In early July of 1947, something crashed in the desert about 40 miles outside of the town of Roswell, on the ranch of Mac Brazel. The wreckage (weather balloon/atomic test detection device/wayward UFO and/or its accompanying alien corpses) was first taken to Roswell Army Air Field, which at the time was the site of the only atomic bomber group in the world.

On July 8, 1947, the military issued a press release written by Lt. Walter Huat stating that they had recovered a flying disk.”It read:

The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County

The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Major Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.

The very next day, the Air Force declared that the Intelligence agents of one of the most highly trained bomber groups in the Air Force had misidentified a flying saucer: they said it was actually just a crashed weather balloon. Mythology ensued. Over the last fifty years, the word “Roswell” has taken on worldwide totemic significance as the allegorical emblem of technology, secrecy, conspiracy and cover-up. In reference to this, Roswell has also been the name of movies, a prime-time television series, and countless revelatory documents.

The Roswell crash was also the subject of the Majestic 12 affair. MJ-12 (or MAJIC or MAJI or MJ-12) was centered around documents that claimed to describe the creation of a super-secret UFO recovery group headed by uber-technocrat Vannevar Bush. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the arguments back and forth about the veracity of the MJ-12 Briefing Documents provided a cottage industry for skeptics such as Phil Klass and advocates such as . Things became even more muddled when Bill Moore, co-author of the most famous book on the Roswell Incident, The Roswell Incident (1980), told an audience of UFO researchers that he had been acting as a knowing disinformation agent for the U.S. government. Nevertheless, Stanton Friedman and Philip Klass continued to debate the typewriter fonts on circa 1947 top secret documents well into the mid-90’s.

In 1997 for the fiftieth anniversary of the fabled Incident, the air force admitted they had been lying for the last half century and that there had indeed been a cover up of the alleged crashed thingy, but only because it was top secret scientific type stuff-namely Project Mogul, an atomic test detection system. In 1997 the Air Force also released a report on Roswell called The Roswell Report: Case Closed — a title which they unambiguously borrowed from historical revisionist Gerald Posner.) In the report, James McAndrew outlines the new revised conclusions and admissions of the Air Force:

‘Aliens’ observed in the New Mexico desert were probably anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by US Air Force high altitude balloons for scientific research. The ‘unusual’ military activities in the New Mexico desert were high altitude research balloon launch and recovery operations. The reports of military units that always seemed to arrive shortly after the crash of a flying saucer to retrieve the saucer and ‘crew’ were actually accurate descriptions of Air Force personnel engaged in anthropomorphic dummy recovery operations

— fromThe Roswell Report, p3. (cited in Dean, Aliens in America, 230)

The Congressional General Accounting Office also researched the issue and in 1997 found that the Air Force’s revelation of their own cover-up could neither be confirmed or denied: communications records for Roswell Army Air Field for July 1947 — permanent government records — had been inexplicably lost or destroyed.

All this revelation and obfuscating counter-revelation by the Air Force and associated feds constitutes an intriguing drama of confessions deployed as secrecy and vice versa. But in his novel Majestic, Whitley Strieber offers an even more nuanced performative model. He suggests (under the protection of fictionally, you understand) that there was a crashed spaceship with dead alien bodies, but far from an interstellar aviation accident, this was performed as a deliberate tableau by the aliens. Sort of cosmic guerilla theater. After all it was taking place in the exact area which was at the time the locus of the most advanced technologies of secrecy and warfare on the planet (the Roswell Army Air Field atomic bomber group, the Trinity test site, Los Alamos laboratory, the DP Vault atomic bomb storage site at Kirtland AFB…).

Taking Strieber’s novelized hypothesis into account, the Air Force’s description of their anthropomorphic dummy recovery operations is just a semantic wiggle away from alien performance art.