Roswell: Anatomy of a Myth
By: Kent Jeffrey
Kent Jeffrey was once a strong supporter of the
Roswell Saga. An airline pilot, he had involved himself
heavily with the investigation and research into the subject of
UFO's. One of the outcomes of his dedication was the creation
of the International Roswell Initiative (IRI).
However, by 1997,
his research into Roswell had not produced the evidence he had been
expecting. Indeed, it was pointing in the exact opposite
Almost one hundred years ago, a very concerned eight-year-old
girl from New York City, Virginia O'Hanlon, wrote the Question and
Answer Department of her family's evening newspaper, The New York Sun,
requesting to know the truth about Santa Claus. Virginia had been a firm
believer, but her young friends had started to sow the seeds of doubt.
On September 21, 1897, Virginia's answer finally came. Francis
Pharcellus Church, a former Civil War correspondent and an aging writer
for the Sun, replied to Virginia's letter in one of the most eloquent
and enduring editorial responses in the history of journalism. Church
transcended the cold hard facts of reality and avoided shaking
Virginia's childlike faith by subtly alluding to Santa Claus as a
metaphor for that which is good and noble in life -- Yes, Virginia,
there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity
and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give your life its
highest beauty and joy....
Recently, the International Roswell Initiative (IRI) received an
inquiry from a young girl, Lauren M., living in a small town in New
Jersey, that is in many ways reminiscent of Virginia O'Hanlon's 1897
letter to the New York Sun. While the IRI is primarily a grass roots
effort to declassify whatever information the government might have on
UFOs or extraterrestrial intelligence, it has received numerous
inquiries over the last three years about the actual Roswell event, many
January 6, 1997
Dear International Roswell Initiative:
I am a 6th grade student who is studying all kinds of interesting
information about UFOs... I believe that there are really aliens who
have landed and crashed (such as Roswell), but the government tried to
cover it up...If you have any information that can help me prove that
there are UFOs and aliens, please send me that information. Thank you
for your time.
Lauren M. Mrs. Nielsen's 6th grade
Having been extensively involved over the last few years with both the
investigation of the Roswell case and the effort to get the matter
declassified, I would love to be able to answer Lauren M.'s letter in
the affirmative. Unfortunately, in clear conscience, I cannot -- either
directly or metaphorically. Unlike a fanciful story from Western
folklore created to appeal to the imaginations of children, the 1947
Roswell case involves real people and an actual event. Additionally,
with all the publicity the Roswell event and its alleged cover-up have
received, along with the accompanying implications of conspiracy and
deceit on the part of the U.S. government, Roswell represents a
controversy that extends far beyond the relatively narrow confines of
the so-called UFO community. As such, Roswell demands an objective,
straightforward, and, if possible, definitive answer.
During the last year, compelling new evidence has come to the fore that
now makes such a definitive answer possible. Unfortunately, it is not
the answer that those of us familiar with the Roswell case have wanted
to hear. Declassified 1948 military documents, new testimony from
retired military men from both Roswell and the Foreign Technology
Division at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and a thorough
reexamination of how the crashed-disk story got started in the first
place, make it unequivocally clear that the material recovered northwest
of Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947 was not of extraterrestrial origin.
In other words, NO UFO CRASHED AT ROSWELL -- WITH OR WITHOUT ALIENS. IT
DID NOT HAPPEN. PERIOD. For those willing to look objectively and
rationally at all the evidence, this contention should become
resoundingly clear, not just beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond all
Disinformation Agent or Defector?
As soon as word got out that I, coordinator of the IRI and author of
the Roswell Declaration, had reversed my opinion on Roswell, accusations
such as he is an agent for the government or they finally got to him
immediately appeared on Internet postings and elsewhere. While it is
generally not prudent to risk giving such silliness even an inkling of
respectability by publicly acknowledging it, I will address the issue
here, nonetheless, because the accusations seem to be so widespread.
First of all, no individual or agency has ever attempted to influence
or pressure me in any way, shape, or form -- with regard to Roswell or
anything else. Furthermore, if Roswell had really happened and if there
had been any kind of attempt to intimidate me, such an action would have
been the biggest mistake possible. Being somewhat rebellious by nature,
I would have then pursued the matter with a vengeance, spurred on by the
knowledge that I was really on to something.
Secondly, I am not employed by the government in any capacity
whatsoever. My sole occupation for the past 26 years has been that of
airline pilot. I am employed by a major U.S. carrier and presently fly
international routes, primarily to Europe. Although I have never seen a
UFO, I have had a long-term interest in the phenomenon. My interest in
Roswell came about in part because my father, Arthur Jeffrey, a retired
Air Force colonel, knew and worked in the early sixties with one of the
key Roswell figures, General William Blanchard.
While I did feel for a long time that there was a significant chance
that Roswell involved a crashed UFO, I never at any time believed it to
be the case with absolute certainty. However, even if I had only felt
that there was a slight chance that Roswell involved the crash of an
alien spaceship I still would have pursued the matter vigorously,
because, if true, it would have been the story of the millennium.
The International Roswell Initiative
There are apparently those who also feel that by reversing my position
on Roswell I am dropping the ball and letting down the twenty thousand
plus individuals who have signed the Roswell Declaration. That is
anything but the case.
First, with regard to reversing my stance, it is important to remember
that the objective of the Roswell Initiative has been to find the truth,
not define it. Unfortunately, the truth turned out to be different from
what I thought it might be, or hoped it would be. However, now that I am
absolutely certain that the debris recovered from Roswell was not that
from an extraterrestrial craft, I feel an obligation to get that
information out as well. Not to do so would be less than forthright and
less than honest.
Secondly, as for the Roswell Declarations, the plan is to deliver them
to the White House, along with a cover letter to the President, during
the week of the 50th anniversary of the Roswell event this July. Whether
or not the government has any substantive information on UFOs, from a
public relations standpoint, the situation has not been handled well.
The government's quasi-official policy over the last few decades of
ignoring the UFO issue has led to a definite suspicion on the part of
its citizenry. A 1996 Gallup pole revealed that 71 percent of the
American public believes that the U.S. Government knows more about UFOs
than they are telling us.
Although the Roswell Declaration was inspired by the 1947 Roswell
event, it is by no means tied to it. The Declaration requests an
Executive Order declassifying any information regarding the existence of
UFOs or extraterrestrial intelligence. Such an assurance would still be
timely, appropriate, and beneficial to both the U.S. government and its
As is stated in the Declaration, if no information is being withheld,
such an action would, nonetheless, have the positive effect of setting
the record straight and clearing up years of suspicion and controversy.
On the other hand, if information is actually being withheld, it would
represent knowledge of profound importance to which we are all entitled,
and its release would be acknowledged as an historic act of honesty and
Many of the books and documentaries about Roswell imply that it is
highly probable, if not certain, that the recovered debris was from a
crashed flying saucer. Some of that information, however, is misleading
or incorrect. It ranges from fabricated stories on the part of seemingly
credible witnesses to exaggeration and selective presentation of fact.
In some instances, it is probably more a case of overzealousness on the
part of authors than intentional deception. In other instances,
credibility is stretched beyond limits. For example, after the
conclusion of the story in the movie Roswell, statements of purported
fact just prior to the credits inform us that Jesse Marcel, Sr., died in
1986 and that since then over 350 witnesses to the event have agreed to
talk. In actuality, because so few people ever saw the debris, it is
doubtful whether even one-tenth that number of witnesses could ever be
In retrospect, there is much about Roswell that I wish I had questioned
more thoroughly, early on. For example, I received a very interesting
letter, dated March 20, 1993, written on the stationary of a respected
major UFO organization. The author of the letter, in addition to being a
board member of that organization, was a well-known Roswell researcher
and the co-author of a leading book on the subject. I had no reason to
question his credibility.
In part the letter read:
"...a very important trip to New Mexico where we secured another
first-hand witness to the bodies. This brings our total to EIGHT
(emphasis in the original) with yet additional prospects."
My immediate thought was that if these (secret and primarily military,
I was told) witnesses could be convinced to come forward, we would be
able to break the Roswell case wide open. The letter represented a major
turning point in my support for and involvement with the Roswell
I subsequently retained, at my personal expense, a major Washington,
D.C., law firm to offer counsel to the eight witnesses in the hope of
encouraging them to come forward. In September, 1993, I arranged for two
of the attorneys from the firm to travel to New Mexico, where they were
to be put in touch with three of the supposed eight secret witnesses.
Once the attorneys arrived in Roswell, however, they were put in contact
with only one such witness. I would later learn that this particular
so-called secret witness was already known to other researchers and that
his story was considered outlandish and unbelievable -- an assessment
with which I now fully agree.
Sending the two attorneys to New Mexico was a tremendously expensive
waste of time and resources. The researcher and author who wrote the
March 20, 1993, letter telling of the eight witnesses was, himself,
eventually discredited. Although a very personable individual, he proved
to be less than honest. He was subsequently removed from the board of
the UFO organization with which he was affiliated and his co-author,
still a respected researcher, disavowed any association with him. As for
the other seven secret witnesses, nothing has ever been heard from or
about them since.
Even before the advent of recent negative developments in the Roswell
case, I have always felt that a UFO would never crash. However, because
of the impressive witness testimony about which I was told, I suspended
judgment and allowed for the possibility that Roswell might be an
exception -- some kind of one-in-a-quintillion fluke. That was, in
retrospect, a mistake.
The problem with the concept of a UFO crashing is that as technology
advances, so does reliability. Be it with cars, airplanes, televisions,
or wristwatches, the reliability of today's technology far exceeds that
of the technology of just a few decades ago. For example, because of the
high reliability of their engines, long-range, twin-engine commercial
jetliners are now authorized to fly nonstop across the North Atlantic. A
few decades ago, that would have been unthinkable. (The positive
correlation between advancing technology and reliability applies to
proven technology, not experimental state-of-the art machines still in
the developmental phase, such as experimental aircraft or space
With today's industry-average engine-failure rate of less than one
failure per 100,000 flight hours, the chances of both engines of a
two-engine jetliner failing during a given hour of flight are less than
one out of 10 billion. Figuring 50,000 aircraft-ocean crossings per
year, and factoring in such variables as average time over the water and
average distance from land, the odds are less than fifty-fifty of a
double-engine failure and consequent ditching in the North Atlantic of
even one such aircraft over the next 10,000 years.
This incredible degree of reliability is found with a technology that
would be primitive compared with a UFO. Even with today's relatively
primitive technology, our commercial aircraft have very efficient
collision avoidance systems, as well as excellent radar systems for
avoiding thunderstorms and their associated hail and lightning
(phenomena, incidentally, that are surely not unique to this planet).
If we assume that UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft and that some of
the many reported UFO sightings are genuine UFOs, we are dealing with
machines apparently capable of high-speed right-angle turns, incredible
accelerations and speeds, and wingless flight -- not to mention of
traveling light-years through the void of empty space in, presumably, a
relatively short period of time. Such capability would require a
technology totally beyond our present understanding of physics -- a
technology the sophistication of which we cannot even begin to imagine.
Because of the positive correlation between technology and reliability,
such incredibly advanced technology would most certainly mean a
correspondingly high degree of reliability. Common sense dictates that
the chances of such machines crashing, breaking down, or colliding would
be all but zero. It certainly would be many orders of magnitude less
than the already infinitesimally small chance of one of today's
twin-engine jetliners having a double-engine failure.
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