Summary: Tons of newsprint and airtime dedicated to Ronald Reagan's legacy this week, but -- surprise -- not word one about curiosity over unidentified flying objects. It'll be the same way when Jimmy Carter dies.
Tons of newsprint and airtime dedicated to Ronald Reagan's legacy this week, but -- surprise -- not word one about curiosity over unidentified flying objects. It'll be the same way when Jimmy Carter dies.
None of the Carter presidential scholars on the talk-show carousel will say anything about the former Georgia governor's UFO encounter, which was so impressive he filed a formal report. The incident even elicited a 1976 campaign promise to "make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public and scientists." Which, as we know, blew a sprocket when the rubber hit the road.
Likewise, upon Bill Clinton's death, there won't be any mainstream media discussion of his own underreported attempts to pry the door open in the '90s. That's when he dispatched former Assistant Attorney General Web Hubbell to get to the bottom of the secrecy, and wound up with goose eggs.
What made Reagan's angle so compelling were his repeated allusions, as if he were speaking in code to the gatekeepers of classified operations. Because, like a lot of people who've seen these things, Reagan caught the bug, too.
Reagan's sighting occurred in 1974, when he was flying aboard a Cessna Citation as governor of California. He told the story to a Wall Street Journal reporter, and his pilot, Bull Paynter, provided additional details. What started out as a white light over Bakersfield, maybe several hundred yards away from the plane, began to "elongate" as it accelerated away at a 45-degree angle, around 10 p.m. "The UFO went from a normal cruise speed to a fantastic speed," Paynter said, "instantly."
The incident obviously stayed with him, because Reagan went on to employ extraterrestrials to his advantage during key moments of his presidency.
At the Geneva Summit in 1985, he told Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze that if we ever discovered ETs were planning to attack, both nations would form a quick alliance. Shevardnadze agreed, and apparently for good reason.
As ABC's "Prime Time Live" related in 1995, for several hours on Oct. 4, 1982, residents of Byleokoroviche, Ukraine, reported seeing a 900-foot disc navigating the skies, then hovering over a nuclear missile silo with armed warheads.
To his horror, Lt. Col. Vladimir Plantanov watched as flashing control boards indicated the ICBMs were preparing to fire against the United States. A Soviet investigation confirmed that for 15 seconds, the base had lost control of its nukes.
"I couldn't help but say to (Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev)," Reagan recalled later in 1985, to a high school class, "just how easy his task and mine might be if suddenly there was a threat to this world from some other species from another planet."
Reagan extended the analogy in 1987, during a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, when he compared ETs to nuclear weapons: "I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet I ask: Is not an alien force already among us?"
And what to make of Reagan's alleged comment to Steven Spielberg, following the 1982 screening of "ET: The Extraterrestrial" at the White House? "You know, there aren't six people in this room who know how true this really is." Producer Jamie Shandera said Spielberg told him the story, but Spielberg refuses to discuss the incident in the media.
Which is just as well. These things get a little complicated.