The Roswell Incident involved the recovery of materials near Roswell, New Mexico, USA, on July 7, 1947, which has since become the subject of intense speculation, rumor and questioning. There are widely divergent views on what actually happened 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. Many UFO proponents believe the wreckage was of a crashed alien craft and that the military covered up the craft's recovery. The incident has turned into a widely-recognized and referred to pop culture phenomenon, and for some, Roswell is synonymous with UFOs. It likely ranks as the most famous alleged UFO incident.
On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) issued a press release stating that personnel from the field's 509th Bomb Group had recovered a crashed ''flying disc'' from a ranch near Roswell, sparking intense media interest. Later the same day, the Commanding General of the Eighth Air Force stated that, in fact, a weather balloon had been recovered by RAAF personnel, rather than a ''flying saucer.'' A subsequent press conference was called, featuring debris said to be from the crashed object that seemed to confirm the weather balloon description.
The case was quickly forgotten and almost completely ignored, even by UFO researchers, for more than 30 years. Then, in 1978, ufologist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel, who was involved with the original recovery of the debris in 1947. Marcel expressed his belief that the military had covered up the recovery of an alien spacecraft. His story circulated through UFO circles, being featured in some UFO documentaries at the time. In February 1980, The National Enquirer ran its own interview with Marcel, garnering national and worldwide attention for the Roswell incident.
Additional witnesses and reports emerged over the following years. They added significant new details, including claims of a large military operation dedicated to recovering alien craft and aliens themselves, at as many as 11 crash sites, and alleged witness intimidation. In 1989, former mortician Glenn Dennis put forth a detailed personal account, wherein he claimed that alien autopsies were carried out at the Roswell base.
In response to these reports, and after congressional inquiries, the General Accounting Office launched an inquiry and directed the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct an internal investigation. The result was summarized in two reports. The first, released in 1995, concluded that the reported recovered material in 1947 was likely debris from a secret government program called Project Mogul. The second report, released in 1997, concluded that reports of recovered alien bodies were likely a combination of innocently transformed memories of military accidents involving injured or killed personnel, and the recovery of anthropomorphic dummies in military programs like Project High Dive conducted in the 1950s, and hoaxes perpetrated by various witnesses and UFO proponents. The psychological effects of time compression and confusion about when events occurred explained the discrepancy with the years in question. These reports were dismissed by UFO proponents as being either disinformation or simply implausible, though significant numbers of UFO researchers discount the probability that any alien crash was in fact involved.
Contemporary accounts of materials found
On June 14 William ''Mac'' Brazel noticed some strange debris while working on the Foster ranch, where he was foreman, some 70 miles (110 km) north of Roswell. This exact date (or ''about three weeks'' before July 8) 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 (who Brazel first contacted). However, the initial press release from the Roswell Army Air Field said the find was ''sometime last week,'' suggesting Brazel found the debris in early July. 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. Major 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 could not. 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 [sic] BY CABLE, WHICH BALLON [sic] 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 [unintelligible] BORNE OUT THIS BELIEF.''
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 sheriff's 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.''
Colonel William H. Blanchard, commanding officer of the 509th, contacted General 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.''
Gen. Roger Ramey 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 confirms an alien recovery.
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
New witness accounts and Roswell UFO books
In 1978, former nuclear physicist and 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.
A new narrative emerged 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.
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.
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.''
What follows are accounts of the sequence of events according to some of the major books published on the subject >>
The Roswell Incident (1980)
The first book on the subject, The Roswell Incident by Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore, was published in 1980. The authors at the time said they had interviewed more than ninety witnesses. Though uncredited, Stanton Friedman did substantial research for the book. 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, about 150 miles (240 km) west of the Foster ranch. He and a group of archaeologists who happened to be in the vicinity had stumbled upon an alien craft and its occupants, only to be led away by military personnel. (p.53-62) 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 crafts which crashed or debris from the vehicle Barnett had described had landed on the Foster ranch after an explosion. (p.62)
A new time-line which had important differences with the time-line suggested by at least some of the initial accounts was introduced. The discovery of the debris was in early July, not the mid-June date stated in the story quoting Mac Brazel which suggested the debris was from a weather balloon. Marcel described Brazel (who had died years before) as saying he had found the debris only several days before July 7, the morning after he had heard ''an odd explosion.'' (p.64) Another account described a local couple seeing a ''big glowing object'' flying over the area on July 2 - an account mentioned in contemporary news reports - (p.21) and the Barnett story was said to have occurred on July 3. (p.53)
When, exactly, Marcel and ''Cavitt'' (Sheridan Cavitt, Marcel could not recall his first name) went to see the debris is not clear as he says ''We heard about it on July 7'' on page 63,but seems to say that he was contacted the day before when he said ''[on] Sunday, July 6, Brazel decided he had better go into town and report this to someone,'' who in turn called Marcel. (p.65) In 1947, Marcel was quoted as saying he visited the ranch on Monday, July 7.
Marcel described returning to Roswell the evening of July 7 only to discover that news of the discovery of a flying disc had leaked out. Calls were made to his house, including a visit from a reporter, but he could not confirm the reports. ''The next morning, that written press release went out, and after that things really hit the fan.'' (p.67)
The book suggested that the military orchestrated Brazel's testimony to make it appear a mundane object had landed on the ranch, though the book did not explicitly say that the military instructed Brazel to give a mid-June date for his discovery. (The mid-June date is not mentioned in the book.) ''Brazel... [went] to great pains to tell the newspaper people exactly what the Air Force had instructed him to say regarding how he had come to discover the wreckage and what it looked like...'' (p.40)
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.
Timelines were slightly altered. The date that Brazel reported the debris and Marcel went to the ranch was said to be Sunday, July 6, not the next day as some of the original accounts suggested, and The Roswell Incident had left unclear. Additionally, Marcel and an unidentified counter-intelligence agent spent the night at the ranch, something not mentioned previously. They gathered material on Monday, then Marcel dropped by his house on the way to the Roswell base in the early hours of Tuesday, July 8.
Significant new details emerged, including accounts of a ''gouge... that extended four or five hundred feet'' at the ranch(p.200) and descriptions of an elaborate cordon and recovery operation. (Several witnesses in The Roswell Incident described being turned back from the Foster ranch by armed military police, but more extensive descriptions were lacking.)
The Barnett accounts were mentioned, though the dates and locations were changed from the accounts found in The Roswell Incident. In this new account, Brazel is described as leading the Army to a second crash site on the ranch, where the Army was ''horrified to find civilians [including Barnett] there already.'' (p.206)
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 Roswell alien autopsies were the first to place alien corpses at the Roswell Army Air Base.
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 Kaufmann 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. (p.231-234) He later said:
''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 archive. 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. Corona is in the title instead of Roswell because it is geographically closer to the Foster ranch crash site.
The time-line is largely the same as previously, with Marcel and Cavitt visiting the ranch on Sunday, July 6. But the book says that Brazel was ''taken into custody for about a week'' and escorted into the offices of the Roswell Daily Record on July 10 where he gave an account he was told to give by the government. (p.79-80)
A sign of the disputes between various researchers is on display as Friedman and Berliner move the Barnett account back to near Socorro and introduce a new eyewitness account of the site from Gerald Anderson who provided vivid descriptions of both a downed alien craft and four aliens, of which at least one was alive.(p.90-97) The authors note that UFO Crash at Roswell ''without a solid basis'' dismisses much of the evidence Crash at Corona is based upon,(p.206) and that ''a personality conflict between Anderson and Randle'' meant that Friedman was the author who investigated his claim. (p.89) 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 book suggests as many as eight alien corpses were recovered from two crash sites: three dead and perhaps one alive from the Foster ranch, and three dead and one living from the Socorro site. (p.129)
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 was detailed. Additionally, an almost completely new scenario as to the sequence of events was laid out.
For the first time, the object was said to have crashed on the evening of Friday, July 4 instead of Wednesday July 2, the date in all the previous books. Another important difference was the assertion that the alien recovery was well under way before Brazel went into Roswell with his news about debris on the Foster ranch. Indeed, several objects had been tracked by radar for a few days in the vicinity before one crashed. In all previous accounts, the military was made aware of the alleged alien crash only when Brazel came forward. Additionally, Brazel was said to have given his news conference on July 9, and his press conference and the initial news release announcing the discovery of a ''flying disc'' were all part of an elaborate ruse to shift attention away from the ''true'' crash site.
The book featured a new witness account describing an alien craft and aliens from Jim Ragsdale, at a new location just north of Roswell, instead of closer to Corona on the Foster ranch. Corroboration was given by accounts from a group of archaeologists. Five alien corpses were seen.(p.3-11) While the Foster ranch was a source of debris as well, no bodies were recovered there.
Expanded accounts came from Dennis and Kaufmann. And a new account from Ruben Anaya described New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Joseph Montoya's claim that he saw alien corpses at the Roswell base.
More disagreement between Roswell researchers is on display in the book. A full chapter is devoted to dismissing the Barnett and Anderson accounts from Socorro, a central part of Crash at Corona and The Roswell Incident. ''...Barnett's story, and in fact, the Plains [of San Agustin, near Soccoro] scenario, must be discarded,'' say the authors. (p.155) An appendix is devoted to describing the Majestic 12 documents, another central part of Crash at Corona, as 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. Randle and Schmitt claimed to have ''conducted more than two thousand interviews with more than five hundred people'' during their Roswell investigations.
UFO community schism
By the publication of The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell in 1994, a serious split had emerged within the UFO community as to the true sequence of the events and the locations of the alleged alien crash sites.(p.24) CUFOS (Center for UFO Studies) and MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), two leading UFO societies, were at odds over the various scenarios presented by Randle/Schmitt and Friedman/Berliner, so much so that several conferences were held to try to resolve the differences. One of the issues under discussion was where, precisely, Barnett was when he saw the alien craft he was said to have encountered. A 1992 conference tried to achieve a consensus among the various scenarios as portrayed in Crash at Corona and UFO Crash at Roswell, but the publication of The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell in 1994 ''resolved'' the Barnett problem by simply ignoring him and citing a new location for the alien craft recovery, including a new group of archaeologists not connected to the ones the Barnett story cited.(p.25)
This fundamental disagreement over the location of the alleged crash sites still exists within the UFO community today.
Air Force and skeptics respond to alien reports
Air Force reports on the Roswell UFO incident - Main article:
Air Force reports on the Roswell UFO incident
In the mid-1990s, the United States 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 identified 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 Philip 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.
While books published into the 1990s suggested there was much more to the Roswell incident than the mere recovery of a weather balloon, skeptics, and even some social anthropologists, 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.''
Critics identified several reasons for their contention that the Roswell incident had nothing to do with aliens:
1947 military experiments source for ''flying saucer'' reports
In 1947, the United States was in the opening stages of a Cold War with the 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.
With the Project Mogul experiment fully described in the Air Force reports and subsequent flight reconstructions by project participants, in particular Charles B. Moore, (Ch.3) critics, like Korff, suggested that witnesses had in fact described parts of this experiment. ''[The] question now becomes what type of supposed 'extraterrestrial' flying saucer would be built from kite sticks, tape with symbols on it, and aluminum foil? The answer is probably none, but these are the precise components of a Project Mogul device!'' (p.155)
Some of the pro-UFO books suggest that the highly trained military personnel at the Roswell air base, Marcel in particular, were incapable of mistaking routine balloon debris with something ''not of this world.'' Critics, 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 skeptic Timothy 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. Some of the debris described by witnesses is consistent with radar-related equipment. Further, the particular radar targets used on the Mogul balloon trains were novel and not in general use in the United States at the time. (p.164) There is no evidence in Jesse Marcels 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, critics argue, he may have been too embarrassed to later admit he had simply been unfamiliar with this sort of equipment.
Problems with witness accounts
Main article: Witness accounts of the Roswell UFO incident
Hundreds of witnesses were interviewed by the various researchers, a seemingly impressive figure, but a comparable few were true ''witnesses'' who claimed to have actually seen debris or aliens, critics point out. Most ''witnesses'' were in fact repeating the claims of others, and their testimony would be inadmissible hearsay in an American court, says Korff. (p.29) Of the 90 witnesses claimed to have been interviewed for The Roswell Incident, says Korff, the testimony of only 25 appear in the book, and only seven actually saw the debris. Of these, five handled the debris. (ibid)
The late Karl T. Pflock, in his 2001 book Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe, makes a similar point about Randle and Schmitt's UFO Crash at Roswell. Some 271 people are listed in the book who were ''contacted and interviewed'' for the book, and this number does not include those who chose to remain anonymous, etc., meaning more than 300 ''witnesses'' were interviewed, a figure Pflock said the authors frequently cited. (p.176) Of these 300-plus individuals, said Pflock, only 41 can be ''considered genuine first- or second-hand witnesses to the events in and around Roswell or at the Fort Worth Army Air Field,'' and only 23 can be ''reasonably thought to have seen physical evidence, debris recovered from the Foster Ranch.'' Of these, said Pflock, only seven have asserted anything suggestive of otherworldly origins for the debris. (p.177)
As for the several accounts from those who claimed to have seen aliens, critics identified problems with these accounts ranging from the reliability of second-hand accounts (Pappy Henderson, General Exon, etc.), to serious credibility problems with witnesses making demonstrably false claims or multiple, contradictory accounts (Gerald Anderson, Glenn Dennis, Frank Kaufmann, Jim Ragsdale), to dubious death-bed ''confessions'' or accounts from elderly and easily confused witnesses (Maj. Edwin Easley, Lewis Rickett). (ch.3)
Pflock, writing in 2001, noted that only four people with firsthand knowledge of alien bodies were interviewed and identified by Roswell authors: Frank Kaufmann; Jim Ragsdale; Lt. Col. Albert Lovejoy Duran; Gerald Anderson. (p.118) Duran is mentioned in a brief footnote in The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell and never again, while the other three all have serious credibility problems, said Pflock.
Additionally, Pflock points out that certain authors embrace accounts which do not fit within the scenarios they support. The accounts of Frankie Rowe, for example, say her firefighter father and his crew were called out to an alien crash site. But the same book embraces other accounts which describe a highly secret military-led operation. ''[The accounts] seem to be included as part of a throw everything at the wall and see what sticks approach...'' (p.63)
A basic problem with all the witness accounts, charge critics, is that they all came a minimum of 31 years after the events in question, and in many cases were recounted more than 40 years after the fact. Not only are memories this old of dubious reliability, say the critics, they were also subject to contamination from other accounts they may have heard.
Finally, the shifting claims of Jesse Marcel, whose suspicions that what he recovered in 1947 were ''not of this world'' sparked interest in the incident in the first place, and of Bill Brazel Jr., whose father discovered the debris on the Foster ranch, cast serious doubt on the reliability of their claims.
Timothy Printy points out that Marcel 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, 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.''
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.
Like Marcel, Bill Brazel Jr. 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 from others. But as later accounts emerged of deep gouges from where aliens and their craft were allegedly recovered, 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.''
Implausible ''cover-up'' and intimidation accounts.
To skeptics like Gildenberg, accounts of a cover-up and witness intimidation 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, including Whitmore's son who recalls seeing Brazel staying over at his father's house (p.154) and reporter Jason Kellahin who said that Whitmore was present at the press conference where he ''did his best to maneuver Brazel away from the rest of the press'' so his interview would remain a ''scoop.'' (p.170)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.
As for other claims of threats and intimidation, Pflock said ''There are five - count 'em, five - persons who have made such assertions.''(p.171) Each of these accounts, said Pflock, ''simply are not credible.'' One he mentions is the account from Barbara Dugger, granddaughter of Sheriff Wilcox and his wife Inez. She claimed that her grandmother told her, decades after the events in question, that they were threatened by the military with death if they told anyone of the incident. But Dugger's mother, father and aunt, who were all present when the military visited her grandparents, never said anything about death threats.
It is claimed that the military did a sweep of media outlets in Roswell and removed ''every scrap of paper that had anything about the event on it.'' But that claim, said Pflock, is from a single source - reporter Frank Joyce - and none of the other media personnel - like KSWS station manager George Walsh who broke the story - recall any such sweep. (p.173)
Another ''cover-up'' claim which skeptics like 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 by UFO researcher Jamie Shandera whether debris was switched and he emphatically denied a switch took place:
Shandera: ''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!''
Shandera: ''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.''
Shandera: ''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.
Contradictory conclusions, questionable research, Roswell as a myth
Critics point out that the large variety of claimed crash flights suggest events spanning many years have been incorporated into a single event (p.66) and that many authors uncritically embrace anything that suggests aliens, even when accounts contradict each other. Said Karl Pflock, a one-time advocate of an alien incident at Roswell: ''[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.'' (p.223)
Kal Korff suggests there are clear incentives for some to promote the idea of aliens at Roswell, while many researchers are not doing competent work: ''[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 appalling small.'' (p.248)
Gildenberg and others said that, when added up, there were as many as 11 reported alien recovery sites and these recoveries bore only a marginal resemblance to the event as initially reported in 1947 or recounted later by the initial witnesses. Some of these new accounts 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, as suggested by the Air Force in their reports.
Charles Ziegler argued that the Roswell story has all the hallmarks of a traditional folk narrative, a modern-day myth in the narrative sense. (p.1,34) He identified six distinct narratives, starting with The Roswell Incident (1980) and a process of transmission via storytellers with a core story which was created from various witness accounts and was shaped and molded by those who carry on the group's (the UFO community) tradition. Others were sought out to expand the core narrative, with those who give accounts not in line with the core beliefs repudiated or omitted by the ''gatekeepers.'' (p.37) Others retold the narratives in new forms, and the process would repeat.
While noting that certain beliefs of the subculture (the UFO community) remain intact (the government has conspired to withhold evidence of alien visitations from the public, aliens resemble small humanoids, etc.) certain other beliefs alter, reflecting change within the subculture and the community acting as co-author of the myth. ''For example, such alteration occurred in the variants of the Roswell myth when the subplot of Barnett and the archaeologists stumbling upon the crash site on the Plains of San Agustin [near Socorro] (introduced in Version 1) underwent a three-step change: in Version 3, Barnett and the archaeologists stumble upon the crash site on the Foster Ranch; in Version 5, Barnett and the archaeologists are eliminated, but new archaeologists are introduced who stumble upon the crash site ''35 miles north of Roswell''; and in Version 6, the entire subplot is eliminated.'' (p.39)
The near-total omission of testimony by Sheridan Cavitt, who thought the debris was little more than a weather balloon, is further evidence of myth construction as his story was at odds with the subculture narrative and therefore was omitted and repudiated by the ''gatekeepers,'' said Ziegler. ''It seems unlikely that the paucity of statements by Cavitt in these versions [Crash at Corona and the two Randle/Schmitt books] was due to his inaccessibility... Rather, it appears most of his statements were ignored... [It] seems reasonable to assume that his statements on this topic were omitted from various versions of the Roswell myth because they are 'unpleasant' ? that is, they contravene the traditional conventions and beliefs of the UFO community.'' (p.45)
Pro-UFO advocates dismiss Roswell incident
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.
Shoddy research revealed; witnesses suspected of hoaxes
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 Kaufmann, 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 Kaufmann's credibility in two 2002 articles.
Glenn Dennis, who testified that Roswell 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 Schmitts 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.42 Dennis accounts were also doubted by researcher Pflock.
Photo analysis; documentaries; new claims
UFO researcher David Rudiak, and others before him, claimed that a telegram which appears in one of the 1947 photos of balloon debris in Ramey's office contains text that confirms that bodies and a ''disc'' were recovered. Rudiak and some other examiners claim that when enlarged, the text on the paper General Ramey is holding in his hand includes key phrases ''the victims of the wreck'' and ''in/on the 'disc''' plus other phrases seemingly in the context of a crashed vehicle recovery. However, pro-UFO interpretations of this document are disputed by independent photoanalyses (facilitated by researcher James Houran, Ph.D.) that show the 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.''
On October 26, 2007, Presidential candidate Richardson elaborated when he was asked about releasing government files on Roswell. Richardson responded that when he was a congressman, he attempted to get information on behalf of his New Mexico constituents, but was told by both the Department of Defense and Los Alamos Labs that the information was classified. ''That ticked me off,'' he said ''The government doesn't tell the truth as much as it should on a lot of issues.'' He promised to work on opening the files if he were elected.
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 administration's interest in the Roswell incident. He said they did indeed look into it but believes it had a rational explanation and did not 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 would not 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.
Main article: Project Serpo
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 U.S., began making postings to internet Ufo interest groups supposedly containing information 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. The only evidence in support of these fantastic claims consists of a few postings on the internet.
Top Secret / Majic (2005, with new afterword)
Stanton T. Friedman continues to defend his view that the Majestic 12 documents which describe a secret government agency hiding information on recovered aliens are authentic. In an afterword dated April 2005 to a new edition of his book Top Secret / Majic (first published in 1996), he responds to more recent questions on their validity and concludes ''I am still convinced Roswell really happened, [and] that the Eisenhower Briefing Document [i.e., Majestic 12] ...[and others] are the most important classified documents ever leaked to the public.''
While the bulk of the book discusses the documents in detail, mention is made of the Barnett alien site, near Socorro, (p.43) and Friedman has self-published as recently as 2003 articles which defend his view that aliens were recovered there and at a second site at the Foster ranch, seemingly the same sites as detailed in Crash at Corona.
Witness to Roswell (2007)
In 2007, Donald Schmitt and his new investigation partner Tom Carey published their first major work together, Witness to Roswell. In this book, the authors claim a ''continuously growing roster of more than 600 people directly or indirectly associated with the events at Roswell who support the first account - that initial claim of the flying saucer recovery.'' (p.38)
A new date is suggested for a crash of a mysterious object - the evening of Thursday, July 3, 1947. (p.21, 127) And, unlike in previous books, Brazel took debris into the town of Corona, where he showed people fragments in the local bar, the hardware store and elsewhere, and in Capitan to the south, portions of the object ended up at the 4th of July rodeo.(p.48-9) Numerous people are described as visiting the debris field and taking souvenirs before Brazel finally went to Roswell to report the find on July 6. Once the military was made aware of the debris, extensive efforts were undertaken to retrieve those souvenirs: ''Ranch houses were and [sic] ransacked. The wooden floors of livestock sheds were pried loose plank by plank and underground cold storage fruit cellars were emptied of all their contents.'' (p.51)
While the sequence of events which followed are similar to events as described before, the book suggests a second alien body recovery site back at the Foster ranch near the debris field, the same site as mentioned in 1991's UFO Crash at Roswell. This site, the authors believe, was found by Brazel a few days after finding the debris field, and is what finally prompted him to rush to Roswell and report to the authorities.
Neither Barnett nor the archaeologists are present at this body site. While noting the earlier ''major problems'' with the Barnett account which caused Schmitt and previous partner Randle to omit his claim in 1994's The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell, the new book also notes one specific site mentioned in the latter book closer to Roswell ''turned out to be bogus, as it was based upon the testimony of a single, alleged eyewitness [Frank Kaufmann] who himself was later discovered to have been a purveyor of false information.'' (p.126-7) Jim Ragsdale, whose alien account opened that book and who was claimed to have been present, along with some archaeologists, is not mentioned in the new book.
The book claims, for the first time, that Major Marcel saw alien bodies. Two witnesses are cited who said Marcel briefly mentioned seeing bodies, one a relative and another a tech sergeant who worked with Marcel's intelligence team. (p.79-80)
Much additional new testimony is presented to support notions that alien bodies were found at the Foster ranch and at another main crash site along with a craft, then processed at the base in a hangar and at the hospital, and finally flown out in containers, all under very tight security. The book suggests Brazel found ''two or three alien bodies'' about two miles east of the debris field and describes the rest of a stricken alien craft along with the remainder of the crew remaining airborne for some 30 more miles before crashing at another site about 40 miles north/northwest of Roswell (but not the same site described by Kaufmann). The authors claim to have located this final crash site in 2005 where ''an additional two or three dead aliens and one live one were discovered by civilian archaeologists,'' but offer no more information about the new site. (p.127-128)
Walter Haut, as the Roswell Army Air Field public affairs officer, had drafted the initial press release that went out over the news wires on the afternoon of July 8, 1947, announcing a ''flying disc.'' This was the only direct involvement Haut had previously admitted to in public statements and signed affidavits. The book presents a new affidavit that Haut signed in 2002 in which he claims much greater personal knowledge and involvement, including seeing alien corpses and craft, and involvement in a cover-up. Haut died in 2005. (p.215-7)
Another new first-hand account from MP Elias Benjamin describes how he guarded aliens on gurneys taken to the Roswell base hospital from the same hangar. (p-136-140) Similarly, family members of Miriam Bush, the secretary to the chief medical officer at the Roswell base, said she told of having been led into an examination room where alien corpses were laid out on gurneys. (Ch.12) In both accounts, one of the aliens was said to still be alive. The book also recounted earlier testimony of the Anaya family about picking up New Mexico Lt. Governor Joseph Montoya at the base, and a badly shaken Montoya relating that he saw four alien bodies at the base hangar, with one of them alive. (Ch.8) The Benjamin and Bush accounts, as do a few lesser ones, again place aliens at the Roswell base hospital, as had the Glenn Dennis story from almost 20 years before. The book notes that Dennis had been found to have told lies, and therefore is a supplier of unreliable testimony, but had nevertheless told others of incidents at the Roswell base long before it became associated with aliens in the late '70s. (p.135)
Walter Haut controversy
The publishing of the Walter Haut affidavit in Witness to Roswell, where he describes a cover-up and seeing alien corpses, ignited a controversy in UFO circles. While many embraced the accounts as confirmation of the presence of aliens from a person who was known to have been on the base in 1947, others raised questions about the believability of the accounts.
UFO researcher Dennis G. Balthaser, who along with fellow researcher Wendy Connors interviewed Haut on-camera in 2000, doubted that the same man he interviewed could have written the affidavit he signed. ''[The 2000 video] shows a man that couldn't remember where he took basic training, names, dates, etc., while the 2002 affidavit is very detailed and precise with information Haut could accurately remember 2 years after he was video taped.'' Witness to Roswell co-author Don Schmitt, he notes, admitted that the affidavit was not written by Haut, but prepared for him to sign, based on statements Haut had made privately to Schmitt and co-author Tom Carey over a period of years. And further, notes Balthaser, neither he nor Carey were there when Haut signed the affidavit and the witness's name has not been revealed, casting doubt on the circumstances of the signing.