Studio portrait of Sid Salter. (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)
By: Sid Salter
Over the last two years, a global pandemic rocked the international economy and the civilized world withdrew and in great measure shut down for a time.
Internal national political conflicts and longstanding inabilities to deal with complex matters of race, gender, and economic equity in the U.S. spilled over into irrational violence in the public squares of our nation and even in the supposedly sacred seat of our federal government.
Social media has become a toxic cesspool. Mistrust, misinformation and meanness dominate that arena. Cyber attacks threaten our food, our fuel, and our very personal security.
So is anyone actually shocked that the United States government is about to seriously resume a discussion of a topic that once was relegated to B-movies in the 1950s – unidentified flying objects or UFOs? Actually, that’s an old school reference. What our government will be discussing is in modern parlance called Unexplained Aerial Phenomena or UAPs.
This is not some dubious “report” emanating from a travel trailer souvenir stand in Roswell, New Mexico. This is a congressionally authorized report from the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the UAP Task Force, an organization formed by the Pentagon last year to study the U.S. military’s documented encounters with UAPs.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said: “We’re providing context and information that we have on these phenomena and our focus is on, again, on supporting the DNI’s efforts to produce this report.” In addition, The New York Times this week identified a Department of Defense Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program as the agency collecting and evaluating much of this data.
The report became necessary when Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, inserted language in the Intelligence Authorization Act late in 2020 that required the U.S. intelligence community to submit a public report on UAPs to the committee on or before June 29, 2021.
In a statement last week to ABC News, Rubio said: “Men and women we have entrusted with the defense of our country are reporting encounters with unidentified aircraft with superior capabilities. We cannot allow the stigma of UFOs to keep us from seriously investigating this. The forthcoming report is one step in that process, but it will not be the last.”
The GOP’s Rubio isn’t the only voice in this story. Former Democratic President Barack Obama last month on “The Late Late Show with James Condon said in response to questions about the pending report: “What is true, and I’m actually being serious here, is that there is footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are.”
The report is believed to address some 120 incidents over the last 20 years in which U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force personnel have encountered UAPs. The report will almost certainly stop short of identifying those encounters as extraterrestrial but will also stop short of eliminating that possibility. The report will likely rule out evidence that the encounters have been with other U.S. technologies.
At least one Mississippian will likely view that pending report with special interest. On Oct. 11, 1973, shipyard workers Charles E. Hickson and Calvin Parker Jr. reported to Jackson County Sheriff’s Office lawmen in Pascagoula that they had both been abducted by aliens while fishing from the left bank of the Pascagoula River near the Shaupeter Shipyard pier.
They claimed to have been abducted, taken aboard the alien craft, examined, and then released.
The scene of the alleged abduction got a historical marker in 2019. Both men passed lie detector tests at the time of the event. Hickson – who earned five major battle stars during his U.S. Army service in the Korean Conflict – died in 2011 of a heart attack.
Parker, now in his mid-60s, is the only survivor of the so-called “Pascagoula Abduction.” He’s written two books and maintains that the accounts he and Hickson related in 1973 were true then and remain so.