Apr 12, 2021 I Nick Redfern

The Roswell Affair: A Controversial Experiment and Not a UFO in Sight

Over the last few days I've written articles on how and why the Roswell affair of July 1947 had nothing to do with aliens, but everything to do with secret experiments that involved huge balloon arrays, some of which were created by the U.S. military and others that were based on Japanese documents captured at the end of the Second World War. At this stage in the story, I am going to draw your attention to the fact that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI noted a parallel between the investigation of UFOs in the summer of 1947 and the Japanese balloon wave of a few years earlier, when the Second World War was still raging. The FBI document quoted from below – which surfaced thanks to Freedom of Information legislation - shows that in the summer 1947 there was a mindset that suggested “disk” sightings were not unlike the Japanese Fugo balloon sightings and investigations of a couple of years earlier – at least, in terms of how they should be investigated. According to the FBI:

“It is felt that the situation regarding these flying saucers and flying disks is very similar to the situation which was previously encountered by the Bureau during the past war in handling complaints arising out of the sightings of Japanese balloons. You will recall that at the inception of these complaints the Bureau conducted considerable investigation and located numerous balloons as a cooperative measure for the Army then informed that these were military weapons and that they would take over the handling of these completely. This they did and in an extremely short time issued a big press release as to the splendid work of the Army in locating these Japanese balloons. From the information available thus far it does not appear that these disks should be treated other than as a military weapon. Certainly the Bureau has no way to determine what experiments the Army and Navy are conducting and whether such might be arising out of experiments being conducted by them, nor do we have any way of determining how far the Russians have progressed in certain experiments and whether such might be the results of experiments by the Russian Army.”

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FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the keeper of all secrets

As this memo reveals, the FBI was making certain investigative parallels between the Fugo balloons of the Second World War and the flying saucers of 1947. It is most eye-opening that the FBI also noted: "…the Bureau has no way to determine what experiments the Army and Navy are conducting and whether such might be arising out of experiments being conducted by them…" This strongly suggests there was a fair degree of belief, or suspicion, within the FBI that what was being seen was not from some faraway star-system, but from right here. On Earth. That the FBI also stated, "From the information available thus far it does not appear that these disks should be treated other than as a military weapon," also speaks volumes about where the collective mind of the FBI was then-currently at. In view of what we have seen so far, we can make a good case that in the summer of 1947, the FBI knew – or at least strongly suspected – that UFOs were the product of Uncle Sam. Now, let’s take a look at a certain, central figure in the Roswell mystery who also had a link to…wartime Japanese balloons.

Master Sergeant Lewis "Bill" Rickett – of the Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) - was someone who many Roswell investigators believe knew exactly what happened on the Foster Ranch in July 1947. At the time of the mysterious event, Rickett was the Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge at the Roswell Army Air Field. Years after the event, Rickett admitted to UFO researchers his presence at the ranch site – along with Sheridan Cavitt, also of the CIC - on July 8. Rickett also shared a few other snippets of data, when the mood took him. For the most part, though, he remained very tight-lipped – even cagey at times – on exactly what took place. Rickett did, however, admit that approximately two months after the crash on the Foster Ranch took place, he liaised on the top secret matter with one Dr. Lincoln LaPaz. At the time, he was the Director of the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics. He and LaPaz undertook a secret assignment to try and figure out "the speed and trajectory" of the craft that slammed into the heart of Lincoln County. Reportedly, the pair found a "touchdown" location just a few miles from the ranch, as well as a patch of ground that had been exposed to a significant amount of heat. According to Rickett, the object that hurtled to the ground on the ranch was somewhat bat-winged, but certainly not what anyone would call a flying saucer – which is an important point, given that all the talk at the time was of saucers and disks.

There are good indications that Rickett knew a great deal about the Roswell bodies, too. UFO investigator Stan Friedman had the opportunity to speak with Rickett back in the 1980s. It was an absolute cloak-and-dagger-like conversation that was noted not so much for what Rickett did say, but for what he didn’t say. Friedman recalled: "When I mentioned bodies, Rickett clearly reacted and indicated that this was an area he couldn’t talk about. He indicated there were different levels of security about this work; that a directive had come down placing this at a high level. He went on to say that certain subjects were discussed only in rooms that couldn’t be bugged." Clearly, Rickett was a concerned man – as he certainly should have been. In other words, decades after the mystifying incident, Rickett was still fearful of saying too much to too many – and particularly so on the matter of the bodies. Nevertheless, it may have been a result of opening his mouth just one too many times that finally led Rickett to get what we might call a friendly warning. You know the sort: they are actually anything but friendly. From whom? From Sheridan Cavitt, formerly of the Counter-Intelligence Corps; the man who assured the U.S. Air Force in the 1990s that nothing stranger than a weather-balloon was the cause of all the sensational press-coverage way back when.

One particularly important fact that many Roswell researchers have either not realized or have carefully avoided highlighting, in case – shock, horror – it dares to support my conclusions, is Dr. Lincoln LaPaz’s connection to the issue of Japan’s Fugo balloons. In 1945, the University of New Mexico issued a press-release titled "New Mexican Had Lookout Job For 'Japanese Germs.'" It revealed a certain, previously secret, aspect of LaPaz’s life, and it reads as follows: "Dr. Lincoln LaPaz of the University of New Mexico was in the thick of the fight against Japanese plans to send disease germs into America by balloon, said President J.P Wernette of the University today. Commenting on stories from the Navy in Washington revealing that use of germs and viruses in the Jap balloon-barrage was an enemy project as the war came to an end, Dr. Wernette said that Dr. LaPaz, head of the department of mathematics and the University’s Institute of Meteoritics, was with the government’s secret anti-balloon project during the war."

University staff continued: "'If the war had not ended when it did, in the opening stages of a full-scale balloon offensive which probably would have taken place between October 1945, and now, when the velocity of the west wind at high altitude is greatest, this country would have had unpleasant experiences,' Dr. LaPaz said today. 'People most concerned were trained scientists, and stockmen, too, he said. Anthrax spores could have been sent over in the paper balloons in great numbers, and Manchurian sheep pox could have easily struck the hooved animals of this country because the disease has not been found here and there would be no natural immunity, Dr. LaPaz went on." LaPaz was quoted as saying: "But the Japanese, using radio devices to locate their balloons on the flight to this country, apparently did not realize that we could pick up the signals an find the balloons before they reached the mainland."

A similar press release issued by the University of New Mexico – also in 1945 – details further information on LaPaz’s Fugo-themed work for the U.S. military: "Observers, watching for meteors, thought they had something when they saw some brilliant lights in the sky from February to May, 1945. And they did, said Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, mathematics department head at the University of New Mexico and director of its Institute of Meteoritics, today. The displays were actually made by Japanese balloons, Dr. LaPaz said, revealing the history of a scientific study of meteors which went on before and during the time that Dr. LaPaz was busy in secret government work of studying and combating the balloon offensive. Nevertheless, a few months later, on Nov. 29, 1945, a great meteorite fell slowly across northern California and Nevada, and observers mistook it for everything from a jet plane to a Hollywood publicity stunt. Members of the Society for Research on Meteorites and the American Meteor Society, thought at first that it was a new type [of] Japanese balloon bomb."

If, as the interviewees in my The Roswell UFO Conspiracy book asserted, the key event that led to the legend of the UFO crash at Roswell involved a "next-generation of Fugo" balloon of huge proportions that was responsible for launching an experimental aircraft that catastrophically crashed, then who better to enlist into the study of how and why the experiment failed than an expert on those very same balloons? Namely, Dr. Lincoln LaPaz.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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