In relation to my previous post (of yesterday, on Roswell's missing files), I got an email from someone asking what it was that set the General Accounting Office on the trail of Roswell.
It goes like this...
In the spring of 1993, New Mexico Congressman Steven Schiff began to make inquiries with the Defense Department in an attempt to determine the truth surrounding certain aspects of the controversy.
In an 11 March 1993 letter to the then Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, Schiff wrote:
"Last fall I became aware of a strange series of events beginning in New Mexico over 45 years ago and involving personnel of what was then the Army Air Force. I have since reviewed the facts in some detail, and I am writing to request your assistance in arriving at a definitive explanation of what transpired and why.
"In brief, according to contemporary newspaper, wire service, national radio newscast, and numerous eyewitness accounts, on or about July 3, 1947, rancher William W. (Mac) Brazel found a large amount of unusual debris on property he managed northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, near the town of Corona. He brought his find to the attention of Chaves County Sheriff George Wilcox, who then contacted the Roswell Army Air Field, home of the 509th Bomb Group (Atomic) commanded by Colonel William H. Blanchard…According to testimony of the group intelligence officer, Major Jesse A. Marcel, he and the Counter Intelligence Corps officer in charge at the field, Captain Sheridan, W. Cavitt, then accompanied Mr. Brazel to the discovery site.
"Marcel testified that he and Cavitt found an area measuring about three-quarters of a mile long by 200 to 300 feet wide densely strewn with large amount of extremely lightweight, extremely strong materials neither could identify. Samples of these materials were flown to Eighth Air Force Headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas…
"A few hours later, Eighth Air Force Commanding General Roger M. Ramey told reporters in Fort Worth that what had been found in New Mexico were the initially misidentified remains of a weather balloon and its Rawin radar target. Recently, in written and videotaped depositions, Brigadier General Thomas J. DuBose, USAF(ret.), General Ramey’s chief of staff at the time of the incident, testified that the balloon explanation was a cover story…
"The inconsistency between repeated official denials and the public record and testimony of those involved has led to a great deal of sensational speculation and called into question the credibility of the Departments of Defense, Army, and the Air Force…
"Therefore, Mr. Secretary, I respectfully request that you direct such a review be undertaken on a priority basis and that a representative or representatives of the Department of Defense and the responsible Military Departments promptly arrange to brief and provide me with a written report providing a current, complete, and detailed description and explanation of both the nature of what was recovered and all official actions taken on the matter…"
On 31 March 1993, and as a direct result of this action, Schiff received the following reply - not from Aspin but from Colonel Larry G. Shockley, USAF, Director, Plans and Operations:
"I have received your letter of March 11, requesting information on alleged events which occurred in Roswell, New Mexico. In order to be of service to you, I have referred this matter to the National Archives and Records Administration for direct reply to you. If I can be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to let me know."
Schiff’s office duly followed this on 7 April 1993 with a submission of material to Rudy deLeon, Special Assistant, Office of the Secretary of Defense, who replied:
"This is in regard to your recent letter to Secretary Aspin regarding alleged events which occurred in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. I, too, find these unexplained occurrences of great interest; however, these records are too old to be available here at the Pentagon. I would, therefore, recommend that you contact the National Archives for additional information, as I believe Colonel Shockley has already done on your behalf. I regret that my response in not more favorable, but I trust you will find this information helpful."
Once again, Congressman Schiff’s office quickly sent a follow up letter to Secretary of Defense Aspin:
"I realize that, after almost 46 years, it is a virtual certainty that all or most of the records concerning this incident have been archived. However, my staff and several independent investigators have conclusively established they are not in any of the unclassified, including previously classified, holdings of the National Archives. Moreover, it is my understanding that it is highly unlikely they reside in any of the classified files in the custody of the Archives.
"Wherever the documents may be, what is at issue is my request for a personal briefing and a written report on a matter involving actions taken by officials of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, agencies under your purview. I realize the research required to uncover the relevant documents and related materials will take time and considerable effort, and I am prepared to wait a reasonable amount of time for this to be accomplished. However I expect the job to be done and my request to be addressed as set forth in the penultimate paragraph of my March letter…"
On 20 May 1993, Congressman Schiff received his reply from the National Archives:
"This is in reply to your letter of March 11, 1993, concerning information about a UFO sighting at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. The Department of the Air Force forwarded your letter, and we received it on May 6, 1993. The U.S. Air Force has retired to our custody its records on Project BLUE BOOK relating to the investigations of unidentified flying objects. Project BLUE BOOK has been declassified and the records are available for examination in our research room. The project closed in 1969 and we have no information after that date. We have received numerous requests concerning records relating to the Roswell incident among these records. We have not located any documentation relating to this event in Project BLUE BOOK records, or in any other pertinent Defense Department records in our custody."
Interpreting the fact that he was being passed back and forth from the Defense Department to the National Archives as stonewalling, Schiff once again determined to resolve the matter once and for all with Secretary Aspin:
"…While I realize that the Department of Defense, and you, Mr. Secretary, have been very busy in areas throughout the world, while also concerned with proposed changes in policy within the Department, I must insist on the courtesy of a reply to my letter, which is now three months old. To reiterate, while I am prepared to wait a reasonable length of time for the briefing I requested, I do insist that the Department do the research on my inquiry and report the findings to me. I also must insist on having my letters to the Department of Defense acknowledged and acted upon. I look forward to your response to my letters, and to the scheduled briefing. I will expect a reply to this inquiry by September 7th."
Nevertheless things did not go according to Schiff’s wishes, and as a result, he contacted the General Accounting Office (the investigative arm of Congress) in a concerted effort to bring the Roswell controversy to rest, once and for all - as the Washington Post noted in January 1994:
"…GAO spokeswoman Laura A. Kopelson said the office’s investigation…stemmed from a meeting in October between Schiff and GAO Controller General Charles A Bowsher. Schiff complained then that the Defense Department had been ‘unresponsive’ to his inquiries about the 1947 incident…’I was getting pretty upset at all the running around,’ Schiff said, adding that at his meeting with GAO officials, ‘they made an offer to help.’… ‘Generally, I'm a skeptic on UFOs and alien beings, but there are indications from the runaround that I got that whatever it was, it wasn’t a balloon. Apparently, it's another government cover-up,’ Schiff said. He called the Defense Department’s lack of response ‘astounding,’ and said government accountability was an issue ‘even larger than UFOs.’…He added, ‘If the Defense Department had been responsive, it wouldn’t have come to this.'"
As a result of Schiff’s efforts, (A) the GAO duly launched an investigation and on 28 July 1995, a report surfaced from its National Security and International Affairs Division that disclosed the results of that same investigation; (B) the Air Force trotted out its controversial "Mogul Balloon" theory for Roswell; and (C) the UFO research community was faced with more data, more questions, but still no hard evidence of what it really was that happened at Roswell...