What was Project Blue Book?

Tom DeMary – 18 February 2005

Introduction

Project Blue Book (PBB) was the code name of the U.S. Air Force’s UFO investigation. Strictly speaking, the name applies to a time period beginning in March 1952 and ending with the close of investigations in January 1970. Less formally, the name is used to connote the Air Force’s entire period of investigations, which began inside the Air Materiel Command (AMC) at Wright-Patterson AFB without a specific code name on June 30, 1947. The first named investigation was Project Sign, which was formally initiated on January 26, 1948. The name was changed to Project Grudge on February 12, 1949, and to Project Blue Book on March 25, 1952. Though it may appear to be a continuous operation, the UFO investigations were subject to shifts in the Air Force’s priorities and by internal Air Force politics.

Most of the documents in the UFO reports contained in the Project Blue Book files were generated by organizations other than PBB itself, which carried out relatively few field investigations during its existence. Some field investigations were carried out by Project Sign in 1948 and by Project Grudge/Project Blue Book during 1951–52, and these periods are also considered to be PBB’s best, most unbiased years. The military reports were prepared by operations and intelligence units and forwarded to PBB. Civilian reports were submitted by law enforcement officials and by witnesses themselves. In the early years many background investigations were carried out by the FBI (1947), by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI—1948 and after), and by a few other specialized intelligence organizations. In later years a UFO officer was appointed at each Air Force base to conduct local investigations. PBB sometimes obtained technical opinions from other Wright-Patterson activities. Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a part-time consultant in 1948 and from 1952 until the end of PBB, was the only paid, outside, scientific consultant. PBB generated documents in the case files were usually limited to the solution and a brief summary of the case.

As an organization, PBB was understaffed and underfunded and thus lacked the resources to analyze thoroughly the stream of incoming UFO reports. In addition to having responsibility of explaining UFO reports, PPB had to deal with questions from the press and public, and give briefings to interested military and government officials. Additional limitations were imposed by Air Force policy and PBB’s position inside an Air Force intelligence operation. Efforts were made by PBB chiefs to get PBB transferred into a more scientifically oriented activity, but the efforts were unsuccessful. The nature of PBB’s role, Air Force policy, and the personalities involved is complicated, and is a subject of on-going research.

In spite of its problems, PBB was the official, government sanctioned UFO investigation, and its activities are an important part of the history of UFO investigations. Much of the writing of best-selling author Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe (USMC ret.) revolved around the Air Force and PBB. Most of the PBB information published by authors like Keyhoe was summarized from the original documents, and thus represents the interpretations and opinions of the writers. Few of the complete, original reports have ever been fully published. These reports, and their associated documentation, are now being made available to researchers for first hand study and re-evaluation.

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