961 reported that aliens in black skull caps and white-striped black pants landed in a round saucer and served him buckwheat pancakes in exchange for a jug filled with water.

The government analyzed the pancake and found it to be “an ordinary pancake of terrestrial origin.”

A Tiffin, Ohio, science teacher reported a flash of light driving home from school and, a day later, finding charred pieces of Sputnik-like satellite equipment. Researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base closely examined the object and declared it a hoax.

A burning metal object that scorched the back steps of a home in Quincy, Mass., was examined in June 1963 by the Air Force, which concluded it was part of a brake drum that flew off a Mack semi-tractor trailer.

They were all part of UFO mania in America during the 1950s and 60s and the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, where authorities recorded thousands of reports of UFOs, aliens and anything claimed extraterrestrial. Ground zero for Project Blue Book was at Wright-Patterson, where the UFO investigation program was headquartered, and where decades-old rumors swirled of aliens and UFOs hidden somewhere on base.

The declassified Project Blue Book reports have been stored on microfiche at the National Archives, but were recently made more accessible when a California UFO researcher put nearly 130,000 of the reports on the webside theblackvault.com.

With a Cold War going on in the 1950s and ’60s, the Air Force took the reports seriously.

“We were afraid that it was a sign of Soviet technological advancements,” said Robert Young, historian at the National and Air Space Intelligence Center, the predecessor of the Air Technical Intelligence Center in the 1950s and later the Foreign Technology Division in the 1960s at Wright-Patt, where investigators in the Aerial Phenomena Branch culled UFO reports for clues. “That’s what we were worried about, that this was Soviet stuff. So we were the experts in bad guy air and space equipment.

“There was a fear, an uncertainty what the Soviets had and, of course, Hollywood drove a bit of fear about beings from outer space and flying saucers so that did make the project more challenging in some ways,” he said.

Project Blue Book, and forerunners known as Project Sign and Project Grudge, investigated 12,618 sightings reported around the world between 1947 to 1969. Of those, 701 were never explained, according to a January 1985 letter on the topic issued by Wright-Patterson public affairs officials. A declassified 1992 CIA report concluded more than half of those reports were sightings of the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes.

Still, to this day Wright-Patterson officials say they receive inquiries about Project Blue Book.

The objects detailed in this story were among Project Blue Book artifacts, once on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, and now in storage at Wright-Patt after years in public view at the museum.

“Some of it actually fell from the sky and some of it was determined to be hoaxes,” said Brett Stolle, museum curator. “All of it had terrestrial origin.”

‘I just want people to see history’

Earlier this month, Black Vault founder John Greenewald Jr. of Los Angeles revived the era of aliens and unidentified flying objects by putting the Project Blue Book reports on his website.

Over the years, Greenewald has filed about 5,000 Freedom of Information Act requests to find answers to his curiosity about alien beings and UFOs and all manner of government secrets.

“I’ve been fascinated with government documents and what they don’t want us to know,” Greenewald said in an interview. “The documents show there is something there that they don’t want us to know.”

He filed his first FOIA with the government as a 15-year-old teen-ager. “I just want people to see history,” the freelance television producer said.

While the records were available online this month, a check Wednesday showed the Project Blue Book case files were not accessible. Attempts to reach Greenewald for further comment Wednesday were not immediately successful.

‘A large, bright spinning object’

In the Project Blue Book archives of the Black Vault were stories like this:

In March 1967, a Lebanon, Ohio, area woman called authorities to report “a large, bright, spinning object” near her home. When she turned into her driveway, “the car headlights went out momentarily.”

She went into her home to call an Air Force investigator at Wright-Patterson to report the craft, about the size of a small house, was behind her home and changing altitude frequently. A fellow witness reported it “made an indescribably disturbing noise when it came very low.”

Sheriff’s deputies responded but found no evidence of the UFO, a Project Blue Book report said.

Sometimes those reporting what they saw were skeptical the Air Force would do anything.

A Dayton resident peered through a telescope to spot an airplane-like light that was bright red that changed to white and back again to red, but the person was frustrated when no one at Wright-Patterson would come out to investigate.

“Wouldn’t it be wiser to investigate the U.F.O. itself instead of the report only?” the person wrote in a Project Blue Book report dated April 1, 1967. “I think so! If you do investigate these sightings I’d like to know just what we’re seeing and if you don’t know, say so. ”

The Air Force response was standard language in many reports. “The information which we have received is not sufficient for a scientific evaluation,” wrote Col. James C. Manatt, director of technology and subsystems, saying in the reply to submit additional information on another form.

In a March 1967 report, a 34-year-old Dayton observer 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.

“… I am certain it was not a star, an airplane, a helicopter, a weather balloon or another case of swamp gas,” the man wrote. “… I personally do not care whether you believe me or if anyone believes me. I know what I saw and I am convinced that it was something alien to me.”

Greenewald said there’s a “much bigger story” about UFOs that’s never been told.

“Am I comfortable saying there is a cover-up? Absolutely,” he said. “Does that mean aliens?” Anyone’s guess is as good as his, he said.

He believes the federal government still tracks reports about UFOs, despite the Air Force ending Project Blue Book in 1969.

USAF: No aliens at Wright-Patt

The Air Force concluded Project Blue Book investigations showed no UFO sighting was a threat to national security, or demonstrated technology beyond present-day science, and no evidence indicated extraterrestrial vehicles, the Wright-Patterson statement said in 1985.

“Periodically, it is erroneously stated that the remains of extraterrestrial visitors are or have been stored at Wright-Patterson AFB,” the statement concluded. “There are not now nor ever have been, any extraterrestrial visitors or equipment on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”

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