Reminder that a Crashed Spy Balloon Started the U.F.O. Craze
Everybody is talking about the high-altitude Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over the weekend.
SNL even had Bowen Yang portraying the balloon, his best impersonation of an inanimate object.
China claims it wasn’t a “spy” balloon but a “weather” balloon and that it “accidentally” drifted over “highly guarded” “American” “nuclear facilities”.
That part of their excuse somehow sounded familiar to me.
It reminded me that the United States had its own high-altitude weather balloon that was actually intended to gather intel on our adversaries.
It was called “Project Mogul” and it was responsible for one of the most well-known and enduring pieces of UFO lore.
Project Mogul officially ran from 1947 to 1949. It did monitor and record atmospheric data so in that respect it actually WAS a weather balloon.
But its other job was to monitor, at great altitude, signs of atom bomb testing by the Ruskies.
Mogul flew mostly under the radar (figuratively, that is. In reality, it flew way, way OVER the radar) until June of 1947. That year, one of the Mogul balloons crashed into Earth.
The crash happened not too far outside the sleepy New Mexico town of…ROSWELL!
That’s right. A crashed weather/spy balloon, according to the US Air Force, was what rancher Mac Brazel found. Brazel took the material, mostly tinfoil, rubber, and very thin wood, to the local sheriff.
The sheriff notified the Air Force who collected the material and the story probably would have gone away forever…if not for the fact that the local newspaper had already written about the “crashed flying saucer”.
Even by the official account, the Roswell incident WAS a cover-up. The “weather balloon” account was to cover up the nature of Project Mogul: spying on Russian nuclear tests.
The most remarkable part of the Roswell story is that an Air Force public information officer actually wrote a press release describing the debris as “a flying disc”.
Why did the P.R. officer do this? I think it was some quick, but desperate, thinking to cover up Project Mogul.
I can imagine the conversation going something like this:
PRESS OFFICER: The newspaper is asking about the wood and paper that Mac found near Corona. What should I tell them?
GENERAL: I don’t care. Tell them it’s a flying saucer or something.
Of such mundanities the stuff of legend is made, I suppose.
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