Mention the name “Roswell” and the immediate thought that most will have is the now infamous incident in 1947 when an alien spacecraft supposedly crashed and was then recovered. Associated with this is the claim that alien bodies was recovered and also taken to Area 51 for extensive research.
What really happened?
Let’s raise the hood and take a look via the original sources.
Roswell July 1947
William Brazel, a worker on the J.B. Foster ranch came across scattered bits of debris. This was located roughly thirty miles north of Roswell. When he first discovered it, he simply ignored it, but later returned with his family and gathered it up. This debris is described as rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper, and sticks.
Later, having heard reports about “flying discs” he wondered if this is what he had found. He contacted Roswell based Sheriff Wilcox and “whispered kinda confidential like” that he may have found a flying disc.
Sheriff Wilcox picked up the phone and called RAAF Major Jesse Marcel from the nearby base. Marcel went to the ranch along with Lt Colonel Sheridan Cavitt and Master Sergeant Bill Rickett. There they proceeded to pickup more pieces. He describes this in a report as follows …
“[We] spent a couple of hours Monday afternoon [July 7] looking for any more parts of the weather device. We found a few more patches of tinfoil and rubber.”[RAAF Major Jesse Marcel
Then came the Media Frenzy Bombshell
The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of 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 and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters
It went viral and started a media feeding frenzy.
Don’t get too excited, read on.
An actual description
Here is the detailed description of the “flying disk” from the Roswell Daily Record newspaper on July 9th …
The balloon which held it up, if that was how it worked, must have been 12 feet [3.5 m] long, [Brazel] felt, measuring the distance by the size of the room in which he sat. The rubber was smoky gray in color and scattered over an area about 200 yards [180 m] in diameter. When the debris was gathered up, the tinfoil, paper, tape, and sticks made a bundle about three feet [1 m] long and 7 or 8 inches [18 or 20 cm] thick, while the rubber made a bundle about 18 or 20 inches [45 or 50 cm] long and about 8 inches [20 cm] thick. In all, he estimated, the entire lot would have weighed maybe five pounds [2 kg].
There was no sign of any metal in the area which might have been used for an engine, and no sign of any propellers of any kind, although at least one paper fin had been glued onto some of the tinfoil. There were no words to be found anywhere on the instrument, although there were letters on some of the parts. Considerable Scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed upon it had been used in the construction. No strings or wires were to be found but there were some eyelets in the paper to indicate that some sort of attachment may have been used
The Coverup of the real secret
They held a press conference the next day, announced it was a weather balloon and presented all the bits. That killed the media feeding frenzy stone dead.
There really was a conspiracy here to cover up what this actually was, the “weather balloon” story was a cover.
So what was it?
Not aliens, and also not a Weather Balloon, but instead Project Mogul.
This was a top secret project that ran from 1947 until 1949. It basically involved microphones being flown on high-altitude balloons. The purpose was long-distance detection of sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests. It became redundant and was replaced by a network of seismic detectors and air sampling for fallout. That was both very much cheaper and far more reliable.
In the summer of 1947 a Project Mogul balloon, NYU Flight 4 launched June 4, 1947, crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, and thus our Roswell incident is born.
How do we know all of this, what are the sources?
- Archived Teletype messages from the time.
- Roswell Daily Record. July 9, 1947 – Harassed Rancher who Located ‘Saucer’ Sorry He Told About it
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram. July 9, 1947 – “New Mexico Rancher’s ‘Flying Disk’ Proves to be Weather Balloon-Kite”
- Air Force Roswell Incident report (dated 1994) – this confirmed the coverup and that it was really a Project Mogul balloon.
You can also read a great deal more about it all on the Wikipedia page that covers the topic.
But does this really explain the modern mythology?
Not really no.
The above is the actual origin, the details of what really happened in 1947.
Our modern Roswell alien mythology took root in the 70s and 80s once the public had been sufficiently exposed to Captain Kirk beaming into our minds. At the time many might ask themselves, “What if stuff about aliens and spaceships was actually true and real … what if, what if … “.
The stage was set for others to leap in and capitalise on all that.
Various books and articles on a Roswell UFO emerged, soon multiplied, and fed off each other, not because any of it was credible or true, but because it sold books and made money for those promoting such claims.
- Click the following link to read about all this later phase – Growing interest, 1978–1994
Why was it a popular Idea?
The idea gains traction because it tickles our minds. We humans love stories of the bizarre, the supernatural, of wonders, and a UFO in Roswell played directly into that psychology.
By the 90’s there were so many different conflicting accounts that a schism developed amongst those that believed it all.
There were also lots of supposed witnesses. Most of these witnesses were simply repeating what others had claimed and were not reporting what they themselves had seen.
What we have in reality is a great deal of embellishment, exaggeration, and money-motivated spin, layer up layer of it, starting in the late 70s and then building up decade after decade.
The real truth
To wrap this up, let’s be completely and totally clear. There is no evidence that a UFO crashed at Roswell, we do know exactly what it was and where it came from. Many might sincerely believe the mythology, and so it is inevitable that those in a position to find out, sometimes take a look.
“I gotta tell you, it’s a little disappointing. People always ask me about Roswell and the aliens and UFOs, and it turns out the stuff going on that’s top secret isn’t nearly as exciting as you expect. In this day and age, it’s not as top secret as you’d think.”President Barack Obama – “Bill Simmons Interviews President Obama, GQ’s 2015 Man of the Year”. Archived