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Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, the chief of Project Blue Book in 1952, reported that the year had started slowly, with only a few UFO sighting reports trickling in. In his attempt to revitalize the UFO investigation, and to ensure that the Air Force was receiving as many UFO sightings as possible, he had subscribed to a newspaper clipping service. The service would search the nation's newspapers and send to Ruppelt and Project Blue Book anything that related to his interest in flying saucers, alien craft, UFOs, and similar anomalies.
According to Ruppelt, "In March  the clipping service was sending the clippings to us in letter-sized envelopes. The envelopes were thin maybe there would be a dozen or so clippings in each one. Then they began to get thicker and thicker, until the people who were doing the clipping switched to using manila envelopes. Then the manila envelopes began to get thicker and thicker. By May we were up to old shoe boxes."
In April 1952, Life magazine, one of the most respected of the national publications, reviewed the flying saucer situation in an article entitled "Have We Visitors from Outer Space?" The article, according to press releases from the Air Force and the Pentagon, used official sources, including Project Blue Book, and was, more or less, approved by the Air Force. Key to this article as opposed to others that had run in the five years since the Kenneth Arnold sighting in Washington state had put flying saucers on the front page in June 1947 was the question that wasbeing posed in the article's tide, "Have We visitors from Outer Space?" Life's answer seemed to be a qualified "Maybe."
Ruppelt, as well as others in the Air Force, thought that the treatment by Life that is, suggesting that the government was taking the idea of flying saucers seriously would lead to an increase in UFO reports. According to Ruppelt, the day after the article appeared, Project Blue Book received nine new reports. The next day, the numbers dropped back to what he considered normal.
Ruppelt's belief, as well as the expectation of the Air Force, that more sightings would be reported after Life's article, is fairly standard in the UFO field. Publicity, according to the theory, inspires people to make UFO sighting reports. Whenever a big-name, respected magazine reports on the topic of UFOs with a serious attitude, people begin to feel more secure in their observations and make their reports to the authorities. Not only do they learn where to report their sightings, but those seeking the spotlight will attempt to find it with a UFO report.
The theory, however, has been tested in the past and has failed to produce new waves of sighting reports. True, a men's magazine of the 1950s that had a good reputation for exposé, high-quality articles, and even some top fiction, reported on flying saucers in articles by Major Donald E. Keyhoe. Those articles suggested that the Air Force had been less than candid with the public in their investigations and findings about UFOs. Keyhoe, in a theme that he would exploit for decades, suggested a cover-up secret studies, secret conclusions, and an attempt by the government in general and the Air Force in particular to mislead the public. Keyhoe's articles, appearing in a then reputable magazine, did not spark waves of sightings.
In late August and early September 1951, a series of interesting sightings over Lubbock, Texas, received widespread publicity, especially in the Southwest. The first newspaper article about the sightings appeared when four college professors saw a group of glowing, dim lights one evening over Lubbock. After the group of objects had disappeared, the professors W.L. Robinson, A.G. Oberg, and W.L. Ducker discussed what they had seen, trying to figure out what the lights might have been. They also tried to determine what to do if the lights returned. An hour or so later, the lights reappeared, and this time the professors were ready to make coordinated, scientific observations.
The lights, on this second pass, were softly glowing, bluish objects in another loose formation. It seemed to the college professors that the first group had been in a more rigid and structured formation than the second, or the later groups they saw that night.
To the professors, the next logical move was to learn if anyone else had seen the objects. Ducker called the local newspaper, the Avalanche, and spoke to the managing editor, Jay Harris, who wasn't very interested in the report. Ducker, however, convinced Harris that a story should be printed. Harris finally agreed but only if Ducker allowed his name to be used. Ducker refused.
But then, a few minutes later, Ducker called back and agreed. In fact, Harris could print the names of all the professors, but only if Harris called the college public relations department and cleared it with them, Harris had no trouble in getting permission to use the names of the professors, and the story was reported in the next issue.
The newspaper story was considered successful because it did result in additional reports. Several others called the editorial offices and claimed to have seen the lights on the same night. That seemed to be some corroboration of the lights seen by the professors. But the important sighting, at least in the minds of the Air Force officers who later investigated, was made by Joe Bryant of Brownsfield, Texas.
Bryant told Air Force officers that he was sitting in his backyard, watching the night sky, when a group of dim lights flew overhead. He described them as having a "kind of a glow, a little bigger than a star." Not long after that, a second small group appeared. Neither of the groups was in any sort of a regular formation, an important clue that the Air Force officers chose to ignore.
Bryant reported there was a...<!CX001>
Invasion Washington. Copyright © by Kevin Randle. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.