Many people have dismissed recent reports of UFO sightings over London with a scoff, wondering how another sucker can be taken in by a hoax or a simple mistake.
However, it turns out the Federal Bureau of Investigation took these incidents a lot more seriously.
Documents recently added to the FBI's online reading room, the Vault, detail the period between 1947 and 1954 when a rash of sightings of unexplained flying objects (UFOs) swept America, according to the website. Visitors can peruse a virtual library of photocopied letters describing government investigations into reports of extraterrestrial encounters.
Partially redacted memos on paper bearing the official heading of Office Memorandum United States Government describe a silver object streaking across the sky that disintegrated into a long pillar of gas suspended in the sky, or mention how a bluish white flaming object was observed at a height of one thousand feet or more over Philadelphia, proceeding from a Northeasterly to a Southwesterly direction. There are also news reports capturing the public fascination and widespread belief in otherworldly visitors; a headline on a lead newspaper story reads, 'Flying Saucers' Reported From 39 States, But Seem To Be Concentrated Here.'
The memos also track a sense of incredulity and frustration by the part of FBI agents assigned to the task. Agents describe feeling slighted by the work delegated to them by the newly formed U.S. Air Force. It is my understanding from recent Bureau instructions that we are to assist the Air Force Intelligence personnel in the investigation of flying disc incidents, one memo reads. The author later adds that FBI has been enlisted to track down all the many instances which turned out to be ash can covers, toilet seats and what not, asks that the FBI not be asked to conduct investigations which are not important and are almost, in fact, ridiculous.
Another letter adds to that point, pointedly stating to a superior that I cannot permit the personnel and time of thie organization to be dissipated in this matter.