In keeping with my series on Chasing Footnotes, I have found a subtopic that is almost as interesting (well, it is to me) which is finding original sources (which, of course, is sort of the same thing). Not all that long ago I ran across an analysis of the Roswell case in which it was claimed that Captain Darwin Rasmussen (later Colonel) had assisted Major Jesse Marcel in recovering the alien bodies. I have never heard anything like that and it puzzled me because, as far as I knew, only Stan Friedman and I had interviewed Rasmussen’s cousin, Elaine Vegh.
Now that you all are thoroughly confused, let me explain. Back in 1990, I learned of Elaine Vegh whose claim to fame in this arena was that her first cousin, Darwin Rasmussen, had been a career Air Force officer who was stationed in Roswell in 1947. According to her, she had been standing near her father when Rasmussen reportedly said, “…never doubt that there is a cover up here. We did pick up bodies and the Air Force does have them.”
She also said, “He had seen what was picked up. He had seen the craft.”
First, before the skeptics all go nuts, let me point out that this is a second-hand story of an overheard conversation that had taken place at least a decade and a half prior to that. As evidence of anything, it isn’t worth very much. Elaine Vegh was probably relating the story as best she could remember, but see didn’t see anything herself and her memory of this is somewhat clouded… I’ll get back to this.
That was really all she said to me. Her cousin had been part of a retrieval team; he had seen bodies and the wrecked craft. She had nothing in the way of evidence, there are or were no family letters or documents, and according to Vegh, Rasmussen said, “I was there… but we were told to forget what we saw…”
Well, Rasmussen’s picture is not in the Yearbook, but that doesn’t matter. I have a copy of the Roswell base telephone directory published in August 1947, and his name is in there. That puts him in Roswell at the right time. I also found his name associated with a 509th flight crew.
Second, this little tale has not been used very often. Friedman seems to have ignored it, and given everything, I’m not overly surprised. It is second hand without any corroboration. Rasmussen died in 1975 and Vegh’s father died in 1983. No one else heard the conversation and there wasn’t much in the way of detail.
Yes, I used it in UFO Crash in Roswell and Tom Carey and Don Schmitt used it in Witness to Roswell, interestingly without providing credit for the interview. Their footnote just mentioned an interview in 1990 (March 1, 1990 to be precise) but failed to mention that I conducted it, taped it, and supplied a copy to Don. Anyone reading their book might conclude they had conducted the interview.
There was a reference to Rasmussen and what he had seen at:
In this case, it was suggested that Rasmussen had seen four bodies and Vegh did say that he, Rasmussen "... had first hand knowledge of four beings and their craft..." Here Rasmussen is described as the Operations Officer for the 715th Bomb Squadron which was part of the 509th. The referenced sources here are both UFO Crash at Roswell and Witness to Roswell. In Witness to Roswell he is described as a flight operations officer and in UFO Crash at Roswell as an Operations Officer (and unfortunately the organization is misidentified as the 718th). I have since located some records that showed he was assigned to an aircrew as a radar officer for Operation Crossroads. That information, which does not relate to Roswell, can be seen here:
Another reference found retold the story, clearly from UFO Crash at Roswell, but the text does identify the source, and it comes back to me. It adds nothing to it until that recent note that injected Jesse Marcel into it by someone else.
I can find nothing to explain where the idea came that Rasmussen had mentioned Marcel. Tracing the tale to the source, which is probably me given that Friedman didn’t use it, I know that Vegh did not say that to me. The conclusion that I draw is that someone somewhere just assumed that Marcel would have been involved and injected him into a tale in which his name had not surfaced. In Witness to Roswell Carey and Schmitt argue that Marcel had to have seen the bodies so it is not a large step to Marcel and Rasmussen being together at some point. This, I believe, is an assumption made by them but is not based on any testimony.
And finally let’s talk about that clouded memory. Vegh had said that she had overheard the story when she was 10 or 12. In 1990, and I’m sure she would be annoyed for me saying this, she was 62. She also said that she had graduated from high school in 1945… which means that, if she had the timing right, this had nothing to do with Roswell…
That’s a point she figured out later as we discussed this. I mentioned that the crash was in 1947 (is that such a big secret that I should have kept it to myself… and oh, she had seen the Unsolved Mysteries broadcast before we spoke so I wasn’t giving away anything and we had talked about the date throughout the interview) she said, “I graduated high school in 1945 so I must have been little older.”
So, we see that her original memory was of her overhearing this when she was younger was inaccurate, and I’m not sure that’s the real problem here. Misremembering her age seems fairly trivial in the overall scheme of things. The real problem is the lack of corroboration for the story. True, her cousin was in Roswell at the right time, and since he died in 1975, this would have been before all the Roswell information came out (she didn’t mention it until 1990 remember) but there is just nothing here we can prove. It is a story with almost no real foundation, told by a sincere woman who clearly believes it, but it is also told by a woman who did not accurately remember her age at the time. This tale is one of those little bits of trivia that seem to dot the Roswell landscape.