Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Condon report and science

Hi all,

It was very early on in my interest in UAP, that the USAF sponsored the University of Colorado to conduct a look at the subject. The resulting findings were published in a document commonly referred to as  the "Condon Report", after the Project Director, Dr Edward Uhler Condon (click here.)

I remember reading the report when it came out in 1969, and a while ago, some 43 years later, re-read it to remind me as to its contents. My re-read reminded me that its recommendations closed down the USAF Project Blue Book; led some scientists to conclude that the subject was not worthy of further study, and left UFOlogists everywhere, unsatisfied.

Perhaps one of the most quoted parts of the report is from section one, titled "Conclusions and recommendations" and written by Dr Condon:

"Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby." (p.1.)


Was there ever a call for a Condon style investigation of UAP? Indeed there was.

On 19 Apr 1967, Peter Norris, President of the Commonwealth Aerial Phenomenon Investigation Organisation, wrote to the Secretary of the Australian Government Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) as follows:

"Research on UFOs has been hitherto undertaken principally by defence organsiations, such as the Royal Australian and United States Air Forces. Of recent months, however, the subject has become one of general scientific interest following hearings before a committee of the US Congress. Shortly after the congressional hearings the US Air Force announced the making of a grant of $313,000 (US) to the University of Colorado for the purpose of an analysis of the UFO problem by a team of University scientists...The purpose of the letter is to enquire whether the CSIRO would consider establishing as similar investigation in Australia to the Colorado Project..." (National Archives of Australia file series A8520 control symbol HM 1/30, pages 70-71 of the digitised version.)

A draft reply dated 24 Apr 1967, signed by L G Wilson, Secretary, Administration, CSIRO, included the words  "I am afraid I have to let you know that it is felt it would not be appropriate in Australia at this time for CSIRO to embark on such an investigation. As the resources of the organisation are at the present time fully committed, it would not be possible or practicable to give any priority to your suggestion..." (p.69.)

On the same day, Wilson sent a copy of the draft, and Norris's letter to Sir Frederick White, Chairman, CSIRO, Canberra. Referring to the draft reply he asked White "Do you agree please?" (p.67.)

Page 66 is a handwritten note headed "Personal" to "Graham" from "Ken:"

"The Chairman has two comments.

1. He said the University of Colorado has a contract to this group in the States and this might not be clear to you.

2. He does not believe "I am afraid" in your second para. He said he is not afraid! and why not write "I am sorry to tell you...""

The actual response letter, dated 28 Apr 1967, from CSIRO to Norris followed the draft version but replaced "I am afraid I have to let you know" with "I am sorry to tell you..."

Copies of the CSIRO correspondence were sent to the Department of Air.

Second try:

Later, on the 31 Oct 1967, Peter Norris wrote to Mr P Howson, House of Representatives, Canberra. In part, the letter read:

"I have pleasure in enclosing herewith a note describing the work being undertaken on unidentified  flying objects by the University of Colorado under the auspices of the United States Air force.

My organisation maintains that a similar project inaugurated in Australia with commonwealth funding would be of assistance in helping to solve the great international problem of the UFOs.

Your assistance in bringing this matter to the attention of the Government will be greatly appreciated."
(NAA file series A703 control symbol 569/5/451, p.34 of the digital version.)

The letter on the file I read, was annotated "for draft reply for Minister's signature please." Private secretary Minister for Defence. Howson was the Government's Minister for Air (click here.) Attached at pages 35-36 was a typed note containing information on the Colorado project.

An internal minute of the Department of Air dated 7 Nov 1967 referred the letter to Director of Air Force Intelligence for comment (p.33.)

Another internal minute dated 9 Nov 1967 from a Group Captain (DAFI) to Exec O Air reveals:

"1. As stated in F12, the RAAF's prime concern in UFO investigations is to ensure that there is no threat to Australia's security and the present RAAF resources for investigations cannot go beyond this directive. At present there is no evidence to suggest that any UFOs threaten Australian air space and, from a defence point of view, increased effort or expense on investigations would seem unwarranted.

2. The weight of evidence suggests that scientific, as opposed to defence, investigations of these phenomena would be more appropriate if any further investigation is desired by the government." (p.32.)

The Minister, on 22 Nov 1967 replied to Norris:

"Thank you for the report on the work undertaken by the University of Colorado forwarded with your letter of 31st October, 1967.

As you are aware the Government is presently satisfied that the arrangements under which the RAAF is responsible for the investigation of unuidentified  flying objects in Australia adequately serves our national interest..."

On this file are copies of similar corrspondence that CAPIO sent to Mr P W C Stokes, House of Representatives dated 31 Oct 1967 and Aug 1968.

In conclusion:

Norris's campaign to get the CSIRO or another govenrment agency, to conduct a Colorado style investigation in Australia, was a valiant, but ultimately unsuccessful effort.

If you have never read the Condon report or haven't read it for years, why not take a look at the entire text etc (click here) ?

For more on Peter Norris's contribution to UAP research click here, here and here.

For Australian researcher Bill Chalker's take on the Condon report click here. .

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