They wanted to believe.
The human race has a long and not-so-proud history of being utterly terrified of things that don’t exist.
At the height of the 14th-century age of exploration, superstitious sailors considered sea monsters to be a legitimate sea-faring hazard. In the 1600s, high on religious fervor and scared to death by the Black Plague, Europeans hunted witches, vampires and werwolves. And not all that long ago—in the second half of the 20th century, in fact—world governments found themselves preoccupied with understanding a new threat: Aliens visiting our planet.
Just how seriously was the world taking a threat now relegated to discussion among abduction support groups, conspiracy subreddits and re-runs of “Ancient Aliens”?
According to the story told by documents sourced from the United Nations of the late 70s and released by WikiLeaks, the answer is: pretty damn seriously.
It was the spring of 1978. Prime Minister of Grenada and avid UFO fanboy Eric Gairy was convinced the United Nations had not adequately responded to what he was calling “the UFO phenomenon.” Gairy had a vision of a global task force, comprised of representatives from the world’s most powerful nations. Its purpose was, according to one document, “Undertaking, coordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena.”
Gairy needed some credible testimony to punch up his “blitzkrieg sales pitch” for the task force. So he reached out to Lee Spiegel, a journalist and fellow believer in little green men.
With the help of Spiegel, who had made some connections in the UFO world while producing a documentary on the subject for CBS, Gairy enlisted a panel of experts who met with UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in July of 1978.
Following the meeting, Gairy continued his crusade to rally support for a “UFO Investigative Committee” by meeting with US representative Richard Petree, who indicated a “high level of interest” in his proposal, albeit only if it were to be revised.
The same panel presented their proposal in front of the UN on November 28, 1978. It included the testimony of US Lieutenant Colonel Larry Coyne, who described an encounter in which his helicopter collided with a UFO. Dr. Jaques Vallee contributed a description of the physical symptoms experienced by those who had come into contact with UFOs, which he insisted “should be investigated.”
The presentation was well received by the General Assembly—so well received, in fact, that the UN circulated a cable on Dec. 8th basically encouraging nations interested in the proposal to go conduct their own research and bring it back to the assembly, where they’d discuss it further:
“The General Assembly invites interested member states to take appropriate steps to coordinate on a national level scientific research and investigation into extraterrestrial life, including unidentified flying objects, and to inform the secretary-general of the observations, research and evaluation of such activities.”
Gairy’s dream of an international UFO task force was so close to fruition that discussion of his proposal was slated to continue in 1979. But before he could see his baby through to delivery, in a stroke of plain, rotten luck, he was ousted from power by a military coup. Without Gairy’s enthusiasm for the project, it quickly fell off Grenada’s docket. Still, it’s hard to believe just how close we came to an internationally-coordinated investigation into UFOs. Mulder and Scully would be proud.
Hillary Clinton has been very vocal about her enthusiasm for UFOs, even going as far as publicly stating that she would declassify government documents regarding UFO encounters. Could a revival of Gairy’s dream be in our not-so-distant future? Only time will tell.