UFOgate The Mother of all Crashes: The Roswell Incident
Was the so-called Roswell Incident of 1947 the crash of an extra-terrestrial spacecraft or was it instead an act of government disinformation?
by Philip Coppens
On 8 July 1947, just 14 days after Kenneth Arnold’s “first reported sighting” of a “flying saucer”, Jesse Marcel, of the press office of Roswell Army Air Force Base (AAFB) in New Mexico, announced that a “flying disc” had crashed on a ranch not far from the base, and that the wreckage had been recovered. Roswell AAFB was at that time the home of the world’s only atomic air squadron – the aircraft that bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki two years earlier had set out from there – and was, consequently, the highestsecurity military installation in America, if not the world. The “crashed disc” story was retracted within hours, with the explanation that the crashed object was simply a “weather balloon” and that the original announcement had been a mistake. For three decades, Roswell disappeared from everyone’s radar. The story was revived in 1978, when UFO researcher Stanton Friedman was introduced to a man who was a friend of Jesse Marcel. Friedman shared this information with William Moore, who joined forces with Charles Berlitz, the then “red hot” author of “The Bermuda Triangle”. The fame of the Roswell Incident, in which an apparent extra-terrestrial spacecraft had crashed, with the event subsequently officially denied and covered up by the US government, had been born.
Since then, the Roswell Incident has become one of the major pillars of the Contact Scenario, and has grown to include elaborate tales of recovered dead bodies and even, in some accounts, a live alien. None of these elements were part of the 1947 story, which spoke only of wreckage. All later additions to the original account can be shown to originate from the late 1970s onwards, some thirty years after the incident. It is thus not exactly – as some pretend – a smoking gun. Roswell is now considered to be the grandmother of all “crash retrieval” stories: an alien spacecraft crashed in the New Mexico desert, after which a massive operation sprang into action to recover the wreckage and conceal the truth from the public, with the weather balloon story hastily concocted as a smokescreen. For sceptics, the object really was either a weather balloon – and the ‘flying disc’ press release the result of a moment of madness by Roswell AAFB’s press office – or the story served to cover the crash of some other, more highly classified, military device. Speculation on the latter has ranged from secret balloon experiments (Project Mogul) to tests involving human beings subjected to high altitude going awfully wrong.
Apart from the fact that there is no evidence for an alien spacecraft crashing near Roswell (though something did crash), or for the security operation to seal off the area and suppress the story, the believers’ case collapses on one simple question: if such a mammoth security operation swung into action, why did the Roswell AAFB itself issue an officially approved press release saying that a flying disc had been captured? It is a major problem, which may seem novel to hear… It most likely is, as most UFO believers desperately try to avoid it, knowing full well that any discussion will dig the hole for the UFO believer ever deeper.
On the other hand, the sceptics’ case that either the personnel at Roswell AAFB couldn’t tell the difference between a flying disc and a weather balloon, or that the story was devised to cover up some other classified project, does not stand up either. Roswell AAFB, as befits one of the most sensitive military installations on Earth, was adept at covering up classified incidents and accidents. It had to, as the entire world – specifically the Soviets – tried to gain access and any type of information about the military installation. Furthermore, less than a month before, a bomber (possibly loaded with atomic bombs) had crashed in the area – and this had been effectively hushed up for some time. What was the original press release about? First, the original press release originated from within the intelligence unit of the air base. Secondly, inconsistencies in the timing of events reveal that the weather balloon explanation had already been put together before the flying disc press release was issued. That is correct: both stories were prepared at the same time!
It therefore appears that the US Army Air Force was acting in accordance with a pre-planned schedule: to announce the capture of a flying disc to the national and international news wire services, then immediately follow it up with a contradictory, conventional explanation. Why? The only rational motive for this would be to test public reaction, perhaps as an experiment to determine how such rumours could be started and stopped. Such cover stories would be needed, as the recent bomber crash had shown.
In short, the press release seemed like an “error”, quickly rectified, without any great loss of face – whatever Jesse Marcel and others would allege decades after the event. Was it meant to look like a cover-up? Was it meant to ignite a flurry of activity, specifically by foreign intelligence agencies, who would begin to delve into whether it was indeed just an error, or instead a cover-up? Foreign intelligence agencies should react in such manner. It would mean that would signal their agents to try to penetrate into the most best protected base in existence, or use their Roswell already infiltrated agents to search for specific information on the flying disc story. Hence, anyone who would ask or started to dig for this carrot, would subsequently be picked up by counter intelligence officers as a possible Soviet – or other nation’s – spy.
One source has stated that the Soviets thought just that: “Soviet intelligence bosses got the report from their agents at the American bases, they were more than sceptical. They figured the stories were plants, false information to flush out the Soviet spies the Americans suspected had infiltrated their most secret bases. If the Soviet government reacted to the disinformation, the American counterintelligence agents would be able to determine the path of the story and isolate the spies.” It is important to recognise that, in 1947 and for several years afterwards, the prevailing view of UFOs was not that they were extraterrestrial spacecraft. The public (if they believed in flying saucers at all) generally thought that they were either a new Russian secret weapon or experimental American aircraft. Kenneth Arnold himself preferred the latter explanation. The extraterrestrial theory, if it was discussed at all, featured low on the list of possibilities, and remained a minority view for the next few years.
As mentioned, for more than thirty years, no-one seemed interested in Roswell. When, in 1967, the Condon Committee asked UFO groups to supply them with what they considered the best cases, none put the Roswell Incident forward. By the 1970s, when Roswell was resurrected – specifically by a self-confessed government disinformant, William Moore, who more than Friedman created the story as we know it today – the extra-terrestrial setting had been firmly established. Roswell was recast to become the first pillar that supported the case that UFOs were ET, and that the US government was keeping some on ice – if not alive, hidden somewhere in a secret base.
What Moore added to the original Roswell story was the claim that several bodies had been recovered from the crash site (something that had never been mentioned previously). These claims emanated from a number of alleged eye-witnesses at the crash site or at Roswell AAFB. Every one of these witnesses has been discredited by the many sceptics that have tried to topple the first pillar of UFOlogy.
The first claims of alien bodies originated with Walter Haut (the press officer who wrote the original ‘flying disc’ press release in 1947) and Bob Shirkey, another prominent figure in the events of 1947. Thus, three key players in the original Roswell story were the originators of the new, improved story that emerged in 1978 and took shape in the early 1980s. The circumstances of the 1947 press release suggest that it was a deliberate exercise to test public reaction; an exercise in which Marcel, Haut and Shirkey must have been knowing participants. It is therefore significant that the same trio were behind the reinvention of the story thirty years later.
Furthermore, in the past decade, the UFO community has never asked with any determination whether Moore could have been “following suggestions” to concoct the Roswell story, together with another former intelligence operative, Charles Berlitz. UFOlogists do not like to ask that question, as it would undermine the First Pillar of UFOlogy. When Moore informed them that he had spread disinformation and had driven one researcher, Paul Bennewitz, to insanity, no-one seemed to ask whether that was the total extent of his crime, or whether it was just one in a series of “UFO lies” that Moore had spread about.
The two authors that continued in Moore’s footsteps and promoted the event as a UFO crash, Kevin D. Randle and Colonel Philip J. Corso, were also both former military intelligence officers. Randle served in AFOSI in the mid 1970s (the same organisation that held Moore’s strings) and Corso (who died in 1997) was a high-ranking officer in US Army intelligence. In the early 1960s, Corso participated in misinformation operations with C.D. Jackson, the psychological warfare expert who was involved in the infamous Betty and Barney Hill abduction.
In all of these cases, these people have been interpreted as either “whistleblowers” or “good souls”. As all of them have promoted the extra-terrestrial origin of the UFO phenomenon, we should ask whether they were writing “on orders”. Why is it that the US intelligence is more than chatty about Roswell, which supposedly is one of their best kept secrets? Though it is claimed that dozens of people were pressured throughout the many decades so that the lid remained closed on the case, the American intelligence community seems to be unable to keep the mouth of their own members shut! And yet somehow, we are led to believe this is the greatest secret the intelligence community has kept and is keeping? In 2005, Nick Redfern published “Body Snatchers in the Desert”, in which he argues that the Roswell Incident and its handling was indeed disinformation, nevertheless designed as a smokescreen to hide the truth about a disastrous event. He claims that the events in Roswell involved Japanese POWs mistreated in experiments from World War II, transferred to the US and used there in experiments to study effect of radiation and high altitude exposure, whereby at least one experiment went wrong, resulting in the “Roswell Incident”. He argues that the authorities thought that the situation was contained, until the officers in charge of this experiment realised they were sadly mistaken, when they saw Marcel’s press release and then had to make sure a retraction was quickly published. As already discussed, this is not supported by the evidence, which suggests that both statements – flying saucer and weather balloon – were written at the same time. The manipulators, as expected of experts in the game of espionage, misinformation and counter-intelligence, know that, once started, a rumour will take on a life of its own, and will be developed by others with only a minimal amount of direction. For example, the story of the Roswell crash has been bolstered by “witnesses” who have been proven to have concocted their stories in order to make money. The town of Roswell itself – in a poor region with incomes well below the national average – has capitalised on the story, with tourist dollars derived entirely from its fame as the “UFO crash site” now its main income. It even hosts a UFO museum, which is remarkable for a phenomenon in which all pieces of good evidence are notorious for completely disappearing.
To keep the fire lit, in 1997, the director of the UFO museum claimed he was contacted by a man who claimed to have pieces of wreckage from the crash that had been given to him by his recently-deceased father. A meeting was arranged in which the fragments were to be handed over. However, when the museum director arrived, he found a CIA agent waiting, who told him that the telephone call had been monitored, and that the wreckage had been confiscated and the informant arrested and taken to a secret location.
This story has been taken as further proof of the US government’s ongoing operation to conceal the reality of the Roswell crash. However, common sense raises certain questions that cast doubt on this interpretation. For example, why, if the informant had been apprehended and evidence suppressed, did the CIA bother to keep the rendezvous at all? If the CIA had not shown up, the director would have believed that it had just been another crank call, and that he had been stood up. Of course, we are now assuming the director of the UFO museum did not invent the story himself… It is either that, or the fact that the CIA are clearly involved in a campaign of disinformation… There is no third alternative. The Roswell myth was given a booster injection in the early 1990s, if only because of the 50th anniversary of the crash that would occur in 1997. One major boost occurred when a US politician, Steve Schiff, started his research into Roswell in 1993. His queries were given the run-around by the government agencies instructed to answer his questions. As a consequence, he asked the General Accounting Office (GOA) to perform an investigation into the case, which resulted in a report. It did not bring any aliens on ice to light, but did reveal that permanent documents from the base had gone missing, over a period of time. Though intriguing, the period is vast and nothing suggests that it had any relationship with the July 1947 crash (for which, even the UFO believers argue, there would be little to no documents available at Roswell, the alleged saucer soon taken elsewhere).
But the behaviour of the government is intriguing from another perspective: why was Schiff given the run-around? Why did they not merely park his request somewhere, in a manner that would satisfy him? Instead, it seems that the contacted sections of the government consciously opted to give him the run-around, almost inviting him to take the issue further… which he dutifully did… The GOA report was the first phase in a series of government reports that re-addressed the Roswell case. In 1997 – coincidentally? – “The Roswell Report: Case Closed”, was the Air Force’s second report on the New Mexico events of 1947. To quote Nick Redfern: “The report did little to dampen the notoriety surrounding the case, however. Indeed, the question why the Air Force had concluded that there was a pressing need on its part to explain the reports of unusual bodies found in New Mexico, when it could have summarily dismissed them as hoaxes or modern-day folklore, arguably only heightened the interest in what did or did not occur.” It is a very good question and the only reasonable answer is that – at the height of the Roswell controversy because of the 50th anniversary – the Air Force decided to throw oil on the fire, making sure everyone would be aware of the raging controversy. If they desperately wanted to conceal the truth about Roswell, all they had to do, was do nothing at all. Furthermore, they behaved in such a seemingly unprofessional manner that everyone was left assuming the Air Force was lying through their teeth and seemed to be covering things up! Philip Corso That the 1997 Air Force story was meant to sound incredible was clear. The report suggested that the sightings of alien bodies at Roswell was most likely the result of separate incidents, one dated to June 26, 1956, the other on May 21, 1959. The Air Force somehow felt it logical that eyewitnesses would mix two stories, one that occurred in 1947 – the crash – and the other – alien beings – that occurred nine and twelve years after the first event? Such incredible conclusion, which is as usual reviewed by a panel before being officially released, only shows that the Air Force knew full well that they were going to publish a “final report” that was ludicrous. Nevertheless, they published it. The conclusion obviously provoked controversy, which started at the time of the press conference accompanying the publication of the report. This, I suggest, was the purpose of the Air Force.
Only UFO believers seem to believe that the US government is incapable of conducting a successful cover-up or park an issue. Roswell, supposedly the biggest secret the government tries to hide from us, is remarkably well-known by most Americans… and even made it into major movies such as “Independence Day”, and television series such as “The X-Files” and even… “Roswell”! There was no need – no need at all – for the 1997 report. There was no public outcry for such a report, yet a report was produced? Why? Again, UFO believers do not ask that question. And hence the UFOlogist’s dogma that Roswell is a cover-up can be maintained.