UFOs and the National Security State
Chronology of a Cover-Up, 1941-1973
by Richard M. Dolan
Foreword by Jacques F. Vallee, Ph.D.
(Hampton Roads Publishing, 2002) 6″x 9″ 478 p.
Originally published as UFOs and the National Security State: An Unclassified History, 1941-1973 (Keyhole Publishing Company, 2000).
A thorough historical analysis of the national security dimensions of the UFO phenomenon. Getting past the official pronouncements on the one side, and unprovable assertions on the other, this study gathers together the facts that are known, providing a concise yet comprehensive narrative. Among its contents:
- Nearly 300 documented military encounters with UFOs.
- Activities of over 50 Air Force, Navy, and Army bases relating to UFOs.
- Analyses of the Roswell controversy, the CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel, the Condon Committee Report, and more.
- Description of the fight, and failure, to end government secrecy about UFOs.
- Thoughts on what it all means.
Based on research of hundreds of official and fully documented sources, Richard Dolan presents an astonishing level of detail, sophistication, and clarity to a topic all-too-frequently dismissed as an adjunct of pop culture.
When this book first appeared in 2000, it helped to push forward a revolution in ufology, one which not only brought forth a greater level of historical research than previous studies had done, but which provided a deeper political analysis, one which unequivocally made a case for a cover-up of the UFO phenomenon by a national security apparatus. This was an apparatus for which cover-ups have been standard operating procedure for generations.
A radical thesis in the pre-9/11 world, it has shown its staying power through the political maelstroms of the 21st century.
• • •
to UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Cover-Up, 1941-1973
In formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of defeat: but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward victory.
– Alfred North Whitehead
It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one.
– Sigmund Freud
There is a skeleton in every house.
The Problem of UFOs
The UFO problem has involved military personnel around the world for more than fifty years, and is wrapped in secrecy. Over the years, enough pieces of the puzzle have emerged to give us a sense of what the picture looks like. I have tried to use these pieces to construct a clear historical narrative, focusing on the national security dimensions.
Because this subject is so widely ridiculed, it is important to stress why it is worthy of serious attention. Stories of strange objects in the sky go far back in time, but the problem received little attention until the Second World War. At that time, military personnel from Allied and Axis countries reported unconventional objects in the sky, eventually known as foo fighters. In retrospect, this development is not so surprising. First, human aviation had become widespread for the first time. Above the clouds, thousands of pilots suddenly had the kind of visibility never before possessed. A second reason was the invention of radar, which extended the range of human vision by electronic means. Most investigators during the war assumed the odd sightings were related to the war itself, the product of anomalies related to their new technologies of detection, or perhaps enemy experimental aircraft.
With that in mind, one might have expected such sightings to vanish after the war’s end in 1945. Instead, they increased. In Europe in 1946, then America in 1947, people saw and reported objects that could not be explained in any conventional sense. Wherever sightings occurred, military authorities dominated the investigations, and for perfectly understandable reasons. Unknown objects, frequently tracked on radar and observed visually, were flying within one’s national borders and, in the case of the United States, over sensitive military installations. The war was over. What was going on here?
During the UFO wave of 1947, American military and intelligence organizations conducted multiple, simultaneous investigations of these sightings. Although the Air Force was officially charged with investigating them, it was never the only game in town. Every service was involved. The FBI investigated UFOs for a while, and by 1948 at the latest, the CIA initiated an ongoing interest.
Initially, some Americans feared that the Soviet Union might be behind the “flying saucer” wave. This possibility was studied, then rejected. At a time when the world’s fastest aircraft approached the speed of 600 mph, some of these objects exceeded – or appeared to exceed – 1,000 mph. What’s more, they maneuvered like no aircraft could, including right angle turns, stopping on a dime, and accelerating instantly. Could the Soviets really have built something like that? If so, why fly them over all over America and Western Europe? To experts, the idea seemed farfetched at best, and fifty years later, their conclusion stands. Could the objects, then, have been American? The possibility was studied and rejected for the same reasons. It was not credible to American investigators that their military had secretly discovered a hypersonic anti-gravity technology.
Options quickly narrowed. Either this was something real and alien, or it was something “conventional” but as yet unknown or unexplained. But what could explain the strong appearance of metallic craft performing the impossible? Not surprisingly, then, by the end of 1947, a contingent of analysts at the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base believed that UFOs were extraterrestrial.
By the summer of 1948, this team prepared an “Estimate of the Situation” that landed on the desk of Air Force Commander Hoyt Vandenberg, stating the extraterrestrial thesis. As the story goes (there are no official papers proving this, only the statements of several insiders) Vandenberg rejected it, either for lack of proof, or because it did not state his desired conclusion. Either way, he made it clear that the Air Force would not accept speculation about extraterrestrials as a solution to UFOs.
Of course, people continued to see these things and wonder what they were. In the summer of 1952, for instance, UFO sightings were so frequent and often of such high quality, that some in the Air Force actually wondered whether an invasion was under way. With some help from the secret CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel of January 1953, the Air Force improved censorship over the problem. Still, it never quite went away. Civilian organizations began to collect and analyze interesting UFO reports. Moreover, the Air Force had backed itself into a corner by committing itself to monitoring UFOs as a possible national security threat. Those who criticized the Air Force’s dismissive statements about UFOs – and there were many such people – frequently asked, if saucers posed no threat to national security, and existed only in the imagination, why did the Air Force create Project Blue Book to study the reports?
Then came the great UFO wave of 1965 and 1966, when the Air Force could no longer hide behind weather balloons and swamp gas, nor withstand public scrutiny. As a result, it funded a scientific study of UFOs by the University of Colorado, known to history as the Condon Committee, to “settle” the matter.
After two years, the committee concluded that UFOs were not worthy of scientific study. Critics replied that the study’s conclusions that did not match its own data. The committee certainly had bad blood among its own members, which resulted in the removal of the “pro-UFO” contingent mid-way through the project. It appeared to many that the project’s leadership had been set on a negative conclusion from the beginning. Rumors spread about control over the committee, either by the Air Force or CIA.
As messy as the Condon Committee was, it enabled the Air Force to close Blue Book. In December, 1969, the Air Force announced it was no longer investigating UFOs. The major civilian investigative organizations soon declined, and people who saw UFOs had scarcely anywhere to turn.
Let us pause to assess the situation. By the mid-1940s, America’s intelligence apparatus had reason to believe that there were artifacts in the skies that did not originate from America, Russia, Germany, or any other country. These objects violated some highly sensitive military air space, and did not appear to be natural phenomena. One may presume that the affected national security authorities made it an immediate obsession to determine the nature and purpose of these objects, and we may infer that the issue probably became a deep secret by 1946, or 1947 at the latest.
Some will dismiss this as one of the many conspiracy theories dotting America’s landscape. The very label serves as an automatic dismissal, as though no one ever acts in secret. Let us bring some perspective and common sense to this issue. The United States is comprised of large organizations – corporations, bureaucracies, “interest groups” and the like – which are conspiratorial by nature. That is, they are hierarchical, their important decisions are made in secret by a few key decision-makers, and they are not above lying about their activities. Such is the nature of organizational behavior. “Conspiracy,” in this key sense, is a way of life around the globe.
Within the world’s military and intelligence apparatuses, this tendency is magnified to the greatest extreme. During the 1940s, while the military and its scientists developed the world’s most awesome weapons in complete secrecy, the UFO problem descended, as it were, into their laps. Would they be interested in unknown objects snooping around their restricted air space? Would they want to restrict the information they acquired? The available evidence, contained within this book, indicates an affirmative response.
If we assume, then, the existence of a UFO conspiracy, we may ask, where is it? Is there a central control group, for example, managing the problem? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. It is possible, even plausible, that no one holding public office today knows what is going on. It may be that a UFO control group existed at one time within the Department of Defense or the CIA, but there is no absolute reason why such a situation must exist today. Not only is secrecy within those circles axiomatic, but information is so highly compartmentalized that it is easy to imagine how various strands of UFO information could fall into dozens of semi-isolated domains.
Clearly, within the military, secrecy remains the rule regarding UFOs. Despite claims on non-interest, the military continues to respond to reports of unidentified flying (and underwater) objects. But a military personnel would be foolish in the extreme to be caught discussing any of this with the public. The military’s “Oath Upon Inadvertent Exposure to Classified Security Data or Information” is taken by all personnel exposed to classified information of any kind, and is binding for life, under all circumstances. When you sign this oath, in the words of 133rd Airborne Wing officer James Goodell,
"… you sign away your constitutional rights. You sign a piece of paper saying that if you violate your security agreement … without a trial, without the right of appeal, you’re going to go to the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary for twenty years. That’s a real big incentive to keep your mouth shut."
The military has taken the UFO issue deep under cover. For the last thirty years, requests to the Air Force or other government bodies about UFOs have elicited the same response:
“From 1947 to 1969, the Air Force investigated Unidentified Flying Objects under Project Blue Book. The project, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was terminated Dec. 17, 1969. Of a total of 12,618 sightings reported to Project Blue Book, 701 remained 'unidentified.'
"The decision to discontinue UFO investigations was based on an evaluation of a report prepared by the University of Colorado entitled, “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects;” a review of the University of Colorado’s report by the National Academy of Sciences; previous UFO studies and Air Force experience investigating UFO reports during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
"As a result of these investigations, studies and experience gained from investigating UFO reports since 1948, the conclusions of Project Blue Book were: (1) no UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security; (2) there was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as “unidentified” represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge; and (3) there was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as “unidentified” were extraterrestrial vehicles….
"Since the termination of Project Blue Book, nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations by the Air Force….”
Such is the unchanging, official truth about UFOs.
Official Culture vs. Unofficial Culture
Some things are true, and some things are officially true.
In 1937, Joseph Stalin authorized the first Soviet census in a decade. Based on growth estimates of the 1920s, he expected a total near 170 million. Unfortunately, the numbers came in at 156 million, and Stalin was none too pleased. Rather than inquire as to what happened to the 14 million missing souls, Stalin devised a simpler solution: he had most of the census takers shot, the rest sent to the Gulag. Two years later, a more amenable 1939 census counted 170 million, which became the official number.
Anyone who has lived in a repressive society knows that official manipulation of the truth occurs daily. But all societies have their many and their few. In all times and all places, it is the few who rule, and the few who exert dominant influence over what we may call official culture. While Stalin’s solution to his census problem was extreme, all elites take care to manipulate public information to maintain existing structures of power. It’s an old game.
Like everywhere else, America has its topics that are too sensitive to discuss openly without distressing some powerful interest. UFOs have always been such a topic, as seen by the combination of official denial, extreme secrecy, public ridicule, and widespread popular belief connected to it. Officially, UFOs do not exist, and are only discussed in public as a kind of joke, or perhaps a piece of cultural kitsch. Yet, some three quarters of Americans believe in them. Why this disparity? After all, most Americans believe in God, and there is no official ridicule associated with that belief. Could it be that a belief in UFOs is – however odd this may at first seem – slightly subversive?
The Redmond, Oregon Incident
There are many examples in this book that illustrate the disparity between official and unofficial truth about UFOs. Here is one: the Redmond, Oregon UFO case.
Shortly before dawn on September 24, 1959, police officer Robert Dickerson was driving through the streets of Redmond, Oregon, when he saw a large, bright object descend over the city, stop abruptly, and hover at 200 feet. The object was low enough that nearby treetops glowed. Minutes later, Dickerson drove to the Federal Aviation Administration office at the Redmond Airport. Meanwhile, the object rapidly moved to an area northeast of the airport, and once again hovered. Its color had changed from bright white to reddish-orange. Through binoculars, Dickerson and others perceived it as flat and round; tongues of “flame” occasionally extended from its edge.
At 5:10 a.m., FAA reported the object to the Seattle Air Route Control Center, which relayed the message to Hamilton Air Force Base in California. At 5:18 a.m., six F-102 jet fighters were scrambled from Portland to intercept. Witnesses were still watching the hovering object when the jets roared over Redmond. As the aircraft approached, the object squelched its “tongues of flame,” emitted a fiery exhaust, shot up into the air at an incredible speed, and disappeared into the clouds at 14,000 feet. It was so close to the path of the jets that one of the pilots swerved to avoid hitting it. Another jet, caught in the turbulence of the tremendous exhaust, nearly lost control. One pilot, using gunsight radar, continued the chase, but the object abruptly changed course – an event that was tracked by radar at Klamath Falls Ground Control Intercept – and the pilot gave up. For two hours afterward, the unknown object continued to register on radar, performing high-speed maneuvers at altitudes between 6,000 and 54,000 feet.
The pilots immediately received an intelligence debriefing and were ordered not to discuss the matter, even among themselves. Unfortunately, hundreds of Redmond citizens had heard the jets, some had seen the interceptors, and a few had made reports about the unknown object. Forced into an explanation, the Air Force said the flight was a routine investigation caused by false radar returns. Excitable witnesses probably imagined the glow.
Word soon leaked out, however, that the FAA was checking for abnormal radioactivity where witnesses saw the object hover and “blast off.” This made it difficult for people to swallow the Air Force explanation. Why would FAA check for abnormal radiation if the whole event was illusory? As a result, the Air Force changed its solution: the object everyone had seen was probably a weather balloon. It did not bother to explain how a weather balloon could outdistance jets flying at 600 mph.
When offering this explanation, the Air Force did not know that the nation’s leading civilian UFO group – the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena – had obtained certified copies of FAA logs. This was an unexpected coup, as the FAA logs described the UFO and its maneuvers in great detail, including its evasion from the interceptors. The logs also included Air Force confirmations of radar tracking, scrambling of Portland jets, and a report from Klamath Falls.
When this information became public, the Air Force promptly denounced the FAA for issuing false information and maintained its balloon answer. After more pressure from NICAP and several legislators, however, the Air Force finally announced the “true” explanation: the witnesses had seen the planet Venus.
The National Security State
“We think we’re Luke Skywalker,” says a friend of mine, “when we’re actually Darth Vader.” America is a country with a bad conscience, nominally a republic and free society, but in reality an empire and oligarchy, vaguely aware of its own oppression, within and without. I have used the term “national security state” to describe its structures of power. It is a convenient way to express the military and intelligence communities, as well as the worlds that feed upon them, such as defense contractors and other underground, nebulous entities. Its fundamental traits are secrecy, wealth, independence, power, and duplicity.
1. Secrecy. Nearly everything of significance undertaken by America’s military and intelligence community in the past half-century has occurred in secrecy. The undertaking to build an atomic weapon, better known as the Manhattan Project, remains the great model for all subsequent activities. For more than two years not a single member of Congress even knew about it, although its final cost exceeded the then-incredible total of $2 billion. During and after the Second World War, other important projects, such as the development of biological weapons, the importation of Nazi scientists, terminal mind control experiments, nationwide interception of mail and cable transmissions of an unwitting populace, infiltration of the media and universities, secret coups, secret wars, and assassinations all took place far removed not only from the American public, but most members of Congress and a few Presidents. Indeed, several of the most powerful intelligence agencies were themselves established in secrecy, unknown by the public or Congress for many years.
2. Wealth. Since the 1940s, the U.S. Defense and Intelligence establishment has had more money at its disposal than most nations. In addition to official dollars, much of the money is undocumented. From its beginning, the CIA was engaged in a variety of off-the-record “business” activities that generated large sums of cash. The connections of the CIA with global organized crime (and thus de facto with the international narcotics trade) has been well-established and documented for many years. In addition, the CIA maintained its own private airline fleet which generated a tidy sum of unvouchered funds primarily out of Asia. Indeed, much of the original money to run the American intelligence community came from very wealthy and established American families, who have long maintained an interest in funding national security operations important to their interests.
3. Independence. In theory, civilian oversight exists over the U.S. national security establishment. The President is the military Commander-in-Chief. Congress has official oversight over the CIA. The FBI must answer to the Justice Department. In practice, little of this fond theory applied during the period under review. One reason has to do with the secrecy: the compartmentalization of information within military and intelligence circles. “Top Secret” clearance does not clear one for all Top Secret information. Sensitive information is available on a need to know basis. Two CIA officers in adjoining rooms at the Langley Headquarters can be involved in completely different activities, each ignorant of the other’s doings. Such compartmentalization not only increases secrecy, but independence from the wrong (e.g. official) kinds of oversight.
A chilling example of such independence occurred during the 1950s, when President Dwight Eisenhower effectively lost control of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The situation deteriorated so much that during his final two years in office, Eisenhower asked repeatedly for an audience with the head of Strategic Air Command to learn what America’s nuclear retaliatory plan was. What he finally learned in 1960, his final year in office, horrified him. If a revered military hero such as Eisenhower could not control America’s nuclear arsenal, nor get a straight answer from the Pentagon, how on earth could Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon regarding comparable matters?
4. Power. Secrecy, wealth, and independence add up to power. Through the years, the national security state has gained access to the world’s most sophisticated technology, sealed off millions of acres of land from public access or scrutiny, acquired unlimited snooping ability within U.S. borders and beyond, conducted overt or clandestine actions against other nations, and prosecuted wars without serious media scrutiny. Domestically, it maintains influence over elected officials and communities hoping for some of the billions of defense dollars.
5. Duplicity. Deception is a key element of warfare, and when winning is all that matters, the conventional morality held by ordinary people becomes an impediment. When taken together, the examples of official duplicity form a nearly single totality. They include such choice morsels as the phony war crisis of 1948, the fabricated missile gap claimed by the Air Force during the 1950s, the carefully managed events leading to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, or, as illustrated in the following pages, the many deceptions practiced regarding the UFO issue.
The UFO cover-up (precisely the right phrase) is one secret among many within the American national security state. Like other areas within its domain, the UFO problem has been handled secretly, with great deception, and significant resources. The secrecy stems from a pervasive and fundamental element of life in our world: that those who are at the top of the heap will always take whatever steps necessary to maintain the status quo.
Can They Really Cover This Up?
UFO skeptics often ask, “do you really think the government could hide something like this for so long?” The question itself reflects ignorance of the reality that secrecy is a way of life in the national security state. Actually, though, the answer is yes, and no.
Yes, in that cover-ups are standard operating procedure, frequently unknown to the public for decades, becoming public knowledge by a mere roll of the dice. But also no, in that UFO information has leaked out from the very beginning. It is impossible to shut the lid completely. The key lies in neutralizing and discrediting unwelcome information, sometimes through official denial, other times through proxies in the media.
The severity of military orders are certainly a major incentive to secrecy. In addition, the history of the U.S. media shows unsettling developments, not least of which is penetration by the intelligence community. By the early 1950s, the CIA had cozy relationships with most major media executives in America. The most significant of these were with The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Herald-Tribune, The Saturday Evening Post, The Miami Herald, Time-Life, CBS News, Scripps-Howard Newspapers, Hearst Newspapers, the Associated Press, United Press International, the Mutual Broadcasting System, and Reuters. In addition, the CIA had major ownership over many proprietary publications throughout the Europe, Asia, and the Americas. By the early 1970s, the agency admitted to having working relationships with over 400 American journalists. Consider the possibilities with 400 strategically placed people throughout the mainstream media. There is evidence that this relationship continues.
The result is effective news management. Without question, the mainstream media has supported government propaganda about UFOs. From 1947 onward, while the Air Force worked to remove the UFO problem from the public domain, the media helped it to ridicule the subject. The release of every major Air Force and CIA statement about UFOs has, without exception, been met by uncritical media acquiescence. It is true that the decade of the 1990s has brought a different kind of media openness about UFOs than existed in past decades, due to the recognition that money can be made. The net result, however, is a very mixed bag. At the same time that such television networks as A&E and Discovery have provided fairly serious documentaries on the subject, UFOs have essentially become an adjunct of pop culture. Moreover, serious treatment by the major networks has remained non-existent.
In the conclusion of the University of Colorado Report on UFOs, physicist Edward U. Condon asked with evident annoyance that, if aliens are really here, why haven’t they presented themselves? The whole question, he wrote,
". . . would be settled in a few minutes if a flying saucer were to land on the lawn of a hotel where a convention of the American Physical Society was in progress, and its occupants were to emerge and present a special paper to the assembled physicists."
If there are aliens here, they do not appear to be interested in announcing themselves to us. Is it yet possible to prove the issue? Are there hypotheses that can be tested? Can “believers” somehow produce the proof that skeptics continually demand?
What would constitute proof? Many people have videotaped UFOs. Some are hoaxes, while others appear to be genuine. Is it possible to prove one is genuine? What about consistent witness testimony? Perhaps persuasive in a court of law, but provable in the court of science? What about radar/visual cases, such as the Redmond, Oregon case described earlier, in which a UFO was observed visually and tracked on radar? Certainly compelling to someone who was there, but . . . proof?
Not only must we ask what constitutes proof, but who would be authorized to deem it so. Certainly, an acknowledgment of aliens would have to come from a major spokesperson of official culture – a message from the President, perhaps. In other words, the matter may be more political than scientific. UFO evidence derived from a grassroots level is unlikely to survive its inevitable conflict with official culture (fifty years of failure have borne this out). An acknowledgment about the reality of the UFO phenomenon will only occur when the official culture deems it worthwhile or necessary to make it. Don’t hold your breath.
As a result, the easiest thing to do with UFO evidence is to ignore it, which is what most people do. Much harder is to confront it honestly, whether this means accepting or debunking it. That is, accepting into one’s worldview something as “far out” as extraterrestrials is not easy for many people, especially when one’s official culture finds little more than ridicule in the subject.
The problem with most skeptical arguments against alien visitation is that, quite simply, they fail to look at the UFO evidence. They appear plausible at first, but usually fall apart when presented with a few good reports.
The most common of the theoretical complaints are:
Granted that there may be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, interstellar travel is still impossible. The distances between stars are too vast to travel. J. Allen Hynek, long-time consultant to the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, had an expression for this kind of attitude: “it can’t be, therefore it isn’t.” It is true that the distances of interstellar space are so vast as to make travel appear to be impossible. No person could survive a 10,000 year interstellar journey, considering our current technologies.
The most common rejoinder is that perhaps a breakthrough in propulsion technology is possible, and that perhaps we can somehow surpass or bypass the speed of light obstacle, like the Enterprise at warp eight. Physicists scoff at the idea, except those who are now working on it. Is it at least possible that someone else might already have gotten further on this problem? The claims of thousands of eyewitnesses point to revolutionary propulsion methods of UFO craft.
Even dismissing breakthroughs in propulsion technology, however, recent developments in just two areas – artificial intelligence and biotechnology – will bring revolutionary developments within the next century. Many in those fields believe it will be possible to create an artificially intelligent organism. Perhaps, having found a twin to Earth somewhere out there, an artificially intelligent organism could make the long journey. Or why even use an organism when one could equip the ship itself with artificial intelligence?
If we can plausibly imagine ourselves finding another planet with features similar to our own, and sending an intelligent probe there, how likely is it that someone else has already done the same to us? There are many unknown variables, to be sure, but the prospect cannot be denied.
Why haven’t they announced themselves? This was Condon’s question. After all, the landing of an alien vessel on the White House lawn would settle matters. The question, however, assumes some kind of parity between humans and any others who may arrive. A human scientist studying a band of gorillas would not introduce herself to the dominant male with a view toward establishing diplomatic relations (although she might interact with some or all gorillas in some manner). Perhaps open relations with aliens are not possible, or at least less practical than we typically imagine. Or perhaps the prospect promises too many headaches for them. We just don’t know.
Besides, if one takes seriously the thousands of reports and claims of alien abduction, it appears that aliens have made their presence known. They have done so, however, covertly, in a manner that bypasses all official channels of our civilization – an act of extreme subversion.
Aren’t people really seeing experimental or classified aircraft? The question is valid. There are objects being tested and flown today of staggering technology. The fabled Aurora craft, an open secret flown out of Area 51 in Nevada, possesses extraordinary speed, maneuverability, and stealth capabilities, and is rumored to incorporate revolutionary principles in propulsion technology. Regarding the early years, CIA historian Gerald Haines argued recently that most UFO sightings in the 1950s and 1960s were actually of classified aircraft such as the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. There is no doubt that some of those UFO reports were of these aircraft. A closer inspection of the facts, however, reveals his claim to be specious.
The U-2, for instance, did not fly until 1955. Its altitude was typically 80,000 feet, and it flew straight as a string. It did not hover, nor accelerate instantly, nor land vertically, nor do any of the other things thousands of witnesses attributed to UFOs. The same can be said for the rest of America’s cutting edge technology of the cold war. It should be added that, even today, experimental technology does not appear to be the explanation for the majority of good UFO reports, but such a discussion exceeds the scope of this book.
Infrastructure questions. Where is the infrastructure of this alien civilization that can produce such incredible technology and enormous vessels? Or, if UFO reports are to be taken seriously, there must be thousands, or even millions, of aliens already here – how can that be? Good questions, surely, but which – like many of the others – are guilty of the same mistake: trying to place us inside the enlarged head of these aliens. Such questions presume that we can somehow think for them and imagine what their civilization can be like. They are too theoretical. It is one thing to discuss the likelihood or impossibility of space travel, quite another to examine and explain a few good UFO reports.
Possible Dimensions of the UFO Problem
So, how serious is the UFO problem? Are aliens really among us? If so, what do they want?
Keeping this discussion completely factual, we can acknowledge that the UFO phenomenon has always been global. It is not, as some Americans continue to believe, a uniquely American phenomenon, or restricted to the southwestern states. By no means. Sober, reliable, people of all sociological strata have reported unconventional objects throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Antarctica, all the world’s major bodies of water, and even outer space.
UFOs are also actual objects, not simply atmospheric phenomena. This is not to say that some atmospheric phenomena have not been mistakenly believed to be flying saucers, but that the core of difficult UFO cases are of actual objects of apparently unconventional design (e.g. disc-shaped), and capable of incredible speeds and maneuverability. When an object is seen visually, is tracked clearly on radar, and when pilot after pilot is adamant that what he saw was a real object, it is reasonable to conclude that we are dealing with something real.
It is also true that from the 1950s and beyond, people around the world have been claiming to see alien entities. Now, it is certainly possible that they were mistaken. It is interesting to note, however, that such people have frequently been interviewed by civil and military authorities, and typically been considered honest. In late 1954, for example, hundreds of witnesses in France and the rest of Mediterranean region, as well as South America, claimed to see short alien beings. The witnesses were men, women, youths, elderly, doctors, professors, mechanics, homemakers, and peasant farmers. Several cases left significant landing traces. Were these people hoaxing? Not according to the authorities who investigated them. Were they delusional? If so, what caused such widespread and similar delusions? Was it a case of mass hysteria? If so, it was an event that cut across national and language barriers among people who knew little about UFOs to begin with.
There is also no doubt that the actual number of UFO sightings vastly exceeds any official total. Hynek believed the difference to be a factor of ten. That, of course, was when people had somewhere to report their sightings. I can add that, in the final twelve months of writing this book, I encountered about thirty people who volunteered UFO sightings to me, without any solicitation on my part. In every case, the witnesses never reported what they saw to any authority, and in most cases told either no one, or perhaps a close friend. How many people have seen a UFO, but not reported it? I believe the answer is, lots.
This is a widespread phenomenon affecting many people, generating high levels of interest, taking place in near-complete secrecy, for purposes unknown, by agencies unknown, with access to incredible resources and technology. A sobering thought, and cause for reflection.
Sources and Documentation
Bodies need bones; history needs facts. In the course of this study some seemingly outlandish claims are made: how do I back them up?
In preparing this book, I have drawn from three basic groups of sources.
1. Previously classified documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. The Freedom of Information Act was a completely unforseen development to those involved in UFO secrecy during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The Act was passed in 1966, but gained some teeth only in the aftermath of Watergate and Vietnam. By the mid-1970s, many citizens filed FOIA requests regarding government involvement with UFOs, and obtained information that confirmed extreme interest in UFOs.
2. Primary sources (e.g. books) from people involved in UFO research at the time. Many of the primary sources from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s are hard to come by. Still, with some effort, it is possible to track down the key sources. There were three organizations of the period that collected significant UFO data. They are: (1) Project Blue Book (formerly Projects Sign and Grudge), which was conducted by the United States Air Force; (2) the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), a global organization founded by Jim and Coral Lorenzen; and (3) the National Investigative Committee for Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), led by retired Marine Corps Major Donald Keyhoe. The records of these organizations are not especially accessible. Blue Book’s records are available for a fee at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. APRO’s records were never published in a systematic form and have been unavailable for years. NICAP’s files ended up at the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago, but have never been published.
There are books that have made use of the above sources. Many Blue Book cases were distilled by Captain Edward Ruppelt and astronomer Allen Hynek. Ruppelt headed Blue Book in the early 1950s; his Report on Unidentified Flying Objects derived heavily from Blue Book files, and was amplified by his account of military and government attitudes toward the UFO problem. Hynek wrote two books based on his twenty years of affiliation with Blue Book. In addition, the complete list of Blue Book unknowns are available at several Internet sites.
Much of APRO’s work was published in the many books of its founders, Jim and Coral Lorenzen. All are valuable and most are difficult to find. Many NICAP reports are available through the extremely rare UFO Evidence, which NICAP published in 1964. Beside this, the writings of NICAP director Donald Keyhoe contain a wealth of information. It surely helped that Keyhoe was friend and associate to prominent figures in the American military and intelligence community.
It is true that Keyhoe and the Lorenzens made their share of mistakes, and Hynek’s writings are often self-serving and coy (until his “conversion” to the UFO cause during the mid-1960s, Hynek was held in low regard by many UFO researchers for his servility to the Air Force). Still, these writers offered some of the best information we will ever have on this period. Read with care, they and other early writers about UFOs, remain indispensable sources of information.
3. Contemporary scholarship. There is quite a lot of good scholarship on this subject, in book form and on the Internet. While most of it is not historical writing, per se, it remains valuable. For years, the best genuine history of the subject had been The UFO Controversy in America (1975), by Temple University historian David Jacobs. Its two major drawbacks are its time of publication, which preceded the great release of UFO data through FOIA, and its paucity of information about the U.S. intelligence community. Jerome Clark’s three-volume UFO Encyclopedia is another important resource for the serious reader. Although I disagree with some interpretations offered by Clark, his work is valuable. Other useful books are indicated in the bibliography.
The waters of UFO research are deep, and I have tried not to lose my footing. Throughout, I have been careful never to veer far from established facts. I am reminded of the saying: we are never as radical as reality itself. Thus, while some of my conclusions are more conservative than what others may think justified, they are just as often more radical.
Final Remarks and Concerns
I am confident that I have followed through on my intention to adhere to the facts. Where I have speculated, I have tried to make this clear. Throughout, I have tried to serve as a useful guide through the maze of UFO reports and policy. If nothing else, this topic deserves a respectable history.
Even if UFOs were to turn out to be a unique form of mass hallucination (which they will not), this study will still have value for its review of how the U.S. national security apparatus handled the problem. If there are other answers, then this book should clarify some of the key patterns involved.
Unfortunately, those patterns leave little cause for optimism regarding either the problem or its response. Americans are in a bad enough state trying to struggle through the ordinary smoke of their official culture. How can they be expected to assess the implications of the UFO problem? They can begin only by recognizing that secrecy over UFOs exists, and that this secrecy is part of a broader policy of control and deception. It is a bad omen that our civilization, beleaguered as it is by its own doing, has not faced this problem squarely.
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Reader Reviews of UFOs and the National Security State
It is a thorough and monumental undertaking. I applaud your effort.
—Dr. Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 Astronaut
Destined to become a true classic … packed with information … [Dolan] is a skilled writer whose style never bores … [he] has done Ufology a major service.
—Nick Redfern, UFO Magazine (U.K)
This remarkable and monumental book by an Oxford-educated academic looks at the government’s UFO record with a clear, careful eye. The documentation is spectacularly good, the best ever on the UFO subject. And the conclusion is overwhelmingly powerful: there is most certainly a coverup in place, and it is active right now. Dolan has broken through to the heart of the matter, using careful research and solid, fact-based arguments. No speculation here.
— Whitley Strieber, best-selling author of “Communion.”
Surely this is one UFO book which deserves to be in your library.
—Robert C. Girard, President, Arcturus Books, Inc.
If we’re lucky, at least one seminal work on UFOs is written each generation. UFOs and the National Security State is the book for this generation, one that comprehensively dissects what has happened in this complex and obfuscated field…. Everyone interested in this vital subject needs to add it to their library! … with the possible exception of [Timothy Good's] Above Top Secret, there has not been another work that could even come close to this massive and fascinatingly detailed accounting of UFOs and the military-industrial complex. Dolan has performed a monumental service to the field with its publication…. Exhaustively footnoted, thoroughly indexed, this is the seminal work for this research generation. If there ever had been a ‘must read, must have’ book on the subject, UFOs and the National Security State is it. I promise you that once you’ve read it, you’ll never view the subject of UFOs or the American military/intelligence establishment in the same light again.”
—Don Ecker, Senior Editor, UFO Magazine, (December/January 2001)
This is the best history of the UFO phenomenon in one volume that I have ever read.
—Loy Lawhon, UFO researcher, columnist, and former MUFON investigator.
This book marks a true watershed in Ufology … one of the most important books ever written in this field. Dolan has settled, once and for all, any question about the importance of the UFO to the national security apparatus of the United States. This book promises to have tremendous staying power and become truly influential as time passes. Read it today and get an advanced look at what everyone will be thinking a few years from now.
—Val Germann, UFO researcher and writer
Dolan’s research provides facts to substantiate the claims that the UFO phenomenon has always been global; that UFOs are actual objects; that the actual number of UFO sightings exceeds any official total; and that official government investigators found that some people were actually seeing alien beings.
—John Schuessler, MUFON UFO Journal