- The document, the text of which is
presented herein, is an untitled, undated Department of Defense
(United States Air Force) document which, although the
declassification date isn't given, was released in 1979 as it
appears in the Department of Defense section of the 1979 set of
Declassified Government Documents indexed by Research
Publications, Inc., Woodbridge, CT and available to the public
at Federal Deposit Libraries. This particular copy was obtained
from the microfiche set held at Suzzallo Library, University of
Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
This unnamed document, was obviously
produced after the Robertson Panel of January 1953, and
the date of 1956 is mentioned internally. This internal evidence
suggests that it was produced in 1956 or later. Lack of any
internal mention of any events later than 1956 might indicate
that it may have been produced around that year. Since the
document starts right out with text, it seems reasonable to
conclude that a cover page, and perhaps a memorandum of
promulgation originally accompanied the body of the document. In
fact, we have no assurance that what is presented here is the
whole document, but it is what has been included in the publicly
available declassified documents.
The content makes it apparent that this document is a rehash or
restatement of the discussions, actions and conclusions of
the Scientific Advisory Panel on Unidentified Flying Objects,
convened by the Office Of Scientific Intelligence, Central
Intelligence Agency, held January 14 - 18, 1953, commonly
known as the Robertson Panel.
The most complete available copy of the official CIA report
on the panel proceedings - known as the Durant Report, and The
Robertson panel report (Panel conclusions with addenda) -
released by the CIA in late 1994 with CUFON
comment, is available
HERE. Even though the document
presented here parallels the Durant and Robertson reports, and
may have been, at least partially, prepared from them, it is not
however, merely parroted from them.
We'd also like to refer readers to The Confirmation Paper
which also contains some revealing material pertinent to the
Robertson Panel and related matters.
The Robertson Panel was a watershed event in American
UFO history and is widely discussed and referred to in the
available UFO literature.
SUGGESTIONS OF UFO PANEL
The Panel members were impressed with the lack of sound data in
the great majority of case histories. Among the case histories
of significant sightings discussed in detail were the following:
Bellefontaine, Ohio (1 August 1952); Trementon, Utah (2 July
1952); Great Falls, Montana (15 August 1950); Yaak, Montana (1
September 1952); Washington, D.C. area (19 July 1952); and
Haneda A.F.B., Japan (5 August 1952), Port Huron, Michigan (29
July 1952); and Presque Isle, Maine (10 October 1952).
After review and discussion of these cases (and about 15 others,
in less detail), the Panel concluded that reasonable
explanations could be suggested for most sightings and "by
deduction and scientific method it could be induced (given
additional data) that other cases might be explained in a
similar manner". The Panel pointed out that because of the
brevity of some sightings (e.g., 2-3 seconds) and the inability
of the witnesses to express themselves clearly (semantics) that
conclusive explanations could not be expected for every case
reported. Furthermore, it was considered that, normally, it
would be a great waste of effort to try to solve most of the
sightings, unless such action would benefit a training and
educational program (see below). The writings of Charles Fort
were referenced to show that "strange things in the sky" had
been recorded for hundreds of years. It appeared obvious that
there was no single explanation for a majority of the things
On Lack of Danger.
The Panel concluded unanimously that there was no evidence of a
direct threat to national security in the objects sighted.
Instances of "Foo Fighters" were cited. These were unexplained
phenomena sighted by aircraft pilots during World War II in both
European and Far East theaters of operation wherein "balls of
light" would fly near or with the aircraft and maneuver rapidly.
They were believed to be electrostatic (similar to St. Elmo's
fire) or electromagnetic phenomena or possibly light reflections
from ice crystals in the air, but their exact cause or nature
was never defined. If the term "flying saucers" had been popular
in 1943-1945, these objects would have been so labeled.
Air Force Reporting System
It was the Panel's opinion that some of the Air Force concern
over UFO's (notwithstanding Air Defense Command anxiety over
fast radar tracks) was probably caused by public pressure. the
result today is that the Air Force has instituted a fine channel
for receiving reports of nearly anything anyone sees in the sky
and fails to understand. This has been particularly encouraged
in popular articles on this and other subjects, such as space
travel and science fiction. The result is the mass receipt of
low-grade reports which tend to overload channels of
communication with material quite irrelevant to hostile objects
that might someday appear. The Panel agreed generally that this
mass of poor-quality reports containing little, if any,
scientific data was of no value. Quite the opposite, it was
possibly dangerous in having a military service foster public
concern in "nocturnal meandering lights". The implication being,
since the interested agency was military, that these objects
were or might be potential direct threats to national security.
Accordingly, the need for deemphasization made itself apparent.
Comments on a possible educational program are enumerated below.
It was the opinion of one of the Panel members that the "saucer"
problem had been found to be different in nature from the
detection and investigation of German V-1 and V-2 guided
missiles prior to their operational use in World War II. In this
1943-1944 intelligence operation (CROSSBOW), there was excellent
intelligence, and by June 1944 there was material evidence of
the existence of "hardware" obtained from crashed vehicles in
Sweden. This evidence gave the investigating team a basis on
which to operate. The absence of any "hardware" resulting from
unexplained UFO sightings lens a "will-of-the-wisp" nature to
the problem. The results of the investigation, to date, strongly
indicate that no evidence of hostile act or danger exists.
Furthermore, the current reporting system would have little
value in the case of detection of enemy attack by conventional
aircraft or guided missiles; under such conditions "hardware"
would be available almost at once.
Artifacts of Extraterrestrial Origin
It was interesting to note that none of the members of the Panel
were loath to accept that this earth might be visited by
extraterrestrial intelligence beings of some sort, some day.
What they did not find was any evidence that related the objects
sighted to space travelers. One of the Panel members, in his
presentation, showed how he had eliminated each of the known and
probable causes of sightings leaving him "extra-terrestrial" as
the only one remaining in many cases. His background as an
aeronautical engineer and technical intelligence officer could
not be slighted. However, the Panel could not accept any of the
cases cited by him as they were raw, unevaluated reports.
Terrestrial explanations of the sightings were suggested in some
cases, and in others the time of sighting was so short as to
cause suspicion of visual impressions. It was noted by others of
the Panel members that extra-terrestrial artifacts, if they did
exist, are no cause for alarm; rather they are in the realm of
natural phenomena subject to scientific study, just as cosmic
rays were at the time of their discovery 20 to 30 years ago.
This was an attitude in which another of the Panel members did
not concur, as he felt that such artifacts would be of immediate
and great concern not only to the U.S. but to all countries.
(Nothing like a common threat to unite peoples!) It was noted
that present astronomical knowledge of the solar system makes
the existence of intelligence beings (as we know the term)
elsewhere than on the earth extremely unlikely, and the
concentration of their attention by any controllable means
confined to any one continent of the earth quite preposterous.
Tremonton, Utah, Sighting
This case was considered significant because of the excellent
documentary evidence in the form of Kodachrome motion picture
films (about 1600 frames). The Panel studied these films, the
case history, ATIC's interpretation, and received a briefing by
representatives of the USN Photo Interpretation Laboratory on
their analysis of the film. This team had expended (at Air Force
Request) approximately 1000 man-hours of professional and
sub-professional time in the preparation of graph plots of
individual frames of the film, showing apparent and relative
motion of objects and variation in their light intensity. It was
the opinion of the P.I.L. representatives that the objects
sighted were not birds, balloons or aircraft, were "not
reflections because there was no blinking while passing through
60 degrees of arc" and were therefore, "self-luminous". Plots of
motion and variation in light intensity of the objects were
displayed. While the Panel Members were impressed by the evident
enthusiasm, industry and extent of effort of the P.I.L. team,
they would not accept the conclusions reached. Some of the
reasons for this were as follows:
a. A semi-spherical
object can readily produce a reflection of sunlight without
"blinking" through 60 degrees of arc travel.
b. Although no date [sic] was available on the "albedo"
of birds or polyethylene balloons in bright sunlight, the
apparent motions, sizes and brightnesses of the objects were
considered strongly to suggest birds, particularly after the
Panel viewed a short film showing high reflectivity of
seagulls in bright sunlight.
c. P.I.L. description of the objects sighted as
"circular, bluish-white" in color would be expected in cases
of specular reflections of sunlight from convex surfaces
where the brilliance of the reflection would obscure other
portions of the object.
d. Objects in the Great Falls case were believed to
have probably been aircraft, and the bright lights such
e. There was no valid reason for the attempt to
relate the objects in the Tremonton sighting to those in the
Great Falls sighting. This may have been due to
misunderstanding in their directive. The objects in the
Great Falls sighting are strongly suspected of being
reflections of aircraft known to have been in the area.
f. The intensity change in the Tremonton lights was
too great for acceptance of the P.I.L. hypothesis that the
apparent motion and changing intensity of the lights
indicated extremely high speed in small orbital paths.
g. Apparent lack of guidance of investigators by
those familiar with UFO reports and explanations.
h. Analysis of light intensity of objects made from
duplicate rather than from original film. The original film
was noted to have a much lighter background (affecting
relative brightness of object) and the objects appeared much
i. Method of obtaining data of light intensity
appeared faulty because of unsuitability of equipment and
questionable assumptions in making averages of readings.
j. No data had been obtained on the sensitivity of
Kodachrome film to light of various intensities using the
same camera type at the same lens opening.
k. Hand "jitter" frequencies (obtainable from early
part of Tremonton film) were not removed from the "single
pass plots" at the end of the film.
The Panel believed strongly that the
data available on this sighting was sufficient for positive
identification if further data is obtained by photographing
polyethylene "pillow" balloons released near the site under
similar weather conditions, checking bird flight and reflection
characteristics with competent ornithologists and calculating
apparent "G" forces acting upon objects from their apparent
tracks. It was concluded that the results of such tests would
probably lead to creditable explanations of value in an
educational or training program. however, the Panel noted that
the cost in technical manpower effort required to follow up and
explain every one of the thousand or more reports received
through the channels each year (1,900 in 1952) could not be
It was felt that there will always
be sightings, for which complete data is lacking, that can only
be explained with disproportionate effort and with long time
delay, if at all. The long delay in explaining a sighting tends
to eliminate any intelligence value. The educational or training
program should have as a major purpose the elimination of
popular feeling that every sighting, no matter how poor the
data, must be explained in detail. Attention should be directed
to the requirement among scientists that a new phenomena, to be
accepted, must be completely and convincingly documented. In
other words, the burden of proof is on the sighter, not on the
Potential Related Dangers
The Panel members were in agreement that although evidence of
any direct threat from these sightings was wholly lacking,
related dangers might well exist resulting from:
a. Misidentification of
actual enemy artifacts by defense personnel.
b. Overloading of emergency reporting channels with
"false" information ("noise to signal ratio")
c. Subjectivity of public to mass hysteria and
greater vulnerability to possible enemy psychological
The first two of these problems may
seriously affect the Air Defense intelligence system, and should
be studied by experts, possibly under ADC. If UFO's become
discredited in a reaction to the "flying saucer" scare, or if
reporting channels are saturated with false and poorly
documented reports, our capability of detecting hostile activity
will be reduced. More competent screening or filtering of
reported sightings at or near the source is required, and this
can best be accomplished by an educational program.
Geographic Locations of Unexplained Sightings.
The map prepared by ATIC showing geographic locations of
officially reported unexplained sightings (1952 only) was
examined by the Panel. This map showed clusters in certain
strategic areas such as Los Alamos. This might be explained on
the basis of 24-hour watchful guard and awareness of security
measures near such locations. On the other hand, there had been
no sightings in the vicinity of sensitive related AE
establishments while there were occasionally multiple cases of
unexplained sightings in non-strategic areas. Furthermore, there
appeared to be no logical relationship to population centers.
The Panel could find no ready explanation for these clusters. It
was noted, however, that if terrestrial artifacts were to be
observed, it would be likely that they would be seen first near
foreign areas rather than central U.S.
Instrumentation to Obtain data
The Panel was of the opinion that the present ATIC program to
place 100 inexpensive 35 mm. stereo cameras (Videon Cameras) in
the hands of various airport control tower operators would
probably produce little valuable data related to UFO's. However,
it was recognized that such action would tend to allay public
concern in the subject until an educational program had taken
effect. It was believed that procurement of these cameras was
partly the result of public pressure in July 1952. With the poor
results of the year-long Project TWINKLE program of 24-hour
instrumentation watch (two frames of film showing nothing
distinguishable), a widespread program of skywatching would not
be expected to yield much direct data of value.
There was considerable discussion of a possible "sky patrol" by
amateur astronomers and by wide-angle cameras. It was pointed
out that at present a considerable fraction of the sky is now --
and has been for many years --under surveillance every clear
night in several meteor and aurora observing programs as well as
sky mapping programs at the various locations listed below.
Although the attention of these astronomers is largely directed
toward identified rather than unidentified objects, no case of
any striking unidentified object is known to the Panel. Such an
object would most certainly be reported if found on patrol
A case was cited where an astronomer refused to interrupt his
exposure in order to photograph an alleged sighting in a
different part of the sky, suggesting that if a program of
watching cold be an adjunct of planned astronomical programs,
little cost would be involved and that the trained astronomical
personnel might photograph a sighting of an unidentified object.
It was agreed by the Panel that no government-sponsored program
of optical nation-wide sky patrol is worthwhile at the present
time, and that the encouragement of amateur astronomers to
undertake such a program might have the adverse effect of
over-emphasizing "flying saucer" stories in the public mind.
However, the issue of radar-scope cameras for recording peculiar
radar echoes would serve several purposes, including the better
understanding of radar interference as well as identification of
Radar Problem of Mutual Interference
This characteristic problem of radar operation wherein the pulse
signal (of approximately the same frequency) from station A may
be picked up on the screen of station B and show as a high-speed
track or series of dots was recognized to have probably caused a
number of UFO reports. This problem was underlined by
information received indicating ADC concern in solving this
problem of signal identification before service use of very
high-speed aircraft or guided missiles (1955-56). One Panel
member believed that one answer to this problem was the use of a
"doppler filter" in the receiving circuit.
Another suggested that the problem
might be better solved by the use of a 'controlled jitter"
wherein the operator receiving "very fast tracks" (on the order
of 1000-10,000 mph) would operate a circuit which would alter
slightly his station's pulse frequency rate. If the signal
received on the screen had been caused by mutual interference
with another station, the track would now show itself at a
different distance from the center of the screen, if it still
appeared at all. Such a technical solution was thought to be
simpler and would cost much less than a "doppler filter".
Unexplained Cosmic Ray Phenomena
Two reported cases were examined: one at Palomar Mountain,
California, in October 1949, when cosmic ray counters went "off
scale for a few seconds", apparently while a "V" of flying
saucers was observed visually; and two, a series of observations
by the "Los Alamos Bird Watcher's Association" from August 1950
to 1951, when cosmic ray coincidence counters behaved queerly.
Circuit diagrams and records were available for the latter, and
a Panel member was also quickly [sic] to point out that the
recorded data were almost undoubtedly due to instrumental
effects that would have been recognized as such by more
The implication that radioactive effects were correlated with
unidentified flying objects in these two cases was, therefore,
rejected by the Panel.
The Panel's concept of a broad educational program integrating
efforts of all concerned agencies was that it should have two
major aims: training and "debunking".
The training aim would result in proper recognition of unusually
illuminated objects (e.g., balloons, aircraft reflections) as
well as natural phenomena (meteors, fire balls, mirages,
noctilucent clouds). Both visual and radar recognition are
concerned. There would be many levels in such education from
enlisted personnel to command and research personnel. relative
emphasis and degree of explanation of different programs would
correspond to the categories of duty (e.g., radar operators;
pilots; control tower operators; Ground Observer Corps
personnel; and officers and enlisted men in other categories).
This training should result in marked reduction in reports
caused by misidentification and resultant confusion.
The "debunking" aim would result in reduction in public interest
in "flying saucers" which today evokes a strong psychological
reaction. This education could be accomplished by mass media
such as television, motion pictures, and popular articles. Basis
of such education would be actual case histories which had been
puzzling at first but later explained. As in the case of
conjuring tricks, there is much less stimulation if the "secret"
is known. Such a program should tend to reduce the current
gullibility of the public and consequently their susceptibility
to clever hostile propaganda.
Members of the Panel had various suggestions related to the
planning of such an educational program. it was felt strongly
that psychologists familiar with mass psychology should advise
on the nature and extent of the program. Also, someone familiar
with mass communication techniques, perhaps an advertising
expert, would be helpful. The teaching techniques used for
aircraft identification during the past war were cited as an
example of a similar educational task. The amateur astronomers
in the U.S. might be a potential source of enthusiastic talent
"to spread the gospel". It was believed that business clubs,
high schools, colleges, and television stations would all be
pleased to cooperate in the showing of documentary type motion
pictures if prepared in an interesting manner. The use of true
cases showing first the "mystery" and then the "explanations"
would be forceful.
To plan and execute such a program, the Panel believed was no
mean task. The current investigatory group at ATIC would, of
necessity, have to be closely integrated for support with
respect to not only the historical cases but the current ones.
Recent cases are probably much more susceptible to explanation
than older ones; first, because of ATIC's experience and,
secondly, their knowledge of most plausible explanations. The
Panel believed that some expansion of the ATIC effort would
certainly be required to support such a program. It was believed
inappropriate to state exactly how large a Table of Organization
would be required.
The Panel believed that, with ATIC's support, the educational
program of "training and debunking" outlined above might be
required for a minimum of one and one-half to two years. At the
end of this time, the dangers related to "flying saucers" should
have been greatly reduced if not eliminated. Cooperation from
other military services and agencies concerned (e.g., federal
Civil Defense Administration) would be a necessity. In
investigating significant cases (such as the Tremonton, Utah,
sighting), controlled experiments might be required. An example
would be the photographying of 'pillow balloons" at different
distances under similar weather conditions at the site.
The help of one or two psychologists and writers and a
subcontractor to produce training films would be necessary in
addition. The Panel considered that ATIC's efforts, temporarily
expanded as necessary, could be most useful in implementing any
action taken as a result of its recommendations. Experience and
records in ATIC would be of value in both the public educational
and service training program envisaged. At least one Panel
member was of the opinion that after public gullibility lessened
and the service organizations, such as ADC, had been trained to
sift out the more readily explained spurious sightings, there
would still be a role for a very modest-sized ATIC section to
cope with the residuum of items of possible scientific
intelligence value. This section should concentrate on
energetically following up those cases which seemed to indicate
the evidence of unconventional enemy artifacts. Reports of such
artifacts would be expected to arise mainly from Western
outposts in far closer proximity to the Iron curtain than
Unofficial Investigating Groups
The Panel took cognizance of the existence of such groups as the
"Civilian Flying saucer Investigators" (Los Angeles) and the
"Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (Wisconsin)". It was
believed that such organizations should be watched because of
their potentially great influence on mass thinking if widespread
sightings should occur. The apparent irresponsibility and the
possible use of such groups for subversive purposes should be
kept in mind.
Increase in Number of Sightings
The consensus of the Panel was based upon the history of the
subject, that the number of sightings could be reasonably
expected to increase again this summer.
SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY PANEL ON
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS
14 - 17 January 1953
Seventy-five case histories of sightings 1951-1952 (selected
by ATIC as those best documented).
2. ATIC Status and Progress Reports of
Project GRUDGE and Project BLUE BOOK (code names for ATIC
study of subject).
3. Progress Reports of Project STORK (
Institute contract work supporting ATIC).
4. Summary Report of Sightings at
Holleman [sic] Air Force Base, New Mexico.
5. Report of USAF Research Center,
Cambridge, Mass., Investigation of "Green Fireball"
Phenomena (Project TWINKLE).
6. Outline of Investigation of U.F.O.'s
Proposed by Kirtland Air Force Base (Project POUNCE).
7. Motion Picture Films of sightings at
Tremonton, Utah, 2 July 1952 and Great Falls, Montana,
8. Summary Report of 89 selected cases of
sightings of various categories (Formations, Blinking
Lights, Hovering, etc.).
9. Draft of manual: "How to Make a
FLYOBRPT," prepared at ATIC.
10. Chart Showing Plot of Geographic Location of
Unexplained Sightings in the United States during 1952.
11. Chart Showing Balloon Launching Sites in the
12. Charts Showing Selected Actual Balloon Flight
Paths and Relation to Reported Sightings.
13. Charts Showing Frequency of Reports of Sightings,
1948 - 1952.
14. Charts Showing Categories of Explanations of
15. Kodachrome Transparencies of Polyethylene Film
Balloons in Bright Sunlight Showing High Reflectivity.
16. Motion Picture of Seagulls in Bright Sunlight
Showing High Reflectivity.
17. Intelligence Reports Relating to U.S.S.R.
Interest in U.S. Sightings.
18. Samples of Official USAF Reporting Forms and
Copies of Pertinent Air Force, Army and Navy Orders Relating
19. Sample Polyethylene "Pillow" Balloon (54 inches
20. "Variations in Radar Coverage," JANP 101 (Manual
illustrating unusual operating characteristics of Service
21. Miscellaneous Official Letters and Foreign
Intelligence Reports Dealing with Subject.
22. Copies of Popular Published Works Dealing with
Subject (articles in periodicals, newspaper clippings).