Thursday, March 24, 2005

THE HISTORY CHANNEL AND ROSWELL, PT II

I wrote to the Chief, Modern Military Records at NARA and told him that they had the records. In fact, I told him when those records had been sent and by whom, and that they should have arrived by then (February, 2001).

On March 16, 2001, I learned that, yes, the National Archives did have the records. I was told, "In June 2000, our agency contacted the Air Force and requested that they send us the forms necessary to transfer the records in which you are interested. It appears that at some point in this process there was a breakdown, and we never received those forms. We contacted the Air Force two days ago on this transfer and requested that they forward the requisite paperwork to us. Please contact us again in two months. We hope that the records will have been received by then."

In May, two months after my last communication with anyone at NARA, I sent another request. My request was forward to another department because there were lots of pictures, sound recordings and video tapes in the material. At the end of June, I was told that they had eleven boxes of material and that they could fax a copy of the index of the contents. By the middle of July, I had the inventory of those boxes and had sent a request for specific documents, ignoring the video tapes because those were obviously part of the video history that the Fund for UFO Research had put together in the early 1990s. These video tapes included interviews with Glenn Dennis and Gerald Anderson. Instead, I asked for those documents and materials that, from their index listings, might prove to be of the most value to my research.

While we went back and forth, I realized that I was going to have to go to Washington and sort through the material myself. There was no way that NARA would copy everything and send it to me, and I could tell that some of the material were documents I already had found. These were some of the old reports dealing with balloon research, high altitude testing of ejection systems and parachutes, and information that I had supplied to the Air Force during their investigation. But others were just a listing, a brief title, or a suggestion of a folder that might hold something of importance. There was no way to tell from the inventory I had been sent.
Then I received a telephone call from a production company that had learned that this material had arrived at the National Archives. Apparently someone there, learning about this stuff but who had not looked at it, called the documentary company to tell them that this declassified material about Roswell was there. One of the producers called me later, telling me that they planned to investigate this newly declassified material that no one knew was there. I managed to surprise them because not only did I already know this, I even knew what the boxes contained.

What all this tells us, simply, is that the material, contrary to what the Arthur Kent’s opening remarks claimed, was not recently declassified and that it wasn’t being shown to them exclusively. Anyone who drove out to the National Archives and who had made the proper arrangements could go through the boxes. And, contrary to their claims that "Until this day the public had been denied access to these files," the material was actually out in the open.

Producers, as well as writers, must make their stories interesting, and by suggesting that the documents and video tapes had been hidden in some dark vault makes the tale better. To prove their point, they trotted out a video tape of Gerald Anderson who, as a five year old boy, claimed to have seen the remains of a crashed flying saucer and the dead, dying, and injured flight crew. The host told us that "this video tape [was] discovered among the newly declassified materials and seen on televison for the first time."

In reality, the tape was made by Stan Friedman of an interview with now discredited Anderson and passed on to the Fund for UFO Research for their video history of Roswell. Not only wasn’t the tape "recently declassified," it had never been classified in the first place. And, portions of the Anderson interviews had been used in other documentaries, including Roswell Remembered produced and directed by California documentarian, Russ Estes.

The host, and the producers, introduced us to Glenn Dennis, the Roswell mortician, who claimed that a nurse, Naomi Self, had told him about the crash and the bodies. She supplied Dennis with a sketch of what the aliens looked like and made him promise not to tell anyone about the crash or the sketch.

Research conducted by many investigators including Vic Golubic of Arizona, failed to find a trace of a nurse by that name. Although Golubic even tried the civilian hospitals and doctors in Roswell, there had not been a nurse stationed at the base, or who lived in Roswell in 1947 by that name. She simply did not exist.

That didn’t stop the show’s producers from trotting out a record of court martial found in those eleven boxes. Although in a box by itself, and had apparently been requested by McAndrew during the Air Force search for information, it has nothing to do with Dennis’ missing nurse or the Roswell case. It should have been returned to the Judge Advocate General when McAndrew finished with it. This was not a copy, but the original document. I filed paperwork at the NARA suggesting that this record be sent back to the JAG.

The transcript was about a doctor who was having an affair with a nurse. His wife was in a mental hospital in California and it seemed as if she was going to remain there. The nurse was a not very bright woman who had met the doctor in Mississippi and later they found themselves both stationed at Roswell. They were so poor at their clandestine assignations that one week they used his car and the next hers, registering at the same El Paso (Texas) motel as husband and wife. All this happened in the mid-1950s and there is no reason to assume that it had anything to do with the Roswell case. I told the producers as much but they apparently weren’t going to let a little thing like that keep them from mentioning the court martial, the clandestine rendezvouses in Texas and the possibility that this had been the nurse identified by Dennis.

That, of course, was not the only irrelevance jammed into the program. We learned of the use of animals in space exploration, a topic that I had researched at the Space Museum in Alamogordo, New Mexico, over several months. I learned that the first use of any sort of living creatures was in July, 1947, but these were mice and insects. The first primates were used about a year later, but these were rhesus monkeys which are about the size of a house cat. The program suggested that primates in flight suits discovered on the New Mexican desert would certainly create mystery... if such a thing had ever happened but I found no records of lost flights carrying the primates, no records of civilians finding the wreckage of those non-existent flights and being mystified, and no records of lost rockets that could account for the Roswell story.

We can, if we want, pick apart the documentary. How good is it if the host mispronounces the names of key figures such as Mack Brazel and Jesse Marcel? How good is their research when they tell us about the official UFO investigation, suggesting that Project Blue Book began in 1949? The first official investigation, called Project Sign, began in 1948. Project Grudge replaced Project Sign in 1949 and Project Blue Book replaced Project Grudge in 1951, facts that made little difference to them.

I can point out that they talk about Project Mogul, the attempt to create a "constant level balloon" so that we could spy on the Soviets, but showed pictures of other balloon projects including Skyhook. They implied that these new kind of balloons made of polyethylene might have fooled some of the New Mexican ranchers because they didn’t look like regular weather balloons. The problem here is that all the polyethylene balloon launches are accounted for in the records and the only Mogul flight that is not was made of regular weather balloons and radar targets. There was nothing unusual about them and nothing to fool ranchers who had found similar balloons on other occasions.

They failed to mention that Mack Brazel, the rancher who alerted the military to the debris on the ranch he managed, told reporters at the Roswell Daily Record that he had found weather balloons on two other occasions and the debris he found was nothing like those. If it had been Project Mogul, as the producers suggested, then what he found would have been just like those other weather balloons because that was what Mogul was.

I feel responsible for this disaster. Had I not been chasing certain records, which, by the way, were not in those boxes, then the producers would not have made this documentary. No one at the National Archives would have known that the boxes had arrived or that the proper paperwork had not been filed. Those eleven boxes would be stored in some corner of the archives because no one would care about what they contained.

The irony here is that they only contained documents created in the 1990s, or irrelevant reports from earlier Air Force experiments. While some of that is interesting, and the that research eventually allowed us to touch space and probably made air travel safer, it was not what I wanted. It was not the critical materials for which I had been searching. Now, of course, I can begin that process all over again. But this time I know what not to request. All I have to do is figure out what I need to complete my research.

3 comments:

RRRGroup said...

Kevin:

Congratulations on your new Blog which clarifies and illuminates many aspects of UFO "history" and events...and this in real time and with your usual credible panache.

I just watched that History Channel repeat of its Roswell "solution" and was offended by the liberties it took with the truth, and the spin that was put on events with which I had some familiarity, but the general public does not.

Your Blog makes me feel better, knowing that at least one UFO expert is working to correct the so-called "public record."

Again, nice work....indeed.

Rich Reynolds

Paul Kimball said...

Kevin:

Yes, we producers / writers / directors are immediately intrigued when we hear of things that, potentially, no-one else has ever seen before. Ratings, after all, are what drives the media (whether it be print, television or radio).

Still, the problem comes from the fact that, for most documentary makers who wade into the UFO field, they either know almost nothing about the UFO phenomenon, or they know "too much" and have crossed the line into "Believerville" (a large town just across the river from Debunkerton").

In the case of the History Channel documentary, I suspect there was a mix of both, along with a fair amount of laziness.

Paul Kimball

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