The Panel would determine that UFOs could, for the most part, be easily explained by the misidentification of everyday aerial objects. The group would also advocate a campaign to "debunk" UFOs. Their desire was for the public to lose interest in UFOs, and to be put bluntly, quit calling in reports.
Actually, the growing public interest in UFOs, and incoming queries were having an impact on government facilities, and the Robertson Panel desire was to quite this activity. According to some group members, this public interest had reached "mass hysteria" levels, and it was thought that our enemies, especially the Soviet Union, could capitalize on the problem.
The group was under the leadership of Howard Percy Robertson, who was physicist, and a CIA employee. The groups first meeting was on January 14, 1953. The group members were:
Louis Alvarez, physicist (and later, a Nobel Prize winner)
Frederick C. Durant, missile expert
Samuel A. Goudsmit, Brookhaven National Laboratories physicist
Thornton Page, astrophysicist, deputy director of Johns Hopkins’ Operations Research Office.
Lloyd Berkner, physicist and J. Allen Hynek, astronomer, were associate panel members.
The group met for four days. They studied film and went over various reports. Most of the group members were skeptics, yet some very interesting conclusions were reached.
On day one, two classic UFO films were shown: one, the 1950 Montana film, and second, the 1952 Delbert Newhouse film, which was taken in Utah. Two Navy film and photograph experts presented their conclusions: both films depicted objects unidentifiable by any conventional means. Naturally, this went against the status quo of the mind set of the majority of the group. Also, Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt gave a summary of Air Force attempts to study the UFO mystery.
On the second day of the meeting, Ruppelt concluded his presentation, Dr. J. Allen Hynek discussed the Battelle efforts, and the entire panel reviewed Air Force efforts at researching UFO sightings.
On day three, another startling report would be made. Dewey J. Fournet, who had for over a year coordinated UFO affairs for The Pentagon, claimed that he supported the extraterrestrial hypothesis to explain troublesome UFO reports. The rest of day three was taken up by a discussion, and it was suggested that a preliminary report be undertaken.
The fourth day involved the writing and editing of their report. This report concluded, by estimation, that about 90% of reports could be easily explained by the usual suspects. The report also suggested that if sufficient data was present, all reports could be as easily dismissed. Strangely, their conclusions went against several of the conclusions reached by the group as a whole, but remember, the report would eventually be for public consumption.
Their official recommendation was: "That the national security agencies take immediate steps to strip the Unidentified Flying Objects of the special status they have been given and the aura of mystery they have unfortunately acquired." In other words, "debunk" UFO reports. They also wanted civilian UFO study groups monitored, recognizing their influence on the general public.
The Robertson Panel would have a great influence on official governmental attitudes toward the UFO problem for many years to come.