Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Australian press and James E McDonald

Hi all

Reading Ann Druffel's book, "Firestorm" on James E McDonald's interest in the UFO phenomenon, drew my attention to McDonald's impact on both Australian UFOlogy, and the Australian media.

I recently visited the State Library of South Australia to locate newspaper articles about McDonald's Australian visit in June and July 1967. I found three such articles. As I doubt that many blog readers will have had the opportunity to read them in full, I will reproduce the texts in this post.

McDonald arrives:

(From The Sun-Herald, Sydney, New South Wales on Sunday 25 Jun 1967 page 11.)

"'Saucer' Expert from U.S.

A top American scientist flew into Sydney last night on a "secret mission" to investigate unidentified flying objects in Australia.

He is Professor J.E. McDonald (pictured) of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of Arizona University. He
is expected to meet leading scientists in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, and to interview Australians who claim to have seen flying saucers and other types of unidentified flying objects.

At Mascot airport last night, Professor McDonald refused to reveal any details of his mission. "I have nothing to say" he said. "I have certain objectives and it is not my habit to talk about them until they are accomplished."

Professor McDonald refused to say whether Australia was considered a fertile country for flying saucer sightings. "Do you think the press will treat this matter seriously?" he asked.

Govt. Grant:

Officials of the Sydney branch of Unidentified Flying Objects Investigation Centre met Professor McDonald. The President of the centre Dr M Lindtner, said he was surprised, and embarrassed by Professor McDonald. "We have been corresponding with the professor and he told us he wanted to meet people who had seen unidentified flying objects," he said. "We plan to introduce Professor McDonald to four people in Sydney who have seen objects. He will meet others in Melbourne. He is the most distinguished flying saucer expert to visit Australia."

In Melbourne:

(From the Melbourne "Sun" dated 6 Jul 1967.)

"In Melbourne as part of a world wide campaign  to clear up the flying saucer mystery is American Professor James E McDonald.

Professor McDonald is interviewing Victorian witnesses of unidentified flying objects -UFOs. And sightings of the objects could be, if anything, higher in Australia than in the U.S. he said last night.

Professor McDonald visit is being sponsored by the U.S. Government, and will take him to other parts of Australia. His interviews in Victoria are being arranged by the Victorian Flying Saucer Society.

Professor McDonald has been working full time on the UFO mystery for 13 months. "In that time my attitude about them has changed completely," he said.

When asked if he believed UFOs are really from other planets he replied: "The hypothesis that I regard as most probable is that these objects are of extra-terrestrial origin and engaged in something which can be loosely described as surveillance."

Professor McDonald has urged a full-scale scientific inquiry by the United Nations. He has already met the U.N. Outer Space Affairs Group and the U.N. Secretary-General U-Thant has agreed to meet with him.

Professor McDonald believes that one of the main barriers to a full-scale UFO inquiry is the fear of ridicule."

Flying saucers are real:

(From The Sun-Herald dated 9 Jul 1967 - written by Max Suich.)

"Flying saucers are real says scientist
Australian probe

Flying saucers are real, a leading American scientist said yesterday. They come from another world out in space, he said. The scientist is Professor James McDonald, senior physicist of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, and Professor in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Arizona.

He has been in Australia for a fortnight to investigate sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects. His inquiries have taken him, to Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. Today he will fly to Brisbane and return to the U.S. tomorrow.

Professor McDonald said that scientific proof of flying saucers and acceptance of their existence had been delayed by a deliberate "debunking program" mounted by many world governments and backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

In Australia Professor McDonald has made tape recordings of the experiences of 70 people who claim to have seen flying saucers.

Some of the reports he believes authentic were:

- A flying saucer that followed a car at up to 115mph speeds until the car almost crashed
- Another saucer that gave some Gippsland people a 'hair raising' experience when it swept in at them at 'treetop height'
- A UFO that caused the lights of a motor car to bend. "Scientifically impossible to explain," said the Professor
- A 'very impressive' sighting in New Guinea by a clergyman and 30 others of a saucer that hovered above the sea. The occupants, who appeared to have human-type torsos and heads, returned the friendly waves of the watchers
- Another sighting by a clergyman, at Cressy, near Launceston. of  cigar shaped object, which was joined by domed discs and which flew within about three miles of witnesses.


He was impressed by reports last year of flying saucer 'nests' at Tully in North Queensland. "These sightings appear to be authentic" he said.

Professor McDonald said he believes about 90 per cent of the reports were authentic. He had some doubts about reports of flying saucers with crews. "There have been some very strong reports of this" he said, "But the level and number of these reports have not been as impressive as the ordinary UFO sightings, and there must remain an element of doubt."

I talked to the professor yesterday after he had addressed a packed meeting of the Sydney UFO Investigation Centre at Strathfield. Two people in the audience told him of sighting saucers.

Some speculated about space dwellers behind the visits of saucers.

Professor McDonald discouraged this type of speculation, "People who speak to little green men who come from back of the moon have done a great deal to discredit flying saucers," he said.

"I have been impressed by the reliability and level-headedness of many of Australian citizens I have interviewed."

(The piece was accompanied by photographs of McDonald, and of the Tully 'nest.")

Learning the cost:

Professor McDonald, 47, the father of six, has been working full time on saucer investigation for 18 months. His children are doubtful about saucers, but his wife is beginning to take UFOs seriously.

His trip to Australia is being paid from US Navy funds allocated to him for physics research.

He said he had no scientific explanation of why spaceships would be sent from another world to the earth.
Pressed to theorise, he said a possible explanation was that the saucers were on an 'anthropological probe' from another and much more advanced civilisation. "We are already learning the cost of visiting primitive societies and wiping them out. Look at Tasmanians," he said.

"Why don't they talk to us? Why don't we talk to ants? But this is more unscientific speculation and I would not like it to be treated as anything but that."

Professor McDonald is bitterly critical of the US Air Force and the C.I.A.


"Investigations of flying saucers have been seriously hindered by C.I.A. inspired legislation, which made it a serious offence for Air Force personnel to publicly report UFO sightings," he said.

"I do not believe this is a  conspiracy by the C.I.A. to cover up the truth. "Rather it is a device to solve the problem of the big number of intelligence operatives tied up on UFO inquiries. "The CIA does not believe in this problem, and has tried to sweep it under the carpet."

Australian Flying Saucer Review article;

Finally, I found an article in the Australian Flying Saucer Review, Issue number 7, 1967.

"US scientist  addresses UFO societies

A leading American scientist, Dr James E McDonald, visited Australia in July and addressed several meetings organised by local UFO societies.

Dr McDonald is Senior Physicist in the Institute of Atmospheric Physics and Professor in the Department of Meteorology at Arizona University. Dr McDonald visited Australia under the auspices of the U.S. Navy to further his research work in the field of atmospheric physics. While in Australia he was able to devote much of his time to his private investigations into the UFO problem, interviewing some 80 witnesses throughout the Commonwealth and addressing various groups of scientists as well as the general meetings of members of the Melbourne and Sydney societies.

The professor was also able to find time for appearances on several A.B.C. television and radio shows as well as the highly rated 3DB session "Talk back to Barry Jones."

The beneficial effect of Professor McDonald's visit to Australian UFO research cannot be over emphasised.

Many Australian scientists and representatives of news media are now prepared to admit that the subject is much more significant one than they had hitherto believed.

Following his return to the United States professor McDonald has been engaged in several new lecture tours and expects to be able to place fresh material before the United Nations Outer Space Affairs group, which committee he addressed before the Australian visit.

All Australian researchers will wish James McDonald continuing success in his endeavours to win recognition for our much maligned subject."


  1. To a degree, I wish McDonald had shied away from making the case for ‘extra-terrestrial’ visitation. At the least, it may have been more diplomatic to discuss the possibility without asserting it. In ‘Firestorm,’ Druffel describes how Klass (p194) was offended by the US Navy sponsoring the Aussie trip and there’s also the ridicule he encountered from Conte (p499). Given the evidence and the period, the ETH seems to me to be a reasonable speculation but opponents used it as a stick to beat him with.

    I found it interesting that he refrained from giving too much attention to potential occupants. There are exceptions, but I’ve noticed many of the credible UFO researchers have barriers and limitations to where their thoughts can/can’t go. For example, ‘aliens’ can crash at Roswell but it’s considered ridiculous that such ‘aliens’ have ever interacted with humans. On the other side of the fence, Arthur C Clarke was cheerfully saying ET had visited Earth ‘scores’ of times, but certainly not in the ‘present century.’

    Ann Druffel did a long interview with Tim Binnall that you and the readers might enjoy hearing. The main focus is Firestorm and McDonald and I think it’s ufology oral history of a high order.

  2. Hi Kandinsky

    I have now read "Firestorm" three times, and each time I find something else of interest to post about. I am currently putting a post together about McDonald's views on the "cover-up" versus the "foul-up" debate, which occupies numerous researchers.



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