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One of the six New Mexicans directly affected by the crash of what was first called a UFO, then a weather balloon, shares memories of the event 50 years ago


Robert Shirkey, 74
"They were carrying boxes of strange-looking material."
First Lt. Shirkey was the assistant operations officer of the 509th Bomb Group in July.
"Suddenly we had this call from Col. Blanchard that said I want a B-29 parked in front of the Base Ops. I sent the crew down and they were ready for takeoff at about 2 o'clock. This was July 8. I came back from lunch that day and Col. Blanchard walked in behind me. He stepped back in the hallway and waved his hand at some people who were out front of the building. And they came through and down the hallway and walked out across the ramp.
"They were carrying boxes of strange-looking material. One man had a piece, carrying under his arm right out in the open, about 16 by 22, coffee table sized. Maj. (Jesse) Marcel went through carrying this box with scraps of metal in it and one of the I-beams sticking up in the corner. Meanwhile a staff car had pulled up underneath the tail and they were handing some boxes up into the back door entrance."
The plane lifted off about 2 p.m., and at 3 p.m. the Roswell Daily Record hit the streets with the story of the flying saucer.
Shirkey teaches oilfield safety classes at the Roswell branch of Eastern New Mexico University, which has its campus across the street from the old air field.

All their stories:

  • "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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    Copyright © 1997 Albuquerque Journal