Chair Force Engineer

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Roswell That Ends Well

The cow-town of Roswell, New Mexico is hosting its Alien Festival this week, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the fabled UFO crash. Shaking things up is the recent disclosure of an affidavit from Walter Haut, the public affairs officer at Roswell Army Air Field in 1947, that he had seen the spacecraft and the alien bodies that were allegedly taken to the base.

I should preface my statements by saying that I am fascinated by the UFO/Alien phenomenon in popular culture. As far as believing it, I will admit that in my younger days I was what Stan Lee would call a "true believer." I read many books on the UFO phenomenon; some were scientific and reputable, while others were the fantastic works of men in tinfoil helmets. As I have grown in age and knowledge, I have grown far more skeptical.

In conducting an investigation of this nature, considering the source of the info is very important. Let us take Walter Haut as an example. In July 1947, he was a lowly lieutenant in the public affairs office of the Roswell Army Air Field. On the day he issued the infamous "flying disc" press release, he went home and mowed the lawn. By all accounts, he wasn't visibly affected by the events that were transpiring. By the early 90's, as interest in the Roswell Incident expanded, Haut teamed with Roswell mortician Glenn Dennis and a third partner to open a tacky tourist-trap museum, the "International UFO Museum" along US 285 in Roswell.

In the past, Haut had never claimed to have seen an intact spaceship or aliens. Now, we have an all-too convenient affidavit, released just before the big UFO festival, where Haut allegedly spills the beans. Of course, he's dead now and can't be cross examined.

The shifting stories are an intriguing aspect of the Roswell phenomenon. Until the late 70's, people didn't talk about the Roswell Incident. Then the incident slowly trickled into the public consciousness, and witnesses began to come out of the woodwork. Many of the most prominent "witnesses" have changed their stories several times, with their accounts growing more detailed and sensational with each telling. Haut's business partner, Glenn Dennis, claimed that a nurse who was a friend of his gave him sketches of the aliens; then the military made her "disappear." Dennis later admitted that there was no nurse, only a fabrication. If the "flying saucer" theory ever contained an air of credibility, it was deflated with Dennis's admission.

It's important to remember the Roswell Incident in the context of the period during which it occurred. The "flying saucer" phenomenon did not begin until June 1947. The term "flying saucer" was coined by pilot Kenneth Arnold after a June 24, 1947 sighting. The Roswell Incident would unfold just two weeks later. Even the International UFO Museum admits that when rancher Mac Brazel first found the controversial wreckage, he didn't think much of it at first. It wasn't until he showed it to his neighbors, the Proctor family, that the Proctors would suggest the debris was extraterrestrial in origin. Brazel brought the wreckage to the town of Roswell ( a considerable drive from the ranch near Corona, NM) in order to collect a reward that was being offered for a flying saucer.

The best accounts of an incident are those taken just after the incident occurs. It minimizes any tendencies that witnesses have of embellishing or applying interpretations to the events they have observed. In this case, we have the interview with Mac Brazel by the Roswell Daily Record on July 9, 1947. The final segment is reproduced below:

Brazel said that he did not see it fall from the sky and did not see it before it was torn up, so he did not know the size or shape it might have been, but he thought it might have been about as large as a table top. The balloon which held it up, if that was how it worked, must have been about 12 feet long, he felt, measuring the distance by the size of the room in which he sat. The rubber was smoky gray in color and scattered over an area about 200 yards in diameter.

When the debris was gathered up the tinfoil, paper, tape, and sticks made a bundle about three feet long and 7 or 8 inches thick, while the rubber made a bundle about 18 or 20 inches long and about 8 inches thick. In all, he estimated, the entire lot would have weighed maybe five pounds.

There was no sign of any metal in the area which might have been used for an engine and no sign of any propellers of any kind, although at least one paper fin had been glued onto some of the tinfoil.

There were no words to be found anywhere on the instrument, although there were letters on some of the parts. Considerable scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed upon it had been used in the construction.

No strings or wire were to be found but there were some eyelets in the paper to indicate that some sort of attachment may have been used.

Brazel said that he had previously found two weather balloons on the ranch, but that what he found this time did not in any way resemble either of these.

"I am sure what I found was not any weather observation balloon," he said. "But if I find anything else besides a bomb they are going to have a hard time getting me to say anything about it."

Brazel had been in military "custody" after bringing the debris he found into the town of Roswell; he was likely briefed about what he had seen. Notice the carefully-parsed statement where Brazel describes a balloon, but claims it was not a "weather observation balloon." The Project Mogul balloon is a perfect fit with the description Brazel gave to the newspaper. What makes it so believable is that small details of Mogul, like the tape with flowers printed on it, would not have been available to the general public at the time. While Mogul was hardly a top-secret program with grave national security implications, it must be remembered that America was gripped with the early stages of Cold War paranoia at the time of the incident. Mogul's ties to the threat of Soviet nuclear tests made it all the more sensitive in the summer of 1947.

The Roswell Incident had grown far larger than the initial incident, and has come to mean different things to different people. For those lonely souls who want to believe that we have intergalactic neighbors in this universe, Roswell is the most tangible proof of that. For the paranoid and for those who view the military-industrial complex through cynical eyes, the conspiracy is far more important than alleged aliens. For a small town in the middle of New Mexico's scrub desert, aliens are a source of revenue for a town that has suffered four decades without the Air Force base that used to be a vital part of the local economy.