The Roswell UFO Incident refers to the recovery of an object that crashed in the general vicinity of Roswell, New Mexico, in June or July 1947, allegedly an extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Since the late 1970s the incident has been the subject of intense controversy and of conspiracy theories as to the true nature of the object that crashed. The United States Armed Forcesmaintains that what was recovered was debris from an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to a classified program named "Mogul"; however, many UFO proponents maintain that an alien craft was found and its occupants were captured, and that the military then engaged in a cover up. The incident has turned into a widely known pop culture phenomenon, making the name Roswell synonymous with UFOs. It ranks as the most publicized and controversial of alleged UFO incidents.
On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer Walter Haut in Roswell, New Mexico, issued a press release stating that personnel from the field's 509th Bomb Group had recovered a crashed "flying disk" from a ranch near Roswell, sparking intense media interest. The following day, the press reported that Commanding General of the Eighth Air Force (Roger M. Ramey) stated that, in fact, a radar-tracking balloon had been recovered by the RAAF personnel, not a "flying disc." A subsequentpress conference was called, featuring debris said to be from the crashed object, which seemed to confirm the weather balloon description.
The incident was quickly forgotten and almost completely ignored, even by UFO researchers, for more than 30 years. Then, in 1978, physicist and ufologist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel who was involved with the original recovery of the debris in 1947. Marcel expressed his belief that the military had covered up the recovery of an alien spacecraft. His story spread through UFO circles, being featured in some UFO documentaries at the time. In February 1980, The National Enquirer ran its own interview with Marcel, garnering national and worldwide attention for the Roswell incident.
Additional witnesses added significant new details, including claims of a huge military operation dedicated to recovering alien craft and aliens themselves, at as many as 11 crash sites, and alleged witness intimidation. In 1989, former mortician Glenn Dennis put forth a detailed personal account, wherein he claimed that alien autopsies were carried out at the Roswell base.
In response to these reports, and after congressional inquiries, the General Accounting Office launched an inquiry and directed the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct an internal investigation. The result was summarized in two reports. The first, released in 1995, concluded that the reported recovered material in 1947 was likely debris from a secret government program called Project Mogul, which involved high altitude balloons meant to detect sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests and ballistic missiles. The second report, released in 1997, concluded that reports of recovered alien bodies were likely a combination of innocently transformed memories of military accidents involving injured or killed personnel, innocently transformed memories of the recovery of anthropomorphic dummies in military programs like Project High Dive conducted in the 1950s, and hoaxes perpetrated by various witnesses and UFO proponents. The psychological effects of time compression and confusion about when events occurred explained the discrepancy with the years in question. These reports were dismissed by UFO proponents as being either disinformation or simply implausible. However, numerous high-profile UFO researchers discount the possibility that the incident had anything to do with aliens.