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AF ‘Final’ UFO Report Stirs New Skepticism

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Weary of conspiracy theories, Hollywood embellishments and public suspicion that for 50 years the Pentagon has covered up discovery of a crashed UFO near Roswell, N.M., the Air Force on Thursday released what it touted as a definitive, conclusive, this-time-we-mean-it, fini report denying the incident.

But like the parthenogenetic creatures of “Alien” movie fame, the report instantly bred a new species of rumor and conspiracy as skeptics mocked Air Force claims that the UFO speculations stemmed, in part, from an experiment using crash-test dummies.

Stoic Air Force officials, facing the tough task of proving something didn’t happen, insisted that nothing mysterious occurred on the eastern New Mexico plains in 1947. Thus, they said, they were left to search for phenomena of a second and third kind that could have fired the imaginations of UFO devotees.

To present the evidence designed to end the speculation, the Pentagon sent out an officer who did not seem fully versed on the various theories of an interplanetary visit. But the officer--Col. John Haynes--did appear to appreciate the daunting challenge before him.

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“I’m standing here with my knees shaking,” he said as he held up the 231-page report to a room packed with reporters.

Nonetheless, he proceeded to insist that the Air Force had finally gotten to the bottom of the extraterrestrial saga. “We’re confident this will be the final word on the Roswell incident,” Haynes said.

But final was not the word that sprung to mind for others.

“This has given me a grand laugh,” said Russ Estes, who filmed a documentary on the Roswell incident. “I have no idea if an alien craft landed, but as a logical thinker I cannot believe what the Air Force is saying.”

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The report, entitled “The Roswell Incident, Case Closed,” was released as the 50th anniversary nears of the supposed crash of a flying saucer and related sighting of alien-like creatures.

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The report is actually the Air Force’s second attempt to put to rest the nettlesome stories--which over the years have evolved into a cottage industry, not to mention a tourist boon for Roswell.

Three years ago, officials asserted that the debris recovered outside the city in July 1947 was the remnants of an Air Force balloon used in a top-secret project that monitored the atmosphere for Soviet nuclear tests.

But not addressed was a second element of the Roswell incident: Were alien bodies removed from the site and carted off to a military hospital?

According to the new report, those “aliens” were “anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high-altitude balloons for scientific research.”

The dummies--which had skeletons of aluminum or steel, skin of latex or plastic, cast aluminum skulls and instrument cavities in their torsos and heads--were parachuted to earth from 1954-59 as part of projects that explored possible ways for pilots or astronauts to safely return from high-altitude missions.

The immediate question facing Haynes, of course, was how people could have confused events that happened several years apart.

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“If you find that people talk about things over a period of time, they begin to lose exactly when the date was,” said Haynes. “I have no other explanation.”

He added: “We think this answers a lot of questions and it answers them logically.”

But there was no logic in the explanation to Frank Kaufmann, who claims he was part of the Air Force’s military team first sent to the “impact site” in order to clear it to avoid curiosity seekers. The Air Force disputes Kaufmann’s account.

Air Force officials “can say whatever they want,” said Kaufmann, who still lives in Roswell. “We were there and know what we saw and there were no dummies there--I know what a dummy looks like. These beings were five-feet-five, small ears, small nose--good-looking.”

Kevin Randle, who has published a number of books on the Roswell incident, derided the Air Force report as a bad cover-up that “doesn’t fit with the facts.” He said that numerous people recall that all aspects of the incident took place in 1947--and not many years later as dummies were falling from the sky. And the dummies do not fit the description of aliens Kaufmann and other witnesses reported.

Randle also said he does not understand why the Pentagon put out its latest report.

“By responding to a bunch of UFO ‘nuts,’ they are legitimizing our claims,” he said.

The Air Force report said: “Some persons may legitimately ask why the Air Force expended time and effort to respond to mythical, if not comedic, allegations.” The essential reason, it said, was to set the record straight.

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And Haynes emphatically denied that the Air Force was attempting to hide the facts.

“We can’t even keep a single secret--how can we have cover-ups?” said Haynes.


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