Monday, June 06, 2011

The Australian Department of Defence "lost" UFO files - where are they?

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that "the Department of Defence has "lost" its X-Files." In response to the newspaper's FOI request after a 2 month search the department's FOI assistant director advised they could only find a very limited amount of files. The search included the Canberra National Archives of Australia (NAA)facility.

When Herald journalist Melissa Davey contacted me yesterday about the story I suggested that it could not have been a very thorough search, simply because a large part of the "missing files" are in fact located at the Canberra NAA facility. Indeed many of them are available to be "found" via anybody's computer internet search of the NAA site via digital copies. Some files are indeed missing but these seem to be due to shortsighted "house cleaning" activities by the DOD. The decision to destroy UFO (or UAS) files is completely out of step with equivalent organisations in other countries such as Britain and France. Fortunately many of the impressive cases that were in the destroyed files were preserved by researchers like myself. I copied many of these files during my research visits to the Russell Offices of the Department of Defence during the period 1982 and 1984.

Incidentally a computer search of the NAA records is best served by using the word "Flying saucers." Many of these file series can be read at your leisure via the digitised versions of the same files.

So the case of the "missing" Australian DOD "X-Files" has been solved. In fact the majority of the files were never "lost" just not found by the DOD FOI official who did not know the history of the DOD's relationship with the UFO "problem." Only a little research would have been needed to determine where the files actually were.

The bigger question is why the Department of Defence decided to destroy some of their UFO files, for what seems to be little more reason than house cleaning activities. Back in 1984 I directed a letter to the Director of Air Force Intelligence stating that the DOD UFO/UAS files should be preserved for posterity because of their value to UFO researchers, historians, and to many other disciplines. When the National Archives started storing many of these files, and ultimately digitising some of them I felt that preservation of the files was reasonably assured. Problem is you can't always count on efficient follow through. Incredibly myopic decisions were made within DOD around 2004 to destroy some of the UFO files still present in the DOD archives. The FOI decision maker at that time was Group Captain G. MacDonald, Director of Co-ordination - Air Force. More than 8 years of sighting files from 1974 to 1982 appear to have been destroyed. I hope that the process was not continued to any further extent. That is a matter that needs to be further examined. Fortunately a great deal of the DOD UFO files exist via their presence in the National Archives.

At least a substantial part of the Australian DOD UFO legacy has been preserved for future historical consideration.

Photo: Bill Chalker at the Russell Offices of the Australian Department of Defence in 1982.


Blogger Dave Clarke said...

Hi Bill -
Interested to read your comments on the destruction of RAAF UFO files. The same careless destruction policy continues here in the UK, despite the ongoing transfer programme of surviving files to our National Archives. As you may recall from the last tranche released in March this year, it emerged that a large number of Defence Intelligence files on UFOs were destroyed as recently as 1990. Unlike Australia, we are not allowed to know the name of the official responsible for this decision - open government only goes so far! The sad fact appears to be that if you have a desk officer who feels UFOs are bunk and of no historical interest, they can arbitrarily take the decision to destroy these files and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Quite frankly, its an affront to the public given the clear and sustained interest in the content of these files.

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