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The Report On Unidentified Flying Objects: By The Former Head Of Project Blue Book Paperback – November 8, 2008
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About the Author
From early 1951 until September 1953, Edward J. Ruppelt was chief of the United States Air Force's Project Blue Book, an operation of the Air Technical Intelligence Center.
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But Edward J. Ruppelt's _The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects_ (1956, 1960) is that rare thing, a _respectable_ account of the U.F.O. phenomena, and it remains something of a classic today. It will not please sensation-seeking flying saucer nuts-- it is much too rational and sober-- and it did not initially please Air Force officials who wanted all UFOs neatly explained away. but it does represent the results of solid, honest investigation.
First, a bit of background. The Air Force had a series of projects supposed to be officially investigating UFOs: Project Sign, Project Grudge, and Project Blue Book. Project Sign investigators were over ready to assign all UFO. reports to be extraterrestrial in origin. Early Project Grudge investigators bent over backwards to find non-saucer explanations-- some of them almost as bizarre as the saucer interpretations. Captain Edward J. Ruppelt was director of Projects Grudge and Bluebook from 1951 to 1953. Ruppelt was tempermentally skeptical, but he insisted on a thorough investigation of many of the reports and sightings.
_The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects_ is as close to an official, insider's view of the critical years of Project Blue Book that we are likely to have. But there are two different versions of the book. In the earlier, 1956 version, Ruppelt concludes that while _most_ UFOs can be accounted for in terms of named causes (such as airplanes, planets, lights, weather balloons, or hoaxes), about 27% are still "of unknown origin". This leaves the door open for a few of them to be extraterrestrial. But in the 1960 edition, which adds three chapters, Ruppelt flatly concludes that the notion that UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin is a "myth". Saucer believers tend to ignore the 1960 version, but I really don't see how we can. Ruppelt swung to the skeptical side, not because he was "pressured" by Air Force Brass, but simply because there was _no positive evidence in four years to support flying saucers_.
It must be said that Ruppelt was becoming increasingly disenchanted with various saucer writers as well. He criticized Donald Keyhoe, the author of several bestselling books on flying saucers:
To say the book [_Flying Saucers from Outer Space_] is factual depends entirely on how one uses the word. The details of the specific UFO sightings that he credits to the Air Force are factual, but in his interpretation of the incidents he blasts way out into the wild blue yonder. (chapter 17)
As time went on, so did the number of reports from flying saucer nuts:
Many inquiries come from saucer screwballs and these people are like a hypochondriac at the doctor's, nothing will make them believe the diagnosis unless it is what they came to hear. And there are plenty of screwballs.
One officer summed it up neatly when he told me, "It isn't the UFO's that give us trouble, it's the people." (chapter 16)
But the bulk of the book is loaded with anecdotal case studies that make absolutely fascinating reading. Of course, Ruppelt starts with the case that started it all-- that of private pilot Kenneth Arnold, who spotted several "disc-shaped"craft flying over Mt. Ranier in 1947. Putting aside controversies about what Arnold actually said over the radio, Ruppelt is convinced that he did see actual aircraft (as opposed to sunspots or snow formations). Another early case was that of two Air Force colonels who spotted three objects in "V formation" while flying over the Carson Sink, Nevada area in 1952. They reported their findings in Colorado Springs, Nevada. (This one stuck in my mind because I have relatives in Colorado Springs.) And during 1946 and later in 1948, there were reports of "ghost rockets" of various shapes and colors appearing in many different countries around the world.
In chapter two, Ruppelt spins out a story about crashed UFOs and two men known as "Jackson" and "Richards" and a Close Encounter on an island in 1947. Ruppelt piles on the details, and just when you think that you have encountered a real-life scenario out of _The X-Files_... Ruppelt jerks the rug out from under your feet. It was all a hoax cooked up by a couple of scoundrels who had just enough raw material to fake a UFO crash and some vivid imaginations. They were quickly exposed, and they faded off into the sunset.
Ruppelt gives detailed attention to two "classic" UFO cases-- those of pilot Captain Mantrell of Kentucky, who was killed chasing down a UFO, and those of the famed "Lubbuck Lights" of Texas. Ruppelt does not interpret either case in the boogga-boogga manner that most saucer believers like. He believes that Mantell _could_ have been pursuing a skyhook balloon-- there was one just released from Tennessee at that time. But that we will never know for sure. Ruppelt rejects explanations involving extraterrestrial spacecraft or notions that Mantell was chasing down an image of Venus. As for the phenomenon of the Lubbock lights, well-witnessed over a long period of time by a lot of observant witnesses-- Ruppert does not give a solid conclusion to the mystery. but he rules out extraterrestrial space craft.
In chapter four, Ruppelt gives attention to some spectacular bursts of light that appeared over parts of Mexico and the American southwest. They did not leave any trace of meteorite debris where they appeared. They always seemed to be the same shade of green. They were thoroughly investigated by some of the top scientists in America-- some of whom were eyewitnesses to the lights.But in the end, no solution to the mystery was found. One person suggested a "duck hunter" approach-- set up several observational "blinds" with permanent observers and cameras in places where the lights were likely to appear. This is sound in theory-- but awesomely expensive in practice.
Other cases include the case of the Florida encounter with the scoutmaster that could be real... or a fraud, the case of the rise in radiation that coincided with a UFO sighting, and the massive numbers of UFOs that were sighted over Washington, DC and had President Truman calling him to ask what was going on. But Ruppelt says that there is always the persistent problem of perception. When one person says that they have seen a UFO, all critical thought goes out the window. Nobody asks if it could be anything else
In one instance I traveled halfway across the United States to investigate a report made by a high ranking man in the State Department. An experienced observer. It was evening by the time I got to talk to him and he'd excitedly told me all the pertinent facts, how this bright light had "jumped across the sky," he said, "Want to see it? It's still there, but it's not jumping now."
We went outside and there was Jupiter. (chapter twenty)
In a review of _The Report..._, Anthony Boucher praised the book but predicted: "Ruppelt is almost completely successful in maintaining a neutral attitude which will exasperate both 'pro' and 'anti-saucer' factions in and out of the USAF" (90). He was quite correct in this prediction. But I will tell you. There is something likeable about the voice of the author who speaks to us. It is sane, rational, humorous, clear-headed, and energetic. And he has a fascinating tale to tell. This is a book worth rereading today.
_References_: Boucher, Anthony. "Recommended Reading," _Fantasy and Science Fiction_, May, 1955, 74. For his review of Ruppelt, see "Recommended Reading," _F&SF_, May, 1956, 90-91.
Originally published in 1956 by the former director of Project Bluebook, the U.S. Air Force’s controversial investigation into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO), the first seventeen chapters make the case that the Air Force too easily dismissed UFO reports and that many sightings could not be so easily debunked. The last three chapters, written four years later for a second printing, then dismisses the UFO phenomena as little more than popular myth.
The author, Edward J. Ruppelt, was a decorated WWII bombardier who was recalled to active duty during the Korean War. Attached to Air Force technical intelligence, he was assigned to Project Grudge, a predecessor to Bluebook. He took over the “You-Fo” desk when the Air Force was forced to pay better attention to the phenomena. During his time as Bluebook director, Ruppelt said he was frustrated that the Air Force publicly dismissed most UFO sightings as weather balloons, misidentified aircraft or clouds, or hoaxes while behind closed doors there was serious concern that the UFOs might actually be interplanetary spacecraft.
As much as 20 percent of UFO sightings remained “unknown” during Ruppelt’s time on Bluebook, and some had incredible evidence. More than once military jets engaged in high speed dogfights with UFOs, twisting and turning through the sky (weather balloons can’t maneuver). Ruppelt led many well-known scientists in research projects into the phenomena. One study looking at UFO maneuvers determined the craft were intelligently controlled – by whom they couldn’t determine – but no high-ranking Air Force officer would sign his name to the report, so it never saw daylight. Ruppelt also criticized the news media for being too eager to accept Air Force explanations for sightings.
Ruppelt never made a claim as to what the “unknown” sightings were or if they were manned by aliens from another planet. He concluded the first edition by saying “only time will tell” what the answer is.
Four years later, however, he added three more chapters to the book that appeared to take a less open-minded view. Whereas in the earlier chapters, Ruppelt championed “trained observers” – military and commercial pilots, radar operators, and scientists – who came forward to report UFO sightings, in the later chapters he dismissed the idea that such people should be called trained observers. Ruppelt essentially concluded that all UFO sightings could be identified, using as an example a sighting of his own—which he never mentioned in the first edition of the book. In conclusion, Ruppelt dismisses UFOs as a “Space Age Myth.”
What makes this book even more unusual is that the second edition, published in 1960, retained the 1956 publication date and copyright, as if trying to make readers think the last three chapters were always part of the book (even though Ruppelt admits in Chapter 18 that four years have passed.) Ufologists suggest Ruppelt was forced by the Air Force to add the last three chapters, but we will never know because shortly after the 1960 publication Ruppelt was dead of a heart attack at age 37.
You couldn’t find a better plot twist than that on an episode of The X-files.
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