Dr. James E. McDonald's Fight for UFO Science

by Ann Druffel

from Wild Flower Press,
an imprint of Granite Publishing Group LLC
Publication date: July 4, 2003
ISBN: 0-926524-58-5, Tradepaper
656 pages, $34.00

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Dr. James E. McDonald's Fight for UFO Science 
Ann Druffel

In the 1950s and 1960s McDonald worked in the scientific community to raise the UFO issue as a serious question deserving the highest national attention. He was the first prominent American scientist to recognize clearly the possibility that UFOs were from an extraterrestrial source. With unswerving persistence he urged the scientific and governmental establishments to study the evidence with complete objectivity and adequate funding. His courage, honesty, and stamina through years of official opposition and resistance are legendary.

McDonald's untimely death can be traced, in large part, to his interaction with the widespread official blindness that even to this day prevents powerful people from seeing undeniable evidential data that points strongly to the possibility that Earth is being visited by other-world intelligences.

McDonald recognized that the UFO issue possibly was one of the most important questions that ever faced the human race, and that to ignore it could easily be a mistake of incalculable enormity. He dedicated the last six years of his life to gathering the best available data relevant to the UFO question.

Eltjo Hasselhoff, Dutch experimental physicist, perhaps expressed McDonald's dilemna when he said, "To look at the evidence and go away unconvinced is one thing. To not look at the evidence and be convinced against it is another. That is not science."

McDonald's unwavering fight in the face of disbelief and danger stands today in mute testimony to the difficulty that the human race faces as it waits for the truth to emerge. Druffel presents McDonald's scientific processes and methods as an archetype for scientists and researchers in the UFO research field today. With this landmark work, Ann Druffel places McDonald clearly where he belongs among the great pioneers of UFOlogy.

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About the Author:

Ann Druffel began investigating UFO reports in the Southern California area in April 1957 with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), which was directed by the UFO research pioneer Major Donald E. Keyhoe, USMC (Ret.). She became acquainted with Dr. James E. McDonald through his contacts with the Los Angeles NICAP Subcommittee from 1966 to 1971. After NICAP's demise in 1970, she joined the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the then newly-formed Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS.)

She has researched over 2,000 Los Angeles Basin reports, including alleged landings, UPO photo cases, close encounters with physical effects on witnesses and terrain, alleged "abduction" reports and other UFO-related phenomena. In her experience, about 2-3% of reports contain data of possible scientific value. A prolific writer, Druffel has contributed over 180 articles on various aspects of the UFO question to numerous UFO journals and newsstand magazines.

Frequently speaking on UFOs before civic and educational groups, she is noted for lively slide presentations and Q&A sessions and has presented many papers at UFO symposia/conferences. Since 1965 she has been a spokesperson on various aspects of UFOs for TV, radio and press as well as consultant/ researcher/ filmwriter on numerous UFO documentaries. She wrote the classic book TUJUNGA CANYON CONTACTS with parapsychologist D. Scott Rogo and contributed to other major literary works such as the UFO ENCYCLOPEDIA and the anthology UFO ABDUCTIONS. Her most recent UFO-related book is HOW TO DEFEND YOURSELF AGAINST ALIEN ABDUCTIONS, published by Three Rivers Press/Random House in August 1998, which presents data derived from the more than 70 "resisters" who have been able to fend off "abduction" scenarios.

Her ten years' academic and professional experience in sociology and child/family social case work provided her skills in interviewing, value-judging and report- writing. Later, she went on to become a free-lance research known for her objective and skeptical approach toward UFO sightings and abduction reports. She also has explored more unusual aspects of UFOs, such as the "straightline mystery" that suggests that UFOs manifest in certain patterns over earth terrain, and she also studies reports of recurrent "carrier craft" over the San Pedro Channel in California.

Beginning in 1965, she coordinated and directed SKYNET, a filter center and tracking-system for public UFO reports in the Los Angeles Basin area. Although set up as a tracking system to receive reports in real-time, SKYNET proved invaluable in revealing numerous conventional objects often mistaken for UFOs. SKYNET was an adjunct at first to NICAP in the Southern California area and later to MUFON and CUFOS.

Among classic cases she researched are the 1967 Yorba Linda photo case, the 1978 Bailey "entity" photos, the Tujunga Canyon "contacts" occurring between 195~1975 and more recently a re-evaluation of the 1965 Heflin photo case. She tends to favor the paraphysical hypothesis to explain UFO abduction scenarios but feels that the extraterrestrial hypothesis in not illogical when applied to physical UFOs seen from a distance, which exhibit an apparent surveillance mode. Like many other researchers, she reasons that multi-sources are probably involved in the complex "UFO Phenomenon." Long experience enables her to look at present-day problems in UFO research from an historical as well as a contemporary viewpoint.

Besides UFO work, Druffel free-lances in various aspects of psychic research. From 1986 to 1991 she worked as research assistant/consultant and, later, researcher with the Mobius Society, the Los Angeles-based parapsychology lab. She has written numerous articles on disparate psychic phenomena for newsstand magazines and authored books with famed psychic Arrnand Marcotte.

Ann Druffel lives in Pasadena, California with husband Charles in a wooded glen. Their five daughters are grown and live their own exciting lives. Ann's hobbies include hiking, swimming, snorkeling, orchard gardening and exploring Native American sacred sites.

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Comments about Firestorm

Firestorm is an intensely compelling account of the efforts of one man to create a climate where unorthodox thinking could safely flourish. Ann Druffel deserves high marks for pulling together a vast mass of hitherto disconnected information about McDonald’s fight for an unbiased look at a taboo topic. She interviewed family, friends and colleagues and sifted thru his private journals and other personal papers to recreate in page-turning detail a little-known period in American ufological history. It’s a bravura performance; don’t just buy a copy, lobby your library to do likewise.
—UFO Magazine


We often hear “why don’t scientists of renown take UFOs seriously?” Atmospheric physicist James E. McDonald was just such a scientist — and he did take UFOs seriously. And now for the first time we learn the inside story of his struggles, failures and triumphs in this stirring biography, deftly researched and superbly written by well-respected researcher Ann Druffel on the basis of complete access to his private files. Whether the reader be a skeptic, an enthusiast, or simply curious, Druffel’s riveting account of McDonald’s challenge to the government and scientific communities is a significant chapter in the UFO debate that must not be missed!
— Hal Puthoff, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin


I dearly wish that we had someone to take McDonald’s place, for, to my mind, the principal value of Druffel’s book is not for its biography of a superb scientist, valuable as that is, but rather for the book’s systematic exposition of the seriousness of the UFO issue, as ferreted out by McDonald. On the UFO question, Ann Druffel has made a major contribution with this biograpy....the book is truly excellent, and it will be what I recommend that anyone read, who wonders why I remain deeply interested in the UFO controversy.
—Richard Conn Henry, Department of Physics and Astronomy
the Johns Hopkins University
for The Journal of Scientific Exploration


There’s plenty of intrigue, deception and truth-seeking in Druffel’s well-documented, perceptive account of a man prepared to go out on a limb for his scientific curiosity. An important addition to ufological literature.


Firestorm is a fascinating look into the mind, thoughts and actions of atmospheric physics professor James McDonald as he excelled at science while simultaneously becoming the outstanding leader within the field of U.S. ufology before his tragic demise in 1971. The field of ufology owes a great debt to Ann for her diligence and persistence in gathering together the whole story of McDonald's combined UFO and science careers, and presenting it so interestingly. The book is also a repository for in-depth descriptions of many of the classic UFO events of the 1950s and 60s.
— Dr. James Deardorff, Retired Atmospheric Scientist, Oregon State University


A riveting read! Based upon personal journals, lectures and inputs from friends and opponents, Druffel provides readers with a masterful biographical legacy of McDonald‚s brilliant contributions to science and his focused yet futile attempts to obtain scientific recognition of the UFO phenomenon in the face of dogmatism and government opposition.
—Raymond Fowler. Researcher and Author of UFO Testament, The Watchers Series, The Allagash Abductions

Ann Druffel really did her homework going through an enormous quantity of material. Jim was the epitome of persistence, courage, comprehensiveness, and genius. His much too early suicide deprived his family and the world of an outstanding contributor not only to atmospheric physics, ufology, and the use of science for the benefit of mankind. He was unselfish in his cooperation with others and was an inspiration to those of us younger than he was. Ann has done a splendid job of documenting his interactions with other much less courageous scientists such as J. Allen Hynek. I was particularly impressed with the treatment of his suicide about which there have been many false speculations.One can only wonder what Jim would have thought about all the revelations about the government cover-up that have been provided by documents obtained under Freedom of Information and from various archives. The book is very well referenced. I would give it 5 stars. A must read.
—Stanton T. Friedman, Nuclear Physicist; Author of UFOs, The Real Story,
Top Secret/Majic


"During a 1966 TV program on NBC-TV, NYC, with Betty and Barney Hill, Dr. Carl Sagan, et al., I perceived Dr. Jim McDonald as intellectually brilliant, buoyant, and verbally blunt in his comments to those of us who lacked his courage to confront the "establishment" about UFO reports. Ann Druffel not only has defined the man, but she also has described, in detail, his mission. Perhaps future historians can use her monumental book to assess Dr. McDonald's work—and life—as a megastep for the scientific investigation of the extraterrestrial presence."
— Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle, Pioneer UFO Researcher and Author of Soul Samples


Dr. James E. McDonald … was the man who burst on the scene, demanding action, digging into the cases with great energy, exposing the false explanations. He was an atmospheric physicist… who had successfully fought the military on the implementation of missile bases, a first-class researcher and teacher. His stormy, passionate life and his fight with the more conservative segments of the scientific community have never been described in full detail and an account of his involvement with the UFO problem is long overdue. It illuminates some of the unsavory aspects of scientific life, at a time when the American public is beginning to question the ethics of many academic pursuits and their relevance to their own life.
—Dr. Jacques Vallee, from the Foreword


Firestorm ranks in the top books I’ve ever read to date out of over 1,130 on the UFO subject....It has the “ring of truth” and ranks somewhere in the top five UFO volumes of all times.” In essence, Ann Druffel has carefully written a “UFO masterpiece” that will offer much food for thought to both skeptic and non-skeptics alike.
—George D. Fawcett, UFO Investigator