02 February, 2015

60 years ago, Athens joined annals of mysterious UFO reports

The Associated Press
ATHENS, Ga. —

There were 15 or 20 of them in the skies above Athens that night, flying somewhere below 6,000 feet in a 'V' formation. Appearing to be the size and color of grapefruit, they moved smoothly and soundlessly. Going south to north, they sped from horizon to horizon in 10 seconds.

More than 60 years later, though, the most interesting description in the U.S. Air Force Project 10073 Record of what happened at 8:35 p.m. on April 26, 1954, in Athens, typed in all caps, is a single word: "UNIDENTIFIED."

That distinction is shared by 701 of the 12,618 reported sightings of unidentified flying objects chronicled in the Air Force's Project Blue Book, which ran from 1947 until 1969.

In 1985, the Air Force released a statement noting that its decision to discontinue the project was based on a University of Colorado study of the UFO phenomenon, and the Air Force's own experience in investigating UFO reports. The statement reads, in part, "the conclusions of Project BLUE BOOK are:(1) no UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security; (2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as 'unidentified' represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge; and (3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as 'unidentified' are extraterrestrial vehicles."

Still, unidentified flying phenomena continue to fascinate the public, as evidenced by the numerous reports of UFO sightings that continue to be filed with groups like the Mutual UFO Network.

And last week, as a result of work done by John Greenewald Jr., a Los Angeles man who founded the website Blackvault.com, a compendium of thousands of federal government documents obtained through federal Freedom of Information Act requests, the Project Blue Book documents — declassified for years, but until now only spottily available on the Internet — have become far easier to navigate, as he posted them to his website in a searchable format.

Greenewald's work has prompted a flurry of media coverage as news outlets across the country have searched the database for local connections to Project Blue Book.

Noteworthy about the 1954 Athens sighting — available online at http://bit.ly/1wsPG0a — is the insistence of one of the witnesses that he had seen an actual, and inexplicable, phenomenon.

"(T)his was not a mirage," reads the typed statement of a witness, whose name is blacked out on the statement itself, but who is identified elsewhere in the report as a "Mr. Cartey."

"I actually saw this formation coming out of the south going to the north, travelling at a tremendous rate of speed which I couldn't estimate," Cartey wrote. "The smoothness and the soundless effect was remarkable."

There were a total of four witnesses to the UFO, one of whom — perhaps Cartey — is identified in a sloppily redacted section of the report as a 37-year-old postal clerk. The other witnesses were two adults and a 16-year-old, according to the Project 10073 Record.

Perhaps adding some additional weight to the report is a letter from a Col. L.G. Duggar, an Air Force officer who was then serving as a professor of air science and tactics with the University of Georgia's Air Force ROTC detachment.

Duggar, who was flying an Air Force transport plane some distance away from Athens at the time of the sighting, nonetheless filed a report with Project Blue Book in compliance with a 1953 Air Force regulation requiring commanders of all Air Force activities to report "all information and evidence that may come to their attention" with regard to UFO sightings.

That same regulation, according to a 1954 version, notes "Air Force interest in unidentified flying objects is two-fold: First as a possible threat to the security of the United States and its forces, and secondly, to determine technical aspects involved."

Duggar, who noted in his report that he had logged almost 4,000 hours of military flying time, wrote, "It is my belief that any lights seen below cloud level on the night of this observation would have required any jet to have been easily heard. The Athens area is normally quiet and jets can be easily heard up to 30,000 to 40,000 feet altitude."

In Greenewald's view, Project Blue Book and the voluminous public reporting of UFOs during the program's run must be considered in the context of the Cold War, when Americans didn't know whether, or when, or how, the Soviet Union might launch an attack against the United States.
"Back then," Greenewald said, "UFOs were not a fascination, but a fear."

"I think people were scared," Greenewald added. And so, he said, with regard to public attention to lights in the sky, or mysterious aircraft seen in the distance, "you could attribute that to absolute fear."
As to the question of whether UFOs are a reality, Greenewald contends that "you can't just discredit" the 701 unexplained sightings. And, he said, there's also the possibility that some of the sightings for which explanations are offered aren't really explained at all.

"I don't believe they (the Air Force) knew these reports would ever see the light of day," Greenewald said.

Link:  http://www.wsbtv.com/ap/ap/georgia/60-years-ago-athens-joined-annals-of-mysterious-uf/nj2sn/

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