The Roswell UFO Incident, also known simply as Roswell, was a report of an object that crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in June or July 1947, allegedly an extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Since the late 1970s the incident has been the subject of intense controversy and several conspiracy theories as to the true nature of the object that crashed.
The United States Armed Forces maintains that what was recovered was debris from an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to a classified program named “Mogul”; many UFO proponents maintain that an alien craft was found and its occupants were captured, and that the military then engaged in a cover-up. The incident has turned into a widely known pop culture phenomenon, making the name Roswell synonymous with UFOs. It is the most publicized and controversial of alleged UFO incidents.
On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer Walter Haut in Roswell, New Mexico, issued a press release stating that personnel from the field’s 509th Bomb Group had recovered a crashed “flying disk” from a ranch near Roswell, sparking intense media interest. The next day, the press reported that Commanding General of the Eighth Air Force Roger M. Ramey stated that, in fact, a radar-tracking balloon had been recovered by the RAAF personnel, not a “flying disc.” A subsequent press conference was called, featuring debris said to be from the crashed object, which seemed to confirm the weather balloon description.
The incident was forgotten and almost completely ignored, even by UFO researchers, for more than 30 years. Then, in 1978, physicist and ufologist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel who was involved with the original recovery of the debris in 1947. Marcel expressed his belief that the military had covered up the recovery of an alien spacecraft. His story spread through UFO circles, being featured in some UFO documentaries at the time.
On June 14, 1947, William Ware “Mack” or “Mac” Brazel noticed some strange clusters of debris while working on the Foster homestead, where he was foreman, some 30 miles (50 km) north of Roswell. This date (or “about three weeks” before July 8) appeared in later stories featuring Brazel, but the initial press release from the Roswell Army Air Field said the find was “sometime last week,” suggesting Brazel found the debris in early July. Brazel told the Roswell Daily Record that he and his son saw a “large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks.”
Brazel paid little attention to it but returned on July 4 with his son, wife and daughter to gather up the material. Some accounts have described Brazel as having gathered some of the material earlier, rolling it together and stashing it under some brush. The next day, Brazel heard reports about “flying discs” and wondered if that was what he had picked up. On July 7, Brazel saw Sheriff Wilcox and “whispered kinda confidential like” that he may have found a flying disc. Another account quotes Wilcox as saying that Brazel reported the object on July 6
UFO researcher David Rudiak, and others before him, claimed that a telegram that appears in one of the 1947 photos of balloon debris in Ramey’s office contains text that confirms that aliens and a “disk” were found. Rudiak and some other examiners claim that when enlarged, the text on the paper General Ramey is holding in his hand includes key phrases “the victims of the wreck” and “in/on the ‘disc’” plus other phrases seemingly in the context of a crashed vehicle recovery.
However, pro-UFO interpretations of this document are disputed by other photo analyses, such as one facilitated by researcher James Houran, Ph.D., that suggest the letters and words are indistinct. Other objections question the plausibility of a general allowing himself to be photographed holding such a document, raise issues with the format of the memo, and ponder the logic of Ramey having in his possession a document he, as Rudiak argued, has sent, which says “…the wreck you forwarded…” yet is supposedly addressed to the Headquarters of the Army Air Force in Washington, not the Roswell Army Air Field