The Roswell UFO Incident Story 


Like all good UFO stories, there is always the event that triggered the imagination.  The Roswell story is no exception. Below is a brief synopsis of what took place back in 1947.

It all started on June 25th, 1947 when a pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported seeing several objects while flying near Mt Rainier, Washington. His descriptions of the objects that flew like "geese" and moving "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water" became the term "Flying Saucers", and thus the age of the UFO was born.

Many newspapers in the country picked up the story from the wire services, and the publicity gave birth to a rash of Sightings that kept the papers and the public fascinated throughout that summer... and indeed, to this day. One of those Sightings happened on a ranch outside Corona, New Mexico.

Early in July, 1947, after hearing about Arnold's "flying saucers", ranch foreman Mac Brazel told the Sheriff of Chaves County about some strange material he had found on the Foster Ranch, and that he was sure it was the remains of a "flying disk". Sheriff Wilcox passed this information on to the Roswell Army Air Force base and the base intelligence officer, Major Jessie Marcel, was immediately detailed to look into the matter.

frontpag.gif (32494 bytes)On July 8th, the local newspaper printed a story that the Roswell AAF had released the news of the "capture of a flying saucer". This story was quickly put on the news-wires, and soon newspapers across the country were all running stories about the Captured Saucer.

No copy of the original press release exists today, but the following is generally thought to be the closest to the original:

"The many rumors regarding the flying disk became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eight Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the co-operation of one of the local ranchers and the Sheriff's Office of Chaves county.

"The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the Sheriff's office, who in turn notified Major Jesse A. Marcel, of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence office.

"Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher's home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters."
(San Francisco Chronicle - July 9, 1947)

What is intriguing about the first accounts is the large number of errors that exist in such a short report.

The debris found didn’t look like a disc, the object didn’t land but crashed, and the rancher (Mac Brazel) didn’t store any disc.

Clearly, the author of the press release wasn’t certain what had happened. This is shown even more in the Roswell Daily Record account of the press release. According to Lt. Walter Haut, the man who wrote the press release, he stopped at the office of the Roswell Daily Report to give them the press release, and the differences between the San Francisco Chronicle version and the RDR version probably stem from questions that Haut answered for the local writer who knew Haut. This seems to make sense, as there was usually friction between the town and the air base, and any good commander would try to cooperate with the local paper.

By the end of the day (July 8), the Army Air Force base in Fort Worth had examined the wreckage and identified it not as a flying saucer, but as a high altitude weather balloon carrying a radar target made of aluminum and balsa wood. An AAF news release correcting the misidentification was published by the RDR [1] on July 9, but by then it was too late. The Roswell paper, sheriffs office and the Air Force base were already being deluged with calls from all over the country looking for a story.

The correction did eventually quell most of the speculation, and by the end of the week, the story had, for the most part, disappeared from the news. By the end of the year, the Roswell Incident had slipped into obscurity, destined to be no more than a footnote in the annals of UFO literature- until 1978, when Stanton Friedman, an unemployed scientist and part-time UFO lecturer, was prompted to revisit this obscure event.

On Feb 21, 1978, Stanton Friedman was in Baton Rouge, La after giving a lecture on UFOs and interviewed a man over the phone that said that he had handled the wreckage of a crashed spaceship. Friedman found it difficult to get excited about this story (page 12, Crash at Corona) but did a little checking. This was made harder because Jesse Marcel, the man who made the claim, couldn’t remember either the month or even the year of the event.

It was one year later, Feb 10, 1979, that William Moore found the clippings of the affair referred to by Jesse Marcel, and his and Friedman’s interest suddenly became very active.

Their research started the saga that has made Roswell the most celebrated case ever in the literature of UFOs.

Many books and articles have been published about Roswell, and as anyone who has read more than one of them knows, the tale is confusing. There are many different competing versions, and each succeeding book seems to contradict the others. So if the mainstream literature can't agree, then what REALLY happened?


[1]  General Ramey's office at the Fort Worth Army Air Force Base (8th Army HQ) issued a press release "deflating" the earlier Flying Disk stories late in the afternoon of July 8, 1947.  As most evening papers had already been published, this story was not carried until July 9.  However, some evening papers on the west coast were able to include both the original "Flying Disk" press release and the Ramey news in the same edition.

For anyone interested in tracing the story of Roswell through its many different variants, we suggest reading:

UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth. Benson Saler, Charles A. Ziegler, and Charles B. Moore. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington and London. 1997.