Edward J. Ruppelt
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2013)|
|Edward J. Ruppelt|
July 17, 1923|
Iowa, United States
|Died||September 15, 1960(aged 37)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||World War II - mid-1950s|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Five battle stars
Two theater combat ribbons
Three Air Medals
Two Distinguished Flying Crosses
|Other work||Research engineer for Northrop Aircraft Company|
Edward J. Ruppelt (July 17, 1923 – September 15, 1960) was a United States Air Force officer probably best known for his involvement in Project Blue Book, a formal governmental study of unidentified flying objects. He is generally credited with coining the term "unidentified flying object", to replace the terms "flying saucer" and "flying disk" - which had become widely known - because the military thought them to be "misleading when applied to objects of every conceivable shape and performance. For this reason the military prefers the more general, if less colorful, name: unidentified flying objects. UFO (pronounced Yoo-foe) for short."
Ruppelt was the director of Project Grudge from late 1951 until it became Project Blue Book in March 1952; he remained with Blue Book until late 1953. UFO researcher Jerome Clark writes, "Most observers of Blue Book agree that the Ruppelt years comprised the project's golden age, when investigations were most capably directed and conducted. Ruppelt himself was open-minded about UFOs, and his investigators were not known, as Grudge's were, for force-fitting explanations on cases."
Early life and career
Ruppelt was born and raised in Iowa. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and served with distinction as a decorated bombardier: he was awarded "five battle stars, two theater combat ribbons, three Air Medals, and two Distinguished Flying Crosses".
After the war, Ruppelt was released into the Army reserves. He attended Iowa State College where, in 1951, he earned an aeronautical engineering degree. Shortly after finishing his education, Ruppelt was called back to active military duties after the Korean War began.
He was assigned to the Air Technical Intelligence Center headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Incidentally, the base had also headquartered two formal unidentified flying object investigations: Project Sign (1947–1948), which had come to favor the extraterrestrial hypothesis before being replaced with Project Grudge (1949–1951), which had a debunking mandate. Though not initially involved with Grudge, Ruppelt quickly learned that the project was facing troubles when high-ranking officers disapproved of the direction it had taken.
With Blue Book
Eventually, Grudge was ordered dissolved, and Project Blue Book was planned to replace it. Lt. Col. N.R. Rosengarten asked Ruppelt to take over as the new project’s leader, partly because Ruppelt "had a reputation as a good organizer", and had helped get other wayward projects back on track. though he was initially scheduled to stay with Blue Book for only a few months, when Project Grudge was upgraded in status in late 1951 and renamed Project Blue Book, Ruppelt (then a Captain) was kept on as director when normally, such an upgrade would require the appointment of at least a Colonel to oversee the project; this may well be a testament to Ruppelt's leadership and organizational skills.
Ruppelt quickly implemented a number of changes in the late stages of Project Grudge, which were carried over to most of his tenure with Blue Book. He streamlined the manner in which UFOs were reported to (and by) military officials, partly in hopes of alleviating the stigma and ridicule associated with UFO witnesses.
Knowing that factionalism had harmed the progress of Project Sign, Ruppelt did his best to recruit open-minded, but objective and neutral personnel to staff Blue Book. He tried to avoid the kinds of open-ended speculation that had led to Sign’s personnel being split among advocates and critics of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Ruppelt sought the advice of many scientists and experts, and issued regular press releases (along with classified monthly reports for military intelligence).
Perhaps most importantly, Ruppelt also ordered the development of a standard questionnaire for UFO witnesses, hoping to uncover data which could be subject to statistical analysis. He commissioned the Battelle Memorial Institute to create the questionnaire and computerize the data. Using case reports and the computerized data, Battelle then did a massive scientific and statistical study of all Air Force UFO cases (completed in 1954 after Ruppelt had left Blue Book) and known as Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14. Battelle scientists found that even after stringent analysis, 22% of the cases remained classified as "unknown" and that these were different from the "knowns" at a very high level of statistical significance. The Battelle study also found that the best cases were twice as likely to be classified as unknowns as the worst cases.
During Ruppelt's tenure, Blue Book investigated a number of well-known UFO reports including the so-called Lubbock Lights and two highly publicized radar-visual/jet-intercept cases which occurred over Washington DC in late July 1952 (see 1952 Washington D.C. UFO incident), which triggered the largest press conference since World War II to stop public panic (see photo at right). Also during Ruppelt’s tenure with Blue Book, most UFO cases were attributed to prosaic causes, but about twenty-five percent were deemed "unknown". As cases with little or no corroborative evidence were generally excluded from consideration during Ruppelt's tenure with Blue Book, the remaining unknowns arguably constitute some of the best-known, best studied, yet still perplexing UFO reports of the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The Air Force would be charged with a cover-up of UFO evidence. Ruppelt insisted, however, that at least during his tenure, conflict and confusion would be more accurately descriptive than to suggest that a deliberate cover-up was taking place. Ruppelt once wrote that the Air Force's approach to the UFO question "was tackled with organized confusion."  In defending General Samford's press conference on 29 July 1952, after the big UFO flap at Washington National Airport, Ruppelt wrote that "his [Samford's] people had fouled up in not fully investigating the sightings." Astronomer and Blue Book consultant J. Allen Hynek thought that Ruppelt did his best, only to see his efforts stymied. Hynek wrote "In my contacts with [Ruppelt] I found him to be honest and seriously puzzled about the whole phenomenon".
After Blue Book
Ruppelt requested reassignment from Blue Book in late 1953 shortly after the Robertson Panel issued its conclusions (based partly on the panel's official report, Ruppelt's Blue Book staff was reduced from more than ten personnel to three, including Ruppelt). He retired from the Air Force not long afterwards, then worked in the aerospace industry. In 1956 he worked as a research engineer for Northrop Aircraft Company, according to publisher information in the online version of his 1956 book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. The book is notable because it was, for several subsequent decades, the only account of Air Force UFO studies written by a participant. It remains arguably one of the most level-headed books about UFOs; Hynek suggested that Ruppelt's "book should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in the history of this subject". In the book, Ruppelt detailed his time with Projects Grudge and Blue Book, and offered his assessments of some UFO cases, including a portion he thought were puzzling and unexplained. Ruppelt also revealed much insider material and thinking, including the existence of previously unknown classified documents and studies, such as the Robertson Panel.
In 1956, Donald Keyhoe asked Ruppelt to join to serve as an adviser to NICAP. Ruppelt had recently suffered a heart attack, and declined Keyhoe’s offer. Ruppelt's book indicates that Ruppelt held some dim views of Keyhoe and his early writings; Ruppelt noted that while Keyhoe generally had his facts straight, his interpretation of the facts was another question entirely. He thought Keyhoe often sensationalized the material and accused Keyhoe of "mind reading" what he and other officers were thinking. Yet Keyhoe cites conversations with Ruppelt in later books, suggesting that Ruppelt may have occasionally advised Keyhoe.
In 1960 the expanded edition of Ruppelt's book (20 Chapters) was published by Doubleday & Co.. The only change from earlier editions came in three more chapters which largely echoed the Air Force's position that there was nothing unusual about UFOs. Ruppelt seemed to have abandoned his early views that some UFO reports seemed mysterious and unexplained, and he declared UFOs a "space age myth". In an unusual manner, the date of the publication was omitted. The book, with the 1956 copyright note and the 1955 date of Ruppelt's Foreword, made the new edition appear to be the original edition. Only the dust jacket gives any hint that this is the second edition of the previous book.
Keyhoe and others would suggest that Ruppelt had caved in to Air Force pressures to change his public statements about UFOs. Others argued against this, noting that Ruppelt had more than demonstrated his objectivity, and might have simply reached a conclusion after careful consideration of the evidence. Clark reports that Ruppelt's widow asserted that her husband's investigation of the contactee movement soured his opinion of UFO phenomena. Ruppelt's discussion of the contactees, particularly George Adamski, is arguably the most interesting portion of the revised book.
Ruppelt died of a heart attack on September 15, 1960, at the age of 37.
Ruppelt is generally highly regarded by UFO researchers who often see him as something of a hero in a David and Goliath struggle to earn respectability for UFOs. However, according to researcher Brad Sparks, this reputation is not only unwarranted but detrimental to UFO research. Sparks argues that Ruppelt demonstrated a "pattern of deceit" and cites eleven specific occasions where he says Ruppelt knowingly misrepresented facts or helped cover-up some data.
- Ruppelt, 1956, p. 18 f.
- Clark 1998, p. 517.
- Clark 1998, p. 516.
- Jacobs 1975, p. 65.
- Ruppelt 1956, p. 46.
- Ruppelt 1956, p. 223.
- Hynek 1972, p. 175.
- Tulien 2001, pp. 40-49.
- Clark, Jerome. The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink, 1998. ISBN 1-57859-029-9.
- Hoyt, Diana Palmer. "UFOCRITIQUE: UFOs, Social Intelligence and the Condon Committee". Master's Thesis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, 2000.
- Hynek, J. Allen. The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry. Chicago, IL: Henry Regenery Company, 1972.
- Jacobs, David Michael. The UFO Controversy In America. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1975. ISBN 0-253-19006-1.
- Ruppelt, Edward J. Report On Unidentified Flying Objects. London: Victor Gollancz, 1956. 2nd, expanded edition New York: Ballantine, 1960.
- Tulien, Thomas. Proceedings of the Sign Historical Group UFO History Workshop. Scotland, CT: The Sign Historical Group, November 2001.
- The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, by Edward J. Ruppelt
- Project Blue Book Archive Online version of USAF Project Blue Book microfilm
- Works by Edward J. Ruppelt at Project Gutenberg
- Original Documents of Project Blue Book Free online access