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Roswell 1947 - first ufologists investigations

A review of the book "The Roswell Incident", 1981:

The Roswell Incident
By Charles Berlitz and William Moore

(N.Y.: Grossett and Dunlap), 1980; 168p.

The Roswell Incident is probably the first of several books to come from authors who will try to convey to the general public the reasons why the UFO "community" is presently becoming more involved with the Crashed Disc Syndrome (CDS). The first occurred in the early 1950's with the publication of a book by Frank Scully entitled Behind the Flying Saucers. Scully's book was thoroughly discredited when investigators determined that his sources were unscrupulous men, and that his book was filled with errors of fact because of poor research on his part. By the middle 1950's the CDS had faded into the background of "mainstream Ufology," largely as a result of the efforts of UFO buffs themselves. What, then, is this CDS which was rejected years ago as a possible solution to the flying saucer mystery? And, more importantly, why has it been resurrected in this more modern, doubtless (?) more enlightened decade of the 1980's? The answers to these questions are quite straightforward, as will be seen.

The CDS could be defined as the feelings a person gets and the actions a person takes upon learning that the government has in its possession one or more crashed discs with one or more occupants. More and more people are "suffering" from the CDS these days because of recent revelations under the Freedom of Information Act, and, more importantly, because many reputed witnesses of such crashed discs are now speaking out about their experiences. The availability of this new information is the reason why the CDS is being resurrected. As an example of FOIA information, consider the following verbatim transcription from an FBI document dated March 22, 1950, sent from Special Agent in Charge (abbrev. SAC) in the state of Washington to FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.: The following information was furnished to SA (i.e., to the Special Agent) xxxxxxx (name crossed out) by xxxxxxx (name crossed out).

An investigator for the Air Forces stated that three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet talJ, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots. According to Mr. xxxxxxx, informant, the saucers were found in New Mexico due to the fact that the Government has a very high-powered radar set-up in that area and it is believed the radar interferes with the controlling mechanism of the saucers.

No further evaluation was attempted by SA xxxxxxx concerning the above. The above document was duly recorded and filed away with hundreds of other documents related to flying saucer sightings. The FBI has released well over 1,000 pages from its file on "flying discs," and some of the pages provide very interesting information on the flying saucer "situation" in the late forties and early fifties. However, to this author's knowledge, the above document is the most bizarre. Could an Air Force investigator really have told the FBI about a crashed disc... or three such discs?

Other documents in the FBI file refer to FBI attempts to find out from the Air Force just what the official position was on the reality of flying saucers. The response to such queries was almost always that the Air Force had no evidence that flying saucers existed. Moreover, the public statements by the Air Force, also echoed in the FBI documents, implied that the Air Force considered the UFO problem to be quite unimportant. And yet, the Air Force circulated several top level memos requesting information about flying disc reports. One such memo entitled "Unconventional Aircraft" was sent out from the Headquarters of the USAF, Directorate of Intelligence, and dated 15 February, 1949. That memo specified reporting procedures and was sufficiently detailed as to be, in effect, a sighting report form.

Documents released by the CIA and other government intelligence agencies indicate a considerable interest in the early 1950's... an interest which was not made public. Therefore the newly released documents provide information which was only known to intelligence agencies at the time... information which, although old, is "new" in the sense that it is in the public domain for the first time. But what about the other types of "new" information... that which comes from the witnesses themselves?

Leonard Stringfield has recently published short monographs on his collection of CDS stories. But the big problem with his research is that no one has been willing to allow his name to be publicized. And herein lies the importance of the book by Berlitz and Moore: the major witnesses of a "retrieval" of unusual material have been willing to speak up after more than 30 years and to allow their names to be used along with the information they have provided.

The most important parts of the Roswell book are based upon information obtained through extensive interviews of the original witnesses by William Moore and Stanton Friedman. These are the parts of the book which relate to the recovery of a mysterious foil-like material from a farm in New Mexico near Roswell. Other parts of the book tend more to speculation and even provide incorrect information related to other aspects of ufology. For example, there is a list of highly questionable "UFO reports" by astronauts in orbit. To this writer's knowledge only one astronaut case remains unresolved (Gemini 11 photos) out of the eleven sightings listed.

One section of the book discusses the possibility (presented as "fact") that President Eisenhower was, in 1954, "spirited" to Muroc Air Force base to view one or more crashed discs. Of somewhat more factual interest, however, is the transcript of an official Canadian document by Wilbert B. Smith who ascertained in 1950 through the Canadian Embassy that the matter of UFOs "is the most highly classified subject in the U. S. government, rating higher than the Hbomb." Since the heart of the book is the collection of eyewitness accounts of the retrieval of a strange material and the subsequent Air Force reaction, I suggest the following "reader's guide" to the Roswell Incident: skip immediately to Chapter 3 and read straight through Chapter 4. Then read Chapter 8 and note that the FBI file contains a teletype message about the Roswell retrieval. (Also note: the statement that a copy of the teletype was sent to the Strategic Air Command is wrong: SAC stands for Special Agent in Charge, not Strategic Air Command. Mr. Berlitz take note. The Air Force officer whose name was crossed off the partially transcribed FBI document was Major Curtan.) Having read this much, jump back to Chapter 2 and read through 2, 3, and 4 again. By this time you should have the, definite impression that an Air Force cover-up actually did occur, and that without the forthright attitude of (then) Major Jesse Marcel the public at large would still be in the dark about what happened in Roswell in July 1947.

Major (now Colonel, retired) Marcel supervised the retrieval of a material that was like thin metallic foil, with thicker "structural members" and strange markings. The material was found covering a rather large area of pastureland several days after an unusual explosion was heard during a thunderstorm, and during a period of time when flying saucers were first being seen around the United States (1947 flap). The material was collected and loaded on a plane bound for Wright Field (Wright- Patterson Air Force Base) by Major Marcel and members of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Army Air Force at Roswell. The news of the retrieval made immediate headlines when the public information officer at Roswell Army Air Base released an unqualified statement to the press that "the many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriffs office of Chaves County." The book provides copies of the original news stories and pictures of the principals involved. Immediately after the press release the Air Force tried to cover its tracks by claiming that what was actually retrieved was a weather balloon with an attached radar target device. However, by presenting the wellresearched statements by Marcel and by the son and daughter of the rancher (the rancher is now dead), witnesses who actually handled the material, the book provides convincing evidence that strange material did not come from a balloon/radar target combination. There is also evidence that the material, whatever it was, was sent to Wright Field for further study.... strange if the material simply came from a common weather device.

The direct intervention of Brigadier General Roger Ramey in trying to arrange the cover-up, apparently on orders from the Deputy Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Hoyt Vandenburg, also points to an event that is more important than the retrieval of a weather balloon. Apparently the orders to fly the material to Wright Field came from Vandenburg via Ramey. The astute student of UFOlogical History will remember that General Vandenburg was the man who, as Chief of Staff of the Air Force in 1948, refused to "buy" the interplanetary theory expressed in the famous Estimate of the Situation written by ATIC (Air Technical Intelligence Center) investigators in the summer of 1948 (according to Ruppelt, The Report on Flying Saucers, Chapter 3).

A less well researched incident related to the Roswell retrieval is the retrieval of the main body of a crashed disc with occupants. Unfortunately, only "second-hand" witnesses to this more spectacular event were still alive to be interviewed. However, they recalled that they were told by the main witness to the second event, that a large disc-shaped object had crashed in the desert. There were dead bodies in the machine. The witness did not have a good look at the device, however, because a military patrol escorted him away from the area. The authors have conjectured that a flying disc had passed over the ranch near Roswell during a thunderstorm and had exploded, dropping a considerable amount of material (outer skin?) on the pastureland. It had then continued its flight for several more miles before finally crashing.

The Roswell Incident is easy to read and reasonably straightforward in its presentation of the evidence. Although it will require some effort on the part of the reader to connect threads and to ignore some useless padding of the book, it is well worth reading. And, if you read it, don't be surprised if you come down with a sudden "case" of the CDS.

- Bruce S. Maccabee


In 1980, Charles Berlitz and William Moore published the first ufology book about the Roswell incident, actually titled "The Roswell Incident" (book cover below). The above article was one of the book reviews that followed.

It was written by US ufology Bruce Maccabee, a former US Navy physician.

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