AAF 'Flying Saucer' Merely Weather Box-Kite
New Mexico Find Proves Complete Dud
By John G. Norris
For three hectic hours last night, the Army Air Forces--and the world--thought it actually had possession of one of those fabulous "flying saucers." But it hadn't.
News tickers yesterday afternoon flashed the word that a "flying disc" had been found on a ranch in New Mexico and was now in the possession of the 509th Atomic Bomb Group at Roswell Field, N.M.
The mysterious will-o'-the-wisp really exists--so said an announcement from Roswell Army Airfield's public relations officer.
Warrant Officer Knows
Then, a few hours later and nearly two days after the "disc" had been in official hands, it was rudely exposed as an imposter.
Rushed from Roswell to Eighth Air force Headquarters at Fort Worth, Tex., by B-29, it puzzled AAF officers there. They were about to fly it on to the Army's experimental center at Wright Field, when an Army warrant officer identified the object.
It was part of a box-kite type of weather balloon used by United States Weather Bureau and Army meteorological stations all over the country!
Rancher Lacks Phone
But there was excitement while it lasted.
Wire service teletypes brought the story of the "momentous discovery" into newspaper officers late yesterday. Bulletin after bulletin reported it as follows:
The object had fallen on a ranch 75 miles northwest of Roswell.
Lacking a phone, Rancher W. W. Brizell [sic] waited a week until he was coming into town, then turned over to the sheriff. The latter turned it over to the Army Monday.
AAF intelligence officers pondered over the find, put out an announcement saying the disks were a "reality" and shipped it to Eighth Air Force Headquarters at Fort Worth, Tex.
Army Air Force officials here were as flabbergasted as the rest of the world. But under the personal direction of Lieut. Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, acting AAF chief, who dropped into the Washington AAF public information headquarters in the midst of the excitement, they burned up the wires to Texas and New Mexico. . .
They got from Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, Eighth Air Force Commander, a description of the object. It was "of very flimsy construction--almost like a box-kite", made of wood and with a cover "like tinfoil". . .
Ramey said he hadn't actually seen it himself as yet. He went to take a look, and called back that it was about 25 feet in diameter. He said he was shipping it on to Wright Field, Ohio, but would have one of the meteorological officers look at it first. . . .
Story Falls Flat
That's when the story fell flat, with a thud heard 1500 miles away in The Post city room.
Warrant Officer Irving Newton, a forecaster at the Fort Worth Army base weather station, stepped up, and identified the object as part of a weather balloon. It was of a type used by the United States Weather Bureau and AAF meteorologists to determine the direction and velocity of winds at high altitudes.
He said it could have come from any one of 80 weather stations in the United States using such equipment.
Newton said the object, a ray wind target, was used "because they can go so much higher than the eye can see." A radar set is employed to follow the balloon and through a process of triangulation the winds aloft are charted, he added.
Looks Like Star
When rigged up, Newton stated, the object looks like a six-pointed star, is silvery in appearance, and rises in the air like a kite, mounted to a 100-gram balloon.
General Ramey then took to a Fort Worth radio station to explain that the "flying disc" was a weather balloon.
Earlier, it was announced that he would broadcast over the National Broadcasting Company, but this was not done.
Brazell [sic] found the broken remains of the weather device scattered over a square mile of his land three weeks ago. He bundled the tinfoil and broken wooden beams on the kite and the torn synthetic rubber remains of the balloon together and rolled it under some brush, according to Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, Houma, La., 509th intelligence officer at Roswell, who brought the device to Fort Worth.
Goes to Sheriff
On a trip to town at Corona, N.M. Saturday night, Brazell [sic] head the first reference to the flying disks, Major Marcel related.
Brazell hurried home, dug up the remnants of the kite and balloon on Sunday and Monday headed for Roswell and the sheriff's office.
This resulted in the Army entering the case.
Col. William H. Blanchard, 509th commanding officer, reported the incident to Gen. Ramey.
At that time, Lieut. Warren Haught [sic], public information officer at the Roswell Field announced that a "flying disc" had come into possession of the Army Air Forces.
Lieutenant Haught said in a statement to newsmen that "the many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the Intelligence Office of the 509th (atomic) Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Airfield, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff's office."
Air Forces public relations men here were puzzled when newsmen reported the statements from Texas.
At first they gave the bare details of the finding of the object. Then they clamped a security lid on any further information on grounds that it was "high level stuff."
As it turned out, they were absolutely right.
International News Service said a Shreveport, La., auto salesman found a spinning gadget of aluminum about 16 inches in diameter containing wires and turned it over to intelligence officers at Barksdale Field.
INS said the White House officially announced that President Truman doesn't know anything about the saucers.
Rear Admiral Blandy, who commanded the Bikini atom bomb tests, was skeptical the disks existed at all and said he couldn't be blamed for them.
A Roanoke, Va., toy maker, Kyle Walker, said the saucers were rubber rings his sales crew is using to promote a new game in which aluminum rings are thrown at posts in the ground.
Walker said he told his salesmen to fill the rubber rings with helium so they would blow about and create interest.
Lloyd Bennett of Oelwein, Iowa, claimed a reward for his discover--a piece of metal six inches in diameter which he said swished through he air. A metallurgist said it took 6300 degrees of heat to melt it.
An Australian profess of psychology, F. S. Cotton, leaned to the spots-before-the-eyes theory. Reports of disks also came from South Africa, Denmark and England.
According to this, Brazel had reported the find 2 days before, since the AAF is said to have been involved for "nearly two days." Contrast with contradictory statements below.
This is different from other stories where Gen. Ramey is very explicit from early on about the object being a weather balloon and radar target.
One of a number of statements put out by the military that the radar targets were in widespread use. Part of the propaganda campaign that the radar targets explained the saucers.
This part of the story appears to be a mish-mosh of various wire service stories. It has the distinctive UP misspelling of Brazel's name and lack of identification of Major Marcel as the main intelligence officer. However, it has Brazel waiting only a week to report his find, instead of the 3 weeks given by Sheriff Wilcox in UP bulletins. It also adopts the more AP-like Brazel arriving in Roswell the previous day, instead of the the UP Wilcox quote of Brazel arriving "the day before yesterday." Note that this part of the Post story contradicts the statement above of the object being in official hands for nearly two days.
One of a number of newspaper statements about Vandenberg dropping in and taking charge. Vandenberg's log helps establish time when this would have happened. Post had a permanent Pentagon correspondent.
Same quotes appear in some UP stories, but lack Ramey's explicit ID as a weather radar target.
Ramey's remarkably bogus statement about the object's reconstructed size. Ramey hadn't seen it yet because flight had yet to arrive. Statement about shipping it on to Wright Field appeared as an AP bulletin and helps bracket time when statements took place.
Starting at this point, the rest of the Post story is the basic AP Roswell story.
Again the statement about the radar target weather balloons being used by both Army and civilian weather services.
Newton's widely quoted statement about the targets being used by 80 different weather stations.
Other stories, e.g. from UP, INS, and S.F. Examiner have Ramey identifying the object as a weather balloon long before Newton's ID or Ramey going on the radio.
Note the AP misspelling of Brazel's name. Contrast with the UP misspelling at top of story.
Various statements attributed to Major Marcel by the AP at Fort Worth. How does a small weather balloon scatter over a "square mile." How do you bundle it up when so widely scattered? There are major contradictions between this account and the one given by Brazel a few hours later. E.g., Brazel claims he collected the material with his family only a few days before.
If he hurries to dig up the bundled remnants, why doesn't he bring the small quantity of debris to Roswell and save Marcel the trip to his ranch? Notice contradiction with start of story where Army has been in possession for nearly 2 days.
Blanchard reported going up the chain of command. No "loose cannons" here.
They were understandably puzzled since statements came from New Mexico, not Texas.
One of the statements about a "security lid" being imposed from Washington.
As in a number of stories on the Roswell incident, this story ends with a number of short items generally mocking the flying saucer stories.
The next day, Truman at a press conference again said he didn't know anything about the saucers & compared them to an 1847 newspaper "moon hoax" of winged "man-bats" on the moon.
4 months later, Blandy was to write Marcel a commendation for his intelligence work during the bomb tests. Here Blandy may have been acting in concert with military intelligence to debunk the saucer reports. See New York Times story for more details.