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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 periods.

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 completely mystified.

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 explanation.

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 and 1952.

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 indicated that:

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 George Chuvalo.(24)

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 in Toronto.

But the most dramatic UFO incident involved Charles Cozens of Hamilton, Ontario, who claimed to have touched the antenna of a landed craft.

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 enigma.(30)

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 the NRC.(33)

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 Ottawa.(35)

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.
2 Ibid.
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 Board. Ottawa.
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 Council, (Ottawa).
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, (Ottawa).
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). p. 118.
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, (Ottawa).
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, No. 1(1976).
34 Non-Meteoritic Sightings File, NRC N76-011, op. cii. January 21, 1976.
35 Ibid.
36 Ibid.

UFO CANADA - Yurko Bondarchuk