by Gerald K. Haines
Gerald K. Haines is
National Reconnaissance Office historian.
An extraordinary 95 percent of all
Americans have at least heard or read something about
Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), and 57 percent
believe they are real. (1)
Former US Presidents Carter and Reagan claim to have seen a UFO.
UFOlogists - a neologism for UFO buffs - and private UFO
organizations are found throughout the United States.
Many are convinced that the US
Government, and particularly CIA, are engaged in a massive
conspiracy and cover-up of the issue. The idea that CIA has secretly
concealed its research into UFOs has been a major theme of UFO buffs
since the modern UFO phenomena emerged in the late 1940s.
In late 1993, after being pressured by UFOlogists for the release of
additional CIA information on UFOs,
(3) DCI R. James Woolsey ordered another
review of all Agency files on UFOs. Using CIA records compiled from
that review, this study traces CIA interest and involvement in the
UFO controversy from the late 1940s to 1990. It chronologically
examines the Agency's efforts to solve the mystery of UFOs, its
programs that had an impact on UFO sightings, and its attempts to
conceal CIA involvement in the entire UFO issue.
What emerges from this examination is
that, while Agency concern over UFOs was substantial until the early
1950s, CIA has since paid only limited and peripheral attention to
The emergence in 1947 of the Cold War confrontation between the
United States and the Soviet Union also saw the first wave of UFO
The first report of a "flying saucer" over the United
States came on 24 June 1947, when Kenneth Arnold, a private
pilot and reputable businessman, while looking for a downed plane
sighted nine disk-shaped objects near Mt. Rainier, Washington,
traveling at an estimated speed of over 1,000 mph.
Arnold's report was followed by a flood
of additional sightings, including reports from military and
civilian pilots and air traffic controllers all over the United
States. (4) In 1948,
Air Force Gen. Nathan Twining, head of the Air Technical
Service Command, established
Project SIGN (initially named
Project SAUCER) to collect, collate, evaluate, and distribute within
the government all information relating to such sightings, on the
premise that UFOs might be real and of national security concern.
The Technical Intelligence Division of the Air Material Command
(AMC) at Wright Field (later Wright-Patterson Air Force Base)
in Dayton, Ohio, assumed control of Project SIGN and began its work
on 23 January 1948. Although at first fearful that the objects might
be Soviet secret weapons, the Air Force soon concluded that UFOs
were real but easily explained and not extraordinary.
The Air Force report found that almost
all sightings stemmed from one or more of three causes: mass
hysteria and hallucination, hoax, or misinterpretation of known
objects. Nevertheless, the report recommended continued military
intelligence control over the investigation of all sightings and did
not rule out the possibility of extraterrestrial phenomena.
Amid mounting UFO sightings, the Air Force continued to collect and
evaluate UFO data in the late 1940s under a new project,
GRUDGE, which tried to alleviate
public anxiety over UFOs via a public relations campaign designed to
persuade the public that UFOs constituted nothing unusual or
extraordinary. UFO sightings were explained as balloons,
conventional aircraft, planets, meteors, optical illusions, solar
reflections, or even "large hailstones."
GRUDGE officials found no evidence in
UFO sightings of advanced foreign weapons design or development, and
they concluded that UFOs did not threaten US security. They
recommended that the project be reduced in scope because the very
existence of Air Force official interest encouraged people to
believe in UFOs and contributed to a "war hysteria" atmosphere. On
27 December 1949, the Air Force announced the project's termination.
With increased Cold War tensions, the Korean war, and continued UFO
sightings, USAF Director of Intelligence Maj. Gen. Charles P.
Cabell ordered a new UFO project in 1952.
Project BLUE BOOK became the major
Air Force effort to study the UFO phenomenon throughout the 1950s
and 1960s. (8) The
task of identifying and explaining UFOs continued to fall on the Air
Material Command at Wright-Patterson. With a small staff, the Air
Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) tried to persuade
the public that UFOs were not extraordinary.
Projects SIGN, GRUDGE, and BLUE BOOK set
the tone for the official US Government position regarding UFOs for
the next 30 years.
CIA closely monitored the Air Force effort, aware of the mounting
number of sightings and increasingly concerned that UFOs might pose
a potential security threat. (10)
Given the distribution of the sightings, CIA officials in 1952
questioned whether they might reflect "midsummer madness.''
accepted the Air Force's conclusions about UFO reports, although
they concluded that,
"since there is a remote possibility
that they may be interplanetary aircraft, it is necessary to
investigate each sighting." (12)
A massive buildup of sightings over the
United States in 1952, especially in July, alarmed the Truman
administration. On 19 and 20 July, radar scopes at Washington
National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base tracked mysterious
blips. On 27 July, the blips reappeared. The Air Force scrambled
interceptor aircraft to investigate, but they found nothing. The
incidents, however, caused headlines across the country.
The White House wanted to know what was
happening, and the Air Force quickly offered the explanation that
the radar blips might be the result of "temperature inversions."
Later, a Civil Aeronautics Administration investigation confirmed
that such radar blips were quite common and were caused by
temperature inversions. (13)
Although it had monitored UFO reports for at least three years,
CIA reacted to the new rash of sightings by forming a special
study group within the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI)
and the Office of Current Intelligence (OCI) to review
the situation. (14)
Edward Tauss, acting chief of OSI's Weapons and Equipment
Division, reported for the group that most UFO sightings could be
easily explained. Nevertheless, he recommended that the Agency
continue monitoring the problem, in coordination with ATIC. He also
urged that CIA conceal its interest from the media and the public,
"in view of their probable alarmist tendencies" to accept such
interest as confirming the existence of UFOs.
Upon receiving the report, Deputy Director for Intelligence (DDI)
Robert Amory, Jr. assigned responsibility for the UFO
investigations to OSI's Physics and Electronics Division, with A.
Ray Gordon as the officer in charge.
(16) Each branch in the division was to
contribute to the investigation, and Gordon was to coordinate
closely with ATIC.
Amory, who asked the group to focus on
the national security implications of UFOs, was relaying DCI
Walter Bedell Smith's concerns.
(17) Smith wanted to know whether or not the Air
Force investigation of flying saucers was sufficiently objective and
how much more money and manpower would be necessary to determine the
cause of the small percentage of unexplained flying saucers.
"there was only one chance in 10,000
that the phenomenon posed a threat to the security of the
country, but even that chance could not be taken."
According to Smith, it was CIA's
responsibility by statute to coordinate the intelligence effort
required to solve the problem. Smith also wanted to know what use
could be made of the UFO phenomenon in connection with US
psychological warfare efforts. (18)
Led by Gordon, the CIA Study Group met with Air Force
officials at Wright-Patterson and reviewed their data and findings.
The Air Force claimed that 90 percent of the reported sightings were
easily accounted for. The other 10 percent were characterized as "a
number of incredible reports from credible observers."
The Air Force rejected the theories that
the sightings involved US or Soviet secret weapons development or
that they involved "men from Mars"; there was no evidence to support
these concepts. The Air Force briefers sought to explain these UFO
reports as the misinterpretation of known objects or little
understood natural phenomena. (19)
Air Force and CIA officials agreed that outside knowledge of Agency
interest in UFOs would make the problem more serious.
This concealment of CIA interest
contributed greatly to later charges of a CIA conspiracy and
photographs of alleged UFOs
Passoria, New Jersey, 31 July
Sheffield, England, 4 March 1962
& Minneapolis, Minnesota, 20 October 1960
The CIA Study Group also searched the Soviet press for UFO
reports, but found none, causing the group to conclude that the
absence of reports had to have been the result of deliberate Soviet
The group also envisioned the USSR's possible use
of UFOs as a psychological warfare tool. In addition, they worried
that, if the US air warning system should be deliberately overloaded
by UFO sightings, the Soviets might gain a surprise advantage in any
nuclear attack. (21)
Because of the tense Cold War situation and increased Soviet
capabilities, the CIA Study Group saw serious national
security concerns in the flying saucer situation. The group believed
that the Soviets could use UFO reports to touch off mass hysteria
and panic in the United States. The group also believed that the
Soviets might use UFO sightings to overload the US air warning
system so that it could not distinguish real targets from phantom
H. Marshall Chadwell, Assistant
Director of OSI, added that he considered the problem of such
"that it should be brought to the
attention of the National Security Council, in order that a
communitywide coordinated effort towards it solution may be
Chadwell briefed DCI Smith on the
subject of UFOs in December 1952. He urged action because he was
"something was going on that must
have immediate attention" and that "sightings of unexplained
objects at great altitudes and traveling at high speeds in the
vicinity of major US defense installations are of such nature
that they are not attributable to natural phenomena or known
types of aerial vehicles."
He drafted a memorandum from the DCI to
the National Security Council (NSC) and a proposed NSC
Directive establishing the investigation of UFOs as a priority
project throughout the intelligence and the defense research and
development community. (23)
Chadwell also urged Smith to establish an external research project
of top-level scientists to study the problem of UFOs.
After this briefing, Smith directed DDI
Amory to prepare a NSC Intelligence Directive (NSCID)
for submission to the NSC on the need to continue the investigation
of UFOs and to coordinate such investigations with the Air Force.
On 4 December 1952, the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC)
took up the issue of UFOs. (26)
Amory, as acting chairman, presented DCI Smith's request to the
committee that it informally discuss the subject of UFOs.
then briefly reviewed the situation and the active program of the
ATIC relating to UFOs. The committee agreed that the DCI should
"enlist the services of selected scientists to review and appraise
the available evidence in the light of pertinent scientific
theories" and draft an NSCID on the subject.
(27) Maj. Gen. John A.
Samford, Director of Air Force Intelligence, offered full
At the same time, Chadwell looked into British efforts in this area.
He learned the British also were active in studying the UFO
phenomena. An eminent British scientist, R. V. Jones, headed
a standing committee created in June 1951 on flying saucers. Jones'
and his committee's conclusions on UFOs were similar to those of
Agency officials: the sightings were not enemy aircraft but
misrepresentations of natural phenomena.
The British noted, however,
that during a recent air show RAF pilots and senior military
officials had observed a "perfect flying saucer." Given the press
response, according to the officer, Jones was having a most
difficult time trying to correct public opinion regarding UFOs. The
public was convinced they were real.
In January 1953, Chadwell and H. P. Robertson, a noted
physicist from the California Institute of Technology, put together
a distinguished panel of nonmilitary scientists to study the UFO
Robertson as chairman
Samuel A. Goudsmit, a nuclear
physicist from the Brookhaven National Laboratories
Luis Alvarez, a high-energy
Thornton Page, the deputy
director of the Johns Hopkins Operations Research Office and
an expert on radar and electronics
Lloyd Berkner, a director of the
Brookhaven National Laboratories and a specialist in
The charge to the panel was to review
the available evidence on UFOs and to consider the possible dangers
of the phenomena to US national security.
The panel met from 14 to
17 January 1953. It reviewed Air Force data on UFO case histories
and, after spending 12 hours studying the phenomena, declared that
reasonable explanations could be suggested for most, if not all,
For example, after reviewing
motion-picture film taken of a UFO sighting near Tremonton, Utah, on
2 July 1952 and one near Great Falls, Montana, on 15 August 1950,
the panel concluded that the images on the Tremonton film were
caused by sunlight reflecting off seagulls and that the images at
Great Falls were sunlight reflecting off the surface of two Air
Force interceptors. (31)
The panel concluded unanimously that there was no evidence of a
direct threat to national security in the UFO sightings. Nor could
the panel find any evidence that the objects sighted might be
extraterrestrials. It did find that continued emphasis on UFO
reporting might threaten "the orderly functioning" of the government
by clogging the channels of communication with irrelevant reports
and by inducing "hysterical mass behavior" harmful to constituted
The panel also worried that potential enemies
contemplating an attack on the United States might exploit the UFO
phenomena and use them to disrupt US air defenses.
To meet these problems, the panel recommended that the National
Security Council debunk UFO reports and institute a policy of public
education to reassure the public of the lack of evidence behind UFOs.
It suggested using the mass media, advertising, business clubs,
schools, and even
the Disney corporation to get the
message across. Reporting at the height of McCarthyism, the panel
also recommended that such private UFO groups as the Civilian
Flying Saucer Investigators in Los Angeles and the Aerial
Phenomena Research Organization in Wisconsin be monitored for
subversive activities. (33)
The Robertson Panel's conclusions
were strikingly similar to those of the earlier Air Force project
reports on SIGN and GRUDGE and to those of the CIA's own OSI Study
Group. All investigative groups found that UFO reports indicated no
direct threat to national security and no evidence of visits by
Following the Robertson panel findings, the Agency abandoned efforts
to draft an NSCID on UFOs. (34)
The Scientific Advisory Panel on UFOs (the Robertson panel)
submitted its report to the IAC, the Secretary of Defense, the
Director of the Federal Civil Defense Administration, and the
Chairman of the National Security Resources Board.
CIA officials said no further
consideration of the subject appeared warranted, although they
continued to monitor sightings in the interest of national security.
Philip Strong and Fred Durant from OSI also briefed
the Office of National Estimates on the findings.
CIA officials wanted
knowledge of any Agency interest in the subject of flying saucers
carefully restricted, noting not only that the Robertson panel
report was classified but also that any mention of CIA sponsorship
of the panel was forbidden.
This attitude would later cause the
Agency major problems relating to its credibility.
Fading CIA Interest in UFOs
After the report of the Robertson panel, Agency officials put
the entire issue of UFOs on the back burner.
In May 1953, Chadwell
transferred chief responsibility for keeping abreast of UFOs to
OSI's Physics and Electronic Division, while the Applied Science
Division continued to provide any necessary support.
(37) Todos M. Odarenko,
chief of the Physics and Electronics Division, did not want to take
on the problem, contending that it would require too much of his
division's analytic and clerical time.
Given the findings of the Robertson
panel, he proposed to consider the project "inactive" and to devote
only one analyst part-time and a file clerk to maintain a reference
file of the activities of the Air Force and other agencies on UFOs.
Neither the Navy nor the Army showed much interest in UFOs,
according to Odarenko. (38)
A nonbeliever in UFOs, Odarenko sought to have his division relieved
of the responsibility for monitoring UFO reports. In 1955, for
example, he recommended that the entire project be terminated
because no new information concerning UFOs had surfaced. Besides, he
argued, his division was facing a serious budget reduction and could
not spare the resources. (39)
Chadwell and other Agency officials, however, continued to worry
about UFOs. Of special concern were overseas reports of UFO
sightings and claims that German engineers held by the Soviets were
developing a "flying saucer" as a future weapon of war.
To most US political and military leaders, the Soviet Union by the
mid-1950s had become a dangerous opponent. Soviet progress in
nuclear weapons and guided missiles was particularly alarming. In
the summer of 1949, the USSR had detonated an atomic bomb.
1953, only nine months after the United States tested a hydrogen
bomb, the Soviets detonated one. In the spring of 1953, a top secret
RAND Corporation study also pointed out the vulnerability of SAC
bases to a surprise attack by Soviet long-range bombers. Concern
over the danger of a Soviet attack on the United States continued to
grow, and UFO sightings added to the uneasiness of US policymakers.
Mounting reports of UFOs over eastern Europe and Afghanistan also
prompted concern that the Soviets were making rapid progress in this
area. CIA officials knew that the British and Canadians were already
experimenting with "flying saucers." Project Y was a
Canadian-British-US developmental operation to produce a
nonconventional flying-saucer-type aircraft, and Agency officials
feared the Soviets were testing similar devices.
Adding to the concern was a flying saucer sighting by US Senator
Richard Russell and his party while traveling on a train in the
USSR in October 1955.
After extensive interviews of Russell and his
group, however, CIA officials concluded that Russell's sighting did
not support the theory that the Soviets had developed saucer-like or
unconventional aircraft. Herbert Scoville, Jr., the Assistant
Director of OSI, wrote that the objects observed probably were
normal jet aircraft in a steep climb.
Wilton E. Lexow, head of the CIA's Applied Sciences Division,
was also skeptical. He questioned why the Soviets were continuing to
develop conventional-type aircraft if they had a "flying saucer."
Scoville asked Lexow to assume
responsibility for fully assessing the capabilities and limitations
of nonconventional aircraft and to maintain the OSI central file on
the subject of UFOs.
CIA's U-2 and
OXCART as UFOs
In November 1954, CIA had entered into the world of high technology
with its U-2 overhead reconnaissance project.
Lockheed's Advanced Development facility in Burbank, California,
known as the Skunk Works, and Kelly Johnson, an
eminent aeronautical engineer, the Agency by August 1955 was testing
a high-altitude experimental aircraft - the U-2.
It could fly at 60,000 feet; in the
mid-1950s, most commercial airliners flew between 10,000 feet and
20,000 feet. Consequently, once the U-2 started test flights,
commercial pilots and air traffic controllers began reporting a
large increase in UFO sightings. (44)
The early U-2s were silver (they were later painted black) and
reflected the rays from the sun, especially at sunrise and sunset.
They often appeared as fiery objects to observers below. Air Force
BLUE BOOK investigators aware of
the secret U-2 flights tried to explain away such sightings by
linking them to natural phenomena such as ice crystals and
temperature inversions. By checking with the Agency's U-2 Project
Staff in Washington, BLUE BOOK investigators were able to attribute
many UFO sightings to U-2 flights. They were careful, however, not
to reveal the true cause of the sighting to the public.
According to later estimates from CIA officials who worked on the
U-2 project and the OXCART (SR-71, or Blackbird) project, over half
of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s were
accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights (namely the U-2) over
the United States. (45)
This led the Air Force to make
misleading and deceptive statements to the public in order to allay
public fears and to protect an extraordinarily sensitive national
security project. While perhaps justified, this deception added fuel
to the later conspiracy theories and the cover-up controversy of the
1970s. The percentage of what the Air Force considered unexplained
UFO sightings fell to 5.9 percent in 1955 and to 4 percent in 1956.
At the same time, pressure was building for the release of the
Robertson panel report on UFOs. In 1956, Edward Ruppelt,
former head of the Air Force BLUE BOOK project, publicly revealed
the existence of the panel. A best-selling book by UFOlogist
Donald Keyhoe, a retired Marine Corps major, advocated release
of all government information relating to UFOs.
Civilian UFO groups
such as the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena
(NICAP) and the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization
(APRO) immediately pushed for release of the Robertson panel
Under pressure, the Air Force approached
CIA for permission to declassify and release the report. Despite
such pressure, Philip Strong, Deputy Assistant Director of OSI,
refused to declassify the report and declined to disclose CIA
sponsorship of the panel. As an alternative, the Agency prepared a
sanitized version of the report which deleted any reference to CIA
and avoided mention of any psychological warfare potential in the
UFO controversy. (48)
The demands, however, for more government information about UFOs did
not let up.
On 8 March 1958, Keyhoe, in an interview with Mike
Wallace of CBS, claimed deep CIA involvement with UFOs and
Agency sponsorship of the Robertson panel. This prompted a series of
letters to the Agency from Keyhoe and Dr. Leon Davidson, a
chemical engineer and UFOlogist. They demanded the release of the
full Robertson panel report and confirmation of CIA involvement in
the UFO issue.
Davidson had convinced himself that the
Agency, not the Air Force, carried most of the responsibility for
UFO analysis and that,
"the activities of the US Government
are responsible for the flying saucer sightings of the last
Indeed, because of the undisclosed U-2
and OXCART flights, Davidson was closer to the truth than he
CI, nevertheless held firm to its policy of not revealing
its role in UFO investigations and refused to declassify the full
Robertson panel report. (49)
In a meeting with Air Force representatives to discuss how to handle
future inquires such as Keyhoe's and Davidson's, Agency officials
confirmed their opposition to the declassification of the full
report and worried that Keyhoe had the ear of former DCI VAdm.
Roscoe Hillenkoetter, who served on the board of governors of
NICAP. They debated whether to have CIA General Counsel Lawrence
R. Houston show Hillenkoetter the report as a possible way to
defuse the situation.
CIA officer Frank Chapin also
hinted that Davidson might have ulterior motives, "some of them
perhaps not in the best interest of this country," and suggested
bringing in the FBI to investigate.
(50) Although the record is unclear whether the FBI
ever instituted an investigation of Davidson or Keyhoe, or whether
Houston ever saw Hillenkoetter about the Robertson report,
Hillenkoetter did resign from the NICAP in 1962.
The Agency was also involved with Davidson and Keyhoe in two rather
famous UFO cases in the 1950s, which helped contribute to a growing
sense of public distrust of CIA with regard to UFOs. One focused on
what was reported to have been a tape recording of a radio signal
from a flying saucer; the other on reported photographs of a flying
The "radio code" incident began
innocently enough in 1955, when two elderly sisters in Chicago,
Mildred and Marie Maier, reported in the Journal of
Space Flight their experiences with UFOs, including the
recording of a radio program in which an unidentified code was
The sisters taped the program and other ham radio
operators also claimed to have heard the "space message." OSI became
interested and asked the Scientific Contact Branch to obtain a copy
of the recording. (52)
Field officers from the Contact Division (CD), one of
whom was Dewelt Walker, made contact with the Maier sisters,
who were "thrilled that the government was interested," and set up a
time to meet with them. (53)
In trying to secure the tape recording, the Agency officers reported
that they had stumbled upon a scene from Arsenic and Old Lace.
"The only thing lacking was the
elderberry wine," Walker cabled Headquarters.
After reviewing the sisters' scrapbook
of clippings from their days on the stage, the officers secured a
copy of the recording. (54))
OSI analyzed the tape and found it was nothing more than Morse code
from a US radio station.
The matter rested there until UFOlogist Leon Davidson talked
with the Maier sisters in 1957. The sisters remembered they had
talked with a Mr. Walker who said he was from the US Air Force.
Davidson then wrote to a Mr. Walker, believing him to be a US Air
Force Intelligence Officer from Wright-Patterson, to ask if the tape
had been analyzed at ATIC.
Dewelt Walker replied to Davidson that
the tape had been forwarded to proper authorities for evaluation,
and no information was available concerning the results. Not
satisfied, and suspecting that Walker was really a CIA officer,
Davidson next wrote DCI Allen Dulles demanding to learn what the
coded message revealed and who Mr. Walker was.
The Agency, wanting to keep Walker's
identity as a CIA employee secret, replied that another agency of
the government had analyzed the tape in question and that Davidson
would be hearing from the Air Force.
(56) On 5 August, the Air Force wrote Davidson
saying that Walker "was and is an Air Force Officer" and that the
tape "was analyzed by another government organization." The Air
Force letter confirmed that the recording contained only
identifiable Morse code which came from a known US-licensed radio
Davidson wrote Dulles again. This time he wanted to know the
identity of the Morse operator and of the agency that had conducted
the analysis. CIA and the Air Force were now in a quandary. The
Agency had previously denied that it had actually analyzed the tape.
The Air Force had also denied analyzing the tape and claimed that
Walker was an Air Force officer.
CIA officers, under cover,
contacted Davidson in Chicago and promised to get the code
translation and the identification of the transmitter, if possible.
In another attempt to pacify Davidson, a CIA officer, again under
cover and wearing his Air Force uniform, contacted Davidson in New
York City. The CIA officer explained that there was no super agency
involved and that Air Force policy was not to disclose who was doing
what. While seeming to accept this argument, Davidson nevertheless
pressed for disclosure of the recording message and the source. The
officer agreed to see what he could do.
After checking with Headquarters, the
CIA officer phoned Davidson to report that a thorough check had been
made and, because the signal was of known US origin, the tape and
the notes made at the time had been destroyed to conserve file
Incensed over what he perceived was a runaround, Davidson told the
CIA officer that,
"he and his agency, whichever it
was, were acting like Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamster Union in
destroying records which might indict them."
Believing that any more contact with
Davidson would only encourage more speculation, the Contact Division
washed its hands of the issue by reporting to the DCI and to ATIC
that it would not respond to or try to contact Davidson again.
Thus, a minor, rather
bizarre incident, handled poorly by both CIA and the Air Force,
turned into a major flap that added fuel to the growing mystery
surrounding UFOs and CIA's role in their investigation.
Another minor flap a few months later added to the growing questions
surrounding the Agency's true role with regard to flying saucers.
CIA's concern over secrecy again made matters worse. In 1958, Major Keyhoe charged that the Agency was deliberately asking eyewitnesses
of UFOs not to make their sightings public.
The incident stemmed from a November 1957 request from OSI to the CD
to obtain from Ralph C. Mayher, a photographer for KYW-TV in
Cleveland, Ohio, certain photographs he took in 1952 of an
unidentified flying object. Harry Real, a CD officer,
contacted Mayher and obtained copies of the photographs for
analysis. On 12 December 1957, John Hazen, another CD
officer, returned the five photographs of the alleged UFO to Mayher
Mayher asked Hazen for the Agency's
evaluation of the photos, explaining that he was trying to organize
a TV program to brief the public on UFOs. He wanted to mention on
the show that a US intelligence organization had viewed the
photographs and thought them of interest.
Although he advised Mayher
not to take this approach, Hazen stated that Mayher was a US citizen
and would have to make his own decision as to what to do.
Keyhoe later contacted Mayher, who told him his story of CIA and the
photographs. Keyhoe then asked the Agency to confirm Hazen's
employment in writing, in an effort to expose CIA's role in UFO
investigations. The Agency refused, despite the fact that CD field
representatives were normally overt and carried credentials
identifying their Agency association.
DCI Dulles's aide, John S. Earman,
merely sent Keyhoe a noncommittal letter noting that, because UFOs
were of primary concern to the Department of the Air Force, the
Agency had referred his letter to the Air Force for an appropriate
response. Like the response to Davidson, the Agency reply to Keyhoe
only fueled the speculation that the Agency was deeply involved in
Pressure for release of CIA information on UFOs
continued to grow. (65)
Although CIA had a declining interest in UFO cases, it
continued to monitor UFO sightings. Agency officials felt the need
to keep informed on UFOs if only to alert the DCI to the more
sensational UFO reports and flaps.
Declining CIA Involvement and Mounting Controversy
In the early 1960s, Keyhoe, Davidson, and other UFOlogists
maintained their assault on the Agency for release of UFO
Davidson now claimed that CIA,
"was solely responsible for creating
the Flying Saucer furor as a tool for cold war psychological
warfare since 1951."
Despite calls for Congressional hearings
and the release of all materials relating to UFOs, little changed.
In 1964, however, following high-level White House discussions on
what to do if an alien intelligence was discovered in space and a
new outbreak of UFO reports and sightings, DCI John McCone
asked for an updated CIA evaluation of UFOs. Responding to McCone's
request, OSI asked the CD to obtain various recent samples and
reports of UFO sightings from NICAP.
With Keyhoe, one of the
founders, no longer active in the organization, CIA officers met
with Richard H. Hall, the acting director. Hall gave the
officers samples from the NICAP database on the most recent
After OSI officers had reviewed the material, Donald F.
Chamberlain, OSI Assistant Director, assured McCone that little
had changed since the early 1950s. There was still no evidence that
UFOs were a threat to the security of the United States or that they
were of "foreign origin." Chamberlain told McCone that OSI still
monitored UFO reports, including the official Air Force
investigation, Project BLUE BOOK.
At the same time that CIA was conducting this latest internal review
of UFOs, public pressure forced the Air Force to establish a special
ad hoc committee to review BLUE BOOK. Chaired by Dr. Brian O'Brien,
a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, the panel
Carl Sagan, the famous
astronomer from Cornell University.
Its report offered nothing new. It
declared that UFOs did not threaten the national security and that
it could find "no UFO case which represented technological or
scientific advances outside of a terrestrial framework." The
committee did recommend that UFOs be studied intensively, with a
leading university acting as a coordinator for the project, to
settle the issue conclusively. (70)
The House Armed Services Committee also held brief hearings
on UFOs in 1966 that produced similar results. Secretary of the Air
Force Harold Brown assured the committee that most sightings
were easily explained and that there was no evidence that "strangers
from outer space" had been visiting Earth. He told the committee
members, however, that the Air Force would keep an open mind and
continue to investigate all UFO reports.
Following the report of its O'Brien Committee, the House hearings on
UFOs, and Dr. Robertson's disclosure on a CBS Reports program that
CIA indeed had been involved in UFO analysis, the Air Force in July
1966 again approached the Agency for declassification of the entire
Robertson panel report of 1953 and the full Durant report on the
Robertson panel deliberations and findings.
The Agency again
refused to budge.
Karl H. Weber, Deputy Director of
OSI, wrote the Air Force that,
"We are most anxious that further
publicity not be given to the information that the panel was
sponsored by the CIA."
Weber noted that there was already a
sanitized version available to the public.
Weber's response was rather shortsighted
and ill considered. It only drew more attention to the 13-year-old
Robertson panel report and CIA's role in the investigation of UFOs.
The science editor of The Saturday Review drew nationwide attention
to the CIA's role in investigating UFOs when he published an article
criticizing the "sanitized version" of the 1953 Robertson panel
report and called for release of the entire document.
Unknown to CIA officials, Dr. James E. McDonald, a noted
atmospheric physicist from the University of Arizona, had already
seen the Durant report on the Robertson panel proceedings at
Wright-Patterson on 6 June 1966. When McDonald returned to
Wright-Patterson on 30 June to copy the report, however, the Air
Force refused to let him see it again, stating that it was a CIA
classified document. Emerging as a UFO authority, McDonald publicly
claimed that the CIA was behind the Air Force secrecy policies and
He demanded the release of the full Robertson panel report
and the Durant report. (74)
Bowing to public pressure and the recommendation of its own O'Brien
Committee, the Air Force announced in August 1966 that it was
seeking a contract with a leading university to undertake a program
of intensive investigations of UFO sightings. The new program was
designed to blunt continuing charges that the US Government had
concealed what it knew about UFOs.
On 7 October, the University of Colorado
accepted a $325,000 contract with the Air Force for an 18-month
study of flying saucers. Dr. Edward U. Condon, a physicist at
Colorado and a former Director of the National Bureau of Standards,
agreed to head the program. Pronouncing himself an "agnostic" on the
subject of UFOs, Condon observed that he had an open mind on the
question and thought that possible extraterritorial origins were
"improbable but not impossible." (75)
Brig. Gen. Edward Giller, USAF,
and Dr. Thomas Ratchford from the Air Force Research and
Development Office became the Air Force coordinators for the
In February 1967, Giller contacted Arthur C. Lundahl,
Director of CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center
(NPIC), and proposed an informal liaison through which NPIC
could provide the Condon Committee with technical advice and
services in examining photographs of alleged UFOs. Lundahl and DDI
R. Jack Smith approved the arrangement as a way of
"preserving a window" on the new effort. They wanted the CIA and
NPIC to maintain a low profile, however, and to take no part in
writing any conclusions for the committee. No work done for the
committee by NPIC was to be formally acknowledged.
Ratchford next requested that Condon and his committee be allowed to
visit NPIC to discuss the technical aspects of the problem and to
view the special equipment NPIC had for photo-analysis. On 20
February 1967, Condon and four members of his committee visited NPIC.
Lundahl emphasized to the group that any NPIC work to assist the
committee must not be identified as CIA work.
Moreover, work performed by NPIC would
be strictly of a technical nature. After receiving these guidelines,
the group heard a series of briefings on the services and equipment
not available elsewhere that CIA had used in its analysis of some
UFO photography furnished by Ratchford. Condon and his committee
were impressed. (77)
Condon and the same group met again in May 1967 at NPIC to hear an
analysis of UFO photographs taken at Zanesville, Ohio. The analysis
debunked that sighting. The committee was again impressed with the
technical work performed, and Condon remarked that for the first
time a scientific analysis of a UFO would stand up to investigation.
The group also
discussed the committee's plans to call on US citizens for
additional photographs and to issue guidelines for taking useful UFO
photographs. In addition, CIA officials agreed that the Condon
Committee could release the full Durant report with only minor
In April 1969,
Condon and his committee released their
report on UFOs. The report concluded that little, if
anything, had come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years and
that further extensive study of UFO sightings was unwarranted. It
also recommended that the Air Force special unit, Project BLUE
BOOK, be discontinued. It did not mention CIA participation in
the Condon committee's investigation.
A special panel established by the
National Academy of Sciences reviewed the Condon report and
concurred with its conclusion that "no high priority in UFO
investigations is warranted by data of the past two decades."
It concluded its review by declaring,
"On the basis of present knowledge,
the least likely explanation of UFOs is the hypothesis of
extraterrestrial visitations by intelligent beings."
Following the recommendations of the
Condon Committee and the National Academy of Sciences,
the Secretary of the Air Force, Robert C. Seamans, Jr.,
announced on 17 December 1969 the termination of BLUE BOOK.
The 1970s and
1980s - The UFO Issue Refuses To Die
The Condon report did not satisfy many UFOlogists, who considered it
a cover-up for CIA activities in UFO research. Additional
sightings in the early 1970s fueled beliefs that the CIA was somehow
involved in a vast conspiracy.
On 7 June 1975, William Spaulding,
head of a small UFO group, Ground Saucer Watch (GSW),
wrote to CIA requesting a copy of the Robertson panel report and all
records relating to UFOs. (81)
Spaulding was convinced that the Agency
was withholding major files on UFOs. Agency officials provided
Spaulding with a copy of the Robertson panel report and of the
Durant report. (82)
On 14 July 1975, Spaulding again wrote the Agency questioning the
authenticity of the reports he had received and alleging a CIA
cover-up of its UFO activities.
Gene Wilson, CIA's
Information and Privacy Coordinator, replied in an attempt to
"At no time prior to the formation
of the Robertson Panel and subsequent to the issuance of the
panel's report has CIA engaged in the study of the UFO
The Robertson panel report, according to
Wilson, was "the summation of Agency interest and involvement in
UFOs." Wilson also inferred that there were no additional documents
in CIA's possession that related to UFOs. Wilson was ill informed.
In September 1977, Spaulding and GSW, unconvinced by Wilson's
response, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
lawsuit against the Agency that specifically requested all UFO
documents in CIA's possession. Deluged by similar FOIA requests for
Agency information on UFOs, CIA officials agreed, after much legal
maneuvering, to conduct a "reasonable search" of CIA files for UFO
Despite an Agency-wide unsympathetic
attitude toward the suit, Agency officials, led by Launie Ziebell
from the Office of General Counsel, conducted a thorough search for
records pertaining to UFOs. Persistent, demanding, and even
threatening at times, Ziebell and his group scoured the Agency. They
even turned up an old UFO file under a secretary's desk.
finally produced 355 documents totaling approximately 900 pages. On
14 December 1978, the Agency released all but 57 documents of about
100 pages to GSW. It withheld these 57 documents on national
security grounds and to protect sources and methods.
Although the released documents produced no smoking gun and revealed
only a low-level Agency interest in the UFO phenomena after the
Robertson panel report of 1953, the press treated the release in a
sensational manner. The New York Times, for example, claimed
that the declassified documents confirmed intensive government
concern over UFOs and that the Agency was secretly involved in the
surveillance of UFOs. (86)
GSW then sued for the release of the
withheld documents, claiming that the Agency was still holding out
key information. (87)
It was much like the John F. Kennedy assassination issue. No matter
how much material the Agency released and no matter how dull and
prosaic the information, people continued to believe in a Agency
cover-up and conspiracy.
DCI Stansfield Turner was so upset when he read The New
York Times article that he asked his senior officers, "Are we in
After reviewing the records, Don Wortman, Deputy
Director for Administration, reported to Turner that there was,
"no organized Agency effort to do
research in connection with UFO phenomena nor has there been an
organized effort to collect intelligence on UFOs since the
Wortman assured Turner that the Agency
records held only "sporadic instances of correspondence dealing with
the subject," including various kinds of reports of UFO sightings.
There was no Agency program to collect actively information on UFOs,
and the material released to GSW had few deletions.
Thus assured, Turner had the General
Counsel press for a summary judgment against the new lawsuit by GSW.
In May 1980, the courts dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the
Agency had conducted a thorough and adequate search in good faith.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, the Agency continued its low-key
interest in UFOs and UFO sightings. While most scientists now
dismissed flying saucers reports as a quaint part of the 1950s and
1960s, some in the Agency and in the Intelligence Community shifted
their interest to studying parapsychology and psychic phenomena
associated with UFO sightings.
CIA officials also looked at the UFO
problem to determine what UFO sightings might tell them about Soviet
progress in rockets and missiles and reviewed its
Agency analysts from the Life Science
Division of OSI and OSWR officially devoted a small amount of
their time to issues relating to UFOs. These included
counterintelligence concerns that the Soviets and the KGB were using
US citizens and UFO groups to obtain information on sensitive US
weapons development programs (such as the Stealth aircraft), the
vulnerability of the US air-defense network to penetration by
foreign missiles mimicking UFOs, and evidence of Soviet advanced
technology associated with UFO sightings.
CIA also maintained Intelligence Community coordination with other
agencies regarding their work in parapsychology, psychic phenomena,
and "remote viewing" experiments. In general, the Agency took a
conservative scientific view of these unconventional scientific
There was no formal or official UFO project within the
Agency in the 1980s, and Agency officials purposely kept files on
UFOs to a minimum to avoid creating records that might mislead the
public if released. (90)
The 1980s also produced renewed charges that the Agency was still
withholding documents relating to
the 1947 Roswell incident, in which
a flying saucer supposedly crashed in New Mexico, and the surfacing
of documents which purportedly revealed the existence of a top
secret US research and development intelligence operation
responsible only to the President on UFOs in the late 1940s and
UFOlogists had long argued that,
following a flying saucer crash in New Mexico in 1947, the
government not only recovered debris from the crashed saucer but
also four or five alien bodies. According to some UFOlogists, the
government clamped tight security around the project and has refused
to divulge its investigation results and research ever since.
In September 1994, the US Air Force
released a new report on the Roswell incident that concluded that
the debris found in New Mexico in 1947 probably came from a once top
secret balloon operation, Project MOGUL, designed to monitor
the atmosphere for evidence of Soviet nuclear tests.
Circa 1984, a series of documents surfaced which some UFOlogists
said proved that President Truman created a top secret committee in
1947, Majestic-12, to secure the recovery of UFO wreckage from
Roswell and any other UFO crash sight for scientific study and to
examine any alien bodies recovered from such sites. Most if not all
of these documents have proved to be fabrications. Yet the
controversy persists. (93)
Like the JFK assassination conspiracy theories, the UFO issue
probably will not go away soon, no matter what the Agency does or
The belief that we are not alone in the
universe is too emotionally appealing and the distrust of our
government is too pervasive to make the issue amenable to
traditional scientific studies of rational explanation and evidence.
(1) See the 1973 Gallup Poll results
printed in The New York Times, 29 November 1973, p. 45 and
Philip J. Klass, UFOs: The Public Deceived (New York: Prometheus
Books, 1983), p. 3.
(2) See Klass, UFOs, p. 3; James S. Gordon, "The UFO
Experience," Atlantic Monthly (August 1991), pp. 82-92; David
Michael Jacobs, The UFO Controversy in America (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1975); Howard Blum, Out There: The
Government's Secret Quest for Extraterrestrials (New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1990); Timothy Good, Above Top Secret: The
Worldwide UFO Cover-Up (New York: William Morrow, 1987); and
Whitley Strieber, Communion: The True Story (New York: Morrow,
(3) In September 1993 John Peterson, an acquaintance of
Woolsey's, first approached the DCI with a package of heavily
sanitized CIA material on UFOs released to UFOlogist Stanton T.
Friedman. Peterson and Friedman wanted to know the reasons for
the redactions. Woolsey agreed to look into the matter. See
Richard J. Warshaw, Executive Assistant, note to author, 1
November 1994; Warshaw, note to John H. Wright, Information and
Privacy Coordinator, 31 January 1994; and Wright, memorandum to
Executive Secretariat, 2 March 1994. (Except where noted, all
citations to CIA records in this article are to the records
collected for the 1994 Agency-wide search that are held by the
Executive Assistant to the DCI).
(4) See Hector Quintanilla, Jr., "The Investigation of UFOs,"
Vol. 10, No. 4, Studies in Intelligence (fall 1966): pp.95-110
and CIA, unsigned memorandum, "Flying Saucers," 14 August 1952.
See also Good, Above Top Secret, p. 253. During World War II, US
pilots reported "foo fighters" (bright lights trailing US
aircraft). Fearing they might be Japanese or German secret
weapons, OSS investigated but could find no concrete evidence of
enemy weapons and often filed such reports in the "crackpot"
category. The OSS also investigated possible sightings of German
V-1 and V-2 rockets before their operational use during the war.
See Jacobs, UFO Controversy, p. 33. The Central Intelligence
Group, the predecessor of the CIA, also monitored reports of
"ghost rockets" in Sweden in 1946. See CIG, Intelligence Report,
9 April 1947.
(5) Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, p. 156 and Quintanilla, "The
Investigation of UFOs," p. 97.
(6) See US Air Force, Air Material Command, "Unidentified Aerial
Objects: Project SIGN, no. F-TR 2274, IA, February 1949, Records
of the US Air Force Commands, Activities and Organizations,
Record Group 341, National Archives, Washington, DC.
(7) See US Air Force, Projects GRUDGE and BLUEBOOK Reports 1- 12
(Washington, DC; National Investigations Committee on Aerial
Phenomena, 1968) and Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, pp. 50-54.
(8) See Cabell, memorandum to Commanding Generals Major Air
Commands, "Reporting of Information on Unconventional Aircraft,"
8 September 1950 and Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, p. 65.
(9) See Air Force, Projects GRUDGE and BLUE BOOK and Jacobs, The
UFO Controversy, p. 67.
(10) See Edward Tauss, memorandum for Deputy Assistant Director,
SI, "Flying Saucers," 1 August 1952. See also United Kingdom,
Report by the "Flying Saucer" Working Party, "Unidentified
Flying Objects," no date (approximately 1950).
(11) See Dr. Stone, OSI, memorandum to Dr. Willard Machle, OSI,
15 March 1949 and Ralph L. Clark, Acting Assistant Director, OSI,
memorandum for DDI, "Recent Sightings of Unexplained Objects,"
29 July 1952.
(12) Stone, memorandum to Machle. See also Clark, memorandum for
DDI, 29 July 1952.
(13) See Klass, UFOs, p. 15. For a brief review of the
Washington sightings see Good, Above Top Secret, pp. 269-271.
(14) See Ralph L. Clark, Acting Assistant Director, OSI,
memorandum to DDI Robert Amory, Jr., 29 July 1952. OSI and OCI
were in the Directorate of Intelligence. Established in 1948,
OSI served as the CIA's focal point for the analysis of foreign
scientific and technological developments. In 1980, OSI was
merged into the Office of Science and Weapons Research. The
Office of Current Intelligence (OCI), established on 15 January
1951 was to provide all-source current intelligence to the
President and the National Security Council.
(15) Tauss, memorandum for Deputy Assistant Director, SI (Philip
Strong), 1 August 1952.
(16) On 2 January 1952, DCI Walter Bedell Smith created a Deputy
Directorate for Intelligence (DDI) composed of six overt CIA
organizations--OSI, OCI, Office of Collection and Dissemination,
Office National Estimates, Office of Research and Reports, and
the Office of Intelligence Coordination--to produce intelligence
analysis for US policymakers.
(17) See Minutes of Branch Chief's Meeting, 11 August 1952.
(18) Smith expressed his opinions at a meeting in the DCI
Conference Room attended by his top officers. See Deputy Chief,
Requirements Staff, FI, memorandum for Deputy Director, Plans,
"Flying Saucers," 20 August 1952, Directorate of Operations
Records, Information Management Staff, Job 86-00538R, Box 1.
(19) See CIA memorandum, unsigned, "Flying Saucers," 11 August
(20) See CIA, memorandum, unsigned, "Flying Saucers," 14 August
(21) See CIA, memorandum, unsigned, "Flying Saucers," 19 August
(22) See Chadwell, memorandum for Smith, 17 September 1952 and
24 September 1952, "Flying Saucers." See also Chadwell,
memorandum for DCI Smith, 2 October 1952 and Klass, UFOs, pp.
(23) Chadwell, memorandum for DCI with attachments, 2 December
1952. See also Klass, UFOs, pp. 26-27 and Chadwell, memorandum,
25 November 1952.
(24) See Chadwell, memorandum, 25 November 1952 and Chadwell,
memorandum, "Approval in Principle - External Research Project
Concerned with Unidentified Flying Objects," no date. See also
Philip G. Strong, OSI, memorandum for the record, "Meeting with
Dr. Julius A. Stratton, Executive Vice President and Provost,
MIT and Dr. Max Millikan, Director of CENIS." Strong believed
that in order to undertake such a review they would need the
full backing and support of DCI Smith.
(25) See Chadwell, memorandum for DCI, ""Unidentified Flying
Objects," 2 December 1952. See also Chadwell, memorandum for
Amory, DDI, "Approval in Principle - External Research Project
Concerned with Unidentified Flying Objects," no date.
(26) The IAC was created in 1947 to serve as a coordinating body
in establishing intelligence requirements. Chaired by the DCI,
the IAC included representatives from the Department of State,
the Army, the Air Force, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the FBI, and
(27) See Klass, UFOs, p. 27.
(28) See Richard D. Drain, Acting Secretary, IAC, "Minutes of
Meeting held in Director's Conference Room, Administration
Building, CIA," 4 December 1952.
(29) See Chadwell, memorandum for the record, "British Activity
in the Field of UFOs," 18 December 1952.
(30) See Chadwell, memorandum for DCI, "Consultants for Advisory
Panel on Unidentified Flying Objects," 9 January 1953; Curtis
Peebles, Watch the Skies! A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth
(Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994). pp.
73-90; and Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, pp. 91-92.
(31) See Fred C. Durant III, Report on the Robertson Panel
Meeting, January 1953. Durant, on contract with OSI and a past
president of the American Rocket Society, attended the Robertson
panel meetings and wrote a summary of the proceedings.
(32) See Report of the Scientific Panel on Unidentified Flying
Objects (the Robertson Report), 17 January 1953 and the Durant
report on the panel discussions.
(33) See Robertson Report and Durant Report. See also Good,
Above Top Secret, pp. 337-38, Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, p.
95, and Klass, UFO's, pp. 28-29.
(34) See Reber, memorandum to IAC, 18 February 1953.
(35) See Chadwell, memorandum for DDI, "Unidentified Flying
Objects," 10 February 1953; Chadwell, letter to Robertson, 28
January 1953; and Reber, memorandum for IAC, "Unidentified
Flying Objects," 18 February 1953. On briefing the ONE, see
Durant, memorandum for the record, "Briefing of ONE Board on
Unidentified Flying Objects," 30 January 1953 and CIA Summary
disseminated to the field, "Unidentified Flying Objects," 6
(36) See Chadwell, letter to Julius A. Stratton, Provost MIT, 27
(37) See Chadwell, memorandum for Chief, Physics and Electronics
Division/OSI (Todos M. Odarenko), "Unidentified Flying Objects,"
27 May 1953.
(38) See Odarenko, memorandum to Chadwell, "Unidentified Flying
Objects," 3 July 1953. See also Odarenko, memorandum to Chadwell,
"Current Status of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOB) Project,"
17 December 1953.
(39) See Odarenko, memorandum, "Unidentified Flying Objects," 8
(40) See FBIS, report, "Military Unconventional Aircraft," 18
August 1953 and various reports, "Military-Air, Unconventional
Aircraft," 1953, 1954, 1955.
(41) Developed by the Canadian affiliate of Britain's A. V. Roe,
Ltd., Project Y did produce a small-scale model that hovered a
few feet off the ground. See Odarenko, memorandum to Chadwell,
"Flying Saucer Type of Planes" 25 May 1954; Frederic C. E. Oder,
memorandum to Odarenko, "USAF Project Y," 21 May 1954; and
Odarenko, T. M. Nordbeck, Ops/SI, and Sidney Graybeal, ASD/SI,
memorandum for the record, "Intelligence Responsibilities for
Non-Conventional Types of Air Vehicles," 14 June 1954.
(42) See Reuben Efron, memorandum, "Observation of Flying Object
Near Baku," 13 October 1955; Scoville, memorandum for the
record, "Interview with Senator Richard B. Russell," 27 October
1955; and Wilton E. Lexow, memorandum for information, "Reported
Sighting of Unconventional Aircraft," 19 October 1955.
(43) See Lexow, memorandum for information, "Reported Sighting
of Unconventional Aircraft," 19 October 1955. See also Frank C.
Bolser, memorandum for George C. Miller, Deputy Chief, SAD/SI,
"Possible Soviet Flying Saucers, Check On;" Lexow, memorandum,
"Possible Soviet Flying Saucers, Follow Up On," 17 December
1954; Lexow, memorandum, "Possible Soviet Flying Saucers," 1
December 1954; and A. H. Sullivan, Jr., memorandum, "Possible
Soviet Flying Saucers," 24 November 1954.
(44) See Gregory W. Pedlow and Donald E. Welzenbach, The Central
Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and
OXCART Programs, 1954-1974 (Washington, DC: CIA History Staff,
1992), pp. 72-73.
(45) See Pedlow and Welzenbach, Overhead Reconnaissance, pp.
72-73. This also was confirmed in a telephone interview between
the author and John Parongosky, 26 July 1994. Parongosky oversaw
the day-to-day affairs of the OXCART program.
(46) See Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, p. 135.
(47) See Peebles, Watch the Skies, pp. 128-146; Ruppelt, The
Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (New York: Doubleday,
1956); Keyhoe, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy (New York: Holt,
1955); and Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, pp. 347-49.
(48) See Strong, letter to Lloyd W. Berkner; Strong, letter to
Thorton Page; Strong, letter to Robertson; Strong, letter to
Samuel Goudsmit; Strong, letter to Luis Alvarez, 20 December
1957; and Strong, memorandum for Major James F. Byrne, Assistant
Chief of Staff, Intelligence Department of the Air Force,
"Declassification of the `Report of the Scientific Panel on
Unidentified Flying Objects,'" 20 December 1957. See also
Berkner, letter to Strong, 20 November 1957 and Page, letter to
Strong, 4 December 1957. The panel members were also reluctant
to have their association with the Agency released.
(49) See Wilton E. Lexow, memorandum for the record, "Comments
on Letters Dealing with Unidentified Flying Objects," 4 April
1958; J. S. Earman, letter to Major Lawrence J. Tacker, Office
of the Secretary of the Air Force, Information Service, 4 April
1958; Davidson, letter to Berkner, 8 April 1958; Berkner, letter
to Davidson, 18 April 1958; Berkner, letter to Strong, 21 April
1958; Davidson, letter to Tacker, 27 April 1958; Davidson,
letter to Allen Dulles, 27 April 1958; Ruppelt, letter to
Davidson, 7 May 1958; Strong, letter to Berkner, 8 May 1958;
Davidson, letter to Berkner, 8 May 1958; Davidson, letter to
Earman, 16 May 1958; Davidson, letter to Goudsmit, 18 May 1958;
Davidson, letter to Page, 18 May 1958; and Tacker, letter to
Davidson, 20 May 1958.
(50) See Lexow, memorandum for Chapin, 28 July 1958.
(51) See Good, Above Top Secret, pp. 346-47; Lexow, memorandum
for the record, "Meeting with the Air Force Personnel Concerning
Scientific Advisory Panel Report on Unidentified Flying Objects,
dated 17 January 1953 (S)," 16 May 1958. See also La Rae L.
Teel, Deputy Division Chief, ASD, memorandum for the record,
"Meeting with Mr. Chapin on Replying to Leon Davidson's UFO
Letter and Subsequent Telephone Conversation with Major Thacker,
[sic]" 22 May 1958.
(52) See Edwin M. Ashcraft, Chief, Contact Division
(Scientific), memorandum to Chief, Chicago Office, "Radio Code
Recording," 4 March 1955 and Ashcraft, memorandum to Chief,
Support Branch, OSI, 17 March 1955.
(53) The Contact Division was created to collect foreign
intelligence information from sources within the United States.
See the Directorate of Intelligence Historical Series, The
Origin and Development of Contact Division, 11 July 19461 July
1965 (Washington, DC; CIA Historical Staff, June 1969).
(54) See George O. Forrest, Chief, Chicago Office, memorandum to
Chief, Contact Division for Science, 11 March 1955.
(55) See Support Division (Connell), memorandum to Dewelt E.
Walker, 25 April 1957.
(56) See J. Arnold Shaw, Assistant to the Director, letter to
Davidson, 10 May 1957.
(57) See Support (Connell) memorandum to Lt. Col. V. Skakich, 27
August 1957 and Lamountain, memorandum to Support (Connell), 20
(58) See Lamountain, cable to Support (Connell), 31 July 1958.
(59) See Support (Connell) cable to Skakich, 3 October 1957 and
Skakich, cable to Connell, 9 October 1957.
(60) See Skakich, cable to Connell, 9 October 1957.
(61) See R. P. B. Lohmann, memorandum for Chief, Contact
Division, DO, 9 January 1958.
(62) See Support, cable to Skakich, 20 February 1958 and Connell
(Support) cable to Lamountain, 19 December 1957.
(63) See Edwin M. Ashcraft, Chief, Contact Division, Office of
Operations, memorandum for Austin Bricker, Jr., Assistant to the
Director, "Inquiry by Major Donald E. Keyhoe on John Hazen's
Association with the Agency," 22 January 1959.
(64) See John T. Hazen, memorandum to Chief, Contact Division,
12 December 1957. See also Ashcraft, memorandum to Cleveland
Resident Agent, "Ralph E. Mayher," 20 December 1957. According
to this memorandum, the photographs were viewed at "a high level
and returned to us without comment." The Air Force held the
original negatives. The CIA records were probably destroyed.
(65) The issue would resurface in the 1970s with the GSW FOIA
(66) See Robert Amory, Jr., DDI, memorandum for Assistant
Director/Scientific Intelligence, "Flying Saucers," 26 March
1956. See also Wallace R. Lamphire, Office of the Director,
Planning and Coordination Staff, memorandum for Richard M.
Bissell, Jr., "Unidentified Flying Saucers (UFO)," 11 June 1957;
Philip Strong, memorandum for the Director, NPIC, "Reported
Photography of Unidentified Flying Objects," 27 October 1958;
Scoville, memorandum to Lawrence Houston, Legislative Counsel,
"Reply to Honorable Joseph E. Garth," 12 July 1961; and Houston,
letter to Garth, 13 July 1961.
(67) See, for example, Davidson, letter to Congressman Joseph
Garth, 26 June 1961 and Carl Vinson, Chairman, House Committee
on Armed Services, letter to Rep. Robert A. Everett, 2 September
(68) See Maxwell W. Hunter, staff member, National Aeronautics
and Space Council, Executive Office of the President, memorandum
for Robert F. Parkard, Office of International Scientific
Affairs, Department of State, "Thoughts on the Space Alien Race
Question," 18 July 1963, File SP 16, Records of the Department
of State, Record Group 59, National Archives. See also F. J.
Sheridan, Chief, Washington Office, memorandum to Chief, Contact
Division, "National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena
(NICAP)," 25 January 1965.
(69) Chamberlain, memorandum for DCI, "Evaluation of UFOs," 26
(70) See Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, p. 199 and US Air Force,
Scientific Advisory Board, Ad Hoc Committee (O'Brien Committee)
to Review Project BLUE BOOK, Special Report (Washington, DC:
1966). See also The New York Times, 14 August 1966, p. 70.
(71) See "Congress Reassured on Space Visits," The New York
Times, 6 April 1966.
(72) Weber, letter to Col. Gerald E. Jorgensen, Chief, Community
Relations Division, Office of Information, US Air Force, 15
August 1966. The Durant report was a detailed summary of the
Robertson panel proceedings.
(73) See John Lear, "The Disputed CIA Document on UFOs,"
Saturday Review (September 3, 1966), p. 45. The Lear article was
otherwise unsympathetic to UFO sightings and the possibility
that extraterritorials were involved. The Air Force had been
eager to provide Lear with the full report. See Walter L.
Mackey, Executive Officer, memorandum for DCI, "Air Force
Request to Declassify CIA Material on Unidentified Flying
Objects (UFO)," 1 September 1966.
(74) See Klass, UFOs, p. 40, Jacobs, The UFO Controversy, p. 214
and Everet Clark, "Physicist Scores `Saucer Status,'" The New
York Times, 21 October 1966. See also James E. McDonald,
"Statement on Unidentified Flying Objects," submitted to the
House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 29 July 1968.
(75) Condon is quoted in Walter Sullivan, "3 Aides Selected in
Saucer Inquiry," The New York Times, 8 October 1966. See also
"An Outspoken Scientist, Edward Uhler Condon," The New York
Times, 8 October 1966. Condon, an outgoing, gruff scientist, had
earlier become embroiled in a controversy with the House
Unamerican Activities Committee that claimed Condon was "one of
the weakest links in our atomic security." See also Peebles,
Watch the Skies, pp. 169-195.
(76) See Lundahl, memorandum for DDI, 7 February 1967.
(77) See memorandum for the record, "Visit of Dr. Condon to NPIC,
20 February 1967," 23 February 1967. See also the analysis of
the photographs in memorandum for Lundahl, "Photo Analysis of
UFO Photography," 17 February 1967.
(78) See memorandum for the record, "UFO Briefing for Dr. Edward
Condon, 5 May 1967," 8 May 1967 and attached "Guidelines to UFO
Photographers and UFO Photographic Information Sheet." See also
Condon Committee, Press Release, 1 May 1967 and Klass, UFOs, p.
41. The Zaneville photographs turned out to be a hoax.
(79) See Edward U. Condon, Scientific Study of Unidentified
Flying Objects (New York: Bantam Books, 1969) and Klass, UFOs,
p. 41. The report contained the Durant report with only minor
(80) See Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense, News Release,
"Air Force to Terminate Project BLUEBOOK," 17 December 1969. The
Air Force retired BLUEBOOK records to the USAF Archives at
Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. In 1976 the Air Force turned
over all BLUEBOOK files to the National Archives and Records
Administration, which made them available to the public without
major restrictions. Some names have been withheld from the
documents. See Klass, UFOs, p. 6.
(81) GSW was a small group of UFO buffs based in Phoenix,
Arizona, and headed by William H. Spaulding.
(82) See Klass, UFOs, p. 8.
(83) See Wilson, letter to Spaulding, 26 March 1976 and GSW v.
CIA Civil Action Case 78-859.
(84) GSW v. CIA Civil Action Case 78-859, p. 2.
(85) Author interview with Launie Ziebell, 23 June 1994 and
author interview with OSI analyst, 21 July 1994. See also
affidavits of George Owens, CIA Information and Privacy Act
Coordinator; Karl H. Weber, OSI; Sidney D. Stembridge, Office of
Security; and Rutledge P. Hazzard, DS&T; GSW v. CIA Civil Action
Case 78-859 and Sayre Stevens, Deputy Director for National
Foreign Assessment, memorandum for Thomas H. White, Assistant
for Information, Information Review Committee, "FOIA Litigation
Ground Saucer Watch," no date.
(86) See "CIA Papers Detail UFO Surveillance," The New York
Times, 13 January 1979; Patrick Huyghe, "UFO Files: The Untold
Story," The New York Times Magazine, 14 October 1979, p. 106;
and Jerome Clark, "UFO Update," UFO Report, August 1979.
(87) Jerome Clark, "Latest UFO News Briefs From Around the
World," UFO Update, August 1979 and GSW v. CIA Civil Action No.
(88) See Wortman, memorandum for DCI Turner, "Your Question,
`Are we in UFOs?' Annotated to The New York Times News Release
Article," 18 January 1979.
(89) See GSW v. CIA Civil Action 78-859. See also Klass, UFOs,
(90) See John Brennan, memorandum for Richard Warshaw, Executive
Assistant, DCI, "Requested Information on UFOs," 30 September
1993; Author interviews with OSWR analyst, 14 June 1994 and OSI
analyst, 21 July 1994. This author found almost no documentation
on Agency involvement with UFOs in the 1980s.
There is a DIA Psychic Center and the NSA studies
parapsychology, that branch of psychology that deals with the
investigation of such psychic phenomena as clairvoyance,
extrasensory perception, and telepathy. The CIA reportedly is
also a member of an Incident Response Team to investigate UFO
landings, if one should occur. This team has never met. The lack
of solid CIA documentation on Agency UFO-related activities in
the 1980s leaves the entire issue somewhat murky for this
Much of the UFO literature presently focuses on contactees and
abductees. See John E. Mack, Abduction, Human Encounters with
Aliens (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994) and Howard
Blum, Out There (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990).
(91) See Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore, The Roswell
Incident (New York: Berkeley Books, 1988); Moore, "The Roswell
Incident: New Evidence in the Search for a Crashed UFO,"
(Burbank, California: Fair Witness Project, 1982), Publication
Number 1201; and Klass, UFOs, pp. 280-281. In 1994 Congressman
Steven H. Schiff (R-NM) called for an official study of the
Roswell incident. The GAO is conducting a separate investigation
of the incident. The CIA is not involved in the investigation.
See Klass, UFOs, pp. 279-281; John H. Wright, Information and
Privacy Coordinator, letter to Derek Skreen, 20 September 1993;
and OSWR analyst interview. See also the made-for-TV film,
Roswell, which appeared on cable TV on 31 July 1994 and Peebles,
Watch the Skies, pp. 245-251.
(92) See John Diamond, "Air Force Probes 1947 UFO Claim Findings
Are Down to Earth," 9 September 1994, Associated Press release;
William J. Broad, "Wreckage of a `Spaceship': Of This Earth (and
U.S.)," The New York Times, 18 September 1994, p. 1; and USAF
Col. Richard L. Weaver and 1st Lt. James McAndrew, The Roswell
Report, Fact Versus Fiction in New Mexico Desert (Washington,
DC: GPO, 1995).
(93) See Good, Above Top Secret; Moore and S. T. Friedman,
"Philip Klass and MJ-12: What are the Facts," (Burbank
California: Fair-Witness Project, 1988), Publication Number
1290; Klass, "New Evidence of MJ-12 Hoax," Skeptical Inquirer,
vol. 14 (Winter 1990); and Moore and Jaime H. Shandera, The
MJ-12 Documents: An Analytical Report (Burbank, California:
Fair-Witness Project, 1990), Publication Number 1500. Walter
Bedell Smith supposedly replaced Forrestal on 1 August 1950
following Forrestal's death. All members listed were deceased
when the MJ-12 "documents" surfaced in 1984. See Peebles, Watch
the Skies, pp. 258-268.
Dr. Larry Bland, editor of The George C. Marshall Papers,
discovered that one of the so-called Majestic-12 documents was a
complete fraud. It contained the exact same language as a letter
from Marshall to Presidential candidate Thomas Dewey regarding
the "Magic" intercepts in 1944. The dates and names had been
altered and "Magic" changed to "Majic." Moreover, it was a
photocopy, not an original. No original MJ-12 documents have
ever surfaced. Telephone conversation between the author and
Bland, 29 August 1994.