First the White House formally denied it was hiding any secret evidence of visits from extra-terrestrials.
Now it seems the Royal Air Force has made it known that one of UFOlogy’s key legends – that a flying saucer crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 – was a Cold War military experiment after all.
This revelation came not from a Top Secret document, but in an educational display at the RAF’s Cold War museum at RAF Cosford, near Wolverhampton.
On a recent visit to the museum, which features all three of Britain’s surviving V-bomber force, I came across a familiar photograph on a display covering aerial espionage during the early part of the Cold War.
It was taken at Fort Worth, Texas, on 8 July 1947 and shows Major Jesse Marcel holding pieces of debris recovered from a ranch in the New Mexico desert. This was less than 24 hours after the Army Air Force announced it had recovered the wreckage of a “crashed flying saucer”, a statement quickly retracted and replaced with the cover story that it was a weather balloon.
The RAF caption agrees with the USAF conclusion that the wreckage was from a balloon after all, but not an ordinary balloon:
“This was an unsuccessful experiment to use balloons carrying instruments to detect Soviet nuclear tests which led to claims of a spaceship having been found.”
It is evident the British military played a role in these and later ‘experiments’ as the display also features images of the giant helium-filled balloons used for more extensive espionage operations targeting Soviet facilities during the 1950s.
The joint USAF/RAF Project Moby Dick employed balloons as tall as a 20-storey building, carrying gondolas packed with photographic equipment. The cameras took one photograph every six minutes in strips 65 km wide by 3100 km long. This operation, like that which led to the Roswell incident, was classified.
Moby Dick was abandoned in 1957 without significant success; by that point balloons had been replaced by Black Project aircraft such as the Lockheed U2.
Such is the level of distrust attached to all official statements on the subject of UFOs and Roswell that the RAF’s conclusion will be treated as just another example of the cosmic Watergate to conceal ‘the truth.’
In November the US Government responded to online petitions calling on the Obama administration to disclose evidence of “an extraterrestrial presence here on Earth.” As neither the US government or the scientific community has any such evidence, whatever it said was unlikely to make any impression upon the faith of those who wish to believe otherwise. Or, in the words of a British MoD official who briefed on a similar campaign in 1958:
“As it is not possible to release official information about something which does not exist, it is difficult to satisfy those with preconceived ideas to the contrary.” (TNA DEFE 31/118).
One final irony is that RAF Cosford itself now has a secure place in the UFO mythology, thanks to a classic “sighting” of lights in the sky made by military personnel at the base in the early hours of 31 March 1993. The “Cosford incident” now rivals the Roswell incident in the lists of classic UFO cases cited by some as the best evidence of ET visitations, in the UK at least.
As with Roswell, there is a perfectly good explanation for the lights seen from RAF Cosford – and once again, the Russians are in the frame. They were caused by the burning rocket body of a Russian Cosmos satellite that re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the British Isles at the precise date and time as the “UFO sighting.”
But, to recycle a favourite phrase coined by a believer in UFOs: “you can’t tell the people.”