Friday, August 2, 2019

Major Tiger Joe Thompson, WW II UFO Witness

Joe Thompson Jr., (1919 - 2012) of Nashville, Tennessee, was not the typical UFO buff. His obituary described him as: “Thoughtful and devoted husband, father and grandfather, man of faith, insurance executive, Presbyterian elder, P-51 Mustang pilot and World War II hero, photographer, storyteller, planter of trees, friend to many, stranger to none...”

Before the war, Thompson graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in biology in 1941. Thompson was a pilot in World War II, ultimately as a major, and he chronicled his wartime experiences through photographs. In 2006, his book was published, Tiger Joe: A Photographic Diary of A World War II Aerial Reconnaissance Pilot by Joe Thompson and Tom Delvaux.

During those days as a pilot, Thompson became a UFO witness, seeing a formation of the mysterious wartime aerial phenomenon known as foo fighters. Due to that experience, he took a particular interest in the postwar sightings of flying saucers. Thompson eagerly studied UFO reports and literature, and became a local expert, and in the mid-1950s discussed the subject in public, at civic club lectures and on radio.

Thompson is noted as being a foo fighter witness, but there's very little recognition today for his role in educating the public on UFOs as a lecturer. There are just a few mentions recorded on Thompson in period UFO literature. M. K. Jessup’s 1956 book, The UFO Annual, included two newspaper excerpts about him. The first was about Thompson’s role in a public debate, from The Nashville Tennessean, June 22, 1955:

Joe Thompson of Northwestern Mutual Insurance maintained that all the qualified people such as airplane pilots who have seen the flying “somethings” couldn't be so far wrong... Thompson's argument hinged on the fact that pilots, accustomed to watching for objects in the sky and instantly recognizing regular objects, have seen the so-called flying saucers. “These qualified men with thousands of flying hours know what they see and don't see,” he said.

The Nashville Tennessean, June 22, 1955
Jessup's second one on was about one of Thompson many public lectures on UFOs, as reported by The Nashville Banner, Oct. 18, 1955:

M. K. Jessup’s 1956 The UFO Annual
As far as we know, Thompson never had another UFO sighting, but he was watching the skies. Here's a photo from him that was featured in The Nashville Tennessean newspaper’s Sunday magazine for June 26, 1955:

Flying Saucers, Are They a Myth?
In his lectures, Thompson discussed everything from ancient sightings to modern events, as well as the Air Force investigations of UFOs.
The Tennessean, Oct.18, 1955, The Jackson Sun, May 1, 1956
The Jackson Sun, May 3, 1956
Thompson’s continued to lecture on saucers at least through 1961. Mysteries of the Skies: UFOs in Perspective by Gordon Lore and Harold Deneault, 1968, page 118, features another of the few references to Thompson in UFO books:
The Nashville Banner, on February 15, 1961, published an interview with a veteran whose "flying saucer" talk at a local club had touched off a new round of discussion and speculation. The veteran, Joe Thompson, then an agent for Northwestern Mutual Insurance Co., was described by the Banner as a college graduate, a family man and a responsible civic leader whose "interest in flying saucers stems from his World War II experiences in air reconnaissance work over Germany.”
The story said: "Reconnaissance crews kept seeing 'strange circular objects over the Rhine Valley,' he recalled. They flew in formation and could not be overtaken by American planes. 'We thought they were some sort of German aircraft device,' he said, 'until after the war when we discovered the Germans thought they were ours.' "

In The Nashville Tennessean newspaper’s Sunday magazine for Oct. 30, 1966, an illustrated two page article by Max York discussed Thompson’s sighting, “Joe Thompson and the Foo-Fighters.”
It wasn't until 1947, when the stories about flying saucers hit page one, that Nashville's Joe Thompson Jr. gave much thought to those strange objects he saw in World War II. Now an insurance man, Thompson was a photo reconnaissance pilot in the war. He and his wing man were on a mission over the Rhine Valley, photographing German troop movements, when he saw them...
The full text of the article is among the historical resources at the Project 1947 site.
Project 1947, hosts The 1966 foo fighter story put Thompson’s UFO interest back in the public’s mind and he lectured at least once more, on “UFOs- Fact or Fantasy?” for a mid-November 1966
presentation in Nashville.

Remembering Tiger Joe

The rest of Thompson’s involvement in the topic is undocumented, but due to the sensational news about the 1973 “Pascagoula Abduction” of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker in Mississippi, he made a brief return to the topic on radio. Thompson spoke about UFOs on Nashville’s WSM radio call-in talk program, “The Teddy Bart Show,” at least twice, in October and November.

Thompson’s participation in the public discussion of UFOs was unusual because he was a prominent citizen, and did not appear to fear it damaging his reputation. The UFO topic has been polluted with an endless stream of hoaxers, hucksters and charlatan who have vied for our attention. From time to time, it’s worth remembering the honorable people like Joe Thompson.

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