- The following was reported on National Public Radio,
"Stardate" from the McDonald Observatory at the University of
Texas at Austin.
- Dec, 28 1999
- Project GRUDGE
- In many ways, the late 1940s have never left us. Those
booming post-war years brought us everything from Rudolph, the Red-Nosed
Reindeer and prepared cake mixes, to television and bikini bathing suits.
The late '40s also brought a new phenomenon in the skies that's still
around: flying saucers. Government agencies quickly tried to quell the
fuss over unidentified flying objects. One of the earliest UFO studies
ended 50 years ago this week. Called Project GRUDGE, it was conducted
by the United States Air Force. It found no evidence that UFOs were alien
- The flying-saucer craze started in June of 1947, when
private pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine flying discs near Seattle.
Over the next few months, Americans reported hundreds of saucer sightings
enough for the newly formed U.S. Air Force to study them.
- The first study group, Project SIGN, said it couldn't
rule out the possibility that some of the saucer sightings were extraterrestrial
spacecraft. But Air Force officials dumped the report and convened another
group, Project GRUDGE. It studied dozens of sightings, and said they could
all be explained - as astronomical objects, aircraft, or tricks of nature.
The project ended on December 27th, 1949.
- Despite the report, saucer sightings continued. The
Air Force conducted another study later on with the same results. Even
so, flying saucers remain a popular topic more than half a century after
they first entered American culture.
- Written by Damond Benningfield; email@example.com
1999 Damond Benningfield StarDate 1999 The University of Texas McDonald
- OPEN LETTER TO DAMOND BENNINGFIELD
- December 28, 1999
- Dear Mr. Benningfield:
- I happened to hear your report on the 50th anniversary
of the Project Grudge flying saucer report on the National Public Radio
show, "Stardate," this evening.
- As a long time researcher of the history of the UFO subject
and related government activities I was both amused and disappointed to
see that what you have written might lead the reader to think that Project
Grudge was a credible, even scientific, investigation of the subject of
flying saucers (or UFOs).The Project Grudge report was not considered scientific
even by the man who was in charge of Air Force Intelligence when the report
was written, General Charles Cabell.According to Capt. Edward Ruppelt (the
first director of Project Blue Book), in September 1951 Cabell referred
to the Grudge report as the "most poorly written, unconclusive piece
of unscientific tripe" that he had ever seen. Ruppelt wrote in his
book, "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects" that in compiling
the report the analysts found about 50 sightings that had not been explained
by Project Sign, the predecessor to Grudge.In order to be able to say that
all sightings could be explained the Grudge analysts "force fitted"
explanations to these unexplained sightings.
- Consider the following information abstracted from my
forthcoming book (to be published in May), "The UFO-FBI Connection:"
...... the 600 page Grudge report was unconvincing. There were too many
poor or just plain wrong explanations. Instead, of making the saucer problem
go away it merely increased the confusion over what really was going on.
- According to the report, Project Grudge had carefully
studied 237 sightings which was 33 fewer than Project Saucer (Project Sign,
which had studied 240 domestic and 30 foreign sightings for a total of
270). From this the press may have concluded that Project Grudge had received
no new reports from early spring, 1949 through December, 1949. This conclusion
was false, of course. The Project Blue Book master list shows that Grudge
received 250 sighting reports between May 1 and December 31 and 446 for
the whole year. The reason that analyses of these sightings did not appear
in the final report is simply that the Grudge personnel felt it to be a
waste of time because the newer reports were similar to the older ones.
The press reporters did not know about all of these new sightings, of
course, since this information was not released until years later.
- The Air Force had told the press that all sightings could
be explained and proclaimed that the Grudge report would prove it.Although
on the face of it the final report did seem to support this claim, astute
reporters were not convinced. The report showed that, with the help of
Dr. Hynek, the consultant in astronomy (in 1973 he founded the Center
for UFO Studies), they had been able identify 32% as astronomical.With
the help of experts at the Air Force Weather Service and Air Force Cambridge
Research Laboratory the Grudge personnel identified 12 % as sightings of
weather balloons or high altitude Skyhook balloons.The Grudge personnel
and the expert consultants further concluded that about 33% were hoaxes
or had insufficient information for evaluation. That meant that the expert
consultants could not offer explanations for 23% of the sightings (55
out of the 237). This did not stop the Grudge analysts, however.The last
of several appendicies to the Grudge report included the official explanations
for the unexplained sightings!
- This appendix created a big problem for the Air Force
because members of the press who read it were not convinced. The explanations
seemed at the very least, strained, and in some cases simply wrong. Ruppelt,
in The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, cited one good example of
the approach to explaining these reports.In a 1948 report, which was analyzed
by Dr. Hynek and the Air Weather Service, an Air Force pilot had reported
seeing a glowing white light over Andrews AFB. He chased it for ten minutes
as it went through some turning maneuvers before it finally headed for
the coast. He did manage to get a glimpse of a dark oval object smaller
than his airplane. "I couldnt tell if the light was on the object
or if the whole object had been glowing," he reported. Witnesses
on the ground concurred with the pilots report: they had seen the light
and the airplane chasing it.Hynek reported it was not astronomical and
the Air Weather service reported that it was not a balloon. This didn't
stop the Grudge personnel: the official explanation was.... a balloon!
- Ruppelt illustrated the press reaction to the Grudge
explanations by referring to a conversation he had several years later
with one of the reporters who had gotten a copy of the report. He said
the report had been quite impressive, but only in its ambiguousness, illogical
reasoning and very apparent effort to write off all UFO reports at any
cost. He personally thought that it was a poor attempt to put out a fake
report full of misleading information, to cover up the real story.
- Projects Sign and Grudge were not the only Air Force
investigations which failed to provide acceptable explanations for all
sightings.When Project Blue Book (1952-1969) closed almost exactly 20 years
after Grudge there were still about 700 sightings unexplained.During the
time period 1966-1969 a study was carried out at the University of Colorado
directed by Dr. Edward Condon.That study left unexplained about 1/3 of
the nearly 100 sightings they investigated.
- The Air Force knew, at least by 1952, that there were
unexplainable sightings, sightings with an "extraterrestrial overtone."On
July 29, 1952, a Navy officer working in the office of the Director of
Air Force Intelligence told the FBI that 3% of the sightings could not
be explained and that "it is not entirely impossible that the objects
sighted might be ships from another planet...."Several months later
Air Force intelligence told the FBI that "some military officials
are seriously considering the possibility of interplanetary ships."According
to Ruppelt, some of these "military officials" were Air Force
- It is of particular importance to the subject of UFO
research that there are sightings which remain unexplained after careful
analysis.These are sightings which cannot be categorized as misidentifications
of known phenomena (stars, planets, meteors, airplanes, birds, etc.) or
delusions or hoaxes.These unexplainable sightings are from credible observers
(sometimes multiple observers, sometimes radar and photography is involved)
and the sighting details simply conflict with all known phenomena, including
natural and manmade phenomena seen under unusual conditions. That there
are such sightings was recognized early by the Air Force and the percentage
of unexplained sightings was quantified during the Battelle Memorial Institute
study that was published in 1955.Of the 3201 sightings (that occurred between
June 1947 and December 1952) studied, about 1/5 were unexplained.Of more
importance is the fact that when the sightings were divided into reliability
(credibility) groups, the most reliable group had the highest percentage
of unexplained sightings (33%). This is not what one would expect if sightings
were all misidentifications, hoaxes and delusions.
- In the last 20 years documents have been released by
various government agencies, including the Air Force and the FBI, which
show how poorly the Air Force analysts treated the UFO problem 50 years
ago. So let bygones be bygones. As Project Grudge slips into the dustbin
of history, let us look to more recent investigations such as the COMETA
report released in France last summer.(This has been discussed on the internet
and in UFO magazines... although hardly if at all mentioned by the mainstream
press....and so I won't summarize it here.) That report takes into account
much new as well as old information that was not available to the Grudge
analysts.In the information collected over the last 50 years, the COMETA
investigators found ample reason to treat the UFO problem much more seriously
than does your Stardate presentation.
- I thank you for calling this bit of history to our attention,
however, because it is always well to know where we have been in order
to know where we should not go.
- Bruce Maccabe