An expert in the field of astronomy, satellites and missles, Mr. Mallan is the author of 18 books, including Space Science, Men, Rockets and Space Rats, Man Into Space, Amateur Astronomy Handbook, and Peace Is a Three-Edged Sword. In preparation are Evolution of the Space Suit (John Day) and Exploring Space With Astronomy (Fawcett).
For a number of years now, the American public has been led to believe that the U.S. Air Force is knee-deep in a conspiracy to hide from them the real facts behind the nature of Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFO's. At one time, long ago, I believed this myself. The reason why the Air Force was selected as a whipping boy by "Ufologists," as they call themselves, and by certain writers on the subject is simple: the only one-hundred-percent, full-time official project in the world to investigate UFO's is managed by the U.S. Air Force. In this country, there is a strong tendency to criticize anything official. And that tendency becomes even stronger when an official agency is assigned by the Government to deal with a controversial subject.
Today, it would be hard to find a subject more controversial than the UFO's. The reason, again, is that most of those authors who write about the mysterious UFO's are neither wholly scientific nor objective in their approach to the subject. They may be entirely sincere, but they want to believe that "flying saucers" are visiting the Earth from another stellar system, manned by crewman of a super race. So more than not, they mix rumor and imagination with fact in order to make their point. In every case, their point is presented as fact.
One fact that I know with certainty is false, is that the U.S. Air Force engages in a conspiracy to hide the truth about UFO's from the American public. Proof of my certainty is the preponderance of photographs in this book that came directly from the files of Project Blue Book, the present designation for the official UFO-investigation organization of the Air Force.
When I was asked to gather photos for illustrations of this book, I got in touch with the Pentagon liaison officer of Project Blue Book. He sent a message down to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, where Blue Book Headquarters are located. I was given permission to go through the files there. There was only one restriction: that I manage my schedule so that I would not arrive during a period when Blue Book personnel would be over-weighted with other visitors or extra work. They wanted to be free enough to help me as much as possible.
And help me they did, as the Project Blue Book - USAF credit lines to many of the photos in this book will testify. As I stood by their big automated filing system, they pressed the buttons and stopped the file-shelves at any case that I desired to see. They let me make my own choice of photos. They even made Xerox copies of written technical-evaluation reports so that I would have caption information for the photos. They were hiding nothing.
The current widespread belief among the American public that the Air Force is hiding everything stems mainly from the writings of three men who have published best-sellers on this theme. Not one of those men has ever visited Project Blue Book. Two of them have not even requested permission to make such a visit. One of them made a request, but wrote it in such an insulting way and attached so many strings to it (all preposterous) that it was turned down at the Pentagon - before it ever got to Blue Book Headquarters. Yet one of these writers - one, by the way, who had not even bothered to request permission to visit Blue Book - had the guts to inform a friend of mine that I was being "taken in" by the Air Force. "They'll never show Mallan the real files," he said, "the ones they have hidden down in the cellar."
And this is another myth that has been built from the written word and the published imaginings of UFO authors who are less than responsible. There is no cellar under the offices of Project Blue Book - and if there's a back room somewhere in the building with super-secret files, I couldn't find it. Nor was anyone guarding my movements to prevent me from going wherever I wanted.
The personnel of Project Blue Book would simply love to see a UFO land at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and watch its crew announce themselves. "That would be one of the greatest moments in history!" the Blue Book Project Chief told me. "It would save our Government untold billions of dollars in research-and-development funds."
Besides, it would save the Blue Book people a lot of headaches: not a day passes without some harassment or another in the form of insulting letters from the public, interrogations by the press (including radio and TV newsmen) and frontal attacks by authors such as the ones I have anonymously mentioned. The staff at Blue Book hardly have time to accomplish their routine work because of outside pressures. The phone usually starts ringing from the moment they arrive at the office - at 7:30 in the morning. The Chief of the project often gets routed out of bed in the middle of the night because of a new UFO sighting or an arrogantly suspicious newsman.
The whole thing is really ludicrous. Project Blue Book people are all courteous and friendly, just overworked individuals trying to do a thankless job. But I, for one, would like to thank them publicly for their dedication and cooperation. This book has been helped immeasurably by Lt. Colonel George Freeman, who is Pentagon liaison officer with Project Blue Book; Major Hector Quintanilla, Jr., Chief of the project; 1st Lieutenant William Marley, his Deputy; Staff Sergeant Harold Jones and Airman George Reyes, staff members; Mrs. Marilyn Stancombe, Girl Friday and Jill of all tasks; and Mrs. Virgina Phelps, secretary.
A final, but not inconsiderable, point: to this day, no clearly indisputable photo of a bonafide UFO has ever been made or released by any source, official or unofficial. Most photos that pass (and are publicized) as genuine are the result of the unwitting photographing of natural phenomena, camera-lens flares, and distortions and film-processing defects or outright hoaxes. A few UFO photos are truly mystifying and defy precise scientific analysis. But for this same reason, because of their vagueness, they contribute nothing to a knowledge of what UFO's really are.
The photos here were culled from 11,000 file-cases, starting with the year 1947 - a span of 20 years.