The Roswell UFO Incident

The following was written for my high school senior paper at age 17.

Introduction– Do you believe in life on other planets?

I.  Introduction to the Roswell incident

  • UFOs and Project Blue Book
  • UFO sightings in Roswell on July 1, 1947
  • The discovery of debris and a crashed ship

II.  Recovery and examination of the craft, debris, and bodies

  • Clean-up of the site
  • Autopsy of the bodies
  • The story gets the attention of the national news

III.  Aftermath of the Roswell incident

  • Threats made toward those involved
  • Possible explanations of the events

IV.  Current news of the Incident

  • Media attention in the 1980s
  • Recent developments at the site


  • People still wonder if we are alone in the universe, maybe someday such questions will be answered.

Do you believe in life on other planets?  According to polls, 60% of Americans do (Rowsell).  Have you ever seen a UFO?  1 in 10 Americans claim to have witnessed one (Roswell).  Controversy over the existence of UFOs has lasted for over fifty years.  After thousands of sightings in the 1940s and 1950s, the United States Air Force even started its own investigation into UFOs, entitled Project Blue Book.  Lasting from 1947 until 1969, Project Blue Book amassed 12,616 cases.  Of those, 6% (701 cases) were claimed to have no explanation (Stacy 48).

Around the time Project Blue Book was beginning, what is perhaps the most famous of UFO incidents took place.  Near Roswell, New Mexico on Tuesday July 1, 1947, air traffic controllers began to see strange things on their radar screens.

A craft appeared that maneuvered and traveled at speeds unlike anything manufactured on Earth.  At first, the controllers didn’t believe what they had witnessed and thought that their equipment must be at fault.  However, when the equipment was later checked it was found to be in perfect working order.

After becoming aware of the unusual occurrence in Roswell, the military became interested in what was going on.  By Friday, July 4th, officers began to arrive from Washington D.C. (Randle and Schmitt 160).

Air traffic controllers weren’t alone in their close encounter, numerous Civilians also reported strange sightings on July 1st.  Someone who would later play a major role, W.W. “Mac” Brazel, a rancher, reported hearing strange thunder.  At Saint Mary’s Hospital in Roswell, people saw brilliant lights crash to the Earth.  A group of archaeologists also saw strange lights while surveying (Randle and Schmitt 4).

Early the next morning, the archaeological team stumbled across debris and a crashed object.  They notified the Roswell Police and fire departments, who quickly arrived at the scene.

By this time, the military located approximately where the crash occurred.  When they arrived, they discovered the archaeologists, along with the police and fire departments, already at the scene.  Since the military didn’t yet know what the object at the crash site was, the civilians were taken to the Roswell Air Base.  By doing this, the military avoided leaks to the press and had an opportunity to interrogate the civilians.

“Mac” Brazel, who had heard the strange thunder the night before, made a major discovery of his own the same morning of July 2nd.  Spread across his ranch for nearly a mile were scattered pieces of metal.  Several days later, on July 7th, Brazel notified the Sheriff’s department, who in turn notified the Roswell Air Base.  The military quickly arrived, confiscated all of the debris and flew it to an undisclosed location.

What Brazel found on July 7th, was merely debris.  What the Archeaologists and military found on the morning of July 2nd was a ship and when soldiers began to look it over, they made a startling discovery.  Inside the saucer-like craft were 5 bodies.  The bodies were quickly placed in lead-lined bags and transported by truck to the Roswell Air Base.

When the bodies arrived, the base mortuary officer made a series of phone calls to Ballard’s funeral home in Roswell.  Glenn Dennis, a mortician at Ballard’s, has said that he was asked several questions about how to prepare  bodies that had been exposed to the elements and how to treat badly burnt bodies.  The officer was particularly interested in preserving the body fluids without changing the chemical content of the blood.  Finally, inquiries were made about casket sizes and the availability of sealed caskets (Randle and Schmitt 11).

Of the 5 bodies recovered, 2 were mutilated badly, but 3 were in good enough condition to be autopsied (Randle and Schmitt 67).  The bodies however, had such a strong smell to them that the doctors and nurses started to become sick.  After a short time, the examination was stopped due to the smell.

There are some bits of information that have come out of the autopsy.  A researcher of UFOs, Len Stringfield, claims to have spoken with several doctors who have performed alien autopsies, including one of the doctors at Roswell.

All of his sources agree on the general anatomy of the aliens.  Their height was between 3 1/2 and 4 feet tall, while they weighed around 40 pounds.  They had no hair on their bodies and their skin was bluish gray and reptile-like.  Also mentioned was that the skin seemed to be elastic around the muscles and bones (Berlitz and Moore 99).

The aliens were said to have had no earlobes, but they did have an inner ear.  The neck and torso were thin, as were the arms, which almost reached to the knees.  Finally, the hands only had four fingers; no thumb was present (Randle and Schmitt 70)

While the bodies were being examined, the military was hard at work securing the crash site.  Guards were posted and only people with high-security clearance were allowed into the crash site.  The craft and all of the debris was cleaned up and transported to the base within 6 hours.

Even though the military had taken extreme measures by detaining witnesses and removing the debris quickly, the news media eventually got wind of the event.  On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 8th, the Associated Press reported that the military had recovered a crashed disc. Upon hearing this, ABC News featured the story on its 10:00pm news.  They reported that a flying disc had been recovered that the military claimed was a missile and that it had been sent from Roswell to Wright Field in Ohio for inspection.

Curiously though, by 11:59pm the military’s story had changed (Randle and Schmitt 52).  They now claimed that the disc was not a missile, but a weather balloon.  The press reported the next day that the entire incident had merely been a downed weather balloon.  Headlines of this news quickly calmed the country and the events were soon forgotten.

The citizens of Roswell however, wouldn’t quickly forget about the incident, but the government made sure that they didn’t talk about it.  Many of the civilians involved, including “Mac” Brazel and the Archaeological team, were threatened with prison time and even death if they talked about what they knew.  Law enforcement was also threatened.  Even military personnel were casually reminded of the oath of secrecy that they had taken (Randle and Schmitt 72).

Since the military had been extremely thorough in its clean-up of the site, those involved in the Roswell crash had no evidence to support their claims.   Knowing this, people chose not to speak, fearing what the public might think of them for making such far-fetched claims.

Could the claims of those involved have been a hoax or an instance of misinformation on their part?   There are three other leading explanations to what happened in Roswell besides it being a UFO crash.

The first, of course, is the military’s claim of a weather balloon crashing.  The hole in this theory is that weather balloon crashes were common in the area.  Citizens of Roswell were quite aware of the appearance of weather balloons and wouldn’t have mistaken one for a UFO (Berlitz and Moore 87).

The second theory is that a V-2 rocket, with a faulty gyroscope, strayed off course from the nearby White Sands proving ground and crashed outside of Roswell.  But, many of the men stationed at the Roswell Base had been stationed in England during World War Two and were very familiar with V-2 rocket debris and wreckage.  Also, many of the servicemen commented that the wreckage was “weird” and “unlike anything I’d ever seen” (Randle and Schmitt 120-123).

The last theory is the most interesting.  Towards the end of World War Two, in 1945, the Japanese sent Balloon Bombs into the United States.  It was one of these Balloon Bombs that caused the only casualties in the continental U.S. during the war.  It is possible that a Balloon Bomb, sent in an act of revenge, crashed in Roswell and exploded, leaving the debris (Randle and Schmitt 113-119).  The problem with this theory is that a Balloon Bomb, being 33 feet in diameter, wouldn’t leave the amount of debris that Major Jesse Marcel, an Air Intelligence Officer, said was spread over an area of more than a million square feet (Moseley 8).

Even though the given explanations were weak, with no evidence, many key people in the incident only talked about it to relatives, none spoke to the media.  However, the Roswell story started to come into the public eye again in 1980.  During September of that year, the television program “In the Search of” aired an episode discussing UFO cover-ups and Major Jesse Marcel was among those interviewed (Randle and Schmitt 104).

An examination of solely the Roswell Crash aired in a 1989 episode of “Unsolved Mysteries”.  Several people who claimed to have known members of the archaeological team were interviewed.

Also in 1989, the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies made a preliminary investigation for the first scientific study of the crash site and “Mac” Brazel’s ranch.  Strangely enough, shortly after they completed their work a foreman at the ranch reported evidence of people driving over the area where the expedition had been.  He also claims to have seen a military truck in the area (Randle and Schmitt 177).

With all of the secrecy and mystery surrounding what happened in Roswell, one wonders if the truth of what occurred there with ever be told.  What happened in Roswell is far form being an isolated event.  Reports of UFO sightings are made every day across the U.S. and around the world.  There are even those who claim to have been abducted and examined by aliens.  People still wonder if we are alone in the universe, maybe someday such questions will be answered.

Works Cited

Berlitz, Charles, and William Moore.  The Roswell Incident.  New York:  Grosset and Dunlap, 1980.

Moseley, Bill.  “Alien Inspiration:  On the Set of Roswell, the Movie.”  OMNI.  Jun. 1994: 8.

Randle, Kevin D., and Donald R. Schmitt.  The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell.  New York:  M. Evans and     Company, Inc, 1994.

Roswell.  Dir.  Jeremy Kagan.  With Kyle Maclachlan, Kim Geist, and Martin Sheen.  Showtime, 1994.

Stacy, Dennis.  “Project Open Book.”  OMNI.  Oct. 1994:  46-60.

D.S. Christensen
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