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Government Records: Results of a Search for Records Concerning the 1947 Crash Near Roswell, New Mexico

(Letter Report, 07/28/95, GAO/NSIAD-95-187)



Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the
1947 weather balloon crash at Roswell Air Field, New Mexico, focusing
on: (1) the requirements for reporting air accidents similar to the
Roswell crash; and (2) any government records concerning the Roswell
crash.

GAO found that: (1) in 1947, Army regulations required that air accident
reports be maintained permanently and although none of the military
services filed a report on the Roswell incident, there was no
requirement in 1947 to prepare a report on the weather balloon crash;
(2) although some of the records concerning Roswell activities had been
destroyed, there was no information available regarding when or under
what authority the records were destroyed; (3) only two government
records originating in 1947 have been recovered regarding the Roswell
incident; (4) a 1947 Federal Bureau of Investigations record revealed
that the military had reported that an object resembling a high-altitude
weather balloon with a radar reflector had been recovered near Roswell;
and (5) a 1947 Air Force report noted the recovery of a flying disc that
was later determined by military officials to be a radar-tracking
balloon.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-95-187
     TITLE:  Government Records: Results of a Search for Records 
             Concerning the 1947 Crash Near Roswell, New Mexico
      DATE:  07/28/95
   SUBJECT:  Reporting requirements
             Classified records
             Records disposition
             Records retention
             Air Force bases
             Aircraft accidents
             Weather forecasting
             Radar equipment
             Information disclosure
IDENTIFIER:  Roswell (NM)
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to the Honorable
Steven H.  Schiff, House of Representatives

July 1995

GOVERNMENT RECORDS - RESULTS OF A
SEARCH FOR RECORDS CONCERNING THE
1947 CRASH NEAR ROSWELL, NEW
MEXICO

GAO/NSIAD-95-187

Government Records


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  CIA - Central Intelligence Agency
  DOD - Department of Defense
  FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation
  FOIA - Freedom of Information Act
  RAAF - Roswell Army Air Field

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-262046

July 28, 1995

The Honorable Steven H.  Schiff
House of Representatives

Dear Mr.  Schiff: 

On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information
office in Roswell, New Mexico, reported the crash and recovery of a
"flying disc." Army Air Forces personnel from the RAAF's 509th Bomb
Group were credited with the recovery.  The following day, the press
reported that the Commanding General of the U.S.  Eighth Air Force,
Fort Worth, Texas, announced that RAAF personnel had recovered a
crashed radar-tracking (weather) balloon, not a "flying disc."

After nearly 50 years, speculation continues on what crashed at
Roswell.  Some observers believe that the object was of
extraterrestrial origin.  In the July 1994 Report of Air Force
Research Regarding the Roswell Incident, the Air Force did not
dispute that something happened near Roswell, but reported that the
most likely source of the wreckage was from a balloon-launched
classified government project designed to determine the state of
Soviet nuclear weapons research.  The debate on what crashed at
Roswell continues. 

Concerned that the Department of Defense (DOD) may not have provided
you with all available information on the crash, you asked us to
determine the requirements for reporting air accidents similar to the
crash near Roswell and identify any government records concerning the
Roswell crash. 

We conducted an extensive search for government records related to
the crash near Roswell.  We examined a wide range of classified and
unclassified documents dating from July 1947 through the 1950s. 
These records came from numerous organizations in New Mexico and
elsewhere throughout DOD as well as the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the
National Security Council.  The full scope and methodology of our
work are detailed at the end of this report. 



   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

In 1947, Army regulations required that air accident reports be
maintained permanently.  We identified four air accidents reported by
the Army Air Forces in New Mexico during July 1947.  All of the
accidents involved military aircraft and occurred after July 8,
1947--the date the RAAF public information office first reported the
crash and recovery of a "flying disc" near Roswell.  The Navy
reported no air accidents in New Mexico during July 1947.  Air Force
officials told us that according to record- keeping requirements in
effect during July 1947, there was no requirement to prepare a report
on the crash of a weather balloon. 

In our search for records concerning the Roswell crash, we learned
that some government records covering RAAF activities had been
destroyed and others had not.  For example, RAAF administrative
records (from Mar.  1945 through Dec.  1949) and RAAF outgoing
messages (from Oct.  1946 through Dec.  1949) were destroyed.  The
document disposition form does not indicate what organization or
person destroyed the records and when or under what authority the
records were destroyed. 

Our search for government records concerning the Roswell crash
yielded two records originating in 1947--a July 1947 history report
by the combined 509th Bomb Group and RAAF and an FBI teletype message
dated July 8, 1947.  The 509th- RAAF report noted the recovery of a
"flying disc" that was later determined by military officials to be a
radar- tracking balloon.  The FBI message stated that the military
had reported that an object resembling a high-altitude weather
balloon with a radar reflector had been recovered near Roswell. 

The other government records we reviewed, including those previously
withheld from the public because of security classification, and the
Air Force's analysis of unidentified flying object\1 sightings from
1946 to 1953 (Project Blue Book Special Report No.  14), did not
mention the crash or the recovery of an airborne object near Roswell
in July 1947.  Similarly, executive branch agencies' responses to our
letters of inquiry produced no other government records on the
Roswell crash. 


--------------------
\1 According to Air Force regulation, an unidentified flying object
is an airborne object that by performance, aerodynamic
characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to known
aircraft or missiles, or does not correspond to Air Force definitions
of familiar or known objects or unidentified aircraft. 


   REPORTING AIR ACCIDENTS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

According to press accounts from July 1947, Army Air Forces personnel
from RAAF were involved in the recovery of an airborne object near
Roswell.  Therefore, if an air accident report was prepared, it
should have been prepared in accordance with Army regulations. 
According to an Army records management official, in 1947 Army
regulations required that air accident reports be maintained
permanently.  An Air Force official said there was no similar
requirement to report a weather balloon crash. 

According to an Air Force official who has worked in the records
management field since the mid-1940s, air accident reports prepared
in July 1947 under Army regulations should have been transferred to
Air Force custody in September 1947, when the Air Force was
established as a separate service. 

The Air Force Safety Agency is responsible for maintaining reports of
air accidents.  We examined its microfilm records to determine
whether any air accidents had been reported in New Mexico during July
1947.  We identified four air accidents during this time period.\2
All of the accidents involved military fighter or cargo aircraft and
occurred after July 8, 1947-- the date the RAAF public information
office first reported the crash and recovery of a "flying disc" near
Roswell.  According to the Army Air Forces' Report of Major Accident,
these four accidents occurred at or near the towns of Hobbs,
Albuquerque, Carrizozo, and Alamogordo, New Mexico.  Only one of the
four accidents resulted in a fatality.  The pilot died when the
aircraft crashed during an attempted take-off. 


--------------------
\2 These records do not include information regarding mishaps of air
vehicles belonging to civilian or other government agencies.  These
records also do not include mishaps involving unmanned air vehicles
such as remotely piloted aircraft, low-speed cruise missiles, and
most balloons. 


   SEARCH FOR RECORDS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

In searching for government records on the Roswell crash, we were
particularly interested in identifying and reviewing records of
military units assigned to RAAF in 1947--to include the 509th Bomb
Group, the
1st Air Transport Unit, the 427th Army Air Force Base Unit, and the
1395th Military Police Company (Aviation). 

Document disposition forms obtained from the National Personnel
Records Center in St.  Louis, Missouri, indicate that in 1953, the
Walker Air Force Base (formerly RAAF) records officer transferred to
the Army's Kansas City records depository the histories of units
stationed at Walker Air Force Base.  These histories included the
509th Bomb Group and RAAF for February 1947 through October 1947; the
1st Air Transport Unit for July 1946 through June 1947; and the 427th
Army Air Force Base Unit for January 1946 to February 1947.  We could
not locate any documentation indicating that records of the 1395th
Military Police Company (Aviation) were ever retired to the National
Personnel Records Center or its predecessor depositories. 

The July 1947 history for the 509th Bomb Group and RAAF stated that
the RAAF public information office "was kept quite busy .  .  . 
answering inquiries on the 'flying disc,' which was reported to be in
[the] possession of the 509th Bomb Group.  The object turned out to
be a radar tracking balloon." By his signature, the RAAF's commanding
officer certified that the report represented a complete and accurate
account of RAAF activities in July 1947.  (Excerpts from the report
are contained in app.  I.)

In addition to unit history reports, we also searched for other
government records on the Roswell crash.  In this regard, the Chief
Archivist for the National Personnel Records Center provided us with
documentation indicating that (1) RAAF records such as finance and
accounting, supplies, buildings and grounds, and other general
administrative matters from March 1945 through December 1949 and (2)
RAAF outgoing messages from October 1946 through December 1949 were
destroyed.  According to this official, the document disposition form
did not properly indicate the authority under which the disposal
action was taken.  The Center's Chief Archivist stated that from his
personal experience, many of the Air Force organizational records
covering this time period were destroyed without entering a citation
for the governing disposition authority.  Our review of records
control forms showing the destruction of other records--including
outgoing RAAF messages for 1950--supports the Chief Archivist's
viewpoint. 

During our review of records at FBI headquarters, we found a July 8,
1947, teletype message from the FBI office in Dallas, Texas, to FBI
headquarters and the FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio.  An FBI
spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the message. 

According to the message, an Eighth Air Force headquarters official
had telephonically informed the FBI's Dallas office of the recovery
near Roswell of a hexagonal-shaped disc suspended from a large
balloon by cable.  The message further stated that the disc and
balloon were being sent to Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base, Ohio) for examination.  According to the Eighth Air Force
official, the recovered object resembled a high-altitude weather
balloon with a radar reflector.  The message stated that no further
investigation by the FBI was being conducted.  (A copy of the
teletype message appears in app.  II.)

To follow up on the July 8th message, we reviewed microfilm abstracts
of the FBI Dallas and Cincinnati office activities for July 1947.  An
abstract prepared by the FBI Dallas office on July 12, 1947,
summarized the particulars of the July 8th message.  There was no
mention in the Cincinnati office abstracts of the crash or recovery
of an airborne object near Roswell. 

Because the FBI message reported that debris from the Roswell crash
was being transported to Wright Field for examination, we attempted
to determine whether military regulations existed for handling such
debris.  We were unable to locate any applicable regulation.  As a
final step, we reviewed Air Materiel Command (Wright Field) records
from 1947 to 1950 for evidence of command personnel involvement in
this matter.  We found no records mentioning the Roswell crash or the
examination by Air Materiel Command personnel of any debris recovered
from the crash. 


   QUERIES TO FEDERAL AGENCIES
   REGARDING RECORDS ON THE CRASH
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

We sent letters to several federal agencies asking for any government
records they might have concerning the Roswell crash.  In this
regard, we contacted DOD, the National Security Council, the White
House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the CIA, the FBI, and
the Department of Energy. 

The National Security Council, the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy, and the Department of Energy responded that they
had no government records relating to the Roswell crash.  (Copies of
their responses appear in app.  III, IV, and V.) The FBI, DOD, and
the CIA provided the following information. 


      FEDERAL BUREAU OF
      INVESTIGATION
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.1

The FBI informed us that all FBI data regarding the crash near
Roswell had been processed under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
requests previously received by the Bureau.  We reviewed the FBI's
FOIA material and identified the July 8, 1947, FBI teletype message
discussing the recovery near Roswell of a high-altitude weather
balloon with a radar reflector. 
(A copy of the FBI's response appears in app.  VI.)


      DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.2

DOD informed us that the U.S.  Air Force report of July 1994,
entitled Report of Air Force Research Regarding the Roswell Incident,
represents the extent of DOD records or information concerning the
Roswell crash.  The Air Force report concluded that there was no
dispute that something happened near Roswell in July 1947 and that
all available official materials indicated the most likely source of
the wreckage recovered was one of the project MOGUL balloon trains. 
At the time of the Roswell crash, project MOGUL was a highly
classified U.S.  effort to determine the state of Soviet nuclear
weapons research using balloons that carried radar reflectors and
acoustic sensors.  (A copy of DOD's response appears in app.  VII.)


      CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.3

In March 1995, the CIA's Executive Director responded to our letter
of inquiry by stating that earlier searches by the CIA for records on
unidentified flying objects produced no information pertaining to the
Roswell crash.  The Executive Director added, however, that it was
unclear whether the CIA had ever conducted a search for records
specifically relating to Roswell.  In the absence of such assurance,
the Executive Director instructed CIA personnel to conduct a
comprehensive records search for information relating to Roswell.  On
May 30, 1995, the CIA's Executive Director informed us that a search
against the term "Roswell, New Mexico," in all CIA databases produced
no CIA documents related to the crash.  (A copy of CIA's response
appears in app.  VIII.)


   AGENCY COMMENTS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

A draft of this report was provided to DOD for comment.  DOD offered
no comments or suggested changes to the report.  The Chief Archivist,
National Personnel Records Center offered several comments clarifying
matters dealing with records management.  These comments have been
incorporated into the final report where appropriate. 

The CIA, the Department of Energy, the FBI, the National Security
Council, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
also received excerpts from the report discussing the activities of
their respective agencies.  They had no substantive comments and made
no suggested changes to the report. 


   SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

To determine the requirements for reporting air accidents in 1947, we
interviewed military service records management officials, reviewed
military record-keeping regulations in effect during this time
period, and examined Army Air Forces and Navy air accident reports. 

We also sought to identify any government records related to the
Roswell crash.  In this regard, we visited and reviewed records at
the locations listed in table 1. 



                                     Table 1
                     
                      Locations Visited and Records Reviewed

Locations visited                       Records reviewed
--------------------------------------  ----------------------------------------
National Archives, Washington, D.C.     Air Force papers on unidentified flying
                                        objects
                                        Army Counterintelligence Corps
                                        historical files, 1947-49

National Archives II, College Park,     Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14
Md.                                     National Security Council meeting
                                        minutes, 1947-48

National Archives, National Record      Army Inspector General reports, 1947-
Center, Suitland, Md.                   58
                                        Army staff intelligence correspondence,
                                        1947-56
                                        Headquarters Army Air Force message
                                        traffic, 1947-54
                                        Army Air Force and Air Materiel Command
                                        (Wright Field) research and development
                                        files, 1947-50

National Personnel Records Center,      Morning reports for RAAF units, July
St. Louis, Mo.                          1947
                                        Eighth Air Force messages, 1947-50
                                        Eighth Air Force correspondence, 1947-
                                        51
                                        Eighth Air Force weekly activity
                                        summaries, July 1947
                                        Service records of key personnel
                                        assigned to RAAF, 1947
                                        Project Sign\a investigative reports,
                                        1948
                                        Army Adjutant General correspondence,
                                        1947-49
                                        Missile test firing reports at White
                                        Sands, N. Mex., 1947-54

Department of the Air Force,            Current and past records management
Washington, D.C.                        regulations
                                        Report of Air Force Research Regarding
                                        the Roswell Incident, July 1994

Department of the Army, Washington,     Current and past records management
D.C.                                    regulations

Department of the Navy, Washington,     Air accident reports, July 1947
D.C.

Air Force Safety Agency, Kirtland Air   Air accident reports, July 1947
Force Base, N. Mex.

Air Force History Support Office,       509th Bomb Group and RAAF monthly
Bolling Air Force Base, Washington,     histories, July and August 1947
D.C.

National Security Agency, Fort Meade,   FOIA records, Citizens Against UFO
Md.                                     Secrecy

Military History Institute, Army War    Army Counterintelligence Corps reports,
College, Carlisle, Pa.                  1947

Army Central Security Facility,         Army Counterintelligence Corps reports,
Fort Meade, Md.                         1947

Central Intelligence Agency, Langley,   Scientific Advisory Panel on
Va.                                     Unidentified Flying Objects (Robertson
                                        Panel) report
                                        FOIA records, Ground Saucer Watch, Inc.

Federal Bureau of Investigation,        FOIA records on unidentified flying
Washington, D.C.                        objects

National Atomic Museum, Kirtland Air    509th Bomb Group historical information,
Force Base, N. Mex.                     1947
                                        RAAF base newspaper Atomic Blast, July
                                        and August 1947
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a Project Sign was the predecessor to Project Blue Book. 

Our search of government records was complicated by the fact that
some records we wanted to review were missing and there was not
always an explanation.  Further, the records management regulations
for the retention and disposition of records were unclear or changing
during the period we reviewed. 

We also queried the National Security Council, the White House Office
of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Energy, the FBI,
DOD, and the CIA to determine what government records they have on
the Roswell crash.  We did not independently verify the information
provided to us in their written responses. 

In addition to physically examining government records, we contacted
the following federal activities to determine whether they had any
information about the Roswell crash: 

  Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell Air Force Base,
     Alabama;

  Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force
     Base, Ohio;

  Army Center for Military History, Washington, D.C.; and

  509th Bomb Wing, Office of the Historian, Whiteman Air Force Base,
     Missouri. 

We conducted our review from March 1994 to June 1995 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :6.1

Unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further
distribution of this report until 30 days after its issue date.  At
that time, we will make copies available to other interested parties
upon request. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please
call me on (202) 512-3504.  A major contributor to this report is
Gary K.  Weeter, Assistant Director. 

Sincerely yours,

Richard Davis
Director, National Security
 Analysis




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix I
COMBINED HISTORY FOR JULY 1947
============================================================== Letter 



(See figure in printed edition.)




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix II
FBI TELETYPE MESSAGE DATED JULY 8,
1947
============================================================== Letter 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix III
COMMENTS FROM THE NATIONAL
SECURITY COUNCIL
============================================================== Letter 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix IV
COMMENTS FROM THE OFFICE OF
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY,
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
============================================================== Letter 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix V
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
ENERGY
============================================================== Letter 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix VI
COMMENTS FROM THE FEDERAL BUREAU
OF INVESTIGATION
============================================================== Letter 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix VII
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
DEFENSE
============================================================== Letter 



(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix VIII