(This is Part 2 of a two-part post. For Part 1, click here.)
It’s the “smoking gun” for the Mogul explanation of the Roswell debris. (I don’t remember who called it that. Maybe Karl Pflock?)
The Roswell witnesses remembered having seen peculiar pink, or purple, or purplish-pink markings amid the debris. Charles Moore, a member of the New York University team that launched the balloon trains associated with the failed espionage scheme known as “Project Mogul,” preserved a memory of his own: of the tape that he and his colleagues had used to reinforce the materials they sent aloft: “clear and milky and semi-opaque, about two inches wide. It had pink and purple flowerlike figures imprinted on it.” (So Pflock described it in his 2001 book on Roswell).
Pflock didn’t think that could be coincidence. Neither do I. There was only one reasonable conclusion: the stuff that Moore et al. sent into the sky at Alamogordo was the stuff that came down on the Foster Ranch north of Roswell, where ranch manager Mack Brazel found it, brought it into town to show the sheriff, and thereby made UFO history. Harmless flowery decorations, on tape manufactured by “a New York City toy or novelty company, a ‘we’ll make anything outfit'” (Pflock), were transformed by the Roswell witnesses into mysterious hieroglyphics. But they accurately remembered the colors, and the colors were the tipoff.
And so I was convinced. You couldn’t deny the identity of the Roswell debris with the Mogul balloons without saying that Charles Moore was acting in bad faith, deliberately lying about the tape his team had used. I couldn’t understand what his motive could have been for that.
Yet, reading Moore’s own recollections of the tape in the chapter that he contributed to the 1997 UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth (which I’ve discussed in a previous two-part post), I can’t avoid a sense of uneasiness. I still don’t think he lied, not exactly. But there’s something that doesn’t quite add up.
“The manufacturer apparently used some tape that he had in stock; this tape, which was not used in the later production models, had a distinct pinkish purple pattern of an abstract flowerlike design printed on its backing. Several of the NYU Balloon Group members still remember these colored markings on the targets we used in Alamogordo in 1947. The significance of the markings puzzled us each time that we prepared a target for flight” (p. 82).
Huh? If the tape “had a distinct pinkish purple pattern of an abstract flowerlike design,” it must have been obvious that it was purely decorative. Why should Moore and the others have assumed that the markings had any “significance”?
Moore reinforces my bafflement when he says (on p. 112) that “I remember these so well because the purpose of those figures puzzled me every time that I saw one of these targets. I was always curious about their significance because the printing served no function that I could find.” But if what he was seeing was flowered tape from the warehouse of a “toy or novelty company,” the function must have been plain: to make the product look pretty. Could “an abstract flowerlike design” be reasonably described as “figures”?
I have no answer for these questions. Nor have I done the essential task of collating the various eyewitness and second-hand reports of pink/purple/pinkish-purple markings connected in some way with the Roswell debris. If the “Roswell synopsis” of which I’ve dreamed ever comes into existence, I’d hope to see these descriptions laid out in parallel columns, so we can get a clearer idea of the spread and transformations of this motif.
I must admit, also, that Moore isn’t the only person involved with the balloon experiments who recalled some sort of peculiar tape. Albert C. Trakowski, whom Pflock calls “Mogul project officer” (whatever that means) told Pflock in March 1994 that “he well remembered the first time he and others in his air forces weather service group saw the tape-reinforced targets. They all had a good laugh, shaking their heads and thinking, ‘What next?'”
Yet Moore is the pivotal “witness for the prosecution” at Roswell. As for all the witnesses involved in one way or another, we need to assume that he had some personal investment in the story. We need to ask what that investment was.
About seven years ago, in a (completely fascinating) comment thread on his obituary for Moore–whom he’d known personally, and described as always having been “cordial” to him–Kevin Randle offered a suggestion. “I believe I know why Moore took such an anti-Roswell stand. When I visited him in Socorro, he made it clear to me that he disliked the men at Roswell because they refused to help track the Mogul arrays. He, along with a couple of others, had gone to Roswell to ask for help, but, according to Moore, they were too busy to help a bunch of college boys. … So, this was payback. You too busy to help? Well, I have proof that you were too dumb to recognize a balloon when you saw it.”
I kind of doubt it. If Moore’s “anti-Roswell stand” stemmed from a decades-old grudge, it’s hard to see why, interviewed in 1979, he seemed open to the idea that something genuinely extraordinary had happened there. It wasn’t until 1992 that he emerged as an “anti-Roswell” advocate, first appearing in that capacity in a confrontation with Roswell authors Don Berliner and Stanton Friedman.
Berliner and Friedman tell the story in the 1997 “afterword” to their book Crash at Corona. “In November, 1992, the authors were in New Mexico on a search for more witnesses and more evidence of what happened on the Foster Ranch in 1947. They were approached on consecutive days by two men who had been part of the team that tested once-secret balloons as part of Project Mogul. … Prof. Charles Moore had been the project director, while Duke Gildenberg was part of the launch crew. The men gave nearly-identical presentations on why the debris found on the sheep ranch absolutely had to be from one of the early Project Mogul tests. But neither man could answer any specific questions, e.g. how could such a device account for the quantity and for the physical characteristics of the recovered materials? It was as if both men had been given a simple, two-minute briefing and then pushed out the door with orders to ‘find those guys and tell ’em what we’ve just told you!'”
Also in 1997, Air Force Captain James McAndrew gave a different version of the 5-year-old encounter. Here it’s Berliner and Friedman who are stubbornly dogmatic, the Mogul scientists sweetly reasonable. “According to Moore and Gildenberg, when they met with the authors their explanations that some of the Air Force projects they participated in were most likely responsible for the incident, they were summarily dismissed. The authors even went so far as to suggest that these distinguished scientists were participants in a multifaceted government cover-up to conceal the truth about the Roswell Incident.”
McAndrew also explains the scientists’ reason for contacting Berliner and Friedman, left vague in Crash at Corona. The two writers had run an announcement in a Socorro newspaper asking for people with knowledge of UFO activity in the area to get in touch with them, and Moore and Gildenberg dutifully “came forward with pertinent information.”
Both accounts agree, though, that it was Moore and Gildenberg who took the initiative in making the contact. I would ask: why? Why was it important to these two men, who surely had other matters to occupy themselves with, that Berliner and Friedman hear and believe their idea of what had really happened at Roswell? Why could they not dismiss Berliner and Friedman, as many surely would have, as a pair of mercenary hacks pandering to a lunatic fringe?
And why did they choose to visit “on consecutive days” with nearly identical stories–assuming Berliner and Friedman have this detail right–and not together? This seems an odd way to proceed, unless they had some agenda that doesn’t appear on the surface.
Again, I have no answers. (We can’t ask the men themselves: Moore died in 2010, Gildenberg in 2013.) Yet the questions need to be asked–certainly, if you’re prepared at least provisionally to grant my premise that the real Roswell story played itself out, not in the sky or even on the ground, but in the souls of those caught up in it, in 1947 or decades afterward. Moore was one of those souls, witness and “rememberer” to Roswell no less than Glenn Dennis or Gerald Anderson.
His memories need to be queried. And, to the extent possible, understood.
by David Halperin
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