The Modern UFO Era Begins

Delving Deeper. The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained. Editor: Brad Steiger & Sherry Hanson Steiger. Volume 3. Detroit: Gale, 2003.

After takeoff from the Chehalis, Washington, airport in his personal plane on June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold headed for Yakima, Washington. As he flew directly toward Mount Rainier at an altitude of approximately 9,500 feet, a bright flash reflected on his airplane. To the left and north of Mount Rainier he observed a chain of nine peculiar-looking objects flying from north to south. They were approaching Mount Rainier rapidly, and he assumed that they were jet aircraft. Every few seconds two or three of the objects would dip or change course slightly, just enough for the sun to reflect brightly off them. As they approached Mount Rainier he observed their outline quite clearly. Arnold stated that he found it peculiar that he couldn’t find their tails, but nonetheless assumed they were some type of jet aircraft.

After numerous sightings of unidentified flying objects had been reported by commercial and military pilots and an alleged flying saucer had crashed outside of Roswell, New Mexico, in early July 1947, army air force pilots were reminded of the weird “foo fighters” that several Allied personnel had seen in World War II (1939-45). Often while on bombing missions, crews noticed strange lights that followed their bombers. Sometimes the “foos” darted about. Other times they were seen to fly in formation. Barracks and locker-room rumors had classified the “foo fighters” as another of the Nazis’ secret weapons, but not a single one of the glowing craft was ever shot down or captured. Neither is there any record of a “foo” ever damaging any aircraft or harming any personnel—outside of startling the wits out of pilots and crew members.

The “foos” were spotted in both the European and Far Eastern theaters, and it came as no surprise to these pilots when waves of “foos” were sighted over Sweden in July 1946. A kind of hysteria gripped Sweden, however, and the mysterious “invasion” was reported at great length in the major European newspapers. Some authorities feared that some new kind of German “V” weapon had been discovered and unleashed on the nation that had remained neutral throughout World War II. Others tried to explain the unidentified flying objects away as meteors, but witnesses said that the “ghost rockets” could maneuver in circles, stop and start, and appeared to be shaped like metal cigars.

It may have been an air force officer who remembered the “foo fighters” who gave the order on July 26, 1952, to “Shoot them down!” when dozens of UFOs suddenly converged over Washington, D.C. Several prominent scientists, including Albert Einstein (1879-1955), protested the order to the White House and urged that the command be rescinded, not only in the interest of future intergalactic peace, but also in the interest of self-preservation: Extraterrestrials would certainly look upon an attack by primitive jet firepower as a breach of the universal laws of hospitality.

The hostile order was withdrawn on White House orders by five o’clock that afternoon. That night, official observers puzzled over the objects, visible on radar screens and to the naked eye, as the UFOs easily outdistanced air force jets, whose pilots were ordered to pursue the objects but to keep their fingers off the trigger. Although the air force was denying the Washington flap within another 24 hours and attributing civilian saucer sightings to the usual causes (hallucinations, seeing planets and stars), the national wire services had already sent out word that for a time the air force officials had been jittery enough to give a “fire at will” order.

On May 15, 1954, air force chief of staff general Nathan Twining told reporters that the “best brains in the Air Force” were trying to solve the problem of the flying saucers. “If they come from Mars,” Twining said, “they are so far ahead of us we have nothing to be afraid of.” However, the general’s assurances that a technologically advanced culture would automatically be benign did little to calm an increasingly bewildered and alarmed American public. And on December 24, 1959, after important people and politicians had begun to demand that the air force end its policy of secrecy, the much-discussed Air Force Regulation 200-2 was issued to all air force personnel.

Briefly, AFR 200-2 made a flat and direct statement that the air force was definitely concerned with the reporting of all UFOs “as a possible threat to the security of the United States and its forces, and secondly, to determine technical aspects involved.” In the controversial paragraph 9, the secretary of the air force gave specific instructions that air force personnel were not to release reports of unidentified objects, “only reports…where the object has been definitely identified as a familiar object.”

On February 27, 1960, Vice Admiral Rosco H. Hillenkoetter, USN, Ret., former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, startled air force personnel when he released to the press photostatic copies of an air force directive that warned air force commands to regard the UFOs as “serious business.” The air force admitted that it had issued the order, but added that the photostatic copy that Hillenkoetter had released to the press was only part of a seven-page regulation, which had been issued to update similar past orders, and made no substantive changes in policy.

The official air force directive indicated the remarkable dual role the air force appeared to play in the unfolding UFO drama. From then on, the unidentified flying objects— sometimes treated lightly by the press and referred to as “flying saucers”—had to be rapidly and accurately identified as serious USAF business. As AFR 200-2 pointed out, the air force concern with these sightings was threefold: “To determine if the object was a threat to the defense of the United States; to assess whether continued research in the matter of flying saucers would contribute to technical or scientific knowledge; to explain to the American people what was going on in their skies.”

AFR 200-2 stated that the responsibility for handling UFOs should rest with either intelligence, operations, the Provost Marshal, or the Information Officer—in that order of preference, dictated by limits of the base organization. In addition, it was required that every UFO sighting be investigated and reported to the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB and that explanation to the public be realistic and knowledgeable. Obviously, in spite of official dismissals, the air force was much aware of the UFOs and was actively investigating.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe charged the U.S. Air Force with deliberately censoring information concerning UFOs. As a director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), Keyhoe regularly repeated his accusations that, while the air force was seriously analyzing UFO data in secret, it maintained a policy of officially debunking saucer stories for the press and ridiculing all citizens who reported sightings.

The official air force response was that the reason for the top secret and classified designations on UFO investigations was solely to protect the identities of those individuals who made reports of mysterious, unidentified “somethings” in the skies. The essence of all research, air force spokesmen insisted, was always released to the communications media. Nothing of national interest was being withheld.

But men like Major Keyhoe and the memberships of numerous additional civilian UFO research groups (of which there were once as many as 50) never accepted the air force’s claims of serving the greater public interest by releasing all pertinent details of their studies and investigations. On March 28, 1966, after a saucer “flap” in Michigan, Keyhoe was once again repeating his charges that the Pentagon had a top-level policy of discounting all UFO reports and over the past several years had used ridicule to discredit sightings.

On March 30, 1966, spokesmen for the air force called a press conference to tell the American public that they kept an open mind about UFOs and they categorically denied any “hushing” of saucer reports. In the case of recent Michigan sightings, a spokesman said, “marsh gas” had been pinpointed as the source of colored lights observed by a number of people.

But by 1966, public-opinion surveys indicated that more than 50 million Americans believed in the existence of UFOs. Perhaps in 1947 the majority of men and women had been willing to laugh along with official disclaimers and professional flying saucer debunkers, but 20 years later the UFO climate had become considerably warmer.

The Air Force and Project Blue Book

On June 24, 1947, when civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold sighted nine discs near Mount Rainier in the state of Washington and described the motion of the unidentified flying objects as looking like “a saucer skipping across the water,” the Boise, Idaho, businessman inadvertently coined a term that would become known in most languages of the world, “flying saucers.” The U.S. Air Force immediately denied that they had any such craft, and at the same time officially debunked Arnold’s claim of having spotted unidentified flying objects. Donald H. Menzel, Professor of Astrophysics at Harvard, who became an unyielding saucer-skeptic and debunker, said that Arnold had been fooled by the tilting snow clouds or dust haze reflected by the sun. Arnold, however, stuck fast to his story, and the item made the front page of newspapers across the nation. For UFOlogists, it was the birth of an era.

During the period June through December 1947 there was no specific organization responsible for investigating and evaluating UFO reports. At this time everyone had an expert opinion. Even within the military structure, there were those who expressed their own feelings and beliefs as to what UFOs actually represented.

The wide news coverage of public reports of “flying discs or saucers” created sufficient concern at high military echelons to authorize the Air Material Command (AMC) to conduct a preliminary investigation into these reports. Early belief was that the objects reported were of aircraft more advanced than those possessed by the U.S. Armed Forces.

A letter (September 23, 1947) from Lt. General Twining of AMC to the commanding general of the Army Air Forces expressed the opinion that there was sufficient substance in the reports to warrant a detailed study. On December 30, 1947, a letter from the chief of staff directed AMC to establish a project whose purpose was to collect, collate, evaluate, and disseminate all information concerning UFO sightings and phenomena in the atmosphere to those interested agencies. The project was assigned the code name “Sign.” The responsibility for “Project Sign” was delegated to the Air Technical Intelligence Center, which was then part of the AMC. In February of 1949 “Project Sign” completed its evaluations of the 243 UFO reports that had been submitted to the project. The report concluded that: “No definite and conclusive evidence is yet available that would prove or disprove the existence of these UFOs as real aircraft of unknown and unconventional configuration.”

“Project Sign” was changed to “Project Grudge” on December 16, 1948, at the request of the director of Research and Development. Project Grudge completed its evaluations of 244 reports in August 1949. The conclusions of the Grudge reports were that the evaluations of reports of UFOs to date had demonstrated that “these flying objects constitute no threat to the security of the United States.” Grudge also concluded that reports of UFOs were the result of misinterpretations of conventional objects, a mild form of mass hysteria or war nerves, and individuals who sought to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity. Project Grudge also recommended that the investigation and study of reports of UFOs be reduced in scope.

Air force investigation of UFOs continued on a reduced scale, and in December 1951 the Air Force entered into a contract with a private industrial organization for another detailed study of the UFO cases on file. The report, which was completed March 17, 1954, is commonly referred to as Special Report Number 14. Reports one through 13 were progress reports dealing with administration. Special Report Number 14 reduced and evaluated all UFO data held in air force files. Basically, the same conclusions were reached that had been noted in both the preceding Sign and Grudge reports.

It was during the early 1950s that the national interest in reported sightings increased tremendously. With the growing volume of reports, a Scientific Advisory Panel on UFOs was established in late 1952. At a meeting held during January 14-18, 1953, all available data was examined. Conclusions and recommendations of this panel were published in a report and made public. The panel concluded that UFOs did not threaten the national security of the United States and recommended that the aura of mystery attached to the project be removed.

In March of 1952 Project Grudge became known as Project Blue Book. From this time to its conclusion in 1969, the project concerned itself with investigation of sightings, evaluation of the data, and release of information to proper news media through the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Information (SAFOI). The staff of Project Blue Book was assigned to carry out three main functions: to try to find an explanation for all reported sightings of UFOs; to determine whether the UFOs posed any security threat to the United States; and to determine if UFOs exhibited any advanced technology that the United States could utilize.

Blue Book officers were stationed at every air force base in the nation. They were responsible for investigating all reported sightings and for getting the reports into Blue Book headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The bulk of the investigations, as interpreted by field officers, led Blue Book officials to decide that most people did not see extraterrestrial spacecraft, but bright stars, balloons, satellites, comets, fireballs, conventional aircraft, moving clouds, vapor trails, missiles, reflections, mirages, searchlights, birds, kites, spurious radar indications, fireworks, or flares.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who for more than two decades served as an astronomical consultant to Project Sign and Project Blue Book, had been teaching astronomy at Ohio State University in Columbus, which is not far from Dayton, where Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the home of Project Blue Book, was located. When he entered the project, the government was trying desperately to determine whether it was the Martians or the Russians who were responsible for the elusive discs being tracked in the atmosphere over North America. The air force appealed to Hynek that they needed a competent astronomer to tell them which cases arose out of the misidentification of planets, stars, meteors, and so forth. Hynek admitted later that he was certain that the UFO phenomenon was a result of postwar nerves, and he was certain that in a few years the whole strange business would be forgotten. He also prematurely concluded that the flying saucers were strictly an American fad. He never suspected that it would turn out to be a global phenomenon. But the famous sightings in Michigan in March and April 1967, the ones that got Dr. Hynek dubbed “Dr. Swamp Gas,” demonstrated to “Blue Book’s tame professor” that there was a “backlash of public sentiment.” For the first time, Hynek said, he became aware that “the tide was slowly turning.”

Hynek said that two factions definitely existed in Project Blue Book. There were those individuals who were extremely concerned over the radar trackings and the close approaches made by UFOs to civilian and military aircraft. These investigators assumed that the pilots were being truthful and were not concocting weird tales. These open-minded Blue Book personnel wanted to check all the possibilities. But most of the top brass, Hynek commented, couldn’t understand for a split second why any of their colleagues would bother to take seriously the subject of UFOs. In what would become an often-quoted observation, Hynek said, “Scientists in the year 2066 may think us very naive in our denials.”

Project Blue Book, begun as Project Sign in 1947, produced what the air force considered a satisfactory explanation for most of the nearly 13,000 sightings reported through 1969. Of the unexplained UFO incidents, the official statement is: “The description of the object or its motion cannot be correlated with any known object or phenomenon.”

On the basis of Blue Book reports, therefore, the air force concluded:

  1. No UFO has ever given any indication of threat to the national security.
  2. There is no evidence that UFOs represent technological developments or principles beyond present-day scientific knowledge.
  3. There is no evidence that any UFOs are “extraterrestrial vehicles.”

The transfer of the responsibility of UFO research to the University of Colorado in 1969 served to terminate the air force’s official involvement in the UFO mystery, but the residue of suspicions and outright accusations of government cover-up and censorship has never been dissipated.

The Condon/University of Colorado Report

Critics of the University of Colorado report, Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects (1969), complain that it is neither scientific nor objective and that Edward Condon, head of the project, used the report for personal vindictiveness. Commissioned by the U.S. Air Force at a cost exceeding $600,000, more than 50 percent of the Condon Report consists of reprints of old U.S. Air Force releases and irrelevant papers and essays on astronomical, meteorological, and other mundane phenomena. Many of the charts and graphs included date back to the early 1950s.

It would appear that little or no effort was made to collect, correlate, and present accurate data on the thousands of UFO reports received and allegedly studied by the project during the 1966-68 period. The various contributors were unfamiliar with UFO research and the report is poorly organized and appears to have been assembled by a group neither informed nor interested in the subject.

Although the Colorado Project clearly represented a conscious effort to satisfy the needs of the air force contract, in the eyes of its critics it did not indicate a sincere effort to collect and examine the basic UFO data. Its main theme appeared to be the criticism of the extraterrestrial thesis. A genuinely scientific study would have collected sufficient data to determine whether or not a phenomenon existed at all. Then all the various theories would have been studied and compared with the available data. Sighting factors of time, geography, terrestrial features, the correlative aspects in the witnesses’ backgrounds and features in their reports, must all be sifted and weighed before any theory can be considered. This type of systematic study was not undertaken. Instead, the project treated the reports individually.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s review of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, which appeared in the April 1969Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, stated that while the Condon committee avowedly was devoted in large part to exposing hoaxes or the revealing of many UFOs as misidentifications of common occurrences, the report contains the same inexplicable residue of unknowns that plagued the U.S. Air Force investigation for 20 years. In fact, Hynek observed, the percentage of unknowns in the Condon Report appeared to be even higher than in the air force investigation that led to the Condon investigation in the first place.

Two former Condon committee members, David Saunders and Roger Harkins, later wrote the book UFOS, Yes! Where the Condon Committee Went Wrong (1968), which depicted a group of investigators at the University of Colorado who had little confidence in the chief scientist, Condon, and who were preoccupied with strenuously avoiding any conclusion that suggested the actual existence of the flying objects sighted by so many people through the years. Saunders and Harkins also showed Condon, the principal investigator, giving statements to the press and to various lecture audiences while the project was still underway, indicating that he had little or no expectation of the investigation ever reaching anything but a completely negative conclusion as to the reality of UFOs.

Hangar 18

For many years after the alleged event in July 1947 in which a flying saucer was said to have

crashed on a ranch located about 60 miles north of Roswell, New Mexico, rumors of diminutive alien corpses found nearby were largely dismissed by all but the more stubborn true believers in extraterrestrial invaders. Every so often, though, stories would surface about Hangar 18 on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which was said to hold the remains of the crashed Roswell flying saucer and the refrigerated corpses of the alien bodies that had been found alongside the spaceship.

As UFO research enters the twenty-first century, controversy still rages over the truth of whether or not Major Jesse Marcel and his men collected pieces of debris from a flying saucer along with the bodies of two to five extraterrestrial crew members. Many accounts from both civilians and military personnel who claim to have been eyewitnesses to the events at Roswell speak of five alien bodies found at the impact site north of Roswell and state that four corpses were transported to Hangar 18 at Wright Field, with the fifth going to the USAF mortuary service at Lowry Field. Two years before his death in the late 1990s, pilot Oliver “Pappy” Henderson swore at a reunion of his World War II bomber crew that he had flown the remains of four alien bodies out of Roswell Army Field in a C-54 cargo plane in July 1947.

Don Schmitt and Kevin Randle, in their book UFO Crash at Roswell (1991), include an interview with Brig. Gen. Arthur Exon in which he states that, in addition to debris from the wreckage, four tiny alien cadavers were flown to Wright Field: “They [the alien bodies] were all found, apparently, outside the craft itself.…The metal and material from the spaceship was unknown to anyone I talked to. [The event at] Roswell was the recovery of a craft from space.”

In his subsequent research, Randle has determined that most accounts of eyewitnesses speak of five alien bodies found at the impact site north of Roswell. His investigations confirm the claims made previously by other researchers that four corpses were transported to Wright Field and the fifth to Lowry Field to the USAF mortuary service. There are, however, numerous secondary accounts that maintain that one of the aliens survived the crash and was still alive when Major Marcel and his retrieval unit arrived on the scene. Some UFO researchers believe that as late as 1986 the alien entity was still alive and well treated as a guest of the air force at Wright-Patterson.

Roswell, New Mexico

Although differences of opinion exist on the specifics, there is a tentative consensus among researchers that an extraterrestrial space vehicle crashed on a ranch located about 60 miles north of Roswell, New Mexico, during the time period July 2-4, 1947.

Major Jesse Marcel, recipient of five air combat medals awarded in World War II (1939-45), intelligence officer for the 509th Bomb Group, was ordered to handpick a topsecurity team and go to the ranch to salvage the debris of the unknown aircraft that rancher Mac Brazel had discovered on his spread. The strange, weightless material discovered by the 509th Bomber team was difficult to describe. The pieces varied in length from four or five inches to three or four feet. Some fragments had markings that resembled hieroglyphics. Although the material seemed to be unbreakable, the military investigators thought that it looked more like wood than metal. Marcel put his cigarette lighter to one of the rectangular fragments, but it would not burn. Major Marcel and his crew brought as many pieces of the crashed UFO back to Roswell Army Air Field Base as they could gather.

One of the first civilians who claimed to arrive on the scene following the crash was Barney Barnett, a civil engineer from Socorro, New Mexico, who was employed by the federal government. Barnett later told friends that he had seen alien bodies on the ground and inside the spaceship. He described them as small, hairless beings with large heads and round, oddly spaced eyes. According to Barnett, a military unit arrived on the scene and an officer had ordered him off the site with the stern admonition that it was his patriotic duty to remain silent about what he had seen. Although reports of retrieved alien bodies never made it into any military release in July of 1947, accounts of civilian eyewitnesses having seen between two and five nonhuman corpses soon entered the UFO literature.

On July 8, 1947, Walter Haut, public affairs officer at Roswell, issued the famous press release stating that the army had discovered the debris of a crashed flying saucer. The news that the army had a downed saucer in its possession created a sensation around the world. However, after the flying saucer fragments were shipped to Brigadier General Roger Ramey at the 8th Air Force at Fort Worth, Texas, the story of the discovery of the bits and pieces of an extraterrestrial craft was officially transformed into the scraps of a collapsed high-altitude weather balloon.

While General Ramey is said to have been the one who decided to silence the story of the air force collecting flying saucer fragments, retired general Thomas DuBose, who at the time of the Roswell incident was a colonel and a chief of staff to Ramey, later told quite a different story. According to DuBose, the military investigators had no idea what Major Marcel had sent them, but then the order came down from air force headquarters that the story was to be “contained.”

DuBose said that the men came up with the weather balloon story. A balloon such as the one commonly in use at the time was dropped from a couple of hundred feet and they used its pieces for the official debunking photograph.

Lewis Rickert, who in 1947 was a master sergeant and counterintelligence agent stationed at Roswell air field, was among those military personnel who had actually been present at the crash site, and he agreed with General DuBose in 1994 that the fragments collected from the air force had not come from any weather balloon. He recalled that the jagged, flexible fragments were no more than six or seven inches long and up to eight to ten inches wide, and they could not be broken.

In the 1980s, Kevin Randle, a former captain in U.S. Air Force intelligence, together with Don Schmitt, director of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, decided to renew an investigation of the Roswell crash. In their opinion, the Roswell incident, with its much-maligned and hashed-over stories of an alleged flying saucer and alien bodies, still bore many elements of truth. “If all this fuss was simply about a bunch of ranchers and townspeople finding the debris from a balloon, why did the military seek out those witnesses and threaten to silence them?” Randle asked pointedly. “There is no question that members of the Army were ordered never to talk about what they had seen. And there seems to be substantial evidence to support the claims that military representatives visited the homes of civilian witnesses and silenced them as well.”

Randle believes that he and Schmitt have found new evidence indicating that the crash occurred on July 4, 1947, rather than July 2, as is commonly stated. It was on July 5, according to Schmitt and Randle, that Mac Brazel visited Sheriff George Wilcox and informed him of the peculiar discovery he had made near his ranch the day before. The military unit under the command of Major Jesse Marcel retrieved the crash debris and alien bodies on July 5. On July 8, Walter Haut, the public affairs officer at Roswell, issued the press release that the army had captured a flying saucer. Almost immediately thereafter, the official cover story of a collapsed weather balloon falling to Earth in the desert was heavily promoted by the military.

During an interview with a granddaughter of Sheriff George Wilcox in March 1991, Schmitt and Randle were told that not only did the sheriff see the debris of a UFO, he also saw “little space beings.” According to the woman, her grandfather had described the entities as having gray complexions and large heads. They were dressed in suits of a silklike material. Later, military men visited the sheriff and his wife and warned them that they would be killed if they ever told anyone what Wilcox saw at the crash site. And not only would they be killed, but their children and grandchildren would also be eliminated.

The persistent investigations of Randle and Schmitt located a Ms. Frankie Rowe, who had been 12 years old at the time of the mysterious occurrences outside of Roswell. Her father, a lieutenant with the fire department, had been called to extinguish an early morning fire out north of town. He told his family at dinner that night that he had seen the remains of what he had at first believed to be an airplane, but soon saw was “some kind of ship.” According to Rowe’s father, he also saw two alien corpses in body bags and a third alien entity walking around in a daze. He described the beings as about the size of a 10-year-old.

Schmitt and Randle also located Glenn Dennis, who had been the Roswell mortician in 1947. Dennis told them that he, too, had been threatened by representatives of the military concerning his knowledge of the presence of alien bodies. Dennis said that he had “blundered” into the Roswell Army Air Field hospital on the evening that the alien bodies had been recovered. According to Dennis, a “nasty red-haired officer” confronted him and warned him that if he ever told anyone about the crash or the alien bodies, “they will be picking your bones from the sand.”

In Randle’s opinion, the results of their research prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that aliens exist. And while he and Schmitt do not know conclusively whether or not one of the alien crew survived the crash outside of Roswell, “there is no doubt that something crashed and that it held a crew.” Randle also insists that “there is no doubt that the crew was not human.”

Nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman firmly believes that a UFO exploded in the area in early July 1947 and that the retrieved pieces were shipped off to Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Dayton, Ohio. He denies the official pronouncement that Major Marcel and his crew found only a downed weather balloon at the crash site. He also dismisses the theory that the debris was that of a crashed Japanese Fugo balloon bomb. It is Friedman’s contention that Walter Haut, on direct orders from base commander Colonel William Blanchard, prepared the official press release that initiated the military conspiracy to conceal the truth of a crashed UFO from the public. Friedman argues that an experienced officer such as Major Marcel would have been very familiar with all kinds of weather or military balloons and that he would not have mistaken such ordinary debris for that of a downed alien spaceship. Nor would any of the military personnel have mistaken alien bodies for those of diminutive human remains.

After the wreckage was properly identified as extraterrestrial in nature, Friedman contends, the official cover-up was instigated at both the Roswell base and at the headquarters of the Eighth Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas, by Eighth Air Force Commander Roger Ramey on direct orders from General Clements McMullen at SAC headquarters in Washington, D.C. Friedman has said that he and author-researcher William Moore interviewed at least 130 individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the UFO crash at Roswell.

Veteran UFO researcher John A. Keel completely discounts the allegations that an alien craft crashed near Roswell in July 1947. In his opinion rancher Mac Brazel found the remains of a Japanese Fugo balloon. The strange “metal fragments,” Keel asserts, were bits of polished rice paper. The strange alien “hieroglyphics” were simple Japanese instructions, such as “insert in slot B.” Remains of the more than 9,000 Fugo balloons launched by the Japanese during the closing days of World War II were found in more than 300 sites throughout the western states from 1945 onward through the next 20 years. According to Keel, Major Jesse Marcel would have had no trouble identifying the debris as anything other than the pieces of a Japanese balloon bomb.

The United States Air Force chose June 24, 1997—the 50th anniversary of Kenneth Arnold’s sighting in Washington State—to conduct a special Pentagon briefing to announce the release of its answer to the Roswell disturbance, The Roswell Report— Case Closed. In its explanation of the mystery, the air force claimed that the alleged flying saucer fragments were pieces of a balloon that was used in Project Mogul, a highly classified intelligence-gathering operation that had been instituted immediately after the end of World War II to spy on the Soviets and to monitor their efforts to build nuclear weapons. According to the air force report, the alleged alien bodies seen near the Roswell crash site were actually artifacts from an air force project begun in 1953 during which dummies were dropped from high altitudes in order to test parachute effectiveness. Civilian witnesses saw air force personnel collecting the dummies and mistakenly believed that they were seeing military units retrieving alien corpses. The six-year discrepancy between the Roswell event and the dummy dropping was officially explained as “time compression”; that is, the witnesses became confused about the actual time reference and compressed their memory of the Roswell UFO crash in 1947 and their recollection of the smashed dummies in 1953 into the same scenario.

In his memoirs, Leap of Faith: An Astronaut’s Journey into the Unknown, United States Air Force Colonel L. Gordon Cooper (Ret.; 1927- ) provides his readers with the astonishing revelation that he once chased UFOs over Germany in his F-86. Cooper also claims that when he was a captain stationed at Edwards Air Force Base on May 3, 1957, he learned of a metallic saucer-shaped object that had landed and was filmed by a technical film crew that had been on assignment some 50 yards away. Although the UFO had zoomed out of sight when the startled photographers attempted to move closer for a better camera angle, Cooper was ordered by Pentagon officials to have all the film developed—but not printed—and to ship it off to the appropriate officials at once. Cooper writes that he obeyed orders, but he also admits that he peeked at some of the negatives and confirmed that the film crew had most certainly captured a flying saucer on celluloid.

Cooper goes on to tell of an air force master sergeant friend of his who was assigned to a recovery team to retrieve a crashed UFO in a canyon in the Pacific Southwest. According to his friend, they found two human-looking beings sitting atop a metallic, disk-shaped wreckage, smiling at them. The alien pilots were hustled away, and Cooper’s friend told him that he never found out what had happened to them.

On October 25, 1998, Cooper’s fellow astronaut, Dr. Edgar Mitchell, astonished both UFO believers and skeptics alike when he proclaimed, “Make no mistake, Roswell [the alleged crash site of an alien craft in July 1947] happened. I’ve seen secret files which show the government knew about it, but decided not to tell the public” (The People, London).

Socorro, New Mexico

On April 24, 1964, in Socorro, New Mexico, policeman Lonnie Zamora was pursuing a speeding car north on US-85 when he heard a roar and saw flames in an isolated area where a dynamite shack was located. He decided to abandon the chase and drive to the spot where he believed an explosion had occurred.

After he had traveled a little-used road through an unpopulated area full of hills and gullies and arrived at the site, Zamora saw what he at first thought was an overturned automobile standing on its end. At this point he was about 800 feet away from the scene of the supposed accident. He saw two figures in coveralls, whom he assumed to be the occupants of the upended car.

Later, Zamora would state in his report: “Thought some kids might have turned over. Saw two people in white coveralls very close to the object. One of these persons seemed to turn and look straight at my car and seemed startled—seemed to quickly jump. At this time I started moving my car towards them quickly, with an idea to help. The only time I saw these two persons was when I had stopped…to glance at the object. I don’t recall any particular shape…or headgear. These persons appeared normal in shape—but possibly they were small adults or large kids.”

Zamora radioed headquarters to report the accident, then proceeded to drive closer to the automobile and its occupants. When he was about 150 feet from the gully, he stopped his patrol car to continue on foot. By now he could clearly see that he had found something far more bizarre than an upended automobile. He saw a white egg-shaped object supported on girderlike legs that had smoke and flame issuing from its underside. He heard a loud roar and feared the object was about to explode. He turned and ran to shield himself behind the patrol car, bumping his leg and losing his glasses on the way.

In his report, he wrote: “It was a very loud roar…Not like a jet…It started at a low frequency quickly, then the roar rose in frequency and in loudness—from loud to very loud.…Object was starting to go straight up— slowly up. Flame was light blue and at bottom was sort of orange color.”

Crouching behind the patrol car and shielding his eyes with his arm, he watched the object rise to a point about 15 to 20 feet above the ground. The flame and the smoke had ceased swirling around the object, and Zamora could see a design on its side. The markings were red and shaped like a crescent with a vertical arrow and horizontal line underneath. The UFO remained stationary for several seconds, then flew off in a southerly direction following the contour of the gulley.

Within minutes, Sergeant Chavez of the New Mexico State Police arrived in response to Zamora’s earlier radio call. He saw no object, but he did take notice of some slight depressions in the ground and some burned brush in the area where Zamora had sighted the object.

The U.S. Air Force sent investigators from their project office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The investigation disclosed the following facts:

There were no unidentified helicopters or aircraft in the area. Observers at radar installations had observed 770 unusual or unidentified blips.…There was no evidence of markings of any sort in the area other than the shallow depressions at the location.…Laboratory analysis of soil samples disclosed no foreign material or radiation above normal.…Laboratory analysis of the burned brush showed no chemicals which would indicate a type of propellent.…

In his report of the Socorro case to arch UFO skeptic Dr. Donald H. Menzel, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, scientific consultant for Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force’s official investigation of UFOs, wrote: “I wish I could substantiate the idea that it was a hoax or hallucination. Unfortunately, I cannot. I have talked at length with the principals in the sighting, and unless my knowledge of human nature is utterly out of phase, I would feel that [Lonnie Zamora] is incapable of perpetrating a hoax. He is simply a good cop…he resented the whole thing because it prevented him from getting his quota of speeders that day. He is not imaginative, sticks solidly to business, and is far from talkative.…

“Major [Hector] Quintanilla [Air Force officer in charge of Project Blue Book at that time] is convinced that the Socorro sighting is neither a hoax nor a hallucination, but he feels that perhaps some sort of test object (war games, etc.) might have been going on. However, there is no record of such an event though he has tried to track this down through White Sands, Holloman Air Force Base, and a few others. I would like to go along with the hallucination idea if it weren’t for the marks and burned patches.”

The once-skeptical Hynek was not the only one convinced of the authenticity of the Socorro, New Mexico, sighting by Zamora. The case remains one of the most solid in Project Blue Book files and in the annals of UFO research.