Quintanilla JR. (May 7, 1923 - May 18, 1998) was a United
States Air Force (USAF) Lt Colonel best known as the last
chief officer of Project Blue Book, the USAF's official
unidentified flying object investigative arm.
in Monterrey Nuevo, León, Mexico in 1923, Hector
Quintanilla Jr. emigrated to the U.S. with his family
in 1929 as a young boy (Quintanilla had three brothers).
He and his family crossed the Gateway to the Americas
International Bridge in Laredo Texas. He was 6 years old
at the time. His family made their home in west side San
Antonio around the Laredo and Martin street neighborhoods.
His family could only afford a $1.25 a week shack with
a dirt floor. Hector and his brothers did not mind because
they mostly wore their shoes on Sundays to go to church.
He was selling newspapers for the San Antonio Express
and San Antonio Light mornings and evenings by age seven.
He would peddle his papers around the Baptist Medical
Hospital area. Quintanilla also built a shoe box to shine
shoes. He decided to offer shoe shine service as well,
due to the reluctance of some customers to let go of 2
cents for a newspaper during hard (depression) times.
He would wake up at 4:30 A.M. to begin and organize his
paper route. He was a student at Hawthorne Jr. High and
graduated from Brackenridge High School in San Antonio
in 1942. A friend later helped him get a part-time job
with the U.S. Post Office. He was enrolled in St. Mary
University as a freshman when he received his draft notice.
He was drafted in 1943 and honorably discharged in 1945.
Quintanilla served in the South Pacific Theater in the
13th Air Force, 72nd Squadron, as a bombardier.
received a physics degree from St. Mary University in
1950. He decided to pursue a military career and was offered
a commission of Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force
in 1951. In 1954 he was C.O of unit 6910 Security Group
in Landsberg, Bavaria. He was an officer in the United
States Air Force Security Service. His wife, Eleanor,
joined him on this tour. His troops had been trained in
San Antonio and had enjoyed Mexican food. They stated
that his beautiful wife invited them to a Mexican Christmas
dinner in 1954. In 1960 Quintanilla later served at Griffis
AFB, Rome, New York.
headed Project Blue Book from 1963 until its closure in
1970. Project Blue Book was started in 1952. The USAF
announced Project Blue Book's closing on December 17,
1969 and officially closed it on January 30, 1970. He
succeeded Lt. Col. Robert Friend. He was selected to be
the next Project Blue Book Officer by Colonel Eric T de
Jonckheere, who explained to Quintanilla that he was looking
to fill the position with a man with a degree in physics,
with maturity, drive, and a man who was cool under pressure.
Quintanilla shook his head and felt he only met the degree
requirement. Col Joncheere told Quintanilla to take the
job for a few weeks and report to him. Quintanilla felt
he was offered the job due to his reluctance to take several
other job offers in the escalating Vietnam War. Project
Blue Book left a legacy of over 12,0000 reported UFO's
investigated of which 30 percent or over 4,000 cases,
were classified as unknown causes.
Col. Quintanilla retired in San Antonio after Project
Blue Book was closed. Sometime afterwards, he was injured
in a golfing cart accident. He sustained a head injury
that affected him in later years. He died May 18, 1998
in San Antonio, Texas. Quintanilla left behind six children
(Gene, Tessie, Karl, Nancy, Diane and Bob) and several
Blue Book was often harshly criticized by those who argued
he was not properly investigating UFO reports and was
prone to improbable and/or untested post hoc explanations.
After Blue Book folded, Quintanilla wrote a memoir, unpublished
during his life and publicized in the '90s by the National
Institute of Discovery Science, which explained Quintanilla's
perspective on Blue Book and UFOs.