By Anthony BragaliaFamed Life magazine photographer Allan Grant may have provided to us his greatest "picture" just before he died. The cameraman's portrait of the Roswell crash in 1947 illustrates that the event that summer was of urgent importance to the military. It also shows that the skyfallen object was in fact of a genuine "unknown."
The UFO Iconoclast(s)
The UFO Iconoclast(s)
With his passing last year, Allan Grant has been rightly elevated to legendary status in the world of journalistic photography. For decades Mr. Grant was a permanent member of the prestigious Life photographic staff. He captured on film some of the most recognizable images in history. Grant's legacy includes such memorable work as the first-ever public picture of Lee Harvey Oswald's wife Marina (taken after Lee's capture) to the haunting, last-ever picture of Marilyn Monroe. His work's "movie still" clarity, his many Life cover shots and his photographic studies were a gift left to all of us.
But Allan's best chronicle was left before he died- and surpasses any captured image of a politician or an entertainer that he ever took. His greatest gift to history was his revelation that he was involved in the Roswell saga- and his confirmation that what crashed in New Mexico those many years ago was not of a balloon or a secret aircraft experiment, but of an Unidentified Flying Object!
In 1997, Mr. Grant had written a very brief Letter to the Editor of the Los Angeles Times. Allan was upset after having read in the LA Times of the second Roswell "debunking" report issued by the USAF that year. In the letter he was somewhat cryptic- but adamant that he knew that Roswell was not what the Air Force was reporting as a balloon project. He explained that he had a personal experience fifty years prior that had left a life-long impression on him. It also left no doubt in his mind whatsoever that something "very significant" had happened.
In online researching archived newspapers this author became aware of Grant's Letter to the Editor only last year, in 2008. Hoping that Mr. Grant was still alive and able to relate more, I tracked him down and emailed him.
Unfortunately Mr. Grant was very ill. As it turned out, Allan only lived for three more months after we began corresponding, passing at age 88. His wife Karin (also a Life magazine employee for many years) helped to facilitate these communications and she also replied with her own assessments about the Roswell event as she was "Mrs. Grant" back in 1947.
In early July of 1947 Allan stated that he had received an urgent call from his Life Editor in New York- "You have to get to Roswell, NM, and fast!"
All Allan was told at the time was that a very large "meteor" had apparently crashed "outside the Roswell area" and that the Army Air Force was attempting to recover the crashed object. Mr. Grant (and Mrs. Grant) maintained that the relationship between the US military and Life magazine at the time was "very strong and deeper than people will ever know."
In fact, Allan Grant said that the Army Air Force had informed his Editor that they would even provide an officer pilot from the Air Force who would personally fly Allan out there and put him in the vicinity of the crash to visually document the "meteor" event.
From Los Angeles, Grant was flown to Albuquerque, NM. Once there he was greeted by a US Army Air Force pilot officer named Major Charles Phillips. Grant stated that they both then boarded a "military training plane" (a single engine trainer) and departed. They later landed on a makeshift runway- a dirt landing strip. When they alighted the plane, Grant was handed a loaded semi-automatic pistol by Major Phillips. Disturbed, Allan asked of the Major "what the hell do I need that for?" Phillips replied that his orders were to see that Grant was armed with a weapon. When Grant asked of Phillips "Against what?" Phillips replied "we don't know!"
Something seemed very strange about all of this to Grant. They then got into a jeep and began driving, seemingly on a "wild goose chase." But they never located a thing! No meteor, nothing. Allan could not understand why they could not find it, and the Major was oddly being of little help in trying to understand why this was so.
But we learn from Allan's widow Karin Grant that there was a reason for this strange scenario having played out in the desert those many years ago. She and her husband discussed his strange flight to New Mexico for many years after. Both had agreed that there were one of three reasons why Allan was taken out there-
1) Allan said, "Of course we never found the big "meteor' and I wonder whether or not we had arrived too early or too late."
2) He also thought that "perhaps we landed in the wrong place."
3) Ultimately though, the Grants decided that the best explanation was that "the government knew all along that there was something more than a meteor that had crashed- and what better way to deal with it than to "invite" the prestigious Life magazine to come take a look."
Grant's widow continues, "You take them someplace near -but not exactly to- the spot. Show the world there's nothing there- and everybody is happy and relieved, and you can go about your business." She believes that "perhaps they thought you could keep other media out of there if need be by saying that Life has already been there, and they found nothing." And she was right- no mainstream media reported on the event after the first wire stories based on military press releases.
Before Allan died, he told Karin that he always believed that he was "used" by the military as a "potential cover" to in some way obfuscate something. He told her that the "something" what he had always thought -even at the time- was much bigger- an unidentified flying object.
So incensed was Allan about the event -and the Air Force's 1990's reports that explained away the crash as that of a balloon crash and dummy drop- that he felt compelled to write to the LA Times. It was after he read the Air Force Roswell reports that he knew they were lying. It was then that he got the sinking, knowing feeling that Roswell was real. It was a UFO that had crashed to the desert floor decades ago.
This author decided to see if there ever was a "Major Charles Phillips" as alluded to by Grant. If so, what things was this Major associated with during his years of service in the Air Force? The answer was found in reviewing the records of the now-defunct civilian UFO organization NICAP.
Incredibly, Major Phillips -just one month after the Roswell crash- would become one of the US Air Force's first official UFO researchers! Phillips teamed with famed astronomer Dr. Lincoln LaPaz from the University of New Mexico. Together they would lead what they termed "ground survey teams" to investigate the mysterious -and still unexplained- "Green Fireball" sightings that plagued New Mexico for the next several years!