President Gerald Ford
August 9, 1974-January 20,1977
"When I heard about Congressman Fords proposal I had to shake my head and laugh. An open hearing would be a circus and I didnt want any part in it." Lt. Col. Hector Quintanilla, Director of U.S.A.F. Project Blue Book 1963-1969
Prior to becoming President Gerald Ford was a Representative representing Michigan in the U.S. Senate, and also Minority Leader in the Senate. In 1966 Michigan experienced hundreds of UFO sighting. The reports of weird dancing light produced quite a furor. To handle the demands for an explanation the Air Force held a quickly arranged news conference where J. Allen Hynek, an astronomy advisor to Project Blue book, made a statement he would regret the rest of his life. He declared that a sighting made by Frank Mannor on March 16, 1966, in Dexter, Michigan was probably "swamp gas."
The comment made Hynek an instant celebrity. It did not, however, calm the calls for answers to the mystery, or for Hyneks head. In fact, it made the calls for an investigation louder. One of those who came to the help of the public in their demands for answers from the government was House Republican leader Gerald Ford, who would later become President.
Dexter, the town involved in the sighting declared to be "swamp gas" by Hynek, happened to be in Gerald Fords district. Like any good Congressman Ford came to the defense of his constituents.
Fords letter were passed on to the House Armed Services committee and the House Science and Astronautics Committee in hopes that one of the two groups would hold hearings. Neither would do anything to start. One member of the Science and technology Committee explained that as he knew the Air Force didnt come under his jurisdiction. Ford then asked the committee if flying saucers were under their jurisdiction and received no reply.
The Armed Services Committee on the other hand thought that there might be troubles holding hearing. It had been tried before and never took place.
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs did take up the issue in response to the call for hearing made by Ford. It was not the hearing full hearings that Ford had asked for but it was an airing of the issue in public.
He questions were raised by committee representative Cornelius E. Gallagher who had questions for President Johnsons Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Earle G. Wheeler.
McNamara: Of course we have an interest in it. We treat each of these reports as though it were a report of a sincere individual, and we seek to find the explanation of what it was that led to the report. It is our responsibility to defend the country against potential aggressors. We dont know what form the aggression might take. We recognize the possibility that it might take a different form than anyone has anticipate in the past. I have complete confidence in the Air Forces objectivity in this area. If anything the investigations are more extensive than actually required.
Gallagher: Is there anything at all to any of this?
McNamara: I think not. I have talked to the Secretary of the Air Force and the (AF) Director of Research and engineering, and neither of them place any real credence in the reports they have received to date.
Gallagher: People are beginning to attach significance to this.
McNamara: There is no indication that they are anything but illusions.
Gallagher: Including the Michigan reports?
McNamara: Yes, sir.
Gallagher: What about the photographs, Mr. Secretary?
McNamara: The photographs are of natural phenomena that can be explained more readily and more realistically as other than foreign objects. The explanation of the objects photographed in Michigan is an illustration. It was marsh gas that caused a refraction of light and indicated that a physical object was present when it was not. (The official Air Force explanation was that the photos were of Venus. McNamara probably filed to read that AF explanation)
Gallagher: There are witnesses that say that it was something other than marsh gases and the marsh gas theory was on someone who was not there.
McNamara: I am relying on an outside investigator (Hr. Hynek- who was Air Force, not an outsider) with scientific objectivity and some experience in these matters.
Gallagher: Does the Air Force accept this over the so-called witness report?
McNamara: I believe so.
Gallagher: What is your explanation as to this?
McNamara: It varies. The condition of the viewer and the physical circumstances in the environment at the time generally create optical illusions.
Gallagher: There is an allusion that no one wants to think talk about it because they point out the Manhattan Project, things are going on that no one wants to discuss.
McNamara: I think that every report so far has been investigated; and, in every instance we have found a more reasonable explanation then that it represents an object from outer space or a potential threat to our security.
Gallagher then asked General wheeler for his opinion.
Wheeler: As the Secretary said, we have thousands - hundreds, anyway- of these reports over the past years. They have always been investigated very thoroughly. From time to time, when we have had a number of reports of this kind, these incidents have been discussed by the Joint Chiefs. Every time the chief of Staff of the Air force has reported to the other chiefs that there was nothing to the reports.
Gallagher: A lot of us are getting a lot of letters on this type of thing, and we would like to be in a position to say to the secretary of defense categorically denies there is anything in it.
McNamara: We categorically deny it.
The Director of the U.S.A.F. Project Blue Book, Lt. Col. Hector Quintanilla, viewed Fords involvement in a different light. He expressed his bitter view of Fords action in an unpublished manuscript written prior to Gerald Ford becoming president.
Once Gerald Ford became President following the resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974, Ford never spoke again about UFOs, until he left office, and then only on one occasion. The commitment to UFOs seemed to be gone.
Why Ford changed is not certain. After all he did raise the NASA budget after years of cutbacks, and did restore the post of Science Advisor to the President. Perhaps I was because he did not have any space role while Vice-President under Nixon, as other Vice-Presidents had performed. Maybe he had become overwhelmed by the post war and economics that he inherited following President Nixons resignation.
Fords actions as congressman, senator, Vice-President, and President became the subject of a letter written to Ford after he retired. The letter, asking Ford what he had done about the UFO problem during his various government roles, was addressed to him by George Filer, UFO researcher and former Air Force Intelligence officer.
In his response to the letter Ford stated that if the UFO secrets had been given to some Presidents, he was not one of them:
Ford did not identify who he was referring to by "official authorities" who he claimed to have asked. The reference to "official authorities" is also very strange in that as President, one would assume that Ford would, or should, be the top official authority.
Fords comments and actions as a congressman to get an official investigation into UFOs probably didnt do much to encourage those who might have the official answers to the UFO mystery to be giving them to Bush. Fords questions about UFOs prior to becoming president probably made him a poor risk for keeping the "Most highly classified secret" should he be told the truth about the UFO situation.
The same situations may have existed with the heads of the various agencies that Ford appointed. Chances are that if "officials" did not trust President Ford they would have held back critical information from his head of the CIA appointed by Ford.