New Mexico, Summer, 1947

We still don’t know what it is or where it comes from, but there’s something there. This is not another flying saucer scare. Whatever it is, it’s something real. Anxiety and concern abound, but there is no outward sign of panic.[1]

Real indeed. This was unlike the numerous sightings of the preceding month, Mac Brazel was sure of that. After all, he was standing over the wreckage. Unsure of its origin or purpose, but aware that it may be related to the strange objects seen in the sky across the country, he packed up what he could and delivered it to Sheriff Wilcox in Roswell. Stymied, Sheriff Wilcox in turn contacted officials at Roswell Army Airfield to investigate.[2]

This incident would later become the impetus behind the world’s fascination with UFOs.

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January 2nd is unofficially known as Science Fiction Day, corresponding with famed writer Isaac Asimov’s birthday (the Denton Public Library has several selections of Asimov available to check out here). So, in honor of Science Fiction Day we revisit arguably the most infamous of UFO stories. Whether or not the Roswell Incident is science fiction or fact has been debated for decades.

On July 8, 1947 the Roswell Daily Record reported, “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region.”[3] Just hours later, the “Army Debunks Roswell Flying Disk as World Simmers with Excitement.”[4] These two conflicting reports, made within hours of each other, served as the catalyst for conspiracy. We take for granted the scope of the controversy as we know it today, but at the time public interest was more or less sated with the official story of a weather balloon. Regardless, the government did seek to investigate UFO sightings to determine whether or not they were a threat to national security. This investigation began with Project SIGN in 1947 and culminated in Project BLUE BOOK from 1952-1969 (Project BLUE BOOK records are available online from the library with Fold3!) However, it wasn’t until some thirty years later that the controversy surrounding what happened in Roswell became what we know it as today.[5]

Figure 1. Roswell Daily Record. July 1947. Downloaded from https://web.archive.org/

In the late 1970’s several persons claiming to be present during the Roswell Incident came forward with claims never before made, most notably former intelligence officer Jesse Marcel. Claims of cover-up and the existence of alien remains reignited public curiosity about the incident perhaps enhanced by a spate of theatrical releases with aliens as a central premise, including Star Wars (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and an episode of Unsolved Mysteries (1989) specifically dealing with Roswell.[6]

Eventually, pressure for more information led New Mexico Congressman Steve Schiff to commission a report by the General Accountability Office. The Roswell Report: Fact versus Fiction in the New Mexico Desert was released in 1995 and is available in all its 994-page glory online here. The report confirms the wreckage found in Roswell as that of a high-altitude balloon, but not a weather balloon. It was supposedly a part of Project MOGUL, a secret program that used balloons to detect nuclear explosions in order to determine if and when the Soviet Union developed nuclear weapons.

This revelation did not deter skeptics. Only a month later the infamous “Alien Autopsy” video was released by Fox which was later discovered to be staged.  There’s even a theory that suggests the Roswell Incident was a collaborative effort between Josef Stalin and Nazi Doctor Joseph Mengele to create genetically altered “grotesque, child-size aviators” with “unusually large heads and abnormally shaped, oversize eyes” to incite panic and hysteria among the American public using HG Wells’ War of the Worlds as inspiration.[7]

Figure 2. BG Ramey with wreckage. July 1947. Downloaded from https://www.physics.smu.edu/

Now, much of the focus by UFOlogists seems to be on what is referred to as the “Ramey Memo.” A now famous photo, the original negative of which is held in the archives of the University of Texas at Arlington’s Library, depicts Lieutenant General Roger Ramey kneeling over the wreckage from Roswell holding a memorandum. One picture of LTG Ramey shows some text of the memo which researchers have vigorously attempted to read using various techniques with varying results. One such attempt was publicly made on a 2017 episode of the Travel Channel’s Expedition Unknown in which a court certified forensic photo analyst examined the original negative. There is still no consensus as to the contents of the memo, but UTA has hi-resolution scans of the memo available online here, and is even offering a $10,000 reward for any person or group that can definitively read it![8]

Does this event have a connection to Denton? Why, yes it does. Roger Ramey grew up in Denton and was an alumnus of North Texas State Teacher’s College, now the University of North Texas before beginning his illustrious military career which can be read about here. Ramey passed on 4 March 1963. He is buried in the Garden of Faith section of the Roselawn Memorial Park here in Denton.

Whether you’re a searcher of truth or just a fan of ET, we hope you enjoy your Science Fiction Day. Stop by the library, check out a book, movie or research Project BLUE BOOK in Special Collections!

Matthew Davis, Special Collections

Notes

[1] Robert Wise, The Day The Earth Stood Still (20th Century Fox, 1951).

[2] Donovan Webster, “In 1947, A High-Altitude Balloon Crash Landed in Roswell. The Aliens Never Left.,” Smithsonian Magazine, July 5, 2017, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/in-1947-high-altitude-balloon-crash-landed-roswell-aliens-never-left-180963917/.

[3] “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region,” Roswell Daily Record, July 8, 1947, https://web.archive.org/web/20040811212525/http://muller.lbl.gov/teaching/Physics10/Roswell/RoswellDailyRecord.jpg.

[4] “Army Debunks Roswell Flying Disk as World Simmers with Excitement,” Roswell Morning Dispatch, July 9, 1947, https://www.physics.smu.edu/pseudo/UFOs/Army_Debunks_Roswell_Disk.pdf.

[5] “The Roswell Report: Fact versus Fiction in the New Mexico Desert” (Headquarters United States Air Force, 1995), https://www.afhra.af.mil/Portals/16/documents/AFD-101201-038.pdf.

[6] Mike Cox and Renee Roderick, Texas UFO Tales: From Denison 1878 to Stephenville 2008 (Dallas: Atriad Press, 2009).

[7] Annie Jacobsen, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base (Columbus: Back Bay Books, 2012).

[8] “Ramey Memo High Resolution Microfiche Scans,” Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington, 2017, https://library.uta.edu/roswell/ramey-memo.

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Great American Read: Denton Edition

GAR

And the winner is…

Harry Potter

Harry Potter (series) by J. K. Rowling

 

PBS did a nation-wide search for America’s best-loved novel and we thought it would be fun to see how Denton compared to the rest of the country. Check out the full results!

Denton and National Results