Roswell UFO crash: what really happened 67 years ago?
The mysterious crash-landing in Roswell, New Mexico is seen as the ultimate landmark event in UFO history
It has been 67 years since an unidentified object crashed on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico, fuelling speculation about alien life forms that still exists today.
The incident is seen as the ultimate landmark event in UFO history, and provides the basis of an industry that has spawned multiple books and films, sustains two museums at the town of Roswell and an annual UFO festival. So what really happened on that ranch in July 1947?
What was reported at the time?
On 8 July 1947 Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) issued a press release stating that a "flying disk" had crashed on a ranch near Roswell during a powerful storm. Later in the day, as government scientists arrived in the area, the story appeared to change. A press conference was held and it was stated instead that a weather balloon had crashed. Reporters were shown debris said to be taken from the crash area, such as foil, rubber and wood, which appeared to confirm that the object had been a weather balloon. The incident then went largely unreported for 30 years.
What happened in the 1970s?
In 1978, Stanton Friedman, a nuclear-physicist and UFO researcher, interviewed Major Jesse Marcel Sr, who was said to be the first military officer to investigate the wreckage. Marcel suspected that the debris he recovered in 1947 was "not of this world". He believed he had found an alien spacecraft and that his superiors had covered it up. His claims were later published in the National Enquirer and led to the publication of the 1980 book The Roswell Incident, with more witnesses coming out to support his story.
What have other witnesses said?
Several people claimed to see debris scattered over a wide area and at least one person reported seeing a blazing aircraft in the sky shortly before it crashed. One former mortician, Glenn Dennis, claimed in 1989 that a friend who worked as a nurse at the Roswell Army Air Field had accidentally walked into an examination room where doctors were bent over the bodies of three creatures. They apparently resembled humans, but with small bodies, spindly arms and giant bald heads. In 1995, Ray Santilli, a London-based entrepreneur, claimed to release footage of an alien autopsy performed in Roswell in 1947. Experts immediately ridiculed the footage as a hoax and he admitted years later that it was almost entirely fake. Nevertheless, Santilli insisted real footage existed, but due to its poor condition he had been forced to recreate it. Critics have questioned the validity of various witnesses and pointed out that many claims over the years have come from "friends of friends" who supposedly saw something out of the ordinary.
How do US officials explain the 'bodies'?
In the 1990s, the Pentagon revealed that the object in Roswell was not an ordinary weather balloon after all. It said the debris found at Roswell came from a 700ft-string of weather balloons, radar reflectors and acoustic sensors that formed part of a top-secret experiment to eavesdrop on Soviet nuclear weapons tests. The balloons had been launched on 4 June 1947 in an experiment called Project Mogul, it said. A second report, released in 1997, concluded that reports of alien bodies actually related to life-sized anthropomorphic test dummies.
Or could it have been something else...?
The mystery surrounding Roswell took another strange turn in 2011 when journalist Annie Jacobsen claimed Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the infamous Nazi Dr Josef Mengele were behind the crash. Stalin enlisted Mengele, known for experimenting on human prisoners during World War II, to create a crew of real-life "grotesque, child-size aviators" to provoke hysteria across America, Jacobsen claimed in a book called Area 51. A plane seized from Germany at the end of the war was apparently filled with "deformed" children with "unusually large heads and abnormally shaped oversized eyes". But, Jacobsen said, Stalin's plan to scare the US with "human guinea pigs" was hushed up by the Americans when the aircraft crashed in July 1947.