On December 22, 1958, a New Jersey newspaper, the Newark Star-Ledger, published the startling article above.
A group of more than 50 top commercial airline pilots, all veterans of more than 15 years with major companies, yesterday blasted as ‘bordering on the absolute ridiculous’ the Air Force policy of tight censorship, brush-off and denial in regard to unidentified flying objects—flying saucers.
One termed the Air Force policy ‘a lesson in lying, intrigue and the Big Brother attitude carried to the ultimate extreme.’ Each of the pilots has sighted at least one UFO, the majority several…‘ We are ordered to report all UFO sightings,’ said one, ‘but when we do, we are treated like incompetents and told to keep quiet…’ This pilot also pointed to a Joint Chiefs of Staff order giving top radio priority to UFO reports anywhere in the world and specifying that any pilot who fails to maintain absolute secrecy afterwards is subject to a maximum of ten years in jail and a fine of $10,000.’
The “order” mentioned was a regulation promulgated by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff—the heads of the military services—designated JANAP-146, which required military and commercial pilots who had sighted a UFO to immediately file, while still airborne, a CIRVIS (Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings) report. The purpose of such real-time reporting, including a required mention of the unidentified aerial object’s altitude and direction of flight, was to allow the nearest U.S. Air Force base to launch fighters to investigate the sighting.
The regulation also mandated strict secrecy relating to a given report, warning the pilot involved that he would potentially risk severe penalties if he filed a CIRVIS report and subsequently discussed the sighting publicly.
This rare journalistic breach in UFO-related security—essentially a public protest by dozens of highly respected professional pilots—was quickly bottled-up. No wire service picked up the article—which would have potentially resulted in it being published in hundreds of newspapers nationwide—and there was no investigative follow-up of what was clearly a major story by The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME magazine, or any other journalistic heavy-hitter in the U.S.
Indeed, by 1958, the American elite media had essentially ceased to publish/broadcast serious stories about the UFO phenomenon, instead going for dismissive, light-hearted articles and broadcasts which poked fun at persons who reported “flying saucers”, followed-up by pronouncements by U.S. Air Force public relations personnel which assured Americans that UFO sightings were due to misidentified manmade aircraft or not widely-recognized meteorological/astronomical phenomena—and certainly not the result of something as exotic as spacecraft from elsewhere in the universe.