Friday, August 13, 2021

The Birth of NICAP

Things get complicated when you get past eighteen

But the class of '57 had its dreams

- The Statler Brothers, The Class of '57


Preorder the e-book now.
Paperback also now available.
    In 1956 an eclectic group of community leaders began meeting around Washington, D.C. Among them were T. Townsend Brown, an inventor with an eye on antigravity technology; Morris K. Jessup, a UFO investigator and author; Clara John, the original ghostwriter for George Adamski; and Maj. Donald Keyhoe, a writer with a belief UFOs represented interplanetary spacecraft. Inspired by Clara John's flying saucer club, they laid the foundation for the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, or NICAP. 

Initially led by T. Townsend Brown, NICAP formally applied for incorporation in August 1956. The group was incorporated by Brown and two representatives from a consulting firm, Counsel Services, Inc., with which Brown had an ongoing relationship. The representatives acting as NICAP incorporators were the president of the firm, Mary Vaughan King, and a former State Department employee, Thomas D. O'Keefe. From the certificate of incorporation (see page 3):

Vaughan King soon left NICAP. Likewise, O'Keefe rapidly resigned as treasurer, and the organization would have its next treasurer come and go just as quickly. Brown was destined to have a short stint at the helm, as well.

Maj. Donald Keyhoe landed in the director's chair in January 1957, and NICAP operated under his guidance the next 13 years. A public relations campaign drew some 14,000 members. The org collected and investigated UFO sightings, accused the Air Force and CIA of conducting a cover-up, and pushed for and obtained Congressional hearings on UFOs. 

Within a year of the release of a 1969 Air Force-sponsored UFO report resulting from the hearings, Keyhoe and top personnel departed NICAP amid accusations of CIA interference. A former CIA officer on the Board of Governors was widely suspected of dismantling the org. A close look, however, reveals NICAP beginnings were just as much in question.

Mary Vaughan King and associates announced the formation of the Baltimore-based Counsel Services in March 1947. From a Baltimore newspaper:

A March 1949 letter to the Economic Cooperation Administration was authored by then-Director of Central Intelligence and future NICAP chairman of the board Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter. The ECA was a government office headquartered in Washington. Hillenkoetter and the CIA clearly had an ongoing relationship with the Administration, and expressed a desire to increase the amount and security clearance of intelligence obtained from the ECA:

A May 1949 clipping from The (Baltimore) Evening Sun indicates Counsel Services was working "under ECA auspices":

A 1950 article reported Counsel Services had "specialists" under contract with the ECA:


In 1956, immediately after acting as a NICAP incorporator, Mary Vaughan King of Counsel Services presented Townsend Brown a contract for approval (see pages 6-7). Among other items of interest, the contract stipulated additional consultants may be retained as needed to work under the supervision of Counsel Services officers, namely former State Department man Thomas D. O'Keefe and her:

Circumstances as documented above, combined with additional information presented in my new book, Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC, strongly suggests an intelligence community interest in the birth of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. The e-book version of the book is currently available for preorder and will drop on or about August 21. The paperback version is also now available. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Preorder E-Book 'Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC'

     Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC is now available for preorder in e-book format. Your Kindle purchase will download on or about Saturday, August 21. Cost is $9.99. A paperback version will be offered about the same point in time. Below please see the table of contents and introduction contained in the nonfiction book.

Please note the e-book may be most suitable for certain readers. The book frequently references a variety of linked sources, so the links are easier to navigate in e-book form. Another consideration is a number of images of documents are provided which may be most effectively viewed on an electronic device. Also, I did not create an index for the paperback since an e-book is searchable. While I created a paperback version because I understand some readers prefer a hardcopy book, I encourage taking the above circumstances into account and giving some thought to what will offer you the best reading experience when choosing a format. [UPDATE: I received a proof copy of the paperback and the images of documents transferred quite well. I would therefore say the most important issues in choosing your preferred format are if it is important to you to have live links and a searchable medium.]

Thank you for your interest. Should you choose to obtain the book, I sincerely hope you find it a worthy read.

To request a review copy, email subject line "Wayward Sons" to and I will reply with a pdf version of the e-book.


    The significance of the NICAP story is subjective. Like many historical sagas, it depends on who you ask as to what it meant, and, in some cases, what even happened. Select events can be established from records and archives, and we will certainly examine them, but the fact remains people have differing ideas about what was most important and most interesting about the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.

It is notable that the NICAP saga may be viewed in at least two contexts. One, which is my interest, is the organization's intersection with the intelligence community. A second, and more commonly viewed context, is NICAP UFO investigation. People interested in UFOs understandably want to know if the group learned anything important. The investigators of NICAP sure thought so, but dissecting the situation leads us to the paradox of the matter. The story of NICAP, and what is most significant about it, is not so easily discerned.

Did NICAP do some good work? Yes, it did. Were NICAP investigators credulous? Yes, that's true too, depending on specific circumstances considered. Was NICAP a CIA front? That might be accurate as well, short lived and/or intermittent as it may have been. Did NICAP rattle swords with the CIA and Air Force about a UFO cover-up? Yep, it certainly did. Was the CIA monitoring NICAP? It sure appears so, to more and less extents and depending on the particular circumstances. Did the CIA dismantle NICAP? Maybe so, or, at the least, it is true that CIA associates did basic managerial work for NICAP throughout its lifespan and stages of decline. Did NICAP run itself in the ground through financial mismanagement? Yes, to an extent it did indeed, which also means the CIA was not fully responsible for its demise, at least not necessarily. Much like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, many perspectives are correct to some extent, depending on how one comes at it.

Many feel NICAP was derailed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Perceived motives often include thwarting UFO investigation and destabilizing the group's effort to challenge the Condon Report, which was an Air Force-sponsored assessment that minimized the saucer situation. The presence of CIA associates in the saga is clear enough, but motives are much less so. We will consider the circumstances along with the perspectives of those familiar with the events.

I actually came to strongly suspect the CIA was substantially involved in the incorporation and initial operation of NICAP. We will explore this in detail on the coming pages.

Ironically, I am not convinced the situation significantly impaired or even particularly affected the way Maj. Donald Keyhoe would run the outfit for the next 13 years. During his tenure there was some overt CIA interest in NICAP activities, as well as some possible not so overt interest. The activities of CIA psychological warfare specialist and NICAP Board of Governors member Col. Joseph Bryan III will be explored, as will profiles of his intelligence colleagues from the Office of Policy Coordination. We will examine those situations along with some surrounding spectacles that found their ways into a NICAP orbit.

A focus of this book is NICAP's relation to the intelligence community, particularly the CIA and FBI. We will draw upon documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), newspaper clippings, and many more cited sources.

Much of the material referenced was obtained from records published on the websites of intelligence agencies or by submitting my own requests under the FOIA. As of this writing, several FOIA requests remain open. I will post the material at my blog, The UFO Trail, as it is received.

Another primary source for information covered in this book was NICAP files provided by researcher and archivist Barry Greenwood. I am tremendously grateful to him for supplying the material.

A 69 MB folder provided by Mr. Greenwood consists of 42 pdfs containing NICAP records. It may be accessed in whole on Google Drive or as individual files I will reference and link, as will be the case with many additional sources.

I apologize in advance for the errors which will inevitably inhabit this offering. I hope we find them few, far between, and of minimal consequence.

I am thankful to all who helpfully fielded my questions, provided material, and assisted me in reaching people of interest. I also thank all the researchers whose work and materials are cited. Select archives played key roles as well, and I am grateful to their administrators for their valuable assistance.

Thanks to those who maintain intelligence agency online reading rooms. I am grateful to the FBI, NARA, CIA, NSA, USAF, and the many FOIA officers at several agencies who filled my requests, informed me when no material was available, conducted correspondence, and continue to process records pertaining to this saga. Their work is important and appreciated.

I am grateful to the friends, loved ones, and acquaintances who supported this effort. Your messages, encouragement and phone calls are important to me. Thank you.

I am grateful to you for joining me on an exploration of events beginning some 70 years ago. Thanks for coming along. In doing so, we will hopefully catch a meaningful glimpse or three of what took place. I trust you will share the interest I developed, and find that circumstances from years gone by tend to shed light on more recent events.