Correspondence with Dr. Thornton Page


While we were doing the research for The Confirmation Paper, we discovered that there was only one surviving scientist-member of the Scientific Advisory Panel On Unidentified Flying Objects, (commonly known as "The Robertson Panel.") This person was Dr. Thornton Page.  We were able to exchange letters with Dr. Page.   We believe that these letters, and the other material provided by Dr. Page, provide a unique view into the Robertson Panel and surrounding circumstances, and Dr. Pages' views and actions relating to the subject of UFOs.  These were some of Dr. Page's last words on these subjects, as he has regrettably passed away since.

We sent a letter to Dr. Page asking that he write up his memories of the Robertson Panel for us. He replied quite quickly. We were quite pleased to receive a reply from Dr. Page, which included some information new to us. Dr. Page included his review of the Condon report in the form of a reprint from the American Journal of Physics, [Vol. 37, No. 10, 1071-1072, October 1969]. In hopes of obtaining further information through continued correspondence, we inquired further.

Our second letter to Dr. Page contained more specific questions and included a couple of declassified CIA documents relating to Dr. Robertson and the Panel that we had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Dr. Page responded more fully to this second letter, providing answers to some questions in full or in part, but avoiding certain other questions. He also provided some pages (three documents) of notes for presentations he had made on the subject of the Robertson Panel. These notes contain some interesting tidbits of information; the most important of which are discussed herein. The text of the correspondence and the related documents are also provided; links to this material are below.

In order to understand the significance of the Robertson Panel, its place in UFO history, and therefore to fully appreciate the information present below, it is helpful if one has first read the information that is available. A list of suggested material for further reading is also provided.

Those bits of information that we consider most important are discussed below. Readers should note that this discussion is based on information, which comes from Dr. Page's letters or other material he provided. References to the source documents are given.

Perhaps the most telling statement in any of the material comes from Dr. page's reply to our first letter. In describing what the Panel was tasked with, Dr. Page states:

"H.P. Robertson told us in the first private (no outsiders) session that our job was to reduce public concern, and show that UFO reports could be explained by conventional reasoning." [1]
This instruction was given to the Panel members before any evidence was presented. This would seem to be a "smoking gun" as it were, since by Dr. Page's own words, the purpose of the Panel was not to investigate or to evaluate. Dr. Page contrasts this statement of purpose with the presentations given to the Panel:
"We were "briefed" by "experts" (several of the CIA agents not too expert on astronomy, optics, or radar) Their goal seemed to be to convince us that UFOs are real and may be a hazard to the U.S." [1]
Page states that Dr. Robertson read the..."Terms of reference for the Panel - - a serious report to the US government about the possible threat of UFOs." [3] This just does not seem to square with what Page says was the real purpose of the Panel. However, the Panel report is, on the surface, a serious report. But created for what purpose? The issue of bias in the creation of the report remains. FOIA requests for the Terms of Reference document have produced only "no records" responses.

In reading the Durant report of the Panel proceedings, one is struck by how the Panel members dismissed the evidence presented, item by item, seemingly offhand, without serious consideration, investigation or actual testing of the evidence. The above may explain that. For example, Dr. page states: "The Panel explained radar UFOs as radio interference..." [3] He does not say that investigations or tests showed that interference was a cause of UFOs detected by radar.

The very existence of the Robertson panel was classified, and information about the Panel has been released in spurts over the years. As far as we know, all documentation released so far has been marked SECRET. Dr. page states:

"I now vaguely remember that Robertson made a point of telling us at the first ... that the meetings were TOP SECRET ... I also got paid $50 by the CIA (this payment was also TOP SECRET, and the US Gov't checks did not have CIA on it.)" [2]
This is the first mention that we are aware of that a classification above SECRET has been mentioned in conjunction with the Panel. If Dr. Page is correct about this, then it is certain that we have not yet seen everything from the Robertson Panel. It is possible that Dr. Page is not remembering this correctly as he says: "My memory is not too good, at age 79."  [2]

As for "reducing public concern," since the Panel itself was secret it could not affect the public directly, but only through their recommendations and the actions which resulted. Dr. Page refers briefly to recommendations for action made by the Panel:

"We made detailed recommendations for USAF organization to educate public and debunk UFOs" [4]

"...urged the USAF to seek publicity "debunking" UFOs." [3]

"Need more education of the public." [3]

"We ... named US observatories where a little extra effort might yield photos of UFOs ... but this should not be given publicity and re-start public fears of UFOs"

The "debunking" and public education aspects of the Panel recommendations have been controversial since they were first made public. Some think this proves government involvement in everything from cover-ups to disinformation campaigns while others dismiss it entirely. It is a virtual certainty, proven by other documentation released largely because of the Freedom of Information Act, and the testimony of many persons, that government cover-up of UFOs and disinformation have and do exist. Exactly what role the Panel recommendations play in this aspect of UFO is uncertain, but we believe that the Robertson Panel played an important part in setting UFO secrecy policy, which continues to this day.

Dr. Page also takes credit for "solving" an important UFO case; the Trementon Utah film. This film shows multiple objects, virtual points of light maneuvering in a cloudless sky, and was made by a reliable Navy photographer. There is considerable controversy over this film, including charges of the film being intentionally "lost" (confiscated.). The photographer reported that the objects were large structured, rotating craft, not points of light or birds. Staff of the (then) Navy Photographic Interpretation Laboratory (PIL), among others, conducted exhaustive studies of this film and concluded that it was not a film of known objects such as balloons or birds. The Robertson Panel swept this aside questioning the procedures used by the PIL technicians. Page has the following to say this case:

"I questioned several briefers about the estimated distance to observed objects - and explained one movie of UFOs as nearby birds (seagulls) rather than distant aircraft." [1]

"I also take credit for "solving" the Trementon, Utah, case, where movies taken by a Navy officer showed flying saucers darting around at supersonic speeds. We asked that a similar camera be taken to the same site. This was done, similar objects were again photographed, but field glasses showed them to be seagulls less than a mile away rather than saucers ten miles away." [5]

"We were ... shown movies of the Trementon, Utah, incident, after which I suggested that someone visit that site with field glasses. This took place later on, and the Trementon UFOs were found to be seagulls." [3]

"We were shown movies of UFOs at Trementon, Utah by reliable Navy non-com (earlier I suggested a repeat, with field glasses -> seagulls nearby, not A/C 10 mi.)" [4]

"We went into great detail explaining the Trementon case as seagulls and agreed that such effort could not be given all UFO reports" [4]

Page speaks of a test proving seagulls as the objects shown in the Trementon film. This does not address the statements of the "reliable" Navy photographer, nor is it clear when this experiment was conducted. It seems unlikely that it was completed during the few days of the Panel meetings, and if not, then the results would not have been available to the panel to guide its conclusions about the Tremonton film.

Many researchers have concluded that the members of the Robertson panel were selected because of their anti-UFO bias. We see this more that the Panel members were all scientists who had worked, or were working on classified government programs, some of these weapons and other military projects. In short these were men who could be counted upon to do a job for the government as laid out. Certainly the actions of the members during the Panel indicate an anti-UFO stance.


"Later in 1969, I came to the conclusion that the "UFO Phenomenon" was worthy of study, and organized, with Carl Sagan, and AAAS Symposium in Boston, proceedings of which were published as "UFOs, A Scientific Debate" (Cornell Univ. Press, 1972), a reply to the late E.U. Condon's "Scientific Study of UFOs" (Bantam Books, 1969)" [5]

"In 1968 I proposed an AAAS Symposium on UFOs which was hotly opposed by several scientists but supported by Walter Orr Roberts, then President of the AAAS, (American Association for the Advancement of Science). Carl Sagan, a friend of mine at Cornell, leapt in to help organize the Symposium, picked most of the speakers, and got the proceedings published by Cornell Univ. Press in 1972..." [3]

"1968 - proposed AAAS Symposium on UFOs
Hotly opposed by several scientists, supported by Walter Orr Roberts postponed to [Boston] Dec 26-27, 1969 after completion of Condon report because of political implications, Carl Sagan leapt in (and took over!)" [4]

One humorous note about the AAAS Symposium is: "Menzel (anti-UFO) insisted his paper be longer than McDonald (pro-UFO)."

Just what changed Page's mind for a time about the value of UFO study, if indeed it was changed, is unclear, but there may be two clues in the material. One clue may be in the fact that Page disapproved of the Condon study as shown in his review published in American Journal of Physics. He says that "UFOs, A Scientific Debate" was a reply to the Condon report, but also says that the AAAS Symposium was delayed until the Condon report was finished because of politics. Another clue may lie in Page's statement that "...another panel convened in 1966? - when UFO reports high." [4] Page notes that "...the UFO reports continued..." [3] perhaps some of the more puzzling cases came to his attention.

Dr. Page apparently changed his position back since he ends one letter with: "My recent feelings about UFOs are that they indicate a public paranoia in which I've lost interest, except for the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project urged by Phil Morrison, and even there I'm swayed by Fermi's question: "Where are they?" " [1]

There are more items of interest in the materials provided by Dr. Page, but we'll leave you to read them for yourself.



[1] Reply to first letter
[2] Reply to 2nd letter
[3] "Inn of the Ozarks" notes
[4] "SSE Sheraton Court Hotel" notes
[5] "Abstract for SSE" notes


Correspondence between Dr. Page and CUFON [includes 1 & 2 above]
American Journal of Physics article - revue of the Condon Report
   (Dr. Page included this with his first reply)
Three items of notes Dr. Page enclosed in his second reply letter [includes 3, 4, & 5 above]
Encyclopedia Britannica article "UFOs" by Dr. Page
Selected term papers from Dr. Thornton Page's Science 101  "Flying Saucers" course - Spring quarter, 1968 - Example Booklet Number 1 of   2
Selected term papers from Dr. Thornton Page's Science 101  "Flying Saucers" course - Fall quarter, 1968 - Example Booklet Number 2 of   2


(Robertson Panel report)

Department Of Defense (USAF) Restatement of the Proceedings and Conclusions of the Scientific Advisory Panel On Unidentified Flying Objects

"Dr. Robertson Requests the Honor of Your Presence," Dr. Michael Swords, International UFO Reporter, July/August 1995, ISSN 0720-174X), CUFOS, pp. 16-20

"The Robertson Panel," The UFO Book; Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial, Jerome Clark, Visible Ink Press, 1998, ISBN 1-57859-029-9, pp. 513-515

Final Report of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Dr. E.U. Condon, Scientific Director, Daniel S. Gillmor ed., E.P. Dutton, NY, in association with: The Colorado University Press 1969

The UFO Experience-A Scientific Inquiry
, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Henry Regnery, IL, 1972, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 76-183827

The Edge of Reality, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, and Dr. Jacques Vallee, Henry Regenry, IL, 1975, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 75-13226

The UFO Controversy in America, David Michael Jacobs, Indiana University Press. Bloomington, IA, 1975, ISBN 0-253-19006-1

The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Edward J. Ruppelt, Doubleday, NY, 1956

Flying Saucers and the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Colonel Lawrence J. Tacker, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., Princeton, NJ, 1960

Forbidden Science: Journals 1957 - 1969, Jacques Vallee, Ph.D., North Atlantic Books, Berkley CA, 1992, ISBN 1-55643-125-2


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