Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Project Blue Book Declassified - Really?

I’m watching the ABC Evening News, something I attempt to avoid because there is so little news in the broadcast (but that’s another story) and they tell me that the Project Blue Book files are now declassified and on line. I’m wondering what they mean because they have been on line for quite some time.

They’re referring to John Greenwald’s efforts to post all of these files at his Black Vault website, and his effort is commendable. But NICAP had many of the files on line for years and I have never found a gap in the Fold 3’s Blue Book files also on line. Or, in other words, the only “news” here is that John has provided us with another site where we can see these files.

ABC also seemed to suggest that this was something new. The Air Force had finally released all of the files of its investigation, except, of course, they did that in 1976. I made a trip down to Maxwell Air Force Base and spent time going through the files*. Anyone could have done it but the fact the files had been declassified hadn’t been announced publically. There had been some sort of announcement in an Air Force bulletin that I happened to see, so I made arrangements to take a look.

And once those files were transferred to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., they were more accessible to the public. You could buy the microfilm copies for something like eight or ten dollars a roll back then, but there were ninety some rolls of them. Over the years I actually managed to obtain a full set of the microfilms, so I’ve had all of the Blue Book files in my office for a couple of decades.

The statistics “announced” by ABC didn’t tell the whole story either, and they seemed to think Blue Book began as a result of the Roswell UFO crash (Roswell isn’t even mentioned in the Blue Book files except a short paragraph in a newspaper clipping that is part of another file), but actually the idea for an investigation can be traced back to December 1946 and probably had more to do with the Ghost Rockets of Sweden and some sightings in the US than it did with either Roswell or the Kenneth Arnold sightings. I laid this out in Government UFO Files, along with documentation to support the idea.

They said that 701 cases of the some 12,000 remained unidentified but the truth is that many of the cases are labeled, but not identified. These are labeled as “insufficient data for a scientific analysis.” In many of those cases all the information necessary for a complete investigation is included, but it is labeled that way. This was an attempt to reduce the number of unidentified cases by labeling them as something else and that is all that it was.

In addition to that, many cases that are labeled with a solution are clearly in error. For example, the Portage County UFO chase of 1966. (It was on April 17 and involved several police officers, deputy sheriffs and their supervisors and a stylized version was seen at the beginning of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. See also my posting here on May 20, 2014 for more information.). It has been explained as a combination of Venus and a satellite. The police officers saw the satellite in the west and as it passed over them, as they chased it across Ohio and into Pennsylvania; their attention was then drawn to Venus. The trouble here, as outlined in the Project Blue Book files is that there were no satellites visible in that part of the United States at that time of the morning. Letters and other documents in the Blue Book file prove this, yet the satellite portion of the solution is allowed to stand.

To make it worse, drawings made by the police officers show what was visible in the sky. Those drawings mark the position of the UFO, that of the moon, and that of Venus. Or, to put a point on it, the police officers did see Venus and identified it as such. But the label on the case, which is clearly in error, is allowed to stand and the case is shown to have a solution.

There are many such cases in the Blue Book files. Cases in which the solutions are simply not borne out of the documentation available. Yet we continue to hear about only 701 unidentified cases when the number is probably closer to 5000 when the solutions are examined carefully and those labeled as insufficient data are included. Insufficient data is not a solution, but is a label other than unidentified.

It was good to see a news report that treated UFOs seriously. It was not so good to see facts and figures used that were clearly inaccurate. I’m sure John knew the difference but I’ll wager that the reporter looked at a few things on line, misunderstood them, and ran with his story. The best thing about all this is that you don’t have to believe me. You can look it all up in the Black Vault.

*Bob Cornett and I might have the first outsiders to go through the Blue Book files. The first thing we did was list all the unidentified cases complete with the names and locations. When the files were released into the public mainstream the names had been redacted. We could, of course, put the names back in… but the job of redacting was poorly done and in most of the case files you can find the names. A complete listing of the unidentified cases is available in Project Blue Book – Exposed in both hardback and as a Kindle ebook.
I will note that Jack Webb, in preparation for his TV series about Project Blue Book paid to have all the files microfilmed. We all owe him thanks for doing that.


cda said...

You can disagree with some of the AF solutions and claim that they are really 'unknowns'. Likewise someone like Dr Menzel can, and did, pick some of the 'unknowns' and give a solution to them. This 'solution' may or may not be acceptable to the UFO fraternity.

The Battelle Institute produced their own report, in which some of the cases the AF had classed as unknowns became explained after all. The same applies to the Condon Committee report.

It all depends on who is doing the explaining, doesn't it? Some 'solutions' are acceptable to some but not to others, some are not acceptable to anyone. That is why we get these endless disputes and debates.

How do they classify the Socorro case? Is it unexplained? See Robert Sheaffer's site for some recent news about it. But of course even that does not account for Zamora's full testimony. So what's going on?

The great problem with ufology is that what is acceptable to one person (or investigating group) is not to another such group.

Thus the story goes on. Meanwhile the great Roswell saga is almost totally ignored by the AF. But I expect you have your own ideas on that....

cda said...

I erred above. The Socorro news (concerning the student prank) is not on Robert Sheaffer's website, although he did email it to a skeptics group.

David Rudiak said...

A few clarifications to CDA's comments:

The Battelle Institute produced their own report, in which some of the cases the AF had classed as unknowns became explained after all. The same applies to the Condon Committee report.

The Battelle study started in late 1952, early 1953, and analyzed ALL the AF cases BEFORE the 1953 CIA Robertson Panel and the subsequent edict from the top (AFR 200-2) to Project BB to reduce the number of unknowns to a minimum.

PBB Pre-Battelle analysis unknowns: 27-28%.

Battelle percent: 21.5%. So, yes, some previous "unknowns" became "knowns", but this leaves out that the Battelle criterion for an "unknown" was very stringent. All four scientific analysts had to agree there was no plausible conventional explanation. In contrast, the criterion for a "known" was much looser Only two of the four analysts had to agree there was a plausible explanation.

If you want to get statistical about it, there was only one way something could be classified as an "unknown" (all four agree) but at least six ways for it to be classified as "known" (6 different combinations of only 2 agreeing). Or if you add 3 of 4 agreeing or 4 of 4, there were 11 ways the group could reach agreement that it was "known" versus the one and only way to classify it "unknown".

I'm not surprised the number of "knowns" declined a little bit. Despite this, the percentage of "unknowns" remained above 20%. (Even here, it should be noted that over half of the Battelle "knowns" were still considered indefinite in ID, but probably had a conventional explanation.)

But post-Robertson and AFR 200-2, the percentage of new "unknowns" in PBB fell to under 1% a year. In the next 15 years, PBB added 9000 new cases to the earlier 3200 analyzed by Battelle but came up with only ~40 new unknowns (vs. nearly 600 for Battelle for the first half dozen years).

Thus for the entirety of the AF public UFO investigation, the percentage of unknowns fell from over 20% to only 6%. Just add hardly any new unknowns and the percentage of unknowns drops precipitously.

Similarly the full Condon committee report came up with about 30% of the cases given no explanation, but Condon reduced that to 0% in his summary with the stroke of his pen.

The great problem with ufology is that what is acceptable to one person (or investigating group) is not to another such group.

The bigger problem with ufology is what happens when what should be a scientific inquiry gets politicized instead.

Contrast with the ongoing French scientific study, now almost 40 years old, where around 14% of all cases are considered to have no plausible conventional explanation. If you toss out their high percentage of insufficient information or garbage cases, the percentage of unknowns is again over 20%, or very similar to the Battelle result.

This is what happens when the study of UFOs is conducted in a true scientific manner and NOT politicized.

David Rudiak said...


I wrote that over half of the Battelle Memorial UFO cases classified as "known" were considered doubtful in ID. It was more like 40%, with ~60% of the IDs considered certain.

Still the point remains that it required all four analysts to agree that something was "unknown", whereas it took only one or two of the four to disagree with the others, think a case might have an explanation, thus flipping it out of the "unknown" category into either "insufficient information" or "known".

John's Space said...

There have been two periods where the government conducted an objective investigation of the UFO phenomena. The first was during Project Sign and the other was in Ruppelt Grudge/Blue Book period. The Condon study was obviously set up from the outset to be have a negative result. Otherwise the government was focused on explaining the phenomena away.

Even a skeptic should be asking the question why is the government so opposed to an open objective study of UFOs? Why do they set policies designed to suppress UFO reports? Whatever one thinks about the phenomena itself, it can’t be denied that the government has a peculiar approach to this subject.

It is notable that the two objective studies were supporting the reality of UFOs until they were shut down by authority rather than objective analysis. This suggests that the government is hiding something. (Perhaps with good reason?)

Lyall M said...

Saw something similar in the Daily Mail:


It refers to the Black Vault site but has some interesting photos in it including a series of the Rex Heflin images that came from the Air Force’s Foreign Technology Division – It includes two pictures of the saucer arriving that are rarely seen.

I had to take a course in college with a Professor Robert Rayfield who had been a navigator in the USAF and had said he had worked in Project Blue Book. Very jolly guy until he mentioned Blue Book and then a fellow student said “have you ever heard of a saucer crashing in Texas?” I figured that the student probably meant Roswell and Rayfield exploded “That’s a God dam lie.” He had physical convulsions while yelling out his reply and I thought he was going to require CPR. He calmed down after a couple of minutes and apologized for his abrupt outburst. A very bizarre incident. This was around 1986 and I think it was before the MJ-12 crap really kicked in with Timothy Good’s “Above Top Secret.”


Lance said...

Those supposed Rex Heflin photos are "rarely seen" because they were taken by the Air Force to demonstrate a possible way that Heflin faked his own photos.

That Kevin brings up the Portage county UFO chase shows the unassailable bias that UFO believers bring to the table to support their UFO beliefs. There are a few UFO reports that are genuinely mysterious. But the Saucer Floyd case isn't one of them.

Most of the unknowns are such simply because of lack of information combined with the unreliability of witness testimony (ALWAYS ignored by UFO buffs).

Indeed, in general, the crappy quality of the "unknowns" should be embarrassing to UFO believers. But as we see here over and over again, no UFO case is ever solved for the true believers. They are ALL unknown forever. Heflin is a good case in point.

Note how some believers tried to bring back a completely discredited Roswell witness a few posts back. Pitiful.


David Rudiak said...


Rex Heflin's photos are NOT "rarely seen" because they were taken by the Air Force to demonstrate how they were faked. They have always been among the most commonly shown UFO photos. (Perhaps you are confused by Heflin claiming the photos were taken by two men saying they were from NORAD, then returned to his mailbox 2+ decades later.)

However, I have concluded they were indeed faked, not by reading Heflin's mind or assuming they were necessarily faked, but by finding actual serious problems in the photos that clearly pointed in that direction. (These are mainly bizarre camera positions and shadow evidence at odds with his story.)

In contrast, the Trent/McMinnville photos have yet to show clear photoanalytic evidence of fakery (despite very weak recent arguments to the contrary), and some photo evidence in favor of authenticity.

As for Portage County/Ravena, whether you buy the "Venus" explanation of Quintinella and PBB for the end of the sighting, they clearly LIED about the initial sighting of officers Spaur and Neff being caused by an Echo satellite, which their own files show was NOT visible at the time. Yet they ran with it nonetheless and never corrected it.

And as you should know from our previous debate, Robert Sheaffer was also not very honest in his treatment of the case. While criticizing BB's "Echo satellite" as false, he tried to substitute a (clearly nonexistent) brilliant meteor fireball as explaining the initial part of the sighting, even falsifying another report to claim it supported this (when instead it was of something no brighter than a star and visible for several minutes, definitely NOT a meteor fireball). And to compound this, he entirely left out the testimony of Spaur and Neff of an blindingly bright, extended object coming from a completely different direction, and then HOVERING DIRECTLY OVER THEIR HEADS FOR ABOUT A MINUTE (blotting out much of the sky), again clearly NOT a meteor fireball, plus many other omissions and distortions of the actual record.

Unfortunately the study of UFOs has been plagued from the gitgo by highly dishonest treatments of the evidence, first by the Air Force, later by debunkers, claiming they have explained cases that clearly haven't been explained. The problem isn't with the weakness of the UFO cases, but the weakness of the investigations. UFOs have been treated mostly politically (debunk at all costs regardless of the evidence) instead of scientifically (lets see where the evidence leads).

A much more honest evaluation of the early AF cases was the Battelle study, which still arrived at over a 20% figure for unexplainable cases, despite requiring unanimous agreement among all scientific analysts that these case couldn't be explained in any plausible way.

These, by definition, were NOT "weak" cases. In fact, the figure of unexplained cases rose to 33% for what they considered the "excellent" cases for evidence, and dropped to half that for the "poor" cases. (But still 17% unexplained even here.)

Similarly the ongoing French UFO study under their space agency (GEPAN/SEPRA/GEIPAN) arrives at a similar over 20% INEXPLICABLE figure (after tossing out their large percentage of insufficient evidence or junk cases). The three heads of the investigations have all gone on public record that these cases are truly unexplainable in any conventional way and they believe instead represent extraterrestrial craft.

So again, hardly "weak" cases.

KRandle said...

Lance -

My point was not to argue the merits of the Portage County case here but to point to one where the Blue Book files clearly proved that part of the accepted answer was false. The deputies did not see a satellite and mistake it for a UFO. The Air Force knew that the answer was in error but simply didn't care.

Lyall M said...

The two photos I referred to weren’t Rex Heflin’s. The lower left quadrant picture and the upper right quadrant picture in the photo. I had seen the reconstructions done using a lens cap at the actual location that I’m guessing was done by the Condon Committee and not the USAF. I didn’t know the USAF did a reconstruction that used a “model” of the “model” or “UFO” at different location and very different conditions.


Lance said...

David, I think it is cleared up above. The photos Lyall referred to are seen at the link Lyall provided. I was not referring to Heflin's infamous photos. These two rarely seen ones are as I descibed them. I was just correcting Lyall.

While you wisely admit the Heflin photos are faked. There are plenty of saucer buffs who pontificate on how they are real. Ann Druffel comes to mind. This is my point.

Our disagreement on Portage is known and continues.

Kevin, I see your point and accept it


John's Space said...


What is your read on Prof. Rayfield’s outburst? Was is because he was so convinced that UFOs were not real based on his Blue Book work or was it because the idea of a crashed saucer brought back scary memories?

David Rudiak said...


I was commenting on your various comments that most of the unknowns were due to "lack of information combined with the unreliability of witness testimony" and were of "crappy quality."

No, the exact opposite is true, if one bother's to use the scientific analyses done on some 9000+ cases by the Battelle Institute on early USAF cases plus the French GEPAN, et. al. studies. Cases with "lack of information" to make a determination were placed in a separate statistical category in both studies.

Those classified as "knowns" or "unknowns" were those for which there WAS sufficient information to make a determination. In both studies, if one eliminates the "insufficient information" cases, the percentages of unknowns was around 25% of all cases with adequate information. These are cases for which the scientific analysts could NOT come up with any plausible prosaic explanation. This amounts to some 1500 cases between the two studies. (Even among those cses classified as "known", a large percentage were considered doubtful as being accurately IDed, but deemed to not be strange enough that they probably could have or did have a prosaic explanation.)

The Battelle study was also very stringent as to what was considered "unknown", requiring unanimity among the four scientific analysts, whereas only two analysts had to agree on a solution for it to be classified as "known".

Further, they broke cases down by quality into four groups, from "excellent" to "poor". "Excellent" cases were those for which the evidence was considered to be of very high quality, which might include witnesses considered to be very experienced and highly reliable (astronomers, missile scientists, aeronautical engineers, military and civilian pilots, control tower operators, etc.), multiple witness cases, corroborating physical evidence such as radar contact, radiation readings, photographs, etc. In these outstanding cases, the percentage of "unknowns" was twice that for cases deemed to have poor quality evidence.

Thus the actual study demonstrated the exact opposite of your argument. Insufficient evidence cases were thrown out, and of the rest the BETTER the quality, the HIGHER the percentage of unknowns. (Stanton Friedman loves to hammer on this, for good reason.)

And finally, Battelle compared six characteristics (speed, number, duration, etc.) between their knowns and unknowns. In all categories, the "knowns" were statistically different from the "unknowns". (If you combine all six categories, the odds that the "knowns" were the same bunch of phenomena as the "unknowns" by pure statistical fluke was less than one in a billion.)

Thus the "unknowns" were truly distinctly different phenomena or a phenomenon, thus NOT a matter of "lack of information" or "unreliable witnesses" misreading known prosaic phenomena.

As for the French study, those classified as unknown were those cases deemed absolutely inexplicable, and as I mentioned, the three project leaders to date have all publicly supported the ETH as the best explanation. These are NOT "crappy" cases by any means.

Lyall M said...

Hello John,

Professor Rayfield blew up at just the mention of a saucer crashing. I don’t know why and he did not elaborate on it. I really thought he was about to have a heart attack – to me he looked like he was in his seventies. After the outburst he told a story about navigating a flight and the pilot calling him up to look at the UFO in flying in front of them – after being mesmerized by it with the rest of the crew he checked his celestial charts and it was Venus. He said something like there are too many planets out there for nothing else to exist. That was the only time UFO's mentioned in the class.

What I was curious about was whether anyone had ever seen the name Robert “Bob” Rayfield associated with Blue Book. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 80 so he was actually about 58 when I was in his class so he must have had one hell of wild time before teaching at CSUF.

cda said...

It is more likely Robert Rayfield never actually served on Blue Book (was he even in the USAF?) but acted as a consultant, of which there were many, to BB from time to time, perhaps on some committee.

As to the Battelle study that DR talks about, I must point out that Allan Hendry devoted several pages in his 1979 "UFO HANDBOOK" to Battelle and showed how flawed their statistical analysis really was. Stan Friedman, who loves to cite Battelle as strong evidence of the large number of true unknowns (and therefore ET craft in his estimation), NEVER mentions Hendry's refutation.

Another fact: the Battelle staff never once, as far as I know, interviewed a single UFO witness nor did any field investigations. Their whole study was based on 'office analysis' and use of early IBM computers and punched cards.

Also, their 12 'Good Unknowns' (as they labelled them) had nothing to do with the quality of the witnesses or their professional qualifications. Another little matter is that if you look in the final Blue Book list of 'unknowns' you will notice that only 5 or 6 of the Battelle 'good unknowns' are in this BB list. Who changed their status and why?

The answer, as I said before, is that it all depends who does the investigation, or analysis, doesn't it? GEPAN, Condon, Blue Book, Battelle, NICAP, MUFON or whatever.

I fear any statistical analysis of UFO reports will always be plagued with difficulties.

Lance said...

Thanks for the above, Christopher.

That is what I was talking about. If all these unknowns are so great, how come we never hear about any that blow our socks off in their apparent mystery.

The Portage case is a good example of the kind of lackluster details that UFO enthusiasts take far beyond their actual value. It is perfectly clear that Venus is a fantastic candidate as a explanation for the much of what was reported. That buffs focus upon the self-reported (and quite contradictory) details that the witnesses provide and assume them to be as from God's lips is one of the most shameful aspects of UFO belief. It is willful ignorance.


Lyall M said...


Rayfield was in the USAF for 30 years and retired as a Colonel as director of public affairs, 5th AF & US Forces in Japan. He started out as a navigator and served in the Strategic Air Command and in 1969 he went into public affairs which was also the last year of Blue Book. An obituary for him is at


He had written and edited a number books dealing with advertising and public relations in the civilian world and some USAF histories some of which show up on the Air Forces’ historical website. Public Affairs has to be the link direct or indirect to Blue Book.