Donald Edward Keyhoe (June 20, 1897 – November 29, 1988) was born and raised in Ottumwa, Iowa. Upon receiving his B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1919, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
He was an American Marine Corps naval aviator, writer of many aviation articles and stories in a variety of leading publications.
Following Kenneth Arnold’s report of odd, fast-moving aerial objects in the summer of 1947, interest in “flying disks” and “flying saucers” was widespread, and Keyhoe followed the subject with some interest, though he was initially skeptical of any extraordinary answer to the UFO question.
For some time, True (a popular American men’s magazine) had been inquiring of officials as to the flying saucer question, with little to show for their efforts. In about May 1949, after the U.S. Air Force had released contradictory information about the saucers, editor Ken Purdy turned to Keyhoe, who had written for the magazine, but who also, importantly, had many friends and contacts in the military and the Pentagon.
After some investigation, Keyhoe became convinced that the flying saucers were real. As their forms, flight maneuvers, speeds and light technology was apparently far ahead of any nation’s developments, Keyhoe became convinced that they must be the products of unearthly intelligences, and that the U.S. government was trying to suppress the whole truth about the subject.
This conclusion was based especially on the response Keyhoe found when he quizzed various officials about flying saucers. He was told there was nothing to the subject, yet was simultaneously denied access to saucer-related documents.
Keyhoe’s article “Flying Saucers Are Real” appeared in the January 1950 issue of True (published December 26, 1949) and caused a sensation.
Capitalizing on the interest, Keyhoe expanded the article into a book, The Flying Saucers Are Real (1950); it sold over half a million copies in paperback. He argued that the Air Force knew that flying saucers were extraterrestrial, but downplayed the reports to avoid public panic.
In Keyhoe’s view, the aliens — wherever their origins or intentions — did not seem hostile, and had likely been surveilling the earth for two hundred years or more, though Keyhoe wrote that their “observation suddenly increased in 1947, following the series of A-bomb explosions in 1945.”
In the 1950s he became well known as a UFO researcher, arguing that the U.S. government should conduct research in UFO matters, and should release all its UFO files.
Keyhoe wrote several more books about UFOs. Flying Saucers from Outer Space (Holt, 1953) is perhaps the most impressive, being largely based on interviews and official reports vetted by the Air Force.
The book included a blurb by Albert M. Chop, the Air Force’s press secretary in the Pentagon, who characterized Keyhoe as a “responsible, accurate reporter” and further expressed approval for Keyhoe’s arguments in favor of the extraterrestrial hypothesis.
On March 8, 1958, Keyhoe appeared on The Mike Wallace Interview on ABC and spoke about flying saucers:
In 1969 Keyhoe turned his focus away from the military and focused on the CIA as the source of the UFO cover up.
Donald Edward Keyhoe, 91, a retired Marine Corps major and a former director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, died of pneumonia and cardiac arrest on Nov. 29, 1988 at the Life Care Center in New Market, Va.