For years, decades really, there has been this idea that Project Moon Dust began with the creation of the 4602nd Air Intelligence Squadron (AISS) in early 1953. Ed Ruppelt, one time chief of Project Blue Book, had complained to his superiors after the massive UFO sighting wave of the summer 1952, that he needed help in the investigations. He was surprised when it was suggested, and later put into an Air Force regulation, that the investigation of UFO sightings would be accomplished by the 4602nd.
If you go back and read what Ruppelt wrote, and if you look at the unit history of the 4602nd along with an examination of the Project Blue Book administrative files, you’ll see what was going on. The 4602nd was created at the time of the Korean War and during the Cold War in which military, governmental and strategic planners were worried about an aerial assault on the continental United States. This means, naturally, they worried about a Soviet bombing campaign which would see bombers shot out of the sky and Soviet airmen trying to escape and evade inside the US borders.
The thought was they needed trained teams who could search for these downed crewmen, who had lots of skills that normal service members didn’t need such as riding horses, Russian language skills, the ability to question civilians who might have seen something in the
sky, and other similar skills. The 4602nd
was designed with this in mind and to gain experience in interrogating civilian
witnesses, they would be investigating UFO sightings. This put them in contact
with untrained, sometimes uneducated, and often nervous civilians who had seen
something strange. They would become experienced investigators.
|Wright-Patterson AFB, home of Project Blue Book. Photo courtesy USAF.|
Regulations written dictated this and it was, in fact, implemented. Going through the Blue Book files, there are sighting reports that were written by members of the 4602nd about their investigations of UFO sightings. There is correspondence from the commanders of the 4602nd to ATIC and other offices about UFOs. There is no dispute that this happened, and it interesting if only because it wasn’t until much later that this connection was made.
But, that does not give us the date of the beginning of Moon Dust. Others, and me among them, have suggested it and run with that idea that the 4602nd was the beginning of Moon Dust. It seemed to be a logical conclusion, but it wasn’t actually supported by the documentation.
This idea was reinforced when New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, working with Cliff Stone of Roswell, requested information about Project Moon Dust from the Air Force. Lieutenant Colonel John E. Madison, of the Congressional Inquiry Division, Office of Legislative Liaison wrote, “There is no agency, nor has there ever been, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which would deal with UFOs or have any information about the incident in Roswell. In addition, there is no Project Moon Dust or Operation Blue Fly.”
Documentation obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, first by Robert Todd, later by Stone, and also by me, proved the statement to be untrue. I found, in the Project Blue Book files four cases that had been marked as “Moon Dust.” Clearly, the project existed.
When that documentation was presented to the Air Force, they changed their response. Colonel George M. Mattingley, Jr., wrote that they wanted to amend their response, suggesting that Moon Dust did exist. Mattingley wrote:
In 1953, during the Korean War, the Air Defense Command organized intelligence teams to deploy, recover, or exploit at the scene of downed enemy personnel, equipment, and aircraft. The unit with responsibility for maintaining these teams was located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. As the occasion never arose to use these air defense teams, the mission was assigned to Headquarters, United States Air Force in 1957 and expanded to include the following peace-time functions: a) Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs); b) Project MOON DUST; to recover objects and debris from space vehicles that had survived re-entry from space to earth; c) Operation BLUE FLY, to expeditiously retrieve downed Soviet Bloc equipment.
This seems to suggest that the beginning of Moon Dust was in 1953, but what it actually tells us, which we already knew, was that it was the beginning of the 4602nd, which is not the same as Moon Dust. I have been unable to find a single reference to Moon Dust in the 4602nd unit history which was classified as secret when it was written. That means there would be no prohibition to mentioning Moon Dust in the context of the unit history because it was classified.
Mattingley, in fact, gives us the information about the creation of the 4602nd and what its mission was in 1953. It wasn’t created in response to the UFO sightings of 1952, but as an outgrowth of the conflict in Korea and the escalating cold war. The UFO mission was secondary, thought of as a way to train their personnel.
But there is additional information. As I was researching another aspect of the UFO field, I found another document that provides a clue about the beginning of Moon Dust. A document from Headquarters, US Air Force, Message #54322 and dated December 23, 1957, discussed a new project, obviously developed after the launch of the Soviet satellite in October, 1957, that had a mission “to collect and analyze raw intelligence reports from the field on fallen space debris and objects of unknown origin.”
This is the earliest reference that I have found to Moon Dust. We also know that it had a UFO component based on other documents that define several terms including UFO and that there are reports in the Blue Book file that refer to Moon Dust.
Note also that Mattingley mentions that the mission was given to Headquarters, USAF in 1957, which corresponds with the launch of Sputnik, and the message issued by that Headquarters in 1957. The creation of the 4602nd, then, was not the beginning of Moon Dust.
The upshot of all this is that Moon Dust did not begin in 1953, but late in 1957. It was in operation until 1985, and contrary to Mattingley’s claim, it was deployed and was not shut down. When the name was compromised in 1985, the code name was changed. In a letter to Robert Todd, dated July 1, 1987, he was told the “nickname Project Moon Dust no longer exists.” The new name was not releasable because even the code name was classified.
In the years that followed, we have not been able to learn the new name, and we don’t know if it is still in operation today. All I can say for certain is that we know, based on other information, that the Pentagon did engage in UFO research not all that long ago and though they say that project ended, we don’t know if that is true. After all, they told us that Project Sign, the first official UFO project had ended, but the name was merely changed to Grudge. We were told that Grudge had ended, but the name was changed to Blue Book. We were told that Blue Book had ended, but we know that Project Moon Dust survived the end of Blue Book and was still in operation in 1987 when the name was changed.
What we really see here, and what we can document, is a long history of Air Force investigation of UFOs, Air Force saying one thing and doing another, and that UFO investigation continued beyond the end of Blue Book, and that other studies of UFOs have been conducted into the 21st century. What this tells us that there are many aspects of the UFO problem that have not been revealed to us and that there are still secrets being kept.