“I wince when anybody refers to ‘flying saucers’.”
That quotation from T. Townsend Brown is taken from the first press report of the formation of NICAP – the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena – on October 23, 1956.
I start this post with that quotation because that’s pretty much how I feel about the subject, too. I know it’s all part of this story, but, jeezus, don’t I have enough rabbit holes to fall in already?
NICAP is covered in just one chapter, Chapter 79, of The Man Who Mastered Gravity, so I am pleased to report that the subject gets a far more extensive treatment in a book released late last year: Against The Odds: Major Donald E. Keyhoe and His Battle to End UFO Secrecy – a Biography by Linda Powell.
Ms. Powell has really done her homework. I confess, I have only spent time so far with the middle chapters that deal with the creation of NICAP, since that is where Townsend Brown becomes part of the story. I am duly impressed with the resources cited, most notably the correspondence between Brown and Clara Colcord John, the Maryland matron whose Little Listening Post newsletter and its subscriber base was one off the cornerstones of NICAP.
Against the Odds is primarily an account of the life of Donald Keyhoe, but that’s a story that covers a lot of ground. A Marine veteran of World War I, he was injured in a plane crash in 1922 and began writing during his convalescence. In 1927, Keyhoe managed a barnstorming tour by Charles Lindbergh, which led to his first published book, Flying With Lindberg, published in 1928.
Keyhoe’s interest in the inexplicable began – as it did for so many – in the late 1940s, with Kenneth Arnold’s sighting of ‘flying saucers’ (a term Arnold himself never used) over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Keyhoe’s first article on the subject, The Flying Saucers are Real appeared in the January 1950 issue of True magazine, and was expanded to book length the following year. It is one of the foundations of the UFO canon.
Keyhoe is as credible as an early source on the subject of UFOs gets. Why even Carl Jung noted that Keyhoe’s writings were “based on official material and studiously avoid the wild speculations, naivete or prejudice of other [UFO] publications.”
Against The Odds is rich and detailed read, and I dare say a fair ‘companion piece’ for TMWMG with its focus on Brown and NICAP in the middle chapters. Author Powell’s treatment of Brown is reasoned and measured and covers all aspects of this period of his mercurial life – the credible and the highly questionable.
After all of her extensive research, even Powell is forced to conclude:
T. Townsend Brown is something of a mystery man.