I can see a local newspaper reporter from southeastern New Mexico swallowing the Roswell UFO myth whole, but I think readers of the Albuquerque Journal, which reprinted that article (Sunday Journal, July 8, p. B2), deserve better.
The article presents the story as told by UFO believers, a notoriously unreliable bunch. For example, the article notes correctly that in July 1947 rancher W.W. (Mac) Brazel reported finding debris near Corona, northwest of Roswell. But it doesn’t tell you that Brazel described it as consisting of a large number of pieces of paper covered with a foil-like substance and pieced together with small sticks, much like a kite. And also some piece(s) of gray rubber. All were small. Hardly some high-tech alien flying saucer!
The reporter should have told readers what we now know the debris to have been: remnants of a long train of research balloons and equipment launched by New York University atmospheric researchers – specifically Flight No. 4. Flight 4 was launched June 4, 1947, from Alamogordo Army Air Field and tracked flying northeast toward Corona. It was within 17 miles of the Brazel ranch when contact was lost.
NYU’s role in launching the research balloons and equipment was unclassified; we later learned the mission also had a classified aspect, called Project Mogul, to find whether such balloons might take highly sensitive microphones into the stratosphere to detect acoustic signals of Soviet nuclear tests.
I was in the audience of New Mexicans for Science and Reason in 1995 when the man who helped launch Flight 4, atmospheric scientist Charles B. Moore – in 1947 an NYU graduate student, later a longtime and respected physics professor at New Mexico Tech – showed us a radar reflector like the three that were attached to Flight 4, a Signal Corps ML307B RAWIN target. It looked much like a box kite. The sticks and metallic paper are similar to what Brazel described. The rubber Brazel noted was similar to the neoprene balloons used to carry equipment aloft. The radar reflectors contained small eyelets, similar to those Brazel had described on the debris.
Moore also provided another new and very telling detail: the reinforcing tape used on the NYU targets had curious markings; UFO believers later described markings on the debris Brazel recovered as “hieroglyphics,” implying some alien writing. In fact, the tape had been purchased from a New York City toy factory and the symbols on the tape were “abstract flowerlike designs” made to appeal to kids.