Could Roswell be just another sea story like this one? (Wikipedia)

Chapter 26: Fables, myths, tall tales, legends and sea stories

By Timothy Printy 1999 Updated March 2009

While I find the stories about the witnesses interesting, one of the best books written about Roswell has to be UFO Crash at Roswell: Genesis of a Modern Myth. The proponents will not like the conclusions reached by Mr. Saler and Mr. Ziegler. These two explain the creation of the story and examine how it evolved into the story it is today. The authors are described as gatekeepers "by ensuring that the statements either were made to appear supportive of subcultural beliefs or were repudiated or omitted if found to be ‘unpleasant,’ that is, not consonant with such beliefs" (Saler, Ziegler, and Moore 37). They also refer to the statements by witnesses as "Personalized legends" (Saler, Ziegler, and Moore 36). Add these legends with the storytellers, and one can create the theme for this myth. According to Charles Ziegler the central motif of the Roswell Myth is:

…a malevolent monster (the government) has sequestered an item essential to humankind (wisdom of transcendental nature, i.e., evidence-based knowledge that we are not alone in the universe). The culture hero (the ufologist) circumvents the monster and (by investigatory prowess) releases the essential item (wisdom) for humankind. (Saler, Ziegler, and Moore 51)

A common idea in the UFO community is that witnesses who are not offered money will not lie. Ziegler counters this argument:

I postulate, however, that these informants are not witnesses but traditors whose testifying can be best understood as a ‘performance’ and whose motives for relating their tales are similar to those of the traditors who, for millennia, have been inventing fantastical tales and sometimes presenting them as fact. (Saler, Ziegler, and Moore 53)

All one has to do is look at the "testimonies" of Glenn Dennis, Gerald Anderson, Jim Ragsdale, Frank Kaufmann, Bill Brazel, Frank Joyce, and Jesse Marcel Sr. to understand this. All have contradicted themselves in various portions of their testimony. Details are moved to please the authors. Bill Brazel, constructing gouges when there were none and changing the direction of the debris path is a wonderful example. Jesse Marcel Sr. exaggerated about his personnel record in order to inflate his ego or credibility. Others have mixed up their tales, changed them over the years, confused them with other events, and in some cases lied outright. The Air Force is being far too generous when they say these people are just confusing the dates. It goes much farther than that. Many of these people find themselves in the limelight and use their past experiences to enhance a story they created. It provides a basis for their tale and adds an air of credibility to it.

The authors amplify the situation. They are very gullible despite what they say. All these various pretenders have fooled them. Kevin Randle has been conned the most of the three major authors. He accepted the tall tales of Don Schmitt for OVER SEVEN YEARS. Randle, who worked with Schmitt, for this length of time, willingly accepted Schmitt’s statements about his past and intentions. Randle openly defended Schmitt when the accusations first surfaced but had to swallow a bitter pill, when the truth was finally revealed. Then Randle had nothing but open hostility towards Schmitt. Why? Schmitt made many fatal errors but if one were a friend, at least Randle could forgive him. However, in the world of UFOlogy, loss of credibility is important. Therefore, Randle "sacrificed" Schmitt to ensure his credibility remained intact. Randle, defending Schmitt, looked like a buffoon. He had no choice but to kill the relationship. Then he went on to state that Schmitt’s inputs to his book were minimal, which means most of what had been written in The truth about the UFO crash at Roswell was Randle's writing.  The book has been shown to be riddled with errors.  So, one has to question if Randle is being honest with everyone and himself. 

Even more interesting is how Schmitt has regained credibility in the UFO community regarding Roswell.  One would think somebody who falsified his credentials would be a person not to be trusted.  Not when it comes to Roswell and it's crowd of followers. If you can provide input or collect stories that contribute to the claim that a spaceship crashed at Roswell, then your previous failings can be ignored.  The faithful continue to quote Schmitt as a credible source even though he never was one to begin with according to his fellow researcher, Kevin Randle.

The authors also continue to ignore the possibility that their gathering of story tellers is flawed. Everyone loves to tell a good story. Being a sailor for twenty years, I have heard some good ones. Some are true and some are not so true. Sailors, during long, lonely, days at sea tell these in order to pass the time. It has probably been this way since man started going to sea on vessels with other people. Parents do it. Father's and Mother's love to tell their versions of "the good old days" when they were young. It is all very innocent and the teller of the tale enjoys the event as long as he pleases his audience. The instant he bores his audience, the fun ends. People retelling the tale of 30-40 years ago are going to change it. Especially, if asked to retell the story time after time by various people. This is the genesis of the Roswell story. Jesse Marcel Sr. started it by expounding on the events in which he was involved. Those documented portions of the event are true. However, Jesse’s additions to the story are often proven to be exaggerations and confabulations. The most obvious examples, as determined by researcher Robert Todd, are:

1. Exaggeration of college degree:

It appears Marcel fed the faithful other lies about his background. He told Roswell "investigators" that he had a bachelor's degree in Physics from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Marcel had been stationed in Washington during part of his assignment with the Strategic Air Command (SAC), from 16 August to 9 November 1948; and during his assignment with the Air Force organization responsible for detecting foreign atomic explosions, from 26 December 1948 to September 1950. He also claimed he attended the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, New York University, and Louisiana State University (LSU). The forms Marcel filled out himself prior to entering active duty show that the claimed he attended LSU for one year. On one form he said he had been a "special student," while on another he said he had taken non-credit course in Mathematics, English, and Physics. On records dated later, the one year at LSU grew to one and a half years, with no obvious explanation for the discrepancy, aside from the fact that the information had to have come from Marcel himself. There are no records in the file that show the Air Force made any attempt to verify his attendance at LSU. When I wrote to LSU to verify Marcel's claim, they informed me they could find no record of him, although they did find records for his son. A second search produced the same results.

Marcel claimed he completed work on his bachelor's degree at The George Washington University, and that he had in fact received a degree. Yet, when I wrote to the University, they informed me they could find no record of Marcel. And, once again, a second search produced the same results. No attempt was made to contact the other universities he claimed he attended, although there is no indication he ever lived in Wisconsin, Ohio, or New York where he would have had the opportunity to attend these universities in person. When he left active duty in September 1950, he apparently returned to Louisiana where he was self-employed as a television repairman. None of the records in Marcel's personnel file - with the records dating as late as June 1958 when he was discharged from the Air Force Reserve, long after he left Washington, D.C. and returned to Louisiana - show he attended any college, except for that one and a half years at LSU which Marcel himself had characterized as "non-credit." (Todd)

2. Exaggeration of pilot experience and flight hours:

Marcel also claimed he had "flying experience" prior to going into the Air Force, and that he had been a "private pilot" who had started flying in 1928. He said he had accumulated 3,000 hours of flight time as a pilot, and 8,000 hours of total flying time. His personnel file, however, does not support these claims. Nowhere on his application for appointment (completed and signed by Marcel in January 1942), or the "Classification Questionnaire for Reserve Officers" (completed and signed by Marcel in February 1942), did he mention any experience as a pilot. He didn't even mention that he had flown in aircraft as a passenger, although he did reveal important pieces of information such as his hobbies of amateur photography and amateur radio, and that he had acted in school and community plays, and had sung in a quartet over radio and at parties. His participation in volleyball, baseball, and tennis was noted in other official records as well, but the closest he came to indicating any civilian involvement with anything airborne was his description of his work for Shell Oil Company, where he made maps from aerial photographs. If indeed he had a private pilot’s certificate in civilian life, he never hinted at it in any of the many official forms and other document he was required to complete or verify throughout his military career. It doesn't seem likely that modesty prevented him from revealing this information to the air arm of the military services. (Todd)

3. Exaggeration of role in President Truman announcing the first nuclear explosion by the Soviet Union:

Marcel furnished Pratt (and others) with details of his assignment at AFOAT-1. In fact, he made the rather astonishing (and equally impressive) claim that, when AFOAT-1 detected the first Soviet atomic explosion in 1949, Marcel himself had to write a report on it. "In fact," he claimed, "I wrote the very report President Truman read on the air declaring that Russia had exploded an atomic device." Curiously, President Truman never went on the air to announce the Soviet A-bomb explosion. Instead, the White House issued a written statement, so Marcel’s claim is false right from the start. In addition, no documentation has surfaced to support Marcel's claim to fame, while records have surfaced that suggest Marcel inflated his role. Among the records on the Soviet A-bomb explosion that have surfaced are formerly top-secret records from AFOAT-1 that found their way into President Truman's files. Not surprisingly, Marcel’s name does not appear anywhere in these records, including records of the advisory group convened to evaluate AFOAT-1’s data and conclusions. The group consisted of Dr. Vannevar Bush, Dr. Robert Bacher (former AEC commissioner), Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Admiral W.S. Parsons. With AFOAT-1’s technical director, Doyle Northrup, and various generals, colonels and lieutenant colonels in the chain of command between Marcel and the President, it isn’t terribly likely Marcel was telling the truth. But what has also surfaced is a copy of the White House statement itself, complete with corrections. Nothing about the typed, one-page statement suggests Marcel had anything whatever to do with it. Given his lies about other aspects of his background, there is little reason to give Marcel’s claim any credence whatsoever. (Todd)

I have also pointed out several others in my writings:

4. Exaggeration of Walter Haut’s press release details when compared to how Haut recalls events.

5. Exaggeration of "the switch" event at Fort Worth.

6. Exaggeration on the quantity of material in the plane

7. Exaggeration on exact events that occurred at the Foster Ranch.

These are all events that he stated happened but when checked do not agree with the facts. If he spent this much time exaggerating about these things, what makes everyone think he did not exaggerate about the unearthly properties of the material? Jesse Marcel Sr. started telling his "tall tale" and found a following. As he retold the story, events were a bit different and more embellishments were added. He was "performing" for the interviewers, they loved it, and Marcel must have felt extremely important. He was being vindicated after all those years of living with the Fort Worth press conference. The embarrassment he must have felt that day was demonstrated by the fact that he and his family never retained any newspaper clippings of the event. He felt that he could have been a hero and instead was portrayed as an incompetent boob, who could not recognize a RAWIN target.

Many authors have made feeble attempts at defending Jesse’s record and statements. David Rudiak spent a lot of time trying to impress everyone how good an officer Marcel was in an article entitled, "Roswell and Major Jesse Marcel's Postwar Service Evaluations." Unfortunately, Rudiak overlooks key points in Marcel’s evaluations and commendations. Rudiak obviously has no experience in reading these commendations/evaluations. Evaluations are written to give positive endorsements to individuals. The best performers usually get extremely high marks, the average performers usually end up with above average marks, and the below average performers get average to below average marks. The military always have suffered from this problem. Therefore, they decided to come up with a ranking system to separate the above average performers from the average ones. Officers/enlisted men of the same rank are ranked against each other in the command. Looking at Jesse Marcel’s evaluations, as provided by Rudiak, we find that Jesse was ranked at the bottom when compared with other majors. In May 1948 (section VIII), he was ranked 3 of 4. In August 1948, he was ranked 8 of 8! After his transfer the evaluation system changed and rankings were not available, as bet as I can tell. A very interesting note about the May 1948 evaluation are the comments by General Dubose. Dubose writes, "I personally do not know this officer…" (Rudiak Online). Marcel was supposedly the officer who brought some of the most important material ever identified concerning "flying discs" and would have helped solve the mystery early. Yet, Dubose can not even recall his name or anything about him. Certainly, his efforts with a "crashed disc" would have drawn the command staff’s attention, including General Dubose. However, an officer who made a simple misidentification would eventually be forgotten ten months later. In Marcel’s files, there are no awards for performing superbly during that July time frame. During my service in the US Navy, I have seen awards issued for highly classified missions but the individuals were still recognized. These awards were plainly written such as to not reveal what the mission was. Marcel NEVER received any form of commendation for his retrieval of a "crashed disc" but he did receive commendations for participating in other projects of classified nature.

Speaking of commendations, Rudiak makes much about the ones Marcel received. He tends to amplify Marcel's superior performance mentioned in these commendations and points out how high-ranking officers were recognizing Marcel. Unfortunately, Rudiak does not understand how commendations are written. After a major operation/exercise/event, officers and enlisted personnel are given awards for their participation in the event. Usually, the higher-ranking officers are given the larger awards (privilege of rank). This is due to the fact they are given greater responsibilities and serve in higher profile positions. This is understandable. Jesse did his job during these events and was commended for it. However, to state that certain Generals singled Jesse out is wrong. Along with Jesse, I can safely bet that there were numerous other Captains, Majors, and Lt. Colonels who received similar commendations. These probably are worded differently and may point out each individuals participation in the event but the awards are equivalent in nature. Jesse got an award for being in the right place at the right time for a high profile event and not because of some singular act of heroism/performance. I doubt that any of these Generals even met Marcel or worked closely with him during these operations. I have commendations going up to the Secretary of the Navy and several admirals. I have rarely, if ever, met these men and they are not particularly aware of me either. They sign these commendations as part of their normal duties. I am certain that Jesse’s commendations have a similar history. Rudiak should do a bit more research into these before he decides to bestow knighthood on Jesse Marcel.

Jesse Marcel’s son, in a desperate attempt to defend his father, has produced the I-beam story, endorsed books on Roswell, and has affirmed the 1997 saucer fragment as similar to his memory of the debris. I actually feel sorry for Jesse Jr. He is covering for his father, which I find honorable. However, he has to realize that his father was not completely truthful about the events and that his memories are probably not as vivid as he thinks.

This brings us to the important point that UFOlogists are ignoring.  They want everyone to believe all the various testimonies they have collected over the years are proof that an alien spaceship crashed somewhere north or west of Roswell.  Kevin Randle has been talking about a "double standard" when it comes to witness testimonies. According to Randle, skeptics are supposed to doubt Charles Moore as much as we are supposed to doubt any Roswell witness talking about a crashed spaceship. Randle seems to miss the point of why people question a stories validity.  If somebody says they saw a witch on a broom crash into the ground at Roswell, would Randle feel that their testimony is just as valid as somebody who reported an alien spaceship crashed? I know of nobody making this claim but is an example of the standards of probability.  In weighing the story of Charles Moore, we have some interesting testimony that seems to agree with what he has stated. 

  1. The Marcels described purple figures on the beams.  Brazel described tape with purple figures on it in 1947. Charles Moore, and a few others, stated they used this kind of tape on the reflectors they used.  Granted these people stated this after all the stories were available but his description is plausible and the drawings of the ML-307s describe using tape.
  2. Brazel reported finding debris that seemed to indicate something larger than a single weather balloon and radar reflector.  Moore was part of the team that was launching balloon flights not far from the Foster Ranch, which had multiple weather balloons and they had used these specific radar reflectors before.
  3. Marcel posed for pictures with some debris that shows the type of reflectors and balloons used by Moore and the NYU team.
  4. A flight/cluster of balloons was launched on the 4th of June, 1947 that was apparently never recovered.  This flight was launched on a date that would propel the balloons towards the northeast and the weather conditions on that date COULD have caused the balloons to land on the Foster Ranch. Moore was part of the team that launched those balloons. 

Now, let's examine the known specifics about the Roswell crashed spaceship story.

  1. An alien spaceship crashed in the desert north of Roswell and Brazel found some of the debris (and maybe some bodies). No documentation in 1947 supports this claim.  No photographs, pieces, contemporary documents, or anything else has ever shown these stories to be true.
  2. Alien bodies and debris was transported by numerous aircraft out of Roswell to various locations in the US.  No documents, photographs, or anything else exists demonstrating this was true.
  3. A great number of people on and off base were aware of the crash and what was found.  No documents, private diaries (that can be verified as authentic and written in 1947), letters of complaint written in the 1940s, private letters written in the 1940s, personal photographs, or anything else ndicating that something extraordinary happened at Roswell in 1947 exists.  
  4. Not everyone on base and in town agrees that something extraordinary happened at Roswell that summer of 1947.


When examining these issues and weighing the probabilities, one can make the following statement, "It is far more likely that Charles Moore's flight of balloons and reflectors caused the debris field at the Foster Ranch than an alien spaceship." This is why the statements of Charles Moore are more likely to be accepted as factual than the statements of all the story tellers who claim they saw aliens or alien debris.

Other than the exotic, and hard to believe, stories of the various Roswell witnesses there is nothing to support the claim of a crashed spaceship. Maybe if the proponents can present some physical evidence or valid documentation, skeptics would change their mind.  There have been several claims of alien debris being found but none have been shown to be actually alien....yet.


Works Cited

Rudiak, David. "Roswell & Major Jesse Marcel's postwar service evaluations." Online. Internet. Available WWW:

Saler, Benson, Charles Ziegler, and Charles Moore. UFO Crash at Roswell: Genesis of a Modern Myth. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1997

Todd, Robert . "Major Jesse Marcel: Folk Hero or Mythomaniac." The Kowflop Quarterly. December 8, 1995


Chapter 27 - Pieces and Parts

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