During the middle part of the 20th century, the U.S. Air Force cataloged 12,618 UFO sightings. It was part of a program, Project Blue Book, that aspired to subject the reports to scientific analysis to see if UFOs posed a threat to national security. In retrospect, such an endeavor seems quixotic (it was shut down in 1969 after a review led by University of Colorado physicist Edward Condon determined it had yielded basically nothing of scientific value) but at the time, with the chill of the Cold War and the bewildering onrush of new technologies, it presumably seemed more reasonable.
The Project Blue Book files were declassified several years back but accessing them has generally required a trip to the National Archives in Washington. Last week, after two decades of battling for their release under the Freedom of Information Act, UFO researcher John Greenwald posted the records, 130,000-plus pages worth, to his online database, The Black Vault.
The documents contain no evidence of extraterrestrial activity. Not in the skies over Dallas, not anywhere else in the country. (Whether this is because the evidence simply doesn't exist or because it has been systematically suppressed by the government is, of course, always open for debate.)
Locally, the reports are more instructive as a glimpse of the mid-century zeitgeist. It was a time when respectable, educated people -- college students, doctors, engineers, etc. -- would become curious or frightened enough about something they spotted in the sky to contact the Air Force. And it was a time when the U.S. government, with a responsiveness foreign to the modern American, would take them seriously.More »