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”
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."
- 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 ….
- 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,
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
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.
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.