What was Project Blue Book?
Tom DeMary – 18 February 2005
Project Blue Book (PBB) was the code name of the U.S. Air Force’s UFO
investigation. Strictly speaking, the name applies to a time period
beginning in March 1952 and ending with the close of investigations
in January 1970. Less formally, the name is used to connote the Air
Force’s entire period of investigations, which began inside the
Air Materiel Command (AMC) at Wright-Patterson AFB without a specific
code name on June 30, 1947. The first named investigation was Project
Sign, which was formally initiated on January 26, 1948. The name was
changed to Project Grudge on February 12, 1949, and to Project Blue
Book on March 25, 1952. Though it may appear to be a continuous
operation, the UFO investigations were subject to shifts in the Air
Force’s priorities and by internal Air Force politics.
Most of the documents in the UFO reports contained in the Project Blue
Book files were generated by organizations other than PBB itself,
which carried out relatively few field investigations during its
existence. Some field investigations were carried out by Project Sign
in 1948 and by Project Grudge/Project Blue Book during 1951–52,
and these periods are also considered to be PBB’s best, most
unbiased years. The military reports were prepared by operations and
intelligence units and forwarded to PBB. Civilian reports were
submitted by law enforcement officials and by witnesses themselves.
In the early years many background investigations were carried out by
the FBI (1947), by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations
(AFOSI—1948 and after), and by a few other specialized
intelligence organizations. In later years a UFO officer was
appointed at each Air Force base to conduct local investigations. PBB
sometimes obtained technical opinions from other Wright-Patterson
activities. Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a part-time consultant in
1948 and from 1952 until the end of PBB, was the only paid, outside,
scientific consultant. PBB generated documents in the case files were
usually limited to the solution and a brief summary of the case.
As an organization, PBB was understaffed and underfunded and thus lacked
the resources to analyze thoroughly the stream of incoming UFO
reports. In addition to having responsibility of explaining UFO
reports, PPB had to deal with questions from the press and public,
and give briefings to interested military and government officials.
Additional limitations were imposed by Air Force policy and PBB’s
position inside an Air Force intelligence operation. Efforts were
made by PBB chiefs to get PBB transferred into a more scientifically
oriented activity, but the efforts were unsuccessful. The nature of
PBB’s role, Air Force policy, and the personalities involved is
complicated, and is a subject of on-going research.
In spite of its problems, PBB was the official, government sanctioned
UFO investigation, and its activities are an important part of the
history of UFO investigations. Much of the writing of best-selling
author Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe (USMC ret.) revolved around the Air
Force and PBB. Most of the PBB information published by authors like
Keyhoe was summarized from the original documents, and thus
represents the interpretations and opinions of the writers. Few of
the complete, original reports have ever been fully published. These
reports, and their associated documentation, are now being made
available to researchers for first hand study and re-evaluation.