By early January 1953 the scientists who were to be members of our panel of experts had been contacted and had agreed to sit in judgment of the UFO. In turn, we agreed to give them every detail about the UFO.
We had our best reports for them to read, and we were going to show them the two movies that some intelligence officers considered as the "positive proof" - the Tremonton Movie and the Montana Movie.
When this high court convened on the morning of January 12, the first thing it received was its orders; one of three verdicts would be acceptable:
1. All UFO reports are explainable as known objects or natural phenomena; therefore the investigation should be permanently discontinued.
2. The UFO reports do not contain enough data upon which to base a final conclusion. Project Blue Book should be continued in hopes of obtaining better data.
3. The UFO's are interplanetary spacecraft.
The written verdict, the group was told, would be given to the National Security Council, a council made up of the directors of all U.S. intelligence agencies, and thence it would go to the President of the United States - if they should decide that the UFO's were interplanetary spacecraft.
Because of military regulations, the names of the panel members, like the names of so many other people associated with the UFO story, cannot be revealed. Two of the men had made names for themselves as practical physicists - they could transform the highest theory for practical uses. One of these men had developed the radar that pulled us out of a big hole at the beginning of World War II, and the other had been one of the fathers of the H-bomb. Another of the panel members is now the chief civilian adviser to one of our top military commanders, and another was an astronomer whose unpublished fight to get the UFO recognized is respected throughout scientific circles. There was a man who is noted for his highly theoretical physics and mathematics, and another who had pioneered operations research during World War II. The sixth member of the panel had been honored by the American Rocket Society and the International Astronautical Federation for his work in moving space travel from the Buck Rogers realm to the point of near reality and who is now a rocket expert.
We had a hundred or so photos of flying saucers, both stills and movies. Many were fakes some so expert that it took careful study by photo interpreters to show how the photos had been faked. Some were the crudest of fakes, automobile hub caps thrown into the air, homemade saucers suspended by threads, and just plain retouched negatives. The rest of the still photos had been sent in by well meaning citizens who couldn't recognize a light flare of flaw in the negative, or who had chanced to get an excellent photo of a sundog or mirage.
But the movies that were sent in to us were different. In the first place, it takes an expert with elaborate equipment to fake a movie. We had or knew about four strips of movie film that fell into the "Unknown" category. Two were the cinetheodolite movies that had been taken at White Sands Proving Ground in April and May of 1950, one was the Montana Movie and the last was the Tremonton Movie. These latter two had been subjected to thousands of hours of analysis, and since we planned to give the panel of scientists more thorough reports on them on Friday, I skipped over their details and went to the next point I wanted to cover - theories.
The following day and a half was devoted to reviewing and discussing fifty of our best sighting reports that we had classed as "Unknowns."
The next item on the agenda, when the panel had finished absorbing all of the details of the fifty selected top reports, was a review of a very hot and very highly controversial study. It was based on the idea that Major Dewey Fournet and I had talked about several months before - an analysis of the motions of the reported UFO's in an attempt to determine whether they were intelligently controlled. The study was hot because it wasn't official and the reason it wasn't official was because it was so hot. It concluded that the UFO's were interplanetary spaceships. The report had circulated around high command levels of intelligence and it had been read with a good deal of interest. But even though some officers at command levels just a notch below General Samford bought it, the space behind the words "Approved by" was blank - no one would stick his neck out and officially send it to the top.
Dewey Fournet, who had completed his tour of active duty in the Air Force and was now a civilian, was called from Houston, Texas, to tell the scientists about the study since he had worked very closely with the group that had prepared it.
The study covered several hundred of our most detailed UFO reports. By a very critical process of elimination, based on the motion of the reported UFO's, Fournet told the panel how he and any previous analysis by Project Blue Book had been disregarded and how those reports that could have been caused by any one of the many dozen known objects - balloons, airplanes, astronomical bodies, etc., were sifted out. This sifting took quite a toll, and the study ended up with only ten or twenty reports that fell into the "Unknown" category. Since such critical methods of evaluation had been used, these few reports proved beyond a doubt that the UFO's were intelligently controlled by persons with brains equal to or far surpassing ours.
The next step in the study, Fournet explained, was to find out where they came from. "Earthlings" were eliminated, leaving the final answer - spacemen.
Both Dewey and I had been somewhat worried about how the panel would react to a study with such definite conclusions. But when he finished his presentation, it was obvious from the tone of the questioning that the men were giving the conclusions serious thought. Fournet's excellent reputation was well known.
On Friday morning we presented the feature attractions of the session, the Tremonton Movie and the Montana Movie. These two bits of evidence represented the best photos of UFO's that Project Blue Book had to offer. The scientists knew about them, especially the Tremonton Movie, because since late July they had been the subject of many closed door conferences. Generals, admirals, and GS-16's had seen them at "command performances", and they had been flown to Kelly AFB in Texas to be shown to a conference of intelligence officers from all over the world. Two of the country's best military photo laboratories, the Air Force lab at Wright Field and the Navy's lab at Anacostia, Maryland, had spent many hours trying to prove that the UFO's were balloons, airplanes, or stray light reflections, but they failed - the UFO's were true unknowns. The possibility that the movie had been faked was considered but quickly rejected because only a Hollywood studio with elaborate equipment could do such a job and the people who filmed the movies didn't have this kind of equipment.
We also drew a blank on the Tremonton Movie, a movie that had been taken by a Navy Chief Photographer, Warrant Officer Delbert C. Newhouse, on July 2, 1952.
Our report on the incident showed that Newhouse, his wife, and their two children were driving to Oakland, California, from the east coast on this eventful day. They had just passed through Tremonton, Utah, a town north of Salt Lake City, and had traveled about 7 miles on U.S. Highway 30S when Mrs. Newhouse noticed a group of objects in the sky. She pointed them out to her husband; he looked, pulled over to the side of the road, stopped the car, and jumped out to get a better look. He didn't have to look very long to realize that something highly unusual was taking place because in his twenty one years in the Navy and 2,000 hours' flying time as an aerial photographer, he'd never seen anything like this. About a dozen shiny disk like objects were "milling around the sky in a rough formation."
Newhouse had his movie camera so he turned the turret around to a 3 inch telephoto lens and started to photograph the UFO's. He held the camera still and took several feet of film, getting all of the bright objects in one photo. All of the UFO's had stayed in a compact group from the time the Newhouse family had first seen them, but just before they disappeared over the western horizon one of them left the main group and headed east. Newhouse swung his camera around and took several shots of it, holding his camera steady and letting the UFO pass through the field of view before it disappeared in the east.
When I received the Tremonton films I took them right over to the Wright Field photo lab, along with the Montana Movie, and the photo technicians and I ran them twenty or thirty times. The two movies were similar in that in both of them the objects appeared to be large circular lights - in neither one could you see any detail. But, unlike the Montana Movie, the lights in the Tremonton Movie would fade out, then come back in again. This fading immediately suggested airplanes reflecting light, but the roar of a king-sized dogfight could have been heard for miles and the Newhouse family had heard no sound. We called in several fighter pilots and they watched the UFO's circling and darting in and out in the cloudless blue sky. Their unqualified comment was that no airplane could do what the UFO's were doing.
Balloons came under suspicion, but the lab eliminated them just as quickly by studying the kind of a reflection given off by a balloon - it is a steady reflection since a balloon is spherical. Then, to further scuttle the balloon theory, clusters of balloons are tied together and don't mill around. Of course, the lone UFO that took off to the east by itself was the biggest argument against balloons.
Newhouse told an intelligence officer from the Western Air Defense Forces that he had held his camera still and let this single UFO fly through the field of view, so the people in the lab measured its angular velocity. Unfortunately there were no clouds in the sky, nor was he able to include any of the ground in the pictures, so our estimates of angular velocity had to be made assuming that the photographer held his camera still. Had the lone UFO been 10 miles away it would have been traveling several thousand miles an hour.
After studying the movies for several weeks, the Air Force photo lab at Wright Field gave up. All they had to say was, "We don't know what they are but they aren't airplanes or balloons, and we don't think they are birds."
While the lab had been working on the movies at Wright Field, Major Fournet had been talking to the Navy photo people at Anacostia; they thought they had some good ideas on how to analyze the movies, so as soon as we were through with them I sent them to Major Fournet and he took them over to the Navy lab.
The Navy lab spent about two months studying the films and had just completed their analysis. The men who had done the work were on hand to brief the panel of scientists on their analysis after the panel had seen the movies.
We darkened the room and I would imagine that we ran each film ten times before every panel member was satisfied that he had seen and could remember all of the details. We ran both films together so that the men could compare them.
The Navy analysts didn't use the words "interplanetary spacecraft" when they told of their conclusions, but they did say that the UFO's were intelligently controlled vehicles and that they weren't airplanes or birds. They had arrived at this conclusion by making a frame-by-frame study of the motion of the lights and the changes in the lights' intensity.
When the Navy people had finished with their presentation, the scientists had questions. None of the panel members were trying to find fault with the work the Navy people had done, but they weren't going to accept the study until they had meticulously searched for every loophole. Then they found one.
In measuring the brilliance of the lights, the photo analysts had used an instrument called a densitometer. The astronomer on the panel knew all about measuring the density of an extremely small photographic image with a densitometer because he did it all the time in his studies of the stars. And the astronomer didn't think that the Navy analysts had used the correct technique in making their measurements. This didn't necessarily mean that their data were all wrong, but it did mean that they should recheck their work.
When the discussion of the Navy's report ended, one of the scientists asked to see the Tremonton Movie again; so I had the projectionists run it several more times. The man said that he thought the UFO's could be sea gulls soaring on a thermal current. He lived in Berkeley and said that he'd seen gulls high in the air over San Francisco Bay. We had thought of this possibility several months before because the area around the Great Salt Lake is inhabited by large white gulls. But the speed of the lone UFO as it left the main group had eliminated the gulls. I pointed this out to the physicist. His answer was that the Navy warrant officer might have thought he had held the camera steady, but he could have "panned with the action" unconsciously. This would throw all of our computations way off. I agreed with this, but I couldn't agree that they were seagulls.
But several months later I was in San Francisco waiting for an airliner to Los Angeles and I watched gulls soaring in a cloudless sky. They were "riding a thermal," and they were so high that you couldn't see them until they banked just a certain way; then they appeared to be a bright white flash, much larger than one would expect from sea gulls. There was a strong resemblance to the UFO's in the Tremonton Movie. But I'm not sure that this is the answer.
The presentation of the two movies ended Project Blue Book's part of the meeting. In five days we had given the panel of scientists every pertinent detail in the history of the UFO, and it was up to them to tell us if they were real - some type of vehicle flying through our atmosphere. If they were real, then they would have to be spacecraft because no one at the meeting gave a second thought to the possibility that the UFO's might be a super secret U.S. aircraft or a Soviet development. The scientists knew everything that was going on in the U.S. and they knew that no country in the world had developed their technology far enough to build a craft that would perform as the UFO's were reported to do. In addition, we were spending billions of dollars on the research and development and the procurement of airplanes that were just nudging the speed of sound. It would be absurd to think that these billions were being spent to cover the existence of a UFO type weapon. And it would be equally absurd to think that the British, French, Russians or any other country could be far enough ahead of us to have a UFO.
The scientists spent the next two days pondering a conclusion. They reread reports and looked at the two movies again and again, they called other scientists to double check certain ideas that they had, and they discussed the problem among themselves. Then they wrote out their conclusions and each man signed the document. The first paragraph said:
We as a group do not believe that it is impossible for some other celestial body to be inhabited by intelligent creatures. Nor is it impossible that these creatures could have reached such a state of development that they could visit the earth. However, there is nothing in all of the so-called "flying saucer" reports that we have read that would indicate that this is taking place.
The Tremonton Movie had been rejected as proof but the panel did leave the door open a crack when they suggested that the Navy photo lab redo their study. But the Navy lab never rechecked their report, and it was over a year later before new data came to light.
After I got out of the Air Force I met Newhouse and talked to him for two hours. I've talked to many people who have reported UFO's, but few impressed me as much as Newhouse. I learned that when he and his family first saw the UFO's they were close to the car, much closer than when he took the movie. To use Newhouse's own words, "If they had been the size of a B-29 they would have been at 10,000 feet altitude." And the Navy man and his family had taken a good look at the objects - they looked like "two pie pans, one inverted on the top of the other!" He didn't just think the UFO's were disk shaped; he knew that they were; he had plainly seen them. I asked him why he hadn't told this to the intelligence officer who interrogated him. He said that he had. Then I remembered that I'd sent the intelligence officer a list of questions I wanted Newhouse to answer. The question "What did the UFO's look like?" wasn't one of them because when you have a picture of something you don't normally ask what it looks like. Why the intelligence officer didn't pass this information on to us I'll never know.
This ended the section of the panel's report that covered their conclusions. The next section was entitled, "Recommendations." I fully expected that they would recommend that we as least reduce the activities of Project Blue Book if not cancel it entirely. I didn't like this one bit because I was firmly convinced that we didn't have the final answer. We needed more and better proof before a final yes or no could be given.
The panel didn't recommend that the activities of Blue Book be cut back, and they didn't recommend that it be dropped. They recommended that it be expanded. Too many of the reports had been made by credible observers, the report said, people who should know what they're looking at - people who think things out carefully. Data that was out of the circumstantial - evidence class was badly needed. And the panel must have been at least partially convinced that an expanded effort would prove something interesting because the expansion they recommended would require a considerable sum of money. The investigative force of Project Blue Book should be quadrupled in size, they wrote, and it should be staffed by specially trained experts in the fields of electronics, meteorology, photography, physics, and other fields of science pertinent to UFO investigations. Every effort should be made to set up instruments in locations where UFO sightings are frequent, so that data could be measured and recorded during a sighting. In other locations around the country military and civilian scientists should be alerted and instructed to use every piece of available equipment that could be used to track UFO's.
And lastly, they said that the American public should be told every detail of every phase of the UFO investigation - the details of the sightings, the official conclusions, and why the conclusions were made. This would serve a double purpose; it would dispel any of the mystery that security breeds and it would keep the Air Force on the ball - sloppy investigations and analyses would never occur.
When the panel's conclusions were made known in the government, they met with mixed reactions. Some people were satisfied, but others weren't. Even the opinions of a group of the country's top scientists couldn't overcome the controversy that had dogged the UFO for five years. Some of those who didn't like the decision had sat in on the UFO's trial as spectators and they felt that the "jury" was definitely prejudiced - afraid to stick their necks out. They could see no reason to continue to assume that the UFO's weren't interplanetary vehicles.
About this time in the history of the UFO the first of a series of snags came up. The scientists had strongly recommended that we hold nothing back - give the public everything. Accordingly, when the press got wind of the Tremonton Movie, which up until this time had been a closely guarded secret, I agreed to release it for the newsmen to see. I wrote a press release which was O.K.'d by General Garland, then the chief of ATIC, and sent it to the Pentagon. It told what the panel had said about the movies, "until proved otherwise there is no reason why the UFO's couldn't have been sea gulls." Then the release went on to say that we weren't sure exactly what the UFO's were, the sea gull theory was only an opinion. When the Pentagon got the draft of the release they screamed, "No!" No movie for the press and no press release. The sea gull theory was too weak, and we had a new publicity policy as of now - don't say anything.
This policy, incidentally, is still in effect. The January 7, 1955, issue of the Air Force Information Services Letter said, in essence, people in the Air Force are talking too much about UFO's - shut up. The old theory that if you ignore them they'll go away is again being followed.