Revisiting the Pentacle Memo: UFO-Baiting & Battelle Memorial Institute

Illustration by Anders N. Kvammen

In reading Forbidden Science, you should recognize that the book is a Diary, not an analytical report or a memoir. Therefore many important inferences, many relevant details, can only be found by reading between the lines. Your preliminary analysis of the Pentacle memo is not unfair, but it is somewhat simplistic, and it takes it out of context. I invite you to go back for a second, closer reading.

– Jacques Vallée in a letter to author Barry Greenwood

In the last few years, I have taken a special interest in claims that the militaries of major powers have tried to “bait” the UFO phenomenon into appearing in order to collect intelligence on it.

After writing three in-depth articles on the subject I did not however plan to do another one anytime soon. But UFO Twitter has a peculiar way of gently nudging you back to your (un)holy path. So here I am. Again.

The reason?

On 31 July, I stumbled over a Twitter thread about the so-called “Pentacle Memo” and got a sudden urge to reacquaint myself with this infamous document. I accepted Jacques Vallée’s invitation “to go back for a second, closer reading”.

It had been several years since I last read it so I was frankly quite surprised by what I found. The experiment proposed by the author, H.C. Cross of Battelle Memorial Institute, sounded eerily familiar to me. In fact, it read like the plans for UFO-baiting… in early 1953!

Due to current time constraints I am unable to conduct a detailed analysis of the memo. Hence, this brief blog post is simply meant to present the information I have uncovered thus far, if anyone wants to follow up and do further research.

In the following I will reproduce three sources in their entirety and let the reader decide what to make of them. They are (1) the Pentacle Memo written by H.C. Cross to Col. Miles Goll who, according to researcher Wendy Connors, was “an early kingpin at Wright Field”; (2) a journal entry by Jacques Vallée on 18 June 1967; and finally (3) a letter from Jacques Vallée to author Barry Greenwood dated 27 April 1993. Together they paint an intriguing picture and suggest that exotic ideas like UFO-baiting may in fact go back to the early days of the modern UFO mystery.

The Pentacle Memo (1)

SECRET / Security Information


cc: B. D. Thomas

H. C. Cross/A. D. Westerman

L. R. Jackson, W. T. Reid, P. J. Rieppal

V. W. Ellsey/R. J. Lund

January 9, 1953


Mr. Miles E. Goll
Box 9575
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

Attention Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt

Dear Mr. Goll:

This letter concerns a preliminary recommendation to ATIC on future methods of handling the problem of unidentified aerial objects. This recommendation is based on our experience to date in analyzing several thousands of reports on this subject. We regard the recommendation as preliminary because our analysis is not yet complete, and we are not able to document it where we feel it should be supported by facts from the analysis.

We are making this recommendation prematurely because of a CIA-sponsored meeting of a scientific panel, meeting in Washington, D.C., January 14, 15, and 16, 1953, to consider the problem of “flying saucers”. The CIA-sponsored meeting is being held subsequent to a meeting of CIA, ATIC, and our representatives held at ATIC on December 12, 1952. At the December 12 meeting our representatives strongly recommended that a scientific panel not be set up until the results of our analysis of the sighting-reports collected by ATIC were available. Since a meeting of the panel is now definitely scheduled we feel that agreement between Project Stork and ATIC should be reached as to what can and what cannot be discussed at the meeting in Washington on January 14–16 concerning our preliminary recommendation to ATIC.

Experience to date on our study of unidentified flying objects shows that there is a distinct lack of reliable data with which to work. Even the best-documented reports are frequently lacking in critical information that makes it impossible to arrive at a possible identification, i.e. even in a well-documented report there is always an element of doubt about the data, either because the observer had no means of getting the required data, or was not prepared to utilize the means at his disposal. Therefore, we recommend that a controlled experiment be set up by which reliable physical data can be obtained. A tentative preliminary plan by which the experiment could be designed and carried out is discussed in the following paragraphs.

Based on our experience so far, it is expected that certain conclusions will be reached as a result of our analysis which will make obvious the need for an effort to obtain reliable data from competent observers using the necessary equipment. Until more reliable data are available, no positive answers to the problem will be possible.

We expect that our analysis will show that certain areas in the United States have had an abnormally high number of reported incidents of unidentified flying objects. Assuming that, from our analysis, several definite areas productive of reports can be selected, we recommend that one or two of theses areas be set up as experimental areas. This area, or areas, should have observation posts with complete visual skywatch, with radar and photographic coverage, plus all other instruments necessary or helpful in obtaining positive and reliable data on everything in the air over the area. A very complete record of the weather should also be kept during the time of the experiment. Coverage should be so complete that any object in the air could be tracked, and information as to its altitude, velocity, size, shape, color, time of day, etc. could be recorded. All balloon releases or known balloon paths, aircraft flights, and flights of rockets in the test area should be known to those in charge of the experiment. Many different types of aerial activity should be secretly and purposefully scheduled within the area.

We recognize that this proposed experiment would amount to a large-scale military maneuver, or operation, and that it would require extensive preparation and fine coordination, plus maximum security. Although it would be a major operation, and expensive, there are many extra benefits to be derived besides the data on unidentified aerial objects.

The question of just what would be accomplished by the proposed experiment occurs. Just how could the problem of these unidentified objects be solved? From this test area, during the time of the experiment, it can be assumed that there would be a steady flow of reports from ordinary civilian observers, in addition to those by military or other official observers. It should be possible by such a controlled experiment to prove the identity of all objects reported, or to determine positively that there were objects present of unknown identity. Any hoaxes under a set-up such as this could almost certainly be exposed, perhaps not publicly, but at least to the military.

In addition, by having resulting data from the controlled experiment, reports for the last five years could be re-evaluated, in the light of similar but positive information. This should make possible reasonably certain conclusions concerning the importance of the problem of “flying saucers”.

Results of an experiment such as described could assist the Air Force to determine how much attention to pay to future situations when, as in the past summer, there were thousands of sightings reported. In the future, then, the Air Force should be able to make positive statements, reassuring to the public, and to the effect that everything is well under control.

Very truly yours,

H. C. Cross

Page 1 of the Pentacle Memo
Page 2 of the Pentacle Memo

Jacques Vallée’s Journal Entry 18 June 1967 (2)

Jacques Vallée’s journal entry from 18 June 1967 was first published in his book Forbidden Science (1992) and adds insightful analysis and important historical context to the explosive 1953 memo.

Chicago. Sunday 18 June 1967

Step by slow, painstaking step, I am uncovering the real story. I made an important discovery yesterday. Hynek is away in Canada but he has given me a key to his house. I went there during the week to take the Air Force files away so I could go on sorting them. And I found something that dramatically changes the whole landscape. Since the Marsh Gas episode Allen has been unable to keep up with the volume of new data. Copies of the files Quintanilla sends him end up in the small room where he works on the second floor of his pink house on Ridge Avenue. Papers are piling up everywhere: in the drawers, on the chairs, on top of the wardrobe. For the last few months he has been trying to put some order into this mess, but it is a hopeless task, so we finally agreed that I would transfer everything into my office during his absence to straighten out the files over the summer. Thus we hope we can sift out the garbage, extract the most credible cases and prepare a strong new research proposal in the Fall.

What a challenge! I sat alone in Allen’s room and I contemplated the disaster. “If I don’t do this, nobody will…” I thought as I started putting all the files dated before 1964 into cardboard boxes. I carried them to the Buick. I drove over to the computation center and I began sorting. I have been sorting ever since. First I set aside the statistical summaries which cluttered the files; I eliminated numerous duplicates; I replaced the old stained folders with clean new ones, neatly labeled with places and dates.
The worst section of the files concerned the history of the Air Force projects themselves, from Sign and Grudge to Blue Book. Hynek had misplaced many of these documents. And it is in that section that I found a letter which is especially remarkable because of the new light it throws on the key period of the Robertson Panel and of Report #14. It is stamped in red ink “SECRET — Security Information.” It is dated 9 January 1953. It is signed by a man I will call Pentacle. It is addressed to Miles E. Coll at Wright Patterson Air Force Base for transmittal to Captain Ruppelt. It begins with the statement that the document contains a recommendation to ATIC regarding future methods of handling the UFO problem, based on experience in analyzing several thousands of reports.

This opening paragraph clearly establishes the fact that prior to the top-level 1953 Robertson Panel meeting somebody had actually analyzed thousands of UFO cases on behalf of the United States Government.

After pointing out that many of the reports contain insufficient information, and that it would be highly desirable to obtain “reliable physical data,” the letter goes on with the blunt advice to cancel or at least postpone the meetings of the Robertson Panel until the full results of the analysis could be made available, a very natural recommendation. Failing this, they wanted to have a formal agreement between ATIC and the staff of Project Stork as to “what can and what cannot be discussed” at the Washington meeting with the five leading scientists.

In other words, the representatives of this top-level research group were against convening the Robertson Panel! But what was Project Stork? Whatever it was, its members were doing some excellent scientific thinking: They had noticed that the distribution of cases over the United States was not uniform, and this led them to identify areas of high reporting probability, which they proposed to set up as experimental areas.

In such areas they wanted to place observation posts with complete visual skywatch, radar and photographic coverage, and all other instruments “necessary or helpful in obtaining positive and reliable data on everything in the air.” They added, even more ominously, that many different types of aerial activity should be secretly and purposefully scheduled within the area.

What these people were recommending was nothing less than a carefully calibrated and monitored simulation of an entire UFO wave.

For whom did Pentacle work? Did the proposed experiment take place? Who were these people who calmly sat around the table with the CIA and the Air Force and who, many years before us, understood the need to acquire second-generation data?

Their plan for getting such data covertly makes perfect sense. But what this document shows is that the scientific community has been led down a primrose path, beginning with the Robertson Panel and its group of prestigious physicists.

Another team of analysts had already reached the point where they could form some scientific hypotheses about the phenomenon and they were ready to test them. Yet the high-level advisers who reviewed the data were not briefed on that part of the Air Force’s research efforts, even though their own recommendations were also classified at the time. What was going on? What kind of a game was being played?

Hynek once assured me that if it ever turned out that a secret study had been conducted, the American public would raise an unbelievable stink against the military and Intelligence community. It would be an outrage, he said, an insult to the whole country, not to mention a violation of the most cherished American principles of democracy. There would be an uproar in Congress, editorials in the major scientific magazines, immediate demands for sanctions. This memorandum does not prove that it has gone that far. And yet…

Let us go back to 1953: the Intelligence agencies have determined that unknown objects are flying over the United States. If these are controlled machines they are far beyond anything we have. Public opinion demands some action. What could be simpler than assembling a panel of scientists? Perhaps not the best informed, but the most prestigious. They are shown a sample of the reports, pre-selected by the Air Force. They find no reason, of course, to revise the current edifice of science on the basis of what little they are shown. And once the panel has been disbanded and public opinion quieted, what a wonderful opportunity for the military to resume its research in secret, with its own scientists, its own laboratories. . . . If such a research project exists it certainly does not need the Blue Book data. It could operate independently, at a much higher level.

I cannot discuss any of this with Aime Michel or anyone else in France, and certainly not with Rocard, since communications with him have proven to be completely one-sided. I do not even dare copy the whole memo into this Journal. Yet this document, if it were published, would cause an even bigger uproar among foreign scientists than among Americans: it would prove the devious nature of the statements made by the Pentagon all these years about the non-existence of UFOs. These official statements have been taken as Gospel truth by most foreign nations, discouraging their own efforts to start independent appraisals of the situation.

Olivier just came into the room to kiss me good night. I see our future as a fine, quiet beach at low tide, about to be covered by new waves, new insights, and a lot of turbulent waves.

Jacques Vallée’s letter to Barry Greenwood (3)

In a 1993 letter to author Barry Greenwood, Jacques Vallée elaborates further on the significance of the Pentacle Memo, underscoring the qualitative difference between previous passive observational efforts like Project Twinkle and the active “simulation” of UFO waves seemingly recommended by H.C. Cross.

Dale: FYI
(I don’t know if this will be published by Greenwood.) J.V.

27 April 1993

Barry Greenwood

Dear Barry:

Thank you for sending me your thoughtful commentary about the Pentacle document. I do agree with you on one point: the significance of the memo comes, in part, from what it does not say. In particular, it makes no reference to any recovered UFO hardware, at Roswell or elsewhere, or to alien bodies. The greater significance of what it does say will slowly emerge in coming years as the overall implications come to light. Let me draw your attention to three specific points.

1. Project Twinkle and other observational efforts by the military, which you mention in an effort to show that Pentacle was only dusting off an old idea, were purely passive projects. In sharp contrast the Pentacle proposal goes far beyond anything mentioned before. It daringly states that “many different types of aerial activity should be secretly and purposefully scheduled within the area (my emphasis).” It is difficult to be more clear. We are not talking simply about setting up observing stations and cameras. We are talking about large-scale, covert simulation of UFO waves under military control.

2. The greatest implication, which is perhaps not obvious on first reading but which amounts to a scandal of major proportion in the eyes of any scientist, has to do with the outright manipulation of the Robertson panel. Here is a special meeting of the five most eminent scientists in the land, assembled by the government to discuss a matter of national security. Not only are they not made aware of all the data, but another group has already decided “what can and cannot be discussed (Pentacle’s own words!)” when they meet. Dr. Hynek categorically stated to me that the panel was not briefed about the Pentacle proposals.

3. Revelation of this document may seem irrelevant to Just Cause, but its explosive nature wasn’t lost on Battelle. As I noted in Forbidden Science, and as Fred Beckman vividly recalls to this day, the Project Stork team reacted with fury when Hynek went back to Battelle in 1967, demanding to know the truth. The man I have called Pentacle snatched his notes away and told him in no uncertain terms that the contents of the memo were not to be discussed, under any circumstances.

I find it odd that a group that claims to be interested in the historical study of our field, as Just Cause does, should fail to see the significance of the Pentacle Memo, which is an authentic document, when so much time, money and ink have been devoted over the last several years to an in-depth analysis of the MJ-12 papers, which were faked. Perhaps the Pentacle memo only proves that scientific studies of UFOs (and even their classified components) have been manipulated since the fifties. But it also suggests several avenues of research which are vital to the future of this field: why were Pentacle’s proposals kept from the panel? Were his plans for a secret simulation of UFO waves implemented? If so, when, where and how? What was discovered as a result? Are these simulations still going on? I invite your group to turn its investigative resources and its analytical talent to this important task.

In reading Forbidden Science, you should recognize that the book is a Diary, not an analytical report or a memoir. Therefore many important inferences, many relevant details, can only be found by reading between the lines. Your preliminary analysis of the Pentacle memo is not unfair, but it is somewhat simplistic, and it takes it out of context. I invite you to go back for a second, closer reading.

cc: Fred Beckman

/s/ Jacques Vallee

Nothing in the Pentacle Memo or the letters above prove that UFO-baiting was attempted in 1950s. The information is intriguing enough, however, to warrant further digging into Battelle’s involvement in the study of the UFO phenomenon.

For those who may want to pursue further research on UFO-baiting, here are links to all my previous articles on the subject:

  1. “On “Baiting” the UFO Trickster & the Control-System Hypothesis”

2. “Lighthouses in the Dark: On the Genomics of Supernormality & Close Encounters of the 6th Kind”

3. “UFO “Coaxing”? Yes! Excerpts from a Bombshell #UFOTwitter Thread”


The Pentacle Memo by H.C. Cross

Letter from Jacques Vallée to Barry Greenwood

Forbidden Science Vol.1 by Jacques Vallée



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