It wasn’t until 1947, following an apparent mid-flight sighting by respected pilot Kenneth Arnold, that the American public were introduced to the term ‘Flying Saucer‘. Other sightings were reported almost instantly, and within weeks the whole world was awash with stories of contact from other planets. Five years later, following another intense bout of activity in the U.S., Winston Churchill sought the opinion of his advisers by way of the memo seen below. The response, which can also be read below, was quick and with good reason as in 1950 the MoD‘s Chief Scientific Adviser had secretly set-up the beautifully-named Flying Saucer Working Party – a committee dedicated to such matters – and an investigation had already taken place.
Many other fascinating UFO-related documents can now be seen at the National Archives.
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR
What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to? What can it mean? What is the truth? Let me have a report at your convenience.
The various reports about unidentified flying objects, described by the Press as “flying saucers”, were the subject of a full Intelligence study in 1951. The conclusions reached (based upon William of Occam’s Razor) were that all the incidents reported could be explained by one or other of the following causes:-
(a) Known astronomical or meteorological phenomena
(b) Mistaken identification of conventional aircraft, balloons, birds, etc.
(c) Optical illusions and psychological delusions
(d) Deliberate hoaxes.
2. The Americans, who carried out a similar investigation in 1948/9, reached a similar conclusion.
3. Nothing has happened since 1951 to make the Air Staff change their opinion, and, to judge from recent Press statements, the same is true in America.
4. I am sending a copy of this to Lord Cherwell.
9th August, 1952.
Leters of Note