What struck me was the poor quality of some of the cases reviewed. Yes, the Arnold sighting that sort of began everything was in there. Today there are those who believe that Arnold was fooled by mirages, or by drops of water on the windshield, or snow blowing off the mountaintops, or by pelicans. None of the solutions is very satisfactory. The thing we don’t know is if the Johnson sighting, a prospector who was on the ground and seemed to have seen the objects about the same time as Arnold, was included in the report.
Many of the sightings that I have reviewed are not as strong as the Arnold case. Some are single witness and I believe were selected because they involved pilots or technically trained people. I would guess that those making the selections believed that pilots, especially fighter pilots, would be familiar with what was in the sky around them. Fighter pilots would have to make snap decisions about what they were seeing and their skills would have been honed during the war when a single mistake could kill them. Those selecting the cases respected the abilities of the pilots to quickly and accurately determine what they were seeing. Not too long before their lives would have depended on that ability.
And in the world of 1948, those with college degrees, especially those in the sciences or engineering would be given a higher credibility. The thinking was that these people had been exposed to a great many startling sights and would be able to identify a balloon, a celestial object, a weather phenomenon, when they saw it. If they reported something strange in the sky, then it probably did defy identification… which is not to say that it was an alien spacecraft.
At any rate, these seemed to be the sightings selected for the EOTS. Pilots, military officers, scientists, and technicians were those whose tales were taken, almost at face value. But when we look at the sightings today, they are very thin on evidence other than the observations of the witnesses. As but a single example taken this case from the Lake Meade area:
On 14 July 1947, 1st Lt Eric B Armstrong… departed Williams Field, Arizona at 1400 CST on 28 June in a P-51 for Portland, Oregon, by way of Medford, Oregon. At approximately 1515 CST on a course of 300 degrees, and a ground speed of 285, altitude 10,000 feet, approximately thirty miles northwest of Lake Meade, Nevada Lt. Armstrong sighted five or six white, circular objects at four o’clock, altitude approximately 6,000 feet, courses approximately 120 degrees and an estimated speed of 285 MPH. Lt. Armstrong said the objects were flying very smoothly and in a close formation. The estimated size of the white objects were approximately 36 inches in diameter. Lt. Armstrong stated that he is sure the white objects were not birds, since the rate of closure was very fast. Lt. Armstrong was certain that the white objects were not jets or conventional type aircraft since he has flown both types.
This report is from a single witness and the UFOs described are only three feet in diameter. He said they weren’t birds, based on the rate of closure, which meant that they were coming at him faster than his speed and that of the birds would account for. He didn’t believe the objects were meteors and he didn’t think they were conventional aircraft. The Air Force eventually determined that Armstrong had seen a cluster of balloons.
I don’t know why those in Dayton were impressed with this sighting, unless there is something more about it than is in the Project Blue Book file. There is no physical evidence, no photographs, and no radar tracks, nothing other than the observations of the pilot.
As I said, this is an example of the sightings reported in the EOTS. There are no indications from either Ruppelt or Fournet that there was anything more. While the document might have been thick, and it might have contained dozens of sightings (177 by one estimate), without some sort of tangible evidence, I’m not surprised that General Vandenberg rejected it. Hell, I’m usually on board with those who think that some UFOs might represent alien craft, but from what I’ve seen of the EOTS and the reports contained in it, I wouldn’t have found the conclusion of spacecraft supported by the evidence either.
That is why it was rejected, I believe. Not because of a culture at the Pentagon that thought all UFOs could be explained in the mundane, but because, in the words of Jason Robards in All the President’s Men, “You don’t have it.”
Robards meant that the conclusions of the reporters were not supported by the evidence and with the EOTS we see the same thing. To make it worse, this failed attempt to impress those outside the halls of ATIC at Wright Field damaged their case beyond repair. It might have signaled the beginning of what Ruppelt would call the “Dark Ages,” when all UFOs were to be explained… period.