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Volume 30

The Skeptics UFO Newsletter

Philip J. Klass

November 1, 1994

This volume is available as a PDF file. Download »

Rigorous USAF “Roswell Incident” Investigation, Spurred by GAO And White House Requests, Turns Up NO Evidence To Support Crashed-Saucer Claims, And A Sworn Denial By A Key Witness

An intensive U.S. Air Force investigation into the “Roswell Incident,” directed by the USAF office which is legally responsible for monitoring all USAF super-secret ("Black”) programs, was not able to find a shred of evidence that an ET craft crashed in New Mexico in 1947. The investigation did yield a sworn statement from Sheridan Cavitt, one of the two officers from Roswell who accompanied “Mac” Brazel back to his ranch on July 7, 1947 to examine and collect the debris he had found, which flatly denies the crashed ET craft tale. Cavitt also flatly denied that the Government had ever attempted to impose ANY secrecy on the incident. (The other officer, Maj. Jesse Marcel, died in June 1986 at the age of 79—prior to the emergence of tales of recovered ET bodies. Brazel died in the 1960s, more than a decade before the first book was published on the “Roswell Incident.”)

The USAF report concludes that the debris discovered by rancher Brazel came from a 700 ft. long string of weather balloons, radar corner reflectors and acoustic sensors which had been developed to try to detect Soviet nuclear tests, under a Top Secret program called Project Mogul. The giant string of balloons and sensors was launched from Alamogordo Army Air Field, roughly 90 miles south of Brazel’s ranch, on June 4, 1947 — 10 days before Brazel reported finding the debris. Although Project Mogul recovery teams, using radar tracking data, were able to locate most of the balloons launched, the one released on June 4 was never recovered. So far as is known, Project Mogul scientists did not then suspect that the “flying disk” reportedly recovered on the Brazel ranch might be debris from the June 4 launch. Nor was anyone at Roswell Army Air Field cleared for Project Mogul.

The USAF report credits UFO-researcher Robert Todd as being the first to discover the Project Mogul connection, as first reported in SUN #28/July 1994. The report also notes that the Project Mogul connection also was discovered independently by UFO-researcher Karl Pflock and reported in his “Roswell in Perspective” report, published last August by the Fund for UFO Research (FUFOR). [SUN #29/Sept. 1994] (Project Mogul was declassified in the early 1970s.)

Highlights of the results of the USAF investigation are contained in a 23-page report which was submitted to Secretary of the Air Force, Dr. Sheila Widnall, on July 27 and which she authorized for public release on Sept. 8. The report plus an additional 33 supporting documents are expected to be published by the Government Printing Office. Date of availability is not yet known.

The USAF’s massive effort was prompted by an investigation launched by the General Accounting Office (GAO) early this year at the request of Rep. Steven Schiff (R.-NM). [SUN #25/Jan. 1994] Added impetus, SUN has learned, came from the White House in the form of a memo from President Clinton’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. John Gibbons, to USAF Secretary Widnall, requesting that any classified UFO material be declassified.

The Pentagon responded promptly to GAO’s Feb. 15 request to Defense Secretary William Perry, recalling Congressman Schiff’s sharp public criticism that an earlier request to President Clinton’s first Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, had resulted in a “run-around.” If an ET craft had been recovered in 1947 and the Pentagon had created a covert ("Black”) program to analyze and exploit ET technology, it would be handled as a "Special Access Program” (SAP).

No ET/Roswell-Related Projects Among USAF’s “Black” Programs

The USAF’s search for a “crashed-saucer” related program started in the office respon-sible for monitoring all of Air Force SAP programs and keeping top Pentagon and Congress-ional officials informed. This office is designated SAF/AAZ and was headed by Col. Richard L. Weaver. According to the 23- page report submitted to Secretary of the Air Force Widnall and signed by Weaver: “SAF/AAZ categorically stated that no such Special Access Program(s) exists that pertain to extraterrestrial spacecraft/aliens.

“Likewise, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff, who head the Special Program Oversight Committee which oversees all sensitive programs in the Air Force, had no knowledge of the existence of any such program involving, or relating to the events at Roswell or the alleged technology that supposedly resulted therefrom. Besides the obvious irregularity and illegality of keeping such information from the most senior Air Force officials, it would also be illogical since these officials are responsible for obtaining funding for operations, research, development, and security. Without funding such a program, operation, or organization could not exist...,” the USAF report noted.

If, somehow, an ET-craft program had been illegally conducted for 47 years outside SAP cognizance, there should be a “paperwork trail.” If the project wrote an average of only one letter per day since 1947 it would have generated more than 10,000 pieces of paper. If only a single document could be found, the cover-up would be broken. So SAF/AAZ organized a team of experienced officers, with top security clearances, to search every conceivable archival source, including the National Archives, Air Force Historical Research Agency, National (Military) Personnel Records Center, Center for Air Force History, and Kirtland AFB, N.M.

Roswell UFO-Related Once-secret Document Is Discovered

This intensive archival research found only ONE document involving UFOs and Roswell Army Air Field. It was a July 1947 historical report, originally classified “Secret” because it covered activities of the 509th Bomb Group—then the nation’s only bomber group capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The item in its entirety read: “The Office of Public Information was quite busy during the month answering inquiries on the ‘flying disc,’ which was reported to be in possession of the 509th Group. The object turned out to be a radar tracking balloon.”

USAF investigators “found no indication of heightened activity elsewhere in the military hierarchy in the July 1947 message traffic or orders (to include classified traffic). There were no indications and warnings, notice of alerts, or a higher tempo of operational activity that would be logically generated if an alien craft, whose intentions were unknown, entered U.S. territory.”

Spurious Claims Punctured

The new USAF report does not try to respond to all of the spurious claims made by crashed-saucer writers, which would have required a many-hundred-page report. However, it occasionally does a little gentle needling—usually without identifying the culprit. [SUN will be more candid.] For example:

R/S failed to inform readers that some personnel records were destroyed in a major fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. SAF/AAZ sent a researcher to St. Louis to check out this R/S charge, among others. Using only the names, because R/S did not give serial numbers, the USAF researcher quickly located eight of the 11 “missing persons.” The other three had common names that made them more difficult to trace.

The USAF report needles R/S about one of the names on their list of “missing persons” by noting that "a casualty report in his records reflects that he died in 1951, while the writers claim to have interviewed him (or a person of the exact same name) in 1990.” The “missing person” is Edward M. Sager, whom R/S report (p. 277) having interviewed by phone in August 1990.

[SUN wonders if AT&T;, MCI or Sprint provides service to the Great Beyond.]

USAF Report Avoids Direct Challenge To (Alleged) Recollections

Early in the “UFO Era,” when a Florida Scoutmaster reported a close encounter with a UFO which the USAF investigated and characterized as a hoax, the man complained to his influential Congressman who wrote a nasty letter to the USAF denouncing its assessment. This resulted in a new but unwritten USAF policy. Henceforth suspected UFO hoaxes would simply be characterized as “Unexplained” or “Insufficient Information.”

The USAF report avoids challenging those persons who claim to have seen the crashed saucer and ET bodies. Instead it notes the similar descriptions of the debris by persons who are believed to be first-hand witnesses, given before the incident was so widely reported and embellished in numerous TV shows. Most recalled that the debris included tape on which colored flowers and geometric symbols—some called them as hieroglyphics— were printed:

Simple Explanation For Puzzling Detail

If the Brazel ranch debris came from an ET craft, built with very advanced technology to withstand the rigors of travel through space over distances of millions of miles, it seems strange that the craft would be held together with Scotch-like tape. If the debris came from a balloon-borne radar corner-reflector, it would be logical to use tape to strengthen the kite-like structure—but why bother to print colored flowers and geometric symbols on the tape?

The explanation emerged when USAF investigators interviewed (former) Col. Albert C. Trakowski, who was the military project officer for Project Mogul from early 1947 until mid-1949. The radar corner- reflector targets had been produced by a company that manufactured children’s toys, some of which employed a plastic tape with pink and purple flowers and geometric designs. When the manufacturer ran short of plain tape, used to secure the metal foil to the kite-like sticks of the corner reflector, it substituted the more colorful tape.

Those who promote the crashed-saucer myth claim that photographs of the debris, taken in the office of Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, 8th Air Force Commander at Fort Worth, showing Marcel, Ramey and Weather Officer Irving Newton holding the debris, were faked—that the debris photographed was not what Marcel had actually recovered from the Brazel ranch. But when Newton was interviewed by USAF investigators on July 21, he recalled seeing purple and pink figures on the debris in Ramey’s office.

Newton himself was not privy to Project Mogul, but he said he immediately recognized that the debris included remnants from a radar corner reflector and a balloon, so he concluded the debris was from a more conventional weather balloon and its radar reflector. USAF investigators were unable to determine whether Gen. Ramey was aware of Project Mogul and are inclined to doubt it. Thus, Ramey’s official assessment probably was based on the opinion rendered by Weather Officer Newton.

The Sept. 8 report emphasizes that the USAF investigation was limited to its own personnel and archives because the GAO is responsible for the total government investigation. Additionally, the USAF had no authority “to compel other agencies to review their records (and) would have no way to monitor the completeness of their efforts.”

Affected Parties Comment On USAF’s Roswell Report

When Congressman Schiff was asked to comment on the USAF report by a reporter for the Albuquerque Tribune, for a story published in its Sept. 17 edition, he was quoted as follows: “This could well be the correct explanation. It does explain certain actions that were taken at the time. But I think the biggest problem is that they provide this explanation after insisting over and over, up through last year, that they had no information....[This] will still leave questions in some people’s minds about whether we're getting the truth this time.”

If Schiff had studied the report more carefully, he could have learned that top USAF officials first learned of his interest in the Roswell Incident and his charges of “getting a run-around” when these allegations were published in the Jan. 14, 1994 edition of The Washington Post. Schiff had sent his initial inquiry to Defense Secretary Aspin, who in turn routed it to the office of the Asst. Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, which typically handles Congressional inquiries. Because the Schiff inquiry dealt with UFOs, for which the USAF had been responsible in earlier years, Schiff’s letter ended up on the desk of USAF Lt. Col. Larry Shockley. When Shockley made inquiry, he was told that the USAF had turned over all of its Project Blue Book files to the National Archives, and he so informed Schiff. When Schiff made inquiry of the National Archives, he was informed it could find nothing on the Roswell Incident. Until Jan. 14, top USAF officials were not aware of Schiff’s “cover-up” charge.

Schiff played loose with these facts when he appeared on Larry King’s two-hour TV special on the TNT cable network, titled “UFO Coverup? Live From Area 51,” which was broadcast on Oct. 1. King introduced Schiff by saying: “Air Force offered the Project Mogul story after years of prodding by New Mexico Congressman Steven Schiff, who was stonewalled when he first filed a routine query with the Pentagon.”

Schiff responded: “When the fact is [that] it was not routine. The response was a letter from the Air Force that simply said, rather curtly, we sent your letter over to the National Archives. So for them to refer me to an agency that they knew couldn’t provide the information, I think was nothing short of a run- around.” During this exchange, a copy of the letter Schiff received was shown. The letter bore the logo of the Asst. Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, NOT the U.S. Air Force.

Friedman and Randle Criticize USAF Report

Stanton Friedman and Kevin Randle, whose Roswell crashed-saucer books accuse the U.S. Government of cover-up and who appeared as live panelists on the Larry King show, offered critical comments on the new USAF report:

Several minutes later, Randle said: “I've spoken to everyone [cited] in the Air Force report except for Dr. Spilhaus [a Project Mogul scientist]. I've talked to other people the Air Force didn’t talk to. Conspicuous by his absence [from the USAF report] is Brig. General Arthur Exon, who said he flew over the two sites—the site the Air Force claims was Project Mogul plus the Impact Site where the craft and bodies were found.”

In view of Randle’s claim that he had “spoken to” several Project Mogul scientists cited in the USAF report, SUN FINDS IT STRANGE THAT NOT ONE OF THESE SCIENTISTS IS EVEN MENTIONED IN THE LATEST RANDLE/SCHMITT BOOK PUBLISHED THIS PAST SPRING. NOR IS THERE ANY MENTION OF PROJECT MOGUL IN THE BOOK'S INDEX.

Randle/Schmitt Ignore Flaws in General Exon’s tale

Randle criticizes the USAF Report for failing to consider the tale told by retired USAF Brig. Gen. Arthur Exon who claims he flew over two UFO crash sites. In their most recent book, “The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell,” they quote Exon as saying: “...the damage to the vehicle seemed to be coming from southeast to northwest, but it could have been going in the opposite direction [i.e., NW to SE].”

R/S never mention that Exon’s account contradicts Marcel’s recollections. When Marcel was interviewed on Dec. 8, 1979, by Bob Pratt of the National Enquirer, he told Pratt: “...you could just about determine which direction it came from and which direction it was heading. It was traveling from northeast to southwest....You could tell...by how it [debris] thinned out.”

In the same book, R/S report: “Exon also confirmed the gouge [in the terrain] that Bill Brazel [Mac’s son], among others reported. Exon said, ‘I remember...obvious gouges in the terrain.” But Brazel reported NO gouges when he was interviewed on April 7, 1978, over a Chicago radio station, along with crashed- saucer researcher Leonard H. Stringfield. In Stringfield’s publication “The UFO Crash/Retrieval Syndrome” status report #2, published in January 1980, he wrote that the debris field “area was thoroughly checked, he [Marcel] said, but no fresh impact depressions were found in the sand.”

FUFOR Challenges USAF, Ignores Own Report

The Fund for UFO Research promptly issued a press release headlined: “AIR FORCE STILL TRIVIALIZES UFOs,” which challenged the idea that the debris found on the Brazel ranch might have come from a Project Mogul launch. There was no mention of the report FUFOR had published a few weeks earlier, titled “Roswell In Perspective.” In the report by Karl Pflock, based on two years of research, he concluded: “It is all but certain that at least the great majority if not all of what was found at the debris field...was the wreckage of a huge balloon [from the] Top Secret, highly sensitive Project Mogul.” (Emphasis added.) [SUN #29/Sept. 1994]

A second FUFOR press release was issued by Don Berliner, who co-authored a crashed-saucer book with Friedman. Berliner, who also made no mention of the recent Pflock/FUFOR report, claimed “there is no known evidence that there ever was a Flight #4.” If Berliner had visited the Pentagon library and read the USAF report’s Attachment 32, written by lst Lt. Jim McAndrew, he would have known that the June 4 date for the launch of Flight #4 came from page 12 of the journal of A. P. Crary, one of the Project Mogul scientists.

Randle, Schmitt, Friedman, Berliner ALL Err On Key Roswell Date

Although Kevin Randle/Don Schmitt and Stanton Friedman/Don Berliner disagree sharply over many details of the Roswell “crashed-saucer scenario,” they do agree on one fact: the date when “Mac” Brazel visited Roswell to report finding unfamiliar debris on the ranch which he then managed. They all agree that the date was SUNDAY, July 6, 1947. But in fact Brazel’s visit to Roswell occurred on MONDAY, JULY 7.

Consider the following hard evidence for the MONDAY, July 7 date:

Unlike now, when all national holidays provide 3-day weekends, in 1947 they were relatively rare. In 1947, July 4th fell on a Friday, providing a 3-day weekend. In Marcel’s tape recorded interview with the National Enquirer’s Bob Pratt, on Dec. 8, 1979, he recalled: “How it all started—I was in my office. I went to the officers’ club for lunch and was sitting having lunch when I got a call from the sheriff from Roswell....He said, ‘There’s a man here, a rancher who came to town to sell his wool—he'd just sheared his sheep....” Surely Brazel would not be so foolish as to drive three hours to Roswell, expecting to find wool dealers open on the Sunday of a 3-day holiday. And it is doubtful that Maj. Marcel would be working in his office on the Sunday of a 3-day holiday. (Crashed-saucer researcher Karl Pflock is undecided as to whether Brazel visited Roswell on Sunday or Monday.)

Historical Evidence Supports USAF Findings

IF the U.S. Government had crashed-saucer evidence that Extraterrestrials were recon-noitering Earth, there would be cause for concern that their intentions might be hostile. This would the prompt the Pentagon to launch a crash program to develop high-speed missiles that might be able to shoot down UFOs if they proved hostile. As of July 1, 1947, the USAF had contracts with General Electric and Ryan Aeronautical to develop supersonic air-to-air missiles. But within nine months, both supersonic missile programs were terminated.

If a crashed saucer was recovered near Roswell and a high-level scientific committee were created to analyze and exploit ET technology, Dr. Vannevar Bush would have been a logical choice to head that group. As chairman of the Pentagon’s Research and Development Board, surely he would have requested additional funds for this project. But the record shows that in 1948, Bush recommended cutting back all defense research and development funding to a modest $500 million.

Birds of a Feather Pflock Together

Although Karl Pflock acknowledges that he has been “interested in UFOs” since his UFO sighting as a boy in the early 1950s, he challenges the statement in SUN #29 that he has a “long and strong desire to believe in UFOs.”

In an interview printed in the May-June, 1994, issue of CE Chronicles, published by The Close Encounters Research Network, Pflock was asked if he had reached any conclusions as to the nature of the UFO phenomenon. Pflock responded: “The large body of data available to us leaves no room for doubt that UFOs are real. Note carefully I said that UFOs...are real. That is, there are phenomena represented in the data which are something other than known natural or manmade phenomena. Moreover, the data representing UFOs is substantial enough that established science’s continued disdain for research in the field is downright unscientific....In any event, once the necessary information is in hand and recognized as such, I suspect we will find the label ‘UFO’ represents several different sorts of not necessarily related phenomena—very possibly including craft fashioned and controlled by nonhuman beings. If the latter is true—and I hope it is....” (Emphasis added.)

Pflock also challenged SUN’s reference to his “speculative leaps into the ‘wild blue yonder,'” in his otherwise commendable FUFOR report. Pflock says they are only “working hypotheses/scenarios to help evaluate and correlate evidence/testimony, identify areas in which more info is needed and suggest and develop leads.” Pflock says that SUN erred in indicating that his wife, Mary Martinek, no longer serves as Congressman Schiff’s point-of-contact with the GAO for its crashed-saucer investigation since they moved from Washington to Albuquerque. Martinek still serves as Schiff’s crashed-saucer specialist.

Hopkins-Mack Relations Becoming More Frayed

Basic philosophical differences between UFO-abduction guru Budd Hopkins and emerging guru Dr. John Mack have cooled their former close relations. The basic source of the schism is Hopkins’ view that abductions are a traumatic experience, whereas Mack believes they serve to broaden the victims’ concern for Earth’s ecological problems. First indication of these philosophical differences emerged at MUFON’s 1993 conference in Richmond, Va., where Mack revealed that some of his subjects (allegedly) had dual identities, i.e. they were both Earthlings and ETs. Also, that some of his subjects had experienced reincarnation while Hopkins said none of his subjects reported such tales. [SUN #23/Sept. 1993]

Evidence that the philosophical rift is growing can be found in interviews with Mack and Hopkins in a recent issue of UFO magazine (Vol. 9, No. 5). When asked to comment on some of the tales contained in Mack’s recent book, Hopkins said: “I haven't sat in on any of John’s sessions, so I’m not a first hand observer. One of my problems with the [Mack] book has to do with the fact that there are not hypnotic transcripts—verbatim transcripts of his sessions—and it’s extremely hard, then, to judge what goes on, to know how these sessions went.” [SUN comment: If Hopkins will re-read his own books, he will not find any complete transcripts either—only brief out-of-context quotations.] Hopkins added: “John is really a kind of mystic in his personality.”

In UFO magazine’s interview with Mack, he admitted that some critics charge that he is “too relaxed about physical evidence.” Mack added: “Now it’s fine for Budd Hopkins and people who are not psychiatrists or any other kind of physicians to be generalists and talk about the phenomenon; hybrids, skin lesions, missing pregnancies and one thing or another. And I have tremendous respect for their work. But I can’t go around talking about these things with authority because one cannot establish that those medical- surgical reports are not caused by something else, or that the pregnancies are truly proven to be missing or caused by aliens.”

Contrast Mack’s current views with those in his paper in the 1993 MUFON Conference Proceedings: “...Women will often report they have been impregnated....Later they may experience a baby being taken....Often after abduction, experiencers will have cuts or bleeding areas that may heal quite quickly and they notice unexplained scars, scoop marks, and even little implants....”

Short Shrift

NOTE: Opinions expressed in SUN are those of its Editor—unless otherwise noted—and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he is affiliated—or his spouse. We thank Dr. Gary Posner for help in proofreading.

Philip J. Klass

Phil Klass was a UFO researcher with a background in electrical engineering. He was author of seven books on UFOs, including UFOs Explained and UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Game. He was also editor of the SUN newsletter, a UFO-related publication.