In September of 1950, one year after publishing two columns on the relatively new phenomenon then sweeping the country called "flying saucers," a writer for Hollywood's Daily Variety by the name of Frank Scully wrote the first non-fiction hardbound book about what would soon become known throughout popular culture as UFOs, or Unidentified Flying Objects.(see)
The book, published by Henry Holt and Co, was titled Behind the Flying Saucers and sold over 60,000 hardbound copies at $2.75 each in just the first few years. In Chapter One, Scully wrote that a flying saucer "crashed" in New Mexico in the northwest corner of the state in a place called Hart Canyon near the small community of Aztec. He reported that the government was able to retrieve the disc, and since then denied that it ever happened. The alleged crash has been dated to have occured March 25, 1948, only nine months after the Roswell Incident.
After publication of the book Scully's Aztec story took off like wildfire, easily attested to by the number of books sold to the general public, completely overshadowing any remaining remnants of the Roswell crash --- that had been by that time, pushed into relative small-time obscurity because the weather balloon story being so widely accepted.
Then, in 1952 an article titled The Flying Saucers and the Mysterious Little Men appeared in the September issue of True Magazine written by a reporter named J.P. Cahn. In the article Cahn totally debunked Scully's story labeling it a complete hoax and tearing it apart piece by piece. Four years later, if there was still any doubt, in the August 1956 issue of True Cahn wrote a six page follow-up titled Flying Saucer Swindlers that put the final nails into any remaining life of the Aztec story as presented by Scully.
The Aztec story, which came to the public's attention in 1950 in Scully's book that talked about a flying saucer crash in New Mexico, continues to get intermixed with the Roswell story, that is, that a flying saucer crashed in New Mexico. However, as the once big Aztec story faded into history because of the hoax aspect, it was much, much later --- after 1978 --- that the bulk of credible information at Roswell hit the public domain.
Usually given credit for escalating the Roswell incident prominently back into the public eye is a nuclear physicist and UFO lecturer named Stanton Friedman who just happened to be lecturing on UFOs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in February 1978. Before the lecture a television station manager told him about a man he knew through ham radio contact named Jesse A. Marcel who, according to the station manager, had actually handled wreckage from the crashed object. Intrigued, the very next day Friedman called Marcel, who lived not far away in Houma, Louisiana. Marcel was unable to recall the specific dates and times accurately so Friedman let it go at at that. A year later a man by the name of William L. Moore found clippings of the incident and, somehow comparing notes with Friedman, discovered that the story Marcel told actually paralleled the events. After intensive research and interviews Moore and a man named Charles Berlitz along with Friedman, albeit uncredited, teamed up to write the first book specifically on the subject, titled The Roswell Incident (1980), followed then by an opened floodgate of similar Roswell related tomes.
Where then U.S. Army Major Jesse Marcel, the Air Intelligence Officer at Roswell Army Air Base in 1947 was under actual orders by the military to investigate the debris associated with the crash, anybody actually handling Roswell wreckage was a virtual unknown at the time Moore caught up with Marcel in 1979. However, by 2004 a whole slew of non-military types had been discovered that not only handled the debris, but hauled a lot of it off. UFOlogist Thomas J. Carey in his book Witness To Roswell (2004) writes:
"Within the next two days after the crash, others who owned surrounding ranches would go out of their way to check out the story about 'pieces of a flying saucer.' Budd Eppers and Truman Pierce would arrive on the scene. Glaze Sacra would load a number of 'wightless' pieces of metal into his pickup an head discreetly home. Danny Boswell's parents, who owned a ranch 25 miles to the east, drove 45 minutes to see for themselves what everyone was talking about."
In the same book and as found in the report on the Roswell witness Tommy Tyree, Carey goes on to list several others that physically accessed the debris field one way or the other, usually crossing over wideopen and unpatrolled rangeland, from close-by ranches --- fully unimpeded by security supposedly blocking roads into the area from the east. Those known to have accessed the area through research done by Carey (primarily personal interviews) included the son of a local ranch hand, Sydney "Jack" Wright, two sons of rancher Thomas Edington, one of rancher Truman Pierce's daughters, as well as Paul Price and his older brother. Carey also writes that the young son of a hired hand from the Richards ranch, Trinidad "Trini" Chavez, spied, interestingly enough, from a distant hill with a couple of other boys and in his interview with Carey stated trucks and jeeps surrounded the area and that he saw men with rifles. Accordingly, it was too late for Chavez to take a piece of wreckage himeslf. "Too many damn soldiers," he said. Later that day, writes Carey, witness would report observing trucks with large spotlights.
Despite all of Moore, Berlitz, and Friedman's indepth research and comprehensive interviews circa 1979 and somewhat later works by the likes of Carey, et al, that revealed all kinds of what was thought to be heretofore unknown facts and timelines of the Roswell incident, a review of the literature reveals that starting 25 years BEFORE any of their endeavors a small number of unhearlded but significant and accurate mentions of the Roswell crash event showed up:
1) Flying Saucers on the Attack (Harold Wilkins 1954)
On page 71 Wilkins offers the following regarding the incident at Roswell:
"Close to the place where the first atomic bomb was tested, a rancher in Roswell, New Mexico, U.S.A. said, in July 1947, to have found a flying saucer. It landed on his ranch, and was inspected by officers of the 509th atomic bomb group of the 8th U.S. Air Force, who sent it to a ‘higher quarter.’ This reported find followed a report from Dr. C. J. Zohn, guided missile expert of the U.S. Naval Laboratory, that he and two other scientists had sighted a flying saucer near White Sands, New Mexico, a proving ground to which public access is prohibited. Down came U.S. Army authorities who declared this was merely a weather balloon; despite the plain statement of Mr. Ivan R. Tannehill, weather bureau chief forecaster, that it was unlikely that this mysterious object speeding through the skies at a speed above the rate of transmission of sound waves, could have been a weather balloon. He pointed out that weather balloons have been in use for many years."
2) Flying Saucer Review (Vol 1, No. 1 Spring 1955)
The issue of Flying Saucer Review, Vol 1, No. 1 Spring 1955, on page 3, briefly recounted the experience of a man by the name of Hughie Green, an English flyer and entertainer who had apparently said something odd somewhere along the way that the Review picked up on. While driving across the United States shortly after World War II in the summer of 1947, Green said he heard radio reports that a saucer, "Had crashed in New Mexico." Greene was particularly puzzled by his inability to learn more about the story when he arrived on the East Coast. Below is the quote attributed to Green as it appeared in the Flying Saucer Review so cited:
"About 250 miles out of Philadelphia, a commentator interrupted the programme to announce that a flying saucer had crashed in New Mexico, and that the Army were moving in to investigate. Later the programme was interrupted again, and quite a few details were given. Several news flashes about the incident, from various radio stations, followed. The last I heard was just before reaching Philadelphia. The announcer promised further bulletins. None followed. When I got to Philadelphia I bought all the newspapers I couldlay my hands on. But not one carried the story. And questions at the radiostations just drew a blank. It’s mystified me ever since."
It should be noted that in January 1979 Moore and Berlitz began corresponding with Green in the process of gathering information on Roswell for their book. Through Moore's questioning he was able to pinpoint a more accurate date —-- early July 1947 --— but no additional insights than what had been previously offered regarding the incident was forthcoming.
3) Frank Edwards Public Lectures (October 27, 1955; April 28, 1956)
At a UFO gathering in New York City wherein Edwards was the featured speaker, he was asked by a member of the audience if there was any evidence that any of objects have crashed? Official transcripts recorded at the meeting show that Edwards responded with:
"I'm not too sure some of them haven't. Way back in 1947, at Roswell, New Mexico, a farmer reported he saw something strike a mountainside and crash. According to what I was told, they threw troops in a circle all around that place, and would let nobody in for five days. Finally they came up with a picture of a man holding a little crumpled kite with aluminum foil on it --- a radar target --- they said this was it --- believe it or not. There have been many other rumors since then of saucers having crashed. I don't know whether there's any truth in them."
4) UFOs-Serious Business (Frank Edwards 1966), the first UFO book to sell a million copies:
On page 76 Edwards basically repeats his 1956 response:
"There are such difficult cases as the rancher near Roswell, New Mexico, who phoned the Sheriff that a blazing disc-shaped object had passed over his house at low altitiide and had crashed and burned on a hillside within view of the house. The Sheriff called the military; the military came on the double quick. Newsmen were not permitted in the area. A week later, however, the government released a photograph of a service man holding up a box kite with an aluminum disc about the size of a large pie pan dangling from the bottom of the kite. This, the official report explained, was a device borne aloft on the kite and used to test radar gear by bouncing the signals off the pie pan. And this, we were told, was the sort of thing that had so excited the rancher. We were NOT told, however, how the alleged kite caught fire—nor why the military cordoned off the area while they inspected the wreckage of a burned-out box kite with a non-inflammable pie pan tied to it."
5) The Flying Saucer Story (Brinsley LePour Trench, 1966)
In 1966 Brinsley LePour Trench repeated the Green story in his overseas best-seller 'The Flying Saucer Story'. He said it had, "crashed in New Mexico and that the Army had moved in to investigate." Roswell wasn't mentioned. Again, possibly confused with or intermingled with the crash event at Aztec.
6) Saga Magazine (Winter 1974) (First mention of the "Lydia Sleppy" Roswell story)
In New Mexico a woman with a responsible position received a call from a station manager. He had been checking out reports of a UFO which had crashed in a field and was trying to track down the rumor that pieces of the object were supposedly stored in a local barn. In his excited call to the newsroom, the station manager verified the UFO crash report, and also claimed to have seen metallic pieces of the UFO being carried away to a waiting Air Force plane destined to Wright Patterson Air Force Base. As the woman was typing the fantastic news item over the teletype to their other two stations, a line appeared in the middle of her text, tapped in from somewhere, with the official order, "Do not continue this transmission!"
The two articles that appeared in True Magazine by J.P. Cahn that debunked Scully's book are available in PDF format through the Department of Physics, Southern Methodist University:
ROSWELL: WHAT CAUSED THE UFO CRASH?
THE GREAT 1947 SUNSPOT, ROSWELL AND CORONAL MASS EJECTIONS
ROSWELL I-BEAM HIEROGLYPHS
ROSWELL CRASH: UFO DOWN
ROSWELL: CIRCA 1947
THE DIRT BEFORE THE DIG
The acronym "UFO" is a classification term coined by Edward Ruppelt, first director of the Air Force's Project Blue Book (1952), and means Unidentified Flying Object. Qualifying any aerial phenomenon as a UFO does not imply any adjunct speculation regarding its origin. In its most conservative, technical sense, the qualification of some anomaly as a UFO is a functional qualification, indicating a lack of sufficient empirical and (as is often assumed) explanatory information about the anomaly in question. The connotation of "flying saucer" or "flying disc" on the other hand, does not need very much in the way of elaboration. Flying saucer is a term coined by the press in June of 1947, in reference to figurative description by Kenneth Arnold of what he allegedly saw from the cockpit of his private plane.