BODY SNATCHERS IN THE DESERT: THE HORRIBLE TRUTH AT THE HEART OF THE ROSWELL STORY
ick Redfern has written several important UFO books and has spent time at many archives in gathering information that the armchair theorists don’t bother with since their primary approach is “Don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up.” I read the book with expectations that something new had really been turned up about Roswell.
Nick has talked to a number of people who told him interesting and complicated stories that supposedly lead one to the conclusion that the so-called Roswell Incident did not involve an alien spacecraft or a Mogul balloon or a weather balloon radar reflector combination. Instead, what crashed was a Horton Brothers Flying wing supported by a huge Japanese-designed balloon and containing disabled or genetically damaged Japanese who were used as human guinea pigs to provide data on the effects of radiation for use in the NEPA Program. NEPA stands for Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft.
There was indeed such a program beginning right after the war with Fairchild Aircraft and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. There were serious concerns about how the world would react to the use of human subjects especially in light of the Nuremberg trials which revealed many unethical Nazi medical experiments on human subjects. People were kept in pressure chambers to see how long they could withstand low pressures. They were kept in freezing water to see how long they could stand the low temperatures. Obviously pilots at high altitude might be inadvertently subjected to low pressure in the case of accidents. Unspeakable things were done to people, many of whom would have died in less agony in gas chambers.
Unfortunately, Nick focuses on the testimony of whistleblowers. His major source, the Colonel, apparently approached him at the Crash Retrieval Conference in Henderson Nevada in November 2003.We don’t know who he is or how carefully he has been vetted. A second source was a woman, the Black Widow, who claimed to have worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and to have been aware of bodies being used for terrible experiments and that these were the ones found at Roswell or perhaps the Plains of San Augustine.We don’t know who she is or how much evidence has been directly obtained to validate her story There were other sources such as Salter and Barker. The Colonel certainly had a lot to say,.even if we don’t know which of any of his many claims were true. He seemed to be familiar with the history of UFOs in the USA and aware of the primary people in the field. There unfortunately have been a number of whistleblowers whose testimony has been shown to be baloney including Robert Scott Lazar, Frank Kaufmann, Guy Kirkwood, Michael Wolf Kruvant, and others such as Lt. Colonel Philip J. Corso almost none of whose claims had been substantiated in the book "The Day After Roswell.”
Nick has also been given a bum steer about the NEPA project and the radiation shielding problems associated with it. He states that the project was cut back in 1957 and finally cancelled in 1961 after President Kennedy took office. In actuality, the GE ANP (General Electric Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program) was at fullest bloom in the 1956-1960 time frame. I know because I worked there in the Radiation shielding unit as a nuclear physicist from September 1956 until November 1959. The budget for 1958 alone was $100,000,000. 3500 people were employed full time of whom 1100 were engineers and scientists. This was far more money and manpower than was spent at Fairchild and Oak Ridge in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Nick keeps referring to concerns about radioactivity and contamination. These were not the shielding concerns. Instead, it was the neutrons and gamma rays emitted by the reactor that were of concern. Usually split shielding was to be used with some all around the reactor (typically under 3 feet long and 5 feet in diameter) and more placed between the crew compartment, typically far ahead in the airplane, and the reactor. There was also serious concern about both neutrons and gamma rays leaving the reactor shield assembly in directions other than towards the crew, but being scattered by both the atmosphere and structures past the crew shielding.
An ANP system has to operate at much higher temperatures than do ship reactors and radiation heating in the shielding is a major problem. GE was working on a direct cycle system in which air goes from the jet engine compressor to the reactor and is heated to temperatures around 1800 °F and then exhausted through the turbine to create thrust. In terrestrial applications of nuclear energy one can use lead to provide shielding against the very penetrating gamma rays and polyethylene or other materials containing hydrogen to shield against neutrons. One also prefers to capture the neutrons slowed down by the hydrogen in something like boron which emits a big alpha particle which doesn’t go anywhere. All too often neutron capture in many metals and in air results in the creation of more energetic gamma rays. For ANP lead and plastic have much too low a melting point. Lead which has a specific gravity of only 11.3 grams per cc would require a large thickness and since the weight goes up rapidly of material around a cylinder with increasing thickness, one would prefer a much denser material such as an alloy of Tungsten which has an SG of 19.3 and a very high melting point.
The question than becomes what standard should be set for the allowable doses of neutrons and gamma rays to the crew and how to meet the weight limits. Unlike in a nuclear bomb blast where the exposure is very high for a short time, crews of a nuclear airplane would be expected not to have degradation in the their performance over a long period of time. One of the major benefits of an ANP system is essentially unlimited range because the reactor would not be refueled for thousands of hours. An important factor here is that animals including humans have built in mechanisms for repairing the damage caused by radiation. Thus a high dose taken in a short time will be much more damaging than the same total dose in an exposure lasting for weeks or months.
Nick does point to various human tests of aviation biology associated with planes flying higher and faster, how to bail out at high altitude and speed without freezing, how to provide protection against excessive acceleration, low air pressure, low temperatures at altitude, cold water when winding up in the ocean. However he never mentions that there was a lot of research being done on biological effects of radiation because of the need to know how quickly ground crews could go in on a battlefield on which a nuclear weapon had been exploded. How high would radiation levels be in aircraft that had either dropped a nuclear weapon or had to fly near the mushroom clouds of a weapon dropped by somebody else?
There are many different tests that can be run such as with animals in enclosures exposed to radiation sources (gamma rays only) in an open field. There are few useful sources of neutrons other than an operating reactor. One can feed animals radioactive materials to increase the internal radiation levels. Millions of medical tests are done every week with the administration of specific radionuclides to test body functions such as the kidneys or thyroid. Obviously one wants the half life to be short. Many humans were exposed to Plutonium, which despite the terrible press, it has had, did not result in noticeable life shortening. There was a major effort made to determine the radiation exposures of the Japanese exposed in 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the bomb itself and then later from fallout. Doctors have to know how much radiation people can handle without severe damage when being treated for cancer using either an accelerator or a radioisotope such as Cobalt 60.
To test shielding materials one places them in various combinations adjacent to a known source of both neutrons and gamma rays and measures dose rates within the assemblages and outside of them. Two different kinds of shielding tests were run to evaluate the effects of scattering and the production of so-called secondary gamma rays by capture of some of these neutrons.
Several flights were made with a modified huge B-36 bomber in which a small low power water cooled nuclear reactor (called ASTR for Aircraft Shield test reactor) was operated and measurements were made as a function of altitude within a heavily shielded crew compartment and in chase planes flying nearby. The reactor had absolutely nothing to do with the propulsion of the B-36. The flights originated at Convair, Fort Worth, Texas, which also had a small similar reactor in a rotating test facility in which various arrays of materials could be placed. The reactor was operated by Convair people who were paid by GE to run the tests. I spent months there as the GE Rep specifying the arrangements of often exotic test materials to be evaluated. There were also tests conducted on various engine alloys to see how radioactive they would become when exposed to neutrons.
There was also built at Oak Ridge a Tower Shielding Facility with four tall towers. A reactor shield assembly could be hoisted up well over 100 feet along with a crew compartment and measurements made as a function of altitude (to avoid the effect of the ground) and separation distance.
Nick is clearly aware of the testimony of Major Jesse Marcel of what was observed on the Foster Ranch and of Barney Barnett in the plains of San Augustine. A big Japanese balloon and a Horton flying wing don’t fill the bill. Most Horton craft were actually made out of wood, but there was nothing about the wing and balloon that matched the eyewitness testimony and the complete absence of conventional components as noted by Jesse — nor the huge area covered by the small pieces of wreckage. Nick accepts the testimony of the late Frank Kaufmann about the shape of a saucer from north of Roswell. He seems unaware that Frank’s original testimony about the shape seems to have been taken from a drawing on the cover of Popular Mechanics of the TR 3 airplane, and that Frank’s testimony has been totally discredited, even by his formerly staunchest proponent, Dr. Kevin Randle.
I am reminded of a call I received from a man claiming that, when he was young, he saw a picture on the front page of a certain Alabama newspaper showing the Roswell crashed saucer and alien bodies out in the NM desert. He even remembered the name of the librarian who let him look at the newspapers. I checked with the paper. As I expected, it indeed had a picture dealing with Roswell on the front page — one of those taken in General Ramey’s office. No saucer and no bodies. I think he believed what he told me to be true. It wasn’t.
The analogy comes to mind of a brick building that has just been demolished. Lots and lots of bricks. Without any other knowledge, one could obviously construct a wide variety of different structures. Nick has collected a lot of bricks. The picture he has constructed doesn’t seem to match the facts obtained from witnesses. It may well be that the Colonel and the Black Widow really believe they were telling the truth. I think it is just as likely that one or both were providing disinformation. If it doesn’t fit, one must acquit.
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