The following were some stories from several newspapers offering weather balloon explanations for UFO reports. Some of these stories were printed before the Roswell incident of July 8 and the military debunking campaign that followed. Thus they seem to be independent of these and reflect local press takes on the flying saucer reports. One can speculate, however, that military intelligence at the Pentagon might be taking note of such stories as a possible means of debunking the flying saucer reports. Note the tone of these articles is usually one of ridicule. One story from 1948 is also included here, because it has the Air Force up to its old tricks of trying to explain away a very prominent UFO sighting as a radar target.
Tucson, Arizona. A radiosonde instrument packet was recovered on a local ranch, according to this Tucson Daily-Citizen front-page article of July 7. The article noted it likely came from either the civilian weather bureau in Phoenix or from the Army's Davis-Monthan Field in Tucson. "Pale Balloons May Be Discs," said the headline, in this lightly mocking article of the flying saucer phenomenon. The article also has some information on weather balloons, such as the use of various color balloons, including black, and parachutes to lower the instrument packages.
San Diego, California. A weather balloon launch on July 7 by the civilian weather bureau apparently provoked a lot of flying disk reports from local yokels, at least according to this July 8 article in the San Diego Union. The story was also picked up by United Press wire services and reported elsewhere, e.g., in the Contra Costa [CA] Gazette. The tone of these articles is again one of mild ridicule. Towards the end of the Union story were some other local UFO reports which were treated in a more straightforward manner. Before these reports, however, the etheric theories of UFO origin from a local parapsychologist by the name of Meade Layne were given prominent display. [Layne's involvement in UFO matters didn't end there, as he later recounted a story of Eisenhower and some other prominent people allegedly being taken to Edwards AFB and shown disks there as they were materialized and dematerialized by aliens.] Finally the Union story also notes that paper-foil radar chaff had been dropped on some parts of the city. Its origin was explained in this July 11 article. The paper-foil used for the radar chaff was the identical material also used in making the weather radar targets, and as usual, even the common folk were not fooled by it as being unearthly in origin.
Oakland, California. Similar to San Diego, a routine weather bureau balloon seemingly prompted a number of flying disk reports from locals. The story is from the Oakland Tribune, July 9. This event was also mentioned in the San Francisco Examiner article of July 9 on the Roswell events, along with their photo of a radar target used by the weather bureau in Oakland. Finding of a radiosonde weather instrument package over in nearby Contra Costa County by a teenager was also mentioned.
Albuquerque, New Mexico. "A weather bureau source, who declined use of his name," began this Associated Press story reprinted in the Roswell Daily Record on July 9 and a few other papers. This story, which seems to have originated from the A.P. office in Albuquerque, confusingly has the mysterious source claiming 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 -- then again, maybe not.
Roswell, New Mexico. At the same time that Gen. Ramey's weather balloon debunking appeared in the Roswell Daily Record on July 9, Roswell's local weatherman L. J. Guthrie was agreeing that the so-called disk belonged to the weather service. In an article titled "Local Weatherman Believes Disks to Be Bureau Devices," he said that the U.S. weather service had received a great deal of meteorological equipment from the Army at the end of the war, including the triangular radar targets. Guthrie said that "scores" of the foil targets were sent up every day all over the country, and opined that people were mistaking them for flying disks while searching the skies for them. A week later, another article with Guthrie appeared in the Daily Record after two locals thought they saw a flying disk above town. Guthrie thought it was probably the weather balloon he had released a short time before nearby at the local airport as a part of the daily morning weather balloon run.
New (Added May 2004)Jefferson City, Missoui. A radiosonde weather balloon was found by a farmer on July 12, who didn't know what it was, so he brought it to the newspaper. The local highway patrol instantly identified it since similar weather balloons had been turned into them previously. It was noted that both the Kansas City and St. Louis weather bureaus used these type balloons. (Jefferson City is halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis.) Both the radio transmitter and balloon remnant were labeled as "U.S. Army." The transmitter also had "Signal Corps radiosonde transmitter" stamped on it. Nonetheless, the newspaper tried to hype the farmer's uncertainty over exact identity into confusion with the reported flying saucers. The article is interesting in providing a very detailed description of the crashed radiosonde weather balloon. Article from Jefferson City Sunday Capital News and Post-Tribune.
New (Added July 2005)West New York, New Jersey. On July 9 a radiosonde weather balloon came down in the town of West New York, N.J., near Newark and across the Hudson River from New York City. An excellent photo of it appeared the next day on the front page of the Hoboken N.J. Jersey Observer. The accompanying article quoted in detail the warning label on the radio transmitter box, which mentioned that the balloon came from the U.S. weather service. The article suggested that the plastic ring supporting the paper parachute, when seen in the air, might resemble the reported flying saucers.
Montgomery, Alabama. This article in the Atlanta Journaldates from July 25, 1948, a year after the Roswell events and the great UFO wave of June/July 1947, and ended up in the FBI's UFO files. It is yet another facetious press report about a major UFO sighting, the famous Chiles-Whitted airline pilot sighting of July 23, 1948. Of particular interest here is the statement toward the end that the Air Force in Washington and at Maxwell Field in Montgomery both tried to explain the pilots' sighting as the result of a radar target launched from Maxwell. This "explanation" was pure nonsense and was quickly withdrawn. Not explained was how the small radar target would even be visible, much less look like a bright aircraft 100 feet in length with a flaming tail, when the sighting took place at 2:45 in the morning. In reality, and out of the public eye, the Air Force took this sighting extremely seriously. According to Cpt. Ed Ruppelt [ref. 3], the first director of the USAF's Project Blue Book, this sighting caused literal panic within Air Force intelligence, since, among other things, both Chiles and Whitted reported that the wingless craft appeared to have a double row of windows, implying animate pilots. Furthermore, an hour earlier a similar object had been seen from the ground by a grounds-maintenance crewman at Robins AFB in Georgia. Three similar reports came from other parts of the world, including from the Hague, Netherlands, on July 20. Again witnesses reported a fast-moving, rocket-shaped object with two rows of windows. This prompted a Top-Secret intelligence estimate from Blue Book's predecessor, Project Sign, which concluded that some of the reported UFO's were likely of interplanetary origin.
Here are two other Web sites with a few period weather balloon crash stories: