It’s hardly surprising that 1997 was the year in which the Roswell “crashed UFO” affair reached its absolute pinnacle. It was, after all, nothing less than the 50th anniversary of the mysterious event. Just about everyone who was anyone in Ufology was commenting on, or writing about, the case – mostly from the perspective of promoting and championing the alien angle. That was not the case for exactly everyone, however. Certainly, I wasn’t impressed by the E.T. angle. I’m still not impressed today, in 2021. Three years after the 1994 “Mogul Report” was published, the Air Force made a surprising acknowledgement that the reported sightings of strange bodies at Roswell did have a basis in fact, after all. Not only that: so compelled by then was the Air Force to address the bodies issue that it authorized the release of yet another report on Roswell. The last word, lo and behold, was not the last word. The last word was not even anywhere in sight. Entitled The Roswell Report: Case Closed, it did very little – if anything at all – to dampen the ever-present notoriety surrounding the case, however. In fact, the question of why the Air Force had concluded there was a pressing need on its part to explain the reports of unusual bodies found in New Mexico (when it could quite easily have summarily dismissed them as hoaxes or modern-day folklore), arguably only heightened the interest in what did or did not occur.
The Air Force report focused practically all of its 231 pages on the alleged recovery of the strange bodies and asserted that: “‘Aliens’ observed in the New Mexico desert were probably anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high altitude balloons for scientific research. The ‘unusual’ military activities in the New Mexico desert were high altitude research balloon launch and recovery operations. The reports of military units that always seemed to arrive shortly after the crash of a flying saucer to retrieve the saucer and ‘crew,’ were actually accurate descriptions of Air Force personnel engaged in anthropomorphic dummy recovery operations.” There is no doubt (it is, actually, a matter of historical record) that the Air Force conducted a wide array of tests using crash test dummies in New Mexico and that at least some of these tests did occur in the vicinities of both the White Sands Proving Ground and the town of Roswell. But were those same tests responsible – either in part or in whole – for the stories concerning highly unusual-looking bodies recovered by the military during the summer of 1947?
At the time of its release, the conclusions of the Air Force’s latest (final…?) report provoked a furor of controversy. While there is absolutely no doubt that tests utilizing anthropomorphic dummies were widespread in New Mexico, the Air Force’s report largely and very carefully glosses over the fact that these particular tests did not even commence until the early 1950s. This was an issue not lost on the mainstream media during the Air Force’s press conference at the Pentagon, which accompanied the release of the report in July 1997. A reporter asked, “How do you square the UFO enthusiasts saying that they’re talking about 1947, and you’re talking about dummies used in the 50’s, almost a decade later?” An Air Force spokesman replied, slightly and noticeably awkwardly: “Well, I’m afraid that’s a problem that we have with time compression. I don’t know what they saw in ‘47, but I’m quite sure it probably was Project Mogul. But I think if you find that people talk about things over a period of time, they begin to lose exactly when the date was.” For the record, “time compression” was the 1990s equivalent of what we now know and utterly loathe as, ahem, “alternative facts.”