Life article on UFOs (1952)
The Life article on UFOs was one of the most influential pieces of journalism in the early history of unidentified flying objects. It appeared in
the April 7, 1952 issue of Life magazine, just four days after the
US Air Force had issued a press release to announce that it would continue
studying UFOs through the successor to Project
Grudge, known as Project Blue Book.
Under the title "Have we visitors from outer space?" the article cited an
unnamed general in the Pentagon who "strongly believed flying saucers were
interplanetary spaceships". In his memoirs, Captain Edward Ruppelt,
head of Blue Book at this time, asserted that a number of USAF generals
who privately endorsed the extraterrestrial hypothesis had unofficially encouraged Life reporters to promote the "interplanetary
aspect" and that these officers ranked "so high that their personal opinion
was almost policy".1 The article in Life, together with
scores of others it spawned in newspapers around the country, may have been
an important factor behind the increased rate of reports at this time. In
his book Watch the Skies!2 (1995) Curtiss Peebles describes
the kind of feedback effect that may have been at work:
Life said the Air Force was interested in flying
saucers. People would then be more likely to report a sighting. The new
regulations meant that reports that might have been ignored or thrown
away before were now sent to Blue Book. The open press policy meant that
questions were not brushed off as before. This, along with the increased
number of reports, resulted in more newspaper articles which caused people
to watch the skies.
Public interest in UFOs peaked later that year following the "Washington
- Ruppelt, Edward. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.
New York: Doubleday (1956).
- Peebles, Curtis. Watch the Skies! A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer
Myth. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press (1995).