Kent Jeffrey - Anatomy of a Myth, Part Two  


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The 1948 Military Documents

For me, the beginning of the end for the Roswell UFO case came last spring, when I first saw one of a number of previously classified military documents dealing with unidentified flying objects. The 289-page document was released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in March 1996 in response to a FOIA request by researcher William LaParl. It contained the minutes of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Conference at the Pentagon on March 17 and 18, 1948. Buried in the document is a very interesting statement by a Colonel Howard McCoy which referred to a number of unpublished UFO reports. The last sentence of McCoy's statement, however, is devastating to the Roswell case.

"We have a new project -- Project SIGN -- which may surprise you as a development from the so-called mass hysteria of the past Summer when we had all the unidentified flying objects or discs. This can't be laughed off. We have over 300 reports which haven't been publicized in the papers from very competent personnel, in many instances -- men as capable as Dr. K. D. Wood, and practically all Air Force, Airline people with broad experience. We are running down every report. I can't even tell you how much we would give to have one of those crash in an area so that we could recover whatever they are."

My first reaction to this statement was one of disbelief. Thoughts came to mind like- This can't be correct, there must be some mistake, this guy didn't know, etc. We are probably all somewhat prone to such initial reactions of denial when confronted with facts that conflict with our preconceived notions of reality or our established beliefs. Most of the time, however, common sense, logic, and rationality prevail. On the other hand, there is sometimes an invariable refusal to give up a particular contention or belief, no matter how strong the evidence to the contrary. The result of such refusal is often illogical speculation and far-fetched scenarios, concocted in an effort to rationalize away the facts. It is a pitfall into which even credible researchers sometimes tumble.

The statement at the Scientific Advisory Board Conference lamenting the fact that the Air Force did not have a crashed UFO was made by Colonel Howard McCoy, the Chief of Intelligence for Air Material Command at Wright-Patterson AFB. Wright Patterson is where the Air Force's technical and intelligence experts are concentrated, even today. It is where recovered wreckage from a foreign craft of any kind with the potential for invading our skies would be taken for technical analysis -- be it a MIG 29 or a Klingon battle cruiser. If there had been a crashed flying saucer recovered outside of Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947, this is where it would have been taken. As Chief of Intelligence, Colonel Howard McCoy would have known about it.

In addition to the minutes of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board meeting, there are other military documents indicating just as unequivocally that the Air Force was not in possession of any physical evidence with regard to UFOs. Among these documents is a series of communiqués dealing with flying object incidents in the United States between Colonel McCoy at Wright Patterson and Major General C. P. Cabell, the Director of Intelligence for the Air Force at the Pentagon. In one of these communiqués, a letter dated November 8, 1948, McCoy made three separate references to the fact that there was no physical or tangible evidence from a flying saucer crash. Cabell used the information from McCoy's letter for preparation of a memorandum dated November 30, 1948, for Secretary of Defense James Forrestal.

The lack of physical evidence is also mentioned in a September 23, 1947, letter from Lieutenant General Nathan Twining, Commander of the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field, to Brigadier General George Schulgen, a top intelligence official at the Pentagon. The Twining letter was written less than three months after the Roswell incident. The letter is also significant because it makes reference to the cooperation between the Engineering Division and the Intelligence Division at the Wright Patterson complex. This cooperation is mentioned specifically in regard to assessing the nature of the mysterious flying objects about which there had been so many credible reports.

The cooperation between the intelligence and engineering branches at Wright Patterson is further corroborated by a top secret memorandum for the Chief, Air Intelligence Division, dated October 11, 1948, signed by a Colonel Brooke Allen, Chief, of the Air Estimates Branch at Wright Patterson. The stated subject of the memorandum is Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the U.S. This memorandum is important because, along with the Twining letter, it confirms what is dictated by common sense -- that if the engineering department possessed a crashed saucer, the intelligence department would not only be aware of it, they would also be integrally involved with its analysis and the assessment of any potential threat posed to national security.

The 1947 and 1948 military documents are definitive. They can not be simply or smugly characterized as absence of evidence. They are evidence. They state definitively that there was no crashed saucer.

If instead of the above documents, researchers had uncovered definitive and authentic documentation indicating the existence of a crashed saucer, such documentation would have undoubtedly been acknowledged by all and characterized as a smoking gun. Victory would have been declared, and congressional investigations would have been all but certain.

Predictably, some in the UFO field are reacting to the 1947 and 1948 military documents with an attitude reminiscent of the platitude, don't bother me with the facts, my mind's made up. Ironically, this is the same type of mentality of which they are so quick to accuse their detractors. Narrow-mindedness, however, can exist on either side of the fence. The facts are now clear. We can't simply refuse to acknowledge them because we don't like them. The Roswell crash didn't happen. It is time to face the music, and the band isn't playing our tune.


The Men of the 509th

The 509th Bomb Group was based at Roswell in 1947. In September 1996, I had the privilege of attending the reunion of the 509th Bomb Group in Tucson, Arizona, as a guest of General Bob Scott and his wife Terry. I have known the Scotts for a couple of years. By coincidence, Bob's son is a pilot for he same airline for which I work.

At the time of the 509th reunion, I had not yet seen all the pertinent 1948 military documents and still held an inkling of hope that there might be something to the Roswell event. Prior to the reunion, I had sent out over 700 mailings to members of the reunion group in the hope of finding additional witnesses to the mysterious debris. The result was a disappointment -- only two calls, neither of which was of any real help. Both of the men who called were former 509th flight engineers. One had had a very interesting UFO sighting from the ramp at Kirtland Air Force Base. The other recalled seeing a lot of extra activity around one of the hangers at Roswell near the time of the 1947 incident.

At the reunion in Tucson, I was introduced to several of the pilots who were at Roswell in 1947 and who promptly told me, in no uncertain terms, that the crashed saucer event never occurred, period. I did not get the impression at the time, nor have I ever since, that any of these men are engaged in some kind of incredible 50-year-long massive cover-up or that they were putting on an act or facade to throw me off track. Anyone who believes that to be the case is out of touch with the reality of this issue. Like every other person with whom I have ever discussed this subject, these men were in total agreement that anything as important and profound as the knowledge of other intelligent life in the universe is information that should not be censored or suppressed and to which everyone should be entitled. These men risked their lives in World War II to save the world from the kind of totalitarian governments that, among their many other crimes against humanity, unjustifiably suppressed information from their people.

The men who were at Roswell during July 1947 feel very strongly that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happened and that the whole matter is patently ridiculous. The 509th was the only atomic bomb group in the world in 1947 and was composed of a very elite group of individuals, most of whom still feel a definite sense of pride in their former outfit. To them, the crashed-saucer nonsense, along with all the hullabaloo and conspiracy theories surrounding it, makes a mockery of and is an insult to the 509th Bomb Group and its men.

One of the 509th pilots I met at the reunion, Jack Ingham, has since become a friend and has helped me considerably in contacting additional members of the group who were stationed at Roswell during the time of the incident. When I first met Jack in Tucson, he spared no punches in letting me know exactly what he thought about the crashed-flying saucer matter. Others at the reunion told me that if something like the crash of a UFO had really happened at Roswell, Jack Ingham would have known. Jack spent a total of 16 years with the 509th Bomb Group -- February 1946 to July 1962. He retired from he Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in January 1971.

Since last September, I have spoken with a total of 15 B-29 pilots and 2 B-29 navigators, all of whom were stationed at Roswell Army Air Field in July 1947. Most of them heard nothing about the supposed crashed-saucer incident until years later, after all the publicity started. The few men who did recall hearing something about the incident at the time of its occurrence said that the inside word was that the debris was from a downed balloon of some kind and that there was no more than one wheelbarrow full. Not one single man had any direct knowledge of a crashed saucer or of any kind of unusual material. Even more significantly, in all of their collective years with the 509th Bomb Group, not one of these men had ever encountered any other individual who had such knowledge.

As Jack Ingham and others pointed out, the 509th was a very close-knit group and there was no way an event as spectacular as the recovery of a crashed-alien spaceship from another world could have happened at their base without their having known about it. Despite the fact that they, individually, may not have been directly involved with the recovery operation, and despite the pervasiveness of the need to know philosophy in the military, these men maintained that there was absolutely no way that something of such magnitude and so earthshaking would not have been communicated among the members of the group -- especially within the inner circle of the upper echelon of B-29 pilots and navigators -- all of whom had top-secret security clearances. Furthermore, unlike the atomic weapons secrets with which they were all entrusted, the existence of a crashed alien spaceship would have been much more of a social and scientific issue than a national security issue. Additionally, word was already out -- the story had been published in afternoon newspapers all over the Western United States.

Most of the men of the 509th Bomb Group were primarily WWII veterans in their mid- to late twenties. (Colonel Blanchard, the commander of the group, was, himself, only 31.) Military regulations notwithstanding, human nature and common sense have to be factored into the equation. Such an occurrence -- the most significant and dramatic event in recorded history -- would surely have been discussed by these men, at least among themselves.


Memory, Communication, and Perception

A few words about the potential pitfalls of human memory, communication, and perception might shed light on how the myth surrounding the Roswell event evolved. The following observations are strictly from the standpoint of common sense and real-world experience, not from some abstract or esoteric psychological theory.

Faulty memory is obviously one of the biggest detriments to accurately reconstructing past events, especially if a great deal of time has elapsed. While memory generally serves us well, it is unlike the playback of a digital tape -- it is far from precise or absolute. With the passage of time, images from different events can be inadvertently blended together. Also, mental images of things only imagined can be inadvertently blended or confused with memories of things actually observed or events actually experienced.

If memory were perfect, every one of us would have consistently accomplished perfect scores in our comprehensive exams throughout high school and college. We would remember with perfect accuracy every name, face, scene, place, and event that we had ever heard, seen, or experienced. Obviously, human memory doesn't work this way. Interestingly, however, in the case of witness testimony, there often seems to be an unrealistic assumption that it does.

Like faulty memory, inaccurate communication can also be a detriment to accurately reconstructing past events. Miscommunication is definitely a factor with secondhand testimony. Perhaps, that is part of the reason secondhand testimony is not admissible in a court of law. There is a game sometimes played by children that amply illustrates the problem of miscommunication, and consequently also secondhand testimony. A group stands in a circle and a message is whispered from one person to the next. After being passed around a few times, the original message is usually completely unrecognizable. It doesn't take much imagination to realize how much the problem would be exacerbated if there was a gap of several years each time the message was passed on. Interestingly, in the Roswell case, much of the secondhand testimony, upon which so much importance is placed, comes from information passed on many years back.

Errors in perception are probably more frequent than most people realize. Perception is often influenced by expectation. We have probably all noticed this phenomenon on a micro scale when trying to proofread something. Similar to a form of computer enhancement, the brain tends to automatically compensate for missing letters or words which are supposed to be there. In other words, it tends to automatically fill in the blanks.

The problem of expectation influencing perception is exacerbated when recalling past events. Memory seems to somehow have the ability to distort an observation retroactively to make it better match expectation. This phenomenon can be a real problem with eyewitness accounts to traffic accidents, and even more so to aviation accidents -- even accounts from experienced observers. For example, in August 1987, a Northwest Airlines MD-88 took off from Detroit Metro airport. The crew, however, had failed to lower the flaps to the takeoff position (15 degrees). Under most circumstances, this error would not have been a fatal mistake. Unfortunately, due to other contributing factors (short runway, hot day, fully loaded aircraft, etc.), they didn't make it. During the investigation of the accident, the crew of the aircraft in line for takeoff immediately behind the Northwest airplane testified that its flaps were definitely lowered to the takeoff position. Analysis of the wreckage and flight-data recorder, however, showed otherwise. The testimony of the crew of the second aircraft was wrong. What they remembered was what they thought they should have seen rather than what they actually saw.

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