How do we understand what happened in the Summer of 1947? So many years ago, so many rumours and stories, so many questions. As someone who has investigated this case for decades, and who has observed or has been involved in every twist and turn of this tale, Randle is the perfect guide.
The bones of the story is that W.W. ‘Mack’ Brazel went to Roswell on Monday 07 July 1947 where he showed samples of debris that he found near Corona, to Sheriff Wilcox. Wilcox contacted the local Roswell Army Air Base and Major Jesse Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office was sent to look at the material.
Marcel was unable to identify it so he was ordered, along with Senior Counterintelligence officer Captain Sheridan Cavitt, to go to the field of debris with Brazel as a guide. The next day they brought a substantial amount of the wreckage back to their base at Roswell, and this information was relayed to General Roger Ramey at Fort Worth Army Air Field by Colonel William Blanchard. As a result of their telephone conversation, Marcel took the debris to Fort Worth for further examination.
On the same day, Public Information Officer Walter Haut issued a press release claiming that 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.’ This release soon gained the attention of national and international media, as it would potentially supply the answer to the flying saucer mystery. The bubble soon burst when Ramey at Fort Worth saw the debris and announced it was just a weather balloon. Newspapers the next day showed pictures of Ramey and Marcel accompanying the news of this explanation, and the story instantly died.
There was barely a mention of the incident even in the UFO literature until 1978 when Marcel started talking about it on ham radio that came to the attention of Stanton Friedman. Since then Roswell has become the foundation for the belief that we are being visited by extraterrestrials and the government has kept this secret.
This research discovered that the debris consisted of super-strong lightweight beams that were impossible to cut or burn, along with velvety smooth, lightweight foil that would flow perfectly back into shape after being crumpled up. Several people mention this but they are all secondary witnesses except Jesse Marcel Jr. There seems to be dispute over how much and how spread this debris was, some say it was strewn over a large area (three quarters a mile long and 300 yards wide), others that it was in a relatively small area (200ft in diameter).
There is talk that it created a gouge in the ground indicating it skipped up into the air before finally crashing back down to Earth. Others say it looked as if the object had exploded above the ground and the debris had rained down from the air.
There are several motives why Brazel took the debris to Roswell, one was that he had only just heard about flying saucers and he thought it might be a crashed disc. Whether he knew about them or not, if he thought it was unusual debris why didn’t he take it straight to Roswell? Instead he took it to Roswell to coincide with a shopping trip. Another possibility was that he wanted the Army to clear up the mess. Another might have been that he was encouraged to claim a $1,000 reward for flying saucer evidence being offered by three different organisations; something Randle briefly mentions without comment.
The stories of Brazel being locked up by the military for several days, before he could return home sounds like part of an orchestrated cover-up. This fizzles out to him being put up in the base’s guest house, presumably so that they had easy access to him if they needed his further help (his ranch had no telephone or radio).
There were claims that there was a major clean-up operation of the site and that check points were set up to stop the curious getting any closer. Tim Printy effectively points out the logistics of such an operation and there is no documented evidence to support these stories.
Stories also emerged that the debris was only part of the wreckage and that further away a capsule containing alien bodies was also found and hushed up. Although Walt Haut denied any knowledge about the crash and only wrote the press release, he referred Randle to three witnesses whom he regarded as ‘golden’. They all claimed to see these small bodies at the second crash site. Their affidavits are not worth the paper they are written on, and that includes Haut’s affidavit that was released posthumously and has lots of details he refused to talk about when he was living. Was that one last snigger at the eager-beaver Roswell investigators or a genuine desire to tell all from the grave? Randle confesses that after 2000 Haut became confused.
Randle is able to confidently state that the alien body stories, especially those by Glenn Dennis, Frank Kaufmann and James Ragsdale were lies. Stanton Friedman steadfastly supported Ragsdale’s sensational and ever-changing story as he ‘could not imagine any reason for his lying…’ Well he was a Nuclear Physicist…
Weirdly enough the General Accounting Office felt it was necessary to explain stories of recovered bodies by referring to high-altitude research that used anthropomorphic test dummies in the area of Roswell. Perhaps a form of conflation had occurred in the minds of people in the area? Nonetheless, Randle does note that these experiments were several years after the Roswell incident, and such an explanation was not needed as the witness testimony it tried to explain was totally unreliable to put it charitably.
To make matters worse, if that was possible, it was even discovered Major Jesse Marcel had ‘inflated his resume’ as Randle puts it. This inflation includes the false claim that he had been awarded five Air Medals, had shot down five enemy aircraft, that he had a degree in physics and that he had 3000 hours of pilot flight time (he never held a pilot licence).
When Marcel’s diary of that period was uncovered by his grandchildren it did not explicitly mention retrieving a flying saucer, instead it consisted of mental doodlings and quotations. This indicates he was a thoughtful person who had an active imagination. See: Roswell: The First Witness, at:
J. Bond Johnson, the news photographer who took the pictures at Fort Worth, claims that Marcel tried to convince him that notations on the sticks amongst the debris was alien writing. Although, Johnson’s memory of only taking a couple of pictures was wrong - six were actually taken, two perhaps by someone on the base. His memory also lets him down when asked if he handed Ramey the now famous memo, seen in one of the photographs.
Much work has gone into deciphering the writing on the memo, including state-of-the art equipment and techniques. Some think it mentions ‘viewing’, others see the word ‘victims’ but Randle thinks this depends on your personal biases rather than hard evidence either way, and in all likelihood it was a civilian teletype given as a prop by Johnson. This not only underlines the difficulty of examining evidence but shows up the vagaries of people’s memories so long after the event. A point Randle makes is that Johnson did at first admit giving the teletype to Ramey, but he changed his mind as the focus on deciphering it and his own role in the affair would be diminished.
The main bias of this UFO research is that only the people who believed it was some unusual event were contacted and interviewed. What about the naysayers who think it was literally balloonery? Randle does mention one or two, including Lt. Col. Robert Barrowclough, the Roswell base Executive Officer. He piloted the B-29 that took Marcel and the wreckage to Fort Worth, and he did not think anything extraordinary happened. When sent a copy of a MUFON UFO Journal that was critical of the story, Barrowclough, wrote: ‘Maybe some of those crackpots will quit calling me up and say I’m covering up a deep gov’t secret.’ I doubt that it did!
Cavitt, who visited the debris field in early July 1947, when asked what he thought about the wreckage in 1994, he bluntly stated: ‘I thought it was a balloon.’
The motive of many involved in this unfolding story has been for financial gain and attention. The likes of Ragsdale told blatant whoppers but he got his moment of fame, indeed anything related to Roswell is ravished by the media. That was true of the notorious 'Roswell Slide' saga where a picture of a mummy in a museum cabinet was passed off as the remains of a Roswell alien. Numerous experts attested to its authenticity until a group on Facebook took a matter of days to reveal its true terrestrial origins. Then there was the MJ-12 debacle that claimed a secret government body was retrieving alien bodies, and of course the Alien Autopsy film footage fiasco is another hoax associated with Roswell.
As Philip Mantel shows in his book Roswell Alien Autopsy: The Truth Behind The Film That Shocked The World (Flying Disk Press, 2019) ‘experts’ were baffled by this film until the hoaxers revealed themselves - although even now some cling to the idea that it is authentic.
The original debris that was collected by Marcel ended up at Wright Paterson and probably got destroyed in a warehouse fire in the 1950s. Strange that with so much of this material flying about in the wind at the ranch not one scrap of ‘miracle’ foil was ever scooped up and kept as a souvenir. The Army must have done a wonderful clean-up operation!
If we think about the debris it was described as consisting of foil, strong wooden sticks and rubber. Most of it was only a few inches in size; no motors, propellers, electronics, cockpit, fuel or anything remotely suggesting an aircraft let alone anything like a spaceship was recovered. And if all these materials were so strong and miraculous how come they ended up as a shredded and torn mess?
Randle notes the Pentagon was panicked by the Roswell case and made a concerted effort to provide explanations for UFO sightings. This may well have been to cover-up the secret Project Mogul that was the cause of the Roswell Incident, and to cut-down the growing excitement about flying saucers that had intrigued the nation since the Kenneth Arnold sighting that made it headline news on 24 June 1947.
Others, like Randle, consider they did this to cover-up the real truth about this event. You have to admire Randle’s diligent search for witnesses and his determination to track down the salient facts against a tide of lies, falsehoods, rumours and misdirection. Most would give-up with exasperation, but Randle doggedly supports the idea of a cover-up. He is not saying it was an alien spaceship crash, then again he is not saying it was not. To gain further understanding of Roswell the book contains an extensive bibliography and an index.
- Nigel Watson
‘Popular Roswell Myths’, a detailed analysis by Tim Printy, at: www.astronomyufo.com/UFO/Rosmyths.htm
‘The Roswell Myth’ is a succinct guide to the case: