Jul 25, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Interplanetary Intrigue: A U.S. Government UFO Program That Hardly Anyone Has Heard Of

A couple of days ago I wrote about a fascinating - but hardly known - U.S. government program. Its title: Project Moon Dust. Its goal, during the Cold War, was to secretly retrieve crashed Soviet rockets, sateliites and other foreign technology and hand it over to U.S. scientists who could study that same Soviet technology and determine whether the U.S. or the Russians were ahead. Some UFO researchers have suggested that Moon Dust didn't just recover terrestrial technology, but, just maybe, extraterrestrial technology, too.There was another hardly known, UFO-themed program of the U.S. government. Its title: the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit. For months in 1980, the late ufologist Richard Hall investigated the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit, an agency not a single person could find - and, no, I'm not exaggerating. Finding In a letter dated September 25, 1980, however, Hall make a break. That was the date when a Colonel William B. Guild, of the Director of Counterintelligence, Department of the U.S. Army, told Hall: “Please be advised that the IPU of the Science and Technology Branch, Counterintelligence Directorate, Department of the Army, was disestablished during the late 1950’s and never reactivated. All records were surrendered to the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations in conjunction with operation “Blue Book.” 

Since the Project Blue Book UFO files were handed over to the National Archives in the 1970s (and are still there to this day, for anyone to see), then the IPU records should have gone there, too. Unfortunately, they didn’t. They were just…gone. As an aside, on a 2003 trip I made to the National Archives to try and resolve all of this, nothing appeared. The staff of the National Archives – who were very helpful and generous and spent several hours helping me to try and solve the riddle - were sure of one thing: the IPU records were not held by them. So, where were they? Four years after Richard Hall made his inquiries (which went nowhere, due to his lack of resourcefulness and fire), UFO researcher/writer Bill Steinman decided to get on the trail of the IPU. Steinman, who wrote a controversial 1986 book, UFO Crash at Aztec, received a reply to his inquiry from the Department of the Army. The response to Steinman came from a Lieutenant Colonel Lance R. Cornine, who told Steinman:

(Nick Redfern) Where are the files?

"As you note in your letter, the so-called Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit (IPU) was disestablished and, as far as we are aware, all records, if any, were transferred to the Air Force in the late 1950’s. The “unit” was formed as an in-house project purely as an interest item for the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence. It was never a ‘unit’ in the military sense, nor was it ever formally organized or reportable, it had no investigative function, mission or authority, and may not even have had any formal records at all. It is only through institutional memory that any recollection exists of this unit. We are therefore unable to answer your questions as to the exact purpose of the unit, exactly when it was disestablished, or who was in command. This last would not apply in any case, as no one was in ‘command’. We have no records or documentation of any kind on this unit."

It was obvious that from 1980 to 1984 - things had altered. Richard Hall was advised the IPU records were handed over to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Steinman, though, was told there might not have been “any formal records at all.” It’s intriguing to note that the Army has a FOI/Privacy Act Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) form which, to this very day, provides guidelines for military staff who may have to respond to FOIA requests on the matter of the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit. The form states: "Periodically this office will receive requests concerning an activity described as the ‘Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit’ and for information on UFOs. When replying to request for UFO’s records our reply should be as follows:

‘This is in response to your letter of [insert date] under the Freedom of Information Act, 5USC 552, requesting information concerning Army intelligence records related to UFO encounter reports. To determine the existence of Army intelligence investigative records responsive to your request, we have conducted an in-depth check of the files and indices maintained by this office. We regret to inform you that there is no record concerning UFOs within this office and the Department of the Army."

The Army continued: "If asked about the IPU, the reply is as follows: ‘Please be advised that the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit of the Scientific and Technical Branch, Counter Intelligence Directorate, Department of the Army was disestablished during the late 1950’s and never reactivated. All records pertaining to this unit were surrendered to the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations in conjunction with operation ‘Bluebook’. There is no record system maintained within the Department of the Army to catalog, process, index or otherwise evaluate UFO information. We regret that we are unable to be of more assistance concerning this matter." Should UFO researchers not buy into all of this and, instead, demand for more, there were yet even more guidelines to be followed by Army personnel. There was still more to come on the IPU. The Army stated: "

If there is a follow-on request concerning the IPU, our reply should be as follows: ‘As stated in our letter of [insert date] records of Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit no longer are maintained by the Department of the Army.  Once surrendered, the records became the property of the gaining office (U.S. Air Force, Office of Special Investigations) and their disposition would not be monitored by the Army. Consequently, the information you seek is not available through this office. If we are questioned further concerning this unit, our reply should be as follows: ‘As stated in our previous letters of [insert date] and [insert date], the Department of the Army is no longer in possession of the records you seek and we cannot locate any information on the unit.  Unfortunately, for that reason alone, we are simply unable to answer your questions." And, that's just about it all. A UFO-driven project that - it seems - no-one could really figure out its work, who funded them, what they did, and where they went. There is, however, one other angle - a very controversial angle.

All the above was the story of the IPU until the 1990s. Things changed dramatically, however, when an "allegedly real" IPU document fell into the hands of a UFO investigator named Timothy Cooper. In the early 1990s, Cooper claimed he was the recipient of a lot of highly classified UFO documents that dealth with things like the Roswell affair, crashed UFOs and dead aliens. His source: an elderly "Deep Throat"-type character.  As for that controversial document, it was titled the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit Summary. It states that on “…3 July 47, radar stations in east Texas and White Stands Proving Ground, N.M., tracked two unidentified aircraft until both dropped off radar.” Still with the IPU summary paper, we’re told of the ghoulish bodies found at one particular crash-site:

"From what descriptions the team was able to learn and from photographs taken by intelligence photographers, the occupants appear in most respects human with some anatomical differences in the head, eyes, hands and feet. They have a slight build about five feet tall, with grayish-pink skin color. They have no hair on their bodies and clothed with a tight fitting flight suit that appears to be fire proof (some of the bodies looked as if they had been burned on head and hands). Their overall stature reminds one of young children. It is believed that there were male and female genders present, but hard to distinguish." Another one who claimed to have knowledge of the IPU was a man named Dan Salter. He, too, talked of dead aliens in the late 1940s.

(Nick Redfern) Dan Salter, a man who claimed knowledge of the IPU

As for today, both aspects of the IPU are pretty much in states of obscurity: the U.S. military - as we've seen - seem not to have any records on the program, but they admit the group existed. As for those questionable documents that Tim Cooper got his hands into, well, they're just like the 1987 Majestic 12 documents: they look the part. But, no-one can say for sure if they're the real thing. Maybe, after reading this article, someone will decide to try and take the IPU mystery to another level. Perhaps, there will be some intriguing surprises. On the other hand, though, matters might remain in a state of a collective limbo.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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