How the Military Debunked the Saucers After Roswell
Copyright 2001 by David Rudiak

"Reports of flying saucers whizzing through the sky fell off sharply today as the Army and Navy began a concentrated campaign to stop the rumors."

So began the July 9, 1947, United Press article on the Roswell incident, the day after the infamous Roswell air base flying disk press release.  This was followed quickly by Gen. Ramey's debunking of it as a recovered weather balloon and radar target.

Similarly, International News Service (INS) reported in their Roswell stories on July 9:

    "Reports of the saucers fell off sharply as the Army and Navy began a concentrated campaign
    to stop the rumors." (link)

    "Reports of 'flying discs' diminished sharply tonight throughout the nation as each new
    discovery blew up in the face of army and navy investigation." (link)

And finally, Scripps-Howard newspapers reported the following on July 13 in a column originating out of Washington D.C.:

    "Army Playing Saucer Joke?  Don't laugh too hard at those flying disc stories.  There's
    considerable evidence of [an] organized Army campaign to make you laugh.  And not all that's
    known on them has been printed."

Clearly the military was running a debunking campaign against the saucers and making no secret of it. 

Although many are familiar with the photos of the balloon and radar target in Gen. Ramey's office at Fort Worth, Texas, few are aware of other military-related demonstrations that followed immediately afterward.  Weather balloons and assorted paraphernalia, particularly radar targets, were trotted out as the explanation for the nationwide flying saucer reports.  In retrospect, these demonstrations were clearly part of the "concentrated campaign to stop the rumors" and the "organized Army campaign to make you laugh." Ramey's balloon debunkery was one of the opening salvos in this public relations onslaught of ridicule.  Earlier the same morning of July 8, the Pentagon had already put out a press release denying that the saucers could possibly be "space ships" (along with secret military weapons or foreign bacteriological weapon), also part of this debunking process to subdue public interest in the widely reported saucers.

Ramey memo outlines cover-up stategy

The follow-up debunking campaign using weather balloons was suggested in the last line of the Ramey message.  The end of the Ramey message reads very close to the following:

                                        ....AT ROSWELL. ABOUT
   TWELVE) TODAY CIC/TEAM SAID THIS MISSTATE RELEASE OF STORY AND THINK
   LATE ON) TODAY NEXT SENT OUT PR OF WEATHER BALLOONS WOULD FARE
   BETTER) IF RAWINS USED AND LAND DEMORAWIN CREWS.

These lines contain a thumbnail sketch of the Roswell cover-up.  First there was the Roswell base press release around noon (the "MISSTATE RELEASE OF STORY ") followed quickly by Gen. Ramey's debunking in Fort Worth, where a torn-up foil RAWIN (radar target) was indeed used to firm up the
press release (PR) about weather balloons.  Then in a mop-up operation in the days to follow came the weather balloon demonstrations and stories. Seemingly there was some question in their minds as to
whether the public or press would buy into it without a follow-up propaganda campaign.  And it was
Army counterintelligence in Roswell ("CIC/TEAM, or Counterintelligence Corps) that was responsible for the Roswell base recovered "flying disc" press release, the balloon story that quickly followed, and the recommendation for the follow-up radar target demonstrations.

Despite the balloon propaganda campaign, a Gallup poll the following month indicated that only 3% of the public thought the flying saucers were caused by a weather forecasting device.  Far more thought they were just people's imaginations or illusions (29%), U.S. secret weapons (15%), held no opinion (33%) or believed them to be a hoax (10%).  Only 1% thought they were Russian and 9% thought there was an ambiguous "other explanation".

Where did Ramey get proper obscure term and shape description for a radar target?
--probably scripted by military intelligence or counterintelligence

The term RAWIN was a meteorological jargon term for a RAdar WINd target.  Not only was Gen. Ramey telling the press he thought the rubble in his office might be a weather balloon and radar target, he obviously knew it was judging, among other things, through his use of proper terminology.  Later bringing in a weather officer (Irving Newton) for official identification was obviously just for show.

In addition, Ramey and his minions were describing the shape of the RAWIN targets as "hexagonal" (such as in the FBI telegram out of Dallas and Reuter's stories).  The problem here is that a radar target might only be so described by somebody looking at the outline of a fully assembled and intact target directly from the top or bottom.  But all Ramey had to look at was a torn-up target with pieces laying on the ground.  It is quite impossible to deduce a "hexagonal" shape in such a state.  So where did Ramey get the "hexagonal" shape description?  Not from weather officer Newton, who came in later and instead called it a "six-pointed star".  Only somebody quite familiar with intact radar targets might refer to them as "hexagonal", so apparently Ramey was provided the "hexagonal" description as part of a prepared script, again possibly from counterintelligence or intelligence. (see Ramey's impossible hexagon story for details)

Besides the Ramey telegram, another recently discovered document also indicates that military intelligence in Washington was preparing to use radar targets to explain away the flying saucers.  In a telegram from a Kalamazoo radio news editor about five hours after Ramey's telegram it states,

INTELLIGENCE DIV WASHDC SUGGEST SAUCERS ARE RADAR TARGET FOR
WEATHER OBSERVATION PURPOSES. CONTACT COL M DUFFY SPRING LAKE
   NEW JERSEY FOR INFORMATION

The debunking campaign started the next day.  So far, nine military balloon demonstrations in various parts of the country have been documented, with several more involving civilians being very suspicious, since they were spouting the same basic debunking story line and/or had close ties to the military.  E.g. two demonstrations were held in New Jersey, one by the radar target/weather balloon manufacturers and another by a military scientist. 

And in Kalamazoo, a former military weather man who worked at Spring Lake, N.J. during the war and now lived in Kalamazoo, was interviewed by the newspaper, instead of Col. Duffy mentioned in the telegram.  It seems a good guess that the reporter was referred to him by somebody at Spring Lake, maybe Duffy.  The aforementioned Col. Duffy, interestingly enough, was the first project officer for Project Mogul, the modern USAF "explanation" for the Roswell crash, and played a role in the 1994 USAF Roswell debunking report, allegedly being at Wright Field, Ohio, at the time (not Spring Lake) and allegedly viewing the Roswell debris when it arrived at Wright Field.  However the newsman's telegram seems to indicate Duffy was actually at Spring Lake and fed the radar target explanation to him, thus Duffy may have been part of the cover-up.  (See analysis of the suspicious Duffy story here)


The Fort Worth AAF Demonstrations

Beneath the words "land demorawin" is some small handwriting which may say "stage" and "photos yes."  My interpretation is that according to CIC recommendation, Ramey's telex was asking Washington permission to allow photos to be taken and to "stage" demonstations, with the handwritten notes representing perhaps an aide writing down confirmation.  In any event, Ramey was indeed "staging" a photo opportunity at the very moment that the image of the message was captured.  But another weather balloon/radar target demonstration was also staged at the Fort Worth base less than 2 days later, with more photos taken by the same newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)

The caption which accompanied one of the photos on July 11 in the Star-Telegram was typical of the debunkery of the other military balloon demonstrations, to be detailed below.  First there was a claim that local residents mistook the balloon/RAWIN target for a flying disk.  This was followed by the statement: "It was the wreckage of such an apparatus which discovered Tuesday on a New Mexico ranch, gave rise to an international report that a flying disk had been recovered by the Army Air Forces."  The obvious purpose of this demonstration was to debunk both the saucers and the widely publicized events at Roswell.

In addition to the radar target, a large radar tracking trailer is shown in the photos taken.  Supposedly neither item was present at the base. [Personal telephone interview with Irving Newton; affidavit of Newton in Ref. 1]  Either this notion is grossly mistaken or the target and trailer were rushed in from the outside specifically for this demonstration.  Either way, it is obvious the radar targets were readily available. 

It was later the contention of both Roswell intelligence officer Major Jesse Marcel and Ramey's Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Thomas Dubose, that Ramey substituted a radar target and weather balloon for the real Roswell material.  Based on this testimony, crashed saucer proponents have long contended that Ramey must have had ready access to such a target.  Ironically, the Fort Worth demo two days later, originally designed to further debunk Roswell and the saucers, now provides strong evidence to support the position of the crashed saucer camp.


Alamogordo Demonstration

A similar demonstration was held July 9 in Alamogordo, N.M. at the site of the Mogul balloon launchings.  One claim here (see, e.g., Ref. 1, the 1995 USAF Roswell Report) is that the demonstration served as a cover story for the secret Project Mogul.  But rather than trying to conceal Mogul, they used the various balloon launches to again explain the flying saucer reports.  The headline of the Alamogordo News story, "Fantasy of Flying Discs Explained Here," made that quite clear. 

People were allegedly seeing the reflective radar targets (even though Mogul records actually show that they were rarely used during that time frame).  They also suggested that one of their targets was probably what the rancher found that was mistaken for a flying saucer.  Buried deep in the story was a lame explanation for the balloon launches, saying they were used to train crews in radar tracking.  This probably was a cover story for Mogul, but judging by the actual press coverage, it wasn't the primary purpose of the demonstration.

Besides the Alamogordo News, the El Paso Times and United Press also covered this demonstration and the story received regional coverage. In the United Press version, it mentions that the widely publicized sightings from the Pacific northwest were probably due to similar Naval experiments.  (However, in one story, it mentions that the Navy flatly denied that they had such a project.)


The Newsreel

The military also put together some sort of demonstration or used stock footage and a debunking newsreel was made.  Exact details are still being sought as of this writing.  The radar targets were called the source of the "famous flying saucer."  The targets were demonstrated being launched and said to be made of "rubber and sticks."  This newsreel was probably widely disseminated in movie theaters throughout the country.  Before TV news finally displaced the movie newsreels in the 1960s, they were a major source of both news and propaganda for movie goers.  Probably millions of people would have seen this part of the debunking campaign.  It would have been very influential in placing the idea in the public mind that the so-called saucers were nothing but weather balloons.


Other Weather Balloon Demonstrations

The saucer-debunking demonstrations by the military were not restricted to Alamogordo and Fort Worth.  Two were held by the Navy in Atlanta on July 9 and July 10, got picked up by United Press wire service, and received some national coverage.  The Naval officers in charge of the demonstration made it quite clear that the sole purpose for the demonstration was to debunk the flying saucer reports.  They called the enterprise "Project Saucer" and admitted never having used radar targets before at that weather station.  There was also a claim made that the radar targets were used all over the country and in the same areas where people were reporting flying saucers.  And just as in the Fort Worth demonstration, they claimed that their radar target demonstrations provoked a flood of flying disk reports from local residents.

As we shall see, these demonstrations often had participants saying very similar things, as if they were working off of a common script of what they should tell the press.  Another very noteworthy common thread was how all the demonstrations referred to the radar targets as "discs." But in the Ramey memo, Ramey draws a clear distinction between what was found and what the public was being told.  What was found Ramey calls a "disc."  The story the public was going to be told, however, was "of weather balloons."  Equating  the very undisk-like radar targets to the "flying discs" was an obvious attempt to blur the distinction between the two in the public mind.  This also occurred in what the Dallas FBI office was told by one of Ramey's intelligence officers, according to a surviving FBI teletype from the late afternoon of July 8, in which the "hexagonal in shape" radar target was again equated to a "disc."  (See Ramey's hexagon story)

The Associated Press ran a photo on July 9, carried by various newspapers in the Midwest, showing the Army weather service in Kansas City launching a Mogul-style ML-307 radar target.  Again there was the not-so-subtle suggestion that the radar targets accounted for the nationwide flurry of saucer reports and for what was recovered in New Mexico.  Another noteworthy aspect of this photo is that it shows a portable radar-tracking trailer that is identical in style to that shown in the Fort Worth demo and also the military newsreel.

Near Wright Field, Ohio, where at least some of the Roswell debris was taken, the Army's weather station at Wilmington carried out a demonstration on July 10. A Mogul-style radar target and the more commonly used radiosonde observation balloon (or raob) were shown being launched.  Yet again, it was suggested that either one of these type weather balloons could account for the flying saucers.  The Atlanta demo was mentioned along with the claim that it caused an immediate flurry of flying saucer reports. Also thrown in was the statement that the radar targets were used by weather stations all over the country.  One of their weather officers had said the same thing a few days before commenting on a crashed radar target found near Circleville, Ohio [see balloon crash section]..

In Seattle on July 9, there was a minor Naval demonstration of a raob balloon, along with the suggestion that maybe these weather balloons could account for the flying saucer sightings.

Over at Boeing Aircraft Field on the same day, another Seattle newspaper took photos of a Mogul-style target in use there by the civilian weather service and used it to spoof the saucers.  A military debunking connection is less clear here, even though Boeing Aircraft is obviously a major military contractor.  Possibly someone connected to the military could have given the newspaper a call and suggested the photo shoot, but there is currently no evidence that this was the case.

Back east, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, yet another RAWIN target demonstration was held at a New Jersey amusement park on July 10.  The Brooklyn manufacturer of the Army ML-307 radar targets (the ones sometimes used by the Mogul balloon project) teamed up with the New Jersey weather balloon manufacturer, and then debunked the saucers as definitely being radar target sightings.  One would think two businessmen would have better things to do in the middle of the work week.  With military contracts being an important source of income, it seems plausible that a simple phone call from Washington could have "inspired" the two of them to get together and hold the debunking demo.  The radar target manufacturer also gave an interview to another New Jersey newspaper where he again made similar absolutist claims that the radar targets explained the flying saucer reports.

Further south in Asbury Park, N.J., only a few miles from the home of the Mogul Project, an engineer, who said he was affiliated with the local Army signal laboratory, told a similar story to the local newspaper. The flying saucer reports might be explained by the radar targets and radiosondes developed before the war at nearby Ft. Monmouth.  Photos of both types of weather balloons accompanied the article.  As in the Atlanta demo, a claim was made that the radar targets were widely used, and that many were constantly "used in the areas where flying discs have been reported." 

Once again, the similarity of wording is suspicious, and raises questions as to whether this individual was truly acting on his own initiative when speaking with the press.  In addition, some of the remarks were clearly debunking gibberish, such as the engineer's claims that the "irregular shaped, light-colored object [radar target] might assume an oval or even round shape as it hurtled earthward at a terrific speed and would have all the characteristics of flying discs."  Evidently this engineer had never flown a balsa-wood kite in his life.

(New! 2010) A similar story was printed in the Kalamazoo, MI newspaper on July 9.  This time the interviewed expert had been with the military weather services at Spring Lake, N.J. during the war, but was now a civilian living in Kalamazoo.  The previous night, a Kalamazoo radio station news editor had been told by military intelligence in Washington that the flying discs were probably radar targets.  He was referred to Spring Lake to interview Colonel Marcellus Duffy about the targets, that Duffy had helped develop during the war before becoming the first project officer of Project Mogul (headquartered near Spring Lake). 

Instead, it seems likely news people in Kalamazoo got referred back to the local source.  He dutifully also concluded that people were just seeing weather balloons carrying radar targets or similar weather balloons with radio transmitters (mistakenly also claimed to be tracked by radar) and mistaking them for flying discs.  The reported disc or saucer shapes were supposedly explained by the roundish, flexible rubber balloons being distorted into these shapes by wind currents.

Again, there is no clear evidence that the source was citing anything other than personal opinion (even though contact information was probably provided by the military).  However, again there was obvious debunkery and disinformation in the story.  E.g., concerning reports of formation flying that a simple balloon/radar target couldn't explain he dismissed as "optical illusions" or "exaggerations" by witnesses (perhaps in part debunking Kenneth Arnold's initial famous report two weeks earlier of 9 objects flying in formation).  He also claimed jet stream winds of 200 mph at 40,000 feet would give a weather balloon the appearance of traveling at high speed.  Not only would it be extraordinarily difficult for someone on the ground to even spot a balloon at this altitude, it would not appear to be "streaking across the sky", no more so than a jetliner at this altitude traveling three times as fast appears to be traveling at high speed.  It also contradicted another statement that planes were unable to spot the targets in the air, supposedly to explain why air searches had reportedly been unsuccessful in spotting the flying discs.  So how were people on the ground even further away seeing them and in such large numbers?

Another suspicious story originated in Albuquerque, N.M., was carried by the Associated Press, and reprinted in the Roswell Daily Record on July 9 and Tucumcari (N.M.) Daily News on July 10.  The story began, "A weather bureau source, who declined use of his name..."  The mysterious anonymous source claimed that a radiosonde balloon was the Corona, N.M. crash object mistaken for a flying disk and that these weather devices might also explain other flying saucer reports.  Then the article has the source equating radiosonde and "ray wind" target weather balloons, when they were distinctly different.  Similar mistakes in identity were made by military sources on July 8 after Gen. Ramey began circulating his weather balloon cover story.  Conceivably this story, with a source refusing to identify himself and espousing similar mistakes and explanations as the military, could have been a military plant as part of their overall flying saucer and Roswell debunking campaign.

In Tucson, Arizona, on July 11, two men claimed that a radar target nearly hit them while driving their truck.  They were allegedly so unnerved at first, that they almost wrecked their vehicle while avoiding the device.  One of the men then definitively declared that he was now sure this was the same object he had seen before and that everybody else was now seeing.  The radar target was also compared to the one found near Roswell which had recently caused all the ruckus.

There is no clear evidence that these men were connected with the government or military, yet the wording of the story is very suspicious.  There was also no photo to show that the men had, in fact, had a near collision with a radar target, an oddly missed photo opportunity for the newspaper (The Arizona Daily Star, July 13).

On July 9, in Nashville, Tennessee, a member of the Civilian Air Patrol (CAP), an auxiliary of the Army Air Force, claimed he had released three weather balloons as a publicity stunt, which then allegedly resulted in reports of three flying saucers.  Further he claimed that a white matchbox he had attached to one of the balloons "glittered in the sun like silver."  He said the CAP had sought unsuccessfully for the saucers and he was of the opinion that all reports were simply people spotting weather balloons or seeking publicity.  He then carried out a balloon launch for the newspaper to demonstrate the circular, "saucer-like" appearance of the balloon as it receded into the distance. (Nashville Tennessean, July 10)

Again we are left with the question as to whether this was merely a private citizen independently expressing an opinion or a military-affiliated CAP member publicly debunking the saucers as weather balloons at the behest of somebody else.


Other Military Debunking

The military effort to debunk was aided and abetted by an already skeptical press, which ran a number of articles, columns, and editorials generally ridiculing the phenomena before and after the Roswell incident. (However, also see webpage, The ETH in 1947, reprinting June/July 1947 newspaper articles, where some citizens, editorial writers, reporters, and letter-to-editor writers are dead serious about the possibility that the saucers might represent spaceships from outside Earth.)

Besides articles and photos on the weather balloon demos, there were also some quotes from various high-ranking military officers expressing extreme skepticism about the saucers, sometimes resorting to deliberate ridicule.

Following Roswell, a particularly blatant example of military debunkery appeared in the Washington Post on July 10.   Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, Asst. Chief of Naval Operations for guided missiles, at first seemed to be giving a rather dramatic personal UFO account as follows:

   HUGE DISC SEEN IN FAIRFAX [Virginia] SKY; UNEARTHLY SIGHT!

        . . .A very bright, saucer-shaped disc suddenly appeared in the
       sky to the southwest, was visible for about 10 seconds, and then
       disappeared.  It was moving from east to west. . . ."

"I estimate that the altitude of this object was a least 10,000
feet and its diameter was greater than 100 feet.  It appeared to
be traveling at a ground speed of about 750 miles per hour."

But then Gallery pulled out the joker:

"I do not believe that this phenomena was of United States origin.
In fact, it is my opinion that it was the sun ducking behind two clouds."

(As a historical aside, Gallery later also publicly ridiculed an article in the March 1950 issue of True Magazine by Commander Robert McLaughlin, chief of the Navy's guided missiles unit at White Sands.  McLaughlin wrote about flying saucer incidents at White Sands and stated definitively that they were extraterrestrial in origin.  According to Gallery, he responded to McLaughlin's official report to the Pentagon with the comment "What kind of whisky are you drinking out there?") [Time Magazine, April 17, 1950 and ref 3, "The Report on Unidentified Flying Object," Chapt 5.]

Another high ranking Naval officer to debunk the saucer reports (though in a more restrained manner) was Admiral William H. Blandy, former commander and chief of the Pacific Fleet, and now commander of the Atlantic Fleet.  He achieved widespread public fame as Task Force commander of the Bikini A-bomb tests a year earlier and was also known as the "atomic admiral." Blandy stated in the New York Times front page story on the Roswell incident (July 9, 1947):

      "I remain to be convinced there is any such thing. I am convinced that there is
      nothing the Army and Navy is concerned with. I am curious, like everybody else,
      to see what's behind it." 

The famous Blandy's remarks were widely reported in the nation's press.

(On July 7, Blandy had met with President Truman, the first time that year, and one of his very rare meetings with Truman.  Whether this had anything to do with the flying saucer situation is unknown, but the next day the busy Blandy was making skeptical comments to the press.  There are many such "coincidences" between July 7 and 9 of rare or sudden-called meetings with Truman or acting Army Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg that seem to be UFO or Roswell-related.)

President Truman also got into the act.  At a press conference on July 10, Truman compared the "Flying Saucers" controversy to the great moon hoax over a 100 years before. The moon hoax was printed in the New York Sun in 1835 and told of the discovery of man-bats living on the moon and seen through a secret, powerful telescope.  Many people thought the story was true.  After ridiculing people's belief in the saucers, Truman added that he knew nothing more about the saucers other than what he read in the newspapers.

Back in Fort Worth, the debunking continued through Col. Alfred Kalberer, Ramey's chief intelligence officer.  Kalberer along with Ramey had already been scoffing at the saucer reports in interviews clear back on June 30 and July 1, according to some news stories in the Texas and New Mexico press.  This was only a few days after the first flying saucer story in the press.  (The famous Kenneth Arnold sighting)  Another high military officer to start debunking the saucers well before the Roswell incident was Colonel Harold Turner, the commanding officer at White Sands Proving Ground, after numerous well-publicized sightings in the White Sands area. (See New Mexico UFO Reports)

On July 10, Kalberer went to the local Lions Club "to counteract the growing hysteria towards flying discs" (according to the official 8th AAF history).  Kalberer adopted a scattershot approach.  He attributed the "flying disc" sightings to mass hysteria, glimpses of distant P-51s, and specks before the eyes.  As to the highly publicized and highly credible sighting by a United Airlines' crew on July 4, Kalberer said, "The airlines pilot who saw the discs might have seen a guided missile directed by a plane some distance away.  We are playing around with all sorts of freak things."  Of course, the mystery guided missile project was pure confabulation by Kalberer.  Nobody knows of any such project.  Interestingly, the Pacific northwest disk sightings were also singled out for mention at the Alamogordo demonstration the day before (see above) and a very similar, erroneous explanation of "secret experiments" was proffered as an "explanation".  This again illustrates some level of coordination to the debunking.

Kalberer then claimed that the Army Air Forces was doing everything possible to determine if there was any basis to the so-called "flying discs," but emphasized that nothing definite had been discovered.  (El Paso Times, July 11, accompanied their Alamogordo debunking demonstration article and photos.)

In a bit of irony, Gen. Ramey contradicted Kalberer's secret projects explanation five days later while visiting Harlingen, Texas (inspecting an old WWII Army Air Force base in preparation for Air Force Day on August 1, celebrating the creation of the new Air Force as a separate military branch).  According to a United Press story, Ramey "flatly denied that flying saucers were part of Army experiments."  Ramey was reported to have said, "We have no discs as weapons.  There's nothing to speculation that the Air Force is testing new secret weapons."  (El Paso Times, July 15, 1947)

Documentation

What follows are the press photos and news stories that document the post-Roswell debunking campaign.  Also are related photos and stories about recovered radar targets and and other weather balloon stories in the nation's press.  Note the examples given in the included press clippings are but a small sampling of the nation's 7000 newspapers from 1947.  Likely other examples of radar target use and the military's
debunking campaign would turn up with a more thorough search.

Click here for a summary of July 1947 press reports of military and other radar target/weather
       balloon demos following Roswell.

Click here for a summary of July 1947 press reports of radar target crashes.

Click here for a summary of other weather balloon/UFO stories from 1947 and 1948.

Click here for a historical review of 1947 weather balloon and radar target use.

Click here for full list of sources and references.