The other day I was on a radio show and the host asked if there was a cover up. I said, "Yes," and that I could prove it. The documentation available shows that the military tried to hide what it was doing with UFO investigations, sometimes in a not very clever way. Sometimes, I think it was just a case of incompetence rather than anything particularly nefarious.
In my search of UFO files, at the National Archives, at the Center for UFO Studies, and using the Project Blue Book files, I learned how some of this transpired. The following will provide a glimpse into the convoluted trail that leads into the cover up.
The military, after the code name Project Sign, the first of the official UFO investigations was compromised, claimed that the UFO investigation had been closed. They had merely changed the name and kept going under the code name of Grudge. Then, in December 1949, they announced that Project Grudge had been ended. The study hadn't ended, but continued, still using the code name Grudge. Later that name was changed and Blue Book was born.
In the beginning, Blue Book was a solid investigation of UFOs. But after the summer of 1952, that situation changed. Clearly UFOs were not something that were going to go away. Clearly the public interest, after more than five years, was at an all time high. Newspaper reporters and magazine writers were trying to learn everything they could about UFOs. Books on the topic sold well and more were scheduled to be published that year. Something had to be done to end the interest.
One of the responses was the CIA's Robertson Panel which would determine that there was nothing to UFOs, but more importantly, they didn’t threaten national security.
The other was a new set of regulations and a change in the way the UFO investigation was going to be handled. ATIC and Project Blue Book, who had been the main action addressees on UFO related items of intelligence were about to lose that distinctive status. New regulations, issued by the Air Defense Command on January 3, 1953 created the 4602d Air Intelligence Service Squadron (AISS). Other new regulations, including Air Force Regulation 200-2, dated August 1953, tasked the 4602d with the investigation of UFOs. All UFO reports would pass through the 4602d AISS prior to transmission to ATIC. That was a major change in the UFO investigation.
It is interesting to note that Ed Ruppelt, after briefing the members of the Robertson Panel, was on his way to Ent Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, the headquarters of the 4602d. He was scheduled to arrive on January 24, 1953 to "present a one hour briefing at Officers Call." The trip was arranged by Major Vernon L. Sadowski on January 7, 1953, or about a week before the Robertson Panel began its meetings.
But Ruppelt, in describing how the 4602d entered into the UFO investigation business, seemed to think it was the result, not of manipulation at the top, but because of his pushing from the bottom. He wrote, "Project Blue Book got a badly needed shot in the arm when an unpublicized but highly important change took place: another intelligence agency began to take over all field investigations...the orders had been to build it up - get more people - do what the [Robertson] panel recommended. But when I'd ask for more people, all I got was a polite 'So sorry.'...I happened to be expounding my troubles one day at Air Defense Command Headquarters while I as briefing General Burgess, ADC's Director of Intelligence, and he told me about his 4602d Air Intelligence Squadron, a specialized intelligence unit that had recently become operational. Maybe it could help..."
Ruppelt explained that he didn't expect much from Burgess. Ruppelt expected to write memos and letters and seal "it in a time capsule for preservation so that when the answer finally does come through the future generation that receives it will know how it all started."
This time things were different. Ruppelt writes, "But I underestimated the efficiency of the Air Defense Command. Inside of two weeks General Burgess had called General Garland, they'd discussed the problem, and I was back in Colorado Springs setting up a program with Colonel White's 4602nd."
In Ruppelt's book, he implies that all this happened late in the summer of 1953. Ruppelt's tour at Blue Book was scheduled to end in February 1953, and he departed for two months of temporary duty in Denver. He writes, "When I came back to ATIC in July 1953 and took over another job, Lieutenant Olsson was just getting out of the Air Force and A1/c (Airman First Class) [Max] Futch was now it...In a few days I again had Project Blue Book as an additional duty this time and I had orders to 'build it up.'"
So, Ruppelt, at the end of the summer, is talking to General Burgess and within weeks, he is told that the 4602d is available to investigate UFOs. Documentation, however, doesn't bear this out.
On March 5, 1953, months before Ruppelt met with General Burgess, a letter headed, "Utilization of 4602nd AISS Personnel in Project Blue Book Field Investigations," is sent to the Commanding General of the Air Defense Command and to the attention of the Director of Intelligence at Ent Air Force Base. The plan of action, outlined in the letter was approved on March 23, 1953.
In the letter, it was written, "During the recent conference attended by personnel of the 4602nd AISS and Project Blue Book the possibility of utilizing 4602nd AISS field units to obtain additional data on reports of Unidentified Flying Objects was discussed. It is believed by this Center that such a program would materially aid ATIC and give 4602nd AISS personnel valuable experience in field interrogations. It would also give them an opportunity to establish further liaison with other governmental agencies, such as CAA, other military units, etc., in their areas."
The interesting statement here, as in many of the other documents relating to the 4602d, is the idea that the field teams, by interrogating witnesses to UFO sightings, can gain valuable experience in interrogating people. Ruppelt pointed out that the 4602d had a primary function of interrogating captured enemy airmen during war. In a peacetime environment, all they could do was interrogate "captured" Americans in simulations. According to Ruppelt, "Investigating UFO reports would supplement these problems [wartime simulations] and add a factor of realism that would be invaluable in their training."
All this went on while Ruppelt was on temporary duty and someone else was heading Project Blue Book. It would seem that some correspondence between the ADC and ATIC would have been on file at Blue Book. Ruppelt, when he returned to ATIC, should have been aware that negotiations between the 4602d and ATIC were in progress. Yet his own book suggests he didn't understand that.
Upon publication of Air Force Regulation 200-2, in August 1953, a briefing about implementation of the regulation was held at Ent Air Force Base for members of the 4602nd. Publication of a regulation suggests that the changes had been in the planning stage for a long time. It suggests that the implementation of ADC regulation 24-3, published on January 3, 1953, was part of a larger plan. All of it was probably an outgrowth of the wave of sightings from the summer of 1952.
During the briefing, one of the officers asked, "What is the status of the 4602d in regards to this new UFOB regulation?"
Major BeBruler said, "I want to say that on this UFOB regulation that ADC will designate the 4602d as the agency to discharge its responsibility for field and certain preliminary investigations. Secondly, there will be a criteria established as a guide to determine when the field units will conduct a detailed follow-up investigation and when they will not."
This is important because it marks the shift in the UFO investigations. The Robertson Panel recommended no secrecy. They wanted to share everything with the public to prove there was nothing to hide. But that didn't happen. Instead, Blue Book was stripped of its investigative function and became little more than a public relations clearing house. The real investigations were conducted by the 4602d AISS, an intelligence agency of which no one outside a limited circle inside the intelligence community knew. Public questions about UFOs went to Blue Book but no one asked the 4602d what they were doing. They operated outside the spotlight of the media.
From the documentation available, it is clear that the investigative function after 1953 rested with the 4602d. UFO sighting reports were transmitted electronically to the closest of the field units for investigation. Once that investigation was completed, those sightings which were not identified were transmitted on to ATIC and supposedly provided to Project Blue Book.
Although AFR 200-2 was first published in August 1953, implementation of it seems to have lagged until August the following year. Reports available in the 4602d Unit History, originally classified secret, show that there was some reluctance to take on the task of UFO investigation.
This is not to suggest, from some of the early reports, that the 4602d was operating to suppress UFO data, though that was the effect. The men at the meetings, from the questions asked, seemed more concerned with the logistical support available to them to complete their mission rather than hiding anything about their work. The regulations at squadron and flight levels had not yet been written.
During the initial briefing held in 1954, Lieutenant Vaughn, said, "General Carey is very vehement in his desire to see these reports before they are sent anywhere. What will be done about that? He has seen this AFR 200-2, but before they are sent in, he still wants to see them."
Colonel White answered, "I see no objection to that, if they don't get tied up. There is nothing in 200-2 that says that written reports (AF 112) should go to General Carey. Again this is in his division area of responsibility. General Carey is one of the sharpest officers in the Air Force today, and if he wants you to do something like this in his area, it, of course, should be done. The one arrangement that I would make is that you should hand carry the reports to him."
The question that begs to be asked is if this was in some way an attempt to circumvent AFR 200-2 by General Carey. And why should the reports be hand carried to him?
The simplest answer is that General Carey, because the UFO program was moving into his area of responsibility wanted to be kept apprised of what was happening in the field. Hand carrying the reports just expedited the process. There seems to be nothing underhanded or nefarious in the operations as they were being established by the 4602d. They were tasked with a job and were attempting to carry it out to the best of their abilities.
What is important here is the shift of investigative responsibility. Ruppelt complained that his tiny shop was overworked and undermanned, and a splendid compromise was found. In reality, since none of this was made public until long after the fact, it is clear that it was one more aspect of the conspiracy of silence.
In 1947 and 1948 when Project Sign was created, the public name given it was Project Saucer. A review of the magazine articles and books released in that time frame speak of Project Saucer. Once the real name, Project Sign, was compromised, the public name of Saucer was scrapped. Officials then suggested that Sign had been closed and no new investigation had been undertaken. Of course, it was only a name change, the project still existed.
This time the name was left in place, but the location of the investigation shifted. Blue Book would issue press releases and reporters would call the project for information, but the investigation was now housed in the Air Defense Command and conducted by the 4602d as part of their training.
While it can be argued, persuasively, that military secrets are a necessity, and since Blue Book was well known by the beginning of 1953, the policy makes sense. But it can also be argued that the policy is an outgrowth of a desire to mislead the public about the reality of the situation. The question that can be asked, and frequently was, "How can anyone suspect the Air Force takes UFOs seriously if the investigation consists of an officer, an NCO, an enlisted man or two and a secretary?" The answer is, of course, not very.
But, of course, that wasn't the true picture. Investigation was continuing at a very high level with the addition of the 4602d's intelligence teams. More information comes from the unit history (originally classified as Secret) and dated from 1 January - 30 June 1955. "The 4602d Air Intelligence Service Squadron continues to conduct all field investigations within the zone of the interior to determine the identity of any Unidentified Flying Objects." The unit history also noted, "The responsibility for UFOB investigation was placed on the Air Defense Command, with the publication of AFR 200-2, dated 12 August 1954."
This merely confirms what we had suspected before. There was a secret study of UFOs conducted by the Air Force that was not part of the Blue Book System. Clearly ATIC was involved because regulations demanded it, but there is nothing to suggest that every report forwarded to ATIC made its way down to Blue Book.