UFOgate    Faking a Martian Invasion
The first book to appear on flying saucers – a novel – spoke of how alien crashes were staged by a “League of Scientists”, with the hope of creating world peace against a common, extra-terrestrial enemy. Is it fiction… or fact?
by Philip Coppens

Bernard Newman’s “The Flying Saucer”, was published in the United Kingdom in 1948 (the US edition followed in 1950) and is believed to have been the world’s first book that tackled UFOs. Newman was a prolific author, both of fiction and non-fiction; “The Flying Saucer” sits in the former category. But since its publication, people have begun to wonder whether it was fact masked as fiction.

When he died in 1968, Newman had over one hundred titles to his name, which means he sometimes turned out four to five books per year. Under the pseudonym Don Betteridge, he also wrote a series of spy novels, and he was considered to be an authority on espionage – a passion that is also on display in “The Flying Saucer”, years ahead of the so-called “Men in Black” and decades before UFO researchers would focus on “the conspiracy” by the intelligence communities to cover-up “the truth”. As it is the first book on flying saucers, one would think it is a relatively basic, if not boring, book. By 1948, after all, little had happened in the world of UFOs, except some sightings of anomalies. Instead, Newman created a plot that is well-ahead of its time, and, even after sixty years, innovative in its approach to the phenomenon. Why? The plot of the book is about a group of international scientists staging a fake alien invasion. These scientists – aided by members of the intelligence community – have seen how politicians have used their latest inventions, specifically the atomic bomb, for war. They are unwilling to live in a world where its advances are abused and which will only escalate the us versus them-mentality that took root at the end of the Second World War. They assume that if they can successfully stage certain alien crashes, politicians will unite against this common enemy. Equally, these politicians will have to rely on the leading members of the scientific community to explain the extraordinary events, and as it so happens, the most prominent experts are, of course, the ones creating the conspiracy themselves.

Several real politicians have used the theme of how Mankind would unite if faced with a non-terrestrial enemy in speeches. The book paraphrases a real speech made by British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden at the United Nations on March 1, 1947: “Sometimes I think the people of this distracted planet will never really get together until they find someone in Mars to get mad against.” Newman also references French author André Maurois, who in “The Next Chapter – The War Against the Moon” (1928) expressed a similar sentiment. In subsequent years, former U.S. General Douglas MacArthur on October 8, 1955, is reported to have stated: “The nations of the world will have to unite, for the next war will be an interplanetary war. The nations of the earth must someday make a common front against attack by people from other planets.” Throughout the 1980s, both U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev would make repeated references to how their nations would unite if there was a common enemy, Reagan using the floor of the United Nations to speak on this topic. The United Nations, of course, is a logical platform for the nations of the world to debate such ideas and Newman, too, used the United Nations as the setting for much of his novel. There are three chief protagonists in the novel: a French expert in espionage; an American scientist responsible for inventing the rockets that will trick the nations; and Bernard Newman himself, who is responsible for the PR, guiding the people of the world into accepting and believing the alien reality. Newman notes how he was inspired by the Orson Welles broadcast of “War of the Worlds”, which demonstrated that people are easily convinced, and that truly, it is all about the technique in convincing people of a faked reality, and little else.

The resulting campaign of deception is one that involves four distinct phases. The first rocket crashes in Europe, at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire (United Kingdom), when a cylinder-like object crashes and is suspected to be alien in origin. All scientists realize, however, that a one-off crash will be insufficient to convince the world. To quote Newman: “Any publicity officer or advertising expert knows that a sudden sensation rapidly loses its interest. To having lasting effects, it should be built up gradually, in a series of climaxes rather than one abrupt tension.”

The second rocket falls in New Mexico, near Santa Fe. Both rockets are made from a hard substance that defies most of the cutting machinery used on them, but when the cylinders are finally opened by some of the leading scientists on this planet, they reveal a series of mysterious hieroglyphs. The script is engineered by a Chinese expert, who, of course, also becomes the one who is able to “decipher” them. Throughout the entire campaign, the success depends on making sure that the experts called in to explain and guide the world through these uncertain times, are the very scientists who have created the deception. Create the mystery, then explain it.

When the message is deciphered, it is learned that it is a threat by an extra-terrestrial civilisation, assumed to be from Mars. Though at first the message is very much a friendly greeting card, soon, the messages in the probes demand that Mankind surrenders all of its gold, so that a “wasting disease” can be eradicated on the aliens’ home world. The scientists believe that extracting gold from the world economy will bring about greater unity amongst the various countries, as well as begin to change the economics of the world, in the hope that less-developed nations will begin to attain a more equal footing.

For step two, there is a missile attack on an uninhabited forest in parts of the Soviet Union, which is meant to be a display of the Martian military power. The military leaders, of course, realize they are incapable of retaliating, as no missile can reach Mars. At the same time, the attack is clearly destructive in nature and is somewhat contrary to the purpose of the scientists’ campaign. But the scientists have noted that a sense of urgency needs to be presented to the politicians, for otherwise, nothing but endless talks and debates will occur, but little else.

Responsible for this devastation is the American scientist in charge of launching the missiles, who for this phase, has used the largely unknown technology of a proton bomb to wipe out the forest; some of the scenes from the novel are reminiscent of the description of the Tunguska explosion that occurred in 1908. The end result of this phase is to show that the alien threat is real and that Mankind is presently unable to respond. The scientists therefore propose to build a rocket, which in due course might hopefully reach Mars. But for this, the scientists make sure that they receive all the Uranium in the world. And thus, all the atomic power of the superpowers is removed from the military and the politicians, and reserved for the sole use of the scientists; the scientists have accomplished an important aim of their campaign.

The third phase of the plan, to truly convince the people that this is real, is a rocket crash that contains the corpse of an alien – a chimera made up of various animal parts. Once again, the scheme is successful because the experts called in to examine the alien remains are all part of the deception. All conspirators felt that this step was necessary, for an alien body placed a sense of realism on the whole endeavour, one which coded messages sent in unmanned cylinders that crashed around the world could not achieve.

Finally, in the fourth stage, there are faked alien invasions in Africa, the North Pole and soon sporadically around the world, which the media reports on in such a manner that everyone realizes that the threat is real. Choosing remote areas for such faked reports, there are too few observers to realize the hoaxed nature of these reports, while it is also made apparent that the unified efforts of the world are, at least at present, successful in staving off a full-scale alien invasion. And so, the scientists have accomplished their mission: the danger of self-annihilation has been removed. But what Newman leaves unwritten is that for the ordinary man in the street, there remains fear: the fear of self-annihilation has been replaced with the fear of an alien devastation. In this novel, Newman suggests that the UFO myth was military and scientific disinformation, designed to end the Cold War and prevent the nations of the world from blowing themselves up.

Newman writes: “My task was to prepare the mind of the people well in advance – to make it receptive to ideas about other planets. To this end I stimulated articles in the popular press all over the world. I revived old controversies about canals on Mars and even the unexplained white streaks on the Moon.” Part of this campaign was to get certain books published, as well as certain films made.

Entering the world of speculation, could Newman’s fiction be fictionalised reality? Was his book part of such a campaign, or did the book spill the beans on what was occurring inside the closed world of espionage, in which Newman moved, lived and reported on in a series of books. Or is it all just a work of fiction? If it were real, then it is clear that subsequent events of the 1950s revealed that no-one was able to stop the Cold War from happening and that the world only narrowly – on a number of occasions – escaped from global atomic warfare.

In the novel, Newman references a 1932 novel of his own, “Armoured Doves”, in which he proposed the League of Scientists, based on the idea that “the politicians had failed to bring peace to the world.” It is in “The Flying Saucer” that he took up this theme and applied it to the theme of UFOs.

Another important question is whether the scientists wanted and could pull such an endeavour off. At the end of the Cold War, the many atomic scientists were displaced, scattered across the new superpowers. Most of these scientists had seen their inventions used during the Second World War, but were now faced with the reality that their invention was holding the world at ransom, and could soon if not later be used to wipe out the entire world. The military-industrial complex was mining the minds of these scientists, who were absolutely aware that any discovery would be used for primarily military applications and purposes. “World Peace” would definitely have been one of their favourite subjects to achieve, specifically as many of these scientists were civilians who had hoped that their discovery would be used for “good things”… including the exploration of space… and contacting alien worlds. So yes on motive, but there was definitely less possibility of successfully succeeding in such a ploy. Annie Jacobsen in her biography of Area 51 does argue that the Roswell crash was Soviet deception by Joseph Stalin, using the alien theme. If true, it appears that Roswell was nevertheless a one-off, for a scenario along the lines described by Newman never came about – not even close.

One important question to ask, however, is whether certain scientists who would soon be called in to direct investigations into the UFO phenomenon and steer the government’s policy on it might have realized that here was a possibility to promote awareness of an otherworldly intelligence, in the hope that by inserting this idea into the public mindset, social changes would come about. If this occurred – or not – the record shows that the likes of Ronald Reagan were extremely interested in the UFO phenomenon and that this seems to have played an important role (together with his belief in Armageddon) in seeking to end the Cold War. And so, whether by accident or design, the UFO phenomenon indeed contributed to World Peace. And so, to some extent, Newman was definitely correct. Fact and fiction, how easily they often overlap.