III.  THE CONDON STUDY


Context
History of Events
Summary and Conclusions
Summary of tactics
Footnotes
 
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CONTEXT

Each of the four chapters which follow overlap one another chronologically. To some extent the partitioning of McDonald's life during this period reduces the intensity of the impact which the simultaneous recounting of these events would otherwise have. However, for purposes of clarity and analysis this approach seems better than endeavoring to relate the events concurrently. During this time McDonald did many of the same kinds of things which he did in the previous chapter, but the central issue became the Condon Study. The study should be viewed in the context which was developed in chapters one and two.

For a decade, and in some instances longer, the UFO groups desired a full-scale scientific investigation of the UFO phenomenon. Then in early 1966 as a result of numerous reported sightings, public outcry, the quiet behind the scenes work of J. Allen Hynek, the NICAP lobby effort, the recommendations of the Ad Hoc UFO Committee of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and possibly other pressures the Air Force agreed to fund such a study by independent university contractors.

However, the project proved a mixed blessing because while it provided the long-awaited scientific analysis, on the other hand the funding came from the Air Force. No one knew what the implications of such funding were, if any, or what strings might be attached, but they (meaning those seriously concerned with the UFO problem) were circumspect regarding the Air Force involvement. Although impossible to demonstrate that a conspiracy existed to hide the facts about UFOs, even those who would argue no such plot existed were hesitant about Air Force backing

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of the proposed research. For most UFO watchers saw the Condon Study as an opportunity either to legitimate UFO studies in the halls of academe if the Condon team reported that the phenomenon warranted further study or, to the contrary, set the field of Ufology back ten years if the final report concluded the phenomenon were nonsense.

The make-up of the research project staff and the duration of the Air Force contract for the study added to this concern. The Air Force feared that anyone already involved with the UFO problem whether pro or con would bring these predispositions to the project and make any resulting conclusions suspect. Consequently, unlike the motivation for doing most other research -- namely, interest on the part of the investigators -- the staff of the Condon Study, by Air Force stipulation, was chosen for its lack of prior interest. This, combined with the year-and-one-half contract, tended to frighten those UFO researchers familiar with the problem because they considered the contract period too short a time to become apprised of the complexity of the UFO situation and also conduct meaningful analysis.

With these sorts of considerations in mind we can better understand McDonald's actions in 1967, 1968 and 1969. We have already seen his distress begin to develop in 1966. First he thought he might be the principal investigator. When that possibility waned he volunteered his services to "sell" the none too popular project to any lukewarm scientists who might be candidates for the job of principal investigator. When the Air Force failed to take advantage of his offer this not only annoyed him, but also made him wonder about Air Force intentions. Once Edward Condon's name appeared as principal investigator and the University of Colorado received designation as the research site

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McDonald again offered his services in an advisory capacity. When Condon was slow to invite him to Boulder he chafed at the bit and, as we saw, eventually obtained an invitation by sheer perseverance. What he found at CU did not please him and he concluded that the project had to be closely monitored. It should be remembered that by the end of 1966 he had lived with the conclusion that UFOs were a form of extraterrestrial visitation for some five or six months and consequently believed the issue to be the most important problem facing twentieth century science. He felt action had to be taken immediately and believed himself more qualified than any other academic to pursue the problem. It is at this point that we begin the story in 1967.

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HISTORY OF EVENTS


Early Concerns
Reaction to Condon Statements
The Low Memorandum: Confrontation
The Low Memorandum: Aftermath
Activity in Other Venues
Rebuttal Attempt: Working with NICAP
Rebuttal Attempt: Working Through NAS
Release of the Colorado Report
Continuing Rebuttal Activity
The CU Data Controversy
 
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Early Concerns

Condon was always considered a good after-dinner speaker; he knew how to tell a funny anecdote. With the UFO contract under his belt the number of invitations he received increased. He, being the type of person who enjoyed such occasions, did not refuse. It would be a number of these speeches which would cause him difficulties within the UFO world.

As early as January Hall wrote McDonald that he, and therefore NICAP, worried about Condon's public statements. He indicated that if Condon continued in his ways that NICAP might have to withdraw support from the project or possibly ask for a new project or project leader. [1] 

Hall's concern was for an article in the Elmira Star Gazette of January 26, 1967 which quoted Condon as saying in his Corning Glass Works talk:

It is my inclination right now to recommend that the government get out of this business. My attitude right now is that there is nothing to it, but I'm not supposed to reach a conclusion for another year.

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It might seem strange that Hall could make the above threat of severing relations with CU, but it must be kept in mind that Condon planned to use NICAP data and was already in the process of establishing a nationwide UFO reporting network using NICAP members. In addition, the people in NICAP were the most vociferous about UFOs. If NICAP withdrew support and the Condon Study results were negative, NICAP members, many feared, would not accept the findings. Condon reacted by writing a letter to Donald Keyhoe claiming that the press had distorted his remarks. [2] 

This turn of events markedly affected McDonald. He decided that the time had come to put his case before the National Academy of Science (NAS). In a letter to Philip Seitz, President of the NAS, he did just that. He explained his previous "quiet study" strategy with the Committee on Atmospheric Sciences and his more recent lobbying efforts which failed to bear fruit. Then he indicated that the researchers at CU were not aware of the dimensions of the problem and called CU a good beginning but too small a project. Finally he turned to the responsibility of the NAS to keep the public informed on UFO matters. He said he wanted to brief Seitz because the subject would be of overriding public concern in a few months. He argued that the interrelationship between science and the public was of great importance and that the NAS should be prepared to answer the questions on UFOs which would shortly be asked. [3] 

At this juncture it appears that McDonald hoped to arrange a briefing with Seitz by convincing him that the NAS might be caught

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napping on UFOs and come under considerable public criticism. One thing McDonald probably did not know was that Seitz was a former student of Condon, respected him, and believed he could do the job in Boulder adequately.

While providing a briefing at CU Hall wrote back to Keyhoe regarding Condon's lack of interest in McDonald's offer of aid. Hall claimed that it was hinted that McDonald's tilt with the Air Force over ringing Tucson with missile sites made him persona non grata with the Air Force and consequently Condon didn't want to cause himself problems by asking McDonald for advice. [4] 

Approximately a week later McDonald wrote Condon making another consulting offer and pointing out that he had ten months of experience to draw on. [5]  The same day he dropped a note to Bob Low, the project administrator, stating that he would put himself at Low's disposal the three days Low would be in Tucson to meet with the Lorenzens of APRO. [6] 

On January 22 Seitz wrote a terse reply to McDonald in which he said that the NAS had an interest in his remarks and took the matter seriously. Seitz further hoped McDonald kept in close contact with Condon. [7] 

After Low's visit to Tucson he wrote McDonald a positive letter in which he expressed his desire to arrange an opportunity for McDonald to speak in Boulder. Low mentioned his attempt to get Norman Levine, an electrical engineer who had just finished his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, and William Hartmann, a UA astronomer, on the project. With regard to putting further UA people on the payroll Low said he knew everyone from the UA was independent but the public didn't and the impression left with the public had to be considered. [8] 

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Apparently at this point McDonald wanted to confront Condon publicly. In a letter to Neubold Noyes, in charge of the UFO Panel discussion to be presented at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention, McDonald said he had Donald Menzel of Harvard committed to appear, but couldn't get Condon because Low opposed the idea. [9] 

One way or another McDonald obtained an appointment to see Seitz at the NAS on April 19. Two weeks prior to that he wrote Seitz to firm up the engagement. While so doing he included an extensive list of his latest interest articulation efforts, no doubt to impress Seitz with the names of the various governmental, scientific and military groups he had addressed and to insure that Seitz realized how important the UA atmospheric physicist considered the problem. [10] 

In a note received several weeks thereafter Low began by asking McDonald how he would spend a large UFO grant if he hypothetically had one. Then he touched upon the issue which brought him to write, namely a public statement by McDonald that Condon did not spend much time on the project. Low assured McDonald that what he had told him in Tucson was that Condon did not spend much time with the sighting files, but nevertheless he did contribute one-half of his time to the project. [11] 

His continued concern with winning over Brian O'Brien, Chairman of the AFSAB, led McDonald to forward O'Brien copies of his latest UFO talks. In passing he mentioned that CU just didn't have enough scientific talent to get the job done. [12] 

In early August McDonald went up to Boulder to brief the project staff on his recent Australian trip during which he interviewed more than eighty UFO sighting witnesses. He returned from Boulder with a jaundiced view according to a missive sent to Mary Lou Armstrong, Condon's

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administrative secretary and project worker. How a balanced report could be done as long as Condon refused to personally do interview work escaped him, although Roy Craig, a physical chemist from CU, impressed him. [13]  Here we see the schism which would appear much more evident in the future. McDonald could talk and write openly to Armstrong and a few others, although Condon and Low, the leaders, remained at a distance. This distance apparently resulted from a number of the staff becoming convinced the UFO phenomenon was a significant scientific problem, possibly of extraterrestrial origin, while it seemed to these same individuals that Condon and Low did not take the matter seriously.

The disquietude evinced by McDonald to Armstrong he also passed along to Hall. He said he tried to talk Condon into interview work, but to no avail. In fact, Condon fell asleep twice during the briefing. When informed of the $50,000 contract to be given to Stanford Research Institute to prepare a paper on anomalous propagation phenomena in radar sightings McDonald said he suggested a $3.00 paperback on the subject. He concluded by saying both Armstrong and Wadsworth, the latter being a graduate student working on the project, were upset with Low. [14] 

In a letter to Hughes McDonald again spoke of his pessimism regarding CU. He said that Ben Herman, a consultant to the project from the UA, "tells me they put on a show for me, and that after I left everything lapsed back into its normal apathy." [15] 

However, McDonald must have received encouragement upon reading a note from Armstrong a few days later. She told him there was still hope, that Dave Saunders, a CU psychometrician on the staff, would take a strong positive stance if dissension arose in the Spring as she expected it would. She felt that his data-based computer runs gave him the power to make or break the study. [16] 

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Ten days later Saunders distributed an alternative outline to the one developed by Low for the final report. It was, in effect, a dissenting viewpoint. It remained to be seen how many of the staff would agree to it.

Although McDonald might have been heartened by Armstrong's remarks he felt the situation had deteriorated to the point that the NAS had to establish a panel to escalate scientific concern over UFOs. He told Seitz this and also laid out in general terms the panel's tasks while hurling a few barbs at CU. Finally, he argued it was the responsibility of the NAS to confront the problem and so he asked for an appointment to discuss the matter. [17] 

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Reaction to Condon Statements

In mid-September Condon gave another of his UFO talks. This one was for an Atomic Spectroscopy Symposium of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. A friend of McDonald's, William Bickel, attended and he wrote a memo to McDonald expressing his disgust with Condon's funny, entertaining stories about contactees, hoaxes, and research problems confronted because of ridicule, when Condon had an opportunity to stimulate the interest of the best atomic physicists and spectroscopists in the country. [18] 

In a letter to Low discussing UFO cases McDonald raised the issue of the NBS talk and mentioned his concern over the matter. Low did not respond. [19]  Donald Keyhoe at NICAP received a copy of the Bickel memo from McDonald and felt it had to be followed up. McDonald suggested to Keyhoe that he indicate that he had the memo to strengthen his bargaining position with Low. McDonald said he would wait until October 4 to see if Keyhoe obtained an answer. If he did not then McDonald would write Condon himself. [20] 

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However, before this could be settled McDonald received word of another Condon slap at the UFO phenomenon. This time while speaking with the press on September 27 he indicated disillusionment with the UFO business, almost wished he could drop it, and had praise for a Science article on UFOs by William Markowitz, a physicist at Marquette University, who attempted to demonstrate the impossibility of interplanetary travel given the physical laws as we know them. Lastly, Condon said he agreed with Markowitz that twenty-first century physics would laugh at us for investigating UFOs. [21] 

As a result of the above statements made by Condon a concerned William Hartmann, a UA astronomer doing UFO photo analysis for the CU project, called McDonald. He tried to explain that Condon's isolation from the project permitted him to concentrate on crackpot cases while the remainder of the staff pursued better data. He said he (Hartmann) talked the staff out of a September 28 press release refuting Condon's September 27 remarks and as far as Hartmann could tell a blow-up would probably be avoided, as would a minority report. It was likely that a compromise would be reached and even if a dissenting report were written only Condon's voice would be heard.

Hartmann believed that Condon's statements subtly sealed the lips of the project staff who could not contradict him and found this reinforced by Bob Low's comments that the staff would now be forced to go along with Condon. At this time McDonald was about to write Condon, a strategy Hartmann seconded, and in fact urged McDonald to emphasize in his letter the need for Condon to keep in close touch with his staff. [22] 

This increased McDonald's concern for the future of UFO studies. His worst fears were apparently being realized. To determine if this

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were true he augmented his efforts to gather information about the inside workings of the UFO project and the authenticity of various public statements attributable to Condon.

Considered a fighter by all who knew him, Condon responded to the commotion over his public utterances not by conciliation, but by further inflammatory remarks. On October 16 the New York Times quoted him as saying he was inclined to think UFO studies should be discontinued unless someone came up with a new idea on how to approach the problem. [23] 

Meanwhile, McDonald got together with Norman Levine and David Saunders who were on the project. They discussed Condon's NBS speech, the untenability of the Air Force conspiracy hypothesis and the possibility of Air Force interference in the project if the research appeared to be coming to a positive conclusion. [24] 

Levine reacted to some of McDonald's questions in a note in which he said that: [25] 

  1. He couldn't find a copy of Condon's letter to the editor.

  2. Condon is 50% on the project.

  3. Wadsworth's statement on the third university man is not available.

  4. Low's statement on Alamosa (a case) is enclosed.

  5. Low spent one day at Loch Ness.

  6. He had not checked on the Rocky Mountain News Condon quote.

Point five was important to McDonald because Low spent project money to attend an astronomical conference in Europe, but did not contact any European UFO researchers. Low's stop at Loch Ness annoyed him further because it seemed to put UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster in

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the same category of phenomena. This was something McDonald did not accept.

By this time the disquietude at NICAP had reached a new high. Keyhoe wrote two letters, one each to Low and Condon, demanding answers to numerous questions related to the credibility of Condon and the research project. He outlined the various ups and downs which NICAP had had with Condon, including the severing of relations two months earlier a; a result of Condon's public statements. Throughout Keyhoe showed concern that Condon would coopt NICAP into appearing to endorse by association a negative, perniciously concocted final report. [26] 

The end of November found McDonald thinking beyond the CU study. Based upon a letter to Saunders we can conclude that they, along with Norm Levine, had already begun discussing the future of UFO studies. McDonald asserted that all federal research agencies were waiting for the outcome at Boulder before committing themselves. He felt a NASA size effort was in order, but if CU were negative then a different strategy would be needed. He believed a professional organization that focused on the study of UFOs was necessary to raise money in the form of dues to support a journal and research. Such an organization would be made up of academics and be research-oriented. He wanted to discuss this with Saunders and Levine the next time they met. [27] 

Condon replied to Keyhoe, as did Low, assuring Keyhoe of the integrity and independence of the project. Condon would not respond to most of the questions because he said the answers would give NICAP advance information about project conclusions. He asserted that all of his public statements were unbiased. He also provided assurances that if

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dissenting opinions existed when the research concluded that they would appear in the report. [28] 

However, McDonald remained unconvinced of Condon's good intentions. On December 11 he wrote Aime Michel, considered the foremost European UFO researcher, to inform him that Condon's staff did not share Condon's attitudes and "our hope lies with them." [29] 

However, by the 28th in another letter to Michel, McDonald indicated that he was "disappointed and disillusioned with Condon." Evidently more so than previously for he said, "some confrontation is going to have to be effected. This is difficult to engineer. A number of us are working on that problem and thinking about it as carefully as we can." [30] 

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The Low Memorandum: Confrontation

1968 brought with it the confrontation which McDonald desired. He played the major role in this episode which turned on the infamous "Low memo" mentioned in the previous chapter. Although intended as one facet of a multi-pronged offense launched by McDonald against Condon in an attempt to change the direction of the project, it turned out that the "Trick Memo," as it came to be called, became the central topic of discussion for several months. This began with a letter from McDonald to Low in late January in which he detailed his criticisms.

He wrote to Low because of a phone conversation they had engaged in a few days earlier in which Low became upset when McDonald directed some harsh comments toward the administration of the project. He began the letter by saying he wanted to outline his main concerns about the project and that he saw no reason for Low to become upset. He argued that criticism at that time was important because it could influence the outcome of the research, and even though an unusual step to take prior

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to the completion of a study he nonetheless felt justified in doing so because the future of UFO research hung in the balance.

McDonald's major points revolved around Condon's negative press statements, his preoccupation with crackpots, his refusal to examine witnesses in good cases, the limited amount of communication between Condon and his staff and the lack of investigation of obfuscation cases (cases in which McDonald felt the Air Force had prohibited or inhibited investigation).

In addition, he discussed the Low memo in straightforward terms suggesting that its presence in the "open files" meant it no doubt could easily be explained. He also brought up what he called project communication problems, the waste he considered the $50,000 Stanford Research Institute radar study contract, the inappropriateness of Aldora Lee's opinion poll 15 months after the project began, and the scientific unproductiveness of bringing Air Force intelligence officers up to Boulder for a briefing when the project staff were about to begin writing the final report. [31] 

A letter from McDonald to Hall indicates that they viewed the Low memo as very important, and quite possibly their major weapon, from the beginning. As early as January 31 McDonald told Hall that after a talk with Gordon Lore, NICAP Assistant Director (Hall had left NICAP), and Donald Keyhoe that they resolved to get the memo on the record at the NAS and at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Saunders apparently concurred in this tactic and McDonald commented that an NAS staff member agreed that this was the best way in which to accomplish his objectives at NAS. [32] 

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By February 9 McDonald had not heard from Condon regarding the critical letter of January 31 to Low and, concerned that Condon might not rise to the bait, penned him a note. McDonald indicated that via CU administrative channels he knew that Condon had been apprised of the letter to Low. He told Condon that he intended to send copies to the NAS as a first step in making his case; a more detailed statement would follow. [33] 

The same day McDonald sent off a statement to the NAS. He submitted the 1/31/68 letter to Low along with the Low memo, and his United Aircraft Research Labs paper presented January 26, 1968. He considered these a preamble to the more detailed criticisms of the "lack of scientific open-mindedness and lack of scientific vigor in project administration" which would follow and stated that they were in keeping with the concerns which he expressed to NAS staffers Coleman and Sievers on 4/20/67, Coleman on 9/29/67 and Coleman again on 1/30/68. [34] 

The repercussions of McDonald's 1/31/68 letter to Low were much greater than anticipated. On February 8 Condon called Saunders and Levine to his office, accused them of stealing the memo from private files and fired them from the project for "incompetence." McDonald wrote Saunders and Levine expressing his distress that Condon had such small regard for the scientific matters at stake. He also regretted that Saunders and Levine had "to pay so high a price for getting on with a proper scientific investigation." [35] 

It seems that McDonald had second thoughts about the interpretation which the NAS staffers might put on his forwarding of the Low memo and so he wrote a note to qualify his actions. He explained that only

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project members and those with a scientific concern for the project had copies. He said the NAS received one because of its responsibility in the area. [36] 

He also evinced a concern that Keyhoe of NICAP, known for his publicity exploits, might over-react to the situation. He explained to Keyhoe that Saunders and Levine would not go to the press and intended to respond solely at the NAS level until it was certain what the NAS would do. Consequently there was no need for NICAP to get involved in the behind-the-scenes activities.

In the same letter McDonald conveyed a bit of the thinking underlying his own involvement. He felt that Condon used the incompetence excuse for the firings to insure that reporters would not look for the memo. He indicated that Condon called Dr. Harvill, president of the UA, to tell Richard Kassander, McDonald's superior, that he (Condon) would soon contact Kassander demanding the return of the memo. However, McDonald had briefed Kassander on the situation and so Kassander told Condon to call McDonald if he wanted the memo. [37] 

In troubled times McDonald usually got off a note to Jim Hughes his project monitor to keep him informed; this was no exception. He told Hughes of the events which occurred and passed along copies of the memo and NAS correspondence which he wanted Hughes to keep confidential. He said he forwarded the material to keep Hughes apprised in light of the day when he would apply to the ONR for funding to do UFO work. He told Hughes that any discussion of these matters should go to his home address because he didn't want such explosive material channeled through his department. [38] 

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A cordial letter which must have infuriated McDonald arrived from Seitz. He contended that Condon was a distinguished scientist who took his work seriously; press and grapevine accounts no doubt were superficial. Seitz indicated that the project had to run its course, but he would discuss McDonald's suggestions with Condon at the next opportunity. [39] 

Condon answered McDonald's letters with questions and accusations of his own. He asserted that the Low memo was stolen from private files because it bore a date prior to the commencement of the project. Referring to his talk with Kassander he said he had done so because he thought the memo had been misrepresented to McDonald and once McDonald understood that he would return it. Now that he realized that McDonald would not return it he considered such conduct gravely unethical.

Furthermore, Condon said the review request of the project which McDonald made to Coleman at the NAS puzzled him. He wanted to know if McDonald desired a review prior to the completion of the report, or a review of the situation as a whole. Even though McDonald had adopted an adversary position with respect to the project in Condon's eyes, he closed by asking McDonald's cooperation on several procedural matters concerned with UFO Investigation. [40] 

In a newsy note to Hughes, McDonald forwarded the Seitz and Condon retorts with the comment that the "NAS will not pick up the hot potato." He asked Hughes to keep the letters confidential and hoped they would bear on getting him some support in the future. Regardless of the cold shoulder given him by the NAS he indicated to Hughes that he intended to write up and forward the statement of concern already begun. [41] 

By this time Saunders and Levine had started legal action against Condon for the use of "incompetence" as the reason for their firings.

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Mrs. Saunders wrote McDonald thanking him for the support he gave the fired pair in a press release which appeared in the Denver Post. She was worried because Condon allegedly told Saunders, "for this (releasing the memo) you should be professionally destroyed." [42] 

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The Low Memorandum: Aftermath

McDonald again wrote Aime Michel to ask him to keep European ufologists abreast of the CU situation. He told Michel that "behind the scenes" efforts to force changes in the project were in progress. He said that although Hynek's participation had been hoped for, he nevertheless dropped out. The loss of Saunders and Levine, according to McDonald, seemed a high short-term loss but would be worth it in the long run. Incompetence not conspiracy was the villain, along with Condon's prestige, which proved a formidable weapon, as attested to by the lack of NAS action. [43] 

It is difficult to assess what McDonald thought would be gained from publicly attacking Condon in UFO circles, but this is what he did and advocated. In a note to Charles Bowen, editor of the British Flying Saucer Review, he asked that Bowen speak out against Condon's project management if he felt this were possible in good conscience. [44] 

Through his inside channels McDonald learned more about happenings at CU and passed this along to Hughes. Apparently a staff meeting took place at which Condon received considerable criticism. It appeared that he saw for the first time that the project had gotten into Low's hands and that Low was incapable of running it. [45] 

McDonald was more informative in writing Hall the same day. He said that Roy Craig would be the primary investigator with the departure of Saunders and Levine and Craig might leave according to rumor if Low were not fired. Moreover, while Condon told Craig he could not go as

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far as the ETH, he did say that Craig could write report conclusions in which UFOs were considered a serious problem warranting further attention. McDonald suggested caution, however, since people on the project claimed that Condon could not be trusted.

On the legal front McDonald planned to get a lawyer to force Condon to retract various charges, in particular, that McDonald had coerced Saunders and Levine into stealing the memo. Saunders and Levine were also proceeding with legal steps as mentioned previously. [46] 

About the same time Mary Lou Armstrong, Condon's administrative secretary and full participant in the project, proffered her resignation. In a ten-page letter she argued that Low was the cause of the project's problems. She enumerated nine points which portrayed Low in a negative light and suggested that if Condon had directed the project the conflictual situation would have been avoided. [47]  This letter was cause for rejoicing on the part of McDonald and others of his persuasion because it seemed that this placed more pressure on Condon to take a further look at the conclusions his project would endorse. For at this time a set developed by Low already circulated among the staff.

The gravity of Armstrong's actions are best revealed by the letter through which Condon replied. He apparently spoke with her on the phone and then wanted to reaffirm the confidentiality of the resignation. He said he would consider it both unethical and a grave offense to reveal its contents which he suspected people would tempt her to do. [48] 

On February 28 William Messing, McDonald's attorney, wrote to Condon. He informed Condon that unless he retracted the accusations made to Kassander, Harvill and the NAS in ten days Messing would have to take all necessary steps to protect McDonald's legal remedies. [49] 

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On still another front McDonald, Saunders, Levine and Armstrong took action of their own. They met with John Fuller, who previously wrote two UFO books, and now planned to pen an expose of the CU project focusing on the Low memo. He spoke with Condon, Low and Manning (the latter being the recipient of the memo) but received "no comments." McDonald told Hall he expected the article to appear in Look in four to six weeks. He also argued that although the NAS had taken no action, that once the article came out it would have to, if only behind the scenes. [50]  In writing the article McDonald assured Fuller that he could count on the cooperation of William Bickel who wrote the note to McDonald describing Condon's NBS talk. [51] 

Condon said in his February 15 note to McDonald that he had not studied McDonald's January 31 letter to Low, so in his response McDonald asked Condon to do so. In addition, he spoke to Condon's other points, the most important being, in McDonald's eyes, the use of "stolen" and "coerced" in his 2/15 letter and the intimation that McDonald had not attempted to cooperate with CU.

With regard to the former McDonald said he did not participate in any coercion or theft. He demanded a retraction which would go to himself, Kassander and Seitz. He said he wanted to hear from Condon on those charges. Concerning the charge of non-cooperation McDonald detailed his distress with the project going back to an 8/1/67 conversation with Condon. Moreover, he argued that this statement on the part of Condon revealed how little he knew about his own project, whereupon McDonald proceeded to list his efforts to cooperate with Low and Condon from as early as 10/16/66. [52] 

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After his response to Condon, McDonald sent an enraged note in answer to Low's missive of 2/2/68 in which Low asked for case material in a way which McDonald interpreted as feigning naivete concerning McDonald's past offers of aid. Probably McDonald suspected this to be an effort on Low's part to develop "files protection" regarding the relationship of the project to McDonald just in case an investigation of the project were ever made.

McDonald asserted that the letter had a hollow ring to it; that it was written in a style suggesting Low had just heard about his (McDonald's) interest in UFOs. He said he found the events at Boulder shocking and was still waiting for a retort to his critical letter of 1/31/68. [53] 

In his fifth letter of the day McDonald sent off a dissatisfied reply to Seitz at the NAS. He was sorry the concern shown by Seitz was so slight and paraphrasing Seitz said, "I think it will be scientifically undesirable to let the Condon study run its course." He was upset that the material he had sent Seitz (the 1/31/68 letter to Low and the Low memo) had not convinced people at the NAS that Condon and Low had a preset bias which the Air Force overlooked. In the selection of the NAS Review Panel he hoped this would be considered. [54] 

Condon wrote McDonald to the effect that he rejected McDonald's notion that the memo was taken from "open files." That it was done surreptitiously was proof enough for Condon that the perpetrators were engaged in wrong-doing. He believed McDonald's conduct was unethical and explained that, because the issue had become a legal matter, he had been advised to terminate correspondence by his attorney. [55] 

McDonald, after mentioning that he wanted to be included in the indemnification insurance he understood the Look lawyers were considering

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for contributors to the Low memo article, told John Fuller he was glad the Look editors cleared the manuscript. He said, "I feel sure that its impact on scientific attitudes (as well as public attitudes) concerning the handling of the UFO problem will have a most salutary effect." [56]  However, he believed the article needed several sentences indicating Harriet Hunter (a project staff member) confronted Low with the memo in October 1967. This would thwart, he thought, Condon's claim that it was done behind his and Low's backs. [57] 

Meanwhile McDonald decided to postpone any legal action against Condon for maligning his good name. He told Hall he felt it would be a tactical error to pursue legal instead of scientific channels in a dispute which was essentially scientific. [58] 

When the Look article finally came out McDonald found it a bit short at 5,000 words, but he believed the salient points were put into the open record. He sent fifteen copies off to various foreign UFO groups. [59] 

On April 30, a day prior to publication, Keyhoe managed to complicate the already confused situation by calling a NICAP press conference "to blow it all open." What annoyed Keyhoe was the fact that Look did not intend to give NICAP a box comment in the article, and that Fuller and the Look editors refused to see him in order to avoid a confrontation on the issue. At the press conference Keyhoe broke relations with the Condon Study, accused Condon of a conspiracy (according to the press) and released copies of the memo to the press, which angered Saunders, Saunders' lawyer and Fuller. [60]  Saunders' concern was primarily with his court case against Condon. He feared that what Keyhoe said might get back to Boulder and hurt his chances,

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particularly since Philip Klass had taped the press conference and reportedly took it to the AFOSR. [61] 

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Activity in Other Venues

At this point it would appear that the NAS did not react as McDonald expected and so he took his case to other quarters. It is unclear whether he approached Science or vice-versa. In fact, the situation is further confused by a letter to Science from one of its editors, Daniel Greenberg. [62]  In it Greenberg responded to Lewis Branscomb's criticisms [63]  of the article which finally did appear by saying that initially Condon approached Science, which already planned an article on CU, when he (Condon) thought he would have to counter the negative publicity from the Look article. When the negative publicity failed to materialize he refused to cooperate with Science and said he did not want a story done. At any rate in early June, McDonald wrote Philip Boffey, an editorial writer for Science, enclosing papers, background material, and his 3/5/68 letter to Condon. He urged Boffey to carry the matter as far as possible in the hope that Science might be able to rectify some of the neglect accorded the subject. Referring to his 3/5/68 letter he said, "This whole thing is an unprecedented situation and only my strong conviction that we're dealing in the UFO problem with a matter of high scientific importance which Condon was going to casually reinter has led to my pursuing some of these courses." [64]  Boffey eventually wrote an article critical of the Condon Project for Science. [65] 

During this same period Congressman Roush of Indiana, who with McDonald engineered the House Science and Astronautics Committee

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hearings on UFOs in July of 1968, wrote Seitz at the NAS, probably at McDonald's request, making a few suggestions. He wanted the NAS to:

  1. Examine the Look allegations and McDonald's objections to the Condon Study.

  2. Examine other significant cases as recommended by Hynek.

  3. Look into the dismissal of Saunders and Levine.

Roush said he would suspend a Government Accounting Office review of the project which he had initiated until the NAS finished its review. [66] 

Another attempt at obtaining publicity, this time with Industrial Review Magazine, did not work out as well as the Science gambit. When the magazine first took an interest in CU -- with or without McDonald's prodding is unclear -- Condon, who was on the editorial board of the magazine, tried to dissuade the board from the story. When he failed he resigned from the board. [67]  However, the writer assigned to the story, an A. J. Cote, could not come around to seeing the Condon Study as McDonald did. In fact, he reached the point where he felt he had laid the groundwork to indict either the project or its critics, but he couldn't come down off the fence until he saw the final report. So, after writing an introductory article, he decided not to write the final piece. For Cote it was a question of whose accusations to believe and only the report could settle the matter. [68]  It would appear that he did not write the final article even after the release of the report. This was a blow to McDonald after his expenditure of considerable time and energy in trying to convince Cote of the efficacy of his position.

Activity on the part of McDonald with respect to the CU study slackened during the summer months. This was due to his intense involvement in the July House Hearings mentioned above and their aftermath. Nevertheless, in October his concern for the outcome of

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the Boulder study remained high, as evidenced by a note from Phyllis O'Callaghan, Legislative Assistant to Representative Roush. Apparently McDonald wrote to her asking that she use the good offices of Roush to ferret out any information she could obtain about the secret NAS Panel which was to review the Condon Report. This was important to McDonald because he wanted to contact the panel members to give them the inside story on both the UFO project and the UFO phenomenon in general.

O'Callaghan reported that Coleman at the NAS told her the panel members were chosen by the President and members of the NAS Council and would remain secret. The review would not immediately be made public, but would be forwarded to the Air Force and released at the discretion of the Air Force. [69] 

Intent upon informing the panel of what had taken place at CU McDonald pursued another tactic. He contacted Saunders, who by that time had written a book on his CU experience with Roger Harkins, a Boulder reporter. He persuaded Saunders and his publisher to send the galleys to the NAS. McDonald felt the book contained information not in the Look article which would have a salutary effect on the Academy scientists. [70]  He undoubtedly took this action because of the above-mentioned letter to Science by Branscomb. Both he and Saunders felt that since Branscomb was a colleague of Condon at CU that the letter, which defended Condon and indicted McDonald, presaged a negative final report. [71] 

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Rebuttal Attempt: Working with NICAP

The Branscomb letter probably marked a turning point in tactics for McDonald. Up to that time there was always the feeling that the report might prove acceptable. However, three weeks after the letter appeared

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McDonald wrote to Hall to discuss good CU cases to begin reinvestigating for a rebuttal to the report. [72]  McDonald did not want to be caught by surprise and as a result produce a rebuttal so far after the fact that the Condon Report would be forgotten and the rebuttal, therefore, without impact.

No doubt still looking toward the future possibility of funding from the ONR McDonald sent the Saunders galleys to Hughes along with his commentary on various parts of the book. He told Hughes that Saunders' choice of UFO cases did not impress him, but the administrative history of the project was well done and it heartened him to see it in the open record. [73]  The galleys eventually went to the NAS also, but only because the New American Library, Saunders' publisher, sent them. Saunders himself concluded that the galleys were not a scientific document and did not feel he could forward them.

Concern for the report further heightened when McDonald heard "a well-confirmed rumor" that Condon did not want the study to go to the NAS or the public unless he were covered for libel suits from witnesses. This made McDonald believe that Condon categorized many witnesses as cheats, frauds, unreliables or psychotics. This possibility increased his desire to prepare the rebuttal and he told Hall to begin assembling a list of all CU cases if one didn't already exist. [75]

McDonald argued that Condon's desire for libel protection was a ploy to "bottle up" the report. However, he didn't think it would work because of the publicity received by CU in the Look and Science articles. He thought the Air Force would release the report even if it meant providing the libel protection. [76] 


EDITOR'S NOTE: The footnote numbering on this page skips from 73 to 75; there is no footnote 74.

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He continued with plans to organize the rebuttal. He told Hall that they were not doing their homework; that the report would be out shortly, they would be asked for comment and be caught short if they did not hurry their preparation. The case review could best be conducted, he thought, by getting together with Saunders, Levine and Armstrong. To pursue post Condon UFO work with a formal organization, without a good critique of CU, McDonald considered sheer folly. [77] 

Although going forward with these plans McDonald continued his efforts to get through to the NAS review panel. He offered Seitz his comments and critique of the Condon Study which he argued would be more helpful to the panel prior to its deliberations than after. [78] 

In further rebuttal talk McDonald urged Hall to keep their efforts quiet. He argued that the rumor chain could work both ways and if the people at CU or the Air Force were to learn of the cases that were undergoing investigation they might have them reworked or excluded from the report. The next six to eight weeks seemed critical to him. [79]

In the interim Hall and his associates at NICAP worked up a plan for the rebuttal. It included the release of UFOs: A New Look along with a press release, the writing of a "white paper" on the CU project with a covering press release, the development of an analysis of the Condon Report with an accompanying press release, and the systematic use of the media by NICAP Subcommittees and Affiliates to present local rebuttal throughout the nation. [80] 

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Rebuttal Attempt: Working Through NAS

When Seitz replied to McDonald it was to say that he thought there would be ample time for criticism after the report and review came out. He asserted that the panel was chosen to be as impartial as possible and would be given the Roush Hearings to peruse as well as McDonald's congressional statement. [81] 

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This implied that everything which McDonald had to say could be read in those two documents. McDonald retorted that the hearings did not touch upon the Air Force handling of the UFO problem or the Condon Study. Therefore, access to the Hearings would not permit the committee to weigh those points he believed most salient. McDonald closed by directly asking Seitz for the names of the Review Panel members. [82] 

In correspondence with Malone he said Seitz and the secrecy at the NAS made him uneasy. He thought the NAS was in the process of digging itself into a hole with Condon and so he asked Malone to provide any constructive suggestions that might occur to him. [83] 

The interaction with the NAS continued with McDonald, not hearing from Seitz in six days, dashing off a quick note in a further attempt to get what he considered vital information to the Review Panel. He asked Seitz to give the Panel his 1/31/68 letter to Low as well as his 2/9/68 and 3/5/68 letters to Seitz expressing grave concern. McDonald claimed that he took every step since his 4/20/67 meeting with Seitz with misgivings, but he continued to believe the problem sufficiently important to justify his actions. He said that he wanted confirmation that the correspondence had been forwarded to the Review Panel. [84] 

The same day Seitz wrote McDonald that any material he had for the Panel should be forwarded. However, the Panel had to remain anonymous to avoid intrusions into the members' lives. [85] 

The entire situation looked ominous to McDonald after Lou Corbin told him that John Sievers at the Academy left the impression that all the panelists were Academy members. McDonald began attacking on another front. Having once successfully engineered House Hearings on UFOs he

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tried again. Jerry Pettis, a House member from California, publicly discussed the possibility after the Redlands sightings in 1968. Now McDonald told Malone that he contacted Representative Udall asking him to urge Pettis to act. [86] 

BACK to History of Events

Release of the Colorado Report

Early January found McDonald eager to get at the soon-to-be released report. When he determined the actual date that the NAS would make it public he telegrammed Seitz, "Understand Condon Report available Thursday. Will fly Washington Wednesday and phone Thursday about studying copy at Academy or other source." [87]  A week later he had been through the thousand-page document and was up in arms, for as he anticipated the conclusions were, from his perspective, negative. Condon stated: [88] 

Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has been added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFO's probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.

Properly conducted research, according to McDonald, would have justified an unfavorable outcome. However, McDonald viewed the research as prejudiced in approach, poorly conceived and improperly conducted; hence a rebuttal was in order. This took both verbal and written form, occupying him for most of 1969. He began by contacting Hynek at Northwestern to get him to speak out on the Report. In addition, he got Kuiper, Hartmann and others at the UA together in a colloquium for purposes of indicting the Boulder study.

The following week McDonald put in full-time rechecking the work done by Condon and his staff. He found numerous glaring errors epitomized by the statement, "the more I look the worse it gets." He

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admitted there were some bright spots, but they were not in the areas which made a difference. [89] 

During this period plans went forward at NICAP for an extensive written rebuttal. Constant contact between the NICAP staff, particularly Hall, and McDonald took place. The latter intended to make a large written contribution as well as softening up selected government, military and academic audiences through speaking engagements. His speaking feats, prodigious since October 1966, took him to the podium seventy-eight times. In the first six months of 1969 he intensified these efforts by speaking out against the Condon Report at eighteen different functions (see Appendix A for a list of his speaking engagements).

He pursued another tactic by attempting to find disaffected members of Condon's staff who would publicly denounce the Report. He asked William Hartmann, who did the photo analysis work for Condon, if he would make the same statements which he had made at an IAP colloquium, where he disagreed with the conclusions and recommendations of the Report, in a more public way in Science. He also wondered if other project members might join in since in a recent talk with Franklin Roach (who did the section on astronaut sightings) he found out that a number of the staff did not agree with the conclusions of the Report. [90] 

Although Hartmann was not impressed by the substance of the UFO phenomenon, he did express concern that it did not receive fair treatment from journal editors. Nevertheless, he felt he could not speak out against Condon because Condon's chapters of summary, conclusions and recommendations were under his own name. Consequently, to criticize Condon publicly for using wording different from that used by

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his staff in other chapters to describe the research of the latter would be impossible. Hartmann further suggested that McDonald would be wise to take his case to Science rather than to the speaking circuit. [91] 

With Hynek, Saunders and others McDonald did a Voice of America tape on the UFO problem and focused on the Condon Report. It disappointed him that Condon refused to participate. At this time he mentioned to Hughes undergoing the first major change in his position since June 1966, in that he believed the Condon Report was just one more example of the Air Force receiving bad advice from the scientific community. The Air Force did not foist a conspiracy on the public; the scientific community failed to advise the Air Force wisely and a twenty-year foul-up resulted. [92] 

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Continuing Rebuttal Activity

McDonald also recruited others to help in the rebuttal. He asked Hall if there was anything that needed doing which William Bickel, a professor of Physics at the UA, might work on? He said Bickel's area was plasma spectroscopy and he wanted to help. [93]  By this time McDonald's ideas regarding the size of the rebuttal were grandiose. He spoke in terms of 300 pages, [94]  while Hall considered 150-200 pages the optimum length. [95] 

One might ask of what this rebuttal work consisted. To provide some idea of what took place the following letter from McDonald to Ted Bloecher at NICAP is presented in full. [96] 

Unfortunately, from McDonald's standpoint, after several months of effort both on his part and on NICAP's, administrative problems at NICAP forced the rebuttal to a halt. Nevertheless, the output from its preparation provided McDonald with a great deal of grist for his verbal and written critiques of the Condon Report.

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February 26, 1969

Mr. Ted Bloecher
N.I.C.A.P.
1536 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Ted:

There are several points to briefly mention concerning cases that I have recently been checking.

  1. I talked with Tom Nicholl, Leawood, Kansas, and was well-impressed with him. There were only a few details over and above his rather complete report that I got over the phone. Mainly, I feel that it can be treated as a fairly solid report and an interesting indication of Condon's casual handling of such cases. We made a tentative date to have lunch together in Kansas City when I am speaking to the AIAA Section there in late May.

  2. Some weeks ago you sent me NICAP file material on the 3/25/66 sighting in Ann Arbor by Grenier and others. I have now talked with Grenier and with Kartlick who works at a University of Michigan lab (supported by NASA) but not correctly called a NASA Lab). Sounds like a strong case and I am getting further information from both of them on it. Dr. Espey, whose tergiversations with respect to swamp gas are an amusing facet of that case is no longer in Ann Arbor. Kartlick will try to locate him for me.

  3. Finding the 3/25 incident more impressive than I would have guessed, I reviewed the short section in the Condon Report dealing with the March, 1966 wave in Michigan. The more I pondered Condon's casual rehash of the Air Force statement plus Bland's suggestion that maybe it was swamp gas after all, the more annoyed I became. There was the series of sightings which led directly to the creation of the Condon Committee and he passes it off with a page and one half most of it direct from Air Force press personnel.

    So last Sunday I called Frank Mannor. Briefly, that has led me into an intensive recheck on the Dexter-Hillsdale sightings, and it has left me boiling mad at Allen Hynek. Quite by chance Allen, passing through Tucson, called me from the airport a few days ago and I gave him some of my sentiments directly.

    I have interviewed Mannor, Dexter police chief Taylor, Deputy Fitzpatrick, Hillsdale Civil Defense Director VanHorn, Sheriff Harvey, Sgt. Schneider, Hillsdale College Director of Public Affairs Ferguson, Deputy McFadden, and there are three or four more whom I am still hunting down including Mrs. Kelly Hearn of the Hillsdale sighting, Nolen Lee, and Robert Hunawill.

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    I am digging into this because it is one more point of critique and rebuttal of the Condon Report which I now believe warrants strong emphasis. It also discloses the abysmal Condon-like prejudices that Hynek brought to that case and that characterize so much of his pre-1966 Bluebook work. I can't take time to even give you the highlights of what are now about 20 pages of telephone notes from this interviewing, except to say that it is one more incredible facet of the UFO problem.

    If in the NICAP files you have anything from Mrs. Kelly Hearn, who I have yet to locate, I would very much appreciate copies. I see no point in asking you to copy what must be an extremely large file of material on the Michigan cases. However, if in going through it you should see any gems that you would guess that I have never studied, obviously I would be interested.

  1. But there is one matter that I would like to ask you and Dick and Isabel to try to help me on, if possible. It's a detail in the 6/29/54 BOAC stratocruiser case. I just got a tape of the audio of the BBC-TV and I have listened carefully to the interview with Capt. James Howard. I have also gone over an article which was published In 1955 in Stag magazine, which was written by Howard "as told to" some writer. I have only one or two contemporary clippings on it, plus the other obvious references in the Evidence, etc.

    An extremely important detail, that may serve to explode completely Thayer's mirage explanation concerns the height of the cloud tops below the stratocruiser. He was at 19,000 ft, and in the Stag article he states that the cloud tops were down around 5,000 ft. Do you know of any information that would tend to confirm cloud heights that low? I have calculated, from standard refraction theory, the horizon dip-angle for any of a number of assumed cloud deck altitudes. If the cloud tops lay anywhere below about 17,000 or 18,000 feet the dip-angle is so large that Thayer's suggestion of a superior mirage from an assumed overlying inversion layer is absurd. Can you help me at all on this?

    If in going through the NICAP or the CSI files you locate anything in the way of any substantial press interviews or other articles in addition to the Stag article, I would greatly appreciate getting copies.

    I wrote to Captain Howard, c/o BOAC, several weeks ago, and then followed up with another letter about two weeks later. I want to get directly from him, if possible, information on those clouds. To date, no answer. I may write him again in about a week.

My California trip and other matters have gotten in the way of further writing of my RESA draft. I am getting back to it now.

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I can't take time and space to elaborate, but I have some very interesting information on the Kirtland case (page 141 in the Bantam edition), as well as the 5/13 Colorado Springs radar case. Also, Norm Levine has sent very relevant commentary on the Kincheloe case. I have so much material to discuss that my principal problem is how to boil it down.

Best regards,


James E. McDonald
Senior Physicist

JEM:mlt

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Nor did he give up on showing the Air Force the error of its ways. Probably his revised position with respect to the poor scientific advice provided in the past spurred him on. In the same time-frame as his attempts to critique the CU study he again knocked on the Air Force door. He informed William Price at AFOSR that he would be in Washington from June 9-11 for an NSF Advisory Panel Meeting on the Atmospheric Sciences and requested Price to arrange a colloquium on UFOs for interested AFOSR personnel. He told Price that after four months of checking he was very concerned about the Condon Report. [97]  Price said the Air Force no longer had responsibility in the area, but McDonald could confer with the OAR and AFOSR people who handled the CU contract. [98] 

Of paramount importance to McDonald was the anticipated Air Force action on the Condon recommendations. He spoke at the AFOSR giving a critique of the Condon Report and told Price that since the Condon recommendations did not rule out further studies if properly designed, that he would submit a proposal for funding. [99]  A Colonel Whitfield Martin wrote to McDonald some time later informing him that the AFOSR had no responsibility for UFOs and so he could not encourage the submission of a proposal. [100] 

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The CU Data Controversy

In his continuing effort to check cases in the Condon Report McDonald became involved in another imbroglio. One of the problems with the Condon Report, at least in the eyes of those interested in reinvestigation of cases, was the fact that witness names were not used and the geographic location of the sighting was given as a section, such as the Northwest United States. Condon claimed he adopted this approach so that witnesses would not be harassed after publication of the report. Some of the cases investigated were well enough known, however,

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that McDonald could determine from the above information alone who to contact. Yet, others were more obscure and it was to obtain information on these cases that he contacted Dr. Ralph Ellsworth.

He phoned Ellsworth, head of Norlin Library at CU, to check some cases in the Project files which Condon presented to the Western Historical Collection in Norlin. Ellsworth indicated McDonald needed Condon's permission to examine the material. McDonald thereupon wrote Condon asking to see the files in May and/or June. [101]  Condon replied that McDonald could not consult the files because, "it is not our intention to make them publicly available in the near future." [102] 

This undoubtedly brought McDonald to a slow boil. He had already obtained copies of the radar cases analyzed by Gordon Thayer in the Condon Report from Blue Book, but the witness names were excised. He argued to Condon that because the project had access to the names and because the copies of the Blue Book files held at Norlin were not a direct outgrowth of the project that he should be permitted access. [103]  This argument did not persuade Condon. He reiterated that project files would not be opened in the near future, especially the Blue Book files. He asserted it would be inappropriate to do so since the Air Force kept witness names confidential. To get McDonald's hackles up he forwarded a copy of his American Philosophical Society paper on UFOs in which he placed UFOs in the category of occult nonsense. [104]

To this McDonald responded by going over Condon's head. He contacted Morris Udall who spoke with Secretary of the Air Force Seamans and Representative Moss who chaired the House Freedom of Information Subcommittee. He also forwarded Condon critiques of the Report and told him that, "your Philadelphia and Irvine talks indicate you must have no

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real awareness of the weakness of the position you have developed" and "in giving the Academy such a Report, I believe you did science a direct disservice. That the Academy processes could lead to endorsement is disturbing." [105]  In a terse note Condon thanked him for the enclosures and advised McDonald of the termination of the correspondence. [106]  This is the beginning of the CU data controversy.

Even though this only brings us halfway through 1969 it is as far as McDonald's correspondence goes in that year with respect to the Condon Study, although it picks up again in mid-1970. This is largely due to his involvement in the SST debate, his preparation for the 1969 AAAS UFO Symposium and his battle with Philip Klass.

The CU data controversy is the last extended interaction of McDonald with the CU project other than his intermittent public talks, his Icarus review which put his criticism in a respected scientific journal [107]  and his AAAS paper presented in Boston in December 1969. Therefore, this chapter will close by following his efforts to obtain access to the Condon Project data in 1970 and 1971 and omit mention of any other extant, but limited activities relating to the Condon Report.

In 1970 McDonald continued to develop his personal rebuttal to the Condon Report. Failing to secure satisfaction from Secretary of the Air Force Seamans and Congressman Moss, in June of 1970, after waiting a year, he made another request of Ellsworth at Norlin Library to access the Xeroxed Blue Book files which were part of the Condon Project material. [108]  He considered this a propitious time to act because of Condon's recent retirement and he (McDonald) intended to travel to NCAR in Boulder for a meeting in mid-July. [109]  John Brennan, Curator of the Western Historical Collection, replied for Ellsworth explaining that the

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files could not be made available because the Library continued to operate under the 4/22/69 instructions given by Condon. [110] 

This attempt aborted as did a personal conversation with Brennan on July 6 while visiting NCAR on business; nevertheless, McDonald did not consider this the end of the matter. He wrote Ellsworth again using a slightly different approach. This time he pointed out that the Blue Book cases were archived at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama which meant they were available, but he stated that he had no reason to be in that area of the country. However, he said he would be in Boulder in late August and asked Ellsworth to obtain Condon's permission to Xerox two to three dozen cases. [111] 

In reference to this problem in a letter to Saunders, McDonald revealed the rationale behind his request. "I'm asking if I can see just the Blue Book Xeroxes alone. Since those items are not really research material generated by the Condon Project, but rather provided at no cost by a government agency, it would seem that my plea can't be brushed aside as unreasonable." [112] 

Ellsworth responded that he asked Condon's permission and awaited a reply. [113]  McDonald informed Ellsworth that he would be in Fort Collins for an American Meteorological Society meeting from August 24-28 and in Boulder during September. He enclosed a list of the cases he wanted to look at. [114]  Several days later Ellsworth indicated to McDonald that Condon refused access on the grounds that a confidential relationship existed with the Air Force, but if the Air Force were to agree and the material could be sorted out, it would be alright. Ellsworth said that unfortunately the Library did not have the money or the staff to do the

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sorting and so he suggested McDonald travel to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to acquire the material. [115] 

We can obtain a feeling for Condon's position on this matter by looking at the rationale he presented to Ellsworth for the above response. He stated, "I believe that the material consists of a mixed bag that needs a lot of sorting. If there are some rough notes of the Colorado Project fieldwork in it, I would expect him (McDonald) to pounce on that and criticize our mode of handling it."

"But more formally, a refusal can be based on the fact that the Air Force cases were given to us in confidence with the understanding that names of persons involved in the cases would not be disclosed, so to let him see the files would be to violate our understanding." [116] 

McDonald reacted to the Ellsworth letter by writing Colonel William Coleman at SAFOI in Washington to ask permission to Xerox the Blue Book material. [117]  He forwarded a carbon to Ellsworth and told him that Saunders claimed the files were ordered in such a way as to minimize the staff time involved in sorting the material. [118]  Coleman's answer was to the effect that McDonald could have access to the material if it could be worked out with the University of Colorado. [119]  Ellsworth followed this up by saying that it was alright with him but McDonald still needed Condon's consent. [120] 

Finally Condon personally entered the fray. He told McDonald that the project files were not a part of the Norlin collection, but were only in storage there until he could decide what to do with them. He went on to say, "On the basis of my previous experiences in dealing with you I have decided that you will not be given access to any of this material. As I read the fourth paragraph of Colonel Coleman's letter

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the names and addresses of witnesses are confidential. We have no machinery for administering this provision of their regulations." [121] 

McDonald actually received the above letter from Condon on August 25. On August 24 while in Boulder he went to Norlin to determine if he could have access to the files. He was told that Condon removed them from the Library. He wrote Condon reiterating his position that he only wanted Blue Book Xeroxes, was already working with similar material from Maxwell and, according to Ellsworth's 7/24/70 letter, only needed Air Force permission and the cooperation of the CU staff to get the files. He said that since his prior correspondence made it clear that he had access to Maxwell material, and Coleman's letter only dealt with the disclosure of witness names in the scientific literature, and not with the examination of the files, he found Condon's refusal on the grounds that he had "no machinery for administering this provision of their regulations" difficult to understand.

He asserted that he still wanted the material and claimed Condon reversed himself on the conditions for access which he had previously laid down. McDonald wanted to know if Condon thought the files were his private property and, if so, if he considered it his right to destroy them? [122] 

This closed the debate for 1970 because Condon never replied. There is only one more chapter to the story. It came in February 1971. Gordon Thayer, who did the radar case analyses for the Condon Report and later had some second thoughts on the UFO problem, agreed to write up the classic Lakenheath, England radar case for the journal Aeronautics and Astronautics of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He called McDonald for a copy of the Blue Book file, for by that time

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McDonald had made several trips to Maxwell, but McDonald told him to get it from Condon since he (Thayer) worked at ESSA in Boulder. Thayer replied that he asked Condon and was told that the files were too bulky to store so he had destroyed them. [123]  McDonald was furious, but to no avail. The attempt to guide the Condon Study and then to rebut its findings was over. McDonald lost, but what did he try to do, and how did he try to do it?

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 BACK to Top


SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

He operated within the framework established in the last chapter. With this strategy he intended to legitimate UFO research and in the process shift a paradigm. To accomplish this he tried to insure a favorable outcome to the Condon Study. For it was a well-recognized fact that the Boulder project would determine the future funding policies for the examination of UFO data in the short run and possibly for decades. McDonald knew that, because at all the federal agencies where he took his case they told him "to wait for Colorado." The answer seemed to be, then, to offer aid and guidance if necessary, through the completion of the research.

McDonald used several tactics beginning in 1967 and continuing through early 1971. In the beginning he offered Condon aid both to help and to monitor CU. When that failed he offered what he considered constructive criticism. Then he engineered a confrontation with Condon and concurrent with all three of the above tactics he took his case to higher authority in the form of the NAS. Finally, after all else failed McDonald went about the task of developing a rebuttal to the final report.

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In March of 1967 McDonald offered to brief Condon and asked him to appear on the American Society of Newspaper Editors Panel with Menzel and Quintanllla, but Condon refused on both counts. A month later he publicly stated that Condon did not spend much time on the project and in August, after considerable persevering. Low asked him to brief the project staff. He came away convinced that the project was in trouble. Condon reinforced this feeling the following month when he gave his infamous NBS talk about which McDonald protested to Low.

Condon's NBS talk was apparently a turning point, for after that McDonald met with Saunders and Levine in early November and talked of engineering a confrontation. This did not materialize until two months later when McDonald sent his letter critical of the CU project administration and of the Low memo to Low. The letter caused Condon to fire Saunders and Levine which resulted in their combining with McDonald and Fuller to prepare the Look article exposing the inner workings of the project. This, McDonald hoped, might turn the project around.

While Saunders and Levine began legal action against Condon so did McDonald. The latter felt that Condon owed him an apology for claiming that he forced Saunders and Levine to steal the Low memo. Eventually he discontinued the suit claiming that it was a poor tactic in a primarily scientific matter.

McDonald's appeal to the NAS took place at the same time as the above tactics. This was the result of his fear that things were not what they should have been in Boulder. Condon's February 1967 talk to the Corning Glass Ware Chapter of the [Sigma Chi Iota] Honorary Fraternity exacerbated these fears. This began McDonald's appeals to the NAS.

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He wrote Philip Seitz, president of the NAS, in March to explain that he wanted to brief Seitz on the UFO situation because he didn't want the NAS to be caught unprepared when the issue broke and the public began to ask questions. He obtained a hearing with Seitz in April, prior to which he forwarded some of his UFO work and a list of his speaking engagements to impress the NAS president with the degree of seriousness he imputed to the problem. McDonald's pleas proved of little avail, so he bided his time for several more months.

However, after his visit to Boulder in August he came away saddened by Condon's attitude and wrote Seitz again. This time he asked that the NAS set up a special review panel to look at UFO case material independent of the Condon Study. Again Seitz told him to wait for the results of Condon's research. That he could not do, for he saw what he believed were progressively deteriorating conditions at CU. So he engineered a confrontation over the Low memo and followed this with another letter to Seitz in February 1968. He enclosed his 1/31/68 letter to Low which started the skirmish at CU (getting Saunders and Levine fired), the Low memo, and earlier letters on the Condon Project sent to Sievers and Coleman, both NAS staffers. In McDonald's mind this constituted a preamble to the detailed criticism of CU which would follow.

At this stage of the NAS appeal he feared Keyhoe might bring the press into it. He wrote him not to do so, and indicated that it could be pursued quietly at the NAS level. McDonald expected action, but got none; he thought the study should be stopped, but Seitz said it should run its course. He assumed publication of the May Look article on the Low memo would finally force the NAS to do something, yet again nothing happened. As the months passed and the situation continued to look grave McDonald

[[170b]]

became sufficiently worried about the problem that in October he contacted Representative Roush's administrative assistant, Phyllis O'Callaghan to ask her to obtain the names of the NAS Panelists who would review the Condon Report so that he could contact them. Moreover, he talked Saunders' publisher into forwarding the galleys of Saunders' forthcoming book on the Colorado Project to the NAS. Then he followed this up a month later with an offer to Seitz of a critique of the Condon Project for the NAS Review Panel. This was at a time when he realized that he could not learn the names of the panel members.

Seitz told him that his testimony at the July 1968 House Hearings would be adequate to present his position to the Review Panel, but McDonald claimed it would be inadequate and again asked for the identities of the panelists. Before he received a reply he made a last effort to convey what he considered vital information to the panel. He asked Seitz in the last letter of his appeal to insure that the Panel obtained copies of the 1/31/68 letter to Low and his 2/9/68 and 3/5/68 letters to Seitz.

Such were the tactics when it appeared that the Condon Report might be reformed or exposed prior to its publication. By October 1968, however, it seemed highly probable to McDonald that the Colorado findings would be negative. Consequently, he began to prod Hall about rechecking CU cases in order to get out a good rebuttal. He felt that if it did not come out rapidly it would have a minimal impact. Moreover, a good critique of the Report was necessary if the academic UFO research organization which he contemplated were to flourish in a post-Condon environment. Since they were starting early McDonald told Hall to keep the rebuttal

[[170c]]

cases quiet. He wanted to avoid the possibility that the rumors would reach Boulder and result in the omission of the rebutted cases from the Report.

When the Condon Report appeared in January 1969 McDonald went through it in a week and began to contact academics to speak against it. He spoke to government, military and academic audiences (eighteen talks between January and June) to prepare them for the prospective rebuttal. Along with Hynek and Saunders he did a Voice of America tape critical of the Report and he attempted to recruit disaffected Project members to speak out against the research.

Finally, McDonald began to recheck sighting reports which led him to the battle with Condon over the Xeroxed Blue Book cases, which were probably just an excuse to get into the general project files. Before resolution of the issue occurred he appealed to Ellsworth, head of Norlin Library, Condon, Representative Morris Udall, Secretary of the Air Force Seamans, Representative Moss and Colonel Coleman at SAFOIS. Yet, despite his efforts Condon eventually won the day by destroying the material.

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SUMMARY OF TACTICS

Aid to the Project

  1. Numerous offers of briefings.
  2. An actual briefing.
  3. Forwarded his UFO papers.
  4. Talked with Price and Ratchford.

[[170d]]

Exposure of Project

  1. Attempted to get Condon to sit on the ASNE panel.
  2. Claimed Condon did not spend much time on the Project.
  3. Protested Condon's Corning Glass Works talk.
  4. Protested Condon's NBS talk.
  5. Engineered the confrontation over the Low memo.
  6. Contributed to the Look expose article.
  7. Provided Philip Boffey of Science material for an article.

The NAS

  1. Appealed to Seitz at the NAS on several occasions
  2. Told Keyhoe to keep the protest at the NAS level.
  3. Had Saunders' publisher send his galleys to the NAS.
  4. Offered the NAS a critique of the CU project.
  5. Offered the NAS Review Panel correspondence critical of CU.
  6. Attempted to obtain the names of the NAS Review Panel members.

The Rebuttal

  1. Prodded Hall prior to publication of the Condon Report.
  2. Advised secrecy with respect to rechecked cases.
  3. Spoke against the Report 18 times between January and June 1969.
  4. Criticized the Report in a VOA tape with Hynek and Saunders.
  5. Rechecked cases.
  6. Sought out disaffected project members to speak against the Report.
  7. Appealed to Condon and others for access to the Blue Book Xeroxes.

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[[170e]]

FOOTNOTES

  1. Hall to McDonald, 1/31/67, McDonald Letters, hereafter M.L.Back To Text

  2. Condon to Keyhoe, 2/2/67, NICAP files.Back To Text

  3. McDonald to Seitz, 3/2/67, M.L.Back To Text

  4. Hall to Keyhoe, 3/2/67, NICAP files.Back To Text

  5. McDonald to Condon, 3/8/67, M.L.Back To Text

  6. McDonald to Low, 3/8/67, M.L.Back To Text

  7. Seitz to McDonald, 3/22/67, M.L.Back To Text

  8. Low to McDonald, 3/23/67, M.L.Back To Text

  9. McDonald to Noyes, 3/29/67, M.L.Back To Text

  10. McDonald to Seitz, 4/3/67, M.L.Back To Text

  11. Low to McDonald, 4/25/67, M.L.Back To Text

  12. McDonald to O'Brien, 5/4/67, M.L.Back To Text

  13. McDonald to Armstrong, 8/11/67, M.L.Back To Text

  14. McDonald to Hall, 8/15/67, Hall Letters, hereafter H.L.Back To Text

  15. McDonald to Hughes, 8/17/67, M.L.Back To Text

  16. Armstrong to McDonald, 8/17/67, M.L.Back To Text

  17. McDonald to Seitz, 8/23/67, M.L.Back To Text

  18. Bickel to McDonald, 9/20/67, M.L.Back To Text

  19. McDonald to Low, 9/22/67, M.L.Back To Text

  20. McDonald to Keyhoe, 10/2/67, M.L.Back To Text

  21. McDonald to Sagan, 10/10/67, M.L.Back To Text

  22. Hartmann to McDonald, 10/11/67, M.L. notes on a phone conversation.Back To Text

  23. The New York Times, 10/16/67, Section A, p. 10.Back To Text

  24. McDonald to Levine, 10/31/67, M.L.Back To Text

  25. Levine to McDonald, 11/1/67, M.L.Back To Text

  26. Keyhoe to Condon, 11/14/67, NICAP files.Back To Text

[[171]]

  1. McDonald to Saunders, 11/27/67, M.L.Back To Text

  2. Condon to Keyhoe, 12/8/67, and Low to Keyhoe, 12/8/67, NICAP files.Back To Text

  3. McDonald to Michel, 12/11/67, M.L.Back To Text

  4. McDonald to Michel, 12/28/67, M.L.Back To Text

  5. McDonald to Low, 1/31/68, M.L.Back To Text

  6. McDonald to Hall, 1/31/68, H.L.Back To Text

  7. McDonald to Condon, 2/9/68, M.L.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Seitz, 2/9/68, M.L.Back To Text

  9. McDonald to Saunders and Levine, 2/11/68, M.L.Back To Text

  10. McDonald to Coleman, 2/11/68, M.L.Back To Text

  11. McDonald to Keyhoe, 2/11/68, M.L.Back To Text

  12. McDonald to Hughes, 2/11/68, M.L.Back To Text

  13. Seitz to McDonald, 2/15/68, M.L.Back To Text

  14. Condon to McDonald, 2/15/68, M.L.Back To Text

  15. McDonald to Hughes, 2/18/68, M.L.Back To Text

  16. F. Saunders to McDonald, 2/18/68, M.L.Back To Text

  17. McDonald to Michel, 2/22/68, M.L.Back To Text

  18. McDonald to Bowen, 2/22/66, M.L.Back To Text

  19. McDonald to Hughes, 2/24/68, M.L.Back To Text

  20. McDonald to Hall, 2/24/68, H.L.Back To Text

  21. Armstrong to Condon, 2/24/68, M.L.Back To Text

  22. Condon to Armstrong, 2/26/68, M.L.Back To Text

  23. William Messing to Condon, 2/28/68, M.L.Back To Text

  24. McDonald to Hall, 3/5/68, H.L.Back To Text

  25. McDonald to Fuller, 3/5/68, M.L.Back To Text

  26. McDonald to Condon, 3/5/68, M.L.Back To Text

  27. McDonald to Low, 3/5/68, M.L.Back To Text

[[172]]

  1. McDonald to Seitz, 3/5/68, M.L.Back To Text

  2. Condon to McDonald, 3/11/68, M.L.Back To Text

  3. McDonald to Fuller, 3/15/68, M.L.Back To Text

  4. McDonald to Fuller, 3/18/68, M.L.Back To Text

  5. McDonald to Hall, 3/18/68, H.L.Back To Text

  6. McDonald to Hall, 4/27/68, H.L.Back To Text

  7. McDonald to Hall, 5/8/68, H.L.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Hall, 5/18/68, H.L.Back To Text

  9. Letter to Science, "UFO Story: Is Propriety the Issue?" Daniel Greenberg, Science, 10/25/68, p. 410.Back To Text

  10. Letter to Science, "Irrational Public Debates," Lewis Branscomb, Science, 9/27/68, p. 1297.Back To Text

  11. McDonald to Boffey, 6/10/68, M.L.Back To Text

  12. Philip Boffey, "UFO Project: Trouble on the Ground," Science, 7/26/68, pp. 339-42.Back To Text

  13. Roush to Seitz, 6/20/68, M.L.Back To Text

  14. McDonald to Saunders, 6/25/68, M.L.Back To Text

  15. Cote to McDonald, 8/3/68, M.L.Back To Text

  16. O'Callaghan to McDonald, 10/17/68, M.L.Back To Text

  17. McDonald to Hughes, 10/21/68, M.L.Back To Text

  18. McDonald to O'Callaghan, 10/21/68, M.L.Back To Text

  19. McDonald to Hall, 10/21/68, H.L.Back To Text

  20. McDonald to Hughes, 10/28/68, M.L.Back To Text

  21. McDonald to Hughes, 11/18/68, M.L. (EDITOR'S NOTE: This document not cited in text.)Back To Text

  22. McDonald to Hall, 11/20/68, H.L.Back To Text

  23. McDonald to Saunders, 11/20/68, M.L.Back To Text

  24. McDonald to Hall, 11/26/68, M.L.Back To Text

  25. McDonald to Seitz, 11/29/68, M.L.Back To Text

  26. McDonald to Hall, 12/1/68, H.L.Back To Text

[[173]]

  1. Hall to McDonald, 12/2/68, M.L.Back To Text

  2. Seitz to McDonald, 12/4/68, M.L.Back To Text

  3. McDonald to Seitz, 12/10/68, M.L.Back To Text

  4. McDonald to Malone, 12/9/68, M.L.Back To Text

  5. McDonald to Seitz, 12/16/68, M.L.Back To Text

  6. Seitz to McDonald, 12/16/68, M.L.Back To Text

  7. McDonald to Malone, 12/20/68, M.L.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Seitz, 1/7/69, M.L.Back To Text

  9. E.U. Condon, Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, New York: Bantam Books, 1969, p. 1.Back To Text

  10. McDonald to Hall, 1/21/69, H.L.Back To Text

  11. McDonald to Hartmann, 2/10/69, M.L.Back To Text

  12. Hartmann to McDonald, 2/12/69, M.L.Back To Text

  13. McDonald to Hughes, 2/16/69, M.L.Back To Text

  14. McDonald to Hall, 2/18/69, H.L.Back To Text

  15. McDonald to Hall, 3/9/69, H.L.Back To Text

  16. Hall to McDonald, 3/14/69, M.L.Back To Text

  17. McDonald to Bloecher, 2/26/69, M.L.Back To Text

  18. McDonald to Price, 5/22/69, M.L.Back To Text

  19. Price to McDonald, 5/29/69, M.L.Back To Text

  20. McDonald to Price, 6/13/69, M.L.Back To Text

  21. Martin to McDonald, 6/18/69, M.L.Back To Text

  22. McDonald to Condon, 4/15/69, M.L.Back To Text

  23. Condon to McDonald, 4/22/69, M.L.Back To Text

  24. McDonald to Condon, 5/13/69, M.L.Back To Text

  25. Condon to McDonald, 5/23/69, M.L.Back To Text

  26. McDonald to Condon, 6/6/69, M.L.Back To Text

  27. Condon to McDonald, 6/12/69, M.L.Back To Text

[[174]]

  1. James E. McDonald, "Review of the Condon Committee Report," Icarus, November, 1969, pp. 447-50.Back To Text

  2. McDonald to Ellsworth, 6/23/70, M.L.Back To Text

  3. McDonald to Levine, 6/29/70, M.L.Back To Text

  4. Brennan to McDonald, 6/29/70, M.L.Back To Text

  5. McDonald to Ellsworth, 7/10/70, M.L.Back To Text

  6. McDonald to Saunders, '7/13/70, M.L.Back To Text

  7. Ellsworth to McDonald, 7/17/70, M.L.Back To Text

  8. McDonald to Ellsworth, 7/21/70, M.L.Back To Text

  9. Ellsworth to McDonald, 7/24/70, M.L.Back To Text

  10. Condon to Ellsworth, 7/22/70, Norlin Library files of the Western Historical Collection.Back To Text

  11. McDonald to Coleman, 7/30/70, M.L.Back To Text

  12. McDonald to Ellsworth, 7/30/70, M.L.Back To Text

  13. Coleman to McDonald, 8/7/70, M.L.Back To Text

  14. Ellsworth to McDonald, 8/10/70, M.L.Back To Text

  15. Condon to McDonald, 8/10/70, M.L.Back To Text

  16. McDonald to Condon, 10/14/70, M.L.Back To Text

  17. McDonald to Saunders, 2/3/71, M.L.Back To Text

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[[175]]