By Dave Price
In 1947, just three years after the start of the Baby Boom Era, reports of flying saucers over United States caused a wave of UFO hysteria to sweep the country. Fascination with these supposed ships from outer space prompted a series of alien invasion movies such as The Thing from Another Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers.
Those reports also sparked a federal investigation to try to determine the origin of the unidentified flying objects.
For more than 20 years, the U.S. Air Force analyzed all reported UFO sitings to determine if they posed any danger or security threats. They called the investigation, launched in 1952, Project Blue Book.
However, after 17 years years of investigation, the Air Force announced the termination of Project Blue Book on December 19, 1969. Of the 12,618 UFO sightings reported between 1947 and 1969, 701 remained “unidentified”. The Air Force investigators determined that the overwhelmingly majority of the sightings were the result of mass hysteria, delusion, or intentional fabrication. Many of the reports were simply the misidentification of known objects such as planes or weather balloons.
But the conclusion of the investigation 50 years did little to stop the American fascination with the possibility of visitations from strange beings from other planets. And not all Americans then, or now, were convinced by the government’s findings.
Domestic unrest during the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War peace protest had spurred growing distrust of the American government, especially on the part of Baby Boomers.
Aware this skepticism, the Air Force declassified Project Blue Book and transferred all its investigative records to the National Archives here in Washington, DC., which was itself a city with several UFO sightings in 1952.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the termination of Project Blue Book and Americans’ still ongoing fascination and curiosity about UFO’s, the Archives is staging a small exhibit at the East Rotunda Gallery in their DC institution. The displayed documents and selected photographswill be on display through January 8, 2020.