A Confession: Out of the Closet on UFOs

by rthieme on February 16, 2014

An op ed in the crossroads section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Let me put it to you straight. For 35 years I have been exploring and investigating UFOs and UFOlogy (both the serious endeavor and the silly speculative fare that fills popular culture) and … well, UFOs are real: They fly, they evince technologies we don’t understand, and they have been around for years.

Above all, despite voluminous and overwhelming evidence to support those assertions, to raise this subject as worthy of historical and scientific investigation is to invite ridicule, the shaking of pitying heads, derision and hostility, and embarrassed silence.

Still, I persist in believing, as Francis Bacon said in 1620, that if something deserves to exist, it deserves to be known, not rejected out of hand with prejudice. The scientific method, principles of historical analysis, and an open mind ask that much.

No subject has been more marginalized and maligned than this topic. By “unidentified flying objects” I mean not the many things commonly mistaken for them – balloons, Venus, sprites, ball lightning, secret craft, etc.– I mean anomalous vehicles which for decades have been well documented by credible observers (“Credible people have seen incredible things,” said General John Samford, US Air Force Chief of Intelligence, in 1953), to which our government responded with the formulation and execution of policies in light of genuine national security concerns.

I was recently privileged to be included as contributing editor and writer on a team that produced the book, “UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry” over five years. The research/writing team was led by Dr. Michael Swords, a professor of Natural Science (ret.) at Western Michigan University and Robert Powell, a nanotechnologist formerly with AMD. The book is regarded as an “exception” to the dreary field by CHOICE, the journal that recommends works for inclusion in university collections. CHOICE suggested that all university libraries should have it (to date, 45 have it in their collections, including 4 in the U-Wisconsin system, as well as many Wisconsin public libraries). The almost-600 page book is well grounded with nearly 1000 citations from government documents and other primary sources so it is “bullet proof.” There is virtually nothing speculative in it. We document the response of governments from the 1940s forward to events they took quite seriously—and which readers, judging on the evidence and data, will take seriously as well.

A short column can not do justice to the complex narrative, but I can state a few facts.

(1)   Any other domain of inquiry with hundreds of well-documented events would be considered worthy of scientific and historical investigation.

(2)   Well-executed policies carried out with secrecy do not constitute “a conspiracy,” and we are not “conspiracy theorists,” a term used to denigrate investigators of unpopular subjects.  Members of the military and intelligence community, from the early 1950s on, decided to learn as much as they could about UFOs – which they decided did not constitute a direct threat to national security – while at the same time playing down and dismissing reports from the public. The reports themselves were considered to be the primary threat by the CIA.

(3)    The data illuminates phenomena that is global, persistent, and sufficiently similar in small details to invite taxonomic classification as to vehicle types, the physics of force fields which power the objects and ionize the air around it, producing characteristic colors in relationship to speed and power, and diverse kinds of robotic or sentient beings associated with the objects.

(4)   It is an astonishing sociological and psychological event that throughout the twentieth century, reports by credible observers, corroborated on multiple radar sets on the ground and in jets, resulted not in public investigation but in an inability to get our minds around the mere possibility. Instead the subject is literally “unthinkable.”

(5)   One reason it is“unthinkable” is the effective use of ridicule, the mocking of people who made reports or took the subject seriously, and a long silence from official authoritative voices in the face of credible testimony. When I delivered a speech and served on a panel recently at the NSA, I was reminded by a veteran analyst that “the three legs of cover and deception are illusion, misdirection, and ridicule. But the greatest of these is ridicule”—which discredits the person, not the testimony, and the testimony I have heard has come from military and civilian pilots, astronauts, even the intelligence head of a foreign military force. “This is what I saw, and I know what I saw” is what I am told, corroborating the statement in 1947 by Lt. Gen. Nathan Twining that “The phenomena is something real and not visionary or fictitious.”

(6)   My personal exploration began in 1978 when, as a recently ordained Episcopal clergyman in a parish on the edge of an Air Force base, a parishioner, a decorated fighter pilot with all the “right stuff” who retired as a Colonel, told me, “We chase them and we can’t catch them.”

(7)   “UFOs and Government” includes quotations from generals, senior intelligence personnel, and professionals like Hermann Oberth, the father of German rocketry, that affirm the exotic characteristics of the technology that no earthly power could then achieve. As Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell told me, “Richard, if we could do what they can do, they wouldn’t have sent me to the moon in a tin lizzie.”

(8)   We increasingly accept through our own scientific explorations that many earth-like planets likely to harbor life fill our galaxy and galaxies beyond. When we hear that from authoritative voices, we accept it as a probability, but when we examine the evidence of decades of visitation by real explorers, we find it difficult to think in a concrete way that we are not alone, not the top of the food chain, and that others may have been voyaging for thousands of years—as if we are the gold standard of scientific knowledge and our current understanding of physics is the end of all physics.

So I’m out of the closet on a subject. As an older man with a solid track record of delivering insights into likely futures that have pretty much worked out over the years, a man who has spoken for security conferences all over the world (including NSA, the FBI, the Secret Service, the US Department of the Treasury, the Pentagon, etc.), discussing the impact of new technologies, I can say without embarrassment that documented data supports the contention that many historical reports show exactly what they seem to show –anomalous vehicular traffic demonstrating aerodynamic capabilities and propulsion systems beyond the range of our own technology.

So … why do well-intentioned people who know more than I do persist in the pretense that nothing unusual has been going on? That’s a more speculative exploration, one for another time.


Richard Thieme is a Fox Point writer and professional speaker (www.thiemeworks.com). In addition to “UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry,” he has written “Islands in the Clickstream (2004)” and “Mind Games (2010)” and contributed chapters to several books.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

universtar April 13, 2014 at 2:53 AM

I listened to you on Coast2Coast 2nite…very good conversation…reminded me of Dr. Greer and the new sirius project coming out…..you must know of that…anyway that last caller was dead on the C2C show referencing about antigravity propulsion with space vehicles….and your knowledge reference about humanity’s cover up to gain reengineering is and has been classified as military secrets…so get this and know it and keep it tight …so as you discussed humanity at such a low level in intelligence that learns slowy from ET crafts let me say that humanitys gross neglect of intelligently taking good care of Planet Earth is by far why we look like a threat to any planet humans populate..and thats good reason for a nonhuman space travelling force to eliminate humanity once and for all so the dangers of continued planet abuse for profit does spread out in the Universe any further…thats probably why an alien force is keepng a holding pattern in nearby space with orders to be in emminent attack position to put humanity in an ELE to keep the continuence of peace among the intelligent variety of life beings within our Universe.

universtartruths April 13, 2014 at 3:22 AM

This is not the first time for an alien nonhuman space travelling super intelligent beings to line up in an attack position within nearby space reading thelselves out of view from human technology and being kept in a holding emminent attack position waiting and watching us on Planet Earth for their attack order to be given…or not ….they have been stalemated once before years ago and now they ‘re , so how do you convince them we are a worthy human race? Of the mixed intelligent creations in this Universe, really…worthy of wanting a second planet to repopulate because you destroyed your original celestial home planet but you did it for a profit…only for a profit.??..one can see your home planet would be healthier and still a good place to live if it was’t being destroyed by the disgusting human nature ideal of anything for profit throwing all caution to the wind…this evil greed mentality of human nature can very well be the straw that breaks the camels back….and for this reason alone an immenent attack to rid the Universe of the human creation absolutely and completely may soon come to pass….

Von Ives April 13, 2014 at 11:08 PM

Didn’t hear the C2CAM show, but I am a 76 yr. old retired professional
commercial pilot w/over 14K hrs. airborne. I have seen four UFOs in my
life time ‘for real’. One at night & three in daytime. One was in day-flight
with an aeronautical engineer aboard who didn’t believe what he saw through
binoculars. I have also seen many illusions. These were not. I fail to
understand the psychology of one saying they saw a Boeing 747 fly
overhead and that be perfectly acceptable; but, if one says they saw a
UFO fly over – they’re a ‘nut-case’! One can ignore reality, but that
doesn’t change the fact.

Glenn White May 12, 2014 at 5:09 AM

Heard your conversation on c2cam, I will be purchasing your book. Now down to my point, I believe Roswell was the last time the military really told the truth about ufos. I am a veteran of the USAF, and in 1975 while stationed at Minot AFB, we, meaning the 91 MSS, guarding a wing of 10 ICBMs, was alerted to a bright object over the weapon storage area at the main base. We had received a memo earlier that bases across northern tier America from Maine to North Dakota was been visited. We the American people and the world in general are like sheep, we tend to only want to accept the BS that our leaders feed us. I could go on and on, let just end with this – it would be great to have our leaders and the ETs reveal The TRUTH to the Human Race!!

Ken Hudson July 7, 2016 at 8:07 PM

As a layperson with no scientific creds, maybe I’m trespassing on taboo ground by posing this question. If so, I crave your indulgence just for a moment, then I’ll go away and leave you in peace. My question is this: science appears (to us unwashed peons) to be all about scientists doing controlled experiments. The ufo phenomenon seems to be entirely beyond any scientist’s control. So how can anyone “do science” with the phenomenon? Even worse: much anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the phenomenon is able to control humans whenever it wants. So, not only can’t it be approached scientifically, we ourselves might be the subjects of experiments conducted by “it”! Your response?

rthieme July 8, 2016 at 11:48 AM

Reasonable questions. As to the first, science does not always proceed by controlled experiments. Much of modern physics and astronomy for example is math first. A lot of math can be applied to consistent observations about speed, maneuvers, etc (of course, it has, “inside,” and is the source of some directions for research). Then too, according to quantum physics, you can not both measure and observe an “event” at the same time, so the Loki-like tricky nature of phenomena is not unknown, but probabilities replace certainties, which is what quantum physics is about (God playing dice with the universe). And above all, “science” is not the only approach to everything we observe and experience. Other approaches bring fruitful results, often enough. In the case of UFOs, data does correlate from multiple observations by humans and instruments over many decades. Dismissing “observations” as “mere anecdotes” is weasel-wording. As to the second part, yes, there is some indication that consciousness itself and what it believes it experiences and recalls is affected by the phenomena, which becomes part of the data set for analysis (and which, also, correlates to some of our own research on neuroscience, memory, manipulation or perception, etc. Thanks for good questions.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: