The Roswell incident ought to be taught in universities under the rubric "the persistence of popular delusion." From 1947 to 1949, the United States Army Air Force (later the United States Air Force) ran a top-secret project for detecting Soviet atomic tests, called Project Mogul
. From the Wikipedia article:
In 1994-1995, the Air Force published a report which concluded that Mogul Flight #4, launched from Alamogordo, New Mexico, on June 4, 1947, was what crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, and formed the source of the debris which sparked the Roswell UFO Incident.
When Mr. Brazel found debris from that balloon crash site on property far to the north of Roswell, it was the silly season in the newspapers, and some joker from the Roswell newspaper published an article claiming that Brazel had found a "flying saucer" crash site. An information officer at Roswell Army Air Force base then issued a statement saying that investigators had found a "flying disc." Why he said such a foolish thing, no one knows, and he is no longer among the living. I suspect that, knowing this to be debris from a top secret program, he panicked and said the first thing that popped into his head to distract peoples' attention. Later that day, the senior Army Air Force general in the region issued a statement that what had been found was the debris from a weather balloon, and he displayed pieces of wood and scraps of rubber and foil. Other news came along, and the incident was forgotten for 30 years.
In 1978, a physicist and "ufologist" named Stanton T. Friedman interviewed or claimed ot have interviewed a former USAAF officer who said that a "flying saucer" had been what Brazel found. The National Enquirer
took the story and ran with it. There has been no turning back since then. Roswell makes good money on UFO nut tourism, so there's not only no incentive for anyone there to debunk the story, but a good deal of incentive to keep the pot boiling. This was really the dawn of the cottage industry of writing books and producing film and video to cash in on the credulity of the public when it comes to stories of this type--UFOs, ancient astronauts, alien abductions, etc. Van Daniken's book, Chariots of the Gods
, published a decade earlier, was re-released and went through several printings. When it comes to selling a credulous public stories they would love to believe, there's gold in them thar hills.
Just as a side note, one does not necessarily need scientific expertise to see how phony this stuff is. I saw a television program about the "alien autopsy" video which had been produced, claiming to be an autopsy of one of the "victims" of the flying saucer crash. There was a Hollywood special effects rigger commenting, and he just laughed and laughed. Of course, no one was making videos in 1947. The first video recorder was only invented in 1951. But what struck me when i watched it was that on the wall behind the "autopsy table" there was a telephone with the handset connected by a coiled cord to the receiver, like this:
Those didn't exist in 1947. Although the armed forces used coiled cords on field telephones in the Second World War, a phone like the one above was not in general public use until the 1960s. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to spot bullsh*t when you smell it.
But this is big money for those who exploit it. Don't expect the "Roswell Incident" to go away as long as there is a buck to be made, and fools to spend their money on it.