Since 1947, when a New Mexico rancher found debris in his field, Roswell has been the center of conspiracy theories and a tourist destination for those in search of aliens. This weekend will be no exception as the town celebrates 75 years since the “Roswell Incident.”
In late June and early July 1947, the country was awash in UFO sightings. El Paso and Juarez were no exceptions.
Couple sees ‘flying top’ flash across sky near EP
June 30, 1947: Mr. and Mrs. RC Burgess yesterday joined the rapidly growing ranks of El Pasoans who have seen mysterious bright objects flying overhead.
“We were driving on the Mesa road in front of the Westerner Inn shortly after 4 pm” Mrs. Burgess said. “Just as we reached the top of the hill I was blinded for an instant by a flashing object passing across the sky at high speed.
“It was silver colored and shaped like a boy’s top. It looked something like a large toy balloon. There was no sound. The object continued north and disappeared in about 10 minutes. It seemed to melt into the sky.”
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El Pasoan reports seeing flying disc at noon July 4
July 9, 1947: EE Polk reported today that he saw a flying disc near his home at noon July 4.
“I was observing some pigeons on top of the house when the disc came within my line of vision,” he said.
“It appeared to be about 1,000 feet high, and was traveling very fast in a westward direction.”
Mr. Polk said the disc was visible for less than 15 seconds. It passed out of sight so quickly that he did not have time to call a neighbor’s attention to its flight.
He described the disc as “the size of a pie plate with ragged edges.” It was an off-white color, he said.
‘They’re just tortillas’
Foreign newspapers were having a good time kidding about the flying discs.
A cartoon at El Universal, Mexico City, showed a farm couple watching discs in the clouds with the husband saying, “Don’t be alarmed, they’re just tortillas. You know their price is sky high.”
Discs reported seen over Juárez
July 8, 1947: Seven flying disc-shaped objects were reported sighted over northwestern border cities, Francisco Ernesto Duran, announcer for Radio Station XEFT of Chihuahua City, said July 7, 1947.
Duran said five of the mysterious saucers, dubbed “disco voladores” in Spanish, were reported seen in recent days over Mexicali and two over Juárez.
Roswell Incident on July 7, 1947
These sightings culminated in what has become known as “The Roswell Incident.”
In early July 1947, William Ware “Mack” Brazel reported finding debris on a ranch near Corona, New Mexico, about 80 miles northwest of Roswell. On July 8, the Roswell Daily Record reported that the intelligence office of the 509th Bombardment Group at Roswell Army Air Field announced that it had come into possession of a flying saucer.
The story made worldwide headlines, but less than 24 hours later, the military changed its story.
In a July 9, 1947, Associated Press article from Roswell, it was reported that the debris found by Brazel was actually from a weather balloon:
An examination by the Army revealed that the mysterious object found on a lonely New Mexico ranch was a harmless high-altitude weather balloon, not a grounded flying disc.
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Excitement high till mystery cleared
Excitement was high until Brig. Gen. Roger M. Ramey, commander of the Eighth Air Force headquarters in Roswell, cleared up the mystery.
The bundle of tinfoil, broken wood beam and rubber remnants of a balloon were sent there Tuesday by Army Air Transport in the wake of reports that it was a flying disc. But the general said the objects were the crushed remains of a wind target used to determine the direction and velocity of winds at high altitude.
Warrant Officer Irving Newton, forecaster at the Army Air Forces weather station in Roswell, said, “We use them because they go much higher than the eye can see.”
The weather balloon had been found several days earlier near the center of New Mexico by Brazel, who said he didn’t think much about it until he went into Corona, New Mexico, and heard the flying disc reports.
He returned to his ranch, 85 miles northwest of Roswell, and recovered the wreckage of the balloon, which he had placed under some brush.
Then Brazel hurried back to Roswell, where he reported his find to the Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff called the Roswell Air Field, and Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, 509th bomb group intelligence officer, was assigned to the case.
Discovery not a flying disc
Col. William H. Blanchard, commanding officer of the bomb group, reported the find to Ramey and the object was flown immediately to the Army field at Roswell.
Ramey went on the air here that Tuesday night to announce the New Mexico discovery was not a flying disc.
Newton said that when rigged up the instrument “looks like a six-pointed star, is silvery in appearance and rises in the air like a kite.”
In Roswell, the discovery set off a flurry of excitement.
Sheriff George Wilcox’s telephone lines were jammed. Three calls came from England, one of them from the London Daily Mail, he said.
A public relations officer at the Army field said the balloon was in his office “and it’ll probably stay right there.”
Newton, who made the examination, said some 80 weather stations in the US were using that type of balloon and that it could have come from any of them.
He said he had sent up identical balloons during the invasion of Okinawa to determine ballistic information for heavy guns.
‘It wasn’t a kite’
The following day an Associated Press article in the Las Cruces Sun-News said Brazel was sorry he said anything about his find:
“If I find anything else short of a bomb it’s going to be hard to get me to talk,” he told the Associated Press.
But Brazel wasn’t making any claims. He had said he didn’t know what it was.
Brazel described his find as consisting of large numbers of pieces of paper covered with a foil-like substance, and pieced together with small sticks, much like a kite. Scattered with the materials over an area about 200 yards across were pieces of gray rubber. All the pieces were small.
“At first I thought it was a kite, but we couldn’t put it together like any kite I ever saw,” he said. “It wasn’t a kite.”
Brazel related his story
While riding the range on his ranch 30 miles southeast of Corona on June 14, he sighted some shiny objects. He picked up a piece of the stuff and took it to the ranch house 7 miles away.
On July 4, he returned to the site with his wife and two of his children, Vernon, 8, and Bessie, 14. They gathered all the pieces they could find. The largest was about 3 feet across.
Brazel said he hadn’t heard of the “flying discs” at the time, but several days later his brother-in-law, Hollis Wilson, told him of the disc reports and suggested it might be one.
“When I went to Roswell I told Sheriff George Wilcox about it,” he continued. “I was a little bit ashamed to mention it, because I didn’t know what it was.
“Asked the sheriff to keep kind of quiet,” he added with a chuckle. “I thought folks would kid me about it.”
‘Lord, how that story has traveled’
Sheriff Wilcox referred the discovery to intelligence officers at the Roswell Army Air Field, and Marcel and a man in civilian clothes whom Brazel was unable to identify went to the ranch and took the pieces of material to the airfield.
“I didn’t hear any more about it until things started popping,” Brazel said. “Lord, how that story has traveled.”
Brazel said he did not see the thing before it fell, and it was badly torn up when he found it.
Trish Long may be reached at [email protected] or 915-546-6179.