Nineteen hundred fifty-six was a big year for Project Blue Book. According to an old friend, Captain George Gregory, who was then Chief of Blue Book, they received 778 reports. And through a lot of sleepless nights they were able to "solve" 97.8% of them. Only 17 remained "unknowns."
Digging through the reports for 1956, outside of the ones already mentioned, there were few real good ones.
In Banning, California, Ground Observer Corps spotters watched a "balloon-like object make three rectangular circuits around the town." In Plymouth, New Hampshire, two GOC spotters reported "a bright yellow object which left a trail, similar to a jet, moving slowly at a very high altitude." At Rosebury, Oregon, State Police received many reports of "funny green and red lights" moving slowly around a television transmitter tower. And in Hartford, Connecticut, two amateur astronomers, looking at Saturn through a 4-inch telescope, were distracted by a bright light. Turning their telescope on it they observed a "large, whitish yellow light, shaped like a ten gallon hat." Many other people evidently saw the same UFO because the local newspaper said, "reports have been pouring in."
In Miami, a Pan American Airlines radar operator tracked a UFO at speeds up to 4000 miles an hour. Five of his skeptical fellow radar operators watched and were confirmed.
At Moneymore, Northern Ireland, a "level-headed and God fearing" citizen and his wife captured an 18-inch saucer by putting a headlock on it. They started to the local police station, but put the saucer down to climb over a hedge, and it went whirling off to the hinterlands of space.
The 27th Air Defense Division that guards the vast aircraft and missile centers of Southern California was alerted on the night of September 9. In rapid succession, a Western Airlines pilot making an approach to Los Angeles International Airport, the Ground Observer Corps, and numerous Los Angeles citizens called in a white light moving slowly across the Los Angeles basin. When the big defense radars on San Clemente Island picked up an unknown target in the same area that the light was being reported two F-89 jet interceptors were scrambled but saw nothing.
A few days later investigators learned that a $27.65 weather balloon had caused the many thousand dollars' worth of excitement.
The matter of scrambling interceptors has been a sore point with the UFO business for a long time. Many people believe that the mere fact the Air Force will send up two, three, or even four aircraft that cost $2000 an hour to fly is proof positive that the Air Force doesn't believe its own story that UFO's don't
The official answer you'll get, if you ask the Air Force, is that they scramble against any unknown target as a matter of defense. But over coffee you get a different answer. They write the UFO scrambles off as training cost. Each pilot has to get so much flying time and simulating intercepts against an unidentified light is more interesting than merely "burning holes in the air."
If appropriations are ever cut to the point where training must be curtailed, and Heaven forbid, there will be no more scrambles after flying saucers.
And the colonel who told me this was emphatic.
The year 1957 was heralded in by a startling announcement which ended a long dry spell of UFO news.
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Retired Admiral Delmer S. Fahrney made a statement. Newspapers across the country carried it complete, or in part, and people read the statement with interest because Admiral Fahrney is well known as a sensible and knowledgeable man. He had fought for and built up the Navy's guided missile program back in the days when people who talked of ballistic missiles and satellites had to fight for their beliefs.
First, Admiral Fahrney announced that a non-profit organization, the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) had been established to investigate UFO reports. He would be chairman of the board of governors and his board would consist of such potent names as:
Retired Vice Admiral R. H. Hillenkoetter, for two years the director of the supersecret Central Intelligence Agency.
Retired Lieutenant General P. A. del Valle, ex-commanding general of the famous First Marine Division.
Retired Rear Admiral Herbert B. Knowles, noted submariner of World War II.
Then Admiral Fahrney read a statement regarding the policies of NICAP. It was as follows:
"Reliable reports indicate that there are objects coming into our atmosphere at very high speeds . . . No agency in this country or Russia is able to duplicate at this time the speeds and accelerations which radars and observers indicate these flying objects are able to achieve.
"There are signs that an intelligence directs these objects because of the way they fly. The way they change position in formations would indicate that their motion is directed. The Air Force is collecting factual data on which to base an opinion, but time is required to sift and correlate the material.
"As long as such unidentified objects continue to navigate through the earth's atmosphere, there is an urgent need to know the facts. Many observers have