Lou Corbin of WFBR Radio, NICAP Member

Lou Corbin

During World War II, Lou Corbin served in U.S. Army intelligence, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  His contacts in the military and his later position as News Director at radio station WFBR, gave him access to interesting inside stories and leads concerning UFOs.  He was a friend and confidant of retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe, who apart from writing books and articles on UFOs, lead the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) as its Director for over a decade.

Keyhoe, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, was medically retired from the service after an aviation accident, and worked as an aide to Charles Lindbergh before being recalled to the military during World War II.  Post-war, Keyhoe made his living as an author.

Prior to his first published investigation of UFOs, Keyhoe had already established many contacts within the military and the media.  After his first book, Flying Saucers Are Real, became a best-seller, his network of informants grew even larger.

Keyhoe's extensive and well-placed network gave him great latitude when interacting with officialdom.  He could ask Naval Intelligence to translate letters he'd received from other countries, hobnob with his old classmates – many of whom had attained star ranks in the Navy – or call on friends and commanders from his Marine Corps days.  Keyhoe's writing on aviation and military matters gave him additional contacts in both the civil and military aviation establishments.

Newsmen such as Corbin and Frank Edwards were in a position to give Keyhoe leads, and there were plenty of people around Washington, D.C. and Baltimore willing to furnish him with interesting news.  Among them were Mrs. Zapp, of the Washington D.C., Ground Observer Corps, Col. Frank Milani, head of Baltimore Civil Defense, various accident investigators at the Civil Aeronautics Board, and employees of the Civil Aviation Administration.  Keyhoe also corresponded regularly with Coral Lorenzen, head of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), who made her research findings available to him.

Keyhoe was well-placed to receive large amounts of information from many sources.  At times this flow of material became so overwhelming that he had to change his telephone to an unlisted number just to get some sleep.

During 1952 Keyhoe regularly visited the Air Force UFO spokesman, Al Chop.  Answering questions about UFOs was only one part of Chop's job as the Air Force Public Information Officer.

In an interview for the Sign Oral History Project, Chop said that Air Force policy at the time was to supply information to the news media about cases which they inquired of.  If the news people didn't know about a case, the Air Force didn't volunteer information about it.

Chop explained his relation with Keyhoe by comparing him with a newspaper man from a place like Knoxville, Kentucky.  The Knoxville newsman, with limited access and local sources, could only ask about the small number of incidents he might personally have heard about.  By contrast, Keyhoe, with his widespread and at times highly-placed informants, could ask about cases and developments that few others knew anything about.  Chop said he would often arrive at work to find Keyhoe already waiting for him in his office with a large number of leads and cases for which he wanted Air Force comments.

Lou Corbin was a well-placed informant for Keyhoe, utilizing the resources of the radio WFBR news department and his own contacts to investigate UFO incidents.  One early story he worked on was the Glen Burnie sighting of 1952, described in the 1954 WFBR "Every Woman's Hour" transcript.  Corbin included a detailed account of this incident in the manuscript he wrote for a book he was planning to publish.  Unfortunately the majority of this manuscript is not available.  Most of the chapter involving the Glen Burnie incident can be read here.

Corbin had investigated the Glen Burnie case and managed to get word of it to a very highly-placed contact in the Air Force.  Thomas K. Finletter, Secretary of the Air Force, had expressed a personal interest in the apparent UFO car-stalling incident.  The Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) sent agents to interview the witnesses, one of whom recanted his testimony.  The AFOSI report concluded that the witnesses were unreliable.  Corbin, however, didn't agree.

Corbin investigated the sighting by Civil Defense official, Adolph Wagner, which is also mentioned in the WFBR transcript.  The written version of the account mentions the initial sighting of 13 objects, – not 15 as mentioned in the WFBR broadcast – at 10:32 p.m. Additionally Corbin contacted the Friendship Airport tower and spoke to the chief controller who "almost yelled" that the UFOs were geese.  Corbin tried again with another controller, but the second man professed ignorance of the matter.  Corbin was able to determine that the plane in the air at the time was an Eastern Airlines flight.  When contacted, Eastern officials refused to comment.

Keyhoe reported an interesting twist to another case Corbin investigated in Millville, New Jersey.  On the night of the 26 November, 1954, Mrs. Lois Barbour saw a round body with red-yellow lights which sped away when a searchlight attempted to illuminate it.  Mrs. Barbour reported the sighting to the local Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  Within a short time she was contacted by Captain W. J. Thompson of Olmsted Air Force Base, who requested details of the sighting.  When Corbin learned of this, he called Captain Thompson who would not talk about the report except to say that he had been informed of the incident by CAA Air Traffic Control in New York, and all else about the incident "was classified."  He also told Corbin that the military "...had orders to report all press and radio queries to higher authorities." [Keyhoe, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, 1956, page 233]

Lou Corbin featured in Keyhoe's books, where Keyhoe gives the impression that he shared many of his ideas about the official investigation of UFOs with him.

As Corbin's medium was radio, not much of his work survives. His activities are documented in Keyhoe's works and in the NICAP files, but the majority of his radio reports were not recorded or transcribed.  Fortunately, retired Pan-American Airways Captain William B. Nash had a copy of the original Lou Corbin WFBR radio script in his files.  We are pleased to reproduce the script.   Further details of the Ground Observer Corps and the fallout from this broadcast can be read here. A collection of reports associated with Corbin's effort to analyse some "mystery metal" recovered during a series of UFO sightings in Baltimore can be found here.

      —   Jan L. Aldrich, November, 2011                

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