Monday, January 17, 2022

Cold War Cash, Politics and Saucer Stories

Leo H. McCormick, as he appeared in
a 1948 edition of The Baltimore Sun

   A two-page pdf was recently obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as the result of a FOIA request for records pertaining to Leo H. McCormick. The file contains copies of correspondence exchanged in 1956 between McCormick and the Eisenhower administration in which McCormick urged support for the Atlantic Convention Resolution. 

The Counsel Services co-founder was previously investigated by the FBI for employment with a CIA intelligence gathering asset, the Economic Cooperation Administration. The circumstances were explored in a recent blogpost which described the contents of a 30-page file on McCormick obtained from the FBI. It should be noted the Bureau indicated additional records potentially responsive to requests on McCormick were destroyed and/or not in their expected locations. 

The latest information from NARA was obtained after submitting a FOIA request citing the FBI file. Serving as the basis of the request was a 1949 FBI report located in the file which states personnel records for McCormick were maintained at the National Archives. The two-page pdf was subsequently located and provided by NARA. Potential additional responses from NARA are pending. 

In this post we will review and further explore related circumstances. 


    Two letters contained in the pdf recently received from NARA are pictured below. The image on the left depicts McCormick's June 1956 message to President Eisenhower, suggesting McCormick took great interest in what are termed Eisenhower's efforts to support NATO contributions to peace. McCormick then expressed his belief such peace could best be accomplished by the president urging Congress to pass the Atlantic Convention Resolution.

The image on the right appears to be a draft of a response to McCormick from the Public Services Division. The document suggests McCormick's letter was forwarded to the State Department from the White House. It further states that although the administration took a great deal of interest in all steps designed to increase the unity of the Atlantic community, it felt Congress alone had the responsibility to decide on the passage of the resolution.   


Atlantic Union

    Researchers Meyer and Luenen of the Global Policy Institute noted in a 2008 report that the Atlantic Union Committee (AUC) was formed in 1949 and encouraged North Atlantic democracies to promote their shared values. The AUC was chaired by former high-ranking U.S. officials, including Will Clayton, who, together with George Kennan, was the main author of the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan was a financial initiative to aid Western Europe. It came to also be known as the European Recovery Program. Its co-author Kennan relentlessly promoted the idea of an Atlantic Union in the United States.

The feasibility and practicality of the Union were debated throughout the 1950s. As reflected in Leo McCormick's 1956 letter to President Eisenhower, proponents took up the strategy of suggesting a convention be held to discuss the issues. A resolution for an Atlantic Exploratory Convention was sponsored in Congress, and, as one might expect of a political platform, drew both support and opposition. 

The Veterans of Foreign Wars opposed the effort. According to the Congressional record, the VFW printed an article in its February 1955 magazine which encouraged its base to appeal to their elected officials to reject the resolution. Likewise, the American Legion, in its May 1955 magazine, called the Atlantic Union a scheme for world government and a plan to sacrifice American sovereignty. Supporters of the initiative called the accusations unfounded to the point of not justifying serious response.         

Meyer and Luenen further reported that in 1959 the Atlantic Union Committee was a primary force in bringing together 700 citizens of NATO member-states in London. The Atlantic Institute was established as a result. Three years later, in January 1962, the AUC was instrumental again in organizing an Atlantic Convention in Paris, which concluded with the signing of the Declaration of Paris. The Declaration established a commission on Atlantic Unity; created a council; formed a court to address international legal disputes; and promoted measures to ensure more effective defense, which included further development of a unified command, among other items.   

McCormick and Counsel Services

OPA promotional material

   Leo McCormick's 1947 Counsel Services went on to be instrumental in the 1956 incorporation and initial operation of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. As recently explored, McCormick previously worked with another Counsel Services founder, Mary Vaughan King, at the Office of Price Administration (OPA). He was employed at the OPA from 1941-1946, serving as the Director for the State of Maryland. King worked under his supervision.  

In 1947, the two, along with L.G. Shreve, founded Counsel Services, outwardly a public relations firm. In 1948 McCormick vacated his position as secretary and treasurer of the corporation for reasons which included launching an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic congressional nomination in Maryland's 4th District. 

"After careful consideration I have decided to become a candidate and I have freed myself from all business obligations so as to devote my entire time to my candidacy and to the service of the public," McCormick was quoted in an article announcing his candidacy in the March 10, 1948, edition of The Baltimore Sun.

A 1949 FBI report which contributed to the investigation of McCormick states he sold his interest in Counsel Services to King and Shreve on February 17, 1948 (see pages 23-24). King had been acquainted with McCormick since 1942, while Shreve had known him for 15 years, according to the report. Both spoke very highly of McCormick and thoroughly recommended him for a position of trust and responsibility.   

Hillenkoetter and the ECA

    A copy of a March 1949 letter was obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency which establishes the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), a federal agency, as an ongoing CIA asset (The ECA was a forerunner to the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID). The letter is authored by future NICAP chairman of the board and then-DCI Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter. It is addressed to "Mr. Paul G. Hoffman, Administrator," of the Economic Cooperation Administration. 

Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter,
CIA Director 1947-1950,
NICAP Chairman of the Board 1957-1962
Hillenkoetter stated in the letter the CIA had a continuing need for economic intelligence information. A great and valuable part of this need, the admiral added, could be satisfied by pertinent information that became available through the activities of the ECA. 

Such information was already being furnished to the Agency from the ECA, Hillenkoetter qualified, but was confined to classification of SECRET or lower. The CIA director then requested the ECA put the Agency in the loop for communications and reports of all classifications, including TOP SECRET. Hillenkoetter closed the letter by thanking the administrator for cooperation given in the past.

Counsel Services Goes Abroad

    A May 1949 newspaper clipping, two months removed from Hillenkoetter's letter to the ECA, reported three members of Counsel Services were en route by air to China, working under ECA auspices. Mary Vaughan King was described as executive vice president of the firm and cited as the source. She indicated L.G. Shreve, president of Counsel Services, and others who became affiliated with Counsel Services specifically for the assignment, would be working in China. 

The article additionally stated, "Shreve initiated the project last December when he was in China with headquarters in Canton. A veteran public relations man, he served with the Army in the China theater during the war as information and education officer."

Fascinatingly, it was in August of that year, 1949, that Leo McCormick reportedly terminated his employment with a life insurance company to take a position with the Economic Cooperation Administration (see page 25). This resulted in an FBI investigation to clear McCormick for involvement in the European Recovery Program, a post-World War II economic project administered by the ECA. Readers will recall the European Recovery Program was also known as the Marshall Plan, authors of which strongly promoted the Atlantic Union as described above. By any name, the project was credited with distributing some 13.3 billion U.S. dollars in aid to Western Europe from 1948-1952 (Readers of WAYWARD SONS will recognize this period as the same operating years, coincidentally or otherwise, of the influential CIA and State Department front, the Office of Policy Coordination). Adjusting for inflation, that's about 154 billion dollars dispersed, give or take a few annual budgets of third world countries.  

ECA poster used to promote
the Marshall Plan in Europe
The (by this time) well-connected McCormick was recommended for inclusion in the European Recovery Program by impressive references, including two sitting state governors who were each interviewed by the Bureau about their dealings with the applicant. The Baltimore Sun would later report McCormick was involved in the administration of the Marshall Plan in 1950 and 1951. 

July 1950 newspaper article reported Counsel Services was among nine firms making up a newly formed agricultural development association. "Specialists of Counsel Services," the story continued, "are now under contract to the Economic Cooperation Administration in connection with work in Europe after having worked in the ECA's audio-visual education operations in China."

A later published obituary for Leo McCormick indicates in 1952 he was assistant to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. McCormick served as secretary of the Democratic State Central Committee for Maryland and traveled with Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson as an aide during Stevenson's first campaign for president. 

In 1953 McCormick began a long association with the consulting and insurance firm of Poor, Bowen, Bartlett and Kennedy. He would later establish his own general insurance agency, Leo H. McCormick and Co.

NICAP Founder Previously Retained Counsel Services 

    Prior to the 1956 formation of NICAP, Counsel Services was retained by future NICAP organizer T. Townsend Brown. The inaugural front man of the UFO org heavily implied that to be the case in a 1971 letter he wrote to then-NICAP executive director Stuart Nixon (see pages 22-24). Brown suggested the public relations firm was first contracted to assist in securing funding from the Department of Defense for Brown's pet project, Winterhaven, which involved antigravity research and the purported weapons and communications applications. Brown began trying to secure funding for the project in 1951. The funds never materialized, but Counsel Services would go on to be a key component in launching NICAP.

T. Townsend Brown
In the summer of 1956, Townsend Brown, Morris K. Jessup, Clara John, Donald Keyhoe, and other NICAP founding figures were meeting around the Washington, D.C. area. While that was taking place, Leo McCormick was lobbying for support for the Atlantic Convention Resolution.

In August 1956 a NICAP certificate of incorporation was submitted to applicable authorities. Incorporators were Townsend Brown and Counsel Services officers Mary Vaughan King and Thomas D. O'Keefe, a former State Department Deputy Director. A contract was quickly drawn up between NICAP and Counsel Services, stipulating King and O'Keefe were empowered to hire and direct consultants at their discretion. NICAP was responsible for all related costs, along with inordinate fees to be paid to Counsel Services to handle organizational management, membership drives, and similar responsibilities. The incorporation of NICAP was formally completed October 24, 1956. 

The launch of NICAP, combined with the personalities involved both directly and indirectly, could be considered intriguing on the timeline of the Atlantic Union Committee and its efforts to solidify public support for stepping up NATO relations. NICAP rapidly assembled an impressive group of community leaders and military intelligence officers, many of which provided the media with an abundance of headline-making statements about air incursions executed by technology-defying craft. If the propaganda efforts of opponents of the AUC, such as the VFW and American Legion, were identified to consist of talking points asserted in bad faith, perhaps the Union and its allies took up similar strategies to manipulate the public. 

For whatever ultimate reasons, one of the consultants apparently enrolled by Counsel Services for help with NICAP was a psychological warfare expert with specific experience in creating a remarkably successful lobbying group. His history also seems more than a bit in step with the activities of Counsel Services and its clients.

Nicholas de Rochefort  

Nicholas de Rochefort delivering a 1954
pro-democracy speech broadcast by Voice of America

    Nicholas de Rochefort was a talented Russian-born Frenchman. Educated in France, he was already speaking and writing for Voice of America by the time he sought United States citizenship in 1954. 

Rochefort was notably credited with founding the Committee of One Million in 1953. The group opposed the domestic and international acceptance of Communist China. It also became the most recognized aspect of the significant and wealthy China lobby. 

Rochefort's Committee of One Million bore a striking resemblance to the Committee of Five Million, a 1949 political action committee chaired by New York attorney Desmond FitzGerald. By the time Rochefort made political waves with his group four years later, "Dez" FitzGerald was a rising CIA star.  

FBI records obtained on Rochefort through the FOIA indicate he was an employee of the U.S. government at the time he organized the Committee of One Million in 1953, although he had not yet applied for citizenship. Researcher Stanley Bachrack strongly suspected Rochefort was working on behalf of the CIA, resulting in suing the Agency for records on the activist in 1975. Despite Rochefort having been deceased for over ten years by that time, a judge dismissed the suit in 1976 on the grounds an intelligence service could be greatly impaired by irresponsible disclosure (see page 61). A much more recent FOIA request submitted by your author to the CIA on Rochefort was met with a Glomar response, stating such records, which may or may not exist, would be classified and exempt from the FOIA. 

FBI investigations on Rochefort, which took place during the summer of 1956 as NICAP was in its planning stages and McCormick helped push for the Atlantic Union, reveal he was quite well-connected. The Committee of One Million involved collaboration with influential politicians, and FBI agents followed Rochefort's trail all the way to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to obtain statements. He was repeatedly portrayed as loyal to democracy and upstanding in character. The psychological warfare expert was also described as a good propagandist, having worked on multiple such projects in a professional capacity. 

Part of the FBI investigation on Rochefort included an intriguing November 1956 significantly redacted message to Director Hoover from the Washington Field Office. It explained the information contained therein was obtained from a confidential informant under the stipulation it was to be held in strict confidence and not disseminated outside the director's office. The message to Hoover, which indicates the confidential information on Rochefort was obtained by the FBI on November 2, 1956, just days after the October 24 formal incorporation of NICAP:

A request for a Mandatory Declassification Review of the above document was submitted. The FBI cited exemptions from the FOIA and declined to further declassify any portion of the redacted material.

Rochefort worked during the final quarter of 1956 on organizing and promoting NICAP. He is listed in NICAP literature as the Executive Vice Chairman. Related circumstances are covered rather lengthily in WAYWARD SONS.

A FOIA request was submitted to NARA after being advised by the FBI of the existence of a file in its possession. NARA replied in March 2020 that Nicholas de Rochefort is in fact the subject of the file. It is estimated to consist of some 200 pages, compiled as part of an internal security investigation conducted between 1955 and 1964. The file requires processing for release under the FOIA, which was estimated to take about 30 months, but one could reasonably suppose it may take a bit longer than initially projected, all circumstances considered.      

The enigmatic Nicholas de Rochefort went on to reside in Georgetown until he passed away due to cancer in 1964. He was a professor at Georgetown University, which happened to be the alma mater of Leo McCormick.                

Closing Thoughts 

     One could debate the significance of circumstantial evidence as presented above. Perhaps a primary point is we should not avert from thorough examination of such evidence in lieu of embracing UFO hearsay and wishful thinking often promoted during the same era. An argument could be made that's like looking for proof of Santa Claus through skywatching and examining the chimney for forensic evidence, while refusing to acknowledge information found on the credit card receipts of select adults. 

Regardless of what legitimately unusual UFO-related phenomena may or may not have traversed the skies, it is simply intellectually negligent to ignore the significant social circumstances surrounding key figures of NICAP and the mid 20th century UFO subculture. The evidence of a variety of agendas is abundant, easily locatable through numerous historic archives and the Freedom of Information Act. Money, power, politics, and the inherent related intelligence agency games are prevalent in those agendas.

This is not to suggest, however, involved parties were necessarily nefarious. Many of them quite likely believed they were acting in the best interest of the American people, or at least convinced one another that was the case. 

FBI records obtained, newspaper clippings, and similar resources repeatedly show men such as Nicholas de Rochefort, Leo McCormick, and Roscoe Hillenkoetter to have been respected by their communities and found to be highly reputable by the FBI and other intelligence agencies. Some readers might find this to be less impressive than other readers, given what is now known of projects such as COINTELPRO and MKULTRA. The fact will remain, however, many NICAP players and surrounding cast were decorated war heroes and on the right side of history, at least for their day. It is doubtful, in many instances, they considered themselves to be dishonest or disruptive, even if knowingly deceptive. They seem to have often had what they felt were justifiable reasons for their actions.

This is a point that contradicts many beliefs held, both past and present, in UFO circles. It is much more typically believed that if assets of the intelligence community imbedded themselves in UFO groups, it was necessarily a bad thing. Reasons often include the belief disinformation is being cultivated and spread, usually of the variety that will obstruct facts from the public about an extraterrestrial or advanced intelligence adamantly believed to be here among us. 

As more recent events should have shown us, such lines of reasoning are overly simplistic. Characters involved in the To The Stars Academy and related AATIP story have proven to be colorful, intriguing, and quite skilled at conducting public relations, yet also shown themselves to often be long on claims and short on accountability. The motives and agendas appear to be a mixed bag. Additionally of interest is the continuing shift of the concept that spooks necessarily lie about UFOs. It is no longer so etched in stone, but entirely negotiable, depending, it seems, on whether or not those spooks tell one what they want to hear.

The spooks surrounding the NICAP story were not altogether different than those in your Twitter feed today. Arguably most importantly, neglecting to examine their activities and connections to one another potentially - and quite likely - robs us of significant pieces of the overall puzzle. Its omission tends to promote pro-UFO belief systems which may very well be flawed and incorrect, and those very belief systems were poured into foundations long ago on which ideologies were built for generations to come.


  1. Great article, thanks Jack! Makes it easier to connect the dots following the UFO groups timeline and realize that it has been the same thing repeated decade after decade.