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The Biggest Lie I Ever Had to Tell

Article By: Donald R. Schmitt


On July 8, 1947 the US Army announced to the world its capture of a flying saucer outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Newspapers around the world carried the banner headline. Lt. Walter Haut, the public-information officer at the Roswell Army Air Field, had a stack of phone messages on top of his desk more than six inches high. (1)

According to the press release, Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, the chief intelligence officer at Roswell AAF, was ordered to report personally to his base commander’s supervising officer at Carswell AAF in Fort Worth, Texas.

Being the head intelligence officer of the most elite unit in the US military at that time was no small accomplishment. The 509th Atomic Bomb Squadron was a composite group that comprised the best officers, pilots, technicians, doctors and nurses the Army could muster. It was a veteran unit of select personnel whose mission was to deliver the atomic bomb via air strikes to Japan in 1945 which ended WWII. Major Marcel was instrumental in the development and tactical operation of the 509th ABS which was assigned to the Roswell AAF immediately following the war. Consequently, when a local rancher by the name of W.W. “Mack” Brazel reported unidentifiable aircraft wreckage outside of town, it became Marcel’s duty to identify the source of that wreckage.

On July 8, 1947, aboard a waiting B-29 with its pilot crew, Maj. Marcel held a box of the recovered debris on his lap. A staff car pulled up to the aircraft, and Master Sgt. Robert Porter loaded four brown-paper-wrapped packages into the bomb bay of the plane. Porter noticed that each was of lightweight; three of them were the size of a shoebox; and the fourth was triangular and approximately two-and-a-half feet in diameter. The bomber crew’s preflight instructions were to fly directly to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, to have the strange, unidentifiable material analyzed by the Foreign Technology Division based at Patterson Field which adjoined Wright. (The FTD conducted much of the Army’s reverse-engineering technology research on captured armory and weaponry from WWII). Up to that point, no one had been able to recognize the shattered remains found outside Roswell.

Shortly after departing Roswell AAF at 3 PM MST/4 PM CST on July 8, 1947, the B-29 was ordered to make a preliminary stop at Fort Worth, which at that time was a one-hour flight away. Maj. Marcel reported directly to Brig. Gen. Roger M. Ramey there and gave him the box of Roswell material at approximately 5 PM CST.

Ramey wanted to know exactly where it had been found. He invited the major to follow him into an adjacent map room. Some moments passed before the two returned to the high-ranking officers office after some private discussion. “You are not to say anything to the press,” Ramey ordered the Major. (2) Stepping into the room, Marcel immediately noticed that the box he had carried from Roswell AAF was no longer on top of the desk. As they walked further into the room, on the floor in front of the desk were now the remains of a clean, yet torn and crumbled radar kite of reflective foil, wooden sticks, masking tape and bailing twine. A clump of rotten Neoprene reeking of old burnt rubber was all that remained of the single balloon itself. Directly under this mess was a length of unrolled brown paper wrapping. (3)

Col. Thomas J. DuBose, Gen. Ramey’s chief of staff at that time, later attested in a sworn affidavit: “Actually it was a cover story… The balloon part of it… the remnants [from Roswell] were taken from this location, and Al Clark (the base commander at Fort Worth) took [them] to Washington, [D.C.,] and whatever happened then, I have no knowledge. The part of it [the weather balloon] was, in fact, a story that we were told to give to the public and the news, and that was it.” (4)

The next few minutes in Gen. Ramey’s office were strictly military procedure. Maj. Marcel was ordered to pose with the substituted balloon-and-kite wreckage for two photos, next the general took center stage for two, then invited DuBose to get in the picture for two more. All the shots were taken by a reporter from the Fort Worth Star Telegram named James Bond Johnson. The newsman would later comment that the strong rubber smell spilled into the hallway as he approached the room. No other news-media representatives were present. (5) <.p>

One can only imagine what thoughts went through the mind of Maj. Marcel as he crouched down and lifted some of the flimsy, foil material impersonating the actual super-strong remnants he had personally brought back from the debris site. Marcel was fully aware that the 509th ABS [Air Base Squadron] at Roswell AAF launched that exact type of radar balloon twice each day from atop the tallest building in town. The balloons were used to detect upper atmospheric wind direction and speed to assist the 509th in their test-drop exercises of the atomic bomb under their command. That was their military assignment at Roswell; they respected the bomb, loved their aircraft and recognized their weather balloons.

Gen. Ramey ordered Maj. Marcel to spend the night at Fort Worth headquarters and not to say a word to anyone about the incident. Col. DuBose was told not to ever mention the subject again. Ramey also canceled the continuation of the original B-29 flight to Wright Field. All the excitement had been for nothing he said and newspaper headlines proclaimed the next morning, “Its a Weather Balloon!”

Roughly one year later, Gen. Ramey and other officers were waiting on the tarmac at Carswell AFB for a taxiing B-29. An enlisted crewman was waiting with the rest of the crew to also board the aircraft. One of the officers on the crew was overheard asking Ramey about the 1947 Roswell events. “What about it , General?” the officer pressed. “What was that stuff?” To which Ramey answered, Oh that. It was the biggest lie I ever had to tell.” After a moment Ramey added, “It was out of this world, Son. Out of this world!” (6)


  • 1- Walter Haut, personal interview.
  • 2- Jesse Marcel Sr., personal interview conducted by Bob Pratt, Dec. 1979.
  • 3- Walter Haut, personal interview.
  • 4- Thomas J. DuBose, personal interview. Based on various interviews, including those with photographer James B. Johnson, DuBose said that Marcel was not allowed to speak with reporters. Marcel’s interview with Bob Pratt confirms this view.
  • 5- James B. Johnson, personal interview.
  • 6- Telephone interview with Marion Brimberry in 2000.

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