Dwight Eisenhower shows Winston Churchill the portrait he painted of the former P.M.Late last week, a cache of documents released from UK archives revealed that then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered a cover-up of the arrival of extraterrestrials, because it would incite a panic in the population.

Or did he?

Certainly that’s what the Ufologists have decided; they’ve blasted the news of this shocking revelation to the Internet (such as this from the International UFO Congress, with a WebCite cached version). Unfortunately, the real story here is far less certain and less shocking than these folks would have you believe, as has been reported in the (UK) Telegraph, for example (cached version):

The former Prime Minister allegedly banned reporting of the “bizarre” incident, off the east coast of England, for half a century amid fears disclosures about unidentified flying objects would create public hysteria.

He is said to have made the orders during a secret war meeting with US General Dwight Eisenhower, the then commander of the Allied Forces, at an undisclosed location in America during the latter part of the conflict.

Even then-General and later President Eisenhower was in on it! Wow! This is incredible! Proof positive of a multinational conspiracy to prevent the people from knowing about extraterrestrial visitors!

But as they say so often in infomercials … “But wait, there’s more!”:

The allegations involving Churchill were made by the grandson of one his personal bodyguards, an RAF officer who overheard the discussion, who wrote to the Ministry of Defence in 1999 inquiring about the incident after his grandfather disclosed details to his family.

According to the series of letters, written by the guard’s grandson who is now a physicist from Leicester, a reconnaissance plane and its crew were returning from a mission over occupied Europe when they were involved in the war incident. …

Apart from telling his daughter — the scientist’s mother — about the incident when she was nine, the bodyguard, who was “greatly affected by his experience”, only disclosed the details to his wife on his deathbed in 1973.

The scientist, also an expert in astronomy who said he developed software for use in “spacecraft thermal engineering”, was told years later by his mother.

So, let’s see if we can follow this. The documents in question were not written by Churchill or Eisenhower. They were not even written contemporaneously. Instead, this allegation took a circuitous path over the course of several decades. The bodyguard overheard the remarks, but did not take part in the conversation in question; he told his daughter about it, an unknown number of years later; she told her scientist child an untold number of years after that; the scientist then inquired with the government about the supposed incident.

Somewhere in all of this, the reliability of this story appears to have gone off the tracks somewhere. That’s not to say that everyone in this “train of recall” is lying about it, nor even that any single person in this chain lied. At any step along the line, the story — which was apparently discussed only in hushed tones — might have been misheard or misunderstood. The “telephone game” provides an example of how honest people hearing a story, then relaying it, can produce an altered account after even just a few “hops” — and without any intention to deceive, at any point. This story, then, is not really “evidence” of much of anything (except maybe that Ufologists are easily excited about stuff that doesn’t really help them.)

That said, even if Churchill had — as the tale implies — ordered a “cover-up,” this hardly constitutes proof the Earth had been visited by extraterrestrials, or that Churchill or Eisenhower were aware that it had happened. They might well have been “in the dark” about the affair, and only ordered the cover-up, if they did, out of uncertainty and caution, rather than out of certain knowledge and malicious intent.

This wouldn’t be the first time the UFO community has made way too much of supposed “government cover-ups,” and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Photo credit: otisarchives1.

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