The other day, as I was looking over some of my old files and interviews I found an interview that I had done nothing with at the time. At the risk of offending all those who get annoyed if I mention Roswell and accuse me of being obsessed with it, I thought this might be of interest. I remember nothing about this interview. It took place in late 1995 with Colonel Claude N. Burcky, who, in 1947 was a major assigned to the 390th Air Service Squadron.
|Claude N. Burcky|
I confirmed that I was talking to the right man and that he had been in Roswell in 1947 (though the Yearbook confirmed that as well). He told me, “I was base operations officer… and I knew of it [the alleged crash] and we knew that security requirements relative to it…” (I must note here that in July 1947, there were two base operations officers. First was Lieutenant Colonel James Hopkins and then Lieutenant Colonel Joe Briley.)
But Burcky told me he hadn’t seen anything first hand. He said, “Since I didn’t see anything and the only thing that I was told was that such and such hangar was off limits to everyone and that the parts, pieces and so forth that were picked up and put on this trailer… and put into that hangar and no one could get in there until the stuff was moved.”
He also said that he had heard the stories of alien bodies but that he had not seen them himself. So, he was providing some interesting second-hand testimony about what went on during that time but given the state of Roswell research today, it really adds little to our knowledge and might be seen as complicating it even more. I asked about the debris, but he hadn’t seen any of it either, and only knew what he had heard.
I said, “So you really didn’t see anything like that yourself? So all you’re really aware of is some event took place.”
He said, “Yeah, and I assigned a guy to drive the trailer, the vehicle that went out… you see it happened on the bombing range.”
And this is where the tale became interesting because the bombing range was south of the base and that suggested something had happened much farther south of Roswell. I had heard nothing of a crash site south of Roswell and even today there seems to be nothing to support that idea and I’ve talked to a number of people about this. Everything was more or less north of town and more or less north of the base. This didn’t fit with what I knew.
But there was something that I did know. There was a reported crash south of Roswell in 1949 and wondered if that might a source of confusion. I learned that on February 11, 1949, Paul L. Ryan, in the AFOSI 17th District at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque prepared a report about an “Aerial Phenomena,” that had been observed on January 30. He wrote, “…Mr. Charles Naffziger, Administrative Supervisor, advised that a peculiar light or aerial phenomena had been observed at 1755 hours [or about six in the evening], 30 January 1949, in the vicinity of Walker AFB [originally Roswell Army Air Field], Roswell, New Mexico, and that Sgt. Edward P. McCrary, a tower control operator of Walker AFB be contacted.”
The next day, January 31, several of those at Roswell were interviewed about the sighting. The official report said:
…a blue-green light resembling a flare was observed travelling on a horizontal line. This light came out of the North headed South at an estimated altitude of 2,000 feet, moving slowly, and disappeared in the vicinity of SE Walker Air Force Base. To some observers, this phenomenon disappeared in its entirety while other statements mention a disappearance as a disintegration into a shower of smaller lighted fragments such as a shower of sparks. The only sound accompanying this object was heard by Sgt. McCrary, who described it as a high pitched whining noise similar to a blowtorch. All of these observers sighting this light from a position west of it while facing east.
One of those men was Sergeant Raymond D. Platt, who I interviewed more than forty years later. He provided a little more detail, saying the he, “didn’t believe it was a flying saucer. He believed it to be a meteor.” In 1949 he was “interrogated by base personnel, the CIC and the FBI.”
He said it was flying very slow, was very bright and it exploded into six or seven pieces. It was travelling at a very shallow angle, going from north to south and was bright white and blue. It burned out after it exploded, which is why he lost sight of it.
There were other reports of this object from other areas around Roswell. In Alamogordo, Major James C. Petersen, said that he had sighted a single bright green object looking to the east. He said it was a bright green fireball of flame travelling in a southerly direction, without evidence of smoke or trail of any kind. He lost sight of it when it, according to him, seemed “to fizzle out.”
Also in Alamogordo, Wilfred T. Martin, who worked as a technician for the Boeing Aircraft Company, said that about six in the evening, he saw a single green fireball to the east and travelling to the south. He saw no signs of an exhaust; he watched for about ten seconds and said that it did not explode.
Martin was with Sergeant Maurice C. Anthon at the time and who was also interviewed about the sighting in 1949. He said, “I observed an object that appeared to be travelling diagonally across in front of me… Its distance seemed very close and appeared to be travelling very slowly… Gentle downward glide, bright burning (Green and yellowish light) a fizzling out and then a bright burning, and then appeared to die out. This could have been the effects of its passing beyond my view.”
PFC Ira W. Vail, assigned to the weather detachment at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo told investigators in 1949 that he had “seen a green ball of flame with a trail of some kind in an Easterly direction.” Vail described the object as traveling in a Southerly direction and added that the object was visible for approximately six seconds. Vail described the object as “bright green and disappeared without exploding.”
There were other, similar reports coming from other parts of New Mexico and west Texas. The track of the object, or the green fireball, could be plotted based on the observations of the witnesses, and the investigators took many of them to the places where they had seen the fireball to get accurate measurements suggesting height and direction. Using the information gathered from more than 100 witnesses, Dr. Lincoln La Paz set out in an attempt to find where the object came to earth, if it was an ordinary meteor. He said that he’d have very good luck in the past finding the remains of meteors (in this case a meteorite.
According to the report, “Special Agent [Lewis] Rickett [a member of the Counter Intelligence Corps stationed in Roswell and who said he was involved in the UFO crash there in 1947] continued the search throughout Southeast New Mexico and West Texas from 1400 hours, 2 February 1949, to 2400 hours 8 February 1949, in the company of Dr. Lincoln La Paz of the University of New Mexico.”
A verbal report of that activity was made to the Scientific Advisory Board Conference of February 16, 1949. La Paz said:
In the case of the January 30th fall, due to the fact that there had been a large number of military personnel alerted, we were able to obtain observations within a minute after the fall occurred and pursued the investigation over a distance of 1,000 miles – in Texas mud primarily – in some ten days’ time interviewing literally hundreds of people, we saw not one substantial account of noise produced by the meteorite fall…
These lines are drawn [on a map of observers’ sightings, giving direction of the object from the observer and the direction of travel] from the points of observation. The center… of the points of appearance is somewhere Southwest of Amarillo or South-southwest of Amarillo. The disappearance point is in the vicinity of Lubbock, Texas.
La Paz explained that his plots suggested that the meteorite, if that was what it was, should have struck the ground near Lamesa, Texas, which is to the south of Lubbock. Working with a team, including military men such as Rickett, Platt and Neef, they searched the area for several days without results. La Paz was puzzled because in similar cases of large, bright meteorites, he had had great success in recovering fragments.
What struck me here was that Burcky talked of something to the south of the base and this was in the general direction of the bombing range. Platt said that he had been interrogated by people from the base, the CIC and the FBI which suggests that they thought there might be some sort of national security implication but not necessarily indicative of alien visitation. This also sort of describes La Paz, a civilian who was in Roswell interviewing the witnesses. It might be that Burcky confused his statements about what happened in 1947 with what happened in 1949.
Just to end a bit of confusion, it is clear to me and practically anyone else who looks at the 1949 sighting is that it was one of the green fireballs. There was a classified study of them being made in 1949 so there was a national security implication. When the sightings ended, even though there was a bit of controversy about what the green fireballs really were, it was determined that they posed no threat. The documentation and reports were eventually declassified so that we all can see what was being done back in the late 1940s.
I believe that I did nothing with this report because it suggested another site south of Roswell and there was nothing else to back it up. There was no testimony from any ranchers, no soldiers said they had gone out there, and everything else pointed to the events north of town. The report is just one of those anomalies that spring up when dealing with memories that are decades old, though I suspect that those who enjoy creating long lists of UFO crashes will use this tale to validate those claims regardless of the solution. The January 1949 event was a green fireball and not an alien ship.