Monday, November 18, 2013

Researching The Australian Military/Government 'UFO Files' (Pt 1)

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Researching The Australian UFO Files

By Paul Dean
The UFO Chronicles
© 11-17-13

   My name is Paul Dean and I have spent 21 years passively studying the UFO phenomena; earlier this year I decided to actively contribute in some meaningful way.

The National Archives of Australia holds millions upon millions of files which have been passed to them from every department and or agency in the Australian Federal Government; this is facilitated after a full 30 years has passed, providing they are in some way significant to Australia’s history and providing they are not still in use by the controlling department or agency.

Within the National Archives of Australia website, a section by the name of RecordSearch is maintained where much of their gigantic file collection, at least by title, date range, size, etc, can be scrutinized by entering keywords and simply pressing “search.” Without going into great detail, some files are classed as “Open”, some as “Open With Exception” and some “Closed”. It is from there that the user can request a copy of the file, or, request that it be analysed to ascertain if it is releasable to the user. One reason a file, or rather sections of a file, may not meet the requirements of being releasable is due its contents containing fairly highly classified or sensitive information, even after 30 years. However, I am aware, from correspondence with Senior Reference Officers at the National Archives, that this is actually quite rare because old files that are particularly sensitive never even make it to the National Archives in the first place, and are instead kept under lock-and-key by their controlling agency for decades upon decades.

Australian UFO researches have, in the past, been very successful in discovering and obtaining copies of some 140 UFO-related files during both physical searches of Australia’s National Archives and searches on the Archive’s RecordSearch site. In addition, many of these files, including those kept by the Department of Aviation, and the Royal Australian Air Force’s Directorate of Air Force Intelligence, had already been studied by UFO researcher Bill Chalker from 1982 to 1984 in an unusual period of openness allowed by authorities in those organisations. In other words, it would seem that most of Australia’s official UFO files, or at least those from the 1950’s through to the early 1980’s, have been found at the National Archives, or through other forms of access, and have been largely scrutinized by UFO researchers and others alike.

I decided, at the start of this year, 2012, to do my own searches of the National Archives RecordSearch database to see, on the off-chance, if there were any more files that may relate to UFO’s that had not been opened for public consumption. Due to repeated and frequent scrutiny of the database by more established researchers such as Keith Basterfield – to whom I am greatly indebted for his huge support - I didn’t hold out much hope of discovering anything of interest. There was little point in searching for files with keywords like “flying saucer” or “unidentified object” as I was more than certain that this had been done to the nth degree, so I attempted searches using keywords, and combinations of keywords, as far ranging as “phenomena intelligence”, “object sightings department” or “air event aviation”. Within an hour or so I discovered 2 files that were classed as “Closed” with the titles “Aerial phenomena - UFO sightings Department of Civil Aviation; Transport” and “Unidentified Aerial Object 3/4/1966 Tullamarine”. Somewhat surprised, I requested that the files be examined for the purposes of opening to the public, and went about trying to find any more tantalising file titles amongst the thousands of unrelated entries.

I continued nightly until I had built up a substantial list of highly suspect file titles; titles like “Air Defence - Unusual Reporting By Aircraft Captains Intelligence Sightings,” “Air Incidents Reports,” and “Intelligence – Operation Voodoo.” Not a single one of these strange files had been opened and most of them had probably not seen the light of day since the 1960’s or 1970’s. I requested that these files be opened by the National Archives, so I could have them sent to me in hardcopy, or at least digitized. Possibly getting in over my head, it was also at this point I decided to contact one of Australia’s most well-respected UFO researchers, Keith Basterfield. Keith, while impressed with my finds, needed to quickly give me a crash course in how the National Archives worked to further enhance my slow, nightly searches of the database.

Over many January nights, I not only found time to do specific keyword searches, but also trawl through entire “file series” such as the A703 and A705 groupings which already contained known UFO related files from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Within two weeks I had discovered some sixty files – any one of which could have contained UFO material (whether it be sightings reports, unit investigations of UFO events, official policy, letters from the public, internal teletype messages, routing slips and so forth). I kept finding files with titles containing strings of words like “Tracking of Space Objects, Aust. NASA”; files with titles like “Destruction of Records” by Australia’s old Directorate of Air Force Intelligence, the Directorate formally charged with gathering UFO sighting reports; files with “Special Air Safety Events” or “Joint Intelligence Reports” in their titles.

One by one the National Archives opened the ever increasing files I had requested.
The persistence and the late nights had paid off. An early file I had discovered was titled “Visual phenomena - Mawson - 1958 - Sighted From Taylor” and the Archives had opened it for me, asked me if I wanted a copy, and duly sent one. The file contains a strange tale concerning four experienced observers seeing “. . . an unusual display of lights and shadows” for about 20 minutes. The sun was below the horizon and the sky almost clear of clouds. First came an “. . . indefinable blob of shadow travelling . . . at great speed . . ..” Although this wasn’t a specific Air Force, Navy or other government agency file, the series number of the file means that it came from Australia’s “Antarctic Division”. Better things were to come.

By February I was receiving as many as 5 files a week in the mail. Many were not related to UFO’s, but still were valuable due to the need to understand how Australia’s military worked decades ago. Some files were UFO related however. One file I received was titled “Maritime and Air Incidents/Contacts” and was 31 pages. The National Archives chose to exempt 2 pages due to security concerns as laid out in the Archives Act. It was the first file I had found and received that had such censorship. It wouldn’t be the last. The file contained various reports and loose minutes made to-and-fro between Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters about general UFO activity, possible aircraft intrusions, strange lights in the sky, and other odd events. Some of the pages were teletypes classified “SECRET.” Of more importance was my receiving of the file “Unidentified Aerial Object 3/4/1966 Tullamarine,” which I had found and ordered the month before. It was a UFO report made by an air traffic controller at Tullamarine Airport and highlighted a radar plot near Melbourne. This is important considering it occurred just 3 days before the infamous Westall incident – a well-documented and bona fide UFO event in suburban Melbourne on the 6th of April, 1966. Although the speed and direction of movement of the object on the radar scope fits that of a balloon, one wonders why an air traffic controller would choose to make a report of it to authorities as one would presume balloons are detected by radar quite frequently.

The never before opened file “Aerial Phenomenon - UFO sightings Department of Civil Aviation; Transport” finally arrived at my doorstep in early March. At 18 pages it contained very sober UFO reports made to the Department of Civil Aviation. Amongst them was the sighting of 3 silver-gold objects travelling rapidly through the clear skies by two proficient witnesses. The report was taken seriously, though we have never seen any other documentation regarding the incident in RAAF files. One of the witnesses writes:
I might add that we were both of sound and sober mind and that both of us would be highly embarrassed should there be any release of this report. I have been a CPL for 18 years and 3500 hours experience in Australia and New Guinea. My eyesight is still 20/20, so you can be assured that I really did see the effect as described.
The next file to be opened, copied and sent to me was from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) titled, “Observations - General by outside authorities (includes UFO)”. With a date range of 1972-1981, the bulky offering contained 297 pages, and consisted of various reports of meteorological phenomena, apparent astronomical phenomena, a lot of agency correspondence and finally a very decent serving of UFO sightings made to the BOM over 9 years. One sighting, on the 16th of December, 1976, contained this entry:
The shape was like a rugby ball, with an angular size of about half a degree. Sighting duration was 10-12 seconds. When at about 50 degree elevation in the south-west it seemed to stop for five seconds then dissolved in the same spot.”
Another, from May 27, 1978 reads:
Dull orange object, low on the eastern horizon travelling north to south. Faster than an aircraft, slower than a meteor. No sound. Duration 1.5 to 2 minutes. Moved from north-east to south-south-west. Above clouds. Long orange tail. 3-4 weeks before, at dusk, a similar object was seen travelling in the opposite direction in the eastern sky.
By the end of March it was clear that my efforts to dig up a significant number of unopened, sometimes formally classified UFO-related files from the National Archives was gaining momentum. Many of the promising files, however, that arrived at my home would turn out to be completely un-UFO-related. But the files that were UFO related were worth the disappointments.

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