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Mack Brazel Reconsidered

Article By: Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt


Were it not for William Ware “Mack” Brazel (1899-1963), there would never have been a Roswell Incident – at least not one known to the general public. In July 1947, the 48- year-old Brazel was scratching out a living as foreman of the J. B. Foster sheep ranch located 30 miles southeast of the small cattle town of Corona, New Mexico. The family lived in Tularosa, while Mack stayed on the ranch in a shack without a telephone, electricity, or even running water. The nearest neighbor was 10 miles away.

As has been reported many times before, one day he discovered a mass of material strewn over a section of the vast hardscrabble grazing grounds and thought it strange and significant enough to warrant notifying the Chaves County sheriff, probably on July 6, who in turn called the Roswell Army Air Field. He did this not just because of a sense of patriotism, but also because the material was interfering with ranch operations, as the sheep wouldn’t cross the debris field.

The military, in the persons of Maj. Jesse Marcel and Capt. Sheridan Cavitt, followed Brazel back to the ranch that same day. After spending the night, they spent the next day inspecting and collecting the debris, which they took to the base by the early morning of July 8. In short order, Col. William Blanchard, the commanding officer at Roswell, issued a press release stating that a “flying disk” had been recovered. Almost immediately after Blanchard’s astonishing claim, Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, his superior in the chain of command, held a press conference in Fort Worth, Texas, in which a battered balloon-borne radar reflector was said to be the “disk” found by Brazel. A follow-up article in the Roswell newspaper on July 9 is the only contemporary published record of what Brazel said (“Harassed Rancher Who Located ‘Saucer’ ‘Sorry He Told About It”). It was based on an interview conducted in the offices of theRoswell Daily Record on the afternoon of July 8. The description of the debris he furnished sounds much like a small part of a Project Mogul balloon array, similar to that from weather balloons, which is the accepted skeptical explanation today for the event. Though Project Mogul was indeed a top-secret project, the neoprene rubber balloons and paper-backed aluminum foil radar targets used in it were not. In the article, Brazel describes a collection of “tinfoil”, “tape,” “sticks,” and “rubber,” which was so limited in size that it could be rolled up in a small bundle. But then he said the debris took up an area about 200 yards in diameter, vastly greater than the remains a Mogul array would produce. Apparently unnoticed and certainly unappreciated by reporters at the time were Brazel’s final comments. The article concluded by noting that Brazel had previously found weather balloons on the ranch on at least two occasions, and he firmly stated, “I am sure what I found was not any weather observation balloon.”

Brazel concluded by venting obvious frustration, saying that with the possible exception of a bomb, he would never report another object found on the ranch. The contradiction between his mundane description of the debris and his claim that this was not a weather balloon would reverberate almost endlessly when the Roswell controversy exploded into public consciousness.

The Historical Mack Brazel

With that, Brazel and the Roswell disk faded into obscurity. It was not until 31 years later that Marcel spoke out, saying that what he found at the Foster ranch was “not from this Earth.” Roswell was revisited by researchers, who produced persuasive circumstantial evidence indicating that the original Blanchard disk story was closer to the truth than he weather-balloon explanation.

What follows is an attempt to piece together the historical Mack Brazel and his role in the Roswell events. To this end, we have relied on the recollections of family, friends, and the few others who had contact with him during the critical days of July 1947. You may have read some of this information before, but in this article we refine our picture of Brazel’s role and present new findings about what he may have discovered.

In preparing this overview, we have relied on the original interviews made and published by William Moore, Stanton Friedman, Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt when he was Randle’s research partner, as well as our own recent field work.

W. Ware “Mack” Brazel

We’ll begin with his nickname. Most accounts refer to him as “Mac,” partly because researchers heard the name and applied the most logical phonetic spelling. And his family tells us he was so named after former President William McKinley. However, family documents show that the spelling “Mack” was always used. Indeed, the inscription on his tombstone reads W. Ware Mack Brazel.

In addition to the first-person interview with Brazel at the Roswell Daily Record, we know of three other interviews. The first was done on the spur of the moment by Roswell radio station KGFL announcer Frank Joyce on Sunday, July 6. Joyce made it a practice to call Chaves County Sheriff George Wilcox for new leads.

It happened that Brazel was in Wilcox’s office at the time, relating his discovery of strange debris. Wilcox put Brazel on the telephone, and Joyce proceeded to interview him.

The second instance was an interview conducted at the home of Walt Whitmore, the owner of KGFL. This was probably done late on Monday, July 7. The interview was recorded on a wire recorder, the technology available at the time. The interview was meant to be aired as a scoop, but was never played on the air. Unfortunately, the recording has been lost to us because it was confiscated by the Army on the afternoon of July 8 and never returned during their operation to kill the original disk-retrieval story and remove all contrary evidence.

The third and last interview was conducted by an El Paso radio station. We know only that it took place, and can only guess that Brazel repeated the story he gave the Roswell Daily Record.

Based on our investigations and reasonable deductions, it seems almost certain that the Joyce and Whitmore interviews presented Brazel’s story in honest, undistorted fashion. At some point on July 7-8, Brazel was placed in military custody at the base. His statements during this period are therefore suspect and may be the result of coercion. Family members believe that Brazel was frightened or bought off by the military, and that his July 8 Roswell Daily Record interview, in particular, was at least in the main outlines, dictated to him by the Army. One of the goals of our reinvestgation of Brazel has been to determine why he, alone among Roswell witnesses, was detained by the military.

The Harrassed Rancher

Mack Brazel’s name first surfaced in public in the July 9 Roswell Daily Record article. Although the paper did not print a photo of Brazel, many other papers throughout the country did. Apparently his picture was the first Wirephoto electronically transmitted fro Roswell. When this picture appeared in the Albuquerque Journal, it alerted his son Bill, Jr. to the fact that his father was the center of a large controversy and that he might need some help.

The same page of the Journal carried the debunking story from Ramey’s Fort Worth office, headlined “Gen. Ramey Empties Roswell Saucer.” Brazel is also mentioned by name in this article.

Family Lore

Mack Brazel died in 1963 at the age of 64, and his wife Maggie died in 1975 at the age of 73. Thus both were dead well before any rersearcher could interview them about the events of 1947.

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