Roswell. Inquiries, Secrecy and Disinformation


by Gildas Bourdais, February 2004




Roswell may be the most famous name, regarding UFOs, but it is also the most abused. Let's recall that it refers to the alleged accident , in 1947, of a "flying disk", or "flying saucer", as they were then called, near Roswell, New Mexico. On July 8, 1947, the base of the atomic bombers of Roswell issued a press release announcing the discovery of a flying disk in the vicinity of the town. But this spectacular discovery, in the midst of a wave of observations of these mysterious crafts - the first great mediatic wave of UFOs - was denied in the evening by General Ramey, Commander of the Eighth Air Force, in Fort Worth, Texas : the Air Force officers at Roswell had found a weather balloon and its radar target, and had mistaken it for a saucer ! The press accepted at once this explanation, and the incident was forgotten during thirty years. However, in 1978, american ufologist Stanton Friedman found almost by chance a key witness, the former Major Jesse Marcel, in charge of security on the base, who had picked up debris in the field. Marcel, then retired in Louisiana, confirmed to Friedman that these materials were very strange and did not look like anything known. That's how the Roswell case was reopened, and it has been subjected to many inquiries, followed by a lot of publications, books, articles and debates, mainly during the last twenty years. Several teams of researchers have accomplished considerable work and have found many witnesses, who have made Roswell to become one of the best documented cases. And yet, it remains poorly known, even in ufological circles. How can that be ? Probably because none other has endured more confusion, contraditory claims, and, obviously, disinformation.


Confusion and disinformation

In 1995, I had written a book on Roswell, called "Are they here already ? Extraterrestrials : the Roswell Case" (Sont-ils déjà là ? Extraterrestres : l'affaire Roswell, Presses du Châtelet , in Paris). That book is sold out, and it needed, in any case, a serious updating, because many things have happened since. This is what I have attempted to do in my new book, "Roswell. Inquiries, Secrecy and Disinformation" (Roswell. Enquêtes, secret et désinformation, JMG Editions, February 2004) (1).



When you mention the "Roswell crash", it refers for many people to the "hoax of the autopsy of an extraterrestrial of Roswell", and nothing else. The main event, in effect, and the most destructive, has been the diffusion, by a little british music producer, of a film supposed to show the autopsy of an extraterrestrial discovered near Roswell. That strange film, denounced at once as a fake, made a big scandal and caused considerable damage, not only to the Roswell affair, but to ufology in general, with the help of skeptics who were eager to practice this kind of lumping together. This is one of the important points that need to be analysed, in order to understand how much the Roswell file was plunged into confusion, but there are many others points to examine.

In 1994, the US Air Force, pressed by an inquiry which had been opened by the General Accounting Office (GAO) of the Congress, at the request of congressman Steven Schiff, replaced the initial explanation of the weather balloon with a more complex one, a "train" of twenty to thirty weather balloons attached to a line, called "Mogul", launched at the base of White Sands. It was, they explained, a very secret project to develop a means of detection of future sovietic atomic explosions, and it is the reason why its discovery had been hidden at the time. But, in spite of the publication in 1995 of an enormous, one thousand pages document, The Roswell Report, and in 1997 of a second book, bravely titled The Roswell Report. Case Closed, the american military were unable to bring any serious evidence for this new explanation. Not the faintest bit of paper, telex, archived note, which would prove it beyond doubt. On the contrary, their documentation shows fairly clearly that the balloon train Mogul number 4, the only one which might have, theoretically, caused that blunder, had most probably never been launched !

It is one of the new aspects that I have developped in my book. On the contrary, testimonies on the very secret discovery of an alien craft an non human bodies, in the area of Roswell, have been rather reinforced in the last few years. To tell the truth, there have been some demises, such as thoses of Frank Kaufmann and Jim Ragsdale, which have been duly pointed out by the skeptics, such as Karl Pflock (a curious american ufologist who does not try to hide that he was a CIA agent), but other witnesses have been found, with the result that the case of the UFO still holds. Thus, there is a work to do of "rehabilitation" of the Roswell case, so to speak. To give an idea, I suggest to have a look at the detailed summary of my book, at the end of this article. For the moment, I propose to have a closer look at this funny story of balloons that the airmen of Roswell whould have mistaken for a flying saucer.

Saucer or balloon ?

In 1994, the US Air Force conceded that it had not told "the whole truth" : it was in fact a huge balloon train, very secret, complete with radar targets and intruments. But it is easy to show the weak points of this new balloon story. First, its various componnts were not more mysterious than a single balloon. Can twenty balloons make a saucer ? Of course, not. It would have been enough, for the Roswell officers, to identify one single element of this mundane gear, to close the case. For instance, one of the fragile balsa wood struts used as the frame of the radar targets, which looked more like a kite than a flying disk ! Or even one of the instruments attached to the nylon line, which were not more mysterious : ballast reservoir, electric battery, radio transmitter, "sonobuoy" which looked like a mere metallic can. Furthermore, these instrument were not even recovered on the Foster ranch, neither by the rancher "Mack" Brazel, nor by the military who came to retrieve the debris. There is no tangible proof whatsoever of the "Mogul" theory, not even the famous "flowered tape" of the radar targets, on which I will come back later.

Another question quickly comes to mind, about the press release : how could these officers of an elite corps, not only make such a clumsy mistake - if we are to believe the Air Force - but, in addition to that, aggravate their case dramatically by making that extraordinary announcement, flying in the face of the most elementary rules of military secrecy, to which they were especially well trained ? It is not the least mystery of that July 8 incident. For such a mistake, they should have been severely reprimended, yet it was not the case. Colonel William Blanchard, who was the commander of that base, made later a remarkable career, up to the top of the Air Force, as a four stars General. Major Jesse Marcel, the man who had retrieved debris in the field, was very well noted by his chiefs, before and after the incident, as demonstrated by his military file, contrary to the harsh critics which have been let out against him in recent years. He was promoted some months later at a post of responsability at the Pentagon, where he had, precisely, to deal with the means of detection of future sovietic atomic bombs ! If Marcel had really made such a blunder, would he have been picked up for such a post ? Furthermore, would he have liked to talk about it thirty years later with researchers on Roswell ? At the time of the denial at Fort Worth, Marcel had his picture taken with the balloon remnants, but he has confirmed, contrary to certain allegations aiming at spreading confusion, that the picture we have seen published was not with the "real" debris. This is one of the polemical aspects which I tried to clarify in my book.



Major Jesse Marcel photographed with debris of balloon and radar target

The hypothesis of the Mogul balloon train has been defended relentlesly by the skeptics, first of all by professor Charles Moore (not to be confused with ufologist William "Bill" Moore). He was at the time a young student and member of the team of New York University (NYU) in charge of developping those balloon trains. In 1995, Charles Moore launched into byzantine calculations in order to prove that the Mogul balloon train number 4, the only one which could theoretically be the culprit because it was supposed to have radar targets, had landed on the ranch of Brazel at the precise place where he had found the mysterious debris field. But tenacious ufologists, prominently David Rudiak and Brad Sparks, have exposed how fallacious those calculations were (which also contained hidden mistakes and manipulations), Moore having in fact no solid data on that alleged launching, and having been compelled to rely on data of other flights. They have done a remarkable work, but it is possible, I believe, to make a simpler and more radical critic : very probably, that balloon train had not been launched ! It appears clearly in the documents included in the thick Roswell Report of the Air Force, in particular the reports of the New York University, which do not mention at all a Mogul 4 flight, and the diary of geophysicist Albert Crary, who was the manager of these launchings. He wrote clearly that the flight had been cancelled during the night of June 3 to 4 because of cloudy weather. After that cancellation, Crary launched in the morning a more simple balloon cluster, such as the NYU team would launch everyday in White Sands, for the purpose of training and testing equipments.


"Typical radar target flight train used by the NYU balloon group in 1947"

(The USAF Roswell Report)

Those clusters were made up of three to five weather balloons (up to seven according to Karl Pflock), and two or three radar targets. Crary wrote in his diary that he had hung to it a sonobuoy, which would have probably required a couple more balloons, but it was still far from a full fledged "Mogul" balloon train. What may have happenned, on the other hand, is that one of those little clusters - the one of June 4, or another one - fell on the ranch of Brazel, and that he found it on June 14, as he told the military, and later to the press, under their direction. But this find, to which he had not attached any importance, had nothing to do with his discovery of a wide field of strange debris, at the beginning of July, which had motivated his trip to Roswell, and the instant mobilisation the military. This would explain very simply why Brazel had mentioned, among the balloon debris found on June 14, some adhesive tape adorned with stylized flower drawings, which happened to have been used to reinforce the radar targets launched by New York University. The skeptics have made a big fuss with that detail to "explain" the strange symbols noticed by Major Marcel and his son on the real debris, but in reality this argument is ridicule and explains nothing.

The elite airmen of Roswell would never have mistaken such materials, with flower patterns on adhesive tape, for those of a flying saucer and, to make the matter worse, announced it to the world. The explanation of the US Air Force is just as fragile as the little weather balloons and radar targets upon which it is forced to rely. On the contrary, there is a large body of testimonies regarding the discovery of a craft and non human corpses, which I present in detail in my book. The only positive aspect of the Air Force report is to have discarded other hypotheses, which we eliminate as well, such as the accident of a secret plane, of a rocket, or or of an atomic bomber. The complete survey of the case allows us to maintain that the hypothesis of the UFO is still valid.

Gildas Bourdais


  1. Gildas Bourdais, "Roswell. Inquiries, Secrecy and Disinformation" (Roswell. Enquêtes, secret et désinformation), JMG Editions, France, 2004. Gildas Bourdais may be joined at

Detailed summary :

Foreword for the second edition

Chapter 1 : The incident of July 8, 1947

The strange press release of the Roswell base - The denial by General Ramey - Could elite airmen mistake a balloon for a saucer ? - Did Colonel Blanchard decide alone that press release ? - Agitation in the High military spheres - The Roswell incident, high point of the 1947 UFO wave.

Chapter 2 : Strange debris

Thirty years of silence, and first inquiries, in 1978 - The testimony of Major Jesse Marcel - The controversial testimony of Lydia Sleppy - What role did the FBI play in 1947 ? -

1988 : new inquiries, by Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt - A vast debris field - What dimensions ? Was there a gouge dug in the ground ? - Very strange debris -

Two important witnesses : Captain Cavitt and M/Sgt Rickett - The main types of debris - The rancher and journalists under pressure - The differing testimony of the rancher's daughter.

Chapter 3 : The "Mogul" balloon controversy

The case of the Air Force : a "Mogul" balloon train - Before Mogul, other hypotheses - A japanese balloon-bomb ? - A V-2 rocket or an experimental plane ? - An atomic bomber accident ?- A phenomenon from another dimension ? -

1994 : The inquiry of the GAO, of the Congress - The balloon trains of New York University (NYU) - Could that equipment be mistaken for a "flying saucer" ? - Fragile radar targets - "Flowered tape" of "hieroglyphics" ? - The controversial hypnosis of Dr Jesse Marcel Jr -

Helium filled balloons cannot explode - A debris field much too large for Mogul - Which balloon train ? - Mogul balloon train, or small balloon cluster ? - The Mogul flight 4 had been cancelled ! - The complicated trajectory of Mogul 4 according to Charles Moore - No mogul, no documents, no witnesses.

Chapter 4 : The Fort Worth cover up

The main witnesses : DuBose, Marcel, Porter - The changing testimony of W.O. Irving newton - Bill Moore and Shandera, the researchers who confuse everything - In 1989, Bill Moore confessed to have made disinformation - 1991 : the interviews of DuBose by Moore and Shandera - the refutation by Randle and Schmitt - Bond Johnson picks up the claim of Moore and Shandera - Enters the RPIT team - The deciphering ot General Ramey's telex.

Chapter 5 : a UFO and bodies ?

The confessions of engineer Barnett - The hypothesis of the plains of San Agustin - The discredited testimony of Gerald Anderson - In search of the archeological tem - The controversial testimony of Glenn Dennis - 1994 : the "revised" scenario of Randle and Schmitt - Jim Ragsdale, a testimony which turns to science-fiction - Frank Kaufmann, a major witness discredited -

Credible testimonies on the UFO and alien bodies - What dit sherif Wilcox know ? - Important military witnesses - Two former Majors - Chester Barton, a remarkable military witness - A surviving extraterrestrial ? - An important witness intercepted ! - "Tex", a witness who does not gather unanimity - Still other witnesses - Four points of convergence - Corpses at the Brazel ranch ? - Indirect witnesses, having seen documents - The trails of Wright-Patterson and Kirtland-Sandia - An explanation of the press release ?

Chapter 6 : the "scandal" of the autopsy

1995 : a dangerous turning point for Roswell and for ufology - The debate : hoax or authentic footage ? - It was not an ordinary hoax - Serious critics, but not decisive ones - The debate on the body - The critics of Theresa Carlson -

An operation of disinformation ? Is that film in the archives of the Air Force and CIA ? - A new witness, Mike Maloney - The unbelievable tale of the cameraman - Another crash, in the Socorro area ? - Still another trail : Oscura Peak, according to the MJ-12 documents !

Chapter 7 : New controversies

1997 : The Roswell Report : Case Closed. Martians in parachutes ! - The UFO controversy revived by the CIA - The all out critic of Kent Jeffrey - The debate over military documents - Violent attacks against Major Marcel - An officer very well noted by his chiefs - The controversial book of Colonel Corso - UFO fragments : true of false ? - 1997 : the fragment analysed by Dr VernonClark - Suddenly, many fragments appear -

2002-2003 : Roswell revived in the medias.

List of notes

Annexed documents


Back to "Articles"

Back to the main menu