The keys to understanding the Roswell flying saucer accident

It is hearing Roswell and a crashed flying saucer in the desert comes to mind. It wasn't always like this. Although the alleged accident occurred in the summer of 1947, Roswell does not exist in UFO books prior to 1980. Neither in the most credulous nor in the most serious, such as 'The Encyclopedia of UFOs' (1980), by Ronald D. Story , where it is not mentioned in any of its more than 350 articles.

Ufologists ignored the now popular alien spacecraft crash for 33 years, until Charles Berlitz and William Moore published 'The Roswell Incident'. The Spanish version was titled 'El incident' (1981), without allusion to the town of New Mexico because its name then did not mean anything to anyone, neither outside nor inside the world of UFOs.

The Roswell case, which occurred 75 years ago, is a complex and fascinating story. The Cold War, the growing fever of flying saucers, government secrecy, eager witnesses to glory, editorials in search of best sellers, magazines eager to sell more, shameless ufologists and many people's desire to believe are mixed in it.

Robert Goddard with a rocket in his Roswell work shop in October 1935. /

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

"Welcome to Roswell. He is currently not known for anything », reads the poster by which they find out where the aliens of the irreverent Canadian animated series 'Stellar Stumbling' have crashed in July 1947. With less than 25,000 inhabitants, the city then had as its main asset the Roswell Army Airfield, the base of the 509th Bomber Group, which as the 509th Composite Group had dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Located on the great plains southeast of New Mexico in Chaves County, Roswell hosted the rocket tests of Robert Goddard, one of the three fathers of astronautics along with the Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and the German Herman Oberth, between 1930 and 1941. At the end of World War II, the super-bombers of the 509 Composite Group, as it was called until July 1946, moved to Roswell. The 'Enola Gay' was the world's first atomic squadron and, until June 1948, the only unit capable of carrying and launching nuclear weapons. Roswell was his base.

Cover of the 'Roswell Daily Record' of July 8, 1947 announcing the capture of a flying saucer by the military. /


July 8, 1947

The Army captures a saucer

The 'Roswell Daily Record' announced on July 8, 1947 on its front page that the military had captured "a flying saucer on a ranch in the region." Only two weeks had passed since Kenneth Arnold had seen from his plane a formation of nine objects that "fly erratically, like a saucer if you throw it over the water", in the vicinity of Mount Rainier, in the state of Washington. That summer was
the invasion of the flying saucers. No one knew what these objects were that were already seen by the hundreds from coast to coast, so the capture of one well deserved a newspaper cover.

The disk had been recovered days earlier by a rancher, Marc Brazel, who had reported it to the Chaves County sheriff, according to a press release issued by the Roswell Army Airfield, where the object had initially been taken. Commander Jesse Marcel of the 509th Bomber Group intelligence office, who had taken charge of the saucer, flew it to Fort Worth, Texas, where he showed it to Brigadier General Roger Ramey and Colonel Thomas Dubose. They identified it as pieces of a weather balloon.

Commander Jesse Marcel shows off the remains of the alleged crashed weather balloon in Roswell. /

University of Texas

July 9, 1947

From puck to weather balloon

Although that was what the newspaper and the military had called it in their press release, the Roswell disc was not really such, but a jumble of aluminum foil, paper, adhesive tape, rubber and balsa wood sticks. Ramey, Dubose and Marcel posed for the media next to material that matched what rancher Marc Brazel claimed to have found, "a large area of ​​shiny debris made up of rubber bands, aluminum foil, some fairly stiff paper, and sticks." . "General Ramey empties the saucer of Roswell," headlined the newspaper of the New Mexican town on July 9 on the front page. The mysterious object was thus transmuted into "a harmless high-altitude weather balloon" and fell into oblivion.

Seven months later, on January 7, 1948, Capt. Thomas Mantell of the Kentucky Air National Guard was killed while chasing a flying saucer in his P-51 Mustang fighter near Godman Air Force Base. “It looks metallic or the reflection of sunlight on a metallic object, and it is of tremendous size…” he told the control tower when he was at 4,500 meters. Upon reaching 9,000 meters, he lost consciousness from lack of oxygen and the plane plummeted. The fighter crashed. Mantell became the first martyr of ufology, although what he was after was a balloon from the Skyhook cosmic ray project, a then-secret Navy program. The Skyhook balloons reached 180 meters in height and 30 meters in width, and ascended up to 18,000 meters.

No UFO book published between 1947 and 1980 cites the Roswell case. /



the great silence

The Roswell case occurred before the nascent UFO phenomenon was linked to extraterrestrial visitation. Two and a half years passed from the time Arnold saw the first saucers on June 24, 1947—now believed to be a flock of pelicans—until former Marine aviator Donald Keyhoe, who wrote science fiction and crime stories, proposed that they were ships from other worlds. He did it in a book, 'Flying saucers are real' (1950), of which he sold half a million copies. A year later, the film 'Ultimatum to the Earth' (1951), by Robert Wise, created the icon of the extraterrestrial messiah with Klaatu, the envoy of the Galactic Confederation who asks humans to abandon nuclear weapons.

Klaatu became flesh in November 1952 in the California desert when the blond, good-looking Venusian Orthon landed with his saucer in front of George Adamski, the cook at a fast-food restaurant. He gave her the same message as the alien in 'Ultimatum on Earth'. For the next 30 years, the visitors always land in remote places, appear before lonely witnesses, kidnap some and hundreds of books and countless magazines and newsletters of ufological organizations are published, but nobody talks about Roswell. Like other frauds and confusions of the first years of the phenomenon, nobody remembers him in the UFO literature.



alien corpses appear

The case was resurrected in 1980, when Berlitz and Moore published 'The Roswell Incident'. The grandson of the founder of the Berlitz language academies, the former had made fame and fortune with 'The Bermuda Triangle' (1974), a book full of mysterious invented disappearances that has sold more than 20 million copies. Berlitz and Moore had spoken with alleged witnesses to the events of 1947 and maintained that what had crashed in Roswell was a damaged ship from another world after being struck by lightning. According to them, the material that the military had shown to the press in its day was from a weather balloon because they had changed the original remains of the saucer, along with which the bodies of its crew had also been recovered.

In the following years, the case fattened book after book, ufological congress after ufological congress, with skinny and big-headed aliens, changing the site of the crash according to the interests of the locals on duty and with exotic derivations, such as the inventions of fiber optics, the laser, microchip and transistor from crashed ship technology. Roswell became an alien Disneyland to which UFO fans flocked by the thousands and which each year celebrates the anniversary of the incident that made it famous in July. Business was buoyant when the military returned to the fray.

Dummies used by the Air Force for parachute tests between 1953 and 1959. /

Air Force


the uncomfortable truth

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) opened in early 1994, at the request of Congress, an investigation into the nature of what fell at Roswell in 1947. The result was two Air Force reports. In the first, from 1994, the military explained that the object was a balloon, although not a weather balloon, as was said at the time. The remains found by Marc Brazel corresponded to balloon number 4 of the Mogul project, a top-secret program whose objective was to detect the sound waves of the first Soviet nuclear tests. It had been launched on June 4 from Alamogordo, about 150 kilometers west of Roswell.

The second report, from 1997, focused on the origin of the alien corpses that had burst into history with the publication of Berlitz and Moore's book. The Air Force dropped hundreds of anthropomorphic mannequins over New Mexico between 1953 and 1959 to test high-altitude parachutes. If they were not inventions of the witnesses and ufologists, the extraterrestrial bodies could be those dummies used for crash tests, the report pointed out. The military believed that, decades later, well-meaning witnesses who had seen the dummies in the desert might have mixed up the dates.

Frame of the autopsy of the Roswell alien, a fraudulent film considered authentic by some prominent ufologists. /


nineteen ninety five

The autopsy of the Martian

John Humphreys, an expert in special effects on series like 'Max Headroom' and movies like 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', toured London one night in 1995 distributing the remains of some big-headed alien figures among garbage cans. He had made them himself and did not want to leave a trace of his work after having used them in the filming of a black and white film in which he pretended to be a doctor who performed an autopsy on an alien who had crashed in Roswell in 1947.

In the summer of 1995, esoteric magazines echoed the existence of the tape and ufologists, such as the Spanish Javier Sierra, defended its authenticity: it showed, they said, that some of the crew members of the Roswell saucer had survived the sinister. The falsity of the film, from which British producer Ray Santilli made millions, was evident from the start to historians, forensics and special effects experts. The fraud was so obvious that in November 1995 –with the esoteric press still enthusiastic–, in 'The X-Files', agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully referred a couple of times to the Martian's autopsy as a crude set-up. Humphreys confessed to the deception in 2006 on the occasion of the premiere of 'Alien autopsy', a comedy that recreates the events.

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