Monday, July 07, 2008

How Secret Was Mogul?

Let’s talk a moment about this ridiculous notion that the officers and soldiers at the Roswell Army Air Field couldn’t recognize a balloon, or balloon array when they saw it. Let’s also talk about this notion that Project Mogul was top secret so that those soldiers wouldn’t know about it and therefore couldn’t identify it. This is something that we all have talked about before, but it seems that the skeptics and debunkers are having some trouble with the concept.

First, there are the balloon arrays themselves (seen here). They were made up of multiple balloons and rawin radar targets. The balloons were neoprene, flimsy, easily ripped and discolored in the sun. They were standard weather balloons, just like those launched four times a day by the weather department at Roswell. They were something that was easily recognizable because they were so common.

Not quite so common were the rawin radar targets, but they were nothing new and nothing extraordinary. They were made of easily snapped balsa, cloth-backed aluminum foil, and string. All materials with which the soldiers would have been familiar. In fact, many standard meteorological packages were made of one balloon and one rawin radar target. Mogul was made of multiple balloons and multiple targets but that shouldn’t have been so extraordinary that no one could recognize it for what it was.

The remnants of the balloons, targets, and arrays were considered unimportant. While they did attempt to recover them, they sometimes failed, and left them in the fields to rot. Not really how you would treat highly classified material.

But those balloon arrays were the ones lost in rugged terrain or that drifted far outside of New Mexico. That the arrays were not recovered was not considered a security breach by anyone. No one cared that the balloon arrays had disappeared.

In fact, all this was so unimportant, that pictures of the balloons and some of the activities around them were photographed and printed in newspapers across the country (as shown by thise photograph from the El Paso newspaper, July 10, 1947). This is a funny way to treat a highly classified project.

Second, let’s talk about this secrecy. The point that the skeptics and debunkers refuse to understand is that the balloon launches in New Mexico, the equipment used and science being conducted there was not classified. Get it. There was nothing classified about what was going on in New Mexico.

Charles Moore, one of the project scientists (seen here), told me that they had traveled to Roswell to ask for assistance in tracking their balloons. They had meant with the officers at the base, explained what they were doing, and asked for assistance. Colonel William Blanchard, the commanding officer, refused. Or one of his subordinate officers refused. At any rate, the base was going to offer no help chasing balloons.

The balloon launches were announced in advance in NOTAMS, that is, Notices to Airmen, because the long arrays and clusters of balloons could be a hazard to aerial navigation. So, the officers and soldiers at Roswell had a second way of learning about these balloon flights. All they had to do was read the NOTAMs. These NOTAMs would have described the nature of the hazard, or in the world of secrecy, compromised the project one more way.

So, what was classified? The ultimate purpose of the project. The stated purpose, the one that everyone knew was to create a constant level balloon. One that could sustain a certain altitude. Prior to this, balloons were at the whim of the atmosphere, rising and falling as the sun heated them, or the night air cooled them. The Japanese, in their Balloon Bomb campaign, took this into account, rigging a system of ballast with a barometer that would release the sandbags as the balloons dropped below a certain altitude.

That purpose of the project, was not classified. The ultimate purpose, to launch these constant level balloons and send them over the Soviet Union to spy on their atomic programs was classified. The men working in New Mexico probably didn’t know that. All they knew was that they were trying to keep the balloons at a certain altitude for a certain length of time.

What this means is that Mack Brazel should have recognized the balloons for what they were when he found them. He did tell the reporters in Roswell that he had found weather balloons on other occasions and this was nothing like that... except, if it had been Mogul, it would have been exactly like that. Weather balloons and radar targets.

This means that Major Jesse Marcel, Sr., should have been able to recognize the debris as a weather balloon, rather than believing it something truly extraordinary. If we are to believe the tale told by Sheridan Cavitt, he did recognize the debris as a balloon, but didn’t bother to say anything to Marcel who was on the field with him, to Blanchard who was the base commander, or to anyone else. Cavitt kept the important secret that these were weather balloons, even after Brigadier General Roger Ramey in Fort Worth had identified them as such.

So, this idea that Project Mogul was highly classified and therefore would be unrecognizable to the soldiers at Roswell is refuted (Tracking of Mogul flight by officers at Alamogordo, New Mexico). While the purpose was highly classified, the experiments and equipment were not. And, since the project was reported in the newspapers of July 10, 1947, this idea that the government was hiding the project is also refuted.

There is no reason for the extraordinary steps taken to cover up the incident in Roswell... unless it was something else and Mogul wasn’t nearly as important as that new information. This doesn’t take us to the extraterrestrial, but it moves us away from Mogul. It would be nice if the skeptics and debunkers could understand this so we didn’t have to keep repeating it.


RRRGroup said...


You really have to move on....from Roswell, Mogul, and 1947.


cda said...

You are assuming too much here, I think, and I am a Roswell skeptic. You state, correctly, that Marcel & others should have been able to recognise the balloon debris for what it was, and that therefore if it had indeed been Mogul debris the matter would have ended at once, and there would have been no mystery. As you say, secrecy only applied to the ultimate purpose of these balloon flights, not to the early test flights in NM.

But the crux of the matter is this: Haut put out a press release saying the AF had recovered a 'flying disc'. These discs were being seen all over the US and were hot news everywhere since June 24. Marcel & Brazel may well have had a good idea what the debris was, i.e. a balloon plus radar target, but this was contradicted by Haut's 'flying disc' wire. The news was out and the AF had to act (in case the object, however unlikely, was some new Russian device that had strayed into US territory). This was the Cold War at its height. The USAF could not afford to ignore this possibility; hence the immediate request to forward the wreckage to Wright Patterson, via Ft Worth. Once this request went out it did not matter one iota what Marcel (or others) thought the stuff was; it HAD to go to higher authority.

There is no way of telling what Marcel's views of the identity of the debris he recovered were in 1947. He stated, 32 years later, that it looked like strange stuff, but there is nothing to indicate he ever thought it was ET in the years between '47 & 79. But how valid is his public story after 3 decades? How valid is his son's testimony for the same reason? Witnesses are inevitably influenced by the early investigators (i.e. Moore & Friedman), and you have to be aware of this. Marcel was bound by an oath of secrecy, as are all military personnel. But over the years Marcel may have thought about it and finally decided to tell a few friends that he once handled pieces of a UFO (which was briefly true), and maybe get a bit of publicity. Why not? It is not an indictment of his character to suggest this. And when Friedman came along his chance was there, and he took it.

Marcel probably suspected the true nature of the wreckage in 1947, but as I say, his hands were tied. The 'flying disc' story was out, the AF wanted to examine it at the highest level and Blanchard, Marcel, etc had to comply.

Evidently Ramey (at a much higher level than Marcel) managed to convince the Pentagon that it was all a big mistake. Hence the 'flying disc' story died then and there. We still, despite Gen Exon's confused memories, cannot be certain that any debris really went on to Wright Pat, but even if it did, this would only show that WP were still interested enough to want to examine it in case it really was a foreign (e.g. Russian) device.

Marcel was probably not fooled by the stuff he recovered. (He even tried to assemble it into a kite according to one newspaper). But it was fragmented and spread over a wide area. He gathered up what he & Cavitt could in the time available. Then AF HQ demanded that it be shipped to them, whatever it was. Such was the 'climate of fear' at the time.

Paul Kimball said...


As you know, I am skeptical of the "Roswell as an alien spacecraft crash" conclusion, but I've never bought into the Mogul stuff either, for myriad reasons, some of which you have ably set out here (although CDA raises some useful points).


Bob Koford said...

"...But the crux of the matter is this: Haut put out a press release saying the AF had recovered a 'flying disc'. "

Yes, and why? If they had thought it might be of Russian origin, they most likely would have said nothing at all, in the interest of National Security! This is the first strange part of the response.

"...These discs were being seen all over the US and were hot news everywhere since June 24. "

Unknown Flying Objects, some (but not all) of which were relatively disc-shaped, WERE being seen all over the country, and two AF Intelligence officers from Hamilton Field had recently been lost, in relation to an investigation of an event in Washington...hoax-or-not. Again, you would think that, for reasons of National Security, they would have said nothing, until the facts were known, yet there's this strange press release.

"...The news was out and the AF had to act (in case the object, however unlikely, was some new Russian device that had strayed into US territory). "

Again, they'd have said nothing-at-all, in the first place, if that was indeed their concern.

"...There is no way of telling what Marcel's views of the identity of the debris he recovered were in 1947. He stated, 32 years later, that it looked like strange stuff, but there is nothing to indicate he ever thought it was ET in the years between '47 & 79. But how valid is his public story after 3 decades? How valid is his son's testimony for the same reason? Witnesses are inevitably influenced by the early investigators (i.e. Moore & Friedman), and you have to be aware of this. "

You aren't truly being fair the Marcel, Jr. here, for the simple reason that later investigators did not influence his testimony regarding his father's dropping some of the stuff off, in the middle of the night, to show his family. That still leaves the question of why he would have thought it wasn't strange, in any way, in 1947.

"...We still, despite Gen Exon's confused memories, cannot be certain that any debris really went on to Wright Pat, but even if it did, this would only show that WP were still interested enough to want to examine it in case it really was a foreign (e.g. Russian) device. "

Again,as you could see by examining the evidence in the Archives, there were other incidences of debris recoveries, which turned out later to be nothing of real importance, yet we only know of them at this later date, via the Archived material. Why no press conference accompanying these other cases, at the time, if it all unfolds as you have presented here?

"...He gathered up what he & Cavitt could in the time available."

Yet another mystery. This is as you say, because there was so much of it (approximately a quarter-mile, fan-shaped, field of shredded foil-like stuff). Much, much more material present than would be reasonably expected. Also giving the impression of an explosion. There were no explosives on the balloons they were launching, to my knowledge, except for maybe a project dealing with their own balloon bomb experiments, perhaps (i.e. Lincoln LaPaz)

cda said...

Your timescales are slightly wrong. The two AF pilots from Hamilton AFB (in the Maury Island affair) died in a crash some 3 weeks after the Roswell case.

Concerning national security and the 'Russian device' possibility, remember that Haut's release was a bit rushed and he was rebuked from above for it. He probably should have held back a few hours. We do not know exactly who authorised it so early. A reasonable conclusion is that Marcel & Cavitt both suspected the object was the remnants of a balloon & radar reflector. But suspicion was not enough. There was an area of doubt; Haut put out his premature release and once that happened the USAF had to investigate further. Hence the flurry of activity at Roswell & Ft Worth.

I am postulating that Marcel & Cavitt probably had identified the stuff, say, with 75% probability. But the other 25% was sufficient for the AF HQ to demand to examine it.

Ramey may have managed to dissuade AF HQ from taking the case any further, but, as I say, we can never be certain whether the debris reached Wright Field or not.

At Ft Worth Marcel wisely kept his own views to himself and simply stuck to the facts of the case.

The 'explosion' idea sprang from Marcel's interviews in 1979. It was not mentioned by him or anyone else in '47 (nor in the intervening years).

Bob Koford said...

You are right, I am in error. They died July 30/August 1. My bad.

Bob Koford said...

OK..its been over 100 degrees the last couple of days, you'll have to forgive my little brain-freeze errors:

that's 31/Aug. 1st


Bob Barbanes said...

cda says to Kevin, "You are assuming too much here, I think..."

And then later, "I am postulating that Marcel & Cavitt probably had identified the stuff, say, with 75% probability. But the other 25% was sufficient for the AF HQ to demand to examine it."

Now who's assuming too much!

Fear can make you do strange things. I would not put it past our government to have put the "fear of God" into the Roswell participants - the ominous, If you talk about this, something BAD will happen to you or your loved ones. Think about the time back then, before whistleblowers and before the internet, when small towns really were isolated from the outside world. If the government had issued such a dire warning to me, I'd sure enough keep my mouth shut! Major Marcel's allegiances were even stronger than that, being an officer in the military.

To me it is odd that "Roswell" still lingers as an issue even after all these years. Why won't it go away? Surely it can't be because of a lone, obsessesed researcher who "scandalously" keeps it in the public eye.

No, there's got to be more to it than "just a weather balloon." If the government really wanted to quiet the controversy, they'd lay out the so-called weather balloon/radar array for all to see, touch and feel. End of story.

But they won't. Because there are people still alive who might go, "That's not what we saw! That's just not the stuff that was recovered!" Then they'd have to deal with that. (Oh, and the debris must still be around, right? Surely the government would not have destroyed or "disposed" of it, right?)

Finally, why have *NO* other Mogul balloons generated this sort of interest? How many launches were done? Surely some of them must have come down on other-than-military property. Curiously, none were mistaken for UFO's. Only the Roswell "balloon."

I have no idea what the Roswell debris was. And I don't think anyone here can say so with authority. In absence of hard physical evidence, it is only the witness statements that must stand. I think Kevin has done a credible job of bringing them all together. And if we go by those, the story is sure confusing.

SoMany?s said...

I'm sure this short video will clear up any misunderstandings of the Roswell event. I tried to help out the Air Force explanation with a cartoon.

YouTube Video
Roswell: As We Are Told

Mind_Ecdysiast said...

Having handled weather ballons, and briefed flight crews, there is no way I can accept that Major Marcel was not familiar with weather balloons.

I am not extremely familiar with the whole story, but I do have questions. How come his story never made mention of rubber, or twine? How were this so called Mogul balloons held together? Even if struck by lightning, the amount of rubber attached would of been perceivable and a good indicator to the Major of what he had found.

On the other hand Mr Brazel may not have been familiar with the rubber and could have thought someone had skinned an animal. Once again, I have handled the balloons and know the texture and feel. The smell is inequivocally rubber. The color may be the only variant, but at that time I seriously doubt they were dyed other than natural rubber. Any more 1940's military officers were too dense to figure out a balloon story? Specially since this person must of witnessed the launching of balloons before, being that he was at an air station and a member of an elite air squadron. Its like saying that one of our Top Gun pilots can't tell the difference between a missile and a goose in flight.

Anonymous said...

This is my reconstruction of events surrounding the issuance of the famed Roswell press release at lunch hour on July 8, 1947:

The AAF wanted the Roswell AAF (509th Bomb Wing) press release put out in order to halt the two weeks of beatings and humiliation the AAF had been getting in the press over its inability to control the skies over America with the wave of UFO sightings nationwide.

The AAF wanted to project the image of protector of the Western world, that our SAC atomic bombers at Roswell were the only things standing between us and a Soviet invasion, however remote a possibility that was in 1947 (compared to the crisis year 1948).

The idea that the AAF could not protect Americans from flying discs seen overhead everywhere would have the effect of diminishing the SAC nuclear deterrent, because of the perception that a secret device or weapon possibly more powerful than the atomic bomb could fly over US airspace with impunity.

This is not mere idle speculation, there are memos discussing that idea of flying disc sightings causing political damage to our nuclear deterrent, which led to the TOP SECRET Air Intelligence Division Study 203 on Flying Discs, Dec 16, 1948, which recited the fear.

The Roswell press release was coordinated with AAF HQ and was intended to prove that the AAF had solved the "flying disc" mystery that had been hounding the AAF for two weeks, by capturing one intact. The "flying disc" appeared to be mundane weather balloon material, which fact would then be released as soon as it was verified in a few hours. Hence flying discs were no threat to US national security and nothing to worry about.

Thus, the AAF could say it was in control of the skies, we have everything well in hand, everyone go home. It backfired because it inflamed press interest worldwide instead of quelling interest.

One can ask why didn't the original press release state that it was a weather balloon so the whole thing would be rolled up all at once. I think the Pentagon Air Staff insisted (on the phone with Col. Blanchard and/or Lt. Haut) that the alleged flying disc not be described as "wreckage" or damaged. This was in order to convey the false impression that the AAF had recovered a flight-worthy flying saucer, thus enhancing the AAF's prestige. The weather balloon explanation may even have been in an original draft of the press release but was taken out because a glitch had developed.

The glitch is documented in the FBI teletype from Dallas Special Agent in Charge, Percy Wyly, at 6:17 pm that day, which I uncovered from the FBI files many years ago. It explains some of the things going on behind the scenes that day on the Roswell incident.

The 8th Air Force intelligence office at Ft Worth AAF had been in contact with the Dallas FBI office that day in an effort to get the FBI to use its press connections to kill the breaking story or stories about the Roswell debris. The FBI and its much feared director J. Edgar Hoover had stronger connections or even control of the media than the AAF did back then and the AAF knew it. The 8th AF in turn was the higher command level in charge of the Roswell 509th.

The 8th AF intelligence officer Major Edwin Kirton relayed to the FBI the fact that the Roswell material did in fact appear to be a "high-altitude weather balloon with a radar reflector" but there was a glitch. Telephonic description of the material by the 8th AF to Wright Field (Air Materiel Command) "had not borne out this belief" that it was a weather balloon with radar reflector.

The 8th AF said that because of that problem of identification the Roswell disc (the radar reflector) and balloon were being transported by special plane to Wright Field for examination.

The 8th AF explained that it was informing the FBI of all this because there was (a) "national interest" in this story and (b) because NBC, AP and others were attempting to break the story of the location of the disc, i.e., that it was being flown to Wright Field (which contradicted what Gen Ramey was saying which was no need to send the material anywhere).

Between the lines, the AAF was asking for the FBI's help to stop that story from breaking. Otherwise there was no point in even mentioning (b) at all when (a), the "national interest" in the story, would have sufficed.

Another nuance, is that the 8th AF may have been trying to get the FBI's help in covering up for Gen Ramey. If the press revealed that contrary to Ramey the Roswell material was in fact being flown to Wright Field after all, that would make Ramey out to be lying or covering up.

And in fact no such press report of the flight to Wright that was written _after_ Ramey's press conference at about 5 pm, was ever broadcast or published so far as is known (a number of people including Dave Rudiak, Kevin Randle and Jan Aldrich have made extensive searches of Roswell press coverage).

We only know about it from this 6:17 pm FBI telex. Perhaps the FBI was successful in squelching the NBC-AP report.

Maybe this heavyhanded manipulation of the press has left paper trails somewhere. If the FBI did apply pressure to kill the story it had to be in Wash DC by Hoover or a top assistant, who would have contacted either the Washington bureaus or NY HQ's of the major media orgs involved.

The FBI files so far released have not provided anything further on this besides the one telex. However, no concerted effort has been made to find such a paper trail of silencing the press story here. Also, the AP and NBC must have files of their chief executives, which perhaps can be checked (if they weren't more secretive than the CIA when it comes to freedom of information about themselves).

Notice that these events do not necessitate or invoke anything strange having been discovered at Roswell, but they do not contradict the possibility either. Normal PR concerns and early Cold War concerns explain the motivations and the sequence of events and missteps.

However, sometime that day, July 8, 1947, probably in the afternoon after it was too late to stop the press release, something strange was discovered in the desert as an accidental result of checking out the Foster Ranch / Brazel Debris Field.

The testimony of the CIC agents is in my estimation the most credible Roswell testimony of all. These agents never sought publicity, most of them had to be sought out by Karl Pflock through the retired AFOSI agents association.

The CIC agents had no reason at all to admit that anything unexplained had ever been found at Roswell. They could easily have denied that anything out of the ordinary had ever been discovered, and no one would have been the wiser.

Instead the CIC agents all testified to a strange round burned crater having been found at Roswell, separate from any balloon debris site. No alien bodies or crashed spaceship were seen. Their testimony is unsensational yet consistently anomalous, which makes it more credible than that of other witnesses. This I think is the real story behind Roswell.