History of Events
Summary and Conclusions
Summary of Tactics
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The genesis of the ONR controversy is difficult to pinpoint. On the one hand we have Philip Klass' explanation that as a concerned taxpayer he wondered why the ONR used tax money to support something as nonsensical as UFO research. On the other hand we have McDonald's interpretation of events which portrays him as a victim of writer's pique on Klass' part. They held competing theories of the UFO phenomenon, according to McDonald, and when Klass, untrained in atmospheric physics, could not defend himself against McDonald's rigorous attacks he turned to an indirect counterattack.

The explication which follows is not an attempt to settle the matter one way or the other. Rather it is an opportunity to observe various ramifications of McDonald's borderland science undertaking. It is my belief that both McDonald and Klass are examples of scientific extremists. By this I mean that McDonald enjoyed nothing more than being an iconoclast and upsetting a well entrenched apple cart. Klass, to the contrary it would appear, took great pleasure in upholding the tried and true, and ridiculing those who deviated from the straight and narrow through his use of sarcasm and appeals to authority.

When these two met, head-on so to speak, there had to be a battle. McDonald viewed the UFO phenomenon as the most important scientific problem of the twentieth century. He believed in 1966 and 1967 that the time was ripe to "break it wide open." Klass, as well as other critics, he viewed as impediments to the crusade who needed to be dealt with. This he began to do in Klass' case in October of 1966 with


several critical letters following the August 22, 1966 Aviation Week and Space Technology article on UFOs in which Klass proposed his ball lightning hypothesis  [1] 

Although Klass entertained the ball lightning hypothesis as early as March 1966, [2]  and possibly earlier, it would appear that the first time he interjected himself into the McDonald-NICAP milieu was in August of that year when he interviewed Hall. [3]  Plans for a book were probably already stirring in Klass' mind, so both he and McDonald were beginning to have an increasingly larger stake in defending their respective positions. In the ensuing months they exchanged a number of letters, but once Klass' second article appeared in October, from McDonald's perspective, the lines were drawn. He subsequently addressed himself to the ball lightning hypothesis in all his talks and arranged to teach a course on ball lightning at the UA in order to keep abreast of the phenomenon. Klass, for his part, managed to attend several of McDonald's talks in the Washington area and ask what he considered embarrassing questions related to ball lightning.

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The Principal Issue
Klass Raises the Issue
McDonald Responds
The JEM White Papers
Klass Queries ONR
DOD Involvement
Contract Audit
Final Exchanges

The Principal Issue

We can pick up the story in mid-1967 where the principal issue began to surface: did McDonald appropriate funds from his ONR contract for atmospheric physics research to finance his UFO work? It is difficult to determine what triggered Klass' pursuit of this matter, but it would appear that McDonald's ONR sponsored trip to Australia in late June, 1967 put him on the track.

Some time in early June McDonald wrote a memo to Bob Low at CU to inform him of the upcoming trip. Unbeknownst to McDonald this memo


found its way to Klass' file labeled "Affair McDonald" and annotated "very interesting!"  [4] This undoubtedly marks the beginning of what would eventually develop into eighteen months of on and off trauma for Klass, McDonald, Hughes and various bureaucrats at the ONR.

Prior to the trip McDonald told Hughes that he planned to visit several UFO groups, speak to a number of academic seminars and interview as many witnesses to UFO sightings as he could while in Australia. [5] On his return he said that:

The UFO situation in the Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania area is essentially the same as in the United States. I found the same types of UFO phenomena, the same predominance of discs and cigar shaped objects, the same type of carstopping incidents, and so on. There were many good cases, and before I left I had checked almost all of the "classic" Australian UFO episodes.

He commented that several dispatches which emanated from Australia based on various radio and TV appearances he made were distorted. He referred to the fact that someone quoted him to the effect that the ONR sent him to Australia to look into the UFO situation. To McDonald's regret Klass would hear of these quotes and they would provide him with more evidence for his claims of financial malfeasance.

McDonald also discussed the renewal of his ONR contract for 1968. This is quite relevant because he said: [6]

On that point, let me ask you if it isn't possible now for ONR to "make me an honest man" with respect to my UFO research. In view of the somewhat altered climate of opinion about UFOs, can't we bring my work out in the open and make it an explicit part of my next year's work? I would particularly like to use ONR funds to publish some scientific reports here on certain aspects of my findings. I keep thinking about the strictures of publishing in the journals, space limitations always being so severe. I think it would be very profitable to begin putting out, for the limited distribution that our Institute Scientific Reports typically enjoys, some detailed discussions of the parts of the problem


on which I've been working so intensively. I'd like to hear from you as to whether it will be O.K. for me to cite such objectives in the contract proposal that I shall have to be submitting very shortly. I have run out of my $1,300 of local money many weeks ago, and am now operating (primarily on telephone tolls and travel) on my ONR funds. It looks like the contract funds will go to a flat zero by the end of the contract period, incidentally.

At this point Hughes and possibly others at the ONR knew of McDonald's use of contract funds to do his UFO work. It would seem that there is no question but that it did occur. The question which does arise, however, is whether this was a sub rosa effort on the part of the Navy to keep abreast of UFO happenings and get in on the ground floor of the "big break through," solely an attempt by Hughes to keep the ONR competitive with the Air Force, or a favor from Hughes to McDonald for the advancement of science. Although these questions are beyond the purview of this study, the knowledge that McDonald used his ONR funds for UFO research is pertinent background to the strategies and tactics employed by McDonald and Hughes in their skirmish with Klass.

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Klass Raises the Issue

Klass took the offensive in December by writing Russ Greenbaum, the public information officer at the ONR. He provided six quotes from McDonald in the period September, 1966 through September, 1967 (from McDonald's papers or tapes of his lectures) in which McDonald asserted he spent full time pursuing the UFO question. Klass asked: [7]

Since McDonald also carries on a teaching schedule, or so he told me on April 22, 1967, and has repeatedly made statements that he is spending essentially full time on the UFO problem, WHEN DOES HE FIND TIME TO WORK ON THE $38,000 OFFICE OF NAVAL RESEARCH CONTRACT TO STUDY CLOUD PHYSICS? Was McDonald's heavy commitment to UFO research known to ONR in November 1966, at the time the $38,000 grant was made?


Notes from a phone conversation between Klass and Greenbaum indicate that McDonald gave the ONR some answers pertaining to his media exposure in Australia and to what he called confusion on their (the media's) part as to his purpose for making the trip. Greenbaum told Klass his memo (Klass') went to Hughes who was "quite shook." Furthermore, Greenbaum told Hughes that the whole matter would have to go before the Research Director. He informed Klass that Hughes asked the UA for an accounting of McDonald's contract, but that Hughes had changed his story to the effect that there existed a connection between McDonald's trip and UFOs. Furthermore, Hughes would prepare a paper to demonstrate the connection. [8] 

Shortly thereafter Richard Kassander, Director of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the UA, wrote to Hughes explaining what McDonald did with his time and his grant money. Klass apparently received a Xerox from Greenbaum.

The letter emphasized that McDonald put in a 60 or 70 hour week and consequently he could easily claim that he worked full time on UFOs while still having time to fulfill his UA and ONR obligations. Kassander listed the various pieces of research either McDonald or graduate students advised by him completed or collaborated on and related this work to the ONR contract. He further argued that the ONR contract covered work in Atmospheric Physics, not Cloud Physics, and said:

I believe it has always been clearly understood that irrespective of one's interest in UFOs, per se, a great deal of information is to be gained on atmospheric optics, radar propagation, and atmospheric electricity from a careful study of reported UFO sightings.


Lastly, Kassander outlined what McDonald did while in Australia focusing on his visits to Radiophysics Division CSIRO, Sydney, Division of Meteorological Physics, Melbourne and Camden Labs of the Upper Atmospheric Laboratory of CSIRO in Sydney. He mentioned both McDonald's UFO talks and the witness interviewing he did, relating the latter to optical and electrical processes. [9]

However, McDonald did not satisfy Klass that easily. The latter spoke with Greenbaum on December 19, 1967 about the above letter and the next day offered Greenbaum additional aid in pinning down McDonald. He provided copies of McDonald's October 19, 1966 AMS talk in which McDonald claimed that atmospheric phenomena such as rare electrical effects, clouds and plasma effects did not explain UFOs. Klass claimed, in other words, that McDonald's own words refuted the claims of Kassander that his atmospheric physics work related to UFOs. Klass concluded: [10]

Let me emphasize again that I do not question McDonald's right to believe what he will about UFOs, nor do I suggest that his views in any way diminish his skills as a cloud physicist. What I do question is whether ONR is really funding UFO research under the guise of cloud physics, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Some time between December 19 and January 5, 1968 Klass learned from Greenbaum that ONR would not formally terminate McDonald's contract, but would let it expire. The ONR pursued this course rather than have it appear to be questioning the word of the UA or challenging academic freedom. Klass told Low in a "Strictly Personal" letter that this satisfied him. He also explained the history of the dispute with ONR to that point. [11]


Much to Klass' surprise he received word from Greenbaum a week later that both the UA and the ONR felt satisfied that McDonald fulfilled his contract obligations. True, he used some of his UFO work to shed light on atmospheric physics problems, but it also related to contract objectives and in such situations ONR policy prohibited the direction of the research of any scientist under contract. [12]

To this turn of events Klass responded by reiterating his argument to Greenbaum concerning McDonald's previous position that atmospheric phenomena did not account for UFO sightings. He facetiously suggested that McDonald might have changed his mind and then asked if McDonald directed all his ONR funded UFO work to acquiring atmospheric physics knowledge. Quoting from the UA letter Greenbaum provided him Klass wanted to know if the "interviews with a number of witnesses of unusual atmospheric phenomena having possible bearing on optical and electrical processes" conducted by McDonald in Australia were the same UFO reports he cited in his briefing of the Condon Project staff? [13]

Although the storm blew over as far as McDonald could tell, he informed Hall that the grant of $1,000 Hall spoke of giving him "...would be of considerable tactical-political advantage...." He alluded briefly to the recent harassments by Klass. [14]  Evidence of the fact that he did not appreciate the gravity of his situation is found in a letter to Hughes which focused on the dire situation at CU (Saunders and Levine had just been terminated) and in which McDonald urged Hughes to get him funding for his UFO work because the contract continuation only provided phone money. [15] After he received the above mentioned $1,000 McDonald told Hall it would be helpful to


Dick Kassander when asked by state legislators how McDonald could spend full time on UFOs without any funding. He said it could also be used to throw Klass, "whose nibbling hasn't ceased, I understand," off the trail. [16]

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McDonald responds

Klass published a book on the UFO phenomenon in March of 1968. [17]  McDonald told Hughes that Klass took hard looks at some cases which appeared to be plasmas, but said he (McDonald) didn't consider them good UFO sightings. Nevertheless, he asserted that something might be learned about atmospheric electricity by funding research in the area. [18]  McDonald commented on Klass' book, which contained a ten page chapter solely on his interactions with Klass, because in a paper he recently presented at the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) Astronautics Symposium he devoted 18 single spaced pages to critiquing Klass' position. [19]

In his January 7, 1968 letter to Greenbaum Klass indicated that he wanted details of McDonald's Australian UFO interviews. Greenbaum worded his reply deftly. He said that the ONR only concerned itself with anomalous refraction phenomena which could cause UFO reports, not UFOs per se. He advised Klass to contact the UA or McDonald for sighting details. [20]

An indication that McDonald took his tiff with Klass seriously is shown by the zeal with which he attacked the above CASI critique. He mentioned to Hall that he intended to add to what he presented in Canada and would multigraph it thanks to Hall's grant. [21]  He also said that he would send it out to those interested in the UFO phenomenon and hoped NICAP would forward it to various editors and publishers. [22]


McDonald sent it to Robert Ross at the CASI with the request that he publish a revised version. [23]

McDonald carried his attack even further because he couldn't believe some of Klass' citations which were the result of letters from, or conversations with, noted authorities in atmospheric electricity. To ascertain the authenticity of these citations he wrote to the individuals whom Klass cited. For instance, he found that Marx Brook, a professor of physics at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, felt that Klass misunderstood him, [24]  while James Powell at Brookhaven and Martin Uman, a friend, who worked for Westinghouse Research Laboratories failed to reply. [25]  Whether they agreed with Klass, wanted to avoid getting drawn into the fray, or both, is unclear.

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The JEM White Papers

At approximately this time Klass initiated a new tactic. He sent to individuals active in the UFO field what he called "JEM White Papers." Between May 14, 1968 and August 21, 1968 he produced eleven of these one page statements directed at McDonald. In a number of these White Papers he claimed he caught McDonald changing his position without acknowledging it and indirectly accused him of lying. The papers were partly substantive, that is they addressed the issues, but primarily procedural, i.e., attempts to catch McDonald in a semantic trap or inconsistency. In several of these papers Klass discussed the UFO problem in a sarcastic manner and in two instances he presented his side of the ONR controversy. The White Papers usually began with a pithy quote meant to convey the flavor of what followed. For example, "Half The Truth Is Often A Great Lie," Ben Franklin; [26] 


"There Are Certain Persons For Who Pure Truth Is Poison," Andre Maurois; [27] and "One Falsehood Treads On The Heels Of Another," Terence. [28] McDonald claimed Klass could not address the scientific issues involved and so he resorted to this and the ONR expose. Klass argued that McDonald distorted the facts and lied when it suited him to discredit the plasma explanation of UFOs. But because he (Klass) did not have the access to forums which McDonald did, and because McDonald refused to debate him, Klass claimed there existed no other means but the White Papers to correct the false impressions McDonald created.

One incident related to the White Papers is worth mentioning. Apparently Klass put John Fuller on his list of recipients. After he received the first two White Papers Fuller wrote Klass to say he regretted Klass' need to stoop to smears to counter McDonald. He said he felt it was one thing to disagree with a man's theories, but quite another to attack him personally. [29]

Fuller forwarded copies of the White Papers and a letter of concern to Aviation Week publisher Bob Martin who said he would talk to Klass about the matter. [30] Klass replied to Fuller stating that it pleased him that Fuller did not disagree with the accuracy of the JEMs. He regretted Fuller's interpretation of their purpose, claiming he only wanted Fuller to have the opportunity to avoid being tarred with the same brush of events which was already in motion (ONR). As for Bob Martin, it pleased him that Klass continued in the Aviation Week tradition of "The Truth, Even When It Hurts." [31]  Fuller kept McDonald apprised of these events and he responded by forwarding two copies of


his CASI paper with the recommendation that Fuller send one to Bob Martin so that Martin could see "the real source of Phil's concern." [32]

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Klass Queries ONR

After three months of inaction on the ONR front Klass returned to the offensive in late June. He no doubt believed that Kassander's letter of December 16 outflanked him, but that McDonald could not back up the claims Kassander made for the great benefits accruing from the study of UFO reports. Referring to Kassander's letter he wrote Greenbaum to say that he wanted the reports which Kassander's letter implied existed. They were:

  1. a report based on McDonald's interviews in Australia "with a number of witnesses of unusual atmospheric phenomena having possible bearing on optical and electrical processes."

  2. a report on McDonald's efforts indicating "a great deal of information is to be gained on atmospheric optics, radar propagation, and atmospheric electricity from a careful study of UFO sightings."

  3. a report on a ball lightning review carried out with ONR funds.

If they were not available Klass wanted to know when they would be and if and when they would be published in scholarly journals. [33]

Greenbaum replied that the reports were not available, but the work would appear in journals, although no publication dates were available because article backlogs often delayed publication. [34]  This did not satisfy Klass. He shot back a letter in which he asked if it were ONR policy to dispense funds and not require a yearly report? Furthermore, he wanted to know if McDonald submitted papers -- and, if so, their titles and to what journals? He argued that if McDonald's hypothesis were incorrect that should have been reported to his


contract monitor and no papers should be anticipated, but if the hypothesis were correct he would expect ONR to publish the results quickly or possibly call a special conference. Klass closed by saying he thought the ONR appeared indifferent to the outcomes of spending taxpayers' money and therefore an explanation was in order. [35]  His correspondence does not indicate that Greenbaum responded, nor does it contain a response to Klass' further escalation of the confrontation which occurred four days later.

This was the time of the Roush Hearings (July 29, 1968) out of which came UPI Dispatch 125, among other things. The dispatch quoted McDonald to the effect that "he had spent the last two years studying UFOs under a grant from the United States Office of Naval Research, spending several months in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania tracking down sightings." Klass forwarded the quote to Greenbaum and asked for a comment. [36]  McDonald claimed he never said what the dispatch attributed to him and felt Klass, who he asserted huddled with the press at the Hearing, probably took a hand in it. [37]  Klass argued the claim was absurd. [38]  In retrospect it is a bit hard to accept the UPI Dispatch given the problems McDonald already experienced with Klass and the ONR and his sensitivity to the situation as a result of Klass' intermittent attacks for almost eight months. This will remain one of the unanswered questions of the controversy.

The next move on Klass' part, or so McDonald believed, took about a month to unfold. McDonald told Hall that Jack Anderson called to discuss the CU situation, but in the course of the conversation asked if anyone were out to discredit him. When McDonald brought up Klass,


Anderson made it clear, without naming names, that Klass complained to him about McDonald misspending ONR funds. [39]  A week later Anderson's Merry-Go-Round column contained a piece on the forthcoming Condon Report in which McDonald received mention as a critic who himself received criticism for the misuse of ONR funds to finance his UFO work. [40]

Klass realized that Greenbaum at the ONR could not, or would not, help him. To take advantage of the situation, therefore, he forwarded the Anderson article to Dr. Robert A. Frosch, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development. Klass told him the allegations of misuse of Navy funds were true, abetted by Hughes and that he could document the charges. [41]

Word of this reached McDonald through a call from Hughes on the seventeenth of September and subsequently McDonald sent Frosch a telegram in an attempt to refute the allegations. He said Anderson's comments were contrary to what he (McDonald) told him in the interview. He asserted that local research support existed for his work and explained how the overlap between atmospheric physics and UFOs made the use of Navy funds justifiable. The Australian trip involved a look at anomalous refraction cases, cloud physics, weather modification and other tasks for the project monitor. [42]

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DOD Involvement

But Klass also informed another member of the DOD family of the problem. Finn Larsen, Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering, wrote Klass to say, "Thank you for calling to my attention the ONR sponsorship of Jim McDonald at the UA. I am asking the Navy to let me know precisely what the situation involves." [43]


The orders to review McDonald's work filtered down to Hughes who asked McDonald for a statement of his recent research accomplishments. McDonald said Hughes believed the request was not in response to Klass, but rather to a climate change at the ONR resulting from numerous contracts which showed no output for over a year. Hughes told McDonald which papers Kassander should cite as well as recommending that mention be made of McDonald's work on the Advisory Panel Project Stormfury sponsored by the Navy and ESSA, and his work on the NAS weather modification panel. According to McDonald Hughes wanted to use his file to make the case that "output can't always be deduced from reports and reprints in (the) short run." [44]  This would imply that either Hughes' superiors did not keep him fully informed of the McDonald investigation or Hughes found himself in a position which prohibited him from revealing the true nature of his actions to McDonald.

McDonald responded directly to Robert Frosch concerning the Anderson allegations in an eight page letter which elaborated on his previous telegram. He laid out the dispute with Klass as he perceived it. Essentially it was a question of Klass' inability to counter McDonald's scientific arguments that led him (Klass) to make personal attacks. McDonald discussed the Anderson column as an example of this and outlined an argument which exposed (in his view) its errors. He portrayed Klass as a disgruntled author whose scientific arguments were specious and which, if reviewed by ONR scientists familiar with atmospheric electricity, would reveal the cause of Klass' pique -- namely McDonald's criticisms of an untenable position.


He went on to discuss how some UFO research related to atmospheric physics and defended his use of ONR funds to do this work. He cited considerable research which resulted from his UFO studies that he considered good atmospheric physics and would eventually be published, but that he put off because of the urgency of the UFO problem. He expended much effort on clearing Hughes of any charges of collusion to misspend ONR monies, citing Hughes' continual refusal to directly fund UFO research even though McDonald persistently requested him to do so. McDonald claimed that this was the reason that led him to permit his ONR contract to expire after ten years. He felt he needed full time support for his UFO work and needed to look elsewhere for it. [45]

Klass received a copy of the above statement and quickly replied to it. Not to be outdone by McDonald he wrote a ten page single spaced retort. He argued that McDonald did not address the basic issues which in Klass' view were:

  1. "...was the primary motivation of McDonald's ONR funded UFO investigations intended to serve Navy objectives or his own?"

  2. "Was the relationship between the ONR contract monitor (Hughes) and the contractor (McDonald) a traditionally proper one?"

He endeavored to show how little credence McDonald put in an atmospheric physics explanation of UFOs by quoting from five of McDonald's public statements between October 19, 1966 and March 26, 1968 in which McDonald stated directly or indirectly that few UFO reports could be explained as freak atmospheric phenomena. Klass further claimed it improper for the ONR to fund McDonald's review of the ball


lightning literature, essentially to rebut Klass, when it was not McDonald's field and the ONR already funded two UA professors in that area.

Then Klass went on to describe the entire Australian trip affair viz McDonald, Hughes, Greenbaum, Kassander, the UA and himself. He emphasized the lack of publication on the part of McDonald, given he developed a new methodology, i.e., studying UFO reports to gain atmospheric physics knowledge, and intimated that this was a surprise in view of McDonald's past record of publication and the significance of his new approach. Klass also argued that it seemed quite unusual that McDonald did not credit the ONR for support of his UFO work; a standard procedure which the funding agency usually demands.

He further implied that Hughes played a role in his exclusion from a symposium on ball lightning at the Fourth International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity in May, 1968. This he surmised was because of his disagreement with McDonald and the ONR. And lastly he questioned the manner in which the ONR funded McDonald's Australian trip, and asked how the ONR prorated it if McDonald spent some of his time on ONR business and some on UFO work. Klass concluded by saying that he wanted the direct confrontation which McDonald suggested and would be glad to appear in Frosch's office any time. [46]

Having also forwarded a copy of the Anderson article to Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations, Klass received a reply the day after he wrote Frosch. Moorer indicated that Anderson referred to McDonald's NASA grant in his column not the ONR contract. [47] 


To this Klass pointed out (with copies to Larsen and Frosch) that the evidence for the charges appeared in the Frosch letter, a copy of which must have crossed Moorer's letter to him (Klass) in the mail, and he hoped Moorer would reconsider his conclusion after reading it. [48] McDonald never responded to Frosch regarding Klass' September 30 letter. He did write Hughes to explain his position with respect to parts of it and said he believed Klass began with incorrect assumptions concerning the validity of the Anderson article and UPI Dispatch 125 and from there built castles in the air. [49]

However, Klass did not give up. He forwarded Finn Larsen some of his speculation on what might have happened in the case of John Fuller's Look article. He argued that McDonald was behind it, something which Fuller never made clear, and that the entire affair caused disruption of the CU project. Klass pointed out that Saunders and Levine could have looked to Condon, top university scientists, the Air Force or DOD for redress of the memo grievance, but instead sent copies to McDonald and Keyhoe. He said he did not know how much of the matter the Navy paid for through the ONR, but it appeared that the Navy financed interference in an Air Force program. Because this seemed tangential to the real issue of McDonald's ONR contract Klass told Larsen that he wouldn't send copies to Frosch and Moorer, but Larsen could feel free to do so. [50]

It seems that Klass kept Major Hector Quintanilla, then in charge of the Blue Book program, informed about the ONR affair. Quintanilla wrote him thanking Klass for copies of all the correspondence and, among other things, he mentioned that the subsun research McDonald told Finn Larsen resulted from work on a UFO photo actually occurred


after McDonald's contract expired. Quintanilla said he knew this because McDonald obtained the UFO photo through the Blue Book office. [51]  Not being one to miss such an opportunity Klass wrote Larsen pointing this out. He said that either McDonald erred in his contention that he did the subsun work for ONR or generously pursued this research after the expiration of the contract. [52]

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Contract Audit

By this time Frosch decided a full scale audit of McDonald's ONR account at the UA might quiet Klass down. It should be remembered that Aviation Week is a highly respected trade publication in government circles. What must have constantly been on the minds of the ONR brass involved was the possibility that Klass might run an expose story and cause the ONR unnecessary problems on Capitol Hill. This did not prove difficult for them to keep in mind because Klass used Aviation Week stationery in all of his correspondence with the Navy, although he averred that he wrote only as a concerned taxpayer.

McDonald tried to avoid the audit. He sent Hughes a rough draft of the account expenditures and offered the alternative of a smoothed out version by Kassander. He said he believed it provided enough evidence to show Klass in the wrong. Along with this communication he forwarded copies of the Fuller, Klass, Martin correspondence to keep Hughes abreast of that aspect of the Klass squabble and told Hughes that Phyllis O'Callaghan of Roush's office intended to check into the reporter who wrote the infamous UPI Dispatch 125. [53]

Even though Frosch requested the audit he informed Klass that after a month reviewing the case he saw no substance to the charges. However, he felt an independent audit would clarify matters for all concerned. [54]


The tentative conclusion disappointed Klass but it heartened him to see that the audit would go ahead. He asked Frosch if the auditor would receive a copy of his September 30 letter to Frosch and in turn requested: [55]

  1. a work statement defining the scope of McDonald's activities under the ONR grant

  2. an ONR policy statement on the freedoms and constraints imposed on an investigator relative to his work statement

  3. confirmation or denial ... "that Greenbaum told me that the Director had, upon investigating matters brought to his attention, delivered an oral reprimand to Hughes as a result of the McDonald affair?"

In a second letter the same day Klass forwarded a September 28, 1966 letter from McDonald [56]  in which the latter explained his initial efforts to make headway on the UFO problem and in Klass' estimation incriminated himself on the question of funding. Klass interpreted the letter for Frosch and asked that it be shown to the auditor. [57]  Frosch agreed to provide the "independent auditor" with Klass' information. Moreover, he furnished Klass with McDonald's work statement which said:

The contractor shall conduct theoretical, laboratory and field studies in cloud dynamics and the physics of cloud and precipitation processes. He shall also study other meteorological processes that are in any way related to cloud dynamics; additional investigation on the extreme refraction and visibility phenomena of the atmosphere, and the kind of visual or radar impressions they produce.

With regard to Klass' request for contract constraints Frosch quoted a guide for submission of research proposals to the ONR which stated:

It is an objective of the ONR to use flexible contract and grant procedures which are best adapted to the effective accomplishments of sponsored research programs.

Finally Frosch said that Greenbaum denied making the statement with respect to the Hughes reprimand over the McDonald affair. [58]


The audit went about as well as McDonald could have hoped. He told Hughes that the auditor considered Klass "a ways off-base." He only wanted to know whether McDonald pursued UFOs clandestinely with respect to the Navy and what agency claimed legal responsibility for UFOs, i.e., did the Navy infringe on Air Force prerogatives through McDonald's work? The auditor showed no interest in McDonald's telephone interviewing or the atmospheric physics of the UFO problem and said the inquiry should have been stopped earlier. McDonald found the draft of his report quite acceptable. [59]

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Final Exchanges

Needless to say the note from Frosch of November 18 in which Frosch cited McDonald's work statement and said that Greenbaum denied the oral reprimand of Hughes infuriated Klass. Although he waited until January of 1969 to forward his response, what Klass wrote plays a role in understanding what is to follow and deserves mention now. Klass claimed the ONR rewrote history because he taped the phone conversation of December 4, 1967 in which Greenbaum read McDonald's work statement verbatim and it differed from Frosch's version. He asked Frosch to get the original and discover whether McDonald or Hughes proposed the changes. He enclosed memos on the phone conversations, prepared to get the letter notarized and said he would submit to a polygraph test on the matter. [60]

The next day Klass spoke with a Dr. Raney of Frosch's office whom he told about the Greenbaum tape and suggested handling it cautiously or it could cost Greenbaum his job. Raney told Klass it would have to wait a week until the budget preparation period ended. [61]  In a second conversation the same day Klass told Raney he would hold his


November 21 letter to Frosch while they tried to determine who changed the contract. Raney responded that it would be difficult because it could be done verbally between the contractor and contract monitor, but he would try. [62]

Although telephonic communication between Klass and others in the controversy may have occurred in December, 1968, it would appear that a letter from Frosch dated January 9, 1969 provided the first written word Klass received after his talks with Raney. The letter informed Klass of the auditor's conclusions which were:

  1. McDonald acted within the terms and conditions of his contract in his pursuit of information and investigations of UFOs

  2. the ONR was aware of the time McDonald spent on UFOs

  3. there was no law or regulation prohibiting Navy research on UFOs

  4. McDonald used sound judgment in the distribution of expenses and provided adequate answers to the ONR questions

Frosch told Klass that he understood how Klass could misinterpret McDonald's public statements even though no impropriety occurred. He explained that McDonald's interests shifted over the years to a low priority area (UFOs) and as a result the ONR closed out his contract as of the beginning of fiscal year 1969. [63]

This did not satisfy Klass. He indicated to Frosch that he previously wanted to get together to discuss the unsent letter of November 21 and to listen to the Greenbaum recording. But because Frosch showed no interest Klass enclosed the letter "for the record." He said he would drop the matter if Frosch would tell him the date of revision of McDonald's work statement and what percentage of McDonald's


air fare to Australia and per diem the ONR paid? Klass then changed his tactics and asked if he could quote from Frosch's January 9, 1969, letter in future articles. [64] This was a new turn because in the past Klass always said he did not intend to write up the ONR matter for Aviation Week because, as McDonald's protagonist in the UFO controversy, people could get the wrong idea.

Klass also apparently contacted Finn Larsen to ask for a comment on the McDonald matter because Larsen wrote him "I cannot comment on the disposition of the matter but it does seem fairly clear that Dr. McDonald is unlikely to have continuing contracts in the field. [65]

Frosch responded to Klass' letter of January 13, 1969, and the November 21, 1968, enclosure, which Klass notarized, by saying he was "sorry that you should have construed a lack of confirmation of your earlier statements as an attack on your veracity." He answered Klass' questions by indicating the contract change took place on July 15, 1966, that Klass should ask McDonald about the money spent over and above the $1,500 the ONR paid out for Navy business in Australia, and told Klass that any material addressed to him was his personal property which he could use as he saw fit. [66]

This ended the ONR controversy which solved little and pained many. In McDonald's parting shot to Hughes he summed it up this way. [67]

It seems to come to about this. I criticize deservedly a branch of the DOD (the Air Force) and lose my ONR support. An ONR scientist unjustifiably criticizes me (by attacking McDonald's UFO position in a nationally distributed ONR publication) and then brushes my objections aside (McDonald could not get retraction or satisfaction from the ONR at any level). And in the middle of the sequence the Navy puts me to no little awkwardness and some embarrassment by sending an auditor to investigate charges made by a journalist whose position is little more than writer's pique.

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Unlike the previous chapters which presented McDonald on the offensive, this one depicted him in a defensive posture. It would appear that a strategy evolved which McDonald used to protect his reputation. What were the tactics he used to accomplish this?

He fought two battles with Klass simultaneously. On the one hand, he responded to demands made by the ONR on a procedural level to counter Klass' allegations concerning the misuse of funds. On the other hand, he struck back at Klass through intensive attacks on Klass' plasma hypotheses. This no doubt seemed the only means of countering what McDonald viewed as Klass' unorthodox manner of disputation.

When Klass first took his case to the ONR in December, 1967 the ONR demanded an accounting of McDonald's time from Richard Kassander. Kassander's favorable response to Hughes appears to have been written in part or toto by McDonald because some sections were composed in the first person.

With Klass, as well as the Arizona State Legislature in mind, it pleased McDonald to receive the $1,000 for UFO research from Hall. He saw it as providing a tactical advantage, since it enabled him to open a UFO grant account at the UA which he could cite should he or Kassander be queried as to the source of his funding. Klass, he felt, might well be thrown off the trail by such a tactic.

By February of 1968 Klass realized, contrary to Greenbaum's assurances, that the ONR renewed McDonald's contract and so he began another assault. McDonald developed an eighteen page critique of Klass' position in his CASI paper as a response. He also tried to


justify open funding of his UFO research at the ONR on the grounds that, as Klass pointed out in his book, more could be learned about plasma phenomena by studying UFO reports.

To check on Klass' arguments with respect to atmospheric electricity McDonald wrote Brook, Powell and Uman. When he heard about the JEM White Papers through John Fuller he suggested Fuller forward a copy of the CASI paper to Bob Martin at Aviation Week so he would have the opportunity to see why Klass distributed the JEMs.

As the argument grew more heated in September, 1968 McDonald denied the validity of UPI Dispatch 125 and the Anderson column claiming that they misquoted him. In addition, at approximately that point, he began to emphasize the good atmospheric physics research which resulted from his UFO studies. When Hughes indicated that an audit of McDonald's research account at the UA would take place he tried to avoid it by sending Hughes rough figures on his expenditures which he said Kassander could improve on later.

It should be obvious that Klass and McDonald employed two different styles. McDonald fought in the traditional scientific style of critiquing Klass' theory in papers and talks. It is true that he did this with a vengeance, which characterized everything he did, but nevertheless he remained within the confines of acceptable academic disputation. Klass, however, went beyond the pale. This could be, as Klass asserted, because McDonald refused to appear with him in debate, and because he could not find forums for his views. Regardless, he struck back in an unusual fashion (the JEMs) and in an administrative manner (the ONR contract). But lest we be too quick to condemn, it


should be remembered that McDonald's tactics viz the Condon Study were very similar. We might, in fact, conclude that extremists have a tendency to use extreme tactics.

It isn't clear whether McDonald bootlegged his UFO research, as Klass would argue, whether he received sub rosa ONR encouragement to pursue it, or whether Jim Hughes was the sole person giving impetus to the work. But that is really not at issue here. What is important is the lengths to which McDonald, Hughes, and/or the ONR went so that McDonald could engage a borderland phenomenon. Moreover, once McDonald took the steps, steps which could only be characterized as bending the protocols associated with normal scientific endeavors, McDonald had to be prepared to face the consequences of his actions. The consequences consisted of the non-renewal of his ONR contract, which he, always being in good form, said he decided not to renew because he wanted straight forward full time funding for his UFO work, something which the ONR could not provide.

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To avoid exposure
  1. wrote Kassander's first response to Greenbaum

  2. opened a grant account at the UA

  3. tried to justify open UFO funding as good plasma research

  4. denied UPI Dispatch 125 and the Anderson column

  5. emphasized the good atmospheric physics coming from the study of UFO reports

  6. submitted rough expenditure figures to Hughes to avoid an audit


To fight back

  1. Included an eighteen page critique of Klass' book in his CASI paper

  2. tried to get the CASI paper published

  3. wrote Brook, Powell and Uman to check on Klass' statement

  4. encouraged Fuller to send JEMs to Bob Martin of Aviation Week

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  1. Philip Klass, "Plasma Theory May Explain Many UFOs," Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine, August 22, 1966, pp. 48-54Back to Text

  2. Klass to Hynek, 3/28/66, Hynek Letters.Back to Text

  3. Hall to McDonald, 9/8/66, McDonald Letters, hereafter M.L. Back to Text

  4. McDonald to Low, early June, 1967, Klass Letters, hereafter K.L Back to Text

  5. McDonald to Hughes, 6/12/67, M.L.Back to Text

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

  7. Klass to Greenbaum, 12/4/67, K.L.Back to Text

  8. Greenbaum to Klass, 12/6/67, notes on a phone conversation, K.L. Back to Text

  9. Kassander to Hughes, 12/16/67, M.L.Back to Text

  10. Klass to Greenbaum, 12/20/67, K.L.Back to Text

  11. Klass to Low, 1/5/68, K.L.Back to Text

  12. Greenbaum to Klass, 1/12/68, K.L.Back to Text

  13. Klass to Greenbaum, 1/17/68, K.L.Back to Text

  14. McDonald to Hall, 1/31/68, Hall Letters, hereafter H.L. Back to Text

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

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

  17. Philip J. Klass, UFOs-Identified, Random House, New York, 1968. Back to Text

  18. McDonald to Hughes, 3/14/68, M.L.Back to Text

  19. James E. McDonald, "UFOs-An International Scientific Problem," presented to the CASI March 12, 1968. Back to Text

  20. Greenbaum to Klass, 3/15/68, K.L.Back to Text

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

  22. McDonald to Hall, 3/25/68, H.L.Back to Text

  23. McDonald to Ross, 4/2/68, M.L.Back to Text

  24. McDonald to Uman. 4/26/68, M.L.Back to Text


  1. McDonald to Uman, 4/15/68, McDonald to Uman, 5/17/68, M.L Back to Text

  2. Klass, Philip J., JEM 1, 5/14/68, K.LBack to Text

  3. Klass, Philip J., JEM 2, 5/15/68, K.L.Back to Text

  4. Klass, Philip J., JEM 5, 6/11/68, K.L.Back to Text

  5. Fuller to Klass, 5/29/68, M.L.Back to Text

  6. Martin to Fuller, 6/13/68, M.L.Back to Text

  7. Klass to Fuller, 6/15/68, M.L.Back to Text

  8. McDonald to Fuller, 6/25/68, M.L.Back to Text

  9. Klass to Greenbaum, 6/26/68, K.L.Back to Text

  10. Greenbaum to Klass, 7/24/68, K.L.Back to Text

  11. Klass to Greenbaum, 7/26/68, K.L.Back to Text

  12. Klass to Greenbaum, 7/30/68, K.L.Back to Text

  13. M.L. date unknown.Back to Text

  14. Personal communication.Back to Text

  15. McDonald to Hall, 9/7/68, M.L.Back to Text

  16. Jack Anderson, Merry-Go-Round, Washington Post, 9/14/68, section B, p. 11. Back to Text

  17. Klass to Frosch, 9/16/68, K.L.Back to Text

  18. McDonald to Frosch, 9/18/68, M.L.Back to Text

  19. Larsen to Klass, 9/19/68, K.L.Back to Text

  20. McDonald to Kassander, 9/20/68, cc. Klass, Kassander, M.L. Back to Text

  21. McDonald to Frosch, 9/25/68, M.L.Back to Text

  22. Klass to Frosch, 9/30/68, cc. Admiral Thomas Moorer, McDonald, Kassander, Larsen, K.L.Back to Text

  23. Moorer to Klass, 10/1/68, K.L.Back to Text

  24. Klass to Moorer, 10/2/68, cc. Larsen, Frosch, K.L. Back to Text

  25. McDonald to Hughes, 10/4/68, M.L.Back to Text


  1. Klass to Larsen, 10/8/68, K.L.Back to Text

  2. Quintanilla to Klass, 10/11/68, K.L.Back to Text

  3. Klass to Larsen, 10/15/68, K.L.Back to Text

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

  5. Frosch to Klass, 10/22/68, K.L.Back to Text

  6. Klass to Frosch, 10/23/68, cc. Larsen, K.L. Back to Text

  7. McDonald to Klass, 9/28/66, cc. Larsen, K.L. Back to Text

  8. Klass to Frosch, 10/23/68, K.L.Back to Text

  9. Frosch to Klass, 11/18/68, K.L.Back to Text

  10. McDonald to Hughes, 11/18/68, H.L.Back to Text

  11. Klass to Frosch, dated 11/21/68, but held until 1/13/69, K.L. Back to Text

  12. Raney to Klass, 11/22/68, notes on telephone conversation in K.L. Back to Text

  13. Klass to Raney, 11/22/68, notes on telephone conversation in K.L. Back to Text

  14. Frosch to Klass, 1/9/69, K.L.Back to Text

  15. Klass to Frosch, 1/13/69, K.L.Back to Text

  16. Larsen to Klass, 1/22/69, K.L.Back to Text

  17. Frosch to Klass, 1/31/69, K.L.Back to Text

  18. McDonald to Hughes, 3/25/69, M.L.Back to Text

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