Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tom Towers as. . .Tom Towers

(Photo from special collection at USC as noted)

When he wasn't relaxing on the tennis court or taking a few weeks off from work to play the role of Al Chop in "U.F.O." the late Tom Towers assumed the role he liked best -- as aviation editor for the old Los Angeles Examiner. You may have noticed in previous entries regarding Towers that he played a long and significant role in aviation out in sunny California, and following his years with the L.A. Examiner he served as executive assistant for the L.A. Dept. of Airports and also took a serious interest in jet aircraft noise abatement proceedings as they applied to several airports under state jurisdiction.

UFO researcher and writer Barry Greenwood, co-author of the book, Clear Intent, kindly contributes information about the movie and its participants now and then, and discovered additional information about Towers and the newspaper via an L.A. Examiner photo collection at USC. The photo probably depicts a typical day for Tom, interviewing somebody for a story. In this case, the date is April 25, 1951 (five years before "U.F.O." hit national theaters), and here former WW II Army Air Force intelligence officer-turned-columnist Towers speaks with plane crash survivor Mary Ann Shelly, age 26, at Queen of Angels Hospital.

As Greenwood suggests, the full collection of Towers' newspaper articles would be of high interest, and we already know that he approached the UFO subject numerous times in his columns. In fact, Greenwood also accessed a Towers "Aviation News" column from December 10, 1958 entitled "Experts Put Spotlight on 'Saucers,'" in which Towers describes a meeting of more than 30 engineers and businessmen at the home of Walt Disney artist Robert Karp to discuss UFOs. Also in attendance was Ward Kimball, head of Disney's advanced scientific project section (Grant Cameron -- see link to Presidential UFO -- has written extensively about Kimball and Disney's role in UFO history). There appears to have been a consensus that UFOs were real, under intelligent control and desperately in need of investigation. Additionally, the point that the Air Force was covering up UFO information seemed a hot topic of conversation.

Though his film career did not progress beyond the 1956 UFO documentary released through United Artists, Tom Towers seems never to have pulled any punches in his reporting about the world of aviation and an occasional intrusion of UFOs within its realms.