Project Blue Book Declassified: Green Fireballs

“Each wave of sightings adds to the accumulation of reports which defy analysis by present methods... An investigative process in depth is necessary here if, after twenty years of confusion, we want some answers.” – J. Allen Hynek

Up until the early 1950s, several reports of unidentified flying objects, described as “green fireballs” occurred in the southern United States, particularly in New Mexico.

In February 1949, the Los Alamos, New Mexico Skyliner newspaper published an article of what it referred to as “flying saucers” and possible conspiracy around them, which reads: 

“Los Alamos now has flying green lights. These will ‘o wisps seen generally about 2 a.m., have alerted the local constabulary and their presence is being talked about in Santa Fe bars. But local wheels deny any official knowledge of the sky phenomena. Each one passes the buck to another.”

According to the article, the sightings – reported by pilots, weather observers, scientists and intelligence officers, mostly occurred around the Los Alamos and Sandia atomic-weapons laboratories, as well as other U.S. military installations including radar stations and fighter interceptor bases, which led many to suspect the fireballs were Soviet spy technology.

On the night of December 5, 1948, two plane crews – one civilian, and one military, reported seeing a “green ball of fire” which looked like “a huge green meteor” streaking from west to east. In one of these instances, the fireball zoomed head-on towards the plane, causing the rattled pilot to veer out of its way. Another aerial observation of a green fireball was reported by two more pilots on December 8.

On December 20, however, one fireball was seen descending towards the ground at a 45-degree angle, before abruptly jetting off at immense speed into a horizontal flight path.

In a letter to the U.S Air Force, head of the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteorites, Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, wrote that the observed objects were atypical of meteors after he had plotted their flight paths, and scoured the possible landing area, but couldn’t find any meteor fragments, debris, craters, or evidence of fire. 

He noted in regards to December 20’s sighting: “None of the green fireballs has a train of sparks of a dust cloud…”

On January 13, 1949, the Director of Army Intelligence from Fourth Army Headquarters in Texas wrote that the green fireballs “[may be] the result of radiological warfare experiments by a foreign power” and “are of such great importance, especially as they are occurring in the vicinity of sensitive installations, that a scientific board [should]…study the situation.”

In December 1949, a special military study program known as Project Twinkle consisting of a network of green fireball observation and photographic units was established but never fully implemented. The program was later discontinued after two years as government officials concluded that the phenomena were likely natural in origin.

When Project Blue Book lead investigator Edward J. Ruppelt visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory in early 1952 to interview eyewitnesses, he noted that they became particularly animated with the idea of interplanetary vehicles. Ruppelt wrote in his 1953 definitive book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects: “They had been doing a lot of thinking about this, they said, and they had a theory”

“They thought the fireballs were actually extraterrestrial probes ‘projected’ into our atmosphere from a ‘spaceship’ hovering several hundred miles above the Earth.


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