Three Items Provided by Dr. Thornton Page

(Included with second reply letter to CUFON SYSOP)

{First item}

Our PO says this won't get to you by Wed unless I send it Express Mail. Could you please reimburse the $10 charge, please.

To: Bill Pitts
506 N. Second St.                                 The Inn of the Ozarks
Fort Smith, AR 72901                            PO Box 431
                                                             Eureka Springs, AR 72632

from: Thornton Page
18639 Point Lookout, Houston, Texas 77058

The following is part of my talk for the Society for Scientific Exploration in Austin Tx on 30 May '87 entitled "The CIA-Robertson Panel on the UFO Problem."

H.P. Robertson, a mathematical physicist, was an old friend of mine. (We worked together in France just after WWII) He was asked by the CIA to gather a panel of distinguished scientists in Washington, 14-18 Jan, 1953, to be briefed on the UFO problem, which had just broken out in D.C. He invited me because of our friendship and because I lived in D.C., requiring no travel expenses. Other, more distinguished members were Luis Alvarez, expert on radar, cosmic rays, nuclear physics and later Nobel Laureate, Sam Goudsmit of Brookhaven Lab, expert on electron spin and leader of the ALSOS mission to sneak German scientists to the US after WWII, Lloyd Berkner of Brookhaven Lab and Carnagie Inst., and two other physicists who prefer to remain anonymous. This was the only time I was paid ($50) by the CIA. At the start I thought it was a lot of nonsense and said so. Robertson said "Shut up, page" and proceeded to read the Terms of reference for the Panel - - a serious report to the US government about the possible threat of UFOs. I shut up, but I still think the news reports of UFO sightings stimulated more misinterpretations. In fact, my major contribution to our SECRET Report was the hazard of UFO reports clogging military communications during a true national emergency. (At the time, I was working in the Operations Research Office of the U.S. Army.) The only record of our meetings is a declassified version of the Panel report published as Appendix U of the Condon report published in 1970.

The Panel was presented with 22 documents covering many UFO reports and USAF analyses. We were briefed by Capt. E. J. Ruppelt and Dr. J. Allen Hynek, and shown movies of the Trementon, Utah, incident, after which I suggested that someone visit that site with field glasses. This took place later on, and the Trementon UFOs were found to be seagulls. It was clear to us the Air Force Technical Intelligence center had spent a great deal of effort analyzing UFO reports and had succeeded in explaining many of them.

Chairman Robertson prepared a draft report and had little difficulty in getting the Panel members to sign under their statements:

"There is no evidence of a direct threat to national security."
"low grade reports tend to overload channels of communication."
"All Panel members agree that extraterrestrial intelligent beings may someday visit the Earth."
"AFTIC analyses cannot be undertaken for every UFO report."
        Conclusion: "Need more education of the public."
We named US astronomical observatories that might spend a little extra effort to photograph
        UFOs, but urged that this not be given publicity.

The Panel explained radar UFOs as radio interference and urged the USAF to seek publicity "debunking" UFOs. Apparently the CIA was satisfied, although it convened another Scientist Panel on UFOs in 1966, or thereabouts. But the UFO reports continued. I went back to teaching astronomy at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where I had difficulty attracting students to my courses. So in 1967, I offered a course in Flying Saucers, which attracted 50 students (astronomy got 10 to 15). They had to learn some astronomy to identify UFOs as planets or bright stars. The kids loved it, each one wrote a term paper citing the evidence for or against UFOs as extraterrestrial visitors, and we published the three best papers in a pamphlet, printed by the University, which sold well at 25 cents an the Univ. bookstore. [Example Booklet 1][Example Booklet 2] We even had a debate on a Hartford radio station between two pro and two con students. I was nave enough to tell the students to call me at home if they saw a UFO. One night there was a Moon dog (ring around the Moon caused by ice crystals in the upper atmosphere) and 40 students phoned me!

My idea that astronomical observatories might photograph a UFO turned out to be wrong; the sky coverage by all the telescopes in the world is much too small. However the Smithsonian Astrophysical Obs. in Cambridge, Mass., set out a network of wide-angle cameras in the mid-West (The Prairie Network) to photograph meteors. I got several nights' worth of their photos - whole sky coverage from almost 20 locations - and set the students to search for UFOs. They quickly tired of the job, after finding no UFOs.

In 1968 I proposed an AAAS Symposium on UFOs which was hotly opposed by several scientists but supported by Walter Orr Roberts, then President of the AAAS, (American Association for the Advancement of Science). Carl Sagan, a friend of mine at Cornell, leapt in to help organize the Symposium, picked most of the speakers, and got the proceedings published by Cornell Univ. Press in 1972: "UFOs, A Scientific Debate. "We invited E.U. Condon to speak (he refused) but got James McDonald (pro) and Donald Menzel (con), Allen Hynek and Phillip Morrison (middling). Carl and I worried about violent demonstrations at the Symposium, which took place in Boston 26-27 Dec 1967, but the large audience was well behaved. It was an interesting debate, in which the psychologists did well. We were careful in our book not to conclude that UFOs are real or not real. The UFO reports certainly are real, and a large fraction of US citizens believe UFOs are extraterrestrial. "More study is needed."

As a result of all this, I became the UFO expert at the NASA Johnson Space Center where I moved in 1968. Also, I was asked to write the entry on UFOs in the Encyclopedia Britannica (4 pages in the 1975 edition). I phoned Condon to check what I had written, but when I said I was writing up UFOs in the Britannica, there was a crash, and the line went dead. I phoned back, got his secretary who said "Dr. Condon was so angry he threw the phone on the floor and broke it."

This more-or-less ended my association with UFOs

 

{Second item}

Society for Scientific Exploration, Sheraton Crest Hotel
        Austin
        Sat, 30 May '87 3 pm

The CIA Robertson Panel on the UFO problem Jan 14-18, 1953
    I have last word on UFOs
    34 years ago

Dedicate to 3 UFO greats: H.P. Robertson, an old friend - explainer of the Poynting-Robertson effect that cleans dust out of our solar system, who chaired this panel and took its terms seriously (when I did not), the late J. Allen Hynek, who knew more about UFOs than anyone else and James Moseley, editor of an irregular publication Saucer Smear [give] who knows more about UFOlogists than I ever will, who was member of SSE briefly until someone discovered he never completed his degree at Columbia. I regret his expulsion.

The Robertson panel = 7 prominent scientists called together by CIA for SECRET meetings in Washington (only time I've been paid [$50] by CIA) Looking back, I am proud, was picked because friend of HPR, lived in D.C. (no travel expenses), had TOP SECRET+Q clearance.

-got to meet: Luis Alvarez, WWII radar expert, nuclear physicist, cosmic-ray, analysis of pyramids in Egypt, explained dinosaur deaths, Nobel

    Sam Goudsmit, of electron-spin fame, who led ALSOS mission to sneak out German scientists at end of WWII, Brookhaven Lab

    Lloyd Berkner, DTM Carnegie Inst., State Dept in WWII, Brookhaven Lab

(two others preferred to remain anonymous) (I can't remember)

Only record -App. U of Condon Report "Sci Study of UFOs," declassified with gaps

By 1952 craze of UFO reports hit DC - several in every days papers - excitement over Natn'l Airport radar sightings -> CIA action

Clearest memory = first mtg Wed 14 Jan read
    TLP "news stories cause more people to look up -> more misinterpretations
    HPR "shut up: Terms of Reference for panel = serious report to US Govt
    but my point got into final report "UFO reports clog military communications"

The Panel was presented with 22 documents covering many UFO reports and USAF analyses

We were shown movies of UFOs at Trementon, Utah by reliable Navy non-com
    (earlier I suggested a repeat, with field glasses -> seagulls nearby, not A/C 10 mi.)

Other cases presented by Capt. E. J. Ruppelt USAF from BLUEBOOK Files

    -by Allen Hynek, then just starting as USAF Consultant

It was clear that the Air Force Technical Intelligence Center had spent a lot of effort on analyses of UFO reports - succeeded in explaining many

Chairman Robertson prepared Draft report
    - little difficulty in getting panel members to agree & sign
    "no evidence of a direct threat to national security."
    "low grade reports tend to overload channels of communication."
    "All Panel members agreed that extraterrestrial intelligent beings may someday visit"
    We went into great detail explaining the Trementon case as seagulls and agreed that such effort could not be given all UFO reports
    Concluded - "Need more education of the public" (same as AIDS today!)
    We (g) named US observatories where a little extra effort might yield photos of UFOs
        from Harvard thru Yerkes & McDonald to Palomar and Lick     Wrong
        but this should not be given publicity and re-start public fears of UFOs
We explained radar UFOs as radio interference
We made detailed recommendations for USAF organization to educate public and debunk UFOs

Apparently CIA satisfied; another panel convened in 1966? - when UFO reports high

My story goes on - returned to Wesleyan Univ (Conn.) to teach astronomy
    difficulty attracting students - started Flying Saucer course 1967
    Course title attracted 50 students - learned some astronomy, wrote term papers - pamphlet [give]
    debate on Hartford radio station - 40 phone calls on moon dog!

To finish my story:
    1968 - proposed AAAS Symposium on UFOs
    Hotly opposed by several scientists, supported by Walter Orr Roberts
    postponed to [Boston] Dec 26-27, 1969 after completion of Condon report
    because of political implications, Carl Sagan leapt in (and took over!)
    from the beginning emotions strong - e.g. Donald Menzel heart attack (Roberts read)
    Condon refused, James McDonald committed suicide after
    Hynek & others accused USAF hiding BLUEBOOK data

We seriously discussed probability of UFOlogists holding hostile demonstrations
16 speakers carefully selected
 Tape recorded proceedings; All but 1 author (PLC Morrison) provided M/S
Menzel (anti-UFO) insisted his paper be longer than McDonald (pro-UFO) - App.
9 edited papers, transcribed Morrison's
Sagan persuaded Cornell Univ Press -> "UFOs; A Scientific Debate" Sagan & Page 1972 [Give] [hold out]
 Careful not to conclude UFOs are "real" or not real
 UFO phenomenon complex (many components) - not understood by psychologists
 MORE study needed

Robertson Panel led to T-P- becoming "UFO expert"
    (NASA JSC routed all UFO papers & letters to me!)      [Read 2]
    Highest honor = Encyclopedia Britannica asked me to write UFOs (4 pp in 1975 Ed)
        After draft - I phoned E.U. Condon at U of Colo

 

{Third item)

Abstract for SSE
The CIA Robertson Panel on the UFO Problem
Thornton page
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston

Anecdotes about the Panel meetings in 1953, when Page was teamed by good luck with such luminaries as the late H.P. Robertson (an old friend) and Luis Alverez (a new friend). At first, I could not take Flying Saucers seriously, and was chastised by Robertson for the irreverent observation that the more people looked up at the sky, the more misperceptions they would see make have (or report). Our meetings were top secret, and the fact that we were paid by the CIA was itself classified. We were briefed by the late J. Allen Hynek (he of co-eds and marsh-gas fame) and by US Air Force officers involved with project Bluebook (the list of UFO reports). At the time, I was working for the Army in Washington, and voiced the one military hazard of UFOs (later recognized by the Panel): the possible jamming of communications lines by UFO reports. I also take credit for "solving" the Trementon, Utah, case, where movies taken by a Navy officer showed flying saucers darting around at supersonic speeds. We asked that a similar camera be taken to the same site. This was done, similar objects were again photographed, but field glasses showed them to be seagulls less than a mile away rather than saucers ten miles away.

Later in 1969, I came to the conclusion that the "UFO Phenomenon" was worthy of study, and organized, with Carl Sagan, an AAAS Symposium in Boston, proceedings of which were published as "UFOs, A Scientific Debate" (Cornell Univ. Press, 1972), a reply to the late E.U. Condon's "Scientific Study of UFOs" (Bantam Books, 1969) We avoided any conclusion on the reality of UFOs themselves, but came up with a number of unanswered questions in education, sociology, and psychology. The final anecdote has to do with my being invited to write the article on UFO for the Encyclopedia Britannica. I thought it only right to check my text with Condon, so I phoned him at the University of Colorado. When I explained the situation, there was a loud crash, and the phone went dead. When I called back, the secretary explained that Dr. Condon was so angry that he had not been approached by the Britannica that he dashed the phone to the floor.

I hope this will do!

T- P-


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