Jul 29, 2022 I Nick Redfern

The Strange Affair of the 50th "Anniversary" of the Roswell "UFO" Crash

It’s hardly surprising that 1997 was the year in which the Roswell 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 – mostly from the perspective of promoting and championing the alien angle. That was not the case for exactly everyone, however. 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. 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 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), arguably only heightened the interest in what did or did not occur.

(Nick Redfern) One of the "Roswell Dummies"

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?” 

(Nick Redfern) Out at the crash site

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.” For the record, “time compression” was the 1990s equivalent of what we now know and loathe as, ahem, “alternative facts.” Another source that promoted a non-E.T-driven theory for Roswell in 1997 was Popular Mechanics magazine. Notably, its staff were focusing on a theory that was not at all dissimilar to the one which appeared in my Body Snatchers in the Desert book. To say it was near-identical would not be an exaggeration. In the July 1997 edition of the magazine, there appeared an article titled “Roswell Plus 50.” It was penned by a journalist named James Wilson. According to Wilson, Popular Mechanics had been “alerted” to a then-forthcoming declassification of documents that might go a significant way towards finally resolving Roswell. Who, exactly, was behind the alerting was not revealed. This new story was not, however, a nod in the direction of the crash-test dummy saga. Or even a Mogul balloon. It was heading down a path towards something far more controversial; the kind of controversy that no-one “in the know” wanted investigating and / or exposing.

Wilson told his readers that “the documents scheduled for future release will tell of a Japanese counterpart to Operation Paperclip. One of its purposes was to determine if the Japanese had constructed a suicide-piloted version of the Fugo incendiary bomb.” Wilson continued it was the opinion of Popular Mechanics that “the craft that crashed at Roswell will eventually be identified as either a U.S. attempt to re-engineer a second-generation Fugo, or a hybrid craft which uses both Fugo lifting technology and Horten-inspired lifting-body. In either case, Japanese engineers and pilots brought to the U.S. after the war to work on the project could have been the dead ‘alien’ bodies recovered at the crash site.”

(Nick Redfern) Desert secrets

Ultimately, the Japanese-themed documents to which Wilson referred remained buried. The whole, mysterious saga made me seriously wonder if there was a secret war going on within the world of the military and the intelligence community – with one side trying to get the truth out about Roswell and the other side steadfastly determined to ensure it never reached the light of day. I still think, today, that may well be the case. And, finally, that there was a Horten-UFO connection is not a matter of any doubt. On this matter of the Horten brothers, we should note the following Air Force report of January 3, 1952 – specifically on the subject of flying saucer sightings investigated by the Air Force in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Brigadier General W.M. Garland stated something to General John A. Samford, the Air Force Director of Intelligence, which makes this connection abundantly clear by touching upon the work of the Horten brothers:

“It is logical to relate the reported sightings to the known development of aircraft, jet propulsion, rockets and range extension capabilities in Germany and the USSR. In this connection, it is to be noted that certain developments by the Germans, particularly the Horten wing, jet propulsion, and refueling, combined with their extensive employment of V-l and V-2 weapons during World War II, lend credence to the possibility that the flying objects may be of German and Russian origin.” Someone in all of this there are the answers to Roswell. But, the outcome won't be happy one for Ufologists. In fact, it will cause Roswell to absolutely crumble.

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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