Public Interest in UFOs Persists 50 Years After Project Blue Book Termination
By Jonathan Marker

WASHINGTON, December 5, 2019 – It’s a timeless question: are we alone in the universe? The United States Air Force sought to answer that question through the scientific analysis of 12,618 reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) investigated under three successive projects headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. These included Project Sign, beginning in December 1947 and ending in February 1949; Project Grudge, a scaled-down continuation of Sign that ended in August 1949; and Project Blue Book, from March 1952 to December 1969—the longest-running iteration of the Air Force’s investigation of UFO sightings.

Today, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the end of Project Blue Book, the National Archives is displaying a selection of records from the program in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. The records, on display through January 8, 2020, are a sample from the thousands of pages of textual records, still pictures, motion pictures, and sound recordings in National Archives holdings relating to Blue Book.

The seminal event that launched modern “UFO hysteria” in the United States occurred on June 24, 1947, in the skies over Washington State. While searching for a downed United States Marine Corps transport plane thought to have crashed on the southwest side of Mount Rainier, private pilot Kenneth Arnold reported that he had observed nine UFOs flying at approximately 1,700 miles per hour. During a subsequent interview with members of the media, Arnold described the objects as “appearing like saucers skipping on water.” News reports shortened the term to "flying saucers," which then became a popular term for UFOs.
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