| I recently viewed the above 1958 Mike Wallace interview of Maj. Donald Keyhoe, then-director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. I initially thought I would only watch a couple minutes of the video but ended up sticking around for the entire half hour show.
Several points stand out to me. To appreciate these points, one should understand some things about the 1958 UFO scene and Maj. Keyhoe. He was a former Marine Corps pilot and author. He wrote about aviation and flying saucers, and he managed publicity tours for aviation pioneers like Charles Lindbergh. In 1958 Keyhoe
By Jack Brewer
was in his second year of thirteen that he spent representing NICAP. He was convinced UFOs were alien spacecraft, proof of which he was optimistic he would soon pry from the United States Air Force.
NICAP was a civilian UFO research organization that went on to be 7,500 members strong, with chapters in every state and several nations. Its leadership became vested (preoccupied, some argued) with proving the U.S. government was conducting a cover-up of an extraterrestrial presence.
Keyhoe did not seem to grasp that the thousands of reported UFO sightings NICAP was compiling may both involve sincere, credible people and those people may simply be mistaken. In most circumstances it is not being challenged that a citizen, pilot, police officer, military officer, etc., encountered some type of event outside their normal range of experience. The question is whether they interpreted it correctly. This was a primary barrier during the discussion between Keyhoe and Wallace, who took a skeptical, investigative approach. The same fundamental challenge would go on to embed itself in the heart of the UFO genre and arguably come to define it.
While doubtful about flying saucers, Wallace was supportive of statements and reports issued by the military, the likes of which contradicted Keyhoe. It should be considered that trusting Uncle Sam was a rather popular position to take in 1958. The show host pressed Keyhoe on why he thought the Air Force would lie to the American people.
Keyhoe had answers for Wallace, consisting of what became the usual talking points of public panic about aliens and such. I think a more interesting aspect of the discussion was how neither of the men addressed national security issues as a potential reason for a cover-up. I’d add that the culture at large tended to overlook the situation as well.
My research into NICAP suggests minimal consideration was given to the likelihood the military and intelligence agencies might avert from transparency pertaining to UFOs for what, in 2020, seems like the most obvious possibility: some sightings involve sensitive natsec implications for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with alleged ET spacecraft.
It just doesn’t seem to be something most UFO researchers give much thought, for what are surely a variety of reasons. Even today the more ‘down to earth’ natsec issues seem to be neither understood nor received well among the general public. We tend to prefer suspicions of crashed saucers and interplanetary exchange programs. In fairness, those same intelligence agencies may very well have led the public in that direction. The media certainly did.
I found one of the more striking moments of the interview to occur in the 24th minute of the video. As Keyhoe offers evermore info from UFO reports, Wallace interjects, “Major Keyhoe, what would you like to see done about flying saucers that is not currently being done?”
I think that is an important and practical line of reasoning. I also think it often still applies today, perhaps at times more rhetorically than literally.