Summary: Overview of the Roswell Incident, from the International UFO Museum and Research Center, based in Roswell, New Mexico.
In the summer of 1947, there were a number of UFO sightings in the United States.
Sometime during the first week of July 1947, something crashed near Roswell.
W.W. "Mack" Brazel, a New Mexico rancher, saddled up his horse and rode out with the son of neighbors Floyd and Loretta Proctor, to check on the sheep after a fierce thunderstorm the night before. As they rode along, Brazel began to notice unusual pieces of what seemed to be metal debris, scattered over a large area. Upon further inspection, Brazel saw that a shallow trench, several hundred feet long, had been gouged into the land.
Brazel was struck by the unusual properties of the debris, and after dragging a large piece of it to a shed, he took some of it over to show the Proctors in 1947. Mrs. Proctor moved from the ranch into a home nearer to town, but she remembers Mack showing up with strange material.
The Proctors told Brazel that he might be holding wreckage from a UFO or a government project, and that he should report the incident to the sheriff. A day or two later, Mack drove into Roswell where he reported the incident to Sheriff George Wilcox, who reported it to Intelligence Officer, Major Jesse Marcel of the 509 Bomb Group, and for days thereafter, the debris site was closed while the wreckage was cleared.
On July 8, 1947, a press release stating that the wreckage of a crashed disk had been recovered was issued by Lt. Walter G. Haut, Public Information Officer at RAAB under order from the Commander of the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell, Col. William Blanchard.
Hours later the first press release was rescinded and the second press release stated that the 509th Bomb Group had mistakenly identified a weather balloon as wreckage of a flying saucer was issued July 9, 1947.
Meanwhile, back in Roswell, Glenn Dennis, a young mortician working at the Ballard Funeral Home, received some curious calls one afternoon from the morgue at the air field. It seems the Mortuary Officer needed to get a hold of some small hermetically sealed coffins,and wanted information about how to preserve bodies that had been exposed to the elements for a few days, without contaminating the tissue.
Dennis drove out to the base hospital later that evening where he saw large pieces of wreckage with strange engravings on one of the pieces sticking out of the back of a military ambulance. Upon entering the hospital he started to visit with a nurse he knew, when suddenly he was threatened by military police and forced to leave.
The next day, Dennis met with the nurse. She told him about the bodies and drew pictures of them on a prescription pad. Within a few days she was transferred to England, her whereabouts remain unknown.
According to the research of Don Schmitt and Kevin Randle, in their book, A History of UFO Crashes, from which the following account of the Roswell Incident , in part, is based, the military had been watching an unidentified flying object on radar for four days in southern New Mexico. On the night of July 4, 1947, radar indicated that the object was down around thirty to forty miles northwest of Roswell.
Eye witness William Woody, who lived east of Roswell, remembered being outside with his father the night of July 4, 1947, when he saw a brilliant object plunge to the ground. A couple of days later when Woody and his father tried to locate the area of the crash, they were stopped by military personnel, who had cordoned off the area.
Acting on the call from Sheriff Wilcox, Intelligence Officer, Major Jesse Marcel was sent by Col. William Blanchard, to investigate Mack Brazel's story.
Marcel and Senior Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) agent, Captain Sheridan Cavitt, followed the rancher off-road to his place. They spent the night there and Marcel inspected a large piece of debris that Brazel had dragged from the pasture.
Monday morning, July 7, 1947, Major Jesse Marcel took his first step onto the debris field. Marcel would remark later that "something... must have exploded above the ground and fell." As Brazel, Cavitt and Marcel inspected the field, Marcel was able to "determine which direction it came from, and which direction it was heading. It was in the pattern... you could tell where it started out and where it ended by how it was thinned out..."
According to Marcel, the debris was "strewn over a wide area, I guess maybe three-quarters of a mile long and a few hundred feet wide." Scattered in the debris were small bits of metal that Marcel held a cigarette lighter to, to see if it would burn. "I lit the cigarette lighter to some of this stuff and it didn't burn", he said.
Along with the metal, Marcel described weightless I-beam-like structures that were 3/8" x 1/4", none of them very long, that would neither bend nor break. Some of these I-beams had indecipherable characters along the length, in two colors. Marcel also described metal debris the thickness of tin foil that was indestructible.
After gathering enough debris to fill his staff car, Maj. Marcel decided to stop by his home on the way back to the base so that he could show his family the unusual debris. He'd never seen anything quite like it. "I didn't know what we were picking up. I still don't know what it was...it could not have been part of an aircraft, not part of any kind of weather balloon or experimental balloon...I've seen rockets... sent up at the White Sands Testing Grounds. It definitely was not part of an aircraft or missile or rocket."
Under hypnosis conducted by Dr. John Watkins in May of 1990, Jesse Marcel Jr. remembered being awakened by his father that night and following him outside to help carry in a large box filled with debris. Once inside, they emptied the contents of the debris onto the kitchen floor.
Jesse Jr. described the lead foil and I-beams. Under hypnosis, he recalled the writing on the I-beams as "Purple. Strange. Never saw anything like it...Different geometric shapes, leaves and circles." Under questioning, Jesse Jr. said the symbols were shiny purple and they were small. There were many separate figures. This too, under hypnosis: [Marcel Sr. was saying it was a flying saucer] "I ask him what a flying saucer is. I don't know what a flying saucer is...It's a ship. [Dad's] excited!"
At 11:00 A.M Walter Haut, public relations officer, finished the press release he'd been ordered to write, and gave copies of the release to the two radio stations and both of the newspapers. By 2:26 P.M., the story was out on the AP Wire:
"The Army Air Forces here today announced a flying disk had been found"
As calls began to pour into the base from all over the world, Lt. Robert Shirkey watched as MPs carried loaded wreckage onto a C-54 from the First Transport Unit.
To get a better look, Shirkey stepped around Col. Blanchard, who was irritated with all of the calls coming into the base. Blanchard decided to travel out to the debris field and left instructions that he'd gone on leave.
On the morning of July 8, Marcel reported what he'd found to Col. Blanchard, showing him pieces of the wreckage, none of which looked like anything Blanchard had ever seen. Blanchard then sent Marcel to Carswell [Fort Worth Army Air Field] to see General Ramey, Commanding Officer of the Eighth Air Force.
Marcel stated years later to Walter Haut that he'd taken some of the debris into Ramey's office to show him what had been found. The material was displayed on Ramey's desk for the general when he returned.
Upon his return, General Ramey wanted to see the exact location of the debris field, so he and Marcel went to the map room down the hall - but when they returned, the wreckage that had been placed on the desk was gone and a weather balloon was spread out on the floor. Major Charles A. Cashon took the now-famous photo of Marcel with the weather balloon, in General Ramey's office.
It was then reported that General Ramey recognized the remains as part of a weather balloon. Brigadier General Thomas DuBose, the chief of staff of the Eighth Air Force said, "[It] was a cover story. The whole balloon part of it. That was the part of the story we were told to give to the public and news and that was it."
The military tried to convince the news media from that day forward that the object found near Roswell was nothing more than a weather balloon.
July 9, as reports went out that the crashed object was actually a weather balloon, clean-up crews were busily clearing the debris. Bud Payne, a rancher at Corona, was trying to round up a stray when he was spotted by military and carried off the Foster ranch, and Jud Roberts along with Walt Whitmore were turned away as they approached the debris field.
As the wreckage was brought to the base, it was crated and stored in a hangar.
Back in town, Walt Whitmore and Lyman Strickland saw their friend, Mack Brazel, who was being escorted to the Roswell Daily Record by three military officers. He ignored Whitmore and Strickland, which was not at all like Mack, and once he got to the Roswell Daily Record offices, he changed his story. He now claimed to have found the debris on June 14. Brazel also mentioned that he'd found weather observation devices on two other occasions, but what he found this time was no weather balloon.
Later that afternoon, an officer from the base retrieved all of the copies of Haut's press release from the radio stations and newspaper offices.
The Las Vegas Review Journal, along with dozens of other newspapers, carried the AP story:
"Reports of flying saucers whizzing through the sky fell off sharply today as the army and the navy began a concentrated campaign to stop the rumors."
The story also reported that AAF Headquarters in Washington had "delivered a blistering rebuke to officers at Roswell."