Lecture 6: Project Grudge, February 1949-March 1952

The previous lecture for the US Government and UFOs course:



Project Sign was renamed Project Grudge on February 11, 1949. Plans that had been hatched in previous months under Sign for broader investigations were scrapped, for as noted in the previous lecture, new personnel with a different perspective and mission had replaced the inaugaral effort that Captain Robert Sneider had led. Project Grudge did keep the 2A security classification level.

Grudge would soon devolve in size and function, until the project’s last phase under the name Grudge, which began when Captain Edward J. Ruppelt assumed directorship in late October 1951. By that time, Grudge had shrunk to one investigator, Lt. Jerry Cummings.

Project Grudge up to that point had focused on debunking UFO reports and one of its main ways of doing that was consorting with, and assisting, grumpy-about-ufos journalists and writers who loved writing hit pieces that even demeaned witnesses.

For example, the bare-bones staff assisted writer Bob Considine with research for one debunking article published in Cosmopolitan magazine in January 1951. As UFO historian Jerome Clark reported, based on Captain Ruppelt sharing the history after his service in a 1956 book: “In it Considine, with Grudge’s encouragement, lashed out at UFO witbesses, whom he characterized as ‘screwballs’ and ‘true believers’ “.

[pg 933, volume 2, Project Grudge, The UFO Encyclopedia]

Earlier, in early 1949, Grudge had consorted with journalist Sidney Shallet in hopes of suppressing public interest and its willingness to report UFO sightings. He wrote a 2 part article for the Saturday Evening Post, and soon after the 2nd article had been published, the Grudge personnel recognized that they had failed with this goal when a flood of UFO reports came in.

Jerry Clark: “According to Ruppelt, the Shallet article, which he believed was perceived by outsiders (and even some insiders) as an abrupt change in official policy, ‘planted a … seed of doubt. If UFOs were si serious a few minths ago, why the sudden debunking? Maybe Shallet’s story was a put up job for the Air Force [Ruppelt quote from his 1956 book “The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects”]

[pg 932, vol 2, The UFO Encyclopedia]

Within this debunking milieu, Grudge produced in August 1951 a 600 page report that looked at 244 sighting reports. Of that number, 23% were unexplained. But, in this report (Technical Report No 102-AC 49/15-100, classified Secret), it was asserted that they saw no signs of scientifically advanced foreign technology, thus no threat to national security was evident. Insofar as the 23% unsolved reports, the view expressed was that psychological causes would likely account for all that.

Of course there were those looking over the shoulders of this Air Force project at Wright-Patterson’s ATIC division, as Gerald K. Haines reports in his paper for the CIA’s online library of UFO-related material:

“CIA closely monitored the Air Force effort, aware of the mounting number of sightings and increasingly concerned that UFOs might pose a potential security threat.  Given the distribution of the sightings, CIA officials in 1952 questioned whether they might reflect ‘midsummer madness.’  Agency officials accepted the Air Force’s conclusions about UFO reports, although they concluded that ‘since there is a remote possibility that they may be interplanetary aircraft, it is necessary to investigate each sighting.’ ”

Alas, events early the next month seriously undermined the validity of Grudge’s August 1951 conclusions and led to the upgrading of Grudge operations by year’s end.

Shortly before noon on September 10 1951, unusual radar readings were detected at the Army Signal Corps radar center at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey and 25 minutes later the crew aboard a T-33 training jet saw going at an estimated 900 mph (and making 90 degree turns) a round, silver-colored object the size of a jet fighter.

The initial response to this incident was orchestrated by Project Grudge’s overseer, the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) and its very anti-UFO director, General Harold Watson.

In May 1951, after a Life magazine reporter had shown up at Project Grudge and found a near ghost town of an operation there, Gen. Watson for appearances sake had reassigned the anti-UFO head of Project Grudge, James Rodgers.

In response to the Fort Monmouth incident, Gen Watson left the new Grudge head, Lt. Cummings, in the dark and enlisted James Rodgers and another anti-UFO staffer (Capt. Roy James) to impede a serious inquiry.
The two came up with a quick solution asserting the pilots had seen a reflection.

When an open minded official, Lt Colonel N.R. Rosengarten, found out that he and open-minded Lt Jerry Cummings at Grudge had been not informed, they confronted Roy James and James Rodgers, and both then flew to Fort Monmouth and interviewed witnesses.
They ended up concluding that the witnessed object was intelligently controlled.

Then Lt Col. Rosengarten and Lt. Cummings went directly to the head of Air Force Intelligence at the Pentagon, Major General Charles Cabell. And, with Rosengarten’s blessing, Cummings really vented with an unvarnished report when Gen. Cabell asked about the state of Grudge.

Cabell was obviously open-minded himself and thus upset according to the witnesses cited in Ruppelt’s 1956 published history. In fact, he ordered Cummings and Rosengarten to go back and reorganize Grudge and he further ordered that there only be “open-minded” personnel involved.

Lt. Cummings left active duty and returned to the California Institute of Technology to work again on a classified project. Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, an ATIC intelligence officer who had already seen prior UFO reports, was made the new head in late October 1951 by Lt Col Rosengarten (who was head od the aircraft and missle division at ATIC).

Ruppelt in his reorganizing did the following:

~~file and cross-reference Grudge and Sign Reports
~~hire staff who were open minded and neither strongly pro or anti UFO
~~staff members receiving monthly reports
~~with help of astronomer and Hrudge consultant J. Allen Hynek, devised a standardized UFO reporting questionare
~~let Air Force officers nationwide know they would now receive and investigate reports
~~subscribed to UFO news clipping service for reports he wasnt reveiving
~~contracted with Battele Institute for statistical analysis of UFO report info.

In March 1952 Project Grudge was upgraded to the status of an autonomous entity rather than merely a project as part of a group and was further renamed as Project Blue Book.

Primary references:
The UFO Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, vol 1 article on Fort Monmouth Visual/Radar Case and vol 2 article on Project Grudge. Jerome Clark.
Online CIA UFO library history by Gerald K. Haines

Encyclopedia Grudge article sources: