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This Day in Science Fiction History: 8 July

Historical Entry—Tuesday, July 8, 1947

Front page of the Roswell Daily Record Tuesday, July 8, 1947 with the headline “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region”
Front page of the Roswell Daily Record Tuesday, July 8, 1947(©1947 Roswell Daily Record)

The Roswell Incident would quickly join the ranks of famous conspiracy theories, right up there with the real culprit of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the truth of the moon landing, or how the pyramids of Egypt were really built and who was responsible for them.


Even today, people continue to question the facts of the matter. Was it reported correctly initially, then a series of cover stories concocted? Was there really an alien ship’s wreckage recovered at W.W. “Mac” Brazel’s ranch or was it only a high-altitude balloon? Which “cover” story is the real story, or are none of them true?


What is known is that on the morning of July 8, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer, 1st Lt. Walter Haut, issued a press release to the Associated Press. The release stated –


The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff's office of Chaves County.

The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff's office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office.”


On June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, a private pilot, reported seeing nine unusual flying objects near Mount Rainer, Washington. During the following month, over 800 additional sightings were reported. The RAAF press release fed into the frenzy of UFO sightings.


A press conference was later held by General Roger Ramey, Colonel Thomas Dubose, and weather officer Irving Newton. They explained it had not been a UFO that crashed at the ranch, but rather a weather balloon. The balloon was a radar target used in conjunction with others, which over 80 weather stations around the United States. These stations used the high-altitude balloons as part of their weather projection and detection.


In 1994, a new set of facts was revealed during an investigation of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. This investigation, based on a request from the General Accounting Office, was an inquiry to determine if the U.S. Air Force or any other U.S. government agency, possessed information on the alleged crash and recovery of an extraterrestrial vehicle and its alien occupants near Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947.


The report concluded that the crash had not been a UFO nor a weather balloon. Instead, it was the crash of NYU Flight 4. The balloon was part of a top secret program code named Project Mogul (also known as Operation Mogul). Project Mogul was a system of high-altitude balloons carrying disc microphones and radio transmitters designed to detect long-distance sound waves produced by Soviet atomic bomb tests. The design of the apparatus was much different than weather balloons, containing not only the balloon but radar reflectors and electronics, in what The New York Times said “To the untrained eye, the reflectors looked extremely odd, a geometrical hash of lightweight sticks and sharp angles made of metal foil.”


Additionally, the Air Force report concluded that the “aliens” observed in the New Mexico desert were anthropomorphic test dummies carried aboard the balloons for scientific research. This in turn led to “unusual” military activities in the desert as the Army Air Corp personnel were going out and retrieving the dummies.


The biggest problem with the Roswell crash is determining which story is true. Is the original crash report correct? Did an alien ship end up in the New Mexico desert? Or is it a cover story for a top secret program of detecting Soviet bomb testing, playing on the then current UFO craze? Or are both nothing more than cover stories for something else entirely? With so much disinformation being passed around soon after the incident, it becomes hard to tease the truths from the falsehoods.


No matter what the truth is, the Roswell incident has become a staple of science fiction lore and an inspiration to many writers, television shows, and movies.


UFO crash reported in Roswell, New Mexico

Historical Event



This Day in Science Fiction History examines notable events, real and fictional, concerning fantasy and science fiction in various media.


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