Boomers Want to Believe “The Truth is Out There”

After an extensive new investigation of reports by military personnel claiming to have observed unidentified flying objects (UFOs), a preliminary report has been released. So, are there flying saucers traipsing about our skies? The answer issued by the U.S. government is … maybe?

There have been reports of flying saucers by people in all walks of life throughout the boomer years and on to the present day. Is it any wonder, then, that boomers want some explanations to what they, their friends and families, have observed for the past 70-plus years?

The granddaddy of all reports is often referred to as the Roswell Incident. It was the summer of 1947 when a rancher near Roswell, New Mexico, discovered debris in a field that he could not identify. He notified the nearby Roswell Army Air Force Field, and base intelligence officers took over the investigation. On July 8, 1947, a press release was issued by the public information officer, Lt. Walter Haut. Haut’s release, approved by base commander Col. William Blanchard, stated the belief that the U.S. had recovered debris from the crash of a UFO — a flying saucer. The next day, another press release was issued, this one from higher up the ranks. Gen. Roger Ramsey released information that the debris was not from an alien spacecraft, but just a weather balloon that crashed in a thunderstorm. Nothing to see here, move along, folks.

By then it was too late; word had spread based on the original press release. The headline of the Roswell Daily Record on July 8, 1947 stated, “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region.”

The origin of the phrase “flying saucer” is in dispute. However, most sources agree the first mention of the phrase in U.S. newspapers happened a month before Roswell, in June of 1947. It was then that Kenneth Arnold, an experienced pilot from Idaho, was flying his small plane near Mt. Rainier in Washington, on his way to an air show in Oregon. Arnold spotted a group of objects traveling at a high rate of speed. He clocked the time the objects took to travel between Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, and estimated the unidentified objects were flying at 1,700 mph — twice the speed of sound. It would be another four months — October of 1947 — before Chuck Yaeger would break the sound barrier in his historic flight. Arnold had stopped for refueling in Washington at an airfield where he was known, and told staff what he had seen. Word quickly spread and by the next day, Arnold was inundated with questions from West Coast press. He recounted his story, describing the group of aircraft as unidentified flying objects, adding they flew “like a saucer if you skip it across the water.” Newspapers interpreted that to mean, a flying saucer. The story headline in The Chicago Sun from June 26, 1947, stated, “Supersonic Flying Saucers Sighted by Idaho Pilot.”

The U.S. Air Force started investigating UFOs a year later, with a project named Operation Sign. In 1952, it was renamed Project Blue Book. There were more than twelve thousand reports of UFOs documented in Project Blue Book from 1947 to 1969, when the project ended. There are seven hundred of these incidents that remain “unidentified.”

Boomers know all too well the sci-fi movies of the 1950s that were spawned by these early sightings. Imaginations ran wild as the vast majority of the films did not surmise our visitors came in peace.

On a warm summer evening in the early 1960s, Mister Boomer engaged in a game of hide-and-seek. His neighborhood was filled with kids from the age of six to sixteen (baby boomers!). On his block, kids of various ages often played together, from baseball games to summer evening hide-and-seek extravaganzas (a large tree was the “safe” spot. The game had finished, and groups of parents could be heard on various porches, talking and drinking various beverages, from lemonade to beer and cocktails. Meanwhile Mister B, his sister and three other kids retreated into the coolness of the grass near the street, in front of his house. The kids lay on their backs, staring up at a clear sky that displayed more stars than usual, the view often muffled by air pollution in his industrial area.

Ever the dreamer, Mister B tried to identify constellations he had heard about in school. He thought he had found the Big Dipper, and the North Star. Intently observing his spot in the night sky, he saw three stars in a triangle form that appeared to flicker. He pointed it out to his neighborhood companions, and they remarked on the twinkling of these little stars. His sister was uninterested. Then, one star began to flicker brighter and faster. Mister B was not at all sure what he was seeing, but he kept watching as the white-yellow light became brighter, until the other two stars in the triangle began to do the same thing. They did not appear to be twinkling in unison, just fairly frantic flickering in varying degrees of brightness. A few seconds later, the original twinkler changed colors; first it went to blue, then to red, toggling between yellow, blue and red faster and faster until all of sudden, the three “stars” disappeared in three directions from their triangle formation. Jumping up from the grass, Mister B exclaimed, “Did you see that?” One of the kids shrieked and ran home. Another said he didn’t see it. Mister B told his parents, who were involved in conversation with neighbors. He was summarily dismissed and told it was time to go into the house.

Now, Mister Boomer isn’t saying he saw flying saucers. They were points of light, but they definitely moved extremely quickly once they left their origin spots in the sky. That qualifies as unidentified in Mister B’s book. Within a couple of years, his father had not one, but two UFO sightings he mentioned to the family. In fact, both were seen by multiple people who reported them to city police. One was a cigar shape, the other, more of the classic saucer. He was not at all convinced by the explanations given by local authorities.

Despite Project Blue Book investigations having been officially closed for more than four decades, UFO sightings continued. In recent years, there has been an increase in sightings by U.S. military personnel, which prompted the U.S. Senate to ask the Air Force to launch a new investigation of these reports since 2006. They started by rebranding UFO to UAPunidentified aerial phenomena. The preliminary report of their findings was released on June 25, 2021, and their findings were inconclusive. However, 18 of the incidents were classified as involving unusual movement or flight characteristics.

What the Air Force did report on these UAPs was:
• They pose no threat to national security
• There is no evidence of technology in use beyond present-day scientific knowledge
• There is no evidence of extraterrestrial origin
• There is no evidence that the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico incident was a UFO, and the government does not possess any dead alien bodies

How about it, boomers? Case closed? Did you or someone or know see a UFO/UAP in your boomer years?

Boomers Had a Favorite Martian

When My Favorite Martian had its debut in September of 1963, there was nothing else like it on television. The 1950s saw a rash of sci-fi movies where the aliens were almost always portrayed as space invaders, and now here, on TV, was an alien anthropologist-observer whose one-person spacecraft nearly collides with a U.S. Air Force X-15 rocket-powered aircraft. Evasive maneuvers resulted in a crash landing in an area of the galaxy without a sufficient source of replacement parts.

Ray Walston played the the part of Martin, the man from Mars, and Bill Bixby was the newspaper reporter Tim O’Hara, who happened to witness the crash landing. Tim investigates and sees an alien emerge from the craft who is far different than most of the previous decade’s imaginings. Here is a man, by appearance, very much like himself instead of a monster. Tim decides to shelter the Martian, keep his identity a secret, and house his spacecraft at his home until Martin can make repairs. Attempting to hide Martin’s identity from his landlady, Mrs. Brown (Pamela Britton), Tim calls him Uncle Martin.

In short order, Tim learns that Martin is no ordinary man. He possessed out-of-this-world powers, like the ability to levitate objects with a wiggling of his finger, read minds telepathically, or become invisible. He could also communicate with animals, freeze people or objects and speed people or himself up to work faster, as if he hit a fast forward button. Most fun of all for young boomers, he sprouted antennae from his head to communicate with his home world.

Inevitably in each episode, someone is on the verge of discovering the truth about Uncle Martin, who ultimately uses his powers and 450 years of experience to keep his identity safe and to solve whatever human dilemma was set up for that episode. Tim often creates a problem by fiddling with various Martian gadgets that Martin has made.

Mister Boomer’s family did not watch the show regularly, the way they did other TV shows of the same time, like The Fugitive, The Avengers or The Outer Limits, which may have been broadcast on ABC at the same time that CBS broadcast My Favorite Martian. As Mister B has written before, the vast majority of families owned just one TV, and what was watched during primetime evening viewing was strictly the preference of the parents. Since there were actual seasons in a TV schedule, Mister B’s family might catch an episode when the shows went to reruns, before the summer replacement shows aired. Mister B recalls that most of what he saw of the show came once it went into syndication, after it ended in 1966.

Hard to believe that one year later, Star Trek (1964-66) was first aired, which gave us a look at a universe filled with aliens that were both good and bad. Nonetheless, future shows like My Living Doll (1964-65), Lost in Space (1965-68), and most definitely Mork & Mindy (1978-82) and Alf (1986-90) owe much of their structure and feeling to My Favorite Martian.

How about you, boomers? Did you watch My Favorite Martian?