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This Day In History: Jimmy Carter Files Report On UFOs

That one act legitimized decades of conspiracy theories.

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Photo: JOSHUA ROBERTS/AFP (Getty Images)

On September 18, 1973, future President Jimmy Carter filed a report with the International UFO Bureau claiming that he had seen a UFO with his own two eyes in October of 1969.

(Welcome to Today in History, the series where we dive into important historical events that have had a significant impact on the automotive or racing world. If you have something you’d like to see that falls on an upcoming weekend, let me know at eblackstock [at] jalopnik [dot] com.)


Carter’s insistence that he had seen a UFO persisted in his Presidential campaign. From the History Channel:

During the presidential campaign of 1976, Democratic challenger Carter was forthcoming about his belief that he had seen a UFO. He described waiting outside for a Lion’s Club Meeting in Leary, Georgia, to begin, at about 7:30 p.m., when he spotted what he called “the darndest thing I’ve ever seen” in the sky. Carter, as well as 10 to 12 other people who witnessed the same event, described the object as “very bright [with] changing colors and about the size of the moon.” Carter reported that “the object hovered about 30 degrees above the horizon and moved in toward the earth and away before disappearing into the distance.” He later told a reporter that, after the experience, he vowed never again to ridicule anyone who claimed to have seen a UFO.

During the presidential campaign of 1976, Carter promised that, if elected president, he would encourage the government to release “every piece of information” about UFOs available to the public and to scientists. After winning the presidency, though, Carter backed away from this pledge, saying that the release of some information might have “defense implications” and pose a threat to national security.


The report hasn’t exactly changed the transportation sector as we experience it on a day-to-day basis, but it certainly did play a role in the more widespread understanding of a UFO. There have been purported UFO sightings for centuries, but Carter really spurred on the government’s legitimate study of the crafts; in 1973, a Gallup poll found that 95 percent of people had heard of UFOs — a greater percentage of people than had heard of former President Gerald Ford.