Project Blue Book was the code name for a programme set up by the US Airforce to study UFOs. The programme was established in March 1952, following a multitude of UFO sightings reported during the Cold War era, in the hope to ease public concerns and eliminate any serious threats. The project was named Blue Book as a nod to the blue booklets used by some Universities for testing, as US Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt said that high ranking officers were paying such close attention to the project that it felt as important as a final college exam. The project had two clear goals, firstly to determine if UFOs were a threat to national security, and secondly to scientifically analyse any UFO data collected.
The first public studies of UFOs were initiated under Project Sign in 1947, after numerous UFO reports. Although Project Sign was inconclusive, Captain Ruppelt concluded that flying saucers were real craft, independent of the Soviet Union or United States, and likely to be of extraterrestrial origin. Ruppelt officially coined the term ‘Unidentified Flying Object’ to replace the term ‘flying saucer’ or ‘flying disk’ that was often used, as he believed 'UFO' was a more accurate term. He also spearheaded the development of a standard questionnaire for UFO witnesses, hoping to identify data for statistical analysis. Every US Airforce Base had a Blue Book officer responsible for collecting UFO reports and sending them on to Ruppelt.
By 1953, authorities had become concerned that communication channels were becoming clogged by hundreds of UFO reports, and defence agencies worried the Soviets may take advantage of the situation by staging a UFO wave, then attack. The CIA issued a report to intelligence agencies with the aim of ‘training and debunking.’ Training meant educating the public on how to identify known objects in the sky, and debunking fell to the mass media to produce and distribute propaganda designed to reduce public interest.
Project Blue Book was terminated in 1969, and by that time 12,618 UFO reports had been collected. It was concluded that most of them were misidentified natural phenomena, such as cloud formations or stars, or even ordinary aircraft, such as the formerly secret renaissance planes U-2 and A-12. However, even after in depth analysis, 701 reports were classified as unexplained. Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek was appointed as the scientific consultant for the project, and though he initially considered himself a sceptic, he commented that after encountering several unexplainable UFO reports, his feelings had changed to wavering scepticism. A previously classified memo, issued a few months before the termination of the project, also revealed that regulations were in place to continue investigating UFO reports that ‘were not part of the Blue Book system.’