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Hynek 12/17/66 Sat. Eve. Post article - Pt. 1

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From: Jerry Cohen <rjcohen@li.net>
Web Site: CohenUFO.org
Date: Tue, 15 Dec 1998 22:06:42 -0400
Fwd Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 10:16:52 -0500
Subject: Hynek 12/17/66 Sat. Eve. Post article - Pt. 1

            "Spock put his hands to McCoy's head
             and whispered .........'Remember!' "

   This is the 12/17/66 Saturday Evening Post article that fully
ignited the controversy that still exists today. In it, Dr.
Hynek speaks about his years examining the UFO phenomenon and
insight into why he finally decided to publish this letter.

   A URL for a brief summation of the article will appear at the
end of this two-part post as well as some links to quotes from
Hynek's "The UFO Experience," in which he explains the reasons &
depth of his disagreement with the Air Force.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Begin Sat. Eve. Post article - Pt. 1:


For years the Air Force has dismissed them as hoaxes,
hallucinations or misidentifications. Now the Air Force's own
scientific consultant on unidentified flying objects declares
that many of the sightings cannot be so easily explained.

On August 25, 1966, an Air Force officer in charge of a missile
crew in North Dakota suddenly found that his radio transmissions
was being interrupted by static. At the time, he was sheltered
in a concrete capsule 60 feet below the ground. While he was
trying to clear up the problem, other Air Force personnel on the
surface reported seeing a UFO--an unidentified flying object
high in the sky. It had a bright red light, and it appeared to
be alternately climbing and descending. Simultaneously, a radar
crew on the ground picked up the UFO at 100,000 feet.

So begins a truly puzzling UFO report--one that is not
explainable as it now stands by such familiar causes as a
balloon, aircraft, satellite or meteor.  "When the UFO climbed,
the static stopped," stated the report made by the base's
director of operations. "The UFO began to swoop and dive. It
then appeared to land ten to fifteen miles south of the area.
Missile-site control sent a strike team (well-armed Air Force
guards) to check. When the team was about ten miles from the
landing site, static disrupted radio contact with them. Five to
eight minutes later the glow diminished, and the UFO took off.
Another UFO was visually sighted and confirmed by radar. The one
that was first sighted passed beneath the second. Radar also
confirmed this. The first made for altitude toward the north,
and the second seemed to disappear with the glow of red."

This incident, which was not picked up by the press, is typical
of the puzzling cases that I have studied during the 18 years
that I have served as the Air Force's scientific consultant on
the problem of UFO's. What makes the report especially arresting
is the fact that another incident occurred near the base a few
days earlier. A police officer--a reliable man---saw in broad
daylight what he called "an object on its edge floating down the
side of a hill, wobbling from side to side about ten feet from
the ground. When it reached the valley floor, it climbed to
about one hundred feet, still tipped on its edge, and moved
across the valley to a small reservoir."

The object which was about 30 feet in diameter, next appeared to
flatten out, and a small dome became visible on top. It hovered
over the water for about a minute, then moved to a small field,
where it appeared to be landing. It did not touch the ground,
however, but hovered at a height of about 10 feet some 250 feet
away from the witness, who was standing by his parked patrol
car. The object then tilted up and disappeared rapidly into the
clouds. A fantastic story, yet I interviewed the witness in this
case and am personally satisfied that he is above reproach.

During the years that I have been its consultant, the Air Force
has consistently argued that UFO's were either hoaxes,
hallucinations or misinterpretations of natural phenomena. For
the most part I would agree with the Air Force. As a
professional astronomer--I am chairman of the department of
astronomy at Northwestern University--I have had no trouble
explaining the vast majority of the reported sightings.

But I cannot explain them all. Of the 15,000 cases that have
come to my attention, several hundred are puzzling, and some of
the puzzling incidents, perhaps one in 25, are bewildering. I
have wanted to learn much more about these cases than I have
been able to get from either the reports or the witnesses.

These special cases have been reported by highly respected,
intelligent people who often had technical training --
astronomers, airport -tower operators, anthropologists, Air
Force officer, FBI personnel, physicians, meteorologists,
pilots, radar operators, test pilots and university professors.
I have argued for years within the Air Force that these unusual
cases needed much more study than they were getting. Now,
finally, the Air Force has begun a serious scientific
investigation of the UFO phenomena. (J.C. The Colorado, Condon

The public, I am certain, wants to know what to believe--what
can be believed--about the "flying saucer" stories that seem to
be growing more sensational all the time. With all loyalty to
the Air Force, and with a deep appreciation of its problems, I
now feel it my duty to discuss the UFO mystery fully and
frankly. I speak as a scientist with unique experience. To the
best of my knowledge, I am the only scientist who has spent
nearly 20 years monitoring the UFO situation in this and other
countries and who has also read many thousands of reports and
personally interviewed many sighters of UFO's.

Getting at the truth of "flying saucers" has been
extraordinarily difficult because the subject automatically
engenders such instantaneous reactions and passionate beliefs.
Nearly all of my scientific colleagues, I regret to say, have
scoffed at the reports of UFO's as so much balderdash, although
this was a most unscientific reaction since virtually none of
them had ever studied the evidence. Until recently my friends in
the physical sciences wouldn't even discuss UFO's with me. The
subject, in fact, rarely came up. My friends were obviously
mystified as to how I, a scientist, could have gotten mixed up
with "flying saucers" in the first place. It was a little as
though I had been an opera singer who had suddenly taken it into
his head to perform in a cabaret. It was all too embarrassing to
bring up in polite conversation.

While the scientists were chuckling at UFO's, a number of groups
of zealous citizens were telling the public that "flying
saucers" did indeed exist. The believers in UFO's charged the
Air Force with concealing the existence of "flying saucers" to
avoid a public panic. Since I was the Air Force's consultant,
these groups accused me of selling out as a scientist, because I
did not admit that UFO's existed. I was the Air Force's stooge.,
its tame astronomer, a man more concerned with preserving his
consultant's fee than with disclosing the truth to the public.

I received many letters attacking me for not attacking the Air
Force. One typical writer pointed out that as a scientist my
first allegiance was to "fact." he went on to state, "Any person
who has closely followed the UFO story knows that many reports
have been 'explained away' in a manner that can only be called

Another typical letter declared: "In spite of the fact that the
[Air Force} claims (or is instructed to claim) that UFO's do not
exist, I think that common sense tells most of us that they do.
There have been too many responsible people through the years
that have had terrifying experiences involving UFO's. I think
our Government insults the intelligence of our people in keeping
information regarding UFO's from them."

The question of UFO's has developed into a battle of faiths. One
side, which is dedicated to the Air Force position and backed up
by the "scientific establishment," knows that UFO's do not
exist; the other side knows that UFO's represent something
completely new in human experience. And then we have the rest of
the world, the great majority of people who if they think about
the subject at all, don't know what to think.

The question of whether or not UFO's exist should not be a
battle of faiths. It must be a subject for calm, reasoned,
scientific analysis.

In 1948, when I first heard of the UFO's, I thought they were
sheer nonsense, as any scientist would have. Most of the early
reports were quite vague: "I went into the bathroom for a drink
of water and looked out of the window and saw a bright light in
the sky. It was moving up and down and sideways. When I looked
again, it was gone."

At the time, I was director of the observatory at Ohio State
University in Columbus. One day I had a visit from several men
from the technical center at Wright-Patterson Air Force base,
which was only 60 miles away in Dayton. With some obvious
embarrassment, the men eventually brought up the subject of
"flying saucers" and asked me if I would care to serve as
consultant to the Air Force on the matter.

The job didn't seem as though it would take too much time, so I
agreed. When I began reviewing cases, I assumed that there was a
natural explanation for all of the sighting--or at least there
would be if we could find out enough data about the more
puzzling incidents. I generally subscribed to the Air Force view
that the sightings were the results of misidentification, hoaxes
or hallucinations.

During the next few years I had no trouble explaining or
discarding most of the cases referred to me, but a few were
baffling enough to make me wonder--cases that the Air Force
would later carry as "unidentified." Let me emphasize the point
that the Air Force made up its own mind on each case; I merely
submitted an opinion. I soon found that the Air Force had a
tendency to upgrade its preliminary explanations while compiling
its yearly summaries; a "possible" aircraft often became a
"probable" aircraft. I was reminded of the Greek legend of
Procrustes, who tried to fit all men to his single bed. If they
were too long, he chopped them off; if they were too short, he
stretched them out.

Public statements to the contrary, the Air Force has never
really devoted enough money or attention to the problem of UFO's
to get to the bottom of the puzzling cases. The Air Force's UFO
evaluation program, known as "Project Blue Book," is housed in
one room at Wright-Patterson. For most of its history Project
Blue Book has been headed by a captain. This fact alone will
tell anyone familiar with military procedures the relative
position of Project Blue Book on the Air Force's organization
chart. The staff, which has usually consisted of two officers
and a sergeant, has had to try to decide, on the basis of
sketchy statements, the causes of all UFO sightings reported to
the Air Force. From 1947 through 1965, Project Blue Book
reviewed 10,147 cases. Using the Air Force's criteria, the
project identified 9,501, leaving over 600 that were carried as

By 1952 my feeling that the Air Force was not investigating the
reports seriously enough led me to write a paper suggesting that
the subject deserved much closer study. In 1953 the Air Force
did give UFO's more attention, although not nearly enough, to my
mind. A panel of some of the top scientists in the country was
assembled under the direction of Howard P. Robertson, a
distinguished physicist from Cal Tech. The Robertson panel
discussed UFO's for four days. Most of the cases, incidentally,
were not as puzzling as some of the ones we have now. What was
more, the panel was given only 15 reports for detailed study out
of the several hundred that had been made up to that time,
although it did quickly review many others. This was akin to
asking Madame Curie to examine a small fraction of the
pitchblende she distilled and still expecting her to come out
with radium.

I was listed as an associate member of the panel, but my role
was really more that of an observer.  After completing its brief
survey, the panel concluded that "the evidence presented on
unidentified flying objects showed no indication that these
phenomena constitute a direct physical threat to the national
security," and that "we firmly believe there is no residuum of
cases which indicate phenomena which are attributable to foreign
artifacts capable of hostile acts, and that there is no evidence
that the phenomena indicated a need for revision of current
scientific concepts." It is interesting to note the phrase "we
firmly believe," a phrase more appropriate to the cloth than to
the scientific fraternity.

The Robertson report immediately because the main justification
of the Air Force's position--there is nothing to worry
about--and it so remains to this day. I was not asked to sign
the report, but I would not have signed if I had been asked. I
felt that the question was more complicated than the panel
believed and that history might look back someday and say that
the panel had acted hastily. The men took just four days to make
a judgment upon a perplexing subject that I had studied for more
than five years without being able to solve to my satisfaction.

In 1953, the year of the Robertson report, there occurred one of
the most puzzling cases that I have studied. It was reported
first in Black Hawk, S. Dak., and then in Bismarck, N. Dak.,
during the night of August 5 and the early morning of August 6.
A number of persons in Black Hawk reported seeing several
strange objects in the sky. What made these reports particularly
significant was the fact that these people were trained
observers--they were part of the national network of civilians
who were keeping watch for enemy bombers.

At approximately the same time, unidentified blips showed up on
the radarscope at Ellsworth Air Force Base, which is near Black
Hawk. An airborne F-84 fighter was vectored into the area and
reported seeing the UFO's. The pilot radioed that one of the
objects appeared to be over Piedmont S. Dak., and was moving
twice as fast as his jet fighter. It was "brighter than the
brightest star" he had ever seen. When the pilot gave chase, the
light "just disappeared." Five civilians on the ground, who had
watched the jet chase the light, confirmed the pilot's report.

Later a second F-84 was sent aloft and directed toward the UFO,
which still showed on ground radar. After several minutes, the
pilot reported seeing an object with a light of varying
intensity that alternated from white to green. While the pilot
was pursuing the UFO, he noted that his gunsight light had
flashed on, indicating that his plane's radar was picking up a
target. The object was directly ahead of his aircraft but at a
slightly greater altitude. It then climbed very rapidly. When
the pilot saw he was hopelessly losing ground, he broke off the
chase. Radar operators on the ground tracked the fighter coming
back from the chase, while the UFO continued on out of range of
the scope.

As the object sped off to the north, Ellsworth Air Force Base
notified the spotter's control center in Bismarck, 220 miles to
the north, where a sergeant then went out on the roof and saw a
UFO. The Air Force had no planes in Bismarck that could be sent
after the UFO, which finally disappeared later that night.

I investigated this reported sighting myself and was unable to
find a satisfactory explanation. In my report, I noted that "the
entire incident, in my opinion, has too much of an Alice in
Wonderland flavor for comfort."

It was about this time that some firm believers in UFO's became
disgusted with the Air Force and decided to take matters into
their own hands, much like the vigilantes of the Old West; they
organized "to do the job the Air Force was mishandling." These
groups composed of people with assorted backgrounds, were often
the recipients of intriguing reports that never came to the
official attention of Project Blue Book. The first group of this
kind in the United States was the APRO (Aerial Phenomena
Research Organization), founded in 1952 and still going strong,
as is NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial
Phenomena) which was organized several years later.

As the years went by, I learned more and more about the global
nature of UFO sightings. At first I had assumed that it was a
purely American phenomenon, like swallowing goldfish. But
reports of sightings kept coming in from around the world until
70 countries were on the list. As a scientist, I naturally was
interested in correlating all of the data; a zoologist studying
red ants in Utah, say, wants to find out about a new species
found along the Amazon. But when I suggested to the Air Force
that the air attaches abroad be used to gather reports on
foreign sightings, I was turned down. No one in a position of
authority seemed to want to take up the time of the officers
with such an embarrassing subject.

Gradually, I began to accumulate cases that I really couldn't
explain, cases reported by reliable, sincere people whom I often
interviewed in person. I found that the persons making these
reports were often not acquainted with UFO's before their
experience, which baffled and thoroughly frightened them.
Fearing ridicule, they were often reluctant to report the
sighting and did so only out of a sense of duty and a tremendous
desire to get a rational explanation for their irrational
experience. One typical letter to me concluded with the
sentence: "Hoping you don't think I'm nuts but not caring if you
do, Sincerely," . . .

Continued in Hynek 12/17/66 Sat. Eve. Post article.2

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