In May 1999, Sign Historical Group (SHG) researchers, writers, and historians convened a foundational workshop in Chicago to discuss the state of affairs, and application of historical methods to the sometimes sketchy, often misinterpreted and always-incomplete history of the UFO phenomenon. One area lacking preservation was the archiving of spoken memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews.
Many individuals who have personal knowledge of some aspect of UFO history, whether witnesses, government officials and personnel, scientists and investigators, or individuals involved in the social aspects of the phenomenon, have never been interviewed concerning perspectives only they can provide. We therefore initiated the Sign Oral History Project to preserve significant historical information and ultimately make it available for scholarly study.
What are UFOs? The truth being after sixty years we still have no idea. Historian David Jacobs observes, “It is difficult to name another subject so quickly identifiable, so widely debated, so easily dismissed, and yet so little understood.” Why is that? For one reason, the UFO issue has never received an objective, systematic scientific study. Professors Wendt and Duvall note in our current state, “the UFO can be ‘known’ only by not asking what it is.” This disregard of UFOs goes further to active denial of their object status. To that extent “one may speak of a ‘UFO taboo,’ a prohibition in the authoritative public sphere on taking UFOs seriously.”
It is also true after seventy years the UFO phenomenon has a robust history that pervades post-war American culture. What we can know about UFOs is the experiential phenomenon, and based on available sources, its effect within the Air Force and intelligence agencies from 1946-1969, including official responses and the attitudes that have shaped the issue. For a concise history, see: Thomas Tulien, “History of the United States Air Force UFO Programs.”