The Durant report of the Robertson Panel proceedings Part Ii

The Durant report of the Robertson Panel proceedings Part Ii


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]

k. Hand “jitter” frequencies (obtainable from early part of Tremonton film) were not removed from the plots of the “single pass plots” at the end of the film.

The Panel believed strongly that the data available on this sighting was sufficient for positive identification if further data is obtained by photographing polyethylene “pillow” balloons released near the site under similar weather conditions, checking bird flight and reflection characteristics with competent ornithologists and calculating apparent “G” forces acting upon objects from their apparent tracks. It was concluded that the results of such tests would probably lead to creditable explanations of value in an educational or training program.

However, the Panel noted that the cost in technical manpower effort required to follow up and explain every one of the thousand or more reports received through channels each year (1,900 in 1952) could not be justified. It was felt that there will always be sightings, for which complete data is lacking, that can only be explained with disproportionate effort and with a long time delay, if at all. The long delay in explaining a sighting tends to eliminate any intelligence value.

The educational or training program should have as a major purpose the elimination of popular feeling that every sighting, no matter how poor the data, must be explained in detail.

Attention should be directed to the requirement among scientists that a new phenomena, to be accepted, must be completely and convincingly documented. In other words, the burden of proof is on the sighter, not the explainer.


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]


The Panel Members were in agreement with O/SI opinion that, although evidence of any direct threat from these sightings was wholly lacking, related dangers might well exist resulting from:

a. Misidentification of actual enemy artifacts by defense personnel.

b. Overloading of emergency reporting channels with “false” information (“noise to signal ratio” analogy – Berkner).

c. Subjectivity of public to mass hysteria and greater vulnerability to possible enemy psychological warfare.

Although not the concern of CIA, the first two of these problems may seriously affect the Air Defense intelligence system, and should be studied by experts, possibly under ADC. If U.F.O.’s become discredited in a reaction to the “flying saucer” scare, or if reporting channels are saturated with false and poorly documented reports, our capability of detecting hostile activity will be reduced.

Dr. Page noted that more competent screening or filtering of reported sightings at or near the source is required, and that this can best be accomplished by an educational program.


The map prepared by ATIC showing geographic locations of officially reported unexplained sightings (1952 only) was examined by the Panel.

This map showed clusters in certain strategic areas such as Los Alamos. This might be explained on the basis of 24-hour watchful guard and


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]

awareness of security measures near such locations. On the other hand, there had been no sightings in the vicinity of sensitive related AE establishments while there were occasionally multiple cases of unexplained sightings in non-strategic areas. Furthermore, there appeared to be no logical relationship to population centers.

The Panel could find no ready explanation for these clusters. It was noted, however, that if terrestrial artifacts were to be observed it would be likely that they would be seen first near foreign areas rather than central U. S.


The Panel was of the opinion that the present ATIC program to place 100 inexpensive 35 mm. stereo cameras in the hands of various airport control tower operators would probably produce little valuable data related to U.F.O.’s. However, it was recognized that such action would tend to allay public concern in the subject until an educational program had taken effect. It was believed that procurement of these cameras was partly the result of public pressure in July 1952. With the poor results of the year-long Project TWINKLE program of 24-hours instrumentation watch (two frames of film showing nothing distinguishable), a widespread program of sky-watching would not be expected to yield much direct data of value.

There was considerable discussion of a possible “sky patrol” by amateur astronomers (Hynek) and by wide-angle cameras (Page). Dr. Page and Dr. Robertson pointed out that at present a considerable fraction


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]

of the sky is now – and has been for many years – under surveillance every clear night in several meteor and aurora observing programs as well as sky mapping programs at the various locations listed below. Although the attention of these astronomers is largely directed toward identified rather than unidentified objects, no case of any striking unidentified object is known to Dr. Page or Dr. Hynek. Such an object would most certainly be reported if found on patrol plates.

A case was cited where an astronomer refused to interrupt his exposure in order to photograph an alleged sighting in a different part of the sky. This led Dr. Hynek to say that, if a program of watching could be an adjunct of planned astronomical programs, little cost would be involved and that the trained astronomical personnel might photograph a sighting of an unidentified object.

The location of some of these programs and their directors are believed to be:

a. Harvard University, Cambridge and New Mexico (meteor patrol) – Whipple.

b. Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago and Fort Davis, Texas (several programs) – Meinel (auroras), Kuiper (asteroids), Morgan (wide angle camera).

c. University of Alaska, Fairbanks (aurorae) – Elvey

d. Dominion Observatory, Ottawa (meteors) – Millman

e. Palomar Observatory, California (sky map) – Minkowski

f. Lick Observatory, California (sky map) – Shane


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]

It was agreed by the Panel that no government-sponsored program of optical nation-wide sky patrol is worthwhile at the present time, and that the encouragement of amateur astronomers to undertake such a program might have the adverse effect of over-emphasizing “flying saucer” stories in the public mind. However, the issue of radar scope cameras for recording peculiar radar echoes would serve several purposes, including the better understanding of radar interference as well as identification of U.F.O.’s.


This characteristic problem of radar operation wherein the pulse signal (of approximately the same frequency) from station A may be picked up on the screen of station B and show as a high-speed track or series of dots was recognized to have probably caused a number of U.F.O. reports.

This problem was underlined by information received indicating ADC concern in solving this problem of signal identification before service use of very high-speed aircraft or guided missiles (1955-1956). Dr. Berkner believed that one answer to this problem was the use of a “doppler filter” in the receiving circuit.

Dr. Alvarez suggested that the problem might be better solved by the use of a “controlled jitter” wherein the operator receiving “very fast tracks” (on the order of 1000- 10,000 m.p.h.) would operate a circuit which would alter slightly his station’s pulse frequency rate.

If the signal received on the screen had been caused by mutual interference with another station, the track would now show itself at a different distance


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]

from the center of the screen, if it still appeared at all. Dr. Alvarez felt such a technical solution was simpler and would cost much less than a “doppler filter.”


Two reported cases were examined: one at Palomar Mountain, California, in October 1949, when cosmic ray counters went “off scale for a few seconds,” apparently while a “V” of flying saucers was observed visually; and two, a series of observations by the “Los Alamos Bird Watchers Association” from August 1950 to January 1951, when cosmic ray coincidence counters behaved queerly. Circuit diagrams and records were available for the latter, and Dr. Alvarez was able quickly to point out that the recorded data were undoubtedly due to instrumental effects that would have been recognized as such by more experienced observers.

The implication that radioactive effects were correlated with unidentified flying objects in these two cases was, therefore, rejected by the Panel.


The Panel’s concept of a broad educational program integrating efforts of all concerned agencies was that it should have two major aims: training and “debunking.” The training aim would result in proper recognition of unusually illuminated objects (e.g., balloons, aircraft reflections) as well as natural phenomena (meteors, fireballs, mirages, noctilucent clouds). Both visual and radar recognition are concerned. There would be many


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]

levels in such education from enlisted personnel to command and research personnel.

Relative emphasis and degree of explanation of different programs would correspond to the categories of duty (e.g., radar operators; pilots; control tower operators; Ground Observer Corps personnel; and officers and enlisted men in other categories). This training should result in a marked reduction in reports caused by misidentification and resultant confusion.

The “debunking” aim would result in reduction in public interest in “flying saucers” which today evokes a strong psychological reaction. This education could be accomplished by mass media such as television, motion pictures, and popular articles. Basis of such education would be actual case histories which had been puzzling at first but later explained. As in the case of conjuring tricks, there is much less stimulation if the “secret” is known.

Such a program should tend to reduce the current gullibility of the public and consequently their susceptibility to clever hostile propaganda. The Panel noted that the general absence of Russian propaganda based on a subject with so many obvious possibilities for exploitation might indicate a possible Russian official policy.

Members of the Panel had various suggestions related to the planning of such an educational program. It was felt strongly that psychologists familiar with mass psychology should advise on the nature and extent of the program. In this connection, Dr. Hadley Cantril (Princeton University) was suggested. Cantril authored “Invasion from


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]

Mars,” (a study in the psychology of panic, written about the famous Orson Welles radio broadcast in 1938) and has since performed advanced laboratory studies in the field of perception.

The names of Don Marquis (University of Michigan) and Leo Roston were mentioned as possibly suitable as consultant psychologists. Also, someone familiar with mass communications techniques, perhaps an advertising expert, would be helpful. Arthur Godfrey was mentioned as possibly a valuable channel of communication reaching a mass audience of certain levels. Dr. Berkner suggested the U. S. Navy (ONR) Special Devices Center, Sands Point, L. I., as a potentially valuable organization to assist in such an educational program.

The teaching techniques used by this agency for aircraft identification during the past war was cited as an example of a similar educational task. The Jam Handy Co. which made World War II training films (motion picture and slide strips) was also suggested, as well as Walt Disney, Inc. animated cartoons. Dr. Hynek suggested that the amateur astronomers in the U. S. might be a potential source of enthusiastic talent “to spread the gospel.”

It was believed that business clubs, high schools, colleges, and television stations would all be pleased to cooperate in the showing of documentary type motion pictures if prepared in an interesting manner. The use of true cases showing first the “mystery” and then the “explanation” would be forceful.

To plan and execute such a program, the Panel believed was no mean task. The current investigatory group at ATIC would, of necessity, have to be closely integrated for support with respect to not only the


[ S E C R E T ]
[Security Information]

historical cases but the current ones.

Recent cases are probably much more susceptible to explanation than older ones; first, because of ATIC’s experience and, secondly, their knowledge of most plausible explanations. The Panel believed that some expansion of the ATIC effort would certainly be required to support such a program. It was believed inappropriate to state exactly how large a Table of Organization would be required.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s