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What Really Happened at Roswell


Kal K. Korff

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 21.4, July / August 1997

The Roswell UFO crash “mystery” has now been solved. No extraterrestrial spacecraft was involved. What did stimulate the original report was, however, quite interesting, although decidedly earthly.

According to much widely held public opinion, the United States government successfully recovered the remains of a crashed UFO along with its extraterrestrial occupants near Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947. In what is now known as the “the Roswell incident,” the U.S. military is said to have quickly covered up the affair and continues to shroud it in extreme secrecy even today.

If these events surrounding Roswell in the summer of 1947 actually took place, as have been claimed in several books on the subject and by numerous UFO researchers, it would certainly constitute the story of the millennium and be the greatest government-sponsored coverup of all time. Indeed, should irrefutable evidence ever surface that any government on this earth possessed the physical remains of either an extraterrestrial spacecraft or its occupants, it is an understatement to say that such a revelation would fundamentally transform humanity as we know it.

What does one do with the numerous claims about Roswell that have surfaced over the years? How does one begin to determine the truth about what really happened in 1947 and sort the fact from the fiction?

The Roswell incident, and all that surrounds it, is a complex web of events, not easily understandable nor explainable until examined fully and in painstaking detail. In my new book, The Roswell UFO Crash: What They Don't Want You to Know (Prometheus Books 1997), I undertake such a dissection. The book presents the results of some sixteen years of research and, for all practical purposes, leaves no stone unturned. The Roswell “mystery” has been solved, and there is no credible evidence that the remains of an extraterrestrial spacecraft was involved.

The Original Roswell Event

For non—UFO buffs, the Roswell incident effectively began after the Fourth of July holiday weekend in 1947 when a rancher named William “Mac” Brazel reported to the local sheriff, George Wilcox, that he might have recovered the remains of “one of them flying saucers.” Wilcox, according to various accounts, then contacted military authorities at nearby Roswell Army Air Field, where Major Jesse Marcel was assigned to investigate.

Marcel and two Counter Intelligence Corps agents, Sheridan Cavitt and Lewis Rickett, drove out to the ranch where Brazel worked to examine and collect the wreckage. On July 8, 1947, the public information office at Roswell AAF made the startling announcement that they had recovered the remains of a “flying disc.”

However, by the next day the excitement was over. Brigadier General Roger Ramey, who had ordered the wreckage sent to him for examination at Carswell Air Force Base (also known as Fort Worth), held a press conference, with Major Marcel present, and announced that all the hoopla had been over a mistaken weather balloon, and nothing more.

With Ramey’s deflating announcement, the Roswell “flying saucer” story was effectively dead and would remain so for decades. Then, in 1978, UFO researcher Stanton Friedman happened to meet Marcel. Because Marcel dredged up his recovered-saucer story, and Friedman thought he had at last found a “star” witness who could blow open the U.S. government’s alleged coverup of crashed saucers and pickled aliens, the Roswell myth began anew, with Friedman as its most vocal (and visible) champion.

“Hundreds of Witnesses”

In the pro-UFO community, much fanfare has been made over the years about the “dozens” or even “hundreds of eyewitnesses” to the alleged UFO crash near Roswell.

If the near-holy reverence for the number of alleged witnesses surrounding the Roswell affair were limited to just the UFO buffs who have conducted no direct research of their own, this situation might be understandable. However, this is not the case, for the authors of numerous Roswell books play the numbers game as well.

In the pro-UFO book The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell, Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt note the fact that Bill Moore, coauthor of The Roswell Incident (1980), interviewed “more then seventy witnesses who had some knowledge of the [Roswell UFO crash] event.” Indeed, both Friedman and Moore, around the time of the initial publication of The Roswell Incident, boasted that they had interviewed more than “ninety witnesses.”

While these double-digit figures are certainly accurate, the presentation of such a seemingly impressive number of witnesses by themselves, without qualification, is misleading. The relevant issue is not how many witnesses were interviewed, but rather what type of witnesses (i.e., firsthand, secondhand), and how truthful and accurate their statements were.

Unfortunately, a careful reading of Bill Moore and Charles Berlitz’s Roswell Incident reveals that, despite the impressive claim of having “interviewed more than seventy witnesses,” the testimonies of just twenty-five people are presented. Out of these twenty-five, only seven of them are firsthand sources who claim to have seen the alleged saucer debris, and one of these accounts is suspect. Of these seven people, however, only five claim to have actually handled the material personally, and one of them is adamant that it was not from an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

The remainder of the professed “witnesses” cited in The Roswell Incident are either secondhand sources (whose testimonies constitute hearsay) or people who saw no wreckage at all or were never present at the “debris field” during the critical time. In other words, they are not actually witnesses in the true sense of the word.

Father Time and Flawed Memories

While the pro-UFO community and the Roswell authors stress the number of witnesses, another factor in their firm belief that an extraterrestrial spacecraft crashed at Roswell is the apparent consistency of the eyewitness testimonies.

However, a careful reading of the statements presented in The Roswell Incident and elsewhere reveals that there are serious discrepancies among the various accounts which, when analyzed in detail and taken collectively, severely weaken the case.

One undeniable truth that many UFO advocates seem to easily forget is that when Moore and Friedman first started interviewing some of the original witnesses regarding Roswell, the recollections of these people had undoubtedly changed. If nothing else, their memories reflected the passage of nearly thirty-one years, if not more. Even the very first person interviewed, Marcel, was not questioned by Friedman until 1978, again almost thirty-one years after the event.

It is an irrefutable fact that the passage of time erodes the accuracy of one’s recollections of an event. Despite this, the Roswell authors continue to stress just how “clear and sharp” their witnesses’ memories are, even though nearly fifty years have now elapsed. Certainly these memories could not have improved.

Perhaps the most absurd attempt to paint the Roswell eyewitnesses and their testimonies as beyond dispute can be found in Randle and Schmitt’s The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell, which was later adapted for television by Showtime, under the name Roswell.

In drawing a parallel between the alleged UFO events at Roswell and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Randle and Schmitt state, “The Roswell memories are vivid and detailed, despite the passage of so many years” and constitute a “snapshot memory.”

If this is the case, to use Randle and Schmitt’s analogy, then these people forgot to load film in their camera, for even the most important “star” witness to Roswell, Major Marcel, when first interviewed, could not even remember the year of the alleged UFO crash, let alone the month. Indeed, Marcel’s own answer as to when this supposed “snapshot memory” event took place was simply “in the late forties"!

In my book on Roswell, I examine systematically the accounts of all major “witnesses” presented in the Roswell Incident and all others. For the first time, these testimonies are exposed for what they are: a mishmash of erroneous accounts, embellishments and outright confabulations. In fact, as I show, some of the people who have been touted as witnesses by the pro-UFO Roswell authors are not really witnesses at all. Here are some examples:

Lydia Sleppy: Claims she was operating a teletype machine announcing the recovery of the flying disk when her teletype suddenly went dead and broadcast an ominous message from the FBI back to her ordering her to stop broadcasting the story in the interests of national security.

Truth: A check by this author with all relevant FBI field offices and their headquarters turned up no evidence that the FBI sent any such message, nor did they have the monitoring equipment in place to do so. Furthermore, the type of teletype machine in use by Sleppy at the time would have required her to throw a “receiver” switch in order for her to receive an incoming transmission. There was no way that the FBI could have “interrupted” her as she claims.

Loretta Proctor: Neighbor of Mac Brazel, the rancher who originally discovered the “saucer” debris. She claims she tried to bend, burn, and break a piece of the material Brazel showed her but was unable to. Proctor’s testimony is used by crashed-saucer buffs to buttress the argument that a spaceship made of unknown, exotic material crashed near Roswell.

Truth: Loretta Proctor has changed her story several times. She has transformed herself from a “witness” who never saw any debris, to one who now tried to bend, break, and burn the “mysterious” material. She began changing her account after her husband, Floyd, who made it very clear in earlier interviews that they had never seen any material, passed away.

Sergeant Melvin E. Brown: Brown is touted as a “witness” who saw alien bodies by Roswell authors Friedman, Randle and Schmitt, and Michael Hesemann and Philip Mantle (Beyond Roswell).

Truth: Melvin Brown cannot be considered a witness since he died in 1986 and was never interviewed by UFO researchers. Indeed, the only “proof” one has that Brown was a “witness” comes from his daughter, Beverly Bean, who first made the claim years after his death. No other member of Brown’s family supports her claim. Furthermore, a check by this author of Brown’s military file revealed that he was a cook who held no security clearance and never pulled guard duty. Also noted in the book are the blatant contradictions and changes in Beverly Bean’s various accounts.

Major Jesse Marcel: The Hidden Truth

In my book I publish for the first time excerpts from the military file of Jesse Marcel, excerpts which prove that although Marcel served his country honorably, he was not a credible witness and should not be considered as such. (Despite this fact, Stanton Friedman and other pro-UFO Roswell authors consider his every word to be gospel truth.) The file is extremely incriminating, for it it clearly demonstrates that Marcel had a penchant for exaggerating things while repeatedly trying to “write himself” into the history books. Ironically, Marcel’s tendency to exaggerate was specifically noted in his military file by none other than the commander of the base at Roswell at that time, in a review of his performance that was signed just after the incident occurred.

Marcel claimed that he personally flew the UFO wreckage to Carswell AFB. He could not have done so, for he was never a pilot. Despite this, Marcel claimed in numerous interviews with Friedman and former National Enquirer reporter Bob Pratt that he was not only a pilot but had managed to shoot down five enemy aircraft! If so, this would have made Marcel an “ace,” a distinction that certainly would have been noted in his military file. Instead, there’s no record of this or even anything close, and in fact it was General Ramey who specifically noted in Marcel’s file that because he was not a pilot, he would be severely limited in his career opportunities in the Air Force. It’s no wonder, then, that Marcel would later “blame” Ramey for the “UFO coverup” at Roswell.

Marcel claimed he had a bachelor’s degree in physics and even named the universities he attended. However, when I checked with those institutions, I discovered that one of them he never attended, and he never finished his education at the other. Curiously, while Marcel blatantly lied to UFO researchers such as Friedman about his mythical educational background, he never dared make such false claims to the military. Indeed, in signed statements contained in Marcel’s military file, he replies “none” when asked under oath if he had a college degree.

Does this tell us that Marcel knew his gullible UFO peers would never check on him anyway? Or did he even care? We don't know.

The book also notes that Friedman, even as of this writing, has failed to refute these devastating new revelations about his “star” Roswell witness. Indeed, in what can only be politely called lame rationalization, Friedman counters that military records are notoriously inaccurate. While this is sometimes true, the comment is irrelevant, since throughout Marcel’s file his signature repeatedly appears indicating that he signed off on its contents, certifying them to be true. Until Friedman and other pro-UFO Roswell researchers bother obtaining Marcel’s entire military file, they are in no position to make comments on it, let alone dismiss it.

In addition to disproving Marcel’s testimony, I also systematically dismantle and refute other Roswell “eyewitness” testimonies such as those of British Major Hughie Green, Roswell mortician Glen Dennis, Rueben Anaya, Frankie Rowe, Frank Kaufmann, Jim Ragsdale, and others. In short, no credible evidence from any witness has turned out to present a compelling case that the object was extraterrestrial in origin.

Having discovered the sad truth behind many of the testimonies concerning the recovery of alleged “flying saucer” debris near Roswell, where does this leave us? With no known scientifically verifiable physical remnants to study, is there any way that we can determine the true nature and origin of the actual wreckage that was collected? Fortunately, the answer is yes, but we must first examine additional evidence.

The Air Force Coverup Begins

The beginning of the Air Force coverup of the true nature of the object recovered by Major Marcel started with Marcel’s arrival at Carswell AFB and General Ramey’s subsequent announcement that the debris was simply a misidentified weather balloon. As noted, Marcel maintains that the Roswell debris was from a flying saucer and that the weather balloon “explanation” provided by Ramey was a convenient cover story. Although Marcel’s credibility as a truthful witness in the Roswell saga has been impeached, there is no disputing the fact that he accompanied the wreckage to Carswell AFB and was present in Ramey’s office with him when the weather balloon explanation was given. But was there a coverup as Marcel claims, and was the weather balloon story part of that coverup?

According to Colonel Thomas J. DuBose, who was General Ramey’s assistant, the weather balloon story was indeed part of the coverup, designed to get the press “taken off [Ramey’s] back in a hurry.”

If the Roswell incident did not involve the retrieval of wreckage from a genuine flying saucer, then why was the weather balloon story given as an “explanation,” and what was the reason for the coverup? What was there to possibly hide, since the debris Marcel himself had helped recover was on display in Ramey’s office?

Flying Saucer or Weather Balloon?

According to the pro-UFO Roswell authors, specifically Friedman, Randle, and Schmitt, the debris photographed inside Ramey’s office is not the material Marcel and Sheridan Cavitt recovered from the ranch. Instead, it is the remnants of a weather balloon that were brought in as a cover story to hide the true nature of the Roswell incident.

Unfortunately for the pro-UFO Roswell advocates, the source of the claim that the wreckage in Ramey’s office was replaced by that of a weather balloon is none other than, once again, Major Jesse Marcel.

The key to understanding (and unraveling) the truth behind Marcel’s “bait and switch” claim is a clear understanding of the items shown in the photographs that were taken in General Ramey’s office by reporter J. Bond Johnson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and others. Either the photos show the real debris that Marcel collected and claims was part of a flying saucer, or they do not. And if the photos do not show genuine flying saucer wreckage, and General Ramey’s weather balloon story was true, then they depict a weather balloon. On the other hand, if the photos show neither item, then there was indeed a coverup and Ramey lied.

Clearly, both Marcel and Ramey cannot be right, since the same material appears in all the known photos taken in Ramey’s office that day.

In order to determine definitively the truthfulness of Marcel’s substituted wreckage claim, I have analyzed in detail both the photos and the testimonies of the only other people who were in Ramey’s office when the debris was photographed — Colonel DuBose and Irving Newton. It appears that Marcel was once again confabulating.

Testimony of Brigadier General Thomas J. DuBose

As mentioned earlier, Colonel Thomas J. DuBose, who later retired as a brigadier general, was present when the wreckage was brought into Ramey’s office. There’s no disputing this fact, because DuBose met the B-29 personally when it arrived at Carswell AFB (Fort Worth) from Roswell carrying the debris that Marcel had collected.

DuBose not only greeted the incoming plane, but hand carried the wreckage remnants in a sealed canvas mail pouch, immediately escorting it to Ramey’s office.

In a revealing interview, DuBose puts to rest the “mystery” of the so-called substituted wreckage and exposes it for what it is — another Major Marcel myth. DuBose’s comments have never appeared before in any book on Roswell.

Q: There are two researchers (Schmitt and Randle) who are presently saying that the debris in General Ramey’s office had been switched and that you men had a weather balloon there in its place.

A: Oh Bull! That material was never switched!

Q: So what you're saying is that the material in General Ramey’s office was the actual debris brought in from Roswell?

A: That’s absolutely right.

In a second and a third, final interview, DuBose repeated his assertions that no wreckage substitution had taken place. More important, by the time of the third interview, DuBose had looked at the photos of the recovered debris taken at that time by J. Bond Johnson. DuBose recognized the material in the photos.

Q: Did you get a chance to read the material and look at the pictures?

A: Yes, and I studied the pictures very carefully.

Q: Do you recognize that material?

A: Oh yes. That’s the material that Marcel brought into Fort Worth from Roswell.

DuBose’s comments are significant, because they establish that there was no substituted wreckage and that the material Marcel recovered near Roswell was later photographed and put on display for public view in Ramey’s office by Ramey himself.

I also present the testimonies of Irving Newton, who was also present that day in Ramey’s office, and Sheridan Cavitt, who helped Marcel collect the wreckage from the ranch. After looking at the same debris photos, they confirmed that they depict the material they recalled seeing and that no UFO debris was ever there. In fact, both Newton and Cavitt make it very clear in their interviews that they have been misquoted by various UFO researchers, and they resent it.

Although DuBose’s testimony and all available evidence easily refute Marcel’s substituted wreckage claim, DuBose was adamant that there was indeed a coverup. He never knew what the Roswell object was, but he did know that it was not an ordinary weather balloon, contrary to what was claimed at that time. The question now becomes, what was the object?

Project Mogul: The Real Answer

Project Mogul was a super-secret operation in 1947 that involved the use of constant-level balloon trains that were equipped with various instruments for intelligence gathering purposes. Constant level balloon trains are clusters of balloons that are balanced so that they can float at a fairly consistent altitude and not continually rise up into the atmosphere. Project Mogul was a classified operation begun by the U.S. government after the end of World War II to spy on the former Soviet Union in order to determine the status of Russian attempts to build nuclear weapons. Project Mogul was so secret and sensitive that it had a national security rating of “Top Secret A-1,” equal to that of the original Manhattan Project (the effort to build the world’s first atomic bomb).

While a Project Mogul balloon array has been mentioned before as a candidate for the Roswell object, unfortunately the case for it remained unproven — until now. In my book, I present previously unpublished, formerly classified photos and drawings of various components of Mogul that can be visually compared by the reader to photos of the actual wreckage that was recovered. From these photos and drawings, it is clear that it is the same material.

I also present statements from the surviving members of the secret Project Mogul team. In particular is an interview with Professor Charles Moore, the main scientist behind Mogul’s New York University balloon experiments and the man who actually launched the very balloon train that was recovered by Marcel. In addition to discussing Project Mogul and its history, Professor Moore also speaks for the first time about specific pro-UFO Roswell authors that have contacted him.

When I asked Professor Moore if UFO researcher Stanton Friedman had ever contacted or interviewed him about Roswell, he told me that in the early 1990s Friedman had placed a newspaper ad in the local paper soliciting witnesses to Roswell, and that he wrote to Friedman and later met him and his coauthor, Don Berliner, at a hotel in Socorro.

When I inquired as to how their discussion went, Professor Moore told me bluntly that Friedman and Berliner did not want to hear his side of the story and then accused him and his group of being part of the coverup.

It is curious that nowhere in Friedman and Berliner’s Crash at Corona is this meeting ever mentioned, nor has Friedman ever noted it in his published writings, nor has he ever refuted the overwhelming and convincing evidence that the whole Roswell UFO hysteria was caused by people who didn't know the identity of the recovered material, the discovery of which just happened to take place during that unique period of time in mid-1947 when the flying saucer craze was first sweeping America.

Further Topics and Conclusion

The other parts of The Roswell UFO Crash: What They Don't Want You to Know expose the two cases where alleged physical metallic fragments were recovered and scientifically analyzed. In both instances, thorough analyses revealed that none of the fragments were extraterrestrial in origin.

I also address the issue of the Majestic-12 (MJ-12) documents. For those not familiar with the MJ-12 documents, these allegedly authentic top-secret documents were brought to the public’s attention in 1987 by Bill Moore, Stanton Friedman, and another associate. They refer to a top-secret “Operation Majestic-12,” supposedly created by President Truman to analyze the Roswell crashed saucer and aliens. Skeptic Phil Klass and others have shown this to be a hoax. I recount an interview with the widow and daughter of the late UFO skeptic and Harvard astronomer, Donald Menzel, an alleged MJ-12 member. Supporters of the MJ-12 papers, including Friedman, would have us believe that Menzel was a secret government “disinformation” agent who knew all about Roswell and the aliens recovered. Suffice it to say, the Menzel family are not amused by these ridiculous claims and were kind enough to share their thoughts with me, as well as provide additional evidence that their father could not have been a secret member of the non-existent MJ-12.

After maintaining my personal silence on the subject for nearly fifteen years, I finally come forth with some detailed insight into Roswell UFO researcher Bill Moore’s claim that he is a UFO disinformation expert for the U.S. government. I was one of the first people Moore told this to back in 1982, some seven years before he announced it in July 1989. At the time, Moore approached me and tried to recruit me on his “mission.” Naturally, I declined, and began to distance myself from him.

One of the last chapters in my book examines the infamous alien autopsy film and presents a myriad of reasons why it is a hoax. Also described are some behind-the-scenes details about the production and many of the games that were played on Fox TV by the film’s promoter, Ray Santilli.

The Roswell UFO Crash: What They Don't Want You to Know is the first book to thoroughly wade through the massive quagmire of Roswell evidence and finally separate the fact from the fiction. Paranoid UFO conspiracy buffs and X-Files fans will find that the book confirms their basic premise: Yes, Virginia, there was a “coverup,” but it did not involve the remains of an extraterrestrial flying saucer.

On the other hand, pro-UFO Roswell aficionados will find the massive evidence refuting the Roswell myth in my book disturbing, and not just because their favorite UFO case has now been explained. Indeed, the message in the final chapter makes it very clear that the UFO field has suffered in credibility because of Roswell and especially because of the unprofessional and shoddy “standards” of evidence the Roswell authors have practiced.

Although I didn't relish wording the last paragraph in my book the way I did, I had to call things as I see them. This paragraph reads: “The time has come for the UFO community to take an honest look at itself in the mirror concerning Roswell. If and when they ever decide to do this, they will see for the first time that they have two black eyes and a huge hole in their head. All of which have been self-inflicted.”

©1997 by Kal Korff — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Kal K. Korff

Kal K. Korff is President and CEO of TotalResearch, a company dedicated to studying universal mysteries and concerns. He has appeared on such TV shows as CNN’s Larry King Live and Fox’s Encounters. He is the author of Spaceships of the Pleiades: The Billy Meier Story (1996) and The Roswell UFO Crash: What They Don't Want You to Know (1997), both from Prometheus Books. He is a former senior systems analyst at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on the “Star Wars” program and is a recognized expert and pioneer in computer-based multimedia systems who helped develop Apple Computer’s revolutionary HyperCard software — the ancestor to the Internet software Browser. He can be reached at 16625 Redmond Way #254, Redmond, WA 98052.