Memory-metal files are missingWith a boost from Sarasota resident Tony Bragalia, the enduring Roswell UFO controversy is about to swing the spotlight onto one of the most successful research and development entities in America — Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH.
By Billy COx
By Billy COx
At issue are some missing reports from Battelle’s study of a nickel/titanium alloy called Nitinol, renowed for its resilience as a “memory metal.” Contracted by the U.S. Air Force to assess and exploit its compelling properties in the late 1940s, Battelle participates in or manages six national laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy, including Oak Ridge, Lawrence Livermore, and Brookhaven.
The problem is, neither Battelle nor the USAF can produce copies of what the scientific literature refers to as the “Second Progress Report on Contract AF33 (038)-3736.” Bragalia suspects that’s because the data is still highly classified due to its source — a flying disc that crashed outside Roswell, N.M., in 1947.
“Personal testimony is one thing,” says Bragalia, whose research skills have been polished by his business as an executive-search consultant. “But when you start talking about documents and the history of science, unlike testimonials, their provenance is not questioned.”
Bragalia’s work is showcased in a just-released update of “Witness To Roswell” ($16.99, New Page Books) by Tom Carey and Don Schmitt. Bragalia says his curiosity about the Roswell debris began accelerating in 2007, shortly after a retired Army Air Force veteran from Ellenton named Ben Games told De Void a tale that no one had ever heard before — in July of 1947, he flew Gen. Laurence Craigie to Roswell during the furor over the alleged UFO recovery.
As chief of the Research and Engineering Division at AAF headquarters, Craigie had offices at the Pentagon and at present-day Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. In October 1947, he became Director of Research and Development for the U.S. Air Force. At the end of the year, he authorized the first-ever USAF study of flying saucers. From 1948-50, he served as commandant of the USAF Institute of Technology at Wright-Pat.
In 1991, retired brigadier general Arthur Exon confirmed for author/investigators Schmitt and Kevin Randle that the Roswell debris was transferred to Wright Field in ‘47. Civilians and military personnel who handled the stuff compared some components to aluminum foil, except that it would conform to its original shape after being crumpled.
Exon, a lieutenant colonel on base at the time, said lab chiefs in charge of testing the material “knew they had something new in their hands. The metal and material was unknown to anyone I talked to.” However, Exon, who was promoted to Wright-Pat base commander in 1964, never had access to the debris.
But who did? And if, as skeptics contend, the thing that went down in Roswell was simply a classified but hardly exotic balloon project, why did Craigie make a hurried flight to New Mexico from Washington?
Enter Nitinol, which made its debut in 1939. The nickel/titanium metal was created as a byproduct of another project and initially studied for its crystalline structures. Bragalia was unable to find any research on its shape-recovery properties until encountering references to a WPAFB contract with Battelle produced in 1949.
Its “Second Progress Report” — authored by Battelle employees listed only as C.M. Craighead, F. Fawn, and L.W. Eastwood — implies a first progress report, for which Bragalia could find no references at all. Although unable to get his hands on the “Second Progress Report,” Bragalia lists four references to its existence in 1952, 1965, 1972, and 1984.
Bragalia didn’t read the “Second Progress Report” because nobody appears to know where it is. Kemberly Lang, manager of the Battelle Library, couldn’t find a copy, and neither could Annette Sheppard, special collection librarian at WPAFB. Lang reconfirmed to De Void her futility at learning anything about the 60-year-old project beyond published references to it.
“There’s something strange going on here, but there is no copy of the contract. And Wright-Patterson doesn’t have it, either. Evidently it was never submitted for retention,” says Lang, who coordinated her search efforts with WPAFB. “Both sides have miraculously lost their copies of it.
“I don’t know what’s in it, I don’t have a clue. I don’t think there’s anything malicious going on, but it’s kind of in my ‘open’ file now. It’s a mystery.”
Bragalia doubts the USAF farmed out the actual Roswell debris to Battelle. More likely, he suspects its scientists were tasked to simulate its morphing abilities through Nitinol, which requires 99.99 percent purity and the application of heat.
Curiously, Braglia says military reports announcing the unveiling of Nitinol as a memory metal cite every year from 1959 to 1963 as its point of discovery. The last word from the U.S. Naval Ordnance Lab lists its debut as 1962 or 1963.
Today, Nitinol has blossomed into the commercial sector, finding its way into everything from medical hardware to bendable eyeglass frames. Among the most ambitious firms incorporating the latest generation of metallic elasticity into a vast array of products is LiquidMetal Technologies, a publicly traded R&D company headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
Attributing its “amorphous alloys” to researchers from California Institute of Technology — managed by Battelle in cooperation with Lawrence-Livermore — LiquidMetal’s Web site says it has collaborated on “numerous shuttle missions for NASA scientists to study its technology in space first hand.”
“The NASA connection is huge,” says Bragalia. “When you begin taking stuff into space and testing it under microgravity conditions, it allows you to develop material of exceptional purity.”
Battelle, listed as a charitable trust exempt from taxation, is most famously known in UFO circles for producing a 1954 Air Force Project Blue Book study called Special Report No. 14. Concluding that 21.5 percent of UFOs in the military database were unknowns, Battelle directly contradicted then USAF Secretary Donald Quarles’ assertion that only 3 percent of its sightings were unknown.
“Battelle is very artful at concealing its connections,” says Bragalia. “When people say ‘the government’ knows about UFOs, I wonder. Especially when you consider that Battelle has more or less privatized six of our national laboratories.”