President Lyndon Johnson Print
Written by Grant Cameron   
Saturday, 01 August 2009 03:58

President Lyndon B. Johnson

36th President

November 22, 1963 - January 20, 1969

NICAP has been informed by a high-level Government source that very important UFO information is classified ABOVE “Top Secret.” According to this unimpeachable Source, this information is unavailable even to top ranking officers and officials who do not have a high priority “Need To Know.”

The UFO Investigator, published by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena - June-September 1963

You know this was a damn mistake back then (around the time he was running for President) the way this was managed, and it’s a damn mistake now. And it’s time for this nonsense to stop.

1964 Republican Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater speaking late in his life of the Secret government UFO program in the early years

The new adventures in space that lie ahead with bring with them excitement and new accomplishments as great as anything we have witnessed in the epic period just past, when we proved ourselves once more to be the sons of pioneers who tamed a broad continent and built the mightiest nation in the history of the world.

President Johnson writing in his memoirs

Of all the presidents, no president had a longer and more sustained interest in space than did Lyndon Johnson. His interest began as a Senator as he watched Sputnik 1 fly over on the day of its launch, as he stood along the banks of the Pedernales River that ran through his ranch.

Johnson clearly understood the importance of controlling technology involving outer space in light of the Sputnik launch. On January 7, 1958, as Senate Majority Leader, Johnson made a key political speech on the subject.

First, it is obvious that the Soviet valuation on the significance of control in outer space has exceeded that of our officials.

The sputniks now orbiting the earth are not military weapons, but have military potential.

Control of space means control of the world, far more certainly, far more totally than any control that has ever or could ever be achieved by weapons, or by troops of occupation.

The race we are in- or which we must enter- is not the race to perfect long-range ballistic missiles. There is something more important than any ultimate weapon. That is the ultimate position- the position of total control over earth lies somewhere out in space.

This is the future, the distant future, though not so distant as we may have thought. Whoever gains that ultimate position gains control, total control, over the earth for purposes of tyranny or for the service of freedom.[i]

While a Majority leader in the Senate Johnson sat on three space committees

  • The Investigating Subcommittee of the Committee on the Armed Services.
  • The Special Committee on Space and Astronautics.
  • The Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences.

Once he became the vice-president, Kennedy appointed him as the first vice-president chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council. This appointment came at a critical time for the space program in the race to put a man on the moon. The first rockets had just been launched, and now there was a race to the moon.

President Nixon ended up being the president in office when man finally walked on the moon. He was able to bring the Apollo astronauts to the White House for the important public relations spin-offs. Kennedy was the President who got credit for the decision to go to the moon. Johnson, on the other had, was written up as the president of the most unsuccessful war in American history.

Even though Kennedy and Nixon got all the credit for the moon landing, there is no doubt, however, that Johnson as vice-president and then president was the essential White House force in putting a man on the moon. For a good portion on the sixties NASA was the “number one government agency.” Today it wouldn’t even be in the top ten.

Johnson as Congressman

Prior to becoming President Lyndon Johnson was a proponent of getting the true UFO story out to the public. At least that was the image he put out into the public. This would have put him in a position where the “officials” controlling the UFO secret would have great reservations about telling him the UFO secrets once he became president, lest he tell someone else.

Johnson as President

Based on the available UFO documents that have been made public it would appear that the Kennedy administration was cut of out any involvement in the management of the UFO problem. This would mean Johnson probably didn’t have much more involvement with his follow-up Democratic administration. After all most of the Kennedy people were held over by the Johnson administration. It was basically the same administration with a different figurehead.

Take for example, the actions of Johnson’s vice-president Hubert Humphrey, on the UFO situation. He received a letter from a NICAP questioning statements being made by Project Blue Book. Vice-president Humphrey queried the Air Force on the citizen’s behalf, and received a letter back from the Air Force stating incorrectly “that no UFO reports remained unsolved.” Humphrey, not knowing the difference, simply forwarded the letter to the citizen thinking the query had been handled.

Another strike working against Johnson once he became president there was only 15 months till the next election making him a lame-duck president. Further, Johnson was handcuffed with the war in Vietnam, which limited his ability to deal with such esoteric items such as UFOs.

Congressional Hearings

The Johnson presidency was a time when there was a great deal of pressure being exerted on Congress to hold congressional hearing on UFOs. One set of brief hearings was actually held. There were a great number of UFOs being sighted and reported to the press. The public Project Blue Book people were being inundated with mail.

In 1967 and 1968, for example, they sent out 40,000 Project Blue Book Booklets to citizens writing to report sightings, or ask for an explanation. The few members in the Blue Book office were handling an average of 1,500 UFO letters a month.

Col. Hector Quintanilla, who headed the U.S.A.F. Project Blue Book in the late sixties, was personally receiving 30 letters that he had to personally answer from congressmen and American citizens. He spoke of the pressure being placed on the Air Force during the Johnson years.

The pressure was on Congress and every week I’d hear rumblings and rumors that a congressional investigation was imminent. Most of these rumors were circulated by NICAP members, but they were taking their toll. My staff was overworked and I was near a nervous breakdown from worrying about the politics of the program.[ii]

The heavy influx of mail began in 1964 shortly after the Socorro sighting.[iii] An internal Air Force memo stated that inquiries into the dramatic New Mexico sighting included an inquiry from congressmen and President Johnson office, even though there is no record of such an inquiry in the Johnson files.[iv]

Quintanilla however blamed Major Donald Keyhoe for hyping the Sorocco case, and for the influx of mail that arrived in his office and in the office of the President.

Keyhoe decided to dislike the Air Force and he has been on their back ever since. He has used his organization to harass the Air Force, the Congress, Blue Book, and SAFOI...In 1964, after the Sorocco sighting they began a drive for a congressional hearing.[v]

The Keyhoe planned to create public call for a congressional investigation. In 1964 Keyhoe approached both the Committee on Science and Astronautics, and the House Armed Services Committee. President Johnson had sat on both prior to becoming vice-president. Both committees turned Keyhoe and NICAP down. Carl Vinson, the chairman of the Armed services Committee wrote:

In view of the continued and thorough investigation made by the Department of the Air Force of all reliable reports of Unidentified Flying Objects, I believe that the matter is adequately being studied by the Department and there is no reason for a congressional investigation of this matter.[vi]

Meetings On Alien Intelligence

In 1964, according to the CIA, high-level meetings occurred in the White House “on what to do if an alien intelligence was discovered in space, and there was a new outbreak of reports and sightings” The meetings may have been initiated by the Socorro sighting which generated massive media coverage. It is not known yet what level of participation Johnson had in the discussion.

In support of these discussions the CIA was called in. Johnson’s DCI John McCone “asked for an updated evaluation of UFOs.” Richard Hall, acting director at NICAP, was approached to provide samples from the NICAP database. Hall was given a direct phone line to an agent inside the CIA. As researchers Barry Greenwood and Lawrence Fawcett later wrote the CIA action to gather UFO sightings showed “an inordinate amount of interest in (NICAP), considering the CIA’s function is foreign intelligence.” Furthermore, the CIA had long maintained its only involvement in UFO research was the 1953 Robertson panel.

Later in the 1980s Hall filed a FOIA to obtain the documents related to his CIA involvement. He was given some of the documents, but was denied the paper trail, and some of the material related to a background check that the CIA had performed on him.

The Hot Line

One of the stories that surround President Johnson is that he took a call on the hot line at the time of the Kecksburg UFO crash in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania on December 9, 1965. At the time of the crash Johnson was at his ranch in Texas on a working vacation.

Records of the president’s daily activity do not show any direct call coming in at the time of the crash that would indicate he had been immediately notified. The hot line was never mentioned, and records of the hot line show no call to the president outside the standard political situations in Washington. In fact, presidential official records show that the ‘hot line” was installed on August 8, 1963, but it was not used (other than testing) until the June 1967 Middle East crisis. Furthermore, the U.S. terminal had Fax/Teletype capabilities, but no voice capabilities.

The only thing that might indicate some involvement related to the crash by Johnson was the appearance the next morning at the ranch by the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, and nine cabinet secretaries. There was no indication of what was discussed except the 1966 military budget and Vietnam.

The hotline was a direct phone connection that was installed between Washington and Moscow. It has always been a rumor in the UFO community that one of the reasons it was put in was to protect both sides in the cold war from misinterpreting a UFO for an incoming missile from the other side, and starting a nuclear war.

Major Donald Keyhoe, in his UFO writing indicated that the threat of misinterpreting UFOs for missiles was a real threat that had already occurred during the Eisenhower Administration.

“In 1958, the Air Force admitted that Strategic Air Command bombers more than once had been launched against Russia when defense radar tracked mysterious objects in seeming formation which never have been identified. The errors were caught...the admission was given to the president of United Press, Frank Bartholomew, after a top-level conference at SAC headquarters. It was cleared by the AF, at the Pentagon. The original purpose was to inform the Soviets, through the approved UP statements, that we had a powerful Early warning system that would detect any sign of an attack and cause quick retaliation. Why the disclosure about UFOs was included has never been explained.”[vii]

presid2The development of submarine launched missiles in the late 1950's and early 60's increased the threat of radar detected UFO’s. A submarine could launch a missile from just off the American coast, or anywhere for that matter, which meant any UFO that appeared from anywhere could be mistaken as a Soviet nuclear missile. This particular problem was even raised with Dr. Condon who was doing a study of UFOs for the Air Force. He rejected the threat stating that this was strictly a Defense Department problem.

President Lyndon Johnson had also openly discussed the problem of the American Early Warning system picking up an unknown object that might lead to war. “The western allies,” he stated, “Must be prepared for every possibility - deliberate or accidental.”[viii]

Senator Lyndon Johnson was given NICAP’s confidential report. He sent it to the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee.[ix]

New York City Blackout

When the blackout occurred in New York City, President Johnson was immediately contacted at his Texas ranch known as the “Texas White House.” To prevent panic the President told the Office of Emergency Planning not to declare a national emergency. Instead Johnson took personal control over the situation. He received reports every five minutes throughout the night.[x]

“During the night, President Johnson had ordered a full investigation by Federal Power Commission. At AF headquarters it was expected that the FPC would concentrate on the technical problem, but several early newspapers spot-lighted the UFO angle, revealing that unknown flying objects had been sighted before and after the blackout.”[xi]

The University of Colorado-Condon Committee Report on UFOs

In October 1967, under heavy pressure for another Congressional Investigation into UFOs, the United States Air Force was able to move the debate about what to do about UFOs, by awarding a $500,000 reevaluation of Project Blue Book by the University of Colorado. Physicist Dr. Edward Condon was selected to head up a balanced scientific appraisal of the UFO problem.

The choice of Condon did not bode well for the objective character of the investigation. Some felt that Condon owed the government one because of his having been targeted as one of “an enormous Soviet spy ring in Washington.” Even though Condon had managed to get his security clearance back following all the investigations and allegations, he was still not trusted by some top government officials such as J. Edgar Hoover who referred to Condon as “nothing more or less than an espionage agent in disguise.”[xii]

As Condon began his investigation leaked particulars of certain cases that indicated the analysis would not be objective, and would in fact center on the “wacko” side of the UFO field. When one of these reports reached the FBI, it was apparent Hoover had not changed his impression of Dr. Condon. Condon wrote at the bottom of one report from Condon, “Condon is a publicity hound.”

A letter sent to President Johnson seemed to enforce Hoover’s impression of Hoover as a publicity hound. Just prior to the awarding of the UFO contract to the University of Colorado, President Johnson had sent Condon an autographed photo taken at the White House on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Atomic Energy Act.

For Dr. Condon the photo itself was not enough. As well as now heading up the USAF UFO review he was running for election to the Board of regents at the University. Condon wrote to Juanita D. Roberts, the Personal Secretary to the President asking Juanita to see what she could do about getting specially autographed photo that he could use in his election campaign at the University of Colorado.

“As the Chief well knows it would be very valuable to me to have a print of the same picture that was autographed by him. Would it be too much of an imposition to ask to have another print made, and then, some day, when he has nothing more important to do for a few seconds, for you to slip it in front of him when he has a pen in hand and have him write something like, “With best wishes to Dr. Condon, from Lyndon” or whatever he chooses to write in similar vein? I ought to get it, of course, well before November 8. [xiii]

In addition to the signed letter Dr. Condon stated that in a couple weeks he would be awarded the USAF contract for the UFO review. He asked if President Johnson would be willing to make an announcement to that effect in a news conference.

The Condon letter was bounced around the White House until October 13 the day before the USAF announcement about the UFO study. Paul Popple, Assistant to the President, wrote the president’s secretary back and stated that he did not know about the USAF plan, and that “it would not have been advisable to release this from the White House, in any case.”

As to the special photo from the President to help Dr. Condon in his election campaign Popple wrote, “The attached file is self-explanatory. I see nothing more to be done now except send the whole works to Central Files and forget it.”[xiv]

Once the Condon investigation began, Condon ran into more trouble that indicated objectivity would be lacking in the conclusion. A memo from Condon’s assistant Robert Low was leaked. It read, “The trick would be, I think, to describe the project so that, to the public, it would appear a totally objective study but, to the scientific community, would present the image of a group of non-believers trying their best to be objective but having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer.”

This disclosure led Major Donald Keyhoe, Director of the National Investigations Committee for Aerial Phenomena to write to President Johnson protesting the government support of such a white wash. He urged Johnson to ‘create a new, impartial organization, free from any military or other government agency.” Keyhoe further suggested that the new investigation report directly to Johnson and that the secrecy be ended.

Unfortunately President Johnson never saw Keyhoe’s letter, as it was redirected to the Secretary of Defense. The reply came from Col. B.M. Ettenson, in the AF Secretary’s office, who claimed he was answering the letter on Johnson’s behalf. Colonel Ettenson wrote:

The Air force awarded the unidentified flying object contract... convinced that an impartial, open-minded, independent and objective scientific report would be forthcoming and we expect Dr. Condon will fulfill the terms of the agreement.[xv]

Keyhoe assumed based on past events that Johnson was an honest man who would come to the rescue and cancel what he termed the “Colorado Fiasco.” After all, the head of the U.S. information Agency, and a close friend of both the president and first lady, Leonard Marks, had told Keyhoe in 1965 “considerably more scientific research on UFOs is already in progress than the public generally realizes.”[xvi]

While he was a Senator and vice-presidential candidate in 1960, Johnson had written Keyhoe that “the staff of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee (which Johnson headed) is keeping a close watch over new developments in this field, with standing instructions to report to me any recent significant sightings of unidentified flying objects along with an analysis of the conduct of the Air Force investigation of each sighting.”[xvii]

As Johnson had promised to watch “the conduct of the Air Force investigation of each sighting,” Keyhoe assumed this would be an open and shut case for Air force misdeeds.

The problem with Keyhoe’s plan was that the letter to Johnson was like most sent to the White House, read by a staffer who then transferred the letter to the Defense Department. The letter got nowhere near Johnson for his action.

President Johnson Answers his Mail

Like Presidents before and after Johnson, the president received many letters written by citizens expressing their views on UFOs, or asking questions. Like Presidents before him President Johnson never personally answered any mail on the topic of UFOs.

During six months, October 1966 through March 1967, Johnson received 123 letters dealing with UFOs. As with other White Houses, very few of these letters were actually answered by the White House. The letters to the President were usually sent to the Defense Department for handling where Col. Hector Quintanilla and his staff replied.

On the few times when the White House answered the letters, Paul Popple, a special assistance to the President, handled them. The White House replies were basically non-committal, but never negative in tone.

Johnson did, however, answer a UFO letter while Vice-President. This may be significant in the fact that there has always been a rumor that John Kennedy, once he became President, supposedly put Johnson as head of the UFO program.[xviii]


[i] Salkeld, Robert, “War &Space” Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall 1970, p.135

[ii] Quintanilla, Lt. Col. Hector “UFOs - A $20,000,000 Fiasco” (unpublished 1975- reproduced on the web site of National Institute for Discovery Science 2001) p.47-48

[iii] On April 24, 1964 a New Mexico policeman, Lonnie Zamora, witnessed the landing of an object in Socorro, New Mexico. Behind the object Zamora saw two people, just before the object took off. Left behind was smoldering bushes and landing imprints in the soil. The FBI investigated the sighting within days, and Air Force Blue Book Director Quintanilla declared the case to be the “best documented case in Air Force files.” Inquiries from the media and public was so great the Air Force released a public statement declaring that they were working on the incident and the investigation was continuing. It remained unidentified in Air Force files.

[iv] Emenegger, Robert. “UFO's: Past, Present and Future” New York: Ballantine Books, 1974 p.70.

[v] Quintanilla, Lt. Col. Hector “UFOs - A $20,000,000 Fiasco” (unpublished 1975- reproduced on the web site of National Institute for Discovery Science 2001) p.47

[vi] ibid.

[vii] Keyhoe 1973 p.140

[viii] ibid.

[ix] Keyhoe 1973 p.140

[x] Keyhoe 1973 p.209

[xi] Keyhoe 1973 p.211

[xii] Redfern, Nicholas, “The FBI Files”, p.141

[xiii] Letter – Edward Condon to Juanita D. Roberts, September 20, 1966

[xiv] Memo – Paul Popple to Juanita Roberts, November 4, 1996

[xv] Keyhoe, Donald, “Aliens from Space” 1973 p. 178.

[xvi] “UFO Investigator” November/December 1965 p.6

[xvii] “UFO Investigator” July/August 1960 p.1

[xviii] Letter from Armen Victorian to author dated July 16, 1991

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 August 2009 05:06