Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Evolution of the Crashed Saucer Legend Part 2: Prelude to the Crash

Evolution of the Crashed Saucer Legend, Part 2: Prelude to the Crash

If you haven't read the introduction, you should probably start there


Like all good stories, the Crashed Saucer legend typically begins with a backdrop that sets up the meat of the narrative. In the case of Roswell, the Flying Saucer phenomenon had only begun in earnest 1-2 weeks earlier with the Kenneth Arnold sighting on June 24, 1947 (though as Richard Dolan [2002] documents, sightings were building up in the weeks before they got the name and fame as Flying Saucers). For several weeks, sightings of what became to be known as flying discs or flyings saucers were headline news around the world. On July 8, one of those reports proclaimed that a flying disc had been captured by the U.S. Army Air Force outside of Roswell, New Mexico. The Project Sign/1947 group focuses on historical analysis of the Air Force's Project Sign investigation of flying saucers, but is an excellent resource on the earliest days of the flying saucer phenomenon, before the familiar paradigms of extraterrestrials, belief, and skepticism had crystallized.

Debris from a crashed rocket launched by Robert Goddard. Exhibited in the non-UFO Roswell Museum.

Roswell was actually one of the last major events of this first wave. The location of the Roswell crash has been suggested by some researchers and commentators as a to explain this wave. New Mexico would have been the most visible center of human scientific experiment, specifically atomic weapons (in 1947 A-bombs had been exploded only in New Mexico and in Japan, and the only atomic military unit in the world was based in Roswell) and rocketry (American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard operated out of Roswell years before the Incident, and captured German V-2 ballistic missiles were tested at White Sands, to the west of Roswell). Aliens were checking on human scientific development, specifically atomic research and rockets, the beginning of human exploration of space. Dean (1998) discusses binary oppositions between public images of the astronaut and the UFO abductee. Contactees and fictional accounts quickly embraced the connection between human experimentation and alien intervention, specifically that mankind was on the brink of spreading their dangerous warlike ways into space and would be armed with nuclear weapons, an intolerable situation for vigilant aliens.

Stanton Friedman lectures on a variety of subjects at the IUFOMRC

Beginning with The Roswell Incident in 1980 (Berlitz and Moore 1980), some accounts of the Roswell Incident include radar tracking of the crash from White Sands. In some accounts, radar had been tracking saucers for several days, and recognized the crash as that of a saucer (Corso 1997). In others, the crash is interpreted as that of a conventional airplane. Friedman actually points to high-powered radar as a potential cause for the Roswell crashes. Intriguingly, the concept of radar evidence for a UFO crash predates its inclusion into the Roswell Incident in 1980. Frank Scully attempts to link the March 2, 1950 photo of a saucer taken at the Tonantinzlta Astronomical Observatory in Mexico to one of the crashes described in his 1950 book (Scully 1950). The crashed saucer in the film The Thing from Another World (1951) is captured on radar and by photography. The 1962 crash of something in Nevada was tracked by radar according to arch-UFO debunkers, the U.S. Air Force Project Blue Book (Clark 1998:119-141).

Perhaps in keeping with the grass-roots aspect of the UFO phenomenon, visual sightings prior to a UFO crash are more common than radar tracks in the literature. In the case of Roswell, the early focus on the crash date of July 2 is due in large part to a sighting of a glowing orange disc over Roswell by Mr. and Mrs. Dan Wilmot on that date. The original July 8, 1947 Roswell Daily Record story about the recovery of a flying disk discuss the Wilmot sighting, but do not link it to the crash. This changes in 1980 in The Roswell Incident (Berlitz and Moore 1980), where the northwestern vector of the Wilmot disc is also in the direction of Corona, and provides a date for the crash. Later accounts provide other visual witnesses, but none gain the acceptance level of the Wilmot sighting. The Wilmot sighting becomes less prominent in many accounts after 1994 (when the crash date is shifted to July 4), but can still be found in some discussions of the Roswell Incident, even if these accounts do not adhere to the July 2 date.

Continue to Part 3

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