Whether you’re a UFO enthusiast or not, you’ve most likely heard of the Roswell incident. What you might not be so familiar with are the details. William Ware Brazel, also known as Mack, was the foreman at the Foster ranch. He was at work on June 14th 1947 when he came across cluster of debris made of shiny material, rubber strips and sticks. He paid little mind to it but returned in early July with the rest of his family to salvage what he could. This was right around the time of the Kenneth Arnold sighting so the media was already filled with stories about ‘flying discs’, leading Brazel to wonder if that was in fact what he’d found.

Brazel communicate his find to Sheriff Wilcox, who in turn contacted the Roswell Army Air Field. Major Jesse Marcel was dispatched to retrieve as much of the debris as possible. He and his team found more rubber and tinfoil, but no metal that would indicate an engine or propellers of any kind. Most of the army personnel at the base believed that the material collected were the remains of some sort of weather balloon, and they expressed such to the FBI. However, they didn’t exactly allay public fears when they issued the following press release.

“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. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.”

Commanding officer of the 509th, Colonel William H. Blanchard, contacted General Roger M. Ramey of the Eighth Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas. Ramey issues orders that the object be flown to the Fort Worth Army Air Field. Once there, Warrant Officer Irving Newton confirmed Ramey’s preliminary opinion that the object was a weather balloon and its radar reflector. The Fort Worth base issued a subsequent statement with this conclusion. The whole thing seems pretty straightforward. How then did it spawn theories of the greatest UFO cover-up in history?

In 1978, Major Jesse Marcel was interviewed by nuclear physicist and author Stanton T. Friedman. He expressed his opinion that the military had in fact recovered parts of an alien spacecraft. This was quite Significant since Major Marcel was the only person who had remained with the debris through its recovery from the ranch to its examination at Fort Worth. This was explosive news in UFO circles. By the early 1990s, research into what had really happened at Roswell was in full swing. UFO researchers had interviewed hundreds of people with even the slightest connection to the incident. In addition, due to the Freedom of Information Act, they were able to access related documents, including those that were supposedly leaked by insiders. They concluded that, not only had an alien craft crashed at Roswell, but that at least one alien, possibly alive, had also been recovered.

The chief witness to this was Barney Barnett, whose friends claimed that he had described the crash of an alien spacecraft, some 150 miles west of the Foster ranch, on numerous occasions. The story went that he and a group of archaeologists happened to be in the vicinity of the crash on the morning of July 3rd had stumbled upon the craft and its occupants. They were subsequently led away by military personnel. Adding to this was the testimony of former mortician Glenn Dennis who, in 1989, actually described performing alien autopsies at the Roswell Army Air Base. With time, a new version of the events at Roswell emerged. In it, the debris and bodies found had been efficiently removed by members of the military who had flooded the area. This was then distributed amongst at least three government installations. A cover story about a weather balloon was quickly circulated. What followed was a period of intimidation of residents and reporters alike. Notes and recordings were seized, and people were threatened.

As one can imagine, many books were published on the subject, as more and more alleged eyewitness accounts came out. The problem which arose was that there was some dissent amongst UFO researchers regarding the true sequence of events. Things came to a head after the publication of The Truth About The UFO Crash At Roswell by Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt in 1994. They claimed that the recovery of alien bodies was well under way at a different location long before Brazel found the debris at Roswell. In fact, the military had been tracking the objects for several days before they crashed. Numerous conventions were organized in the hope of coming to a common consensus.

One the most damning pieces of evidence against the military was the 1995 release of film footage, supposedly take by a U.S. military official, which purported to show an alien autopsy. The video shocked the public when it was first aired on television networks across the globe. It wasn’t until 2006 that Ray Santilli, the London-based video entrepreneur who had released it, admitted that it was mostly a reconstruction since most of the original footage had been lost. However, Santilli claimed that some of the frames used in the video came from the original footage, although it is unclear which ones.

So what did the military have to say about this? The United States Air Force issued two reports in the mid-1990s which stated that the debris recovered came from a then top secret government experiment called Project Mogul. The aim of this project was to determine whether or not Soviet nuclear tests and ballistic missiles could be detected with equipment fitted to high-altitude balloons. Alright, so what about the pesky alien bodies? Those accounts were as a result of UFO hoaxes, misidentification of anthropomorphic dummies used by the military, and witness hysteria over incidents in which genuine military personnel were injured or killed.

Many skeptics now believe that the Roswell incident is a prime example of how myths are formed. Even prominent pro-UFO advocates such as Karl T. Pflock distanced themselves from the case, saying that whatever evidence exists is unreliable at best and fabricated at worse. Still, there are many who believe that the Roswell incident has never been adequately explained.