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Project Blue Book Declassified Photographs

In the post-war years in America, UFO sightings became so common that they warranted an entire U.S. Air Force investigation. Known as Project Blue Book, the mission stretched from 1947 to 1969. The information was available before, but only for those willing to schlep down to the National Archives. Now the archive has digitized this information, so you can see what the Air Force found.

Kenneth Arnold's Drawing of a UFO.

Above is the first drawing of what aviator Kenneth Arnold described as behaving like a "saucer skipped across water," which the press termed "flying saucers." Suddenly, everyone was seeing a disc shaped object in the sky.

Capt. Thomas Mantell Crashes his Plane Going After a UFO.

In January 1948, Kentucky Air National Guard pilot Capt. Thomas Mantell pursued a UFO in his F-51. He didn't survive the encounter with … whatever it was. Project Blue Book concluded that he'd gone after a weather balloon known as a Skyhook and lost control of his craft. At that time, the Skyhook was classified.

The first report.

Here's the first indexed UFO sighting, reported in November 1945 in Tom's River, NJ. The photos mostly show a few blobs dangling in the sky, which surely portended the invasion and subjugation of humanity.

The Lubbock Lights.

A flock of birds or an otherworldly encounter? You decide. These are the famous "Lubbock lights" spotted in Texas in 1951. The sightings took place over a period of a few months, with the Air Force eventually concluding that they were an unspecified natural phenomenon.

The Not-Quite Roswell 1947 UFO Sighting.

These newspaper clips were taken from an incident in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in June 1947. The town is little more than three hours from Roswell, and this happened about a month of the infamous Roswell crash. Meteorites and weather balloons are mentioned as possible culprits in the report, though the incident maintained some notoriety and intrigue because of its proximity to the Roswell incident.

Also notable: nowhere is Roswell mentioned in Project Blue Book. The incident was largely forgotten until the 1970s, when Stanton Friedman brought it back to the community, 30 years later.

Fused UFO Glass.

Not every UFO case includes pictures of UFOs. Sometimes it's what the aliens leave behind. In this case from Omaha, NE in March 1967, that was some kind of fused glass. The Air Force concluded that the finding was probably caused by electrical wires striking sandy soil.

The Arcturians Are Coming.

This UFO sighting from Maine is creepy as hell and certainly extraterrestrial in origin. But it's not an alien craft. Or extraterrestrial life. Instead, the military concluded that this was probably light from the star Arcturus hitting the clouds just right. Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the sky. But hey, apparently a bunch of aliens hail from Arcturus, so maybe they were trying to tell us something from 36.7 light years away.

The Kecksburg Craft?

In December 1965, the good people of Kecksburg, PA, saw something crash into the woods. The military claims they found nothing. The object, seen in this photograph, was spotted across five states. Some believe it to be a piece of re-entering space debris … if it was anything at all. Or maybe it was just the Nazis. NASA claims they don't know anything. But these photos clearly show … a squiggle in the sky.

UFO Doodlings.

When photographic evidence wasn't present, the Air Force often asked witnesses to draw what they saw. Here's a drawing from one of their own after an April 1953 encounter, leaving a spooked (but ultimately unharmed) pilot who claimed the craft swooped in a semicircle behind his plane. The military reported that whatever he saw at Stead Air Force Base near Sweetwater, NV, was one of the few legitimately interesting cases they'd seen up to that point in their investigation—it didn't have an explanation.

Roswell ... But Not That Incident.

These squiggles of light represent a March 1964 reported UFO sighting in Roswell, partially notable for being a UFO sighting near Roswell. There were, in fact, 31 reported sightings in Roswell throughout the duration of Project Blue Book. Think this one is bad? This is worse.

Socorra, NM Encounter.

One of the lengthiest reports in Project Blue Book is the Socorra, NM encounter in 1964. It was another case of an incident marked "unknown" in the end. Here, we see where alleged landing impressions were made in the soil.

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