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Of course, the main period in Jesse’s life we are interested in is the second week of July, 1947. When he was sent out to meet Mac Brazel in Roswell, he obviously had no way of knowing that his name would be forever etched in the annals of UFO history. But as important as that week would later prove to be for Jesse, it is certain elements of his biography he later related to UFO investigators that have become so interesting.

When Jesse Marcel Sr. was interviewed about his recovery of the “crashed flying disk” by Bill Moore (who co-authored “The Roswell Incident”) and then by Bob Pratt (who was at the time a reporter for the National Enquirer), he was also asked about his personal accomplishments and his wartime experiences.  Questions like these are common—not only to provide a background of the interviewee, but to establish his credibility. 

Jesse’s bio, as he told it, was pretty impressive: Well educated with a degree in Physics, a certified, decorated war hero who shot down 5 enemy planes, a former personal aide to General Hap Arnold, a pilot (with 3000 hours behind the stick)… Jesse was indeed a “highly credible” witness. Moore and Charles Berlitz, co-authors of “The Roswell Incident”, naturally treated Marcel as a hero in the first book to be published about the case.

However, over the next fifteen years, Jesse’s testimony gradually became one of the more curious facets of the Roswell Saga.  On one hand, he and his story were, in some sense, revered, as it was his account of the recovery of debris he described as “not of this world” that first put the Roswell Incident on the UFO map.  His credibility at the time was not questioned, but as other witnesses stepped forward with their far more exciting versions of events, it became clear that for many of the Storytellers, Jesse Marcel’s tale was starting to lose its luster.

There was Glenn Dennis, and his story of a request for child-sized coffins, a red-headed Captain and what “the Nurse” saw. Next there was Jim Ragsdale’s story of his tryst in the desert with Trudy Truelove that led to his discovery of the crashed saucer, several aliens, and massive recovery teams. These two became the focus of the book “UFO Crash at Roswell” (Randle/Schmitt). Then special agent Frank Kaufmann became the primary witness in “The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell” (Randle/Schmitt), because of his heroic tale of tracking the UFO by Radar, seeing the ship “explode” on the radar screen, and his role in the recovery of the ship and its alien crew. And, of course, we have Gerald Anderson’s memories as a 6 year old finding a saucer and its alien crew and the third-hand tales of Barney Barnett providing most the excitement in “Crash at Corona” (Friedman).

In all of these books, Marcel’s story was not only relegated to the “back bench”, but many of his descriptions of events and the debris were flatly contradicted by others. Even more interesting is that the Storytellers all clearly preferred the other versions over Marcel’s:

  • Marcel’s clearly described wooden "members" became metal beams, then “ Metal I-Beams”. 
    ("...but it didn't look like metal. It looked more like wood."  --Pratt Interview)
  • Marcel’s observation that it was clear that the craft must have “exploded in the air” because there were no signs on the ground of any impact, has now been supplanted by a “huge gouge” made by the craft as it crashed. 
    ("One thing I did notice – nothing actually hit the ground bounced on the ground. It was something that must have exploded above ground and fell." --Pratt Interview)
  • Jesse related that he and Sheridan Cavitt picked up what they could fit into their vehicles, and claimed that they left behind a lot more. What they brought back was the debris that was sent to Ft. Worth to be inspected by General Ramey. However, he never mentioned any kind of massive, High Security effort to recover what they left behind, nor did he mention any additional "plane loads" of debris flown out of the base-- all of which are now accepted by the Storytellers as "facts".  As the Group Intelligence Officer, these are activities that he would have been very aware of.
  • Marcel’s early assertions that the pictures of him taken in General Ramey’s office showed the real debris that he brought in, were ignored in favor of the claims made by other witnesses that the real wreckage was switched out as part of the cover-up conspiracy.
    "UFOs Are Real" -- Television Documentary, 1981

Jesse Marcel was not the only one that did not "notice" all the frantic activity and high security measures some witnesses are claiming. See Capt Lorenzo Kimball's story here.

  • Marcel never mentioned any aliens-- dead or alive.  Not at the crash site OR on the base.  Yet the Storytellers, based on accounts from others, are all in agreement that bodies were recovered, autopsied on base, and eventually shipped to …. somewhere else.
  • Jesse never mentioned or gave any hint that the base was under any kind of unusual security alert.  But the prevailing story, as related by other witnesses, is that the entire base was under locked-down Very Highest Security.

The authors of the Roswell books in the ‘90s clearly preferred these new, more exciting tales over Marcel’s. So without explicitly saying that Marcel’s story and descriptions were suspect, they simply related, then ignored many of the details of his story, thus relegating Jesse to more of a historical footnote than a pivotal witness.

Jesse Marcel's Military Records
In 1995, not long after publication of the Randle/Schmitt book “The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell”, another researcher—Robert Todd—successfully acquired Jesse Marcel’s military records via a Freedom Of Information Act request, and suddenly the appellation of “a highly credible witness” was brought into question. Many began to ask;  If Jesse was inclined to embellish the reality of his wartime "heroics" and his education, was he equally cavalier with his story of the "flying disk"? 

(1) For more on Marcel's "enhanced" bio, click here.

Marcel’s records showed that contrary to the background he gave to the early researchers, he was not and never had been a pilot, nor was he a college graduate(1), and he never served as an aide to General Hap Arnold.  He did receive two Air Medals, but not five, and they were not awarded for shooting down enemy airplanes-- there is no indication that he shot down even one.  In the eyes of many, Marcel’s tale of the Flying Disk that was “not of this world” started to look a little suspect.

Meanwhile, disaster was falling on all of the most coveted Roswell witnesses. Gerry Anderson was caught fabricating documents and a diary, and lying about the “archaeologist”… Jim Ragsdale, whose stories were suspiciously increasing in dramatic content with each retelling, abruptly changed the location of his crash site some 70 miles away... The diary of Barney Barnett’s wife showed conclusively that he was nowhere near the Plains of San Agustin during that critical week… Glenn Dennis’s mysterious nurse apparently never existed, and many of his details were found to be misplaced memories from other times.

Then finally, Frank Kaufmann’s widow allowed researchers access to his papers after his death. These papers convincingly showed that Frank had forged the documentation he had shown to the storytellers, and that he was nothing more than an accomplished fabricator of his role in the Roswell Saga.

The Storytellers now found themselves without all of their best Witnesses. Huge holes had been ripped from their published stories, and it became clear that a renewed effort was required to try and resurrect the Saga from certain ruin.

Re-enter Major Jesse Marcel.
With the loss of their most exciting witnesses, long time crash advocates and Roswell researchers like Kevin Randle became desperate for a new headliner. So despite the obvious problems dealing with Marcel’s discredited stories of his military service, and because they apparently have no one better, they have gone back to the witness that started the whole saga. Today, Jesse is once again being promoted as a Key Witness.

However, this resurrection effort continues to ignore the very real problems that have plagued Marcel’s testimony since 1989. There are still these enormous discrepancies between Marcel’s comparatively sedate tale, and the far more exciting stories of massive clean up operations, a huge gouge, alien bodies, a base locked down on high security alert, plane-loads (or truck-loads) of alien ship debris, specialists being flown in from Washington DC, Colorado, California… all of which have to be addressed by anyone who seriously wants to try and understand Roswell.

Jesse’s War:
So if Jesse’s tale of his war-time exploits and education got a little “enhancement” 35 years later, just what is the reality of his time in service?

His service records indicate the Jesse fought the war well, but not exceptionally well. Every indication is that Jesse performed his wartime duties competently and was not shy about taking some risks—while in the Pacific Theater, he was promoted twice, and awarded two Air Medals and the Bronze Star. The records make absolutely no mention of him taking over a gun and shooting down a plane (let alone five planes!). Nor is there any mention what-so-ever of him as a pilot--which, considering the branch of service he was in, would be a decidedly noteworthy item. Gen. Ramey even noted in an evaluation of Marcel that his lack of pilot credentials would hurt his chances of advancement in the Air Force.

The common criticism voiced in his Efficiency Evaluations for ’43-‘45 was that he lacked in leadership and was deficient in his “personal appearance”. However, praises for his abilities as an Intelligence Officer, his attention to detail and his work ethic, overshadowed those shortcomings. His rating officers were all in agreement that Jesse was of value to the military, recommending that the Army Air Force retain his services and advance him in rank and duties. It is worth noting here that none of his wartime efficiency reports gave him an overall rating as “exceptional” or "superior".

His post-war Efficiency Ratings through 1948 followed the same pattern— lacking in leadership, personal appearance and initiative, but skilled in his job with a good work ethic. He received written commendations for his work during “Operation Crossroads” and recommendations for advancement. Interestingly, in two Efficiency Reports completed during his time with the 509th, Jesse was ranked last or second-to-last by the report author (Col. Blanchard was one) when asked to compare him to the other officers in his command.

It wasn’t until his period with SAC that deficiencies in personal appearance stopped appearing in the reports- apparently it had been explained to him just how important it was to be “squared away” when you worked at the Pentagon.

Overall, Jesse’s record with the Army (and the post-split Air Force) could be rated as Good to Very Good, but not Superior. He was never in trouble, did his job well, and generally pleased his superiors, but showed little in the way of Leadership abilities. The Army thought enough of him that he was not let go during the post war demobilization that saw a huge proportion of the troops sent home, and until his mother’s illness intervened, he seemed to be well on his way to a comfortable career as a military bureaucrat.

Ever since Marcel’s military records were acquired, there have been periodic “discussions” between crash advocates and skeptics over the validity and the importance of what Marcel said in those interviews. A tape of Bill Moore’s interview has never surfaced, and neither has any from Stanton Friedman’s sessions. However, Bob Pratt did give copy of his interview tape to Karl Pflock, who published a transcription. It is from this transcription, and the quotes Moore published in “The Roswell Incident”, that we get Jesse’s enhanced version of how he fought the war.

As I write this (February 2009), there is a renewed battle being waged on the Internet, and in a book by Jesse Marcel Jr., to again try to resurrect Maj. Marcel’s Credibility from the disaster wrought by the reality of his military records. Tactics such as excusing his grandiose tales as “résumé building”, or “kill the messenger” (in this case, Bob Todd), and “please cut him some slack” are being used to try and elevate Jesse’s story from the quagmire his fanciful exaggerations created.

At the same time, The Storytellers seem loathe to give up the exciting stories of alien bodies, high security alerts and the plane loads of debris that their now discredited witnesses had brought to the Saga. As a result, the argument over Jesse’s credibility continues to ignore the huge gulf between his version of The Incident, and the versions that The Storytellers are actually selling.