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Six New Mexicans directly affected by the crash of what was first called a UFO, then a weather balloon, share their memories of the event 50 years ago


By Leslie Linthicum
Journal Staff Writer
ROSWELL -- Since the summer day a half century ago that Corona rancher Mac Brazel went on horseback to check on his sheep and found the remains of something that had crashed from the sky, things haven't really been the same.
The crash, which the government explained days later on July 9 as an experimental weather balloon, has become grist for theories of extraterrestrial life and government cover-ups, an American myth that no longer can be held within the boundaries of mere facts.
There was something in the sky, or in the imaginations of Americans, in the summer of '47. People were reporting seeing flying saucers from sea to sea. And the skies above New Mexico were not immune.
"Another witness of the mysterious 'dipping discs' in New Mexico was reported today," the July 1, 1947, edition of the Albuquerque Journal said. "She was Miss B.A. Tillery of Newcomb, a trading post on the Navajo reservation."
The next day's Journal contained this report: "Albuquerque was included late Tuesday in the itinerary of the 'flying saucers,' according to Max Hood, chamber of commerce official here, who said he observed a disc-like bluish object following a zig-zag path in the northwestern sky."
While the skies were awash in mysteries, a July thunderstorm on the prairie outside Roswell sparked the events that would alter the lives of a number of New Mexicans -- those who saw pieces of the wreckage or were involved in the telling of the news story that went around the world.
There are six New Mexicans living who played some direct part in the events that would later become known internationally as the Roswell Incident. On this 50th anniversary, each has agreed to tell the Journal his or her story.
Fifty years is a long time. Memories fade. Dates become fuzzy. The details remembered by one witness contradict those remembered by another. Events are recounted, books are written, documentaries made and stories begin to take on lives of their own.
This is the living history of the purported July crash, told by the people who were there.

  • "To my way of thinking, if we're here why can't somebody else be out there?" Loretta Proctor, 82.
  • "The first or second of July, the radar screen lit up." Frank Kaufmann, 80
  • "He said he needed caskets about 3-foot-6 or 4 feet, hermetically sealed baby caskets." Glenn Dennis, 72
  • "He told me that he wanted me to put out a press release which in effect stated that we had in our possession a crashed flying saucer." Walter Haut, 74
  • "They were carrying boxes of strange-looking material." Robert Shirkey, 74
  • "The phone started ringing. I took the story off the wire and read it (on the air) as a bulletin a couple of times." Frank Joyce, 74


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