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Roswell UFO incident happened near the US top-secret military base Area 51.


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The Roswell UFO incident involved the recovery of materials near Area 51 Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947. The Roswell UFO incident has since become the subject of intense speculation and research. There are widely divergent views on what actually happened at Roswell, and passionate debate about what evidence can be believed. The United States military maintains that what was recovered was a top-secret research balloon that had crashed. However, many UFO proponents believe the wreckage was of a crashed alien craft and that the military covered up the craft's recovery. The Roswell UFO incident has evolved into a widely-recognized and referenced pop culture phenomenon, and for some, Roswell is synonymous with UFO and likely ranks as the most famous alleged UFO incident.

Contemporary accounts of materials found at the Roswell UFO incident.

Roswell UFO.
Roswell UFO incident as reported in the Daily Record, 8 July, 1947, announcing the "capture" of a "flying saucer."
RAAF UFO statements.
The Sacramento Bee article detailing the RAAF UFO statements.

On 8 July, 1947, reports emerged from the Roswell Army Air Field that a "flying disc" had been recovered. The following historical account reconstructs a timeline of events as described and recorded in initial news reports and several contemporary telexes.

Unusual debris on a ranch.

On June 14, farmer William "Mac" Brazel noticed some strange debris while working on a ranch 70 miles from Roswell. This exact date (or "about three weeks" before 8 July) is a point of contention, but is repeated in several initial accounts, in particular the stories that quote Brazel and in a telex sent a few hours after the story broke quoting Sheriff George Wilcox (whom Brazel first contacted). The initial report from the Roswell Army Air Field said the find was "sometime last week," but that description may have been a fourth-hand account of what Brazel actually said, and mentions the sheriff as the one who contacted them about the find. 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, but returned on July 4 with his son, wife and daughter to gather up the material. Some accounts have described Brazel as having gathered some of the material earlier, rolling it together and stashing it under some brush. The next day, Brazel heard reports about "flying discs" and wondered if that was what he had picked up. On July 7, Brazel saw Sheriff Wilcox and "whispered kinda confidential like" that he may have found a flying disc. Another account quotes Wilcox as saying that Brazel reported the object on July 6.

Sheriff Wilcox called Roswell Army Air Field. Maj. Jesse Marcel and a "man in plainclothes" accompanied Brazel back to the ranch where more pieces were picked up. "We spent a couple of hours Monday afternoon [July 7] looking for any more parts of the weather device," said Marcel. "We found a few more patches of tinfoil and rubber." They then attempted to reassemble the object but Brazel said they couldn't. Marcel took the debris to Roswell Army Air Field the next morning.

As described in the July 9, 1947 edition of the Roswell Daily Record,

"The balloon which held it up, if that was how it worked, 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 gray in color 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."

A telex sent to an FBI office from their office in Dallas, Texas, quoted a major from the Eighth Air Force on July 8:

"THE DISC IS HEXAGONAL IN SHAPE AND WAS SUSPENDED FROM A BALLON BY CABLE, WHICH BALLON WAS APPROXIMATELY TWENTY FEET IN DIAMETER. MAJOR CURTAN FURTHER ADVISED THAT THE OBJECT FOUND RESEMBLES A HIGH ALTITUDE WEATHER BALLOON WITH A RADAR REFLECTOR, BUT THAT TELEPHONIC CONVERSATION BETWEEN THEIR OFFICE AND WRIGHT FIELD HAD NOT BORNE OUT THIS BELIEF."

News reports about the Roswell UFO incident.

weather balloon.
A NOAA weather balloon just after launch.

Early on Tuesday, July 8, the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release which was immediately picked up by numerous news outlets: "The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of 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 and the sheriffs office of Chaves County. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff's office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher's home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters."

Col. William H. Blanchard, commanding officer of the 509th, contacted Gen. Roger M. Ramey of the Eighth Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas, and Ramey ordered the object be flown to Fort Worth Army Air Field. At the base, Warrant Officer Irving Newton confirmed Ramey’s preliminary opinion, identifying the object as being a weather balloon and its "kite." a nickname for a radar reflector used to track the balloons from the ground. Another news release was issued, this time from the Fort Worth base, describing the object as being a "weather balloon."

alien recovery.
Gen. Roger Ramey (kneeling) and chief of staff Col. Thomas Dubose posed with weather balloon and radar reflector, July 8, 1947, Fort Worth, Texas. Some claim text contained on the paper in Ramey's hand (boxed) confirms an alien recovery. See enlargement below.
Gen. Ramey's photo.
Enlargement of Gen. Ramey's held message in above photo.

In Fort Worth, several news photographs were taken that day of debris said to be from the object. The debris was consistent with the general description of a weather balloon with a kite. Ramey, Col. Thomas J. Dubose and Marcel all posed with the debris. Brazel, in interviews that day with the Roswell Daily Record and Associated Press, dismissed the military's "weather balloon" assertion. Citing several other weather balloons he had recovered previously on the ranch, he said: "I am sure what I found was not any weather observation balloon." The incident was quickly forgotten.

Alien accounts emerge about the Roswell UFO incident.

In 1978, author Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Jesse Marcel, the only person known to have accompanied the Roswell debris from where it was recovered to Fort Worth. Over the next 15 years or so, the accounts he and others gave elevated Roswell from a forgotten incident to perhaps the most famous UFO case of all time.

By the early 1990s, UFO researchers such as Friedman, William Moore, Karl Pflock, and the team of Kevin Randle and Don Schmitt had interviewed several hundred people who had, or claimed to have had, a connection with the events at Roswell in 1947. Additionally, hundreds of documents were obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, as were some apparently leaked by insiders, such as the disputed "Majestic 12" documents.

Their conclusions were that at least one alien craft had crashed in the Roswell vicinity, that aliens, some possibly still alive, were recovered, and that a massive cover-up of any knowledge of the incident was put in place.

Numerous books, articles, television specials and even a made-for-TV movie brought the 1947 incident fame and notoriety so that by the mid-1990s, strong majorities in polls, such as a 1997 CNN/time poll, believed that aliens had visited earth and specifically that aliens had landed at Roswell and the government was covering up the fact.

A new narrative emerged at this time which was at strong odds with what was reported in 1947. This narrative evolved over the years from the time the first book on Roswell was published in 1980 as many new witnesses and accounts emerged, drawn out in part by publicity on the incident. Though skeptics had many objections to the plausibility of these accounts, it was not until 1994 and the publication of the first Air Force report on the incident that a strong counter-argument to the presence of aliens was widely publicized. (see below)

Numerous scenarios emerged from these authors as to what they felt were the true sequence of events, depending on which witness accounts were embraced or dismissed, and what the documentary evidence suggested. This was especially true in regards to the various claimed crash and recovery sites of alien craft, as various authors had different witnesses and different locations for these events.[Gildenberg "Requiem" article page 66]

However, the following general outline from UFO Crash at Roswell (1991) by Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt is common to most of these accounts:

"A UFO crashed northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, in the summer of 1947. The military acted quickly and efficiently to recover the debris after its existence was reported by a ranch hand. The debris - unlike anything these highly trained men had ever seen - was flown without delay to at least three government installations. A cover story was concocted to explain away the debris and the flurry of activity. It was explained that a weather balloon, one with a new radiosonde target device, had been found and temporarily confused the personnel of the 509th Bomb Group. Government officials took reporters' notes from their desks and warned a radio reporter not to play a recorded interview with the ranch hand. The men who took part in the recovery were told never to talk about the incident. And with a whimper, not a bang, the Roswell event faded quickly from public view and press scrutiny."

The Roswell UFO incident. (Randle and Schmitt 1991, p.4).

The first book on the subject, The Roswell Incident by Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore, was published in 1980. The book featured accounts of debris described by Jesse Marcel as "nothing made on this earth." (p.28) Additional accounts suggested that the material Marcel recovered had super-strength and other attributes not associated with anything known of terrestrial origin, and certainly not anything associated with a "weather balloon." The book also introduced the contention that debris recovered by Marcel at the Foster ranch was substituted for debris from a weather device (p.33; pp. 67-69) as part of a cover-up. Marcel posed with the actual debris, then the material was switched and others posed with the switched debris. The actual debris recovered from the ranch - which, the authors claimed, was from a crashed UFO - was not permitted a close inspection by the press. Also described were efforts by the military to discredit and "counteract the growing hysteria towards flying saucers." (p.42) Additionally, various accounts of witness intimidation were included, in particular reports of the incarceration of Mac Brazel, who reported the debris in the first place.

The book also introduced an alien account by Barney Barnett who had died years earlier. Friends said he had on numerous occasions described the crash of a flying saucer and the recovery of alien corpses in the Socorro area. (p.53) Further accounts suggested that these aliens and their craft were shipped to Edwards Air Force Base (known then as Muroc Army Air Field) in California. (Ch.5) The book suggested that either there were two craft which crashed or debris from the vehicle Barnett had described had landed on the Foster ranch after an explosion. (p.62)

UFO Crash at Roswell (1991).

In 1991, with the benefit of a decade of publicity on the incident and numerous new witness interviews, Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt published UFO Crash at Roswell. Here, new witnesses generally added more detail that tended to corroborate the account found in The Roswell Incident, such as more accounts of the unearthly qualities of the recovered debris, interviews with Col. Thomas Dubose suggesting a switch of material and cover-up had occurred, and new accounts of intimidation of witnesses like Mac Brazel. Marcel, in this book, had never posed with the actual debris, it was switched before the press saw any of it. New witness accounts added substantially to the reports of aliens and their recovery. Glenn Dennis had emerged as an important witness after calling the hotline when an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" featured the Roswell incident in 1989. His descriptions of alien autopsies were the first to place alien corpses at the Roswell Army Air Base itself. [Gildenberg "Requiem" article page 65]

The Barnett accounts were mentioned, though the dates and locations were changed from the accounts found in The Roswell Incident. Aliens were recovered a few miles from the Foster ranch, not near Soccoro. No mention, except in passing, was made of the claim found in The Roswell Incident that the Roswell aliens and their craft were shipped to Edwards Air Force Base. The book established a chain of events with alien corpses seen at a crash site, their bodies shipped to the Roswell base as witnessed by Dennis, and then flown to Fort Worth and finally to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, the last known location of the bodies, accounts assembled in part from the testimony of Frank Kaufman and Capt. O. W. "Pappy" Henderson.

The book also introduced an account from General Arthur E. Exon, an officer stationed at the alleged final resting place of the recovered material. He claimed there was a shadowy group which he called the Unholy Thirteen who controlled and had access to whatever was recovered:

"In the '55 time period [when Exon was at the Pentagon], there was also the story that whatever happened, whatever was found at Roswell was still closely held and probably would be held until these fellows I mentioned had died so they wouldn't be embarrassed or they wouldn't have to explain why they covered it up. ...until the original thirteen died off and I don't think anyone is going to release anything [until] the last one's gone."

Crash at Corona (1992).

Stanton Friedman’s 1992 book, Crash at Corona, (written with Don Berliner) suggested a high-level cover-up of a UFO recovery, based on documents he obtained such as the "Majestic 12" ones. These documents were anonymously dropped off at a UFO researcher’s house in 1984 and purported to be 1952 briefing papers for incoming president Dwight Eisenhower describing a high-level government agency whose purpose was to investigate aliens recovered at Roswell and to keep such information hidden from public view. Friedman had done much of the research for The Roswell Incident with William Moore, and Crash at Corona built on that research.

A sign of the disputes between various researchers is on display as Friedman and Berliner moved the Barnett account back to near Socorro and introduced a second alien recovery site near Corona based on the testimony of Gerald Anderson. They note that UFO Crash at Roswell "without a solid basis" dismisses much of the evidence Crash at Corona is based upon. (p.206) The book, however, largely embraces the sequence of events from UFO Crash at Roswell where aliens are seen at the Roswell Army Air Field, based on the Dennis account, and then shipped off to Fort Worth and then Wright Field.

The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell (1994).

In 1994, Randle and Schmitt published a second book, The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell. While restating much of the case as laid out in their earlier book UFO Crash at Roswell, new and expanded accounts of aliens were included, and a new location for the recovery of aliens is detailed. An alien recovery account appeared from Jim Ragsdale, as were expanded accounts from Dennis and Kaufman. A new account from Ruben Anaya described New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Joseph Montoya's claim he saw alien corpses at the Roswell base. The Marcel and Brazel accounts, a central portion of previous books, is reduced to a few pages.

The Ragsdale account puts the crash site north of Roswell, and the authors debunk the Barnett and Anderson accounts which place a crash site near Socorro. (Ch.19) They further declare the Majestic 12 documents "a hoax." (p.187)

The two Randle and Schmitt books remain highly influential in the UFO community, their interviews and conclusions widely reproduced on websites.

Air Force and skeptics respond to alien reports at the Roswell UFO incident.

In the mid-1990s, the Air Force issued two reports which, they said, accounted for the debris found and reported on in 1947, and which also accounted for the later reports of alien recoveries. The reports identifed the debris as coming from a top secret government experiment called Project Mogul, which involved arrays of balloons carrying microphones and radio transmitters to detect Soviet nuclear tests and ballistic missiles. Accounts of aliens were explained as resulting from misidentified military experiments which used anthropomorphic dummies and accidents involving injured or killed military personnel.

The Air Force report formed a basis for a skeptical response to the claims many authors were making about the recovery of aliens, though skeptical researchers such as Phillip J. Klass and Robert Todd had already been publishing articles for several years raising doubts about alien accounts before the Air Force issued its conclusions.

Skeptical response to alien accounts at the Roswell UFO incident.

While new reports into the 1990s seemed to suggest there was much more to the Roswell incident than the mere recovery of a weather balloon, skeptics instead saw the increasingly elaborate accounts as evidence of a myth being constructed. After the release of the Air Force reports in the mid-1990s, several books, such as Kal K. Korff's The Roswell UFO Crash: What They Don't Want You To Know published in 1997, built on the evidence presented in the reports to conclude "there is no credible evidence that the remains of an extraterrestrial spacecraft was involved."

In 1947, United States had begun a Cold War with the former Soviet Union, and as a result put in place numerous secret military programs to gain intelligence on the Soviets, particularly on their nuclear programs. One of the military experiments being conducted at the time in New Mexico was Project Mogul, designed to detect Soviet nuclear tests via high-altitude balloon launches. These balloon experiments were sent aloft from Alamogordo. In June and July 1947, several of the balloon trains got lost. At the same time, reports of UFOs spiked significantly, as did press coverage of them. One tally of reports counted 853 during June and July. Some, such as the Air Force, (p.3) have speculated that many of these "flying saucer" sightings were in fact misidentified weather balloons.

Skeptics, like B. D. "Duke" Gildenberg, saw the sequence of events as initially reported in 1947 as being essentially accurate: A weather balloon or similar device was recovered from a ranch and personnel who had never seen such equipment before thought it might be one of the "flying saucers" being reported in the media. When personnel who were experienced with balloon experiments and their equipment saw the material, the misidentification was clarified, and a correction issued to the media.

Additionally, Gildenberg and others argued that changing accounts of some of the primary witnesses who were at the crash site or who handled the debris cast doubt on their claims. Their initial testimony in many cases made the later UFO scenarios seem implausible. It is far more likely, skeptics argued, that these witnesses' initial memories were more accurate and they later added or changed details as their memories were contaminated by other accounts they had heard. The fact that these memories were recounted a minimum of 31 years after the events in question, and with some witnesses, more than 40 years, made these claims even more dubious, they argued.

The most damning evidence against any alien recovery, skeptics like Timothy Printy argue, is from the whistleblower himself: Jesse Marcel. He was the only person known to have accompanied the debris from the ranch to Fort Worth, and he was the first one to voice doubts about the official explanation of the debris' origins. But despite voicing the opinion that this material was "not of this world" to researcher Stanton Friedman, Marcel nevertheless positively identified the material he appears with in the photos taken at Fort Worth as part of what he recovered, debris which skeptics and UFO advocates agree is debris from a balloon device.

"Actually, " said Marcel in The Roswell Incident, "this material may have looked like tinfoil and balsa wood, [emphasis in original text] but the resemblance ended there." And, "They took one picture of me on the floor holding up some of the less-interesting metallic debris…The stuff in that one photo was pieces of the actual stuff we found. It was not a staged photo." He also appears in the 1979 film "UFOs are Real" where he said, " The newsman saw very little of the material, very small portion of it. And none of the important things, like these members that had these hieroglyphics or markings on them." When he was interviewed in 1979 by the National Enquirer, he seemed to preclude the chance that the object was a spacecraft: "I've seen rockets sent up at the White Sands testing grounds. It definitely was not part of an aircraft, nor a missile or rocket." After it was pointed out to him that the material he posed with was balloon train material, he changed his story to say that that material was not what he recovered. Skeptics like Robert G. Todd argue that Marcel had a history of embellishment and exaggeration, such as claiming to have been a pilot and having received five Air Medals for shooting down enemy planes, claims which were found to be false, and his evolving Roswell story was another instance of this.

Bill Brazel Jr. also is guilty of embellishing his initial accounts, Printy charges. Like Marcel, he initially made no mention of anything like the gouges in the ground mentioned in later accounts, and his description of the direction of the debris was similar to Marcel’s. Brazel: "One time I asked dad [Mac Brazel] whether there was any burned spot on the ground where the wreckage was. He said no, but that he noticed on his second trip out there that some of the vegetation in the area seemed singed a bit at the tips - not burned, just singed. I don't recall seeing anything like that myself, but that's what he said."; and "He [Mac Brazel] also said that from the way this wreckage was scattered, you could tell it was travelling 'an airline route to Socorro,' which is off to the southwest of the ranch."

But as later accounts emerged of deep gouges from where aliens and their craft were allegedly recovered, as well as descriptions of alien vehicles travelling in a particular direction, Brazel's accounts changed so that by the late 1980s he was saying: "This thing made quite a track down through there. It took a year or two for it to grass back over and heal up."; and "...he [Bill Brazel] talked about a gouge with the northwest - southeast orientation"

Gildenberg and the first Air Force report point out that, save for some witnesses who described the recovered material as having exotic qualities, none of the primary witnesses described anything consistent with debris from a crashed alien vehicle or alien corpses. The numerous witness accounts of those known to have been in contact with the debris describe material largely consistent with balloon train material, even when they expressed a belief the material may have been from a UFO.

The stories of aliens and their craft come from others whose connection to the events in 1947 are dubious, a point underlined in the initial Air Force report's conclusion, and those who claim those reports are accurate have failed to explain satisfactorily why the primary witnesses do not mention anything about aliens or alien recoveries.

"Cover-up" accounts of the Roswell UFO incident.

To skeptics like Gildenberg, accounts of a cover-up are contrived attempts to explain away inconvenient testimony, especially that of Mac Brazel. His account from 1947, at face value, suggests misidentified balloon debris, they say.

UFO researchers argue Brazel was intimidated into changing his descriptions of the debris he recovered so as to lend credence to the reports the debris was a mere "weather balloon." Numerous witness statements describe Brazel in military custody. But, in contrast to witness reports from many decades later, skeptics argue, contemporary accounts said that Mac Brazel arrived at the press conference not with a military escort, but with reporter W. E. Whitmore, whose presence with Brazel has been confirmed by numerous other witnesses. One witness account used to suggest Brazel was being intimidated came from Roswell Daily Record editor Paul McEvoy who says Brazel arrived with a military escort. But since his own paper said Brazel arrived with Whitmore, it would seem that McEvoy would have to have been part of the cover-up, Printy points out.[ibid]

Another "cover-up" claim which skeptics like Kal K. Korff find dubious is the one where Col. Thomas Dubose seemingly confirms that UFO debris was switched with weather balloon material.

Dubose was one of the people to have posed with the debris at Fort Worth in 1947. Printy says that while a statement he signed confirmed a "cover story", the statement does not indicate that the material was switched. To Dubose, it may have seemed self-evident that there was a cover story - but one that was intended to protect some other secret military project (such as Project Mogul), not to hide evidence of a recovered alien craft. Printy charges that researchers misled readers into believing Dubose was confirming the cover-up of alien material and of switching the debris by not directly asking him what exactly was being "covered up." Later, Dubose was asked directly and he emphatically denied having switched any material:

Shandara: "There are two researchers [Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt] who are presently saying that the debris in General Ramey's office had been switched and that you men had a weather balloon there."
Dubose: "Oh Bull! That material was never switched!"
Shandara: "So, what you're saying is that the material in General Ramey's office was the actual debris brought in from Roswell?"
Dubose: "That's absolutely right."
Shandara: "Could General Ramey or someone else have ordered a switch without you knowing it? "
Dubose: "…I was there, and I had charge of that material, and it was never switched. "

Another argument against a cover-up made by Gildenberg, Printy and many others is the fact that the military issued a press release publicizing the very "flying saucer" they were supposedly trying to cover up.

Additionally, skeptics argue that witnesses who claimed cover-ups were often quoting people second-hand, therefore their testimony is not compelling (see below).

Arguments from authority, alien accounts, discrepancies

Some evidence, Printy and others point out, are mere arguments from authority and reflect only prominent individuals' beliefs about what happened. They say that in the absence of actual first-hand knowledge of the events, these statements amount to the fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam.

General Arthur Exon was at Wright Field in 1947, the alleged final destination for the Roswell debris. He is quoted as saying: "Roswell was the recovery of a craft from space" But Korff points out that Exon, when shown the book with his quotes, wrote author Kevin Randle a letter saying in part: "...I did not know anything firsthand. Although I did believe you did quote me accurately, I do believe that in your writings you gave more credence and impression of personal and direct knowledge that my recordings would indicate on their own!"

Another variation of the "argument from authority" is the assumption that highly trained military personnel at the Roswell air base were incapable of mistaking routine balloon debris with something "not of this world." Skeptics, like those at The Roswell Files website point out that since the term "flying saucer" had just been coined, there was no expectation on what such an object "should" look like and that objects were recovered at the time that were called "flying saucers" but bore no resemblance to that description. Todd and Printy also point out that radar was comparatively novel in 1947, and though the Roswell base was the only nuclear-equipped base on the planet, it was not yet equipped with radar. Much of the material described seems consistent with material used in concert with radar detection; personnel unfamiliar with radar materials at Roswell's air base may simply not have recognized the debris for what it was, they say. However, the Fort Worth base had personnel who were experienced with balloon equipment who could have instantly recognized the debris for what it was upon arrival. Further, there is no evidence in Jesse Marcel’s military record that he had any experience with the material used in balloon trains. Since he identified material which appears to be a radar "kite" device as part of what he recovered, they argue, he may have been too embarrassed to later admit he had simply been unfamiliar with this sort of equipment. Finally, they point out, one of these "highly trained personnel," Sheridan Cavitt, in fact did claim that he did recognized the debris to be from a balloon experiment.

Skeptics have had more difficulty debunking the various accounts of alien recoveries, though the Air Force reports would by the mid-90s come up with detailed explanations for those accounts. However, skeptics like Gildenberg did point out that, when added up, there were as many as 11 reported alien recovery sites and these events bore only a marginal resemblance to the event as initially reported in 1947 or recounted later by the primary witnesses. Some of these memories could have been confused accounts of the several known recoveries of injured and dead from four military plane crashes which occurred in the vicinity from 1948-50. others could have been recoveries of test dummies.

Depending on the researcher, there appears to be a number of possible scenarios: an account centered around the ranch and Jesse Marcel, an account where the Marcel account is peripheral to the "real" recovery, which happened at other locations in the vicinity, and an account featuring both.

Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt initially focused on Marcel and the ranch as the main crash site in their 1991 book UFO Crash at Roswell. According to their next book, The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell, the crash happened several days later at a location far from the Foster ranch. Marcel and Brazel are relegated to a lesser roles and, as The Roswell Files notes, the new accounts contradict the old accounts.

Later, discrepancies with certain accounts and problems with research done by Donald Schmitt would cause Kevin Randle to reject much of the evidence from The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell, yet many who embrace the UFO explanation still quote many of these accounts.

Recent developments

One of the immediate outcomes of the Air Force reports on the Roswell UFO incident was the decision by some prominent UFO researchers to view the Roswell incident as not involving any alien craft.

While the initial Air Force report was a chief reason for this, another was the release of secret documents from 1948 which showed that top Air Force officials did not know what the UFO objects being reported in the media were and their suspicion they might be Soviet spy vehicles.

In January 1997, Karl T. Pflock, one of the more prominent pro-UFO researchers, said "Based on my research and that of others, I'm as certain as it's possible to be without absolute proof that no flying saucer or saucers crashed in the general vicinity of Roswell or on the Plains of San Agustin in 1947. The debris found by Mac Brazel...was the remains of something very earthly, all but certainly something from the Top Secret Project Mogul....The formerly highly classified record of correspondence and discussions among top Air Force officials who were responsible for cracking the flying saucer mystery from the mid-1940s through the early 1950s makes it crystal clear that they didn't have any crashed saucer wreckage or bodies of saucer crews, but they were desperate to have such evidence..."

Kent Jeffrey, who organized petitions to ask President Bill Clinton to issue an Executive Order to declassify any government information on the Roswell incident, similarly concluded that no aliens were likely involved.

Another prominent author, William L. Moore, said this in 1997: "After deep and careful consideration of recent developments concerning Roswell...I am no longer of the opinion that the extraterrestrial explanation is the best explanation for this event." Moore was co-author of the first book on Roswell, The Roswell Incident.

Around the same time, a serious rift between two prominent Roswell authors emerged. Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt had co-authored several books on the subject and were generally acknowledged, along with Stanton Friedman, as the leading researchers into the Roswell incident. The Air Force reports on the incident suggested that basic research claimed to have been carried out was not carried out, a fact verified in a 1995 Omni magazine article. Additionally, Schmitt claimed he had a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and was in the midst of pursing a doctorate in criminology. He also claimed to be a medical illustrator. When checked, it was revealed he was in fact a letter carrier in Hartford, Wisconsin, and had no known academic credentials. At the same time, Randle publicly distanced himself from Schmitt and his research. Referring to Schmitt’s investigation of witness Dennis’ accounts of a missing nurse at the Roswell base, he said: "The search for the nurses proves that he (Schmitt) will lie about anything. He will lie to anyone… He has revealed himself as a pathological liar... I will have nothing more to do with him."

Additionally, several prominent witnesses were shown to be perpetrating hoaxes, or suspected of doing so. Frank Kaufman, a major source of alien reports in the 1994 Randle and Schmitt book "The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell" and a witness whose testimony it was charged was "ignored" by the Air Force when compiling their reports, was shown, after his 2001 death, to have been forging documents and inflating his role at Roswell. Randle and Mark Rodeigher repudiated Kaufman’s credibility in two 2002 articles.

Glenn Dennis, who testified that alien autopsies were carried out at the Roswell base and that he and others were the subjects of threats, was deemed one of the "least credible" Roswell witness by Randle in 1998. In Randle and Schmitt’s 1991 book "UFO Crash at Roswell," Dennis’ story was featured prominently. Randle said Dennis was not credible "for changing the name of the nurse once we had proved she didn't exist." Dennis’ accounts were also doubted by researcher Pflock.

UFO researcher David Rudiak claimed that a piece of paper which appears in one of the 1947 photos of the debris contains text which confirms that aliens were recovered. They claim that when enlarged, the text on the paper General Ramey is holding in his hand includes the words "victims of the wreck" and other phrases seemingly in the context of a crashed vehicle recovery. However, interpretations of this document are disputed because letters and words are indistinct.

In 2002, the Sci-Fi Channel sponsored a dig at the Brazel site in the hopes of uncovering any missed debris that the military failed to collect. Although these results have so far turned out to be negative, the University of New Mexico archaeological team did verify recent soil disruption at the exact location that some witnesses said they saw a long, linear impact groove. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who headed the United States Department of Energy under President Clinton, apparently found the results provocative. In 2004, he wrote in a foreword to The Roswell Dig Diaries, that "the mystery surrounding this crash has never been adequately explained-not by independent investigators, and not by the U.S. government."

In October 2002 before airing its Roswell documentary, the Sci Fi Channel also hosted a Washington UFO news conference. John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff, appeared as a member of the public relations firm hired by Sci-Fi to help get the government to open up documents on the subject. Podesta stated, "It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the true nature of the phenomena."

In an interview on September 9, 2005, former President Bill Clinton downplayed his and his administration's interest in the Roswell incident. He said they did indeed look into it, but believes it had a rational explanation and didn't think it happened. However, he added the caveat that he could have been deceived by underlings or career bureaucrats. If that were the case, he said he wouldn't be the first American president that had been lied to or had critical information concealed from him.

In February 2005, the ABC TV network aired a UFO special hosted by news anchor Peter Jennings. Jennings lambasted the Roswell case as a "myth" "without a shred of evidence." ABC endorsed the Air Force's explanation that the incident resulted solely from the crash of a Project Mogul balloon.

In November 2005 an anonymous source claiming to be part of a high level group of people within the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the USA, began releasing information allegedly concerning a Project Serpo. This released information allegedly confirms that in July 1947 there were two extraterrestrial UFOs that crashed in the state of New Mexico, referenced in this article as the Roswell UFO incident. The Project Serpo releases further allege that there was one surviving alien entity. Communication was allegedly established with this alien and its home world. The alien lived for 5 years and died in 1952. Communications continued with the home world, allegedly in the Zeta Reticuli star system, which led to the arrangement of an exchange program between 1965 and 1978.

Cultural influence of the Roswell UFO incident.

The Roswell incident has become a popular subject of science fiction movies, television series, video games, books, and music. Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt's 1991 nonfiction book UFO Crash at Roswell inspired the 1994 American television film Roswell, which starred Martin Sheen and Kyle McLachlan. The film received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, but did not win. An American television series called Roswell aired from 1999 to 2002, originally on The WB Television Network and later on UPN. Based on Melinda Metz's Roswell High children's book series, the program followed the lives of four extraterrestrials who had survived the Roswell crash and assumed the form of human teenagers. A syndicated children's cartoon, called Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends (1999-2000), was distributed in several countries by the Bohbot Kids Network and inspired a 2001 PlayStation video game of the same title. The Roswell incident also played prominent roles in the American science fiction television programs Dark Skies (1996-1997), Seven Days (1998-2001), The X-Files (1993-2002), Taken (2002), and Stargate SG-1 (1997-2006). The animated series Futurama also featured the Roswell UFO incident prominently in the episode Roswell That Ends Well, where the Planet Express crew end up in 1947, resulting in an accidentally-smashed apart Bender being mistaken for the UFO, and reassembled into a flying saucer, while an alien autopsy is carried out on Doctor Zoidberg.

Several novels have been written about the Roswell incident, including Whitley Strieber's Majestic (1989) and Kevin D. Randle's Operation Roswell (2004). A humorous Bongo Comics series, called Roswell, Little Green Man, ran from 1996 to 1999 and followed the misadventures of an extraterrestrial recovered from the craft. In music, the American band Foo Fighters named their record label Roswell Records and performed a 2005 concert on the site of the Roswell Air Force Base. In addition, an ambient music compilation CD called Area 51: The Roswell Incident was released in 1997 and featured such groups as Canada's Synęsthesia, England's Hawkwind, and Germany's Tangerine Dream. (Area 51 refers to an air field in southern Nevada associated with other UFO conspiracy theories.)

Further reading about the Roswell UFO incident.

  • Stanton T. Friedman and Don Berliner, Crash at Corona, Marlowe & Co., 1992, ISBN 1-931044-89-9.
  • Stanton T. Friedman, Top Secret/Majic: Operation Majestic-12 and the United States Government's UFO Cover-up, Marlowe & Co., 1996, ISBN 1-56924-342-5.
  • Michael Hesemann and Philip Mantle, Beyond Roswell: the alien autopsy film, area 51, and the U.S. government coverup of UFO's, Marlowe & Company, 1997, ISBN 1-56924-709-9.
  • Curtis Peebles, Watch the Skies!: A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994, ISBN 1-56098-343-4.
  • Karl T. Pflock, Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe, Prometheus Books, 2003, ISBN 1-57392-894-1.
  • Kevin D. Randle, Roswell UFO Crash Update, Global Communications, 1995, ISBN 0-938294-41-5.
  • Kevin D. Randle, The Roswell Encyclopedia, Quill/HarperCollins, 2000, ISBN 0-380-79853-0.
  • Benson Saler, Charles A. Ziegler, Charles B. Moore, UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth, 1997, Smithsonian Institution Press, ISBN 1-56098-751-0.
  • Tim Shawcross, The Roswell File, Motorbooks International, 1997, ISBN 0-7475-3507-8.


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