Roswell UFO Incident: Cover-Up or Sci-Fi? - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter

Roswell UFO Incident: Cover-Up or Sci-Fi?

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Sixty years ago one of the most enduring mysteries of modern times burst into the public arena. It was the Roswell incident, the reported crash of a flying saucer.

Leave your trace on the Roswell BLOG.

The U.S. military says it's all a misunderstanding caused by a downed weather balloon, but the official story keeps changing, and the Roswell legend won't go away.

The I-Team has been digging into the Roswell crash for many years. One of the reasons for our interest in Roswell is its purported relationship to Nevada's own Area 51, which carries its own legacy regarding crashed UFOs.

On July 5th, sixty years ago, a New Mexico rancher named Mac Brazel gathered up a pile of strange debris and headed into town. His find led to an astonishing announcement by our military that a flying saucer had been recovered.

For some, the story has been discredited. Maybe not.

The Roswell incident is now firmly entrenched in popular culture. Major movies have looked at it along with dozens of books, mainstream media articles, and the namesake town finally embraced the tourism potential of the story, sponsoring annual shindigs that draw an eclectic crowd.

Even the strongest supporters of the crashed saucer can't agree on the basics. Some of the witnesses who've come forward have turned out to be phonies. And the U.S. military has really muddied the waters, perhaps on purpose, by issuing four different "official" versions of the story.

For one man, in particular, the search for the truth is personal.

Dr. Jesse Marcel, Jr., Roswell eyewitness, said, "It's the degree of strangeness of the material and my dad's excitement that really made an impression upon me. It would be pretty difficult to forget what I saw."

Jesse Marcel is a Montana surgeon. In 1947, his father, Major Jesse Marcel, was the intelligence officer for the 509th Bomb Wing stationed at Roswell's Army air base, the only atomic bomb wing in the world.

"He was the intelligence officer for the group, which meant he wasn't a fly-by-nighter. Members of the 509th were handpicked for their credibility, their intelligence. It was his job to brief the crews that dropped the bombs on Japan," Marcel explained.

His father's credibility is one of the main reasons Marcel Jr. wrote a new book, "The Roswell Legacy." Over the years, his father has been attacked as a liar, even a traitor, by those seeking to discredit the flying saucer story, a story that was first told by the military.

In the summer of 1947, the country was abuzz with reports of flying saucers. Seventy-five miles north of Roswell, a rancher discovered strange debris covering a field. When he took it to town, the base dispatched Major Marcel to investigate. Marcel found a large area covered with weird wreckage. He brought some home and showed it to his family. He didn't speak publicly about it until decades later when he was contacted by nuclear physicist Stan Friedman.

Jesse Marcel, Jr. continued, "The most unusual debris was the I-beams. I remember them, like I-beams. They were metal and on the inner surface of the beams, there were symbols like hieroglyphics..."

But they weren't hieroglyphics or any other known language.

When the base commander saw the wreckage, he okayed a press release announcing the recovery of a flying saucer. It caused a worldwide sensation, for one day. That's when General Roger Ramey told the world the debris was from a weather balloon. Ramey, Marcel, and others posed for reporters with scraps from a real weather balloon, but Marcel said years later this wasn't what he found in the desert.

In the 1990s the Air Force issued two other versions of the story, basically admitting it had lied twice before. What crashed at Roswell wasn't just a balloon but a really secret mogul balloon. And those reports about saucers were probably caused by test vehicles for the Viking space probe. Case closed, the Air Force said.

The Air Force story has holes though. A weather balloon wouldn't cover three-quarters of a mile. The material examined by the Marcels was far different from routine foil from a balloon or radar target. Marcel, Sr. certainly knew what a balloon looked like since they were launched from the base twice a day. And those Viking probes weren't built until the '70s.

Thanks to computer technology, there's a new piece of physical evidence in the case. Photos from the news conference show General Ramey holding a telegram, unreadable from a distance, but not anymore. Dr. David Rudiak's computer enhancement found phrases in the telex, phrases about a second crash site, aviators in the disk -- victims of the wreck. It doesn't sound like anything to do with a weather balloon, nor does it refute the testimony of numerous people who say they saw the real debris along with bodies.

Back in 1989, during KLAS-TV's UFOs Best Evidence series, Stan Friedman said, "These people are telling the truth. It's not one person. It's not ten people. It's over one hundred people."

Stan Friedman has interviewed dozens of the witnesses himself and had written two books about Roswell. Another new book reveals the names of several other previously unknown military personnel who are speaking up for the first time. One of those witnesses is a real shocker whose story is shaking up the Roswell saga.

Friday at 5 p.m., the I-Team will reveal his name, along with a look at the other key witnesses whose stories have held up for 60 years.

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