was blinking out the airplane, but still no airplane. Whatever it was, it was darn high or darn small. It was moving about 300 miles an hour because he had to pull off power and "S" to stay under it.
He was beginning to get low on fuel about this time so he hauled up the nose of the jet, took about 30 feet of gun camera film, and started down. When he landed and told his story, the film was quickly processed and rushed to the projection room. It showed a weird, thin, forked vapor trail--but no airplane.
Lieutenant Olsson and Airman Futch had worked this one over thoroughly. The photo lab confirmed that the trail was definitely a vapor trail, not a freak cloud formation. But Air Force Flight Service said, "No other airplanes in the area," and so did Air Defense Command, because minutes after the F-84 pilot broke off contact, the "object" had passed into an ADIZ--Air Defense Identification Zone--and radar had shown nothing.
There was one last possibility: Blue Book's astronomer said that the photos looked exactly like a meteor's smoke trail. But there was one hitch: the pilot was positive that the head of the vapor trail was moving at about 300 miles an hour. He didn't know exactly how much ground he'd covered, but when he first picked up Blythe Radio he was on Green 5 airway, about 30 miles west of his base, and when he'd given up the chase he'd gotten another radio bearing, and he was now almost up to Needles Radio, 70 miles north of Blythe. He could see a lake, Lake Mojave, in the distance.
Could a high-altitude jet-stream wind have been blowing the smoke cloud? Futch had checked this--no. The winds above 20,000 feet were the usual westerlies and the jet stream was far to the north.
Several months later I talked to a captain who had been at Luke when this sighting occurred. He knew the F-84 pilot and he'd heard him tell his story in great detail. I won't say that he was a confirmed believer, but he was interested. "I never thought much about these reports before," he said, "but I know this guy well. He's not nuts. What do you think he saw?"
I don't know what he saw. Maybe he didn't travel as far as he thought he did. If he didn't, then I'd guess that he saw a meteor's smoke trail. But if he did know that he'd covered some 80 miles during the chase, I'd say that he saw a UFO--a real one. And I find it hard to believe that pilots don't know what they're doing.
During the summer of 1953, UFO reports dropped off considerably. During May, June, and July of 1952 we'd received 637 good reports. During the same months in 1953 we received only seventy-six. We had been waiting for the magic month of July to roll around again because every July there had been the sudden and unexplained peak in reporting; we wanted to know if it would happen again.
It didn't-- only twenty-one reports came in, to make July the lowest month of the year. But July did bring new developments.
Project Blue Book got a badly needed shot in the arm when an unpublicized but highly important change took place: another intelligence agency began to take over all field investigations.
Ever since I'd returned to the project, the orders had been to build it up--get more people--do what the panel recommended. But when I'd asked for more people, all I got was a polite "So sorry." So, I did the next best thing and tried to find some organization already in being which could and would help us. I happened to be expounding my troubles one day at Air Defense Command Headquarters while I was briefing General Burgess, ADC's Director of Intelligence, and he told me about his 4602nd Air Intelligence Squadron, a specialized intelligence unit that had recently become operational. Maybe it could help--he'd see what he could work out, he told me.
Now in the military all commitments to do something carry an almost standard time factor. "I'll expedite it," means nothing will happen for at least two weeks. "I'll do it right away," means from a month to six weeks. An answer like, "I'll see what I can work out," requires writing a memo that explains what the person was going to see if he could work out and sealing it in a time capsule for preservation so that when the answer finally does come through the future generation that receives it will know how it all started. But I underestimated the efficiency of the Air Defense Command. Inside of two weeks General Burgess had called General Garland, they'd discussed the problem, and I was back in Colorado Springs setting up a program with Colonel White's 4602nd.
The 4602nd's primary function is to interrogate captured enemy airmen during wartime; in peacetime all that they can do is participate in simulated problems. Investigating UFO reports would supplement these problems and add a factor of realism that would be invaluable in their training. The 4602nd had field teams spread out all over the United States, and these teams could travel anywhere by airplane, helicopter, canoe, jeep, or skis on a minute's notice. The field teams had already established a working contact with the highway patrols, sheriffs' offices, police, and the other military in their respective areas, so they were in an excellent position to collect facts about a UFO report. Each member of the field teams had been especially chosen and trained in the art of interrogation, and each team had a technical specialist. We couldn't have asked for a better ally.
Project Blue Book was once more back in business. Until the formal paper work went through, our plan was that whenever a UFO report worth investigating came in we would call the 4602nd and they would get a team out