Communism, Contactees and the Cold War: When UFOs and Politics Combined in Very Strange Ways
Today, when people think of extraterrestrials, they generally think of dwarfish creatures with large heads and huge black eyes. Certainly, that’s the way that numerous so-called “alien abductees” describe them, as did The X-Files. In the aftermath of the Second World War, however, many people asserted they had met with aliens of a very different kind. Namely, ones that looked just like us – to the point of being practically indistinguishable from us. Aside from one thing: their long blond hair, which was definitely not in fashion for men in the 1940s and 1950s. Such people were soon termed Contactees, while the hippy-like aliens were known as the Space Brothers. What made the Contactee movement of the 1950s so controversial was that those who claimed alien encounters maintained that their cosmic friends had communist-style governments. Or did they? A particularly thought-provoking theory suggests that the encounters between the Space Brothers and the Contactees were staged events. But, by whom? Nothing less than agents of Russia’s intelligence agencies. The purpose: to affect American moral and have the nation’s people believe that communism was not just the way of the world, but of the entire Universe too. Such a theory sounds outlandish; however, when one goes looking one finds more than a bit of data in support of the scenario.
On August 5, 1954, a resident of Yucca Valley, California wrote to the FBI suggesting that one of the most famous of all the Contactees, George Van Tassel, be investigated to determine if he was working as a Soviet spy. No evidence to support such a scenario was ever found, but that the FBI dug into the theory at a deep level is notable in itself. Then there is the FBI’s dossier on the most famous of all the Contactees, a Polish-American named George Adamski. A 1953 document on Adamski, prepared by personnel from the FBI’s office in Los Angeles, provides the following: “Adamski made the prediction that Russia will dominate the world and we will then have an era of peace for 1,000 years. He stated that Russia already has the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb and that the great earthquake, which was reported behind the Iron Curtain recently, was actually a hydrogen bomb explosion being tried out by the Russians. Adamski states this ‘earthquake’ broke seismograph machines and he added that no normal earthquake can do that.”
J. Edgar Hoover’s finest were far from done with Adamski, noting that he “…stated that within the next twelve months, San Diego will be bombed. Adamski stated that it does not make any difference if the United States has more atom bombs than Russia inasmuch as Russia needs only ten atom bombs to cripple the United States by placing these simultaneously on such spots as Chicago and other vital centers of this country. The United States today is in the same state of deterioration as was the Roman Empire prior to its collapse and it will fall just as the Roman Empire did. The Government in this country is a corrupt form of government and capitalists are enslaving the poor.” Moving on from George Adamski, there’s the controversial account of a Californian named Truman Bethurum, a man who claimed repeated, face to face encounters with human-like aliens in both California and Nevada in the early 1950s. And, as with George Adamski, the matter of communism reared its head, as Bethurum noted: “Two or three fellows who had sons in Korea and who read a lot in the newspapers about the Communist underground in this country, were convinced in their own minds that I was, if making contact with anyone at all, making it with enemy agents. They even went so far as to tell me belligerently that they intended to get guns and follow me nights, and if they caught up me having intercourse with any people from planes, airships of any kind, they’d blast me and those people too.”
On a related matter, FBI records demonstrate that in December 1954, the Palm Springs Republican Club contacted the FBI to inquire if Bethurum might be guilty of “trying to put over any propaganda.” Then there are the recollections of the late Jim Moseley, who was the editor of Saucer Smear magazine. In his book co-authored with Karl Pflock, Shockingly Close to the Truth, Moseley noted that in the early-to-mid 1950s, “I had fallen under the influence of Charles Samwick, a retired army intelligence officer…Quite sincere and most convincing, he told me…‘the Communist Party has planted an agent in every civilian saucer club in the United States.’” Similarly, in his earlier Saucer News publication of June-July 1955, Moseley commented thus: “Let us give some very serious consideration to the many alleged space men being called to the public’s attention – all of whom invariably tell us of the dangers of war and the exploitation of atomic energy. No one desires peace any more sincerely than we do, but let us remember too that it is part of the Communist ‘peace line’ to frighten the American people into ceasing our atomic experiments. It is quite possible that some of these ‘space men’ are unwittingly playing into the hands of the Communists.”
Moseley made a very important point with respect to the Contactee movement in the United States, and which may help to explain why a significant degree of concern was shown at an official level about the politics of the players on the scene. He told me in 2009: “Adamski and the Contactees represented an early hippie philosophy of the time – a 1950s version of what came later in the Sixties with flower-power and protests. A lot of what they were saying merged into the mainstream of liberal thinking at that time. So, in that way, it was a very significant movement.” Evidence that an element of the British Police Force called Special Branch took an interest in the Contactees because of communist-related concerns is now in the public domain, thanks to the persistent research of UFO investigators Andy Roberts and Dr. David Clarke, who uncovered once-secret Special Branch files on George King of the Aetherius Society. As the files demonstrate, in the latter part of the 1950s, King became a well-known character to Special Branch, but for reasons that had little to do with flying saucers – directly, at least. Roberts and Clarke cite one particularly important Special Branch document that states the Aetherius Society was “still active in its campaign against nuclear weapon tests, and in this respect its policy is closely allied with that of the Communist Party.” As this demonstrates, Special Branch was most certainly taking notice of King and Co., but not for reasons that had any direct bearing on the Contactee controversy. Rather, it was for other, more down to earth reasons and concerns relative to politics. A strange Soviet group trying to convince people that aliens are communists? It certainly looks that way.
Moving on: Frank Scully, whose 1950 book, Behind the Flying Saucers, placed was seen by people in government as being a communist. For example: as the New York Times noted in its obituary: “Mr. Scully was labeled a Communist by Congressman Martin Dies, head of the House Un-American Activities Committee. After a stormy two-hour session with the Committee, Mr. Scully was cleared of the charge.” Yes, Scully was exonerated. It is a fact, though, that sometimes – to use a U.K. term – “mud sticks.” For some, including those in the intelligence community, Scully was still seen as a closet communist, regardless of the fact that he had been completely absolved of any kind of guilt.
Now, let’s look at what was going in as far back as 1947 when it came to Flying Saucers and communism. As well as investigating what appeared to be legitimate, mystifying UFO encounters in the summer of 1947, the FBI also studied the possibility that the Russians were recruiting communists within the United States to provoke fear – and were using aspects of the UFO enigma to heighten that fear. Barely a month after the Kenneth Arnold situation erupted and caused worldwide amazement, FBI Special Agent S.W. Reynolds had a face-to-face chat with Brigadier George F. Schulgen, of the Intelligence Branch of the Army Air Corps Intelligence. The reason was, in part, to address that controversial matter of potential Russian manipulation of the UFO issue. In fact, it was this theory – rather than matters relative to aliens or to highly classified U.S. military programs – that was at the forefront of Brigadier Schulgen’s thinking. FBI records show Schulgen informed Reynolds that “the first reported sightings might have been by individuals of Communist sympathies with the view to causing hysteria and fear of a secret weapon [italics mine].” Schulgen’s team suspected that many flying saucer sightings were not what they seemed to be. Rather, they were completely fabricated tales – with no real UFO component attached to them at all, but driven by a Soviet operation to maximize deep concern in the United States. The Russian program had begun.
On August 14, 1947, the FBI got word – via newspaper articles contained in “the Los Angeles papers” of the day – that, to quote the FBI, “Soviet espionage agents had been instructed to determine the facts relative to the flying discs. The article carried a Washington date-line and indicated that Red espionage agents had been ordered to solve the question of flying discs, the Russians being of the opinion that this might be some new form of defense perfected by the American military.” It should also be noted, however, that the FBI was worried that those same Russian agents cited in the L.A. press were actually in the United States for other reasons. Namely, to determine how effectively they – the Soviets – were disrupting the U.S. by conjuring up bogus tales of unidentified flying objects. When questioned by the media on this matter, the FBI stated that it had no information relative to such a story.” As all of this demonstrates, when the UFO phenomenon controversy took off in big time in the summer of 1947, so did those who secretly sought to blend Unidentified Flying Objects, aliens and communism. And, it all went on for years.