Weather Officer Makes Official Weather Balloon Identification
As various newspapers reported Ramey as "threatening" to do, he finally brought in a weather
officer to make an official identification of the weather balloon debris. This was probably done
immediately after J. Bond Johnson took his six photos and returned to the Star-Telegram to
Warrant Officer Irving Newton recalls being the officer-in-charge of the joint weather/flight
service operations office at the time he received his first call from someone in Ramey's office.
As Newton explained to me, "If someone wanted to clear an airplane and he was in Waco or
Austin or someplace where that didn't have an operation, they would have to call Fort Worth flight service and get their clearance from them. ...Normally we had a crew in both flight service and in base operations. But this day, we didn't have two crews. We only had one crew, and I was it. I was the forecaster. We had observers too. But I was the forecaster. So now when they called from Gen. Ramey's office and they wanted me to go over to his office, I said that I couldn't do that because I was operating two offices. And if I wasn't there to give the weather then I don't know what the hell they would have done."
Soon after Newton's courageous defiance of orders, Gen. Ramey himself called back and told him to "get your ass over here" as quickly as possible, even if it meant commandeering a vehicle. Even though Ramey had already been telling or hinting to the press for over an hour about a weather device explanation, he obviously attached great importance to having the identification made official by a weather officer, even to the point of threatening flight safety.
Newton recalls Ramey's office being 3 or 4 blocks from base operations. After telling his
sergeants that he had been ordered from his post, he estimated it would have taken him about 10 minutes to walk over to Ramey's. If Johnson had arrived at 5:30 (CST), taken his pictures, and left by about 5:45, then this means Newton probably got to Ramey's office at around 6:00.
Meanwhile, intelligence officer Major Kirton had already told the Dallas Morning News
at 5:30 that the crash object was a RAWIN weather target and told a similar story to the FBI
Dallas office (which they wired out at 6:17). By 6:03, an AP bulletin out of Washington was
already hinting at the meteorological device explanation. Given the origin of this bulletin, it seems likely that the Pentagon was likewise preparing the press for the ultimate explanation. Ramey, of ourse, had already sent out his telegram (just photographed by Johnson), which stated that the next press release would be about weather balloons.
The Ramey "Press Conference"
Before being admitted to Ramey's office, Newton recalls being briefed by a Lt. Colonel or Colonel (possibly Col. Dubose). He was told that some major from Roswell had brought in some material which Gen. Ramey thought was a weather device, and which Ramey wanted him to identify. In his original interview back in 1979 (presented in The Roswell Incident by Berlitz & Moore), Newton reportedly said that he didn't learn exactly why Ramey brought him in until some time afterwards when he was told it was about the crashed flying saucer. But 10 years later, Newton started giving a somewhat different story of being briefed beforehand about the flying saucer the Roswell major thought he had found. Newton, a big Roswell skeptic, in his Air Force affidavit in 1994, claimed that he then "giggled" at the so-called flying saucer when he first entered Ramey's office since he instantly recognized it as the remains of a weather radar reflector.
Newton also added the story of interacting with Major Marcel (previously referred to only as the
"Roswell major"), claiming that Marcel kept pointing to writing on the sticks and trying to convince him that it wasn't normal. In his 1994 USAF affidavit, he went so far as to claim that Marcel was trying to convince him of "alien" writing in front of Ramey and the reporters. In 1995, in an interview for OMNI Magazine, he embellished the story further by adding that Marcel practically chased him all over Ramey's office trying to get him to change his mind.
There are a number of serious problems with this part of Newton's story. For one thing, Dubose when first interviewed in 1979 stated that everybody was following Ramey's orders and did only as they were told. Marcel likewise said he was under strict orders not to talk to anyone and only spoke when he was allowed to. It hardly seems likely that he would destroy his career by disobeying orders directly in front of Gen. Ramey by speaking of "alien" writing in front of reporters when Ramey was obviously trying to kill the story of the crashed flying saucer.
If there was some interaction between Marcel and Newton, there is also no indication of it from the newspaper stories which quote separately from both Marcel and Newton. For Newton, they have him describing his use of radar targets overseas and stating that the one in Ramey's office could have come from any of about 80 weather stations. For Marcel, they have him telling a rather mundane story of the rancher finding the object, reporting it, and Marcel retrieving it. Furthermore, they have Marcel referring to it as a weather device.
There is no evidence here of Marcel chasing Newton around Ramey's office trying to get him to
change his mind about "alien" writing. Instead, it is exactly the sort of story one would expect Marcel to tell if he was under orders to kill the story by saying all that was found was a weather balloon. Marcel, in fact, said as much, that they recited a weather balloon story to get the press off their backs. (Newton didn't recall Marcel speaking to reporters while he was there, and it is conceivable this happened before he arrived or never happened directly at all, instead Marcel's story being written up or recited by a public relations officer and presented to the press.)
Also contrary to Newton's account that Ramey seemed to be trying to humiliate Marcel, a
being transferred to Washington for higher intelligence work. Ramey called Marcel's services to his command "outstanding," mildly protested his transfer, saying there was nobody to replace him, and added that he thought Marcel future command officer material based on his past progress and performance. Statements like this by Ramey post-Roswell are impossible to reconcile with Newton's story of Marcel's alleged behavior in Ramey's office.
When I interviewed Newton about his interaction with reporters during the "press conference", he surprised me by spontaneously admitting to "lying" back in 1947. What was his "lie"? He said news accounts from 1947 have him stating that he was very familiar with the radar targets because when he was overseas, he must have personally launched hundreds of them. That wasn't strictly true, Newton told me. He was a weather forecaster and used the data obtained from the radar targets. But others did the actual launchings. He said he exaggerated back then about personally launching hundreds of targets because it made for a better story. (Actually, Newton wasn't quite right about this. The 1947 accounts of Newton's remarks only have him stating that he "had sent up identical balloons to this one during the invasion of Okinawa..." If Newton told reporters that he had personally sent up hundreds, the quote didn't make it into the newspapers.)
Unfortunately, Newton still seems to be embellishing the story for effect. E.g., under close questioning he admitted that Marcel never used the word "alien" to describe the alleged writing on the sticks, as Newton claimed twice in his A.F. statement. Instead, Newton now admitted, the word was more like "foreign."
I also asked him about another statement in his affidavit that didn't make sense. Newton claimed the radar target sticks looked like balsa wood but were "much tougher." If they appeared to be like balsa wood (the material, in fact, specified in an engineering schematic printed in the Air Force Roswell report), then how did he know they were "much tougher?" Any kid who's ever flown a balsa wood kite or made a model airplane knows how soft and fragile the wood really is. Newton never directly answered the question, instead merely stating that he never tried to break any of the pieces. But just looking at a piece of wood-like material cannot tell you how strong it is.
It struck me when I read the affidavit that the strange statement of the balsa sticks being unusually strong was deliberately inserted by someone to try to account for statements of others (including Marcel) that the sticks recovered in the field were unbreakable and not markable. Newton admitted to me that he couldn't remember if he had even written his own affidavit, or whether the Air Force officer who took his affidavit did it for him.
Even though Newton scoffed at the "alien" or "foreign" origins of the stick markings, he has
nevertheless insisted that there were unusual, faint markings in more recent interviews (this, again, was never part of his original story in 1979). Obviously having done a lot of reading of skeptical explanations of the case, he claimed that they had rubbed off or leaked through from the alleged tape with flower patterns that made up the Mogul radar reflectors. However, I pointed out to him that the engineering schematic of the radar target showed that the tape did not make direct contact with most of the balsa sticks. Instead, most of the sticks were completely wrapped with the laminated foil/paper making up most of the reflector. Adding to this was the problem of how the patterns could somehow leak through the plastic tape even when it was applied directly to a stick. Newton had no explanation and brushed off the question.
When I finally questioned him about whether his encounter with Marcel even took place, Newton was adamant that it had. However, earlier I had asked him about the men he worked with in his
office, in the hope that some of them might still be around and have some further information.
Newton told me he couldn't remember anything at all about any of them. These were men he
probably worked with for months at a time. Yet he said he couldn't remember any of their names or even what they looked like. Why then could he remember his encounter with Marcel so clearly, a man he didn't know at all and met for a few minutes at most (if at all), but nothing at all about the men he worked with on a daily basis?
I also asked Newton how he could be so certain he was dealing with Marcel. Newton said it had to be Marcel because he was told he was the Roswell major. However, there was at least one other "major" in the room, Ramey's public information officer, Major Charles Cashon. According to Gen. Dubose, Cashon, as might be expected of a public relations officer, acted as a "buffer" between the military people and the reporters. He directed questions to both Ramey and Newton. In this way, the situation could be better controlled rather than letting reporters shoot direct questions that might prove difficult or embarrassing to answer. Newton didn't know Cashon either, and it is conceivable he could have simply gotten the two "majors" confused.
(Newton, however, scoffed at Dubose's testimony about Major Cashon's role. As to Gen. Dubose's various other statements and affidavit that the material in the the photos wasn't the real debris but just a part of a weather balloon cover story, Newton said that Dubose's statements were worthless since Dubose was dead whereas he wasn't.)
Was there some additional play-acting by PIO Cashon or even Marcel in an attempt to further
ridicule the idea of a crashed flying saucer, along the lines of Newton's story? I doubt it, but can't completely rule it out. Newton sounded completely sincere about such an encounter taking place. However, again, there isn't the slightest hint of such an event in the newspaper stories that emerged from this small press conference. We may never know for sure, because Cashon refused to talk about what happened when he was finally located. In the end, this part of Newton's story seems improbable and is completely uncorroborated, if not directly contradicted, by other evidence. Gen.Ramey's statements praising Marcel a year later are especially damning of Newton's scenario.
When Newton wasn't trying to ridicule Marcel and Roswell ("It's all a bunch of horsepucky," he
repeatedly told me), his story was much more straightforward and in agreement with known facts. He spoke cautiously and was careful not to exaggerate. Like Marcel and Dubose, he remembered several reporters being there (maybe only two, but perhaps as many as four). Like Dubose, he remembered Ramey saying that the special flight to Wright Field was no longer needed because the object had been positively identified. The alleged cancellation of the flight was likewise reported in many newspaper stories. (The real flight, however, continued.) His picture was taken holding the radar reflector (this photo appeared in a few newspapers), and he said he remembered the picture being taken (although he thought several were taken) and being asked questions by reporters.
However Newton said he had no memory of who might have taken his picture, even whether the person was military or civilian. He also had no memory of who the reporters might have been, or of any of the other military people in the room, except for Ramey and, of course, the "Roswell major."
Newton estimated his entire time in Ramey's office at maybe 10 minutes, but perhaps as long as 20 minutes, which seems reasonable, given the time needed for the briefing, the photo, and the
questions. Newton was dismissed, returned to his vacant post, and said he didn't think anything more about the incident for many years.
In an effort to clarify other matters, I asked Irving Newton some additional questions. In all accounts by Ramey or his minions (including Newton's reported statements from 1947), the debris was represented as coming from a singular balloon and radar reflector. Newton reiterated that there wasn't very much debris (it could all fit into three grocery bags, he said) and seemed to be just an ordinary weather balloon and radar reflector that could have come from anywhere. This is not supportive of the Air Force's Project Mogul balloon hypothesis of a multi-balloon, multi-radar target device. It also calls into question the current Air Force's contention that it was still necessary to forward the debris to Wright Field for further identification. Why should this be necessary if the debris was indistinguishable from that of an ordinary, singular weather balloon, as even the Air Force admits in their summary statement?
Newton's affidavit also states that they didn't use radar targets at Fort Worth for weather forecasting. This statement has been used by skeptics as some sort of "proof" that Ramey could not have obtained a radar target from the base for a swap with the so-called "real" Roswell debris. However, less than two days later, a radar target demonstration was carried out at the base for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, J. Bond Johnson's newspaper. In addition to the radar target, an entire radar tracking trailer was shown in the photographs taken.
I asked Newton if there were radar targets or radar tracking equipment at the base when he was
there. Definitely not, he told me. I then told him about demonstration. He was totally taken by
surprise. He told me he had no idea where the target or trailer could have come from. All he knew was that he wasn't involved.