Department of National Defence
Defence Research Board
On Thursday, April 17, 1952, Canadians were stunned by the
front-page Ottawa Journal revelation that the Department of
National Defence (DND) had been investigating UFOs from as early as 1947. The majority of sightings left top military and
scientific officials, as they frankly admitted, totally
"baffled".(l) This disclosure came in the wake of the furour and
consternation caused by the reappearance five days earlier of
UFOs over North Bay Air Force Base in Ontario. (See Chapter 6,
'UFOs and Military Installations'.)
The explosive headline story also shed light on the origins of
reported sightings in Canada: "The first report of a flying
saucer over Canada was one given by an Ottawa resident on June
26, 1947."(2) This date marked the birth of what has become known
as the 'modern era' of the UFO presence in Canada. It was then
that a series of military investigations into the celestial
mystery was launched. Ironically, this Canadian UFO 'premiere'
came only two days after the widely publicized UFO encounter by
Idaho commercial pilot, Kenneth Arnold, who was credited with
having coined the phrase "flying saucers".(3) Arnold's historic
airborne encounter with nine disk-like craft is generally
regarded as the cornerstone of the modern UFO era in America.
Since 1947, Canadian military response to the persistent UFO
presence can best be described as a mish-mash of reactionary
attitudes and crisis-oriented policies that have varied from
genuine interest and openness to disinterest and blatant
secrecy. In retrospect, the twenty-one years of official
military scrutiny can be broken down into the following distinct
June 1947 - April 1952
Very little is known about the embryonic stage of military
interest in UFOs. The only known disclosures pertaining to the
period from 1947 to April 1952 are contained in the
above-mentioned Ottawa Journal expos& The article stated that,
since June 1947, the Intelligence Branch of the Royal Canadian
Air Force has collaborated with the scientific research arm of
the army, the Defence Research Board (DRB), in assessing the
growing number of reported UFO encounters.(4) By early 1952, over
thirty well documented cases had been subjected to rigourous
analysis. Aside from a few which could easily be explained as
misidentified natural phenomena, most of them left the experts
April 1952 - 1956
Following the furour over the North Bay revelations, DRB Chairman
Dr. O.M. Solandt urgently convened an interdepartmental
committee ten days later to outline strategies aimed at tackling
the enigma. Aside from representatives from DRB and the Defence
Services (army, navy and air force), the committee also included
such notable figures as astrophysicist Dr. Peter M. Millman and
Wilbert B. Smith who headed the UFO study sponsored by the
Department of Transport, known as Project Magnet.(5)
Named Project Second Storey (PSS), the committee acted as the
coordinating and advisory body for those government departments
which were directly or remotely involved in UFO investigations.(6)
Under the chairmanship of Dr. Millman, PSS drew up a
comprehensive questionnaire which was distributed to personnel
of both the Defence Services and the Department of Transport. In
this way, PSS members were fed a steady flow of fresh nationwide
UFO reports. But in the eleven months that followed, the
committee made no significant progress in unravelling the UFO
mystery. Therefore, instead of intensifying research efforts,
PSS began to phase out its activities and by March 9, 1953, it
had reached the questionable conclusion that:
"evidence to date did not seem to warrant an all-out
investigation by the Canadian Services... For the present at
least, it was considered unnecessary for this
Committee or any other section of DND to undertake a detailed
analysis of the reports received to date.(7)
Although PSS continued to exist in name only until 1957, its
meetings became less frequent and to all intents and purposes
the government seemed to have washed its hands of the thorny UFO
problem.(8) Rather than release the PSS findings, military
strategists adopted a policy of secrecy, parallelling the trend
initiated two months earlier by the American military
establishment in response to recommendations by the Robertson
Panel of Scientific Consultants. This CIA-sponsored panel
consisted of five hand-picked scientists who concluded that UFOs
posed no "direct physical threat to national security",
recommending that they be "stripped" of their "special status"
and the "aura of mystery" they may have acquired.(9) Subsequent
leaks to the public about military pursuits of UFOs, including
several tragic mishaps, threatened to put the Robertson Panel
findings into serious jeopardy. In an effort to contain further
leaks, the U.S. Air Force quickly moved to tighten security on
all UFO-related activities.(10)
Information about attempts by the Royal Canadian Air Force to
capture UFOs was also kept from the general public, as was the
establishment of the UFO landing site at DRB Suffield
Experimental Station. To this day, it is unclear what factors
precipitated the secrecy. Some of the more plausible reasons
might be the reliance on blueprinting U.S. policies, the fear of
causing mass panic, the Canadian government's inability to
effectively explain the phenomenon to the public or the
suspicion that UFOs might be enemy craft, possibly of Soviet
origin. While all these factors could have contributed to the
secrecy scenario at one time or another, I am inclined to
believe that the military establishment was primarily afraid to
be placed in the position of explaining a phenomenon that defied
Because of this emphasis on secrecy, much of the UFO activities
by the military between 1952 and 1966 have remained
obscured under security classifications. It was not until July
1967, during a major nationwide UFO wave, that the veil of
secrecy was partially lifted. Confronted with demands for
government action, Defence Minister Paul Hellyer set out to
reassure the public that the DND was looking into the matter. At
the same time, he made the surprise revelation about the
existence of the DRB landing site.(11)
Nine months later, in March 1968, the transfer of UFO
investigative responsibility to the National Research Council
brought about a further release of UFO files, Even though the
documents focused primarily on DND findings between August 1965
and 1968, they did contain certain information about the
pre-1965 era. One of the documents - an internal brief to the
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) from the Directorate of Operations
(DOPS) - brought to light the extent of U.S. influence on
Canadian military attitudes toward UFOs. According to the brief
dated November 15, 1967, a Canadian scientific committee
(unspecified, although presumably Project Second Storey) again
concluded the UFOs posed no threat to national security, thereby
echoing the findings of the U.S. Robertson Panel.(12)
The 1968 declassifications also revealed that some of the less
sensitive military activities of the 1950s, which included the
Project Second Storey findings, were given the less restrictive
'CONFIDENTIAL' security classification.(13) It was not until
February 16, 1978, that DND's Directorate of History took the
bold step of declassifying these documents. While some may
conclude that the government's proposed 'freedom of
information'(14) policy was instrumental in having these documents
released, it is my belief that government officials recognised
they could no longer maintain a contradictory position on the
UFO question. It would be absurd to withhold UFO-related files
on the basis of national security, while at the same time
officially proclaiming they did not threaten national security.
Predictably, the documents that covered the period between July
3, 1947 and March 8, 1961 proved to be of little value. For one
thing, the files have been 'sanitised', meaning the names and
addresses of UFO witnesses and investigating authorities have
been deleted. For another, documents on UFO sightings sent to
DND through RCMP channels were withheld at the request of the
RCMP.(15) Furthermore, records of numerous major sightings were
missing, while those that had been released were, at best,
fragmentary. Among the cases omitted was the first incident ever
to be investigated by government officials: the June 26, 1947,
sighting over Ottawa. Also visibly absent were the recurring UFO
incidents over Goose Bay (Labrador) Air Force Base between 1948
In addition, documents covering the three and a half years
between December 1954 and June 1958 are missing.(16) Are we to
conclude that there were no UFO sightings during that period? On
the contrary. The crucial and most revealing interdepartmental
correspondence between top-ranking military strategists involved
in orchestrating UFO policies could not be located either.
Furthermore, the files contained no references to RCAF attempts
to down a UFO or the ensuing DRB landing site.
To close out this period of 'transition', we learn from the
November 15 CDS brief that: "at one time, UFO reports were
forwarded to Air Defence Command (ADC) for investigation."(17)
While no dates are given, it is believed the period covered is
1953 to 1957. In 1961, the 1953 date was confirmed by Defence
Minister Douglas S. Harkness when he wrote to a NICAP member:
As of 1953, the Air Office Commanding Air Defence Command is
charged. with the military investigation of Unidentified
Flying Object reports...
"Information compiled by the RCAF pertaining to this matter
(UFOs) is not available to the public."(18)
1956 - Early 1960s.
The period from 1956 to the early 1960s
marked the intensification of the Cold War and the subsequent
emergence of NORAD. With sophisticated radar outposts monitoring
the perimeter of the North American continent for hostile,
suspicious or unidentifiable airborne craft, UFO reports
naturally became subject to even greater secrecy.
But the bubble burst on April 12, 1959, when a red disc-like UFO
was spotted over Air Defence Command Headquarters at St. Hubert
Air Force Base, east of Montreal! The sighting was subsequently
confirmed by military authorities. (See Chapter 6, 'UFOs and
Military Installations'.) These embarrassing leaks led to
further tightening of security measures in an effort to
eliminate any further unauthorised disclosures. Soon after, RCAF
Group Captain L.C. Dilworth, a spokesman for the Chief of Air
Staff, wrote to a NICAP member:
The RCAF has recently implemented the JANAP 146(D) procedure for
the reporting of vital intelligence sightings. (UFOs
included)... Needless to say, the RCAF, in concert with American
Forces, is interested in all such reports, and evaluation is
done on a systematic basis. While the outcome of individual
evaluations is not made public, you may rest assured that any
threat to the security of Canada or the United States will be
reflected in appropriate military plans.(19)
Under the JANAP 146(D) provisions, any person (military or
civilian) reporting a UFO sighting through official channels is
subject to prosecution under the Canada Official] Secrets Act of
1939 if convicted of unauthorised transmission or disclosure of
such a sighting.(20) As a deterrent, JANAP 146(D) and its
successor, JANAP 146(E) (amended it March 1966), were effective
in preventing additional UFO leaks.
By the early 1960s, Air Defence Command opted out of the UFO
business, and Canadian Forces Headquarters (CFHQ) in Ottawa took
over the responsibility to investigate
sightings. Officially, the "no threat to security" was once more
dragged out as the reason behind the transfer.(21)
Early 1960s to March 1966. This era of military UFO research
from the early 1960s to March 1966 was characterised by
stepped-up attempts at defusing the entire UFO controversy. Not
only was secrecy further entrenched, but government officials
went so far as to state that all UFO sightings could be easily
explained. On July 22, 1963, in the House of Commons, in
response to questions from Liberal Member of Parliament Leonard
'Red' Kelly about Canada's current UFO research activities, the
government spokesman replied:
While it is not the policy of the department (of National
Defence) to deny the public information about Unidentified
Flying Objects, such reports are not produced in published form.
Investigations to date have classified the sightings as either
man-made objects, of which we are aware, or as natural
phenomena, well known in scientific circles, but unfamiliar to
the general public.(22)
These statements were in direct contradiction to the November
1967 brief addressed to the Chief of Defence Staff which
At that time, the Director of Intelligence co-ordinated DND
action on UFO reports. Correspondence held on CFHQ UFO files
also indicated that Dr. J.C. ArnelI, who was at that time the
Scientific Deputy Chief of Technical Services, was an active and
interested participant in dealing with UFO matters.(23)
Clearly, the DND was interested in studying manifestations of
UFOs and not natural identifiable celestial objects. To this
day, their findings have not been released.
The CFHQ participation in solving the UFO mystery came to an
abrupt end in March 1966 when, for reasons unknown, another
transfer of responsibility took place, this time to the
Directorate of Operations (DOPS).
March 1966 - March 1968.
The phase of military UFO research
between March 1966 and March 1968 coincided
with Canada's most intensive period of UFO activity up to that
point. It also marked the beginning of more intensive attempts
by the military to solve the UFO riddle.
The transfer to DOPS had barely been consummated when Southern
Ontario was struck by extensive UFO activity. During a week-long
flurry, which appeared to have spilled over from Michigan,
scores of unidentified craft of every conceivable shape and
colour were observed by hundreds of onlookers from Windsor to
Toronto. Witnessing these sightings were such diverse observers
as Metropolitan Toronto police officers and air traffic
controllers, as well as Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Champion
Accompanied by his wife and cousin, Chuvalo watched a
saucer-shaped craft for over four hours on the evening of March
29, 1966. He declared: "It was a blinking light, mainly red and
blue, but it didn't move at all."(25) Chuvalo's sighting came only
twenty-four hours after he had been defeated by Muhammed Ali in
the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship at Maple Leaf Gardens
But the most dramatic UFO incident involved Charles Cozens of
Hamilton, Ontario, who claimed to have touched the antenna of a
This prolonged UFO presence, which had ben recorded earlier in
the United States, led former President Gerald Ford, then House
Republican Leader, to request a Congressional inquiry into UFOs.
Soon after, the U.S. Air Force set up the controversial Condon
Committee at the University of Colorado.
Evidently influenced by these developments, the DND introduced,
in October 1966, a special reporting procedure known as CFAO
71-6 (Canadian Forces Administration Order),(26) which was aimed
at streamlining the transmission of UFO reports from Canadian
Forces Bases to Defence Headquarters. These reports were
received from a variety of sources, including law enforcement
agencies, military and commercial pilots and the public at
large. The directive applied only to UFO reports deemed to be of
an 'UNCLASSIFIED' nature, that is, the less sensitive sightings.
Apparently, the 'juicy' ones, those of military interest, were protected from
public exposure through the sanctions of the JANAP directives.
During this two-year DOPS tenure, incoming UFO reports were
first divided into two general categories: fireball-meteorites
and non-fireball meteorites (UFOs).
To differentiate between common celestial debris and genuine
unidentified craft, the Defence Director of Scientific
Coordination (DSC) was routinely called in to assist DOPS staff
in conducting the initial breakdown.(27) Reports dealing with
fireball-meteorites were forwarded to the National Research
Council Meteorite Centre for evaluation, while the UFO cases
were broken down into three further categories.
Reports containing information that warranted further
investigation were given a Class A designation, while those of
lesser importance or of little predictable value were designated
Class B and C respectively,(28) Because of the fragmentary nature
of the majority of these reports, few sightings merited Class A
status. Out of 193 received in the ten and a half months,
between January 1 and November 15, 1967, only nine met Class A
requirements. Out of these nine, six were judged to contain
evidence confirming the presence of a craft of inexplicable
origin, while the remaining three could not be dismissed as
natural identifiable phenomena.(29) Collectively, these nine cases
represented some of the most convincing sightings recorded
anywhere, including the July 1967 Warren Smith photos (Chapter
1, 'The Photographic Evidence',); the Shoal Lake tree-top damage
(Chapter 2, 'UFO Landings and Physical Traces'); and the Falcon
Lake UFO landing (Chapter 3, 'Physical Reactions to Sightings'.)
As the number of serious, newsworthy UFO incidents increased in
late 1967, so did the public demand for military accountability.
Combined with parliamentary questioning, this led the military
establishment to look for alternate ways of coping with the
Unable on the one hand to disprove the existence of UFOs, but
unwilling to go so far as to officially admit their existence,
Canadian military authorities again took a page out
of the American UFO experience. Inspired by the Condon
Committee, DND officials decided to refer the entire UFO hot
potato to a recognised scientific agency - this time, the
National Research Council. In a news release dated January 8,
1968, NRC announced that its Space Research Facilities Branch
would soon be:
"acting as a clearing house to determine whether there
was any scientific reason which would warrant further
investigation of UFO reports."(31)
One reason cited for the transfer was the 'detrimental' and
'disruptive' effect on DND personnel created by the increased
workload of UFO investigations.82 In my opinion the transfer was
simply a buck-passing exercise to avoid further embarrassment to
a government already perplexed by its inability to come to grips
with the phenomena. Since the implementation of the transfer in
March 1968, the DND has fervently reiterated that it no longer
conducts UFO-related research, and that this responsibility now
rests solely with the NRC. To this day, any sightings referred
to DND are automatically channelled via Telex to the Herzberg
Institute of Astrophysics in the Planetary Sciences Section of
On the other hand, there seems to be increasing evidence that
the military has not altogether abandoned its interest in UFOs.
As revealed in the NRC Non-Meteoritic Sightings File, the DND
periodically transmits information on certain sensitive UFO
occurrences, via Telex, to its U.S. counterpart at NORAD
Headquarters in Colorado Springs, and NORAD Regional
Headquarters at McCord Air Force Ease in Washington State.(34)
Transmitted as 'RESTRICTED' material under the U.S./Canada
CIRVIS/JANAP directive (Communications Instructions for
Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings), these reports have also
been channelled to local strategic military installations, such
as NORAD Regional Headquarters at North Bay Air Force Base,
North Bay, Ontario, DND Air
Command in Winnipeg, as well as National Defence Headquarters in
One such 'RESTRICTED' CIRVIS report - a suspected UFO landing
outside Grande Prairie, Alberta - was transmitted from Canadian
Forces Station Beaverlodge (Alberta) to all the above mentioned
locations as recently as January 21, 1976.(36) Essentially, this
means that the DND. through its participation in NORAD, is
collaborating with its U.S. partner in collecting and
transmitting such 'RESTRICTED' UFO reports.
Admittedly, this apparent NOR AD-generated report-sharing does
not conclusively prove current DND involvement in UFO research,
On the other hand, a deliberate laissez-faire policy toward UFOs
seems highly unrealistic. To ignore the consistent presence of
unidentified and potentially hostile craft over strategic
military installations would represent an unthinkable violation
of the mandate and the philosophy inherent in NORAD.
1 Ottawa Journal, April 17, 1952.
3 Curt Sutherly, 'First American Pilot to Report UFOs', Sage
UFO Report, Vol. 3, No. 6 (March 1977).
4 Ottawa Journal, op. cit.
5 Project Second Storey, 'Minutes of a Meeting to Discuss
'Flying Saucer' Sightings',' April 22, 1952. Defence Research
6 Ibid., Summary Report, November 21, 1953.
7 Ibid., “Minutes of the Meeting,” March 9, 1953., p. 2.
8 Weekend Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 27 (1957) P. 22.
9 Leon Davidson, “Flying Saucers: An Analysis of the Air Force
Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14,” Report of the
Scientific Panel on Unidentified Flying Objects. H.P.
Robertson, Chairman, January 17, 1953 (Saucerian
Publications, January 1971).
10 Donald E. Keyhoe, “Flying Saucers: Top Secret”. Doubleday &
Co. Inc. New York. 1964. p. 42.
11 Ottawa Journal, July 20, 1967.
12 Chief of Defence (CDS) Briefing on Unidentified Flying
Objects, November 15, 1967. p. 3, Directorate of Operations,
Department of National Defence. From the Non-Meteoritic
Sightings File, DND 222. Herzberg Institute of
Astrophysics, Planetary Sciences Section, National Research
13 Project Second Storey, op. cit., April 24, 1952.
14 The Honourable John Roberts, Secretary of State. 'Legislation
on Public Access to Government Documents', (Ottawa: Queen's
Printer, June 1977).
15 Telephone conversation with Senior Research Officer P.A.C.
Chaplin. Directorate of History, Department of National
Defence. Ottawa. February 17, 1978.
16 Department of National Defence UFO File, HQ 940.105-Vol. 2
Directorate of History, Department of National Defence,
17 CDS Briefing on UFOs, op. cit., p. 4.
18 Richard H. Hall, ed. The UFO Evidence (Washington, D.C.:
National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, 1964).
19 Ibid., p. 118.
20 Canadian-United States Communications Instructions for
Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings. Ibid JANAP 146. The
Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Communications-Electronics
Committee Washington 25, D.C. February 1959, p. 134.
21 CDS Briefing on UFOs, op. cit., p. 4.
22 The House of Commons Debates July 22, 1963, p. 2448.
23 CDS Briefing on UFOs, op. cit., p. 4.
24 Toronto Star, March 29, 1966.
25 Toronto Telegram, March 31, 1966.
26 Reporting of Unidentified Flying Objects, CFAO 71-6,
s-1605-71-6 V 2000-4 (DOPS). Issued 7 October 1966. Department
of National Defence (Ottawa).
27 CDS Briefing on UFOs, op. cit., p. 9.
28 Ibid., p. 10.
29 Department of National Defence, DOPS UFO File, January
1 - November 15, 1967. From the Non-Meteoritic Sightings
File, DND 24-222. Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics,
Planetary Sciences Section, National Research Council,
30 The House of Commons Debates, November 6, 1967. p. 3918. of
the American UFO experience.
31 Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Planetary Sciences
Section, National Research Council, Non-Meteoritic Sightings
File, DND 209, January 8, 1968, (Ottawa).
32 CDS Briefing on UFOs, op. cit., pp. 24-25.
33 A.G. McNamara, 'UFOs - What Are They?' Journal of the
Canadian - Air Traffic Control Association, Vol. 8,
34 Non-Meteoritic Sightings File, NRC N76-011, op. cii.
January 21, 1976.
UFO CANADA - Yurko Bondarchuk