Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Project Blue Book and Lt. Col. Robert Friend

Many of my colleagues in the UFO community are unhappy with History’s Project Blue Book. While it is true that it is very loosely based on the Blue Book files and that it takes great liberties with the stories, it is also true that many of those who were involved with Blue Book in some capacity are not as offended. I have talked with Paul Hynek who gave me the family’s opinion of the show. I have also mentioned that those involved in creating it are quite knowledgeable about UFO history.
Lt. Col. Robert Friend in the center, on his 99th birthday. Photo copyright by Auturo Interian.
Over the weekend, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Friend, who had once been chief of Blue Book celebrated his 99th birthday. While this might not have had much to do with the Project Blue Book TV show, it is important because those involved with the show celebrated the birthday with Friend. 
For those who don’t know that much about Friend, I looked him up on the Internet. The following is from the NICAP website and the original story was found at:
I modified it slightly to reflect the tone of this blog, leaving out some of the information about his activities after he retired from the Air Force. Here is what they published:
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Friend is one of the oldest living original Tuskegee Airmen pilots and the only living officer who was one time chief of Project Blue Book.  He was born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1920. Friend was interested in aviation from a young age. Friend had wanted to enlist in the Army to fly for the United States, but was turned away. Even though the country was making preparations for war, black Americans could not join the
Robert Friend in pilot training
during WW II.
Armed Forces to serve as pilots.
While a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania – the first historically black college to grant college degrees – he took aviation-related courses. When the Civilian Pilot Training Program began in 1939 for college students, Friend eagerly applied and was accepted. He completed the program and earned his private pilot’s license. But this was only the first step to becoming a military pilot. When the program opened an opportunity for a segregated pilot training program at Tuskegee, Friend finally had his chance to join the war effort and earn his wings.
After successfully completing all phases of training, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and assigned to the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. By that time, the country had officially entered the war. When he deployed overseas, Friend was first sent to North Africa, then to the Europe Theater as a Combat Operations Officer at the squadron and group levels. He was responsible for planning and organizing the implementation of strategic and tactical air missions.
He was a skilled pilot in the P-47 and P-51 aircraft. He flew wing man for Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who would later go on to become the first black general of the United States Air Force. He flew 142 combat missions in World War II. His service extended in several other capacities during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He finished his education at the Air Force Institution of Technology.
His career with the Air Force included serving as Assistant Deputy of Launch Vehicles, working on important space launch vehicles such as the Titan, Atlas and Delta rockets and the Space Shuttle. He served as a Foreign Technology Program Director where he identified and monitored research and development programs related to national security. He was also the Director of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program, tasked with investigating unidentified flying objects.
After retiring from the military, his expertise was utilized to oversee the design and production of space products for the Space Shuttle program, lead a company that creates components for the International Space Station and other satellite systems, and direct the research and development for USAF weapons and missile programs.
All this will probably do nothing to change any opinions about Project Blue Book, but, at least, they’re talking to the right people.


andycher said...

Thanks for this, he was just a name in UFO books until I read your article.


09rja said...

I remember him. I had no clue though that he was a Tuskegee airman (or even that he is African-American). He had quite a career.

Probably the first time I saw him was on the series 'In Search of...' (in the episode 'UFO coverups' which was notable for being the first time most people heard Jesse Marcel's story). I remember he made the comment during the episode (recalling for memory): "If there was a plan to cover up....then they were very successful in keeping it from me."

Happy birthday LTC Friend!

Louis Nicholson said...

Thanks so much for this article! I never knew about Col Friend heading Project Bluebook. As an African-American who has a very strong interest in military history, I have studied the Tuskegee Airmen for most of my 64 years and even have a Tuskegee airmen cap and an exact model of one of the actual Red Tails P-51s hanging from the ceiling of my "man cave." I also "fly" a realistic computer simulation of a Red Tails p-51 (as well as your beloved Huey). I will now be researching everything I can about the man. What a great article for Black History month!

By the way, I think the tv show Project Bluebook is very entertaining. I agree with you that its not designed to be a documentary and so what? For those who think that any show entitled "Project Bluebook" MUST be 100 percent accurate, they should produce their own show.

couldbebetter said...

What a Patriot and what a career! Really an amazing life. Those Americans who
served in the military were truly the greatest generation. LTC Friend's military
service could be its own history book. Hope he his around for 100!

gm2USCG said...

LTC ROBERT FRIEND 28 years service, I cannot find a single listing with his awards earned during his career? My dad served 1940-1949

Anonymous said...

My dad never spoke about his awards during his career probably why you can’t find them. I just saw them when I pulled his DD-214
I wish I could post a photo of just the award part to show you

KRandle said...

You could just transcribe the awards section here for us. I'm sure it is quite impressive, given his service in WW II. You could also send the photo of that section to me and I can post it to the blog. I'm at KRandle993@aol.com