Project Grudge: UFO's Over the Treasure Valley
IDAHISTORY INVESTIGATOR: JEFF WADE jw
INTERESTING HISTORY- FINAL APPROVER: MARK IVERSON
REPORT NO. 22-008
TO: Lovers of strange Idaho history
RE: United States Air Force investigation into flying saucers over the Boise area during the spring and summer of 1949.
PURPOSE: IdaHistory investigators have gained access to previously CLASSIFIED documents, gathered by the United States Air Force, Office of Special Investigations (OSI) under Project Grudge. This was a highly secretive program to gather information relating to the sightings of “flying discs” throughout the United States. IdaHistory has examined hundreds of pages of documents to uncover a spate of sightings of strange objects in the skies over the Treasure Valley in the Spring and Summer of 1949. Below you will find summaries of each incident.
Please note that many of the names and identifying information in the original reports were redacted when released to the public. These names are left redacted here unless they could be verified by other means.
INCIDENT #1 - May 13, 1949, 1105 HOURS
PROJECT GRUDGE REPORT #319
Robert Smith was driving from Caldwell to Boise along Highway 20. When he looked to his left, he saw a silvery object flying through the sky. The single object disappeared, and then 5 more like it appeared, flying in a V-shaped formation over Shafer Butte. The objects began what Smith described as a “spiral letdown”. A letdown is an aviation term, usually describing the slow, controlled reduction of speed and altitude of an aircraft while preparing to land. The formation dropped about 4,000 feet, shot back up, and then began another letdown. This time though, the objects shot upward at a seemingly impossible speed and disappeared.
The whole ordeal lasted almost five minutes, giving Smith ample time to observe the unknown objects. They were half-circle-shaped, but the leading edge came to a point. The bottom of these objects was dark, and the tops were shiny. They were completely smooth with no fins, antennae, rods, canopies, or other projections. Each of these objects were about the size of a B-29 bomber. They left no vapor trail or exhaust, and there was no sound or odor from the crafts. The objects were not connected physically but moved in perfect formation as if connected by some unseen force.
Robert Smith submitted this drawing of the objects with his letter to Project Grudge. Project Blue Book File.
The same day the sighting took place, Smith wrote a letter to the commanding officer at Wright Army Airfield (which had actually been renamed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base the year before) in Dayton, Ohio. Wright-Patterson was the home of the Air Material Command which was given the responsibility to carry out Project Grudge from February to December of 1949. The Office of Special Investigations provided special agents for the field work.
On June 10th, 1949, Special Agent J.E. Kuttler arrived in Boise with orders to gather more information on Smith’s sighting. Kuttler’s first stop was at the Yates Building, at 9th and Main. In room 442, he found Mr. name redacted, director of the Idaho Board of Publicity. Director Redacted told Agent Kuttler that Robert Smith was a former writer for the Board of Publicity but had since taken a job in Lewiston with the Lewiston Tribune. The director suggested Kuttler speak with name redacted the Idaho Statesman reporter who had broken the story of the sighting.
The approximate vantage point from which Robert Smith made his sighting. Shafer Butte marked with X. Photo by Special Agent Kuttler, Project Grudge.
The next day, Agent Kuttler and redacted, the Statesman reporter, went to the place where Smith reported his sighting occurred. It was about 10 miles east of Caldwell, and 13 miles west of Boise on Highway 20. Agent Kuttler took some photos of the area and interviewed a nearby farmer who stated he had not seen a thing. The reporter also told Agent Kuttler about a man named Kenneth Arnold, a Boise businessman, inventor, and pilot. While flying his small plane near Mount Rainier in Washington State on June 24, 1947, he spotted some objects in the sky. His description of these unidentified objects to an Oregon newspaper would help spawn the term, “flying saucer”. Arnold would claim later that he did not describe his UFOs as looking like a saucer, only that they moved through the air like a saucer would move if you skipped it across the water. This jives with the drawing he had made of the objects he saw.
Kenneth Arnold published this account of his sighting. The cover image is a drawing based on his description. ISHS MS47
Kenneth Arnold was not alone in reporting sightings; some 800 Americans reported similar occurrences in 1947. Many of these happened in an around military bases and were witnessed by servicemen. With the start of the Cold War, the government had an interest in finding out what these objects were flying through the skies of the United States. The Air Force was given the responsibility to investigate these matters, and Project Sign was created in 1948. The first official report from the project indicated that there just might be something extraterrestrial to these sightings, but the final report walked those claims back, concluding there was not enough information available to determine the origin of these sightings. When the name Sign was compromised, the project was dissolved, and Project Grudge began. The OSI investigators working on Grudge usually left their Air Force Uniforms on base, electing instead for civilian clothing. In the 1940s, that probably meant a black suit.
Captain Joe Kuttler and Mrs. Margaret Kuttler, probably on their wedding day.
Back in Boise, Agent Kuttler attempted to make contact with Mr. Arnold but met with negative results. It's not noted why Kuttler wanted to speak with Mr. Arnold as he had already been thoroughly interrogated by the Air Force. Special Agent Kuttler went to Gowen Field to check flight logs from May 13, the day Robert Smith sighted his UFOs above Shafer Butte. There were no military flights that day, aside from a single F-51 which was on a test flight. Checking the flight path, Kuttler found that it had flown nowhere near where Smith said he saw the flying saucers. There were also no radar anomalies recorded that day. There were a few commercial flights in the area and some intermittent student flights from the local airports, but Agent Kuttler determined none of these would have been within Smith’s line of sight. Finally, Kuttler verified with local law enforcement that Robert Smith did not have a criminal record. Kuttler found that Smith would have been a good judge of the distance and altitude; he flew B-24 bombers during the Second World War and was at the time, a 1st Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve.
The next day, June 11, 1949, Agent Kuttler arrived in Lewiston and made contact with Mr. Smith. After speaking with Smith, Agent Kuttler determined that he was of above-average intelligence. Smith did not use dope or drink a lot. These facts were verified by his employer, the Editor in Chief of the Lewiston Tribune, who considered Smith a “trustworthy and honorable employee”.
Robert Smith, face redacted. Photo by Special Agent Kuttler, Project Grudge
INCIDENT #2- April 24, 1949, 0900 HOURS
PROJECT GRUDGE REPORT #319
While he was in Boise, Agent Kuttler then met with Mr. Name Redacted a pilot instructor and trainer from Bradley Field, an airport that existed from 1945 to1973 on Highway 20, approximately 3 miles northwest of Boise. Mr. Redacted reported that on April 24, 1949, he was flying from Bradley Field to Mountain Home in an L-13-B, a light aircraft with two passengers on board. He was flying at 9,000 feet and traveling at 140 miles per hour. When he was about 10 miles north of Mountain Home, Mr. redacted observed what at first was thought to be a flock of birds about a thousand feet above him. The pilot and passengers, one of which was a fellow pilot working out of Bradley Field, realized that they were some kind of aircraft, but none that any of them could identify. These crafts were described as being oval-shaped, coming to a point in the forward sections of the objects. Mr. Redacted did not initially report this incident because of a couple of hoax reports in the area.
When he had gathered all the information he could, Agent Kuttler returned to Wright-Patterson Airforce Base and filed his report. As this report was working its way through the bureaucracy, two more sightings by seemingly reputable observers were made in the Boise area.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Joseph Earl Kuttler was a good choice for this particular special assignment, as he was an Idaho boy himself. He was born in Saint Anthony and attended school in Pocatello. His wife Margaret was born in Boise and attended Boise High. Kuttler joined the Army in 1941 in the Quartermaster’s Corp and then became a member of the United States Air Force when it was created in 1947, rising to the rank of Major. While serving our country, Kuttler attended law school and was admitted to the Colorado Bar in 1955. He opened a law office in Colorado Springs. When he was 63 years old, he realized he had been an alcoholic all of his life and in 2004 published a book about his time in recovery. Joe Kuttler passed away in 2013.
Joe Kuttler from the 1931 Pocatello High School Yearbook, via Ancestry
INCIDENT #3- July 24, 1949, 1203 HOURS
PROJECT GRUDGE REPORT #410
A pilot named first Clark (last name was left unredacted three times in this report), was flying a Piper Clipper from Ogden, Utah to Nampa. Mr. Clark was approximately 10 miles west of Mountain Home, near where the Bradley field pilot had his sighting three months previously. Clark was flying at around 10,000 feet when he saw 7 objects come up on his left approximately 500 feet below him. The crafts were flying in formation, in two lines of three with the 7th object slightly behind and above the rest.
Mr. Clark's drawing of the crafts he saw near Mountain Home. Note the circular center which is similar to Kenneth Arnold's drawing.
As he watched, the unknown craft passed his plane and then turned sharply to the right about 1500 feet in front of him. The formation turned right again, and Clark thought they meant to ram him, but they flew past the right side of his plane. The turns were not slow, banking turns like earthly aircraft would make, but sudden turns that seemed impossible. When they passed, Mr. Clark turned his own aircraft in the same direction in an attempt to keep them in sight. The formation was moving around 450 miles an hour and quickly disappeared from his view.
The description of the crafts, in this case, was fairly consistent with both Robert Smith and the pilot from Bradley Field. Clark described them as being black and white, yet shades that he had never seen before and could not really describe. They were delta-shaped with no protrusions, and they were larger than a fighter plane. While he was still in the air, Clark called Boise Radio at Gowen Field and asked if there were any other aircraft in the area. Boise Radio checked with radar stations at McChord and Hill AFBs and found that no other aircraft were present at the time. This fact was later verified by the OSI special agent during his investigation.
Clark reported that after he got back on course, he noticed that the engine in his aircraft was running much rougher than it was before the saucers passed him, which was strange because the aircraft and engine were brand new. When he landed at Nampa, he had the field mechanic go over the engine. He found that the spark plugs, and wires had shorted and burned out. Clark was able to retrieve 7 of the 8 sparks plugs and turned them over to the investigator. The plugs and wires were sent to Wright-Patterson AFB for analysis. Strangely, that analysis revealed that the spark plugs were completely serviceable.
The investigator in this case felt that Clark was a reliable witness. He had a good reputation and perfect eyesight. Clark had logged almost 14,000 flight hours in the 21 years he had been a pilot. During World War Two, he trained pilots for the Army and Navy and also spent decades teaching civilians to fly.
INCIDENT #4- July 30, 1949, 1012 HOURS
PROJECT GRUDGE REPORT 24-20
The final Treasure Valley UFO sighting of the Project Grudge era was on July 30. A biologist, named Name Redacted employed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, was traveling east between Nampa and Boise on Highway 30 (now I-84). About six miles from Nampa, he was driving slowly, looking for pheasants in the field to the south of the road, when a glint in the sky drew his attention. He described the object as “brilliant”, delta-shaped, metallic, and of a blueish color he had never seen before. This object was about 45 degrees from the ground, 800 to 1000 feet in elevation, and traveling very fast, 800 miles per hour, Mr. Redacted estimated. He watched the object, which was initially traveling west, make a U-turn and gain elevation as it started heading east toward Boise, where it quickly left redacted’s sight. Mr. Redacted was a trained biologist and pilot.
This sighting was reported to Mountain Home Air Force Base but assigned to an OSI investigator from Hill AFB in Utah. The investigator did not go into the same amount of detail that Agent Kuttler did, only interviewing the witness and not checking for other aircraft in the area at the time.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Project Grudge ended in December of 1949, but its more famous little brother, Project Blue Book picked up where Grudge left off and ran until 1969. Projects Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book investigated hundreds of sightings of unidentified flying objects and generated some 600,000 pages of documentation, which is now housed in the National Archives. A few of these incidents could be easily written off as mundane events, but most were left unexplained by the U.S. Government.
CONCLUSION: So what were these "flying saucers seen in the Boise Valley in 1949? Theories could be put forth that they were alien spaceships, experimental aircraft, mass hysteria brought on by early Cold War fears, or just clever hoaxes. Whatever it was, something was going on over the Treasure Valley in the Summer of '49. Perhaps someday we will learn what these things were, until then we hold out hope that the truth really is out there.
Project Blue Book, 1947-1969, National Archives
Idaho Daily Statesman
Ancestry.com Biographical Data