The Durant report of the Robertson Panel proceedings Part I

The Durant report of the Robertson Panel proceedings Part I

This file contains the text of a document known variably and interchangeably as The Durant Report or The Robertson Panel Report. In truth, the above named items are indeed different items, but the Panel report is contained in the Durant Report, which is a detailed report of the Panel proceedings.


We believe this version to be the latest, most complete version available. Certainly, it is the latest to be released by the Central Intelligence Agency. Comparison with several other versions released over the years seem to confirm that.

Items such as the question of the “Tabs” are resolved in this version. Some earlier versions did not label the 2-page “panel report”, but it takes it’s proper place as “Tab A” in this version.

We have been working on documenting as much as possible about the early 1950’s. The Robertson Panel was of special interest. The documents we obtained indicated that it was likely that the President at least had knowledge of the actions of the Intelligence Advisory Committee in ordering the Robertson Panel to be convened. [1]

When we began our FOIA requests for this document, we thought that the report itself should be pretty easy to get through the National Archives.

We were mistaken. The Archives did not have a copy and informed us that the Durant Report was in the custody of the CIA. We filed FOIA requests with the CIA. Please note the length of time this FOIA request took. Please also note that, protestations to the contrary, the CIA did have the document in their custody, in fact, several versions of it.

Later, the CIA did provide a copy to the National Archives, a copy of which we obtained. It is not identical with the copy which is in this file. Neither was that copy the same as material previously provided by the CIA.

A “sanitized” version of the Panel Report (Tab A) only was released long ago through the efforts of Dr. Leon Davidson and another, still “sanitized” yet more complete version of the whole document through the efforts of Anne Druffel. [2]

Also, a sanitized version was published as Appendix Y in The Condon Report. [3]

And several versions, (or partial copies), came as part of the nearly 900 pages of UFO related material the CIA had previously declassified and had provided to other FOIA requestors. (Purchased by us from the CIA in 1992.)

None of the copies obtained from the CIA were completely legible. All differed in some detail: some were on legal sized paper, some on letter sized paper, some double spaced, some single spaced, no version had the signatures of the Panel members. Typefaces, that is typewriters, differed between the versions, as did line breaks and pagination.

All this is a clear indication that several versions of the report have been prepared and released by the CIA over the years and were circulating.



[1] The Confirmation Paper (Available here on CUFON)
[2] Druffel, 1975 (CUFOS)
[3] Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1969


[ ] Items in square brackets blacked out (actual text if visible, “BLACKED OUT” if not visible)
{ } Items in curly brackets describe items not possible to represent in ASCII
XXX Indicates page breaks

Pagination has been maintained, but note that the copy supplied was on legal sized sheets and was double-spaced.

Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, D.C. 20505

28 NOV 1994

Mr. Dale Goudie
! Address deleted by CUFON !

Reference: F92-0970

Dear Mr. Goudie:

This is further to our letter dated 6 September 1994 and acknowledges receipt of your letter dated 16 October 1994 concerning the above referenced Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information pertaining to the Durant Report which is also referred to as the Robertson Report. Specifically, you questioned our “no records” response to your request and you “submit to [us] that the ‘no records’ response is not appropriate given the situation as [you] outlined” in your 16 October letter.

As you are aware, on 23 September 1991 you requested records pertaining to “the Robertson Panel…[and] one ‘Robertson Panel’ report” (F91-1615). On 11 October 1991 (enclosed), we informed you that we had conducted searches in our other records systems on behalf of an earlier requester for information regarding the subject of your request, the results of which were negative. Notwithstanding the results of that search, we conducted a search in our computerized system of previously released material and provided you with 25 pages of material that we thought might be somewhat responsive to your request.

As a matter of administrative discretion, enclosed is another copy of the material which has been previously provided to you at least once. We also advised you that the report to which you referred was “released by the Air Force Office of Public Information on 9 April 1958” and that you should submit your request to the Air Force or to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as it was our understanding the Air Force had turned its records over to NARA.

On 9 November 1991 (F91-2167), you requested once again documents concerning the Robertson Panel Report regarding the subject of Unidentified Flying Objects. On 25 February 1992 (enclosed), we referred you to your F92-0259 request for “copies of the ‘nearly 900 pages of UFO-related documents’ which were released in 1978 or 1979” wherein we had offered you the released material for a cost of ten cents a page less the first 100 pages.

We also referred you to our 11 October 1991 letter with respect to your F91-1615 request wherein we had provided you with all releasable material regarding the Roberson Panel, and wherein we had referred you to the Air Force and NARA with respect to that request.

On 10 March 1992, you submitted another FOIA request for copy of “the ‘Durant Report resulting from the 1953 Robertson Panel.” On 31 March 1992 (enclosed), we referred you to our 25 February 1992 letter, which discussed your F92-0260 and F91-1615 requests, wherein we had informed you that on 11 October 1991 we had provided you with all releasable material from this agency on the Robertson Panel with respect to your F91-1615 request.

We also advised you that the Durant Report is another name for the Robertson Report. We once again referred you to NARA and the Air Force.

Notwithstanding the above, in response to your 30 April 1992 FOIA request 1F92-0970) wherein you insisted that we conduct another search of our records systems for the Durant Report (Robertson Report), in an effort to assist you, we advised you on 4 June 1992 that we would conduct a search of our records systems for responsive material. As a result of our thorough and diligent searches, on 6 September 1994 we informed you that we were unable to locate the records requested.

In light of the extreme efforts that we have taken over the years to accommodate you with respect to your concerns, we feel it inappropriate to conduct yet another search on your behalf.

Therefore, we are unable to assist you further and will not discuss this matter with you further.


/s/ John H. Wright

John H. Wright
Information and Privacy Coordinator


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January 14-18, 1953


F. C. Durant

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16 February 1953


The purpose of this memorandum is to present:



After consideration of the subject of “unidentified flying objects” at the 4 December meeting of the Intelligence Advisory Committee, the following action was agreed:

“The Director of Central Intelligence will:

a. Enlist the services of selected scientists to review and appraise the available evidence in the light of pertinent scientific theories….”

Following the delegation of this action to the Assistant Director for Scientific Intelligence and preliminary investigation,

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an Advisory Panel of selected scientists was assembled. In cooperation with the Air Technical Intelligence Center, case histories of reported sightings and related material were made available for their study and consideration.

Present at the initial meeting (0930 Wednesday, 14 January) were: Dr. H. P. Robertson, Dr. Luis W. Alvarez, Dr. Thornton Page, Dr. Samuel A. Goudsmit, Mr. Philip G. Strong, Lt. Col. Frederick C. E. Oder (P&E Division), Mr. David B. Stevenson (W&E Division), and the writer. Panel Member, Dr. Lloyd V. Berkner, was absent until Friday afternoon. Messrs. Oder and Stevenson were present throughout the sessions to familiarize themselves with the subject, represent the substantive interest of their Divisions, and assist in administrative support of the meetings. (A list of personnel concerned with the meetings is given in Tab A.).


The AD/SI opened the meeting, reviewing CIA interest in the subject and action taken. This review included the mention of the O/SI Study Group of August 1952 (Strong, Eng and Durant) culminating in the briefing of the DCI, the ATIC November 21 briefing, 4 December IAC consideration, visit to ATIC (Chadwell, Robertson and Durant), and O/SI concern over potential dangers to national security indirectly related to these sightings. Mr. Strong enumerated these potential dangers. Following this introduction, Dr. Chadwell turned the meeting over to


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Dr. Robertson as Chairman of the Panel. Dr. Robertson enumerated the evidence available and requested consideration of specific reports and letters be taken by certain individuals present (Tab B).

For example, case histories involving radar or radar and visual sightings were selected for Dr. Alvarez while reports of Green Fireball phenomena, nocturnal lights, and suggested programs of investigation were routed to Dr. Page. Following these remarks, the motion pictures of the sightings at Tremonton, Utah (2 July 1952) and Great Falls, Montana (15 August 1950) were shown. The meeting adjourned at 1200.


The second meeting of the Panel opened at 1400. Lt. R. S. Neasham, USN, and Mr. Harry Woo of the USN Photo Interpretation Laboratory, Anacostia, presented the results of their analyses of the films mentioned above. This analysis evoked considerable discussion as elaborated upon below. Besides Panel members and CIA personnel, Capt. E. J. Ruppelt, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Mr. Dewey J. Fournet, Capt. Harry B. Smith (2-a-2), and Dr. Stephen Possony were present.

Following the Photo Interpretation Lab presentation, Mr. E. J. Ruppelt spoke for about 40 minutes on ATIC methods of handling and evaluating reports of sightings and their efforts to improve the quality of reports. The meeting was adjourned at 1715.


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The third and fourth meetings of the Panel were held Thursday, 15 January, commencing at 0900 with a two-hour break for luncheon. Besides Panel members and CIA personnel, Mr. Ruppelt and Dr. Hynek were present for both sessions. In the morning, Mr. Ruppelt continued his briefing on ATIC collection and analysis procedures. The Project STORK support at Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, was described by Dr. Hynek. A number of case histories were discussed in detail and a motion picture film of seagulls was shown.

A two hour break for lunch was taken at 1200.


At l400 hours Lt. Col. Oder gave a 40-minute briefing of Project TWINKLE, the investigatory project conducted by the Air Force Meteorological Research Center at Cambridge, Mass. In this briefing he pointed out the many problems of setting up and manning 24-hour instrumentation watches of patrol cameras searching for sighting of U.F.O.’s.

At 1615 Brig. Gen William M. Garland joined the meeting with AD/SI. General Garland expressed his support of the Panel’s efforts and stated three personal opinions:


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This meeting was adjourned at 1700.


The fifth session of the Panel convened at 0900 with the same personnel present as enumerated for Thursday (with the exception of Brig. Gen. Garland).

From 0900 – 1000 there was general discussion and study of reference material. Also, Dr. Hynek read a prepared paper making certain observations and conclusions. At 1000 Mr. Fournet gave a briefing on his fifteen months experience in Washington as Project Officer for U.F.O.’s and his personal conclusions. There was considerable discussion of individual case histories of sightings to which he referred. Following Mr. Fournet’s presentation, a number of additional case histories were examined and discussed with Messrs. Fournet, Ruppelt, and Hynek. The meeting adjourned at 1200 for luncheon.


This session opened at 1400. Besides Panel members and CIA personnel, Dr. Hynek was present. Dr. Lloyd V. Berkner, as Panel Member, was present at this meeting for the first time. Progress of the meetings was reviewed by the Panel Chairman and tentative


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conclusions reached. A general discussion followed and tentative recommendations considered. It was agreed that the Chairman should draft a report of the Panel to AD/SI that evening for review by the Panel the next morning. The meeting adjourned at 1715.


At 0945 the Chairman opened the seventh session and submitted a rough draft of the Panel Report to the members. This draft had been reviewed and approved earlier by Dr. Berkner. The next two and one-half hours were consumed in discussion and revision of the draft. At 1100 the AD/SI joined the meeting and reported that he had shown and discussed a copy of the initial rough draft to the Director of Intelligence, USAF, whose reaction was favorable. At 1200 the meeting was adjourned.


At 1400 the eighth and final meeting of the Panel was opened. Discussion and rewording of certain sentences of the Report occupied the first hours. (A copy of the final report is appended as Tab C.)

This was followed by a review of work accomplished by the Panel and restatement of individual Panel Member’s opinions and suggestions on details that were felt inappropriate for inclusion in the formal report. It was agreed that the writer would incorporate these comments in an internal report to the AD/SI. The material below represents this information.


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The Panel Members were impressed (as have been others, including OS/I personnel) in the lack of sound data in the great majority of case histories; also, in the lack of speedy follow-up due primarily to the modest size and limited facilities of the ATIC section concerned.

Among the case histories of significant sightings discussed in detail were the following:

After review and discussion of these cases (and about 15 others, in less detail), the Panel concluded that reasonable explanations could be suggested for most sightings and “by deduction and scientific method it could be induced (given additional data) that other cases might be explained in a similar manner.” The Panel pointed out that because of the brevity of some sightings (e.g. 2-3 seconds) and the inability of the witnesses to express themselves clearly (sometimes) that conclusive explanations could not be expected for every case reported. Furthermore, it was considered that, normally, it would be a great waste of effort to try to solve most of the sightings, unless such action would benefit a training and educational program (see below). The writings of Charles Fort were referenced to show


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that “strange things in the sky” had been recorded for hundreds of years. It appeared obvious that there was no single explanation for a majority of the things seen. The presence of radar and astronomical specialists on the Panel proved of value at once in their confident recognition of phenomena related to their fields. It was apparent that specialists in such additional fields as psychology, meteorology, aerodynamics, ornithology and military air operations would extend the ability of the Panel to recognize many more categories of little-known phenomena.


The Panel concluded unanimously that there was no evidence of a direct threat to national security in the objects sighted. Instances of “Foo Fighters” were cited. These were unexplained phenomena sighted by aircraft pilots during World War II in both European and Far East theaters of operation wherein “balls of light” would fly near or with the aircraft and maneuver rapidly. They were believed to be electrostatic (similar to St. Elmo’s fire) or electromagnetic phenomena or possibly light reflections from ice crystals in the air, but their exact cause or nature was never defined. Both Robertson and Alvares had been concerned in the investigation of these phenomena, but David T. Griggs (Professor of Geophysics at the University of California at Los Angeles) is believed to have been the most knowledgeable person on this subject. If the term “flying saucers” had been popular in 1943-1945, these objects would


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have been so labeled. It was interesting that in at least two cases reviewed that the object sighted was categorized by Robertson and Alvarez as probably “Foo Fighters”, to date unexplained but not dangerous; they were not happy thus to dismiss the sightings by calling them names. It was their feeling that these phenomena are not beyond the domain of present knowledge of physical sciences, however.


It was the Panel’s opinion that some of the Air Force concern over U.F.O.’s (notwithstanding Air Defense Command anxiety over fast radar tracks) was probably caused by public pressure. The result today is that the Air Force has instituted a fine channel for receiving reports of nearly anything anyone sees in the sky and fails to understand. This has been particularly encouraged in popular articles on this and other subjects, such as space travel and science fiction. The result is the mass receipt of low-grade reports which tend to overload channels of communication with material quite irrelevant to hostile objects that might some day appear. The Panel agreed generally that this mass of poor-quality reports containing little, if any, scientific data was of no value. Quite the opposite, it was possibly dangerous in having a military service foster public concern in “nocturnal meandering lights.” The implication being, since the interested agency was military, that these objects were or might be potential direct threats to national security. Accordingly, the need for deemphasization made itself apparent. Comments on a possible educational program are enumerated below.


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It was the opinion of Dr. Ro4ertson that the “saucer” problem had been found to be different in nature from the detection and investigation of German V-1 and V-2 guided missiles prior to their operational use in World War II. In this 1943-1944 intelligence operation (CROSSBOW), there was excellent intelligence and by June 1944 there was material evidence of the existence of “hardware” obtained from crashed vehicles in Sweden. This evidence gave the investigating team a basis upon which to operate. The absence of any “hardware” resulting from unexplained U.F.O. sightings lends a “will-of-the wisp) nature to the ATIC problem. The results of their investigation, to date, strongly indicate that no evidence of hostile act or danger exists. Furthermore, the current reporting system would have little value in the case of detection of enemy attack by conventional aircraft or guided missiles; under such conditions “hardware” would be available almost at once.


It was interesting to note that none of the members of the Panel were loath to accept that this earth might be visited by extra-terrestrial intelligent beings of some sort, some day. What they did not find was any evidence that related the objects sighted to space travelers. Mr. Fournet, in his presentation, showed how he had eliminated ach of the known and probable causes of sightings leaving him “extra-terrestrial” as the only one remaining in many cases. Fournet’s background as an aeronautical engineer and technical intelligence


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officer (Project Officer, BLUEBOOK for 15 months) could not be slighted. However, the Panel could not accept any of the cases cited by him because they were raw, unevaluated reports.

Terrestrial explanations of the sightings were suggested in some cases and in others the time of sighting was so short as to cause suspicion of visual impressions. It was noted by Dr. Goudsmit and others that extraterrestrial artifacts, if they did exist, are no cause for alarm; rather, they are in the realm of natural phenomena subject to scientific study, just as cosmic rays were at the time of their discovery 20 to 30 years ago.

This was an attitude in which Dr. Robertson did not concur, as he felt that such artifacts would be of immediate and great concern not only to the U.S. but to all countrics. (Nothing like a common threat to unite peoples! )

Dr. Page noted that present astronomical knowledge of the solar system makes the existence of intelligent beings (as we know the term) elsewhere than on the earth extremely unlikely, and the concentration of their attention by any controllable means confined to any one continent of the earth quite preposterous.


This case was considered significant because of the excellent documentary evidcnce in the form of Kodachrome motion picture films (about 1600 frames). The Panel studied these films, the case history, ATIC’s interpretation, and received a briefing by representatives of the USN Photo Interpretation Laboratory on their analysis of the film. This team had expended (at Air Force request) approximately


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1000 man hours of professional and sub-professional time in the preparation of graph plots of individual frames of the film, showng apparent and relative motion of objects and variation in their light intensity.

It was the opinion of the P.I.L. representatives that the objects sighted were not birds, balloons or aircraft, were “not reflections because there was no blinking while passing through 60 degrees of arc” and were, therefore, “self-luminous.” Plots of motion and variation in light intensity of the objects were displayed. While the Panel Members were impressed by the evident enthusiasm, industry and extent of effort of the P.I.L. team, they could not accept the conclusions reached. Some of the reasons for this were as follows:

a. A semi-spherical object can readily produce a reflection of sunlight without “blinking” through 60″ of arc travel.

b. Although no data was available on the “albedo” of birds or polyethylene balloons in bright sunlight, the apparent motions, sizes and brightnesses of the objects were considered strongly to suggest birds, particularly after the Panel viewed a short film showing high reflectivity of seagulls in bright sunlight.

c. P.I.L. description of the objects sighted as “circular, bluish-white” in color would be expected in cases of specular reflections of sunlight from convex surfaces where the brilliance of the reflection would obscure other portions of the object.


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d. Objects in the Great Falls case were believed to have probably been aircraft, and the bright lights such reflections.

e. There was no valid reason for the attempt to relate the objects in the Tremonton sighting to those in the Great Falls sighting. This may have been due to misunderstanding in their directive. The objects in the Great Falls sighting are strongly suspected of being reflections of aircraft known to have been in the area.

f. The intensity change in the Tremonton lights was too great for acceptance of the P.I.L. hypothesis that the apparent motion and changing intensity of the lights indicated extremely high speed in small orbital paths.

g. Apparent lack of guidance of investigators by those familiar with U.F.O. reports and explanations.

h. Analysis of light intensity of objects made from duplicate rather than original film. The original film was noted to have a much lighter background (affecting relative brightness of object) and the objects appeared much less bright.

i. Method of obtaining data of light intensity appeared faulty because of unsuitability of equipment and questionable assumptions in making averages of readings.

j. No data had been obtained on the sensitivity of Kodachrome film to light of various intensities using the same camera type at the same lens openings.


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