What is the Project Blue Book Archive?

Tom DeMary – 18 February 2005

The Project Blue Book Archive (PBBA) will contain all of the available documents of the Air Force investigations from the early AMC period through the end of PBB. In addition to these nearly 15,000 individual UFO reports, PBB administrative files are included, providing an overview of and insight into, PBB operations. These files include correspondence, formal reports, a series of “monthly” status reports (issued in only a few years of operation), AFOSI investigations, and various public statements and briefing materials.

The primary source of the documents in the PBBA is the set of 94 microfilm rolls, made available to the public by the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) in 1976. Since NARS is now known as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the more recent acronym will be used in the remainder of this FAQ.

When PBB was closed down in January 1970, the original files were transferred to Maxwell AFB, where they were available on request for public viewing until 1975. In 1975 the documents were transferred to NARA for review by an Air Force security panel. Before the transfer the Air Force copied the files to microfilm. Then, before microfilming them again for a public release, witness names and other personal information were blacked out. This was justified by the Air Force as being required by its policy of protecting the privacy of witnesses. It was in fact in accordance with existing Air Force policies, but the files had been previously available for copying and inspection for years without these deletions. It has been argued that this policy was invoked as a means to prevent researchers from following up with witnesses more than to protect their privacy. The work of deleting the personal data was actually carried out by USAF reservists, and the quality of their work is highly variable. Some documents have all names removed, while others retain instances of witness names. Sometimes, the names were even blacked out in newspaper clippings, such as in the case of well-known and obvious witnesses such as Kenneth Arnold. Many cases are not so well-known, and the removal of witness data has added to the difficulty of tracing the witnesses of lesser known reports.

In 1998 a set of the first Air Force microfilm rolls of the complete files was discovered at NARA. In addition to witness names and information, it has been confirmed that these rolls contain some pages that are not on the NARA rolls. PBBA plans to make these rolls available on-line, along with the NARA rolls, so that the two sets can be compared by researchers.

During its operations Project Sign produced and distributed its own microfilms of its reports for use by other military and scientific organizations and by individual scientists. Copies of most of the Project Sign microfilm rolls have migrated into private hands, and will also be included in PBBA. These rolls will include Project Sign’s summaries, as well as some of its complete “raw” files. Some reports on the Project Sign microfilm may contain more complete information for reports through 1949 than is found in the PBB files.