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Wilbert B. Smith

In the 1950s, no-one in the UFO field in Canada was better known than Wilbert Brockhouse Smith.

Smith is generally known as an official with the Department of Communications (DOC) and the head of a Canadian Government UFO project, Project Magnet. Wilbert Smith held both a B.Sc. and M. Sc. in Electrical Engineering, and was Senior Radio Engineer, Broadcast and Measurements Section, Department of Transport (DOT). Smith was internationally recognized for his work in radio communications, and he held a number of patents. He had been responsible for engineering aspects of everything concerning the use of radio in Canada, including equipment standards, radio relay systems, broadcast facilities and interference studies. He was in charge of establishing a network of ionospheric measurement stations throughout Canada, and he often represented Canada at international conferences.

Smith's interest in the UFO phenomenon and his influential position within the government caused him to make a proposal to the DOT to establish Project Magnet. Smith stated in the proposal that his group believed that they were on the track of something which may well prove to be the introduction to a new technology. It appeared that their work in geomagnetics might well prove to be the linkage between our technology and the technology demonstrated by the saucers. The purpose of this proposed project was to study how magnetic and gravitational principles might account for the reported flight characteristics of flying saucers.

There has been a resurgence of interest in Smith in the last few years, primarily due to what has become known as the "Smith memo." This was a memo which attracted a lot of attention around the time of the MJ-12 papers, and the Smith memo helped lend a certain credibility to the whole MJ-12 milieu. The memo, which now has been widely circulated, is dated 21 November 1950, and was originally sent to the Controller of Telecommunications as a proposal to study officially the UFO situation. In this memo, Smith wrote, "The existence of a different technology is borne out by the investigations which are being carried on at the present time in relation to flying saucers." He also stated that by making discreet inquiries at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, he had learned from Dr. Robert Sarbacher that:

A. The matter is the most highly classified subject in the United States government, rating higher even than the H-bomb.

B. Flying saucers exist.

C. Their modus operandi is unknown but concentrated effort is being made by a small group headed by Dr. Vannevar Bush.

D. The entire matter is considered by the United States authorities to be of tremendous significance.

Once discovered, this memo, sent by an influential Canadian government official, wrought a bit of havoc within the UFO community. The information contained in the memo, of course, resulted in the tracking down and interviewing of Dr. Robert Sarbacher, and added considerable fuel to the MJ-12 debates. But in a more practical sense, the memo's most important aftereffect was far more immediate. After receiving the memo, the Canadian Department of Transport quickly approved Smith's proposal to investigate UFO reports in an official capacity. On 02 December 1950, Project Magnet - a classified Canadian government project - was officially born.

Smith and his group studied flying saucer reports from all across the country and worldwide, and issued interim reports. On 10 August 1953, Smith filed a report in which he stated, "It appears then, that we are faced with a substantial probability of the real existence of extraterrestrial vehicles, regardless of whether they fit into our scheme of things. It is therefore submitted that the next step in this investigation should be a substantial effort toward the acquisition of as much as possible of this technology...."

A mere three months later, on 13 November 1953, the first "flying saucer sighting station" in the world was operational, at Shirleys Bay, Ontario, ten miles from the nation's capital of Ottawa. At this site were some very sophisticated instrumentation for the detection of flying saucers. The equipment included a gamma ray counter for the detection of cosmic radiation, a magnetometer to detect disturbances in the earth's magnetic field, a radio receiver to check for radio noise, and a recording gravimeter to detect variations in the earth's gravitational pull.

On 08 August 1954, at 3:01 PM, the equipment at Shirleys Bay registered a very definite disturbance. In Smith's own words, "the gravimeter went wild." All evidence indicated that a UFO had flown in close proximity of the station, perhaps within feet. Smith and his group were alerted by an alarm which was linked into the equipment. Unfortunately the area was clouded in and no visual confirmation could be made, but the instrumentation did in fact record that there was a major disturbance. Two days later, the DOT announced that Project Magnet was being shut down. There were several reasons given by the DOT for this move, but they did not include lack of results.

Interest in the life and work of Wilbert B. Smith is arguably more intense now than it has ever been, and with good reason, it would seem. Research projects have been started, archives are being scoured, and new information is being added to the record. There is already so much literature devoted to Smith, that there is ample room to disagree on many of the details of Smith's (and the Canadian Government's) activities. For the most part, however, the picture is clear: Wilbert B. Smith was a sensible and serious scientist who held an important post within his government. He had a very sincere interest in the UFO phenomenon and used both his scientific talents and some leverage from his position in government to cause a real and true scientific study to be undertaken.

And this he did.

Canada lost one of its most influential UFO researchers of all time when Wilbert Brockhouse Smith died on 27 December 1961, at the age of 52.

(Biography written by Michael Strainic, 9/30/2002, for the NICAP web site)




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