The Roswell Incident
Almost everyday there are programs on television which involve or relate to UFO's (Unidentified Flying Object's) or aliens from other planets. Programs including X-Files, Unsolved mysteries, and Sightings, often deal with aliens and UFO's. Many people believe in other life-forms and some will do anything to convince themselves of their existence. Many of societies thoughts and views toward the world as a whole, aliens and UFO's, and toward the government have been sparked by one single incident. This incident occurred on July 4, 1947 in a town in New Mexico: Roswell. What occurred in Roswell may have changed the way American society views the government forever. The issue of trust between the government and the people is and was at stake. Since it will never really be known what went on in Roswell in 1947, the American people may never fully trust the government again.
The Roswell incident is a very sketchy ordeal in which many people have different accounts. There is and was never any doubt that something crash landed. On July 8, 1947 the headline of the Roswell Daily Record read "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region." The next day, the headlines read "Weather balloon was mistaken as UFO." Many people wonder how someone with military experience could mistake a weather balloon for a UFO, which is why they are inclined to believe the first military report. From this point on, many people were suspicious of the United States Government because the facts were being withheld from the public at the Roswell Air Base. Nobody is sure what the government was trying to cover up, they were just sure that it was something. It could have been a spy aircraft, a test plane or an alien aircraft. If it was an alien aircraft, it is hoped that the government would have let the public know. Of course, it is the duty of the National Defense to keep the public thinking that they are safe. If a missile was pointed directly at the U.S., they National Security Defense would not come out and tell us to panic. Many people have different opinions and accounts of what happened in Roswell on in July, 1947, but either way, this one single incident has changed the way a countless number of people think about the government and the world today. These truths are found in books, on television, and in the public's words.
The man credited with first finding the UFO crash site is Mac Brazel, who found some "strange, metallic debris ... scattered over one of his pastures" on the morning of July 5, 1947 (Randle 27). "Had it not been for Mac Brazel, the entire story of the crash ... might have remained a military secret" (Randle 27). After discovering the pieces of metal, Brazel tried to burn them and even whittle them with a knife. The pieces would not blacken nor would they be marked. Brazel did not know what to do; since he did want the debris to be cleaned up by someone. People he talked to suggested "that the debris was from a classified military experimental project" so Brazel took it to the Chaves County sheriff George A. Wilcox (Randle 28). The sheriff called Major Jesse A. Marcel and he immediately drove out to the sheriff's office and questioned Brazel. Marcel came out to Brazel's ranch with Captain Sheridan Cavitt. The two men proceeded to pack up all of the debris and take it to the base. A local radio station "made a wire recording about Brazel's find, but... [t]he interview would never be aired, on direct orders of both the Federal Communications Commission and part of the New Mexico congressional delegation. Roberts later said, 'we were told that we would have twenty-four hours to find something else to do, because we would no longer be in the radio business'" (Randle 30). The military picked up Brazel early on the morning of July 8 and kept him under guard at the base for a number of days.
Meanwhile, the press was having a tremendous time with what could be the "story of the century" (Randle 46). The press found out that a plane with the debris was headed to Fort Worth, Texas. General Roger Ramey was the commander of the Fort Worth Air Base at that time. He received the wreckage and then proceeded to call the city newspaper. General Ramey let one reporter, J. Bond Johnson, come into his office to take pictures of the wreckage. Johnson reported Ramey as saying "Oh, we've found out what it is, and you know, it's a weather balloon" (Randle 41). "[M]any UFO proponents claim the wreckage shown in General Ramey's office was just a weather balloon switched for the 'real debris'" (Thomas 2). Johnson went back to the city paper where he developed the photographs which went on to fool the public. Years later, Colonel Thomas DuBose, chief of staff at the Fort Worth Base, stated that the weather balloon story was designed to get the reporters "off the general's back" (Randle 43). He also said that some wreckage from Roswell had been taken to Fort Worth "two or three days earlier" (Randle 43). The government made up the weather balloon story in order to trick the media and that is the story that has stood for fifty years.
About a week after the military apprehended Brazel, he was released from military custody. He was interviewed and he said that "he had found weather observation devices on two other occasions, but this object didn't resemble those. 'I am sure what I found was not any weather observation balloon'" (Randle 30). Brazel's son Bill said, "My dad found this thing and told me a little bit about it. Not much because the air force asked him to take an oath that he wouldn't tell anybody in detail about it. And my dad was such a guy that he went to his grave and he never told anybody" (Randle 32). All Mac Brazel ever said is that "whatever it was, it wasn't any type of balloon" (Randle 32). He also told Bill that "he was better off not knowing a thing about it" (Randle 32).
The story of Roswell died until the late 1970's, when "consistent denials by the Air Force, and the disappearance of related documents, only added fuel for the conspiracy theorists" (Anderson 1995). The issue made it to Capitol Hill when a UFO skeptic, Rep. Steven Schiff (New Mexico), decided to find out what was going on. In March 1993 he asked the Air Force to declassify and provide him with all material relating to the Roswell incident. The Air Force simply told him to go to the National Archives, "a move that Schiff took as an insult" (Anderson 1995). The archives did not have any information so Schiff called in the GAO (the investigative arm of Congress) to look for documents and to find out if the Air Force had lied to him. As soon as the GAO launched its inquiry, Air Force officials suddenly found documents, not in the National Archives, but in their files. In 1994 an Air Force report supported the theory that the debris Mac Brazel found was in fact "a remnant of a balloon flight launched as part of a top-secret program called Project Mogul .... It's classified purpose was to try to develop a way to monitor possible Soviet nuclear detonations with the use of low-frequency acoustic microphones placed at high altitudes" (Thomas 1). "Although the GAO is not satisfied with the Air Force's explanation, it has confirmed the existence of Project Mogul" (Anderson 1995). Since it took the Air Force so long to transpire this report, many people were already very skeptical. Some wondered why the military did not look for the crash site. Others are intrigued by the fact that this crash was treated by the military with such a high degree of importance and secrecy, including intimidation of witnesses, like Mac Brazel.
In a recent movie, Men in Black, the government is depicted as being aware of alien life. There is a secret department which handles the conflicts of dealing with these life-forms on earth. The movie probably is not meant to portray the actual U.S. government, but to suggest what could be happening under the noses of Americans. Some people believe that there are secret government departments and that something is still going on in Roswell as in the movie. The government is so big and powerful that even the people in charge of it are not aware of a lot of the things that go on in other branches. Former President Ronald Reagan once said, "I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?" When the President of the United States of America addresses the issue of aliens, it makes everybody think. When Reagan made his statement, one of a few concerning aliens, he could have been speaking with some knowledge of what went on in Roswell. Of course, there are so many different parts of the government, that Reagan probably would not have been able to access the Roswell files anyway. The files are so secret that the President probably could not read them if he wanted to. The American public knows about government secrecy it probably makes them even more skeptical.
Recently, through the Freedom of Information Act, the documents surrounding the Roswell incident were released. Although, the documents only support the story that the government made up in 1947. The government is apparently sticking to their weather balloon story. Even if they do state that the "case is closed," it really is not. Obviously somebody lied to the American public and the public should be aware that there is a good chance that they will be lied to again. Maybe the shows on television which portray the government as being sneaky and corrupt are true and someone is trying to send a message.
Whatever went on at Roswell has sparked a way of looking at things different from any before. Now, when people hear about a strange occurrence or an abnormality, they automatically think about aliens and/or UFO's. The media places images and thoughts in people's minds which are rekindled in many instances. Also, people have gained a certain mistrust in the government. The television show X-Files, which "routinely deals with UFO's and abductions by aliens," portrays the government as being sneaky and corrupt (Stover 88). Government officials are seen covering up many incidents including UFO encounters and abnormal instances that are reported to the police. Last year, for its premiere season, X-Files drew a 13.2 rating; which means roughly 12.6 million people watched the show. These ratings display then attitude that many people face the government with. People do not trust the government like they used too. Society seems to have become unglued from their dependence on the almighty government. People are less interested in government because they do not want to be lied to again, like at Roswell.
Many people have become more skeptical because of government cover-ups and scandals, like Watergate and the Roswell incident. In a recent Gallup Poll, taken in September, 1996, the Gallup Organization asked 1,000 U.S. adults about their belief in UFO's and life in outer space. 72 percent of the people interviewed believe that there is life of some form on other planets. When asked if the government knew more about UFO's than they said, 71 percent of the people answered yes. That means that 71 percent of the people interviewed think that the government is withholding information from the public. "A Time/Yankelovich poll showed that 65 percent of people think a UFO crashed at Roswell" (Levine 56). A Newsweek poll, about the Roswell incident, states that 48 percent of Americans think "there is a government plot to cover the whole thing up" (Stover 87). If these polls represent what most of the American public thinks than there is a serious problem. This shows that the American society is extremely skeptical of it's government. It is not good when almost three-fourths of the population thinks that their government is deceiving them.
Today, Generation X is considered to be the most skeptical generation of all.
Gen-Xers were described as viewing the government in Washington as dysfunctional: While problems such as the national debt were inherently solvable, politicians were too busy fighting among themselves to take positive action. Government, in the minds f gen-Xers, was not responsive to the needs and wishes of ordinary citizens, and young people least of all. Instead, it catered to the special interests (Booth 1994).
A large part of society has turned into cynical people who are suspicious of anything that the government says or does. Nowadays, many people are second guessing the government, which has resulted in numerous protests in Washington among other places. If the government had not changed their story so many times after the Roswell crash, society might not be as skeptical as they are today. Everything was covered up and kept a secret. Instead of coming out and telling the public what had happened the government tried to be sneaky and sly. They ended up digging a bigger ditch for themselves because to get out they had to lie to the people. The public probably could have handled the announcement that a spy balloon was being tested, if that is what really happened. Otherwise, the public is forced to believe that it was something bigger; perhaps a UFO. While the cynicism of generation X could have been caused by imagination, boredom, or the love for mystery, the Roswell incident has to be looked at very closely as a main source of scepticism toward the government. If the people who the government was established for cannot be told the truth, there is definitely something wrong. It was and is the government's responsibility to inform the public, and in this incident, and maybe others, the government did not perform it's duty.
Regardless of whether or not the crash in Roswell was a UFO or a government spy craft, there is an issue of trust. The trust that the American people put into the government and what they expect from it. Their trust was violated in the days surrounding the crash and that is a hard thing to forgive. The values instilled in children have and always will be changed from this event and cynicism will continue to grow. Everyone will be paranoid and skeptical of everything that happens.
It is most likely that nobody will ever really know what happened on Independence day in 1947, but it will always be remembered in the media and in views toward the world and the U.S. government. One thing that cannot be given back is the fact that in one way or another the government lied to it's people about the crash in Roswell. It may have been for their own good, but in some people's minds that is not a decision the government should make for them. The people have the right to know.
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