This year will be the last time the public can meet the man who brought Roswell to the attention of the world. Nuclear physicist and UFO researcher Stanton Friedman is retiring.
“Roswell has meant a great deal to me and I have greatly enjoyed my visits and activities,” Friedman said. “Hey, I’m 83 years old, it’s about time. I am planning on being in Roswell, of course, in July, as it is the big end. I’ve got a couple of more things booked after that.”
It is going to be the 23rd UFO Festival and Friedman has been the lead lecturer almost every year.
“I may do selected things, but enough is enough. I only have spoken in 19 countries, 10 provinces and 30 states. What more is there to do?” Friedman said and laughed. “It (his retirement) will make both my wife and I happy. I gave my first lecture in 1967.”
Friedman may consider coming out of retirement to give a lecture from the moon or the space station. “That, I would love to do, if they accept me,” he said. Another exception is Roswell. “I think it will be my last time in Roswell, but I won’t give you an absolute guarantee to speak no longer. The only place that could talk me out of it (to retire fully) would be Roswell.”
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“I’ve been so pleased at the response of Roswell because you meet people from all over the world,” Friedman said. “It is such a good example to tell people about it. I know some people who say, ‘Oh, they have costume contests.’ Oh, for crying out loud, they (visitors) are bringing the kids with them on vacation, they’ve got to have something to do. Let’s be honest, parents take their kids on such a long haul, you’ve got to promise them something. Roswell made me feel at home. I was inducted into the Roswell UFO Hall of Fame.”
We reached Nick Pope, former UK Ministry of Defense UFO investigator, for a reaction to the announcement by Friedman to retire.
“Stanton Friedman is the Godfather of Roswell — and I mean that in a good way. Without him, the story might have been lost for all time,” Pope said. “People think the Roswell incident has been well-known since 1947, but it hasn’t been. The weather balloon story put out by the military — just hours after the Roswell Daily Record’s famous front-page headline — was so widely believed that the story disappeared for decades. We forget just how much people trusted the government and the military back in those days. If you read pretty much any UFO book written in the ‘50s, ‘60s and early/mid ‘70s, you won’t find any mention of Roswell. It was only because of Stanton’s diligence — and a little bit of synchronicity — that the story was rediscovered in the late ‘70s, when Stanton connected with the late Jesse Marcel Sr. in 1978. The rest is history.
“More generally, Stanton is a hero to the UFO community, and rightly so,” Pope said. “Having a scientist as a standard-bearer for their subject gave people hope. Skeptics might try to ridicule and debunk the subject, but the flying saucer physicist was always on hand to robustly counter any attacks. Stanton has been on the circuit for years, always on hand to drop in some words of wisdom. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spoken at the same conferences as Stanton, and we’ve found ourselves sharing a taxi to an airport, or sitting next to each other in a restaurant — sometimes in the U.S., but more often than not at some far-flung destination on the other side of the world. Stanton was always good company, and he’s always been a great ambassador for this subject. Serious and authoritative, yet friendly and accessible, Stanton will be sorely missed at UFO conferences, but he’s worked hard at this for years, and if ever someone deserved his retirement, it’s Stanton.”
Imagine there would be only Roswell Daily Record’s article about an alleged crash outside of Roswell in 1947. As Pope said, after being picked up by other papers, the story would have been forgotten as easily as yesterday’s news.
There are some Roswellians — those who are born and raised in Roswell — who would prefer Roswell to not be the center of attention for UFO enthusiasts, but, without the money from the tourists and visitors, we would have even less money in the city’s budget for schools, road maintenance or for attracting businesses. Most likely, the city would be much smaller.
This might have happened, if Stanton Friedman hadn’t met Jesse Marcel Sr. in 1978.
The interview he gave to the Vision Magazine for last year’s UFO Festival had been shortened for space at the time. This interview includes parts that have never been published before. It describes how Stanton came to be the authority for Roswell’s alleged UFO crash.
“I was lecturing at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1978, and they brought me to the big TV station in town to do three interviews,” Friedman said. “I did the first two but the third reporter was nowhere to be found. This is before they had cellphones. The station manager is giving me coffee, looking at his watch. Out of the blue he says, ‘You know, the guy you ought to talk to is Jesse Marcel.’ Brilliant investigator that I am, I said, ‘Who is he?’ I didn’t know about Jesse Marcel. His next sentence changed my life. He said, ‘He knows about one of those saucers when he was in the military.’ He wasn’t joking.” After his interview and lecture, Friedman decided to get in contact with Marcel.
“I certainly had no idea I was going to be a ufologist and a Roswell researcher,” Friedman said.
“He (Marcel) told me his story. He was the intelligence officer for the 509th (Walker Air Force Base in Roswell). He got a call from the sheriff’s office that a rancher came in with some pieces of strange wreckage. And there was an agreement between the sheriff’s office and the base — this is the 509th — the most elite military group in the world. I say that because they dropped the first two atom bombs and then two more a couple of years later. Nobody else in the world had atom bombs, but they did. They were high-security special people. The sheriff called Jesse and Jesse checked out the wreckage, and the story goes on from there,” Friedman said. “That’s how I got started. Sometimes you get lucky, that’s all I can say.”
Friedman contacted the Roswell Daily Record and asked to speak with the editor and publisher from 1947, but they were not available. “After talking to Jesse, Bill Moore and I went out to find people connected to the crash,” Friedman said. “I didn’t even know that the base had been
closed when I called. The base publication officer, a guy called Walter Haut … and before I could finish the sentence, the newspaper gal on the phone said, ‘Oh, his wife works here.’ Totally unexpected. Walter, turns out had been at the base as public information officer and also World War II bombardier who went on 20 missions overseas. He and his wife liked Roswell, so they settled and raised their family there. He was a great help to me,” Friedman said.
Haut gave Friedman his Walker Air Force Base yearbook and Friedman started contacting everybody who he could reach.
“So, in the first year my colleague and I contacted 16 people connected to the base in 1947,” he said. “I can’t call them all witnesses. What usually happened, you talk to a guy and ask, ‘Is there anybody else you remember?’ ‘Gee, that is a long time ago.’ Once you get them in the mood though, five minutes of chitchat, mentioning Col. Blanchard as the base commander, Jesse Marcel and other people, then you get a, ‘Hey, have you talked to Joe Jones or Bill Smith?’ They remembered things. At the end of the year, I had over 60 people and a year later, another 30. I was looking for off hand comments; what kind of attitude was there toward these people (Blanchard, Marcel and Haut)? Nothing but good stuff.
“I am a nuclear physicist, but I love going into archives and looking up information about UFOs. I like to get facts before getting into gear,” Friedman said and laughed.
This year’s UFO Festival will take place from July 6 to 8. For more information, visit ufofestivalroswell.com.
Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.