by Curtis Peebles
© Copyright 1997
On page 204 of Kevin D. Randle's book "A History Of UFO Crashes" there is a brief account of an incident near Edwards AFB in the summer of 1971. The case was labeled "Insufficient Data," but Merlin suspected it might have been caused by the crash of a YF-12A on June 24 1971 (Arnold Day). A fuel line failed, causing a fire in the right engine. The crew ejected successfully and the plane crashed.
When Merlin looked at the aerial photos, he could not find any trace of a crash. He knew the general area, but was frustrated in his attempts until he realized that he was expecting a very large crash area. When he started looking for a smaller area, he found the site. As with the B-1A, the wreckage was buried. He and several friends soon found very large components. This included the control surface from the right wing, some seven feet long, and one of the engines.
This specific incident was of interest because it was the one case of an exotic aircraft crash being reported as a flying saucer retrieval. I had long wondered if crashes of U-2s and A-12 Oxcarts in the 1950s and 1960s had led to crash-retrieval stories. (The A-12 Oxcart was the CIA-sponsored single-seat prototype of the SR-71.) An examination of published accounts of UFO crashes did not support this, as the dates did not match. None the less, one can see the possibilities. If something secret, but earthly, fell from the sky, the same security procedures would be used that might be expected if it was an alien UFO.
One example of this was the first A-12 Oxcart crash in May, 1963. The aircraft was on a low-altitude test flight when the air-speed system iced up, causing erroneous readings. The plane stalled and the pilot ejected. He survived, but both he and everyone connected with the program had a real big problem - several tons of a non-existent airplane were now splattered all over a rancher's field. After the pilot landed, two ranchers in a pickup truck arrived. Fortunately, he was wearing a standard flight suit, rather than a pressure suit, which might be a little hard to explain. (And saying "Take me to your leader" was not an option.)
The pilot gave them the cover story. He "explained" that he was an F-105 pilot, and that his aircraft was carrying a live nuclear weapon. This "satisfied" the ranchers' curiosity, and they felt no need to examine the crash site closely. It took two days to remove the debris. Everyone involved was asked to sign security agreements. Security held for another year, but it was getting a little thin.
The Air Force has shown less creativity in explanations than the CIA. In April 1984, Lt. Gen. Robert Bond was killed in an air crash on the Nellis Range (You can guess what part of the range). The announcement stated only that he had been flying a "specially modified test aircraft." This only focused attention on the accident, and it soon leaked that he had been flying a Soviet-built MIG 23 when he was killed.
As with the debris, traces of any recovery operation, such as tire tracks or cleared areas, will be found even decades later. At one crash site, an area had been cleared to provide a helicopter pad. One trace Merlin found at a number of different crash sites was the camp site of the guards. This was an open pit fire ring with half-burned canvas bags, cracker boxes with the labels still readable, newspapers, and C-Ration cans.
The Meaning of Roswell
In the nearly two decades since the Roswell Incident came to public attention, it has become more than a debate over what did or did not happen in the desert. Ultimately, Roswell is part of the human search for meaning, wonder, and magic in a world that seems to lack those qualities. It will come as no surprise that Merlin has gone to Roswell. His goal was not to prove or disprove the flying saucer scenario, but to objectively search for any evidence.
On May 6, 1994, Merlin and Tom Kinzel drove out to the new ranch house and knocked on the door. The ranch foreman's wife answered the door. They were not about to say the words "flying saucer," so they began by saying, "We've got a strange request," and asked if they could wander around the ranch. The foreman's wife immediately responded, "Oh, you're looking for the flying saucer." You might get the idea they were not the first to look.
Merlin and Kinzel followed her directions to the old Brazel homestead. The different books placed the debris field about three miles south of the old ranch house and corral. Using a topographic map, they paced off the distance and found themselves in a small valley with low, rolling hills, a wash, rock outcroppings, and sink holes. This matched the published descriptions, but it was not possible to determine an exact location.
Merlin and Kinzel began to search the area. The Roswell debris field differed from all the other crash sites in a significant way. All the descriptions of the debris are of very light-weight material, primarily metallic foil. Such material will be easily scattered by winds. They concentrated on the sparse brush, wash, sink holes, and rock outcroppings - anyplace that might catch a bit of wind-blown foil. One rock outcropping on a hill had a two-inch-wide crack in its side. As Merlin looked in he saw the glint of metallic foil. In that moment, Merlin said later, he felt as if he had discovered the "holy grail of aerospace archeology."
He reached in and pulled out an aluminum TV dinner tray. After ruefully regarding it for a few moments, Merlin then carefully replaced it, so others might have that same thrill of discovery.
Curtis Peebles has written many books including:
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You can also read about his search for the ZEL here
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The opinions in this article are exclusively those of Curtis Peebles based on his experience and many years of research and do not necessarily reflect those of "The San Diego UFO Information Homepage" or other organizations represented at this website. - Paul
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