History of the Roswell UFO Incident

Impressionable people believe this widely published photograph shows the body of an extraterrestrial humanoid recovered from the crash site of a flying saucer. In fact, the figure in the picture, taken in 1981, is a max doll displayed in a museum in Montreal.
Impressionable people believe this widely published photograph shows the body of an extraterrestrial humanoid recovered from the crash site of a flying saucer. In fact, the figure in the picture, taken in 1981, is a max doll displayed in a museum in Montreal.
Intercontinental U.F.O. Galactic Spacecraft Research and Analytic Network Archives

On the evening of July 2, 1947, several witnesses in and near Roswell, New Mexico, observed a disc-shaped object moving swiftly in a northwesterly direction through the sky. The following morning Mac Brazel, foreman of a ranch located near tiny Corona, New Mexico, rode out on horseback to move sheep from one field to another. Accompanying him was a young neighbor boy, Timothy D. Proctor. As they rode, they came upon strange debris -- various-size chunks of metallic material -- running from one hilltop, down an arroyo, up another hill, and running down the other side. To all appearances some kind of aircraft had exploded.

In fact Brazel had heard something that sounded like an explosion the night before, but because it happened during a rainstorm (though it was different from thunder), he had not looked into the cause. Brazel picked up some of the pieces. He had never seen anything like them. They were extremely light and very tough.

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By the time events had run their course, the world would be led to believe that Brazel had found the remains of a weather balloon. For three decades, only those directly involved in the incident would know this was a lie. And in the early 1950s, when an enterprising reporter sought to re-investigate the story, those who knew the truth were warned to tell him nothing.

The cover-up did not begin to unravel until the mid-1970s, when two individuals who had been in New Mexico in 1947 separately talked with investigator Stanton T. Friedman about what they had observed. One, an Albuquerque radio station employee, had witnessed the muzzling of a reporter and the shutting down of an in-progress teletyped news story about the incident. The other, an Army Air Force intelligence officer, had led the initial recovery operation. The officer, retired Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, stated flatly that the material was of unearthly origin.

The uncovering of the truth about the Roswell incident -- so called because it was from Roswell Field, the nearest Air Force base, that the recovery operation was directed -- would be an excruciatingly difficult process. It continues to this day, even after publication of three books and massive documentation gleaned from interviews with several hundred persons as well as other evidence. Besides being the most important case in UFO history -- the one with the potential not to settle the issue of UFOs but to identify them as extraterrestrial spacecraft -- the Roswell incident is also the most fully investigated. The principal investigators have been Friedman, William L. Moore (coauthor of the first of the books, The Roswell Incident [1980]), Kevin D. Randle, and Donald R. Schmitt. Randle and Schmitt, associated with the Chicago-based Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), authored the most comprehensive account so far, UFO Crash at Roswell (1991). From this research, the outlines of a complex, bizarre episode have emerged.

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The Roswell Crash Site

In 1947 Jesse Marcel, Jr., saw strange material that his father, an Army Air Force intelligence officer, recovered in Lincoln County, New Mexico, at what is now known as the Roswell incident site.
In 1947 Jesse Marcel, Jr., saw strange material that his father, an Army Air Force intelligence officer, recovered in Lincoln County, New Mexico, at what is now known as the Roswell incident site.
Intercontinental U.F.O. Galactic Spacecraft Research and Analytic Network Archives

Eighth Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, acting under orders from Gen. Clements McMullen at the Pentagon, concocted the weather balloon story to "put out the fire," in the words of retired Brig. Gen. Thomas DuBose, who in July 1947 was serving as adjutant to Ramey's staff. The actual material, all who saw it agreed, could not possibly have come from a balloon.

For one thing, there was far too much of it. For another, it was not remotely like balloon wreckage. Maj. Marcel described it:

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[We found] all kinds of stuff -- small beams about 3/8 or a half-inch square with some sort of hieroglyphics on them that nobody could decipher. These looked something like balsa wood and were of about the same weight, although flexible, and would not burn. There was a great deal of an unusual parchmentlike substance which was brown in color and extremely strong, and a great number of small pieces of a metal like tin foil, except that it wasn't tin foil. . . . [The parchment writing] had little numbers and symbols that we had to call hieroglyphics because I could not understand them. . . . They were pink and purple. They looked like they were painted on. These little numbers could not be broken, could not be burned . . . wouldn't even smoke.

The metallic material not only looked but acted strange. It had memory. No matter how it was twisted or balled up, it would return to its original shape, with no wrinkles. One woman who saw a rolled-up piece tossed onto a table watched in astonishment as it unfolded itself until it was as flat, and as wrinkle-free, as the table top. When an acetylene torch was turned on samples of the material, they barely got warm and could be safely handled a moment or two later.

Jesse Marcel's father, since deceased, testified to the material's unearthly nature.
Intercontinental U.F.O. Galactic Spacecraft Research and Analytic Network Archives

Air Force searchers scoured the recovery site until they had picked up what they thought were all pieces, however minuscule, of the crashed vehicle. Two years later, when Bill Brazel, Mac's son, let it be known he had found a few pieces the soldiers had missed, an Air Force officer called on him and demanded them. He handed them over without argument. Young Brazel knew how serious the military was about all this. After all, in July 1947 the Air Force had held his father incommunicado for days and made certain (through threats and, it is suspected, a large bribe) that he never again talked about his discovery.

The material was secretly flown out of Eighth Army Headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, to Wright Field (later Wright-Patterson AFB) in Dayton, Ohio. At Wright Field, according to an officer who was there, Lt. Col. Arthur Exon (who would become commander of the base in the mid-1960s), it underwent analysis in the Air Force's material evaluation laboratories. Some of it, he recalled, was "very thin but awfully strong and couldn't be dented with heavy hammers. . . . It had [the scientists] pretty puzzled. . . . [T]he overall consensus was that the pieces were from space."

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The Roswell Alien Autopsy

This dubious photograph of unknown origin purports to show the face of a dead alien. Similar pictures have proliferated in the wake of revived interest in stones of crashed UFOs and cover-ups.
This dubious photograph of unknown origin purports to show the face of a dead alien. Similar pictures have proliferated in the wake of revived interest in stones of crashed UFOs and cover-ups.
Intercontinental U.F.O. Galactic Spacecraft Research and Analytic Network Archives

It wasn't just metal that had arrived at Wright Field.

As they reconstructed the unknown craft's trajectory, military investigators concluded it had come in from the southeast (in other words, from the Roswell area). Two and a half miles southeast of the debris field, looking down from a reconnaissance aircraft, searchers spotted a second, smaller, relatively more intact though undeniably crashed, machine. Sprawled near it were four bodies. They were not the bodies of human beings.

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This aspect of the Roswell story is the most fantastic, unbelievable, and difficult to document. The Air Force went to extraordinary lengths to hide it even from some of those who participated in the recovery of the material at the first site. Yet from t­he meticulou­s (and ongoing) research of Schmitt and Randle, we get the testimony of credible individuals who were involved, directly or indirectly, with the recovery of extraterrestrial remains. According to Exon, who heard the story from Wright personnel who had examined the bodies at the base, "they were all found . . . in fairly good condition," even though they had lain there for six days (they were discovered on July 8) and varmints had chewed on some of the soft organs.

Those who participated in the recovery of the bodies have provided consistent descriptions of what these "extraterrestrial biological entities" (the official designation, according to some unconfirmed accounts) looked like. They were four to five feet tall, humanoid, with big heads, large eyes, and slitlike mouths. They were thin and had long arms with four fingers. An Army nurse who worked on the initial autopsy at Roswell remarked on how fragile the skull and bones were. Within hours the bodies were put into large sealed wooden crates, loaded into the bomb pit of a B-29, and flown to Fort Worth Army Air Field. From there they went almost immediately to Wright Field.

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Roswell Incident Witnesses

When studying the Roswell incident, a healthy dose of skepticism will help weed out phony information-such as this photograph of a "humanoid."
When studying the Roswell incident, a healthy dose of skepticism will help weed out phony information-such as this photograph of a "humanoid."
Intercontinental U.F.O. Galactic Spacecraft Research and Analytic Network Archives

Those who participated in recovering alien bodies at Roswell kept silent for years. Finally, as initial reports of the Roswell incident began to appear in the 1980s, they began to confide to close friends or family members what they had seen. Even then they were uneasy, still afraid of getting into trouble. One participant, Capt. Oliver ("Pappy") Henderson, flew the plane that first spotted the bodies. Apparently, judging from what he told his family, he also saw the bodies up close. Sgt. Melvin Brown rode in a truck with the bodies from the crash site to Roswell Field, then stood guard at the hangar where they were first stored.

Several persons who were at Wright Field or who knew individuals who were have testified to the arrival of wreckage and bodies at Wright in July 1947. One of these, retired Gen. Exon, says a top-secret committee was formed to oversee the investigation of this and other highly classified UFO incidents. Nearly 20 years later, when he took command of the base, the committee was still operating. It had nothing to do with Project Blue Book, the poorly funded, inadequate project that apparently served little more than a public relations function. As Brig. Gen. Bolender had indicated in an internal Air Force memorandum, UFO reports "which could affect national security . . . are not part of the Blue Book system."

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Echoes of the Roswell incident have been heard for decades in popular folklore about secret rooms and buildings at Wright-Patterson AFB where government personnel study physical and biological proof of alien visitation. Most) -- but not all -- are "friend-of-a-friend" tales. Retired Wright-Patterson employee Norma Gardner claimed before her death ("Uncle Sam can't do anything to me once I'm in my grave.") to have catalogued UFO material, including parts from the interior of a machine that had been brought to the base some years earlier. She also said she had typed autopsy reports on the bodies of occupants; once, moreover, she saw two of the bodies as they were being moved from one location to another. From her description -- if she was telling the truth -- she saw the Roswell entities.

In the mid-1960s Sen. Barry Goldwater, a brigadier general in the Air Force reserve, asked his friend Gen. Curtis LeMay about the rumors. Goldwater told The New Yorker (April 25, 1988) that LeMay gave him "holy hell" and warned him never to bring up the subject again.

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