Free at lastWhat’s it like to talk freely about a state secret you’ve been forced to live with for 60 years?
By Billy Cox
By Billy Cox
“Earl felt like he was out of prison,” recalls Mary Fulford. “He felt like he’d been held for years in a vacuum and finally was released. It was great. The last two years of his life, he was in his glory because he was able to speak up.”
Earl Fulford was one of many who went public two years ago, in a book called “Witness to Roswell” by Don Schmitt and Thomas Carey. He was stationed at Roswell Army Air Field in 1947 when he was ordered into the so-called UFO debris field for cleanup detail. Joined by more than a dozen other grunts, and under the hawk-eyed command of MPs, Fulford described gathering more than a dozen foil-like strips of memory metal, which morphed into their original, wrinkle-free shapes after he crumpled them in his fist.
There’s lots of quixotic speculation on the fringes lately about the prospects for UFO disclosure under the Obama administration. The process would necessarily include amnesty for whistleblowers, but even that could prove tricky.
When the Roswell controversy neared its pitch during the approach of 50-year anniversary festivities, Air Force Secretary Dr. Sheila Widnall authorized waivers for military eyewitnesses to break their security oaths and shed light on the mystery. There were few takers, and not just because so many were dead.
“You’re talking about ‘the greatest generation,’ and they had the fear of God put into them,” says co-author Carey from his home in Huntingdon Valley, Pa. “How many decided to talk because they had amnesty? A handful. That’s all. You could count ‘em on the fingers of one hand.”
Carey says he had to be persistent with Earl Fulford, who died last August at 82. After being hectored into silence by superior officers at RAAF, the WWII veteran was initially suspicious of Widnall’s guarantees and was reluctant to roll.
Mary Fulford, who lives outside the rural Florida panhandle town of Mayo, recalls that her husband of 55 years actually told her about his encounters with the memory metal and his oath of silence roughly a quarter century ago. But their kids stayed in the dark until recently.
“When people started talking about Roswell back in the ‘90s, we’d say stuff about ‘little green men’ and Daddy would say, ‘Look, if it wasn’t a government coverup, why was it covered up?’” recalls son Brad Fulford, who lives near Mom. “But he wouldn’t say anything else.”
The ice began to crack roughly four years ago, when Carey picked up Fulford’s trail, sent him a copy of Widnall’s waiver, and began applying a little pressure. But there’s more to this story than details of the exotic debris recovery on the rolling range outside Roswell. Generally speaking, says Carey, there’s a pattern distinguishing those who’ll talk from those who won’t.
“The higher the rank, the less likely they are to talk,” he says. “A career guy is less likely to talk because he’s got a bigger pension. Yes, they’ve got waivers, but that doesn’t matter to some of them. They’ve lived with it for so long.”
Mary Fulford says Earl’s decision to go public with his role in one of the strangest chapters in American history was as much about resignation as an act of faith. “He said, ‘I’m not going to be around much longer anyway, so what can they do to me?’”
Thus, for a brief shining moment, the old sergeant was able to unburden himself for all who wanted to hear. He wound up on Larry King, addressed audiences at the International UFO Museum & Research Center in Roswell, and died a week or so after returning from Los Angeles to participate in a documentary.
“That was his dream, to go back to Roswell someday,” says Brad Fulford, who nudged his father back to New Mexico by putting the trip on his credit card. “I was so glad I could do that for Daddy.”