No ufologist can escape the powerful embrace of Roswell and its ability to distort our sense of space, time and reality.
How do we understand what happened in the Summer of 1947? So many years ago, so many rumours and stories, so many questions.
The bones of the story is that W.W. ‘Mack’ Brazel went to Roswell on Monday 7th July 1947 (some say 6th July), where he showed samples of debris that he found near Corona, to Sheriff Wilcox. Wilcox contacted the local Roswell Army Air Base and Major Jesse Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office was sent to look at the material.
Marcel was unable to identify it so he was ordered, along with Senior Counterintelligence officer Captain Sheridan Cavitt, to go to the field of debris with Brazel as a guide. The next day they brought a substantial amount of the wreckage back to their base at Roswell, and this information was relayed to General Roger Ramey at Fort Worth Army Air Field by Colonel William Blanchard. As a result of their telephone conversation, Marcel took the debris to Fort Worth for further examination.
On the same day, Public Information Officer Walter Haut issued a press release claiming that the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was ‘fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers.’
This release soon gained the attention of national and international media, as it would potentially supply the answer to the flying saucer mystery. The bubble soon burst when Ramey at Fort Worth saw the debris and announced it was just a weather balloon. Newspapers the next day showed pictures of Ramey and Marcel accompanying the news of this explanation, and the story instantly died.
There was barely a mention of the incident even in the UFO literature until 1978 when Marcel started talking about it on ham radio, and came to the attention of the late Stanton Friedman. Since then, Roswell has become the foundation for the belief that we are being visited by extraterrestrials and that the government has kept this secret.
This along with velvety smooth, lightweight foil that would flow perfectly back into shape after being crumpled up. Several people mention this, but they are all secondary witnesses except Jesse Marcel Jr.
There seems to be dispute over how much and how spread this debris was; some say it was strewn over a large area (three quarters of a mile long and 300 yards wide), others that it was in a relatively small area (200ft in diameter). There is talk that it created a gouge in the ground indicating it skipped up into the air before finally crashing back down to Earth. Others say it looked as if the object had exploded above the ground and the debris had rained down from the air.
There are several proposed motives for Brazel taking the debris to Roswell. One was that he had only just heard about flying saucers, and he thought it might be a crashed disc. Whether he knew about them or not, if he thought it was unusual debris why didn’t he take it immediately to Roswell? Instead he waited, and took it when next visiting on a shopping trip. Another possibility was that he wanted the Army to clear up the mess. Another might have been that he was encouraged to claim a $1,000 reward for flying saucer evidence being offered by three different organisations; something researcher Kevin Randle in his book Understanding Roswell: The True Story of What Happened in Roswell in July 1947, Flying Saucer Disk Press, 2022, briefly mentions without comment.
The stories of Brazel being locked up by the military for several days before he could return home sounds like part of an orchestrated cover-up, but this detail fizzles out to him being put up in the base’s guest house, presumably so that they had easy access to him if they needed his further help (bearing in mind that his ranch had no telephone or radio).
There were claims that there was a major clean-up operation of the site and that check points were set up to stop the curious getting any closer. Tom Prinity effectively points out the logistics of such an operation and there is no documented evidence to support these stories.
Stories also emerged that the debris was only part of the wreckage, and that further away a capsule containing alien bodies was also found and hushed up. Although Walt Haut denied any knowledge about the crash and only wrote the press release, he referred researcher Kevin Randle to three witnesses whom he regarded as ‘golden’. They all claimed to see these small bodies at the second crash site. Their affidavits are not worth the paper they are written on, and that includes Haut’s affidavit that was released posthumously and has lots of details he refused to talk about when he was living. Was that one last snigger at the eager-beaver Roswell investigators or a genuine desire to tell all from the grave? Randle confesses that after the year 2000, Haut became confused.
Randle is able to confidently state that the alien body stories, especially those by Glenn Dennis, Frank Kaufmann and James Ragsdale, were lies. Stanton Friedman steadfastly supported Ragsdale’s sensational and ever-changing story as he “could not imagine any reason for his lying…” Well he was always at pains to say he was a Nuclear Physicist…
Weirdly enough the General Accounting Office felt it was necessary to explain stories of recovered bodies by referring to high-altitude research that used anthropomorphic test dummies in the area of Roswell. Perhaps a form of conflation had occurred in the minds of people in the area? Nonetheless, Randle does note that these experiments were several years after the Roswell incident, and such an explanation was not needed as the witness testimony it tried to explain was totally unreliable, to put it charitably.
To make matters worse, if that was possible, it was even discovered Major Jesse Marcel had ‘inflated his resume’, as Randle puts it. This inflation includes the false claim that he had been awarded five Air Medals, had shot down five enemy aircraft, that he had a degree in physics, and that he had 3,000 hours of pilot flight time (he never held a pilot licence).
When Marcel’s diary of that period was uncovered by his grandchildren it did not explicitly mention retrieving a flying saucer. It is mainly a collection of quotations and mental doodling; it does not record such entries as ‘picked up flying disc fragments today’ or ‘I am convinced this is alien technology and not a weather balloon’ or the like. Ben Smith, a former CIA operative and science fiction writer, says such a journal could easily have deeper meanings and is possibly encrypted in this strange style to hide in plain sight what happened at Roswell. It does show that at the time of the Roswell incident the style and content of the journal changed, indicating that Marcel was mentally stressed. What caused this stress we can only speculate about.
In a six-part TV series ‘Roswell: The First Witness’, Ben Smith told me:
As an intelligence officer Jesse could have been trying to hide information in plain sight especially if there was a chance somebody could turn your house over and look through your stuff. Obviously you would want to protect sensitive information that you would want to remember. For most of the journal’s contents , like you said it’s the ‘Reader’s Digest’ it’s jokes, little idioms that are funny and kind of clever, but right at the period of Roswell you see a marked shift in handwriting style and content, the quotes are a little more serious. I would categorise it as a little bit more erratic. It shows some kind of stress and deliberate care in crafting the letters. Then a bit later on it turns back to the original handwriting style and stream of consciousness. So in that three or four month period of strange handwriting is a huge flag for me that something interesting is going on here.
Regarding Jesse Marcel’s story I believe he was telling the truth as he knew it. Our investigation was the most thorough forensically and there are indications there might be something there that could prove it was a spacecraft or a balloon. I would love to go back there and find out more.
J. Bond Johnson, the news photographer who took the pictures at Fort Worth, claims Marcel tried to convince him that notations on the sticks amongst the debris was alien writing. Johnson’s memory of only taking ‘a couple’ of pictures was wrong – six were actually taken, two perhaps by someone on the base.
His memory also lets him down when asked if he handed Ramey the now famous memo, seen in one of the photographs. Much work has gone into deciphering the writing on the memo, including state-of-the art equipment and techniques. Some think it mentions ‘viewing’ others ‘victims’, but Randle thinks this depends on your personal biases rather than hard evidence either way, and in all likelihood it was a civilian teletype given as a prop by Johnson.
The left side of the Ramey memo, which has been digitally enhanced and pored over for decades. More images of the memo are available in the University of Texas at Arlington’s special collections.
This not only underlines the difficulty of examining evidence, but shows up the vagaries of people’s memories so long after the event. A point Randle makes is that Johnson did at first admit giving the teletype to Ramey, but he changed his mind as the focus on deciphering it and his own role in the affair would be diminished.
The main bias of this UFO research is that only the people who believed it was an unusual event were contacted and interviewed. What about the naysayers who think it was literally balloonery? Randle does mention one or two, including Lt. Col. Robert Barrowclough, the Roswell base Executive Officer. He piloted the B-29 that took Marcel and the wreckage to Fort Worth, and he did not think anything extraordinary happened. When sent a copy of a MUFON UFO Journal that was critical of the story, Barrowclough, wrote:
Maybe some of those crackpots will quit calling me up and say I’m covering up a deep gov’t secret.
I doubt they did!
Cavitt, who visited the debris field in early July 1947, when asked what he thought about the wreckage in 1994, he bluntly stated: ‘I thought it was a balloon.’
The motive of many involved in this unfolding story has been financial gain and attention. The likes of Ragsdale told blatant whoppers, but he got his moment of fame – indeed anything related to Roswell is ravished by the media. That was true of the notorious Roswell Slide saga, where a picture of a mummy in a museum cabinet was passed off as the remains of a Roswell alien. Numerous experts attested to its authenticity until a group on Facebook took a matter of days to reveal its true terrestrial origins.
Then there was the MJ-12 debacle that claimed a secret government body was retrieving alien bodies, and of course the Alien Autopsy film footage fiasco is another hoax associated with Roswell. As Philip Mantel shows in his book ‘Roswell Alien Autopsy: The Truth Behind The Film That Shocked The World’ (Flying Disk Press, 2019), ‘experts’ were baffled by this film until the hoaxers revealed themselves – although even now some cling to the idea that it is authentic.
The original debris that was collected by Marcel ended up at Wright Paterson, and probably got destroyed in a warehouse fire in the 1950s. Strange that with so much of this material flying about in the wind at the ranch not one scrap of ‘miracle’ foil was ever scooped up and kept as a souvenir. The Army must have done a wonderful clean-up operation!
If we think about the debris it was described as consisting of foil, strong wooden sticks and rubber. Most of it was only a few inches in size; no motors, propellers, electronics, cockpit, fuel or anything remotely suggesting an aircraft let alone anything like a spaceship was recovered. And if all these materials were so strong and miraculous, how come they ended up as a shredded and torn mess?
Randle notes the Pentagon was panicked by the Roswell case and made a concerted effort to provide explanations for UFO sightings. This may well have been to cover-up the secret Project Mogul that was the cause of the Roswell Incident, and to cut-down the growing excitement about flying saucers that had intrigued the nation since the Kenneth Arnold sighting that made it headline news on 24th June 1947. Others, like Randle, consider they did this to cover-up the ‘real truth’ about this event.
You have to admire Randle’s diligent search for witnesses and his determination to track down the salient facts against a tide of lies, falsehoods, rumours and misdirection. Most would give-up with exasperation, but Randle doggedly supports the idea of a cover-up. He is not saying it was an alien spaceship crash, but then again he is not saying it was not.
At one end of the spectrum of conspiracy theorists the recovered Roswell aliens were all sent to Area 51 and their saucer wreckage was reverse-engineered. Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt in their book Roswell. The Ultimate Cold Case, New Page Books, 2020 think the ‘flying saucer’ at Roswell was something ‘extraterrestrial and interdimensional’ and that the memory metal found by Brazel was possibly some form of propulsion system for it. The storm over-surged it and caused it to shatter into pieces over the Foster ranch. It seems strange that lightning had such an effect on memory metal that could not be cut or burnt, or that the craft did not avoid disaster by slipping into another ‘interdimension.’
The slightly less credulous position is that the ‘crashed’ saucer (Marcel claimed the wreckage looked as if it dropped from the sky rather than crashed) was the remains of a US or USSR secret aircraft piloted by disabled children or genetically altered people.
And the more sceptical view is that the ‘flying saucer’ was a V2 rocket experiment, weather balloon, Japanese Fugo balloon, a prototype Flying Flapjack or Flying Wing aircraft or a stray atomic bomb.
This leaves us with two other diametrically opposite options, that it was the debris of a secret Project Mogul high-altitude balloon that was deployed to listen out for Soviet atomic bomb testing, or a genuine flying saucer from outer space. Take your pick!
The post 75 years on, the Roswell mythology continues to captivate ufologists and the public alike appeared first on The Skeptic.
Three quarters of a century later, the Roswell mythology is still alive and well – even as the facts of the original reports get twisted and overlooked
The post 75 years on, the Roswell mythology continues to captivate ufologists and the public alike appeared first on The Skeptic.