1953.01.14 – 18
[The Robertson Panel was a committee of scientists convened following a CIA recommendation of 1952.12 that such a panel meet to evaluate USAF-investigated UFO sightings. This recommendation followed a CIA review of the USAF’s investigation of UFOs, namely Projects Sign, Grudge and Blue Book.
The CIA review was itself a response to the UFO flap of summer 1952, particularly after UFOs were sighted over the Capitol Building, Washington DC that July.
Howard Percy Robertson was the panel’s director. Wikipedia describes him as “a physicist, a CIA consultant and the director of the Defense Department Weapons Evaluation Group.” The Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) told him to bring together a band of prominent scientists to review the USAF’s UFO files.
The USAF “had recently commissioned the Battelle Memorial Institute to scientifically study all of the UFO reports collected by Project Sign, Project Grudge and Project Blue Book. Robertson hoped to draw on their statistical results, but Battelle insisted that they needed much more time to conduct a proper study. Other panel members were respected scientists who had worked on other classified military projects or studies. All were then sceptical of UFO reports, though to varying degrees. Apart from Robertson, the panel included:
- Luis Alvarez, physicist, radar expert (and later, a Nobel Prize recipient);
- Frederick C. Durant, CIA officer, secretary to the panel and missile expert;
- Samuel Abraham Goudsmit, Brookhaven National Laboratories nuclear physicist
- Thornton Page, astrophysicist, radar expert, deputy director of Johns Hopkins Operations Research Office;
- Lloyd Berkner, physicist,
- J. Allen Hynek, astronomer and consultant to Blue Book presented to the panel, but was not a full member.]
(Largely taken from Wikipedia)
[The last three panel members are of interest for different reasons.
1 By 1969.12 Dr Thornton Page, “who had been one of the CIA’s Robertson Panel debunkers sixteen years earlier… had made a reassessment after seeing the full evidence.” (The Complete Book of UFOs, Randles and Hough)
3 Allen Hynek eventually became a poacher turned gamekeeper. His brief was to explain away the numerous sightings Project Blue Book looked at as explicable in a debunking and scientific-seeming way. This he found increasingly difficult to do in all conscience.]
On the three days I sat in on the series of meetings I was negatively impressed by the relatively few cases examined by the panel. Several now classic UFO reports were discussed: the famous Tremonton, Utah and Great Falls, Montana films were reviewed and summarily dismissed as “seagulls” and “jet aircraft” respectively.
The panel was briefed on US military activities and intelligence; hence the report was originally classified Secret. Later declassified, the Robertson Panel’s report concluded that UFOs were not a direct threat to national security, but could pose an indirect threat by overwhelming standard military communications due to public interest in the subject. Most UFO reports, they concluded, could be explained as misidentification of mundane aerial objects, and the remaining minority could, in all likelihood, be similarly explained with further study. The Robertson Panel recommended that a public education campaign should be undertaken in order to reduce public interest in the subject, minimising the risk of swamping Air Defence systems with reports at critical times, and that civilian UFO groups should be monitored. [LUFORU’s emphasis]
(Memorandum of 1953.02.16 from F C Durant to the Assistant Director for Scientific Intelligence – Report of Meetings of the Office of Scientific Intelligence Scientific Advisory Panel on Unidentified Flying Objects, January 14–18, 1953)