Monday, February 26, 2024

“Against the Odds” – the new Donald Keyhoe biography by Linda Powell and some curious Australian fallout involving Defence scientist Harry Turner and federal Australian minister Richard Casey with Keyhoe’s “Flying Saucers from Outer Space”

"From where did the widespread belief come that UFOs represent extraterrestrial technology and that the government is hiding this truth from us. The man perhaps most responsible for these twin pillars of current belief is Donald E. Keyhoe." writes Linda Powell, in an excellent biography of Donald Keyhoe – “Against the odds – Major Donald E. Keyhoe and his battle to end UFO secrecy” (Anomalist Books, 2023).


In “The Myth and Mystery of UFOs” (University Press of Kansas, 2010) Thomas E. Bullard, a folklore scholar, well grounded in the serious study of the subject of UFOs, wrote:

“The extraterrestrial hypothesis found its most enthusiastic champion in a retired Marine Corps aviator and aviation writer, Major Donald E. Keyhoe. In an article for True magazine in 1949, he laid out the case he would promote throughout the 1950s, arguing that the government knew flying saucers were advanced vehicles from another planet but hid this fact from the public to prevent mass panic. Keyhoe was convinced and convincing. His network of military and government contacts leaked impressive sightings and behind-the-scenes rumors to him, making him the best-connected spokesman for flying saucers during this decade. He wrote with a flair that dramatized stale facts and events into an ongoing detective story in four best-selling books— The Flying Saucers Are Real (1950), The Flying Saucers from Outer Space (1953), The Flying Saucer Conspiracy (1955), and Flying Saucers: Top Secret (1960). The titles stated his foremost concerns, the texts crackled with tense expectation that the secrecy campaign verged on collapse and the hidden truth would soon spill out that visitors from space 

swarmed our skies. On April 17, 1952, Keyhoe picked up an influential ally when Life magazine published “Have We Visitors from Space?” an article sympathetic to the extraterrestrial hypothesis.” 


In “Donald E. Keyhoe and the Pentagon: The rise of interest in the UFO phenomenon and what the government really knew”, (The Journal of UFO Studies, New Series 6, 1995/96, 195-211), Dr. Michael Swords, a Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) board director, but then in the Department of Science Studies, Western Michigan University, concluded:

“Keyhoe is a founding father of ufology, perhaps the most important one. He certainly was a major sustainer of ufology as he and NICAP battled through the 1950s and early 1960s to keep the subject alive. As the extraterrestrial sirens sang to him, he, as did many others, became engulfed by their enticement, a somewhat reluctant US marine sailing very strange waters for the rest of his life, Ufology owes more than we can say to Donald Keyhoe, a good man, a talented man, who was in the right time and place to crack the door, and give the rest of us a little look inside.”


Linda Powell’s impressive biography of Donald Keyhoe, gives a well documented picture of the man, his times and his impact.  Best known for his flying saucer books, particularly “The Flying Saucers are real” (1950) and “Flying Saucers from Outer Space” (1953), his leadership of NICAP, and his earlier connections with Charles Lindbergh (“Flying with Lindbergh” (1928)), his life story is remarkable. “Against the Odds” is a very important foundational UFO/UAP reference and a striking mirror of our contemporary machinations with the UFO/UAP enigma.  It should be required reading for all who seek to understand, participate and even lead the current push for UFO/UAP disclosure.


The chapter headings of “Against the Odds” alone, give a grand idea of a fascinating life, well told, with rich insights and lessons for current players who think they know it all. You need to realise that others have gone before you, and you need to realise with current events, controversies and insights, much of it seems like, “History continues to repeat itself,” as Linda Powell suggests. Her Keyhoe biography gives us much to consider, and it might even help in recalibrating the trajectories and certainties offered up and claimed by current iterations of the UFO/UAP controversy.


“Against the Odds” chapter headings: Roots, Service, Changes, Home and Away, Flying with Lindbergh, Moving On, From Pulp to Propaganda, The Shape of Things to Come, Lift-off, Friends, Flaps, and Flimflam, Lifting the Lid, Elation and Deflation, A Friend Among Foes, A is for AdamskiAPRO Accord, Biters Bit, The Merry Widows, Ruppelt’s Ruminations, Strange Bedfellows, The Grandiose Plan, The IcebergNICAP, The “Real” NICAP, A Motley Crew, Strong-Armed by Armstrong,  Annus Horribilis, Cleaning House, Ruppelt’s Reversal, The Feud, Et Tu, Ruppelt?, Tacker’s Tack,Forwards and BackwardsStaggering OnA Gas ExplosionKeel and JacksCondon’s Low Trick, Fiasco FalloutThe Bitter EndAfter the Fall, Aftermath.


Understandably, Linda Powell’s book is largely a 20th century American story informing the life and times of Donald Keyhoe.  However, his 1953 book “Flying Saucers from Outer Space” had a very significant impact, particularly in my home country of Australia. Back in 1953-54 Australians usually got their books via British editions, unless you were in a position to acquire American editions.  In the case of “Flying Saucers from Outer Space” 2 hardback editions emerged – the US edition (Henry Holt) in late 1953 and the British edition (Hutchinson) in May 1954.  Both sold well.


Two particular Australians of great significance took an interest in the book during 1954 – Richard Casey and Harry Turner. Remarkably it seems (unless further research shows otherwise) their respective interests did not seem to intersect, which seems surprising. Maybe we just haven’t seen that connection yet.



Lord Richard Gardiner Casey, Governor General of Australia from 1965 to 1969, had a long and distinguished career in Australian politics. For most of the 1950s Casey was both Minister for External Affairs (now called Foreign Affairs) and Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) – the premier government scientific research enterprise. These roles gave Casey great influence, including secret influence as a “kingmaker” in the Australian intelligence empire. 

                                                                    Richard Casey

On occasions Casey used his position to give fuller reign to some of his passions and enthusiasms. His biographer, William J. Hudson, indicated, “Throughout his years at External Affairs, Casey gave constant attention to the Press, dining with editors, giving background briefings to newspaper executives, keeping in touch with columnists, having department officers prepare articles on current events for publication over his name, writing about his own enthusiasms (notably rainmaking and flying saucers, neither an interest shared by ministerial colleagues).” Hudson highlighted, “Unfortunately for his friends, he tended to become a missionary for whatever fascinated him ...”


Flying saucers clearly fascinated Casey. He clearly wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. The UFO sirens lured Casey particularly during the period from 1952 to 1955. 


A personal letter to Casey from his man in Italy, Paul McGuire (formerly a Catholic writer from South Australia – an asset of course in Rome), dated 27 October 1954 accelerated his enquiries into the flying saucer mystery. 


From Rome, Italy, McGuire wrote, “I don’t know what you hear of flying saucers. Personally, I was born skeptical. But if they have no physical reality, they are certainly a political and psychological factor. The air here is filled with them or rumours of them. And both Mrs. (Clare Boothe) Luce (the US Ambassador to Italy) and her Air Attache profess to take them seriously. She talked (about) them here (at the Australian Embassy) on Thursday at lunch. On Thursday evening at a little dinner given on his birthday by the Air Attache, I sat next to her, she next to him. They went at it solidly for two hours. The three or four Italians (Foreign Ministry and Service) were pop-eyed.” 


The letter is a remarkable insight into international diplomatic secret intelligence on a subject normally reserved in public circles as not a serious concern. 


Major General Emmett Cassidy

McGuire revealed, “(Major General Emmett B.) Cassady, the Air Attache, says flatly that the sightings are constantly increasing and are up to 50 “unexplaineds” a week. The reports are now sufficiently consistent to establish the prime type as cigar or clipped-cigar shaped, about 70 metres long. They are recorded by various instruments, sufficiently to establish a physical object: i.e. to remove the assumption that they are all effects of atmospheric disturbances, or such. He says that two senior Air Generals of the U.S. Forces have met a saucer in flight. Mrs. Luce mentioned a third General. She says that her brother-in-law saw one closely while walking in New England, “and he hasn’t been the same man since;” though he refuses to talk for publication. 


“Henry Luce (Mrs. Luce’s husband and founder of Time magazine and other major media publications) held a conference of his editors lately to decide whether they should make an effort to knock the whole business on the head. His people said, “And how the hell do you think you can do that? There’s too much evidence.” 


“Mrs. Luce and Cassady both said that whatever is there does not belong to the U.S.A., and that no scientists could yet produce the phenomena established, or explain them.” 


The day after the McGuire letter, 28 October 1954, Associated Press reported that the American ambassador Claire Boothe Luce saw a flying saucer for herself on the day. 

She was among dozen of witnesses who saw “a luminous round object” speeding across the sky over Rome, followed by a fall of fine cotton-like particles.” It was reported, “These objects dropped white cottony stuff that hung from telephone wires.”  (Was this a case of “angel hair” a phenomenon I witnessed in Grafton during 1969?)  Mrs. Luce was reported saying, “I saw something, but I don’t know what it was.” Maurizio Andreolo, an AP reporter, described the flying saucer as “like a moon dashing across the sky at fantastic speed ... silently.”


The McGuire intelligence included some provocative disclosures, but of course they were in the secret context of diplomatic exchanges between an Australian Federal Minister for External Affairs and his Ambassadorial Minister for Italy. 


Paul McGuire concluded, “As I said, I was born skeptical and achieve belief only by (I hope) rational processes. I am quite incompetent to judge the technical points Cassady puts. So I dismiss the question of the flying saucers’ existence. But we cannot dismiss politically the fact that Mrs. Luce and her Attache are talking them.” 


McGuire speculated, “Mrs. Luce and Cassady may have some political motive for lying. That I doubt. They may be deluded or misled or fanciful (that is much more likely). But, whatever the cause, the fact is that they are talking here of saucers as established or near-established realities.” 


It was Paul McGuire’s final words that Casey acted upon very promptly. McGuire wrote, “May I presume to suggest that other posts might be asked whether Americans elsewhere are talking like this.” Richard Casey copied the explosive extract from McGuire’s personal letter to other Australian diplomatic posts, specifically Walter.R. Crocker (High Commissioner for Australia, New Delhi, India), Keith Officer (Paris, France), Laurence ‘Jim’McIntyre (London, England), Douglas Copland (Canada), McClure Smith (Cairo, Eygpt) and Dr. Ronald Walker (Tokyo, Japan). He also copied the extract to his External Affairs Department head Arthur Tange (who would later become Defence Department head). 


Casey attached his own comment, “It all sounds rather strange and one is naturally inclined to be quite skeptical – although there seems to be some evidence that a proportion of the “unexplained objects” are in fact “unexplained” on any rational hypothesis. This is just a note to ask if you have encountered any evidence or views on this subject held by responsible and informed people in your part of the world.” 


To Paul McGuire he wrote, “I’ve read one or two books on this subject and have had the official statements of the U.S.A.F., which are obviously very carefully worded. Like you I am naturally skeptical but there seems to be a proportion of the “sightings” that are not explainable on any rational hypothesis.” 


Embolden somewhat by the McGuire communication Casey wrote to his Chief of the Division of Radiophysics CSIRO in Sydney, Dr.E.G. Bowen, on 15 November 1954 enclosing “a can of worms.” Casey revealed, “I am sending you copy of a small book ... You’ll probably have a fit when you see it. It is called “Flying Saucers from Outer Space.” The cover is enough to put anyone off. It was given to me – and I had the greatest reluctance even to start it, but I found that I became strangely interested in it. Maybe you would have the same experience. One naturally regards the title with every skepticism – if not something stronger. 


“I have seen one or two official U.S. Air Force statements about “Unexplained Air Objects,” which are always carefully worded and are at pains to explain that the greater part of the “sightings” are explainable as natural phenomena or on some other grounds. But the inference is that there is a percentage that are not so explainable. It is with this small minority of these things that this fellow Keyhoe deals in this book ... It appears to be honestly written (although rather journalistically) – and he quotes a number of Pentagon people by name – not that they endorse his theory, but they never wipe it or indeed even discount the possibility of it. 

“Anyhow, I think you will not be as nauseated when you read the book, as you will undoubtedly be from the look of the cover. And when you have read it – if you can bring yourself to do so – I’d be interested to know your reaction.” 


The letter was marked “PERSONAL” but of course it was from Casey, Dr. Bowen’s federal minister and political master. A reply would eventually come which may have been a turning point in Casey’s descent into the flying saucer controversy. Casey copied this letter to Lewis Douglas, in Tucson Arizona, which “I hope won’t lead you to the inescapable conclusion that I’ve got nuts. “  He asked Douglas to get a copy of Keyhoe’s book – “I feel sure you will at least be intrigued by it – and you need never admit publicly that you’ve read it.” Casey asked him to “make discreet enquiries at the top end of the U.S.A.F. as to what its all in aid of – I’d be very interested to know what they have to say about it in private, as apart from the obvious “attitude” that they have to observe vis-à-vis the public.” Casey was clearly intimating that there had to be a secret and public view on the subject, which he expected to be different.

Dr. E.G. Bowen replied to Casey’s letter, “Mr Dear Minister, I found the book by Major Keyhoe intensely amusing and entertaining ... I must say, however, that I am far from convinced by any of the anecdotes or arguments. “Bowen cited inadequate evidence and Keyhoe’s seeming intent to trap the US Air Force into “saying something they obviously were not going to say.” He then highlighted phenomena such as “a whole range of atmospheric reflection phenomena in which it possible to see mock suns, sun dogs etc,” “radar reflections from meteors” (which he said, “These are real visitors from outer space and there is no mystery about what they consist of or how they behave,”) and “a large number of radar-echo phenomena which can arise from refraction or reflection of radio waves in the atmosphere.”


Bowen then launched into a negative analysis of Keyhoe’s book, indicating that all the radar sightings were quite unconvincing, and so to the visual sightings. However, he did surrender, “One thing which I most decidedly cannot understand is simultaneous visual and radar sightings of high speed objects in the lower atmosphere. 


Bowen wrote, “I know many of the scientists concerned with defence matters in the United States and know that they completely discount the suggestions made in Keyhoe’s book. I also know several of the Canadians, but I do not know W.B. Smith.  His ideas on rotating magnets are wild in the extreme and I suspect from his other answers that he is either being misreported or is a rather irresponsible member of the scientific community.” 


He agreed “that the Air Force have not behaved particularly well on this question,” but more on the question of hiding explanations, such as the involvement of Skyhook balloons in the death of Captain Mantell, back in 1948. Mantell was involved in an attempted intercept of a “flying saucer,” which Bowen believed was caused by the classified Skyhook programme. 


Dr. Bowen concluded, “The whole thing can be put down to hysteria and mass suggestion. People certainly see phenomena which they cannot explain. In the old days they put it down to witches and sorcerers; now it has simply changed to saucers from outer space. In this respect books like that of Keyhoe will, of course, do a great deal of good. Like people who used to predict the end of the earth, they build up suspense, made out, as he does, that 1954 is the the fateful year – and then nothing happens. The public gradually becomes disillusioned and forgets the whole thing. This, I think, is what will happen in the present case. There will, no doubt, be saucer scares in other parts of the world but I doubt whether we will hear much more about them from the U.S.A.” Well, he certainly got that one wrong.


This myopic response had an effect on Richard Casey. He responded, “Both my wife and I have read your letter with the greatest interest. It puts Keyhoe’s theories into proper perspective – and I can well believe that your reaction to it is the right one – although it removes a rather romantic conception that had intrigued both my wife and myself.” 


However, Dr. Bowen’s November 1954 letter was wrong on a number of accounts, but more through a lack of knowledge of what was going on around him, even in his own country. In late August 1954 a spectacular radar visual aircraft encounter had occurred near Goulburn New South Wales. It would leak out in a sensational way in December 1954 creating widespread media publicity. 


Meanwhile another physicist, Harry Turner had been secretly assessing the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) UFO files. He to considered Donald Keyhoe’s book “Flying Saucers from Outer Space” but came to very different conclusions. 


The focus of Casey, Bowen and Turner’s interest, namely Donald Keyhoe and his official flying saucer case files that enriched his 1954 international best selling book in fact, with the wisdom that comes with a deeper grasp of the facts and the benefit of hindsight, comes through these and other gauntlets fairly well. 


Casey received a letter dated 12 January 1955 from Laurence McIntyre in the London Australian External Affairs office. McIntyre’s enquiries had led him to Sir Frederick Brundrett, Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defence. Brundrett had replaced R.V. Jones as Director of Scientific Intelligence in 1954. McIntyre revealed, (Brundrett) “had as a matter of fact made something of a study of the problem himself in an effort to lay a ghost, as it were,” that covered a large number of sightings extending over the past 30 years (back to 1924?). Two things struck him, namely in none of the cases was there any independent witnesses, and all cases were explainable in rational terms. This study made Brundrett quite skeptical about flying saucer reports. McIntyre concluded his letter, “In short (DSI Brundrett) did not believe that flying saucers existed, and considered that all reports so far received, even though emanating from many sane and responsible people, had been based on one or another form of hallucination. Nor does he consider that the available evidence is enough to justify the setting aside of money and resources for serious study. But he has by no means closed his mind completely.” 


Casey passed on his growing diplomatic intelligence on the saucer problem to Dr. Bowen who duly responded saying, “I must admit that I was rather at a loss for comment on the dispatches from France and Italy.” He was amused that the main reaction was a ribald one. He didn’t fully understand the Plantier theory as described in the Paris-Presse l’Intransigeant newspaper report but grouped it with the views of Wilbert Smith in Keyhoe’s book, namely that they violated the known laws of physics. Bowen had a much easier time with Brundrett’s views heartily agreeing with them. He told Casey, “There are just too many physical inconsistencies in the reports to put much faith in them.” 


And that was that. Minister Casey’s dance with the UFO had reached an impasse. Information from various sources intrigued him but his science guru gave him pause. He never quite lost his interest but it certainly went into a decline. 

Casey would reconnect his "flying saucer" "sirens" in 1972: See:

John Pinkney – UFOs, “Alien Honeycomb” & the Australian Lord “Flying Saucerer” – some timely lessons from the past?


The Casey documents describing Casey’s flying saucer interest from 1952 to 1955 were from a Department External Affairs “Flying Saucer” file M1148/0 located and copied for the author by Jason Cowland during February 2001. The Casey diary entries and Casey related clippings were accessed by Bill Chalker in the National Library, Canberra during May 2001. Lord Casey’s diaries from January 52 to October 1956 were examined. These are located in Boxes 27 & 28 of the Casey family papers. Richard Casey’s extensive press cuttings from the period of 1952 to 1955 were located in Boxes 48 through to 54. 



June 26 1954 Melbourne: The Melbourne Argus Weekender newspaper: “’Saucers’ do exist and why!” written by an “eminent Australian nuclear physicist, who has investigated “saucer” reports since 1948,” whose name “must be withheld because of his link with high-level research”.


The Melbourne Argus was prominently reporting on a huge wave of UFO sightings in Victoria - the most significant of the early sighting waves in Australia, that entrenched official interest. A classified Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) file minute dated 2 Nov 1955, revealed: “A ministerial statement in the House (Australian parliament - B.C.) on 19 Nov 53 (indicates) that the RAAF make detailed investigations of every report received, (which in truth we are not yet doing).” 


The Australian nuclear physicist: 

“From all corners of the world there have come thousands of reports of strange objects in the sky …  over cities, deserts, mountains and oceans … Radar plots have checked with visual sightings. Jet fighter aircraft have attempted to intercept them and have been out maneuvered. (Governments) … have set up investigation centres … there remain several hundred reports that can't be explained… 


“Finally, I appeal to the Air Forces and Security Services of the Western World to release their suppressed information ....”


The Australian scientist hypothesised, “A certain remnant of reports of UFOs may only be explained by the assumption that machines controlled by some intelligence are being observed.”“These machines are not manufactured on earth; that is, their origin is extraterrestrial.” 


The scientist was O.H. (Oliver Harry) Turner, who at that time was working in the physics department of Melbourne University. Turner was involved in the early research that led to radar in Australia, as well as working in high level research at England's Harwell establishment, at Maralinga (as the chief Australian Health Physics officer during the atomic testing in the late fifties) and with Australia's military scientific intelligence from the late 1960s until his retirement in 1982. 


The UFO “invasion” centred in Victoria in 1954 was the most significant of the early sighting waves in Australia. The Victorian UFO Research Society was not founded until 1957, however in 1978 it produced an excellent study of the flap. The extensive wave led to entrenched official interest. A classified DAFI file minute dated 2 Nov 1955, somewhat tellingly revealed: “A ministerial statement in the House (Australian parliament - B.C.) on 19 Nov 53 (indicates) that the RAAF make detailed investigations of every report received, (which in truth we are not yet doing).” 


DAFI (Directorate of Air Force Intelligence) asked Turner, to undertake a classified “scientific appreciation” of their files.  He recommended greater official interest and specific interest in radar visual reports, also concluding, “The evidence presented by the reports held by RAAFtend to support the ... conclusion ... that certain strange aircraft have been observed to behave in a manner suggestive of extra-terrestrial origin.”


In studying the RAAF/DAFI UFO files Turner also utilised retired Marine Corps major Donald Keyhoe's USAF reports, described in his best selling book, “Flying Saucers from Outer Space”, and suggested the RAAF seek official USAF confirmation of the legitimacy of Keyhoe's data. Turner said of Keyhoe's “USAF data”, that “if one assumes these Intelligence Reports are authentic, then the evidence presented is such that it is difficult to assume any interpretation other than that UFOs are being observed.” 


The disposition of Harry Turner's controversial report is a revealing indictment of official handling of the UFO controversy. Faced with his provocative conclusions with Keyhoe's data as one cornerstone, the Director of Air Force Intelligence (RAAF) did seek out official confirmation from America. The Australian Joint Service Staff (intelligence) in Washington wrote to him saying: “I have discussed with the USAF the status of Major Keyhoe. I understand that his book is written in such a way as to convey the impression that his statements are based on official documents, and there is some suggestion that he has made improper use of information to which he had access while he was serving with the Marine Corps. He has, however, no official status whatsoever and a dim view is taken officially of both him and his works.” 


So when it came to considering Turner's classified report, the Department of Air concluded: “Professor Turner accepted Keyhoe's book as being authentic and based on official releases. Because Turner places so much weight on Keyhoe's work he emphasised the need to check Keyhoe's reliability. (The Australian Joint Service Staff communication) removes Keyhoe's works a prop for Turner's work so that the value of the latter's findings and recommendations is very much reduced.” Turner's findings, including one in which he recommended the setting up of a scientific “investigating panel”, in the light of the “discrediting” of Keyhoe's data, were found to be impractical and not justified. 


The big problem with all this was that it was based on misrepresentation on the part of the US Air Force. They were engaged in a misguided campaign to undermine the popularity of Donald Keyhoe's books. While Keyhoe may have slightly “beat up” his USAF data, the Intelligence reports, quoted by Keyhoe and used by Turner to support his conclusions to DAFI, were authentic. Eventually the USAF themselves also admitted that the material Keyhoe used was indeed from official Air Force reports. 


It was the CIA that actually passed on the negative assessment of Donald Keyhoe and his book “Flying Saucers from Outer Space”. P.G. Strong, Chief, Operations Staff, 0/SI, wrote a “Report on book entitled “Flying Saucers from Outer Space”, dated 8 December, 1953.  Linda Powell’s book “Against the Odds” highlights this document. 


It was quite the dance that Donald Keyhoe had with the US government and its agencies, particularly the USAF and the CIA, in his battle to end UFO secrecy.  The fallout went as far as Australia, effectively scuttling and misdirecting the attempts to do a serious enquiry into the UFO mystery.  

The early cover of "Against All Odds"
(my review copy) 
The final cover:

Friday, February 02, 2024

Limina - the Journal of UAP Studies - has landed

It is wonderful to see that the first issue has appeared.  

I sent the following message to editor-in-chief Dr. Michael C. Cifone: 

Congratulations Mike and to all the fine people who brought the first issue of Limina into being.  An outstanding achievement. Thanks for your support in trying to get my humble efforts to the finish line, but too many issues & more significantly, personal matters prevented this.  I sincerely hope that it will make it into a future issue.

You and all the fine people behind this endeavour are making history.

Best wishes for the future and its potent trajectory.

Bill Chalker

You can access the first issue of the open journal and the Society for UAP Studies (SUAPS) the organisation behind it at:
By way of transparency I was pleased to be asked to join the SUAPS advisory board:
I urge you to support and contribute to SUAPS & Limina

Sunday, December 24, 2023

The Washington DC UFO “Merry-Go-Round”, the Australian connection and the VASCO “bright triple transient” event

Anyone who has an interest in UFOs, (or their current iteration UAP) should anchor themselves in serious historical scholarship.  I unashamedly highly recommend the massive book of excellent historical UFO/UAP scholarship, “UFOs and Government – A Historical Inquiry” (Anomalist Books, 2012) by “the UFO History Group”.  While it is heavily focused on the US experience, with principle authors Michael Swords and Robert Powell, ably supported by Barry Greenwood, Richard Thieme and Jan Aldrich, and with heavy historical UFO/UAP scholarship on other parts of the planet from Clas Svahn (Sweden), Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos (Spain) and Bill Chalker (me, on Australia), and excellent photo/illustration editing from Steve Purcell, plus help and advice from William Murphy, Thomas Tulien and Franklin Woodward. 


From this excellent book, I have quoted extensively on its coverage of the famous July 1952 Washington DC UFO/UAP events, to give detailed, background context to two separate threads from that month – the Washington DC UFO “Merry-Go-Round” –  the Australian connection, and fascinating and puzzling VASCO find of “a bright triple transient that vanished within 50 minutes” on July 19, 1952.


Well now, from “UFOs and Government” some detailed, well researched historical context, but I urge you to get the book itself, because I’m only quoting parts of its Washington DC “Merry-Go-Round narrative.  There is much, much more.

The Washington DC UFO “Merry-Go-Round” from “UFOs and Government”


“We are now approaching a climactic event in UFO history. UFOs manifested themselves during two weekends in July (1952) over the nation’s capital and, in doing so, incited a chain of responses that would finally set the policy of government’s approach to the UFO phenomenon.”


The events got the tag the “Washington Merry-Go-Round.” “The Washington sightings are the most complicated and harried cases, perhaps, of all time. The Air Force was completely overwhelmed by the task of sorting things out and did a poor and very fragmentary job of doing so— concentrating nearly exclusively on the radar returns.”


1952, July 19:

“Meanwhile, between midnight and 1 a.m. there were several sightings recorded by Blue Book and the media up and down the East Coast. Around one o’clock, Washington National told a Capital Airlines pilot that radar indicated objects ahead. Vectored towards the objects, Captain Pierman described them as bright blue balls-of-light, six in number, hovering sometimes and rapidly moving at others. Back at National, Barnes’ radar saw both them and Capt. Pierman’s plane. The other National radar tracked a different object during this period. One of these tracks was good enough that the controllers thought that they could reasonably estimate speed: 7,100 mph.”


“Between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., personnel at Andrews were tracking some unidentified objects and occasionally seeing them. There were also mistakes made visually, as excited airmen sometimes misinterpreted stars low to the horizon as unknown objects. One instance that was unlikely to be a mistake was an unidentified simultaneously detected on radar by Washington National, Andrews and Bolling AFB. The radar blip suddenly vanished from all three installations’ radars regardless of where it was. Soon thereafter, two Air Force interceptors flew into the area. We do not know what the Air Force thought about the coincidence, but it bothered ATC Harry Barnes. Once the interceptors left, the phenomenon returned sporadically until 5:30 a.m., when it finally ceased. Barnes, probably much to the Pentagon’s distress, had no qualms about talking to the newspapers:

“The only recognizable behavior pattern which occurred to me from watching the objects was that they acted like a bunch of small kids out playing. It was helter skelter, as if directed by some innate curiosity. At times they moved as a group or cluster, at other times as individuals over widely scattered areas.

“I could safely declare that they could make right angle turns and completely reverse their flight.

“I’m positive they were guided by some intelligence. If no planes were in the air, the things would fly over the most likely points of interest—Andrews Field, the aircraft plant at Riverdale, the (Washington) Monument, or the Capitol. One or two circled our radio beacons. But as soon as an airliner took off, several would dart across and start to follow, as if to look it over.”


“A spokesman of the Civil Aeronautics Administration gave an opinion that the Washington sightings could have been “weather.” Barnes et al. disagreed with this severely, and for years afterwards. The Air Force then denied to the press that Andrews AFB had ever tracked the unknowns, again lying in the interests of national security. Inside the Air Force, Mitchell AFB, New York, complained about having to deal with too many UFO reports while McGuire AFB, New Jersey, publicly encouraged people to report any sightings. Television coverage of the Democratic National Convention was actually interrupted to report on UFO sightings.

Lastly, on the Friday of that frenetic week, the Washington Post stated:

Until now, the strongest argument against the objective reality of the flying saucers has been the absence of any support by radar observation. At last, however, that argument has been removed . . . [T]he best advice at this point would be to keep your mind open—and your fingers crossed.

“Everyone who paid attention was on edge. And so, that weekend, “they” came again.”

1952, July 26:

“At 8:15 p.m. on the evening of the 26th, Captain Berkow of National Airlines saw several objects that approached him from an altitude higher than his plane. He, and one of the stewardesses, saw several burning orange-red objects sail directly overhead. At 8:22 p.m. both Washington National and Andrews AFB had about twelve unknown objects on their radarscopes. These were tracked intermittently with occasional visual sightings almost to 9:00 p.m.Between 9:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. a B-25, which was coincidentally inthe air, was vectored to look for the unidentified objects. It was the B-25crew’s opinion that the radars must have picked up reflections of somesort from ground objects, as they saw nothing.

Somehow, the press was already alerted. Bob Ginna, the now-famous UFO-writer from Life Magazine, called Edward Ruppelt in Dayton to tell him that things were breaking loose in Washington again, and that Life, and several other media outlets, had reporters right in the National Air Traffic Control Tower watching the action as it happened. Ruppelt immediately phoned Fournet, who rounded up a Navy radar expert named Holcomb, and left for the tower. Public Information Officer Al Chop was already there. This must have been a surrealistic moment for the Pentagon. Their policy was, in part, management of public information with an emphasis on never encouraging overexcitement about the reality of unexplained phenomena. Yet here were national media reporters, in the presence of radar experts and even Air Force personnel, watching activities over the nation’s capital in real time. It would seem to be an unsolvable news management problem.


“Once again, the amount of action taking place was hard to get one’s mind (or one’s radars) around.

“We, surprisingly, have some portions of transmission transcripts between Washington National and Andrews, and, to give some of the flavor, here is a piece:


Washington Tower: Andrews Tower, do you read? Did you have an airplane in sight west-northwest or east of your airport east-bound?

Andrews: No, but we just got a call from the Center. We’re looking for it.

Washington Tower: We’ve got a big target showing up on our scope. He’s just coming in on the west edge of your airport—the northwest edge of it eastbound.

Andrews: What happened to your target now?

Washington Tower: He’s still eastbound. He went directly over Andrews Field and is now five miles east.

Andrews: Where did he come from?

Washington Tower: We picked him up ourselves at about seven miles east, slightly southeast, and we have been tracking him ever since then. The Center has been tracking him farther than that.

Andrews: Was he waving in his course?Washington Tower: Holding steady, due east heading.

Andrews: This is Andrews. Our radar tracking says he’s got a big fat target out there northeast of Andrews. He says he’s got two more south of the field.

Washington Tower: Yes, well the Center has about four or five around the Andrews Range Station. The Center is working a National Airliner—the Center is working him and vectoring him around his target. He went around Andrews. He saw one of them—looks like a meteor (garbled) . . . went by him . . . or something. He said he’s got one about three miles off the right wing right now. There are so many targets around here it is hard to tell as they are not moving very fast.

Andrews: What about his altitude?

Washington Tower: Well, must be over 8,000 feet as we don’t have him on radar any more.


“Between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. there were many radar incidents, often of multiple returns. Andrews got some visuals. At 10:30 p.m., a chaplain of the Edgewood Arsenal in nearby Annapolis, Maryland saw a flyover. He described it as like a bolide (red-orange ball-of-fire traveling at jet-speed in a straight line). At 10:46 p.m., a CAA flight instructor saw five orange balls-of-light. At 10:52 p.m. all radar returns simply vanished. At this point, with code-based communications passing between pilots and towers, the press was asked to leave. Al Chop also, belatedly, thought that this was too big a deal to have the press witness everything as it occurred. At 11:22 p.m., the blips were back on the radar. The two jets were still in the vicinity and Lt. W.L. Patterson was directed to return. He saw four bright lights ahead. What happened next is not found in the Project Blue Book files. So that the reader knows (since this is rather astounding), our information comes from a taped interview with Al Chop, the Air Force’s Public Information Officer who was in the Tower at the time. Chop said that Patterson was pushing his plane, attempting, unsuccessfully, to close on the objects, when suddenly they approached and surrounded his position. The radar operators saw this, too. This situation, understandably, scared Patterson quite badly, and he radioed the Tower for advice on what he should do. No one had any ideas. After some frightening moments of silence, the objects (always appearing as balls-of-light) moved away and left him behind.

When Dewey Fournet and Lt. Holcomb arrived at Washington National at about midnight, blips from the unknowns still frequented the radar screens. Holcomb checked the sets and the returns and pronounced at least seven of the blips as “solid.” He called for weather data, and although he noted a small temperature inversion at about 1000 feet, he said this could not produce these effects due to “false echoes.” Holcomb, Fournet, and everyone else in the Tower agreed that these returns were not like weather-influenced illusions, and strongly resembled those coming from solid metallic objects. Fournet noted that there were weather-related returns elsewhere on the scopes and that they were noticeably different, and that no one paid any attention to them. Here are two formal quotes given to Fournet by the two groups of controllers to put into his report:

1. Washington National:

ARTC crew commented that, as compared with unidentified targets picked up in the early hours of 20 July 52, these returns appeared to be haphazard in their actions, i.e. they did not follow a/c around nor did they cross the scope consistently on the same general heading. Some commented that the returns appeared to be from objects ‘capable of dropping out of the pattern at will.’ Also that returns had a ‘creeping appearance.’ One just ‘disappeared from the scope’ shortly after the F-94 started pursuing. All crew members were emphatic that most unidentified returns were ‘solid.’ Finally, it was mentioned that unidentified returns had been picked up from time to time over the past few months but never before had they appeared in such quantities over such a prolonged period and with such definition as the experiences on the nights of 19/20 and 26/27 July 52.

2. Andrews AFB:

We observed and noted a great many targets, some of which later were identified as aircraft (conventional). We continued to maintain sharp lookout and observed targets following very erratic courses, sometimes appearing to stop, then reverse course, accelerating momentarily, and then slowing down. Target sightings were all coordinated with Washington ARTC and verified, using radar facilities.

Another peculiarity noted was the sudden disappearance of targets then suddenly reappearing 8-10 miles further along the same course.


“The Washington sightings produced two of the most significant occurrences in UFO history: one, internal to the intelligence community, was the direct involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in an attempt to get this problem under control; two, in the realm of the public, was a major press conference featuring Air Force Director of Intelligence John Samford himself.”


“When the conference ended, Donald Keyhoe had easily seen through what Samford had tried to do, but Samford’s ruse was successful with most of the reporters. The flying saucers and any threat that might accompany them seemed unreal. Keyhoe even wrote admiringly that the Air Force officers had gone through the stress of the press conference and “obviously they had acted for the good of the country.” Ruppelt was a bit more terse and pragmatic, saying that it “got the press off our back.”


“After the press conference, Donald Keyhoe began to receive unlikely cooperation from persons high up in the Pentagon, through his contact, Al Chop, at the press desk. This support, which included the release of high quality selective case reports directly from Project Blue Book, could almost be called deliberate leaks. It is not known exactly who the Pentagon higher-ups were who authorized this, whether it was official, or if so what their agenda was. The leaks were going on precisely while the CIA was intensely seeking UFO information from the Air Force authorities. Keyhoe even received a magazine draft on the subject of extraterrestrial migration to other planets such as Earth, by a Pentagon officer, Colonel O’dell.”


A excellent new book “Against the Odds – Major Donald E. Keyhoe and His Battle to End UFO Secrecy” by Linda Powell (Anomalist Book, 2023) get heavily into all that and a whole lot more. I’ve have been reading it and highly recommend it. It opens with this question:

“From where did the widespread belief come that UFOs represent extraterrestrial technology and the government is hiding this truth from us? The man perhaps most responsible for these twin pillars of current UFO belief is Donald E. Keyhoe.”

The Australian connection


Now, I should have included the Australian connection with the Washington DC UFO “Merry-Go-Round” in my contribution to “UFOs and Government”, but I was concentrating on what was happening “down under” in “Oz” (Australian and the region).  Read my chapter “The Australian Military and the Official Government Response”. 

Probably current incumbents in Australian military, politics & intelligence might even get something out of it, given their current public myopic views.


I revisited this connection when I was re-examining my interview notes with Australian Defence Intelligence scientist Harry Turner taken in July 2001. While focusing on his deep involvement in “sub rosa” interests in the Australian UFO experience.  He knew and worked with the Maralinga/Woomera range superintendent, army officer Colonel Richard Durance from 1956.  Durance told him that as an Army Major he was preparing for his role as Australian Army liaison officer in Washington DC during 1952. Durance said he was a witness to the 1952 Washington sightings.  Turner told me that Durance possibly knew someone, as he was invited into the Washington Tower room apparently on both Saturdays, the first session described as fairly open, with only limited restricted discussion. The next Saturday, “outsiders” were embargoed.  He was permitted to stay. Turner told me, Durance “was absolutely convinced, not our side, (they were) beyond known Defence capabilities.”

Colonel Richard Dick Durance Source Par Oneri Number 12
The Journal of the Royal Australian Corps of Transport

(From a recent Powerpoint lecture I gave on Harry Turner)

When I was able to organise an Australian Disclosure videoed interview with Harry Turner on 9 June, 2004 (the Australian Disclosure representative Dominic McNamara) the Durance story was addressed.  Unfortunately, the Australian Disclosure video has since been lost. Luckily I was also running my own video of the interview as a backup and got a digital transfer copy done recently.

Harry Turner during the 2004 interview

From my video copy:

Harry Turner: I had an interesting interlude with the range commander, a chap named Dick Durance, who had previously been the Army Attache in Washington at the time of the July sightings – the Washington sightings … there were 2 consecutive Saturday nights, the second Saturday night he had been asked out to, into the radar room to see the thing, and he was totally impressed, and totally convinced.

Bill Chalker: So Durance was actually in the radar room during the Washington flap?

Harry Turner: Yes… 

(After stopping due to a person using a chain saw in the garden, the Durance story continued)

B C: We were talking principally about Durance.

H T: Yeah, he was very impressed with the sighting.

B C: Did he talk directly to you about it?

H T: Oh yes, we were like, directly across across a desk.

B C: So what did he have to say about the Washington sighting?

Harry Turner: Well certainly it convinced him, he was absolutely positive that these were something that were real.  I don’t know how much he knew about radar.  He didn’t say anything about that.  Probably as an army man like that, he probably didn’t know much about it.  He had, sort of, trained people with him, because there were a number of PPIs, I presume they still call PPIs in those days.  They had a number they were sharing and he was (there – unclear) hours long, many hours, so he would have had time to discuss it with a lot of people … this was the time when the newspaper people were kept out.  The first Saturday night the media was allowed in, strangely enough. The second time they were kept out on some pretext, but the military people they had a clear go….


So Harry Turner confirmed the basics of Durance’s possible presence in the Washington DC radar room during July 1952.  Maybe further research will confirm this story through Army Attache records or through Durance family records.


The VASCO “bright triple transient” event


Beatriz Villarroel, assistant professor of Physics, Stockholm University, drew attention to a July 19 1952 possible correlation or coincidence in an article on The Conversation web site, entitled “UFOs: how astronomers are searching the sky for alien probes near Earth”, published December 7, 2023.


She wrote,

“How can we test whether there are extra terrestrial probes near Earth, and whether they can be tied to the possible UFO phenomenon? There are many options. Analysing materials from potentially crashed UFOs could give irrefutable proof. This would require state-of-the-art techniques to determine if these wrecks exhibit exotic or distinctly different characteristics of manufacture.

“Obtaining such exotic samples, if they indeed exist, may prove challenging – they are rumoured to be in the hands of private companies. But newly proposed legislation might offer a solution to that problem in United States by mandating that all artificial materials from any non-human intelligence be surrendered to the US government.

In the projects I lead, we are searching for artificial non-human objects by looking for short light flashes in the night sky. Short flashes typically occur when a flat, highly reflective surface — such as a mirror or glass — reflects sunlight. It could, however, also result from an artificial object emitting its own internal light.

“Such short light flashes sometimes repeat and follow a straight line as the object tumbles in space during its orbit around the Earth. This is why satellites often appear as repeating light flashes in images.

“Historical photographic plates taken before the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 have revealed the presence of nine light sources (transients) that appear and vanish within an hour in a small image, defying astronomical explanations. In some cases, the transient light sources are even aligned, just like when short flashes come from moving objects.

“The most recent finding of this kind shows three bright stars in an image dated July 19, 1952 (coincidentally, the same time as the famous Washington UFO flyovers). The three stars were never seen again.”

That paper describing this finding, A bright triple transient that vanished within 50 minutes by Enrique Solano, Geo rey W. Marcy, Beatriz Villarroel, Stefan Geier,

Alina Streblyanska, Gianluca Lombardi, Rudolf E. Bär, Vitaly N. Andruk, can be read at this link:

From "A bright triple transient that vanished with 50 minutes by Solano
Coincidence or a connection? Perhaps the famous Washington DC July 1952

 UFO milieu has a bigger story to be revealed.