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Schiff: Roswell UFO A Balloon
GAO: All But Two Documents Destroyed

Published: 07-29-95
Richard Parker
Journal Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Two government documents are the only official records remaining of the 1947 Roswell Incident involving the crash of an unidentified flying object, the General Accounting Office reported Friday.
The GAO reported its long-awaited findings on the July 8, 1947 crash of the UFO near what was then Roswell Army Air Force Base.
The report done for Rep. Steve Schiff, R-N.M., drew no conclusions but suggested that there is no further proof that what crashed at Roswell was anything other than a Cold War reconnaissance balloon, as the Air Force stated last year.
For nearly half a century, the mysterious crash has fueled speculation about aliens in the New Mexico desert, Cold War secrecy and a government cover-up.
The report said the Air Force and its predecessor, the Army Air Force, destroyed both outgoing messages and administrative records from Roswell from 1947 through 1949. The GAO report gives no other details.
And after a governmentwide search for documents on the incident, the GAO found two, both of which refer to a balloon crash.
As a result, the signs in the Roswell mystery point to an answer the Air Force supplied last year, Schiff concluded after receiving the report: It was a crash of a classified Cold War device that triggered the Roswell incident.
"At least, this effort caused the Air Force to acknowledge that the crashed vehicle was no weather balloon," Schiff said Friday, referring to last year's report by the Air Force.
For nearly half a century, the Air Force insisted that the object it originally described as a "flying disc" was really just a weather balloon.
But last year, the service admitted that the Roswell wreckage was probably a balloon launched as part of a classified government project to detect Soviet nuclear weapons. The balloons deployed as part of Project Mogul, as it was known, were no ordinary balloons. They were neoprene structures between 600 and 800 feet tall, designed to probe the atmosphere's highest altitudes.
And though the GAO was careful not to rule out extraterrestrial life on Earth -- or at least in New Mexico -- its few conclusive findings point to the possibility that the crash really was a balloon.
First, though, the service destroyed a lot of records, contrary to its official policy, throughout the late 1940s. As late as 1950, records from Roswell Army Air Force Base are missing, according to GAO.
Schiff, who got the Air Force to acknowledge its Project Mogul as part of his own probe into the Roswell incident, criticized the Army Air Force's destruction of records.
"It is my understanding that these outgoing messages were permanent records, which should never have been destroyed," he said in a statement Friday. Because the outgoing messages from the Roswell base were destroyed over 40 years ago, he said, further inquiry about them is "impractical."
Also, the Army Air Force was required to keep records of air accidents permanently; but it wasn't required to keep records of balloon crashes, possibly explaining why there aren't any.
The GAO did recover a few records, all of which point to some kind of balloon. A July 8, 1947, teletype message from the FBI described the recovery of a "hexagonal disc" suspended from a balloon by cable.
The FBI message, based on Air Force information, had been circulating in UFO circles for years, but, for the first time, the FBI has authenticated it as one of its own, according to the GAO report.
An internal history of the 509th Bomb Group, which recovered the object, notes that the Roswell base was busy answering questions about its initial report of a "flying disc" but says "the object turned out to be a radar tracking balloon."
Perhaps as significantly, the GAO queried a wide array of other government agencies to see if they have been withholding documents about the crash at Roswell. The Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, the White House, the Energy Department, the FBI and the Defense Department were all asked to check for records on the incident.
And except for the FBI confirmation of its telex, as well as the 509th's history, no agency had any documents on the 1947 crash, according to the GAO.
The GAO's document search leaves last year's Air Force explanation of Project Mogul as the most extensive the government has offered on the Roswell Incident.

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