Growing Up With Flying Saucers


In those years immediately following World War II, few Americans knew how much serious ‘official’ military attention was being paid to the subject of Flying Saucers. Policies and agendas established behind the scenes regarding Extra-terrestrials were deliberately kept secret from most of our country’s population. And yet the impact of these secrets would affect our lives for all the decades that followed…
Director of Air Materiel Command, General Nathan Twining…

“The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious. There are objects probably approximating the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft.
The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability and action which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically or remotely.”

Director of the CIA, Vice Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter…
“Behind the scenes high ranking Air Force officers are soberly concerned about the UFOs. But through official secrecy and ridicule, many citizens are led to believe the unknown flying objects are nonsense.”

Al Chopp, U.S. Air Force ‘Project Blue Book’s civilian press officer…
“We’ve been ordered to work up a national debunking campaign, planting articles in magazines and arranging broadcasts to make UFO reports sound like poppycock.”


“Well, if there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from…”

To borrow a phrase from Luke Skywalker

I could fully appreciate the lonely sentiment of a galactic farm boy from ‘long, long ago and far, far away’. I was born a post-war ‘baby boomer’ to the flat-lands of northwestern Ohio; raised to provincial, middle-class, small-town sensibilities. Our humble village was a convergence of state roads and rail lines—an island of humanity lost in a sea of corn, wheat and soybean fields. Life there was bland work-a-day tedium. The most excitement my rural kid-hood had to offer was watching the weeds grow. So you can guess just how electrifying the notion of ‘flying saucers’ visiting from outer space was to the festering, pre-adolescent imagination of an Ohio hayseed like myself! UFOs were a big deal back in the ‘Fifties’, and somehow I knew they were REAL!


Was life truly simpler way back in the 1950’s or were we more simple-minded? Ours was the first generation to find daily existence dominated by an incredible new electronic device called…. ‘television’.

That magic box in the corner of our living rooms supplied us with a hypnotizing visual cavalcade of news and entertainment that fully defined our perception of daily reality. And yet while we were being happily anesthetized by such video fare as Ozzie and Harriet, I Love Lucy, and the Mickey Mouse Club, the cruel truth was our euphoric post-war culture could instantly vanish at any time in a blinding flash of atomic fission…

By the 1950’s we actually lived our daily lives in a science-fiction reality. So the notion of ‘flying saucers’ seemed to naturally fit into our world of ‘atomic-bomb’s, supersonic planes, rockets and Sputniks. It was all as much a part of growing up as hot-dogs, French fries and soda-pop.

Even Davy Crockett and Pinocchio made room for space rockets when Walt Disney featured famed German rocket scientist, Wernher von Braun predicting future manned space expeditions on his ‘Man and the Moon’ TV presentation.

And ultimately, it was Hollywood that most profoundly inspired my fascination with flying saucers… Fifties filmmakers kept the pot stirred with frothy science fiction movies that furnished rich sustenance for my hungry young imagination languishing in a cultural ‘death valley’…

Invaders from space seemed to echo our nation’s unease with the growing menace of Soviet Communist aggression. Of course in 1956 global politics were a vague abstraction to a kid like me. Instead, I was being happily dazzled by M-G-M’s Cinemascope and Technicolor block-buster “Forbidden Planet” at the local drive-in movie…

 I loved that sleek saucer from “Forbidden Planet”, although Hollywood saucers were the only ones I ever actually saw myself. But even as a grade school kid, I realized grown-ups were genuinely concerned that something flying in our skies could not be accounted for.

 There were too many stories and photographs of circular flying machines, physical craft of intelligent design, which could not be accounted for, given our 20th Century understanding of aerodynamics—no wings, no propellers, no turbojets, no rockets! Yet somehow these machines were able to ‘fly’ by means unknown to Earthly physics. So, if they were not built by Earth humans–the unavoidable conclusion remained, they must have been built by ‘somebody’ from ‘somewhere’ else! And that could only mean that these flying contraptions were likely flown by intelligences from other worlds far out in space!

However, despite enthusiastic public expectations, no official explanation was forthcoming from our government leaders. The President and all of his military advisors refused to provide any definitive answers to this mystery. Quite the contrary, UFOs were dismissed with official military disdain as mass hallucinations and Cold-War jitters.

Still, flying saucers remained an enigma that simply would not go away…

So, I formed my own answers to the UFO mystery. Since it was obvious that whoever piloted these saucers was not making war with humanity, or out to take planet Earth by military conquest, they must be random, curious explorers anonymously peeking in on our ways of life. If we Earthlings had ships to visit other planets, isn’t that what we’d do?

I got the idea by watching TV shows like High Adventure with Lowell Thomas. Here was a famous intrepid world explorer who aired films of his expeditions to the Congo, Borneo, New Zealand or the headwaters of the Amazon, showing the strange life-ways, customs and cultures of the native inhabitants there. Wouldn’t it seem natural for curious visitors from space to do likewise?
Thus I formed my earliest no-muss-no-fuss ‘theory model’ that handily explained the sensational mystery of UFOs—they were merely curious visitors from other planets who flew in really COOL ships!

And the tales told by George Adamski seemed to prove my theory. This California man, who lived near the famed Palomar observatory, claimed to have contact with beings from planet Venus. In numerous popular books, Adamski shared his account of visitation with friendly, human-looking Venusians who shared a message of peace and urged humans of Earth to cease their dangerous experiments with nuclear weapons. Perhaps no single individual succeeded more in making flying saucers the popular Fifties fad than George Adamski… but eventually he too was branded a fraud.

Definitive answers to the UFO enigma remained elusive. Yet my stubborn interest in the subject kept pace right up to my high school years. By then the popular topic had earned a weekly television series where intrepid architect, David Vincent sought to warn a disbelieving world about “The Invaders”!

And in those days, radio announcer Frank Edwards also had a personal campaign to convince a disbelieving world. He published bizarre tales of the paranormal and UFOs in best selling paperbacks like, “Stranger than Science”, and “Flying Saucers–Serious Business”; Stirring accounts that rekindled the palpable, imminent thrill that the secrets behind the UFO mystery would, at any moment, be revealed.

And by 1960, it seemed that Edwards was right! The Air Force finally displayed a ‘Flying Saucer’ aircraft of its own invention… the AVRO Disc! However, despite its appearance like a sleek, silver, Hollywood saucer, this clumsy contraption bobbled and wobbled, barely lifting off the runway.

As a dandy-lion trimmer the AVRO Disc was unsurpassed, but after a decade of anticipation that U.S. ingenuity and technology would ultimately reveal its own anti-gravity propulsion systems, the Air Force, instead, further debunked UFOs by demonstrating that circular air-craft could not fly, and were thus an unwarranted waste of taxpayer dollars and public attention. No further research was justified…

For the remainder of the 1960’s, silly saucers would be no match for America’s awesome space rocket program!

A growing national fear of Soviet missile superiority and threat of nuclear attack sparked an obsession with rocket design competition that dominated world attention for the rest of the decade. The Space-Race was on!

Determined that the United States would win this super-power race, President John F. Kennedy announced in May of 1961, the riveting mandate that within the decade the United States would launch men to the moon!

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” [JFK speech at Rice University, 1962].

What a time to be alive. I was indeed born into an era of science fiction reality! With or without flying saucers, we were poised on the threshold of an era rich with seemingly unlimited potential. The prospect was mind-boggling. We can do anything!
For ‘one brief, shining moment’ we rode the wave of euphoria–Perhaps at last, humanity would find a collective endeavor more meaningful, uplifting and rewarding than . . . war!

Well, so much for the boundless idealism of youth…
The optimism died. John Kennedy never lived to see the culmination of his stirring mandate to land on the moon. Following his murder in the streets of Dallas much of America’s gross national product–funding that could have advanced space exploration—was squandered on meaningless carnage in the Vietnam War.

We watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon in 1969, but by the end of the manned Apollo missions three years later, a bored American public was already demanding TV soap operas instead.
Flying Saucers—the faded ‘Fifties’ fad that seemed so full of promise, just got lost in the shuffle. The U.S. Government continued its dour ridicule campaign. UFOs were labeled ‘temperature inversions’, ‘swamp gas’, or the ‘planet Venus’…foolish fancies of gullible ‘kooks’ or ignorant bumpkins–more pressing issues diverted public attention, like Vietnam, the Cold War and civil rights unrest.
By 1968 it was obvious that UFOs were a secret that would NEVER be revealed!

Tragically the most important event in all human history—actual proof that we share this universe with other intelligent life forms remained stonewalled by virtually impenetrable governmental obstruction, media hostility and general public apathy! Could it be that the strangest creatures in the universe are not extraterrestrials…but the humans of planet Earth.

Even the late Dr. J. Alan Hynek, former advisor with Air Force Project Bluebook, finally broke ranks with the military UFO investigation program by objecting to its deliberate white-wash study of selective evidence and predetermined conclusions.
Hynek complained. “What kind of scientific investigation is it that assumes the answer before starting?”

The government posture was then, and remains to this day, that nothing out of the ordinary exists!

Ironically it was Hollywood that finally revealed the motives behind the UFO cover-up.

Back in 1968—just one year before Apollo’s trek to the moon—film maker Stanley Kubrick joined talents with writer Arthur C. Clarke to produce the science fiction epic of the decade, “2001: A Space Odyssey”. An inspired vision of space travel, which would set the Hollywood standard for all cinematic space adventures to come.  Originally released in sweeping Cinerama, Kubrick sought to capture the dynamic visual experience and awesome grace of space flight.  But, in this movie he also revealed just how politically ‘sensitive’ the issue of disclosing an extra-terrestrial ‘reality’ would be for the government. As it turned out, this was more than just Hollywood fiction.
The movie scenario deals with the discovery of an ‘alien’ artifact—an imposing black monolith—on the moon’s surface, and the social dilemma that such a finding presented to federal agencies. The public at-large was deemed unready to face the reality of life from other worlds, and the truth of the monolith was covered-up.

“Now, I’m sure you are all aware of the extremely grave potential for cultural shock and social disorientation contained in this present situation, if the facts were prematurely and suddenly made public without adequate preparation and conditioning.”

2001 was lending keen insight into the real attitudes and policies our national leaders held toward disclosing the discovery of extra-terrestrial life.
In 1960, just as the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration—NASA—prepared to initiate manned rocket launches, a government study concluded that despite our technological advances, the rank-and-file of the public at large were not ready to face the potential discovery of extra-terrestrial life—an inherent risk of space exploration.
A panel of scientists and sociologists at the Brookings Institution filed a report, “Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs”, which suggested the human race was, as yet, still too medieval, primitive and reactionary, to deal with space ‘aliens’…

“Anthropological files contain many examples of societies, sure of their place in the universe, which have disintegrated when they had to associate with previously unfamiliar societies espousing different ideas and different life ways; others that survived such an experience usually did so by paying the price of changes in values, attitudes and behavior…”

Perhaps Kubrick’s paranoid computer, HAL, was acting wisely after all in 2001 when he eliminated his ship’s crew. Maybe emotionally erratic ‘human’ has become obsolete!

“This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.”

In 1979 Former Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the CIA, Victor Marchetti very blatantly stated the agency’s official posture toward ETs…

“ …We have, indeed, been contacted—perhaps even visited by—extra-terrestrial beings, and the U.S. Government, in collusion with other national powers of the earth, is determined to keep this information from the general public. The purpose of the international conspiracy is to maintain a working stability between the nations of the world, and for them, in turn, to retain institutional control over their respective populations.
Thus, for these governments to admit that there are beings from outer space…with mentalities and technological capabilities obviously far superior to ours, could, once fully perceived by the average person, erode the foundations of the earth’s traditional power structures.
Political and legal systems, religious, economic and social institutions could all soon become meaningless in the mind of the general public .The national [governmental] establishments, even civilization as we know it, could collapse into anarchy…”

So there you have it, my kid-hood thrill, to ultimately discover all the ‘flying-saucer’ secrets, was a notion doomed from the start.

By1970 I was an Army draftee. The youthful optimism of the 50’s and 60’s was gone. Interest in the UFO mystery faded. Innocently I had assumed everyone would want to learn about the staggering reality of beings from outer space. And yet, do earth humans really want to know?

After all these years, I’m not so sure. I think my fellow creatures are too busy living from paycheck to paycheck. Content with their Wal-Marts, their Super-bowls, their Disneylands and their predictable little lives… The movie “Men In Black” says it all…

K: “…People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

The ‘flying saucer’ fad amounts to a sixty year legacy of circumstantial evidence, crammed with endless anecdotal, eyewitness accounts—which sadly amount to no proof at all. Ergo: UFOs do not exist!
So, after all these many years I’ve come to the sobering, weary conclusion that my exuberant youthful anticipation for full disclosure about UFOs will likely never be realized—but at least I finally know…why!

So stay tuned as I further explore the mysteries and motives that block full UFO disclosure, trying to unravel the tangle of social obstructions hindering serious UFO study. Who knows where my ongoing investigations might lead me…

James H. Nichols