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Science and the UFO phenomenon:


This is the oral statement given by James E. McDonald, Senior Physicist, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, and professor, Department of Meteorology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics at July 29, 1968, Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects, Rayburn Bldg., Washington, D.C. The written statement is here.


  1. Biography
  2. Oral Statement
  3. Questions from Committee Members
  4. Prepared Statement

The biography of Dr. McDonald follows:


Born: Duluth, Minn., May 7. 1920.
Home Address: 3461 East Third St., Tucson, Ariz.


University of Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, B.A. (Chemistry) 1942.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. (Meteorology) 1945.

Iowa State University, Ames, Ia., Ph.D. (Physics) 1951.

Professional Career:

Instructor, Dept. of Physics, Iowa State University, 1946-49.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physics, Iowa State University, 1950-53.

Research physicist. Cloud Physics Project, University of Chicago, 1953-54.

Associate Professor, Dept. of Physics, University of Arizona, 1954-56, Professor, 1956-57.

Associate director. Institute of Atmospheric Physics, University of Arizona, 1954-57.

Professor, Dept. of Meteorology, and Senior Physicist, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, 1958 to present.

Other activities:

U.S. Navy, 1942-45, naval intelligence and aerology.

Member, Panel on Weather and Climate Modification, National Academy of Sciences, 1965-present

Member, ESSA-Navy Project Stormfury Advisory Panel, 1966-present.

Member, American Meteorological Society Commission on Publications, 1966- present.

Member, Advisory panel for weather modification. National Science Foundation, 1967-present.

Professional memberships:

American Association for Advancement of Science, American Meteorological Society, Sigma Xi, American Geophysical Union, Royal Meteorological Society, Arizona Academy of Science, American Association of University Professors.


Married, 1945, Betsy Hunt: six children.

Fields of special interest:

Atmospheric physics, physics of clouds and precipitation, meteorological optics, atmospheric electricity, weather modification, unidentified aerial phenomena.


Dr. McDonald. Thank you, Mr. Roush.

I am very pleased to have this chance to make some comments and suggestions based on my own experience to the committee, and I do wish to commend the Committee on Science and Astronautics for taking this first, and I hope very significant step, to look at the problem that has puzzled many for 20 years.

As Dr. Hynek has emphasized in his remarks, it is one of the difficulties of the problem we are talking about today that the scientific community, not just in the United States but on a world basis, has tended to discount and to regard as nonsense the UFO problem. The fact that so much anecdotal data is involved has understandably discouraged many scientists from taking seriously what, in fact, I believe is a matter of extraordinary scientific importance.

I have been studying now for about 2 years, on a rather intensive basis, the UFO problem. I have interviewed several hundred witnesses in selected cases, and I am astonished at what I have found.

I had no idea that the actual UFO situation is anything like what it really appears to be.

There is a certain parallel between Dr. Hynek's slow recognition of the problem and my slow recognition of the problem. I have been curious about UFO's in a casual way for 10 or 20 years and have even checked cases in the southern Arizona area off and on rather casually, mainly encountering sincere laymen who do not recognize an aircraft strobe light, or Venus, or a bright fireball, when they see them. It is quite true that many persons misidentify natural phenomena; and my experience was mainly but not entirely limited to that sort of case.

About 2 years ago I became more than casually curious for several reasons that are not too relevant here, and began to spend much more time and very quickly changed my notions about the problem. I visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, saw their very impressive and surprising UFO files, the pattern of which is entirely different from what I had imagined.

At the same time, I contacted a number of private investigating UFO groups, one of the best and most constructive located here in Washington, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena; contacted another one of the large national groups, the Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization, and found again somewhat to my surprise, that these amateur groups operating on a shoestring basis, and frequently scorned by us scientists, were, in fact, doing really a rather good investigative job within their resources, and had compiled in their files, for instance in NICAP, on the order of 10,000 or 12,000 cases, many of which I have subsequently checked, and all of which imply a problem that has been lost from sight, swept under the rug, ignored, and now needs to be very rapidly brought out into the open as a problem demanding very serious and very high-caliber scientific attention.

I wish to emphasize that. We must very quickly have very good people looking into this problem, because it appears to be one of very serious concern. We are dealing here with inexplicable phenomena, baffling phenomena, that will not be clarified by any but the best scientists.

The scope of my remarks this morning, and the scope of my more detailed remarks in my prepared statement which has been submitted, deal with two broad areas:

I have been asked to summarize the results of my interviewing of witnesses in the last 2 years, what I found, the problems I have encountered and so on; and, secondly to address myself to the categories of past explanations of UFO sightings, that hinge on my own field of atmospheric physics.

Let me turn very briefly to my experience. In the past 2 years I have been able to devote a substantial part of my time to this problem. I have mainly concentrated on witnesses in UFO sightings that have already been checked by some of the independent groups; that is, I was no longer, in the last 2 years, dealing with original raw data where it was primarily misidentified phenomena, but rather, I was dealing with presifted, presorted data, leaning very heavily on groups like NICAP and APRO, and other groups in this country and other groups abroad for my leads and background material.

I have also had a chance to interview 75 or 80 witnesses in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania, when I was down in that area last summer. There were various kinds of atmospheric explanations that bad been invoked in Australian cases. I must say that many of them are just as reasonable from the scientific point of view as many that we have heard in this country. But primarily I found in Australia that the nature of the sightings is similar to those in the United States, disk-like objects, cigar-shaped objects, objects without wings, without evident means of propulsion, frequently hovering without any sound, sometimes making sounds, hovering over cars, stopping cars, as Dr. Hynek has pointed out, causing interference with the ignition system, and the same kind of public reluctance to report was very evident.

I want to emphasize, as one of the very important misconceptions that has been fostered, that instead of dealing with witnesses who are primarily looking for notoriety, who want to tell a good story, who are all out to gain attention, it is generally quite the opposite. And this is true in Australia, too. People are quite unwilling to tell you about a UFO sighting, afraid acquaintances would think they nave "gone around the bend," as Australians put it. Over and over you encounter that. People are reluctant to report what they are seeing. There is a real ridicule lid that has not been contrived by any group, it just has evolved in the way the whole problem has unfolded. This is not entirely new in science. It has occurred before.

I am sure a number here at the speakers' table are familiar with an interesting chapter in science years ago when meteorites, out of which NASA and many scientists around the world now get a very large amount of useful scientific information, were scorned and scoffed as unreal. It was regarded as nonsense that peasants were telling stories about stones falling out of the sky. The efforts of a few scientists to take a look at the problem and to get some initial data simply were ignored until a very unusual but very real event occurred in northern France, a meteorite shower. So they sent an eminent academician out to have a look at what these people were talking about, and by golly, the peasants appeared to be right. Everybody in the village, the prefect of police, the local administrators, all the peasants, had seen stones fall out of the sky, and for the first time the French Academy deigned to take a look at the problem. Meteoritics was born.

Here we now face a very similar situation in science. We have tended to ignore it because we didn't think it made sense. It definitely defies any explanation, and hence the situation has evolved where we can't get going because we aren't already going.

The scientific community as a whole won't take this problem seriously because it doesn't have scientific data. They want instrumental data.

Why don't they have instrumental data? Because the scientists don't take it seriously enough to get the scientific data. It is like the 20-year-old who can't get a job because he lacks experience, and he lacks experience because he hasn't had a job. In the same way you find the scientist wishing you would give him good hard meter readings and magnetometer traces, and so on: but we don't have it yet because the collective body of scientists, including myself, have ignored UFO's.

Turning to some of the highlights of my interviewing experience, I first mention the "ridicule lid." We are not dealing with publicity seekers. We are not, and I here concur with Dr. Hynek's remarks, we are not dealing with religiosity and cultism. Those persons aren't really the least bit interested in observations. They have firm convictions entirely independent of observations. They do not cause noise that disturbs the real signal at all.

General Samford of the Air Force put it well, 16 years ago. General Samford, then Director of Intelligence, said, and I would concur 100 percent, "Credible observers are observing relatively incredible objects." That was said 16 years ago, and it is still occurring.

I will touch in a moment or two on a sighting in Mr. Pettis' district that very well illustrates that, a sighting this year in Redlands, Calif., which I think Dr. Harder may be able to tell still more about.

Another characteristic in interviewing the witnesses is the tendency for the UFO witness to turn first not to the hypothesis that he is looking at a spaceship, but rather it must be an ambulance out there with a blinking red light or that it is a helicopter up there. There is a conventional interpretation considered first; only then does the witness get out of the car or patrol car and realize the thing is stopped in midair and is going backwards and has six bright lights, or something like that. Only after an economical first hypothesis does the witness, in these impressive cases, go further in his hypotheses, and finally realize he is looking at something he has never seen before.

I like Dr. Hynek's phrase for this, "escalation of hypotheses." This tendency to take a simple guess first and then upgrade it is so characteristic that I emphasize it as a very important point.

Then, looking at the negative side, all of us who have checked cases are sometimes in near anguish at the typical inability of the scientifically untrained person to estimate angles, to even understand what you are asking for when you ask for an angular estimation. We are all aware of the gross errors in distances, heights, and speeds so estimated.

And I would emphasize to those who cite jury trial experience that the tendency for a group of witnesses to an accident to come in with quite different accounts, must not be overstressed here. Those witnesses don't come in from, say, a street corner accident and claim they saw a giraffe killed by a tiger. They talk about an accident. They are confused about details. There is legally confusing difference of timing and distance, and so on; but all are in agreement that it was an auto accident.

So also when you deal with multiple-witness cases in UFO sightings. There is an impressive core of consistency; everybody is talking about an object that has no wings, all of 10 people may say it was dome shaped or something like that, and then there are minor differences as to how big they thought it was, how far away, and so on. Those latter variations do pose a very real problem. It stands as a negative factor with respect to the anecdotal data, but it does not mean we are not dealing with real sightings of real objects.

Then there's the very real but not terribly serious problem of the hoaxers, fabricators, liars, and so on. You do encounter cases from time to time where you end up thinking, well, this person has some reason to have invented the whole story. Sometimes it is fairly apparent. Sometimes it takes a lot of digging to prove it.

I might say here that the independent investigative groups have done an excellent job. It takes a knowledge of human characteristics, not scientific expertise to detect lies and hoaxes.

Then there is the problem that you always have to be sure in talking with witnesses that you are not dealing with somebody already very enthusiastic about UFO's. You have to try to establish, and this is not always easy, whether he has prior knowledge of the whole UFO literature. Are you dealing with somebody who is just telling you again what he has read in a recent magazine in the barber chair?

I emphasize that my experience is that again and again you find people who were not really interested in UFO's until they saw one themselves. Then they suddenly became very, very concerned, as one more member of the public who has become a UFO witness; and in this body of citizens there are some very distressed persons who wish that the scientific community, or the Government, were doing something about this problem.

The types of objects that are being seen, and I state the word "objects" not "hazy lights," are spread over quite a range of types, a baffling range.

I want to use that word many times, because it speaks for my experience. The UFO problem is baffling. But there is a predominance of disc-shaped objects and elongated cigar-shaped objects, objects without wings, appendages, tails, and that sort of thing. Typically, wingless objects, disc- and cigar-shaped.

The same type of observations have been coming from all parts of the world, and have been for a number of years. My direct interviews with a witness in Australia speak for that global pattern.

Another characteristic that emerges is a quite fluctuatory frequency of sightings. Right now, in the past few months, there have not been very many really impressive cases that have come up; but last fall, for example, England had a wave of sightings which was unprecedented in the English experience, that led, for example, to a BBC documentary that has just been produced. It led also to a recently published study, that I got only a couple of weeks ago from the Stoke-on-Trent area in Staffordshire, 70 sightings in about a 2½ month period in this area. It happens that one of my colleagues is an English physicist from that very area. As he points out, these are no-nonsense people who are not airy-fairy types that would be on LSD), or seeing ghosts in the sky.

He is puzzled, and I am puzzled.

Well, there are many questions that are asked by skeptical scientists, skeptical members of the public; and skepticism, as Mark Twain said, is what gets you an education.

There are questions like. "Why aren't UFO's seen abroad?" "Why aren't UFO's seen by airline pilots?" "Why aren't UFO'S seen by crowds of people rather than by lone individuals?" "Why aren't they tracked by radar?" "Why don't weather observers and meteorologists see UFO's?"

"Why aren't there sonic booms, or why aren't there crashed UFO's?"

Finally, a very frequently raised question, "If the UFO's are from somewhere else,' if they are really devices that represent some high civilization, why no contact?" This is a question that comes up again and again, since most persons who know enough about the UFO problem to realize there must be something there, cannot, in their first view of the problem, visualize a visitation from elsewhere, surveillance, or what have you, without contact.

I want to return to that point later, but I wish to emphasize that that is a fallacious question. If we were under surveillance from some advanced technology sufficiently advanced to do what we cannot do in the sense of interstellar travel, then, as Arthur Clarke has put it quite well, quoted in Time magazine the last week, we have an odd situation. Arthur Clarke points out that any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic. How well that applies to UFO sightings. You have a feeling you are dealing with some very high technology, devices of an entirely real nature which defy explanation in terms of present-day science. To say that we could anticipate the values, reasons, motivations, and so on, of any such system that has the capability of getting here from somewhere else is fallacious.

That is a homocentric fallacy of the most obvious nature, yet it is asked over and over again.

In my prepared statement I will be able to cover more of these points, of course.

The heart of the problem lies in citing cases, and I have investigated, personally, on the order of 300 cases dealing with key witnesses. I have looked as carefully as I can for all reasonable explanations.

There are many cases that fall apart when you investigate them. Then there are far too many that resist the best analysis that many of us have been able to subject them to.

Let me just cite briefly, to take a recent case rather than an old one, the instance at Redlands, and perhaps Dr. Harder can fill you in in more detail.

On February 4 of this year, at 7:20 in the evening, over a residential area in that city of population 30,000, a disc was seen. Twenty witnesses interviewed by University of Redlands' investigators, described it as having "windows" or "ports" or something of that sort. They interviewed a little over half a dozen of them and all saw something on the bottom that they described as "looking like jets."

This object was hovering at an estimated height of about 300 feet. The estimates vary, but it came out about 300 feet. The citizens had gone out in the street because dogs were barking and, because they had heard an unusual noise, and pretty soon there were people all up and down the street. It was estimated that more than 100 witnesses were involved, and 20 were directly interviewed.

Here was an object seen by many persons. It hovered, then shot up to about double the height, hovered again, and moved down across Redlands a short distance, hovered once again, and then took off rapidly to the northwest.

This case has not received any scientific attention beyond this investigation by Dr. Philip Seff and his colleagues. It has not received public notoriety. This was, in fact, only reported in a short column in the local paper and not on the wires anywhere. That happens over and over again.

Here, for example, are the reports for one month of last fall, clipping-service coverage on the things that get local coverage, but don't get on the wires, because in the present climate of the opinion, wire editors, like scientists, Congressmen, and the public at large, feel sure there is nothing to all this, and they don't put them on the wires. You have to go right to the local town to get press coverage in most cases.

The Redlands, February 1968, case illustrates that very well. Once in a while a case will get on the wires and receive national attention, but by and large, one just doesn't read about these cases in other parts of the country, because wire services don't carry them.

Let me tell you another case that answers the questions: "Why aren't there multiple witnesses?" "Why aren't they seen in cities?" "Why aren't these ever seen in the daytime?"

It is true that there is a preponderance of nighttime sights. Maybe this is merely a matter of luminosity.

It is also true that there seem to be more reports from rather remote areas, say desert areas or swampy areas, than in the middle of cities. But there are city observations. And it is also true there are more individual witness cases than sightings by large crowds. But in every instance there are striking exceptions to this.

In New York City, on November 22, 1966, a total of eight witnesses, members of the staff of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, were the witnesses in a good case. I interviewed William Leick, of that staff, the manager of the office there. I heard about it through a NICAP report. It did not appear in the papers, as I will mention. William Leick had been looking out the window, saw an object over the U.N. building. It was hovering, and as he talked to a colleague he realized there was something odd about it, so they walked out on the terrace. Soon they had six others out on the terrace. This was at 4:30 in the afternoon. It was kind of a cushion-shaped object, as he described it, and had no wings. It was rocking a little from time to time, blinked in the afternoon sun a little bit, had kind of an orange glow. All eight were watching, and after it hovered for several moments it rose vertically and then took off at high speed. There is an example of midtown sighting in New York where the witnesses are staff members of a responsible organization. Leick, himself, had been trained in intelligence, in World War II. There is no reason at all to think he and his colleagues would invent this.

They did call a New York paper, but to say they weren't the least bit interested. There was no report published in a New York paper. Next they called a local Air Force office but no one came to investigate it. It came to my attention because one of the members of the staff knew of NICAP and sent NICAP a report.

This sort of thing has happened over and over again. The ridicule lid keeps these out of sight; too many of them are occurring to delay any longer in getting at this problem with all possible scientific assistance.

A famous multiple-witness instance occurred in Farmington, N. Mex., on March 17, 1950. I interviewed seven witnesses there. A very large number of objects were involved. There were several different groups of objects, all described as disc-shaped objects. They were explained as Skyhook balloons, officially, so I checked into that.

I finally established that there was no Skyhook balloon released anywhere in the United States on or near that day. The witnesses included some of the leading citizens in the town. It was reported nationally at that time but was soon forgotten.

I have interviewed one of the witnesses in a Washington State sighting, at Longview, Wash., July 3, 1949. An air show was being held and someone spotted the UFO because there was a sky-writing aircraft overhead that some people were watching. They spotted the first of three disc-like objects that came over Longview that morning. The person whom I interviewed is a former Navy commander, Moulton B. Taylor. He was the manager of the air show, so he got on the public address system and got everybody to look at this object before it crossed the skies. It was fluttering as it went across the sky. There were pilots, engineers, police officers, and Longview residents in the audience. Many had binoculars. Taylor estimated it to be about 10 minutes of arc in diameter. Because the aircraft was still skywriting people continued to watch the sky. Two successive objects of the same type flew over in the next 20 minutes. A total of three objects came over, and they were from three different directions: one from the north, one from the northwest, and one almost from the west, quite clearly ruling out an explanation like balloons, which became the official explanation. There were no balloon stations anywhere near Longview, Wash., as a matter of fact, and the balloon explanation is quite inadequate.

Here we have a case of over a hundred witnesses to the passage of a wingless object moving at relatively high velocity. When the second and third objects went over, someone had the presence of mind to time the fluttering rate -- it was 48 per minute.

Here again we have a multiple-witness case, a daytime sighting case, and one which you can't quickly write off.

If time permitted I would talk about a number of radar cases. One of the most famous is the Washington National Airport sighting. On July 19, 1952, CAA radars and Andrews Air Force radars tracked unknowns moving at variable speeds from 100 miles an hour to over 800 miles an hour, and a number of airline pilots in the air saw these, and were in some instances vectored in by the CAA radar people, and then saw luminous objects in the same area that they showed on radar up near Herndon and Martinsburg.

I talked to five of these CAA people. One can still go back and check these old cases, I emphasize. I also talked to four of the airline pilots who were in the air at the time. I have gone over the quantitative aspects of the official explanation that this was ducting or trapping of the radar beams. That is quite untenable. I have gone over the radiosonde, computed the radar refractive index gradient, and it is nowhere near the ducting gradient.

Also, it is very important that at one time three different radars, two CAA and one Andrews Air Force Base radar, all got compatible echoes. That is extremely significant.

And finally from a radar-propagation point of view, the angles of propagation, radar and visual, were far above any values that would permit trapping, which makes this a case which is not an explained case. It was an instance of unidentified aerial objects over our Capital, I believe.

One could go on with many cases. I want to just briefly touch two categories of atmospheric explanations that have been rather widely discussed, and close with that.

Meteorological optics is a subject, that I enjoy and have looked into over the years rather carefully, and I must express for the record my very strong disagreement with Dr. Donald H. Menzel, former director of Harvard Observatory, whose two books on the subject of UFO's lean primarily on meteorological explanations. I have checked case after case of his, and his explanations are very, very far removed from what are well-known principles and quantitative aspects of meteorological optic objects. He has made statements that simply do not fit what is known about meteorological objects.

I would be prepared to talk all day on specific illustrations but time will not permit more.

Secondly, there has more recently been a suggestion made by "Aviation Week" Senior Editor Philip J. Klass, that the really interesting UFO's are atmospheric-electrical plasmas of some type similar to ball lightning, but perhaps something different, something we don't yet understand but are generated by atmospheric processes.

The first time anyone tried the ball lightning hypothesis was in Air Force Project Grudge, back in 1949. The Weather Bureau was asked to do a special study of ball lightning. I recently got a declassified copy of that, and the Air Force position at that time, and since then was that ball lightning doesn't come near to explaining these sightings. I concur in that. When you deal with multiple-witness cases involving discs with metallic luster, definite outline, seen in the daytime, completely removed from a thunderstorm, perhaps seen over center Manhattan, or perhaps in Redlands, Calif., they are not ball lightning or plasmas.

In weather completely unrelated to anything that could provide a source of energy, the continuous power source required to maintain a plasma in the face of recombination and decay of a plasma, Klass' views just do not make good sense.

It is just not reasonable to suggest that, say the BOAC Stratocruiser that was followed by six UFO's for 90 miles up in the St. Lawrence Valley in 1954 was followed by a plasma, or that these people in Redlands were looking at a plasma, or that the 20 or so objects that went over Farmington were plasmas.

One of the most characteristic features of a plasma is its very short lifetime and exceedingly great instability, as some of your members will know from your contact with fusion research problems. The difficulty of sustaining a plasma for more than microseconds is a very great difficulty. To suggest that clear weather conditions can somehow create and maintain plasmas that persist for many minutes, and fool pilots with 18,000 flight hours into thinking that they are white- and red-domed discs, to take a very famous case over Philadelphia where the pilot thought he was about 100 yards from this dome-disc, is unreasonable. It is not a scientifically well-defended viewpoint.

To conclude, then, my position is that UFO's are entirely real and we do not know what they are, because we have laughed them out of court. The possibility that these are extraterrestrial devices, that we are dealing with surveillance from some advanced technology, is a possibility I take very seriously.

I reach that hypothesis, as my preferred hypothesis, not by hard fact, hardware, tailfins, or reading license plates, but by having examined hundreds of cases and rejected the alternative hypothesis as capable of accounting for them.

I am afraid that this possibility has sufficiently good backing for it, despite its low a priori ability, that we must examine it. I think your committee, with its many concerns for the entire aerospace program, as well as our whole national scientific program, has a very special reason for examining that possibility. Should that possibility be correct, if there is even a chance of its being correct, we ought to get our best people looking at it. Instead, we are collectively laughing at this possibility.

To meet Mr. Rumsfeld's request, let me remark on Dr. Hynek's two recommendations. I strongly concur in the need for some new approach. I am sure Dr. Hynek was not suggesting there be one single UFO committee. In fact, he said, "not a one-shot approach." A pluralistic approach to the problem is needed here.

The Defense Department is already supporting some work on it. NASA definitely has a need to look at this problem. We have to pay very serious attention to the problem and get a variety of new approaches.

The other point Dr. Hynek mentioned was that we try to look at this on a worldwide basis. This is crucially important. We are dealing with a real problem here, and I insist it is a global problem. We can study it in the United States, but if we ignore what is happening in France and England -- one of the greatest UFO waves that ever occurred was in France -- would be a serious mistake. I strongly urge that your committee consider holding rather more extensive Hearings in which a larger segment of the scientific community is given the opportunity to talk pro and con on the issue, hearings aimed at getting a new measure of scientific attention to this important problem.

Thank you.

Mr. Roush. Thank you, Dr. McDonald, for your presentation. As we explained awhile ago, we are pressed for time. We are entertaining questions from members of the committee.

Mr. Bell. Dr. McDonald, I want to compliment you on your interesting statement. But what leads you to believe that whatever these phenomena are, they are extraterrestrial?

What facts do you have?

Dr. McDonald. May I say I wouldn't use the word "believe." I would say the "hypothesis" that these are extraterrestrial surveillance, is the hypothesis I presently regard as most likely.

As I mentioned, it is not hard facts in the sense of irrefutable proof, but dealing with case after case wherein the witnesses showed credibility I can't impugn. That impresses me. These are not at all like geophysical or astronomical phenomena; they appear to be craft-like machine-like devices. I would have to answer you in terms of case after case that I and others have investigated, to make all this clear. It is this very large body of impressive witnesses' testimony, radar-tracking data on ultra-high-speed objects sometimes moving at over 5,000 miles an hour, UFO's, combined radar-visual sightings, and just too much other consistent evidence that suggests we are dealing with machine-like devices from somewhere else.

Mr. Bell. Have there been pictures taken?

Dr. McDonald. Yes; there have been pictures taken.

For instance, a photograph taken in Ohio, by an Air Force photo reconnaissance plane May 24, 1954. I recently have looked a little more closely at the data. This was explained as an undersun, but that idea is subject to quantitative observation. The angles just do not fit. There is a very important case at Edwards Air Force base with two witnesses, where they got photographs of the object. Unfortunately, in this case I have not seen the photo, but I have talked with the persons who took it. There are photographs, but not nearly as many as we would like. We would like to have lots of them. In a case in Corning, Calif., a police officer, one of five witnesses, had a loaded camera in his patrol car, 20 paces from where he watched the object, didn't even think of getting his camera. He said he was too flabbergasted to think of it. That is a part of the problem.

Mr. Roush. Mr. Hechler.

Mr. Hechler. Have you examined any reports of communication by these objects?

Dr. McDonald. Yes; the problem of contact is very important. There is one category of contact, not in the sense of shaking hands, but rather light response. I have a file on several of these, and I'm looking for more. For instance, in Shamokin, Pa., Kerstetter is the name of the witness, he works for a bank in Shamokin. I talked to the president of the bank as to his reliability and got very good recommendations. Last year, he and his wife and family were in a car near a mountain ridge in Shamokin, saw a thing hovering over the mountain, like the flashing lights of a theater marquee. He had a flashlight. He didn't know Morse code, but it really didn't matter. He sent light flashes in various orders and he got lights back from the thing. That same thing happened in Newton, N.H., in August of last year, where several persons saw an object coming overhead. The same thought occurred to them and they signaled with a flashlight. It wasn't Morse, it was dot dash dot, then dash dash dash, and it came back with no failure, replicated light signals. The same thing happened in West Virginia, where a pharmacist, named Sommers, did it with his headlights. When I was in Australia, I talked about some hunters out hunting kangaroo. A disk came over, one said "give them Morse"; the flash came back faithfully, and they left in a hurry. Is that contact? I don't know. Nobody got any intelligence out of it either way, if you will pardon the whimsy. It would be terrible if in fact this was surveillance and our technology was represented by the Eveready flashlight. [Laughter.]

We may be flunking our exam.

Mr. Roush. Mr. Downing.

Mr. Downing. I'm interested in your testimony. On page 10 of your written statement, you say it is unfortunate no acceptable version of Reference 6 exists, though it has managed to get it into the status of limited acceptability.

Why is this not available?

Dr. McDonald. Well, that was an Air Force document. This was completed in 1949. These were classified until just a few years back. No one could get access to them, because they were under DOD classification. But the 12-year rule expired, and Dr. Leon Davidson managed to get a copy.

It is accessible in the sense that if I want to pay $90 for Xeroxes I can now get it. It is not published in the sense of being available to every library in the country. My Reference 7, which NICAP just published, is available to scientists all over the country. It is a matter of the Air Force having a policy of not publishing such items, and they were classified. I think the Moss committee and NICAP are to be highly praised to get out in the open Reference 7.

Mr. Downing. Is there a reason why this is classified?

Dr. McDonald. There is an understandable reason why the Air Force has had to classify this. An unidentified aerial object, on presumption, is hostile until proved otherwise. So there has been this unfortunate, but entirely understandable measuring of these two areas. The national defense mission of the Air Force has necessitated they have some part of the UFO problem inevitably, and they got it in the first instance. They have long since told us there is no hostility here, hence the scientific curiosities going unattended because it doesn't fall under the defense mission, in other words to be transferred into NASA, NSF, or something like that. That does not mean the Air Force won't continue to watch unidentified objects on the millisecond basis. But they not need worry about this other part of the problem. I think it is understandable, but needs changing.

Mr. Roush. Mr. Pettis.

Mr. Pettis. Mr. Chairman, Doctor.

I was a little bit interested in your observations about this UFO sighting in my hometown of Redlands.

I might observe that Redlands is a rather conservative community, when people in Redlands say they saw something, they saw something. I did not happen to be in Redlands that particular date, so I did not see this.

But I would like to observe this, that having spent a great deal of my life in the air, as a pilot, professional and private pilot, I know that many pilots and professional pilots have seen phenomena that they could not explain.

These men, most of whom have talked to me, have been very reticent to talk about this publicly, because of the ridicule that they were afraid would be heaped upon them, and I'm sure that if this committee were ever to investigate this, or bring them in here, there probably would have to be a closed hearing, Mr. Chairman.

However, there is a phenomena here that isn't explained.

I think probably we ought to do a little looking into this, is my personal opinion.

Mr. Roush. Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

First I should like to commend you, Mr. Roush, for your interest in the subject matter, and the chairman of the full committee for having arranged for hearings into this problem.

I think it is important that this committee not waive its jurisdiction, but that it explore very carefully the proposals that have been made by the witnesses here, and that it have a continuing field of exploration into this whole question. I want to commend Dr. McDonald for having been persistent in presenting his views to the various members of the committee, helping to bring about these hearings.

I wondered, Dr. McDonald, if you would care to evaluate the research project at the University of Colorado, and comment on that?

Mr. Roush. Mr. Ryan, may I just say we had agreed that this was not the place to discuss that particular project, and that the purpose of the symposium was not to go into the activities of another branch of government, but rather to explore that as a scientific phenomena.

I'm sure that Dr. McDonald would be very happy to confer with you privately on this, but if you could show some restraint here, the Chair would be real grateful to you.

Mr. Ryan. Well, let me rephrase my question.

In view of the fact that there has been a study conducted by a project in the Air Force, and the University of Colorado, do you believe there is anything further that should be done by any branch of the Government?

Dr. McDonald. Emphatically, yes.

Mr. Ryan. What would you recommend?

Dr. McDonald. I think that we need to get a much broader basis of investigation of UFO's, as I did say, a few moments ago, it would be very salutary to have a group in NASA looking at this problem, and to have some NASA support of independent studies. It would be very good for the National Science Foundation to support, say, some university people interested in it. It would be good to have the Office of Naval Research et cetera involved.

We don't deal with many other important problems, space, or molecular biology or health without a pluralistic approach, a multiplicity of research programs. I don't want to touch a frayed nerve here. This problem of duplication is sometimes lamented. But by and large I think you will agree we would gain from having a lot of different people with slightly different points of view going at every problem. At the moment everything is focused through one agency, and everything now hinges on that one particular program you have asked me about, and my answer was, we very definitely need some independent programs.

I am on record elsewhere than here in my specific views on that project.

Mr. Ryan. Looking back at page 14, you wrote a letter to the National Academy of Sciences, concerning this project. Have you had any reaction from the National Academy of Sciences?

Dr. McDonald. Yes, I received a letter from Dr. Seitz, saying for the time being we must let the Colorado project run its course. That was the gist of the answer.

Mr. Roush. I would appreciate it, if we dispensed with that. Let me say that the National Academy is undertaking an evaluation of the University of Colorado project, and this will be published.

Mr. Ryan. I'm suggesting maybe this committee should make an investigation of the University of Colorado project.

Chairman Miller. That is something we don't have authority to do here.

Mr. Ryan. To what extent, Dr. McDonald, have sightings been picked up by radar, and to what extent have those that have been picked up been explored?*

Dr. McDonald. Well, there are many such sightings, I dare say there are thousands of military radar sightings that were for the short period unidentified. Then they identify them. But here is an impressive number of both military and civilian radar sightings that defy radar explanation in terms of unknown phenomena. Most of these deficiencies are well understood, so one can be fairly sure that many of these unidentified radar cases have no conventional explanation.

In a case where a P-61 flew over Japan, back some years ago, made six passes at an unidentified object it was getting radar returns on, and the pilot saw it visually. Here you are dealing with an unknown. Then there was a case in Michigan where a ground radar detected an object at 600 miles an hour coming in over Saginaw Bay. The pilot got a radar return, and also saw a vast luminous object; the object turned in a very sharp 180 degree turn and went back, and eluded the F-94. Here you are dealing with a case where radar propagation anomalies will not explain it. There was one radar in the airplane at 20,000 feet and one radar on the ground, both showing the object. There are many cases like that which I could enlarge on.

Mr. Ryan. Let me ask a further question: In the course of your investigation and your study of UFO sightings, have you found any cases where contemporaneously with the sighting of UFOs allegedly, there were any other events which took place, which might or might not be related to the UFOs?

Dr. McDonald. Yes. Certainly there are many physical effects. For instance, in Mr. Pettis' district, several people found the fillings in their mouth hurting while this object was nearby, but there are many cases probably on record of car ignition failure. One famous case, was at Levelland, Tex., in 1957. Ten vehicles were stopped within a short area, all independently in a 2-hour period, near Levelland, Tex. There was no lightning or thunder storm, and only a trace of rain. There is another which I don't know whether to bring to the committee's attention or not. The evidence is not as conclusive as the car stopping phenomenon, but there are too many instances for me to ignore. UFO's have often been seen hovering near power facilities. There are a small number but still a little too many to seem pure fortuitous chance, of system outages, coincident with the UFO sighting. One of the cases was Tamaroa, Ill. Another was a case in Shelbyville, Ky., early last year. Even the famous one, the New York blackout, involved UFO sightings. Dr. Hynek probably would be the most appropriate man to describe the Manhattan sighting, since he interviewed several witnesses involved. I interviewed a woman in Seacliff, N.Y. She saw a disk hovering and going up and down. And then shooting away from New York just after the power failure. I went to the FPC for data, they didn't take them seriously although they had many dozens of sighting reports for that famous evening. There were reports all over new England in the midst of that blackout, and five witnesses near Syracuse, N.Y., saw a glowing object ascending within about a minute of the blackout. First they thought it was a dump burning right at the moment the lights went out. It is rather puzzling that the pulse of current that tripped the relay at the Ontario Hydro Commission plant has never been identified, but initially the tentative suspicion was centered on the Clay Substation of the Niagara Mohawk network right there in the Syracuse area, where unidentified aerial phenomenon has been seen by some of the witnesses.

This extends down to the limit of single houses losing their power when a UFO is near. The hypothesis in the case of car stopping is that there might be high magnetic fields, d.c. fields, which saturate the core and thus prevent the pulses going through the system to the other side. Just how a UFO could trigger an outage on a large power network is however not yet clear. But this is a disturbing series of coincidences that I think warrant much more attention than they have so far received.

Mr. Ryan. Mr. Ryan. As far as you know, has any agency investigated the New York blackout in relation to UFO?

Dr. McDonald. None at all. When I spoke to the FPC people, I was dissatisfied with the amount of information I could gain. I am saying there is a puzzling and slightly disturbing coincidence here. I'm not going on record as saying, yes, these are clear-cut cause and effect relations. I'm saying it ought to be looked at. There is no one looking at this relation between UFO's and outages.

Mr. Roush. Our time is really running short, Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan. One final question. Do you think it is imperative that the Federal Power Commission, or Federal Communications Commission, investigate the relation if any between the sightings and the blackout?

Dr. McDonald. My position would call for a somewhat weaker adjective. I'd say extremely desirable.

Mr. Roush. Thank you.

Thank you, Dr. McDonald.

Note: after reading this oral statement, you may wish to read the very impressive written statement here.

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This page was last updated on January 11, 2003