Roswell & The Military: The Truth Really Is Out There
Ever wanted to find out what really happened at Roswell?
Ever wanted to find out what really happened at Roswell? Well now you can.
In 1947 there was a crash at a ranch near the city of Roswell, in New Mexico.
And that's pretty much the only thing that's been universally agreed upon ever since.
It all started when a foreman, William Brazel, noticed clusters of debris around 30 miles north of Roswell.
Brazel told the Roswell Daily Record that he and his son saw a "large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks."
He paid little attention to it at the time but later returned with his family to gather up the material.
The next day, after hearing reports about 'flying disks', the foreman began to wonder if that was what he had picked up.
During a visit to the local sheriff, Brazel "whispered kinda confidential like" that he may have found a flying disc.
Sheriff Wilcox then called Major Jesse Marcel from the nearby Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF), at which point a "man in plainclothes" accompanied Brazel back to the ranch. But what they found doesn't really sound very alien at all...
As reported in the July 9, 1947 edition of the Roswell Daily Record:
"The balloon which held it [the 'flying disk] up... must have been 12 feet long, [Brazel] felt, measuring the distance by the size of the room in which he sat. The rubber was smoky grey in colour and scattered over an area about 200 yards in diameter.
"When the debris was gathered up, the tinfoil, paper, tape, and sticks made a bundle about three feet long and 7 or 8 inches thick, while the rubber made a bundle about 18 or 20 inches long and about 8 inches thick. In all, he estimated, the entire lot would have weighed maybe five pounds.
"There was no sign of any metal in the area which might have been used for an engine, and no sign of any propellers of any kind, although at least one paper fin had been glued onto some of the tinfoil."
"There were no words to be found anywhere on the instrument, although there were letters on some of the parts. Considerable Scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed upon it had been used in the construction.
"No strings or wires were to be found but there were some eyelets in the paper to indicate that some sort of attachment may have been used."
The object was flown to Fort Worth Army Air Field, where the object was identified as being a weather balloon and its "kite", a nickname for a radar reflector used to track the balloons from the ground.
Public attention was grabbed, however, after the RAAF issued a press release stating that military personnel had recovered a "flying disc" which had crashed on a ranch near Roswell.
But interest subsided pretty quickly after the military informed the public that the crash was of a standard weather balloon; with a press conference held featuring debris (foil, rubber and wood) said to be from the crashed object, which matched the weather balloon description.
And the desired effect was achieved - historian Robert Goldberg describes the story as having "died the next day" - but the story didn't end there, and the military hadn't, in fact, told the whole truth (but we'll come to that later).
It was over 30 years until interest was reignited - with conspiracy theories surrounding the event starting to take hold amongst UFO enthusiasts (known as 'ufologists') in the late 1970s.
UFO researchers began to interview hundreds of people who claimed to have had a connection with the events at Roswell, while hundreds of documents were obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, and 'government documents' supposedly leaked by insiders.
Books, articles and television shows were produced, and by the mid-1990s a poll revealed that most people interviewed believed aliens had landed at Roswell, and that a government cover-up had taken place.
Many also believe that alien bodies were recovered, with film footage causing an international sensation in 1995 that claimed to show an alien autopsy and have been taken by a US military official shortly after the Roswell incident.
Its creator admitted in 2006 that the film was 'mostly a reconstruction', although he claimed it was based on since-lost genuine footage, with some original frames having allegedly survived. A fictionalised version of the story of the footage then became the subject of the 2006 comedy film Alien Autopsy (2006).
It's been reported that as many as 11 'alien recovery sites' have been identified, with some of these having possibly confused accounts of the several known recoveries of injured and dead service personnel from four military plane crashes that occurred in the area from 1948 to 1950.
In fact, there's no evidence that a UFO crashed at Roswell.
B. D. Gildenberg has called the incident "the world's most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly-debunked UFO claim".
There have been a number of explanations for the hold Roswell has taken over the public imagination. Former CIA intelligence officer and author Karl T. Pflock said:
"[T]he case for Roswell is a classic example of the triumph of quantity over quality. The advocates of the crashed-saucer tale […] simply shovel everything that seems to support their view into the box marked 'Evidence' and say, 'See? Look at all this stuff. We must be right.' Never mind the contradictions. Never mind the lack of independent supporting fact. Never mind the blatant absurdities."
Others point to a public preoccupation in the 1980s with "conspiracy, cover-up and repression" following the Watergate scandal of the previous decade, while it's also been suggested that people may have had motives for promoting the idea of aliens at Roswell. Author Kal Korff says:
"[The] UFO field is comprised of people who are willing to take advantage of the gullibility of others, especially the paying public. Let's not pull any punches here: The Roswell UFO myth has been very good business for UFO groups, publishers, for Hollywood, the town of Roswell, the media, and Ufology […] [The] number of researchers who employ science and its disciplined methodology is appallingly small."
It's also been argued that the Roswell story has all the hallmarks of a traditional folk narrative, with a core narrative having been built upon as it was shared and passed on.
Other 'witnesses' were then sought out to expand the core story, with any accounts not in agreement with it not being included. The story was then retold, and the process started again.
Most of the supposed witnesses, meanwhile, were repeating the claims of others, which would be considered as hearsay in a court of law and therefore inadmissible as evidence.
Indeed, by the 2000s physicist and sceptic Dave Thomas commented: "Is Roswell still the 'best' UFO incident? If it is, UFO proponents should be very, very worried."
Things should have been cleared up in the mid-90s - when the US military admitted that it hadn't, in fact, told the whole truth.
After the global spread of reports on the incident, the US Air Force was instructed to conduct an internal investigation.
It resulted in two reports, the first of which admitted the true purpose of the crashed device - nuclear test monitoring.
It concluded that the material recovered in 1947 was likely debris from Project Mogul, a top secret US military operation which involved microphones flown on high-altitude balloons to detect sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests.
Click below to see former President Barack Obama's reaction when asked about his knowledge of aliens...
Carried out from 1947 until early 1949, the project was ultimately superseded by a cheaper, more reliable network of seismic detectors and air sampling for fallout, which were easier to deploy and operate.
The second report, released in 1997, concluded that reports of recovered alien bodies were probably in part caused by innocently transformed memories of military accidents involving injured or killed personnel.
Memories of the recovery of anthropomorphic dummies used in 1950s military programs and hoaxes perpetrated by various witnesses and UFO proponents were also offered as explanations.
UFO believers, meanwhile, dismissed the reports, attacking their credibility or claiming they were released as disinformation.
So we're agreed - a cover-up of a top secret military operation led to allegations of a cover-up of an unimaginable scale further down the line. Case closed. Or is it?