The UFO field is full of strange individuals, ranging from whistleblowers to insiders, to those who seem to have gone too deep. Such stories can often take many twists and turns to the point where is all seems almost like a spy thriller. One such case was a respected scientist who had some very strange ideas on the UFO phenomenon, and who would pursue them through the very highest levels of the government and find himself going down a rabbit hole of conspiracies and disinformation.
Although his name might not be familiar to most, Leon Davidson was a pretty big deal in his day. Born in 1922 in New Work, he earned a PhD from Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science and rose through the ranks becoming a respected chemical engineer, attracting the attention of the U.S. government, who at the time were recruiting sharp minds to work on the Manhattan Project designing the atomic bomb. He was hand picked to join the atomic bomb development team before he had even graduated Columbia, moving to Los Alamos, New Mexico, for the project, after which he went on to take on numerous assignments for the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense at The Pentagon. In the mid-1950s he moved into the private sector, becoming an expert in computer technology and working for such large corporations as Union Carbide, Teleregister, Western Union, General Precision Laboratories, and IBM. He also worked as a private consultant for both the private sector and the government, such as work done for Oak Ridge National Laboratories, all while running his own technology consulting and design company, called the Metroprocessing Corporation of America and volunteering at the Civil Defense Filter Center in White Plains, New York, helping to track and identify aircraft flying over the New York metropolitan area. It was during these years that he would also get drawn deeply into the world of UFOs, and it is from here that his life would wander down a rabbit hole of strangeness and government conspiracies.
Davidson devoted enormous amounts of his free time to researching and absorbing everything he could on the UFO phenomenon, even having his own experiences with these objects during his work with the Civil Defense Filter in the form of unidentified radar signatures. It is important to note that at a time when most people equated UFOs with aliens, Davidson was quite the opposite. In his opinion, these were not alien spacecraft from beyond the stars, but rather experimental aircraft being secretly tested and flown by the government, and furthermore he believed that the Air Force, and especially the CIA, were deliberately making the public think it was all aliens and spaceships and actively promoting this notion as part of a misinformation and propaganda campaign to cover what they were really up to. In his opinion, all UFO sightings were staged by the government, and they helped to promote the idea of aliens through actively supporting the publishing of sightings accounts and books on UFOs, as well as ramping up hype and publicity for well-known alien contactees such as George Adamski, who claimed to have met with friendly Nordic alien Space Brothers and taken flights with them to the Moon and other planets. Indeed, Davidson even believed that the government was either employing these contactees and telling them what to say, or guiding them in the direction they wanted. Davidson would say of all of this:
It became clear [to me], early in the 1950’s, that the CIA, specifically Allen Dulles, had used legitimate ‘flying saucers’ events as a tool in the Cold War. During 1950 Allen Dulles became actively involved with the CIA work on saucers, and saw the psychological impact which they had. He started a plan to build them up as a psychological warfare weapon. Dulles wanted Russia to waste effort on defenses against objects having the extreme capabilities implied by the public saucer stories. Dulles also adopted a concept from his old friend Carl Jung, and co-opted the myth that benign aliens have visited Earth for millennia. He used magicians’ illusions, tricks, and showmanship to blend in sightings, landings, and contacts, with the legitimate military test sightings. The public perception grew (from comic book to TV show) that space travel was a real possibility, easing Congressional appropriations for the ‘moon race’ with Russia. Later, Dulles found the saucer believers and their clubs an ideal propaganda vehicle.
The CIA delegated the Air Force to act as the official ‘investigator’ to stave off public enquiry. It secretly sponsored the formation of saucer study groups and contact clubs, including NICAP (under T. Townsend Brown, with whom, incidentally, I have had voluminous correspondence.) The CIA set up many saucer publishers, sponsored the publicity received by Adamski’s books and others, and sponsored the wave of saucer articles in 1952 in ‘Life’, ‘Look’, etc. By Fall of 1952, the CIA had laid out its plans for the ‘landing’ and ‘contact’ stories. The warmup for this had been the fabricated and planted stories about ‘little green men’, such as the famous lecture at the University of Denver in March 1950, described in Scully’s book ‘Behind the Flying Saucers’. This was a psychological test, and showed that about 50% of college-level people would believe a well-presented story.
In short, he thought the entire UFO phenomenon, from sightings to close encounters to abductions, was all carefully orchestrated by the CIA for the purpose of subterfuge, psychological manipulation, and psyops. He also explained that anomalous radar targets were a part of this conspiracy as well, claiming that the government was intentionally using mechanical countermeasures against radar to produce blips on the screen and create the illusion of UFOs and hide the tests of their own secret crafts. When a major flap of UFO sightings occurred over Washington in 1952, Davidson believed that it was all staged by the government and that the wave was a CIA field evaluation of a psychological warfare trick. In that same year he went to the Pentagon to grill a Col. W.A. Adams and Maj. Dewey J.J. Fournet on the matter, of which he would say:
I presented a four-page list of questions, the answers to which proved to me that the A.F. ‘investigation’ of saucers was completely a cover-up for something else. Col. Adams asked Maj. Fournet to give me a private showing of the ‘Tremonton films’ which, at the time, convinced me that the saucers must indeed be real.
Davidson continued his drive for disclosure of the government’s real intentions by targeting what is called Special Report No. 14, a report put together in 1952 by Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s investigation into the UFO phenomenon, and was meant to be shown to a multidisciplinary panel of scientists for evaluation. At the time the report was top-secret, but through sheer persistence and drive, Davidson was able to convince a Congressional committee to make the Air Force allow him to freely publish Report No. 14, which he prolifically and widely distributed as a booklet titled Flying Saucers: An analysis of Air Force Project Blue Book Special Report #14. He believed that Project Blue Book was nothing more than a ruse and disinformation public relations campaign, and that many involved in it didn’t even know they were being played like a fiddle by the government, including even the then director of the project Captain Edward J. Ruppelt. He would say of this:
Project Bluebook was warmed up in 1950-51, Ruppelt was selected by a screening process and groomed for the job of public relations cats-paw without his knowledge, and a series of ‘incidents’ was planned and carried out involving regular military units, which led to cases considered as authentic evidence of saucers.
Davidson also actively hunted down then top-secret CIA Robertson Panel report on UFOs and the Grudge Report on UFOs, which he believed were no more than a cover-story and one of many layers of security buffering their real intentions from prying eyes, as well as a way to gage the public perception of UFOs and use it for psychological warfare. Of course, this was all a huge headache for the CIA, because he was a pretty well-known and respected figure, and not only was he quite vocally speaking about these things, but also widely distributing the formerly top-secret Report No. 14, and indeed Davidson was very persistent and a major thorn in their side, constantly and doggedly requesting information from an array of Government agencies about UFOs. It was for this reason that the CIA began to watch him and follow him carefully, and it would all get even weirder from there.
In 1955, two elderly Chicago sisters by the names of Mildred and Marie Maier made the incredible claim that they had received and recorded what they claimed to be a “space message from a flying saucer.” The CIA got involved and proceeded to dismiss it as nothing more than Morse code from a radio station. The two women claimed that they had been interviewed by a man by the name of “Dewelt Walker,” who Davidson believed to be a US Air Force Intelligence Officer. Davidson would not let the Morse code explanation rest, and proceeded to hound Walker for more information, demanding to know just what exactly the message said, and he was told that another agency had done the analysis. At the same time, the CIA also denied that they had done any analysis of the tape, so who had done it? Davidson then began to suspect that Walker was actually a CIA agent posing as someone from the Air Force, and this made the CIA nervous because this was true. One heavily redacted declassified document from the CIA says of Davidsons pursuit of the “space message” matter:
Dr. Leon Davidson is on our backs again. He wants a verbatim translation of the space message and the identification of the transmitter from which it came. Your attention is called to a letter to Davidson from Wallace W. Elwood x Wallace W. Elwood, Captain USAF x USAF, Attic, dates 5 x 5 August 1957 x 1957, in which Elwood tells Davidson the message was identifiable as morse code and from a known US licensed radio station. This was intended to satisfy Davidson that he did not x not in fact have a space message. He is not satisfied and explains that the characteristics of the sounds on the tape recording of the message are not morse-type.
Can you obtain from the attic the message translation, and the transmitted, shortly we'd like to dismiss this man once and for all. If you cannot obtain this information, Davidson is going to pressure us for permission to use Chicago office letterhead and use other US Government letterhead he has received in this matter in an article for some space magazine. We are sending by buckslip this date a publication of Davidson's criticizing the Air Force for concealment of information on flying saucers. Incidentally, Davidson is no fool, and it appears that the attic is treating him as one if they think he can be satisfied with a SOP such as Captain Elwood's.
They wanted him to go away, but Davidson kept up his attack, writing to Dulles to demand information on just where exactly the Morse code signal had come from, and in the meantime, both the Air Force and CIA were in a tough situation because they had both denied analyzing the tape and Davidson was starting to think that there was maybe some other clandestine shadowy group working behind the scenes. He was catching them in a web of lies that he would surely take public, so for damage control, the CIA sent agents disguised as Air Force officers to reassure Davidson that there was no secret shadow organization working behind the scenes, that they had in fact analyzed the recording thoroughly, found it to be of U.S. origin, and then destroyed it to conserve file space, which Davidson didn’t buy at all. They then tried to wash their hands of all of it by ceasing all contact with Davidson and taking up a stance of silence on the matter, but not before making the statement:
The CIA has not participated in any flying saucer activities and has referred all correspondence to the Air Force. Mr. Davidson’s belief that this agency is involved in the ‘flying saucer furore’ and is using this as a tool in psychological warfare is entirely unfounded. His indication that CIA is misguiding persons in leading them to believe in Flying Saucers is also entirely unfounded.
Davidson would continue his crusade to uncover the CIA’s lies and cover-ups for the rest of his life, but was never able to get very far. A veil of silence had dropped, and he would die in 2007 at the age of 84 without the answers he had sought for decades. Davidson and his work would never make huge waves, mostly seen as pretty obscure, and that is probably the way the CIA would like to keep it. It is all quite the tale of intrigue and conspiracies, made all the more interesting in that Davidson was not looking for aliens or spaceships, but rather for the CIA’s mission to fool the public into believing those things. He may have been onto something too, as his snooping around caused him to be persecuted and watched by the agency far more than someone looking for frozen alien bodies at Area 51. One article by Philip Coppens at the site Eye of the Psychic sums it up nicely, saying:
It should not come as a surprise that Davidson suffered persecution by the CIA. This is extremely telling when compared to the lack of action taken against other researchers who claim that the CIA and other agencies are engaged in a massive cover-up concerning alien contact. So it’s okay to say that the CIA is hiding little green men, but when you say the CIA has concocted the story of little green men, the CIA hunts you down. But in this battle, however Davidson may be right, he lost and the CIA won: today, the extraterrestrial interpretation of UFOs is the most commonly proposed and accepted explanation, with a benign alien presence if not on than at least “near” Earth here to help us. And Davidson, though known, is ill-understood by most UFO researchers and either accidentally or knowingly misrepresented by even more writers on the subject. What Davidson predicted, has come true.
It is hard to know what to make of all of this. Davidson's theories are certainly pretty controversial in relation to the UFO field, as his stance is that all of it is a ruse concocted by the CIA, and that there are no real UFOs or aliens at all. Yet, whether his ideas were accurate or not, it is compelling that he was able to get the CIA and these higher-ups all worked up and in a panic. What were they trying to hide and what had Davidson stumbled onto? Is there perhaps more to this than meets the eye? Whatever the case may be, it sure is an interesting tale of intrigue, conspiracy, and general weirdness.