Friday, August 27, 2010

Nuclear Options

Every so often, I pull something out of the blog archives and feature it again. Today I'm summoning the memory of Al Chop, borrowing both from this blog and from my blog about the 1956 movie, "U.F.O." The two letters here were written almost 10 years apart.

For your interest, the 1966 letter on NASA stationery reflects Chop's confirmation that the people involved with "U.F.O." tried diligently to make an accurate motion picture (though both Chop and Tom Towers, who played the role of Al Chop, wished for more of that "Hollywood touch" to conquer the movie's wooden dramatics). He also clarifies that he left the UFO organization NICAP to avoid public confusion between his UFO interest and NASA public affairs duties.

By the mid-seventies, Al was affiliated with the government's atomic energy program, responsible for in-house publicity programs and editor of an employee newsletter, and he mentions all of this in the other letter reproduced here. At some point, he sustained a serious back injury which effectively put an end to a long government career, spanning his service time as a Marine, to his role as Air Force press desk chief at the Pentagon, to his exciting years with NASA and ultimately with a division of the Atomic Energy Commission.

I just thought it timely, having caught new readers up a bit, to mention Chop's relationship with and confidence in nuclear energy. Having survived Chernobyl and Three Mile Island -- both future events at the time of Chop's letter -- the U.S. appears poised to embrace nuclear power more than ever, and one hopes the safety factor embraced by Al Chop accompanies its growth, as we discover that solar panels and wind alone won't solve our immediate needs, even in an unlikely post-petrol human existence.

Also, lest Al Chop's name always be consistent only with government UFO reports of the early fifties, I think his nuclear project relationship presents an interesting coincidence and ironic complement to the fact that UFOs at nuclear missile bases are quite newsworthy now.

As Robert Hastings and former Air Force Capt. Robert Salas prepare to host what should be a monumental press conference, regarding UFO encounters with nuclear weapons, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on September 27, it's just noteworthy in a peculiar sort of way that Chop was in the middle of the action in 1952 when UFOs appeared over the same city, and that he eventually took an active interest in things nuclear himself. Chop progressed from UFOs to "nukes," and UFO investigations, in a very significant way, shifted to UFOs AND nukes. There's no esoteric message here, just a perspective.

Were he still living, Chop might be amazed at the mounting evidence linking UFO activity to nuclear missile facilities. Or, knowing something of his pragmatic approach via a fair amount of correspondence, heck, maybe I'm wrong and Al wouldn't have offered so much as a shrug.