By the end of July 1947, a mere forty days after Kenneth Arnold’s first sighting, some 850 stories had appeared in American media about ‘flying saucers’. A Gallup poll carried out in August found that while 33% of respondents did not know what the ‘flying discs’ might be, 15% thought they might be a secret American device, perhaps connected with the atomic bomb, while only 1% thought they might be a Soviet device. At this stage, no-one suggested an extraterrestrial origin. In the context of global politics, the post-war period was one of growing international tension that would eventually lead to the Cold War and the construction of the Berlin Wall. In the United States, there were fears of Soviet attack and while the government was quick to dismiss any suggestions that the UFOs reported in increasing numbers after mid-1947 were any threat to national security, at the same time, it took an active interest just in case they were secret Soviet aircraft. We now know, thanks to the US Freedom of Information Act, that condifential memoranda were circulating at the Pentagon by the end of the year. On 30 December 1947, Major-General Craigie, Deputy Chief of Staff at Air Material Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Ohio, USA) wrote:
It is Air Force policy not to ignore reports of sightings or phenomena in the atmosphere but to recognize that part of its mission is to collect, collate, evaluate, and act on information of this nature.
…it is desired that the Air Force Air Material Command set up a project whose purpose is to collect, collate, evaluate, and distribute to interested government agencies and contractors all information concerning sightings and phenomena in the atmosphere which can be construed to be of concern to the national security…
This project is assigned priority 2A, with a security classification of “restricted” and a code name “Sign.” Where data of a classification higher than restricted is handled by the project, such data should be classified accordingly.
Thus, at the end of 1947, Project Sign, an investigation into the nature of the phenomenon, had been established. It is evident that the US Air Force did not understand the nature of UFOs at this time, otherwise the investigation would have been redundant. This is a real blow to the idea that the Roswell affair really involved the recovery of a crashed alien craft. A Top Secret document Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the U. S. (Air Intelligence Division Study No. 203), issued 10 December 1948 by the USAF Directorate of Intelligence and released under the Freedom of Information Act (and now available in transcript or .pdf format) assumes that the phenomenon consists either of misidentified domestic aircraft or of foreign (and presumably therefore Soviet) aircraft.
Last updated 12 March 2006