The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects - 09
The New Project Grudge
While I was in Lubbock, Lieutenant Henry Metscher, who was helping me on Project Grudge, had been sorting out the many bits and pieces of information that Lieutenant Jerry Cummings and Lieutenant Colonel Rosengarten had brought back from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and he had the answers.
The UFO that the student radar operator had assumed to be traveling at a terrific speed because he couldn't lock on to it turned out to be a 400-mile-an-hour conventional airplane. He'd just gotten fouled up on his procedures for putting the radar set on automatic tracking. The sighting by the two officers in the T-33 jet fell apart when Metscher showed how they'd seen a balloon.
The second radar sighting of the series also turned out to be a balloon. The frantic phone call from headquarters requesting a reading on the object's altitude was to settle a bet. Some officers in headquarters had seen the balloon launched and were betting on how high it was.
The second day's radar sightings were caused by another balloon and weather—both enhanced by the firm conviction that there were some mighty queer goings on over Jersey.
The success with the Fort Monmouth Incident had gone to our heads and we were convinced that with a little diligent digging we'd be knocking off saucers like an ace skeet-shooter. With all the confidence in the world, I attacked the Long Beach Incident, which I'd had to drop to go to Lubbock, Texas. But if saucers could laugh, they were probably zipping through the stratosphere chuckling to themselves, because there was no neat solution to this one.
In the original report of how the six F-86's chased the high-flying UFO over Long Beach, the intelligence officer who made the report had said that he'd checked all aircraft flights, therefore this wasn't the answer.
The UFO could have been a balloon, so I sent a wire to the Air Force weather detachment at the Long Beach Municipal Airport. I wanted the track of any balloon that was in the air at 7:55 A.M. on September 23, 1951.
While I was waiting for the answers to my two wires, Lieutenant Metscher and I began to sort out old UFO reports. It was a big job because back in 1949, when the old Project Grudge had been disbanded, the files had just been dumped into storage bins. Hank and I now had four filing case drawers full of a heterogeneous mass of UFO reports, letters, copies of letters, and memos.
But I didn't get to do much sorting because the mail girl brought in a copy of a wire that had just arrived. It was a report of a UFO sighting at Terre Haute, Indiana. I read it and told Metscher that I'd quickly whip out an answer and get back to helping him sort. But it didn't prove to be that easy.
The report from Terre Haute said that on October 9, a CAA employee at Hulman Municipal Airport had observed a silvery UFO. Three minutes later a pilot, flying east of Terre Haute, had seen a similar object. The report lacked many details but a few phone calls filled me in on the complete story.
At 1:43 P.M. on the ninth a CAA employee at the airport was walking across the ramp in front of the administration building. He happened to glance up at the sky—why, he didn't know—and out of the corner of his eye he caught a flash of light on the southeastern horizon. He stopped and looked at the sky where the flash of light had been but he couldn't see anything. He was just about to walk on when he noticed what he described as "a pinpoint" of light in the same spot where he'd seen the flash. In a second or two the "pinpoint" grew larger and it was obvious to the CAA man that something was approaching the airport at a terrific speed. As he watched, the object grew larger and larger until it flashed directly overhead and disappeared to the northwest. The CAA man said it all happened so fast and he was so amazed that he hadn't called anybody to come out of the nearby hangar and watch the UFO. But when he'd calmed down he remembered a few facts. The UFO had been in sight for about fifteen seconds and during this time it had passed from horizon to horizon. It was shaped like a "flattened tennis ball," was a bright silver color, and when it was directly overhead it was "the size of a 50-cent piece held at arm's length."
But this wasn't all there was to the report. A matter of minutes after the sighting a pilot radioed Terre Haute that he had seen a UFO. He was flying from Greencastle, Indiana, to Paris, Illinois, when just east of Paris he'd looked back and to his left. There, level with his airplane and fairly close, was a large silvery object, "like a flattened orange," hanging motionless in the sky. He looked at it a few seconds, then hauled his plane around in a tight left bank. He headed directly toward the UFO,
but it suddenly began to pick up speed and shot off toward the northeast. The time, by the clock on his instrument panel, was 1:45 P.M.—just two minutes after the sighting at Terre Haute.
When I finished calling I got an aeronautical chart out of the file and plotted the points of the sighting. The CAA employee had seen the UFO disappear over the northwestern horizon. The pilot had been flying from Greencastle, Indiana, to Paris, Illinois, so he'd have been flying on a heading of just a little less than 270 degrees, or almost straight west. He was just east of Paris when he'd first seen the UFO, and since he said that he'd looked back and to his left, the spot where he saw the UFO would be right at a spot where the CAA man had seen his UFO disappear. Both observers had checked their watches with radio time just after the sightings, so there couldn't be more than a few seconds' discrepancy. All I could conclude was that both had seen the same UFO.
I checked the path of every balloon in the Midwest. I checked the weather—it was a clear, cloudless day; I had the two observers' backgrounds checked and I even checked for air traffic, although I knew the UFO wasn't an airplane. I researched the University of Dayton library for everything on daylight meteors, but this was no good. From the description the CAA employee gave, what he'd seen had been a clear-cut, distinct, flattened sphere, with no smoke trail, no sparks and no tail. A daylight meteor, so low as to be described as "a 50-cent piece held at arm's length," would have had a smoke trail, sparks, and would have made a roar that would have jolted the Sphinx. This one was quiet. Besides, no daylight meteor stops long enough to let an airplane turn into it.
In a few days the data from the Long Beach Incident came in and I started to put it together. A weather balloon had been launched from the Long Beach Airport, and it was in the vicinity where the six F-86's had made their unsuccessful attempt to intercept a UFO. I plotted out the path of the balloon, the reported path of the UFO, and the flight paths of the F-86's. The paths of the balloon and the F-86's were accurate, I knew, because the balloon was being tracked by radio fixes and the F-86's had been tracked by radar. At only one point did the paths of the balloon, UFO, and F-86's coincide. When the first two F-86's made their initial visual contact with the UFO they were looking almost directly at the balloon. But from then on, even by altering the courses of the F-86's, I couldn't prove a thing.
In addition, the weather observers from Long Beach said that during the period that the intercept was taking place they had gone outside and
looked at their balloon; it was an exceptionally clear day and they could see it at unusually high altitudes. They didn't see any F-86's around it. And one stronger point, the balloon had burst about ten minutes before the F-86's lost sight of the UFO.
Lieutenant Metscher took over and, riding on his Fort Monmouth victory, tried to show how the pilots had seen the balloon. He got the same thing I did—nothing.
On October 27, 1951, the new Project Grudge was officially established. I'd written the necessary letters and had received the necessary endorsements. I'd estimated, itemized, and justified direct costs and manpower. I'd conferred, inferred, and referred, and now I had the money to operate. The next step was to pile up all this paper work as an aerial barrier, let the saucers crash into it, and fall just outside the door.
I was given a very flexible operating policy for Project Grudge because no one knew the best way to track down UFO's. I had only one restriction and that was that I wouldn't have my people spending time doing a lot of wild speculating. Our job would be to analyze each and every UFO report and try to find what we believed to be an honest, unbiased answer. If we could not identify the reported object as being a balloon, meteor, planet, or one of half a hundred other common things that are sometimes called UFO's, we would mark the folder "Unknown" and file it in a special file. At some later date, when we built up enough of these "Unknown" reports, we'd study them.
As long as I was chief of the UFO project, this was our basic rule. If anyone became anti-flying saucer and was no longer capable of making an unbiased evaluation of a report, out he went. Conversely anyone who became a believer was through. We were too busy during the initial phases of the project to speculate as to whether the unknowns were spaceships, space monsters, Soviet weapons, or ethereal visions.
I had to let three people go for being too pro or too con.
By the latter part of November 1951 I knew most of what had taken place in prior UFO projects and what I expected to do. The people in Project Sign and the old Project Grudge had made many mistakes. I studied these mistakes and profited by them. I could see that my predecessors had had a rough job. Mine would be a little bit easier because of the pioneering they had done.
Lieutenant Metscher and I had sorted out all of the pre-1951 files, refiled them, studied them, and outlined the future course of the new Project Grudge.
When Lieut. Colonel Rosengarten and Lieutenant Cummings had been at the Pentagon briefing Major General Cabell on the Fort Monmouth
[paragraph continues] Incidents, the general had told them to report back when the new project was formed and ready to go. We were ready to go, but before taking my ideas to the Pentagon, I thought it might be wise to try them out on a few other people to get their reaction. Colonel Frank Dunn, then chief of ATIC, liked this idea. We had many well-known scientists and engineers who periodically visited ATIC as consultants, and Colonel Dunn suggested that these people's opinions and comments would be valuable. For the next two weeks every visitor to ATIC who had a reputation as a scientist, engineer, or scholar got a UFO briefing.
Unfortunately the names of these people cannot be revealed because I promised them complete anonymity. But the list reads like a page from Great Men of Science.
Altogether nine people visited the project during this trial period. Of the nine, two thought the Air Force was wasting its time, one could be called indifferent, and six were very enthusiastic over the project. This was a shock to me. I had expected reactions that ranged from an extremely cold absolute zero to a mild twenty below. Instead I found out that UFO's were being freely and seriously discussed in scientific circles. The majority of the visitors thought that the Air Force had goofed on previous projects and were very happy to find out that the project was being re-established. All of the visitors, even the two who thought we were wasting our time, had good suggestions on what to do. All of them offered their services at any future time when they might be needed. Several of these people became very good friends and valuable consultants later on.
About two weeks before Christmas, in 1951, Colonel Dunn and I went to the Pentagon to give my report. Major General John A. Samford had replaced Major General Cabell as Director of Intelligence, but General Samford must have been told about the UFO situation because he was familiar with the general aspects of the problem. He had appointed his Assistant for Production, Brigadier General W. M. Garland, to ride herd on the project for him.
Colonel Dunn briefly outlined to General Samford what we planned to do. He explained our basic policy, that of setting aside the unknowns and not speculating on them, and he told how the scientists visiting ATIC had liked the plans for the new Project Grudge.
There was some discussion about the Air Force's and ATIC's responsibility for the UFO reports. General Garland stated, and it was later confirmed in writing, that the Air Force was solely responsible for investigating and evaluating all UFO reports. Within the Air Force, ATIC was the responsible agency. This in turn meant that Project Grudge
was responsible for all UFO reports made by any branch of the military service. I started my briefing by telling General Samford and his staff about the present UFO situation.
The UFO reports had never stopped coming in since they had first started in June 1947. There was some correlation between publicity and the number of sightings, but it was not an established fact that reports came in only when the press was playing up UFO's. Just within the past few months the number of good reports had increased sharply and there had been no publicity.
UFO's were seen more frequently around areas vital to the defense of the United States. The Los Alamos-Albuquerque area, Oak Ridge, and White Sands Proving Ground rated high. Port areas, Strategic Air Command bases, and industrial areas ranked next. UFO's had been reported from every state in the Union and from every foreign country. The U.S. did not have a monopoly.
The frequency of the UFO reports was interesting. Every July there was a sudden increase in the number of reports and July was always the peak month of the year. Just before Christmas there was usually a minor peak.
The Grudge Report had not been the solution to the UFO problem. It was true that a large percentage of the reports were due to the "misidentification of known objects"; people were seeing balloons, airplanes, planets, but this was not the final answer. There were a few hoaxes, hallucinations, publicity-seekers, and fatigued pilots, but reports from these people constituted less than 1 per cent of the total. Left over was a residue of very good and very "unexplainable" UFO sightings that were classified as unknown.
The quality of the reports was getting better, I told the officers; they contained more details that could be used for analysis and the details were more precise and accurate. But still they left much to be desired.
Every one of the nine scientists and engineers who had reviewed the UFO material at ATIC had made one strong point: we should give top priority to getting reasonably accurate measurements of the speed, altitude, and size of reported UFO's. This would serve two purposes. First, it would make it easy to sort out reports of common things, such as balloons, airplanes, etc. Second, and more important, if we could get even one fairly accurate measurement that showed that some object was traveling through the atmosphere at high speed, and that it wasn't a meteor, the UFO riddle would be much easier to solve.
I had worked out a plan to get some measured data, and I presented it to the group for their comments.
I felt sure that before long the press would get wind of the Air Force's renewed effort to identify UFO's. When this happened, instead of being mysterious about the whole thing, we would freely admit the existence of the new project, explain the situation thoroughly and exactly as it was, and say that all UFO reports made to the Air Force would be given careful consideration. In this way we would encourage more people to report what they were seeing and we might get some good data.
To further explain my point, I drew a sketch on a blackboard. Suppose that a UFO is reported over a fair-sized city. Now we may get one or two reports, and these reports may be rather sketchy. This does us no good—all we can conclude is that somebody saw something that he couldn't identify. But suppose fifty people from all over the city report the UFO. Then it would be profitable for us to go out and talk to these people, find out the time they saw the UFO, and where they saw it (the direction and height above the horizon) . Then we might be able to use these data, work out a triangulation problem, and get a fairly accurate measurement of speed, altitude, and size.
Radar, of course, will give an accurate measurement of speed and altitude, I pointed out, but radar is not infallible. There is always the problem of weather. To get accurate radar data on a UFO, it is always necessary to prove that it wasn't weather that was causing the target. Radar is valuable, and we wanted radar reports, I said, but they should be considered only as a parallel effort and shouldn't take the place of visual sightings.
In winding up my briefing, I again stressed the point that, as of the end of 1951—the date of this briefing—there was no positive proof that any craft foreign to our knowledge existed. All recommendations for the reorganization of Project Grudge were based solely upon the fact that there were many incredible reports of UFO's from many very reliable people. But they were still just flying saucer reports and couldn't be considered scientific proof.
Everyone present at the meeting agreed—each had read or had been briefed on these incredible reports. In fact, two of the people present had seen UFO's.
Before the meeting adjourned, Colonel Dunn had one last question. He knew the answer, but he wanted it confirmed. "Does the United States have a secret weapon that is being reported as a UFO?"
The answer was a flat "No."
In a few days I was notified that my plan had been given the green light. I already had the plan written up in the form of a staff study so I sent it through channels for formal approval.
It had been obvious right from the start of the reorganization of Project Grudge that there would be questions that no one on my staff was technically competent to answer. To have a fully staffed project, I'd need an astronomer, a physicist, a chemist, a mathematician, a psychologist, and probably a dozen other specialists. It was, of course, impossible to have all of these people on my staff, so I decided to do the next best thing. I would set up a contract with some research organization who already had such people on their staff; then I would call on them whenever their services were needed.
I soon found a place that was interested in such a contract, and the day after Christmas, Colonel S. H. Kirkland, of Colonel Dunn's staff, and I left Dayton for a two-day conference with these people to outline what we wanted. Their organization cannot be identified by name because they are doing other highly secret work for the government. I'll call them Project Bear.
Project Bear is a large, well-known research organization in the Midwest. The several hundred engineers and scientists who make up their staff run from experts on soils to nuclear physicists. They would make these people available to me to assist Project Grudge on any problem that might arise from a UFO report. They did not have a staff astronomer or psychologist, but they agreed to get them for us on a subcontract basis. Besides providing experts in every field of science, they would make two studies for us; a study of how much a person can be expected to see and remember from a UFO sighting, and a statistical study of UFO reports. The end product of the study of the powers of observation of a UFO observer would be an interrogation form.
Ever since the Air Force had been in the UFO business, attempts had been made to construct a form that a person who had seen a UFO could fill out. Many types had been tried but all of them had major disadvantages. Project Bear, working with the psychology department of a university, would study all of the previous questionnaires, along with actual UFO reports, and try to come up with as near a perfect interrogation form as possible. The idea was to make the form simple and yet extract as much and as accurate data as possible from the observer.
The second study that Project Bear would undertake would be a statistical study of all UFO reports. Since 1947 the Air Force had collected about 650 reports, but if our plan to encourage UFO reports worked out the way we expected this number could increase tenfold. To handle this volume of reports, Project Bear said that they would set up a complete UFO file on IBM punch cards. Then if we wanted any bit of information from the files, it would be a matter of punching a few buttons on an
[paragraph continues] IBM card-sorting machine, and the files would be sorted electronically in a few seconds. Approximately a hundred items pertaining to a UFO report would be put on each card. These items included everything from the time the UFO was seen to its position in the sky and the observer's personality. The items punched on the cards would correspond to the items on the questionnaires that Project Bear was going to develop.
Besides giving us a rapid method of sorting data, this IBM file would give us a modus operandi file. Our MO file would be similar to the MO files used by police departments to file the methods of operations of a criminal. Thus when we received a report we could put the characteristics of the reported UFO on an IBM punch card, put it into the IBM machine, and compare it with the characteristics of other sightings that had known solutions. The answer might be that out of the one hundred items on the card, ninety-five were identical to previous UFO reports that ducks were flying over a city at night reflecting the city's lights.
On the way home from the meeting Colonel Kirkland and I were both well satisfied with the assistance we believed Project Bear could give to Project Grudge.
In a few days I again left ATIC, this time for Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I wanted to find out how willing ADC was to help us and what they could do. When I arrived I got a thorough briefing on the operations of ADC and the promise that they would do anything they could to help solve the UFO riddle.
All of this co-operation was something that I hadn't expected. I'd been warned by the people who had worked on Project Sign and the old Project Grudge that everybody hated the word UFO—I'd have to fight for everything I asked for. But once again they were wrong. The scientists who visited ATIC, General Samford, Project Bear, and now Air Defense Command couldn't have been more co-operative. I was becoming aware that there was much wider concern about UFO reports than I'd ever realized before.
While I traveled around the United States getting the project set up, UFO reports continued to come in and all of them were good. One series of reports was especially good, and they came from a group of people who had had a great deal of experience watching things in the sky—the people who launch the big skyhook balloons for General Mills, Inc. The reports of what the General Mills people had seen while they were tracking their balloons covered a period of over a year. They had just sent them in because they had heard that Project Grudge was being reorganized and was taking a different view on UFO reports. They, like so many other reliable observers, had been disgusted with the previous
[paragraph continues] Air Force attitude toward UFO reports, and they had refused to send in any reports. I decided that these people might be a good source of information, and I wanted to get further details on their reports, so I got orders to go to Minneapolis. A scientist from Project Bear went with me. We arrived on January 14, 1952, in the middle of a cold wave and a blizzard.
The Aeronautical Division of General Mills, Inc., of Wheaties and Betty Crocker fame, had launched and tracked every skyhook balloon that had been launched prior to mid-1952. They knew what their balloons looked like under all lighting conditions and they also knew meteorology, aerodynamics, astronomy, and they knew UFO's. I talked to these people for the better part of a full day, and every time I tried to infer that there might be some natural explanation for the UFO's I just about found myself in a fresh snowdrift.
What made these people so sure that UFO's existed? In the first place, they had seen many of them. One man told me that one tracking crew had seen so many that the sight of a UFO no longer even especially interested them. And the things that they saw couldn't be explained.
For example: On January 16, 1951, two people from General Mills and four people from Artesia, New Mexico, were watching a skyhook balloon from the Artesia airport. They had been watching the balloon off and on for about an hour when one of the group saw two tiny specks on the horizon, off to the northwest. He pointed them out to the others because two airplanes were expected into the airport, and he thought that these might be the airplanes. But as they watched, the two specks began to move in fast, and within a few seconds the observers could see that "the airplanes" were actually two round, dull white objects flying in close formation. The two objects continued to come in and headed straight toward the balloon. When they reached the balloon they circled it once and flew off to the northwest, where they disappeared over the horizon. As the two UFO's circled the balloon, they tipped on edge and the observers saw that they were disk-shaped.
When the two UFO's were near the balloon, the observers also had a chance to compare the size of the UFO's with the size of the balloon. If the UFO's were as close to the balloon as they appeared to be they would have been 60 feet in diameter.
After my visit to General Mills, Inc., I couldn't help remembering a magazine article I'd read about a year before. It said that there was not a single reliable UFO report that couldn't be attributed to a skyhook balloon.
I'd been back at ATIC only a few days when I found myself packing up
to leave again. This time it was for New York. A high-priority wire had come into ATIC describing how a Navy pilot had chased a UFO over Mitchel AFB, on Long Island. It was a good report.
I remember the trip to New York because my train passed through Elizabeth, New Jersey, early in the morning, and I could see the fires caused by an American Airlines Convair that had crashed. This was the second of the three tragic Elizabeth, New Jersey, crashes.
The morning before, on January 21, a Navy pilot had taken off from Mitchel in a TBM. He was a lieutenant commander, had flown in World War II, and was now an engineer at the Navy Special Devices Center on Long Island. At nine-fifty he had cleared the traffic pattern and was at about 2,500 feet, circling around the airfield. He was southeast of the field when he first noticed an object below him and "about three runway lengths off the end of Runway 30." The object looked like the top of a parachute canopy, he told me; it was white and he thought he could see the wedges or panels. He said that he thought that it was moving across the ground a little bit too fast to be drifting with wind, but he was sure that somebody had bailed out and that he was looking at the top of his parachute. He was just ready to call the tower when he suddenly realized that this "parachute" was drifting across the wind. He had just taken off from Runway 30 and knew which direction the wind was blowing.
As he watched, the object, whatever it was (by now he no longer thought that it was a parachute), began to gradually climb, so he started to climb, he said, staying above and off to the right of the object. When the UFO started to make a left turn, he followed and tried to cut inside, but he overshot and passed over it. It continued to turn and gain speed, so he dropped the nose of the TBM, put on more power, and pulled in behind the object, which was now level with him. In a matter of seconds the UFO made a 180-degree turn and started to make a big swing around the northern edge of Mitchel AFB. The pilot tried to follow, but the UFO had begun to accelerate rapidly, and since a TBM leaves much to be desired on the speed end, he was getting farther and farther behind. But he did try to follow it as long as he could. As he made a wide turn around the northern edge of the airfield he saw that the UFO was now turning south. He racked the TBM up into a tight left turn to follow, but in a few seconds the UFO had disappeared. When he last saw it, it had crossed the Long Island coast line near Freeport and it was heading out to sea.
When he finished his account of the chase, I asked the commander some specific questions about the UFO. He said that just after he'd
decided that the UFO was not a parachute it appeared to be at an altitude of about 200 to 300 feet over a residential section. From the time it took it to cover a city block, he'd estimated that it was traveling about 300 miles an hour. Even when he pulled in behind the object and got a good look, it still looked like a parachute canopy—dome-shaped—white—and it had a dark undersurface. It had been in sight two and a half minutes.
He had called the control tower at Mitchel during the chase, he told me, but only to ask if any balloons had been launched. He thought that he might be seeing a balloon. The tower had told him that there was a balloon in the area.
Then the commander took out an aeronautical chart and drew in his flight path and the apparent path of the UFO for me. I think that he drew it accurately because he had been continually watching landmarks as he'd chased the UFO and was very careful as he drew the sketches on the map.
I checked with the weather detachment at Mitchel and they said that they had released a balloon. They had released it at nine-fifty and from a point southeast of the airfield. I got a plot of its path. Just as in the Long Beach Incident, where the six F-86's tried to intercept the UFO, the balloon was almost exactly in line with the spot where the UFO was first seen, but then any proof you might attempt falls apart. If the pilot knew where he was, and had plotted his flight path even semi-accurately, he was never over the balloon. Yet he was over the UFO. He came within less than 2,000 feet of the UFO when he passed over it; yet he couldn't recognize it as a balloon even though he thought it might be a balloon since the tower had just told him that there was one in the area. He said that he followed the UFO around the north edge of the airfield. Yet the balloon, after it was launched southeast of the field, continued on a southeast course and never passed north of the airfield.
But the biggest argument against the object's being a balloon was the fact that the pilot pulled in behind it; it was directly off the nose of his airplane, and although he followed it for more than a minute, it pulled away from him. Once you line up an airplane on a balloon and go straight toward it you will catch it in a matter of seconds, even in the slowest airplane. There have been dogfights with UFO's where the UFO's turned out to be balloons, but the pilots always reported that the UFO "made a pass" at them. In other words, they rapidly caught up with the balloon and passed it. I questioned this pilot over and over on this one point, and he was positive that he had followed directly behind the UFO for over a minute and all the time it was pulling away from him.
This is one of the most typical UFO reports we had in our files. It is
typical because no matter how you argue there isn't any definite answer. If you want to argue that the pilot didn't know where he was during the chase—that he was 3 or 4 miles from where he thought he was—that he never did fly around the northern edge of the field and get in behind the UFO—then the UFO could have been a balloon.
But if you want to believe that the pilot knew where he was all during the chase, and he did have several thousand hours of flying time, then all you can conclude is that the UFO was an unknown.
I think the pilot summed up the situation very aptly when he told me, "I don't know what it was, but I've never seen anything like it before or since—maybe it was a spaceship."
I went back to Dayton stumped—maybe it was a spaceship.