Saturday, July 07, 2007

Evolution of the Crashed Saucer Legend, Part 7: The Military Response

If you haven't yet, you should start with the first installment of this article

The Military Response

As part and parcel of crash accounts that involve military radar tracks, a military recovery team leaves soon after the radar-tracked crash, usually at sunup the next day (Berlitz and Moore 1980; Randle and Schmitt 1994). This concept has been present throughout the accounts of the Roswell Incident, especially in relation to a second crash site on the Plains of San Agustin, though it is not limited to those accounts. Typically, the second, more important, crash site with bodies or a saucer is found by the military at the same time or immediately after discovery by engineers, campers, or an archaeological research team. In these accounts, the coverup may already be underway when Brazel informs the Roswell sheriff of his discovery a few days later.

Though not as exciting and action-filled, the narrative thread of the Roswell story concerning Army involvement with the Foster Ranch debris site reported by William “Mac” Brazel is more complex. Most versions agree that soon after Brazel brings debris to Roswell Sheriff Wilcox’s office on July 6, 1947, the military shows up. Specifically, Jesse Marcel accompanies Brazel to his home, stays there overnight, and examines the debris field on the morning of July 7. However, with the exception of the initial July 8, 1947 press release and the 2002 International UFO Museum and Research Center timeline, other accounts of the Roswell story mention that a second military man in plain clothes accompanied Marcel to the debris site. As the Roswell story built steam after 1980, this man was clearly identified as Army counterintelligence agent Sheridan Cavitt. By the early 1990s, this man becomes more anonymous, and is either simply described as a counterintelligence agent (Randle and Schmitt 1991), or as a man in plain clothes (Pflock 1994). The 1994 film Roswell renames him Sherman Carson, but increases his role in the coverup, especially regarding Jesse Marcel. The decreased interest in Cavitt’s specifics may have a lot to do with the fact that Cavitt agreed to describe what he saw in July 1947, and his accounts support the finding of a balloon device, not an extraterrestrial craft, on the Foster Ranch.

The grassroots essence of ufology is reflected in the ample use of personal accounts and affidavits as exhibits in the IUFOMRC.

Relying on Jesse Marcel’s son, Jesse Marcel Jr., as a significant witness, Randle and Schmitt (1991) specifically mention that Marcel brought some of the debris home to show his family in the early morning hours of July 8, 1947. First introduced in 1991, this element plays an important emotional and narrative role in the film Roswell, and has been preserved in the International UFO Museum and Research Center’s presentation in Roswell.

Depending on the discovery of a second site in the particular Roswell narrative, Colonel Blanchard orders a more thorough cleanup of the Foster ranch site and informs his superiors of the debris on either July 7th or July 8th before going on leave. These events are linked to a change in the travel plans of a military inspection group led by Lt. General Nathan F. Twining, who would play a major role in military interest in UFOs in the next few years. The group, including other high-ranking officers, flies to Alamogordo instead of their original planned inspection of a Boeing aircraft on July 7th (Friedman 1992; Randle and Schmitt 1991).

The make up of the gear and personnel of military recovery teams typically include trucks, area lighting for night work, and specialists. The 1973 account of a crashed saucer in Arizona echoes Scully’s informants, specialists flown in to advise on recovery and analysis (Clark 1998:119-141). The 1973 account also foreshadows the stories of specialist transport to Area 51 in the late 1980s, where specialists are flown on private non-descript airplanes, and then loaded onto busses with blacked out windows. In the case of the 1962 Nevada UFO/bolide crash, Project Blue Book flew in its director Lt. Col. Robert Friend and scientific advisor Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Clark 1998:119-141).

In the case of Roswell, the military recovery team becomes more detailed in 1988, as the Majestic documents describe the use of aerial reconnaissance, and by 1991 (Randle and Schmitt 1991) witnesses describe the placement of an MP perimeter to keep out civilians and other unauthorized personnel. The 2002 version of the IUFOMRC website descibes a several day cordon while the site is cleaned up. Few other accounts describe the use of special equipment and biohazard suits as in Corso’s (1997) account.

The debris begins to fly out of New Mexico soon after discovery. Most accounts have some debris flown to Ft. Worth, Texas on July 8 for further analysis, in many cases under armed guard. But Randle and Schmitt (1991) have debris flying out as soon as July 6.

Crash dummy. In 1997, the U.S. Air Force suggested that the recovery of dummies used in testing may have inspired reports of alien bodies (McAndrew 1997). Of course, the IUFOMRC is all to happy to point out that these tests did not begin until several years after 1947.

From the beginning, however, all accounts are unanimous that the U.S. military decides to cover-up the accident, typically to prevent panic ala Orson Welles' 1938 radioplay of War of the Worlds (Cantril 1940), though in some cases looking ahead to the potential for reverse-engineering advanced technology. While fictional accounts of contact between humans and aliens or their material culture utilize more exotic cover-ups such as left-over weapons from WWII (Film Quatermass and the Pit 1967), epidemics (Film 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968), and nerve-gas disasters (Film Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977), the Roswell story has consistently been laid at the feet of a balloon, first a weather balloon in 1947, and then by the mid-1990s a train of balloons to support audio equipment used in the Mogul spying program. This element first arises in the office of General Ramey in Ft. Worth Texas during a press conference on July 9, 1947. By 1991, it is reasoned that the debris in Ramey’s office was switched with that from a weather balloon, and that Marcel was ordered to lie or stay quiet about this act. In the last few years, there has been some interest in attempts to either find real saucer debris in the pictures from this press conference, or to reconstruct a message on a piece of paper photographed in Ramey’s hand that proves there really was a saucer crash.

Citizens are sworn to secrecy as early as 1973 (Clark 1998:119-141), but beginning with Randle and Schmitt’s 1991 account of the Roswell crash, civilians have been threatened with reprisals from the U.S. military if they don’t keep quiet about what they have seen. Saler, Ziegler, and Moore (1996) go into some detail about the various rank and location changes of an angry red-headed Army officer and his African-American enlisted sidekick. Intimidation in crashed saucer accounts usually comes from military sources, and not the shadowy Men in Black that haunt other parts of UFOland (Keel 1991; Rojcewicz 1987). Concerning the use of violence to enforce the cover up, fictional accounts raced ahead of other versions, such as in the case of the ominous Men in Dark Suits that chase astronauts investigating a crashed UFO in the film Hangar 18 in 1980. William “Mac” Brazel is picked up by the military at some point soon after his July 8th radio interview, and is sequestered by the Army for anywhere from one to three days. During this time, he is allowed to make his July 9th statement that he did not find a flying saucer, and in some versions is bribed with money for a new pickup truck and refrigerator shed on his property (Corso 1997; Randle and Schmitt 1991; Film Roswell 1994).

“Mac” Brazel is not the only civilian cajoled into silence by the military in Roswell. Though many researchers today reject his claims, starting in 1991 (Randle and Schmitt) Roswell mortician Glenn Dennis describes being consulted by Roswell Army Hospital about obtaining four small child-size caskets, and about techniques for preparing a body for storage. When he goes to the Roswell Army Hospital to check on the situation, he is escorted off the premises and physically threatened by military men. Dennis also describes talking to a friend of his the next day, a nurse who witnessed alien bodies in the hospital. Prior to 1991, bodies had been associated with the stories involving archaeological teams on the Plains of San Agustin or near Corona, but Dennis’ story puts them in Roswell itself. The nurse, named Janet, is killed in a military plane crash a short while later. This is another dramatic scene in the film Roswell, though as in the case of the counterintelligence agent, Dennis’ real name is not used and is replaced by a sound alike name (one character attempts to remember the mortician’s name and comes up with several possibilities that sound like Dennis). And despite a lack of confidence about Dennis in the later 1990s by most Roswell researchers, the story is still presented (2002) by the International UFO Museum and Research Center. A very similar tale is retold in Corso (1997), but instead of a mortician, the ejected civilian is plumber Roy Danzer.

Continue to the conclusion, The Aftermath

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