|From the movie, "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" 1956|
Ruppelt was the first guy in charge of Project Blue Book, the military organization assigned to collect and investigate UFO reports in the early 50s. He also was quite familiar with Project Grudge, which came before Blue Book in the late 40s.
After 57 years, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects is still a good read, although the reports get a little redundant after awhile. Ruppelt wrote in a very direct and often blunt, common-sense sort of manner, and he seemed to hold the line between debunkery and true belief really well.
His method at the time was to try to explain each sighting some other way, and if that turned out to be impossible, to classify it as 'unknown'.
That strikes me as good practice.
Anyway, a few things stand out about this book after all these years, and I thought I'd just note them here, because they're kind of unexpected.
- Ruppelt never even mentions Roswell. Today, most people have the impression that Roswell was the grandaddy of all UFO reports, the mother of the myth, the beginning of a grand conspiracy. And yet, even though Roswell happened in 1947, you wouldn't know it even happened at all from reading this book from 1955.
- Ruppelt DOES talk about the Maury Island Incident a.k.a. the 'Roswell before Roswell'. Just before Roswell, a weird incident took place near Tacoma, Washington at Maury Island, involving the supposed sighting a several UFOs by some men on a small fishing boat. One of the UFOs was having trouble and supposedly leaked molten metal that burnt one of the fisherman's sons. This incident has been almost completely forgotten. It is significan't because 1) the writer gathering facts about the story was Kevin Arnold (although Ruppelt doesn't name him in 1955 out of courtesy) and this incident took place BEFORE Arnold's famous first sighting of 'flying saucers', 2) the whole thing was hoaxed by a guy who was almost certainly CIA, and last but not least 3) the plane carrying the supposed melted saucer bits (it was just slag) crashed, killing both of the investigators aboard.
- Most of the 1950s UFOs are anomalous lights in the night sky. Unless you read Ruppelt's book you don't get a sense of how dramatically UFO sightings have changed in just 50-odd years. Although a few sightings recounted in this text took place in the daytime and involved silver-grey craft, most were just lights in the night sky that moved oddly and sometimes showed up on radar. A few pilots saw UFOs close up, but even these mostly only saw a glowing red flash, not a craft.
- It is obvious that a sizable number of high-placed military officials took UFOs dead-seriously, and that most of them felt they were interplanetary. The official attitude of the US government today (if indeed there is one) has gone quite cynical, yet you do get the sense reading this Blue Book text that a sizable number of generals wanted serious research done out of the public eye. Ruppelt never says this outright, but he talks about this internal disagreement fairly openly.
- About 25% of the very excellent sightings by military and civilian pilots and other experts remain unsolved to this day. When people talk about UFOs today, usually in a sarcastic or ridiculing manner, they sometimes point out that only a small percentage of sightings are true unknowns. This is just inaccurate. The correct figure is closer to a fourth of all sightings, which is nothing to sneeze at, considering that even back then people were discouraged from reporting anything. Ruppelt estimated that in 1955 only about one in ten sightings was ever reported, and the number is almost certainly lower today. (The US government no longer even accepts UFO reports.)
Clearly at some point US intelligence thought that hyping UFOs and feeding the UFO community disinformation provided some kind of useful cover for something or the other.
The question is, what?
UFO conspiracy theorists would say that this was done to cover up the truth about UFOs.
I personally think it was done for more generic reasons--to distract the public from nuclear weapons testing and other weapons programs; to cover up test flights of experimental military aircraft; to practice 'psy-ops' on a small sector of the US public to see what works; and so forth.
It's kind of like that movie formula where a cynical horror writer who doesn't believe in ghosts makes up a bunch of stories about them and gets rich, only to up discover he lives in an actual haunted house and has no idea of how to handle it.
It's like that, only with spaceships and aliens and the US government.
Anyway, I strongly recommend reading original texts from the early days of UFOs if you can find them.
It'll get yer brain whirring.