The United States National Archives Building in Washington D.C. (Credit: The United States National Archives)
By Alejandro Rojas
Finally, decades after the United States Air Force closed their official investigations into the UFO phenomenon, the files are online in their entirety for free.
Project Blue Book is regarded as the third UFO investigation project by the USAF. The first was Project Sign, which began in 1947, then Grudge, which ran from 1949 to 1951, and the final project, Blue Book, ran from 1951 to 1969. The files surrounding the investigation of the sightings are all included in the Project Blue Book files. That is, unless, as some suggest, there are secret investigations that the public still does not have access to.
Either way, although these files have all been declassified, since the close of Project Blue Book, it has taken a trip to the National Archives to get full access to them. Some websites have put up portions of the files, and one website, Fold3, finally posted all of them a few years ago. However, visitors could just view them and had to pay a membership fee to download them.
Note: Apparently you can download the files at Fold3 for free now, but it is one page at a time, and in the jpeg picture format. The Black Vault offers the files in PDF documents, making it much quicker and easier to download. Many of them are also searchable.
Now researchers and UFO enthusiasts, including myself, can save some money. The files have been placed online by John Greenewald who runs a website called The Black Vault. Greenewald has been submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests since he was a teenager to get the government to share what it knows about UFOs and other clandestine matters.
He has posted these files online, and over the years has amassed the largest online repository of such materials. He has over one million pages hosted there. Now that he has finally finished the daunting task of making the Blue Book files available, he now has over 130,000 more.
The staff of Project Blue Book. Sitting in the center is Hector Quintanilla,
the last chief officer of Project Blue Book.
I interviewed Greenewald to ask him some of his thoughts about posting the Blue Book files.
Why did you decide to post the files?
Greenewald: Plain and simple, they are UFOlogical history. There are a few sources for these records out there, some of which are incomplete, while others are harder to navigate or are not geared towards the actual researcher. So, I wanted to compile these in a straight forward, easily searchable database, and that in itself is unlike what is out there and makes this new site powered by The Black Vault a bit unique.
Why do you think these files are important after all of these years?
Greenewald: Project Blue Book (along with Sign and Grudge) holds a special place in UFO history. Whether or not it TRULY investigated UFO sightings in the sense we wanted it to, it doesn’t matter. It is a project that lasted for over 20 years, and they investigated thousands of cases. Sure, many of them they claimed were all explanatory, but you still have a few gems that remain a mystery. But further, you can use this data to compare and contrast to what it is today and start drawing conclusions, or rather, maybe pose new questions that investigators haven’t thought of yet.
For years, this data sat on microfilm in the National Archives. Now with the power of the internet, they were brought online, but in ways that were not easily used, incomplete, or plain and simple, didn’t get the exposure it deserved. I hope this new resource changes that, spotlights this era in UFO history, and offers a research point that those in the coming years of UFO investigation can learn from, utilize, and reference.
Why have they not been available online for free until now?
Greenewald: To convert and archive 130,000 pages is no easy task. There are some sites that tried to create the archive… but really didn’t gear it towards the researcher or the investigator. Some charge for the information (if it’s even complete), others make it hard to download or read, and others are just incomplete.
I tried with this new site to ensure that everyone could use it and learn from it. When I started The Black Vault when I was 15 years old, I was stunned by the lack of information on the internet. Now, nearly 2 decades later, many sites have caught on and archiving the data – but they want to charge you for it. Almost 20 years later, and roughly 1.5 million pages that are given away for free, I am happy to say I have kept the promise I made to myself to never charge anyone to learn.
– End of Interview –
I know for myself, and for other researchers and journalists, the posting of these files will make it much easier to explore some of the hidden gems in the files. There are hundreds of files that the USAF regarded as genuine “unknowns.” The exact number is somewhat murky.
The USAF claims that Blue Book included 12,618 sightings reports, 701 of which remained “unidentified.” This would account for about 5.5% of the files. However, official lists of these “unidentified” cases only include 560 or so cases. Other researchers have gone through the files and found there are actually more like
The National Archive’s page on UFOs. (Credit: Archives.gov)
As the debate over how many USAF UFO investigation cases were truly never explained continues, due to Greenewald’s work, the citizen researcher now has the ability to peruse the files without having to travel or subscribe to a membership.
You can find the Project Blue Book cases all at this link at: TheBlackVault.com
USAF UFO Blue Book files forced to be taken down
The news was ablaze with the story of files regarding the U.S. Air Force’s investigation into the UFO phenomenon being posted online at The Black Vault website. Most news outlets neglected to report that these files were not new to the internet, but that what was new was that they were in a PDF format, and much more accessible than they had been previously.
Regardless, interest in the files soared, and many local media outlets combed the files for UFO cases in their neck of the woods. This spawned many stories about UFO sightings the U.S. Air Force took an interest in when they were officially investigating UFOs from the late 40s to the late 60s.
However, now, unfortunately, the files at The Back Vault have been forced to be taken down. Fold3, a site that posts military files and is a subsidiary to Ancestery.com, has claimed they have a digital copyright over the files.
John Greenewald, owner of The Black Vault, has sent out this statement:
The Black Vault’s Statement on the Project Blue Book Files
January 29th, 2015 – It is with great frustration to announce, that Ancestry.com, and their subsidiary Fold3, has laid down a claim to copyright on the Project Blue Book material – which has long been labeled as “public domain” by the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA).
Ancestry.com is claiming ownership to the digital version of this material – despite me having records that Fold3 doesn’t even have in their archive and I received under the FOIA starting back in 1996. They simply claimed it was 100% theirs and I was forced to remove it.
Because of my attempt with properly crediting Fold3 with a DIRECT LINK to their site as partial credit for some of the material, they used that show of proper credit by me to issue a copyright claim under the Digital Copyright Millennium Act (DCMA). Anyone who knows anything about the law can attest; you are “guilty until proven innocent” so this was the beginning of the end. I never hid from Fold3 as a source, and even brought them up in some media interviews I did take part in, which were all cut out. No one cared about that part of the story – this new archive was what they wanted to report on because it was simple, straight forward, easy and free. And people loved it.
Based on an evidence-less claim I was forced to remove the entire site. That’s right, there was ZERO evidence submitted to my web hosting provider of ownership or copyright or license, but rather, they simply placed the accusation which is all it takes.
In good faith, I took the site down in hopes a compromise could be reached. They already had credit given on the front page of the site for some of the material, and that link alone resulted in a 12%+ increase in their entire statistics since they posted records in 2007, and my link multiplied their weekly hits by 10x, yes ten times, in only 5 days (statistics are posted on their page, so I am not guessing on those statistics but rather took notes).
I stated there was much more information here than is cited to Fold3, but they didn’t care. I offered giving them a full 100% “share of voice” banner ad to advertise Fold3 (in addition to the link already driving them traffic), or to sell ads with no profit share to me, and they didn’t care. I asked if they would work with me on any capacity, because CLEARLY interest was being generated by my audience (and obviously not by theirs) but they didn’t care.
In the end – they offered I become a member of their affiliate program – and offer a link to them in exchange for a portion of sales generated. ie: You have to sign up with them, pay a membership, and they give me a percentage. I quickly declined.
This is public record material, and it should remain so. To lay ‘exclusive’ claim to it in the digital world, when both sites (my site and theirs) offer it for free – is ludicrous and a waste of time and money for everyone.
But at the end of the day, I am proud to have brought attention to information that although has been available for quite some time – the public at large never knew it existed. I will let Google Trends prove my point. Here is the popularity of Project Blue Book, since 2005, and a graph relating to people searching for information on it.
See that spike? Yes, The Black Vault did that… and I am proud to be the one who caused such an uproar of interest by the public and the media (despite some erroneous facts in the reporting).
Did some media outlets misreport? Yes, and if this page was still up, there was a message on the front page setting the record straight.
But, call it corporate greed, a legal loophole, or a grey area in the copyright law, all of that is gone in the name of getting your personal information, and your credit card, by a corporation that has a wallet much thicker than mine. I’ll let you decide what the right label is to put on this entire mess.
Does all of this upset you? Me too! And I invite you to express your thoughts to Ancestry.com, Fold3, and anyone else you’d like to express your disappointment:
355 South 520 West
Lindon, UT 84042
Ancestry Inc. Corporate Headquarters
360 West 4800 North
Provo, UT 84604
In 18+ years, I’ve never seen anything like this, and it is a sad day for the world of public domain, public information, public record and the idea of “Freedom of Information”.
I have vowed from day 1, never to fall into the pit of desire of placing a price tag on PUBLIC information. It’s a shame I am very much alone in that belief.
John Greenewald, Jr.
The Black Vault