Edward J. Ruppelt : biography
Edward J. Ruppelt (July 17, 1923 in Iowa – 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, 1956, p. 18 f.
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."Clark 1998, p. 517.
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,Tulien 2001, pp. 40-49. 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.
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".Clark 1998, p. 516.
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",Jacobs 1975, p. 65. 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).