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.