by Timothy Chilman
Originally, at the location of what is now the town of Roswell, New Mexico, there was a crossroads whose springs provided water to cattle. The beginnings of the town came in 1869, when professional gambler Van C. Smith constructed two adobe buildings, which became the settlement’s general stores, post office, and sleeping quarters. Smith claimed the land, and became the first postmaster of the town, which he named after his father, prominent lawyer Roswell Smith. Albuquerqu is 200 miles distant. Thousands of German POWs were kept at Roswell in WWII. On July 8, 1947, the US Air Force, known then as the Army Air Force, announced that it had recovered a “flying disk” at the location.
The term “flying saucer” had only recently arisen, and had yet to catch on.
Kenneth Arnold was an experienced pilot who had clocked-up more than 9,000 flying hours. Originally, his flight plan of 30 June 1947 was to travel from Chehalis to Yakima, both within the state of Washington, but he made a diversion to search for a Marine Corps C-46 transport plane that had reportedly crash-landed in the Cascades near the southwest slope of Mount Rainier. He saw nothing, and returned to his original course. The afternoon was perfectly clear and he flew at 9,200 feet. One or two minutes after observing a DC-4 roughly 15 miles behind and to his left, he noticed bright light reflecting from his airplane. Looking in the direction of the light, he saw a procession of nine “peculiar-looking”, shiny, metallic aircraft traveling at a speed he estimated as around 1,600 miles an hour, almost three times faster than any aircraft of the time. The craft, he said, were arrow-shaped, and they moved jerkily: “like a saucer would if you skipped it across water”. He assumed the craft were military and experimental. And so was the term “flying saucer” born.
Ten days later, the crew of a United Airlines ‘plane reported seeing nine disk-like objects.
In New Mexico, UFOs were sighted in Silver City and Pope, by people including a dentist, an Army captain and some rocket scientists. On July 3 in Roswell, Dan Wilmot, one of the town’s most respected citizens, was sitting with his wife on their porch at 105 South Penn at around 10pm when he saw a large, glowing object zooming across the sky from the southeast. He told his wife, and they both ran into their yard to observe better. The object was like two inverted saucers or two old-style washbowls. It seemed as if light were coming from within. Wilmot guessed its size at 15-20 feet. While he noticed no sound, his wife heard swishing for a short period. Wilmot estimated that the object was in sight for under a minute, and that its height was around 1,500 feet and its speed 400-500 miles per hour.
William W. “Mac” Brazel was a rancher who lived 30 miles southeast of Corona, itself 75 miles northwest of Roswell. His wife and children lived nearby in Tularosa so the children would receive a higher standard of schooling. UFO advocates say all Brazel’s dates were weeks too early, but he said that on June 14, he and his eight year-old son, Vernon, were about seven or eight miles from their house at the J. B. Foster ranch checking sheep and looking for breaks in the fence following a night of acute thunderstorms. An explosion had been heard amidst the thunder. They happened upon an area around 200 yards in diameter of bright debris comprising tough paper, tinfoil, sticks and rubber strips. The rubber was a smoky gray color. There was a shallow score in the ground that was a few hundred feet in length. The sheep would not cross the pasture, which angered Brazel.
Brazel was in a hurry to finish his rounds and paid little attention to the find, however he told his wife, daughter Bessie and two neighbors, Floyd and Loretta Proctor.
He didn’t return to the spot immediately: “We should have gone, but gas and tires were expensive then. We had our own chores, and it would have been twenty miles”. On July 4, he took his wife and children and collected a generous amount of the wreckage. He heard of Arnold’s report the next day, and wondered if perhaps that was what he had found. The Proctors suggested he report the crash to obtain a $3,000 reward from the press.
Brazel had no telephone. The following Monday, July 7, he went to town to sell wool and when there he visited Sheriff George Wilcox and “whispered kinda confidential-like” that he was possibly in possession of flying saucer fragments. Wilcox contacted the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF), home to the 509th Bomb Group, a subcommand of the 8th AAF and an elite unit that was the only nuclear-armed one in the world. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki originated there. Two men from the airbase arrived, Jesse Marcel and, in plain clothes, Lt. Colonel Sheridan Cavitt of the Counter-Intelligence Corps. Wilcox, Brazel and the two new arrivals went to view what Brazel had found. They gathered what pieces were present. Brazel judged that the intact object would have been about as large as a table top.
There was no way to make the pieces fit together. The men thought the pieces were of something flimsy and kite-like. They attempted to make a kite from what they had found, but couldn’t. The sticks were as light as balsa but couldn’t be burned or cut. Some couldn’t be bent. A 16 pound hammer made no mark. The rubber formed a bundle 18 or 20 inches long while the other items formed one of about three feet in length. Brazel estimated the total weight as perhaps five pounds.
There was no trace of an engine, although one paper fin was glued to some tinfoil. No words were visible but some parts bore letters. The initials “D. P.” were visible. Much scotch tape and some tape printed with flowers was present, but couldn’t be peeled off. There were no strings or wires, but there were eyelets in some of the paper. Marcel later told Brazel “it has nothing to do with army or navy so far as I can tell”. The group stayed the night.
Returning to RAAF, Marcel stopped at his home with some pieces to show to his wife and eleven-year-old son. Some sections of I-beam were long, and one small section carried hieroglyphics. The son is Dr Jesse Marcel Jr, who became a qualified National Guard helicopter pilot and flight surgeon and reported on the first nuclear detonation by the Soviets, which went to President Truman.. He has made detailed drawings of what he saw.
Soldiers took the wreckage to RAAF. At 11am, the base’s public relations officer, Lieutenant Walter Haut, issued a press release at the instruction of the commander, the impassive Colonel William Blanchard. By 2:26 P.M., the story had been released by the AP Wire.
The San Francisco Chronicle of July 9 quoted the press release: “The many rumors regarding the flying disk became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eight Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the co-operation of one of the local ranchers and the Sheriff’s Office of Chaves county”.
It was said that the discovery had been passed on to “higher headquarters”. The pieces were sealed in a courier pouch and transported by Superfortress to Fort Worth and then Wright Field, Ohio, home to the Air Materiel Command and the AAF’s aeronautical research labs.
The Press was in uproar. Sheriff Wilcox’s telephone lines became jammed. Three calls came from England, including one from The Daily Mail newspaper
Brazel posed for a photograph that was sent over over an AP telephoto wire sending machine especially imported for the purpose by R. D. Adair, the wire chief who had also only been dispatched for that reason. Soon, Lt. Haut told reporters he had been “shut up by two blistering phone calls from Washington” and people trying to contact Col. Blanchard were told he “no on leave”. Marcel told Brazel “It has nothing to do with army or navy so far as I can tell”.
Brazel was held incommunicado by the Army for almost a week, not even permitted to ‘phone his wife. He underwent a physical examination and spent the rest of his life complaining that he was asked the same questions “over and over again”. He was sworn to secrecy and described the experience as being “in jail”.
A second press release said the “flying disk” was no more than a weather balloon. And so the fun begins.
There were many witnesses to Roswell. Some can’t be found.
UFO investigators obtained a copy of the 1947 Roswell Army Air Field yearbook . They asked a retired Navy SEAL officer to submit for confirmation the names and service numbers of more than two dozen servicemen stationed at Roswell in 1947. Neither the Veteran’s Administration nor the Defense Department has a record of these men.
Some witnesses remained silent. Colonel Edwin Easley, Provost Marshal at the base, equivalent to chief of police, directed security at the crash site in 1947. When questioned thoroughly about the crash in 1989, he repeatedly said, “I can’t talk about it”. Deputy Tommy Thompson, now deceased, replied “I don’t want to get shot” when questioned. Deputy B. A. Clark also said little on the subject, even to his sons, although he was present. Lt. Col Cavitt, taken to the crash site by the man who discovered it, refused to admit he was stationed in Roswell at the time, although multiple reliable sources place him there.
Some witnesses are unbelievable, such as Philip Corso, author of New York Times bestseller, The Day After Roswell, which contained manifold errors.
Clark C. McClelland describes himself as “former ScO, Space Shuttle Fleet, Kennedy Space Center, Florida (1958-1992). His tale speaks of aliens and their craft at Roswell, Werner von Braun, and the Cocoa Beach Ramada Inn. He also claims to have witnessed astronauts next to aliens in a shuttle payload bay.
Frank Kaufman talked of tracking a UFO on a radar at White Sands missile base (where the radar underwent “…continual modification and testing when not in use for actual tracking of missiles”) and then at Roswell (which had no radar, as documented by a request to use White Sands’ radar because it had none).
Glen Dennis Dennis was a mortician at Roswell’s Ballard Funeral Home, which had a contract with RAAF. He said he was asked to provide hermetically-sealed, child-sized coffins and was told of aliens by nurses. His account contains many inaccuracies, e.g. mentioning an airman before the rank existed, a black sergeant before the Air Force was racially desegregated and a red-haired colonel when none served at Roswell. Any “aliens” could have been people who had suffered aviation accidents.
Gerald Anderson was five years old at the time, yet still read a soldier’s name badge (“I was sort of a prodigy”). He falsified a record of a telephone conversation with a UFO researcher, exaggerating the call’s length. His ex-wife Peggy said, “He makes things up. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s very few times that you can believe that man”.
Then there’s Paul Epley, who also said he was asked to assassinate Martin Luther King. And Jim Ragsdale, whose story starts well (he and his girlfriend were nekkid) but is unsupported by the people who lived on the land where it occurred.
Fortunately, things improve.
The Brazel family was certainly present at Roswell. Mac Brazel gave press interviews at the time, but never discussed the matter with his family after that. Interest in the matter led him to conclude, “If I find anything else besides a bomb they are going to have a hard time getting me to say anything about it”. Neighbor Loretta Proctor and her son Norris and Brazel’s friend Robert Wolf say he returned from his post-crash detention by the Air Force driving a new pick-up truck. He went from being “dirt poor” to buying new property and a meat locker.
Sheriff Wilcox and his wife didn’t like to discuss the matter, even with friends. A friend said the experience left him “finished, destroyed” and he never ran for County Sheriff ever again. In the company of his wife, Sheriff Wilcox was told by the military that if ever he spoke of what he had witnessed, his family would be killed. Threats were also reportedly received by a number of other civilians.
Wilcox’s daughter, Phyllis, however, is on record. Her mother spoke of the event only once, and briefly. Phyllis asked, “What was it?” and her mother replied, “Alien”. Phyllis asked if there were bodies, and her mother replied that there were, and one was alive but later died.
Phyllis recalls her father feeling sorry for the aliens, having got the impression they were treated as enemies.
The Chief of Staff of General Roger B. Ramey, commander of the Eighth Air Force at Ft. Worth, Texas, Colonel Thomas J. Dubose, appears with Ramey in two photographs. In 1990 he swore an affidavit attesting to switching the genuine wreckage for other material. He said he took a telephone call from a General in Washington ordering a cover-up. He said, “It was a cover story . . . to get the press off of Ramey’s back.” Ramey was photographed holding a telegram. It has been computer-enhanced and is said to refer to “VICTIMS OF THE WRECK.”
Major Ellis Boldra was an engineer stationed at Roswell. According to his son and friends, in 1952, locked in a safe in the engineering office, he found a one square foot section of debris which had the extraordinary properties described by other witnesses. A special courier collected it.
Lt. Walter Haut drafted the press release acknowledging recovery of a UFO and died in 2006. He left a sworn affidavit to be opened after his death, asserting that weather balloons were a cover story. He said the clean-up operation lasted for months, as supported by Brazel’s son and others who found debris which was confiscated by the military long after the crash.
Haut described how Col. Blanchard escorted him to “Building 64”, a hangar, and showed him the craft, a metallic, egg-shaped object of 12-15 feet in length and 6 feet width, with no external features. Two bodies lay on the floor, partly covered with a tarpaulin. The bodies were around four feet tall, with disproportionately large heads. The affidavit concludes: “I am convinced that what I personally observed was some kind of craft and its crew from outer space”. Along with Glenn Dennis, in 1991 Haut founded Roswell’s International UFO Museum, which has attracted 2.5 million visitors.
Deathbed confessions were also made by RAAF personnel 393 Squadron pilot O.W. “Pappy” Henderson, base Adjutant Patrick Saunders, Provost Marshal Edwin Easley and others.
Former intelligence officer Jesse Marcel said what he saw at Roswell was “not of this world”. His crediblity is good. In WWII he served as pilot, waist-gunner and bombardier of B24 aircraft, performing 468 hours of combat flying for which he received five medals. After Roswell, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to a special weapons program.
In July 1947, now-retired General Arthur E. Exon was a lieutenant colonel at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, when wreckage arrived. It was tested in every conceivable way, and ” . . . the overall consensus was that the pieces were from space”.
Commander George W. Hoover was the “grandfather” of satellites and a close associate of Dr. Werner von Braun, who praised him. He created many avionic and astronautical devices and received the British Interplanetary Society’s Bronze Medal, the Aviation Week Laureate Award, the Legion of Merit, and the American Astronautical Society’s Space Flight Award. A highly decorated pilot, he logged more than 5,000 flying hours in over 100 kinds of aircraft. His son George W. Hoover Jr, educated at Berkeley, is now a partner in one of the most successful patent law firms in the US. He holds patents in such things as 3-D mapping and energy storage.
Junior revealed that his father was told of the Roswell crash in the 1950s or possibly earlier. He spoke of it to his son as early as the 1960s, long before the renewed interest, saying “on a number of occasions” that he himself had “seen the evidence about the Roswell crash event that convinced him that it was neither a balloon nor a hoax”.
Hoover Sr said a UFO crashed at Roswell, and reverse engineering was attempted. The entities behind the Roswell craft were “not so much interplanetary as much as they were literally also time travelers” – possibly even the agents of future humans. These beings could “manipulate reality around us” and the Government feared them. He said humans have much more potential than is realized. There was some corroboration of this from conversations between Hoover Sr. and researcher William J. Birnes, PhD, JD, who had contacted him regarding avionic matters.
Did you really think it was a weather balloon?
The Roswell incident initially attracted little interest. Project Blue Book, 1952-70, the Air Force’s systematic study of UFOs, never mentioned Roswell. After Walker Air Force Base closed in 1967, Roswell began to market itself as the ideal retirement community. That changed with Charles Berlitz and William Moore’s book about the incident in 1980. The same year, the Enquirer ran a story featuring Jesse Marcel, the RAAF intelligence officer who was one of the first to the crash site. Quite possibly, the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, further encouraged things.
The US government found itself heavily pressured in the 1990s, most effectively from congressman Steven Schiff of New Mexico, whose constituents wanted the truth about Roswell. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin declined to reply to Schiff’s three letters requesting release of files relevant to Roswell. Schiff also received no joy from the Pentagon, Air Force and National Security Council, and complained of “stonewalling”.
Schiff asked the General Accounting Office, the investigative wing of Congress, to find Air Force documentation concerning the episode. In July 1994 the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force published a report, The Roswell Report: Fact vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert, concluding that the Roswell crash was of a balloon from Project Mogul, which aimed to monitor Soviet nuclear detonations using high altitude, low-frequency acoustic microphones, the only means available. The connection was noticed independently by researchers Robert G. Todd and Karl T. Pflock.
Weather balloons descend at Brazel’s ranch to this day, and they are stored in an old feed storage silo. William Brazel had previously come upon two, which didn’t resemble his discovery of June 1947. He said, “I am sure what I found was not any weather observation balloon”. His daughter, Bessie, agreed: ”No, it was definitely not a balloon… I have never seen anything resembling this sort of thing before, or since…”.
Nobody noticed the return instructions found on every US military weather balloon. A crashed weather balloon would not have required a recovery operation and aerial search would have located the three-quarter mile wreckage site within hours, as retired military officers involved in actual SAR missions agree. No such mission was mounted.
Originally located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Project Mogul moved to New Mexico. In June and early July 1947, numerous balloon flights were launched from Alamogordo Army Air Field. Some consisted of extremely long trains of as many as two dozen neoprene balloons, whose total length exceeded 600 feet.
Flight 4 was launched on June 4 1947. Before its batteries expired, it was tracked as far as Arabela, 17 miles from Brazel’s ranch. Scientist Charles B. Moore, professor emeritus of Physics at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, worked on Flight 4 as a graduate student. The heavily-classified project was so compartmentalized that he only discovered its name recently. He used National Weather Service data to show a baroclinic weather system would have taken Flight 4 to Roswell in the direction Marcel described. Moore’s analysis of flights 5 and 6 matched actual events.
Witnesses described balsa-like material that wouldn’t burn, and Moore said Mogul used balsa wood soaked in Elmer’s Glue or similar, a casein product. Moore said this would make wood stiffer and harder to dent, and also change its texture and color. Casein is a protein derived from milk. Aircraft-grade 8580 Casein Glue is the top-selling product of National Casein, manufacturer of such products since 1919. Ken Blake of the company’s New Jersey branch said the product today is comparable to that of the mid-1940s. People who have experimented with it say it doesn’t change the appearance of wood, or stop it from being broken by hand. While treated wood burns less and is harder to cut, in neither case can this not be accomplished.
The material described at Roswell was a smelly, smoky gray, rubber-type material – like neoprene. Witnesses described rings. The photographs from the second press conference show pieces of more than one reflector ring, and Mogul had three Signal Corps ML-307B RAWIN targets. Lt. Colonel Sheridan Cavitt, one of the first to the scene, said he saw a black box, and Mogul’s batteries were in black boxes.
Many witnesses described tape with flower designs or hieroglyphics. The initials “D.P.” were discerned. Similar symbols were used on these balloons. One scientist who worked on the project asked an army Major why this was, to be told, “What do you expect when you get your targets made by a toy factory?’”. Radar targets contained small eyelets, as witnesses described. The equipment was unlike anything used by anybody else, and could not have been conveniently substituted for the genuine debris.
Hieroglyphics were absent from the balloon wreckage shown at the second Air Force press conference. Photographs were taken by a special team from Washington, not the base’s 3rd Photo Lab as standard operating procedure would dictate.
The officers at Roswell were all highly-experienced. The radar interpretation officer in Marcel’s office would have recognized weather analysis apparatus. Mogul’s materials of neoprene rubber, tin foil, wooden sticks and masking tape would have been instantly recognizable even to a child, while Roswell debris had unusual properties.
The report said any “bodies” were crash test dummies dropped from balloons at high altitude for Project High Dive, a study based in New Mexico from 1954-59 intended to find safe procedures for astronauts or pilots ejecting at extreme altitudes. Even if witnesses misremembered dates, none were based in New Mexico at the time.
The USAF report made heavy use of witness Gerald Anderson. Anderson is incredible, but not in a good way. He is disregarded by almost all UFO researchers and no Air Force personnel recall him. His ex-wife Peggy said, “He makes things up. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s very few times that you can believe that man
The report said anthropomorphic dummies “were not widely exposed outside of scientific research circles and easily could have been mistaken for something they were not”. Pages later, it said that dummy usage was revealed in national magazines, books and the 1956 movie On the Threshold of Space. Dummies were man-sized, whereas witnesses said the bodies were child-size.
Project Mogul doesn’t explain the metal seen by Jesse Marcel, Phyllis Wilcox and others, which could be crumpled before restoring itself to its original shape. It is reminiscent of nitinol, a specially-processed mixture of nickel and titanium – NiTi. Nitinol has the same color, fatigue strength and heat resistance as the Roswell material. Nitinol research began at the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, suspiciously shortly after Roswell. The Second Progress Report on Contract AF33 (038)-3736 at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in 1949, authored by C.M. Craighead, F. Fawn and L.W. Eastwood describes progress. This document was referred to in 1952, 1965, 1972, and 1984, but neither Battelle nor the Air Force can now produce copies. The US Naval Ordnance Lab says nitinol was unveiled to the public in 1962 or 1963. Where might the idea have come from?
Project Mogul fails to explain the unknown doctors and nurses seen at the Roswell base hospital by nurse Rosemary McMannis.
Project Mogul wouldn’t have caused the Pentagon to ask Muroc (now Edwards) AFB in California whether any Northrop flying wings were at large.
A few miles to the northwest of the Roswell site is another with baked soil and fused sand, witnessed by Dr Lincoln Lapaz, Lewis R. Rickett and various Chaves county deputies. Project Mogul wouldn’t have caused this.
A poll by Roper in 2002 found that 72% of Americans believed the government is withholding information about UFOs and only 28% believed the weather balloon story.
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