In early July 1947, something crashed to Earth, approximately a two-hour drive from the New Mexico city of Roswell. The specific location was the remote, expansive Foster Ranch, in Lincoln County. A rancher named William Ware Brazel stumbled on a huge field of strange debris – tough and very light foil which extended over a distance of more than 600 feet. Brazel was unsure of what he should do and who he should tell about the incredible discovery. Neighbors suspected that what had come down on the ranch was one of those Flying Saucers that had been reported in the nation’s newspapers since June 24, 1947, which was the date on which a squadron of such craft was made by a pilot named Kenneth Arnold, near Mount Rainier, Washington State. Incredibly, after Brazel contacted the local police – who, in turn contacted staff at the Roswell Army Air Field – the military put out a statement that what was found was a Flying Saucer. It was a story that made worldwide news. At least, for a short time. That statement was hastily retracted the next day, however, when the Army Air Force (as it was known at the time) assured everyone that the whole thing was a mistake.
Over-excitement and mis-identification was the cause of all the fuss. What was really found, said the military, was nothing stranger than an ordinary weather-balloon. The military did not, however, explain why trained personnel from the base couldn't recognize a weather-balloon when they saw it. Nor did this explain the rumors flying around town that William Brazel didn’t just find a huge field of debris. The story goes that he also stumbled upon several decomposing, small bodies that did not look human. Warned by the military never again to speak about the mysterious affair, Brazel did exactly that. Whatever he really knew, it went to the grave with him. The Roswell affair quickly slid into obscurity until the late 1970s. That was when UFO researchers Bill Moore and Stanton Friedman began to look deeply into the matter. Roswell was about to be resurrected. The result was Moore's book (co-written with Charles Berlitz), The Roswell Incident. Today, more than forty years after Moore and Friedman began their work, the case is known all across the world. Hundreds of people have come forward concerning their knowledge of the puzzle – as well as testifying to their first-hand awareness of the incident. Elderly whistle-blowers and military retirees speak of seeing the small, large-headed bodies out in the desert. Others talk of being ordered to recover all of the wreckage and never again make mention of what they saw – which, for the most part, was the case until they decided, in their final years, to reveal the truth. The weather-balloon angle was the government’s answer to Roswell for decades. Specifically until 1993. That's when things changed and Roswell became an even more intriguing case.
It was in 1993 that, at the time the Congressman for New Mexico, Steven Schiff, waded into the controversy, demanding to know the truth. He wrote to Les Aspin, the Secretary of Defense at that time, the following: "Last fall I became aware of a strange series of events beginning in New Mexico over 45 years ago and involving personnel of what was then the Army Air Force. I have since reviewed the facts in some detail, and I am writing to request your assistance in arriving at a definitive explanation of what transpired and why." Aspin chose not to reply to Schiff. That task was given to Colonel Larry G. Shockley, of the Air Force. Shockley informed Schiff that he had "referred this matter to the National Archives and Records Administration for direct reply to you." The response from the National Archives' staff did not please Schiff or his staff: "The U.S. Air Force has retired to our custody its records on Project Blue Book relating to the investigations of unidentified flying objects. Project Blue Book has been declassified and the records are available for examination in our research room. The project closed in 1969 and we have no information after that date. We have received numerous requests concerning records relating to the Roswell incident among these records. We have not located any documentation relating to this event in Project Blue Book records, or in any other pertinent Defense Department records in our custody."
Angry and frustrated, Congressman Schiff approached the General Accounting Office and requested they try and resolve things. Notably, the Air Force began its own investigation, which many UFO researchers felt amounted to damage-control and an attempt to steer the GAO away from the dark truth. On July 28, 1995, Schiff got a reply from the GAO. Within that reply was what the Air Force assured the GAO was the real truth of Roswell. The GAO's statement to Schiff began as follows: "On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information office in Roswell, New Mexico, reported the crash and recovery of a 'flying disc.' Army Air Forces personnel from the RAAF's 509th Bomb Group were credited with the recovery. The following day, the press reported that the Commanding General of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, Fort Worth, Texas, announced that RAAF personnel had recovered a crashed radar-tracking (weather) balloon, not a 'flying disc.' After nearly 50 years, speculation continues on what crashed at Roswell. Some observers believe that the object was of extraterrestrial origin. In the July 1994 Report of Air Force Research Regarding the Roswell Incident, the Air Force did not dispute that something happened near Roswell, but reported that the most likely source of the wreckage was from a balloon-launched classified government project designed to determine the state of Soviet nuclear weapons research. The debate on what crashed at Roswell continues."
The GAO continued: "Concerned that the Department of Defense (DOD) may not have provided you with all available information on the crash, you asked us to determine the requirements for reporting air accidents similar to the crash near Roswell and identify any government records concerning the Roswell crash. We conducted an extensive search for government records related to the crash near Roswell. We examined a wide range of classified and unclassified documents dating from July 1947 through the 1950s. These records came from numerous organizations in New Mexico and elsewhere throughout DOD as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Council. The GAO explained: In 1947, Army regulations required that air accident reports be maintained permanently. We identified four air accidents reported by the Army Air Forces in New Mexico during July 1947. All of the accidents involved military aircraft and occurred after July 8, 1947 - the date the RAAF public information office first reported the crash and recovery of a 'flying disc' near Roswell."
And, finally on the matter: "The Navy reported no air accidents in New Mexico during July 1947. Air Force officials told us that according to record- keeping requirements in effect during July 1947, there was no requirement to prepare a report on the crash of a weather balloon. In our search for records concerning the Roswell crash, we learned that some government records covering RAAF activities had been destroyed and others had not. For example, RAAF administrative records (from Mar. 1945 through Dec. 1949) and RAAF outgoing messages (from Oct. 1946 through Dec. 1949) were destroyed. The document disposition form does not indicate what organization or person destroyed the records and when or under what authority the records were destroyed."
It must be said that GAO staff, the UFO researcher community, and Congressman Schiff were all surprised by the fact that certain files from the Roswell base had been destroyed, and under circumstances that could not be determined. Those files have never been found.