For years, decades actually, the skeptical community has wondered how the US has been able to suppress information about UFOs in foreign lands. Why would foreign governments submit to a US demand that UFO sightings and UFO reports remain hidden behind a curtain of secrecy? The answer is probably a little more complex than I can attack here, on this blog.
First, let me point out that during the Ghost Rocket wave that began in Finland but swept into all of Scandinavia in 1946, the Finnish government response was to suppress the news reports about them while those in Sweden were free to report every sighting until it became nearly overwhelming. At that point the Swedish military and the government began to actively suppress the sighting reports as well. Their reasons were varied, but they enacted that policy with no guidance from the US. A policy, BTW, that seemed to have ended the reports though not necessarily the sightings.
Second, let’s take a longer look at the situation in Australia. On August 14, 1952, with the United States buried hip deep in UFO reports from a wide variety of sources from all over the country, William McMahon, the Minister for Air told the Australian Parliament that the flying saucers were nothing more than “flights of imagination.” Even with that, he believed that a thorough investigation was warranted, which, of course, didn’t set it off on the right foot. His conclusions might have been inspired by the information released by Major General Samford in his press conference about the Washington National UFO sightings in July of that year.
This idea was reinforced in the United States by the CIA sponsored Robertson Panel, which was a five-day investigation into UFOs, especially after the summer of 1952 sightings. The Panel concluded that there wasn’t much to the sightings, suggesting that stories about UFOs be debunked, which then became an unofficial policy of
ridicule. Remember, Ed Ruppelt explained the difference between
flying saucers and UFOs. Calling then “flying saucers” had a note of ridicule in
it as in “You don’t believe in flying saucers, do you?”
|Captain Ed Ruppelt|
On November 20, 1953, many months after the Robertson Panel met, McMahon suggested that the UFO question was one that belonged to the psychologists rather than the defense authorities. He wrote, “The Royal Australian Air Force has received many reports about flying saucers, as have the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, but the phenomena have not yet been identified… The Royal Australian Air Force has informed me that, so far, the aerodynamic problems relating to the production of flying saucers have not been solved.”
The response was a “Note of Action,” that indicated that “…all reports are still being investigated closely and recorded as an aid to further research into future reports of this natures.” Or in other words, they thought the sightings should be investigated and the Royal Australian Air Force was the responsible agency. But, as was the case in the United States, they simply weren’t investigating all the reports and they were not looking at them for evidence of alien visitation but thought they belonged in a more psychological arena. Delusions, illusions and other psychological problems were the answer.
Australian Richard Casey, the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), who originally thought little of the “saucer” reports, changed his mind and this is the point where the USAF and Donald Keyhoe come into play, which is the real point of all this. And yes, it has taken a while to get here but some background was
necessary. I laid much of this out in The UFO Dossier (pp. 237 – 254) and Michael Swords and Robert
Powell did the same thing UFOs and
Government (pp. 373 – 422) for those of you who would like to learn more.
Casey sent Keyhoe’s book, Flying Saucers from Outer Space, to his Chief of the Division of Radiophysics, Dr. E. G. Brown, along with a note that suggested he had also seen the USAF statements “… about ‘Unexplained Air Objects,’ which are always carefully worded and are at pains to explain that the greater part of the ‘sightings’ are explainable as natural phenomena or on some other grounds.”
Bowen wasn’t too impressed with the information. He wrote that he “found the book by Major Keyhoe intensely amusing and entertaining… I am far from convinced by any of the anecdotes or arguments.” He also claimed that he knew many scientists involved with defense matters in the United States, and that they rejected Keyhoe’s suggestions.
In keeping with a belief held at high levels, Bowen thought that Keyhoe’s book, while entertaining, would eventually lead to the conclusion that there was nothing to the tales of flying saucers. The public would eventually become disillusioned with the UFOs and that would be the end of it. Of course, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
It might be said that all of this caused a change in the way the Australians dealt with the UFO problem. Melbourne University’s O. H. (Harry) Turner was asked by the DAFI to undertake a classified study of the early investigations held in their files. It could be said that this was the Australian equivalent to the Robertson Panel, that is, a review of the evidence gathered earlier with respected scientists studying the data. The outcome was certainly different.
According to Swords, based on information recovered by Australian researcher Bill Chalker, Turner, in his detailed report, recommended greater official interest with a concentration on radar-visual reports. One of his conclusions was “The evidence presented by the reports held by the RAAF tend to support… the conclusion… that certain strange aircraft have been observed to behave in a manner suggestive of extra-terrestrial origin.”
In what can only be considered a case of irony, Turner cited Keyhoe’s Flying Saucers from Outer Space, using the reports he described as coming from the USAF. Turner did qualify his report, saying “if one assumes these Intelligence Reports are authentic, then the evidence presented is such that it is difficult to assume any interpretation other than that UFOs are being observed.”
Given that Turner had used Keyhoe’s interpretation of what official USAF reports and intelligence documents said, the DAFI did communicate with the USAF to confirm the accuracy of Keyhoe’s statements, which isn’t surprising. The response from Washington, D.C. was “I have discussed with the USAF the status of Major Keyhoe. I understand that his book is written in such a way as to convey the impression his statements are based on official documents, and there is some suggestion that he has made improper use of information to which he had access while he was serving in the Marine Corps. He has, however, no official status whatsoever and a dim view is taken officially of both him and his works.”
As a result of this, the report was weakened considerably. The Department of Air concluded, “Professor Turner accepted Keyhoe’s book as authentic and based on official releases. Because Turner places so much weight on Keyhoe’s work, he emphasized the need to check Keyhoe’s reliability. [The Australian Joint Service Staff] removes Keyhoe’s works as a prop for Turner’s work so that the value of the latter’s findings and recommendations is very much reduced.”
The problem here was the RAAF and the DAFI believed the information that was provided by the USAF. In the Levelland, Texas, sightings in November 1957, the Air Force and Keyhoe got into another such battle with the Air Force suggesting that Keyhoe was wrong about the number of witnesses. Keyhoe had claimed there were nine but the Air Force said there were only three who had seen an object. A study of the case, including an examination of the Project Blue Book files, shows that both were wrong. There is good evidence that witnesses at thirteen different locations saw something, and there is a very good possibility that the sheriff was one of those who saw a craft.
The relevance here is that the USAF was not a fan of Keyhoe so that when the Australians asked for an analysis of Keyhoe and his book, they got a biased report that was not based on the evidence but on what the USAF had claimed about Keyhoe’s reliability. It is now evident that the Air Force had engaged, as Swords wrote, “an act of either conscious or unconscious misrepresentation on the part of the U.S. Air Force. They were engaged in a campaign to undermine the popularity of Donald Keyhoe’s books. While Keyhoe may have slightly overstated his USAF data, the intelligence reports quoted by Keyhoe and used by Turner to support his conclusions to DAFI were authentic. Eventually the Air Force admitted that the material Keyhoe used was indeed from official Air Force reports.”
Or, in other words, the USAF was able to manipulate the investigation being conducted in Australia to match their conclusions. If nothing else, it should be obvious based on this that after the negative conclusions of the Robertson Panel in 1953, the Air Force was actively attempting to implement the various debunking recommendations and were not interested in gathering UFO information. They were more interested in convincing everyone that there was nothing to UFO reports.
But in the world of 2018, we now know that Keyhoe was right more often than not, and that his work was based, at least in part, on official investigations and classified information. According to Frank J. Reid, in the International UFO Reporter for Fall, 2000, “For a little over five months – from August 1952 through February 1953 – a narrow window opened into Project Blue Book… According to Dewey J. Fournet Jr., an Air Force major assigned as Pentagon liaison to Blue Book, ‘The entire press had the privilege of requesting this [UFO] info: Don Keyhoe happened to be one who found out quickly about this [new] policy and took maximum advantage of it.’… Especially good cases were volunteered to him…”
What this means, of course, is that Keyhoe’s information was solid and had been rejected by the RAAF because their counterparts in the USAF told them Keyhoe was unreliable. I don’t know if the USAF officers were lying or simply didn’t know the truth. They were reporting to the RAAF what their superiors had told them. Keyhoe couldn’t be trusted.
Which brings us back to the original point. The USAF was able to influence the RAAF, leading them to a conclusion that was ill advised. What would have happened had they known that Keyhoe did have the inside sources, some of them official, who were providing him with quality information about the UFO situation. Instead, there was a watered-down version of their official report because they believed it was based on tainted information when, in fact, the information was good.
In other words, the prominence of the USAF in the world of UFO investigation suggested to the RAAF, that there wasn’t much to UFOs, and the RAAF responded in kind. They thought the USAF had the “goods” but it turned out to be more fool’s gold. It looked good, it looked right but it just wasn’t what everyone thought it was. And today we have to live with that misguided interpretation so that we continue to have these discussions rather than moving forward… but we see how, at least in part, the US can suppress UFO information in other countries.