Feb 28, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Roswell: The First Days Were the Most Important Ones

Over the decades numerous people in the UFO field have investigated the Roswell affair of July 1947. It was, however, the first hours and days of the event that are the most important. And that's the theme of today's article: focusing on the case from the moment it began and when everything was shut down and presented as nothing stranger than a weather-balloon. When it comes to the issue of what really happened on what was once known as the Foster Ranch, Lincoln County, New Mexico in early July 1947, there are things we know, things we suspect, and things we will probably never know. But, that something happened – something which caused the U.S. Air Force to offer multiple explanations for the event – is not a matter of any doubt at all. It was an incident that clearly concerned elements of not just the military, but the government, too, and to a highly significant degree. Eye-witnesses – both military and civilian – were warned not to talk about what they had seen and / or heard. More than a few of those warnings crossed the line and can only accurately be described as death threats. People were plunged into states of fear. Lives were changed forever; even scarred. Some lives may have ended; as in terminated.

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(Nick Redfern) Dummies, Aliens or Human Guinea-Pigs at Roswell?

It was on July 8, 1947 that the strange event surfaced publicly. Associated Press (among many other news outlets) reported on the startling, then-breaking news: "The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chavez County. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Major Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters."

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(Nick Redfern) The old ranch: Where it all happened

The story was quickly picked up not just across the United States, but across the planet, too. In barely no time at all, however, the flying disc angle was blown out of the sky: the whole thing was nothing but a huge, embarrassing mistake. The materials found on the massive ranch – by rancher William Ware "Mack" Brazel – were not the remains of a disc, after all. What had really been found, and subsequently collected and brought to the Roswell Army Air Field, was weather-balloon debris. Or, so the military was careful to try and assure everyone. With Brazel at the time of the discovery – that had actually occurred days earlier – was a young boy named Dee Proctor. He would go on to be one of the most important people in the Roswell story. We also know for sure that three, key military men, all of whom were destined to become part and parcel of the Roswell affair, were also present at the ranch – and specifically before a veritable battalion was on-site and ordered to recover the massive amount of whatever-it-was. They were Major Jesse Marcel, the intelligence-office of the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell; Captain Sheridan Cavitt, of the Counter-Intelligence Corps; and CIC Master Sergeant Lewis S. "Bill" Rickett. All three were at ground-zero. They all saw the wreckage. Years later Marcel would open up wide on the matter of the debris he saw and collected. Cavitt and Rickett may have seen more than debris. Way more. Possibly bodies, strange bodies. Brazel and little Dee may have seen one or more of those bodies, too.

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(Nick Redfern) The expansive area near where "something" came down

When the media revealed the weather-balloon explanation, something amazing happened: Roswell was largely, and very quickly, forgotten. Granted, those implicated in the affair never forgot what they saw and experienced. But, the media certainly moved on to other things. Plus, back in 1947 there were no UFO research groups around to look into the case. The result? Aside from a few, occasional, brief references in books and magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, Roswell was for all intents and purposes dead and buried – which is precisely how those charged with keeping the disturbing secret wanted it. Things changed, however, in the mid-to-late 1970s. Both William Moore and Stanton Friedman were eagerly pursuing the Roswell story by then; it was a story that was slowly but surely destined to be resurrected. It was Friedman who found the now-elderly Jesse Marcel. The long-retired major had a most interesting story to tell: "I saw a lot of wreckage but no complete machine. It had disintegrated before it hit the ground. The wreckage was scattered over an area about three quarters of a mile long and several hundred feet wide. I was pretty well acquainted with most everything that was in the air at that time, both ours and foreign. I was also acquainted with virtually every type of weather-balloon or radar-tracking device being used by either the civilians or the military. What it was we didn’t know. We just picked up the fragments…it certainly wasn’t anything built by us."

Mack Brazel’s son, Bill, would later say that what was found on the Foster Ranch was "…something on the order of tinfoil except that [it] wouldn’t tear…You could wrinkle it and lay it back down and it immediately resumed its original shape. Quite pliable, but you couldn’t crease or bend it like ordinary metal. Almost like a plastic, but definitely metallic in nature." When Friedman spoke with Bill Rickett, in 1985, the also-long-retired Counter-Intelligence Corps man revealed a few snippets of information on what happened, but practically froze like a deer caught in headlights when Friedman brought up the matter of bodies. It was clearly an issue Rickett had no intention of discussing – and he didn’t. As for Sheridan Cavitt, he proved to be one of the most intriguing figure in the entire story. He revealed very little of substance. On occasion, he even denied having ever been at Roswell or at the crash site. Cavitt may even have withheld what he knew of the incident when, in 1994, the Air Force came knocking on his front-door, wanting answers – as will become clear later on.

Since the days of the late 1970s and the 1980s, Roswell has risen to stratospheric proportions. Researchers  Don Schmitt and Tom Carey have investigated the mystery to significant degrees. They continue to do so. The Air Force and the Government Accountability Office have both published reports on the case. Numerous non-fiction books and novels, television documentaries, and a movie have been made on the world famous affair. The number of people who have spoken out about their knowledge of what happened – whether first-, second-, or third-hand – is now well into the hundreds. The case, however, still remains the enigma it always has been.

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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