Sony did an interesting bit of publicity for Battle: Los Angeles, and that was to tie it in with real world UFO events and make available real UFO experts and witnesses. The film, which takes its name from a strange panic during WWII (which I wrote about here), doesn’t really have much to do with traditional UFOs. The aliens don’t buzz cities or abduct people - they drop into the water and begin raining death on all the major cities of the world. In the course of 24 hours we go from being alone in the universe to having our population centers conquered. So while Bill Birnes, a UFO expert, co-author of the book The Day After Roswell and one of the hosts of UFO Hunters on cable TV, had almost nothing to do with the actual film, I still jumped at the chance to interview him.
A little background: I’m a recovered UFO believer. I believe there are civilizations elsewhere in the universe. I don’t automatically dismiss the possibility that aliens have visited the planet, but I demand greater proof now than I did as a believer. And I also suspect that if UFOs are real that we maybe shouldn’t be looking skyward but should be looking sideways - I quite like Jacques Vallee’s theories.
Anyway, it was exciting to talk to a UFO expert like Birnes. While doing the transcription I saw one spot where I wish I had asked a harder follow-up (Birnes, like too many believers, assumes that what we see in ancient art as UFOs were intended to be UFOs and never takes into account that, like the illusory Man in the Moon, these images are just being interpreted by modern people in incorrect ways), but I like to think this interview was fair and respectful. And even I even managed to work in Battle: Los Angeles!
For you as a UFO expert and hunter, do you subscribe specifically to the extraterrestrial hypothesis?
I tend for that to be one of the hypotheses I come down on. And that’s because I think there is more than one explanation. We have compelling evidence - I don’t want to say it’s absolute, but I will say it’s compelling - that we’ve been visited by strange craft. Whether these are strange craft that visited us 10,000 years ago because that’s their time, or whether they’re from the future and visiting us in the past, that’s a matter for conjecture. I think it’s probably true, but it’s a matter for conjecture. There are too many depictions of craft in ancient writings that we recognize now as flying craft that it couldn’t be accidental. They couldn’t have invented it on their own.
I guess that makes me ask why they couldn’t have invented it on their own.
Well, uh, imagine a Renaissance painting with a space capsule flying over the Madonna. This is a painting from the 1500s. They didn’t even believe that humans could fly except by the wings of Daedalus and Icarus and now they’re depicting somebody flying. Not an angel, not somebody with wings, not a demon, not a spirit, but an actual pilot sitting through a windshield in a craft with a pointed nose cone, with jet propulsion coming out of the tail of that craft. I don’t think that would be something they would have conceived of in the early Renaissance or the late Middle Ages. In fact when Leonardo DaVinci was creating his own flying machine the one thing he didn’t create was a spacecraft. He invented a helicopter.
You co-wrote one of the seminal books on Roswell, Day After Roswell, with Philip J Corso. Since then a lot has been revealed about the event and many UFOlogists have written it off. Where do you stand on Roswell in 2011?
I think it was a real event. I have spoken to eyewitnesses, numbers of them. We have a deathbed affadavit from the Army lieutenant who released the famous ‘Army Captures Disc In Roswell’ headline, and he said he saw the alien body bags and his boss, Colonel Blanchard, described the bodies to him. He went to the crash site and he had a piece of the alien debris on his desk. I think Roswell was a real event, it absolutely happened, and it galvanized the military in what it had to do to deal with these craft. I don’t think it was a matter of coincidence that shortly after the crash at Roswell the folks at Bell Labs were able to figure out what to do to invent the transistor [note: the first transistor was patented in Canada in 1925], and a few months after that the United States passed the National Security Act. I think that is not a coincidence.
So for you the Operation Mogul balloon stuff is right out.
I think the first weather balloon explanation was false on its face because the person who was made to pose with the weather balloon, Jesse Marcel, had been to radar school just the week before. A weather balloon in 1947 is made of neoprene rubber. And they manufactured the weather balloons right across the street from the base, so everybody at the base knew them and had handled them. When you say, ‘Oh it was a Project Mogul balloon,’ what was a Project Mogul balloon? A Project Mogul balloon is a series of huge weather balloons strung together to make a flying object. There was no such thing as a special Project Mogul balloon until years after the Roswell crash. And by the way, they were using neoprene rubber, which everybody knew, because that was used in WWII. There was no mylar in 1947, that came later. The materials that would have to be in the later Project Mogul ballons were not in ballons in 1947. The same thing with the crash dummies. There were no crash dummies in 1947, only in the 1950s. If you have a crash dummy, why would you have a crash dummy the size of a four and half foot entity? Why wouldn’t you have it be five foot eight, five foot nine or even six feet tall? Duh, that’s the point of the crash dummy!
Do you think that at any point in our lifetimes the official truth of Roswell will come out?
I think the official truth of Roswell has come out - it’s come out from people who were witnesses. I don’t think Barack Obama or Secretary Gates or Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or any of those people will come out and say Roswell was real. I think there are serious, serious issues. Just follow the logic for a second. If you say Roswell was real that’s like saying there was no magic bullet that hit Kennedy and Connolly in Dallas. No magic bullet, second shooter. Second shooter, coming from a different direction, that’s a conspiracy. Conspiracy, the Warren Commission is a lie and who conspired to kill Kennedy. That’s a problem, and you’d have to deal with it. Roswell real means UFOs exist - officially. If UFOs exist and if Roswell they confirm are real, what about the UFOs before Roswell? What about the UFOs in 1952 in DC that were actually firing on our jets and were being shot down [note: while there was a famous UFO flap over Washington DC in 1952 I’m having a hard time backing up the claim that jets were being fired upon]? What about 1965 over Edwards? What about Phoenix in 1997? If that’s real, what about UFO abductions? If UFO abductions are real, why are they here, what do they want? What does this say about our history? Is the Bible real? Suddenly you have a much bigger problem than saying Roswell happened.
Do you think Barack Obama gets sworn in as president and as part of his first briefing he gets shown UFO stuff, or would this be above his pay grade?
The president is something like 20 degrees below the top of Top Secret. The president does not own the National Security Council, he sits on the National Security Council. The National Security Council, assuming just for the sake of argument that UFO secrets rest with them, is essentially a fourth branch of the US government created in 1947 that is extra-constitutional. First of all five presidents have admitted to UFOs, the most important of which is Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan said that when he was the governor of California he saw a UFO when he was flying from Sacramento. He ordered his pilot to chase that UFO over the Mojave Desert, where it disappeared. He came back to Sacramento and he told the Wall Street Journal that he saw a UFO. He admitted the UFO. He told it to the press. Then when he went to Reykjavik he talked about it with Gorbachev. Then when he sat before the United Nations he used the hypothetical argument about ETs.
Jimmy Carter when he was governor of Georgia said a) I saw a UFO and b) I filed a report with the UFO Reporting Center. When he was on the campaign trail he said ‘I will tell the truth to the American people about UFOs.’ In the fall of 1976 when he was president-elect he had a national security briefing with George HW Bush, director of the CIA. Carter asked Bush directly ‘Please tell me what the CIA knows about flying saucers.’ Bush didn’t say flying saucers didn’t exist, he didn’t say they knew nothing, he said ‘Mr. President-Elect, you have no need to know but if you want to find out more, here is a path through the National Archives.’
So Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George Bush. In 1966 then Congressman Gerald Ford, reacting to the incredible UFO sightings in Hilldale, Michigan, went to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee to ask him to open up Congressional hearings on UFOs. Four presidents talking about UFOs.
When George W. Bush, number 43, was asked about UFOs on the campaign trail, he didn’t confirm it and he didn’t deny it, he just looked over to Cheney and said ‘This guy knows all about it.’ Was he joking?
We’re living in a world where there are more cameras on the street than ever before. Are we capturing more UFO images?
We are. And we’re putting them up on YouTube. There are more cellphone cameras, we’re seeing UFOs all over the world, and governments want to hide the fact that they can’t protect their own skies and are scrambling to cover up the story.
In Battle: Los Angeles when the aliens arrive everybody is taken by surprise. There’s no ability to react quickly to an extra-terrestrial threat. Do you believe that in reality there are plans for a hostile alien encounter?
Absolutely. I think it goes much deeper than that, but to answer your question - yes. I think we do have plans, and we do have weapons for dealing with an advanced culture invading us. The question is why do they want to invade us, what do they want, and would it be easier giving them what they want rather than fighting them? Fighting extraterrestrials coming to Earth would be a public relations disaster for any president. If UFOs come to Earth and launch an attack in LA the first thing the president is going to have to say is ‘Well, we’re kind of not surprised.’ He’s going to have to go for a declaration of war. Congress is going to get involved. It’s going to be a public relations nightmare. It’s not just about calling up the Marines to fight the UFOs, it’s about the United States government. Now, having said that, do I believe we have battle plans? Yes. I think we have very advanced weapons. Who gave us the weapons? I think extraterrestrials gave us the weapons. We reverse engineered them. We’ve got cloaking devices. We’ve got invisibility devices. We’ve got craft that are football field-size that can throw holograms and evade radar. I mean, look at the technology we have right now. We have hunter-killer satellites in space, creating a canopy that looks for UFOs. We spot UFOs all the time; they’re called fastwalkers when they enter the atmosphere. Our astronauts have seen UFOs. We’ve encountered extraterrestrials on the dark side of the Moon. We have fought skirmishes with them and in some cases we’ve been driven off the Moon. They don’t want to unveil themselves any more than we want to unveil them, but there is a pushing and shoving match. Aliens are reportedly abducting human beings and that’s very invasive. You can say that’s an act of war, but the fact is that I think we’ve negotiated with them ever since the Battle of DC in the 1950s and the Summer of the Saucers, and it’s basically open skies. You surveille us and we’ll surveille you, you abduct somebody once or twice, but please don’t hang around.
There’s something Gene Roddenberry once said: ‘Ancient astronauts didn’t build the pyramids. Human beings built the pyramids, because they’re clever and they work hard.’ For him it diminished humanity and downplayed our achievements. How do you feel about that, philosophically.
First of all I knew Gene, second of all I wrote for Star Trek.
I know, that’s why I brought it up.
My feeling is that Gene knew a larger truth. In order for Gene to get material for the stories he got, rather than saying ‘Yeah, UFOs are real…’ First of all, just artistically and philosophically there is a major split between UFOlogy and science fiction. Trekkies hate UFOs. UFOs hate Trekkies. That’s based in fact. It’s like ‘Don’t harsh my mellow, I love Star Trek and I don’t want to know they’re real. It’s science fiction.’ Go to a Star Trek convention and say ‘I know UFOs are real’ and they’ll literally boo you off the stage.
But if you talk to people - Shatner doesn’t dismiss the idea of UFOs, but Shatner would never say he believes in them. That’s crazy. Why, if the CIA from 1948 was marginalizing those who talked about flying saucers and UFOs - marginalized them in major ways, saying they’re idiots, they’re dummies - why would you step forward to marginalize yourself? Be mainstream, cash the check and keep your beliefs quiet.