Kent Jeffrey - Anatomy of a Myth, Part Four  


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The Witnesses

The testimony of the late Jesse Marcel, Sr., is probably the most important, as well as the most controversial, of the whole Roswell story. In essence, it forms the foundation around which the rest of the case is built. However, because the debris he recovered was not extraterrestrial, it could not have been what he said it was. That does not mean, however, that he did not believe it was extraterrestrial. In my opinion, it is very possible, if not highly probable, that he sincerely believed until the day he died that the material was something, as he once put it, not of this earth. A less-than-perfect memory of events so long ago, in combination with the suspicion on his part of a cover-up above his level of security or outside his need to know, makes such a scenario entirely plausible.

Unfortunately, because of minor, almost trivial, inconsistencies in some of the things Jesse Marcel, Sr., said, or is believed to have said, some have made caustic personal attacks against a man no longer around to defend himself -- and who was, in all probability, telling the truth as he recalled it. I have now spoken with a number of men from the 509th Bomb Group who knew Major Marcel. All had nothing but the highest regard and respect for him.

Some of these attacks have been extended to Jesse Marcel, Jr., which I find astounding. As I have already mentioned, he is as sincere and honest as anyone I have ever known. Like his father before him, he served his country during time of war. Few people know it, but he was seriously injured during the Vietnam War when his helicopter was shot down, killing everyone else on board. Like all of us, Jesse might not have 100 percent perfect recall of every past event, but I would never question his word.

In a way, because the debris recovered outside of Roswell in 1947 was not extraterrestrial, none of the other witness testimony really matters. If the story of a highly unusual and totally unprecedented event is killed at the source, subsequent corroborating testimony goes out the window. For example, in the summer of 1993, a man from Seattle, Washington, made the unprecedented claim that he had found a hypodermic syringe inside a sealed can of Pepsi Cola. The story was picked up by the media, and within days there were copycat claims against the Pepsi Cola Corporation all over the country. Unfortunately for those who jumped on the bandwagon, the original claim turned out to be false. Where did that leave the subsequent claimants? Out on a limb that had been cut off, and, in this particular case, facing up to $250,000 in fines and five years in jail.

The testimony of some of the other Roswell witnesses has been all but validated in the public eye because of repeated media coverage. For this reason I will address a couple of cases.

Former mortician Glenn Dennis and the elusive nurse, Naomi Self, who supposedly witnessed alien autopsies at the base hospital is one of the best-known elements of the 1947 Roswell event. Although I know and like Glenn Dennis on a personal level, I have to say that his story has lost all credibility. Glenn, incidentally, has been fully aware of the fact that researchers have been spending time and resources in an effort to locate a Naomi Self.

There was already significant circumstantial evidence to indicate that no such nurse ever existed, when a diligent young researcher from Arizona, Vic Golubic, all but confirmed the fact. He located the records of the Cadet Nurse Corps, where all nurses for the military were trained during the mid-1940s. When Golubic checked with Dennis about the correct spelling of Self and informed him about the Cadet Nurse Corps records, Dennis changed his story, telling Golubic that Self was not really the correct last name after all. Dennis, without giving a good reason for not doing so, also refused to tell Golubic the real last name. Sorry, Glenn, end of story.

Both my father and I got to know Frank Kaufman very well and consider him a friend. However, as with Dennis, I have to say that in view of what we now know, there is no way that Kaufman's fantastic tale of a crashed spaceship with alien bodies could have any basis in reality. According to Kaufman's story, he was one of nine military men at the top-secret recovery operation 35 miles north of town. Other than Kaufman, the only other living member of the original nine was a General Robert Thomas.

The last time my father and I were in Roswell, Kaufman showed us some of his pictures, including one with him standing next to a brigadier general. My father asked Kaufman if that was Thomas, to which Kaufman replied in the affirmative. Unfortunately, my father, who spent 30 years in the Air Force, was unable to recognize the general. I later checked at the Air Force records center and learned that not only was there no living General Robert Thomas, but there never was a General Robert Thomas. On being confronted with this, Kaufman informed me that Thomas was really just a code name.

The final witness testimony that I will address is that concerning Oliver W. (Pappy) Henderson. Millions have seen the Unsolved Mystery broadcast about Roswell with the scene of Pappy Henderson in his flight suit, leaning over and inspecting one of several alien bodies laid out on a hangar floor just prior to their being flown to Wright Patterson. Henderson, who died in 1986, on seeing a tabloid headline and story about Roswell, apparently told his wife that the story was true and that he had flown the wreckage and bodies to Wright Patterson. My best guess is that the testimony of Henderson' family years later was a case of memories of things read, or possibly seen in tabloid pictures, being blended or confused with memories of what Henderson may have actually said.

During my extensive conversations with pilots from the 509th, I spoke with several who knew Henderson and remembered his having discussed the incident. Apparently Henderson, a C-54 transport pilot at the time, did fly some of the debris out of Roswell, possibly to Wright Patterson. Jesse Mitchell, one of the 509th pilots at the time and a retired lieutenant colonel, told me that Henderson told him that he never saw the debris and he had no idea what it was. Mitchell was a good friend of Henderson's and almost decided to go into the roofing business with him in Roswell after Henderson left the service. Another former member of the 509th, Sam McIlhaney, also a retired lieutenant colonel who knew Henderson well, told me that they used to talk about the incident occasionally while sitting around in the hangar. According to McIlhaney, Henderson considered the whole matter a big joke and used to kid about it.


The Guardians of the Hangar

Researching Roswell is somewhat akin to prospecting, in that most of the time you spend countless hours and come up with nothing. Occasionally, however, you might hit pay dirt and come up with a real find. That happened with me during my polling of the pilots and navigators of the 509th, when I contacted Walter Klinikowski.

Klinikowski is one of the most interesting individuals with whom I have spoken during this entire Roswell endeavor. After my first conversation with Klinikowski, I soon learned from other members of the 509th Bomb Group that his piano playing was almost legendary. He told me that while in high school at age 15, unbeknown to his parents, he took his first professional job. The musician's union set him up in the pit band of a local burlesque theater, where he soon became acquainted with none other than the famous Gypsy Rose Lee.

As if his piano talent was not enough, Klinikowski later was sponsored by the Philadelphia Athletic Club as a potential member of the 1940 U.S. Olympic team. The war came along, however, and the games were never held. During World War II, he was a navigator on a B-17 -- one of highest risk jobs in he war. Following the war, after a couple of years of civilian life, Klinikowski was recalled to the service, where he joined the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell in May 1947. He stayed with the 509th until February 1953.

What makes Walter Klinikowski so important to the investigation of the Roswell case is not his time with the 509th, but what he did afterward. For 14 years, from 1960 until 1974, when he retired from the Air Force as a colonel, Walter Klinikowski was with the Foreign Technology Division (FTD) of the Air Materiel Command (AMC), based out of Wright Patterson Air Force Base. (The FTD is now called the National Aerospace Intelligence Center.); From 1960 to 1964, he was Deputy Director of Intelligence Collections, and then later, after spending some time abroad as a liaison officer for the FTD, he returned to Wright Patterson as Director of Foreign Activities from 1970 until 1974.

The fact that wreckage of a crashed UFO would have been taken to the Foreign Technology Division of AMC at Wright Patterson Air Force Base for analysis is disputed by no one, to my knowledge. If that had been the case, Klinikowski would have known about it, but he didn't. Walter unequivocally assured me that there was no wreckage of a crashed flying saucer from Roswell or anywhere else at Wright Patterson. The rumors of the secret hangar and alien bodies are just that -- rumors.

Klinikowski was kind enough to put me in touch with his former boss at the Foreign Technology Division, Walter Vatunac. Vatunac, who had actually been stationed at Roswell in the late 1940s, was the Director of Intelligence Collections at the Foreign Technology Division from 1957 until 1962. (The FTD was called the Air Technical Intelligence Center prior to 1961.) Like Klinikowsky, Vatunac found the matter of alien bodies and a crashed spaceship very humorous and was incredulous that so many people actually believe it.

After my conversations with Klinikowsky and Vatunac, Harry Cordes, a former 509th pilot and a retired brigadier general, suggested I call a former acquaintance of his, George Weinbrenner, who had also been at the FTD. I contacted Weinbrenner, who was more than accommodating, especially when he found out that I knew Walter Klinikowsky. Weinbrenner told me pretty much what I had already learned from Klinikowsky and Vatunac, but it was interesting talking to him, nonetheless. With respect to the crashed UFO subject, he also found it humorous and stated that if something like that had happened, I would have known about it. He certainly would have. George Weinbrenner was the commander of the Foreign Technology Division for six years (1968 until 1974).

I cannot state strongly enough that I have absolutely no doubt that these three men were telling me the truth. I repeat, no doubt. Those who want to rationalize away the facts by suggesting that these men are still participating in some super-long-term, massive cover-up might give some thought to the following.

If there had been a crashed UFO, and for some reason it was still being kept secret, why on earth would these men waste inordinate amounts of their own time playing a ridiculous game of charades with me? They wouldn't. There would be absolutely no reason for doing so. All they would have had to do, would have been to politely tell me they didn't know anything, and leave it at that.

Klinikowsky, Vatunac, and Weinbrenner are all retired colonels. They all held important positions at the Foreign Technology Division at Wright Patterson. As such, they represent the ultimate source of information with regard to the crashed UFO question. This is the word right from the horse's mouth, the incontrovertible, irrefutable truth, the final confirmation -- no alien bodies, no secret hangar, and no UFO crash at Roswell. Case closed.


A Red Herring

In essence, the 1947 Roswell case has turned out to be a red herring, diverting time and resources away from research into the real UFO phenomenon. Despite overwhelming facts to the contrary, there are those, however, who will fight to keep the myth alive at all cost. Roswell is a sacred cow for some, and a cash cow for others. Inevitably, there will be fierce opposition to much of what has been said in this article. I would be the last, however, to discourage rational and thoughtful response, for healthy debate and a free exchange of ideas are part of what makes our democratic system work.

Any complete and reasonable response by those who still contend that a UFO crashed at Roswell in 1947 will need to directly address the points below, each of which would have to be a true statement if such a crash occurred:

  • *A machine with unimaginable technological sophistication and consequent incredible reliability would have simply broken down and crashed.
  • *The only known wreckage from this sophisticated vehicle, capable of interstellar travel, would have consisted solely of a few short beams, pieces of foil-like material, and small pieces of thin plastic-like material.
  • * By incredible coincidence, the material from the crashed spaceship would have very closely resembled the material left by the radar reflectors from a balloon array that went down in the same general area a few weeks earlier.
  • * Despite the fact that this would have been the most spectacular event in recorded history, and despite the fact that word was already out that something had happened (because of Lt. Haut's press release), there was absolutely no contemporary discussion or talk about such an earthshaking event among the pilots and navigators of the close-knit 509th Bomb Group.
  • * West Point graduate and retired general Thomas Dubose, would have to have lied nine times in an interview when he stated that the debris (definitely that from an ML-307 radar reflector) shown in the pictures in Ramey's office was not substituted material and was the real debris recovered from t e ranch northwest of Roswell.
  • * Major General C. P. Cabell, Director of Intelligence for the Air Force at the Pentagon, who prepared a report on the unidentified flying object situation for the Secretary of Defense, astoundingly, would have been preparing the report totally ignorant of the fact that the Air Force was in possess on of a crashed flying saucer.
  • * Three retired Air Force colonels, all former top officials at the Foreign Technology Division at Wright Patterson Air Force base would have been lying to me -- unnecessarily wasting inordinate amounts of their own personal time in a protracted game of charades.

 We have now gotten to the heart of the story and established that the debris recovered from the Foster ranch and laid out on the Marcel kitchen floor was, except for some unusual symbols, of a very mundane nature. The following should then be asked of those still arguing the issue: How do you get a crashed alien spaceship out of such ordinary debris? What basis is there now for postulating the existence of a crashed UFO?


The Future

At the beginning of this article, I included a letter from a 6th-grade student, Lauren M., asking about Roswell and about information to help her prove that there are UFOs and aliens. My response to Lauren with respect to Roswell has already been made patently clear throughout this article. With respect to aliens, I would tell Lauren that probably only the most narrow-minded of people consider the earth as being the only place where there is intelligent life in the universe. The earth is but a small speck in a vast universe that is, according to current scientific thinking, most likely teaming with life -- some of it probably far more intelligent we are.

Incredibly, New York Sun editorial writer and former civil war correspondent Francis Pharcellus Church seemed to have a grasp on all of this a hundred years ago. In his timeless editorial to Virginia O'Hanlon he wrote In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

UFOs or alien spacecraft, however, are another matter. While we don't yet have tangible evidence that alien spacecraft exist, there have been many intriguing sightings by credible people that seem to defy conventional explanation. Like the few brief tantalizing signals that have been picked up by the SETI program, the evidence for UFOs has not yet qualified as solid proof in the eyes of the scientific community. Perhaps that might come in Lauren's lifetime.

If such confirmation does come, it would represent one of the most remarkable events in human history. The long-contemplated philosophical and scientific question of whether we are alone in the universe would be answered once and for all with absolute finality. Perhaps most important of all, the knowledge that it is possible for a civilization to survive the growing pains of becoming technologically advanced, without completely destroying itself and its environment in the process, would provide a renewed hope for the future of life here on earth.

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