In July of 1947, something fell from the sky and crash landed in Mack Brazel’s ranch, just northwest of Roswell, New Mexico. According to the official story, it was an experimental weather balloon. If you listen to the long list of conspiracy theories surrounding the event, it was a spaceship from another world, crewed by a species of small, large eyed, interstellar travelers; and according to investigative journalist and author Annie Jacobsen, that’s just what the Soviets wanted you to think.
Annie Jacobsen isn’t just another crackpot conspiracy theorist. Jacobsen is a Princeton educated journalist who served as a contributing editor for The Los Angeles Times and was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer prize. Within the UFO community, these credentials make her stand out, but then, Jacobsen doesn’t consider herself to be a member of the UFO community, even if her work has gained quite a bit of attention from within it.
In her book, “Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base,” Jacobsen posits that the infamous UFO that crashed on that fateful day in 1947 did not come from another planet, but rather from the dark recesses of Joseph Stalin’s mind. Per Jacobsen’s book, Stalin used Nazi technology and may have even received assistance from Josef Mengele himself, to subject the people of the United States to one of the longest standing and effective misinformation campaigns in the history of modern warfare.
Jacobsen claims to have interviewed a number of former government employees that served in various functions at the facility popular culture refers to as “Area 51” in Nevada. Area 51 has appeared in numerous movies, books and television shows as America’s alien playground: where UFOs and little green men run rampant and the X-Files is more than just a revived Fox series. The reality of the facility, of course, is a bit less exotic. Area 51, located in the dry lake bed of Groom Lake, provided the United States with a remote and secure testing facility for groundbreaking aviation advances like the U2 spy plane, the F117 Stealth Fighter, and the A-12 Oxcart which would eventually become the SR-71 Blackbird.
The employees Jacobsen interviewed substantiated the claim that the Groom Lake air strip was used for testing new military aircraft rather than reverse engineering flying saucers. That is, until she met a engineer (who wished to remain anonymous) that claimed that he did spend some time dismantling and studying the wreckage of a saucer-like aircraft that was like nothing the Americans had seen before. This source, whom Jacobsen claims to “trust implicitly,” claimed that the wreckage, as well as the small crew inside, were shipped to Area 51 from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1951… four years after they were recovered in Roswell, New Mexico.
The crew, according to Jacobsen’s book, were unfortunate casualties of a failed eugenics program, started by the Nazis and possibly even continued under Stalin after World War II. Worse still, based on their small stature, Jacobsen’s source believed them to be children. Not aliens, but victims of scientific experimentation that began in the concentration camps of the Second World War.
The “spaceship” was said to be a modified Horten Ho 229 that the Soviet Union captured from the Nazi Luftwaffe during the war. Officially these (admittedly alien looking) aircraft never made it past testing, with the only one fully functioning model ever being completed before crashing during one of a handful of test flights. This aircraft was said to have been modified to accommodate three small pilots instead two full grown adults. The possibility that the craft was designed to be controlled remotely comes up in her source’s description of the vehicle, as it did not seem to have any functioning control surfaces within the cabin.
The reasoning behind this elaborate craft, crew and possibly even intentional crash was supposedly to create mass hysteria within the United States. Word of Orson Welles reading “The War of the Worlds” over the radio in 1938 causing panic among listeners had reached Josef Stalin in Moscow, and Jacobsen posits, that Stalin thought the crash of an alien spaceship could send Americans in a highly distracted frenzy. I would argue that the very concept is ridiculous, but a cursory search for the single word “Roswell” still brings about thousands of active sites postulating about alien visitors, government cover ups, and politicians being secret reptiles. If the plan was real, it may have been more effective than I wanted to give it credit for.
Of the seventy-four former Area 51 employees Jacobsen interviewed, only one said anything about a Roswell craft or its possible Soviet ties, but Jacobsen claims that the man’s credentials and respectable career are the only reason she gives him claims credence. Of course, because the source chose to remain confidential, we’re left to trust her judgement regarding his character.
This story, like most revolving around the infamous Roswell incident and Area 51, feels a bit too unusual to believe, but the overall quality of Jacobsen’s work has earned her book attention from a number of reputable sources. Popular Mechanics, The New York Times, PBS and NPR are all among the news outlets that have interviewed Jacobsen or discussed the legitimacy of her claims, or rather the claims she relayed from former Area 51 employees.
Unlike ancient alien theorists like Giorgio Tsoukalos, who has gained prominence in recent years by suggesting that many early human advances were spurred on by extra-terrestrial intervention, Jacobsen offers a new slant on the same old tales of little green men. If her book is to be believed, it would mean the true monsters are not gallivanting through the stars in search of new planets to conquer, but are actually right here on Earth. When compared to the likelihood that an advanced alien civilization was able to successfully navigate the galaxy only to go down in flames over the American Southwest, her claims begin to feel a bit less ludicrous.
As unlikely as alien-looking test subjects being flown remotely from the Soviet Union to trick the American public may seem, this may be the only scenario where such a story could be considered the more likely hypothesis. For this writer’s money, though, a fallen weather balloon still seems like the most likely culprit.
Image courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum