New York Skies (Cheryl Costa)

Project Blue Book Origins — Part 1 of 3

Columnist Cheryl Costa begins a three-part series of articles on Project Blue Book.

Back on May 25 of this year, a news item in Variety magazine announced that famed director Robert Zemeckis had teamed up with A&E to produce a 10-episode drama series about Project Blue Book for the History Channel. For those unfamiliar with Blue Book, it was an Air Force’s effort from 1952 to 1969, charged with the responsibility to investigate reports of Unidentified Flying Objects. Let’s take brief a look at the convoluted origins of Project Blue Book.


During World War II numerous bomber crews reported seeing luminous balls and discs in their air space while flying missions. These unknown high performance flying objects became known as “foo fighters.” The Army Air Force’s investigative effort into foo fighters was very first by intelligence officers into the mysterious topic of UFOs.

In 1947, the Air Force separated from the Army and became a branch onto itself. That same year, Air Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Field received orders to direct the Technical Intelligence Division to conduct a classified inquiry into UFOs. The principle reason was that the Air Force had taken a keen interest in UFOs because they had been frequently observed near various sensitive military facilities in the Southwest. In addition, during June and July of that year, UFO reports came in from over 38 states and were widely reported in the press.

Under pressure to come up with answers, Major General L. C. Craigie, director of Research and Development for the Air Force, directed the establishment of a research group code named Project Sign.

After eight months of interviewing highly credible witnesses, conducting investigations and analyzing the data, it was time to report some findings. The Technical Intelligence Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in concert with personnel from Project Sign, decided to author the Estimate of the Situation document.

By all accounts the top secret document allegedly concluded that some of the UFOs were of extraterrestrial origin. These conclusions did not sit well with Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, who was reported to have rejected the Estimate of the Situation findings. It is alleged that all copies of the report were subsequently destroyed.


It’s been my observation that military generals who aren’t happy about the performance of a unit or perhaps the results of a project frequently clean house of at least key command personnel, and sometimes there’s a clean sweep within the ranks.

General Vandenberg, being less than happy or confident with the results of Project Sign, ordered a massive change in personnel. The replacement staff had a new set of operating principles; simply that all these UFO reports could be explained in realistic and conventional terms. The new unit was renamed in February of 1949 with a new code name: Project Grudge.

It was the Project Grudge team that established the cultural perspective that UFOs were:

  1. Misinterpretations of various conventional objects.
  2. A mild form of mass-hysteria and war nerves.
  3. Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetuate a hoax or to seek publicity.
  4. Psychopathological persons.

The Project Grudge team also put forth the concern that an enemy could release strange aerial objects, augmented with psychological propaganda. The effect of an enemy action like this, they proposed, could be used to generate mass hysteria. The Pentagon’s Office of Psychological Warfare confirmed this notion of psychological warfare to induce war nerves and mass fear among the civilian population.

As a secret UFO investigation military entity, Project Grudge didn’t do much better than Project Sign in getting to the bottom of the UFO phenomena. The unit only lasted about eight months. In the final report of their UFO investigations, it listed UFO sighting reports totaling 273. Despite Project Grudge’s policy that UFOs are just misidentified conventional objects, hysteria, war nerves, hoaxes and deranged persons, their final report listed 23 percent, or 63 cases, as “unidentified.”

If you are interested in joining a monthly UFO discussion group in the Onondaga County area, drop Cheryl an email at [email protected]. If you have a UFO sighting to report, you can use either one of the two national database services: or Both services respect confidentiality. Follow me on Twitter @American_Skies.

Attention, Central New York residents: Join a monthly MUFON-sponsored speakers presentation and discussion group in Syracuse. Regularly held the last Saturday of the month, it runs from April 29 through October 28, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m, May Memorial, 3800 E. Genesee St. Plenty of off-street parking is available.


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