Government Records

Results of a Search for Records Concerning the 1947 Crash Near Roswell, New Mexico Gao ID: NSIAD-95-187 July 28, 1995

In July 1947, an airborne object crashed new Roswell, New Mexico. Nearly 50 years later, speculation continues as to what that object was. Rumors had circulated that the object was an alien spacecraft and that the military had the debris in its custody. The Air Force contends that the wreckage was from a balloon-launched classified government project designed to monitor Soviet nuclear weapons research. GAO conducted an extensive search of the reports that should have been prepared and retained in accordance with government policies of the time. GAO's review of classified and unclassified documents from the late 1940s and 1950s took it to the files of the Pentagon, FBI, and CIA, the National Security Council, and other organizations. GAO found that some government records covering activities of the Roswell Army Air Field had been destroyed. GAO did locate two 1947 records that mentioned the crash--a July 1947 Roswell history report mentioning the recovery of the "flying disc" and an FBI teletype message dated July 8 reporting that the military had reported that an object resembling a high-altitude weather balloon with a radar reflector had been recovered new Roswell.

GAO found that: (1) in 1947, Army regulations required that air accident reports be maintained permanently; (2) four air accidents were reported by the Army Air Forces in New Mexico during July 1947, all of which 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; (3) the Navy reported no accidents in New Mexico during July 1947; (4) Air Force officials said 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; (5) some government records covering RAAF activities had been destroyed and others had not, and the document disposition form does not indicate what organization or persons destroyed the records and when or under what authority the records were destroyed; (6) there were two records originating in 1947 concerning the Roswell crash -- a July 1947 history report by the combined 509th Bomb Group and RAAF and a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) teletype message dated July 8, 1947; (7) the 509th-RAAF report noted the recovery of a "flying disc" that was later determined by military officials to be a radar-tracking balloon, and 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; (8) the other government records reviewed, including those previously withheld from the public because of security classification, and the Air Force's analysis of unidentified flying object sightings from 1946 to 1953, did not mention the crash or the recovery of an airborne object near Roswell in July 1947; and (9) executive branch agencies' responses to GAO's letters of inquiry produced no other government records on the Roswell crash.

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