Edward J. Ruppelt


Edward J. Ruppelt : biography

17 July 1923 – 15 September 1960

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." Ruppelt 1956, p. 46. 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."Ruppelt 1956, p. 223. 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".Hynek 1972, p. 175.

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 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.