Major Donald Keyhoe...
and the Flatwoods Monster
by Alfred Lehmberg (with Frank Feschino Jr)
Among his too many to enumerate accomplishments, Major Donald E. Keyhoe was a Marine Corps pilot in the early 1920s. We could stop right there. Later, he's a pulp magazine writer and then a celebrated author who would become a key pioneer UFO researcher of the 1950s. We need to know who this fellow was.
Let this writer, a retired career military pilot and former Master Aviator, digress for a moment on the subject of Marine Corps pilots. The writer trained them in aviation procedures, air-combat skills, and knew them well enough for over two decades of periodic encounters to make an uncomplicated professional assessment. Provoked by cause? They'd as soon fly up the ass of a thundercloud as down the barrel of a big gun. Men "not to be trifled with" will be the takeaway and the close of this digression.
In 1956, Mr. Keyhoe co-founded the "National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena." This was the serious-minded civilian UFO group led by many prominent and well-respected professionals. Shortly after NICAP's formation, Mr. Keyhoe became its Director in 1957. This was a NICAP, we'll recall, before it turned cloudy and became the lapdog of classified intelligence interests.
Keyhoe was all this, yet, how many people remember this man? Who is now aware of his monumental, even seminal, accomplishments?
Let us begin here, then, to talk a little about this brave nascent ufologist, Mr. Keyhoe, and his illustrious, history-making, and multi-faceted career. This would be a career leading him to become a pioneer UFO researcher and highly prominent figure in the ufological field! Why, he should be as famous as J. Allen Hynek. This is equally true for other men and women in at the ufological beginning and now largely forgotten...
Donald E. Keyhoe was born in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1897. He grew up in that area and then, young and feeling the need for 20th Century speed? He entered the United States Naval Academy.
Keyhoe received his B.S. degree in 1919 and was then commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. ...Just lookin' at 'im you know he's a bad-ass! This writer suspects that no one ever called him "keyhole"! Well, maybe once.
Later, in 1922 while in Guam, Keyhoe was in a serious plane crash and severely injured his arm. This incapacitated him and made him unable to further serve... he was so advised...
He would dabble in writing during his convalescence, later returning to active duty, stubbornly, with the Marines… but this was short-lived. He was forced to medically retire in 1923 because of his crash injury.
Subsequent to his service with the Marines, Mr. Keyhoe continued his writing beyond mere hobby status. He wrote four compelling stories between 1925 and 1927 proudly published by a very popular pulp magazine of the time titled, Weird Tales. This writer has some of these old pulps, including Keyhoe!
He also worked as the editor of the Coast and Geodetic Survey publications and was later employed by the Aeronautics Branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This initiative was to be the predecessor to the F.A.A.
In 1927, serendipity would strike! The Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics sponsored the world-famous pilot Charles A. Lindberg's coast-to-coast 48-state tour across America! This was of course after his celebrated solo, nonstop, and trans-Atlantic flight earlier that year. True story! This tour promoted air mail and burgeoning air passenger services and was at their very tap-root!
Colonel Lindbergh flew his legendary plane, of course, "The Spirit of St. Louis," to all 48 states! He was accompanied by another plane staffed with a small group called, "The Tour Party."
Among that group of hand-picked men called upon to assist Lindbergh on his flight across America... was our Mr. Donald Keyhoe, then the assistant to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, U.S. Dept. of Commerce at that time.
In his first book, published in 1928, Flying with Lindbergh, Donald Keyhoe stated that one Secretary MacCracken told him, "You will be Colonel Lindbergh's aide... unless of course, you don't want to make this tour..." Keyhoe would retort anxiously that, "There was not a man in the Department of Commerce who would not leap at that chance."
As Keyhoe stated in his book, the tour was a total success (...this writer remembering our now transonic air and spacecraft, its result!). "The entire journey," he had written, "had been made in 260 flying hours, or the equivalent of eleven flying days...We had seen each of the forty-eight states." This highly experienced former aviator can report that this aerial excursion would have been a monumental, even superhuman, effort of legendary aviational acumen!
Despite some inclement flying conditions across the country and several drawbacks on that tour, Keyhoe stated," The success of that almost spectacular journey was due to the personality of Charles A. Lindbergh." We would, of course, later find out other interesting facts about the "personality" of Mr. Lindbergh, but this is now, and that was then. Lindbergh had more than earned his fame at the time. Follows photos of the period.
Top Photo is titled, "THE TOUR PARTY," an insert photo opposite of page 123 in Keyhoe's book, Flying with Lindbergh. Mr. Keyhoe is standing far left and Colonel Lindbergh is standing center. Center Photo: NYT newspaper. Bottom photo: Col. Lindbergh and his plane.
Major Keyhoe then left his job with the Department of Commerce and became a freelance writer. He penned numerous aviation adventure stories and a series of fiction and non-fiction tales for pulps, magazines, and various publications starting in 1931. He'd write on through the 1940s.
During World War II, Mr. Keyhoe rejoined the U.S. Marines and was stationed with a naval aviation training division. He retired with the rank of Major by war's end.
After Donald Keyhoe returned to civilian life he would become interested in this new and puzzling "flying saucer phenomenon" of the late 1940s! UFOs were, and steadily, being reported with increasing regularity throughout the press and all over the civilized world! Intelligent attention was begged and called for!
Keyhoe would then begin to research the phenomenon in earnest. His initiative here at the very nascence of ufology would evolve into the very beginning of humanity's on-again/off-again "serious" investigation into UFOs and their ancillaries... still existing today!
Keyhoe dug deep into some well-known cases from that era! This included the 1948 Mantell crash case and the 1948 Gorman UFO dogfight case, both of which involved fighter planes.
Because of Major Keyhoe's strong military aviation background, his accrued Lindbergh-imprimatur, and the many influential people he worked with and for, he had, over time, collected many important contacts inside the government. This included connections in the Pentagon and in military circles, including the USAF, where he had access to some pretty compelling UFO case files.
After Keyhoe, in his own words, spent "eight months of intense investigation," into the UFO topic, he wrote a lengthy trail-blazing article for TRUE Magazine appearing in their December 1949 issue. It was entitled "The Flying Saucers Are Real."
Major Keyhoe wrote a staggeringly straightforward opening to that article! Astounding, as bold as it was bald: "For the past 175 years, the planet Earth has been under systematic close-range examination by living, intelligent observers from another planet."
BAM! Eh, reader?
This statement, and the entire contents of the article aforementioned, had forever embedded Keyhoe—not only into the history books of the "flying saucer" community, but the huge public audience who had read it, breath abated, themselves! After all, this was THE Major Keyhoe, writing in the renowned and highly popular TRUE Magazine, a magazine having no small credibility for the time!
This was the beginning, then, of Keyhoe's UFO investigative career! UFOS would become a hot public property under Keyhoe's tutelage as interest in the sightings of UFOs was steadily spreading across the planet... as we've pointed out.
With the viral success of his article and the additional information he had acquired, Keyhoe expanded his TRUE article into a groundbreaking book with the same title, The Flying Saucers Are Real! This was published in 1950. Mr. Keyhoe then wrote another blockbuster book, Flying Saucers From Outer Space, published in 1953. This was the book gaining him recognition as a true civilian "pioneer authority" on UFOs.
Keyhoe would go on to write four more UFO books between 1955 and 1973. Many will say that his 1953 book, Flying Saucers From Outer Space, was his best.
In Major Keyhoe's book Flying Saucers From Outer Space, Keyhoe writes about a close encounter case particularly catching his attention and in which he gives some important information concerning that highly strange incident. He had to keep going back on this one. This one just wasn't adding up.
This case was to be the "Flatwoods Monster" encounter of September 12, 1952... and loosed are curiosity's dogs!
(END OF PART 1 of 3.)
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