Inexplicably, on 8th July 1947, the United States Army Air Force at Roswell issued the following press release:
The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County.
The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.
I say it’s inexplicable, because the Air Force “higher headquarters” at Fort Worth immediately identified the wreckage as parts of a balloon. What inspired the Roswell press office to call it a “flying disc” and what they had been smoking has never been identified.
The local journalists at the Roswell Daily Record did some good work. They identified the finder of the debris, farm manager William “Mac” Brazel, and interviewed him, with the result being published next day, 9th July. Here’s what Brazel said:
The balloon which held it up, if that was how it worked, must have been 12 feet long, [Brazel] 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 wires were to be found but there were some eyelets in the paper to indicate that some sort of attachment may have been used.
Clearly an object of Scotch tape and tinfoil was mundane and the story died, even though there was some interest in “flying discs” at the time, given that Kenneth Arnold’s airborne sighting had been in the news at the end of June (in which he described the motion of what he had seen as “they flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water”).
Nothing more was heard of Roswell until 30 years later, when UFOlogist Stanton T. Friedman started to research the incident for a book, published in 1980 as the work of Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore, “The Roswell Incident”. That really started the ball rolling, and the story grew and grew, with additional “facts” being added all the time.
But my favourite fact goes right back to Mac Brazel’s original interview. The aliens had built their spaceship using tape with flowers printed on it.