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Study of Official Australian Government Involvement in UFO Controversy: A Progress Report

Bill Chalker

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: We have gone from a confused and vague picture of clandestine official Australian involvement to a detailed understanding based on directly officially sanctioned file reviews by a civilian researcher.

Bill Chalker

author's bio




During 1982, I was able to:

a. Examine the majority of the extent UFO files held by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

b. Examine the entirety of the extent UFO files held by the Dept. of Aviation.

c. Initiate discussions with a defence scientist privy to the official files and the inner working of governmental policies and approaches to the UFO subject.

d. Initiate enquiries with other Australian agencies and individuals re UFO file holdings.

e. Undertake enquiries with overseas government departments re UFO file holdings (in particular, the Ministries of Defence in the U.K. and the USAF re Project Blue Book, the latter, in relation to Australian cases).

f. Undertake discussions with the Department of Aviation/Bureau of Air Safety investigation on the Valentich affair, and

g. publish some of the results of my enquiries.


The RAAF files held by the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) were examined over four separate visits to the Department of Defence Russell Offices in Canberra during 1982 - namely, January 11- 14, May 7 June 4 and October 8.

A total of 56 files were examined. They fell into categories:

1. "Unidentified Flying Objects - Reports of Sightings" - 47 files covering the period 1955-1982. Three files covering the period around 1973/74 have yet to be examined.

2. "UFO's - Enquiries from Members of the Public and Flying Saucer Organisations" - 7 files covering the period 1966-1981 and

3. "Investigation of Flying Saucers - Policy" - 2 files covering the period 1953-1969. The current "policy" file has not yet been made available.


The DOA files held by the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation were examined on November 19th 1982 during a visit to their Melbourne office. Four files were examined and their contents included:

1. Previously "secret" papers related to the famous Drury film affair. (1) 2. Details about early reports from 1952-1968.

3. Early RAAF documents and reports (copies) no longer available in the RAAF files, due to the original files, ostensibly, being destroyed during the Department of Air (now Department of Defence - Air Force) move from Melbourne to Canberra in the early sixties.

4. Papers relating to the controversial Bouganville Reef event of 1965, which appear to confirm that the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) had no knowledge of it, at least at the level of DCA-Director-General in Melbourne.


Detailed discussions have been undertaken with a retired scientist who has worked in the Defence Scientific and Technical Intelligence (DSTI) section of the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB now joint Intelligence Organization - J10). The scientist, in a civilian capacity, had access to the RAAF/DAFI UFO files in 1954 and later, as JIB "liaison" to DAFI, had access to the DAFI files during the late sixties. He was in a unique position to examine the files and observe the policies and approaches of government agencies (DAFI,JIB etc.) to the UFO question. Further to my discussions with him by phone and letter, I was able to meet him personally during May 1983. I have found his information extremely informative and it has served to compliment and supplement data I have amassed from other sources. A detailed picture of the history of official involvement in the UFO controversy, in Australia, can at last be discerned.


Upon my request, on July 13, 1982, the Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI) declassified documents relating to the famous radar-visual Sea Fury incident of August 31, 1954. These included written statements by the Sea Fury pilot and the Nowra Naval Air Station radar operator and a previously "confidential" memorandum from DNI to DAFI. (3) In correspondence with R.H. Mathams, former Director of Scientific Intelligence (JIB/J10) and author of the book: "Sub Rosa - Memoirs of an Australian Intelligence Analyst", he indicated to me that, "DSTI had only a marginal interest in UFO's; our analytical resources were limited and I had to take the position that we could not afford to become too involved in investigation of UFO sightings until we had reasonable grounds for believing that they were of foreign - as opposed to alien - origin. We relied on DAFI to make the initial investigations and, at times assisted in the interpretation of the resulting data". Mr. Mathams is not the defence scientist mentioned earlier. Other agencies and individuals have either been contacted, replied, or are in the process of being contacted. I do not, at this stage, propose to possibly jeopardise results, with premature disclosures of current and future lines of enquiries.


Enquiries with some overseas government department have borne fruit.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD), Defence Secretariat, Division 8, of the United Kingdom indicated:

a. MOD's records on UFO's go back to 1962. Most of the material is reports of individual sightings by members of the public, passed on to us via ATC centres, police, RAF stations, etc. As an indication of the size of our holdings, we received 2250 sightings between 1978 and 1981.

b. MOD investigated UFO sightings solely to determine whether they indicate anything of defence interest. No attempt is made to find a positive identification for every object seen. We have, therefore, no category of 'unexplained sightings...'.

A reply from New Zealand authorities confirmed that there appears to be little organised effort to investigate UFO's there. No comprehensive records are maintained. From the National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., USA, where the USAF Project Bluebook files are held, I have received copies of documentation held on some Australian cases. I have also on order microfilm copies of a comprehensive Bluebook index and all photographic holdings. (4) I have also been in contact with a number of overseas civilian researchers who have been assisting me in my enquiries.


On May 26, 1982, the Department of Transport (now Aviation) released to me their Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report on the disappearance of VH-DSJ and its pilot, Frederick Valentich. It would appear that this document was made available only to parties having a bona fide interest in the incident. It would appear that, via my correspondence with the Department, they were satisfied that my interest, despite it being from a 'ufological' point of view, was never-the-less bona fide. I am aware that the same report has been denied to other parties, whom on the face of it, appeared to have had a bona fide interest. (5)

During my November 19, 1982 visit to the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation, I had the opportunity to discuss the Valentich Affair with Mr. A.R. Woodward, a Director of the Bureau. He referred to the files on the case, he had in front of him, to answer some of my questions, however, access to these files was denied to me, on the basis that all "air accident investigation files were privileged information. It was evident that they were only treating the affair as an accident/incident pertaining to air safety investigation. More recently, when I questioned him on the alleged discovery of the aircraft, VH-DSJ, on Cape Otway, by divers, Mr. Woodward indicated that no action was planned by the Department of Aviation. In the event that VH-DSJ was actually salvaged, the Department would confiscate the aircraft in view of it being the subject of an aircraft accident investigation. Dr. Richard Haines has provided me with an advanced complimentary copy of his 'Journal of UFO Studies' paper; "Results of Sound Spectrum Analysis of the Metallic Noises of a Tape recorded Radio Transmission between Cessna VH;DSJ and the Flight Service of Melbourne, Australia". (6)


I have been able to publish part of the results of my research into official Australian government involvement in the UFO controversy.

1-2 "UFO's and the Royal Australian Air Force - the inside story" in the UFO Research Australia Newsletter (UFORAN), Vol.3 Nos 2,3, and 4 (March-April, May-June and July-August, 1982) and MUFON UFO Journal No. 175 (Sept. 1982) and No. 176 (Oct 8) the latter in a slightly edited form.

3-4 "UFO's; Australia's Secret Documents Revealed", in Omega - Science Digest, Dept-Oct, 1982 and the APRO Bulletin, Vol 30 No. 10 (Oct 82) and Vol 30 No. 11 (Dec 8) as "Australian A.F. UFO Report Files".

5. "The RAAF UFO Files", the Journal of the Australian Centre for UFO Studies, Vol 3, No 3 May/June 1982.

6. "The RAAF FILES', UFORAN, Vol 3 No.4 July-August 1982.

7. "Valentich Disappearance - The Official Verdict" ACUFOS Bulletin, July 1982.

8. "UFO's - The Secret RAAF Files" by Ken Anderson, The Daily Telegraph (Syd) May 22 1982.

9. "Air Force Files Examined - UFO Sightings Still a Mystery" by Tim Cribb, the (Sydney) Sun, December 1982.

The British Flying Saucer Review (FSR) via Gordon Creighton have indicated an interest in publishing some of this material. UFO Nyt, the Scandinavian publication have also been given permission to publish material. The Orbis multiple part publication "The Unexplained" may also be briefly referring to this research with an article by Jenny Randles in the near future. I will continue to release the results of my research as time permits.

I have made some limited copies of some documents available to those individuals with bona fide interests, e.g. Nebo area events of 1964 and 1965 and a possible "landing" near Mandurana in 1978 to UFO research (FNQ); 1957 radar visual event in Tasmania and 1960 USAF aircraft encounter near Cressy to TUFOIC: Groote Eylandt (1964) 'EM' event, radar-visual event at Kalamunda (1969) etc. to UFOR (WA) and various 'aircraft/UFO encounters' to Dr. Richard Haines, who is specialising in such cases. (7,8,9,10,11,12). In view of the fact that I have signed a DAFI document undertaking to preserve confidentiality I have to maintain strict control of the RAAF documents released to me. As time permits documents will be released with confidential details (names etc.) deleted.


During my reviews and research of official files several particular areas of study have received additional attention. These include:

1. The case for and against official 'cover-ups' of UFO DATA: More than twenty individual accounts from civilian sources allegedly indicative of 'cover-up' activities were are being examined. I hope to report on my findings soon.

2. The Drury Film Affair: most of the original documentation is now secured. Frames from the film are in my possession, however, they are of poor quality. Mr. Drury has been contacted and was most helpful with my enquiries. A report on my investigations will be made available when completed.

3. Reports by military personnel. Reports by service personnel have been collected together and a report will be made available when completed.

4. Reports from aircraft: Such cases have been isolated and are to be added to an expanded catalogue in conjunction with Keith Basterfield's revision of his existing document on this theme.

5. Official policies to UFO's: A number of official documents relating to policy have been secured. The evaluation of official policy re UFO's in Australia from 1950 through to 1983 is fairly clear. I will be reporting on this in due course.

6. Summarising and indexing official file holdings. Preliminary general indexes are already being worked on which will cover the period 1950 to 1983.

7. Search for missing files: While it appears that I have been able to examine the majority of RAAF/DAFI file holdings, a few individual file parts remain to be located and examined. These include:

a. Three sighting file parts covering reports during about 1973 and 1974. Major cases known to be in them have already been secured (e.g. UFO over North West Cape and a physical trace event near Nebo).

b. The "current" policy file.

c. The original DAFI files prior to 1955. There is official evidence that these may have been destroyed during the move of Defence from Melbourne to Canberra in the early 1960's. Fortunately, a previously secret report written in 1954, and made available to me, summarises much of the DAFI files of the period 1950-1954. As already mentioned, early DCA UFO files I examined also hold copies of a number of reports and documents from these missing DAFI files of the early 1950's.

Other files are being searched for, however, it is thought that, in some cases, the "missing" files may have been recovered as new file series (or the earlier parts of more recent file series). Following the erratic history of official UFO files has sometimes been daunting. I am confident that I have established a fairly thorough understanding of the DAFI UFO files, so much so that the DAFI intelligence liaison officer I have worked with during 1982 was once moved to tell me that I knew the DAFI UFO files better than he did, in fact better than anyone in the Department of Defence. This can in part be seen as a reflection of the significance DAFI/RAAF may now appear to give to UFO reports.

CONCLUSION: As someone who has taken a special interest in the degree of official involvement in UFO investigation in Australia, for more than a decade now, I have personally been amazed at the extent of the material I have been allowed to become privy to in just one short year, namely 1982.

We have gone from a confused and vague picture of clandestine official involvement to a detailed understanding based on directly officially sanctioned file reviews by a civilian researcher.

In closing I will say that I will be working very hard at making available to each and all the full extent of what I have learnt during this study and the benefit of a much closer relationship with the RAAF.


1. The Drury Film Affair refers to an incident during 1953 wherein Mr. T. Drury, Deputy Director of DCA in Papua, took a movie film of a daylight object which exited a cloud at high speed, climbing at about 45 degrees and disappeared. The film was examined by RAAF and USAF, however, it appears the film itself subsequently disappeared. The affair has now been one mainstay o the claim made by many civilian researchers that there is an official "cover-up".

2. The Bouganville Reef event involved the alleged photographing of a UFO by a pilot of a DC6 aircraft. It has been alleged that evidence about the case, including the film, has been confiscated by DCA officials and subsequently covered up. The classified papers I examined consisted largely of internal communications between the Queensland Regional Director of DCA and the Director General of DCA which appears to conform a lack of knowledge about the event, at least at the level of Directors of DCA.

3. The Sea Fury incident involved a naval pilot flying over the Goulbourn area of New South Wales, encountering two unidentified light, the presence of which were confirmed by ground radar.

4. In particular the classic Drury affair of 1953 and the Willow Grove close encounter of 1963, wherein farmer Charles Brew had a very explicit sighting of a UFO on his property. The incident featured animal reactions and apparently related headaches for Mr. Brew.

5. See AFUFOS Bulletin, July 1982. The 'Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report' makes no definite conclusions as to cause but indicated 'the reason for the disappearance of the aircraft has not been determined'.

6. See also, for example, "Valentich - Bass Strait (Australia) Affair" in R.D. Story's "The Encyclopaedia of UFO's", Doubleday, 1980 and New English Library, 1980, and "The Devil's Meridian" by Kevin Killey and Gary Lester (Lester-Townsend, 1980).

7. These events refer to an unusual ground mark and an apparently unrelated UFO sighting at the same location.

8. An extraordinary phenomenon ostensibly had landed in a cane field east of Mandurana, Queensland. It was witnessed by four people for three hours.

9. This event occurred on August 27, 1957 and involved radar tracking of a fast moving object by Met Radar at Hobart, after being alerted via a visual sighting at Launceston ATC.

10. On November 15, 1960, a USAF JV57 aircraft operating out of East Sale RAAF base encountered a UFO at a closing rate in excess of 800 knots.

11. In this case a light source approached a ship of Groote Eylandt on January 23, 1964. It came within 6ft of the ship, underwater, and was described as "a ghostly white light, in the centre was a shadow which rotated in a clockwise direction causing the light to pulsate". The ship, a barge, was approached by the light at high speed. In total six patches of light were observed, varying in size from a mile across down to quite small. All were the same colour and all pulsated at 12 pulsations for 9 seconds, then irregular, then back to 12 for 9 seconds again. The compass swung out of control, but became worse as the light approached.

12. ATC radar operator at Kalamunda, 1835 hours on May 23, received a strong stationary "paint", 300 degrees 9N miles from the airport. He had first observed the return whilst talking on the phone to a woman reporting an object "like a big streetlight" over Cloverdale at the time. The "paint" was of 36 seconds duration on the screen. An aircraft was about 4N miles SE of the UFO, but no visual sighting was made. The woman reported the object had departed to the North at tremendous speed and had disappeared from sight.

13. "A report on Observations of UFO's from Aircraft Crew Members in Australia".

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