Long term readers of this blog will be aware of my work in publishing details of Australian pre-1947 UFO reports ( click here for draft catalogue.)
It was therefore, something of a surprise to find that James E McDonald thought that pre-1947 UFO reports were important. The following quotes come from Ann Druffel's book "Firestorm." Wild Flower Press. Columbus, NC. 2002. ISBN 0-926524-58-5.
In this year, McDonald was in conversation with Tom Malone, "McDonald confided that he not only wanted to view Blue Book files personally, but he also wished to get to a good library like the Congressional or the New York City Library to check pre-1940 observations. Early sightings of UFO-type phenomena intrigued McDonald. He told Malone about a 1904 observation by the crew of an American ship, the USS Supply, and added that many observations were reported in books, newspapers and other records back to the 19th century and even earlier. He pointed out that Dr Hynek hadn't looked into any early sightings." (p.50.)
Later that year, when in discussion with Brian O'Brien "McDonald reminded him that UFOs had been reported for centuries, and were not just a new phenomenon, as most people believed. O'Brien concluded that 'it was useless to check old observations. [The] story grows with the re-telling," he said."
McDonald asked O'Brien if he could recommend getting a small panel-on a summer study basis-to go over the 'old stuff.' "A panel reviewing important past sightings could advise optimal design of new investigations and would be able to provide stronger motivation for it," argued McDonald." (p.51.)
Later, "O'Brien warned McDonald that no one he knew in the Air Force seemed interested in studying old reports." (p.53.)
"McDonald also talked at length with Gordon Lore, a talented researcher and writer who had joined the NICAP staff the previous October. Lore was writing a book about pre-1947 sightings... Early UFO reports were of special interest to McDonald. It was almost impossible, of course, to investigate most of these 'on-site' since most of the witnesses were deceased and those still living had been small children at the time. Taken together with other early reports of "UFOs" in the books of Charles Fort and other sources , however McDonald had begun to suspect that the UFOs were not simply a recent problem, but one which had sporadically surfaced during human history." (pp.94-95.)
"McDonald also discussed his growing interest in pre-1940 UFO cases and urged that Blue Book expand its operations into this aspect of the problem. He cited the classic to me, The Books of Charles Fort, as a good place to start a literary search." (p.139.)
In 1968 after giving a talk, McDoanld met "A German emigre scientist who was working at a US Army research lab was also present, and described a 1945 sighting event...McDonald was intrigued by this early sighting, ...about two years before Kenneth Arnold's first public UFO report..." (p.357.)
Pre-1947 reports provide tantalising glimpses of a phenomenon which appears to have been around for a long, long time.