Roswell, New Mexico, UFO Crash

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An artist’s depiction of the military finding debris and alien bodies at the Foster Ranch, near Roswell, New Mexico.

Roswell, New Mexico, UFO Crash

The air force press release of July 8, 1947, that announced the retrieval of a crashed flying saucer outside of Roswell, New Mexico, has become the mother of all UFO conspiracies.

The alleged UFO crash outside of Roswell, New Mexico, on the night of July 2, 1947, is the one event that spawned nearly every UFO conspiracy theory extant today.

Here is what generations of UFO researchers contend happened at Roswell:

An extraterrestrial craft developed mechanical problems and crashed on a ranch located about sixty miles north of Roswell.

Major Jesse Marcel—winner of five air combat medals in World War II, intelligence officer for the 509th Bomber Group, a top-security, handpicked unit—was ordered to go to the site and salvage the remains of the unknown aircraft reported by Mac Brazel, a rancher who had discovered the debris on his land.

In 1980 Marcel, long retired, recalled that he and his men found wreckage from the UFO scattered throughout the area of the crash. He admitted that he had no idea exactly what he and his men were supposed to retrieve—and, forty years later, he still didn’t know.

The strange, weightless material discovered by the 509th Bomber Group was difficult to describe. The pieces varied in length from four or five inches to three or four feet. Some fragments had markings that resembled hieroglyphics. Although the material seemed to be unbreakable, the military investigators thought that it looked more like wood than metal. Marcel put his cigarette lighter to one of the rectangular fragments, but it would not burn. He and his crew brought as many pieces of the crashed UFO back to Roswell Army Air Base as they could gather. Lewis Rickert, who in 1947 was a master sergeant and counterintelligence agent stationed at the air field, was among the military personnel present at the crash site. In 1994 he recalled that the jagged, flexible fragments were no more than eight or ten inches long and six or seven inches wide and they could not be broken.

On July 8, 1947, Walter Haut, the public affairs officer at Roswell Army Air Base, sent out a release announcing that the air force had “captured” a flying saucer. The announcement was transmitted to thirty U.S. afternoon newspapers that same day, and the entire nation was electrified as word spread that a military team had actually recovered debris from the crash of one of those mysterious airborne discs that people had seen buzzing around the country ever since a civilian pilot named Kenneth Arnold claimed to have had an encounter with “flying saucers” near Mount Rainier, in Washington State, on June 24.

On the very next day, July 9, the press office at the air field released a correction of its previous story. It had not been the debris of a flying saucer that had been recovered, after all. It was nothing but the remains of a downed weather balloon. Also on July 9, the Roswell Daily Record carried the story of Mac Brazel, the rancher who had found the “saucer,” who said that he was sorry that he had told anyone about the crashed junk in the first place.

In the 1980s Kevin Randle, a former captain in U.S. Air Force Intelligence, together with Don Schmitt, director of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, found new evidence indicating that the crash actually occurred on July 4, 1947, rather than July 2, as is commonly stated. It was on July 5, according to Schmitt and Randle, that Mac Brazel visited Sheriff George Wilcox and informed him of the peculiar discovery he had made near his ranch the day before. The military unit under the command of Major Marcel retrieved the crash debris and alien bodies on July 5. On July 8 Walter Haut issued the press release stating that the army had captured a flying saucer. Almost immediately thereafter, the official cover story of a collapsed weather balloon falling to Earth in the desert was heavily promoted by the military.

Numerous civilians who claimed to have arrived at the crash site remembered seeing the corpses of small, hairless beings with large heads and round, oddly spaced eyes.

Barney Barnett, a civil engineer employed by the federal government, said that he had seen alien bodies on the ground and inside the wrecked spaceship. He described them as small, hairless beings with large heads and round, oddly spaced eyes. Barnett stated that a military unit arrived on the scene and an officer ordered him off the site with the stern admonition that it was his patriotic duty to remain silent about what he had seen.

The press officer Walter Haut was given direct orders by his base commander, Col. William Blanchard, to prepare the official press release refuting the flying saucer account. The cover story of the weather balloon initiated the military/government conspiracy to keep the truth of a crashed extraterrestrial UFO from the public.

The nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman contends that Major Marcel was very familiar with all kinds of weather and military balloons and would not have mistaken such ordinary debris for that of a downed alien spaceship. Nor would any of the military personnel have mistaken alien bodies for diminutive human remains. After the wreckage was properly identified as extraterrestrial in nature, Friedman claims, the official cover-up was instigated at both the Roswell base and the headquarters of the Eighth Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas, by the Eighth Air Force’s commandant, Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, on direct orders from Gen. Clement McMullen at Strategic Air Command headquarters in Washington, D.C.

At least one of the alien crew survived the crash and was shipped, along with the debris of the vehicle, to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, thus becoming a resident of the infamous “Hanger 18” at Wright-Patterson.

Most eyewitness accounts speak of five alien bodies found at the impact site and state that four corpses were transported to Wright Field and the fifth to Lowry Field, Denver, to the air force mortuary service. Numerous secondary accounts of the incident assert that one of the UFOnauts survived the crash and was still alive when the military arrived on the scene. Some UFO researchers maintain that circa 1986 the alien being was still alive and well treated as a guest of the air force at what is now Wright-Patterson Air Base.

Don Schmitt and Kevin Randle, in their book UFO Crash at Roswell, include an interview with Brig. Gen. Arthur Exon, who told them that, in addition to debris from the wreckage, four tiny alien cadavers were flown to Wright Field.

A number of civilians were threatened by the military to keep their mouths shut about what really occurred at Roswell.

During an interview with a granddaughter of Sheriff George Wilcox in March 1991, Schmitt and Randle were told that the sheriff saw the debris of a UFO and “little space beings.” Later, military men “who were not kidding” visited Wilcox and his wife and warned them that they would be killed if they ever told anyone what he saw at the crash site. Not only would they be murdered, but their children and grandchildren would also be eliminated.

Randle and Schmitt located a Ms. Frankie Rowe, who had been twelve years old at the time of the mysterious occurrences outside Roswell. Her father, a lieutenant with the fire department, told his family at dinner on the night of the UFO crash that he had seen the remains of what he had at first believed to be an airplane. He also saw two little bodies in body bags and a third alien entity walking around in a daze. He described the beings as about the size of a ten-year-old child. Later, a group of military men arrived at the house and made it clear that if they ever talked about the incident again, the entire family would be taken out in the desert and “no one would ever find us again.”

In the November 1994 issue of American Funeral Director, Glenn Dennis recalled the telephone conversation that he had with the mortuary officer at Roswell Army Air Base on Tuesday, July 8, 1947, when he was asked if he could provide three- or four-foot-long hermetically sealed caskets. A short time later Dennis was on the base in his capacity as an ambulance driver, transporting an injured airman to the base hospital. As he drove past two field ambulances, he looked into their open back ends and saw an enormous amount of a silvery, metallic material, two chunks of which were curved at the bottom in the manner of a canoe. He also noticed that the pieces were covered with odd markings, which he assumed were some kind of hieroglyphs.

Dennis stated in the article that he was a familiar figure at the air base, even accepted as an honorary member of its officers club. On this occasion, however, two MPs grabbed him and brought him to a red-haired officer who warned him that somebody would be picking his bones out of the sand if he ever shot his mouth off about seeing the peculiar material. As the MPs were escorting Dennis back to his ambulance, they met a female nurse in the hallway. The nurse, with whom he was well acquainted, held a towel over the lower part of her face, and Dennis at first thought that she had been crying. Alarmed by his presence, she told him to leave at once before he was shot. Dennis indicated his two-man armed escort and said that he was leaving the base. As he was being ushered rudely down the hall, Dennis saw two men who also had towels over their noses and mouths.

The next day, the nurse arranged to meet Dennis at the officers club. There she told him that a flying saucer had crashed in the desert and the army had recovered bodies of three dead aliens. Until the bodies were frozen, she said, their smell had nauseated the medical staff. Dennis said that the nurse became extremely emotional while describing smallish beings with large heads and big eyes. He never saw her again. He was informed that she had been transferred to a base in England. Later, he was told that she had been killed in an airplane crash.

Other Roswell conspiracy theories with slightly different interpretations of the event were not long in surfacing:

An extraterrestrial craft did crash at Roswell in 1947, and through reverse engineering of the advanced alien technology at secret air bases such as Area 51, our scientists and engineers have accomplished aeronautical breakthroughs decades ahead of when we might have expected them.

Artifacts found with the crashed extraterrestrial space vehicle were discreetly farmed out to major U.S. corporations that were able to back-engineer many technological advances, to the benefit of all world citizens.

The alien kept alive in Hangar 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has been acting as a liaison between a secret agency within the government and the extraterrestrials, actually exchanging humans for advanced technical data.

In secret underground military and commercial facilities, aliens have been seen working side by side with earthling scientists and engineers developing additional technological advances derived from extraterrestrial technology.

Witnesses to such activity report subterranean laboratories where the extraterrestrials seek to create part-alien, part-human beings. Others tell horror stories of having observed “large vats with pale meat being agitated in solutions” and large test tubes “with humans in them.”

On June 24, 1997, the Pentagon held a special briefing conducted by the U.S. Air Force—timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 sighting of flying saucers—in order to release the document entitled The Roswell Report: Case Closed. This publication, stated Col. John Haynes, would be the air force’s final word concerning fifty years of accusations that the government was hiding evidence of extraterrestrial visitation.

The debris found at the crash site outside of Roswell was from a Project Mogul balloon, a top-secret intelligence-gathering device, hence the cover-up was for purposes of national security. The alleged bodies seen around the crash site were not those of extraterrestrial beings—or of any living beings. They were actually dummies, roughly the size of humans, that were used in experiments with high-altitude parachutes that began in 1953. After the experimental drops, air force personnel would retrieve the simulated human forms, and it must have been at certain of these recovery missions that folks around Roswell got the idea that they saw military types picking up “alien” bodies.

For those who wondered how witnesses could confuse dummies dropped over the desert near Roswell in 1953 with humanoid corpses scattered near a specific crash site in 1947, Colonel Haynes explained this confusion as a manifestation of the mental phenomenon of “time compression,” wherein the memory melds events separated by many years into “compressed” segments of time. That is, civilians who witnessed the crash site of a weather balloon in 1947 and, six years later, saw air force personnel retrieving crash dummies dropped from the skies recall the two events as one in their compressed memories. With all the controversy regarding flying saucers and aliens, the witnesses remember the balloon fragments and the dummies as the debris from a crashed spacecraft and the corpses of its extraterrestrial crew.

On October 25, 1998, an interview in the newspaper The People (London) with Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth person to walk on the moon, startled UFO buffs and skeptics alike. Without hesitation, the former astronaut proclaimed, “Make no mistake, Roswell happened. I’ve seen secret files which show the government knew about it, but decided not to tell the public.” Mitchell explained that because of his being a scientist and a former astronaut, military people with access to top-secret files were more willing to speak with him than to civilian researchers with shaky credentials. Although he had begun his inquiries as a cynic, he said, he became convinced of the existence of aliens after speaking with “the military old-timers” who had been in service at the time of Roswell. He added that the more government documentation he was told about, the more convinced he became.

Mitchell stated that he was shocked to learn the extent to which the UFO mystery had been covered up by the governments of the world, but in defense of such actions, he said that there were sound security reasons for not informing the general public of the truth about Roswell: “Quite simply, we wouldn’t have known how to deal with the technology of intelligent beings advanced enough to send a craft to Earth. The world would have panicked if we’d know aliens were visiting us.” He expressed his belief that those individuals who were in possession of top-secret documentation of alien visitors would soon begin to come forward and that full disclosures would be made within three or four years.

In July 1997 a CNN/Time poll taken to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the enigmatic event at Roswell indicated that 80 percent of the American public believes the government is hiding information about the UFO mystery. In addition, 54 percent of those surveyed are certain that life exists outside of Earth; 35 percent expect extraterrestrial beings to appear “somewhat” human; 64 percent are convinced that alien life forms have made contact with humans; and 37 percent are concerned that ETs are abducting humans.

Does Nitinol, the Memory Metal, Have an Extraterrestrial Origin?

In their book UFO Crash at Roswell, Kevin Randle and Don Schmitt interviewed Mrs. Frankie Rowe, whose father was a lieutenant with the Roswell fire department who had witnessed the debris of “some kind of ship” and tiny corpses in body bags. Frankie, who was twelve at the time, happened to be visiting her father at the fire station when a New Mexico state police officer came in with a strange piece of metal that he claimed he had picked up from the UFO crash site when no one was looking. To the astonishment of the firemen, the trooper tossed the object onto a table where it “unfolded itself in fluid motion,” looking not unlike water or liquid mercury. Each of the firefighters had their turn examining the alien metal and they all observed that it could not be cut, burned, or made to remain in any shape other than its original form. A few days later, the witnesses were warned by a group of military men that they must never talk to anyone about the fragment that the state police officer had removed from the UFO crash site.

In 1978, Jesse Marcel gave a filmed interview from his home in Houma, Louisiana, in which he spoke of handling the “memory metal” back in 1947. He, too, described it as a solid, metallic substance that could be crumpled into a ball, but always returned to its original shape.

In 1997, Lt. Col. Philip J. Corso admitted in his Day after Roswell that he had access to certain recovered materials from the Roswell UFO crash of 1947. Among this cache of materials was the “morph metal,” which Lt. Col. Corso believed was of extraterrestrial origin.

The mysterious fragments of metal were assigned to the Battelle Memorial Institute, a top secret defense contractor with state-of-the-art experimental laboratories and analysis facilities in Columbia, Ohio. It was here that the “memory metal” was named nitinol and analyzed as a fusion made from combining titanium and nickel at an extremely high heat. Scientists have declared nitinol so malleable that it might be capable of forming a self-mending aircraft hull that would virtually “heal” itself if breached.

In 2003, when researcher Nick Redfern was gathering material for his Body Snatchers in the Desert (2005) he met an elderly man that he dubbed “the Colonel,” who claimed an extensive background with various U.S. intelligence agencies. The Colonel told Redfern that the U.S. Army’s Foreign Technology Division had hatched the story of nitinol being created from extraterrestrial debris found at Roswell to ensnare a suspected Soviet spy. In order to make the story completely convincing to the Soviets, the spy was given a limited amount of research into nitinol. The trap worked, the Colonel said, but as a consequence, rumors spread within elements of the FTD that nitinol had actually been created from an extraterrestrial source.

After his interviews with the Colonel, Redfern was left with two possibilities: 1) The Nitinol-Roswell connection grew out of a plot to trap a communist sympathizer and his Soviet alley; or 2) the Colonel was attempting to deflect the nitinol-Roswell connection by placing the story in a “wholly down-to-earth context, rather than one involving literal aliens and a crashed UFO.”