Imagining the Ramey Memo is Imaginary
by David Rudiak
On July 8, 1947, Roswell AAF in New Mexico issued a press release that they had recovered a "flying disk" and were flying it to "higher headquarters." About 2 hours later in Fort Worth, Texas, photos of Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey were taken posed in front of a wrecked weather balloon, with Ramey claiming this was the Roswell debris.
In one photo, Ramey had a piece of paper clutched in one hand with the print facing outward, now referred to as the Ramey memo or message. Researcher Brad Sparks first tried to read it in the mid-1980s, making out a few words like "FORT WORTH," "DISC," and "WEATHER BALLOONS." In 1999, concerted efforts to read the message began. In addition to words Sparks first read, there was general agreement on the sensational phrase "THE VICTIMS OF THE WRECK." While disagreeing on other matters, interpreters did agree this was obviously about something other than a balloon crash.
The usual dismissive skeptical proclamations followed: the memo was too fuzzy to read, UFO researchers were just seeing what they wanted to see, etc., etc.
Recently UFO historian Barry Greenwood has asserted the memo to be a civilian newswire teletype. Naturally giddy skeptics uncritically seized upon Greenwood's theory as if it were Holy Writ. E.g., factually-challenged* (footnote) UK skeptics Andy Roberts and Dave Clarke in a recent FT op-ed ("Imagining the Ramey memo") wrote smugly: "...Greenwood has spoiled the party... - based on common sense - that the memo is not a military message after all but just a boring old newswire... based on the similarity between the structure of the lines of words and the punctuation used, which is more typical of journalists than... of the military. Predictably, Greenwood's revelations have caused
But "common sense" and speculation are not the same as hard analysis and facts. Below is a summary of Greenwood's so-called "revelations" followed by rebuttals showing them all to be either misleading, over-hyped, or just plain false.
1. The Ramey memo uses normal punctuation, whereas military telexes typically do not .
"Periods, quotations marks and commas are items relatively alien to military teletypes, hardly used at all except when quoting other messages. But they are quite common to journalistic teletypes."
Problem is rather than being "relatively alien," military teletypes frequently used ordinary punctuation. Thus such use is worthless for discriminating between a military and civilian teletype.
2. Interpreters believe the memo to have an ending signature, perhaps from Ramey himself. But Greenwood theorized this was really a time/date line commonly seen at the end of wire service bulletins. He stated he had never seen a single instance of such a signature in a military teletype and that it would have violated standard military style:
"In a legitimate military teletype, Ramey's name or other designation would have appeared in the address line preceding the body of the message, not after where the time/date line appears. In fact of hundreds of messages checked not one was signed off as an individual, like 'Ramey.' "
Sparks, however, went through the same 500 Air Staff messages from July 1947 that Greenwood allegedly examined and quickly found 7 instances of an ending signature line that Greenwood claimed did not exist.
3. Greenwood claimed that "the few readable portions of the Ramey memo also appears in news stories being published on Roswell." But the extent of his "matching" was a single word, "'DISC'," and a single generic short phrase, "AT FORTH WORTH TEX."
Greenwood was unable to match and thus ignored other "readable portions," such as the phrase just preceding "Fort Worth:" "THE VICTIMS OF THE WRECK YOU FORWARDED ..." Another point ignored by Greenwood is stylistic. A wire-service story would not use the 2nd-person "you forwarded."
Greenwood likewise couldn't match other agreed-upon words/phrases like "IN (or ON) THE 'DISC'," "MEANING OF STORY," "WEATHER BALLOONS," "LAND," or "CREWS."
Matching is trivial if only one isolated word and one short generic phrase are considered. E.g., anybody could have matched "'DISC'" by itself. (See numerous examples below.) But where is "IN/ON THE 'DISC'?" Sparks and I have examined hundreds of Roswell news stories from 1947 and this phrase never appears.
Sparks also did an analysis of the first line of the second paragraph of the message. Objective letter counts show that it would read "... IN/ON THE DISC" XXXX XXXX XXXX XXX XXXXXX XXXXXXXX..." After exhaustively reviewing a large archive of Roswell stories on my website, Sparks couldn't find a "DISC" line anywhere with even remotely similar letter counts.
Likewise, "WEATHER BALLOONS" cannot be matched because it is plural. Ramey later put out a story about finding a singular "weather balloon," but use of "weather balloons" cannot be found in any early news articles. It first appeared in follow-up stories the next day, and then only in the context of how the weather services sent up hundreds of such balloons every day.
Timing is very important here. The original AP newswire giving the press release from Roswell base was at 3:26 p.m. C.S.T.. Bond Johnson, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter who took the picture of Ramey holding the message, was likely dispatched around 5:00 p.m. when his editor first learned of Ramey's involvement from another AP bulletin. The photo was probably taken about a half hour later, or 2 hours after the initial AP bulletin.
In one Johnson interview, he speculated he brought along a bulletin and handed it to Ramey. [FORTEAN TIMES erroneously rewrote as: In one interview, Greenwood speculated that Johnson brought along a bulletin and handed it to Ramey.] Greenwood treats this musing as fact, never considering that the bulletin would have predated the photo by at least half an hour. But AP made no mention of Ramey's singular balloon story until 3 hours after their initial Roswell base bulletin (quote below). So what is "weather balloons" doing in a much earlier bulletin that Greenwood claims Johnson handed Ramey?
Johnson's account of the story being followed by his editor on the AP newswire also suggests that the alleged bulletin would have been from AP. But Greenwood's two over-hyped "matches" are from United Press articles, not AP.
Greenwood tried to rationalize his virtually nonexistent matching as follows:
"Knowing the raw teletype... can be rewritten partly or in full, and paragraphs can be juggled, it may not be possible to find a verbatim original of the [wire service teletype] message..."
This argument is patently false. In fact, it is very easy to find many exact or nearly exact matches between wording of surviving Roswell teletypes and derived newspaper stories. Furthermore, the same wording appears in many papers, explainable only if copied verbatim from the original wire stories.
E.g., the following is how the AP announced the Roswell base press release:
"Roswell, N.M. The Army Air Forces here today announced a flying disk had been found on a ranch near Roswell and is in Army possession."
The only difference in the newspapers was that the dateline "July 8 (AP)" was inserted after "Roswell, N.M."
AP's first announcement of Ramey's "weather balloon" 3 hours into the story:
"Roswell's celebrated 'flying disk' was rudely stripped of its glamor by a Fort Worth army airfield weather officer who late today identified the object as a weather balloon."
Santa Cruz (CA) Sentinel-News:
"Roswell's celebrated flying disc was rudely stripped of its glamor by a Fort Worth army airfield weather officer who late today identified this object that excited a storm of interest across the nation as a weather balloon."
There has been some rewriting, but most of the wording of the original comes through loud and clear. Again note that this first AP balloon story, which came after Ramey's photo, uses the singular "a weather balloon" rather than "weather balloons," as it appears in the Ramey message.
Here are some examples from original UP teletypes saved by Roswell reporter Frank Joyce:
THE INTELLIGENCE OFFICE REPORTS THAT IT GAINED POSSESSION OF THE "DISC" THROUGH THE COOPERATION OF A ROSWELL RANCHER AND SHERIFF GEORGE WILSON OF ROSWELL.
The intelligence office reported that it gained possession of the "disc" through the cooperation of a Roswell rancher and George Wilson, sheriff at Roswell.
The following was exactly the same in both the original telex and the newspapers:
"THE DISC LANDED ON A RANCH NEAR ROSWELL SOMETIME LAST WEEK. NOT HAVING PHONE FACILITIES, THE RANCHER, WHOSE NAME HAS NOT YET BEEN OBTAINED, STORED THE DISC UNTIL SUCH TIME AS HE WAS ABLE TO CONTACT THE ROSWELL SHERIFF'S OFFICE. "
More examples where the newspapers changed the original only slightly:
"THE AIR BASE HAS REFUSED TO GIVE DETAILS OF CONSTRUCTION OF THE DISC OR OF ITS APPEARANCE. "
The airbase refused to give details of construction of the disc or its appearance.
RESIDENTS NEAR THE RANCH ON WHICH THE DISC WAS FOUND REPORTED SEEING A STRANGE BLUE LIGHT SEVERAL DAYS AGO ABOUT THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING.
"Residents near the ranch on which the disk was found reported seeing a strange blue light several days ago about 3 a.m."
(The following example was not used in Fortean Times article because of space limitations.)
"SHERIFF GEORGE WILCOX (CORRECT) OF ROSWELL SAYS THAT THE DISC WAS FOUND ABOUT THREE WEEKS AGO BY A RANCHER BY THE NAME OF W. W. BRIZELL ON THE FOSTER RANCH NEAR CORONA, ABOUT 75 MILES NORTHWEST OF ROSWELL NEAR THE CENTER OF NEW MEXICO."
Clovis (NM) Press:
"Sheriff George Wilcox of Roswell said the disc was found about three weeks ago by W. W. Brizell on the Foster Ranch at Corona, 75 miles northwest of Roswell."
In the last example, the spelling of Sheriff Wilcox's name is corrected (from original UP "Wilson"), but rancher Brazel is misspelled as "Brizell" in both the original teletype and the stories that used it.
There are many other examples, but the point should be clear. There is usually extensive matching of words between the original teletype bulletins and their newspaper article derivatives. Note, e.g., the high degree of matching in the many "DISC" lines, something that can't be done with the "DISC" line in the Ramey message.
Therefore the real reason the message can't be matched with civilian teletypes is simply because the message is military. All those alleged "revelations" that this is a civilian teletype end up collapsing under scrutiny, truly imaginary in significance. The Ramey memo remains unchallenged as a military document of great importance regarding the Roswell case.
(Edited in Fortean times to read as follows:)
Therefore the real reason the message can't be matched with civilian teletypes is a simple one: the message is most likely of military origin. All the alleged "revelations" that this is a civilian teletype end up collapsing under scrutiny, truly imaginary in significance. The Ramey memo remains unchallenged as a document (and probably a military document) of great importance regarding the Roswell case.
* E.g., Clarke and Roberts claimed researchers read "the victims of the wreck were taken by convoy." Nobody ever read "were taken by convoy." This was invented by Karl Pflock in his Roswell debunking book. Clarke and Roberts knew so little of the Ramey memo they simply copied what Pflock had made up.
Suggested caption for attached picture of Ramey message:
High resolution scan of message held by Gen. Roger Ramey while having his photo taken with a weather balloon in 1947. The scan has been enhanced by increasing the contrast and stretching the letters vertically to compensate for perspective distortion. The word VICTIMS lies left of the central fold on the second line below the top fold. The word "DISC" (in quotes) is two lines directly below VICTIMS. WEATHER BALLOONS is right of the central fold, second line from the bottom.