On This Day

roswell, roswell bodies, roswell dummies
U.S. Air Force
Photo released in the Air Force report of
anthropomorphic dummies that may have
been mistaken for alien bodies.

On This Day: Air Force Issues Report Debunking Roswell Incident

June 24, 2011 06:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
On June 24, 1997, the U.S. Air Force issued its second report in three years regarding the alleged government cover-up of the 1947 UFO sightings in Roswell, N.M. The report revealed that supposed alien bodies were actually crash dummies and repeated the Air Force’s earlier claim that the wreckage discovered near Roswell was a balloon from a top secret project.

The Original Roswell Incident

In June 1947, William Ware “Mac” Brazel, a rancher living in a remote area 30 miles east of Corona, N.M., stumbled upon “a large area of bright wreckage made up on rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks” while walking with his son, reported the reported the Roswell Daily Chronicle on July 9, 1947.

Brazel thought little of the debris and left it alone. A few weeks later, however, after hearing reports that pilot Kenneth Arnold had spotted what the press dubbed “flying saucers” over Mount Rainier, Wash., Brazel returned to the scene with his family to collect some of the debris. On July 7, he told local Sheriff George Wilcox, who alerted the Roswell Army Air Field and Maj. Jesse A. Marcel.

On July 8, the RAAF announced that it had “come into possession of a flying saucer.” The story made national news. That same day, the Army Air Force base in Fort Worth, Texas, which had been sent the debris for analysis, announced that the debris was nothing more than the wreckage of a weather balloon.

Brazel, in his interview with the Daily Chronicle, said that he had previously seen crashed weather balloons, but in this case, “I am sure what I found was not any weather observation balloon.”

Birth of the Roswell Conspiracy Theories

The Air Force’s explanation put an end to the “flying saucer” speculation for the next 30 years. In 1978, nuclear physicist and UFO researcher Stanton Friedman spoke to Maj. Marcel, who told him about his experiences handling the Roswell debris. Marcel said that he did not believe the wreckage came from Earth.

The interview sparked interest in the long-forgotten Roswell incident and set off a wave of public suspicion about the existence of extraterrestrial life forms. Many UFO believers began combing government documents and old newspaper accounts for evidence.

Between 1978 and his death in 1986, Marcel gave many interviews, including a famous 1980 interview with the National Enquirer, often giving contradictory details about the Roswell incident. His credibility was damaged in 1995, when the discovery of his military records revealed that he had greatly exaggerated his accomplishments.

UFO researchers developed many theories based on Marcel’s statements; many of those statements have been altered or exaggerated to support the existence of UFOs. A popular theory states that Gen. Roger Ramey, who oversaw the examination of the Roswell debris at Fort Worth, hid the actual debris and instead displayed an old weather balloon to the media. The theory is based on Marcel’s statement that Ramey had only displayed some of the Roswell debris.

Though neither Marcel nor any of the Roswell witnesses mentioned alien bodies, some UFO believers developed stories of alien bodies being discovered and autopsied at Roswell. In 1989, mortician Glenn Dennis revealed that he had received questions from the Roswell base about child-sized coffins and the embalming of bodies that had been exposed in the desert. Furthermore, he said he spoke with an Army nurse who had seen small, alien-like bodies.

Dennis’ claims provide the foundation for most alien body theories, though even dedicated UFO believers find his credibility to be strained.

Government Reports on Roswell

The military did little to refute Roswell theories between 1947 and 1994, when New Mexico Congressman Steven Schiff asked the General Accounting Office to look into the matter.

The Air Force decided to make its own report, the nearly 1,000-page “The Roswell Report: Fact versus Fiction in the New Mexico Desert,” released in 1994-5. The report stated that the debris came from a balloon in the top secret Project Mogul.

In 1997, the 50th anniversary of the Roswell incident, the Air Force released a second, similar report entitled “Roswell Report: Case Closed.” It restated the fact that the source of the debris was Project Mogul while for the first time addressing Dennis’ claims.

“’Aliens’ observed in the New Mexico desert were actually anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high altitude balloons for scientific research,” the report stated, providing a photo of the dummies. It also concluded, “Other descriptions of ‘bodies’ appear to be actual incidents in which Air Force members were killed or injured in the line of duty.”

The New York Times noted that the report failed to satisfy many: “Some critics fault the Government for addressing the topic of alien visitations, dismissing it as ludicrous. … Not surprisingly, true believers in Roswell are unshaken, seeing the new report as evidence of the most egregious Government cover-up of all time.”

Reference: Roswell In-Depth

The Roswell Files lay out the facts of the Roswell incident and details the evolution of Roswell theories. It provides news and witness accounts, government documents and reports, and biographies of the witnesses and UFO-logists.

UFO skeptic Timothy Printy writes in detail about the facts and myths surrounding the Roswell incident.

David Rudiak’s Roswell Proof Web site presents photos, government documents, witness accounts and other material that suggest the government is covering up the real story of Roswell.

The Center for UFO Studies provides essays on Roswell from a number of UFO-logists. It includes Mark Rodeghier’s rebuttal to “Roswell Report: Case Close.”

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