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.
We've compiled the Dallas sightings contained Project Blue Book files (most of them, anyways) in the document at the bottom of the page. Here are a few samplings:
October 28, 1952
An Air Force pilot two months removed from combat operations in Korea was waiting for a commercial flight at Love Field when he spotted an unusual glow in the sky.
There was considerable air traffic in the vicinity (normal Love Field activity) and there was enough light that aircraft were identifiable as the general type when viewed in the southwest, the sun to the rear. I first noticed an orange colored light which appeared to be nothing more than the exhaust or running light of an aircraft. Then, I noticed the the light gave off an exhaust trail similar to that of an afterburner. I watched the light in its descending path for about four seconds when it seemed to fire a number of "rockets" and vanished.
The sighting was also witnessed by a Navy veteran/professor from Arlington State College (now UT Arlington) and his wife.
Dr. ____ and I reported the sighting to the U.S. Weather Office at Love Field who apparently did not know what to do about it. No information was written down, nor did the individual concerned take our names. Nothing was said concerning any condition, meteorological or otherwise, which might account for the sighting."
The Air Force was willing to listen but classified the report as "probably astronomical (meteor)."
In August, a 22-year-old SMU student spots a UFO hovering above the White Rock Lake area. The report is given little credence until the Air Force realizes that it is in line with several other recent sightings and, importantly, the radar of an Air Force jet flying out of Duncanville. "At the time of the sighting the Radar Scope camera was turned on and about 100 frames of 35 mm film were taken of this unusual track."
Alas, when the Duncanville Air Force base attempted to ship the film to Ohio for review, it was ruined. "Your film [was] submitted without any reference or notation in the report, package or film container that it was undeveloped film," a commander admonished the Duncanville station. "Consequently, in route through many mail and screening units for check and logging, container opened and was ruined from exposure."
Air Force conclusion: "Location of sighting was on the final approach for Love Field, Dallas. Duration of sighting, course and maneuvering of object, manner of disappearance, formation, and location of sighting strongly indicate that aircraft were responsible for this sighting."
December 12, 1957
From a July 2, 1958 letter from U.S. Air Force Major Lawrence J. Tacker concerning a UFO spotted over Duncanville:
Dr. Mrs. ____
This is to acknowledge and thank you for your unidentified flying object report of 12 December 1957 and the 8mm motion picture film you submitted to support this sighting. I am returning your film herewith.
A careful analysis of the precise data submitted established that the object was definitely the planet Venus.
For your information I am inclosing a copy of the latest Department of Defense Fact Sheet, dated 5 November 1957, on unidentified flying objects, together with copies of December 1957 news clippings emphasizing the seasonal brilliance of Venus at that time.
Lawrence J. Tacker Major, USAF Executive Officer Public Information Division Office of Information Services
March 9, 1961
A University Park resident sends a letter to Dallas Congressman Bruce Alger:
At exactly 4:07 AM CST early Thursday morning, March 9th, I was out in my back yard doing a bit of amateur sateloon watching....hoping to see the polka-dot 12 footer, and I SAW A BIG, extremely fast, unidentified object streaking from about ENE to SW across the sky. It moved so fast was hard to focus on it, but I DO remember quite a bit of the impression it left on me.
This object, seemingly, moved so darn fast that I would never have given it much later thought, except that the 7:00 AM news that morning carried big story that the Russians had orbited a dog, etc. in a 5-ton rocket.
Alger forwards this along to the Air Force, which responds to the Congressman:
_____'s letter does not contain sufficient information upon which to base a valid conclusion. For ____'s use we are inclosing a questionnaire which we hope _____ will fill out in detail. When completed this document should be forwarded to the Commander, Aerospace Technical Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. When the Air Force analysis is completed we will be happy to forward the results to ____.
The observer fills out the packet, describing the object as "very similar to a Greyhound bus about a mile away going 1,700?? miles an hour head lights out but LOTS of dusty glow behind."
Air Force's conclusion: "Direction of movement rules out a satellite; therefore, objt was probably a meteor."
May 12, 1961
A Dallas high-school student pens a handwritten letter about a UFO sighting:
I was on the ground watching the sky. The saucers (3) were disk-shaped and stayed at approximately same length apart or in geese type formation and about 50 degrees above horizon. I was facing southwest where they also changed. Clear day about 80 degrees outside maybe less...It [the saucers] had apparent size of a penny It moved very swiftly. There was a jet airplane circulating about a 100 mile radius. The plane was traveling so high not any sound would be heard. It stayed about 30 miles behind the plane and lower but had a much greater speed. I could say it made turns at over 300 miles an hour. I am in ROTC in school. I seen films with jet airplanes and no airplane jet or otherwise could make turns at such great speeds.
Air Force conclusion: "It is probable that the objects observed were birds reflecting bright sunlight."
August 9, 1967
"Object was a silvery white and looked like a giant metallic hat. The top was a silvery white, the bottom had a black spot in the middle. Appeared to be spinning. Object was hovering. Object straightened out and began to rise straight up. Object disappeared behind some trees."
Air Force conclusion: "Observer stated in a letter later that the object was a kite."
December 2, 1967
On the 2nd of December at approximately 2:30 of 3:00 I was outside on the patio waiting for a barbeque fire to burn to the point where I could place some meat upon the grill. I was thinking and looking up at the sky and marveling as to the clearness, the intense blue sky and that there was not one cloud in the sky as far as I could see. I saw 4 blurred objects in the sky that seemed to be altering their shapes but it appeared to be due north of me and over the house behind my residence...I looked at these objects for at least 4 or 5 minutes and they were moving very, very slowly, I would say in the neighborhood of 1 to 2 miles an hour and they seemed to hang in the sky. As they reached an overhead position, I saw these 4 distinct shapes, one was round with a scalloped type edge in the rear. I thought that whoever or whatever they might be was looking so I waved to them then I remembered my camera so I went into the house to fetch my camera and when I came out the clouds and the objects were over the house and I could not get a good picture so I went to the front of the house and aimed at the cloud formation to take a picture. When I realized the lense opening was not proper so when I took the camera down from my eye, adjust the lense and the speed of the shutter, I sited the clouds but the density or points of intense densities had disappeared.
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Air Force response: "There seems to be no reason why the objects could not have been clouds despite the fact that the observer did not see any other clouds in the sky."
Likely story. Anyway, here are the files: