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“I hope that science provides us with an answer to these unknown aspects of UFO sightings.”

Bobby Kennedy and UFOs

Robert_KennedyIn a recently rediscovered videotaped interview with Col. Philip J. Corso done by Maurizio Baiata in Rome in July 1997, the colonel reveals that he had personally briefed Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in the early sixties about the results of his top secret work of bringing pieces of the Roswell UFO crash to selected companies in the military industrial complex for developing and adapting the alien technology. You can watch the video clip here. As President Kennedy’s younger brother, Bobby Kennedy was not only the Attorney General but also JFK’s most trusted advisor. A year after JFK’s assassination, he was elected Senator for the state of New York in November 1964, where he soon became a prominent political figure because of his charisma and the Kennedy name. He probably would have become the next president of the United States had he not been murdered during the celebration of his victory of the California primary at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, just after midnight on June 5, 1968.

We only have Corso’s testimony for his briefing, so we made a thorough search of the public record to see if there were any clues about Bobby Kennedy and the UFO subject. Ironically, the best known document where he expresses a strong belief in UFOs—a letter to ufologist Gray Barker dated May 9, 1968—may be a forgery. We’ll discuss our research into this letter later on, but let’s look first at other letters written by Sen. Kennedy in the 1965-1966 period. Until recently, only the Barker letter and a couple of brief responses sent by Sen. Kennedy to Robert Barrow, were available. John Greenwald of www.blackvault.com, however, obtained a dossier of 127 pages from the Kennedy presidential library which gives a far more complete picture of the NY senator’s involvement with UFOs. The letters cover a period between 1965 and 1968 and contain 39 letters signed by Kennedy himself, plus the original letters he received from a number of constituents and UFO researchers, U.S. Air Force statements, some newspaper clippings, etc.

The period of 1965 and 1966 was the most active in Bobby Kennedy’s UFO correspondence. This coincided with a lobbying effort by the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) to have Congressional hearings on UFOs. NICAP was then the nation’s most influential UFO group led by the late Major (Ret.) Donald Keyhoe in the Washington, DC area. Out of the 27 individuals who wrote to Kennedy, most belonged to NICAP and some, like Robert Barrow, Raymond Konley and Ralph Rankow, wrote several letters to him. I was also surprised to see many names who were relatively well known in the UFO field—some of whom I knew personally—including the contactee Wayne Aho, the aviation journalist Don Berliner, the Rev. Frank Stranges, John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies and other important UFO and Fortean books, and the psychic Ted Owens, among others. When I saw the name of Terry Wilmot with an address in Roswell, NM, the name rang a bell. He was, in fact, the son of Dan Wilmot, who reported with his wife a UFO shaped “like two invert saucers faced mouth-to-mouth” on the night of July 2, 1947, shortly before the famous crash. His sighting was published in the Roswell Daily Record, although it’s not mentioned in Terry’s letter to Bobby Kennedy (Terry, too, was a member of NICAP).

Back in the 1960s, form letters had not been developed to the exact science than they are today, so Bobby Kennedy’s letters vary a little from one to the other, but some general themes nevertheless emerge clearly. He is of course a polished politician, always polite to his constituents, thanking them “for your thoughtful letter,” appreciating them for “your thoughtfulness in writing to me on this matter,” and so on.  He then tries to walk a thin line between appearing open minded enough while at the same time making it clear that, “from the evidence available to date, I do not believe that UFO phenomena are caused by vehicles of extraterrestrial origin.” Here is a typical response, in this case to Terry Wilmot of Roswell, NM, dated April 11, 1965:

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Despite his mild skepticism, Kennedy hedges his bet by admitting that “scientists agree that not enough is known about UFO sightings, in some cases by reputable witnesses” and that, “I hope that science provides us with an answer to these unknown aspects of UFO sightings.” There can be little doubt that when it came to the allegation that the Air Force was covering-up some UFO evidence, an issue raised often by the NICAP members like Ralph Rankow and others, Kennedy rejected it. Here is his response to one of Robert Barrow’s letters, where he writes, “I do not believe that the Air Force is censoring any information of interest to the public of so-called ‘Unidentified Flying Objects’.”

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In some cases, Kennedy attached Pentagon form letters with the standard line of “the Air Force does not withhold or censor any information on UFO’s.” In many of the letters, he mentioned Dr. Harlow Shapley, who was a then well known Harvard astronomer and author. For instance, in a letter to Anne Epple of New York City, dated September 10, 1966, Kennedy wrote that, “Dr. Harlow Shapley, for one, has stated that there is a high probability that there is other life in the universe.” But then Kennedy lowers the tone, adding that “to believe that there is other life in the universe is not, however, to believe that ‘UFO’s’ are manned vehicles.” He then adds a debunking line (which appears in several of the letters) that “one explanation of this phenomenon…connects the lights that are seen with the gaseous tails of comets.” Not one of the most convincing arguments to identify UFOs as prosaic objects, we may add.

As time went by, Bobby Kennedy was able to deflect the issue by referring people to the University of Colorado’s Scientific Study of UFOs led by physicist Dr. Edward U. Condon, which had been contracted by the USAF to conduct a supposedly independent and thorough study of the matter, later known as the Condon Report. That is basically the gist of the Bobby Kennedy UFO file. Generally speaking, many of the letters sent to the senator are more interesting than his responses. Author John Keel, for instance, wrote a long letter dated January 19, 1966. “I have been collecting information about UFOs since the appearance of the mysterious ‘Foo fighters’ in World War II,” wrote Keel. “But I did not fully believe in their existence until 1954 when I actually saw a ‘Flying Saucer’ maneuvering over the Aswan Dam in Egypt. It was hovering at a low altitude and was obviously a solid metal object, circular with a dome on top. After a few minutes the outer rim started to revolve rapidly and it moved off at very high speed. Similar objects…or the same one…were later reported over other areas of the Middle East.” As far as I can remember, Keel never wrote about this sighting in his books or articles, but there it is. He then goes on to criticize the Air Force’s incompetence on this issue, but basically received the Bobby Kennedy “form letter” with Dr. Shipley, the “gaseous tails of comets” and the final “appreciate hearing from you on this matter.”

You can download the entire Bobby Kennedy UFO file from the Black Vault here.

THE GRAY BARKER LETTER

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Gray Barker

For years, the alleged letter to Gray Barker, dated May 9, 1968, was the only well known Bobby Kennedy statement on UFOs. Barker was a well known UFO writer from Clarksburg, West Virginia, who was the first one to publicize the subject of Men In Black (MIBs) with his classic 1956 book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. The Kennedy letter was reproduced, among other places, in the book The Age of Flying Saucers by Paris Flammonde.

For a long time I thought this was probably a genuine letter but now, having seen Bobby Kennedy’s other letters, I have serious doubts, and so do many other researchers. For one, Barker was well known for having pulled several ufological hoaxes. One of the most infamous ones, which he concocted with veteran ufologist Jim Moseley (then publisher of Saucer News, now of the entertaining gossip newsletter Saucer Smear), was the so-called “Straith letter” sent to famous contactee George Adamski. It was purportedly written by a U.S. State Dept. official called R. E. Straith, who endorsed Adamski’s claims of contact with benevolent Venusians. First of all, the Barker letter does not appear in Bobby’s UFO file at the Kennedy presidential library, where it should be if it was authentic. The second serious problem is the letter’s opening paragraph: “As you may know, I am a card carrying member of the Amalgamated Flying Saucers Association. Therefore, like many other people in our country I am interested in the phenomenon of flying saucers.” The Amalgamated Flying Saucers Association was a group founded by Gabriel Green, a California contactee and new age writer who ran for president in 1960, representing the Universal Flying Saucer Party, and in 1962 for the U.S. Senate in California, where he supposedly received 171,000 votes. It is frankly hard to believe that Bobby Kennedy would have been “a card carrying member” of this organization.

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However, believing that a document is fake is not the same as proving it, so we contacted Jim Moseley, his partner in crime in the Straith letter, and David Houchin, the curator of the Gray Barker Collection at the Special Collections section of the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, to see if they had any insights into the subject. “There is a possibility that Barker did it [the Kennedy letter] himself, but I have a feeling that he didn’t,” Moseley said on a telephone interview, adding that “it sounds that it could be genuine.” Moseley then related that, just as Barker was getting ready to publicize the letter, “he supposedly got a call from someone associated with the Bobby Kennedy family” and he backed off for a while. This would have been right after the assassination at The Ambassador Hotel in LA since the letter is dated barely a month before the tragedy. “The only thing I remember is how easily Gray was intimidated,” added Moseley, “but if it was a hoax, I don’t think he did it.” So that adds another wrinkle into the web—the possibility that Barker himself was hoaxed by someone else, though this remains to be proven.

David Houchin, whom we met several years ago when I lectured at the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, told me that “we normally treat it as one of Gray’s inventions,” although he doesn’t have concrete proof of it. He said that unfortunately the original had been stolen from the library many years ago, but there is remote possibility that it’s still misfiled somewhere. I asked Houchin if there is a copy of any letter written by Barker to Bobby Kennedy and he said he’s not aware of any, but promised to look for any additional evidence. If he finds anything new we’ll publish an update.

About Antonio Huneeus

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Open Minds Investigative Reporter J. Antonio Huneeus has covered the UFO field from an international perspective for over 30 years. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Japan. He was also the co-author of the Laurance Rockefeller-funded “UFO Briefing Document – The Best Available Evidence” and edited the book “A Study Guide to UFOs, Psychic & Paranormal Phenomena in the USSR.” Huneeus studied French at the Sorbonne University in Paris and Journalism at the University of Chile in Santiago in the 1970s. He has lectured at dozens of UFO Conferences all over the world and been interviewed by many media outlets including The Washington Post, the Sy-Fy and History Channels, Nippon-TV, etc. He received the “Ufologist of the Year” award at the National UFO Conference in Miami Beach in 1990 and the “Courage in Journalism” award at the X-Conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 2007.

One comment

  1. avatar
    Gary Val Tenuta

    Concerning the letter allegedly from Robert Kennedy to Gray Barker, I noticed Kennedy (the alleged author of the letter) uses the word “phenomenon” twice. In the letter known to be a genuine RFK correspondence, Kennedy seems to favor the plural version, “phenomena” regardless of whether it should technically be the singular (“phenomenon”) or not. Many people tend to do that and rarely do they do otherwise. It might be interesting to view other verified RFK UFO correspondence to see if this was, indeed, his habit. If so then it would lend another level of suspicion to the alleged Kennedy/Barker letter.

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