[Note regarding date: LUFORU assumes the publication of the report known as the Estimate of the Situation took place around this date because “the latest case known to have been utilized in the document took place on September 23, at Los Alamos National Laboratory” (bibliotecapleyades.net)] and Hoyt Vandenberg received it in early October (see below).]
Two schools of thought about UFOs quickly developed at ATIC in Dayton, and in intelligence circles elsewhere. One school felt that UFOs should be taken very seriously. Their belief was so strong that a top-secret “Estimate of the Situation” was sent to Washington, stating that flying saucers were probably interplanetary and that the military should be put on an ‘alert’ footing. Some didn’t go as far as that, but were ready to accept that flying saucers were real.
Within a few days [of 1948.07.24], Sign started work on a report addressed to the Air Force top brass. [Entitled] Estimate of the Situation, it [detailed?] “saucer” sightings from before Arnold’s to the present. All had been reported by reliable witnesses such as pilots and scientists, and all were “unknowns”. Saucers, Project Sign concluded, were real, material objects and came from outer space. The report was completed by the end of September and, bound in black and stamped Top Secret, sent up the chain of command.
(UFO: The Government Files, Brookesmith)
It was only after 1947 that UFO reports were studied in any depth. The USAF, which had an obvious interest in any aerial craft that might pose a threat to national security, began by setting up an investigative team under the code-name Project Sign to research the subject. It commenced its work by looking into the 122 flying saucer reports received by the Air Force during 1947. Of these, 110 were identified as aircraft, stars and so on, and twelve remained unidentified.
Estimate of the Situation landed on the desk of USAF Chief of Staff General Hoyt S Vandenberg early in October. Within days, he rejected its conclusions as unjustified by the evidence presented. The document was declassified a few months later, and all copies were ordered burned.
This was a classic… blunder that would return to haunt the Air Force for decades. The destruction order became public knowledge in the mid-1950s, and inevitably fueled a burgeoning belief in a massive government cover-up. A few copies of the document apparently escaped the flames – later UFO investigators for the USAF such as Captain Edward Ruppelt (who first revealed its existence) and Major Dewey Fournet reported seeing them in the 1950s.
The Air Force then managed only to encourage the growth of the Estimate of the Situation’s legendary status by denying for years that it had ever existed – even though the USAF had cleared Ruppelt‘s account for publication. No copy of the report itself has so far surfaced. Estimate has nevertheless become a key, albeit invisible, “exhibit” in the… case that at every opportunity officialdom has ruthlessly buried hard evidence that UFOs are extraterrestrial.
At Sign, the effect of General Vandenberg‘s summary rejection of the Estimate was slow but sure. Over the next few months, adherents of the ETH were quietly reassigned to other work, until the skeptics had finally become the majority.
(UFO: The Government Files, Brookesmith)
Within two weeks [the Project Sign proponents of the ETH] had produced a summary “Estimation of the Situation”. Dated 8 August 1948 [sic], it used the Chiles-Whitted sighting as a cornerstone in its case, arguing that the best answer to the escalating evidence was that the flying discs were alien in origin. The file went to chief of staff General Hoyt Vandenberg, who rejected it… arguing that it was based upon eyewitness testimony alone and had no physical evidence in support. Staff from Sign tried to change his mind, but he refused to budge.
The other faction at Project Sign now seized the upper hand and began to press their case that all sightings were explicable. The 8 August [sic] report was destroyed, although a few pirate copies appear to have been retained and Ruppelt read one of them about four years later. This “holy grail” of ufology has never been found when requested under the FOI Act.
Staff who had backed the ETH were reassigned.
A report was submitted… but the chief-of-staff reputedly sent it back… Yet Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor George Valley, a senior presidential adviser, said in his section of the report:
“If there is an extraterrestrial civilization which can make objects as are reported… such a civilization might observe that on Earth we now have atomic bombs and are fast developing rockets. They would be alarmed. We should, therefore, expect at this time above all to behold such visitations.”
This view apparently had influence and – for some – is a symptom of the belief still dominant in UFO circles. Many insist that the American Government not only suspected, but actually knew from that first week in 1947 that the objects behind the mystery were alien craft. Such an opinion is fuelled by the incident near Roswell, New Mexico…