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New British documents show UK attempted to derail UN UFO initiative

Granada UN UFO stamp.
Grenada UN UFO stamp. (image credit: Huneeus Collection)

Among the thousands of pages in the latest batch of UFO documents released and posted online by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), there are two dozen pages of memos and telexes dealing with the UFO motion at the United Nations undertaken by the government of the Caribbean island of Grenada in the late 1970s. This effort, spearheaded by the late Prime Minister of Grenada sir Eric Gairy (1922-1997) in the period between 1976 and 1979, culminated with the UN General Assembly Decision 33/424 of December 18, 1978, “Establishment of an agency or a department of the United Nations for undertaking, coordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena.”

Ivor Richard (Baron Richard), British representative to the UN in 1978. (image credit: European Comission)
Ivor Richard (Baron Richard), British representative to the UN in 1978. (image credit: European Commission)

The Grenada UN initiative remains one of the big milestones in the international diplomatic history of UFOs. Here you have the head of state of a member country making speeches, seeking experts and convening hearings to bring the subject of UFOs and alien visitations into the official agenda of the United Nations, so the subject can be dealt in a coherent and coordinated global manner. Real exo-politics at the highest level! I know this subject particularly well for this was one of the very first UFO stories that I covered professionally as a journalist. I attended the famous UFO Hearing at the Special Political Committee on November 27, 1978, where I had the opportunity of meeting Gairy himself as well as the experts who testified in the hearing like Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Dr. Jacques Vallee and Stanton Friedman. I wrote a long feature article on the third issue of Open Minds magazine (August/September 2010), “The True Story of the United Nations’ UFO Hearings,” where I provided a lot of history and background. Although Decision 33/424 was never implemented—the UFO effort died out after Gairy was overthrown from power in March 1979—the idea of a small UN UFO agency or department is still technically in the books, waiting for another country to take the torch and proceed from there.

Implacable British Opposition

The newly released British documents (most of them emanating from the UK’s UN Mission in New York) actually throw new light into this story, basically showing that the British government was implacably opposed to Grenada’s UFO motion and did everything it could to block or derail it. This is quite in contrast to the much milder position taken by the U.S. State Department, which although not enthusiastic about the Grenada motion, did not oppose it so long as it remained small in terms of both budget and scope. There is probably a good reason why, essentially, the Brits played bad cop and the U.S. played good cop with regards to the Grenada UN UFO motion. The British knew Grenada and its Prime Minister far better than the Americans. Grenada had been a British colony until 1974 and its independence was negotiated with Gairy, who was the island’s top politician, a maverick and a charismatic figure who was also knighted by the Queen. After independence, Grenada remained a member of the British Commonwealth of nations.

The British documents cover a period stretching from December 1977 to December 1978, the crucial period of Gairy’s UFO UN lobbying. The first document chronologically speaking is a “restricted” telex to the UK UN Mission, received December 1, 1978, introduces the British opposition that will be repeated over and over in the rest of the documents: “Ministers have expressed the view that, since agreement to set up such an [UFO] agency would reduce the credibility of the UN, we should oppose it. You should be guided accordingly seeking whatever support you can, particularly among the nine.” The nine are not part of a secret cabal but it was the way the European Community countries who were also UN member nations were referred to in the 1970s.

Gairy addressing the UN General Assembly.
Gairy addressing the UN General Assembly. (image credit: ICUFON Archives)

One of the more comprehensive documents in the newly released MoD files is a short brief prepared by D. A. Lloyd of the Energy Science and Space Department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, dated 15 September 1978, and dealing with “Agenda Item No. 128, Establishment of an agency or department of the United Nations for undertaking, co-ordinating and disseminating the results of research into Unidentified Flying Objects and related phenomena.” The brief presents the following items: “A – UK Aims; B – Points to Make; C – Tactics; Background.” Point A, UK Aims, goes straight to the point: “To oppose the establishment of any such agency.” Point B states that “the British delegation does not think that the establishment of an agency for research into unidentified flying objects is appropriate to the functions of the United nations. It considers that the existence of such an agency under UN auspices would be an unjustifiable drain on UN resources which could be better deployed elsewhere.”

Point C, Tactics, spells out the course to follow: “Hopefully a confrontation with the representative of Grenada can be avoided, but the UK should not hesitate to make its views known as and when appropriate. You should seek whatever support you can particularly among the Nine.” One of the strongest negative documents is a December 1, 1978 telex to the UK Mission in New York, titled “UFO Item,” which begins with the following unambiguous paragraph: “We remain firmly opposed to a Grenada resolution on UFOs. We do not consider such opposition likely to be damaging either to the UK or to the UN. You should, therefore, make no attempt to conceal the UK’s intention of voting against any resolution containing an operational outcome, regardless of whether or not this leaves us in a minority.”

Although the British documents are always consistent in their opposition to the Grenada initiative, some offer at least a face-saving option for the Gairy government. Following their by now standard line of, “we remain opposed in principle to the Grenadan initiative,” a December 5, 1978 telegram then becomes a bit more accommodating: “We should, however, be willing to help the Grenadans off the hook if it can be done without any financial and manpower implications for governments (other than Grenada) or the UN.”

A telex by the British ambassador to the UN, Ivor Richard, sent right after the famous November 27, 1978 UFO Hearing at the Special Political Committee is interesting because it provides some info on the diplomatic machinations of other nations regarding Grenada’s motion. The documents discusses the possible alternatives being floated by various UN missions to basically cut the wings of Grenada’s proposal to create a UN UFO agency or department. “This will allow time to work out an alternative proposal,” states Ambassador Richard in the document from the UK Mission in NY, adding that “the Germans, with Austrian backing, favour a group of experts to be appointed by the government of Grenada, which might in due course report its findings to the Secretary-General. The US Mission, when Mr. Gairy called on them on 24 November, floated the idea of a special rapporteur (to be financed by the government of Grenada) who would study the problem and report back to the Secretary-general. The Russian would like to see a repetition of the procedure adopted last year: i.e. to defer the item with some face-saving proposal for further comments by interested parties, or a further study. This last would be the best solution, but Gairy is saying that he will not be put off again this year.”

Gairy addressing the UN General Assembly.
Gairy addressing the UN General Assembly.(image credit: ICUFON Archives)

Prime Minister Gairy was a very stubborn man who felt deeply that his UFO initiative was something of great importance for mankind. At his speech during the 33rd Session of the UN General Assembly on October 12, 1978, Gairy remarked that, “Grenada is now identified the world over with efforts to get the greater Powers to share information on the phenomenon of unidentified flying objects, mainly because of the persistence with which we have been raising this matter in this General Assembly since 1975. We are satisfied that the subject of UFOs is of sufficient interest and importance for it to be raised again this year and for us to seek the support of Member States for research in this field to be co-ordinated by the United Nations organizations…. The question is now being increasingly asked, why should man be precluded from information on UFOs, a matter of great interest and importance to man, while at the same time he is fed so many trivialities which can contribute nothing to his personal enrichment or to the advancement of mankind…. The time is more than opportune for the United Nations to become involved in this important area of knowledge and research.”

As revealed in my article in the third issue of Open Minds magazine, Gairy’s conviction in the importance of the UFO subject was also based on his own first-hand experiences with this phenomenon. He had a UFO sighting which he described to the Honduras newspaper, Honduras This Week, in the following words: “The sightings were so anomalous, their potentiality so out of character with the dignity of my office, that I felt compelled to rouse the world out of its torpor and exhort it to take a closer look. I was worried that these apparitions might seriously impact world security.” And then there was an incident in a beach in Morne Rouge, in which a giant ET body and some wreckage was supposedly recovered. This incident remained unpublished until 2008 when the late UFO researcher Wesley Bateman published it on the web. Bateman had met Gairy in San Diego in the period when Gairy lived in the U.S. in exile after the Marxist New Jewel coup threw him out of power in March 1979.

UN UFO Press conference. Freom left: Sir Eric Gairy, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, Lt. Col. Coyne.
UN UFO Press Conference. From left: Sir Eric Gairy, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, Lt. Col. Coyne.(image credit: ICUFON Archives)

Some have suggested a conspiracy linking Gairy’s overthrow with the U.S. government’s anti-UFO policies. However, this conspiracy does not work. Gairy’s UFO crusade might have been a nuisance for the U.S., but a new, self-declared Marxist government in the Caribbean with friendly ties to Cuba was far worse in the geopolitical context of the time, as later events demonstrated. When Prime Minister Maurice Bishop (who had overthrown Gairy) was killed in yet another more radical Marxist coup in 1983, President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. Marines to invade Grenada and squash the revolution.

U.S. Department of State documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that, while not enthusiastic about the Grenada UFO resolution, the U.S. Government was not totally opposed to it. A “draft U.S. position” entitled, “Agenda Item — UN Agency for UFOs,” was written by Irwin M. Pikus of the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs on August 29, 1977. He first outlined Grenada’s wishes: “In particular, Grenada wants: to have 1978 declared as the International Year of Unidentified Flying Objects; the establishment of a UN agency for UFO’s; the holding of UFO’s in Grenada; and the issue of a special commemorative stamp on the subject.” (A set of beautiful UFO stamps were indeed issued by Grenada in 1978.)

Pikus then proceeded with a substantive paragraph about the State Department’s position: “The U.S. has no objection to inclusion of these matters on the agenda. The U.S. has conducted extensive studies of this subject in years past and these studies have been inconclusive. While the results of past studies have been and will continue to be made available, the U.S. has no interest in participating actively in further studies. The budgetary implications of the Grenada proposals should be examined. The U.S. has no objection to the allocation of nominal sums to these proposals.”

There can be little doubt that Prime Minister Gairy would have continued his UFO initiative if the March  1979 coup had not stopped it. The new Grenadan government of Prime Minister Bishop had no interest whatsoever in the UFO initiative and they only used it to discredit Gairy as a wild believer in voodoo and flying saucers, which the American and international media was eager to pick up. But regardless of Prime Minister Gairy’s flaws, there is no doubt whatsoever that his UN UFO initiative was right on target, except that it probably was way ahead of the times. What the world needs know is for another member nation to pick up the torch and reactivate UN Decision 33/424 to establish an agency or department of the United Nations to conduct UFO research, where this subject will have to end sooner or later.

Click the image to view the documents.
Click the image to view the documents.

The entire dossier of the UK Ministry of Defence UFO documents can be found here.

UN meeting with UN Secretary General Waldheim (middle).
UFO experts meeting with UN Secretary-General Waldheim (middle).(image credit: ICUFON Archives)
Granada UN UFO stamps.
Grenada UN UFO stamps. (image credit: Huneeus Collection)

Antonio Huneeus

Open Minds Investigative Reporter J. Antonio Huneeus has covered the UFO field from an international perspective for over 30 years. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Japan. He was also the co-author of the Laurance Rockefeller-funded “UFO Briefing Document – The Best Available Evidence” and edited the book “A Study Guide to UFOs, Psychic & Paranormal Phenomena in the USSR.” Huneeus studied French at the Sorbonne University in Paris and Journalism at the University of Chile in Santiago in the 1970s. He has lectured at dozens of UFO Conferences all over the world and been interviewed by many media outlets including The Washington Post, the Sy-Fy and History Channels, Nippon-TV, etc. He received the “Ufologist of the Year” award at the National UFO Conference in Miami Beach in 1990 and the “Courage in Journalism” award at the X-Conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 2007.

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