The event we know today as the “Roswell Incident” gave rise to the modern UFO sightings movement, as well as the genre of extraterrestrial science fiction.
The men claimed to have been abducted by aliens. In Mississippi, the police believed them.
“For centuries people have seen things they can’t explain,” said Roger Launius, retired historian and curator of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “In previous generations, they called them angels, demons, deities or whatever. This changes with the Scientific Revolution, where people began to wonder if the points of light they see are alien in nature.
The fertile ground for Roswell has been sown under the darkening mushroom cloud of the nuclear age. World War II had ended less than two years earlier, and the United States and the Soviet Union seemed to be on the brink of another global conflict. The term “Cold War” was coined by George Orwell in a 1945 essay and entered modern consciousness when Bernard Baruch, adviser to President Harry S. Truman, uttered it in a speech in the spring of 1947.
Amid this heightened apprehension came the first news of “flying saucers” – and the first mention of the term in print, according to the Oxford English Dictionary – on June 24. Media across the country reported that a civilian pilot named Ken Arnold said he spotted glowing objects streaking across the sky at supersonic speeds near Mount Rainier in Washington.
Some officials have suggested that the fast lights may have been military-tested rockets or jets. Nonetheless, public hysteria erupted over the following weeks, with more than 800 similar sightings reported across the country – many of which were deemed “copycat” events by law enforcement and military officials.
“When Ken Arnold sees this stuff, it’s overstated in the tabloids,” Launius said. “It gets hype in the press and builds from there. If the present doesn’t tell you that Americans love conspiracies, I don’t know. It doesn’t. was no different in 1947.”
While all of this was going on, an unsuspecting Brazel tended the sheep and cattle on his ranch in New Mexico. Without a radio or newspaper, he was isolated from the outside world. The rancher gave little thought to the unusual debris he found strewn across his pastures.
On July 5, Brazel went to Corona on a Saturday night and learned what everyone was talking about. He began to wonder if there was a connection. On Monday, he collected the strange material and returned to town to inform local authorities of his discovery. The sheriff visited Brazel’s ranch, then contacted the military.
The debris was transported to Fort Worth Army Air Field in Texas, where military experts claimed it was from a crashed weather balloon. However, before this statement was forwarded to Roswell, the New Mexico base sent out the press release regarding the “flying saucer” discovery. Lt. Walter Haut, Roswell’s public information officer, later claimed that the base commander, Col. William H. Blanchard, ordered him to use this description.
For a few days the world’s attention was focused on Roswell, NM But most people seemed satisfied with the military’s explanation, and the story quickly faded.
It did not explode again until 1978, when the National Enquirer published an article about the incident. Suddenly new versions of the event emerged – some of the original participants – with reports of actual spacecraft, alien bodies and a government cover-up adding new layers to the legend.
“The story seems to get better with each retelling,” Launius said. “Initially, there was no discussion of alien bodies. ‘era.
They claimed they had hit a creature from outer space on a highway in Georgia. People got excited.
The story evolved with a seemingly endless array of articles, books, films, and documentaries about what “really happened” in the New Mexico desert. In 1993, viewers were introduced to the long-running series “The X-Files,” whose fictional stories of FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Sculley tracking alien abductions and an international conspiracy only added fuel. on the fire.
Many people involved in the incident have changed their descriptions of the events over time, including the government. In 1947, the CIA and the military feared that these “flying saucers” were in fact a new technology used by the Soviets. When the Air Force retracted its first statement, it wasn’t very clear about the origins of the debris, likely because it was hiding a secret.
“The weather balloon was a cover story,” Launius said. “The best evidence suggests it was a Project Mogul listening device that they recovered pieces of.”
Project Mogul was a military program designed to intercept Russian radio messages via high-altitude balloons, which would eventually deflate and fall to Earth. Several crash sites have been identified across the country. In 1994, a US Air Force report identified the top-secret project as the likely source of the debris found in New Mexico.
Launius said the UFO sightings of the summer of 1947 were the result of a world consumed by fear of an apocalypse.
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“Just in the United States between 1947 and 1960 there were a total of 6,523 UFO reports,” he said. “There seems to be a direct link between public perception of the reality of space travel and these UFO sightings. I am convinced that the rapid increase in the number of UFOs reported at the start of the Cold War was the result of heightened tensions as everyone watched the skies for warning of a nuclear attack.
But even if the Roswell incident could be explained by a military program, subsequent events in the sky remain a mystery. On July 19, 1952, almost exactly five years after Brazel reported the strange debris on his ranch, a series of UFO sightings occurred over Washington, D.C. Airline pilots reported seeing flashes of light streaking across the sky, and radar operators were puzzled by the speed. move blips across their screens. The Air Force dispatched jets to intercept the objects, which disappeared and never returned. The event of 70 years ago has never been explained.
As the poster for Mulder’s office in “The X-Files” says, “I want to believe.”