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On The Death & Rebirth of Official French UFO Studies: 2004 - 2007

On The Death & Rebirth
of
Official French UFO Studies:
2004 - 2007

by Gildas Bourdais

(Copyright 2008, Gildas Bourdais - All Rights Reserved)

March 2007:
The Release of the French UFO files

Posted: 23:59 January 19, 2008

France drew international attention in March 2007 when GEIPAN, the official service in charge of investigating UFOs, announced that it was beginning to put all its UFO files on its web site - 1,650 cases in all, containing some 6,000 testimonies - gathered in more than thirty years of inquiries, since its creation in 1977 (actually, some earlier cases are on file as well).

The release of these files is what French UFOlogists had been demanding for years, some of them suspecting the authorities of hiding UFO files from the public. Actually, the files now being made public appear to be more of the "sleeping kind" than of the secret kind. GEIPAN has finally made this decision in order to put an end to these speculations. It is not certain however, that it will end the question of possible secret files, which would be held outside GEIPAN, with a military "secret" stamp (as we will see).

GEIPAN is a small part of the prestigious Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) with its website at http://www.cnes.fr/web/5038-geipan.php.

There was an incredible worldwide demand to access the files (unanticipated by CNES, whose servers weren't up to the challenge), and it was difficult, during a few days, to access the UFO files. A similarly huge number of visitors deluged the Chicago Tribune website after the paper published a story on the UFO that was seen over O'Hare Airport, November 7, 2006. Interest in UFOs remains pervasive, even when discounted and discouraged by the establishment.

GEIPAN (Groupe d'Etudes et d'Information sur les Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non identifiés, or Group for Study and Information on Unidentified Aerospatial Phenomena") is the current name of the French UFO project. Its mother agency, CNES, headquartered in Paris, but with a research facility in Toulouse, is the French equivalent of NASA. It is in charge of the base of Kourou in French Guyana, used for the launching of rockets and satellites, together with the European organization ESA.

GEIPAN has almost the same name as the initial GEPAN, created in 1977, but with an "I" added for "Information." Indeed, information is the primary goal of GEIPAN, with the task of releasing all the files on the CNES/GEIPAN web site. In order to better understand the present situation, let's first briefly review the history of official French UFO studies.

French UFOlogy:
Born… Killed… and Reborn

The first organization for the study of UFOs in France, GEPAN, was created in 1977 by the Director of CNES, Yves Sillard, who named an engineer, Claude Poher, as its head.

It was supervised by a "Scientific Council," which had to report its activity at least once a year. Poher had already done personal work on the subject, after reading the Condon report and meeting with the American astronomer, J. Allen Hynek. Previously, a decision had also been made, in 1974, to gather reports about UFOs systematically from the gendarmerie (military police), and transmit a copy of them to CNES.

At that time, the gendarmerie had collected more than 300 reports and was collecting about 100 new reports each year. That same year, a committee of the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale (IHEDN) had made recommendations for the creation of such an organization. I should note here that, from the beginning, there was a special interest in the military in the study of UFOs, in contrast with the seeming lack of interest, if not open hostility, on the part many people in the scientific and intellectual establishment. This explains why, after a couple of years at GEPAN, Claude Poher resigned. He said later that he was disappointed by the apparent lack of interest of the Scientific Council, in spite of the support of Yves Sillard.

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