1948 UFO DOCUMENTS: Background
By Jan L. Aldrich



Many of the early UFO documents, often discovered at random or without other supporting material, have largely been viewed in light of the current thinking on UFOs, rather than using them to gain an understanding of how early policies and opinions on the UFO subject evolved.

Few understand how policies are formed in the military.  Before a decision can be made recommendations are sought and studies undertaken. These usually contain various options and opinions.  It is expected that many points of view will be submitted and the commander will announce a final decision on policy.  Once that policy is decided, subordinates do not have to agree with it; however, they must support it.   There are mechanisms in place for feedback, revision, and reversals of policy.

Of course, as with any human organization, things do not always work smoothly. The unique structure of the military often times magnifies these shortcomings. For example, the WW II failure to take seriously intelligence briefings on the possible German attack in the Ardennes -- because it was at a variance with the current strategic thinking -- lead to a near military disaster.

Often differences of opinion will last for years, and policies will change back and forth as proponents of one side or another achieve policy-making positions. Some of the early UFO documents indicate a disagreement as to how to handle the problem.

Commanders, not staff, make policy. But if a commander is smart, he will delegate part of his authority to staff and subordinates to make decisions in his name. The commander may delegate authority, but never responsibility. Again, if he is smart, he will periodically insure that his delegated authority is being properly used. Dr. James McDonald and Dr. J. Allen Hynek in the latter days of Project Blue Book, tried to alert the command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that such delegation in UFO matters had become a problem.


The Top Secret document "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States," Study #203, ("Analysis") issued 10 December 1948 by the USAF Directorate of Intelligence (DI) and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) is often called "The Ghost of the Estimate", or a watered-down version of the Air Materiel Command (AMC) Estimate of the Situation (EOTS). Quite wrong. The two documents, if the EOTS exists at all, probably have no connection.

Air Materiel Command (Project Sign) Estimate of the Situation

An Estimate of the Situation is just as the name implies: how intelligence personnel perceive the situation to be at the time the Estimate is written. An EOTS is a common intelligence document for informing the command and staff of current thinking on an intelligence topic.  Staff intelligence is supposed to be able to give the commander and his subordinates an assessment of the situation at all times.  Ten minutes after an EOTS is prepared it may be superseded and made irrelevant by new information.  As new information is added, such estimates are constantly revised or completely rewritten.

Ruppelt dates the start of work on the AMC EOTS, which concluded that UFOs represented interplantery craft, from about the end of July, with completion and dispatch about the end of September.  His description of the physical appearance of the document and the contents of the EOTS are similar to the "Analysis." When the "Analysis" was found, some felt this document was the one to which Ruppelt referred and he had "hyped" its contents.  Former Major Dewey Fournet confirmed the EOTS as described by Ruppelt did exist, and a copy survived in the USAF Intelligence files.

From the Memorandum for Record by Fournet it would seem that as late as June, 1952, he was not aware of the existence of the EOTS. Several other knowledgeable persons have referenced the EOTS or alluded to it.   Fournet has said that the EOTS could probably be found in the Current Intelligence Files or the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) files at the HQ, USAF.

Several incomplete searches have been made for this document.  I recently searched the Directorate of Intelligence, TOP SECRET Current Intelligence Files Branch 1946-1954, and all available ATIC documents at National Archives II.  Current Intelligence files are not in chronological order.  Most everyone who has visited the archives has gone through these. I estimate about 40% of the material was withdrawn at time of declassification in 1987.   Everyone had a say on withdrawal, CIA, DOD, USN, British Government, etc.

In the TOP SECRET Air Force Intelligence files, the most important documents of interest to the UFO community are the final typed draft version and printed version of Analysis of Flying Object Incidents over the United States. Both versions contain the same information.

The Current Intelligence archives also contain files entitled "German Flying Saucers" which concerned disc-shaped aircraft that a private inventor in Germany had worked on. There are some "Ferret Flight" sightings -- "Ferret," referring to spy missions close to or over Soviet and Communist bloc territory -- which might have been Soviet intercept attempts, or UFOs, and daily updates about a week-long alert concerning unidentified contrail sightings in Alaska in April 1952.   There are also a number of vague references to "ghost rockets" in 1946 documents. (More and better information on ghost rocket intelligence is contained in the Office of Naval Intelligence files and in the "Incoming/Outgoing TOP SECRET" message files of the Army Air Corps, 1946-47.)

Ruppelt's book contains some rather curious references, one of the strangest being Ruppelt's contention that the EOTS was declassified and burned.  The proper procedure for the destruction of TOP SECRET classified information is to prepare a destruction certificate and destroy the document in an approved manner, one of which is by burning.  This is usually done by a destruction official and a witness.   Ruppelt should have been aware of this procedure, although he may never have been called upon to preform it.  Why he makes the mistake of saying that the document was declassified and then burned -- which is constantly repeated by other UFO authors -- is a mystery.

"EOTS" and the "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States"

Many contend that the "Analysis" or "The Ghost" was simply a revision of the ATIC EOTS.  This seems unlikely as Major General Cabell, the head of the USAF Directorate of Intelligence, had tasked Headquarters, Air Force Intelligence, to produce such a study in August, 1948.  Since the Directorate of USAF Intelligence is superior to ATIC, their views take precedence.   For this reason, the EOTS was not accepted due to the fact that the "Analysis" document was issued jointly by the USAF DI/ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence).  The release of "Analysis" after the ATIC EOTS shows that the higher staff organization did not consider the conclusion of the ATIC EOTS valid. The "Estimate" was superseded by the "Analysis."

The "Analysis" was a joint USAF Directorate of Intelligence (DI) and Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) document.  At the time it was common for both organizations to cooperate in aviation intelligence matters, and in this case the Navy invited itself in.

In November, 1948, the Navy sent the USAF a letter stating that they wished to assist in the analysis of UFOs.  DI using the Navy's letter as a supporting document then directed Project Sign to make copies of all their material and send it to ONI.

In the TOP SECRET Current Intelligence Branch of the HQ, USAF Intelligence files at Archives II, in College Park, Maryland, are two copies of "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States. Study No. 203."  One copy is a draft typed up in five copies and the other is the printed copy.   (Items are filed by their Top Secret control number.)

Draft Copy of the "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States" Control Number (CN) 2 6167 is a typed draft of the document.   The other copy, Control Number 2-7341. (There are several other control numbers on the document, perhaps for different organizations.  However, this is the last one.) The draft (CN 2-6167) was produced in five copies which went to:

USAF: Air Intelligence Requirement Division

#1 and #3

USAF: Air Estimates Branch


Office Of Naval Intelligence


USAF: Air Intelligence Division


The surviving copy is #3. It was declassified on 5 March, 1985.

There are several attachments to both the draft and printed copy of the "Analysis."

Attached to the draft is the following hand written note:

      "All extra copies of this document were ordered to be destroyed.

      "Cy [Copy] being kept for record purposes only. Not to be disseminated without permission of AFOIN-A.

      see 2-7341

      /s/ C Vaudolf [?? signature illegible]

      6 Dec 51"

The note was written on a Memo Routing Slip, DD Form 95 which is commonly called a "buck slip" from the American slang "to pass the buck" i.e., give the problem to someone else.   With the release of the Project Sign documents and other documents from HQ, USAF Intelligence, many events at this time become clearer.

Final Printed Version of "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States"

The title page of the printed copy of the Top Secret study (Top Secret control #2-7341) reads: "Air Intelligence Report No. 100-203-79, ANALYSIS OF FLYING OBJECT INCIDENTS IN THE U. S., Air Intelligence Division Study No. 203, 10 December 1948, Directorate of Intelligence and Office of Naval Intelligence."  The distribution was "C."  There are lists prepared to tell the clerks where to send the documents and this one used the "C" list.  It is interesting to note that although this was a joint Air Force-Navy document, the warning statement cited the Army security and classification regulation, 380-5.   The surviving document is copy 102 of 103 copies produced.

The document has the following attachments:  a Memo for Record by Maj. Dewey Fournet, a Top Secret "loan sheet," another two Memo Routing Slips concerning the same subject as in the draft, and an Air Force HQ form 6, Register of Personnel Handling Top Secret Material, which records all personnel handling this document since 5 Dec 1950.

Fournet's Memo reads:


Capt. Fournet/el/55894

Wrtn 5 Jun 52




      1.    To declassify Study 100-203-79, "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents" dated 10 December 1948, if practicable.


      2.    In accordance with a request from Col. W. A. Adams, AFOIN-2B, to declassify Study 100-203-79 if practicable, the following information is submitted.  A search through D/I files was made, but no such study was found.  However, a draft study bearing the same time and date, plus the designation "D/I-ONI Study No. 203" was located.  This study is classified Top Secret and is presumed to be the study in question.

      3.    Two copies of the latter study were distributed to ONI.

      4.    Subject matter will not be submitted for inclusion in the Daily Staff Digest.


       5.    It is not considered advisable to declassify Study No. 203 inasmuch as it contains such speculation on the possible origin of unidentified flying objects, information on the Soviet AOB and atomic energy activity.   In addition, the study contains a treatise on possible Soviet intentions in utilizing controlled aerial missiles over the U.S.


      6.    None; for information only.


Col J. G. Eriksen - AFOIN-2B3 - Ext. 52466
Capt. R. C. Bauer, USN - AFOIN-2B - Ext. 55909
Col. E. H. Porter - AFOIN-2 - Ext. 71110


The Memo was classified CONFIDENTIAL and declassified 5 March 1985.

COMMENTS: Apparently when looking through the files Fournet came upon the draft first.  Later this Memo was filed with the printed copy.  Ruppelt said that both Col. Adams and Maj. Fournet were "believers."  You don't find that in this official statement.

The Top Secret Loan Sheet indicates that the document was due back on 8 July 1952.

The first Memo Routing Slip has the following hand written message:

     All extra copies of this document were ordered to be destroyed.

     Cy being kept for record purposes only. Not to be disseminated without permission of AFOIN-A.

     see 2-6167

The signature is the same one that appears on the draft and the last name now looks like "Buedolf".   It is dated 6 Dec 51.

The second Memo Routing Slip, also hand written reads:

T. S. Control Note:    "All published copies of this document have been ordered destroyed.   This document for record purpose only not to be disseminated."

On the memo are initials in the same hand writing as the other instruction memos.

On the AF HQ Form 6, the Top Secret Register, there are 10 entries from 5 Dec 1950 to 24 Jun 1952.  Except for Maj Fournet's entry, all concern the administrative handling of the document.

Supporting Documentation for the "Analysis"

In Records Group 341, Entry 214, Top Secret Control Number 2-3932 at the National Archives II is the following Top Secret item concerning the "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States."



     1.    To transmit completed study, "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the U. S."


     2.    Air Intelligence Division Memorandum, dated 6 August 1948, subject: "Flying Saucers", required that a study be made by the Defensive Air Branch to examine the pattern of tactics of reported flying saucers and develop conclusions as to their probability.   Lt. Col.R. N. Smith, Air Estimates Branch, was designated as monitoring officer, and to assist in the preparation of the final report.

     3.    An interim report on the progress of the study was submitted in 11 August 1948, and outlined the methods of analysis being utilized in the preparation of the required study and the methods suggested to Project "Sign" personnel at Headquarters, Air Materiel Command, for pursuing flying object phenomena to the end that positive identifications might be achieved.


     4.    Study completed and forwarded to Air Estimates Branch for final distribution.

The above Memo for Record (MOR) does two things:

      1)   it shows that the Top Secret "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States" was independent of any ATIC Estimate of the Situation [EOTS].  According to Ruppelt's work, Project Sign began work on the EOTS shortly after the Chiles-Whitted case of 24 July, 1948.

"A matter of a few days after the Estimate of the Situation was signed sealed and sent on its way, the third big sighting of 1948, Volume II of `the Classics' took place.   The date was October 1, and the place was Fargo, North Dakota; it was the famous Gorman Incident..."

Six weeks before the EOTS was dispatched from Wright-Patterson, a copy of an interim report had been submitted to Major General Cabell.

      2)   It can be argued that ATIC was directed to prepare an EOTS to support this analysis, however, none of the other documents with the above TS Control Number support that contention.


Circulating within the UFO field is an item signed by Colonel H. M. McCoy, Chief of Intelligence of Air Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base which some have labeled the "McCoy Memo." It is not a memo.  The confusion started because of the release of the document by the officials without other related documents.   The document was released to Mr. William LaParl and also to the Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS).

Basic military correspondence procedures require that each level of a command or staff acknowledge, and if necessary, comment on communications which move up or down from one level to another.  In the case of a letter such acknowledgments are called "indorsements."  For example, if there are three levels between the sender and the receiver, each of these three levels will add a numbered indorsement. The indorsement may merely state: "Forwarded for your consideration."  The indorser labels his indorsement "1st Ind" or "2nd Ind." as appropriate.

In the case of "Flying Object Incidents in the United States" letter signed by Major General C. P. Cabell and addressed to the Commander of the Air Materiel Command (AMC), there were no intervening levels between the Cabell and AMC.  Colonel McCoy's answer to Major General Cabell is the "First Indorsement."  The "McCoy Memo" starts with the line "Basic ltr from Hq USAF, 3 Nov 48 to CG, AMC, 'Flying Objects Incidents in the United States" and on the next line centered on the page is "1st Ind."   These two lines with military abbreviations identify Colonel McCoy's answer to "the basic letter from Headquarters, US Air Force dated 3 November 1948 to the Commanding General, Air Materiel Command, subject `Flying Object Incidents in the United States '"as the "1st Indorsement."

The subject title of the correspondence is instructive.

Major General Cabell had tasked the Directorate of Intelligence to produce a TOP SECRET study, with the assistance of the Office of Naval Intelligence, which would be titled "Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the United States."  Much of Cabell's correspondence around the time of the dissemination of the "Analysis" bears the subject similar to the title.   (Further discussion of Col. McCoy's response may be found in Dr. Michael Swords' article, "The McCoy Letter" in the Spring 1997 issue of International UFO Reporter, (IUR) the publication of J. Allen Hynek _Center for UFO Studies_, 2457 West Peterson Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60659.   IUR is a benefit publications mailed to Associates of the Center for a contribution of $25.00 or more.  Dr.Swords' discussion makes use of material not available at this web site and reaches slightly different conclusions as to the events detailed and their importance.)

With the "Analysis" and the press problem in mind, Cabell wrote to AMC for their conclusions on the UFO situation and their recommendation on how to handle press inquiries.   After he received McCoy's answer which advised that no conclusions had been reached as to the nature of the UFOs and a suggestion that the Air Force should emphasize only explained UFO incidents, Cabell -- or more properly, his staff -- drafted a letter for signature by the Secretary of Defense which would have placed the Air Force's handling of press inquiries about UFOs in writing.


After receiving McCoy's answer, a letter and Staff Study was prepared for Secretary of Defense Forrestal's signature incorporating Cabell's feeling about the way in which the press should be handled. Indications from the USAF Office of Information UFO files are that this letter was never submitted to Forrestal, and press policy remained to be handled on an informal basis with general guidelines, much to Major General Cabell's displeasure.

- Jan. L. Aldrich

Revised November 28, 1997



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