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Roswell 1947 - first ufologists investigations


Leonard Stringfield is well known for his research into crashed saucers and military retrieval cases. His last appearance here was in the January 1989 issue.

As we nudge toward the last decade of the 20th century, basic UFO research is still no nearer to exposing the truth about the UFO, with verifiable facts, than when it ushered in the 1980's. If anything, as activists, we are wallowing deeper and deeper in our own self-muddied waters.

Despite the good work of many qualified researchers in the past decade, the impact of their disclosures, or messages of wisdom, seldom rise above the noise of busy rumormills feeding us the pap of mis/disinformation. Wary of the noise, the media still opt to repudiate UFO stories as factless anecdotes, while responsible world governments, whose secret agencies are supposedly in possession of the truth, remain aloof, admitting nothing. No admission, no story. Thus isolated from the mainstream of world affairs, UFOs are left adrift in the heavens, and we, their researchers, talking only among ourselves. Have we been outsmarted by the elusive "them," or, as usual, have we only outsmarted ourselves? Whichever the case, it's high time for a change in posture.

To momentarily please the devil's advocate on this premise, perhaps we should turn away from trying to rationalize ufological intrigue and go back to some old saucer basics. In my opinion, the basics are UFO events that tend to support no special interest group, or to espouse any one hypothesis. Simply, they relate to an unusual report of an incident caused by an unidentified aerial object or a military action or reaction to that incident.

Resorting to the basics may prove nothing, but I believe it lends credence to the postulation that the real UFO is an intelligently controlled craft whose incursive actions have given good cause for an official coverup. Many such instances of UFO activity, apart from crash/retrievals, have come to my attention in the past ten years, but I gave them only a cursory review. Like many other researchers, I was lured away or diverted by more sensational events, like the abduction mania and, of course, MJ-12.


After my "Status Report V, UFO Crash/Retrievals: Is the Coverup Lid Lifting?" was published in the January 1989 issue of the MUFON UFO Journal, revitalizing interest in my research, I became privileged to learn of a new, firsthand source who appeared to have important information relating to the Roswell incident. Just Cause had earlier received a letter from this source, and after discussing its potential value with the editor, Barry Greenwood agreed to send me a copy and gave me the green light to follow up. On January 26, 1989, I was able to make contact with the source in a remote western state. To gain his trust, I promptly explained the confidential arrangement with Greenwood and provided my own credentials. In short time, "Tim" [Robert Slusher] agreed to cooperate. Tim proved to have been a proud member of the only atomic bomb wing extant at the time, the 509th Bomb Group, stationed at Roswell Army Air Force Base in 1947. And as one of his fellow crew members reminded him on July 9th of that year, they were "making history" on their flight aboard a B-29, which they believed transported the deceased alien cadavers from the Roswell airbase in New Mexico to Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. In consideration of the sensitivity of Tim's position, I agreed to the terms he requested concerning the release of his information, which includes concealing certain details mostly pertaining to his professional career, including rank, assigned duty aboard the flight, and the identity of key personnel involved in his special mission.

As one of the few dramatis personae of the Roswell story, Tim's eyewitness information was of course of extreme interest to me personally and to those who support my endeavors. In the long run, however, it may prove to be of even more importance as a vital piece of evidence in any future congressional hearing or in the chronicles of a historian. For the sake of accuracy, then, Tim and I reviewed to the verge of boredom, piece by piece, every aspect of his role, his observations and speculations to the best of his memory, even grading key issues such as his recall of attendant personnel and duties aboard the flight into three categories: Positive, Probable and Uncertain.

Tim's Account

We begin witth Tim's original story, excerpted from his letter to Just Cause, as follows:

"On this day our crew had not been on the flying roster. We had accomplished our period of ground school in the morning, then went to the skeet range after lunch. The Aircraft Commander had broken 48 targets, and I was next with 47 out of 50.

"The sergeant in charge of the range asked us if we had heard about the "Flying Disk" that had crashed out in the desert. Twice more before leaving the skeet range we heard reports of a space ship with bodies inside that had been found on a ranch in the area. When the truck dropped us off at the squadron area most of the other crews had been released for the day. The operations officer told our captain to keep the crew together because he thought he had a flight for us. We expected this was a last minute test hop on a plane needed for the next day's mission. I loved test hops, for on many of them the pilot would let me be the co-pilot and sometimes I would get to make a landing.

No Routine Flight

"We were sent out to preflight our own airplane; we knew then it was no test flight. The preflight of a B-29 was a lengthy operation, requiring a visual pressure check of each engine's fuel system, plus many other details. An hour later we were told to taxi the plane to the "Pit," a place where the atomic bomb was normally loaded. We were positioned so the front bomb-bay was directly over the pit, which was covered with a large tarp. But no atomic bomb was in the pit that afternoon.

"When the canvas was removed by the loading crew, all we could see was a very large wooden box. We stood off to the side and were not allowed more than a glimpse of the loading process. The box was sitting on a platform of the type we often used to carry cargo on. Once the load was secured in the bomb-bay four military policemen went inside and took positions at each corner of the box. I think two of them were majors, and one a lieutenant. The fourth man was an NCO.

"Three other officers of company and field grade were positioned in the forward and aft crew compartments. The officer crew members went to base operations for flight clearance and briefing. When they returned only the bombardier was allowed to go in the bomb-bay and check the security of the load. The engineer and I had no problem at all, and no ballast was required in the tail, so I guess now that it was less than 5000 pounds.

"Once airborne we were told the destination was the AAFB at Ft. Worth, Texas. By now we were aware that this was no routine cargo mission. The rank and number of the M. P.'s were clues that we had something important on board. One of our officers speculated that it was the household goods of some high-ranking ground-pounder being transferred to Ft. Worth. This was a reasonable guess.

"I do not remember connecting it with the "Flying Disk Crash" story until we were on the way back. We left most of the security people in Ft. Worth. I think only one, maybe two, came back with us. I do remember the strong lecture of this being a routine flight that we must not talk about. One of the crew, a very outspoken individual, said on the way home that we were now a part of history. He went on to say it was the disk and remains of the flight crew, because he had seen a man he recognized in the reception group. This man was a mortician by military specialty. "For weeks rumors were plentiful, and we were hard pressed to maintain the silence we had been ordered to keep."

If Tim's flight indeed transported the bodies, and not additional debris from the wreckage, then his testimony fits well into the scenario that says his was the third mission from Roswell. To prove it, of course, we would need access to official records, if they still exist, which is doubtful, for obvious reasons. Despite the paucity of firsthand testimony from surviving personnel, I feel reasonably sure of "Pappy" Henderson's flight of July 8, 1947, which transported the main "wreckage" in a B-29 (or possibly a C-54) to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. According to the testimony of Major Jesse Marcel, he had been bumped from this flight.

Jesse Marcel

Also according to Marcel, he flew to Carswell in a B-29 on July 8th. Notably, he referred to the cargo not as a crate, but as a "half B-29-ful" of fragments he had collected from the crash site on the Brazel ranch. Once at the airbase, his job was done. General Roger Ramey, in charge of the operations, released the story to the media that the downed saucer was actually a weather balloon, and ordered Marcel to return to Roswell, which he did the following day, July 9th.

Of significance, Tim remembers Marcel's involvement. To refresh his memory, he was sent a copy of the 509th Bomb Group's 1947 yearbook. He said he recalls his (Marcel's) presence on the scene, but is not sure where. "It's possible," said Tim, "that he was one of the officers to greet my plane at Carswell, but my guess is that he was on my return flight to Roswell." Based on known information, Marcel was unaware of the retrieved bodies and would not have a need-to-know qualification to greet the plane. A sealed crate, however, would surely have aroused suspicion.

Crucial, then, in coordinating the sequence of events, is the date of Tim's flight. Understandably blurred by the passage of time, and without any official 509th records to substantiate such a secret mission, he was at first uncertain of the date. "One clue, for sure," he said. "The weather that day was sunny and hot during a season known for its thunderstorms."

In a letter received in February, Tim entertained the notion that his flight might have been July 8 or 9, based on an illegible entry in a pocket diary that he had salvaged from his Roswell days. As it became increasingly important to fix a date, considering the impact of his revelations and the surfacing of new material (unknown to Tim), I called October 2, asking him to take another look at his diary. A tall request, indeed, in light that I knew he was in the midst of moving to a new residence, and I was told that it was already stored somewhere in a box. Then on October 5, Tim called. "I found the diary," he announced. "It was the ninth. I found the dates of my flights, clearly circled on the calendar, inside the back cover, which backs up my log entries for July 4th, 9th, 26th, 28th and 29th."

Log Entries

Following are Tim's flight entries in his log for July, 1947:

July 4,1947 DEH (CAA station designation for Roswell), Ship 6291. B-29. Formation flight cross country. Vicksburg, Little Rock, Tulsa, Amarillo and return. Holiday celebration. Flight time 9hrs., 55mins.

July 9, 1947 DEH, Ship 7301. B-29. Cross country. Ft. Worth and return. Flight time 1 hr., 55 mins. The next 17 days, Tim said, he and crew were in special training school featuring courses in Russian language, Judo, hand-to-hand combat, etc. July 26, 1947 DEH, Ship 430? (last number illegible) B-29. Cross country Round Robin to Atlanta and return via Houston. 10 hrs., 20 mins. July 28, 1947 DEH, Ship 6291. B-29. Cross country radar bombing. Omaha, Kansas City, Houston and return. Flight time 11 hrs., 20 mins. July 29, 1947 DEH, Ship 6291. B-29. Formation over Utah, live bombing. Flight time 5 hrs., 45 mins. The key date: July 9, 1947. For one thing, it backs up the scenario that Marcel returned to Roswell on Tim's flight. Other dramatic events on the 8th and 9th of July were linked to Marcel's flight to Carswell. New evidence reveals that during this period, a special detachment of troops from Roswell found three alien bodies (maybe four) about two-and-a-half miles from the crash site on the Brazel ranch. While this expeditionary discovery was probably unknown to Marcel, a figure so important to our reconstructed scenario, the magnitude of its shock surely would have triggered a state of alarm at the highest levels of government in Washington. And we can assume that hasty and momentous decisions were made, at least one of which, the urge toward secrecy, haunts us still.

In the short run, however, the exotic cadavers had to be protected, preserved, photographed and crated for shipment out of Roswell. By the afternoon of July 9, the bodies were ready for their shipment to Carswell. In my mind, Tim made that historic flight. "Everything about the fight was unusual," said Tim. "So tight was security, we knew that the crate contained more than the general's furniture." It was made of wood, he said, and was unpainted and unmarked as though hastily constructed. Fitting snugly into the bomb-bay, it was approximately 5 feet high, four wide and fifteen long. According to my calculations, these dimensions would suitably accommodate three 4-foot tall bodies (or parts of bodies) placed in a lengthwise row. But beyond the mystery of the crate and the extraordinary security measures at Roswell and Carswell, the strongest factor in support of Tim's belief that his plane carried the bodies is found in the words of a fellow crew member, the officer who recognized a former school chum, a mortician, among the contingent of greeters at Carswell.

The names of the pilot, co-pilot and those of his crew members that he can recall are known to me, but Tim prefers, understandably at this time, that they not be published. Perhaps in the near future more can be revealed about them and their roles. Tim's disclosures, based on the raw facts as he observed them, basically illustrate a military reaction to a UFO event. His information may seem circumstantial to the skeptic, but thought of in the context of the whole, as it links to the testimony of many other reliable witnesses, the case could stand up in any court of law.

Behind scenes, several months after my initial contact with Tim, another door opened for me. Don Schmitt, Director of Special Investigations for CUFOS, also had been quietly digging into the Roswell affair, with telling results. Of special interest, I learned, new information had surfaced which not only tied in with Tim's experience, but also with that of a former GI, who, living in England with his British wife and family, had been a part of the 509th retrieval team at the crash site. Of note, he told one of his daughters that he had seen three recovered bodies. (See Case 11, in my Status Report V: Walt Andrus also met with the English widow and her two daughters in London on July 15,1989.)

Indicating an interest in my Roswell material, Schmitt and author Kevin Randle visited my home to compare notes. Quickly realizing the impact of our respective material, we agreed to pool our findings for the good of research. With new information still surfacing as I write this, some of it augmenting or amending the spadework done by Bill Moore and Stanton Friedman, my colleague hopes to soon publish a definitive paper to set the record straight about the crash/retrieval incident. It could change the posture of UFO research, the media and world thinking on the subject. Since I introduced Mrs. Sappho Henderson, wife of the late Captain "Pappy" Henderson, and revealed her story of his Roswell exploit to research (Status Report V), she has appeared on TV's "Unsolved Mysteries" program on September 20th. She did well and I am pleased.

However, at her request, I did not disclose her address and phone number to other researchers, including Stan Friedman. Chagrined over my lack of cooperation, he managed to locate her and persuade her to appear on the show. This is good and I applaud his indefatigable efforts. For me, it proves that so many of my nameless or address-less sources do exist, and that their anecdotal stories are not always fairy tales. No apologies, then, for my rigid position that honors the requests and trust of my sources. These people make the rules, and I must abide by them. I will continue this practice.

A more recent chat with Mrs. Henderson provided a new morsel for thought. She said that when her husband read the story about Roswell in the tabloid Globe, February 17, 1981 issue, and first broke the news of his own involvement, his comments about the accompanying drawings, showing the alien head and hand, were that they were "accurate." This gave her reason to believe that he might actually have seen the bodies, but she was quick to add that he never said so. By coincidence, the drawings he looked at were those I roughly sketched for my first paper on UFO crash/retrievals, "Retrievals of the Third Kind," presented at the 9th annual MUFON UFO Symposium in Dayton, Ohio, in 1978.

Of pertinence to the early investigations of Roswell, I incorrectly credited Bill Moore for having a personal interview with Jesse Marcel in my Status Report V. Stan Friedman informed me that he was the interviewer, not Moore. Although the book, The RosweJl Incident, is vague about who made phone or personal interviews (see p. 62), I believe that Friedman should be credited for his legwork.

X-15 UFO Sightings

The second arena I selected for this article relating to UFO basics involves NASA. In 1962, during test flights of the X-15 out of Edwards AFB, there were two known occasions when their flights encountered UFOs. On one, a camera recorded two disks near the X-15 at an altitude of 200,000 feet. The encounters, 1 believe, are significant in that they suggest a UFO interest, not only in our early experimental aircraft in general, but in our high altitude test flights with an outer space connection in particular. The encounters are also significant because they come from a firsthand, qualified source who had been involved with the X-15 program as a coordinator for the flights, and who also saw the movie in question.

While these encounters made only spotty news at the time and were entered with incorrect details in NICAP records, my source, who visited my home on several occasions, has provided ample backup papers, such as the flight chart of the incident with camera, various memoranda over his signature, and a list of the NASA pilots and other personnel at the base, many of them future astronauts, including Neil Armstrong.

The source of this information is a graduate engineer and pilot with approximately 1,000 flying hours in command. He is presently cleared Secret, Special Access on the B-2 program. At the time of the sightings, he was a test engineer on the X-15 program at Edwards AFB, and in this position had virtually unlimited access to the X-15 aircraft, the flight line, hangars, flight test data, and the X-15 Flight Test Control Room. He was in daily contact with the pilots and ground crews. Following, then, is my source's account of the two X-15 UFO encounters with drawings showing their relative positions.

During a design altitude flight on April 30,1962, two disk-shaped objects overtook the X-15 at an altitude of approximately 200,000 feet, while at a speed of approximately 3,400 m.p.h., or 5000 fps. The X-15 had been launched from the vicinity of Mud Lake, Nevada, with Joseph A. Walker, NASA, at the controls. At the time of the sighting he was climbing at a pitch angle of approximately 30 degrees.

Walker sighted the two aircraft passing overhead and reported to the NASA FRC Control Room at Edwards, "Two UFOs just passed overhead." (The writer and approximately 20 others were in the Control Room and personally heard Walker's report. No other details were supplied by Walker.) The aft fuselage cameras on the X-15 captured the UFOs on film which was later viewed by the writer, the ground crew, and key X-15 Program personnel at the post-flight debriefing. (The incident was not discussed in any detail during the debriefing, however.) The film was good quality, and clearly showed two white or silver diskshaped craft flying in tight formation, rapidly overtaking the X-15 from behind and passing overhead, perhaps only 100-200 feet above the X-15. Disposition of the film is unknown.

During a world altitude record flight on July 17, 1962, Major Robert M. White, USAF, reported to NASA FRC Control that "several" UFOs were flying in formation with him and were "like the color of paper." Again, the writer and 20 other Control Room personnel overheard the conversation, although no other details were given at that time. White was in level (zero-G) flight at his peak altitude of 314,000 feet; his speed was approximately 3,800 m.p.h. During debriefing White elaborated that there were 5 or 6 UFOs, and perhaps as many as 8 or 10.


Leonard Stringfield (1920–1994) was an American UFO witness in 1945 and this became a ufologist. who had particular interest in crashed flying saucer stories.

From 1953 to 1957, he organized the "Civilian Research Interplanetary Flying Objects" (CRIFO) ufology organization and published its monthly bulletin, "Orbit". He wrote his first book on UFOs in 1957 and joined NICAP, befriending its Director Major Donald Keyhoe, ret. He joined the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) in 1971, and was the state section director of southwest Ohio. In 1974 he became the PR man for the MUFON and served on its board of directors. He also was a regional investigator for the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS).

Len Stringfield

Leonard Stringfield published in one of his "status reports" in 1978 already an interview he made with Major Jesse Marcel, ret. It was the first time anything was published in the ufology literrature about the Roswell incident.

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