The Roswell Incident, New Mexico, USA. A UFO apparently crash-landed on a ranch, and debris with strange markings and unusual properties was found. The U.S. Air Force claimed it was just a weather balloon. Some witnesses reported seeing the bodies of aliens, which the Air Force later said were mannequins.
It’s all about location
Everyone has heard of Roswell.
It’s a small city in New Mexico, named by its first postmaster, Van C. Smith, a businessman from Omaha, Nebraska, to honour his father, a prominent lawyer from Lafayette, Indiana, Roswell Smith…
The area has also had some successes in irrigated farming, dairying, ranching, manufacturing, distribution, and petroleum production. It’s not far from the amazing Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a few miles northeast of the city on the Pecos River. In addition to Bitter Lake, The Bottomless Lakes State Park is located just shy of twenty klicks 12 east of Roswell on the US 380.
Whilst important commercial pursuits and stunning natural scenery may draw you to this south-eastern quarter of the state of New Mexico, you’re probably going there because you’re curious about what happened (or didn’t happen) there in July 1947.
What happened (or didn’t happen)
On the 7th of July 1947, a rancher named W.W. Brazel told Sheriff George Wilcox that he had found something strange on his sheep ranch northwest of the town. After finding bits of “rubber, wood, foil, tape and paper in the field”, the Sheriff called the local Army air field, which sent Major Jesse Marcel, an intelligence officer, to check it out.
Major Marcel was convinced that Mr. Brazel had stumbled upon nothing less than the remains of a flying saucer. Major Marcel promptly told his group commander, who in turn told the press officer on duty, Walter Haut, who dutifully typed-up and sent out a press release.
The headline of the following day’s Roswell Daily Record bore the headline -” RAAF CAPTURES FLYING SAUCER ON RANCH IN ROSWELL REGION” – that instantly turned the town into the nation’s UFO capital. Just as a point of reference and so that no one assumes that our fine Royal Australian Air Force had anything to do with this incident, RAAF, in this instance, stands for ‘Roswell Army Air Field’
Flying saucer or weather balloon?
This is where the powerful mythology (or conspiracy theory) begins.
On the same day that the Daily Record published the article “RAAF CAPTURES FLYING SAUCER ON RANCH IN ROSWELL REGION”, new information came from Press Officer Haut (and his chain-of-command), that the wreckage was not a flying saucer but litter from a destroyed weather balloon. The paper printed a follow-up retraction the next day, and Brazel stated that he was embarrassed to have gotten so worked up over nothing.
Not everyone was convinced by the second press release about a broken weather balloon.
Words of a Major
This is where we meet a fascinating man named Stanton Friedman, a former nuclear physicist now living in semi-retirement in New Brunswick, Canada. Mr Friedman, in his own words describes himself as a “clear-cut, unambiguous UFOlogist.”
In 1978, while waiting in a Baton Rouge (Louisiana) television station for an interview, Friedman was told that Major Marcel, now long retired from the Air Force was living nearby and, had once handled the wreckage of a UFO.
Friedman sought an interview with Marcel and was successful.
Sufficed to say, the former Major maintained that the debris he retrieved in July 1947 was extra-terrestrial in origin.
Stanton Friedman reviewed the old stories about Roswell, painstakingly sought out and interviewed other witnesses, and came to a dramatic conclusion: there had been a cover-up of “cosmic Watergate” proportions. His research and conclusions became the basis of the 1980 book The Roswell Incident, co-written by Charles Berlitz (author of The Bermuda Triangle) and UFO investigator William Moore.
It’s this publication put Roswell back on the map.
The next decades saw the publication of countless Roswell books and television documentaries. Public awareness of the supposed cover-up grew to a point that the Air Force eventually conducted its own investigation. The USAF made public details of a top-secret balloon-tracking project that had been going on during that period of 1947. The downing of one of these top-secret balloons explained the wreckage found on W. W. Brazel’s sheep ranch.
Are we alone?
The hero of this story is press officer William Haut, who went on to help establish Roswell’s famous UFO Museum.
Haut typed up and sent two official press releases on behalf of his employer that said two completely different things. But maintained until his death in 2007, that what happened in Roswell in July 1947 answered with a resounding “NO” a question that has troubled humans for millennia: “Are we alone in the Universe?”
By: R. J. Hawksworth
Image: Roswell Daily Record from July 9, 1947 detailing the Roswell UFO incident, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.