Read an Excerpt
The UFO-FBI Connection
I would do it, but we first must have access to all discs recovered . . .
-J. Edgar Hoover, July 11, 1947
A teletype machine at the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. suddenly sprang to life and began noisily typing out an urgent message from a Special Agent in Charge (SAC):
5:37 PM MST (Mountain Standard Time) URGENT
TO: DIRECTOR, FBI
FROM SAC, ALBUQUERQUE 62 NEW MEXICO
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT SOCORRO, NM
The message described the object sighted by Lonnie Zamora, a respected police officer in Socorro, New Mexico, on April 24, 1964. Zamora had seen a strange, unidentified object, and two humanlike creatures on the ground near Socorro. The object then took off with a roaring noise and left indentations in the ground. He radioed for help, and other officers arrived only minutes after it had disappeared in the distance, but in time to see Zamora looking pale and shaken. Minutes later the FBI arrived. SAC Arthur Byrnes, acting in an unofficial capacity, interviewed Zamora and sent a teletype message to FBI headquarters the next day. Over the next few weeks he sent several more messages to headquarters concerning the results of the Air Force investigation of this incident (described further in chapter 23) which, to this day, remains unexplained.
This is just one of the UFO sightings contained within FBI file #62-83894, the file on flying discs-the real X-Files!
But, how can this be? Surely the FBI wouldn't get involved with anything as crazy as UFOs and flying saucers. The FBI does not currently investigate UFO sightings (or so they say). But that wasn't always the case.
Fact: In July 1966 a TV-show writer asked the FBI for help in verifying the identity of a source of UFO information.
Fact: Director John Edgar Hoover responded that "the investigation of unidentified flying objects is not, and never has been, a matter within the investigative jurisdiction of the FBI [emphasis added]."
Question: Had Hoover lied?
Since 1980, a controversy has raged over exactly what crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, in early July 1947. On July 8, the Army Air Corps (the Air Corps or Air Force was a branch of the Army until September 18, 1947) at Roswell Army Air Field, by direction of the base commander, Col. William Blanchard, issued a press release that stated a flying saucer had crashed on nearby ranch land and had been retrieved by Army personnel operating under the direction of Maj. Jesse Marcel, the base intelligence officer. The press release said the wreckage was being flown to "higher headquarters." Several hours later Maj. Gen. Clements McMullen, Deputy Commander of the Strategic Air Command at the Pentagon, called Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, Commander of the 8th Air Force at Fort Worth Army Air Field in Texas. Col. Thomas DuBose, Ramey's Adjutant at the time, took the phone call from McMullen. In interviews forty years later, DuBose reported that McMullen ordered Ramey to squash the story, in order to "get the press off our back." Gen. Ramey invented an explanation. He told the press reporters that the material retrieved in the desert near Roswell had been identified as a weather balloon, and stated that a special flight to transport the material to Wright Field for analysis (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Dayton, Ohio, had been cancelled.
Col. William Blanchard, Roswell base commander (left) and Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, 8th Army Air Force, Fort Worth (right).
About thirty years later, Jesse Marcel, retired from active duty in the Air Force, and told UFO investigators that, while the general was telling the press it was a weather balloon device, the real material was flown by a special flight to Wright Field. The investigators knew that material from a weather balloon could have been identified by almost anyone. It surely would not have to be flown to Wright Field for analysis and identification.
Could it be, UFO investigators wondered, that Marcel's recollection was incorrect? Was there really no special flight, in which case the material probably was from a weather balloon? It turns out that the answer was buried in the FBI file!
Fact: At 6:17 p.m., July 8, 1947, the local FBI agent in Texas filed an urgent report via teletype, which said an object had been found that "resembles a high altitude balloon with a radar reflector." However, "telephonic conversation . . . (with) Wright field had not borne out this belief." The teletype message also said that the material is "being transported to Wright Field by special plane for examination." Thus it appears that Jesse Marcel was correct: the special flight had not been cancelled.*
Fact: Immediately after the first publicized reports of flying saucers, starting with Kenneth Arnold's sighting on June 24, 1947, the press asked the Air Force if there was some new, secret aircraft project that could account for the saucer reports.
*Thirty years later, Oliver Wendell "Pappy" Henderson confirmed that there was a flight to Wright Field. He was a well-known WWII pilot (thirty missions over Germany) who flew scientists and military observers to and from atomic bomb tests in the late 1940s while he was stationed at Roswell. He had a Top Secret security clearance. In 1977, he told John Kromschroeder of his involvement in the Roswell crash incident. He told Kromschroeder that he had been the pilot who flew the Roswell material to Wright Field. Furthermore, he told him that he had seen the wreckage and alien bodies! Four years later Henderson told his wife, Sappho, and his daughter, Mary, the same story. (Henderson died in 1986.)
Gen. Ramey would turn up again five years later in a role of explainer or debunker at another press conference during the peak of the UFO sighting activity in the summer of 1952. (This is discussed in chapter 19.)
In the summer of 1994 the Air Force essentially admitted that Ramey lied when he said the Roswell material was from a weather balloon with a radar target. Instead, said the Air Force, the material was from a formerly Top Secret balloon project intended to detect Soviet nuclear explosions, Project Mogul. This explanation failed to convince many UFO investigators since the Mogul balloon devices were essentially large arrays of balloons like the weather balloons. The balloon materials and associated parts would have been quickly recognized as such by the highly trained Air Force personnel at Roswell Army Air Field. On June 24, 1997, the 50th anniversary of the first widely reported sighting of flying discs or saucers (see below), the Air Force published yet another explanation of the Roswell event. Several of the Roswell witnesses had reported small human-shaped but nonhuman bodies associated with the crash. The Air Force proposed that these were actually parachute test dummies used to test high altitude escape mechanisms. These anthropomorphic dummies were dropped numerous times in the Southwest during experiments in the 1950s. However, the Air Force explanation was rejected by ufologists.
The Air Force said, "No."
Brig. Gen. George Schulgen, Chief of the Air Intelligence Requirements Division, Army Air Corps Intelligence.
Fact: On July 8, 1947, flying saucers were sighted at Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) in California by Air Force personnel. (This was the same day that the Roswell press release claimed that a crashed disc had been found.) The Air Force immediately took a serious interest in flying saucers.
Fact: On July 9, 1947, Brig. Gen. George Schulgen, Chief of the Air Intelligence Requirements Division of the Army Air Corps Intelligence, asked the FBI to help investigate the saucer reports. He wanted to know if the reports were the result of attempts by communist sympathizers or Soviet agents in the United States "to cause hysteria and fear of a secret Russian weapon." Were the witnesses providing honest reports or were they publicity seekers? Did they have a political agenda? The general wanted the FBI to try to answer these questions.
Schulgen told the FBI that his intelligence organization was using "all of its scientists" to determine whether or not "such a phenomenon could, in fact, occur." He, several scientists, and a psychologist, had interrogated an Air Force pilot who saw one. Under the intense questioning the pilot "was adamant in his claim that he saw a flying disc." Schulgen said that the research "is being conducted with the thought that the flying objects might be a celestial phenomenon, and with the view that they might be a foreign body mechanically devised and controlled." In other words, the the craft might have a foreign origin (that is, from Russia) or a celestial origin. (This would not be the last time the FBI would learn of the possibility of a "celestial" origin.) Gen. Schulgen assured the FBI that there was no defense project that could account for flying disc reports and offered to work closely with the FBI. He said he would make available to the FBI "reports of his scientists and findings of the various Air Corps installations," and "if the Bureau would cooperate with him in this matter, he would offer all facilities of his office as to results obtained in the effort to identify and run down this matter."
(Two years later, a well-publicized magazine story would state that Air Force Intelligence was very reluctant to investigate flying saucer sightings because the intelligence officers thought there was nothing to them.)
By this time, in the summer of 1947, the nationally distributed newspapers had publicized dozens of sightings of circular, shiny metallic objects, dubbed "flying saucers" by the press. These included the June 24 sighting by Kenneth Arnold (the first widely reported sighting, which has never been explained!) and the sighting of nine saucers by Capt. E. J. Smith and crew of a United Air Lines flight on July 4 (which has also not been explained). Many years later, UFO investigators, searching through thousands of local newspapers, discovered that there had been not just a few dozen, and not even just a few hundred, but several thousand sightings throughout the United States during this period, and many in other countries, too. Most of the local sightings were not reported in the national newspapers. Therefore, when Gen. Schulgen approached the FBI for help, no one in the government or military knew the true scope of the "flying saucer situation."
Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, first director of the Air Force's Project Blue Book.
Fact: Hoover said, "I would do it!"
Assistant FBI Director David M. Ladd thought that interviewing saucer witnesses was a bad idea, "it being noted that a great bulk of those alleged discs reported found have been pranks." However, Clyde Tolson, Hoover's "right hand man" disagreed. "I think we should do this," he wrote to Hoover. Hoover agreed with Tolson, but under a certain condition: "I would do it, but first we must have access to all discs recovered. For example, in the La. case the Army grabbed it and would not let us have it for cursory examination." Hoover required access to any disc recovered because it was the job of the FBI, through its laboratory facilities, to determine the origin of the parts that made up the disc. If some of the parts did not originate in the United States then there was the possibility that the disc was a form of sabotage or psychological warfare being waged against the U.S. by a foreign country.
The phrase "La. case" refers to a hoax device found in Shreveport, Louisiana on July 7. Someone had put together a model "flying saucer" and tossed it into someone else's backyard as a joke. Army intelligence agents had learned of it, and retrieved it for analysis before the local FBI agent had a chance to look at it. Nothing unusual was found; some electronic and mechanical parts with the words "Made in USA" written on it. The Shreveport case was not the only such hoax case in the FBI files from this time. Apparently some people thought the saucer sightings were a complete joke, and decided to have fun at other people's expense. The files indicate a dozen or so hoaxes among the hundreds of honest reports.
Hoover officially approved of Tolson's recommendation and thus began a two-month period of official investigation followed by many years in which the FBI collected UFO-related information from the Air Force, and other sources. The FBI, with its penchant for collecting all sorts of information that might be of value to Hoover, did all this secretly.
In 1976, when I requested the FBI to release any UFO information under the newly passed Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIPA), I didn't expect to get anything. There had never been explicit evidence that the FBI was ever involved in UFO investigations. One person who should have known was Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, the first director of Project Blue Book, which was the publicly known UFO investigation project of the Air Force from 1952 to 1969. He wrote a history of the first eight years of Air Force flying saucer investigations, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (Doubleday, New York, 1956). According to Ruppelt, the FBI "was never officially interested" in UFO sightings. Therefore I was surprised to learn that there were well over a thousand pages of UFO-related material in the FBI's "X-files." I found that the FBI file contains some early records not in the files of Project Blue Book, which the Air Force claimed was the complete, official Air Force collection of UFO sightings and documents. Of greater interest is the fact that it contains comments and opinions state by Air Force officers who were involved in the early years; comments such as "some military officials are seriously considering the possibility of interplanetary ships"!