March 1966
Summary and Conclusions
The Scientific Community
The Government
The Military
The Public
Summary of Tactics

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The McDonald campaign to force a paradigm shift on the scientific community with respect to the interpretation of unidentified flying object data had a duration of almost five years. There is sufficient information available to permit a detailed look at the entire process. However, this is not necessary both because it would make for a tedious presentation and due to the fact that the central theme of the study -- namely that we can view the scientific process as a political process -- is demonstrable without resorting to such a complete rendering. Therefore, only the first year (1966) of McDonald's involvement in the controversy is presented in full.

McDonald is followed in his day-to-day interactions with those within and without the scientific community in an attempt to recreate the hectic atmosphere which developed around him as he tried to reason and cajole his way to a paradigm shift. The presentation of his first year's campaign, then, is not a substantively focused discussion, but rather reflects the helter skelter strategy and tactics which McDonald employed. This does not mean that his behavior lacked direction, however, it is indicative of the fact that he did considerable spade work to determine the parameters of the phenomenon and the most appropriate tactics to implement his strategy. Oftentimes it seemed that he endeavored to fight some amorphous multi-faceted foe (the old paradigm) which would give way in one area only to become more intransigent in another. Hopefully, much of this is conveyed in the following chapter. Although regrettable, the detailed form of presentation is an unavoidable necessity in making my case. For it is


only through the reconstruction made possible by the use of most of the pieces, that the mosaic called the scientific process will take form.

To further flesh out the context various bits of background are presented intermixed with the ongoing story. In some respects this serves to break the continuity of the events, but on the other hand it provides an increased understanding of the UFO controversy in general and that knowledge facilitates a better grasp of the role McDonald played and the rationale for the tactics he used. Moreover, by proffering this background data now, it will not be necessary to present it in the chapters which follow and consequently they can focus on elements of the politics of science surrounding the paradigm shift attempt without annoying digressions.

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It is difficult to say when Dr. James E. McDonald first became interested in the UFO phenomenon, but it is probably safe to conjecture that his curiosity was aroused by a sighting he and his wife made while driving in the Arizona desert in the early 1950s. Nevertheless, it would appear that he did not take the problem seriously until much later. When he did so he often said, when asked why he waited so long, that he relied on the statements of the United States Air Force and in particular on the word of the only Air Force scientific consultant who claimed over-time familiarity with the problem, J. Allen Hynek. At any rate, McDonald remained content until the spring of 1966 to pursue the problem on a very low-key basis.

This amounted to some case investigations in the Tucson area and limited interaction with Richard Hall, the Assistant Director of


the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). As early as April 1960 NICAP contacted McDonald in the process of soliciting the signatures of scientists on a statement which would eventually take the form of a press release indicating the significance of the UFO problem. Apparently McDonald wrote Hall to the effect that he would sign, but expressed qualms about several of the points. Hall responded that McDonald's criticisms were well taken, but that the statement could not be changed at that late date, although McDonald was welcome to add anything he wanted at the end of the statement which would be solely attributable to himself. [1] 

Hall also enclosed case material on an ice-fall (a term used to designate the falling of a large chunk of ice from the sky) which took place May 10, 1959 in Smithtown, Long Island. Probably McDonald agreed to consult on such cases because his specialties of meteorology and cloud physics seemed related to them. Many researchers persuaded of the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) felt that the mysterious ice-falls emanated from space craft, notably because reports of them existed long before the flight of the first airplane.

Later that year Hall again wrote McDonald on the subject of the joint statement of scientists. McDonald, already deeply embroiled in a controversy concerning the placement of ICBM missile sites around Tucson, earlier asked Hall in a letter of June 12, 1960 not to use his name on the UFO statement unless it came out in September or later because he feared the bizarre nature of the issue could redound to his detriment in the missile site battle with the Air Force. [2]  Therefore, Hall told McDonald that his signature would not be used since NICAP wanted to get the joint statement out in July. [3] 


In addition Hall outlined part of his position on the UFO issue. He said that he found the "don't panic" Air Force line on the Titan missile question analogous to the "don't panic" policy on UFOs. He indicated that unlike McDonald he did not consider UFOs an unusual scientific problem, but rather physical objects readily amenable to investigation via instrumentation. The problem, in Hall's view, appeared psychological and political; an unwillingness to launch an investigation. He felt the answer would be forthcoming if the scientific method were applied. Hall defended Major Keyhoe and NICAP against McDonald's criticisms of Keyhoe's writing style for its lack of rigor, and NICAP for its unscientific ways. Hall claimed Keyhoe's facts were the important issue, not whether or not he could write in an acceptable scientific mode. With respect to NICAP, it didn't have the funds to do science, it needed to act as a propaganda agency to thwart the Air Force, the doing of science would have to wait for funding.

McDonald wrote back that he was in agreement with Hall "on all the broad issues raised by UFOs." He made it clear that his name should not appear in the joint statement because the Air Force would use it to discredit his position in the missile site controversy. He said he would follow NICAP's efforts to get a congressional inquiry with great interest. [4] 

So we can see that by 1960 McDonald exhibited more than a casual interest in the UFO problem. He functioned as an anonymous consultant for NICAP, he looked into cases in the Tucson area, and he started a search of the UFO literature in an attempt to determine for himself the scope of the phenomenon, and if there existed a solid foundation on which he might build. Perhaps equally important for his future work, he


established contact with Richard Hall, who would be his coworker and close friend in the hectic years from 1966-1971.

McDonald's files do not indicate that he did any UFO work between 1961, when he discussed a sighting photograph with Hall, and 1966 when he made the decision to devote considerable energy to the subject. [5]  I think we can surmise that he used the intervening years to pursue the problem in a subdued fashion by continuing with Tucson area investigations and by following the UFO literature.

He indicated in a letter to Hall in 1966 that before he "came out" on UFOs he proceeded in this manner for about ten years. He considered the evidence gleaned in this way disturbing but not decisive. Moreover, in the case of the UFO literature, Keyhoe's books for instance, he could not determine what to accept as fact. What made him decide to try and satisfy his curiosity on the subject with a summer study in 1966 were a few unexplained local incidents in 1965 and the March 1966 wave (a large number of sightings) in Michigan. [6] 

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MARCH 1966

This is partially confirmed by a letter McDonald wrote to Tom Malone, Vice-President and Director of Research Meteorology for Travelers Life Insurance Company and Chairman of the National Academy of Science (NAS) Committee on the Atmospheric Sciences (CAS) at the time of the March Michigan sightings. He expressed his belief that the scientific community failed to respond adequately to the UFO phenomenon, that the history of science was strewn with stories of similar oversight and that to avoid the problem on the grounds that the data were too messy smelled of scientific arrogance.


He went on to indicate his increasing dissatisfaction with the treatment accorded the problem by scientists and also the Air Force. He stated that he contacted Representative Morris Udall of Arizona asking him to suggest to Representative Ford of Michigan a small panel investigation by scientists.

In addition, he asked Malone if a small panel could be set up within the CAS, NAS or some other body. It would have to be done without any publicity and the panel would need access to the Air Force files. Federal Aviation Administration files, etc. If nothing came of it such a summer study could be quietly dissolved, if it bore fruit the study could be expanded.

McDonald asked Malone to bring it up to the CAS and to Philip Seitz, President of the NAS. He assured Malone that he gave great thought to the question and that this seemed to be the best approach. He closed with a remark which is typical of his style, "I know that it probably strikes you as a bit off the main path but I do hope your scientific intuition convinces you that that alone may be a good reason to give the idea a whirl." [7] 

On the same day as his letter to Malone he sent a note to Representative Udall, who I would presume he worked with on the Titan missile affair because he addressed his letter "Dear Mo." [8]  In his remarks he pointed out his growing interest and concern with the UFO issue and brought up a March 27 news story which intimated that Gerry Ford might call for major UFO hearings. McDonald pointed out the difficulty of assembling reliable information on the problem and emphasized the "journalistic fun-poking" which would occur were a hearing held. He presented as an alternative a small two- or three-man


study through the CAS or NAS which would probably accomplish more and do it in an unobtrusive fashion. He asked Udall to pass the letter on to Ford, but both were to keep the idea confidential.

A separate note went to Udall to explain the overture already made to Malone and to counsel Udall not to forward the initial letter to Ford if he (Udall) felt it would not remain confidential McDonald, as he put it, didn't want a headline saying, "University of Arizona Scientist Pleads with Congressman to initiate Flying Saucer Probe." [9] 

In light of the NICAP efforts to obtain a Congressional probe of UFOs since the late 1950s McDonald's remarks to Udall suggest that he was not in tune with NICAP policy at this point. His plans for a quiet study through the NAS further Imply that he believed the normal scientific channels were adequate to resolve the issue.

Two days later McDonald began to have second thoughts on the procedural acceptability of his plan to study UFOs through the CAS. He zipped off another letter to Malone. He intermixed apologies for causing Malone problems with more ideas on how to pursue the UFO issue. First he mentioned the possibility of a background study to provide information for the committee to decide if it wanted to take up the problem. Also he presented the concept of a one-man project reporting directly to Seitz. McDonald made it clear that entree was needed in such a situation, so that doors would open. The NAS affiliation, he felt, would provide this and a one-man shoestring study might be useful. He further liked the one-man approach because if fruitless it could be terminated easily. But, on the other hand, if Malone liked the two- or three-man panel concept he (McDonald) would speak for twenty minutes on the proposal at the April CAS Meeting in Boulder. [10] 

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On April 1, 1966 McDonald heard from Udall that Gerry Ford received the letter and it would be kept in strictest confidence. Udall said he felt the idea of a quiet study an excellent one and offered his assistance to Ford. [11] 

This interchange is typical of McDonald's strategy on any given issue. First he would formulate the problem, then choose those individuals most likely to be of assistance, and finally start a barrage of letters intended to move those people to action. We will find this pattern exhibited on numerous occasions in the following pages.

During this early period McDonald was in the process of getting his feet wet on the UFO issue, but he also began to show the pugnacity and dogged tenacity which were both his best and most irritating qualities. He wrote Hall to ask for back issues of the Investigator (the monthly NICAP newsletter), and a list of NICAP publications. This tends to suggest that he started to do his homework on the subject. Nevertheless, he told Hall he looked into the now classic swamp gas explanation rendered by Hynek at the behest of the Air Force for the March Hillsdale, Michigan, sightings and found that the luminosity produced by methane gas escaping from a pond would not last long enough to account for the reports. [12] 

This is the first indication of a disagreement between McDonald and Hynek, however, it will not be the last. They were totally opposite in temperament and style. Hynek was cautious, career-oriented and well aware of all the difficulties associated with grappling with the UFO problem after eighteen years of part-time consulting for the


Air Force on the astronomical aspects of the phenomenon. Not a man who would go looking for trouble, he just happened to be close at hand when the Air Force needed a consultant in 1948. Then, very slowly at first, but with ever greater rapidity in the late 1960s, the storm drew him toward its center. McDonald, to the contrary, was volatile and enjoyed a fight. Although politically savvy, as will be shown in the following pages, he could also be obtuse when least expected. Accordingly he could make demands in the name of science befitting a puritan in their stringency. He could not understand Hynek, so he claimed, and this proved the basis for numerous squabbles over the five-year period of McDonald's involvement in the UFO controversy.

On April 10, 1966, however, McDonald remained uncommitted to the UFO problem. In corresponding with Malone, after the Boulder meeting, he talked of the conflict between chairing a CAS weather modification panel and pursuing the UFO question over the summer. He wanted to do both, but realized he did not have the time, yet showed concern for the fairness of the rumored panels which might be established by the Air Force. Secretary of the Air Force Brown mentioned this panel possibility in a three-man hearing featuring himself, Hynek and Major Hector Quintanilla, the Blue Book officer, before Mendel Rivers' House Armed Services Committee on April 5. McDonald concluded that a way out might be to sit on Secretary Brown's Department of Defense panel which would require less of his time than a one-man study, but accomplish the same thing. To that end he wrote John Coleman at NAS to ask if this could be arranged. [13] 

Coleman responded to this letter with a phone call in which he briefed McDonald on the latest NAS thoughts on the UFO problem. They


were, that if the recommendations of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (AFSAB) for a university study were followed, there would be no need for NAS involvement. McDonald responded with a letter in which he agreed with Coleman's remarks, and stated that his proposal made to the CAS at Boulder could now be ignored.

Nonetheless, he did have reservations which stemmed from several sources. First, he spoke with the head of the University of Arizona Astronomy Department, Aden Meinel, who formerly sat on an ad hoc Air Force advisory panel on UFOs with Donald Menzel of Harvard a few years previously. According to Meinel, accounts of sightings, what McDonald considered the heart of the problem, were not stressed. McDonald gathered this would not be the case in the university study, but it concerned him that a clinical psychologist, so he heard, would be featured on the investigating team. He felt that based on the 150 or so persons he interviewed in 30 or 40 cases that very few witnesses needed psychological analysis. The fringe groups who made bizarre claims needed it, but they did not, except in a small percentage of cases, report sightings. He thought scientists like Edward Teller, Donald Menzel and Gerard Kuiper who dismissed good sightings with psychological explanations did so because they did not go out in the field to interview witnesses.

He went on to point out the difficulty of getting people to report sightings and then argued that the public announcement of the fact that each investigative team contained a clinical psychologist would be tantamount to saying people who make UFO reports are unbalanced. The result would be to significantly reduce the number of reports.


He said he spelled out these points in some detail in the hope that the letter could go via the NAS to the AFSAB and that this might make it possible for him to assist the group preparing plans for the university teams. McDonald toots his own horn quite blatantly at this point by discussing his UFO work and the academic areas of specialization which would make him an asset to a UFO study. It seems obvious at this juncture that he badly wanted to be a part of the forthcoming study or perhaps a pilot study. For in a P.S. he lauds a plan put forth by Hynek to study the 25 best authenticated cases and states that this should really precede the university project. [14] 

Even though McDonald's involvement increased he took great care to avoid making a public issue of it. Apparently as late as April 20, 1966 he remained uncertain about NICAP and did not keep Dick Hall informed of his machinations. For Hall wrote on April 20 to ask for some weather maps and began his letter, "There is one way that you could be particularly helpful to us without your name being involved." [15]  So we can conclude that at this time McDonald continued to play his cards close to his vest and was chary with regard to NICAP and the UFO phenomenon in general.

Ten days after Hall's letter to McDonald the latter wrote to Jim Hughes, his Office of Naval Research (ONR) project monitor, on the subject of UFOs. He told Hughes that Charlie Moore, of the New Mexico School of Mining and Engineering and Martin Uman, a physicist with Westinghouse Research Labs, were in town for an Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers session on atmospheric electricity and that they pursued the topic of UFOs over dinner. Ball lightning received considerable discussion because Uman showed interest in the similarity


between it and UFOs. Because Moore just talked at length with Hynek he provided a summary of Hynek's UFO views.

McDonald discussed his NAS-CAS UFO activities in the letter and mentioned the rumor that the Department of Defense went to NAS for advice on universities and investigators for the proposed study. He said he heard he was at the head of the list under consideration "to tilt with the little green men." However, he felt his Titan activities might hurt his chances with the Air Force. At any rata he seemed pleased that the problem would be joined, regardless of who did the research. [16] 

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Dr. Brian O'Brien was a member of the NAS and Chairman of the AFSAB ad hoc panel on UFOs which in February of 1966 recommended a university study of UFOs to Secretary of the Air Force Brown. McDonald knew him through his work in atmospheric physics. Apparently they talked over the UFO problem in early May because on the 14th McDonald wrote O'Brien a letter which shows that O'Brien agreed to raise the summer study panel idea, which McDonald wanted, at the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) on his (O'Brien's) next visit. Furthermore, McDonald now wanted O'Brien to raise the issue of him (McDonald) visiting the Blue Book offices at WPAFB in Dayton, Ohio, to view unclassified materials on one leg of a trip which would take him to Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the Project Stormfury Panel under the auspices of the Environmental Sciences Services Administration (ESSA). McDonald emphasized his willingness "to put a lot of effort" into a summer study of UFOs done with a group or alone. [17] 


A cover letter written by Dr. A. Richard Kassander, Chairman of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, for an NASA Institutional Grant to enable McDonald to do a summer study of UFOs is dated May 18 and is evidence for the fact that by this time McDonald was quite serious about looking into the phenomenon. Kassander's letter is also interesting because of its apologetic tone. He stated that he regretted the existence of the data, but it would not go away and as a result of conversations with McDonald he felt the observations could not be dismissed lightly. He recommended the proposal because it could provide guidelines for a future large-scale study. [18]  In the proposal McDonald asked for a modest $1300 in seed money to cover phone interviews and travel expenses.

A week later Jim Hughes of the ONR informed McDonald that Jim Kearney at Pasadena Naval Research did interesting work on laser detection of visible and subvisible clouds. This type of observation, thought Hughes, might account for some of the inexplicable high-speed radar tracks of UFOs since a cloud could appear, dissipate and reappear in another place providing the illusion of a high-speed object. He suggested McDonald go to WPAFB to examine the Blue Book files for cases which might fit this category in order to develop an assessment of the problem. Because the work was for the ONR Hughes said it would pay the trip expenses. [19] 

This is the beginning of what would become a controversy within a controversy. Was it pure coincidence that Hughes suggested McDonald make the WPAFB trip at the exact time McDonald wanted to make it? It would seem to stretch the limits of credulity, but we will see the arguments on both sides unfold because this won't be the last time


McDonald uses ONR atmospheric research funds for what appears to be UFO research.

On May 26 McDonald penned a note to Hughes to thank him for the trip and to recount an unusual call he received from WPAFB asking for information that would enable the Air Force to obtain a security clearance for him to view classified cases. McDonald assured the secretary that when he spoke to General Cruikshank, Commander of the Foreign Technology Division (FTD), that the general stated all cases were unclassified. The secretary said no, she listened on the extension phone and heard McDonald ask to see the classified cases. McDonald claimed to Hughes that he did not make the query and felt uneasy over the eavesdropping. He said he would give serious thought to viewing classified material before doing so.

Although he did not say so this undoubtedly reflected a concern which exists in the UFO field as speculation and rumor, i.e., that if the Air Force is covering up and is worried about an investigator getting too curious it will permit the person to see classified material which will tell all, so to speak, but leave the investigator silenced unless he wants to risk prosecution for revealing classified information. Probably as early as May 1966 McDonald considered this possibility.

This is further indicated by a discussion of the cover-up hypothesis of Donald Keyhoe, in which McDonald told Hughes that it would make no sense for the Air Force to staff Blue Book with incompetent scientists if a cover-up existed. But McDonald concluded he would only provisionally reject the cover-up notion. This is the first sign of an internal debate which would plague Hall and McDonald for the next


several years once McDonald reached the ETH conclusion; was the Air Force study a cover-up or a foul-up?

In the same letter McDonald explained that when in Washington he wished to get a briefing on the rumored Navy studies of UFOs and he wanted to know if ONR might fund him, in terms of travel money, for his UFO research. With respect to the NASA Institutional Grant proposal for $1300, he believed the chances of obtaining it were poor because Gerard Kuiper and Aden Meinel, the only astronomers on the committee, thought little of the UFO problem. McDonald left the impression that he intended to speak with them privately. He suggested that Hughes pick up a copy of the April 5 House Hearings on UFOs, probably to get Hughes thinking positively on the UFO subject.

Also in this letter McDonald casually mentioned that he would spend a lot of time at NICAP checking library items. This is his first visit to NICAP and must be viewed as a considerable escalation of his past position which consisted solely of corresponding with Dick Hall. McDonald communicated another first to Hughes, the belief that the UFO problem belonged at NASA. Al Eggers, an aerodynamicist at NASA, is named as the only possible entree who might be able to bring the matter to the attention of individuals in higher places. [20] 

On May 27 McDonald spoke with Gerard Kuiper and found him receptive to, or at least persuaded that, the $1300 NASA Institutional Grant was reasonable. Later that day McDonald jotted him a note, after he learned that the Air Force plan to set up university investigative teams was in progress, in which he cited his concern that this would make it more difficult to get the problem under the aegis of NASA. He said that if Kuiper deemed it wise he (McDonald) would contact NASA while in Washington


from May 29 through June 5. However, he thought that the best strategy would be to wait and discuss the problem with Kuiper and a few of his colleagues when the former returned, since Kuiper's word would carry more weight than his own in NASA circles. McDonald also felt that his side trip to WPAFB would put him in a better position to speak to the pros and cons of the question of Air Force involvement. [21] 

He made his first trip to WPAFB to examine the Blue Book files on June 6, 1966. At that time he viewed the 1953 Robertson Panel report, prepared under the auspices of the CIA. The report received routine declassification after 12 years by Major Quintanilla, the Blue Book officer, and McDonald's note taking received approval. In a small paragraph (written in October 1966) at the end of these notes McDonald discussed his experience with the document. This paragraph indicates that when he returned to WPAFB on June 30, 1966 and asked for a Xerox of the report a Colonel Louis DeGoes informed him that it would have to receive an authorization. On McDonald's third visit, July 20-22, DeGoes told him that the CIA decided to reclassify the document. Although McDonald indicated that he discussed the CIA involvement with many colleagues and took notes on the report, neither DeGoes nor Dr. Cacciopo, Chief Scientist at FTD, showed any interest. So in October McDonald began to expound on the Robertson Report in his talks. [22] 

For McDonald this was probably the beginning of his concern for a cover-up of the UFO phenomenon. To officially confirm CIA involvement seemed a revelation in 1966 and McDonald's lengthy note on how it came to pass that he made the Robertson material public suggests the gravity with which he viewed this information.

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Two weeks after he spoke with Kuiper McDonald sent him a memo just prior to Kuiper's chairing of a meeting of the Space Sciences Committee one morning at the University of Arizona. In it McDonald stated that he wanted to address the Committee on his conclusion reached while at WPAFB, namely that UFOs were extraterrestrial. [23]  Whether or not the address took place is not clear from the correspondence, but this represented a critical turning point for McDonald. He had both become convinced of the validity of the ETH and committed himself to his peers. From this time on the topic consumed him. Except for short periods of time such as his participation in the SST debate, he devoted essentially full time to the problem until February of 1971.

Shortly after the memo to Kuiper he wrote to Tom Malone enclosing an Oklahoma Department of Public Safety report on an August 1965 wave of sightings and a copy of a Captain Holder's report on the Socorro incident, an alleged landing-occupant case which took place in New Mexico on April 24, 1964. [24] 

Of greater interest, however, is a letter from Hynek to Secretary of the Air Force Brown which McDonald also passed along. [25]  His comments on it were, "Hynek felt this was a rather daring step to write directly to Brown. I find the letter disappointingly full of equivocations."

This is perhaps a good point to take a look at Hynek's strategy through the use of the above-mentioned letter. It will enable us to better understand both him and McDonald. First let us consider the boldness of Hynek's action. Since the mid 1950s Blue Book consisted of one officer and two enlisted men. The Air Force viewed it primarily as a public relations effort and a low priority project. Hynek, as the


astronomical consultant for 18 years, knew that and knew also of the difficulty of convincing the Air Force of the anomalous nature of UFO data. Now, as consultant to this laughing stock project, he wrote the Secretary of the Air Force. He did so in an indirect style which McDonald either failed to appreciate, or refused to acknowledge.

Hynek tried to build a case that the Air Force image would be tarnished by the abundance of UFO books about to appear and the inadequate investigatory methods at Blue Book. He argued that to counter NICAP and others, the best approach would be to carry the AFSAB recommendations further and give the task of all major UFO investigations to "nationally respected scientists." This scientific "back up" to Blue Book, he claimed, would get the UFO monkey off the back of the Air Force. So what Hynek felt could not be done by direct means, i.e., the justification of a large scientific project on the grounds that UFO data appeared significant, he did feel might be accomplished by appealing to what concerned the Air Force, its image.

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On July 1 McDonald received a four-page letter from Herb Roth of United Airlines (UAL) who directed the Voluntary Flight Officers Network (VFON). This group, formed in 1963 at UAL to monitor the reentry of space satellites, consisted of volunteer pilot members. In January 1966 it expanded to include over 30 of the world's largest airlines and worked in concert with the Satellite Reentry Program of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Roth wrote McDonald because he heard from Richard Hall that McDonald advocated a program consisting of a camera in every commercial airline cockpit to photograph UFOs which


might be encountered. Roth considered this a good idea, but made it clear that the matter needed to be handled tactfully. He explained how he already enlarged reporting duties to include meteorites and any unidentified atmospheric phenomena, but that he was careful to avoid the term UFO. Now he thought he could get some cooperation in the carrying of cameras if he asked the Smithsonian to recommend it on a voluntary basis to photograph unusual atmospheric phenomena. He closed by asking for McDonald's opinion on this plan. [26] 

July 3 found McDonald writing Colonel Louis DeGoes a quick Sunday morning note. De Goes was with the FTD at WPAFB. McDonald met him, along with Majors Bruce and Boyce, on his June 30 visit. They comprised the Air Force team investigating Blue Book procedures. This investigation was the natural outgrowth of the poor press the Air Force received from the April Congressional Hearings, the Michigan "swamp gas" sighting explanation, and the proposed university-sponsored study of UFOs already in the planning stages. McDonald seemed pleased with the intended DeGoes review, enclosed several papers and references on ball lightening (thought to be a possible source of some sightings) and extended his help if he could be of assistance. [27] 

Further indication of McDonald's favorable impression of Colonel DeGoes is found in a letter written four days later to Isabel Davis, an old UFO investigator from the days of Civilian Saucer Intelligence (CSI) in the early 1950s, who in the 1960s worked with NICAP. He asked Davis if she could be persuaded, having battled with the Air Force for some 15 years on UFOs, to make her clipping files of sightings available to DeGoes if he requested them. McDonald felt DeGoes and his men looked into the UFO problem much further than Major Quintanilla, the Blue Book


officer, and he said, "I see real hope that within the FTD itself, there is now a chance that the real nature of the UFO problem may be discerned." He went on to state that DeGoes asked him to return in a consulting capacity, which he considered a good idea. Because the rumor existed that the Air Force was having difficulty getting scientists interested in the independent university approach McDonald speculated that the DeGoes effort might come up with new findings first.

McDonald also gave Davis a review of his recent activities. He pointed out that unlike Davis he considered it necessary to explore the "one-shot hallucination hypothesis" and to that end discussed the possibility with Nell Bartlett the chairman of the University of Arizona Psychology Department. Bartlett, however, found the hallucination hypothesis untenable in light of some of the apparently structured, coherent UFO reports spanning extended periods of time.

This was an important issue because it hovered around the periphery of the contactee cases (a contactee being a person claiming contact with extraterrestrial beings). NICAP would not touch such cases, nor at this time would it consider occupant cases (a case where a UFO report included an alleged description of an occupant inside a craft or on the ground, but where no contact occurred). McDonald encountered several occupant cases and therefore deemed it wise to examine the possibility that they might lend themselves to a psychological explanation. As with most new investigators he was reluctant to entertain what he considered an exceptionally bizarre aspect of the data, but as a scientist he also regarded it as his obligation to scrutinize all elements of the reports.


Lastly, McDonald said he looked upon his Washington, D.C., trip of June 29 as productive even though he did not get to brief a group at NASA. He emphasized that he wanted to set up such a briefing for the following week and considered it imperative to get as many government agencies as possible interested in the problem to avoid further future bottle ups. Results were already visible, he claimed, in the form of rumblings from a two-hour briefing he gave Donald Hornig, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology in the Executive Branch. [28] 

On the same day McDonald got off a letter to Dick Hall also informing him of the latest progress with DeGoes. He found encouragement in Bill Weitzel's (an NICAP investigator) 128-page report on the Ravenna, Ohio, sightings and intended to pass it on to DeGoes. He suggested to Hall that a rapprochement between the Air Force and NICAP could be worked out to the benefit of all concerned. McDonald expressed the hope that he would be able to meet with Dr. Brian O'Brien while in Hartford seeing Tom Malone. McDonald felt strongly that O'Brien needed to be neutralized by opening his eyes to the facts about UFOs since O'Brien's word pulled a great deal of weight in Washington. O'Brien previously indicated he thought "McDonald belonged on a couch." To this McDonald replied he did not care what O'Brien thought except as the side effects might impede the progress of UFO research. [29] 

The following day Hall sent off a quick note to McDonald to report on a conversation between Lee Katchen (an atmospheric physicist at NASA and also an NICAP Investigator) and Hynek. According to Katchen, his call to Hynek came at a very opportune time because Hynek claimed he had been struggling for months with his conscience, and fears of losing his job, over calling attention to the significance of the UFO


phenomenon. Katchen alleged his call turned the tide and as a result Hynek planned to send a letter to Science. Hall thought It would help if some scientists who were not affiliated with NICAP were to call Hynek and encourage his letter-writing effort.

In this regard it must be remembered that at this time all concerned considered Hynek the most experienced academic UFO investigator. Consequently they believed that his 18-year consultantship with the Air Force and chairmanship of the Northwestern Department of Astronomy would lend considerable weight to the UFO cause were he ever to make his private position a matter of public record.

Hall also confirmed the fact that Hynek spoke with U. Thant, along with journalist John Fuller, who wrote two books on UFOs, and Thant proved receptive to the formation of an international study group to look at the UFO question. As an aside Hall mentioned Hynek recently showed an interest in the relationship of UFO sightings to power blackouts. Since the great Northeast blackout of 1965 when concomitant UFO sightings were made and the Exeter, New Hampshire, sightings, where UFOs were reportedly seen hovering over power lines, many investigators found the possible linkage intriguing. The fact that Hynek wanted to pursue it was a positive sign to Hall. [30] 

McDonald provides an informative look at his perception of the developing UFO scene in a response to Herb Roth, coordinator of the VFON program at UAL. As you will recall, Roth was ready to attempt to get pilots to carry cameras to photograph UFOs. But McDonald cautioned him to wait a few months because in that period of time he felt a new "official line" would be taken. He asserted that through informal talks with people at Blue Book, the Air Force Office of Science and Technology, NASA


and other agencies that he stimulated an uneasiness about UFOs which would bear fruit. [31] 

McDonald was not the only one who sensed a change in the atmosphere surrounding the study of UFO data in 1966. Apparently in early July NICAP convened some sort of strategy session from which emerged a campaign plan. Hall wrote McDonald on July 12 enclosing a list of 60 scientists and engineers interested in UFOs. He argued the list could be used:

  1. To help counter the claim that no scientists are interested in UFOs.

  2. To seek advice and counsel from a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines.

  3. To obtain in one way or another general scientific support for UFO investigations and study.
He also furnished McDonald with the information that Gene Rygwalski, a mathematician with the General Electric Space Technology Center in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and sub rosa NICAP subcommittee chairman, had a group of scientists ready to apply for funding to look at the UFO problem. However, Hall advised him (Rygwalski) to wait awhile because the official Washington position seemed to be in a state of flux.

In this communication from Hall we find several indications of the importance of recruitment of scientific talent to a borderland subject and the manner in which it is hoarded by the recruiters. The reason for the list was essentially leverage in argumentation and fund-raising, but Hall pointed out that Hynek could see it at McDonald's discretion, but not Jacques Vallee or William Powers, both protégés of Hynek. Hall believed cooperation with Hynek a possibility, but he felt


Vallee and Powers were not interested in exchanging information and in fact might attempt to lure the "NICAP 60" into their own camp. [32] 

Whether this concern was well-founded is not at issue here, however, it should be stressed that matters such as these occupied the thoughts of most of those addressing the UFO question at one time or another. I don't think it reflected so much a desire to be the first to make the "big breakthrough" everyone hoped for, as it did the fact that the symbols of authority -- scientists interested in UFOs -- were a scarce resource. Everyone realized this resource had to be utilized for its propaganda value to obtain converts, influence Congressmen, impress funding agencies and keep up the membership of NICAP and APRO. I don't wish to leave the impression that the technical skills these men possessed were not also esteemed, for they were and are, but to put them to their best use it was felt the entire UFO issue needed to be catapulted into the realm of big time, big money science. This could only be done, given the past history of the phenomenon, if men of scientific stature could be convinced of the saliency of the matter.

Although he was often bold in his undertakings McDonald's response to Hall indicated he could be circumspect when necessary. He told Hall that neither APRO nor the Northwestern group would see the list of 60 scientists, however, he would show it to Tom Malone, but not for purposes of Xeroxing.

In the same communiqué McDonald outlined his travel itinerary for the following week. First it would be up to New York to see Ted Bloecher, Isabel Davis and Lex Mebane (old CSI researchers now aiding NICAP), next to Hartford, Connecticut, to see Tom Malone and hopefully get in that talk with Brian O'Brien, then down to Washington to see NASA people and


Jim Hughes at the ONR, and finally over to Dayton, Ohio, to take another look at the Blue Book files. This epitomizes the McDonald style, always on the move, continually talking and knocking on doors. He felt he might kick himself for the trip, "But it's undesirable to let things cool off too much without making the rounds again and pushing people." [33] 

Word of his campaign spread rapidly in the UFO field. As previously observed a certain friction already existed between himself and Hynek as well as between APRO and NICAP. As would only befit such a situation Hynek, while ostensibly neutral, seemed to be cooperating with the Tucson-based APRO group and McDonald worked through the Washington-based NICAP organization. Why they did this is debatable, but we might speculate that Hynek, as an Air Force consultant, would have found association with NICAP incommodious because of its constant harassment of the Air Force. On the other hand, APRO learned early that it neither had the membership, funds, nor geographical location to tilt with the Air Force and so fostered the image of a research-oriented group which seemed more compatible with Hynek's position. On several occasions McDonald intimated that he avoided APRO most of the time because their investigatory work did not satisfy him (he later changed his stand on this), he couldn't get along with Coral Lorenzen, and he disliked the acceptance of occupant cases in his early days of research. This must have embarrassed the Lorenzens since they were ensconced only a few miles from McDonald's home and naturally a certain antipathy developed. It might also be appropriate to remember that McDonald had already jousted with the Air Force, enjoyed a good Donnybrook, and could get into one through NICAP, but not through APRO.


At any rate, on a rare occasion when he called APRO for information on a case in early July 1966, he let it be known, perhaps in passing, but probably to stir up Hynek, that he visited WPAFB. Subsequently, in a letter to Hynek, Coral Lorenzen warned him that between McDonald trying to carve a niche for himself in the UFO field, the Air Force looking for a goat for its ineptness, NICAP moving toward a scientific foul-up stance, and McDonald accusing Hynek of timidity in his role as Air Force consultant, that Hynek could be left holding the bag when the issue finally broke. [34] 

In his continuing effort to get the FTD at WPAFB to see the light about Blue Book inadequacies McDonald sent a summary of the April 17, 1966 Ravenna, Ohio, case to Dr. Anthony Cacciopo the scientist at FTD responsible for Blue Book. He also asked Cacciopo to read Bill Weitzel's 128-page report which NICAP forwarded and to peruse a 17-page tape transcript of Major Quintanilla, the Blue Book head, interrogating the witnesses. McDonald believed that the transcript in particular would show up the glaring incompetence typified by Quintanilla. [35] 

This was a period of excitement for McDonald. He informed Hall of his travel plans which would eventually get him to Dayton. He said he viewed as positive the fact that DeGoes and his two Major review team would be out at Rand at the time of his visit. He felt it could be a significant development. It would be some time before he would learn otherwise. [36] 

Five days subsequently McDonald received the first academic encouragement to continue his UFO work. Dr. A. B. Weaver, Chairman of the Space Sciences Committee at the University of Arizona, officially informed him of the positive recommendation given his $1300 proposal for


an NASA Institutional Grant. [37]  This grant, while small, facilitated much of McDonald's early telephonic interview work on old cases.

At the time that the above announcement arrived McDonald was on his Hartford-Washington-Dayton trip. On July 20 he wrote up a summary of the trip's highlights while still at WPAFB. He preferred getting as many facts as possible on paper in order to jog his mind loose of details and to keep his friends informed of his progress. This letter provides insight into the planning of the Air Force sponsored university contracted UFO project, McDonald's perception of Blue Book, and the role Hynek played in the Blue Book investigation.

The letter reveals that during his stay in Washington McDonald met with Dr. J. T. Ratchford of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) whose job it was to place the UFO contract at a university and Dr. William Price, Executive Director of AFOSR, to whom Ratchford reported. The discussion, after McDonald explained his views on UFOs and Blue Book, and in the process watered down his ETH convictions, focused on the difficulties involved in placing the project at a university.

The projected study was to consist of a lead university with a principal investigator and scientific team in residence, but also field teams at other universities; they wanted a principal investigator with first-rate credentials who could spend full-time on the project. McDonald indicated that this would be an extremely hard post to fill because of the nature of the subject and because top quality scientists were usually up to their ears in their own work and would not have the time. Nevertheless, he offered, and according to him, Price accepted his proposition to go on the road as a traveling salesman, so to speak,


to cajole any lukewarm prospects for the principal investigator position into taking it.

After some talk by Ratchford about the response of groups like NICAP and APRO to a non-extraterrestrial explanation of UFO sightings and McDonald's assurance that he personally would get behind a well-done scientific negation of the data, the conversation turned to what McDonald deemed a strange topic -- the political leanings of the principal investigator. He wrote Malone, and told Hughes in conversation, that he never heard of avoiding a rightist or a leftist in choosing a project director, but realized that Ratchford and Price articulated such concerns because they misread (he felt) the nature of the UFO problem. They assumed that all the public discontent originated from kooks and cultists who somehow were also politically far left or right. Consequently, both Price and Ratchford believed that should an extremist head the project his conclusions would be written off by the public. McDonald indicated that he tried to convey to Price and Ratchford that there were good scientific grounds for criticism of the Air Force handling of the UFO matter and concluded to Malone that they (Price and Ratchford) were just naive about the problem.

The same day McDonald visited NASA and wrote, "I think we have now planted the seeds at NASA." He said he received a warm reception from the people at the Advanced Research and Technology Division: Ben Holzman, George Deutsch and James Danberg, Research Division, and Mason Charak and Conrad Mook, Space Vehicle Research and Technology. He discussed the possibility of the ETH with respect to UFOs and argued that the problem belonged at NASA, accentuating what it could mean for NASA appropriations. He told Malone the latter point did not go unappreciated.


As it turned out McDonald also briefed a Joe Fletcher from RAND (the Air Force think tank) who he just happened to meet in the elevator at NASA and who Holzman belatedly, so he said, invited to the meeting. As fate would have it Fletcher knew that Colonel DeGoes and the two Majors from WPAFB were at Rand to discuss UFOs. McDonald regarded the coincidental meeting with Fletcher as worthy of rumination. Was it so coincidental? Regardless, it pleased him that NASA knew he briefed the Air Force (Price and Ratchford) and that the Air Force, through Fletcher, would know that he visited NASA. A little friendly competition, thought McDonald, might push the issue to a speedier resolution.

The next topic for Malone's information was McDonald's Blue Book visit. First a paragraph on how he managed to bully Major Quintanilla into agreeing to change the Ravenna, Ohio, case (the 128-page Weitzel reported sighting) to unidentified. Then it was time to pursue one of McDonald's preoccupations, the determination of Hynek's role in the UFO affair. He asked Quintanilla a lot of questions about Hynek because after his (McDonald's) June 7 trip to Blue Book he visited Hynek in a righteously indignant mood and harangued him concerning his past actions as Blue Book consultant and his failure to alert the scientific community to the significance of the UFO data.

Now through his questioning of Quintanilla he began to build a stronger case for Hynek's timidity. Quintanilla showed amusement at Hynek's claim that the Air Force compelled him to go along with its policy which, according to Hynek, stifled his initiatives. Quintanilla claimed that if he were the bottleneck to Hynek's plans, what about the other five or six Blue Book officers Hynek worked with over the years? As far as Hynek's claim that he couldn't get by Quintanilla to see


Cacciopo (the chief project scientist) or General Cruikshank, Quintanilla said Hynek did see Cacciopo. Consequently, McDonald's suspicions of Hynek, based on his own look at the data, Hynek's remarks in Evanston on June 8 and now Quintanilla's rejoinders to those remarks, began to crystallize in a none-too-flattering portrait. McDonald even entertained the possibility that Hynek used the Air Force for the $5000 per year consulting fee with no intent to pursue the scientific problem of UFOs. [38] 

It should be emphasized, however, that at this stage of his campaign McDonald knew little about Quintanilla or Hynek, particularly Hynek's quiet behind-the-scenes attempts to obtain changes at Blue Book without making too many waves. He was quick to condemn Hynek on grounds having to do with a scientist's public trust and obligation to science as an ongoing institution. Yet, what he failed to question were Quintanilla's own statements. Did Quintanilla, for instance, have his own reasons for wanting to show Hynek in a poor light? Was Quintanilla himself incompetent, as McDonald already alleged in another context and would this fact prejudice his remarks? Moreover, did a man such as Hynek, with at least a light hand on the pulse of the UFO issue for 18 years, have his own subtle strategy for dealing with the UFO problem?

Present at the June 8 Evanston meeting was Jacques Vallee, a protég&ecute; of Hynek's in the sense that he came to Northwestern as a student, but who in fact did much more published work on the UFO problem than Hynek himself. At this time Vallee was about to finish his Ph.D. in Computer Science. He wrote McDonald on July 20 to thank him for some material and to explain that he would return to Europe in a week to interact with scientists there who had investigated UFOs for years, but were even more reticent in their public statements than their counterparts


in America. He told McDonald that his access to Blue Book through Hynek and his indirect knowledge of APRO and NICAP cases made him conclude that European data was more accurate and better defined.

On McDonald's view that the villain in all this was Blue Book, Vallee could not agree. He saw no reason to back the public attack on Blue Book that McDonald wanted because he failed to see the efficacy of it. He believed the lack of adequate study was largely the fault of the scientific community and therefore only agreed to cooperate in McDonald's strategy of informing scientists about the problem on his return in September. It would be up to McDonald to attack the Air Force. [39] 

While Vallee penned his missive, McDonald rummaged around the Blue Book offices at WPAFB for the third time in a little less than two months. His certainty that something was amiss continually increased. Concurrently he believed that he could work hand-in-hand with Colonel DeGoes' review of Blue Book and get corrective feedback into the system. To that end he wrote a six-page single-spaced memo to DeGoes before leaving WPAFB in which he spelled out some of his complaints and suggestions.

In his first point he raised five cases which he looked at and felt deserved further investigation. Then in his second point he alluded to a radar case of August 1965 in which good returns were allegedly received on a number of military radar scopes only to be denied and called unreliable the next day. McDonald asked, "Did someone remember AFR 200-2 the following day and clam up? Or was it really correct that no reliable Air Force radar fixes were obtained?" Here McDonald raised the old cover-up specter based on Air Force Regulation


200-2 which made disclosure of a UFO sighting by Air Force personnel subject to ten years in prison and/or $10,000 fine. This might not have been a wise course of action, for even if the Air Force did not have skeletons in its closet, they now know he suspected they might, and above all else they did have a public image to uphold which criticism from a respected atmospheric physicist could only tend to tarnish.

However, McDonald went further. He wrote several hundred words about the famous Socorro, New Mexico, report in his third point. Socorro was a touchy issue with the Air Force because it was an alleged landing of a craft, with occupants seen on the ground at a distance of less than 200 feet, by an on-duty policeman. Now McDonald wanted to exhume this 1964 case, which the Air Force wished to forget, based on further work done on it by Charlie Moore of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. So McDonald, in effect, suggested the revival of a case many UFO researchers considered one of the best ever recorded in the United States.

But this was not the end of his recommendations. He laid out the circumstantial evidence for the relationship between the 1965 Northeast power blackout and UFO sightings and stated that many similar incidents on a smaller scale needed probing. He made it clear that if the remotest possibility of the relationship existed the Air Force would be in default if it did not examine the matter.

His other points of interest included a proposal that DeGoes contact Vallee before the latter left for Europe so that DeGoes could obtain a pre- and post-trip briefing on the European UFO situation. Then he went into an extensive discourse on the "swamp gas" explanation proposed by Hynek for the 1966 Dexter, Michigan, sightings. McDonald provided


considerable chemical detail to drive home his belief that the explanation lacked credibility and also tried to play upon the Air Force public image, as Hynek often did, as a reason for reanalysis of the case. He asserted the Air Force position stood on a sentence in a freshman chemistry text. If Hynek could not bolster it with substantial scientific documentation he argued the explanation should be withdrawn, "because the Air Force looks pretty silly on this one."

McDonald closed by bringing up his meeting with Rand's Fletcher at NASA and his talks with Price and Ratchford at AFOSR, no doubt to put what he considered pressure on DeGoes. [40]  He did not seem to realize that the positions he espoused, while held by a number of reputable scientists, would never be aired, particularly by people at Blue Book, which functioned primarily as a public relations project and not an investigatory body. [41]  He would soon learn this the hard way and would adjust his strategy and tactics accordingly.

One obtains a good feeling for Hynek's position on all this in a July 26 letter to the Lorenzens. He thanked them for the information on McDonald's WPAFB activities, but said he knew about them and it pleased him to have McDonald running interference for him. This made it possible for him to make requests at WPAFB he could not have made previously. On the other hand, he deemed McDonald rude and incapable of scientific cooperation, so much so that after their June 8 meeting he said he would not give McDonald the time of day. Lastly, he asked the Lorenzens to dig around to see how McDonald managed to finance his research. [42] 

So a definite rivalry had developed between Hynek and McDonald. Although Hynek moved toward a resolution of the UFO question in a


circumspect fashion for many years. It was not his style to proceed as a bull in a china shop. Then along came the bull in the form of McDonald, who quickly became convinced that scientific pay dirt existed within the UFO data and that it was only Hynek's lack of intestinal fortitude which kept this knowledge from the scientific community. The further he went the more sinister Hynek appeared and the greater the clash in scientific styles -- their personal politics of science -- became.

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Two letters from Martin Uman of Westinghouse Labs suggest that McDonald made a few inroads with him. Uman indicated his latest reading included Vallee's The Anatomy of a Phenomenon, NICAP's UFO Evidence and John Fuller's Incident at Exeter. Uman's interest in UFOs stemmed from his work on ball lightning, a phenomenon regarded by some, principally Philip Klass of Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine, as the cause of many UFO reports. Uman suggested to McDonald that clear air ball lightning, that is ball lightning not associated with thunder storms, was a real possibility. [43]  In his second letter he enclosed a wallet-sized slide-like device for identifying the color spectrum of UFOs. He called it the first UFO experiment and said he could discriminate between types of streetlights with it. [44] 

Although this study is on McDonald there are points where the temptation to follow J. Allen Hynek is strong as witnessed by a number of previous references. I am resisting this as much as possible because the material on Hynek, in my estimation, is incomplete and the scope of the work itself would become too broad were Hynek pursued closely. Nevertheless, there are instances where his actions are important to the narrative and in such situations they will be included.


Hynek contacted the Lorenzens at what he judged an historic time in August 1966. He wrote a letter to Science on UFOs which was initially rejected and then accepted when Hynek, it is rumored, made a veiled threat to the effect that he might make a public issue of the rejection. [45]  Moreover, he wrote the foreword to Vallee's new book Challenge to Science and wrote an invited piece for the British journal Discovery on UFOs. It tells us something about the nature of the scientific community, of Hynek himself and the atmosphere surrounding the practice of borderland science when Hynek states, "I feel like Luther nailing his theses to the Church door." It also pleased him that these public displays of his position would throw a wrench into McDonald's anti-Hynek campaign. [46] 

As all the above took place another element in the scientific drama evolving around UFOs already simmered in Boulder, Colorado, home of the University of Colorado. The Air Force wanted to find a university to take on the UFO study advocated by the AFSAB in February 1966. The Air Force approached the University of Colorado and on August 9, 1966 the then assistant dean Robert Low wrote a memo to E. James Archer, Dean of the Graduate School, and Thurston E. Manning, Vice-President and Dean of Faculties, to report on the pros and cons of accepting such a contract. It eventually became known as the "Trick Memo" and an article appeared in Look Magazine by John Fuller devoted to it. [47]  This would not surface until May 1968, but what is important now is not what many of the conspiracy oriented UFO investigators enjoy emphasizing, that the memo is proof the project was a whitewash, but rather the politics of science so blatantly evident in the memo.

For the memo Low queried a number of people at the university, at the Environmental Sciences Services Administration (ESSA) and at the


National Council for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), all located in Boulder, and tried to encapsulate their views. Louis Branscomb, a professor of physics at CU and now president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) seemed most concerned about the image of the university.

He opposed the project for a number of reasons, but the most important seemed to be that to approach it objectively the validity of the observations would have to be given credence. This, he thought, would call into question many established physical laws, put the work beyond the pale and lose the university more prestige than it could possibly gain by accepting the project. He believed one feasible strategy might be for the NAS to accept the Air Force contract and then subcontract the money to CU.

Gordon Little of the ESSA felt that sometimes a project like the one proposed by the Air Force had to be accepted because of national need regardless of the risks. However, in this case he failed to see the significance of the national need.

On the other hand, Walter Roberts, head of NCAR, tried to get Will Kellogg, the associate director, to take it on, but Kellogg felt too committed to assume the responsibility. Roberts thought the project was urgent, that CU should take it on, and that no kook stigma would be attached to doing so.

Low wrote up his own comments which in my estimation do not so much reek of a whitewash as they do of a promotional effort to convince Archer, Manning and the Board of Regents that the university could take the contract and not get burned. I think the infamous paragraphs deserve quoting: [48] 


The analogy with ESP, Rhine and Duke is only partially valid. The Duke study was done by believers who, after they had finished, convinced almost no one. Our study would be conducted almost exclusively by nonbelievers, who, although they couldn't possibly prove a negative result, could and probably would add an impressive body of evidence that there is no reality to the observations. The trick would be, I think, to describe the project so that, to the public, it would appear a totally objective study but, to the scientific community, would present the image of a group of nonbelievers trying their best to be objective but having almost a zero expectation of finding a saucer. One way to do this would be to stress investigation, not of the physical phenomena, but rather of the people who do the observing -- the psychology and sociology of persons and groups who report seeing UFOs. If the emphasis were put here, rather than on the examination of the old question of the physical reality of the saucers I think the scientific community would quickly get the message.

There is another reason, it seems to me, to do this. Except in a field like optical meteorology, I can't imagine a paper coming out of the study that would be publishable in a prestigious physical science journal. I can quite easily imagine, however, that psychologists, sociologists and psychiatrists might well generate scholarly publications as a result of their investigations of the saucer observers.

I have not, of course, heard the story presented by the Air Force people. That comes Wednesday morning, the 10th. Ed Condon and Will Kellogg have heard it, however, and they say the project is presented in a very reasonable light.

It is premature to have such an opinion, but I'm inclined to feel at this early stage that, if we set up the thing right and take pains to get the proper people involved and have success in presenting the image we want to present to the scientific community, we could carry the job off to our benefit. At least, it ought not to be rejected out of hand.

It is important to present this now in order to obtain a sense of the thinking taking place at CU and, in particular, on the part of Bob Low who would eventually become administrator of the UFO project. The pot was beginning to boil with big money at stake. The UFO issue was getting hot thanks to prodding by McDonald and Hynek and the AFSAB recommendations stemming from the O'Brien Panel of February 1966.


It would appear that to some no amount of money could make the risk of prestige necessary in accepting the project worth it, but others such as Low seemed to be planning on how to make the best of it. From this point until well after the project report became public in January 1969 the study remained a central concern to McDonald. He offered his advice, gave it, criticized the project administration, contributed to the firing of two staff members, participated in an expose article in Look Magazine on the "Trick Memo" and finally rechecked the investigatory work contained in the final draft -- and stumped the country speaking out against it.

However, at the time of the Low memo McDonald continued his efforts to stimulate interest in the UFO data. He spoke with people at NASA in the Office of Advanced Research and Technology on July 19, and, as promised, followed up his talk with recommendations to Dr. A. J. Eggers. He prefaced his remarks with statements about his own research and what he called the almost unavoidable conclusion that UFOs were extraterrestrial and probably under intelligent control. He suggested that a NASA panel: [49] 

  1. Do a thorough review of the literature (bibliography attached).

  2. Take a thorough look at the Blue Book files at WPAFB.

  3. Visit NICAP to study their reports and make the acquaintance of Dick Hall.

  4. Conduct a stock taking conference on what had been learned.

Although McDonald began his campaign in a subdued fashion, by mid-August he threw some of his caution to the winds, for in a letter to Dick Hall he brought up the possibility of an article for Look Magazine. However, he said John Fuller's articles would come out in September so


the Look editor would not be interested in other pieces for several months. He indicated exploration of other alternatives was already in progress.

Concomitantly McDonald began to branch out with his message at the University of Arizona. He mentioned a talk he planned to give to the Physics Department in a few weeks, to which he hoped to get several astronomers and psychologists with whom he previously spoke. [50] 

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The first hint of what eventually proved to be a major fly in his ointment came in the form of a letter from Hall in which he discussed an editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine. Philip Klass, who interviewed Hall at NICAP and posited his own ball lightning hypothesis for the explanation, according to Klass, of 80 to 90 percent of UFO observations. Klass told Hall that he wanted to attract a lot of scientists to the study of UFOs and Hall felt because of Klass' prestigious position and connections it was worth cultivating him in order to dissuade him from the ball lightning theory.

The subject changed to Hynek in the same letter. Hall wanted to meet with Hynek and various sociologists and psychologists in the Chicago area now that Hynek had "come out" in his Science letter and asked for participation of social scientists in the UFO problem. This could easily be arranged because Bob Hall, Dick's brother, taught in the Sociology Department at the University of Illinois. From the tone of Hall's remarks it would seem that he and McDonald already discussed exposing Hynek's former position of circumspection, for now Hall argued it would be inappropriate to do so, but possibly later, should Hynek attempt an ex post facto doctoring of the historical record. [51] 


During the month of September McDonald made the decision to go public. Much of the planning evidently took place over the phone because the first indication of this turn about, other than the August 25, 1966 letter to Hall, came in a September 27 strategy letter from Hall. McDonald did not know how to undertake his "coming out" and so it was quite natural to find that Hall, who managed various NICAP publicity campaigns providing advice. In using this tactic they wanted to focus as much publicity as possible on a reputable scientist, with well above-average credentials, who considered the UFO question a significant scientific problem. This is essentially what McDonald felt Hynek should have done many years before.

To make clear that this was not an amateurish affair on the part of NICAP or McDonald I think going into it in some detail is in order. The discussion revolved around the efficacy of a press conference versus interviews. In the above note Hall tried to present what he accomplished to that point and the available options. Speaker of the House McCormack, who conducted UFO hearings in 1958, received word to expect a letter from McDonald, Howard Simon at the Washington Post wanted to talk, Phil Klass desired an interview, as did Jean Smith of the local NBC-TV news. Hall said this was as far as he wished to go until he heard further from McDonald.

He would alert the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal believing it best to concentrate on "major national newspapers, networks and syndicates," i.e., Bulkley Griffin of the Northeast syndicate, Reuters (a good contact there), UPI (their expert a personal friend), AP (the aviation editor has an interest), Mutual Broadcasting System radio (a good contact there). Locally McDonald could do Jean Smith's


WRC-TV news. Herb Davis' WEEL show and spots on the ABC and CBS affiliates. So Hall left it in McDonald's hands, either a press conference or numerous interviews. [52] 

Shortly McDonald got a response to the spade work conducted by Hall in Washington. He received a reprint from Phil Klass of his Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine ball lightning article which appeared August 22, 1966. McDonald felt not only obliged to respond with a letter to Klass on the development of his own position on the UFO question, but also with a rebuttal letter to the editor of Aviation Week picking apart what he called flaws in Klass' argument.

In his first paragraph McDonald thanked Klass for opening up Aviation Week to a UFO debate, but then talked down to him by asserting his own expertise in "meteorological and physical matters" which by implication he intended as adequate rebuttal to Klass, for in the next sentence he made it clear that except for a very small percentage of cases UFOs could not be accounted for by ball lightning or plasmoid processes.

He tried to impress Klass with the total scientific inadequacy of the Blue Book operation. He apprised him of his talks with Colonel DeGoes and Hynek, but showed concern that the DeGoes panel "had clammed up" and he didn't know their conclusions. McDonald asserted that shortly he would publicly make a statement writing off as meaningless the last ten years of Blue Book work. [53] 

In the enclosed letter to the editor McDonald argued that an occasional UFO might be a case of ball lightning, but his extensive studies convinced him "that neither ball lightning nor meteoric events


nor any other known geophysical or astronomical phenomena seem remotely sufficient to account for the UFOs."

McDonald continued with some debatable reasons why ball lightning was a poor UFO candidate, talked about the poorly labeled ball lightning cases at Blue Book and then launched into an excoriation of the Air Force handling of UFOs which was "seriously lacking in scientific content." Then he dropped his bombshell by saying "the hypothesis that these may be extraterrestrial objects engaged in something that might be regarded as reconnaissance operations slowly emerges as the most acceptable hypothesis." He closed by hoping that Aviation Week would call for a review of the available UFO evidence. [54]  So as early as September 1966 McDonald was prepared to publicly endorse the ETH.

Aviation Week never printed the letter, yet it marked the beginning of the Klass-McDonald debate. McDonald felt it necessary to cut down an unqualified avionics editor, who though a scientific upstart, could have considerable literary clout through his space industry trade publication. Klass, on the other hand, viewed McDonald as a kook scientist who went off the deep end and might make an interesting story. To complicate matters even further, Klass' ball lightning-plasma hypothesis relied on a phenomenon itself only recently rescued from the waste bin of bizarre notions. And, needless to say, after expending extensive time and effort on his work, as had McDonald, Klass had a very real personal stake in the outcome of the debate. Much more will be heard from this duo as the story progresses.

On September 29 Hall again tried to firm up McDonald's "coming out" plans. It should be kept in mind that NICAP as well as APRO endeavored


for years to obtain scientific recognition for the UFO phenomenon and continually fell short because, they felt, no well-known scientist was willing to touch it. Now, however, NICAP had found the man who might "blow it all open" in an atmosphere already charged with rumors of a university study of UFOs. It is easy to see, then, why Hall pursued the matter vigorously.

After enumerating several members of the media who would cooperate he cited other avenues which needed to be examined. First the staff at the Saturday Evening Post felt McDonald should submit an outline of his proposed article and second Hall believed, since McDonald already contacted U.S. News and World Report on the possibility of an article, that he should inform them of his plans to go public as well as other national news magazines. [55] 

McDonald, although in high gear, retained some reservations about going public, which I think is a fair interpretation of his September 29 letter to Colonel DeGoes. I think he actually felt that he could threaten the Air Force sufficiently to blackmail Blue Book into mending its ways if its image risked being tarnished by rigorous criticism from a prominent scientist.

McDonald opened his letter casually asking for some ball lightning references he loaned DeGoes, then he expressed disappointment that the cases he suggested for reclassification did not get reclassified. Whereupon in one sentence he let out what galled him most, namely the fact that his July 22 six-page single-spaced memo to DeGoes remained unanswered.

He concluded that lack of communication meant the Air Force did not want changes at Blue Book. He said he would publicly make the same


strong scientific criticisms of the handling of the UFO problem by the Air Force as he had made in private to Dr. Cacciopo and General Cruikshank and that he wanted this message passed along to Dr. Cacciopo. [56] 

There is also the overtone that McDonald knew that Cacciopo didn't want to be left holding the bag if the UFO data actually contained any scientific pay dirt. Since Cacciopo was in charge, scientifically, of Blue Book and about forty other Air Force projects at WPAFB, McDonald probably thought making known his threat to take a strong stand on such a bizarre issue might light a fire under him.

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The next day McDonald sent off a six-page letter to Hall on the strategy and tactics of his scheduled October 19 presentation as well as his future plan of attack regarding Congressional Hearings. The general points which he wanted to cover in his own words were:

  1. My examination of the USAF program leads me to describe it as completely inadequate, from a scientific view.

  2. Not only incompetence, but deception of public and Congress has been involved.

  3. The percentage of Blue Book reports that properly belong in the Unidentified category appears to me to be low by almost one whole order of magnitude.

  4. "Explanations" in terms of misinterpreted geophysical and astronomical phenomena fail to account for many hundreds of UFO reports (both in Blue Book and in outside files such as yours) and other hypotheses such as technological and psychological fail to explain the problem away.

  5. After carefully considering such alternative hypotheses, I find from my study of the problem that the most acceptable hypothesis appears to be that of the extraterrestrial nature of the UFOs.

  6. Although entirely unwilling to speculate on "reasons" and "motives," I subscribe to the view that certain parts of the total UFO pattern suggest something in the nature of a reconnaissance operation.


  1. I haven't the slightest idea where the UFOs may be coming from and will not speculate thereon.

  2. Because of my belief that the UFOs constitute a scientific problem of first-order importance and because of having found from personal experience that the Air Force program is scientifically almost worthless (or worse), I believe that some radical change is now required in the manner in which the UFOs are studied. NASA seems a likely agency to take over the investigation free from all the errors and biases that run through the USAF effort.

On the nature of the press coverage involved, McDonald wanted Hall to decide on the best approach for NICAP and the UFO issue in the long run. Essentially on the horns of a dilemma, he didn't want to be branded a publicity seeker, and yet publicity was just what the issue needed. He said he didn't mind the large press conference approach because he thought he could control it, but he said, "It's the difficulty that if you begin to look like your goal is to get plastered over front pages you lose effectiveness with both scientists and Congress, the ones we want to influence."

With regard to radio and TV McDonald wanted to make appearances, but he wished to avoid any sensationalism or Johnny Carson type talk show formats. He felt radio and TV presentations would be criticized by many scientists and Air Force slanted officials and consequently needed to be carried off with a low profile.

Then he went into his local Tucson tactics. He planned an October 5 talk in which he would make the same points as in Washington, D.C. He intended to do this on the advice of his local news bureau people. They contacted two newspapers in Tucson, one in Phoenix, a local UPI stringer and the local AP man, all of whom were very interested. McDonald preferred the press conference for reasons of efficiency, but


felt it would "go over like a lead balloon" in Tucson and so decided on personal interviews.

He would follow the talk of the 5th by another, "Atmospheric Physics and the UFOs," on October 6 to a Department of Meteorology colloquium at the UA. Then there was a possibility of working in a talk while at the University of Washington where .he was scheduled to discuss weather modification. As McDonald put it, "may not eventuate, but from here on out the objective will be to spread the word in any good way that affords itself." He regretted the responsibility of his cloud physics course because he believed he should be spending twelve hours a day "boning up on UFO case material."

He thought that the degree of press coverage obtained by his October 5 talk should determine the amount of energy he would put into a letter-writing campaign to Congressmen. He intended to write McCormack, Ford, Rivers, Hutchinson, Stanton, Vivian and most of the Arizona delegation. The thrust of the attack would be to get Congressional Hearings which would move the UFO question from the Air Force to NASA. He hoped NICAP would encourage its 10,000 plus membership to engage in a concurrent letter-writing campaign. [57] 

At this juncture I think McDonald considered himself to be historically weak on the UFO phenomenon. His WPAFB exploits, trips to NICAP, talks with Hynek and case investigations led him to the ETH, however, he knew he was only familiar with the tip of the iceberg. In order to remedy his deficiency he tried to do his homework as rapidly as possible prior to his "coming out." He doesn't mention this, but I am certain it occurred him that he could look ridiculous if asked detailed questions on a "significant" case of which he had not heard. All of


this, of course, at a supposedly momentous press conference where he was the touted authority on UFOs.

To this end he asked Hall some substantive questions in his letter of October 1. Hall's response consisted of considerable background material: [58] 

  1. Excerpt from Arnold and Palmer book re: Rhodes photos.

  2. Current list of NICAP Board.

  3. Two back issues of NICAP Investigator.

  4. Wall Street Journal editorial on UFOs.

  5. Date re: USAF unknowns.

  6. The information that Brigadier General W. M. Garland was assistant to General Samford, Director of Intelligence, in 1951.

  7. The assurance that the sanitized CIA UFO Report (minutes of the Robertson Panel) would be forwarded in a week once the Moss Subcommittee got it released.

The same day McDonald, still hoping I think to blackmail his way off the cross, wrote a letter to Tom Ratchford at AFOSR. He mentioned essentially the same things he put to DeGoes about being disappointed in Blue Book, the lack of communication with him (McDonald), the de facto rejection of his offer to sell the university team approach to prominent scientists, Ratchford's lack of contact with NICAP, and McDonald's belief that the problem belonged at NASA.

In conclusion he again stated that he felt a scientific obligation to speak out on UFOs, that this would entail strong criticism of the Air Force and include demands for radical changes in the handling of the entire UFO matter. [59] 

More of McDonald's thinking falls into place when we view some of his comments to Tom Malone. He argued that the most recent Pentagon


Public Information Office release on UFOs (September 1) showed absolutely no change in policy. The DeGoes panel seemed moribund and therefore he decided to give up on the Air Force. It seemed the only way to get the problem out on the table would be to make the Air Force dirty linen public.

He filled Malone in on his plans and then turned to Hynek's letter to Science which only asked for greater attention to be given UFOs and yet did not publish. McDonald heard Hynek went to a columnist with the letter and got it published in a batch of papers along with a protest to Science which resulted in Philip Abelson, the editor of Science, calling Hynek to tell him that if the letter were shortened it would be published. [60]  Although Hynek did apply some pressure to get his letter into Science, in fact he did not get it into a newspaper, which illustrates the manner in which rumor spreads and is exaggerated when the scientific stakes are high. [61] 

Although McDonald verged on going public, Hall dropped him an infuriated note to indicate his displeasure with the effort as a whole. Hynek, who seemed to be making a turnabout, was quoted in the NICAP Investigator as saying the Air Force research on UFOs did not stand up to scientific scrutiny. However, when the Washington Post queried him on his comments he said the quote was taken out of context. On another front Klass of Aviation Week appeared to be on the attack. This time it was Hall and NICAP, according to Hall, who were totally misrepresented in an October 3 Aviation Week article based on an interview Hall gave to Klass. [62]  Probably at this point both Hall and McDonald realized that Klass was not just another journalist with a casual interest in UFOs, but an adversary of formidable proportions.


McDonald gave his presentations on October 4 and 5. The only correspondence he received from interested scientists was a letter from Gerard Kuiper of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the UA. He made several objections to McDonald's argument for the ETH. He first suggested that a few poor explanations of unknowns were hardly strong evidence. He then said that, given the difficulty of making one launch to the moon, the probability of multiple independent launches from other planets to Earth was unlikely. He further went on "tongue in cheek" to say he would prefer to believe that the ghosts of the Aztecs or Incas were returning to this planet than question the validity of the law of the conservation of energy on the basis of a few reports from untrained observers. He closed with a good conservative statement. "In my judgment the only defensible position a scientist can take here is that there are unexplained (terrestrial) atmospheric phenomena." [63] 

In McDonald's reply he asserted that in a short talk it was not possible to present the "body of evidence" pointing in the direction of the ETH, which he emphasized was only an hypothesis. He must have shocked Kuiper considerably when he proposed the most likely alternative hypothesis to be an unexplained psychic phenomenon. McDonald showed his awareness of the precariousness of his scientific position when he said, "That publicly espousing such an hypothesis (the ETH) even in the pussyfooting language of 'least undesirable hypothesis,' is professionally risky, is very clear to me." From this comment it is probably safe to surmise that McDonald still did not see the UFO issue as becoming an all consuming endeavor which would result in his production of research papers dropping from 64 between 1951 and 1966 to zero between 1967 and 1971. [64] 


Although McDonald was familiar with press coverage, he expressed surprise at the results of his Tucson "coming out," and in fact began to reconsider his Washington plans. He wrote Hall that he groaned at the press errors, but that some of his points did come across in the Phoenix and Tucson stories; however, the Los Angeles Times included a statement that he believed in "persons from outer space" and the AP wire story asserted he believed in contemporary CIA involvement. This made McDonald wonder about the efficacy of using the mass media in the UFO campaign. He said he didn't mind standing up for a far-out view, but he didn't like being made a fool of through misquotes and slanted remarks.

Consequently, he stated to Hall that he refused all local media coverage for the past several days and did only one ten-minute spot for CBS News in New York. He said he wanted to reduce the number of the press at his Washington talk to good nationally syndicated people, but realized the paradox that almost all the people Hall suggested fitted that description. He concluded that he would leave the arrangements up to Hall who should tone down the CIA angle and make the discussion turn on the scientific inadequacy of Blue Book.

On the local scientific front feedback from McDonald's colleagues proved negative, so he said, and they showed concern for the reputation of the UA. Undeterred McDonald planned to give a talk to the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Seminar on October 11 and looked forward to a colloquium in the Psychology Department. It would appear that he wanted to cite the reactions, which he expected to be "snorts," from both groups in his Washington talk.

Also he raised an aspect of the possible, in his mind, cover-up problem. The negatives of some photos he knew of were allegedly


confiscated by the FBI and some Polaroid prints from California were supposedly lost by the Air Force. McDonald thought NICAP should make a list of such incidents for future reference. Evidently the possibility of a large-scale governmental cover-up of the UFO problem was no longer a matter of idle curiosity for him.

Referring to Klass, McDonald felt that his article was full of holes. Based on Klass' memo McDonald said, "don't think I'm going to like him either." [65] 

McDonald sensed a battle or at least a skirmish in the air. However, he did not know that Klass relished a good battle as much as he did and possibly more. Klass prepared for McDonald as McDonald prepared for him, but I believe Klass viewed McDonald as big game deserving of equally large bore ammunition, whereas McDonald seemingly underestimated Klass as an upstart, but one who would adhere to the generally accepted forms of academic combat.

The following day McDonald submitted a report to Dr. A. B. Weaver, Chairman of the Space Sciences Committee, which provided him with the $1300 seed money to begin his studies. McDonald informed the committee of the $400 he spent on phone interviewing, his proposed talk at the D.C. chapter of the American Meteorological Association and his campus colloquia activities. Probably looking to future funding from the same committee he pointed out that he had not sought support elsewhere. [66] 

On October 15 a press release announced that Dr. E. U. Condon, a respected physicist, past director of the National Bureau of Standards, past President of the AAAS and American Physical Society, would head the Air Force funded study which would take place at the University of Colorado. Although attempts to obtain a university and principal


investigator began in May it seems more than coincidental that just as McDonald prepared to go public and prior to what he anticipated to be a significant Washington talk, that the Air Force took the wind out of his sails with its announcement.

No doubt Condon had little idea of what was in store for him. However, he probably received an inkling from the three-page letter Hall sent him on the nature of NICAP and its position on UFOs. In it Hall did a number of things:

  1. he offered NICAP's cooperation,

  2. provided a copy of The UFO Evidence, a fact sheet, staff biographies, names of board members and a background on NICAP,

  3. listed the membership at 10,500,

  4. dropped the names of Cape Kennedy, Huntsville, Goddard Space Flight Center, General Electric, Westinghouse and Bell Telephone as employers of scientists who were NICAP members, and

  5. volunteered NICAP investigators for a UFO network.

Hall said that Condon's agnostic position was fine, NICAP only wanted the thorough and impartial investigation which the Air Force failed to provide. Then he went into the nature of UFO data problems and most importantly offered to provide evaluations of the kooks and frauds in the field. [67] 

What Condon thought is anyone's guess, but based on his later statements it would seem likely that he found it a bit incongruous for a group supporting the ETH to offer its services to evaluate kooks and frauds when the position of NICAP itself must have struck him as bizarre.

It pleased McDonald that the Colorado program appeared to be taking shape with the aid of NCAR and ESSA. He wrote Tom Ratchford at AFOSR to


thank him for a copy of AFR 80-17, an Air Force regulation governing the reporting of UFOs. He expressed his delight that a scientist of Condon's standing would head the project, but of course felt compelled to proffer some suggestions.

First, he thought that Blue Book, given its past record, could not be entrusted to pick the sightings the CU project would study. He heard a rumor of such a plan and considered it his obligation to warn against it.

Second, he argued that the copy of AFR 80-17 which Ratchford sent him did nothing to insure that the university investigative teams could go "to air base level and talk to radar operators, pilots, tower personnel, etc." The AFR 200-2, predecessor to AFR 80-17, prohibited this and McDonald argued the need to remove such an obstacle to insure the highest quality investigatory work.

Finally, he discussed his campus colloquia and pointed out that the objections which he could not overcome concerned the impossibility of controlled laboratory experimentation with UFO data and therefore he believed the CU project should contain scientists accustomed to working outside a controlled situation, such as Geophysicists. McDonald asserted that scientists who normally read meters would balk at personal testimonials. He admitted the data was messy and not amenable to immediate plugging into a computer, but he said, "not all scientific problems come neatly packaged."

He again volunteered his six months worth of experience to the project and invited Ratchford to the October 19 Washington talk. He sent a carbon to Ed Condon. [68]  Here I believe McDonald misread the situation and was obtuse to think that having publicly presented the ETH


as "the least unlikely hypothesis" that the CU project or the Air Force would want to touch him with a ten-foot pole. At this point he was probably already branded as a fanatic, but unfortunately for the non-believers, a fanatic with credentials which opened some doors in high places and enabled him to break down others.

Giving Klass rather short shrift, McDonald dashed off a condescending note on October 15. In the first paragraph he alleged the quantitative aspects of Klass' plasma hypothesis were untenable. In the second paragraph he said he refused to appear in a Washington radio debate with Klass because it didn't seem like much of a scientific nature could be accomplished. In closing he told Klass that he could be contacted at NICAP while in D.C. and he hoped to see him at the AMS meeting. [69] 

This study deals with the issues, strategies, tactics, and personalities involved in McDonald's attempt to shift a paradigm, but there was also much going on in the way of investigation on the part of McDonald. It is an element of the context, but there is really no way to adequately convey the amount of time he put in, or all of the problems he encountered. As a sample of what continually passed between McDonald, NICAP and various individuals with whom McDonald corresponded let me present verbatim the first four paragraphs of a letter from McDonald to Hall.

Dear Dick:

I enclose miscellaneous items:

Letter on my phone interview with Uzunoglu re August 1, 1966 case.

Local press clip re APRO'S offer of aid to Colorado.

Letter from Madeleine Ward for your files on that case.

Copy of some notes on a phone talk with local FAA RAPCON man.

Copy of letter from M. Ortiz of Nogales re airship matter.


Copy of letter from S. E. Palmer, concerning a 1948 sighting.

Copy of letter from R. L. Gray concerning a June 1966 sighting.

Copy of several transcriptions of NY Times stories on 1946 ghost rocket case. References are from your book, so you probably have them.

Thanks for all the reference material on the Cherry Creek case. It leaves me just a bit in doubt of the protocols of the case. Fred Fair's comments indicate mixed emotions, don't they? The mental level of the boy (16 yrs. in 7th grade) argues against clever hoaxing, but also leaves one uncomfortable about his veracity. Maybe we can discuss it further in Washington. I was hoping it would be one of the stronger cases, but it appears to have some thin spots.

I've been trying to dig out examples of good cases with animal reactions, as these have a bearing on the hallucination hypothesis. That was how I had become particularly concerned with Cherry Creek. Maybe we can run over the animal question next week. Do you think the Belle Glade, Fla., cattle-stampede case is reliable? I found about a dozen animal cases including Le Roy Kansas 1897 and the Portland pigeons of 7/47.

Wm. Rhodes sent me his sole clipping of the July 9, 1947 Republic and I'm having it photo-copied. Very faint vapor trails do seem to show on the halftone, streaming at sharp angles off either tail of the "heel." He also gave me a copy of Vol. I, No. I of Fate Magazine, which he'd had in his files for years. Has Arnold's original account of the Mt. Rainier case. I shall be talking about that case next week, since the radiosonde data don't bear out Menzel et al.

In the way of tactics McDonald made it clear to Hall that based on press accounts and comments from physicist colleagues he went too far in his October 5 and 6 talks. He tried to convey his position in terms of hypotheses, but in retrospect felt his real convictions were obvious to the audiences. Consequently, since the ETH could not stand by ordinary scientific demands he decided that he would word his Washington statements much more carefully.

He remarked that Colonel Steiner (AF) contacted him. Phil Klass spoke to Steiner knowing that he also served as program chairman for the Washington, D.C., chapter of the AMS. As a result Steiner knew about McDonald's refusal to appear in the radio debate, and asked if Klass


could have dinner with them in D.C. McDonald said "not for his sake," that he felt Klass attacked the problem like Menzel of Harvard. McDonald averred that Klass' talk with Steiner, who was in a sensitive position with the Air Force, made Steiner concerned that McDonald planned a press staging event at the October 19 AMS meeting.

Even though McDonald intended to begin his Congressional letter writing campaign ten days earlier he did not do so. He said he wanted to discuss this tactic while in D.C., since it now seemed obvious the Air Force could assuage any attempt to get Congressional Hearings by merely pointing to the Colorado study as the answer. He proposed that probably the best thing to do now was to insure that the Colorado study was well conceived. [70] 

This intruding on, and attempting to intrude on, the Colorado planning would occupy McDonald for almost another year-and-one-half. He offered much assistance, consulted a little, wrote numerous letters, developed an extensive intelligence network inside the project itself and generally made himself a thorn in Ed Condon's side.

The actual announcement of Condon's appointment to head the project received coverage in all the major newspapers and included quotes with respect to his position on the issues. From the standpoint of the politics of science and especially' with respect to his later quotes in various speeches and interviews it is interesting to note a few of his remarks at this juncture.

He stated that he did not exclude the possibility that some of the UFOs contained outer-space visitors, but he said he would need incontrovertible evidence to hold such a position. He asserted that extremists of the debunking school as well as the ETH school were just as


bad to him, but he did not consider all ETH proponents nuts. He went on to say the 5 or 6 percent of the Air Force reports which could not be explained over the past twenty years would have to be taken seriously, but he added that just because an object could not be identified it was not necessarily an extraterrestrial visitor; yet on the other hand, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Condon alluded to the persecution of various early astronomers such as Copernicus, Gallileo, and Kepler and argued that those who took the UFO question seriously experienced similar ridicule. He claimed that an important candidate up for election told him privately that he saw a UFO, but he and his wife agreed that to report it prior to the election would open the candidate to derision.

This is perhaps the appropriate time to mention the ex post facto reconstruction of this interview by some of those who were eventually critical of Condon. They interpreted the election anecdote as a reminder that Condon himself was in the race for a board of regents seat. Some were even so cynical as to suggest he took the CU UFO position only to get publicity for his campaign.

In the same interview Condon criticized scientists who did not take the opportunity to examine the Hillsdale, Michigan, sightings earlier in the year. He went on to advocate the scientific method as the best means of dealing with the subject and intimated that the five or six hundred unidentified cases he would have to work with would be ample for investigative purposes. [71] 

All things considered he gave an impressively fair interview. He neither came down on one side or the other and responded in the fashion one would expect from the objective researcher preparing to wade into a


project. From those portions of the article which McDonald underlined it would seem that Condon's scientific style pleased him.

Nevertheless he went ahead with his scheduled AMS talk on the 19th. In it he discussed various UFO hypotheses, Blue Book handling of the problem, CIA involvement, and the "why" questions associated with UFOs. With regard to the hypotheses explaining the phenomenon he laid out eight:

  1. Hoaxes, fabrications and frauds.

  2. Hallucinations, mass hysteria, rumor phenomena.

  3. Lay misinterpretation of well-known physical phenomena.

  4. Advanced terrestrial technologies.

  5. Poorly understood physical phenomena.

  6. Poorly understood psychological phenomena.

  7. Extraterrestrial probes.

  8. Messengers of salvation and occult truth.

He argued categories 1-4 accounted for most sightings, that 5 and 6 probably explained a few more and that the adherents of 8 failed to shed scientific light on the problem and so he dismissed them. For him this left 7 (extraterrestrial probes) as "the least unsatisfactory hypothesis.' He believed 6 was the only important alternative.

After disposing of all but hypothesis 7 McDonald went on to criticize Blue Book handling of the question, the Robertson Panel of 1953 and various Army, Navy and Air Force regulations which made studying the problem difficult. He concluded by saying he couldn't answer the "why" questions such as:

  1. Why no contact?

  2. Why so many sightings took place in remote areas?


  1. Why nighttime observations were more common than daytime? He felt it was too early for such speculation. [72] 

It is clear from this talk that McDonald adopted essentially the NICAP position. However, he was sensitive to his station in the scientific community and to criticism by his peers, so he also developed the circumlocution that extraterrestrial probes were "the least unsatisfactory hypothesis" to account for the observations. This enabled him to argue that he was not an outright advocate of the ETH, but as a scientist who spent six months looking at the data this was his tentative conclusion.

The McDonald correspondence does not indicate much publicity came from his talk, although the New York Times did pick it up. It is not clear whether it was intentionally avoided by McDonald or if the announcement of the CU study made his remarks anticlimactic. There is one reaction, however, which is worth noting.

Phil Klass seems to be the only one who responded directly to McDonald in written form. He asked for a breakdown of UFO cases from the categories of McDonald's AMS talk and then asked what McDonald thought should be done if the Colorado study found proof of extraterrestrial visitation:

  1. Appropriate $5-10 billion to the USAF to enable it to develop a defense in event such extraterrestrial visitors prove to have a hostile intent?

  2. Seek United Nations action to develop an earth-wide defense against the possibility, however remote, of hostile action?

  3. Attempt to "catch" an extraterrestrial visitor, however futile that might seem to be, for a first-hand examination?

  4. Launch a campaign to "ignore them," stop looking, gawking, chasing after UFOs and simply ignore them until such time as they see fit to seek formal contact?


He said he doubted McDonald's hypothesis, but that his questions were nevertheless posed in a serious vein. [73] 

A few days later McDonald discussed the abstract of his talk in a communication to Hall. He explained that he now realized that too strong a statement on the ETH to ill-informed scientists scared them, so he decidedly toned down his remarks. He said he would run off 200 copies and send a few out, in particular to Ev Clark, Elliott Carlson (reporters), and Phil Klass.

To give some indication of where on the UFO spectrum McDonald fell at this point it is interesting to note that he spent an entire paragraph taking pot shots at the alleged seduction of a Brazilian farmer (the Villas Boas case) by extraterrestrials who purportedly conducted a cross insemination experiment with him. To quote McDonald, "it out-Barney's Hill" (a famous abduction and physical examination case alleged to have occurred in 1962 in New Hampshire). So McDonald, it would appear, remained circumspect even with Hall when it came to occupant cases at this time, which probably means he made light of them in general. This is a typical phenomenon within UFO research. The researcher starts off very conservative and slowly develops an ever more radical position with respect to the data.

McDonald also stated that Colonel DeGoes sent him a chilly note which made it appear that McDonald's assistance was no longer wanted. There was no comment on any of McDonald's suggestions concerning Blue Book, but he returned the ball lightning references. This brought McDonald back to Klass, who according to McDonald, became the target of considerable laughter from his UA colleagues when McDonald raised the


clear air ball lightning hypothesis. However, McDonald entertained it as an interesting argument, just not the answer. [74] 

He further commented to Hall that Klass' letter full of questions was "not so annoying as his earlier stuff" and wondered if it might suggest a change of heart. He knew very little about Klass, this would seem obvious. However, McDonald considered questions 1 and 2 loaded and intended to approach them with that in mind.

He was again critical of the Villas Boas case then running in the most prestigious UFO publication available, the British Flying Saucer Review. He couldn't understand why they presented such junk along with what he considered good research. He marveled at how Jacques Vallee could recommend it as the best UFO periodical. Time would eventually change his scientific consciousness as he became more familiar with the data, the history of the UFO phenomenon and those individuals who had spent a good portion of their lives pursuing the subject.

An inkling of this is received in the same letter which is based on extensive discussions McDonald conducted the previous week at NICAP with Hall and Keyhoe. As a result he reread Keyhoe's book Flying Saucers Top Secret in a new light and now realized that the conspiracy experiences about which the Major wrote, and many others of which he spoke the previous week, were much more credible than he (McDonald) had thought.

As a result he could understand why NICAP took such a strong conspiracy stand, but he still could not accept the position. He felt that Blue Book would have been administered by clever top-level people if a conspiracy existed rather than the string of incompetents that held the post. He closed his conspiracy discussion on a note which I


think expressed his real puzzlement, "Damnedest mess in the world, isn't it?"

In conclusion he mentioned his attempts to schedule talks at other universities and that he intended to pursue a number of cases which Menzel explained as atmospheric inversions and refractions by getting some part-time help to plot radiosonde data. [75]  This was the start of the long drawn out historical search which all scientists new to the subject invariably undertake. Who and what to believe? How to check old reports? What has the Air Force done or not done? If there is scientific pay dirt, can it be found? If it can be found, at what price in terms of one's academic status, emotions and regular work? It seems that just such attributes and conditions surrounding borderland science subjects make them too elusive and risky to examine at any more than a cursory level for most scientists.

This point received emphasis the next day in a long letter to Hall in which McDonald went into detail about a phone conversation with Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto, about a UFO observation Tombaugh made in August 1949. Leaving aside the case material, the interesting aspect of the conversation from the standpoint of this study is that Tombaugh, according to McDonald, knew that Hynek was changing his position and felt it would be good if a careful examination of the UFO data were undertaken by reliable people because he felt "that fanatics have scared most scientists off." McDonald decided to send him a summary of his AMS talk. [76] 

Sometime in early October Keyhoe and Hall received invitations to provide briefings to the CU project staff. In a note to McDonald, Hall indicated that he would stop off in Chicago to see his brother Bob who


taught at the University of Illinois and receive some pointers on briefing academics.

In the same communique Hall said he put off Klass who wanted to look at the Socorro, New Mexico, file. He said he didn't like the idea of withholding evidence, but he feared the manner in which Klass would distort the facts given his previous reportage. [77] 

It is interesting to note that, at least as far as I know, neither Hall, nor anyone else of his persuasion, ever applied the same type of argument to the Air Force approach to non-release of information. NICAP, APRO and the other groups had and have a vested interest in keeping the UFO issue alive, leaving aside for the moment the actual question of whether or not the data is anomalous, and no one would deny that those groups engage in a bit of hyperbole on occasion. Consequently, it would seem very rational policy on the part of the Air Force to withhold information in the hope that this would reduce the grist for the UFO groups and pulp publishers. We must keep in mind, that at least at the Blue Book level, the Air Force people in charge considered UFOs a laughing matter, a public relations assignment. [78]  And it should be remembered that it was at this level that the UFO groups addressed most of their anti-Air Force attacks.

By late October the UFO picture began to change for McDonald. The Colorado project got under way, his speaking engagements commenced on a national scale, his concern for what he perceived as Hynek's about face on the issue crystallized and Klass began to dog his tracks. It might be well to remark on the intensity of McDonald's correspondence at this point. The dates bear out the volume of material sent and received. For he and Hall, to say nothing of the others in the field, the issue


was white hot. It was finally to obtain scientific due process, which they felt would surely vindicate many years of heretofore unrecognized work.

In a missive to Hall, McDonald mentioned just receiving an advance copy of Vallee's new book with a foreword by Hynek. We can see McDonald's views are well formed on Hynek at this point as he comments that "Hynek's introduction is a masterpiece in trying to cover his rear."

McDonald showed marked concern about the CU project already. He enclosed clippings from the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News which indicated such a scorn for the UFO study on the part of the project's chief administrator, Bob Low (author of the previously discussed Low Memo), that Condon needed to write a letter to the editor to clarify the position of the project.

Voice of America indicated an interest in doing an interview with McDonald and he accepted. They also planned spots for Donald Menzel of Harvard and Ralph Lapp of Quadri-Science Incorporated, which reminded McDonald to send a copy of his AMS talk to Lapp. Also Mike Levitas of the NYT Magazine phoned to ask McDonald to do a 3000-word story on UFOs. McDonald felt it an ideal place to make a few points on USAF mishandling of the problem.

McDonald did more ancillary work to prop up his position and while doing so convinced Hall that for future reference NICAP should have on hand such reference volumes as: MacGowan and Ordway, Intelligence in the Universe and Jackson & Moore, Life in the Universe. This was for purposes of showing how "so-called" authorities on life in the universe dismissed the UFO problem. McDonald, of course, assumed the problem was about to break and such remarks would be appropriate. Also prior


to the "breakthrough" McDonald wanted as many negative citations on UFOs as possible by important scientists. These he could in turn refute in the cogent papers he intended to write urging further consideration of the UFO question as one of the most important scientific problems of our time. [79] 

Meanwhile Klass began to spread his own gospel of the plasmoid and check on McDonald's reputation. He wrote Bernard Vonnegut, of Arthur D. Little, Inc., forwarding his Aviation Week article on UFOs and asking Vonnegut about McDonald's expertise in upper-air physics. Vonnegut said he was not sure. His impression was that McDonald had not been active in the area for some ten years, but that "most scientists share my good opinion of Jim McDonald." McDonald's commitment to the ETH surprised Vonnegut. [80] 

Not one to permit an offer of proselytizing to go by McDonald contacted Mike Levitas of the NYT Magazine. He outlined the main points he wanted to make in his article, namely, how and who should study the UFO issue, an overview of the problem, his own work in the area, the nature of the reports, and the spectrum of UFO hypotheses. He said he believed the real problem would be keeping the article down to 3500 words, but if Levitas remained interested he would write it up. [81] 

In a note to Hall, McDonald presented, at least from his vantage point, a new tactic. He wanted to check on scientifically trained UFO witnesses. Did Hall have a list? The object of this tactic would be to counter the argument that an untrained layman is easily fooled by natural phenomena of one kind or another.

He also mentioned his disappointment at not being able to address a group at the University of Washington at Seattle on UFOs instead of


the scheduled topic of weather modification. He received a polite letter from an officer of the group, Richard Reed, who once wrote an article attributing all UFOs to lenticular clouds, "putting the nix" on the change in subjects. McDonald suggested to Hall, however, that he (McDonald) might speak to a small group of the Seattle NICAP Subcommittee if it could be arranged. [82] 

Hearsay about the CU project was already beginning to fly. Hall wrote McDonald that a journalist friend who knew Condon said Ed planned an instrumented look at the phenomenon using fixed cameras, spectroscopes and magnetometers. Hall remained skeptical, considering the project budget, but pleased that Condon thought big.

In addition, Hall raised an issue always considered touchy by those who classify themselves as serious UFO researchers. ABC just produced a program on extraterrestrial life and, as Hall perceived it, linked NICAP to the cultists and the annual desert conventions of contactees and kooks at Giant Rock, California. [83]  This infuriated him for he realized it did the cause immense harm.

A few days later McDonald wrote a note to Ted Bloecher, a veteran UFO watcher, who, as a traveling stage actor, was in the process of combing microfilmed newspapers in each city he visited (eventually 90 cities and 140 newspapers) to ascertain the dimensions of the UFO wave of 1947 in the United States. [84] 

McDonald again got off on Hynek. He said he could not understand how Hynek could condemn the Air Force after eighteen years of equivocating contact with the data himself. He expressed distress with Hynek, but was appreciative of the salutary effects his new position


might have. He said that Vallee urged him to join forces with Hynek, but he found Hynek's past actions too disquieting to permit it. [85] 

Now that McDonald did more talking on UFOs he also gave more consideration to how the talks were couched. In a letter to Bill Weitzel, the NICAP investigator who compiled the 128-page report on the Ravenna, Ohio, case, McDonald commented on Weitzel's critique of his October 19 AMS talk. He agreed that perhaps some of the "whats" and "whys" of the UFO phenomenon might deserve speculation in future talks for the benefit of some sincere doubters, but he cautioned that Menzel types could take quick advantage of this tactic to put the entire matter into the realm of science fiction and "smear one's whole approach."

McDonald indicated his satisfaction with the reception he received at the UA Psychology Department colloquium because no one yelled hallucination and good questions were asked. He said that he now planned to speak to the psychologists at Arizona State University and at the University of Washington. [86] 

The quantity of talks increased as witnessed by a letter McDonald sent to Hall in which he discussed his tentative schedule. He intended to speak with a group of astronomers at UA in a few days and on November 9 to the astronomers at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson. Then a colloquium before the UA Electrical Engineering Department, a talk to the Tucson Amateur Astronomers Association, and on December 6 to the local chapter of the National Pilots Association. Word of his talks spread rapidly so he also received invitations from civic groups like the Lions Club, however, he adopted a policy of turning down these latter requests to focus on those groups which he felt might bring scientific or observational weight to bear on the problem. [87] 


The tiff between McDonald and Klass acquired some positive kindling, from McDonald's point of view, with a letter from Martin Uman, whom Klass consulted on his (Klass') ball lightning hypothesis. Uman said Klass' first article wasn't bad, but in his latest one he misquoted Uman's remarks to make a stronger case. Uman considered it distorted and, in general, terrible. He concluded "Klass seems to really have gone off the deep end." [88] 

Simultaneously NICAP prepared for the CU briefing. Hall informed McDonald that he spoke with Mary Romig of the geophysics and astronomy department of Rand Corporation and he detected a "believer." She provided Hall with various nonclassified Rand UFO reports, said she would digest and forward some "Official Use Only" material and would report on her trip to CU on November 21, a week prior to the NICAP CU visit. Hall asked McDonald for any advice he might have on tactics for the CU session, saying that he worried about conveying the signal to noise ratio problem to Condon and how the project might circumvent it. [89] 

(It is a commonly held view that 80 to 90 percent of UFO reports represent noise and not signal. The possibility bothered Hall that the project, because the staff did not consist of scientists with backgrounds in the UFO field, might inadvertently concentrate on the noise at the expense of the signal.)

BACK to Top


McDonald was off on one of his favorite topics a few days later in a note to John Fuller, author of Interrupted Journey, namely, Hynek. After thanking Fuller for telling Dial Press to forward a copy of the new book McDonald commented on Hynek's shifting stand, but also ignored


history to admit that Hynek's letter in Science "was good and will have its beneficial effects, without a doubt." [90] 

The next day Hall wrote McDonald a letter which sheds considerable light on the extrascientific problem of cover-up versus foul-up which often occupied the minds of those convinced that UFO data deserved a fair hearing and were puzzled as to why it failed to obtain one. Was it a question of government conspiracy, or ineptitude on the part of the Air Force?

Hall first mentioned the international implications. He stated that an international foul-up seemed possible because the prestige of the United States Air Force appeared so great that it coerced any foreign interest underground. Talks with foreign military attaches, according to Hall, showed that they ignored official Air Force pronouncements and pursued a quiet course of investigation.

However, in the mood for more speculation, Hall did so for the domestic situation. I think this is worth alluding to because all through McDonald's UFO campaign this cover-up versus foul-up question played a role and this is the point at which it began to occupy his thinking with increased frequency.

Hall explained that he thought possibly a high-level cover-up existed along with a low-level foul-up. The former, in the late 1940s, he believed due to the concern that UFOs were real and possibly Russian, and the latter to any one or combination of things ranging from high-level pressure for good public relations, to disinterest, incompetence, or following the path of least resistance. Hall generally avoided such speculation on what he considered an unanswerable question, but the


previous weeks talk with McDonald and Keyhoe gave impetus to his thinking in the area. [91] 

McDonald liked to keep Tom Malone informed of his progress. He wrote that things were moving along well and that the Psychology Department colloquium pleased him. So much so that he managed to set up a joint one with Psychology and Sociology at the University of Washington. He was displeased, however, that he had heard nothing from Condon even though he forwarded Condon and Will Kellogg, Associate Director of the NCAR, a copy of the October 19 AMS paper and Ratchford and Price assured him that Condon would be in touch. [92] 

At this juncture I believe McDonald felt, as some of his letters suggest, that he was the most qualified scientist in the country to pursue the UFO problem and/or consult on it. I think he wanted to head the Air Force study and now that he couldn't, be believed he should make an effort to guide it, to give it the advantage of his past work and try to help them avoid the pitfalls he knew existed. Consequently, it would appear that his expressions of concern for lack of contact with Condon were indirect messages which he hoped would filter back to Boulder.

Because NICAP played such an integral role in the Colorado study and because the Colorado study took up such a significant part of McDonald's energies we must take into consideration, where relevant, some of the interactions between NICAP and the project in Boulder which don't directly involve McDonald. For instance, in early November Major Keyhoe, the Director of NICAP, wrote Condon to ask for assurances that the study proceeded completely independent of outside control. Keyhoe found this necessary because he wanted NICAP associated with it, as the largest (some 10,500 members) saucer-watcher group in the


country, and he saw the possibilities of this project being the big breakthrough. On the other hand, he had battled with the Air Force over UFOs for sixteen years (under NICAP auspices since 1956) and now Air Force money funded the CU work. So he feared a whitewash and wanted assurances against that, but also showed anxiety over association with an Air Force sponsored project, and how the relationship would be construed by the faithful NICAP membership which kept the organization afloat. Moreover, by this time he received word about the Colorado press stories on Bob Low and probably put the worst construction on them.

Condon replied that he considered Keyhoe's request proper, that the study was totally free from outside influence and would act in the national interest. He said two ground rules were followed:

  1. Existing interpretations be accepted to the extent that they are supported by all the evidence.

  2. Existing fact -- i.e., files of sighting reports -- be tested, to the extent possible, for validity and internal consistency.

Condon argued the necessity to start from scratch, that Blue Book efforts could not have been much, given their staff size, and he felt no need to accept Blue Book, NICAP or APRO interpretations at that point. [93] 

So Condon knew he needed help from Keyhoe and didn't write to him as he might write to a kook, even if he considered Keyhoe one. He probably realized the noise Keyhoe could make on Capitol Hill and having once jousted with Senator Joseph McCarthy's Senate Subcommittee in the early 1950s, I don't think he wanted Keyhoe to turn his scientific investigation into a circus. No doubt the Air Force provided him with a dossier of Keyhoe's past activities and consequently Condon knew exactly the kind of man with whom he dealt.


The scope of the UFO problem increases when we look at a note Ralph Rankow, a New York based NICAP investigator wrote to McDonald. He said he spoke on UFOs at the United Nations (probably to some unofficial group). An international team approach interested McDonald so this undoubtedly excited him. Rankow said, however, that in reply to a follow-up letter to U Thant in which he (Rankow) offered to speak at greater length, probably to the General Assembly or Security Council, Thant indicated it would be necessary to get a "member state" to sponsor a resolution to that effect. Rankow did not see much chance of that happening, and agreed with McDonald that Colorado remained the best bet for cracking the problem. [94] 

It was not until 1967 and 1968 that McDonald became more interested in the international aspects of the UFO issue and its solution. By then the prospects of a positive reading from the Colorado Project appeared unlikely. As a consequence, McDonald addressed the Outer Space Affairs Group at the UN, wrote on the international implications of the UFO problem, investigated cases in the Australia-New Zealand-Tasmania area, tried to contact interested Soviet scientists and attempted to keep abreast of the European UFO situation through an extended correspondence with Aime Michel in France.

But that is getting ahead of the story. Toward the end of 1966 he was only beginning to lecture extensively on the domestic front and to do so he began to research classic cases.


Now that McDonald lectured more he also did an increased amount of homework on classic cases. He wanted to be certain of his facts before going far out on a limb which some astute skeptic might attempt to saw off. In this regard, to illustrate one of the problems of borderland science, it would probably prove useful to look at a small bit of McDonald's thinking on the classic Kenneth Arnold sighting over Mt. Rainier, Washington. This is the sighting which set off the UFO wave of 1947 and brought the subject into the news. McDonald planned to speak at the University of Washington and cite the case because as a regional example it would have more impact. A short quote might help to exemplify the problem which he faced and brought up to Hall in a letter. [95] 

Last nite I spent an hour on the phone with Kenneth Arnold -- who has not yet left for Australia, as I learned. Very interesting. Pulled out a lot of fine points that he'd not stressed in his accounts, but which have quite strong bearing on the optical absurdity of the Menzel-Blue Book mirage explanation. Since I'm going to discuss that one up in Seattle next week, wanted to have his own account. The one thing that surprised me is that Arnold speaks very favorably of Ray Palmer, and seemed to have quite high regard for him on several counts. Am I the victim of Menzelian heresies in thinking Palmer is a bit of a charlatan? Or is this some measure of Arnold's credulity -- or does the dollar sign perhaps enter here?"


These are the kinds of data-related problems that anyone doing UFO research must grapple with. It is no wonder that so few people will accept such a challenge either on a sub rosa basis or openly. It also raises the question of what type of individual will accept the challenge? Is it the ideal scientist who must follow his data, of whatever kind, wherever it leads him? Is it the intellectual or anti-establishment extremist who feels some need to play the role of the iconoclast? Is it the person who is enthralled by the unusual and bizarre? Alternatively, is it a combination of the above or an ideal type which I have not included? As the McDonald maneuvering unfolds perhaps we will gain at least a better idea of the type of individual he was, even if it would be inappropriate to generalize from him to all thoughtful UFO researchers.

Although McDonald intended to go to the University of Washington at Seattle to speak on weather modification he persuaded the Psychology Department and local AMS chapter to let him talk on UFOs. As mentioned earlier he also wanted to address the local NICAP Subcommittee if possible. In this regard he wrote June Larson, head of the Seattle subcommittee, informing her of his plans. Here we find another example of the politics involved in pursuing the UFO matter. McDonald told Larson that she and her husband could attend the AMS meeting with a few NICAP members, but he said he didn't want an open notice made up which would attract the cultist fringe and derail the discussion. But


more importantly, as he understood it, the Seattle AMS membership was as ignorant about UFOs as most scientists and cautious about getting involved. Therefore, he suspected they would not put out a written notice on the talk, but would contact members by telephone. [96] 

Returning to the subject of the Colorado project, it would appear that as early as November 9 Hall met with Dr. David Saunders, a psychometrician, who was to do the statistical analyses of UFO data in Boulder. Hall wrote McDonald that his impressions were favorable and discussed the various approaches the Colorado group, according to Saunders, intended to consider. As a result. Hall kept McDonald well informed of the progress at CU, which probably made him more anxious to make his views known. [97] 

Ted Bloecher, who recently spoke with Hynek, provided more fuel for McDonald's anti-Hynek sentiments a few days later. Bloecher shared McDonald's view that Hynek was "undertaking his own public relations program to justify his past position." As far as Bloecher could see all Hynek could only talk about was his latest efforts to get into print on the UFO question and rectify his past sins of omission. [98] 

In a note to James Hughes, McDonald laid out some of his plans. After the University of Washington talk he intended to visit the Los Angeles NICAP Subcommittee and the Rand Corporation. He said that from talking with Mary Romig of Rand he already knew that Colonel DeGoes and the two Majors who composed the Blue Book evaluation group only went out to Rand for advice on the public relations aspects of the problem. Romig knew this because she was the only one at Rand working on any part of the UFO problem. This must have come as a shock to McDonald after the amount of effort he put into his sincere critiques


of Blue Book and because of his previous expectations for DeGoes. He already knew nothing came of his efforts and so wrote off the ability of the Air Force to officially provide any self-corrective mechanisms at Blue Book, but the fact that DeGoes humored him, probably from the beginning, in all likelihood raised his hackles.

On Colorado, McDonald explained he heard both good and bad bits of information. What rankled him most, however, was that he wrote Condon twice offering help and received assurances at the October 19 AMS meeting from Price and Ratchford that Condon would contact him shortly, yet a month had passed without any word. He intended to write again in a week and did find it somewhat comforting to know Hall and Keyhoe would travel out to Boulder to provide briefings to the project staff. [99] 

The subject of Phil Klass remained on McDonald's mind. He asked Hall if "you ever had more bugging from Klass?" He said it was remiss of him not to reply to Klass, but he did not wish to argue in Klass' litigious manner. However, on returning from Washington he thought he should respond to Klass' claims in order to avoid the rumors which Klass might start. Lastly, McDonald wanted to know if Aviation Week published anything more on UFOs? [100] 

After returning from his swing along the West Coast McDonald dropped a line to Hall hitting the high points. For our purposes the high point was that WNEW-TV of New York City contacted him to participate in a one-and-one-half-hour panel discussion on UFOs. Although he began with misgivings, after finding out that the director, David Schoenbrun, was a man of some stature, and after persuading him (Schoenbrun) to


tape a piece solely of his (McDonald's) own comments, McDonald decided to proceed to New York.

The low points of the West Coast trip consisted of finding a lack of dynamism among the NICAP subcommittees and a UFO briefing at Rand which indicated to McDonald that Mary Romig knew little about the subject and that the people there felt it would be difficult to catch the ear of the Air Force on such a touchy matter. [101] 

It seems that McDonald took the initiative and phoned Condon and/or Low on November 20 and then flew into Denver to speak with the staff. In a note to McDonald Low pronounced the meeting productive and suggested that McDonald return to Boulder in the future. Low especially wanted McDonald to make a list of cases:

  1. Where data was lost, destroyed, obfuscated, etc.

  2. Which McDonald would consider productive for CU investigation.

  3. Which impressed McDonald.

Low said he would be down to Tucson to visit APRO and discuss these matters with McDonald in the near future. [102] 

The trip to New York for the TV taping went well to hear McDonald tell it. He wrote Idabel Epperson, chairman of the Los Angeles NICAP Subcommittee, to fill her in on the details and to thank her for some photographs she permitted him to use. He said the studio crew seemed excited about the taping and consequently he expected the two-hour panel discussion and his own half-hour interview to be aired soon.

McDonald felt some of the panelists who came to scoff, and by this he referred to Dr. Carl Sagan, astrophysicist-exobiologist of Harvard. Ed Edelson, World Telegram Science Editor and Leon Jaroff, Time Science Editor, left with puzzled looks on their faces. It is difficult to say


whether the bewilderment was a function of the evidence McDonald presented, or of the extreme position he took. [103]  No doubt he was correct, however, in his assessment that Sagan, Edelson and Jaroff looked puzzled. It pleased him that David Schoenbrun demonstrated moderate familiarity with the UFO phenomenon, lived in France during the 1954 wave and knew military men who took the subject seriously. As a result McDonald confronted a sympathetic panel moderator and after his thirty-minute interview, Schoenbrun made a plea for an independent UFO study. [104] 

The fact that the McDonald-Hynek rift existed did not go unnoticed by others in the field. In a note to Judi Hatcher, a UCLA graduate student in astronomy and NICAP investigator, Ted Bloecher discussed Hynek at some length. He indicated Hynek liked the idea that he (Bloecher) and Vallee might cooperate on a comparative study of the Scandinavian UFO wave of 1946 and the American wave of 1947. Hynek even volunteered to obtain 1947 material for Bloecher from the Blue Book files.

Bloecher said he thought it wise to forget about Hynek's past sins of omission and begin to cooperate with him wherever possible, especially in light of the fact that Hynek intended to aid the CU study. According to Bloecher, "Hynek says his Saturday Evening Post article is highly critical of Air Force procedures in the past, and he is exceedingly sensitive about criticism of his own position -- particularly by Jim McDonald (Jim, please note!)." [105] 

Low was cordial in his letter to McDonald concerning McDonald's one-day stopover in Boulder. Now in a letter to Hall McDonald provided his impressions of the project which were it "left me slightly uneasy." He felt ill-at-ease over the poor background displayed by the project


staff, considering the several months they had to prepare. It also appalled him that the project lacked physical science talent. Dr. Franklin Roach impressed him, but he didn't think Roach could carry the project by himself. He said he did not voice his fears in Boulder, but left the message loud and clear that the real problems would arise when the project began to uncover the Air Force foul-up. McDonald was uncertain how to interpret Condon's response to this, which was "We're not interested in a renewal of this contract." Should he (McDonald) be reassured that Condon meant the remark as a sign of toughness or worried because it indicated a casual approach to the UFO problem? The latter interpretation received reinforcement when he spoke to the staff, primarily on meteorological optics, and came away amazed at the elementary topics they considered informative. He closed by saying, "all in all, let's cross our fingers and watch carefully." [106] 

So McDonald was upset about the state of things in Boulder by November 29, 1966. Although he kept those feelings between himself and a few close associates, as time would pass, and he would continue to look at the project with a jaundiced eye, an adversary relationship would develop between himself and Condon.

This is a very interesting and I suspect unique phenomenon in itself, probably one that can only take place in a borderland research area. When does a scientist meddle, and that is the only way to describe McDonald's behavior, in another scientist's research project? McDonald was certainly familiar with scientific protocol. Yet he must have felt the problem sufficiently significant to either be blind to his violation of protocol, or, after having given the situation consideration, concluded that it warranted atypical scientific practices.


It would be well to keep in mind that one of the reasons which spurred him on, and is seldom present in other research, is that the CU scientists were supposedly chosen for their lack of interest in the UFO problem in order not to bias the study. Whereas scientists normally study that which excites them and in which they have some background. One therefore might argue that since McDonald was already somewhat of an authority on UFOs, that it was only natural that he, or anyone else who believed as he did, could not help but be drawn into the web being spun at Boulder when the general consensus of those close to the subject was that UFO research would rise or fall on the outcome.

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While attempting to push UFO research along McDonald began to find that certain methods worked better than others. In a letter to Hall he mentioned that Al Bland of the National Lecture Bureau contacted him to tape a show with Frank Edwards on UFOs. Frank Edwards was a radio news commentator, writer on the unusual. Board member of NICAP and general raconteur. McDonald shied away from doing the program with Edwards, because he wanted to avoid the sensational tone which he thought could develop through Edwards' approach. So in talking with Bland he stressed the seriousness of the UFO problem and the importance of reaching members of the scientific community who possessed the skills to study it. He found Bland warmed to this tactic as did Ted Kavanau and Mel Bailey prior to the WNEW-TV taping in New York. McDonald made a note of this tactic as being the proper way to elicit interest and obtain a hearing. He asked Hall if they might be able to get together with Vallee and do the taping in Chicago.


In the same letter he expressed his disgust with Gerard Kuiper, noted UA astronomer, who took it upon himself to begin speaking out against the study of UFO data without, in McDonald's opinion, any knowledge of the subject. He felt he aroused Kuiper's interest the previous June, but now it seemed to no avail. He thought he should address Kuiper's research group and inform them of the real dimensions of the UFO problem because of Kuiper's influence and influential friends. Moreover, since Kuiper traveled a great deal his coast-to-coast pontifications could hurt the chances for future UFO studies. [107] 

McDonald acted on these sentiments the same day by getting off a letter via campus mail to Kuiper. First he asked if the November 30 Citizen, a Tucson paper which covered a talk he gave on UFOs, correctly quoted him. McDonald wanted to hear Kuiper's argument if Kuiper felt that all UFO phenomena had conventional explanations.

In order to impress Kuiper with his own perception of the import of the issue McDonald told him about the various speaking engagements and research efforts he undertook beginning in June. He emphasized that he engaged in this activity to bring the UFO problem out of scientific disrepute. He threw a barb at Kuiper, perhaps unwisely, by saying no one he knew who looked at the phenomenon closely did not consider it a bewildering scientific problem.

He further said he was troubled by the question, "Have you really dug into this problem any more than you had at the last time we talked about it?" McDonald expressed concern over the impact talks such as Kuiper's Bar Association speech could have, especially in scientific circles. He followed this up by asking if he could address Kuiper's laboratory staff on the problem. [108] 


McDonald did not let up on Kuiper nor, in the process, on Hynek. Five days after his above letter to Kuiper he sent off a further memo with a copy of Hynek's December 6 Saturday Evening Post article. This article, which took some good swings at the Air Force investigation of UFOs, by implication, did much to strengthen McDonald's position. Nevertheless, he could not resist this opportunity to inform Kuiper of what he called Hynek's past complicity with the Air Force in obfuscating a potentially important scientific problem.

After this introduction McDonald again made an overture for an opportunity to speak with Kuiper's Lunar Planetary Lab staff. He argued that as absurd as the ETH seemed, all the evidence appeared to point to it, and he felt it "undesirable and unwise" not to share this information with his colleagues. [109]  He was probably hinting here that once the UFO matter broke LPL could be in for considerable funding if it already maintained a good grasp of the problem.

The next day Hall wrote McDonald, who apparently decided to do the National Speakers Bureau UFO taping, that they could not set the schedules up in such a way as to coincide. Therefore, Hall would be in Chicago on December 19 and there would be no chance of getting together with Vallee because Vallee thought Hall intentionally tried to avoid him on his (Hall's) last trip to Chicago. At this point there seemed to be no way of establishing a rapport which might lead to cooperation between the Northwestern group and NICAP. [110] 

As was his habit, McDonald got off a letter to Tom Malone apprising him of his past month's activities. He included a paragraph on Hynek's fancy footwork à la the Saturday Evening Post article and referred to the entire affair as laughable. He spoke of his anxiety over the lack


of trained personnel at Boulder, his work on the NYT Magazine article, all of his talks, and his ever-stronger conviction regarding the ETH. He said he found the psychologists much more interested than the astronomers, and said the former seemed quite opposed to any "exotic psychological explanations or hallucinatory phenomena." [111] 

From a letter McDonald sent to Jim Hughes it would appear that he wanted ONR support for his UFO work. He told Hughes that after all the time he put in, the conclusions he reached, and the many years the ONR supported his research, that he felt some sort of colloquium or closed briefing at the ONR seemed warranted.

Furthermore, he said he knew through Keyhoe, of a backlog of ONR Navy UFO reports, which under the circumstances, it appeared logical for him (McDonald) to begin to examine. He emphasized to Hughes that the issue "is soon going to blow wide open." He wanted Hughes' opinion on what strategy might be used to focus the attention of the ONR on the problem and voiced the fear that his treading on the toes of the Air Force might prejudice his position in any ONR study of the phenomenon. [112] 

Hall told McDonald shortly thereafter of his talk with Tom Ratchford from AFOSR, the go-between for the Air Force with the Colorado project. Hall conveyed his apprehension that there were too many psychologists on the project and not enough physical scientists, a worry of McDonald's, to which Ratchford replied that CU administered the project, but complete cooperation existed with scientists at ESSA and NCAR. The Air Force did it that way, he explained, to avoid the red-tape of contracting with other government agencies and to facilitate communication since NCAR, ESSA and CU were all located in Boulder. In terms of outcomes Hall said Ratchford was frank. He stated that "if Condon came up with a


positive reading and the NAS Review Committee found no fault with Condon's methodology, a worldwide investigation of some type would ensue." Ratchford stressed, according to Hall, that in its review the NAS Committee would not concentrate on content, but on methodology. [113] 

Although he found these comments interesting McDonald's connections in the scientific community left him feeling ambivalent. For instance, the Director of the Atmospheric Research Institute at the UA, Richard Kassander, was also chairman of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Board of Directors, and he told McDonald that the Board recommended that Walter Roberts, Director of NCAR, not get too involved with Colorado because NCAR was already over-committed. This meant that although Ratchford claimed NCAR would make a significant contribution to the CU study, McDonald realized that such an outcome was unlikely.

In his previous letter Hall spoke of a semi-official talk with Dr. Robert Wood, Deputy Director for Research and Development, Advance Systems and Technology, Douglas Aircraft, initiated by Wood on the subject of writing a paper on the aerodynamic characteristics of a disc-shaped object. Now McDonald seized upon this to do a bit of ironic speculation on the cover-up versus foul-up hypotheses. He suggested that perhaps a foul-up existed at the Air Force level all along and now the stir which he and others made had awakened the slumbering giant who, seeing advantages at the international level in discovering the nature of the UFO propulsion system was now feeling out Douglas Aircraft -- hence the visit of Wood. Assuming this, McDonald went on, it is possible the Air Force might put into action a real cover-up on the UFO issue in order to obtain an advantage over the Russians and others. McDonald remained


unconvinced, however, for he went on to say, "But is something along such lines entirely out of the question? It makes me wish we had some real leverage on the international aspects of the UFO problem."

Lastly, he told Hall that the joint psychology-sociology talk went well in Phoenix. T.H. Hoult, head of the Sociology Department, received jeers for his negativism, while Bachrach, head of the Psychology Department, essentially supported his (McDonald's) position. [114] 

But McDonald did not get rid of Hoult that easily, for Hoult wrote him a letter to explain his position in some detail. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say that he attempted to explain McDonald's position to McDonald. He said he felt McDonald started with the most complicated of hypotheses -- the ETH -- and did not adequately examine the more mundane. He argued that McDonald needed to be a spokesman for the weak and far out, UFOs just being the latest manifestation of this behavior pattern. Moreover, he considered McDonald's defense of this position verging on fanaticism, the kind found when observing a religious phenomenon. Hoult predicted McDonald's interest in, and the saucer craze itself, would soon wane and McDonald would wonder why he ever became involved. [115] 

So, even from Hoult, a friend, McDonald received some stiff criticism. Hoult did not look at the data, rather as he put it, "My speculation is in line with historical events and with well-established theory." [116]  He used those tools which were at his disposal in an attempt to discredit McDonald in the only way that he knew. He used a particular world view based upon the discounting of various bizarre phenomena in the history of science, and to him, rightly or wrongly, it seemed that UFOs fit into the same category. Actual investigation of


sighting data apparently seemed irrelevant to him. He found a convenient niche in his world view for UFOs and there they would stay.

On December 23 McDonald received a cordial response from Gerard Kuiper indicating that he could address the Lunar Planetary Laboratory staff. Kuiper admitted that as an astronomer, and assuming Earthlike organisms, the probability of the ETH being correct appeared very small and so he remained skeptical. However, he said that, "I will revise my opinion without any hesitation if I am convinced that there is novel information that can really be trusted." [117] 

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This ends McDonald's first year of active participation in the UFO controversy. It should be clear from the above that he attempted to gain "access" (to use Truman's term [118] ) to decision-makers in the scientific, governmental and military communities in order to shift a paradigm. His behaviors were blatantly political and his personal politics of science lends itself to discussion in traditional political terms.

He needed to gain access to obtain legitimacy for the study of the UFO phenomenon. He saw successful access to the scientific elites as a means of convincing government to fund UFO research. Successful access to governmental elites, on the other hand, could produce the same outcome, but through forcing research on the scientific community in the name of the national interest. In the case of the military elites, if they could be convinced of the importance of the UFO problem, assuming they didn't already know, then McDonald believed they would focus their scientific talent on solving the puzzle to stay ahead of the Russians.

We can refer to the above as components of McDonald's personal political strategy. But if his strategy was to gain access to scientific,


governmental and military decision-makers to obtain legitimacy for UFO studies, what were his political tactics? That is, how did he attempt to implement his strategy? In retrospect it would appear that his tactics can be most readily discussed in terms of those used directly to influence members of the decision-making communities mentioned above and those used indirectly to accomplish the same ends. In the case of the former his overtures were essentially straightforward, while the latter consisted of his efforts to create a favorable climate of opinion for UFO studies by obtaining publicity for the phenomenon and by attempts to buttress and/or maintain his own credibility. How did he go about this in each of the above instances?

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With respect to the scientific community he began his campaign in a subdued manner in March of 1966 with overtures to Tom Malone for a one-man summer study through the Committee on the Atmospheric Sciences of the NAS. When he became aware that the Air Force intended to fund a university UFO study to be reviewed by the NAS, he retracted his plan.

At the University of Arizona McDonald applied for an NASA Institutional Grant of $1300 through the university's Space Sciences Committee. He realized that funding was a political question, and subsequently contacted Gerard Kuiper and Aden Meinel, who sat on the committee, to convince them of the significance of the UFO problem.

A month later he tried to impress the committee with the significance of his research and in particular his conclusion, after visiting Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, that the ETH was correct. He asked Gerard Kuiper if he might present his findings at a committee meeting. It is not clear if he was permitted to do so, but it is apparent that


he felt such a tactic would have a salutary affect. Three weeks later McDonald received the $1300 NASA grant through the committee.

It was as a result of the WPAFB trips that McDonald became irritated with Hynek for not speaking out in his role as the Air Force consultant, or that failing, dramatically calling a press conference in the early 1950s to resign. We will never know why McDonald adopted the tactic of attacking Hynek for his past timidity. But it would appear that the behavior is best explained as an effort to impugn Hynek's Air Force consulting work and thereby call into question eighteen years of Air Force UFO pronouncements. For while the Air Force used many consultants over the years, only Hynek had eighteen years of experience and filled the role of the watchdog of Blue Book for the scientific community. Another possible explanation for McDonald's behavior is jealousy. He considered Hynek remiss in his duty to the scientific community, but at the time the subject was about to blow wide open Hynek managed a letter to Science, Discovery and Saturday Evening Post articles and a preface to Vallee's book. McDonald believed Hynek intended these actions to make him appear to be something he was not.

However, attacking Hynek proved a poor tactic for McDonald to employ because it forced a wedge between himself and Hynek at a time when they were the foremost academics in the field. Their bickering rather than cooperation, and the resultant squabbling among their respective followers wasted considerable time and energy which could have been more profitably spent in a joint effort to legitimate UFO studies.

In August McDonald began speaking out on campus (see Appendix A for a list of his speaking engagements from 1966-69). From the tone of his correspondence it is clear that he wanted to increase his academic


constituency through this tactic. There is no doubt that he intended to get as much mileage as he could out of the fact that he, as "a respected atmospheric physicist" had given UFOs a long hard look and had found a significant scientific problem. He had credentials, was aware of their importance, and used them wherever he considered it efficacious.

After many months of interacting with Ratchford and Price at AFOSR, seemingly to no avail, McDonald developed a deep concern over the events taking place on the Colorado Project. When he didn't receive answers to his letters to Condon, he finally telephoned Boulder, essentially forcing Condon to extend him an invitation to brief the project staff.

Neutralization of individuals who dismissed UFO data as explainable in other than extraterrestrial terms also occupied some of McDonald's time. After hearing of Klass' plasma explanation he wrote him a condescending response and enclosed a letter to the editor for Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine which he no doubt intended to rectify, what he considered, the misimpressions created by Klass' article.

Donald Menzel of Harvard had written two books on UFOs, both of which treated the subject as nonsense. He was, and is, considered the foremost academic proponent of that position. Cognizant of this, and convinced that Menzel's explanations were qualitatively seductive but quantitatively untenable, McDonald decided to hire a part-time worker to plot radiosonde data which he believed would invalidate many atmospheric refraction and inversion explanations which Menzel had proffered for past cases.

When McDonald heard of Gerard Kuiper's negative remarks on UFOs at a local American Bar Association meeting, he quickly jotted him a note


to determine if the newspaper quotes were correct and if Kuiper knew more about the phenomenon than the last time they had spoken. He pursued the matter until he obtained an invitation from Kuiper to speak on UFOs to the Lunar Planetary Laboratory staff.

However, McDonald did not direct all of his tactics toward resolving the UFO issue. Proceeding under the assumption that it "would break wide open," he contemplated some vindictive actions. Scholarly texts on life in the universe irritated him because of the manner in which they slighted the UFO phenomenon. Therefore, he obtained appropriate quotes from these volumes for inclusion in the papers he intended to pen after the "big breakthrough." In these papers he would make the authors of the above-mentioned scholarly texts eat their own words.

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He began his government-oriented tactics in March 1966 with a letter to Representative Morris Udall. He wanted to work through Gerry Ford, who had called for hearings on UFOs, but did not know if he could trust Ford to be circumspect. Therefore, he asked Udall to forward his proposal only if Udall believed Ford could be depended upon not to leak the request for a quiet three-man investigation.

Because of his conviction that under ideal circumstances UFOs were a scientific and not a military matter McDonald wanted the problem transferred from the Air Force to NASA. He spoke with Gerard Kuiper, who he felt was influential at NASA, and asked if he should wait for Kuiper to intercede for him or go ahead with his NASA plans without Kuiper's aid.


When McDonald finally had the opportunity to speak at NASA he encountered Joe Fletcher, a representative of the Rand Corporation. Fletcher "sat in" while McDonald emphasized the budgetary significance of the UFO question to NASA personnel. The talk, McDonald felt, planted the seeds which would bear fruit at some future date. The NASA people knew of his talks to the Air Force and through the Rand representative the Air Force would learn of the colloquium at NASA. It pleased McDonald that this might cause some interagency rivalry.

When Kuiper proved to be an adversary instead of an ally McDonald attempted to enlist the support of Al Eggars, an aerodynamacist at NASA. Eggars also proved of negligible help, but this did not lessen McDonald's belief that UFOs belonged under the aegis of NASA. When he decided to "come out" in October he told Hall that he intended to begin a letter-writing campaign to assorted Congressmen and wanted Hall to put the full weight of the NICAP membership behind it. The thrust of the endeavor would be to urge Congressional Hearings to remove UFOs from the domain of Air Force responsibility and place them under the wing of NASA.

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In 1966, however, McDonald spent most of his energy on the military. After he had become aware of the Air Force plans for a university study, but before it was clear what the study would consist of, he asked Brian O'Brien, who sat on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, to raise the idea of a small summer study at the Air Force Systems Command.


As early as April McDonald informed Hughes at the ONR of his UFO activities and in June the ONR paid for his first trip to WPAFB. It was on that trip that McDonald concluded that the ETH was correct and afterward asked Hughes for, but did not receive, direct funding for his UFO work.

McDonald made three trips to WPAFB and uncovered what he considered a wealth of material and unsurpassed Air Force investigatory incompetence. He tried to bully Major Quintanilla into changing case classifications and gave advice to Dr. Cacciopo, who was ostensibly responsible for Blue Book, on reorganizing the project. At that time he still believed that the Air Force wanted to solve the UFO mystery and not salve the public psyche. Proceeding with that mistaken assumption he attempted to aid Colonel DeGoes' three-man Blue Book review team through extensive discussions, both verbal and written, of the problems on the project.

Concomitantly he was concerned about the possibility of the Air Force summer study and the ensuing full-scale university team examination of the phenomenon. With respect to the former, he found that O'Brien, just as Kuiper, proved an adversary and not an ally. He set out to neutralize O'Brien by educating him about UFOs in the hope that O'Brien, through the AFSAB, would not scuttle his chances for the summer study. In the case of the university team approach, he offered his services to Ratchford and Price at the AFOSR to sell the UFO project concept to any prospects for the principal investigator position and proffered his six months of experience in any capacity in which he could serve. This, of course, was long after it was patent that he would not be asked to head the investigation himself.


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By September, however, McDonald's disillusionment with the Air Force made him decide to "go public" with his ETH findings even though the university team approach was in the offing. It is also possible that Hynek gave him impetus in this direction by "coming out" in Science in August. McDonald's pre-"coming-out" letters to Colonel DeGoes, Ratchford and Cacciopo suggest that he thought that the threat of going public, especially with a position highly critical of the past research of the Air Force, would coerce the Air Force into reevaluating Blue Book. But such was not the case.

He went through with his "coming out" in which his remarks were highly critical of the Air Force and received limited press coverage. This began a two-pronged offensive which lasted until publication of the Condon Report in January 1969. On the one hand he was critical of the Air Force handling of the UFO question, but on the other he tried to initially help Ratchford and Price organize the university study and as it proceeded he attempted to apprise them of its progress, continued to offer his services, and generally worked to keep the project moving in what he considered "the right" direction even though his meddling proved disruptive.

Meanwhile, he became more knowledgeable about UFOs and felt that his research on what he considered the most important scientific problem of the twentieth century deserved funding. Having had ONR contracts for eight years he wanted ONR to fund his UFO work and with that in mind began setting the stage in December through Hughes for an ONR colloquium on his UFO findings.


The tactic of publicity-seeking, with the hope of swaying public opinion, proved a delicate matter for McDonald. He knew that it could work, as witnessed by the House Armed Services Committee Hearings of April 1966. Moreover, pressuring Congress, the Air Force and the scientific community into taking action appealed to him, but he realized that while he needed publicity, to be branded a publicity-seeker would lose him the support of those people who could help him the most. Consequently, he proceeded with caution.

As early as August, however, he approached Look and U.S. News and World Report about writing UFO articles. Apparently U.S. News lacked interest, while Look was interested, but not, they said, until the furor subsided over several Saturday Review UFO articles. Eventually McDonald did prepare a piece for the NYT Magazine which was never used and participated in a two-hour UFO special for WNEW-TV in New York City.

In September the planning began for his "coming out." Hall, who did most of the organizing anticipated ample press coverage. McDonald used two talks in Tucson as trial balloons prior to his October 19 American Meteorological Society talk in Washington, D.C. He learned in Tucson to be leery of the press for its blatant misquoting. He also found that he had to modify his presentation of hypotheses because his audiences sensed his true convictions regarding the ETH. He did not want to frighten away potential converts, particularly scientists, and so he adopted the circumlocution that the ETH was "the least unsatisfactory hypothesis" to explain UFO data.

Although he had initially been interested in radio and TV interviews, a press conference, and private talks with individual reporters, his Tucson experience sobered him. The events surrounding


the actual Washington coming out are not clear, but it appears that the Air Force stole some of his thunder by announcing its university project and the appointment of Ed Condon as its head just a few days before McDonald spoke. This, no doubt, decreased the impact of his remarks and made him appear an unofficial late-comer to the UFO problem.

McDonald was always aware of the fact that his campaign was one of persuasion; that he did not have the kind of intersubjectively verifiable evidence that invariable would win the day if only given the opportunity. Therefore, he tried in various ways to guard his credibility in what seemed an incredible area of research.

For instance, in the Spring of 1966 it took months before he had enough confidence in Hall and NICAP to expose his true interest in UFOs. Moreover, during this period, although he corresponded with Hall, he did not inform him of his NAS overtures.

The Tucson press coverage, as mentioned above, frightened him. He didn't mind going out on a limb, but he desired it to be one of his own making. Consequently, he told Hall that he only wanted good press people covering his Washington coming out so that his position would not be misrepresented. To try to ensure this he adopted the "least unsatisfactory hypothesis" phrase.

Even though he initially wrote Klass in a condescending tone, McDonald had second thoughts when he realized the influence Klass could have in Washington., D.C., through his editorial position with Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine. Although he did not wish to reply to Klass' letters he decided that it was incumbent upon him to do so in order to nip any rumors in the bud which he suspected might circulate regarding his inability to respond to Klass' arguments.


Lastly, when the National Lecture Bureau contacted McDonald to tape a UFO segment with Frank Edwards, a UFO writer and general raconteur, he declined. He did not want to take the chance of Edwards side-tracking the discussion away from the scientific merits of the UFO problem and concomitantly associating him (McDonald) with that style of argumentation. One thing he felt he had learned about such situations was to always keep the discussion directed toward the scientific aspects of the problem and the best ways to reach scientists. He believed this enhanced one's credibility and left a good impression with respect to the seriousness of the subject.

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Such were the strategy and tactics employed in McDonald's personal politics of science in 1966. In his pursuit of legitimacy and a subsequent paradigm shift he concentrated his energies on what Almond and Coleman have called interest articulation. [119]  He tried to make demands on elite decision-makers in the governmental, scientific and military arenas to obtain the scarce resources to carry on the research he believed necessary to resolve the UFO problem. When the elites failed to respond as he had hoped he took his case to the public, probably thinking that public opinion might influence decision-makers in a manner which he could not. In going about this McDonald employed the following tactics.


  1. Spoke on campuses to increase his academic constituency.

  2. Attacked Menzel, Kuiper and Klass to neutralize their arguments among scientists.


  1. Planned a post-"breakthrough" attack on exobiology writers who slighted UFOs.

  2. Worked through the CAS of the NAS to get a summer study funded.

  3. Spoke with Kuiper and Meinel to insure the success of his NAS Institutional Grant proposal.

  4. Attacked Hynek's past Air Force UFO work to show how poor a foundation the Air Force UFO pronouncements rested upon.

  5. Tried to provide guidance to the Condon Project.

  1. Attempted through Udall and Ford to get a "quiet study" funded.

  2. Tried to get Gerard Kuiper to intercede for him at NASA.

  3. Spoke at NASA in an attempt to convince NASA staff that they should take on the responsibility for the UFO problem.

  4. Informed NASA scientists of his Air Force lobbying hoping that this might start an interagency rivalry.

  5. Advised Al Eggers at NASA on how to proceed on the UFO question.

  1. Asked O'Brien of the AFSAB to help him get a small summer study funded.

  2. Kept Hughes informed of his UFO work for purposes of obtaining future ONR support.

  3. Offered suggestions for the reorganization of Blue Book.

  4. Offered his services to Price and Ratchford at the AFOSR to sell the UFO project.

  5. Attempted through Hughes to organize an ONR colloquium on his UFO work.


  1. Had a trial balloon "coming out" in Tucson.

  2. Had a "coming out" in Washington, D.C.

  3. Tried to get an article in a national magazine.

  4. Tried to get a letter to the editor in Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine.

  5. Took part in a TV special on UFOs.

  6. Developed the "least unsatisfactory hypothesis" circumlocution to avoid alienating potential supporters,

  7. Avoided civic club speaking engagements to foster his credibility.

  8. Developed his ties, which were never official, with NICAP slowly for fear of associating with a disreputable organization.

  9. Avoided APRO because he thought occupant reports were unacceptable evidence and APRO investigations were not thorough.

This chapter examined McDonald's behavior in detail and, I believe, made the case for the proposition that the scientific process, at least in this instance, was a political process. Therefore, there is no need to continue the presentation in such a micro-analytic fashion. In the approximately four years which followed the strategy remained essentially the same while McDonald continually refined the tactics as he became more accustomed to the difficulties of engaging in borderland science activity. The remaining chapters focus on four important events in McDonald's campaign.

The first concerns his response to, and interactions with, Ed Condon and the staff of what became known as the Condon Project. This provides an opportunity to observe McDonald's tactics at a time when it appeared that the future of UFO research hung in the balance.


The second event involves McDonald's successful attempt, to obtain UFO hearings within the House Committee on Science and Astronautics in the summer of 1968. As far as he could tell things were not going well at Boulder and so it seemed wise to take the case for UFOs to Congress where he hoped interest could be stimulated in a thorough investigation of the phenomenon. The battle with Phil Klass over McDonald's use of ONR atmospheric physics research funds for UFO studies makes up the third event. It furnishes the occasion to examine the tactics which may be resorted to if straightforward funding of a research area is not forthcoming for political reasons. It also suggests something about the extremists one must be prepared to confront if one decides to do borderland research and become known as an extremist oneself. Lastly, preparations for the scientific establishment in convention is the fourth event. In 1969 the American Association for the Advancement of Science held a UFO Symposium at its annual meeting in Boston. Although McDonald did not play a role in the organization of this event it is what he nevertheless wanted; a hearing before the scientific community. Following the planning of this event will enable us to observe the trials and tribulations of the prime movers, view, for the first time, the tactics of those elder statesmen of science who opposed UFO studies, and determine what purpose the AAAS Symposium organizers had in presenting the program.


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  1. Hall to McDonald, April 21, 1960, McDonald Letters. Hereafter referred to as M.L.Back To Text

  2. Letter referred to by Hall.Back To Text

  3. Hall to McDonald, June 16, 1960, M.L.Back To Text

  4. McDonald to Hall, June 28, 1960, M.L.Back To Text

  5. McDonald to Hall, October 29, 1961, M.L.Back To Text

  6. McDonald to Hall, October 1, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  7. McDonald to Malone, March 28, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Udall, March 28, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  9. McDonald to Udall, March 28, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  10. McDonald to Malone, March 30, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  11. Udall to McDonald, April 1, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  12. McDonald to Hall, April 4, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  13. McDonald to Coleman, April 16, 1966, cc. Tom Malone, M.L.Back To Text

  14. McDonald to Coleman, April 16, 1966, cc. Tom Malone, M.L.Back To Text

  15. Hall to McDonald, April 20, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  16. McDonald to Hughes, April 4, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  17. McDonald to O'Brien, May 14, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  18. Kassander to Weaver, May 18, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  19. Hughes to McDonald, May 25, 1966, cc. Russell Lathrop ONR Pasadena, M.L.Back To Text

  20. McDonald to Hughes, May 26, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  21. McDonald to Kuiper, May 27, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  22. McDonald notes on WPAFB trip. May 6, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  23. McDonald to Kuiper, June 13, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  24. McDonald to Malone, June 21, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  25. Hynek to Brown, May 25, 1966, cc. Hector Quintanilla, Dr. Winston Markey. M.L.Back To Text


  1. Roth to McDonald, July 1, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  2. McDonald to DeGoes, July 3, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  3. McDonald to Davis, July 7, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  4. McDonald to Hall, July 7, 1966, Hall Letters. Hereafter referred to as H.L.Back To Text

  5. Hall to McDonald, July 8, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  6. McDonald to Roth, July 12, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  7. Hall to McDonald, July 12, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Hall, July 13, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  9. Lorenzen to Hynek, July 13, 1966, APRO Files.Back To Text

  10. McDonald to Cacciopo, July 14, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  11. McDonald to Hall, July 14, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  12. Weaver to McDonald, July 19, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  13. McDonald to Malone, July 20, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  14. Bailee to McDonald, July 20, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  15. McDonald to DeGoes, July 22, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  16. See Herbert Strentz, Press Coverage of UFOs 1947-1970, a dissertation submitted to the Department of Journalism at Northwestern University, 1971.Back To Text

  17. Hynek to the Lorenzens, July 26, 1966, APRO Files.Back To Text

  18. Uman to McDonald, August 4, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  19. Uman to McDonald, undated, but in the same time period, M.L.Back To Text

  20. A personal conversation with Fred Beckman of the University of Chicago's Argon Cancer Research Institute and close associate of Hynek. Later denied in a letter from Hynek to the author.Back To Text

  21. Hynek to the Lorenzens, August 8, 1966, APRO Files.Back To Text

  22. Fuller, "Flying Saucer Fiasco," Look. May 14, 1968, p. 63.Back To Text

  23. Memo from Low to Archer & Manning, August 9, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  24. McDonald to Eggars, August 11, 1966, M.L.Back To Text


  1. McDonald to Hall, August 25, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  2. Hall to McDonald, September 8, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  3. Hall to McDonald, September 27, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  4. McDonald to Klass, September 28, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  5. McDonald to the Editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine. September 28, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  6. Hall to McDonald, September 29, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  7. McDonald to DeGoes, September 30, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Hall, October 1, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  9. Hall to McDonald, October 3, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  10. McDonald to Ratchford, Octobers, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  11. McDonald to Malone, October 3, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  12. I don't believe this is true but some behind-the-scenes activity did take place prior to publication.Back To Text

  13. Hall to McDonald, October 5, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  14. Kuiper to McDonald, October 8, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  15. McDonald to Kuiper, October 10, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  16. McDonald to Hall, October 9, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  17. McDonald to the Space Sciences Committee, October 10, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  18. Hall to Condon, October 11, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  19. McDonald to Ratchford, October 15, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  20. McDonald to Klass, October 15, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  21. McDonald to Hall, October 15, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  22. Chesley Manly, "Saucer Prober Has Wide Open Mind and Door," Chicago Tribune, Sunday, October 16, 1966, Section C, p. 4.Back To Text

  23. James E. McDonald, "The Problem of the UFOs," Summary of a talk given to the Washington, D.C., American Meteorological Association, October 19, 1966.Back To Text

  24. Klass to McDonald, October 20, 1966, M.L.Back To Text


  1. McDonald to Hall, October 21, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  2. McDonald to Hall, October 23, 7966, H.L.Back To Text

  3. McDonald to Hall, October 24, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  4. Hall to McDonald, October 24, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  5. Herbert Strentz, Press Coverage of UFOs 1947-1970, a dissertation submitted to the Department of Journalism at Northwestern University, 1971.Back To Text

  6. McDonald to Hall, October 24, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  7. Vonnegut to Klass, October 25, 1966, Klass Letters.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Levitas, October 26, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  9. McDonald to Hall, October 26, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  10. Hall to McDonald, October 27, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  11. See Ted Bloecher, The UFO Wave of 1947, An NICAP Publication, Washington, D.C., 1968.Back To Text

  12. McDonald to Bloecher, October 29, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  13. McDonald to Weitzel, October 29, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  14. McDonald to Hall, October 29, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  15. Uman to McDonald, October 31, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  16. Hall to McDonald, November 2, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  17. McDonald to Fuller, November 4, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  18. Hall to McDonald, November 5, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  19. McDonald to Malone, November 7, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  20. Condon to Keyhoe, November 8, 1966, NICAP Files.Back To Text

  21. Rankow to McDonald, November 8, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  22. McDonald to Hall, November 8, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  23. McDonald to Larsen, November 8, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  24. Hall to McDonald, November 9, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  25. Bloecher to McDonald, November 14, 1966, M.L.Back To Text


  1. McDonald to Hughes, November 14, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  2. McDonald to Hall, November 15, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  3. McDonald to Hall, November 19. 1966. H.L.Back To Text

  4. Low to McDonald, November 20, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  5. McDonald to Epperson, November 24, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  6. McDonald to Hall, November 29, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  7. Bloecher to Hatcher, November 29, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Hall, November 29, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  9. McDonald to Hall, December 2. 1966. H.L.Back To Text

  10. McDonald to Kuiper, December 2, 1966. M.L.Back To Text

  11. McDonald to Kuiper, December 7, 1966, M.LBack To Text

  12. Hall to McDonald. December 8. 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  13. McDonald to Malone, December 8, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  14. McDonald to Hughes, December 9, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  15. Hall to McDonald. December 12. 1966. M.L.Back To Text

  16. McDonald to Hall, December 15, 1966, H.L.Back To Text

  17. Hoult to McDonald, December 22, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  18. Ibid.Back To Text

  19. Kuiper to McDonald, December 23, 1966, M.L.Back To Text

  20. David Truman. The Governmental Process, New York, Knopf, 1951Back To Text

  21. Gabriel Almon & James Coleman (eds.) The Politics of the Developing Areas, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1960.Back To Text

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