Aliens at the Archives

On December 30, 1947, the United States Air Force (USAF) began the process of collecting and evaluating all facts related to flying saucers and other types of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Between 1947 and 1969, 12,618 sightings were reported to the USAF program titled Project Blue Book, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

(Local Identifier:341-PBB-400) “Keesler AFB, Mississippi Film, 3/7/1954”

Scientists and investigators from federal agencies and universities assisted the Air Force with the subsequent investigations. Project Blue Book grouped these sightings into three categories: identified, insufficient data, and unidentified. According to the findings, the majority of the identified sightings usually relate to military and private aircraft, weather balloons, and satellites. A large number of birds, reflections, spotlights, and hoaxes also became common solutions for the identifiable cases.

(Local Identifier: 341-PBB-473) “Alamogordo, New Mexico Film, 10/16/1957”

The report lists unidentifiable occurrences as the least frequent result of a UFO investigation given that the classification means there is no logical explanation for the UFO sighting. Many of the reported sightings are, according the Air Force, explicable by some sort of scientific means.

(Local Identifier: 341-PBB-482) “Montville, Ohio Film, 11/6/1957”

According to Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a scientific advisor to the Air Force and a professor of Astronomy at Northwestern University, the insufficient data category contained the most problematic sightings. Often a number of these sightings contained all of the required evidence involving location, time, and weather, among others, but the data was so poor that it proved impossible for investigators to conclude any possible logical explanation.

(Local Identifier: 341-PBB-523) “Coburn, Virginia Film February – April, 1959”

When submitting reports to the USAF, individuals often included supplemental photographic prints and negatives that, from their perspective, proved the accuracy of these sightings. The Air Force made copies of the prints and negatives before returning the originals back to the observers, and these copies provided additional information used in the investigative process. These photographs now make up the series 341-PBB “Project “BLUE BOOK””.

(Local Identifier: 341-PBB-620) “Naha, Okinawa Film October 6-7, 1962”

While several of these photographs do provide clear images of the sky and objects, many of the images used as evidence resemble those seen below in the Australia Life Photos from March 1966.

(Local Identifier: 341-PBB-715) “Australia Life Photos, 3/1/1966”

At the conclusion of the report, the USAF determined that no UFO reported posed a threat to national security after evaluation. Additionally, the Air Force determined that none of the unidentified sightings highlighted any technological developments that are not possible with present scientific knowledge and these sightings did not include substantial proof of extraterrestrial vehicles visiting Earth. Even though they did not discover any extraterrestrial elements in the reported sightings, the USAF did not deny the possibility of life on other planets and the Project Blue Book Information Office encourages individuals with a knowledge of extraterrestrial life to submit their claims and evidence for review.

For more information about Project Blue Book holdings across NARA, visit the Project BLUE BOOK – Unidentified Flying Objects formation page.

Interested in more Project Blue Book Special Media offerings? Check out these previous posts about motion picture records related to the project.

Project Blue Book: Home Movies in UFO Reports

Project Blue Book: Spotting UFOs in the Film Record

2 thoughts on “Aliens at the Archives

  1. Project Blue Book pics + analysis would make for a fantastic exhibit.

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