The Air Force Report on Roswell

An Absence of Evidence

by Mark Rodeghier & Mark Chesney

( From: John.Powell@f4.n1010.z9.FIDONET.ORG (John Powell)
Date: 31 Mar 95 00:41:53 GMT )

(IUR, September/October 1994, Volume 19, Number 5. International UFO
Reporter, Copyright 1994 by the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies,
2457 West Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL 60659, published bimonthly with a
subscription rate of $25/yr.)

        As almost every reader of IUR must know by now, on September 8
of this year, the Air Force released a twenty-three page report,
entitled Report of Air Force Research Regarding the "Roswell Incident."
This report is dated July 1994, contains thirty-three attachments
numbering hundreds of additional pages, and purports to "stand as the
final official Air Force response regarding this matter." The release of
this report and its conclusion - that the Roswell debris came from a
top-secret balloon project - was widely reported in the media, including
by major television networks and the New York Times, which ran a cover
story on the report in its Sunday edition.

        Despite all this attention, the details of the Air Force report
and conclusion have not always been made clear. In this article, we will
explain the Air Force conclusion and the reasons they provide to support
their theory about Roswell. We will also explain why the Roswell
research community finds the Air Force hypothesis so weak and internally
inconsistent by focusing on the testimony Air Force investigators
gathered from a few carefully-chosen witnesses.

        The impetus for the Air Force report was the initiation of a
General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation early this year, at the
request of Rep. Stephen Schiff from New Mexico, as reported in the
March/April issue of IUR. It is unusual for a government agency that is
currently being investigated by the GAO to release a report to the
public, as well as to the GAO, long before a GAO inquiry is complete.
However, that is only one of the many oddities surrounding this report,
as we demonstrate.

        Whatever its content, the Air Force report marks a milestone in
ufology: Not since Project Blue Book was closed in 1969 has any agency
of the government commented at such length on any UFO incident. That the
Air Force was forced to do so says much about the depth of investigation
and evidence that affirms the unusual nature of the debris recovered
near Roswell in July 1947.

        It is impossible to print the report in its entirety in these
pages, but we begin by reproducing the Executive Summary to provide a
clear statement of the Air Force position.


                The "Roswell Incident" refers to an event that
        supposedly happened in July, 1947, wherein the Army Air Forces
        (AAF) allegedly recovered remains of a crashed "flying disc"
        near Roswell, New Mexico. In February, 1994, the General
        Accounting Office (GAO), acting on the request of a New Mexico
        Congressman, initiated an audit to attempt to locate records of
        such an incident and to determine if records regarding it were
        properly handled. Although the GAO effort was to look at a
        number of government agencies, the apparent focus was on the Air
        Force. SAF/AAZ [Security and Special Program Oversight, Office
        of the Secretary of the Air Force], as the Central Point of
        Contact for the GAO in this matter, initiated a systematic
        search of current Air Force offices as well as numerous archives
        and records centers that might help explain this matter.
        Research revealed that the "Roswell Incident" was not even
        considered a UFO event until the 1978-1980 time frame. Prior to
        that, the incident was dismissed because the AAF originally
        identified the debris recovered as being that of a weather
        balloon. Subsequently, various authors wrote a number of books
        claiming that, not only was debris from an alien spacecraft
        recovered, but also the bodies of the craft's alien occupants.
        These claims continue to evolve today and the Air Force is now
        routinely accused of engaging in a "cover-up" of this supposed

                The research located no records at existing Air Force
        offices that indicated any "cover-up" by the USAF or any
        indication of such a recovery. Consequently, efforts were
        intensified by Air Force researchers at numerous locations where
        records for the period in question were stored. The records
        reviewed did not reveal any increase in operations, security, or
        any other activity in July, 1947, that indicated any such
        unusual event may have occurred. Records were located and
        thoroughly explored concerning a then-TOP SECRET balloon
        project, designed to attempt to monitor Soviet nuclear tests,
        known as Project Mogul. Additionally, several surviving project
        personnel were located and interviewed, as was the only
        surviving person who recovered debris from the original Roswell
        site in 1947, and the former officer who initially identified
        the wreckage as a balloon. Comparison of all information
        developed or obtained indicated that the material recovered near
        Roswell was consistent with a balloon device and most likely
        from one of the Mogul balloons that had not been previously
        recovered. Air Force research efforts did not disclose any
        records of the recovery of any "alien" bodies or
        extraterrestrial materials.

        There are two important points to note immediately. It is clear
from this summary that the Air Force couldn't find any physical evidence
that proves or documentation that clearly states that a balloon from
Project Mogul was recovered by rancher Mac Brazel or officers from the
509th Bomb Group. Second, the Air Force has no Mogul balloon material
from 1947 to show to witnesses to provide a positive identification;
given the many years since the project ended, it is not surprising that
no material can be located. Still, without such confirmation, the Air
Force explanation relies upon inference from verbal testimony, not
solid, hard evidence.


        Given this lack of evidence, how can the Air Force conclude that
the debris near Roswell was from Project Mogul? The key statement in the
Executive Summary is the phrase "Comparison of all information developed
or obtained." This statement does not say "Comparison of all information
available" about the incident, and that is the crucial omission (and
admission) of the Air Force investigators. The Air Force certainly read
almost all major publications on Roswell, including books by Randle and
Schmitt, Friedman and Berliner, and the Roswell Report published by
CUFOS, so they were aware of the many witnesses interviewed by the
investigators. Nevertheless, they confined their interviews to only two
former Air Force personnel: Sheridan Cavitt, the Counter-Intelligence
Corps officer who accompanied Jesse Marcel to the ranch site; and Irving
Newton, the weather officer at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth who identified
the debris in Ramey's office as a standard weather balloon. They also
interviewed three surviving members of Project Mogul.

        Given the many, many persons who have been identified as
firsthand or secondhand Roswell witnesses, that the Air Force
interviewed only five people is truly astonishing. Two key former
military personnel whom they did not interview were General Arthur Exon,
who confirmed the presence of two sites and a gouge in the ground, and
Jesse Marcel, Jr., who handled the debris his father brought home. Nor
did they try to interview any of the other living military witnesses
mentioned in the two books by Randle and Schmitt, including Walter Haut,
who distributed the press release and still lives in Roswell.

        Many Roswell witnesses have passed away, but interviews with
some were recorded before their deaths. One would expect that the Air
Force investigators would be interested in such material, but they never
requested the tapes on which Bill Rickett, former second-in-command to
Cavitt, discussed his knowledge of the crash and recovery, or the tapes
on which Edwin Easley, Provost Marshall at Roswell in 1947, admitted
that he was still sworn to secrecy about the event (which would not be
true for Project Mogul after all these years).

        Except for Project Mogul personnel, the Air Force also decided
not to interview civilians with knowledge of the event, including Glenn
Dennis, the mortician who claims he talked to a nurse who assisted with
autopsies on alien bodies; Bill Brazel, son of Mac Brazel; or Loretta
Proctor, a former neighbor of Mac, who saw some of the debris and talked
to Mac about it.

        The Air Force's explanation for their curious lack of interest
in certain witnesses is explained on page eight of the report:

                While the historical document search was in progress, it
        was decided to attempt to locate and interview several persons
        identified as still living who could possibly answer questions
        generated by the research. . . . Again, the focus was on
        interviewing persons that could address specific issues raised
        by research and no consideration was given to try and locate
        every alleged witness claimed to have been contacted by the
        various authors. For example, one of the interviewees thought
        vital to obtain an official signed, sworn statement from was
        Sheridan Cavitt, Lt Col, USAF (Retired) who is the last living
        member of the three persons universally acknowledged to have
        recovered material from the Foster Ranch. Others were also
        interviewed as information developed.

        We surely couldn't expect the Air Force to interview every
person named in the literature on Roswell, but to have interviewed only
five persons calls into question the serious intention and true goal of
the investigation.

        The Air Force investigators did examine thousands of pages of
documents. They found no mention of the Roswell incident and the
recovery of any debris, except known documents such as the FBI telex of
July 8, 1947. Nor, as noted above, did they find any documents that
conclusively linked Project Mogul to the Roswell debris, even when they
obtained private records and, in one instance, a professional diary of
A. P. Crary, another Project Mogul staffer.

        How, then, did the Air Force decide that a Project Mogul balloon
was the source of the Roswell debris? Even though their reasoning is not
laid out this neatly in the report, here are the key facts as the Air
Force sees them:

        1. Their search of official records turned up no "information
that the 'Roswell Incident' was a UFO event." Nor was there any evidence
for the existence of any classified program that is concerned with the
storage or exploitation of the debris from Roswell, assuming it was from
an alien spacecraft.

        2. There is "no indication in official records from the period
that there was heightened military operational or security activity
which should have been generated if this was, in fact, the first
recovery of materials and/or persons from another world."

        3. Project Mogul was flying instruments from Alamogordo Army Air
Field (now Holloman Air Force Base) whose purpose was classified top
secret. These instruments were flown on huge balloon trains composed of
many balloons and radar reflectors and so would have provided a
substantial amount of potentially unusual debris.

        4. Sheridan Cavitt claimed, in his interview of May 1994, that
he immediately recognized the debris as part of a balloon.

        5. Irving Newton, in July of this year, and consistent with what
he has maintained all along, stated that what he saw in General Ramey's
office was debris from a balloon.

        6. The story about the Roswell event in the July 9 edition of
the Roswell Daily Record, quoting Mac Brazel, provides a description of
the debris that is reasonably consistent with Mogul balloon material.

        7. The photos of debris taken in General Ramey's office are
consistent with material from a balloon and radar reflector, and Mogul
staffers shown the photos felt the material could have been from one of
their balloons.

        8. Some of the witness testimony is consistent with material
from Mogul balloon material, such as the alleged use of a purplish-pink
tape with symbols on it to hold the assembly together.


        Before reviewing the testimony and reasoning the Air Force used
in the report, we note that the Air Force investigation actually
supports the work of Randle and Schmitt, who have previously been able
to show that the Roswell object could not have been a V-2 rocket, an
experimental aircraft or aircraft crash, or an atomic accident of some
kind. The Air Force found no evidence that the Roswell incident was
caused by any of these terrestrial sources, which is further proof of
the quality of prior investigation on Roswell by UFO researchers. The
upshot of this elimination of other terrestrial sources by the Air Force
is that there remains only one possible conventional source of the
Roswell debris: a Project Mogul balloon train.


        Although reports in the media, and the Air Force report itself,
seem to indicate that the balloon found near Roswell was a top-secret
Mogul balloon, the story is more complicated than that. Project Mogul
was designed to determine whether acoustic devices could detect
atmospheric shock waves from Soviet nuclear explosions. In 1947 the
Soviets had not yet successfully exploded an atomic device, but we knew
they were working to develop this capability. Since it was at that time
not possible to fly spy planes easily over Soviet territory, we needed
another long-range method of monitoring their atomic tests, and one idea
was a balloon-borne, low-frequency acoustic device that was developed by
personnel connected with New York University. The project was eventually
abandoned when the concept was found to be unworkable. Several flights
were made in June and July of 1947 that could conceivably be the source
of the Roswell debris.

        Two types of flights were conducted by the project. One type was
a test of the actual Mogul device and associated instrumentation; the
other was labeled a "service flight" by Project Engineer Charles Moore
and was not always logged. All flights seem to have been accounted for,
in one way or another, except for Flights 2 through 4, and Flight 9.
Although Flight 9 was much closer in time to the recovery of debris, the
Air Force suggests that Flight 4 was the source of the debris. Given the
existing Mogul records, it is clear that Flight 4 would have been
launched no later than June 4. We return to this point below.

        These earlier flights used neoprene meteorological balloons. The
report notes that "Professor Moore stated that the neoprene balloons
were susceptible to degradation in the sunlight, turning from a milky
white to a dark brown. He described finding remains of balloon trains
with reflectors and payloads that had landed in the desert: the ruptured
and shredded neoprene would 'almost look like dark gray or black flakes
or ashes after exposure to the sun for only a few days.'" To remain at
constant altitude, a Mogul balloon actually consisted of several
balloons, as shown on the front cover of this issue. This multi-balloon
array with associated radar reflectors, the Air Force suggests, came
down on the Foster ranch and was found by Mac Brazel on June 14.

        They base this date on the story in the July 9 Roswell Daily
Record, where Brazel is quoted at length. In fact, the Air Force relies
heavily upon this newspaper story, the photos in Ramey's office, and
their interviews with Cavitt and Mogul personnel.


        One way to criticize and expose the weaknesses of the Air Force
investigation is to demonstrate the implausibility of certain
conclusions or statements. Another is to bring evidence to bear from
other witnesses and sources that undermines the evidence presented in
the report. A third, which we pursue in this section, is to show that
there are serious problems of contradictory testimony and evidence
within the report itself that call into question the Mogul explanation.
To keep this article from running on endlessly, we focus here only on
the most glaring inconsistencies.

        Extent of the debris
        Sheridan Cavitt's signed statement to Colonel Richard Weaver
claims "The area of this debris was very small, about 20 feet square."
The July 9 newspaper article that the Air Force uses as evidence quotes
Brazel as stating that "The rubber [from the balloon] was smoky gray in
color and scattered over an area about 200 yards in diameter." These
statements can't be made to match. One of them must be wrong.

       General appearance of the debris
        Flight 4, if it was the cause of the debris, must have lain in
the sun for at least ten days (from June 4 to June 14). Professor
Charles Moore stated flatly that after some exposure to the sun,
neoprene would turn into "dark gray or black flakes or ashes." Neither
Cavitt in his interview, nor Brazel in the newspaper story described
finding this type of debris, even though the sun in June in New Mexico
is quite intense at the high altitude of the Foster ranch. Once again,
key witnesses provide contradictory testimony.

        Type of balloon
        Brazel told the newspaper reporters from the Daily Record that
"he had previously found two weather balloons on the ranch, but that
what he found this time did not in any way resemble either of these."
This statement has never been possible to square with the original Air
Force explanation that a weather balloon was the source of the Roswell
debris. It also remains difficult to reconcile with the new balloon
explanation because Flight 4 did not consist of any unusual balloon
material, despite the highly classified nature of Mogul. Flight 4 simply
consisted of several standard balloons. This is evident as well from the
testimony gathered from Irving Newton (assuming he was viewing debris
from Flight 4), who stated that "this was a balloon and a RAWIN target
[the radar reflector]." Additionally, in his signed statement made
during his interview, Cavitt claimed that "I remember recognizing this
material as being consistent with a weather balloon." The Air Force
can't have it both ways. Brazel said the stuff did not resemble a
weather balloon; Cavitt and Newton say it did.

        Symbols on the debris
        According to Colonel Albert Trakowski, the Air Force project
officer for Mogul, a purplish-pink tape with flower and heart symbols on
it was used to hold some of the flimsy Mogul balloon train together. In
his newspaper interview, Brazel does mention "some tape with flowers
printed upon it" that had been used in the construction. However,
Cavitt, who must have had a good, long look at the debris during the
recovery, stated at one point that "I do not remember any writing at all
on the thing [debris]." Even later, after being further prompted by
Colonel Weaver, the interviewer, he still said, "I don't remember
anything like that." If Cavitt's memory is correct, a major part of the
Air Force evidence is discredited. And if we are to discount his
testimony on this point, why should we accept his statements about other
aspects of the event?
        Once again, we have contradictory evidence and testimony within
the Air Force report, requiring us to accept testimony selectively from
one source or another if we are to agree with the Air Force explanation.

        Many other oddities could be mentioned, but one more must
suffice. Cavitt said that he never met Brazel, but he also admitted
recovering material from the debris field. One of us (MR) knows full
well how difficult it is to find the debris field without guidance from
a local. There is no way that Marcel and Cavitt could have driven from
Roswell to the debris field without being shown the way - all the way -
by Mac Brazel. That being the case, then Cavitt certainly did meet
Brazel. If his memory is so poor about such an obvious fact, what else
is he misremembering or still not telling?


        The most glaring, we believe, are the radically different
evaluations of the debris by Marcel and Colonel Blanchard, commanding
officer at Roswell Army Air Field. If Cavitt so easily recognized the
debris as a downed balloon, as did Irving Newton in Fort Worth, why
didn't Marcel and Blanchard? There is no logical explanation, especially
because we have to assume that Cavitt and Marcel did not stand mute on
the debris field, but instead talked about the material and its possible
origin. And if they talked at all, then Marcel and Blanchard should at
least have been cautious about going public.

        The Air Force, in its report, is aware of the difficulty of
explaining Blanchard's and Marcel's actions. The best they can suggest
is "that there was over-reaction by Colonel Blanchard and Major Marcel."
Over-reaction indeed! Now there's an understatement. The boys at Roswell
put out a press release, informing the world that the balloon they
captured was a flying disc and jeopardizing the security of Project
Mogul, even though the head counterintelligence officer has told them
the debris is from a balloon, and the best explanation is
"over-reaction." This explanation is made even more ludicrous by the
successful careers that Marcel, and especially Blanchard, had in the Air
Force after this monumental blunder, which should have resulted in
instant demotion for them if their actions were what the Air Force is
now claiming.

        It is clear from their testimony that neither Moore nor
Athelstan Spilhaus, former director of the NYU Balloon Project, heard of
the Roswell incident until approached by investigators. This is simply
not believable if the Roswell incident was caused by one of the Project
Mogul balloon flights. The events at Roswell must have been a notorious
and embarrassing incident for the Army Air Force. For security reasons,
it is inconceivable that key Mogul personnel were not told the Roswell
debris was definitely a Mogul flight. There would undoubtably be
discussions about better security arrangements after this
well-publicized farce (which came close to blowing Mogul's cover). Yet
Moore did not remember that Mogul had caused the Roswell incident when
Bill Moore interviewed him around 1980, and Spilhaus says he was unaware
of the incident until contacted this year by the Air Force. That the Air
Force does not address this issue is very troubling.

        A third point which doesn't make much sense, if the Air Force
theory is correct, is that Jesse Marcel and his family kept some of the
debris after the incident and even showed it to the Cavitts. Mary
Cavitt, Sheridan Cavitt's wife, sat in on the Air Force interview, just
as she had done during Randle and Schmitt's interviews. At two points,
she stated that Jesse brought out material when the Cavitts were
visiting. After her interjection, Cavitt himself said, "I remember. He
could have had some there at the house and it was, it looked like a foil
of some sort, and he could have tried to burn that and it didn't burn
very well. I don't know."

        Look closely at Cavitt's statement. First he said he remembered.
Then he qualified his statements with the word "could," and finally he
ended with "I don't know."  This sounds to us like a man forced by the
admissions of his wife to discuss an issue he would have preferred to

        The key question is this: If Jesse Marcel knew that the material
he and Cavitt recovered was from a balloon, either weather or Mogul,
would he have kept some of the debris around the house and brought it
out and still played around with it, as if there was something special
about it? Obviously not, if the debris was only from a standard balloon,
since weather balloons were common in the Air Force. But if the debris
really had strange properties, then he might keep it around for later
viewing and study, only showing it to other military personnel, like
Sheridan Cavitt, who had accompanied him to the site. And, too, he might
keep it because he knew the public explanation for Roswell was a cover
story, one that had used him as a scapegoat, so he wanted to retain
evidence to prove his original evaluation was correct.


        By now it should be apparent that 1) the Air Force cannot prove
that debris from a Mogul balloon train was the cause of the Roswell
incident, and 2) the report is self-contradictory and logically
inconsistent. The Air Force was quick in their report to criticize the
work of UFO researchers because "almost all their information came from
verbal reports many years after the alleged incident occurred. . . Most,
however, related their stories in their older years, well after the
fact." That description applies almost perfectly to the Air Force
report, which relies nearly exclusively upon such evidence.

        Even though Project Mogul documentation exists, there is no
paper or physical evidence to prove conclusively that a purplish-pink
tape, for example, was used in constructing the balloon trains. Yes,
former Mogul personnel claim it was so, but their statements are simply
"verbal reports many years after the alleged incident occurred." The
same is true for all the critical elements that might link Project Mogul
to Roswell.

        Colonel Weaver, head of the Air Force investigation, admitted as
much to Cavitt during the interview. He stated, in response to Cavitt's
wishing him good luck at convincing people of the Mogul explanation,
that " . . . it is going to be difficult, because like I say we have
nothing other than this one formerly classified project that was
occurring out there at the same time that was even a little bit 'funny',
if you will." This is a telling admission of weakness because, if the
source of the Roswell debris was something unusual but conventional, and
there was only one project going on in New Mexico that might have caused
it, why should it be difficult to convince us that this project - Mogul
- was the cause? The answer, as Weaver must be aware, is that the Air
Force case is weak. They, like the UFO investigators they criticize,
rely on verbal reports and selective use of existing accounts.

        What makes the Air Force report inferior to the best Roswell
investigations is its refusal to use all the available testimony,
especially their star witnesses. If, as the Air Force claims, time makes
memories hazy, then you would expect them to use statements from Charles
Moore from around 1980 rather than 1994, since Moore's memory 14 years
ago is likely to be more accurate. This is particularly true because, in
the meantime, he has read much UFO material by his own admission.
        However, the Air Force completely ignores the following key
statement Charles Moore gave to Bill Moore in 1980: "Based on the
description you just gave me, I can definitely rule this out [that
Roswell could be a weather or other scientific balloon]. There wasn't' t
a balloon in use back in '47, or even today for that matter, that could
have produced debris over such a large area or torn up the ground in any
way. I have no idea what such an object might have been, but I can't
believe a balloon would fit such a description." That is a damning
statement that completely refutes the Mogul explanation. Since the Air
Force couldn't explain why a key witness has changed his testimony, they
found it convenient to ignore previous interviews. We though, are not
bound by such artificial restrictions, so have to question why Charles
Moore has now changed his mind. In any case, we usually accept the first
statements made by a witness, before any contamination has set in. On
that basis, Project Mogul could not have been the cause of the Roswell

        There is one other flagrant lacuna that confirms to us, at
least, that the Air Force was not interested in conducting an in-depth
investigation into Roswell: the lack of thoughtful and insightful
questions by Weaver as he interviewed Cavitt. Earlier we noted the
bizarre situation in which Cavitt was able to recognize balloon debris
immediately, but Marcel and Blanchard could not. Since this is such a
puzzle, you would expect a competent interviewer to ask Cavitt what he
told Marcel and what Marcel said in return as they discussed the debris
on the ranch. But this matter was never raised by Weaver, making it
obvious that he was not interested in pursuing every potentially
important lead. Nor did he delve, after Mary Cavitt's comments, into
what the Cavitts knew about the debris that Marcel kept at his home. It
should have been obvious that the nature of that debris was crucial to
the investigation.

        We have demonstrated how little compelling evidence there is for
the Air Force's theory that a Project Mogul balloon array caused the
Roswell incident. Why, then did much of the media so blindly accept the
Air Force's conclusion? A full answer to that question must await
another article, but we can note here the double standard applied to the
UFO subject by the press. Just imagine that the Air Force had released a
report on some other topic, a report in which they 1) admitted that
originally they had lied, and 2) the "real" explanation was still fairly
similar to the lie. Can anyone believe that the American press, given
their general distrust of the military, and the history of government
cover-ups during the Cold War, would automatically believe the new
explanation? Yet that is exactly what much of the press has done with
Roswell. It truly does boggle the mind.

        The Air Force report has not halted the GAO investigation or
reduced the resolve of Rep. Schiff, who told CUFOS that he is determined
to continue his efforts at learning the truth about Roswell. We thank
and applaud him for his resolve and political courage. In this article,
we have criticized the Air Force report without resorting to much of the
evidence collected by investigators over the past fifteen years. When
that information is brought to bear, the superficial nature and inherent
bias of the report are even more apparent. Although it is very helpful
to have Sheridan Cavitt on the record, as well as the Air Force itself,
the Air Force report is useful for little else, and it does not
contribute toward solving the puzzle of the nature of the debris found
near Roswell in 1947. That is truly a shame, given what could have been

        Mark Rodeghier, Ph.D., is scientific director of the Center for
        UFO Studies. Mark Chesney is a CUFOS research associate.

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