The 1947 crash of a disc-shaped aircraft in Roswell kicked off UFO speculation worldwide. In fact, the disc was a Russian spy plane -- one of many eye-opening revelations in the new book "AREA 51: An Uncensored History."
Like Fox Mulder, some people still want to believe.
On July 8, 1947, a crash in Roswell, N.M., was the spark that started UFO fever burning in the U.S. And for some, that passion is just as intense today as when they first learned that a crash in the desert had been labeled a UFO -- and quickly re-labeled a weather balloon by government officials.
"It was not a damn weather balloon -- it was what it was billed when people first reported it," Chase Brandon, a 35-year CIA veteran, told the Huffington Post. His comments came on July 8, 2012 -- 65 years after the Roswell Daily Record newspaper ran a front page article claiming “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region.”
"It was a craft that clearly did not come from this planet, it crashed and I don't doubt for a second that the use of the word 'remains' and 'cadavers' was exactly what people were talking about."
Brandon claims to have seen photographs and written material in a special section of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., called the Historical Intelligence Collection that conclusively proved to his mind that the crash was alien.
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'It was a craft that clearly did not come from this planet.'
- 35-year CIA veteran Chase Brandon
Brandon refused to explain what he had seen, however, and with the government classification, his persistent belief was understandable. Hard facts have been hard to come by; many of the documents are still officially redacted, such as the July 8 teletype from the FBI Dallas field office advising that the “flying saucer” was officially just a “weather balloon.”
Others see the event differently, notably Annie Jacobsen, whose 2011 book “Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base” offers a very different view of events.
Jacobsen, a contributing editor and investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times Magazine, interviewed dozens of former Area 51 employees in 2008 and 2009 -- a total of 74 scientist, pilots and engineers -- shortly after the CIA declassified much of the work they had done, including countless pages of redacted memos and declassified reports.
They revealed what really went on in the Nevada desert, from testing nuclear reactions to building super-secret, supersonic jets to pursuing the war on terror. And that book explained that test flights of the U-2 spy plane, built at the mysterious Area 51 test site, were often confused for UFOs -- fueling the stories surrounding the facility.
The FBI on UFOs
In 1947, a rash of sightings of unexplained flying objects (UFOs) swept America. Although the newly formed U.S. Air Force was the primary investigator of these sightings, the FBI received many reports and worked for a time with the Air Force to investigate these matters.
Sift through the 1997 Air Force report ("The Roswell Report: Case Closed").
Then Browse the FBI's records from 1947 to 1954 online.
Then decide for yourself: Were they aliens? Weather balloons? Or something else entirely?
“As soon as the U-2s started flying out of Area 51, reports of UFO sightings by commercial airline pilots and air traffic controllers began to inundate CIA headquarters,” Jacobsen’s book explained.
Her book also offers a bizarre explanation for the 1947 event: unspeakable German experiments during World War II led to a handful of children being used as pilots, whose distorted bodies resembled aliens.
Believe it or not, but despite decades of analysis and theories, many simply refuse to believe the official Air Force explanation, issued in 1994, that the event at Roswell was simply a weather balloon.
"’Aliens’ observed in the New Mexico desert were actually anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high-altitude balloons for scientific research,” explained a report from the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.
“Claims of ‘alien bodies’ at the Roswell Army Air Field hospital were most likely a combination of two separate incidents: a 1956 KC-97 aircraft accident in which 11 Air Force members lost their lives; and a 1959 manned balloon mishap in which two Air Force pilots were injured.”
“Case closed,” the report concluded.
Area 51 is still officially a military secret, unmentioned by name, Jacobsen notes.