The “Fascist UFO files” under scrutiny
IS IT APPROPRIATE TO CONSIDER AND TERM THEM “OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS”? A TECHNICAL ANALYSIS BY AN ARCHIVIST
by Massimiliano Grandi [*]
The readers of UFO – Rivista di Informazione Ufologica are likely to have seen that in issue no. 27 (August 2003) Giuseppe Stilo has written the article “Fascists on Mars”, a detailed critical analysis of some aspects of the matter grown out of the so-called “fascist files,” the supposed documents dating back to the 1930s and propagated mainly by Roberto Pinotti and Alfredo Lissoni, both members of the National Ufological Center (CUN – Centro Ufologico Nazionale).
Stilo, rather than on the “documents” per se, had dwelt on the way the pages had been associated with matters such as the “flying saucers” allegedly designed or built by the Nazis, the legend of the “death ray,” and the like.
By this article, however, I would like to address the issues concerning the value of the very papers at the center of the controversy analyzing them from an archival and documental perspective: to that end in November 2003 the Italian Center for Ufological Studies, in the person of this writer, had a long discussion in Rome with Dr Paola Carucci – who in the past held the position of “Superintendent” of the Italian National Archives and was a professor of Archivistics at the Special School for Archivists and Librarians at “La Sapienza” University of Rome (in addition to being the author of numerous texts and articles in her domain of study) – on the events described in the now well-known book written by Pinotti and Lissoni
Even before the meeting with Dr Carucci, some features of the documents were already clear, as they have been sent by an unknown sender and are not easily accessible, since those in possession of the papers seem somewhat reluctant to make them available to ufology scholars who do not share their general views on the UFO phenomenon: all the above essentially nullifies their archival and historical value, since documents coming from an unknown source and, moreover, seemingly hidden from the free critical examination of the entire community of researchers and archivists lack the essential requirements of reliability and openness, indispensable if they are to be used as scientifically valid elements to support any thesis.
On top of that, some of the documentary material discussed would consist of mere reproductions of other documents: in fact, barring the first three dispatches, which Pinotti says he received respectively on Feb. 3, Feb. 19, and March 29, 1996, all the other documents – if one attentively and carefully sifts through articles sometimes unclear in explaining the sequence of the events – would be color photocopies. Now, producing and sending a photocopy by mail does not require any particular effort from a documental and archival point of view, both because it is only the original document the one that possesses a set of physical characteristics (paper type, ink type, signatures, etc.) that may be very difficult to falsify, and because a photocopy devoid of any kind of original mark of authenticity (signature, seal, stamp, etc.) affixed to it (especially when it comes from an unknown place and under mysterious circumstances) may theoretically be the result of a posteriori typesetting work mimicking the forms and content of an old document (the advent of the digital technology has greatly increased the risk that such forgeries can be produced, prompting archival communities around the world to devise appropriate countermeasures).
And indeed, in relation to this matter, in several cases Pinotti and Lissoni have published in the magazines featuring their articles only images of color photocopies, not images of originals.
Furthermore, from the behavior of the two authors you may glean that they do not consider the majority of the ufologists worthy being given even only the possibility to conduct a critical examination of the photocopies (whose value as pieces of evidence would be In any case – just to reiterate it – very limited).
An additional request – made recently by Stilo to Lissoni – to obtain a full copy of the expert report on the validity of the papers, has had no response.
What’s more, the photocopied documents are the most shocking ones: the documents from the first shipment, the alleged “originals,” contain reports of phenomena that today we would classify as “daytime discs,” “night lights,” or “encounters of the first kind,”, which would be interesting in any case, but certainly not so sensational as the discovery of “an alien airship” could be.
Now, no authority of the archival administration could consider minimally significant (and thus eventually take action to promote their recovery) documents that are photocopies of purported archival documents: archival assets – this is to be emphasized – are documents (even photocopies of other documents) that have become part of public archives (or of private archives declared to be of notable historical interest) in compliance with formal administrative procedures, not mere photocopies, which, moreover, have been obtained from unknown sources and under unclear circumstances.
The meeting between Centro Italiano Studi Ufologici (CISU) and Dr Carucci was very helpful to clarify some aspects of the whole matter. One of the points that have been discussed was the possible interest of the Italian state in the recovery of documents containing information of national security interest, since in this case the national interest would not originate from archival considerations – that is, from the original state-owned nature of the documents – but from the intrinsic importance of the information contained in the documents: in this case even simple photocopies could be considered worthy of consideration. In this respect, Dr Carucci pointed out that – aside from the fact it might be disputed that documents supposedly dating back to the Thirties of the 20th Century can still be of interest for national security – the archival administration can only be interested in claiming documents that were certainly produced by the public administration and which are acknowledged to be potentially of interest for historical research purposes. This means that only in the presence of elements giving clear evidential value (evidential value which, as we have just said, at least from the archival point of view is completely absent, since these are simple photocopies of unknown origin and mailed by an anonymous person) could the Archival Administration show some interest; if not, these documents would be regarded as just one of the numerous unverified rumors (rumors concerning a wide range of matters, almost always totally unrelated to Ufology) that have always been spread during the fascist regime in the period of the “Ventennio” and often feature aspects fit for being published in pulp magazines (“Ventennio” means “period of twenty years” and in Italian is used as a moniker to indicate the fascist period which lasted just twenty years).
Let us now consider the famous “originals” of the first shipment received by Pinotti, those arrived on Feb. 3, Feb. 19, and March 29, 1996.
Later on we shall briefly deal with the examination Pinotti had asked to conduct on the paper and ink of these originals. For the time being, we simply analyze the structure of the documents.
In each of them, there is no indication – we want to lay stress on that – no indication, that would qualify them as belonging to a public archives or as confidential records.
The structure of the letters – whatever the origin may be – in any case is that of pieces of private correspondence, because the recipients, of whom no trace can be found, are addressed in the same way as it is usually done in epistolary exchanges between private individuals.
There is a letterhead – that is true – but that means nothing, because it is not difficult to find or to reproduce letterhead paper. On discussing these arguments, Giuseppe Stilo has shown to me, for example, blank templates of letterheads dating back to administrations of the Italian Social Republic.
It is a common feature of private archives – as Dr Carucci has pointed out – to find private correspondence written on a letterhead: if someone is an official of the public administration and writes in private – i.e. for personal reasons – to a third party or even to another official, he or she may use a letterhead, but this per se is not enough to give the document a public nature.
In the scenario described above we would be dealing with writings that do not possess any formal structure qualifying them as documents belonging to an archives: that seems to be just the case of the documents presented by Pinotti, which have no protocol number, no stamps, no internal partition, and no indications, in relation to the sender and the recipient, that would evidence any kind of public function which has been supported through their creation and use. On these pieces of paper, anonymous remarks are made about phenomena that show a vague similarity to the modern UFO sightings: statements such as “The Air Force distributed a questionary to all pilots operating in the area. Deny any version. The fact is to be attributed exclusively to an optical phenomenon. Il Duce follows personally the incident” do not mean anything from any point of view and more in particular do not qualify these letters as public documents.
It should be stressed that this issue is not just one of formal regularity or legal definitions, but a question at the very heart of archival science: according to Paoli, the archival document is “a written record of a fact which has legal nature, drafted in compliance with specific standards, which are intended to procure trustworthiness and give it evidential value,”  and – even if this definition has been debated, further analyzed and broadened over time by archival scholars – in any case it is evident that a piece of paper reporting extraordinary news will never be considered an archival document just because the events reported would imply the involvement of statesmen and public administrations.
The discussion concerning the nature of these documents – that is merely private and by no means public – should also be extended, in Carucci’s opinion, to the wire of the Milan Telegraph Office, which is the only one, among the original pieces of paper, to show an elaborate graphical appearance, complete with pre-printed fields to contain specific kinds of information and with the heading on the left-hand side at the bottom “Mittente – Agenzia Stefani – Milano,” (In English “Sender – Stefani Agency – Milan”)” but on which, if one attentively analyzes the various parts of the document, one can see that the name of the addressee has been erased by a scrawl, as even Pinotti and Lissoni had pointed out. This means that the telegram could just be a communication sent to a private individual, and therefore that its status may be that of a document belonging to an archives of a public body is only a hypothesis.
The content of the wire is anything but specific: “Absolute secrecy on unqualified air-ship available at confidential report 23/47 stop letter follows.”
This could also be the sheer reporting of a normal airship whose activity might have had some military implications (assuming the wire has not been forged, of course) in the context of ordinary surveillance services.
Aside from the vague and sometimes trivial nature of the information reported in these documents, we point out the inherent contradictions in the claims made about the absolute secrecy of this information, which would nevertheless have circulated (according to Pinotti and Lissoni) on Senate documents; documents of the Chamber of Deputies; postcards from the Senate of the Kingdom; wires from the Telegraph Office of Milan. Quite a widespread circulation for information that should have been covered by total secrecy!
It should be added that Pinotti claims that the alleged RS/33 cabinet directly depended from the Duce (see UFO: la visita extraterrestre, No. 11, September 1999, p. 14-15), as it would have been only pro forma an agency connected with the Regia Accademia d’Italia (Royal Academy of Italy), while in fact it would have acted independently from any other institutional body (“except for the person of Benito Mussolini”).
Such an assertion, not in line according to Professor Carucci with the organization of the fascist regime – an authoritarian but complex government, organically structured in its articulations and in its relations with all the civil and military state institutions – should be supported by a thorough historical-institutional research that would prove with certainty its existence.
Moreover, such a level of confidentiality seems to be at odds with the documents of the first three dispatches (the “original” ones), which would show (if one considers them as documents really produced by the offices, mentioned in the respective letterheads, to fulfil their institutional activities) a circulation of them not in compliance with the requirements of the highest level of secrecy, since even wires from the Milan Telegraph Office would have been used.
The absence of secrecy appears then to be confirmed by the fact that documents related to sightings of mysterious aircrafts around the mid-1930s in the airspace of Italy – sightings mentioned by Lissoni in UFO Notiziario No. 12 of May 2000 (p. 41-44) – were easily found by the writer at the State Archives of Milan (Archivio di Stato di Milano) in the fonds of the Prefecture, Cabinet, Series I, category 14 (Aviation), folder 400 “reporting of suspicious airplanes.” 1931; 1933, 1934-1935 and folder 401 “landings of foreign aircraft,” 1928-1936 and “reports of suspicious airplanes.” 1936-1937 (despite the fact that Lissoni had not provided the necessary information for the location of the files with the documents: but it was extremely easy to figure out where these were located): where is this alleged secrecy, especially when we consider that in the case in point this group would have been operating in total concealment, so much so that they would have left no trace – a commonplace for ufologists – of themselves in the archives?
Then there is the envelope on which it would be possible to read “Confidential – in the hands of His Excellency Galeazzo Ciano,” which arrived at Pinotti on February 3, 1996 along with the “original” documents, and which would also be “original”: however, this envelope too does not possess any characteristics that would allow us to determine whether it belongs to a public or a private archive. The presence of the heading “Senate of the Reign” on the back of the envelope does not mean anything from this point of view – given the circumstance that a very large number of empty envelopes of that type, and dating back to that time, still exists in Italy -, just as the fact that there would be traces of broken seals on the envelope and the “sinusoidal stroke of a fountain pen” affixed “to guarantee the closure” (of the envelope), which would also appear twice more on the envelope, are of no importance at all: all these particulars have no relevance whatsoever in relation to the capacity of giving evidential value to the documents, as all of them can be reproduced very easily.
Finally, Dr Carucci – with reference to the statement made by Lissoni about the significance of the “movement of prefects,” reported in an article of the Corriere della Sera of June 15, 1933 (see UFO Notiziario, No. 10, March 2000, p. 43) and believed by Lissoni to be a possible indication of the excitement that followed the UFO landing – notes that the movements of prefects, like the one that took place in June 1933, were part of the routine of the Ministry of the Interior both in the liberal era and during the Fascist regime: this regular alternation was due to the fact that the government did not consider it advisable for the same prefect to remain in the same place for too long.
We finally come to the question of the technical expertise on the papers which Pinotti has boasted about. Firstly, it is necessary to remark that an expert opinion, in any case, cannot be used to affirm that the papers are “authentic”, as written too emphatically (by using at same time print, bold, italics and exclamation point) on page 23 of the CUN, UFO Notiziario No. 11, April 2000, or that they are part of an archives, but theoretically one can only establish whether they are “old” papers or not. Whether the degree of accuracy of calculating the age of the documents can go so far as to state that they are pre-World War II is difficult to say, but the outcome of an interview with the Maero-Cimini company, which also acts as the publishing office for the National College of Graphic Experts’ bulletin, has made the writer doubt that such a degree of accuracy is feasible.
And here we address another point: the National College of Graphic Experts has several branches in Italy, and the branch I contacted is the main one and is located in Turin . Since Roberto Pinotti had the expertise carried out on documents that are claimed to be “original”, this College seemed a suitable body to have some more information on the topic.
The staff of the Maero-Cimini firm were extremely open to collaboration, within the limits of their expertise. They asked to be sent by fax a photocopy of the page on which notice was given of the results of the technical expertise commissioned by Pinotti, namely – as we have already said – of page 23 of UFO Notiziario No. 11 of April 2000.
What has been reported in this issue of UFO Notiziario, however, are only the conclusions of the technical report, and from that it is not clear which technologies the expert who carried out the analyses – Antonio Garavaglia, consultant for the Court of Como – used (reputedly in 1999). In the aforementioned conclusions the statements that have been made are actually – according to the graphic experts I consulted – rather generic.
To understand well the examinations that have been performed one would need to know in detail the procedures and tests that have been carried out, but that is where the openness of the information concerning the actions which have been conducted becomes relevant: according to the Maero-Cimini practice, since the examination was not carried out within a courtroom, all the related documentation is shown or not at the discretion of the person who had it performed. We know of the existence of a handout specifying in detail the examinations conducted by Antonio Garavaglia, and in spite of the silence after our former requests, we now ask again in this article that the documentation concerning the details of the examinations which have been carried out may be made available as soon as possible to the whole community of the UFO scholars: without a totally open and transparent circulation of information and without a level of trust in those who will review the work that has been done, any research cannot be called a historical or scientific work, but only an exercise for initiates!
In consideration that the expert Garavaglia was the guest speaker at one of the last congresses organized by the National Ufological Center in San Marino and then in Milan, and that in Spring 2000, during a press conference, the documents describing how the examinations were conducted were handed out to the members of the media who were present, we are confident that Roberto Pinotti may be willing to give a copy of the entire documentation on the experiments that have been performed, in order to have their appropriateness verified and to allow the possible preparation of another expert report.
We still hope that Pinotti may understand how the fact that it has been very difficult so far for researchers unwelcome to him to view the details of the expert report jeopardizes the presumption of honesty about his theories and may realize that a cross-examination, conducted by qualified professionals on behalf of other parties, would give a better understanding of the nature of those papers.
Does he not agree, then again, on that such actions would be beneficial for the UFO research?
It is theoretically possible to have tests performed to understand – for example – whether old ink and old paper were used to draft a new document or whether instead the document was actually created at a much earlier date (although there is not always a clear agreement among all the experts of this domain as to the highest degree of precision achievable by using techniques aimed at establishing the date of a document), but from what we have been able to see so far, it is not possible to understand – we lay stress on that – what procedures the expert Garavaglia has used to draw his conclusions.
To sum up:
1) The documents come from anonymous sources;
2) the documents are either “originals” without any formal element that may qualify them as belonging to the archives of a public body or they are photocopies of no archival value;
3) the documents, for the time being, do not seem to be available to those who – like us – want to have them examined by additional experts;
4) the “original” documents – which are far less sensational (indeed, sometimes they are really trivial) than the photocopies when we consider the contents of the news reported in them – would be very old according to a graphical expertise; however, only the final conclusions of the expertise are available and we do not know in detail the tests and examinations that have been conducted;
5) even if the documents would have been “secretive,” they seem to have been disseminated in many ways notwithstanding their alleged confidentiality;
6) by Lissoni’s own admission, no trace can be found in the archives to confirm the news reported in the documents, except for the files found in the State Archives of Milan: as we have said above, the contents of those documents have completely been misunderstood by Lissoni.
In conclusion, we would like to reiterate clearly that – despite the criticisms – the intent of those who want to delve into such a matter cannot be, to try to give evidence of the fact that those papers are a forgery. This would be illogical and no fabrication has been demonstrated for the time being. We have instead pointed out that there are numerous and serious weaknesses in the arguments put forward to support the evidential value of those documents.
In consideration of the evidence that has been produced so far, we believe that an Abrahamic faith is indeed required to agree with the conclusions drawn by Pinotti and Lissoni about the contents of those documents.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
 Paoli, C., Diplomatica, new updated edition by G. C. Bascapè, Sansoni, Florence, 1942 (anastatic reprint 1969), p. 18.
 Web site www.conpeg.it. It is also noteworthy the page http://www.maero.it/giornale/conpeg_corrente.rtf, where some useful techniques – of course not all of the existing techniques – for recognizing the handwriting and establishing the authenticity of some specific features of a document are presented, and a detailed list of the College’s Italian branches is available.
Massimiliano Grandi is an archivist graduated at the Special School for Archivists and Librarians, “La Sapienza” University, Rome.
[this is an automated translation from UFO – rivista di informazione ufologica no. 29, July 2004 using DeepL; editing by Stavros Hatzopoulos; revised by the author, Massimiliano Grandi]
Original text in Italian available from here