I have waited to comment on the National Geographic Channel’s Chasing UFOs because I wanted to see the episode that dealt with the Roswell case. I wanted to see how they handled it and I wanted to see if the button that they had used on the web to promote the program actually showed up in that program. There had been talk that the buttons they would use were those metallic fatigue uniform buttons that Frank Kimbler had found during earlier searches.
I now have the answers for my questions and it is not good.
|White Sands UFO|
First, let’s divert for a moment. They used that old video from White Sands of something that looked disc shaped that angled to the ground, bounced high and then hit with an explosion. They were quite impressed with it and at the end said that their missile expert had said that it wasn’t a missile.
But this video has been around for a decade or more and those on the SyFy Channel’s Fact or Faked: The Paranormal Files had explored the possibility that the footage was of a missile test that had gone astray. They attempted to replicate the footage themselves and did a fairly convincing job.
|White Sands UFO near telephone pole.|
I wondered then, and I wonder now, why these investigators don’t bother with checking with the White Sands Missile Range. I did that and Monte Marlin said that he once had an email response prepared that he sent out to all who asked about the video. It struck me that for him to do that, it meant that there were many others who also asked the question about the footage which isn’t a bad thing. I mean there were enough people asking about the validity of the tape that he felt compelled to create a generic response to save himself some time.
|White Sands explosion.|
Marlin, in his email to me said that this particular video was part of “an infrared shot of a Navy missile test...The high powered optics tests are part and parcel of our test mission here at the missile range. The data we collect belongs to our ‘customers,’ the weapons developers and is used for technical purposes. Once in a while the clips make their way to the general public...”
Marlin also noted, “There are many, many launch areas and instrumentation sites on this enormous missile range. It is not uncommon to see poles in video footage. The poles may carry cabling related to the test or some poles have markings so that when we look at the footage, we can measure time/space distance.”
This seems to explain what the video shows, and it seems that there is a terrestrial explanation for it. I do wonder why, we are once again treated to this footage when a good explanation for it has been offered and why those on this new show didn’t bother with that or even know it.
After interviewing Cliff Stone, who seems to be a nice fellow who has studied UFOs for quite a while, but who has no special knowledge about the Roswell case, they move onto the Debris Field. They did take Frank Kimbler out there with them. He explains how he located the field, talking about getting the information from the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
With metal detectors, they begin to sweep the field. Quickly (and I say quickly because it is clear they didn’t spend many hours out there), they find a bit of metal. While everyone stands around speculating about how this might be part of the craft or it might be the remnants of the recovery operation, but not seeming to be able to identify the metal as a rusted can, they move on.
After Frank returns to Roswell, they decide to spend the night, using their metal detectors, night vision photography, and their enthusiasm. Eventually, Erin Ryder discovers something. They all crowd around as they dig it up and find a button. They don’t recognize it, but believe it to be military, and if so, why then that is highly significant.
Back in LA they analyze the things they have found. They mention their missile expert but nothing from White Sands. The first metal they found was nothing more important than the remains of a tin can. They had mentioned how desolate the area was, but failed to mention that it was a working ranch and that UFO investigators had been out there, on and off, for two decades. A rusted can has no significance.
|A button similar to the one they found.|
They have now identified the button as Air Force. The instant I saw it, I knew it was an Air Force button. But I also realized, the instant I saw it, that the button was irrelevant. In July 1947, when the recovery operation was underway, there was no Air Force. There was the Army Air Forces, but the point is, it was the Army Air Force Forces. The Air Force wouldn’t become a separate service until September.
Here’s something else. The button is from a Class A uniform which is basically a coat and a tie. While not exactly a dress uniform, it is much fancier than the fatigues that would be worn into the field. The soldiers, who were cleaning the debris field, would have been in fatigues, and while the officers wouldn’t be down on their hands and knees, they might well have been dressed in a similar fashion because they were also in the field. Had they not been wearing fatigues, they would have been in khakis, a Class B uniform that would not have had the fancier buttons on it.
And if they were, for some reason, out there in a Class A uniform, the buttons would not have been Air Force, they would have been Army.
In other, more precise words, that button, that great find by the Chasing UFOs team, had nothing to do with the recovery operation, whether picking up an alien craft or the remains of a weather balloon (which would have taken a couple of guys most of an hour… ).
It is quite clear that the button was planted out there by someone who didn’t understand military history, military operations, or the proper wear of the uniform. That button, from a Class A uniform, did not belong out there because those recovering the debris wouldn’t have been wearing Class A uniforms.
Here is something else about that button. It seemed to be too good. The button I used for the photograph had not been buried, but only exposed to the open air for a couple of decades. It is tarnished to a bronze color. The button they found seemed to be nearly pristine. I would expect that if it had been buried for any length of time it would have degraded more than my button that had not.
What this tells me is that the National Geographic has gone the same way as the Arts and Entertainment Channel, Bravo, History Channel and a couple of others. Arts and Entertainment was originally about programing from high culture but has changed until its highest rated show is Storage Wars about those who buy abandoned storage lockers.
Bravo, which once broadcast ballet and opera now gives us Tabatha’s Salon Takeover where she teaches the owners of hair salons how to keep the place clean, treat customers and cut hair. They also broadcast the Real Housewives of NYC and Pregnant in Heels.
The point is that National Geographic is now more about ratings than research. It is about audience share and entertainment and not about finding the truth, whatever that truth might be. It is about superficial research that avoids asking the difficult questions or asking those who might actually have an answer.
Had anyone there asked me about the button, I could have told them that the Air Force didn’t exist in July 1947. I could have told them that the Air Force came into existence in September 1947 so that a button from an Air Force uniform would have been dropped some time after that. I would have told them that I would not expect to find such a button and at best it was dropped by someone in a Class A uniform long after the recovery operation. At worse, it was planted out there for someone to find and draw the wrong conclusions.
I suppose this is no worse than any other documentary. While I get that the producers seem to have an attitude that some UFOs are alien craft, I would rather see something with a little more substance. The reaction to finding the rusted tin can struck me as over the top. The excitement over the button was somewhat strained. In other words, I didn’t believe the “acting” around the finds and that detracted from the overall message of the program.
This is just another example of a program that doesn’t have research at its heart but entertainment. In this case, the entertainment seems to suggest that aliens do visit Earth. In other programs, the emphasis seems to be that those reporting UFOs are somehow deluded, mistaken or uneducated. In neither case are the programs fair… they take a point of view to the exclusion of contradictory information.
Chasing UFOs is no better and no worse than any of the others. I just wish they knew the subject a little better