It’s hardly surprising that 1997 was the year in which the Roswell “UFO” affair reached its pinnacle. It was, after all, the 50th anniversary of the mysterious event. Just about everyone who was anyone in Ufology was commenting on, or writing about, the case. And, unsurprisingly, mostly from the perspective of promoting and championing the alien angle. That was not the case for exactly everyone, however. In 1997 – three years after the U.S. Air Force championed its 1994 “Mogul Balloon Report” on Roswell was published – the Air Force made a surprising acknowledgement that the reported sightings of strange bodies at Roswell did have a basis in fact. 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 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), only heightened the interest in what did or did not occur in early July 1947.
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 vicinity 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?”” Air Force spokesman, Colonel John Haynes 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.”
It should be said that the Air Force still stands by its Mogul balloon and crash-test dummy scenario. And, it’s unlikely that those two scenarios will go away. Unlike so many people in Ufology, however, I don’t think that the Air Force of today knows what happened way back in 1947. And that also goes for the Air Force of 1997, when the 50th anniversary of the near-legendary affair came around. My tentative view is that someone knows what happened back in 1947 on the Foster Ranch, and someone knows where the old files are still kept. Or, rather a select group knows the truth. But, the numbers of people who are “in the know” are small. Indeed, small enough to make sure that the truth doesn’t leak out. And, finally, both Ufologists and the Air Force have one thing in common: they have both been denied the real story of Roswell.