When Kenneth Arnold reported his flying saucer sighting in the summer of 1947 he went to see the FBI because he was concerned that the objects might be some type of secret weapon being tested by a foreign power, specifically the USSR. It was this worry that prompted the USAF to set up Project Sign to investigate the flying saucers.
Sign was prompted into being because of a letter sent by Lieutenant General Nathan F. Twining, commander of the Air Materiel Command to the head of the USAF, Brigadier General George Shulgen. The letter summarised the short initial investigation undertaken by Twining on the instructions of Shulgen.
Twining’s letter briefly reviewed the sightings known to that date and gave an estimate of the size and capabilities of the aircraft being seen - the assumption at this point was still that flying saucers were aircraft. It then stated that “The phenomenon reported is something real, not visionary or fictitious.” Although it accepted that “some of the incidents may be caused by natural phenomena, such as meteors” it concluded that “There are objects approximating the shape of a disc and of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man made aircraft”, while cautioning that a lack of any hard evidence - such as a retrieved crash - meant that there was nothing to “undeniably prove the existence of these objects”.
The letter put forward two possible origins for the saucers. First was “The possibility that these objects are of domestic origin - the product of some high security project not know to this Command.” In other words that some private business or government agency within the USA had secretly produced aircraft of the size, shape and abilities of the flying saucers. Second was “The possibility that some foreign nation has a form of propulsion, possibly nuclear, which is outside of our domestic knowledge.”
The report went on to make a number of recommendations. One was for the USAF high command to make enquiries that would rule out an origin for the saucers within the USA. If that could be dismissed, then the letter suggested that the USAF should “issue a directive assigning a priority, security classification and code name for a detailed study of this matter”.
The USAF did as Twining suggested. Having ruled out a US origin for the saucers, it set up Project Sign on 30 December 1947. The investigatory team was based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and was given authority to use members of the Air Technical Intelligence Centre (ATIC), which was also based at Wright-Patterson.
from UFOs by Rupert Matthews