The largest UFO organization in the world (MUFON) is mourning the loss of its founder, Walter H. Andrus Jr. (1920-2015).
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Andrus’s life-long interest in UFOs began in 1948, when he along with his wife and son had a daylight sighting of four objects flying in formation over downtown Phoenix, Arizona. He then became a regional officer of APRO, one of the leading UFO organizations in the United States back in the day.
In 1969, one year after the infamous Condon Report had given the Air Force the excuse they needed to end their official involvement in the study of UFOs, Andrus founded the then-called Midwest UFO Network –later renamed Mutual UFO Network– based out in Seguin, Texas, taking a bunch of APRO members with him along also with disenfranchised members of NICAP –the other major UFO organization in the United States– after their original founder Major Donald Keyhoe was forced to resign and the group came in the hands of a new leadership. In his two books UFOs and the National Security State [Amazon US & UK]Richard Dolan explains how this internal coup in NICAP seemed to have been orchestrated by the American intelligence community, as a way to finally neutralize a feisty civilian organization which had always protested the official cover-up maintained by the government on the UFO phenomenon. At the same time, APRO was also infiltrated and undermined, most notably when one of his directors –Bill Moore– become involved with Richard Doty in the disinformation campaign which eventually caused the nervous breakdown of Paul Bennewitz, as described in Greg Bishop’s book Project Beta [Amazon US & UK] and Mark Pilkington’s Mirage Men.
(Speaking about undercover neutralization of UFO groups, I’ve always suspected Robert Bigelow’s involvement with MUFON, during the time when James Carrion was International Director, was an attempt to repeat the same undermining cycle)
NICAP slowly fizzled and died under the new administration, and APRO didn’t survive after the death of its founders, Jim and Coral Lorenzen –who never forgave Andrus for what they considered a personal betrayal after he left and founded MUFON; the same could also be said about Dr. Hynek’s CUFOS –even though technically it still exists. Andrus on the other hand, lead his group from 1970 to July of 2000, when he retired from his position as International Director, and was succeeded by John F. Schuessler.
Despite my personal caveats with MUFON for its bias towards the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH), one cannot deny Walter Andrus succeeded where his peers clearly did not: Creating a well-established civilian organization robust enough to survive the passing of its original founder(s); an organization with visibility outside the small niche of UFOlogy, comprised of dedicated members and hard-working field investigators, who try (as best they can) to apply a structured methodology when researching a phenomenon which challenges many of the most basic principles of the scientific method.
Here’s hoping MUFON –or other organizations rising to the challenge UFOs pose– will try to learn from the mistakes of the past, embrace new technologies ASWELL as different perspectives, and continue to honor the efforts of those pioneers who dedicated their lives in the search for answers.
Rest in Peace.