Today in History: July 8

The cover-up is usually worse than whatever it is covering up, and, sometimes, the initial attempt at a cover-up is also minor, but the attempts to cover-up the first cover-up? Those are what breed suspicions. On this date in 1947, the Roswell (New Mexico) Daily Record published this front-page headline: “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.” The “RAAF” in the headline is “Roswell Area Air Force.”

Since a few weeks before, the entire country had been “flying saucer” crazy, so this was just one of many similar headlines from the spring and summer of 1947. But this headline, this story, involved the military, which simultaneously supplied the public with two mutually exclusive thoughts: 1. a sense that authorities are in charge and are telling us the truth, and 2. the feeling that authorities are hiding something and deciding for us what truths we can handle.

The authority in charge, the military, did indeed hide the fact that a radiation monitoring device had crashed—which was indeed a story that it wanted to hide, because it did not want people wondering why the air force was monitoring radiation in the area—by briefly claiming that a UFO, a “flying saucer,” had crashed near the base and that wreckage had been found. When the military attempted to walk that story back, because sense prevailed, this only made the first cover-up story sound like a case of a more sinister truth being accidentally revealed.

The U.S. Air Force’s second story, that a weather balloon had crashed, actually worked, and it made the story go away for decades. Until 1978.

Up until that year, the Roswell Daily Record‘s headline was famous as one more amusing example—albeit a curious one, since the military was involved—of the 1947 flying saucer craze. For years, the story itself was remembered, with or without the headline, as an example of an earlier, more naive, era in which even the air force briefly thought it believed in UFOs.

In 1978 some UFOlogists decided that the entire story was in fact a cover-up of an even bigger story, a government conspiracy, and the “Roswell Incident” has been a part of our cultural heritage ever since.

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John D. Rockefeller was born on this date in 1839. Vice President Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was born in 1908 on this date. Walter Kerr was born on this date in 1913. Billy Eckstine was born on this date in 1914. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was born on this date in 1926. Jerry Vale was born 86 years ago today. Marty Feldman was born 82 years ago today, which is sufficient reason to run his skit “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Golfer”:

 
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Representative John Dingell is 90 today. Steve Lawrence is 81 today. Jeffrey Tambor is 72. Raffi is 68. Wolfgang Puck is 67. Anjelica Huston is 65. Anna Quindlen is 63. Kevin Bacon is 58. Toby Keith is 55.

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2 comments

  1. Anton Wills-Eve · July 8, 2016

    The Marty Feldman clip is the best slapstick since Buster Keaton. As the Mayor of Carmel would say, Mark, “You made my day.” Thanks. Anton

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · July 8, 2016

      My favorite detail is watching Marty and his caddy watch where his ball goes after he strikes it. His drive apparently shoots off directly in front of him at a 90-degree angle. The other shots, his gaze drifts upward and then behind.

      Thank you for liking it.

      Like

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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