There has been, again, an assault on the integrity of Jesse Marcel, Sr., by one who has never served in the military and who seems to believe that if it didn’t appear in Marcel’s service record, then it must be a lie. Such simplistic thinking has, for too long, influenced both sides of the UFO question. In the real world there are shades of gray and we must remember that to understand much of what happens in UFOlogy we must be aware of that.
I thought that if we attempted a dispassionate look at Marcel, we might learn something. Oh, it’s not going to lead us to flying saucers and alien bodies, but it might teach us something about the case anyway.
Marcel, in discussing flying saucers (a term very much in use in 1947, though there are those who deny this) with his ham radio buddies in the late 1970s, said that he had picked up pieces of a flying saucer while he was stationed in Roswell (do I need to append New Mexico to this). It was just conversation among friends, but one of those friends was also a station manager in New Orleans who mentioned Marcel to Stan Friedman.
Friedman, and then Len Stringfield, interviewed Marcel who told them about picking up pieces of flying saucer. By searching newspaper files starting with the Arnold sighting on June 24, 1947, they found (or rather I am told William Moore found) a picture of Marcel holding up some of this alleged flying saucer debris on July 9, 1947.
So we come to the first question. In 1947 what did flying saucer mean? Was it a term applied only to alien spaceships or did it have a more general connotation?
Given what I have read in the newspapers and magazines from that era, it would seem to me that flying saucer meant any sort of object, mirage, or apparition seen in the sky. It didn’t necessarily mean spacecraft and I think that it rarely meant spacecraft.
True, that was sometimes the definition applied then but it wasn’t as fixed as it is now. So, when Marcel told his son he had pieces of a flying saucer, he might not have meant it was an alien ship.
I can, of course, interview the son about that and I remember the words he said his father spoke when Jesse Jr. found the writing embossed on the small I-beam. His father said that Jesse Jr. might have been the first person in the world to have seen writing from another world... but in this discussion, I’m thinking that flying saucer was a more generic term than it is today, which, of course doesn’t mean that Marcel wasn’t thinking alien in 1947.
If we look at his statements to various investigators, in front of the media, and to others he talked to, what he described is mainly bits and pieces of debris that had no real shape and provided no real clue to what the overall craft, or object, might have been. Bits of metal, thick paper and thin foil are basically bits of metal, thick paper and thin foil. It is not what you would expect to find littering a crash site, but then, you would certainly find that sort of thing scattered among the larger pieces unless the thing disintegrated or that the field Marcel walked was only part of the crash site. Others suggest that the main body of the craft had come down elsewhere and Bill Brazel told me there was a gouge suggesting something heavy had hit and skipped. Marcel didn’t mention the gouge and as far as I know, no one asked him about that specifically.
So, we have some metallic debris and the like which suggests a technology that was advanced beyond ours but the problem is not with the descriptions of the debris by Marcel but the interpretation put on it. It would seem that everyone, debunker, skeptic, researcher and believer concedes that Marcel handled the material that he claimed to have handled. No one is accusing him of lying about this.
The darling of the debunkers, Sheridan Cavitt, in his official statement to the Air Force, said that he didn’t remember if Marcel had gone out to the field with him or not. He didn’t deny it, he just wasn’t sure. What is important is that Cavitt talked about the debris, but his interpretation of it was that it was something of terrestrial manufacture and unimportant. He never explained why, after he had returned from the Debris Field he didn’t mention this to Colonel Blanchard, the 509th Bomb Group commanding officer.
Yes, I know that Cavitt’s chain of command did not pass through the 509th Headquarters, but instead to the CIC office in Albuquerque. But then, if Cavitt had accompanied Marcel to the Debris Field, Blanchard would have asked both what they had seen. Apparently Cavitt did not mention he thought it was all a balloon when he spoke to Blanchard.
But again, we have no evidence of Marcel lying. We have a disagreement as to interpretation of the debris they saw. Cavitt thought balloon and Marcel thought flying saucer.
We all seem to agree that Marcel went out to the Debris Field. We all agree that he found material that he believed to be exotic. We agree that he took it home and then out to the base. Marcel had not lied about any of that. Others witnessed various parts of that activity so we have independent corroboration.
We all agree that Marcel had been a major in 1947, he was the air intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Group, and that he held bits of what he believed to be a flying saucer, whatever definition we wish to apply to those words today. So where does this idea that Marcel was a liar come from?
It can all be traced to a transcript of an interview that was conducted by Bob Pratt in 1978. Pratt’s transcript is sometimes garbled with his questions or comments inserted into the middle of Marcel’s statements. I believe that Pratt was careful in transcribing what Marcel said, was less careful with his own comments, and while he would have understood the transcript completely though today we are sometimes confused.
Karl Pflock, in his Roswell book, printed the transcript, but he cleaned it up. He put his spin on some of the words, and as I have said before, the insertion of a comma in one place changes the meaning of the answer to one of those confusing questions.
Again there is little dispute about what he described as seeing on the Debris Field. The problem arises when we begin to compare his service record with what he said in the Pratt interview. Some of the things said here were not repeated to others, which makes me wonder how this came about.
At the being of the interview, Marcel said, "I had flying experience before going in service, started flying in 1928, so being in the air was not foreign to me."
This has been interpreted to be Marcel suggesting that he had been a pilot as far back as 1928, yet when he was asked, in a pre-commissioning interview in 1942 what his hobbies were, he mentioned photography and ham radio. He said nothing about aviation. But he did mention was a cartographer and that he worked from aerial photographs and part of his experience was flying over the areas.
However, and this is important, he said only that he had been flying since 1928 but not that he was a pilot. As part of his job as a cartographer, he flew but did not pilot the aircraft. We have a wash on this. No lie from Marcel, but a misinterpretation from those who wish to assassinate his character. I know from my own experience that when I first joined the Army I mentioned nothing about my previous flying experience, although most of it was as a student with limited hours as a pilot. What this all means to me is that Marcel had flown as part of his job but hadn’t piloted the aircraft and in his interview entering active duty simply did not mention this because, at the time, it was irrelevant and unimportant.
There are two other points in the Pratt interview that talk about flying experience. Marcel mentioned that he had 438 hours of combat time, which meant that he had flown into combat as a member of a crew. Some suggest he was a passenger in an aircraft that was flying into combat, but I suggest he was a member of the crew rather than just a passenger. The exact nature of his position in the aircraft is irrelevant and we have documentation to support his tale of combat flying hours.
He then mentioned that, "...[I] was intelligence officer for bomb wing, flew as pilot, waist gunner and bombardier at different times..."
Now we have Marcel saying he was a pilot, at least to those who weren’t paying attention. He said he had flown AS a pilot, not that he was one and this is a vital distinction. He was not claiming to have been rated and his military record reflects that he was not a military pilot. This does not mean he hadn’t flown as a pilot.
No one seems worried that he also said that he had flown as a bombardier or waist gunner. Again, he wasn’t saying that he had been trained in those positions, only that he had flown in them. This, to me, means he wasn’t lying, but giving an accurate accounting of his experience. In aviation units, those not rated in specific positions sometimes fly in them.
There is a scene in 12 O’Clock High in which they have returned from the first bombing mission in Germany. General Savage learns that half the ground staff has made the mission flying as waist gunners, men who were not rated in those positions but made the mission anyhow.
Yes, this is fiction, but my own experience in an aviation unit bears this out. I gave "stick time" to crew chiefs and door gunners and myself flew as a door gunner on occasion. Nothing in our records would reflect this.
In other words, I don’t see this as a lie by Marcel either. He had the opportunity to do those things and did them. They just weren’t mentioned in his military record and I wouldn’t expect them to be.
The problem is actually when he apparently said he had 3000 hours of pilot time. This is a huge number for someone who is not rated. I have something like 16 – 1700 hours, if you count everything, and I was rated.
But I don’t know how this number came up. In Pflock’s version of the interview, he has Pratt asking the question. According to that version, "Pratt: You had three thousand hours as a pilot – "
Marcel said, "Right [and] eight thousand hours [total] time."
The way it appears in the Pratt interview is "Q – 3000 hrs pilot (right) 8000 hrs flying time."
I could argue that it was Pratt who introduced this number into the discussion and we don’t know where it originated. I could argue that we don’t have Marcel saying this, but to be fair, he seems to be agreeing to it which is really the same thing.
In the end, it seems to me that the 1928 as the date when he started flying is irrelevant because that was when he started flying as a map maker. He didn’t say he started flying as a pilot in 1928. That is an assumption that others have made over the years and I don’t think anyone ever asked Marcel about this.
Later he said that he had flown as a pilot, and this too, is the truth. He wasn’t saying that he was rated or a pilot but that he had flown as one, as well as a waist gunner and bombardier. This too, seems to be the truth.
The problem for me is this claim of 3000 hours as a pilot and 8000 flying time. While I can ignore the 8000 hours total time simply because he was in aviation units and we know he had nearly 500 hours in combat make that total number a little more palatable.
But the 3000 hours of pilot time is quite worrisome... I can’t see how that is possible for a non-pilot even in an aviation unit. This would seem to be an embellishment but I have no evidence that the number is inaccurate... and in the end, no one else does either. Marcel never really did say he had been a pilot.
I suppose this could be seen as splitting a fine hair but do we really want to trash a man’s reputation for something like this... something that we can’t prove is a lie. It might just be true, though I find it hard to believe.
Those attacking Marcel also accuse him of lying when he said he was shot down once, on his third mission and that he claimed he was the sole survivor. The debunkers have gone wild with this claim which is really one that we can provide a resolution to.
Debunkers have said there was nothing in his file to show that he was shot down and I say there wouldn’t be unless he had been put in for an award of some kind. There is no place to make such a note and it was such a common occurrence that it didn’t merit mention.
Pflock, in his interpretation of this wrote, "Marcel: I got shot down one time, my third mission, out of Port Moresby.
"Pratt: Did everyone survive?"
"Marcel: All but one crashed into a mountain."
In this interpretation, Marcel is saying that everyone but one crashed into the mountain which means there was another survivor.
However, if I add a comma, I change the meaning. "Marcel: All, but one crashed into a mountain."
Now everyone, but a single poor soul survived.
In the Pratt interview, it appears like this, "... I got shot down one time, my third mission, out of Port Moresby (everyone survive) all but one crashed into a mountain."
No matter how you slice it, Marcel didn’t claim he was the only survivor as many of the debunkers allege. This is a clear win for Marcel. No evidence that he was lying and no evidence that he claimed he was the only survivor.
For me, the most troubling is the claims in the Pratt interview are for college credit and a college degree. Again, the Pratt transcript is garbled. In the Pratt interview, it said (and reproduced here exactly as it is in the transcript), "... degree in nuclear physics (bachelors) at completed work at GW Univ inWash. attended (LSU, Houston, U of Wis, NY Univ, Ohio State) , Docotr pool? and GW..."
Prior to entering the Army, Marcel mentioned that he had attended LSU for a year and a half, but there is a qualification on one of the documents. In parentheses, it said, "Uncredit." I have no idea what that means. Did he merely audit the classes? Did he flunk out? Did he receive an incomplete?
I did check with the other universities mentioned, asking each if there were any kind of extension courses that Marcel might have taken while on active duty. All replied that he hadn’t attended their schools in any official capacity. I do know that some of the military courses he took were taught at universities, but nothing to suggest any civilian education at them. The Pratt interview seems to be the only place he made these claims and they are not true.
In the end we have seem to have a single example of Marcel lying but even this makes no sense. Why claim to have attended so many schools? Why say this at all because someone was going to check?
Does this really suggest that we could trust nothing that Marcel said? We all agree that he walked the Debris Field. We all agree that he picked up the material. We all agree that something fell. But because we have some ambiguous statements on a transcript that is sometimes garbled, we’re simply going to reject everything that he said, even when it is corroborated by others whose testimony is trusted.
Since this is a dispassionate look, which means I’m not debating the point, but attempting to understand it, there is one other interview that is important. I don’t understand how the skeptics have missed it for the last decade but I have seen little mention of it (and now I’m sure it will be quoted to prove that Marcel was a liar... I can see the headline, "Jesse Marcel admits the Roswell case a lie.")
Dr. Linda Corley is from Houma, Louisiana, which was where Jesse Marcel lived. She said that in 1981, while working on a school project, she called Marcel and asked for an interview. She spent about four hours with Marcel and his wife, Viaud, and said that she "can’t remember a more pleasant or interesting visit."
Rather than repeat what she heard from Marcel during that interview because it is essentially what he said to everyone else, I’ll mention what happened in the days that followed. According to Corley, she received a telephone call from Marcel. She said, "I can still hear Jesse’s frantic voice on the telephone saying NOT to use any of the material obtained from my conversation with him. He seemed almost hysterical when he called my home, the first time, several days after the interview."
Then, according to Corley, "He stated that everything he told me was a lie."
She also said, "Well, I knew most of what he said was previously published material, given on other interviews, so I figured that this was only his way of trying to prevent me from using the information given me. But I did not know why. My heart really went out to him. He sounded so scared. The second telephone call was similar to the first. A day or so later he called to inquire if I had released any of the information to the press. I assured him that it was only for a school project but he insisted that I was going to the press with it. I tried to calm him and promised him that I would not use any of the personal information if he did not want me to. However, that did not seem to console him. I just didn’t know what to make of his strange behavior..."
So, contrary to what a debunker has written, Viaud Marcel never said it was a lie. That quote came from her husband under what sounded like duress. I don’t know why he would want to repudiate what he had said in the past, though I can speculate. However, this is to be a dispassionate look, so I’ll leave those speculations for later.
What we all really disagree about here is the interpretation that Marcel, in his later life, put on what he had found in New Mexico in 1947. Because some of us don’t agree with that interpretation, they’re going to smear his reputation, even though we know that the military records are often incomplete, that we can see how some conclusions about his statements were drawn both by Pratt and others who read his interview transcript later, and that there is confusion in what was actually said by Marcel.
I understand that some believe that if Marcel is eliminated from the Roswell case, major damage has been done, which I suspect is the reason for the smear campaign. But when you look at it carefully, all you see is that Marcel claimed to have picked up strange debris that he couldn’t identify. He was who he said he was, which means he was the air intelligence officer in 1947. He was on Blanchard’s staff and every other staff officer who was interviewed with a single exception agreed with him. He believed the material was of alien manufacture.
The confusion then, comes from the Pratt interview and Marcel’s actual record. You can decide if those discrepancies are enough for you to reject what he said or if they are the sorts of trouble you run into when looking at the written words of an interview made decades earlier and a set of military records that are even older.
Personally, in the end, I will not label Marcel a liar for those discrepancies simply because there are enough problems with my military records and what I know to be the facts in my record to suggest similar problems exist with Marcel’s records.
We can disagree about the interpretation but the case for Marcel being a liar is not proved. This, I believe, is the conclusion that a dispassionate look will sustain. We haven’t reached the extraterrestrial, but I think we understand a bit more of the situation in Roswell in 1947.