According to a July 1994 executive summary report available at NSA.gov, titled "Report of Air Force Research Regarding the 'Roswell Incident'," officials who revisited the case in the 1990s had mixed feelings about one of the most famous--and contentious--stories of alleged alien contact in the 20th century.
The report suggests that, apart from initial descriptions by newspapers of a "saucer" captured by the USAF on the ranch of Mac Brazel, the case was not considered to be relevant to UFO sightings that were making news at the time. This shift in public attitudes about the case occurred only after civilian investigators revived the story several decades later.
According to the NSA report:
In February, 1994, the General Accounting Office (GAO), acting on the request of a New Mexico Congressman, initiated an audit to attempt to locate records of such an incident and to determine if records regarding it were properly handled... Research revealed that the "Roswell Incident" was not even considered a UFO event until the 1978-1980 time frame. Prior to that, the incident was dismissed because the AAF originally identified the debris recovered as being that of a weather balloon. Subsequently, various authors wrote a number of books claiming that, not only was debris from an alien spacecraft recovered, but also the bodies of the craft's alien occupants. These claims continue to evolve today and the Air Force is now routinely accused of engaging in a "cover-up" of this supposed event.
Despite this, over the years many hopeful UFO investigators have lived in the shadow of this famous case, which was once taken for being the very "gold standard" of UFO investigative work. Though many still look to Roswell as being among the all-time great cases, enthusiasm has certainly dwindled over time, and not just on account of government agencies issuing “official” dismissals. In fact, some of the leading researchers who once championed the case now argue that there appears to be far less to the entire affair than many once thought.
Kevin Randle, who authored a number of books on the subject, expressed his concerns with those who continue to view Roswell as "evidence" for an extraterrestrial crash landing at his blog, where he wrote:
"For those believing Roswell involved the crash of an alien spacecraft, this has to be worrisome. It is arrayed against testimony that suggests otherwise. The problem is that it is just testimony and over the years much of that testimony has been found to be inaccurate. The longer we investigate the more of these testimonies have fallen by the wayside."
Such is the case with much of ufology, and as Randle correctly notes, often with time and further reflection, many of those "gold standard" cases that were once the pillar of ufological interest have to be reexamined, theories revised, and much of the "evidence" does end up being refuted. This tendency to gravitate toward skepticism with time isn't a bad thing, in my opinion... in fact, it's what any responsible researcher should do.
However, stories like the alleged "UFO crash" in North Carolina that I shared in Part One of this series illustrates the longer lasting problems associated with cases like Roswell. While some serious researchers do begin to challenge their once-hopeful views on such cases, others do not. Add to this the aspiring ufologists who jump in the game at a much later time, and work to try and secure new evidence in support of older, now-questionable cases; and yes, some even go so far as to create narratives that resemble smaller-scale versions of "Roswell" of their very own.
In short, one could argue that the "mythos" surrounding Roswell has persisted well beyond the actual evidence that supports it. The result is that hopeful ufologists living in the long shadow cast by New Mexico's most famous UFO case aspire to find evidence of similar ground-breaking conspiracies; but the Roswell incident, if we're being honest here, hasn't aged very well... and in likelihood, neither will the majority of similar claims of crashes, cover-ups, and conspiracies related to UFO phenomenon that have continued to follow in its wake.
None of this is to say that there aren't justifiable reasons for the study of UAP (as evidenced by recent developments in relation to U.S. military interest in the subject). However, as we learned in the first part of this article series, people do sometimes mistake simple things like meteors for planes going down... and in some rare instances, even Roswell-style flying saucer "crashes." Our senses can easily mislead us, and it is a natural human tendency to seek patterns and "order" in things; however, the result can be the furtherance of a UFO narrative that simply may have no part in reality.