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Roswell 1947 - first ufologists investigations

The February 28, 1980, article in the National Enquirer was titled "Former Intelligence Officer Reveals 'I picked up wreckage of UFO that exploded over U.S." The author was Bob Pratt (1926-2005), and the article was made of his interview of Jesse Marcel in December 1979.

Here is the transcription by Bob Pratt of his taped interview with Jesse Marcel in 1978, as he forwarded it to me on August 31, 2003. In the transcription, the parts (between brackets) are notes by Bob Pratt. Bob Pratt also informed following my question that he turned the magnetic tape to his editors, as it was the usage, and that the tape has undoubtedly be re-used; he adds that, of course, if he had foreseen the importance which this interview was going to take in the future, he would have made a copy of it.

This transcription was reproduced by author Karl Pflock in appendix of his book ""Roswell, inconvenient facts and the will to believe" Prometheus Books, July 2001, ISBN: 1573928941. Bob Pratt informed me that Karl Pflock cleaned the interview up a little, but he does not remember exactly what he did.

This interview was a basic element for the well-known article by Bob Pratt in the National Enquirer in 1979. Bob Pratt had an increasingly large interest for the subject of the UFOs, particularly in field investigations in Brazil. A large number of his articles and information on this author are on his web site bobpratt.org; he was honored in May 2003 ("Ufólogo Brasileiro Honorário") by a broad panel of Brasilian ufologist for his UFO researcher work in this country.

Transcript of taped interview with Jesse Marcel Sr., at his home in [Confidential, removed by webmaster], Louisiana, on the morning of December 8, 1979.

Pratt:Tell me something about your background.
Marcel:(I) entered the U.S. Army Air Force in April 1942 was an aide to General Hap Arnold. Entered as second lieutenant He (Arnold?) decided 1 should go to intelligence school (for which there were) lengthy and strenuous exams. (I Went to) Air Intelligence School, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania under CO (commanding officer) Colonel Egmont Koenig. Was in school – first combat intelligence and (then) kept on in photo intelligence, since I had done a lot of cartographic work and interpreting aerial photographs. I used both combat intel and photo intel in my work. He (Koenig) elected to retain me there as an instructor, one year, three months. I applied for overseas duty, combat. Was sent to South pacific, New Guinea, assigned as squadron intelligence officer. I had flying experience before going in the service – started flying in 1928 – so being in (the) air was not foreign to me. Did lot of flying, combat flying, B24s. From squadron, was elevated to group intelligence officer until I was sent back to the States just before the A-Bomb was dropped on Japan. Sent me back to take radar navigation course at Langley Field. Was there when bomb was dropped and the war ended... was reassigned to Eighth Air Force.
Pratt:Headquarters was at Colorado Springs –
Marcel:Reported for duty there but the following day transferred to Roswell, New Mexico, which became Walker Air Force Base. Immediately after the end of war, 509th Bomb Wing. I was intelligence officer for the bomb wing.
Pratt:What was your rank?
Marcel:Major. Stayed there until October 1947. The 509th was the only A-Bomb group in world. The first project I was sent on was an atom test on Bikini in 1948. Came back to Roswell until latter part of 1947, when I was sent to Washington. Was in service for eight and a half years and had been in the Louisiana National Guard and the Texas Guard also. It became very difficult for me to get out of service, but I felt I had a duty to my family. I was assigned to the Special Weapons Program, collecting air samples throughout the world and (getting them) analyzed. In fact, when we finally detected there had been a nuclear explosion, had to write a report on it. In fact, I wrote the very report that President Truman read on the air declaring that Russia had exploded an atomic device. This was after I left the 509th. I got out in 1950, latter part of 1950.
Pratt:What was your rank then?
Marcel:After this flying saucer thing came about in 1947, I was given a promotion after I got back to Washington and I didn’t even know it. I was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December 1947.
Pratt:When did you learn you had been promoted?
Marcel:After I got out of the service…They kept me so busy I never even looked at my personal files. I was released from active duty as a lieutenant colonel.
Pratt:Was the flying you did before the war part of your work.
Marcel:Private pilot.
Pratt:What work did you do before the war?
Marcel:I was a cartographer, mapmaker. Worked for U.S. Engineers and Shell Oil Company. I was working for Shell Oil Company as a photographer when the war began. All my map making for the Engineers and Shell Oil Company was derived from aerial photographs. No degree then. Got one later, six different schools. I speak French and English and understand several others but don't speak them. After war, I worked in electronics, repairing radios and TVs, since I had been a ham radio operator all these years. Retired now, (with my wife). My son is a doctor in Helena, Montana. He's also a seismologist.
Pratt:When did you find the debris in New Mexico?
Marcel:I don't remember the exact date. It was in July 1947. How it all started, I was in my office. I went to the officers' club for lunch and was sitting having lunch when I got a call from the sheriff from Roswell and he wanted to talk to me. He said "There's a man here, a rancher who came to town to sell his woo, he'd just sheared his sheep and he told me something that’s weird And you ought to know about this. And I said, "Well I'm all ears." He said, "This man's name is Brazel. He said he found something on his ranch that crashed either the day before or a few days before, and he doesn't know what it is. He (the sheriff) said, "This might be well worth your while to investigate this since I know you're the intelligence officer of the base. So I said "Well fine." So I said "Where can I meet him?" He said "Well he's going to leave here about three-thirty or four o'clock, but he's in my office now, if you want to come and talk to him now. He'll be here waiting for you" And he was, and he told me about it. Well, he got me interested so I went back – I said (to Brazel), "You wait here." I said, "I have to go back to the base." So I talked to my CO (commanding officer of the 509th Bomb Group Colonel William H. Blanchard) about that (what was his advice), He said. "My advice is you better get in that car." He said, "How much of that stuff is there out there?" I said, "Well the way the man talks, quite a bit." He said, "Well you have three CIC agents working for you."
Pratt:CIC?
Marcel:That’s Counter Intelligence (Corps) agents – See, my main job there was to clear the personnel through the Atomic Energy Commission to be stationed at that base, military personnel. I had five officers and about twenty enlisted typists working for me, with an office going like mint all the time. With (plus) those three CIC agents. They would do the investigating. Whenever we had to investigate somebody, I gave that job to them and they’d turn in their reports in to my office and we'd write the reports. Well to come back to this. So I talked to Colonel Blanchard and he said take whatever you need with you but go. So I got one of my agents named Cavitt (Captain Sheridan W. Cavitt), who, incidentally, we've never been able to find since I don't know his first name. I didn't keep any paperwork on CIC agents They didn't belong to me. So – but I had three of them. So I took him (Cavitt). He drove a jeep carryall. I drove my staff car, and we took off cross-country behind this pickup truck this rancher (Brazel) had. He didn’t follow any roads going out? This was an eighty square mile ranch, so he told me. It was big. So we got to his place at dusk. It was too late to do anything, so we spent the night there in that little shack of his. And the following morning we got up and took off. He took us to that place, and we started picking up fragments, which was foreign to me. I'd never seen anything like that. I didn’t know what we were picking up. I still don't know. As of this day, I still don't know what it was. And I brought as much of it back to the base as I could and – Well, some ingenious young GI thought he'd try to put a few pieces together and see if he could match something. I don't think he ever matched two pieces. It was so fragmented It was strewn over a wide area, I guess maybe three-quarters of a mile long and a few hundred feet wide. So we loaded up and we came back to the base. In the meantime we had an eager-beaver public relations officer, he found out about it, he calls AP (Associated Press) about it. Then that’s when it really hit the fan. I don't mind using that expression. I probably got telephone calls from everywhere. News reporters were trying to come in to talk to me, but I had nothing for them I couldn't tell them anything. I didn't have anything to talk about. They wanted to see the stuff, which I couldn't show them. So my CO (Blanchard), early the next morning sent me to Carswell (Air Force Base, which in July 1947 was still Fort Worth Army Air Field) to stop over and talk to (Brigadier) General (Roger M.) Ramey (commander of the Eighth Air Force. (I took) all the stuff in a B-29. My CO told me to go ahead and fly it to Wright-Patterson air field in Ohio, but when I got to Carswell, General Ramey wasn't there, but they had a lot of news reporters and a slew of microphones that wanted to talk to me, but I couldn't say anything. I couldn't say anything until I talked to the general. I had to go under his orders. And he (General Ramey) said (Marcel chuckles – Pratt), "Well just don't say anything. So I said "General, Colonel Blanchard told me to get this stuff to Wright-Patterson." And he said, "You leave it right here. We'll take care of it from here." And that was the end of it – that was the end of my part in it. I still don't know what I picked up.
Pratt:Did they keep the B-29?
Marcel:No, no. It (the material) was transferred to a transport. The general told me, "You go back to Roswell You're need more there." He said, "You've got a big job there, what you're doing is important. This, there'll be nothing –"
Pratt:What was the rancher' name?
Marcel:Brazel, don't know his first name.
Pratt:Where is the ranch in relation to Roswell?
Marcel:North of the test sites and I would say sixty miles northwest of Roswell.
Pratt:What was the sheriff’s name?
Marcel:I don't recall it right now (It was George Wilcox). He was sheriff of the county Roswell was in (Chaves).
Pratt:What kind of a ranch was it?
Marcel:Cattle and sheep.
Pratt:The next morning he took you out to this place?
Marcel:Yes. In fact he saddled two horses. I never rode a horse in my life, and I said "You two ride the horses." Cavitt was an odd – He was from west Texas. He was at home on a horse. So they took off. We went up there, and we loaded all this stuff in the carryall and we got through kind of late. But I wasn't satisfied. I went back I told Cavitt, "You drive this vehicle back to the base, and I’ll go back out there and pick up as much as I can put in the car."
Pratt:What was the terrain like?
Marcel:Very flat. It’s all very arid. You had tumbleweeds. It was adequate for a sheep ranch for grazing. I didn't pay too much attention to that because my interest went another way.
Pratt:When you got out there, what did you actually see, bits of metal or what?
Marcel:I saw – Well we found some metal, small bits of metal, but mostly we found some material that’s hard to describe. I'd never seen anything like that, and I still don't know what it was. We picked it up anyway. One thing, one thing –
Pratt:It was something manufactured?
Marcel:Oh, it definitely was. But one thing I do remember, I recall that very distinctly. I wanted to set some of this stuff burn, but all I had – I had a cigarette lighter, since I'm a heavy smoker anyway. I lit the cigarette lighter to some of this stuff, and it didn't burn.
Pratt:Were there any markings?
Marcel:Yes, there were. Something indecipherable. I’ve never seen anything like that myself. Oh, I call them hieroglyphics myself. I don't know whether they were ever deciphered or not.
Pratt:There were some markings, though?
Marcel:Oh. Yes – little members, small members, solid members that could not bend or break, but it didn't look like metal. It looked more like wood.
Pratt:How big?
Marcel:They varied in size. They were, as I can recall, perhaps three-eighths of an inch by one-quarter of an inch thick and just about all sizes. None of them were very long.
Pratt:How large was the biggest?
Marcel:I would say about three feet (long).
Pratt:How heavy?
Marcel:Weightless. You couldn't even tell you had it in your hands – just like you handle balsa wood.
Pratt:The piece three or four feet long – was it wide or what?
Marcel:Oh no. It was a solid member, rectangular members, just like you get a square stick (here Marcel drew a sketch – Pratt). Varied lengths, and along the length of some of those they had little markings, a two-color markings as I recall – like Chinese writing to me. Nothing you could make any sense out of.
Pratt:Was everything in this shape, long and slender?
Marcel:All the solid members were that way. There was other stuff there that looked very much like parchment that, again, didn’t burn. Obviously – I surmise – I’m not –I was acquainted with just about every method there of weather observation devices used by the military, and I couldn't recognize any of that as being weather observation devices.
Pratt:You've been flying since 1928, twenty years when this happened. Was this part of any aircraft that you recognize?
Marcel:No, it could not have been part of an aircraft.
Pratt:Nor part of a weather balloon or experimental balloon?
Marcel:I couldn't see that it could be, no. For one thing if it had been a balloon, like the parts that we picked up, it would not have been porous. It was porous.
Pratt:Any jagged or broken ends or the like?
Marcel:No. As far as I can recall, they were clean. See, I had so little time to spend on this – I had other duties to perform. I brought the stuff over here. my CO saw it, my staff saw it and then the following day my CO told me to take it to Wright-Patterson.
Pratt:Why there?
Marcel:For analysis. They wanted to see what it was.
Pratt:What was the agency at Wright-Pat?
Marcel:Air Force analysis laboratories. I think.
Pratt:How many pieces were there?
Marcel:It might have been hundreds. I don't recall. It’s been so long since I handled all this stuff. I'd just about dismissed the whole thing from my mind.
Pratt:When you went out there that morning, you could see this stuff scattered for quite a ways in the distance?
Marcel:Lord, yes, about as far as you could see – three-quarters of a mile long and two hundred to three hundred feet wide. I tell you what I surmised. 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. And I learned later that farther west towards Carrizozo, they found something like that, too. That I don't know anything about. It was the same period of time, sixty to eighty miles west of there.
Pratt:Ranchers found something similar out there?
Marcel:I think it was discovered by some surveyor out there. (Marcel is probably referring to the Barney Barnett story, about which previous interviewers told him.)
Pratt:Did you pick up all the parts?
Marcel:I did not cover the entire area. We picked up as much as we could carry and some was left there.
Pratt:Was it grouped or bunched together, or was it scattered?
Marcel:Scattered all over – just like you'd explode something above the ground and just fall to the ground. One thing I was impressed with was that it was obvious you could just about determine which direction it came from and which direction it was heading. It was traveling from northeast to southwest. It was in that pattern. You could tell where it started and where it ended by how it thinned out. Although I did not cover the entire area this stuff was in, I could tell that it was thicker where we first started looking, and it was thinning out as we went southwest.
Pratt:What was the length of the shortest pieces?
Marcel:Four or five inches. It was as if something of some greater area that had been together.
Pratt:Were there clean breaks or obvious breaks?
Marcel:I don't recall that. Nothing seemed torn. It’s pretty difficult to assimilate in your own mind just what it was because I wasn't with it that long. It’s like you handle a hot potato – you want to get rid of it.
Pratt:Had the rancher been in that area recently before finding this?
Marcel:I faintly remember he told me he had heard an explosion at night and the following day he went out there in that direction and he saw that stuff.
Pratt:Of course, we didn't have artificial satellites in 1947–
Marcel:No.
Pratt:We had missiles, though, didn't we?
Marcel:Oh, yes.
Pratt:This obviously was no rocket?
Marcel:Oh, no. Unh, unh. I've seen rockets. I've seen rockets sent up at the White Sands testing grounds. It definitely was not part of an aircraft, nor a missile or rocket.
Pratt:Strange, isn't it?
Marcel:Yes, it is. It’s bewildering. The one thing that I kept wondering – why no publicity was given about that by the Air Force. They probably got something they wanted to sit on. That’s my opinion. There had been a lot of reports about flying saucers in that area. In fact, I'm not sure – I wouldn't swear to this, but one night about eleven-thirty – I lived in town – the provost marshal called me and said, "You better come out here in a hurry." He wouldn't elaborate on the telephone what it was. So I got in my car and put my foot on the accelerator and going as fast as I could go, and it was a straight road. Something caught my attention. It was a formation of lights moving from north to south. But it was so – I mean we had nothing that traveled that fast anyway. I knew that. We had no aircraft that traveled at that speed, because it was visible only maybe three or four seconds from overhead to the horizon. They were bright lights flying a perfect vee formation And I hesitated to open my mouth about that because I knew nobody would believe me, but two or three days later some GI said "I saw something in the skies the other night." And he described exactly what I'd seen.
Pratt:Was this before the debris incident?
Marcel:Just slightly before. Anyway, I figure there's some credence to this UFO business. I believe in it. Even my son Jesse (Dr. Jesse A. Marcel), one afternoon – he has two little boys and a girl and the boys were with him – he was going into town and – They live on a little crooked road up the side of a mountain and one of the boys said "Dad look at that!" My son stopped the car and looked up there and he saw 8 shiny circular object that all of a sudden took off like nobody's business.
Pratt:Tell me about Cavitt’s jeep carryall.
Marcel:It’s slightly larger than a pickup truck, with a covered body. And we loaded the back end of that up with material and then I went back and loaded my car up.
Pratt:And there was a lot left?
Marcel:Oh, lord, yes. Yes we picked up a very minor portion of it.
Pratt:You put all this on the B-29 and were going to take all the material to Wright –
Marcel:All we had.
Pratt:And you never heard back anything more from General Ramey?
Marcel:Nothing at all.
Pratt: – or Wright Field?
Marcel:Nothing at all.
Pratt:Do you know if Blanchard did?
Marcel:That I wouldn't know. I rather doubt that he did because if he had heard something about it would have told me. And he never mentioned anything.
Pratt:How long did you stay at Roswell after that?
Marcel:Until the latter part of 1947.
Pratt:Where did you go then?
Marcel:Transferred to Washington, D.C. I was given an office with a title about that long (held hands apart – Pratt). I was in the Selective service building next to the State House on E Street.
Pratt:What do you think this thing was?
Marcel:Well, as far as I know, or can surmise, it – I was pretty well acquainted with most of the things that were in the air at the time, not only from my own military aircraft but also in a lot of foreign countries, and I still believe it was nothing that came from earth. It came to earth but not from earth. The biggest mistake I ever made – of course I couldn't – was not to keep a piece of it. But in all fairness to my work and the service, I couldn't.
Pratt:You had three thousand hours as a pilot –
Marcel:Right and eight thousand hours flying time.
Pratt:What medals were you awarded?
Marcel:I have five air medals because I shot down five enemy aircraft in combat.
Pratt:From a B-24?
Marcel:Yes, from the waist gun of a B-24 in the South Pacific. And I was given a bronze star for the work I did re-teaching personnel that came to fly combat, that were greenhorns that came out of the States. I had charge of that. I was given a bronze star for that. I've got commendations – even got one from the U.S. Navy – Air Force intelligence office, for the A-Bomb tests in South Pacific, Kwajalein.
Pratt:You were all handpicked officers.
Marcel:Right. I've been around the world five times, been in sixty-eight countries. I have a degree in nuclear physics, bachelor’s, at – completed work at George Washington University in Washington, D. C.). Attended LSU (Louisiana State University), Houston, University of Wisconsin, New York University Ohio State, (unintelligible – Pratt), and GW.
Pratt:Were you ever told not to talk about this?
Marcel:You don't have to be told you just know. I couldn't jeopardize my part of the service and be criticized for what I said.
Pratt:The base public relations man called the Associated Press, and so on. Was the idea that a flying saucer had crashed?
Marcel:I don't know. I didn't talk to him or read what he said. I've heard contradicting reports on this. I had heard this PR man had called the press without consulting the CO, and later I heard the CO had authorized him to do that. But I haven't verified that.
Pratt:How many combat missions did you go on?
Marcel:I had a total of 468 hours of combat time, was intelligence officer for bomb wing, flew as a pilot, waist gunner and bombardier at different times. I got shot down one time, my third mission out of Port Moresby.
Pratt:Did everyone survive?
Marcel:All but one crashed into a mountain I bailed out just before we made landfall. I guess a quarter of a mile inland our engines gave out on our B-24. I bailed out at eight thousand feet and I fell six thousand feet before I got my 'chute open. I was lucky to get it open – malfunction. Good thing I had a chest pack. My backpack wouldn't work, and I went to work on my chest pack. I wasn't taking any chances, and it paid off.

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