VI.  THE 1969 AAAS UFO SYMPOSIUM


Background
History of Events
Summary and Conclusions
Summary of Tactics
Footnotes
 
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BACKGROUND

For many years those UFO researchers who considered the matter a significant scientific problem had long desired a hearing before the scientific community. In 1969 they viewed the AAAS forum as an opportunity to right the wrongs done by the publication of the Condon Report. This chapter is intended to illustrate the manner in which established science dealt with the UFO phenomenon through the 1969 AAAS UFO Symposium. We will see that it involved much more than getting the program organized and asking the speakers to take part. Moreover, we will find that there were three radically different perspectives on the symposium and its function, represented by those who organized it, others who opposed it, and a third group who welcomed the opportunity to legitimate the study of the UFO phenomenon.

The reason or reasons for the symposium are not readily identifiable. Various interest articulation efforts existed for years. Most notably APRO and NICAP and probably more importantly, from the perspective of the scientific community, the prodding begun by McDonald in April, 1966. However, the Condon Study in all likelihood proved a larger factor in creating a climate of opinion among scientists and the academic community in general which would not only tolerate, but by and large encourage, an examination of this bizarre phenomenon.

With this in mind, then, we can begin taking a look at the preparations for the symposium which was initially intended to take place at the 1968 AAAS Meeting in Dallas, Texas. As the story unfolds the arguments of the symposium proponents and opponents should become

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clear. This will provide an occasion to observe the manner in which, at least in the case of the UFO problem, established science came to grips with a borderland science subject. In particular, it will enable us to examine the personal political strategies and tactics of those individuals who came to verbal blows over the efficacy of the UFO symposium concept.

The issue began to surface in April, 1968 when Dr. Thornton Page, then of Wesleyan University's Department of Astronomy, and co-organizer of the symposium with Dr. Carl Sagan of Harvard, wrote Dr. Dael Wolfle of the AAAS to explain his reasons for wanting the AAAS to hold a UFO symposium at the 1968 meeting. He argued that:

  1. the subject was interdisciplinary

  2. it was of interest to the public

  3. most scientists sneer at it but are not well informed

  4. those scientists who have studied the problem disagree in their conclusions

  5. the Condon Report will deserve discussion

  6. the subject of UFOs would serve to inform the public on current knowledge in astronomy, atmospheric physics and space biology

Apparently Page already did some spade work on the project because he said Menzel of Harvard, author of two UFO books, and Condon refused to appear because of the kook aspect of the subject. Nevertheless, he felt that Hynek from Northwestern's Astronomy Department, Sagan from Harvard's Astronomy Department, Markowitz of Marquette's Physics Department, McDonald from the University of Arizona's Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Drake of CornelI's Center of Radiophysics and Space Research, McCrosky of NCAR, Klass from

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Aviation Week and Space Technology and someone from the Air Defense Command would make for an interesting discussion. [1] 

A few weeks later Page wrote Hugh Odishaw at the AAAS again to explain the plans for the symposium and to request that the AAAS, which would review the Condon Report, release it prior to the AAAS meeting and provide the symposium participants with copies two weeks in advance. (Since it was the NAS and not the AAAS that would review the Condon Report the above statement indicates Page's lack of familiarity with the UFO situation.) At this point Page provided his first recognition of the extreme views held by some on the UFO issue. He said: [2] 

Although our proposed list of speakers includes competent scientists acquainted with the UFO problem, there are several others. One extreme case is Donald Menzel (author of two books on flying saucers) who opposes any two-sided discussion. The other extreme is Keyhoe, Ruppelt and other Ufologists supercritical of the Air Force. We plan proper scientific discussion without regressing to either extreme.

This is the last communication concerned with the planning of the symposium in 1968. The issue remained dormant for the summer except for those involved in trying to abort the event. The principal parties to that attempt were Menzel, Markowitz and Klass. In the summer of 1968 they tried to compose a joint letter to Science which went through six or seven drafts. All three opposed the symposium, but they could not agree on the wording of their statement. Finally, they decided to write individual letters, but then never sent them. [3]  The same men would oppose Page and Sagan in 1969.

Because of the work of the above trio, and possibly behind the scenes activities on the part of others, Sagan wrote McDonald that the

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symposium would be postponed until 1969. Sagan gave two reasons. He said that the CU Report would not be out in time for the symposium participants to discuss it in 1968 and that individuals in some quarters became quite emotional about the holding of the symposium so a postponement would both provide time for the report to come out and for the air to clear. [4]

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HISTORY OF EVENTS


Initial Planning
Condon's Opposition
Additional Obstacles
Forging Ahead
Symposium and Aftermath

Initial Planning

By early 1969, however, the obstructors knew that the symposium plans were again in the offing. Menzel, apparently asked by Page to give his views on the symposium arrangements, asserted that UFOs had nothing to do with outer space, and anyone who invoked the ETH to explain them was a crackpot or crank who should not be permitted on the panel. He said he would not appear with any of them because they did not publish scientific analyses of the problem; this included McDonald who Menzel considered unscientific. If McDonald or any other "of his ilk" participated Menzel made it clear that he would not and, in fact, would oppose the symposium.

With respect to who should speak and on what, Menzel also held views. He thought Hynek unpredictable but alright to relate his Air Force experiences, while Major Hector Quintanilla could provide the Air Force position. Menzel himself would explain what prompted UFO observations, Brian O'Brien could speak to the physiological optics of sightings. Marcel Minnaert for the meteorological optics, William Markowitz on reported landings, Philip Klass on plasma phenomena and a psychologist for the psychological aspects of sighting reports.

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Menzel believed that the AAAS should begin where the NAS Review of the Condon Report left off -- namely, with a responsible position. He explained to Page that if the symposium included the crackpots they would dominate the proceeding and contribute ignorance rather than knowledge. Therefore, he urged their exclusion and suggested that if Page feared their criticism for holding a one-sided symposium that he cancel the program. He said that he talked to Condon and that even he would participate if Page did not invite the crackpots.

Menzel claimed in his closing remarks that future science would not be synonymous with magic and that some things in physics, which he apparently considered mutually exclusive of the UFO phenomenon, such as special relativity, some form of general relativity, the laws of conservation of mass and energy, the second law of thermodynamics and the impossibility of perpetual motion would be part of physics for a 1,000 or even 10,000 years. He said: [5]

I am fully aware that several of the believers, including some of those who contributed to the Roush Hearings, accused me of being old fashioned and reactionary. But I think it is significant that none of these individuals has made any substantial contribution to science in his own right.

Page enclosed a copy of Menzel's letter when he wrote Sagan, Philip Morrison and Walter Orr Roberts. The former two (Page and Sagan) were the major planners of the symposium and the latter two (Morrison and Roberts) minor planners. Morrison was a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Physics, while Roberts was at NCAR in Boulder and President of the AAAS. This letter indicates Page already did some plotting to insure an interesting panel. He said Condon might take part and Markowitz showed signs of

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softening. He proposed three panels; The UFO Phenomenon; The Possibility of ETI; and Science, The Public and UFOs. "Then we can tell Menzel and Condon that McDonald is not in the symposium on the UFO phenomenon. A bit devilish, but it might work." [6]  Page considered Condon's participation important because the Condon Report came out in January of 1969 and members of the academic community considered it the only scientific contribution to the UFO debate. But the Report did have detractors, principally McDonald and Hynek, and the symposium would be an appropriate place to rehash some of the issues. Given the magnitude of the CU effort and the atmosphere in 1969 viz UFOs, Condon's absence would be a genuine loss to the symposium organizers.

Three months passed before Page dropped Sagan a postcard concerning the symposium. In it he said he spoke to Walter Berl at the AAAS who indicated Condon might regain his sense of humor in time to take part in the Boston proceedings. [7] 

Sagan contributed more on Condon's participation a week later. He stated they talked at a conference on "Science and the Future" and Condon remained on the fence about his participation. Sagan argued that avoiding a confrontation between McDonald and Condon seemed the logical approach. This, he thought, could best be accomplished by having them appear on separate days and assigning Condon the task of discussing the role of UFO literature in science education. [8]

The planning committee was hardly packed with "believers" as some critics would eventually argue. This can be seen in the remarks of Morrison to Page after apparently talking to Hynek, George Price-Williams, a psychologist at Rice, Page and McDonald.

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In referring to the symposium he said, "the scheme seems to be that the strange nature of UFOs is to be assumed unless disproven." He showed displeasure with that approach and averred that neither Hynek nor McDonald showed him any truly anomalous cases. Moreover, after reading the Condon Report he believed that enough work had been done in the area. He said he would speak at the symposium not on UFOs, but on the nature of physical evidence and would do it in the spirit of public education. [9]  Page responded that if Sagan and Roberts agreed then Morrison would speak last on the nature of physical evidence. He assured Morrison that by the time he reached the podium the ETH arguments would be discredited. [10]

Roberts also showed concern about linking ETH discussions with the UFO presentations. He told Page that such a juxtaposition could convey the wrong idea. Turning to another subject he considered it unfair to have Low confront McDonald on atmospheric explanations of UFO observations and prevailed on the group to invite Franklin Roach, a noted astronomer with a specialty in air glow, who analyzed the astronaut sightings in the Condon Report. Roberts also made the first mention of the motivation for holding the symposium when he said: [11] 

As you know, I am in tune with Carl Sagan's notion of using things like the UFOs to gain the attention of the public, and then using these as ways of providing knowledge about the specific subject matter, as well as science generally.

In August the speakers and topics for the symposium in December remained tentative. Page informed Sagan that Morrison approved of Condon, but not Menzel, and continued to oppose any discussion of the ETH although he felt a critique of the news media's coverage of UFOs seemed in order. Page thought the latter as tangential as the former,

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but told Morrison to draft a letter to Walter Sullivan, the Science Editor of the New York Times if he wanted someone to cover the news media. [12]  Sagan spoke to Morrison about the ETH and found Morrison willing to permit him to discuss the ETH provided that he gave equal time to other "equally poorly based" hypotheses; to that Sagan agreed. [13] 

BACK to History of Events

Condon's Opposition

At that point the plans for the coming symposium became public knowledge through an announcement in the August 15 Science. This spurred a new onslaught apparently spearheaded by Condon. He wrote Roberts that the AAAS Board should carefully consider its action which he deemed inappropriate. Condon said he wrote to squash the rumor that he would participate. Contrary to that rumor no one asked him and he would not take part if asked. Moreover, he would not attend any portion of the annual AAAS function if Sagan and Page held the UFO Symposium.

In a further attempt to sway the Board he sent each member a copy of the Condon Report. He told them that its distribution was poor and consequently they probably did not obtain a copy. He also enclosed a Rocky Mountain News article on some of the people he thought would take part in the symposium and ridiculed their intellectual caliber, while lamenting the fact that they had Ph.D.s, were probably AAAS members and could not be refused. He pointed out that none of the "great" scientists who showed enthusiasm for UFOs developed a research proposal in the area and suggested that Roberts read Error and Eccentricity in Human Belief by Joseph Jastrow to understand "kooky beliefs" on a par with UFOs.

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Condon did not oppose a fair discussion of controversial ideas but he considered it impossible.

"The UFO buffs are a slippery lot, and do a great deal by insinuendo, so it is usually useless to try and find out what they are really contending. Some never had any critical faculty, some are suffering severely from progressive degeneration of whatever critical faculty they ever had."

He believed that by holding the symposium "the ignorant will be misled. The intelligent will think the AAAS is crazy."

He concluded by suggesting that the AAAS was pro-UFO. Science displeased him by sending a scandal monger (Boffey) out to Boulder in 1968 to write about the project. Then Science did not review the finished report, and finally a two day symposium. He asked, "why this foolish behavior? Have UFO kooks infiltrated 1515 Massachusetts Avenue?" [14] 

Condon's letter preceded one from Hudson Hoagland, a Psychologist/Physiologist from Harvard, who agreed with Condon that no self-respecting scientist should dignify the meeting with an appearance. He likened the UFO issue to the hysteria surrounding mediums after World War I. He had exposed Margery the medium in a 1925 Atlantic Monthly article and then scientists who held a belief in her attacked him. [15]

A note from C. D. Shane, an Emeritus Astronomer at Lick Observatory who served on the NAS Review Panel for the Condon Report followed. He agreed with Condon, saying reputable scientists would not take the time to refute all the wild claims made by UFO buffs. He saw the symposium as equivalent to one on astrology or Velikovsky's views. [16]

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However, Page did not give up on getting Condon to speak. He felt Condon became upset because word leaked out about his appearance before he received his invitation. Page told Roberts that in the future all the names would remain secret until receipt of the acceptances. If, in fact, Condon refused then perhaps Roach and/or Low could talk about the Colorado Project. [17]

Page wanted Major Quintanilla, the Air Force officer in charge of Blue Book, to appear. He asked Hynek to intercede with Quintanilla's commander to obtain permission. Page cautioned Hynek to keep all the prospective speakers names quiet because he feared some, such as Condon, would not accept if they knew who else might take part. [18]  Apparently the political problems inherent in this endeavor were new to Page for he said in a note to Sagan, "In an attempt to improve on my political naivete I cut up the copies of our tentative program for Price-Williams, Hynek and Sullivan, warning them that changes may be made if some proposed speakers do not accept." In other words, Page sent out the programs to prospective speakers, but excised the names of those issued invitations. In passing he mentioned that Roberts continued to cajole Condon in the direction of an acceptance. [19]

Roberts wrote to Condon to invite him to participate on behalf of Page, Sagan and Morrison. He pointed out that many school teachers would be present in the audience (Condon feared the insidious effects of permitting children to devote science class hours to UFOs in school) which would be an ideal time to discuss the dangers of introducing crackpot ideas in the curriculum. The planners tried to be careful with Condon, as shown by the following: [20]

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Your participation has been planned in such a way that we do not think there will be any likelihood of vitriolic exchanges on the platform. And we have carefully chosen chairmen who should be able to keep things, throughout the symposium, generally in control, even if there are some extreme UFO cranks in the audience.

The same day Page set about correcting his earlier faux pax with Condon, no doubt having previously coordinated his efforts with Roberts. He explained his error in permitting the AAAS to send out a tentative speakers list in June and he regretted that it happened. He told Condon: [21]

Our hope is to correct some of the public misconceptions your study uncovered, and to show the public that scientists can discuss controversial topics rationally, and with a sense of humor.... It is true that we also agreed to invite one scientist whose speculations we do not individually agree with but our purpose is clear: if we don't exhibit the other side, how can we correct the misconceptions listed in the Condon Report?

But these efforts did not prevail, in fact it would appear that they infuriated Condon. He wrote a refusal and some choice remarks to Page, the AAAS Board and "most invitees." He said he did not know about the symposium in June, but he wished that he did so that he could have started opposition to it earlier. He hoped that time still remained to cancel it because the press coverage would focus on the sensational and irresponsible with a resulting disservice to the AAAS on the part of Page and Sagan. Condon enclosed copies of the Hoagland and Shane letters to underscore the fact "that I am not alone in this matter." [22] 

Nor did Condon stop at refusing to take part; he also attempted to get others to decline. R. E. McCrosky of Harvard's Astrophysical Observatory informed Sagan that he could not accept the invitation and

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felt it best to phrase his decline in terms of the Condon-Shane-Hoagland correspondence. He stated that he did not want harm to come to the AAAS or for mass resignations to occur. Moreover, he viewed the UFO issue as one of the least important problems facing science. Consequently he urged that the symposium be called off. [23] 

Page decided to counter Condon's campaign in order to shore up the ground on which the symposium stood. He wrote Wolfle at the AAAS on the topic of Condon's circulation of the letters opposing the symposium. Page asked for the support of the AAAS, arguing that his motives were much the same as Condon's for doing the Condon Report, that Shane's fears of focusing on the sensational seemed unwarranted, and that Hoagland's disquietude over supporting the charlatans and the deluded would prove unjustified. Page claimed the facts which emerged from the Condon Report indicated:

  1. a large fraction of the public was poorly informed

  2. an emotional public reaction to press coverage

  3. most, but not all, reports were explainable in terms of physical phenomena

Therefore, he felt that the symposium would prove to be an educational effort of great significance. [24]

Sagan did not give up on Condon. He asked him to reconsider his decision in light of the fact that the people who appeared with him would be sober, responsible and critical. Sagan also referred to Condon's 9/5/69 comments stating that no one on the arrangements committee leaked the fact that he accepted, the people cited in the Rocky Mountain News article were never considered for the symposium, and in fact, proposals for UFO research did go to NSF because he reviewed one. [25]

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Brian O'Brien, the retired physicist who chaired the AFSAB Panel on UFOs in 1966, also declined. He claimed unfamiliarity with the subject would make it impossible for him to add anything to the discussion. Condon reached him either verbally or by letter, however, for he said that if Sagan took the proper precautions with the press that the problems anticipated by Condon could be avoided. [26]

BACK to History of Events

Additional Obstacles

But Condon was not the only one that Page and Sagan had to contend with. Donald Menzel had not been heard from for a while, probably because of his visit to Europe. On his return Roberts wrote Page that he intended to protest. He didn't want to give a platform to people he labeled as crackpots and worse. Because McDonald excluded him from the Roush Hearings he still fumed and claimed that McDonald did not abide by the standard rules of evidence. He indicated that he would not appear in the same symposium as McDonald; that his refusal was final. In addition, he wanted to know about the formal channels for protest because he intended to do everything he could to stop the symposium. This worried Roberts because he could see that the possibility of mass withdrawals from the program was a reality, one which would spoil the balance of the panels. [27]

Page was indeed having trouble finding speakers. He believed that Condon talked McCrosky, who was to speak on the Prairie Network of Sky Cameras, out of appearing and then the Air Force informed him that it would not provide speakers, meaning Quintanilla. [28]  Finally, David Atlas of the University of Chicago, an authority on anomalous

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propagation phenomena, i.e., unusual atmospheric conditions resulting in radar returns, explained that he had to conduct experiments during the period that the AAAS Meetings would be held and consequently could not take part. Atlas said, however, that the Condon letters did not bear on his declination, in fact, he considered the symposium a good idea. [29]

Sagan continued his efforts to win converts and bolster the status of the symposium enterprise. He wrote a letter to Roberts, Page, Morrison, Condon, and the AAAS Board, which he no doubt meant to influence the latter two. He said that in criticizing the UFO endeavor some thought that astrology and Velikovsky might be next. He wanted to agree with the reasoning, but not with the implied absurdity of the conclusion. Sagan pointed to a drift in the universities away from the sciences and toward borderland areas. He believed symposia such as the one planned for the UFO phenomenon provided a way to confront such claims with the scientific method. He went on to argue that an obligation existed for the AAAS and other similar organizations to address subjects which already interested the public. In the UFO case men with good credentials disagreed, making it the duty of the scientific community to keep the lines of communication open.

At that point he tried to social pressure Condon and others by citing a 1969 statement which emanated from a conference on "Science and the Future" sponsored by the BAAS and the AAAS which accorded with his above comments. Edward Condon, Ian Cox, Steven Dedijer, Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, Robert Morrison and Sagan signed it. [30]

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This approach did not win the day with Condon. He responded to Sagan with a five page single spaced letter to explain why he would not participate and to detail his past involvement. The letter carried the following statement:

CONFIDENTIAL: Intended to be read only by those to whom
copies were sent. Distribution list at end.

He began by saying that the symposium would not contribute to a popular understanding of science or the scientific method. He said, to the contrary, it might show some of the less praiseworthy traits of the scientists on the panels. Condon hoped the AAAS Board would cancel the proceedings. His presence was out of the question because "participation would bring me into contact with individuals in whose integrity I lack confidence." He then continued for three and one half pages outlining his experience with the UFO phenomenon and those associated with it. The implication was clear; It constituted nonsense and he desired no further entanglements. The following received copies: [31]

Thornton Page

Philip Morrison

Walter Roberts

The AAAS Board

Philip Handler and the NAS Review Panel

Philip Seitz, President of the NAS

Daniel Gillmor, Editor of the Condon Report

Walter Sullivan of the New York Times

William Price, AFOSR

J. R. Smiley, President of the University of Texas at El Paso

Fred Thieve, President of CU

Harold Brown, President of the California Institute of Technology

William Markowitz, Marquette University

Richard Kassander, University of Arizona

Hector Quintanilla, Blue Book

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Others who have a need to know in connection with possible future efforts to get support for UFO studies.

Spiro Agnew, Chairman, National Aeronautics and Space Council

Lee DuBridge, Office of Science and Technology, Executive Branch

Bob Seamans, Secretary of the Air Force

John H. Chaffee. Secretary of the Navy

Tom O. Paine, NASA

William D. McElroy, NSF

Bob M. White, ESSA

Senator Clinton Anderson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Astronautical and Space Sciences

Representative George Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics

While Condon reiterated his refusal Menzel began to capitulate, but with conditions. He told Page that he would take part with regrets but, "The condition is that I be allotted a time equal to the sum of the time allotted to Hynek and McDonald or one hour, whichever is greatest." In his note he indicated that Page verbally accepted the arrangement in a phone conversation. [32]

In addition, he wrote to Roberts to say that although his misgivings still remained, and there existed strong pressures not to participate, he would, nevertheless, take part for several reasons. First of all he felt he would like to stop the symposium, but he could see that such an effort would fail. Secondly, the program, according to Menzel, did not have balance and since he was the only one with extensive experience studying Air Force Cases he believed a responsibility existed to the AAAS to make his conclusions known. It upset him and he thought it unfair to be required to appear with five scientists who testified at the Roush Hearings, particularly when the only places they published were sensational magazines, press releases and newspapers. He advised Roberts that the participants should be

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prohibited from releasing their own press material; he felt all press releases should go through the AAAS. [33]

The following day Menzel wrote Roberts again. He reiterated his desire to see the affair cancelled, but said that he would appear. He would do so because of his experience in the area. Moreover, he intended to counter those who wanted to use the AAAS to get Federal funds for UFO studies. Therefore, he did not want his participation interpreted as endorsement but as a means of opposing those who desired to use the AAAS for their own ends. [34]

BACK to History of Events

Forging Ahead

After receiving Condon's letter of 10/6/69 Page became upset, if we can judge from a response he penned but never sent for fear of rousing Condon again. He said he sympathized with the treatment Condon experienced at the hands of extremists and hoped Condon could understand his resentment of the treatment the AAAS Special UFO Committee now received from another group of extremists. He asserted they would carry on, however, just as Condon's group did. Page claimed the logic of how the AAAS could be damaged by a nine hour symposium, when Condon's team worked fifteen months on the subject escaped him. He went on to say that if Condon opposed the authoritarian methods utilized against Galileo that he should stop his appeals to authority. Page intended to enclose 21 stamps so that Condon could send copies of the letter and his response to the people on his distribution list. [35]

As if Sagan and Page didn't have enough problems, Hynek made a complaint from the other camp. The experience and competence of several of the proposed speakers concerned him. He asked if Menzel, Morrison or Condon (apparently he did not know Condon declined) ever investigated cases? He continued:

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Yet they will speak most learnedly of the phenomenon. Better I should address a medical association on the function of the liver and its diseases, about which I would have as much information as Morrison about UFOs.

He said that if Menzel claimed he examined all the Air Force files he would be prepared to state that he (Menzel) had not. Hynek suggested that Page would do better to include George Kocher from The Rand Corporation, William Powers from Northwestern's Astronomy Department or Joachim Kuettner from ESSA. [36]

Page told Hynek that Powers would add little, but he would propose Kocher. He said Hynek could ask Menzel at the symposium about his outlined cases, "but he will get sore (which we don't want) if you claim he is ignorant." Page assured Hynek that Morrison would not talk about cases, but rather the nature of scientific inquiry. [37]

The claim that Menzel examined all the Air Force files apparently raised Hynek's hackles for the above letters were not the end of it. No doubt because Hynek considered himself the authority on Air Force cases and knew Menzel couldn't have examined some 10,000 or so reports in the few days he spent at Blue Book in 1962 or 1963. He told Sagan: [38]

Thornton Page wrote me saying that he hoped whatever I had to say would not make Menzel "sore" and I had replied that if Menzel got "sore" that was his problem, but that I would not countenance his stating that he had examined all the Air Force files.

In response to Page's comments Hynek stated that he did not intend to make personal remarks except in self defense. He claimed that he would come to the symposium to report on and not to sell UFOs; moreover he would not attack Condon directly. [39]

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Page forwarded a summary of his talk to Menzel and asked Menzel to prepare one as per the guidelines of the symposium. Page included a bibliography of UFO literature which Menzel criticized as inadequate. Menzel argued that two lists labeled "crackpot" and "scientific" were in order. Only Tacker, Sullivan, Cantril, Klass, Condon, Markowitz and by implication Menzel belonged on the scientific list. [40]  While on the topic he pointed out that neither McDonald or Hynek published anything that could be viewed as a scientific approach to the problem.

Regarding a summary of his presentation Menzel hesitated. He said he didn't know of the requirement and might not prepare it because he didn't want the content of his paper known to McDonald and Hynek. But if they forwarded theirs, then he would write up his since he saw himself as providing balance to their position. He told Page that he continued to favor cancellation. [41] 

Menzel was far from a happy man at this point for he would take part under duress and as he saw it his protests went unheeded. He wrote Roberts to this effect, saying that Roberts' letter of 10/10/69 almost made him decide to withdraw for he claimed that Roberts misconstrued his letters of 10/7/69 and 10/8/69. He wanted Roberts to convey to the AAAS Board his reasons for wanting the symposium cancelled, not his reasons for agreeing to appear. Noting that Condon, Quintanilla, Atlas and O'Brien did not intend to submit papers and that six participants from the Roush Hearings were, he plaintively asked why he just didn't withdraw and leave the proceedings to the believers. [42]

Roberts worded his reply in conciliatory terms. He apologized for the ambiguity in his 10/10/69 letter claiming that he felt he

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understood Menzel's reasons for wanting the symposium cancelled and for taking part and he informed the AAAS Board of both. He told Menzel he would help in any manner he could to make participation easier. [43] 

Although Page did not send his letter of 10/8/69 to Condon, judging from Condon's 11/7/69 letter to him Page probably relayed his concern either as an aside in a note asking Condon to look over an article on UFOs which Page wrote for the Encyclopedia Britannica, or possibly by enclosing the 10/8/69 letter even though it bears the "not sent" heading in Sagan's files. Condon asserted that he did not send copies of his 10/6/69 letter to individuals in government in the hope that they might in some way cancel the symposium, but rather to warn them about future attempts to get UFO research grants. Condon made the further claim that holding the UFO proceedings had nothing to do with the "preservation of freedom of scientific inquiry, for a specious presentation of both sides will merely confuse the public all the more by giving AAAS sponsorship to scientific chicanery." [44]

Another consideration began to take on importance in Sagan's mind -- namely Menzel's health. At 68 years of age Menzel did not have a good heart; Sagan feared, after reading the 10/30/69 letter to Roberts, that Menzel's "heated approach" might cause him to have a heart attack in the session that Sagan chaired. He asked Roberts "do you think there is any way we can cool him down?" [45]

Based upon a letter from Menzel to Page it would seem that Page wrote him on 11/6/69 to advise Menzel not to get upset over the symposium because it could harm his health. Menzel agreed to that, but said it only angered him that he agreed to take part when the list of

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knowledgeable people such as Condon, McCrosky, Quintanilla and O'Brien kept dwindling, while Sagan, Drake and Morrison were not knowledgeable about the subject, leaving him to do battle with the "believers" from the Roush Symposium.

Finally, he wanted to know if it were true that Sagan and Page did not invite Klass because McDonald refused to appear with him? [46]

Hynek also wrote to Sagan of his concern for Menzel's health problem and said he didn't want him to have a heart attack. His previous remarks, he stated, regarding Menzel's examination of Air Force cases in retrospect seemed a bit edgy; he would correct Menzel if necessary, but wanted a friendly discussion. [47]

Klass probably complained to Menzel when Sagan and Page did not ask him to speak, which prompted the above remark to Page on McDonald's refusal to appear if Klass spoke. At about that time Klass apparently volunteered his services through Roberts because Page wrote the former to explain that it was too late. He told Klass that since he (Klass) refused in 1968 that the committee did not bother to contact him. [48] 

Actually the reason Page gave - tardiness -- is debatable because on the same day he wrote Klass he sent out a last minute invitation to George Kocher of Rand. [49] 

Klass responded by recounting his earlier interactions with Page and Sagan for the purpose, according to him, of informing the AAAS Board of the pre-symposium history. His remarks put Page's refusal in a slightly different light. He said he wrote Roberts about the poor balance on the panels thinking the planners weren't aware of it, and Roberts replied that it seemed difficult to get critics to speak. Klass

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labeled six of the proposed panelists moderate to strong proponents of the ETH. He told Page that based on his 1968 organizing experience Page knew critics would decline, which was all the more reason to ask Klass. Contrary to Page's remarks he said he did not refuse to appear at Dallas, in fact was eager, but Sagan offered only 5-10 minutes on the program and Page offered 10-12 minutes, so naturally he refused since McDonald and Hynek would receive 45-50 minutes. Nevertheless, he wrote to Sagan in the summer of 1969 and in September to Page indicating he would speak, but did not receive a reply. In closing Klass made it clear that he believed that the AAAS would survive the symposium but, "it pains me to find that the AAAS will lend its prestige to pumping new life into this pseudo-scientific fantasy." [50]

Page told Menzel that as he viewed it, Klass withdrew the previous summer and now wanted "to get in on the act," however it was too late. With respect to Menzel's concern about balance, Page assured him that McDonald was in a minority and would be opposed by Franklin Roach, an astronomer, Lester Grinspoon, a psychiatrist; Robert Baker, an astronautical engineer; Kenneth Hardy, a meteorologist; and Philip Morrison, a physicist. He assured Menzel that McDonald's late summary resulted from his defensive stance. [51]

Meanwhile Sagan took Menzel's advice and wrote McDonald to explain that the AAAS would put out one press release based on the summaries of the individual papers, rather than letting each participant issue his own statement. [52]  This was in direct response to McDonald's tactic of meeting with the press whenever he could and distributing his UFO papers.

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In his reply to Klass Page treated him lightly by saying that he (Page) was sorry Klass was so emotional in his effort to dispel historical misconceptions. He said that a psychologist would speak to that phenomenon in the symposium. As for Klass' claim that six panelists were pro-ETH, Page asserted just the opposite was true. He apologized for the 10 minute offer and for failing to answer Klass' September letter before telling him not to add any more to the AAAS correspondence load for, "we want to keep our sense of perspective and humor for December 26-27." [53] 

The Klass reply spoke to the composition of the symposium panels and the intentions of Page. With respect to the former Klass stated the panelists Page considered anti-UFO, with the exception of Menzel, were pro or neutral, while definitely inexperienced. On the other hand, McDonald, Hynek and Hall, he argued, were familiar with case material which could not be countered by the above mentioned inexperienced speakers. He further claimed that based on a letter written to Walter Sullivan of the New York Times, Page was obviously pro-ETH and wanted the symposium to focus on that hypothesis. [54]  That proved to be the last of the Page-Klass exchange.

BACK to History of Events

Symposium and Aftermath

This ended the efforts to both organize and stop the symposium. Of significance to some was the seemingly deftly timed announcement on December 19, just a week prior to the symposium, that the Air Force decided to follow the recommendation of the Condon Report by closing its Blue Book project. Regardless, the symposium took place December 26 and 27 in the midst of a heavy Boston snow which caused McDonald to miss the first day. The event did not prove exciting or the demise of the AAAS.

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Walter Roberts read Menzel's paper on doctor's orders for fear that Menzel might suffer a heart attack at the podium. Before it was over sixteen scientists participated in an orderly fashion.

It seems that McDonald did not know of Condon's 10/6/69 letter with Spiro Agnew as one of its recipients. He became aware of the matter in Boston and interpreted Condon's behavior, as did Page, as an appeal to Agnew to stop the proceedings. McDonald gave a statement to UPI explaining that he would protest Condon's actions through the appropriate AAAS channels. [55]

An issue of some import which arose as a result of the termination of Blue Book became the preservation of the 12,000 or so case reports the Air Force filed at WPAFB. A number of individuals feared that the Air Force might destroy 22 years worth of data. Consequently, twelve of the sixteen panelists along with Roberts composed a document sent by Page to Secretary of the Air Force Seamans which made four requests:

  1. insure that all the material, both classified and unclassified, be preserved without alteration or loss,

  2. declassify promptly all documents filed by the Aerial Phenomena Section of the WPAFB which are classified by virtue of AFR 200-17 and AFR 80-17,

  3. make all the unclassified documents available to qualified scientific investigators at a more suitable location than the USAF Archives (we recommend a major university in the Midwest), and

  4. order an annual review of the remaining classified documents in the present file to determine when they can be declassified without alteration in accordance with current USAF security procedure.

Walter Roberts, Franklin Roach, William Hartmann, Lester Grinspoon, Robert Hall, Philip Morrison, Douglas Price-Williams, J. Allen Hynek,

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James McDonald, Carl Sagan, Walter Sullivan, George Kocher and Thornton Page signed the request. [56]

Menzel wrote Page that he wanted to store the material, but he thought it should be impounded for ten years to keep it from the "buffs" and to allow time to restore a sense of balance to the subject. He said he thought qualified people were entitled access to the material, on the authorization of the Secretary of the Air Force or the president of the NAS, but he didn't know how to define qualified. Basically, he said, he wanted to keep McDonald, Hynek and UFO groups such as APRO and NICAP from having access to the data. [57]

As a final determination for the Blue Book file problem the Air Force sent them to its library archives at the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The results of the symposium were limited. The papers were largely conservative with the exception of Hynek and McDonald. Sagan and Page eventually published them in a book which is considered an authoritative academic reference work on UFOs in the sense that it presents the gamut of scientific opinion as of 1969. [58]  The repercussions of the symposium for the AAAS and the scientific community were nil. There were no mass resignations of scientists from the AAAS nor did the public interpret the AAAS Symposium as endorsement of UFOs by that august scientific body and as a result turn out in throngs to demand a Congressional investigation or a NASA type agency to study the problem. In short, the UFO situation that existed before the symposium remained much the same afterward, and the publication of the Sagan-Page volume of papers in 1973 seemingly did not effect the number of academics involved with the issue.

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SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

In the previous chapters we only looked at McDonald's strategy and tactics, yet in each instance there also existed opposing individuals and groups with their own strategies and tactics. In this chapter the opportunity arose to examine the "other side." In this instance, the other side did not so much oppose McDonald as it opposed Sagan and Page for their naive attempt to organize the AAAS UFO Symposium. Nevertheless, it is an excellent occasion to observe the manner in which this opposition took form and the way in which it functioned; for it proceeded in a similar fashion against McDonald on other issues.

Menzel and Condon saw Sagan and Page as sympathetic to the ETH, but were more concerned, I think, that they were dupes of the flying saucer conspiracy. Therefore, they believed, as elder statesmen of science, that it was their duty to do all in their power to stop the symposium plans which would tarnish that revered body and lend support to the notion that UFOs represented a legitimate topic of scientific inquiry.

On the other hand, Sagan and Page conceived of Condon and Menzel as extremists, who exaggerated the harm which could come from the symposium and failed to see the good which could be derived. The good they defined as confronting a bizarre belief system with the scientific method and witnessing the demise of the former. This they believed would redound to the long term benefit of science as an ongoing process.

The strategy for Sagan and Page consisted of doing what appeared necessary to hold the symposium. To the contrary, the strategy of

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Menzel and Condon comprised doing whatever was necessary to stop it. Let's look at the tactics each employed to implement their respective strategies.

The obstructionist tactics of Condon and Menzel differed. Condon never intended to take part and he didn't. Menzel didn't want to, but in the end could not resist the challenge. Consequently Condon took steps to actually stop the symposium, while Menzel basically needed to be dragged to the altar.

Menzel actually began his obstructionist tactics in the summer of 1968 in an attempt to stop the originally conceived Dallas symposium. He, Klass and Markowitz tried to draft a letter of protest to Science which in the end they never sent. Then in January of 1969 he urged Page to exclude crackpots, meaning scientists like McDonald, and said he would not appear with them. He suggested cancellation if a one-sided program were not feasible and held out the possibility that Condon would appear in such a one-sided event.

When he returned from Europe in September he told Roberts he would not appear, and intended to stop the symposium; he said he intended to use formal AAAS channels of protest. In October, however, he relented, assuming he would get speaking time equal to that of McDonald and Hynek combined. He indicated to Roberts that he would participate to offset the five scientists who spoke at the Roush Hearings and to see to it that they didn't use the AAAS to obtain funding for UFO studies. However, he remained of the opinion that cancellation was the best thing for the AAAS. In late October he made his last attempt at being

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obstreperous by refusing to forward Page a summary of his paper until he received summaries from McDonald and Hynek.

The battle with Condon occurred during September. He began by telling Roberts he would not attend any AAAS functions if the symposium were held and ridiculed the AAAS for its pro-UFO position. Then he began an effort to get various elder statesmen of science to oppose the function and others to cancel their appearances. In the former group Hoagland of Harvard and Shane of the Lick Observatory appealed to the AAAS with Condon. To make his case Condon distributed copies of their AAAS letters of protest, and his own, to various prominent scientists and to all the prospective symposium participants. Condon argued that the event would do a disservice to the AAAS and only provide a platform for legitimating future efforts of UFO buffs to obtain Federal money for UFO studies.

As a result of this campaign McCrosky of Harvard cancelled his presentation for the good of the AAAS. O'Brien of the AFSAB also declined as did Atlas of the University of Chicago, although they claimed it was not due to Condon's lobbying. And finally, the Air Force refused to provide speakers, who, Page hoped, would present the official position.

When it seemed that the symposium would be held anyway Condon made a last appeal to Sagan in which he reiterated his early arguments and encapsulated the history of his own involvement with UFOs. As a last minute effort he sent carbons to everyone in the scientific and governmental communities who he thought had "a need to know," particularly with respect to future funding policies in the area.

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The tactics of Sagan, Page and to a lesser extent Roberts focused on obtaining speakers for the symposium. This involved humoring Menzel and Condon, countering Menzel and Condon, and trying to appease Menzel and Condon. They did this because Menzel and Condon were the most important members of the anti-UFO camp. Without their presence it was felt the symposium would lack balance and fail to obtain support from the AAAS Board.

Because of the opposition to the symposium in 1968 Page expected similar objections in 1969. As early as January he told Sagan that the best way to avoid a confrontation would be to have three panels to insure that McDonald would not appear with Menzel and Condon. In April the situation became so tense that Sagan suggested to Page that Condon and McDonald should be scheduled on separate days. In September after Condon became infuriated over the rumor that he would take part, when in fact he remained uninvited, Page told both Roberts and Hynek to keep the panelists names quiet until they formally accepted. To insure this Page sent out tentative programs to potential speakers with the panelists names excised.

When Condon said he would not speak several efforts were made during September to persuade him to do so. Roberts, knowing Condon's opposition to the allocation of school time for pseudoscience, told him that many school teachers would attend the symposium which would provide a good opportunity to educate them. Page used a different approach. He told Condon they wanted to hold the symposium to correct the public misconceptions which the Colorado study unearthed. Sagan also asked Condon to reconsider and in the same letter explained his

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rationale for the benefit of the AAAS Board. He claimed it was necessary to counter borderland science notions with the scientific method because the physical sciences lost too many good students to the study of the bizarre.

Sagan, Page and Roberts used a similar strategy when Menzel returned from Europe to find the symposium planning in full swing. Throughout November Roberts, Page and Sagan worked on him. Roberts told him everything possible would be done to make his appearance easier. Because Page feared Menzel might have a heart attack he told him not to get upset over the planning. Sagan evinced the same concern, but feared the attack would occur during the symposium. He asked Roberts how they might cool Menzel off. When Menzel charged the panel with pro-ETH sympathies Page explained that six or so members would oppose McDonald. Finally, Sagan took Menzel's advice with respect to publicity and informed McDonald that the AAAS, rather than the participants, would arrange for it.

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SUMMARY OF TACTICS

Organizers

     Sagan

  1. suggested scheduling McDonald on different days than Menzel and Condon

  2. told Condon that the symposium was an opportunity to counter a borderland science notion with the scientific method

  3. took Menzel's advice to have the AAAS handle all publicity

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     Page

  1. suggested putting McDonald on different panels than Menzel and Condon

  2. urged Hynek and Roberts to keep the panelists names a secret

  3. excised panelists names from tentative programs sent to prospective speakers

  4. told Condon that the symposium would correct public misconceptions about UFOs unearthed by the Condon Report

     Roberts

  1. told Condon that many school teachers would attend the symposium

  2. assured Menzel that everything would be done to make his appearance easier

Obstructionists

     Menzel

  1. drafted 1968 protest letter to Science

  2. said he would not appear with crackpots

  3. suggested cancellation if a one-sided program were not possible

  4. said Condon might appear in a one-sided program

  5. told Roberts he would protest through formal AAAS channels

  6. asked for speaking time equivalent to McDonald and Hynek combined or he would not appear

     Condon

  1. threatened not to attend any AAAS functions if the symposium were held

  2. ridiculed the AAAS Board for the proposed symposium

  3. got Hoagland and Shane to appeal to the AAAS Board

  4. sent his letter along with Shane and Hoagland's protests to prospective symposium participants and elder statesmen of science

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FOOTNOTES

  1. Page to Wolfle, 4/8/68, cc. W.G. Berl, Hynek, McDonald, Sagan, Whipple, Hynek Letters.Back To Text

  2. Page to Odishaw, 4/25/68, Sagan Letters, hereafter S.L.Back To Text

  3. This correspondence is available in the personal papers of Donald Menzel at the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia. Although I read through the material I did not take notes because I assumed that I had Xeroxing privileges. A month after leaving Philadelphia under the impression that the Library would forward the material I had designated for copying I was informed that Menzel had refused me the Xeroxing privilege. The remarks which appear in the text are based on my recollections.Back To Text

  4. Sagan to McDonald, 9/16/68, McDonald Letters.Back To Text

  5. Menzel to Page, 1/27/69, S.L.Back To Text

  6. Page to Sagan, 1/30/69, S.L.Back To Text

  7. Page to Sagan, 4/18/69, S.L.Back To Text

  8. Sagan to Page, 4/25/69, S.L.Back To Text

  9. Morrison to Page, 6/2/69, S.L.Back To Text

  10. Page to Morrison, 6/6/69, S.L.Back To Text

  11. Roberts to Page, 6/11/69, S.L. It is probably safe to say that the same approach was used by Sagan at the 1974 AAAS Symposium devoted to the ideas of Emmanuel Velikovsky.Back To Text

  12. Page to Sagan, 8/10/69, S.L.Back To Text

  13. Sagan to Page, 8/28/69, cc. Roberts and Morrison, S.L.Back To Text

  14. Condon to Roberts, 9/5/69, cc. the AAAS Board, McDonald Letters.Back To Text

  15. Hoagland to Roberts, 9/8/69, cc. Condon, Wolfle, Berl at the AAAS, S.L.Back To Text

  16. Shane to Roberts, 9/12/69, cc. Condon, S.L.Back To Text

  17. Page to Roberts, 9/13/69, S.L.Back To Text

  18. Page to Hynek, 9/13/69, S.L.Back To Text

  19. Page to Sagan, 9/13/69, S.L.Back To Text

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  1. Roberts to Condon, 9/15/69, cc. Page, Morrison, Sagan and Wolfle, S.L.Back To Text

  2. Page to Condon, 9/15/69, S.L.Back To Text

  3. Condon to Page, 9/19/69, S.L.Back To Text

  4. McCrosky to Sagan, 9/23/69, cc. Condon, Morrison, Page and Roberts, S.L.Back To Text

  5. Page to Wolfle, 9/23/69, cc. Roberts, Morrison, Sagan and Hynek, S.L.Back To Text

  6. Sagan to Condon, 9/24/69, cc. Page, Morrison and Roberts, S.L.Back To Text

  7. O'Brien to Sagan, 9/26/69, cc. Page, S.L.Back To Text

  8. Roberts to Page, 9/28/69, cc. Sagan, Morrison, Wolfle, and Bentley Glass, S.L.Back To Text

  9. Page to Morrison, Roberts and Sagan, 9/29/69, S.L.Back To Text

  10. Atlas to Sagan, 9/29/69, cc. Condon, Roberts and Page, S.L.Back To Text

  11. Sagan to Roberts, Page, Morrison, Condon and the AAAS Board, 9/29/69, S.L.Back To Text

  12. Condon to Sagan, 10/6/69, S.L.Back To Text

  13. Menzel to Page, 10/6/69, S.L.Back To Text

  14. Menzel to Roberts, 10/7/69, cc. Page, Sagan, Morrison and Wolfle, S.L.Back To Text

  15. Menzel to Roberts, 10/8/69, cc. AAAS Board and a blind carbon to Sagan, S.L.Back To Text

  16. Page to Condon, 10/8/69, S.L. never sent.Back To Text

  17. Hynek to Page, 10/11/69, S.L.Back To Text

  18. Page to Hynek, 10/15/69, S.L.Back To Text

  19. Hynek to Sagan, 10/27/69, S.L.Back To Text

  20. Hynek to Page, 10/29/69, S.L.Back To Text

  21. Colonel Lawrence Tacker was in charge of Blue Book and wrote Flying Saucers and the United States Air Force, Princeton, N.J., Van Nostrand, 1960. Walter Sullivan, the NYT's social editor*, wrote the introduction to the Condon Report. Hadley Cantril, a social psychologist, wrote The Invasion From Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic, Princeton University Press, 1940. A study of the Orson Wells broadcast of 1939. The work of Klass and Condon has been cited, while William Markowitz wrote "The Physics and Metaphysics of Unidentified Flying Objects," Science. September 15, 1967, pp. 1274-79.Back To Text


*Editor's Note: Sullivan was actually the science editor of the Times; he was appointed to that position in 1964.

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  1. Menzel to Page, 10/29/69, S.L.Back To Text

  2. Menzel to Roberts, 10/30/69, cc. Condon, Markowitz, Klass, Shane, Page, Sagan, Wolfle, Boyd, S.L.Back To Text

  3. Roberts to Menzel, 11/3769, S.L.Back To Text

  4. Condon to Page, 11/7/69, S.L.Back To Text

  5. Sagan to Roberts, 11/12/69, S.L.Back To Text

  6. Menzel to Page, 11/17/69, S.L.Back To Text

  7. Hynek to Sagan, 11/18/69, S.L.Back To Text

  8. Page to Klass, 11/18/69, S.L.Back To Text

  9. Page to Kocher, 11/18/69, S.L.Back To Text

  10. Klass to Page, 11/22/69, cc. Athelstan Spilhaus, Roberts, Morrison, Sagan, Menzel, Condon, Markowitz and Quintanilla, S.L.Back To Text

  11. Page to Menzel, 11/22/69, S.L.Back To Text

  12. Sagan to McDonald, 11/24/69, McDonald Letters.Back To Text

  13. Page to Klass, 11/24/69, cc. Spilhaus, Roberts, Morrison, Sagan, Menzel, Condon, Markowitz, Quintanilla, S.L.Back To Text

  14. Klass to Page, 12/5/69, cc. Spilhaus, Roberts, Morrison, Sagan, Menzel, Condon, Markowitz, Quintanilla and Baker, S.L.Back To Text

  15. McDonald to UPI, 12/28/69, McDonald Letters.Back To Text

  16. Page to Seamans, 12/29/69, S.L.Back To Text

  17. Menzel to Page, 1/9/70, S.L.Back To Text

  18. Carl Sagan and Thornton Page (eds.) UFOs: A Scientific Debate, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1973.Back To Text

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