As many blog readers will be aware, I facilitated a team of Adelaide based researchers (members of the Australian UFO Research Association) who looked for, located, and documented the file holdings of the Australian government, between 2003-2008. I now continue this work as an individual, as I slowly find more and more files in the National Archives of Australia. It is for this reason, as well as others, that I looked forward to reading a new, scholarly, work titled "UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry" written by members of the UFO History group, and published in 2012. The publisher is Anomalist Books of San Antonio, Tx, USA. ISBN is 19-33-66-55-80. My copy was courtesy of a member of the group, Jan Aldrich.
Members of the Group:
A little rundown of the group's members is in order. Jan Aldrich is formerly of the US Army; Bill Chalker is a renowned Australian researcher who was one of the first to get a look at Australian government files; and Barry Greenwood is co-author of the groundbreaking book "Clear Intent." Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos worked with the Spanish government's Air Force to review their files for public release; Robert Powell is MUFON's Research Director; Steve Purcell is a member of MUFON's STAR field investigation team; Clas Svahn is vice-chair of the Archives for UFO Research; Michael Swords is a board member of CUFOs, and Richard Thieme is an author and speaker. As you can see, the list of contributors to this work, speaks volumes about the serious nature of the quality of the contents.
The major portion of the book is dedicated to the exploration of the phenomenon by various elements of the US government. 13 of the 20 chapters of this massive 580 page book relates to the US experience. However, this work starts with two chapters which discuss pre 1947 events in non-US countries. The first delves into World War Two observations of what came to be known as "foo fighters." The second takes a look at the Scandinavian "Ghost Rockets."
This introductory material paves the way for an excellent, in-depth review of the US government's actions (and inactions) regarding what started off as "Flying Discs." We read of the formation and demise of Projects Sign and Grudge; of reports during the Korean War; and the official response to the 1952 Washington events.
There were some surprises for me in this book. In Feb 1950 the US Navy presented an intelligence analysis on the subject. The book states "This is a mild surprise to modern historians because, although it has been known that the Navy was getting copies of Air Force reports at least since late 1948 the existence of a formalised method of UFO case analysis by Naval Intelligence has only been suspected." (p.90.)
"The CIA solution:"
Chapter nine was of particular interest to me, as I had previously read much material on the involvement of the CIA. "The CIA analysts viewed the Air Force handling of the UFO problem as honest but inadequate." (p.175.)
Chapter 12 "Something Closer This Way comes" reminded me that the American experience, up to that stage, was one where the "unknowns" were in the air and not on the ground. This was opposed to the 1954 experience in France where many close encounters on the ground were being reported. This, to a degree, set the US government's responses in context.
The classic Nov 1957 Levelland, Texas, "close encounters" with multiple events, met with a limited USAF response. Lt Col William Brunson's reports included "...would suggest that Saucedo was unreliable, the sheriff had seen lighting and electrical storms, and Neville Wright must have encountered a rare case of ball lighting." (p.254.)
NICAP v the USAF:
The saga of the civilian group NICAP versus the USAF is examined in depth, telling the story of NICAP's use of the political arena to push for serious research. The book provides a far more in depth exploration of this era than most others. We read of the characters on both side of the debate.
Moving into the 1960's we come to chapter 14 "The Colorado project" and find strong support for the fact that the Project lacked a proper, scientific approach. In an interesting twist, this lack of scientific rigour "...awakened many academics and intellectuals, and they came, at least briefly, out of the closet with their interest." (p.332.)
With the release of the University of Colorado report came the demise of the USAF "Project Blue Book." "...the defense function could be performed within the framework established for intelligence and surveillance operations without the continuance of a special unit such as Project Blue Book" said the USAF. (p.336.)
The final chapter of the US involvement, chapter 15, takes the story from 1969 through to the "Stephenville lights" of 2008. "Government agencies continued to be interested in the phenomenon, as we have seen." (p.349.) The Roswell incident was responded to by the USAF in two reports "The Roswell Report: Fact versus Fiction in the New Mexico desert," in 1994, and the 1997 "The Roswell Report: Case Closed."
The government response in some other countries has been different to that of the USA.
In chapter 16 "The Swedish Military's UFO History" we learn of the interaction between the official Swedish Defence Research Institute (FOA, now FOI) and the civilian group UFO-Sweden. "This cooperation and sharing of information between a civilian UFO group and a military UFO desk is unique." (p.371.)
As regards to the Australian experience "The Australian response was more of a middle ground," (p373) between the USAF's no official program from 1969, and the UK's, secrecy. Bill Chalker competently covers the RAAF's involvement, together with the early efforts of the Department of Civil Aviation. Harry Turner's extensive investigations and role, are well set out. A number of well known, and not so well known Australian cases, are documented, together with the official Australian response.
Chapters 18 and 19 set out the government's response in Spain and France respectively. "Historically speaking, two stages are distinguished in the performance of the Spanish Air Force in the UFO business: (a) secrecy (1962-1990) and (b) disclosure (1990-1999.)" (p.437.)
In France, science studies the phenomenon, not the French Air Force. "The support provided to GEIPAN by the French government illustrates the significance that one of the world's major powers places upon the scientific understanding of the UFO phenomenon." (p.453.)
Finally, chapter 20 takes a brief look at the government's response in Belgium, the Soviet Union and Brazil.
The book's Epilogue includes "This is exactly our conclusion - many UFO incidents have occurred and are documented in the governmental sources, for which no obvious explanation was, nor is, available." (p.469.)
My final thoughts:
"UFOs and Government" is a thoroughly, well researched and enjoyable read. It makes a magnificent contribution to our knowledge of global governmental response to the phenomenon.
I heartily recommend it as an essential part of any serious researcher's library.