The Roswell Testimony of Chester P. Barton
By Joseph Stefula
Roswell attracted my attention in the early 1990s, and absorbed a great deal of my time. Conspiracies, conflicting stories, a multitude of witnesses – it sounded much like the scripts I had seen acted out so often during my military career. I was retired, and Roswell seemed a chance to “play detective” once again. After enlisting in the Army I spent five years doing “ordinary” soldiering, then was attached to Army Intelligence for eight years, and then transferred to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, where I spent the final 12 years of my career in uniform. The CID work was exactly like that of a senior police detective in any major city. I specialized in rapes and murders. As a result of my investigative work, a man went to the electric chair. By the summer of 1995 I had concluded that Roswell was nonsense. I had reviewed the elaborate testimony of Frank Kaufmann, and thought it absurd. Ragsdale’s story was silly. Together with other researchers, I had engaged in a very long and diligent search for the Glenn Dennis nurse, “Naomi Selff.” She never existed. I was also in touch with Lt. James McAndrew, one of the two officers assigned to produce the Air Force report on Roswell. I was particularly distressed to learn that the Air Force was quickly able to locate a group of people based at Roswell in 1947, but claimed by leading Roswell proponents to have disappeared from the face of the earth. From my perspective as a professional crime investigator, everything looked like amateurish bungling – or worse. But I was still willing to give the case a try when my research colleague William P. LaParl sent me a list of eight names of people he thought we should try to contact. After failing to find most, probably because they were long since dead, I managed to get Chester P. Barton on the telephone. All I knew for sure about Barton was that he was at Roswell in 1947, and listed as a First Lieutenant. I assumed he was fresh out of college and new to the Army at the time. In fact, Barton had joined the Army in 1929! Herbert Hoover was the President, the court-martial of General Billy Mitchell was only a few years in the past, and the stock market was roaring upward.
Quite late in his career he had been commissioned, and in 1947 was serving in a communications unit at Roswell Army Air Field. He was promoted to Captain while still at Roswell, and retired in 1954 to a home in the rural West. He was alert and responsive to my questions, but also seemed tired out, and told me he was “80 to 90% disabled,” and that he had “spots” on his lungs.
Nobody had interviewed him about Roswell. He had read none of the books, seen none of the TV programs, and seemed entirely unaware of the controversy. When I asked about a rumored crash near Roswell in June or July 1947, he replied that he had been to the crash site. He was convinced that it was a B-29 bomber carrying nuclear explosives, but nevertheless it had to be “the” Roswell event he was describing. I took notes, and when we finished I thanked him and hung up. I was stunned. Here – at last --was a perfectly credible witness, and he was telling a story of great importance. Falling back on my experience as an investigator, I immediately began formulating a line of questions based on what Barton had told me. The following day I called again. This time I ran a tape, and had a list of questions ready. This was serious business, not the unenthusiastic “cold call” of the previous day. At the beginning of the interview I went back over what he had told me, but to save time I would simply restate his previous statement and ask, “Is that correct?” He would usually reply with a simple “yes.” -- except when I deliberately changed the claimed fact. I did this in order to gauge how easily Barton could be “led” by the interviewer, and how accurate his recall of events was. This is a standard interrogation technique. For example, at one point I said, “Yesterday you talked about a B-52 with an atomic bomb.” The word “B-52” was just out of my mouth when Barton forcefully interjected, “I said B-29, not B-52.” And toward the end of the interview I asked him for his military identification or serial number. Many people have trouble recalling their Social Security numbers, much less their military serial numbers. Barton had retired 41 years before our interview. But he shot the officer number right at me, and then followed by giving me his enlisted serial number, which he is unlikely to have used for at least 45 years. In addition to passing all these small but important tests, Barton was very sparing in his descriptions. If he didn’t know, he would say so. There were other areas where he elaborated a bit, but always it was on point, without a hint of exaggeration. The bottom line on Chester P. Barton is that I found him to be a completely credible witness. The story he tells is exceptionally important, as the reader will understand from the following summary of the transcript of our interview.
Barton Testimony Synopsis
Barton enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1929, was commissioned later, and retired in 1954. From 1946 to 1950 he was stationed at Roswell with the rank of First Lieutenant and later Captain, and was assigned to duty as a cryptographic specialist in the 509th Communications Squadron, but he also did various other jobs at Roswell. [This included working with the 1395th M.P. Corp.]
Barton was called in the afternoon and ordered by the Personnel Officer to report to Major Edwin Easley. [Note: Roswell provost marshal in charge of the various M.P. units] He went to Easley’s office at the main gate of the air base at some time in the evening, exact day or day of the week not recalled. Easley gave Barton the task of finding out what was going on at a crash site and reporting it to him.
After meeting Easley, Barton was driven to the crash site in a Jeep carryall. He was accompanied by two other officers, one of whom was Captain Tripp, Easley’s second-in-command. The officers were dressed in their normal working uniforms, but carried .45 caliber automatic pistols. The trip to the crash site took about 45 minutes.
The crash site was in rough, undeveloped, flat countryside. He was stopped at a military checkpoint, and then allowed to continue, but Barton never got closer than about 50 yards from the wreckage. The most obvious characteristic of the site from that distance was that it had been burned. Military police from the 1395th MP unit were at the site. Barton does not recall Easley at the site.
Although never really close to the wreckage, Barton saw parts of what he believed then – and remained convinced – were the remains of a B-29 bomber, and the associated burned area in which it rested. But no part of the “airplane” was identifiable as such. The best description he could muster was that it appeared to be a burned aircraft. He did not pick up any parts, having been told by the MPs not to do so, due to the radioactivity they had discovered.
The debris field in its entirety was comprised of two or three burned areas including the burned area within which the wreckage rested. This configuration made Barton speculate that the B-29 had bounced two or three times before coming to rest. The debris field, including all burned areas, was about the length of a football field.
At the time, Barton thought the crash was that of a B-29 carrying an atomic bomb, or a “hot rod” in Army Air Corps jargon. Barton never wavered in this belief. However, the amount of debris seemed to him to be small compared to what he supposed would be left by a crashed B-29.
Barton and his two colleagues were not wearing any special clothing to protect them from radiation. Military policemen on the site were using Geiger Counters, and reported some areas of radioactivity. The officers were warned away from those areas.
The military policemen were carried to the site in six-by-six trucks. When Barton was at the site, the MPs were not picking up any of the debris.
Barton remained at the site for about an hour and a half. Then he and his colleagues returned to Easley’s office, where Easley talked to them for a while, then dismissed them with orders to return to his office the next morning. Barton made a verbal report to Easley, and nothing was ever in writing.
They met again the following morning, and proceeded back to the crash site, but were called by radio while enroute and told to return to the airfield. The reason they were given via radio was that the cleanup operation had been completed. Back in Easley’s office, Easley repeated that the cleanup was complete, and also told them to keep quiet about what they had seen. When Easley told Barton to forget about the incident, Barton was not required to sign any document or to make any verbal oath of secrecy.
He recalls hearing rumors at the time about the crash being a spacecraft with dead aliens aboard, but has no idea where the stories originated. These stories were definitely associated with the crash at the site he visited.
Barton concluded or speculated that by the time he arrived on the site, most of the debris had been removed. And he says that most of the wreckage had been hauled away and stored at the Roswell base junkyard, though kept in a separate section. Radioactive parts were taken to some other place, unknown to Barton. Apparently this information was second-hand, not anything about which he had direct knowledge.
At the same time that Barton made his trip to the debris field, the local newspaper ran the “flying disk” story. Barton recalls reading the weather balloon explanation, but dismissing it because of what he had seen at the site.
Barton and his colleagues ended their assignment by reporting to the base hospital, where they were examined for radioactivity. The results were negative.
Prior to Stefula’s telephone call, Barton was unaware of any books or television programs, or any other public discussion of the July 1947 Roswell incident.
Barton believes the crash was that of a B-29 and that the bodies were those of the crew. But he admits that the nature and identity of the aircraft that crashed remained a mystery to him and to those with whom he discussed the matter. The crashed craft was never identified as an airplane, much less an airplane from the 509th Bomb Group. However, from the general impression he got from viewing the crash site, Barton concluded it was a B-29, and emphatically repeated three times, “With crew, with crew, with crew.” This was in response to questions raising the possibility that the crash was a spacecraft, and the bodies were those of the alien pilots.
Barton heard stories about bodies, and that they were first taken to the base hospital, and then to Fort Worth. He never talked to anyone who had seen the bodies. Per the above, he was thinking strictly in terms of dead crewmembers of the B-29. Barton did not hear where the debris was ultimately sent.
He says that the time of the crash was generally assumed to have been around sundown. In view of the fact that he was notified in the afternoon, Barton probably meant sundown on the previous day.
After the incident, the topic was never again raised. Barton saw no communications traffic about the incident, and was surprised that it did not generate encrypted traffic, about which he would have known, given his job at the time.
Barton heard a rumor about a group of archaeologists who stumbled on the crash site. He did not hear how the archaeologists were treated by the military.
Even though there were rumors circulating about the crash, facts such as how long it took to clean up the crash debris were not discussed because of the extreme secrecy measures invoked.
Barton was very surprised that the interviewer even knew about the crash, given the extent of the effort made at the time to keep it secret. He had never discussed it with any other person, including his wife.
Barton is sure the debris was not from a weather balloon, a radar reflector from a weather balloon, or anything associated with balloons. He is convinced that some type of standard aircraft crashed there. He was never told what type of craft it was, and was firmly instructed to forget the incident and talk to nobody about it.
For various reasons, the Barton testimony never got wide circulation, and probably only a handful of researchers are aware of it. One of my colleagues recently imposed on me to write this report, and I was pleased to do so. William LaParl independently researched Barton’s military service records, and was able to corroborate all that Barton claimed about his history. Moreover, LaParl concluded that Barton is a “highly credible witness.” Barton tells us that there was in fact a “crash site,” meaning the final resting place of some flying device large enough to be mistaken as at least part of a bomber, and capable of burning several large areas in the scrub near Roswell. That this had anything to do with a Mogul array is entirely out of the question. The theme of radioactivity runs through the Barton testimony. This is a new angle that is not, to the best of my knowledge, part of the Roswell lore. My first choice for the “real” Roswell story is some flying device carrying plutonium dust. As the records of World War II and the years immediately following are slowly opened, we see truly amazing things. Let me list just a few connected with radioactivity. Institutionalized mentally retarded children were systematically fed radioactive pabulum as a scientific test. Our government gave serious consideration to dropping plutonium dust on Japan if the atomic bombs proved to be duds. Later, we were eyeing the same technique to kill off the Russians. This must be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. To me at least, it would be a small step to envision a flying device designed for long range flight and “dusting.” Something along these lines is consistent with policy of those years, and an effort to develop prototype delivery platforms would automatically follow. But I must admit that I have no more objective proof for this hypothesis than Barton had for his B-29 idea.
To date I have seen nothing that would persuade me of the extraterrestrial source for the crash, though I don’t rule it out. Obviously, something of extreme importance happened at Roswell in July 1947. And the Barton testimony helps us narrow the field of possibilities.
Though I am far from a Roswell expert, I do know that all parties to this dispute have long ago conceded that there is absolutely no record, formal or otherwise, of a “normal” aircraft or rocket crash anywhere near Roswell anywhere near the July 1947 time frame. This seems to be one of the very rare areas of agreement in this muddled field of inquiry. I will end with the thought that Barton’s testimony sobered me. I still don’t know what happened, but I am now convinced that whatever it was, it was truly exotic, and profoundly unsettling to those charged with handling the debris. Captain Chester P. Barton died on July 4, 2000, quite probably on the 53rd anniversary of his encounter with the “B-29.”
Joseph Stefula, M.A., is a retired Army Warrant Officer and former New Jersey State Director of MUFON