Not saying it was aliens, but…
The Roswell crash site — near a small and sleepy New Mexico town — found itself at the center of national attention and debate, with the incident (to this day!) dividing opinion between those who believe it was a genuine extraterrestrial event involving a flying saucer and aliens, and those who maintain it was a misunderstanding or deliberate misinformation.
Whether you’re a believer, a skeptic, or merely catching up on details about the Roswell crash site (and possibly… aliens?), check out these articles and photos from journalists of the era.
UFO at Roswell crash site: Disc mystery is ‘solved’ for three hours until find collapses
Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) July 9, 1947
A rancher’s discovery of a strange object at first identified by an Army public information officer as flying disc touched off a temporary flurry of excitement across the saucers-conscious nation today.
It was a good three hours after the first official announcement before an Army weather officer burst the bubble. The object, he declared, was nothing more than an Army weather balloon and its kite. Even as his decision was given, inquiries from as far away as London still clogged the telephone circuits into this medium-sized eastern New Mexico town. Sheriff George Wilcox’s line was the busiest.
“The London Daily Mail called, and I’ve just finished talking to New York,” he told a reporter late in the afternoon, “I also had calls from two other London papers — I forgot to get their names — and there were more from very big newspaper in the United States, the radio networks and still others.”
The identification, later discredited, of the mystery object, picked up in a pasture near the center of the state, came from Lieut. Walter Haupt, public information officer at the Roswell Army Air Field.
“The flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th (atomic), bomb group * * * [sic] was fortunate enough to gain possession of the disc,” Haupt had said in a statement. The object was flown to Fort Worth Army base in an Army B-29 and the final identification was announced there.
Sheriff Wilcox said W W Brazell, about 50, made the find on the Foster ranch near Corona, 85 miles northwest of Roswell. Brazell, who has his own small ranch nearby, notified the sheriff’s office yesterday and related he made the discovery some days before, Wilcox said.
The sheriff said he called Maj. Jesse A Marcel of the 509th bomb group intelligence office at once, and the officer accompanied Brazell back to the ranch to recover the object. Wilcox said he did not see the object, but was told by Brazell it was “about three feet across.” The sheriff declined to elaborate. “I’m working with those fellows at the base,” he said.
Army weather experts in Washington discounted any idea that weather targets might be the basis for the scores of reports of “flying discs.”
Brig. Gen. Donald N Yates, chief of the AAF weather service, said only a very few of them are used daily, at points where some specific project requires highly accurate wind information from extreme altitudes. Without field reports, he would not hazard a guess on a precise number.
Roswell crash site: The sheriff calls others
He called three others to see the object. They reported that the discs appeared four different times as a round spot of light which wobbled, disappeared and reappeared. One of the observers said it looked like a parachute opening. Flashes from the object appeared in a couple of seconds and then dimmed out.
Five minutes later, Shirley Butts of Hillsdale reported watching an object that floated through the air, turning over with one side dark and the other bright. She said it suddenly started moving at a terrific speed and disappeared into a cloud.
R.D. Buckmaster of Vanport City called to state he had watched three objects with binoculars just before placing his call. He said they appeared brownish in color and were very thin.
Jokesters have fun
The White House also became involved, in a negative sort of way. It was announced officially that President Truman has not seen any of the saucers, knows nothing about them, and hasn’t ordered any investigation.
Jokesters continued to muddle the picture by coming up with sillier and sillier versions of flying saucers they had seen, invented, and were controlling, and rewards were offered for the “capture” of one of the things.
While new scientific explanations were being offered, press agents and self-appointed humorists had a field day. The promoter of the national air races at Cleveland announced he is trying to line up 12 saucers for formation flying at the show. A Navy flyer said he had heard that Milton Reynolds is planning to engage two saucers as pacesetters for his next round-the-world flight.
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Rear Admiral Blundy, who commanded the Bikini atom bomb tests, joked at a news conference in New York that this was one thing that couldn’t be blamed on Bikini.
An enterprising restaurant owner in Miami printed the name of his restaurant on cardboard saucers, tied them to small balloons and sent them aloft as an advertising stunt. Some of the persons who saw them reported the balloons were flying over 1000 miles an hour.
On the serious side, more scientists leaned towards a spots-before-the-eyes theory, combined with mass hysteria. William R Dodds explained that if a person stares at the sky long enough, the red corpuscles moving in the retina of the eye will cause images very much like saucers.
An Australian professor of psychology, F.S. Cotton, agreed. Professor Cotton said he proved it by having 22 students stare at a fixed point in the sky. They saw saucers.
Saucers ‘appear’ over Australia and South Africa
A “flying disc” reported found at the Roswell crash site in New Mexico caused a brief nationwide flurry of excitement late today but the object was identified by Army Air Forces experts as a weather observation instrument. Americans lost exclusive rights in the big flying saucer mystery Tuesday when persons in far-off Australia and South Africa, as well as Denmark and England, reported sighting the strange objects.
Another rush of disc reports also broke out in Portland, Ore. Three reports came in rapid-fire order from widely scattered points in and around Portland. Paul J Maul, a meat cutter at Kienow’s food store, telephoned a report he had sighted a disc.
Roswell crash site & UFO: Rancher’s sorry about disk story
Des Moines Tribune (Des Moines, Iowa) July 9, 1947
W.W. Brazel, the rancher credited for a time with finding the nation’s first flying disc, is sorry he said anything about it.
The 48-year-old New Mexican said he was amazed at the fuss made over his discovery. “If I find anything else short of a bomb, it’s going to be hard to get me to talk,” he said Wednesday.
Brazel’s discovery was reported by Lt. Walter Haut, Roswell Army airfield public relations officer, as being one of the flying saucers that have puzzled residents of 43 states the last several weeks.
Later, however, Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, commanding general of the 8th air force, said Brazel’s find was merely a weather radar target.
Brazel related this story: While riding the range on his ranch 30 miles southeast of Corona, N. M., on June 14 he sighted some shiny objects. He picked up a piece of the stuff and took it to the ranch house seven miles away. On July 4, he returned to the site and gathered more pieces.
Brazel hadn’t heard of the flying disks at the time. Several days later, his brother-in-law, Hollis Wilson, told him of the disk reports and suggested it might be one.
“When I went to Roswell I told Sheriff George Wilcox about it,” he continued. “I was a little bit ashamed to mention it, because I didn’t know what it was. Asked the sheriff to keep it kinda quiet,” he added with a chuckle. “I thought folks would kid me about it.”
Sheriff Wilcox referred the discovery to intelligence officers at the Roswell field. Maj. Jesse A. Marcel brought the pieces of material to the field. “I didn’t hear any more about it until things started popping,” said Brazel. “Lord, how that story has traveled.”
Meantime, reports of “flying saucers” whizzing through the sky fell off shortly Wednesday as the army and navy began a concentrated effort to stop the rumors. One by one, persons who thought they had their hands on the $3,000 offered for a genuine flying saucer found their hands full of nothing.
A 16-inch aluminum disk equipped with two radio condensers, a fluorescent light switch and copper tubing found by F. G. Harston in Shreveport, La., was declared by police to be “obviously the work of a prankster.”
United States intelligence officers at Pearl Harbor investigated claims by 100 navy men that they saw a mysterious, silvery object, with no wings or tail,” sail over Honolulu Tuesday. The description fits a weather balloon, but five of the men, familiar with weather observation devices, swore that it was not.
Read the Guy Hottel Roswell UFO FBI memo from 1950
Here’s a look at the most popular file in the FBI electronic vault: a single page, relaying an unconfirmed UFO report that the FBI never followed up on.
It is a memo dated March 22, 1950, written by Guy Hottel, then head of the FBI field office in Washington, DC. It recounted a story told to a federal agent by a third party, who said an Air Force investigator reported three “flying saucers” had been recovered in New Mexico.
The memo provided these unusual details: “They [the saucers] 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 three feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed fliers and test pilots.”
The informant claimed that the flying saucers had been found because the government’s “high-powered radar” in the area had interfered “with the controlling mechanism of the saucers.”
No further evaluation of the sighting was apparently attempted by the FBI Special Agent.