Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Gen. Curtis LeMay on UFOs over Ancient Egypt

General Curtis LeMay was a larger than life figure who rose to prominence through his command of bombers in the second World War, and and afterwards for his development of the United States’ armed warfare during the Cold War. For an overview of his military career, see the biography at the Air Force’s site

Time, Sept 4, 1950

To UFO buffs, Gen. LeMay is best known for his role in the anecdote that Senator Barry Goldwater told. Here’s a version of it in a Goldwater letter from April 22, 1980. 
Many years ago when I first heard that the Air Force was putting together what materials they could on the on a unidentified flying objects, I asked General Curtis Lemay if I might visit the room at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where these items are stored. He told me in no uncertain terms that I could not visit it and, furthermore, that he could not visit it either. After that I just left it alone and forgot about it. However, I believe that the material has now been spread around into different archives of the Air Force.   (File 1980-3 at PresidentialUFO.com
By 1994, the story was expanded to include Goldwater wanting to know about a captured alien spaceship.
“I called Curtis LeMay and I said, ‘General, I know we have a room at Wright-Patterson where you put all this secret stuff. Could I go in there?’ I’ve never heard him get mad, but he got madder’n Hell at me, cussed me out, and said, ‘Don’t ever ask me that question again!’” Larry King show, 19994, CNN

The Horse's Mouth

Second-hand stories are not as good as direct quotes, but over his many years of service, Gen. LeMay didn't say much about UFOs. What little he did say is worth looking at carefully. An indirect, but on-the-record passage from Saturday Evening Post,  May 7, 1949 “What You Can Believe About Flying Saucers” (Conclusion) by Sidney Shalett:
“Lt. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, now the tough-minded Strategic Air Command boss, was particularly rough on saucer reports when he headed up the Air Force's research-and-development program at the height of the scare. He put his weather expert on the trail, and substantial proof was uncovered that one out of six of the then current crop of reports could be traced to a certain type of aluminum-covered radar-target balloon then in wide use. LeMay said nothing for publication, but soon thereafter, when a certain lieutenant colonel gave out a lulu of a story on how he, too, had seen flying saucers, the general rebuked him blisteringly by telegram ... and sent, it collect.”

Remarks at a Rodeo

Two military celebrities were invited as guest of honor to festivities in Tucson, Arizona, Curtis LeMay and General Roger Ramey, famous in ufology for being involved in a 1947 New Mexico flying saucer misidentification case.
LeMay, (L) and Ramey
Tucson Daily Citizen, Saturday, February 25, 1950 Page 7, 
Top Officers Of Air Force Tucson Guests 
Two of the U. S. air force's top officers, Lt. Gen. Curtis E, LeMay and Maj. Gen. Roger M. Ramey, fly into Tucson today for a week end as special guests of Davis-Monthan base and the Tucson Chamber of Commerce... High lights of their visit include... a box of honor at La' Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Tucson Rodeo) Sunday afternoon.” 
La' Fiesta de los Vaqueros 
Eight years later, a comment made that weekend by Gen. LeMay on flying saucers was resurrected, in a story titled, "Maybe There Is A Santa Claus?" Summarized here from Loren Gross' UFOs: A History 1958 March - April:

The Arizona Daily Star printed: "When, in an interview here in Tucson, Sen. Barry Goldwater said he believed in flying saucers, he presumed something that his boss in the Air Force, Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis Le May, former chief of the Strategic Air Force, once denied in an interview in Tucson a few years ago. At that time, when General Le May was asked if he thought there was such a thing as flying saucers, his answer to the Arizona Daily Star was: 'Of course I do, they were first discovered by the Egyptians more than 2,000 years ago.' He then went on to explain that every incident of flying saucers had been investigated by the Air Force, and that in each case a reasonable explanation was found that discredited completely the existence of any such things as flying saucers." (Arizona Daily Star, April 11, 1958)

That is one of the most confusing articles we’ve ever seen on UFOs, but further research reveals it to be a seriously mangled misquote of what LeMay had said. Closer to the truth is the Associated Press story run at the time in the Arizona Republic, Monday, February 27, 1950, Page 4, and rerun the next day, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 1950,  Page 12

 Gen. Curtis LeMay, asked what he thought about flying saucers, replied: 
"The best information in my opinion on them is to be found in a book written by an Englishman explaining numerous such mysteries. He says that the first flying saucers were seen in Egypt about the year 3,000 B. C."
The article closes with some more of his comments, clarifying his position:
LeMay said the air force took the matter seriously enough to make a thorough scientific investigation at Wright Field, Dayton, O. This investigation, he said, showed that there was some other explanation, like a weather balloon or a meteor, where the witnesses were telling the truth. "And," he added, "some other witnesses were just lying in giving their testimony.”

Arizona Republic, Feb. 28, 1950
Interesting quote, but despite the fact that almost any mention of saucers was newsworthy, it didn’t catch on at the time. 

LeMay wasn’t prepared for a press conference, and may have just been speaking of the top of his head. There were no (non-fiction) books published on flying saucers until later in 1950, and it was even later before skeptical ones appeared. It’s most likely he used he used the phrase “flying saucer” in the generic context as an aerial anomaly. However, the “explaining such mysteries” part is odd, too, since most books on weird things were more about exploitation than explanation.

Major Donald Keyhoe's famous article "The Flying Saucers are Real" in TRUE Magazine dated January 1950 suggested that saucers had been coming here for centuries, and that was evidence they were real, spacecraft here to observe us.
"... True found that such reports have been recorded for more than 175 years... Advocates of the 'long observation' theory believe that only a few round trips by space visitors have been made in the past, because of the travel time required."
LeMay's quote seems intended to say just the opposite, that people have been seeing unknown things in the sky since at least as far back as 3,000 B.C., meteors, comets and other natural occurrences. LeMay was saying, the flying saucers are not real.

Whose Book did LeMay cite?

The last part of LeMay's remarks about the Air Force saying there was standard policy, but not the part about Egypt. There's no reference in the Project Blue Book files to anything similar. What book? “ ... written by an Englishman explaining numerous such mysteries.”

There was a piece in a 1947 science fiction magazine published by Ray Palmer that connected Egypt with saucers. It's an interesting footnote, but not connected to LeMay's comment. The artwork for the story carried the blurb, "Will the ancient gods of Egypt and other lost civilizations come back in time to avert an atom war?" From "Son of the Sun." by Millen Cooke (as Alexander Blade) illustrated by James Settles.

Egypt? Many early flying saucer articles looked back a few centuries comparing other aerial mysteries to saucers, and a few even connected them to the Bible, like the wheel described in the Book of Ezekiel. In fact, that's the only reference to ancient times in Edward J. Ruppelt,'s 1956 on the AF's investigation, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects:
"Did UFO reports actually start in 1947? We had spent a great deal of time trying to resolve this question. Old newspaper files, journals, and books that we found in the Library of Congress contained many reports of odd things being seen in the sky as far back as the Biblical times. The old Negro spiritual says, 'Ezekiel saw a wheel 'way up in the middle of the air.' We couldn't substantiate Ezekiel's sighting because many of the very old reports of odd things observed in the sky could be explained as natural phenomena that weren't fully understood in those days."
Asking around, I've gotten a number of suspects, but most authors didn't fit the timing; only books published prior to Feb. 1950 could work. What follows are the best candidates located that remain as possibilities.

Rupert T. Gould, author of Oddities and Enigmas is a strong candidate. He's British, the topic and time fits, and it's plausible that LeMay would actually have read this author. There seems to be nothing on Egyptian "saucers," though. Gould writes about the “Canals on Mars,” but otherwise about the closest he gets to UFOs is a discussion of the Tunguska event in the chapter, “The Siberian Meteorite,” of his book, The Stargazer Talks.

R. DeWitt Miller's Forgotten Mysteries was out in early 1947, and can almost be considered the first UFO book, with its chapter “Enigmas Out of Space.” It told of aerial apparitions from centuries past, but it featured none over Egypt, and Miller was an American. The book was cited in the media in connection with the flying saucer mystery and helped lay the foundation for the ancient astronaut notions.

Charles Fort? Not English, not explaining mysteries, but a good possibility. Fort’s books contain many accounts of UFO-type stories, but most of those were collected from newspaper accounts, not ancient history or legends. LeMay could have been familiar with Fort, though, even if it was second-hand. We know the Air Force examined Fort’s works, even though their astronomer, J. Allen Hynek, regarded them as "highly dubious."

Gould, Miller, and Fort are the top three candidates for the "Englishman" with Egyptian saucers, but none quite match.  Searching for the book has stumped the experts so far. Besides searching individual volumes, databases and newspaper archives and the project published in 1969 to assist the government's Condon Committee's UFO studies was also consulted.
UFOs and Related Subjects: An Annotated Bibliography, which the Library of Congress describes as "Compiled by Lynn E. Catoe of the Library's Science and Technology Division, the bibliography was produced with support provided by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, a unit of the Office of Aerospace Research, the research agency of the U. S. Air Force." It's a great source to locate early saucer literature, but no matches were found. (Link to the PDF of Catoe's bibliography.

Joshua Blu Buhs of the Fortean history blog From an Oblique Angle suggests Rupert T. Gould as the best fit, but with a dash of imagination from LeMay: "...I'll bet that LeMay conflated what Gould wrote with other stuff in the papers--there had been a number of articles mentioning flying saucers that might date back for centuries." That's possible, or LeMay may have been confusing the writings of Rupert T. Gould and Charles Fort. 

Saucers in ancient Egypt would later enter ufology in 1953 by way of a hoax, a fleet of “fire circles” described in the “Tulli Papyrus.” The tale surfaced in the Fortean journal, Doubt, and was assimilated into saucer lore, included in Desmond Leslie and George Adamski’s Flying Saucers Have Landed.

Conclusively identifying Gen. LeMay’s source may not bring us any closer to solving the UFO mystery, but it’s interesting to know what literature influenced the thinking of the leaders in charge of the US Air Force. 

If this unidentified volume is not already included in the bibliography of important Fortean and UFO books, it deserves to be. If you can help clear up the identity of LeMay's the mystery book, please send us a note at The Saucers That Time Forgot.



Popular Science, January 1966 article, “Why I Believe In Flying Saucers” by MacKinlay Kantor. It contains an excerpt from the book he co-authored with Gen. LeMay, Mission with LeMay: My Story. Comparing it with his 1950 comments, it seems clear that while he may not have believed in the reality of flying saucers, he didn't think all the people who reported seeing them were kooks.
Popular Science, Jan. 1966

For more history and speculation on the role of General Curtis E. LeMay in the UFO story, see the 2012 book, UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry.

A big STTF thanks to all that offered help and suggestions in fielding suspects, especially researchers Barry Greenwood, Martin Kottmeyer, Clas Svahn , Jason Colavito, and Joshua Blu Buhs.

P.S.  Some early suspects that have been eliminated:

The Flying Saucer by Benard Newman, 1948. n Englishman, and the topic is right, but the book is fiction and there's nothing about ancient UAPs. Notable for being the first flying saucer book, however, it's a thriller about a hoaxed invasion by scientists manipulating peace on Earth.

Worlds in Collision by Immanuel Velikovsky. This crackpot book does mention as the planet Venus as a comet in ancient Egypt, but it's unlikely reading material for LeMay, and eliminated for being published in April 1950, two months after his comments.

The Riddle of the Flying Saucers: is Another World Watching? by Gerald Heard was published in the UK in 1950, but not in the US until 1951.  It's also missing the crucial Egypt material.

Harold T. Wilkins was English, wrote several sensational "non-fiction" about pirate treasures, lost civilizations and Atlantis (before turning to saucers in 1954). He would be just the sort to connect Egypt to aerial wonders like flying saucers, but no contemporary text doing so has been located. 


  1. LeMay's assertion in 1966 book that there were some that they couldn't explain echoes the statement 14 years earlier by General Samford at the famous press conference, July 29, 1952: "credible people have reported relatively incredible things..."

  2. And.. if you're open minded, (and wish to shoot 1000s of years ahead in knowledge from the nasa, seti, astronomers and Govt. lies), get The Pleiadian Mission by US psychologist Randolph Winters, based on his 3 months with Swiss et contactee Billy Meier of theyfly.com. 5 US investigators spent decades trying to debunk Meier but failed. They were led by Col Wendel Stevens, USAF Intel Rtd. Am I a nutter off the meds? Nah, just a Rtd Airline Training Capt. with multiple 'ifo' sightings.

  3. Meier's ex-wife debunked his wedding cake saucer by showing the garbadge can top it was decorated on, with all those pretty silver decorative balls. Of course, she's never mentioned.


Frank Edwards: Making UFOs Newsworthy

Dr. J. Allen Hynek on UFO literature (in  The Edge of Reality , 1975): “If I were to recommend anything in the popular category, I would cho...