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“The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County,” the press release read.
“The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.”
The Roswell Daily Record headlined the story “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region,” providing a historical artifact that, in retrospect, seems ready-made for fueling an episode of The X-Files.
But press accounts the following day told a much more mundane story: The military had determined the recovered debris to be the wreckage of a weather balloon and related equipment. No flying saucer — a term that had just been coined by newspapers to describe the first widely publicized UFO sighting — had been found.
While the down-to-earth explanation seemed to settle the issue, the so-called Roswell incident flashed back into the public consciousness three decades later. New interviews with individuals proffering information about the crash, and the 1980 publication of Charles Berlitz’s book The Roswell Incident, breathed new life into the story, turning Roswell into a rallying cry for ufologists and true believers.
In assembling the massive reports, the Air Force gathered and declassified many documents relating to the Roswell incident. Weighing in at nearly 1,000 pages, The Roswell Report: Fact vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert, published in 1994, set out to “tell the Congress, and the American people, everything the Air Force knew about the Roswell claims.”
The second government publication, 1997’s The Roswell Report: Case Closed (.pdf), came just days shy of the Roswell incident’s 50th anniversary. The report said eyewitness accounts tied to the 1947 recovery actually occurred years later, becoming tangled up in time and further strengthening the Roswell incident’s hold on the public’s imagination.
“Air Force activities which occurred over a period of many years have been consolidated and are now represented to have occurred in two or three days in July 1947,” the report said. “‘Aliens’ observed in the New Mexico desert were actually anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high-altitude balloons for scientific research.”