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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Mar > Mar 20

Al Chop Passed In 2006

From: Robert Barrow <rbarr.nul>
Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2007 10:06:49 -0500
Fwd Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 08:35:07 -0400
Subject: Al Chop Passed In 2006

Dear List Readers,

It appears that one sad occasion follows another. A few days
before Wendy Connors announced her hard-earned retirement from
years of rewarding and productive UFO research, (sad occasion
number one), she passed along an e-mail she received from a
person searching for me who is a member of Al Chop's family.

While I've not heard back from this person yet, their initial
note states that Chop died last year (sad occasion number two)
and, indeed, when I did a cursory check via the Internet I
discovered that Al passed away in 2006 in California. I doubt
that this unfortunate news reached most UFO researchers.

Most List readers familiar with Chop's name realize how
important he was to the official U.S. UFO project of the early
fifties as the Pentagon's chief civilian press desk spokesman
regarding the phenomenon. The 1956 United Artists motion
picture, 'UFO', chronicled his gradual change from ardent UFO
skeptic to a major proponent of UFO existence, based directly
upon the reports and UFO films (e.g., Nicholas Mariana's Montana
and Delbert Newhouse's Utah films) he routinely encountered
through government and military sources.

This writer's first of several articles about the movie and Chop
can be found on the Web at NICAP.org, which also includes my
second piece, and is also available in English with a French
translation at: Ufologie.org

In later years, Chop worked with NASA, where he could sometimes
be heard on national TV and radio as "the voice of mission
control" during a space launch.

In recent years, news reports revealed how Al Chop not only
played a huge role in developing NASA's Snoopy The Astronaut
program in the sixties, in an attempt to interest youngsters in
NASA - he also visited Peanuts creator Charles Schultz when the
comic-strip's newspaper syndicate refused to allow the Snoopy
character to be used in the promotion. Chop, ever the affable
public relations expert with a big heart, convinced Schultz face
to face, and ultimately assured the syndicate, of the idea's

He later worked with the U.S. atomic energy project in some
capacity and, as I recall, Al ultimately developed a severe back
injury, responsible eventually for his retirement.

When I became a NICAP member in the early sixties, Chop was on
the board of governors for a time, but I really knew little
about him until 1965, when I happened to see the movie, "UFO" on
local TV. The documentary's concern for accuracy absolutely
stunned me, and I was so taken with Chop's character as played
by Tom Towers that I immediately sought out "the real thing." I
located Al's address and sent off a "fan letter," and darned if
he didn't reply with a very friendly letter and later even sent
me some "Snoopy the Astronaut" NASA decals and other government
publicity items. For me, as a teenager, the experience was akin
to getting a letter from an international movie star.

Years later, after my Air Force enlistment, when I connected
with some national magazines to write about UFOs, I had this
crazy idea in my head to find some of the key movie participants
and write an update article about that curious documentary.
Again, I tracked Al down and continued a series of
correspondence with him as he answered my questions about his
life and the movie. People are surprised when I tell them I
never met Al, and never even had one phone conversation with
him. In the seventies, there was no e-mail, long distance calls
were often prohibitively expensive, I had no expense account,
there was a deadline and I would only receive a few hundred
dollars to write the article for OFFICIAL UFO (the project also
allowed me a little extra college credit) - so instead of flying
around the country to interview key people, the postal system
was my required method of interview.

All along the way, Al Chop was a man of integrity, as kind and
patient as a good neighbor, and of the people I contacted about
the movie, both he and Tom Towers (who played Al's role) were
extraordinarily helpful.

With Al Chop's passing, I expect that all principals involved
with the production of "UFO" are gone now, and the history of
the UFO enigma in the U.S. now has another name - a giant's name
- to add to the archives of the departed. Someday, I hope to
round up publicity material and letters from Al Chop and other
movie participants and put them on a blog for all to see.

By the way, there's a superb 1999 interview with Chop conducted
by Brad Sparks and Thomas Tulien at Project1947.com.

In the meantime, there is at least one amongst you who really
should come forward and give us some valuable historical insight
into Chop, and that person would be Richard Hall, who obviously
must have plenty to say as former assistant director of NICAP in
the early days when Al Chop (long a friendly acquaintance of
Major Keyhoe because of Keyhoe's constant UFO inquiries during
Chop's Air Force press desk days) was associated with the
organization. What say you, Dick? Compliments or otherwise,
please offer some commentary. I believe that Chop finally ended
his relationship with NICAP because he didn't want to "blur the
line" between his NASA employment and interest in UFOs, and Mr.
Hall can certainly clarify this.

I can't do any better in closing than to quote the family member
who wrote me - and who admittedly spent many an enviable visit
with Al into the wee small hours of the morn' to hear stories
about UFOs and NASA. The person simply wrote that Al was "a
great man." He sure was.

Robert Barrow

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