The Radiation Story
The idea for gathering together a group of scientists, to whom we referred as our "panel of experts," had been conceived early in 1952-- as soon as serious talk about the possibility that the UFO's might be interplanetary spaceships had taken hold in both military and scientific circles. In fact, when Project Grudge was reorganized in the summer of 1951 the idea had been mentioned, and this was the main reason that our charter had said we were to be only a fact-finding group. The people on previous UFO projects had gone off on tangents of speculation about the identity of the UFO's; they first declared that they were spacecraft, then later, in a complete about-face, they took the whole UFO problem as one big belly laugh. Both approaches had gotten the Air Force into trouble. Why they did this I don't know, because from the start we realized that no one at ATIC, in the Air Force, or in the whole military establishment was qualified to give a final yes or no answer to the UFO problem. Giving a final answer would require a serious decision--probably one of the most serious since the beginning of man.
During 1952 many highly qualified engineers and scientists had visited Project Blue Book and had spent a day or two going over our reports. Some were very much impressed with the reports--some had all the answers.
But all of the scientists who read our reports readily admitted that even though they may have thought that the reports did or did not indicate visitors from outer space, they would want to give the subject a good deal more study before they ever committed themselves in writing. Consequently the people's opinions, although they were valuable, didn't give us enough to base a decision upon. We still needed a group to study our material thoroughly and give us written conclusions and recommendations which could be sent to the President if necessary.
Our panel of experts was to consist of six or eight of the top scientists in the United States. We fully realized that even the Air Force didn't have enough "pull" just to ask all of these people to drop the important work they were engaged in and spend a week or two studying our reports. Nor did we want to do it this way; we wanted to be sure that we had something worth while before asking for their valuable time. So, working through other government agencies,
we organized a preliminary review panel of four people. All of them were competent scientists and we knew their reputations were such that if they recommended that a certain top scientist sit on a panel to review our material he would do it.
In late November 1952 the preliminary review panel met at ATIC for three days.
When the meeting ended, the group unanimously recommended that a "higher court" be formed to review the case of the UFO. In an hour their recommendation was accepted by higher Air Force authorities, and the men proceeded to recommend the members for our proposed panel. They picked six men who had reputations as being both practical and theoretical scientists and who were known to have no biased opinions regarding the UFO's.
The meeting of the panel, which would be held in Washington, was tentatively scheduled for late December or early January--depending upon when all of the scientists who had been asked to attend would be free. At Project Blue Book activity went into high gear as we made preparations for the meeting. But before we were very far along our preparations were temporarily sidetracked--I got a lead on the facts behind a rumor. Normally we didn't pay attention to rumors, but this one was in a different class.
Ever since the Air Force had become interested in UFO reports, the comment of those who had been requested to look them over and give a professional opinion was that we lacked the type of data "you could get your teeth into." In even our best reports we had to rely upon what someone had seen. I'd been told many times that if we had even one piece of information that was substantiated by some kind of recorded proof--a set of cinetheodolite movies of a UFO, a spectrum photograph, or any other kind of instrumented data that one could sit down and study--we would have no difficulty getting almost any scientist in the world interested in actively helping us find the answer to the UFO riddle.
The rumor that caused me to temporarily halt our preparations for the high-level conference involved data that we might be able to get our teeth into.
This is the way it went.
In the fall of 1949, at some unspecified place in the United States, a group of scientists had set up equipment to measure background radiation, the small amount of harmless radiation that is always present in our atmosphere. This natural radiation varies to a certain degree, but will never increase by any appreciable amount unless there is a good reason.
According to the rumor, two of the scientists at the unnamed place were watching the equipment one day when, for no apparent reason, a sudden