traffic had begun to drop off, and they were about ready to close down their operation when one of the crew picked up a slow-moving target coming across the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles. He tracked the target for a few minutes and, from the speed and altitude, decided that it was a DC-3. It was at 11,000 feet and traveling about 180 miles an hour toward Santa Monica. The operator was about ready to yell at the other crew members to shut off the set when he noticed something mighty odd-- there was a big gap between the last and the rest of the regularly spaced bright spots on the radarscope. The man on the scope called the rest of the crew in because DC-3's just don't triple their speed. They watched the target as it made a turn and started to climb over Los Angeles. They plotted one, two, three, and then four points during the target's climb; then one of the crew grabbed a slide rule. Whatever it was, it was climbing 35,000 feet per minute and traveling about 550 miles an hour in the process. Then as they watched the scope, the target leveled out for a few seconds, went into a high- speed dive, and again leveled out at 55,000 feet. When they lost the target, it was heading southeast somewhere near Riverside, California.
During the sighting my caller told me that when the UFO was only about ten miles from the radar site two of the crew had gone outside but they couldn't see anything. But, he explained, even the high- flying jets that they had been tracking hadn't been leaving vapor trails.
The first thing I asked when the Hughes test engineer finished his story was if the radar set had been working properly. He said that as soon as the UFO had left the scope they had run every possible check on the radar and it was O.K.
I was just about to ask my caller if the target might not have been some experimental airplane from Edwards AFB when he second-guessed me. He said that after sitting around looking at each other for about a minute, someone suggested that they call Edwards. They did, and Edwards' flight operations told them that they had nothing in the area.
I asked him about the weather. The target didn't look like a weather target was the answer, but just to be sure, the test crew had checked. One of his men was an electronics-weather specialist whom he had hired because of his knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of radar under certain weather conditions. This man had looked into the weather angle. He had gotten the latest weather data and checked it, but there wasn't the slightest indication of an inversion or any other weather that would cause a false target.
Just before I hung up I asked the man what he thought he and his crew had
picked up, and once again I got the same old answer: "Yesterday at this time any of us would have argued for hours that flying saucers were a bunch of nonsense but now, regardless of what you'll say about what we saw, it was something damned real."
I thanked the man for calling and hung up. We couldn't make any more of an analysis of this report than had already been made, it was another unknown.
I went over to the MO file and pulled out the stack of cards behind the tab "High-Speed Climb." There must have been at least a hundred cards, each one representing a UFO report in which the reported object made a high-speed climb. But this was the first time radar had tracked a UFO during a climb.
During the early part of June, Project Blue Book took another jump up on the organizational chart. A year before the UFO project had consisted of one officer. It had risen from the one-man operation to a project within a group, then to a group, and now it was a section. Neither Project Sign nor the old Project Grudge had been higher than the project-within-a-group level. The chief of a group normally calls for a lieutenant colonel, and since I was just a captain this caused some consternation in the ranks. There was some talk about putting Lieutenant Colonel Ray Taylor of Colonel Dunn's staff in charge. Colonel Taylor was very much interested in UFO's; he had handled some of the press contacts prior to turning this function over to the Pentagon and had gone along with me on briefings, so he knew something about the project. But in the end Colonel Donald Bower, who was my division chief, decided rank be damned, and I stayed on as chief of Project Blue Book.
The location within the organizational chart is always indicative of the importance placed on a project. In June 1952 the Air Force was taking the UFO problem seriously. One of the reasons was that there were a lot of good UFO reports coming in from Korea. Fighter pilots reported seeing silver-colored spheres or disks on several occasions, and radar in Japan, Okinawa, and in Korea had tracked unidentified targets.
In June our situation map, on which we kept a plot of all of our sightings, began to show an ever so slight trend toward reports beginning to bunch up on the east coast. We discussed this build-up, but we couldn't seem to find any explainable reason for it so we decided that we'd better pay special attention to reports coming from the eastern states.
I had this build-up of reports in mind one Sunday night, June 15 to be exact, when the OD at ATIC called me at home and said that we were getting a lot of reports from Virginia. Each report by itself wasn't too good, the OD told me,