For years the Air Force has dismissed them as hoaxes,
hallucinations or misidentifications. Now the Air Force's own
scientific consultant on unidentified flying objects declares
that many of the sightings cannot be so easily explained.
On August 25, 1966, an Air Force officer in charge of a missile
crew in North Dakota suddenly found that his radio transmissions
was being interrupted by static. At the time, he was sheltered
in a concrete capsule 60 feet below the ground. While he was
trying to clear up the problem, other Air Force personnel on the
surface reported seeing a UFO--an unidentified flying object
high in the sky. It had a bright red light, and it appeared to
be alternately climbing and descending. Simultaneously, a radar
crew on the ground picked up the UFO at 100,000 feet.
So begins a truly puzzling UFO report--one that is not
explainable as it now stands by such familiar causes as a
balloon, aircraft, satellite or meteor. "When the UFO climbed,
the static stopped," stated the report made by the base's
director of operations. "The UFO began to swoop and dive. It
then appeared to land ten to fifteen miles south of the area.
Missile-site control sent a strike team (well-armed Air Force
guards) to check. When the team was about ten miles from the
landing site, static disrupted radio contact with them. Five to
eight minutes later the glow diminished, and the UFO took off.
Another UFO was visually sighted and confirmed by radar. The one
that was first sighted passed beneath the second. Radar also
confirmed this. The first made for altitude toward the north,
and the second seemed to disappear with the glow of red."
This incident, which was not picked up by the press, is typical
of the puzzling cases that I have studied during the 18 years
that I have served as the Air Force's scientific consultant on
the problem of UFO's. What makes the report especially arresting
is the fact that another incident occurred near the base a few
days earlier. A police officer--a reliable man---saw in broad
daylight what he called "an object on its edge floating down the
side of a hill, wobbling from side to side about ten feet from
the ground. When it reached the valley floor, it climbed to
about one hundred feet, still tipped on its edge, and moved
across the valley to a small reservoir."
The object which was about 30 feet in diameter, next appeared to
flatten out, and a small dome became visible on top. It hovered
over the water for about a minute, then moved to a small field,
where it appeared to be landing. It did not touch the ground,
however, but hovered at a height of about 10 feet some 250 feet
away from the witness, who was standing by his parked patrol
car. The object then tilted up and disappeared rapidly into the
clouds. A fantastic story, yet I interviewed the witness in this
case and am personally satisfied that he is above reproach.
During the years that I have been its consultant, the Air Force
has consistently argued that UFO's were either hoaxes,
hallucinations or misinterpretations of natural phenomena. For
the most part I would agree with the Air Force. As a
professional astronomer--I am chairman of the department of
astronomy at Northwestern University--I have had no trouble
explaining the vast majority of the reported sightings.
But I cannot explain them all. Of the 15,000 cases that have
come to my attention, several hundred are puzzling, and some of
the puzzling incidents, perhaps one in 25, are bewildering. I
have wanted to learn much more about these cases than I have
been able to get from either the reports or the witnesses.
These special cases have been reported by highly respected,
intelligent people who often had technical training --
astronomers, airport -tower operators, anthropologists, Air
Force officer, FBI personnel, physicians, meteorologists,
pilots, radar operators, test pilots and university professors.
I have argued for years within the Air Force that these unusual
cases needed much more study than they were getting. Now,
finally, the Air Force has begun a serious scientific
investigation of the UFO phenomena. (J.C. The Colorado, Condon
The public, I am certain, wants to know what to believe--what
can be believed--about the "flying saucer" stories that seem to
be growing more sensational all the time. With all loyalty to
the Air Force, and with a deep appreciation of its problems, I
now feel it my duty to discuss the UFO mystery fully and
frankly. I speak as a scientist with unique experience. To the
best of my knowledge, I am the only scientist who has spent
nearly 20 years monitoring the UFO situation in this and other
countries and who has also read many thousands of reports and
personally interviewed many sighters of UFO's.
Getting at the truth of "flying saucers" has been
extraordinarily difficult because the subject automatically
engenders such instantaneous reactions and passionate beliefs.
Nearly all of my scientific colleagues, I regret to say, have
scoffed at the reports of UFO's as so much balderdash, although
this was a most unscientific reaction since virtually none of
them had ever studied the evidence. Until recently my friends in
the physical sciences wouldn't even discuss UFO's with me. The
subject, in fact, rarely came up. My friends were obviously
mystified as to how I, a scientist, could have gotten mixed up
with "flying saucers" in the first place. It was a little as
though I had been an opera singer who had suddenly taken it into
his head to perform in a cabaret. It was all too embarrassing to
bring up in polite conversation.
While the scientists were chuckling at UFO's, a number of groups
of zealous citizens were telling the public that "flying
saucers" did indeed exist. The believers in UFO's charged the
Air Force with concealing the existence of "flying saucers" to
avoid a public panic. Since I was the Air Force's consultant,
these groups accused me of selling out as a scientist, because I
did not admit that UFO's existed. I was the Air Force's stooge.,
its tame astronomer, a man more concerned with preserving his
consultant's fee than with disclosing the truth to the public.
I received many letters attacking me for not attacking the Air
Force. One typical writer pointed out that as a scientist my
first allegiance was to "fact." he went on to state, "Any person
who has closely followed the UFO story knows that many reports
have been 'explained away' in a manner that can only be called
Another typical letter declared: "In spite of the fact that the
[Air Force} claims (or is instructed to claim) that UFO's do not
exist, I think that common sense tells most of us that they do.
There have been too many responsible people through the years
that have had terrifying experiences involving UFO's. I think
our Government insults the intelligence of our people in keeping
information regarding UFO's from them."
The question of UFO's has developed into a battle of faiths. One
side, which is dedicated to the Air Force position and backed up
by the "scientific establishment," knows that UFO's do not
exist; the other side knows that UFO's represent something
completely new in human experience. And then we have the rest of
the world, the great majority of people who if they think about
the subject at all, don't know what to think.
The question of whether or not UFO's exist should not be a
battle of faiths. It must be a subject for calm, reasoned,
In 1948, when I first heard of the UFO's, I though they were
sheer nonsense, as any scientist would have. Most of the early
reports were quite vague: "I went into the bathroom for a drink
of water and looked out of the window and saw a bright light in
the sky. It was moving up and down and sideways. When I looked
again, it was gone."
At the time, I was director of the observatory at Ohio State
University in Columbus. One day I had a visit from several men
from the technical center at Wright-Patterson Air Force base,
which was only 60 miles away in Dayton. With some obvious
embarrassment, the men eventually brought up the subject of
"flying saucers" and asked me if I would care to serve as
consultant to the Air Force on the matter.
The job didn't seem as though it would take too much time, so I
agreed. When I began reviewing cases, I assumed that there was a
natural explanation for all of the sighting--or at least there
would be if we could find out enough data about the more
puzzling incidents. I generally subscribed to the Air Force view
that the sightings were the results of misidentification, hoaxes
During the next few years I had no trouble explaining or
discarding most of the cases referred to me, but a few were
baffling enough to make me wonder--cases that the Air Force
would later carry as "unidentified." Let me emphasize the point
that the Air Force made up its own mind on each case; I merely
submitted an opinion. I soon found that the Air Force had a
tendency to upgrade its preliminary explanations while compiling
its yearly summaries; a "possible" aircraft often became a
"probable" aircraft. I was reminded of the Greek legend of
Procrustes, who tried to fit all men to his single bed. If they
were too long, he chopped them off; if they were too short, he
stretched them out.
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