Monday, February 19, 2018

Project Blue Book and the Missing Cases

As happens so often, I’m working on one project and get diverted to another. This time I was looking through the Project Blue Book file index and noticed that many of the reports were labeled as “case missing.” There was a solution attached to the sightings, but, of course the index told me nothing of the case.

I made a quick count, and given that there are a couple of pages missing in the copy of the index that I have, and given that the notations are sometimes obscured and some of the pages are barely readable, my count isn’t the most accurate. It does, however, reveal a trend that is somewhat alarming.

Part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, one time how to Project Blue Book. Photo courtesy of USAF.
By my count, there are over 300 cases that are missing. Most have cards in the files with a little information on them… but this does demonstrate some of the rather sloppy gathering of information that went on… or maybe just suggests that some of those working at Blue Book over the years weren’t as careful as they might have been.

Sure, I know what you’re thinking. Just what were these cases?

I went through a couple of the microfilms to see what the project cards had listed so that we all would have an idea about them. Following is a sample of what I found.

On December 26, 1956, in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, the witnesses, who were civilians and military, watched a white, egg-shaped object with a red tinge around the edges. It was the size of a small grapefruit. It flashed with a very bright red light that was around a tenth of the size of the object. It was in sight for fifteen to twenty-five minutes.

An unidentified officer noted on the project card, “Concur with the reporting officer that sighting caused by a/c. Although there was a helicopter in the area and the details of the sighting indicate that this was the cause, the helicopter landed ten minutes before the object disappeared. However, time in sight might have been incorrectly estimated. Therefore, prob [sic] aircraft is evaluation of this sight[ing].”

The details are somewhat sparse but the report seems to indicate that the object looked to be the size of a small grapefruit rather than actually being that small. I’m a little amused that the “concurring officer,” whoever he might have been, tells us that the sighting was caused by an aircraft because there was a helicopter in the area, but adds that the helicopter landed before the object disappeared. Seems to be a bit contradictory to me.

However, it is fair to note, without knowing more about this case, and basing it only on the few lines on the project card, that it is difficult to argue with the conclusion. But then it is difficult to believe that one or more of these witnesses (and I deduced there was more than one based on the “source,” which was labeled as civilian and military), wouldn’t have been able to identify the object had it been that helicopter.

In another of those missing cases, that would have sent me on still another diversion a couple of years ago, we learn that on January 27, 1957, near Hellenburg, Germany, a civilian witness said that he (yes, I’m assuming the witness was male based on the period of the sighting, meaning more than half a century ago) saw a bell-shaped object that was intense black-white [and yes, it says that on the card] with a fiery red trail… [It] was observed for only 3 -  4 seconds. Exploded before it hit the ground.”

In the comments section, an officer wrote, “Everything here suggests that the object was, without a doubt, a bolide (fireball). See Dr. Olivier’s and Dr. La Paz rpts [reports].”

While it is probably a meteor and even with the officer writing that it was identified without a doubt, the case I labeled as “Probably Astronomical.” I just find that a little funny. And those reports by Olivier and La Paz were nowhere to be found as the index suggested.

The last one I’ll mention here is from Georgetown, Massachusetts, on February 8, 1957. The source is listed as a civilian and a FBI report (yes, a FBI report is listed as a source), which is somewhat curious. The summary said, “A very lengthy report to the FBI, which outlines a number of theories concerning ‘flying saucers,’ makes only brief mention of a UFO sighting. A few days after reading books by so-called UFO experts Scully and Keyhow [sic] source ‘saw a group of saucers.’…”

According to the comments, “Only the date is firmly established. Files show no reports of any strange or unusual objects for that particular date or area. Source is obviously a strong believer in ‘saucers’ which may have colored his very limited report.”

This case is somewhat revealing, providing clues about the thought processes at Blue Book. Their search of the files was only a search of the Air Force files at Blue Book and if a case was not in their files, then it simply didn’t exist, at least to them.

In searching the databases available to me in 2018, I found a listing that suggested that this as a disk-shaped object, but the source for that information was the Blue Book files. There is no indication on the project card of what shape the objects might have had. It only mentions saucers and that it was a daylight sighting.

Of course, with my access to many additional databases, I carried the search a little further but I wasn’t able to find anything more on the sighting, which is to say, that I didn’t find anything. Something might be there, especially for those who can access newspaper files. I did try the Black Vault, but could find nothing relating to this particular case there either.

I will note here, that most of the cases that are labeled as missing are of the same caliber, which means that I attach no significance to the fact they are missing. The problem is probably more related to sloppiness rather than attempting to hide anything because if you were hiding something, you wouldn’t list it in the index, noting that it was missing.

This rather quick survey, which allowed me to see some other things, is that many of the early cases were, in fact, classified. I found nothing listed as “top secret,” but there were many listed as “secret,” or “restricted,” and later as “confidential,” when the classification system was reorganized. Later, most of the files were not classified at all unless there was a national security aspect to them. That normally related to collection methods, though in the Belt, Montana case in 1967, the intrusion of a UFO over missile silos had national security implications.

The significance here is probably that some 300 cases are missing, but the cases themselves don’t seem to be all that important. It shows that those at Blue Book weren’t taking this seriously. They had reached a conclusion, or it might be said that their superiors had reached a conclusion, and they weren’t going to do anything to suggest those superiors might be wrong.

One thought did cross my mind. When there were inspections of their operation, and there would be inspections, how did they explain the missing cases? Could they just blame the earlier administrations… or did the inspectors, knowing the overall opinion of UFOs, just ignore the missing cases? There is nothing to suggest the missing cases were classified, and given that, there probably wouldn’t have been repercussions.


Anyway, this was something that I discovered that I found to be somewhat amusing. I thought I would share it.

2 comments:

couldbebetter said...

I found the comment that if the missing data were found by an inspecting officer, it might simply be ignored very funny. Upon further reflection perhaps having missing cases would
be regarded by the inspecting officer as a sign that they were doing their job well (hiding
certain cases from possible disclosure.) As a Division Intelligence Training Officer I would
visit various Battalion level intelligence training classes and had a lot of fun when some
officers were asked to take the same vehicle or aircraft ID tests that the enlisted soldiers
took. Some of the officers did not fare too well, to the NCO's amusement. Back to Blue Book.
Wasn't it learned that any case affecting national security was not part of Blue Book, but
would then go through a different channel? What I would like to see is a discussion of the
"Blue Room" at WPAFB. ( Was fun to read Sen. Goldwater write about it without using that term.(Which indicates it was calssified at the time.)

Mr. Sweepy! said...

I would chalk this one up more about the difference between the world was analog verses where digital is nearly exclusive. In digital, there is no microfilm and everything is backed up on disc. Especially pictures. We really get spoiled in our every day life of digital.

I some ways, I miss the analog days. I think you do to after reading your post.