1957 CIA Memo Concerning UFO Report


27-September-1998 - The CIA memorandum, the text of which is reproduced below, was located in the 1979 microfiche set of The Declassified Documents Catalog, published by Research Publications, Inc., Woodbridge CT, available at Federal Deposit Libraries. It is an interesting document for several reasons:

*  It mentions interest in UFO at a very high level of the intelligence community, the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC) 

*  It mentions what is possibly electromagnetic interference with multiple radars coincident with detection of a UFO

*  It mentions action by elements of the military and intelligence communities very quickly after a UFO report


The memo, dated the 21st of September 1957, concerns the radar detection of a UFO over the state of New York the preceding day. An investigation by the Air Defense Command was begun, a briefing on the UFO was provided to members of the high level Intelligence Advisory Committee, and this memo was issued during the single day after the event. This very quick action is not only a testimonial to the efficiency of Cold War reporting systems, but also shows the amount of interest solid UFO detections generated at high levels of the military and intelligence community.

Obviously, the major interest in unidentified airborne objects shown by the memo was whether or not the unidentified radar tracks were possibly Soviet in origin, and therefore represented a major advance in aircraft or missile design. The conclusion: not Soviet.

We do have the results of the Air Defense Command investigation mentioned in the memo, but the statement, "... weather phenomena are increasingly likely explanations of the original reports..." probably indicate the conclusions of the ADC investigation. Interesting that the ADC, Air Force, CIA and (some members of) the IAC were excited about the radar detections of a UFO over the US, but accepted that the radar operators could be fooled by weather, the effects of which had been extensively studied.

In an article which appeared in the unclassified issue of The Central Intelligence Agency's publication, Studies in Intelligence, (Semiannual Edition, No. 1, 1997), Gerald K. Haines, a historian with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), titled A Die-Hard Issue: CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90, asserted that, "over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance" utilizing U-2 and SR-71 aircraft. Could this detection have been one of these? Even though the U-2 spy plane was operational in 1957, having made its first flight in August 1955, began operational service in 1956, and apparently could fly at the altitude given in the memo, we'd have to say no. The Acting Director of the CIA certainly would be aware of the U-2 surveillance program. In the above mentioned article, Haines asserts that relatively low-level Air force Project Blue Book staff, "...by checking with the Agency's U-2 Project Staff in Washington, ...were able to attribute many UFO sightings to U-2 flights. This implies coordination and disclosure of U-2 flight times and locations to the Air Force be the CIA, although Haines does not provide any examples of this coordination. Additionally, it seems reasonable that The IAC, or at lease some members of it, would have been aware of the U-2 program, functioning as it did at the National Security Council level, and being charged with coordination of intelligence among the member agencies.

Electromagnetic effects coincident with the presence of UFOs, even at such high altitudes has been a feature of many UFO reports ever since the "Foo-Fighter" reports of the Second World War. In this memo the interference encountered was widespread and characterized as "jamming," something which should have been of great concern to the military. In this case, an unidentified object is over the US, is detected by some radars and tracked, but cannot be identified, and several other radars which should have been able to provide more complete tracking were "jammed." Note that the implication is that more than one radar set over a large geographical area was rendered ineffective simultaneously. Furthermore, the term "jamming" implies an action performed by choice: "To make the transmission of a radio unintelligible; to make a radio or radar set ineffective, either by use of countertransmissions or by the use of a confusion reflector." [1] The memo does mention that SAC B-47 aircraft were conducting Electronic counter Measures training flights at the time. Is this to imply that the transmissions from these aircraft affected our own radars and rendered them ineffective? This seems beyond belief.

Incidently, this sighting does not appear in the list of Project Blue Book unidentified sightings.  We do not have access to the full Blue Book files, so we cannot say whether or not this UFO incident was reported to Blue Book or not.  A sighting of an oval, glowing object by military personnel did, however, occur on September 20, but over the Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa;  this sighting is one of the Blue book unidentified cases..

[1] The United States Air Force Dictionary, Woodford Agee Heflin, Editor, Research Studies Institute,
     Air University Press, 1956.




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MEMORANDUM FOR: Acting Director, Central Intelligence

SUBJECT: Unidentified flying Object Reported on 20 September 1957

          1. As reported by components of the US Air Defense Command, an unidentified flying object (UFO) was tracked by US radars on a relatively straight course from the eastern tip of Long Island to the vicinity of Buffalo. The object was reportedly moving westward at an altitude of 50,000 feet and speed of 2,000 kts. "Jamming" was reported by several radars in this vicinity and westward as far as Chicago. In a subsequent briefing for representatives of the IAC, the US Air Force reported that the original reports had been degraded somewhat by information that: (a) there was an 11 minute break in the tracks; (b) weather conditions in the area were of the type which have in the past produced false radar pips and electronic interference; (c) B-47's of SAC were in the area near Chicago on an ECM training flight. The ADC has not completed its investigation of this incident, but in any event it now seems clear that the phenomena reported west of Buffalo were not related to the UFO.

          2. We have no intelligence on Soviet activities (e.g. long-range air, submarine, or merchant shipping operations) which can be related specifically to this reported event. We believe it unlikely that a Soviet aircraft could conduct a mission at this speed and altitude and return to Bloc territory. However, we credit the USSR with the capability to have a submarine-launched cruise-type missile of low subsonic [supersonic] performance and a range of about 500 n.m., but we have no specific evidence of the existence of such a missile.

          3. We have examined possible Soviet motives for launching a one-way vehicle on an operation over the US, and consider that there would be little motivation at this time, except possibly a psychological or retaliatory motive, which we believe is marginal. One-way reconnaissance operations are largely ruled out by the likelihood that the results would be of small value, and the risk of compromise would be very great.


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          4. We conclude, therefore, that it is highly improbable that a Soviet operation is responsible for the UFO reports of 20 September.

          5. Considering the fact that the ADC investigation is incomplete, and that weather phenomena are increasingly likely explanations of the original reports, we recommend that no IAC meeting be called on this subject at this time




Copies to IAC Agencies as follows:


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