Monday, May 01, 2006

Time is Taking Our Roswell Incident Witnesses

By Dennis Balthaser

Dennis Balthaser (Sml 2)     As a long time Roswell Incident researcher, I have been stating for several years, that those involved in the incident are now in their 70’s or 80’s, if they are still alive, and as time has progressed, many have passed away and taken valuable information with them to the grave. A few brave enough to do so, have shared their knowledge with some of us researchers, and that for the most part has kept us interested in the incident, while trying to find other witnesses that are willing to share their testimonies about what actually occurred near Roswell, New Mexico almost 60 years ago.

As part of my research, I was fortunate enough to have met several of the first hand witnesses, and visited with them for various periods of time obtaining whatever information they were willing to share about what they actually knew. In many cases, long-term friendships were developed and other information about them was obtained, that would otherwise not have been known. As with all of us, there are experiences in our life time that many will never know about, and I feel honored to have met several witnesses over the years that shared information not only about their involvement in the Roswell Incident, but about other things they accomplished or did. Obtaining that type information for a researcher like myself allows me to know the person better and by sharing it with the public, I can give the reader or listener a better understanding of the witness, “not only” as a witness, but as a person also. Not sharing such information would be a form of censorship, and in many cases we would not know the witness as well as we do by having an “oral history” of them.

All the witnesses to the Roswell Incident had personal lives and were involved with many civic organizations and in some cases had humorous or interesting stories that they shared with me. If I can tell you things about a witness you haven’t known before, I believe I’m going beyond their involvement in the Roswell Incident and giving you a better understanding of that person, which is my way of showing respect for them.

A few of the witnesses I have had the pleasure of knowing well would of course include; Walter Haut, Glenn Dennis, James Bond Johnson, Sheriff Wilcox’s daughters, Robert Shirkey and several others. When I moved to Roswell in 1996, I had the opportunity to meet many of the witnesses and researchers, and visited with them at great length, savoring every bit of information I could obtain.

Walter Haut (By DB)Walter Haut was the Public Relations Officer at Roswell in 1947, that wrote the article about the crash, under orders of Col. Blanchard. I did an editorial tribute to Walter shortly after he passed away in December 2005, in which I was able to share a few things about him that the public would not have otherwise known, such as his involvement with testing of the atomic bomb in the Pacific Ocean while he was a bombardier with the 509th Bomb Wing, and his childhood growing up in the Chicago area.

Glenn Dennis, the Mortician at Ballard Funeral Home in Roswell in 1947, shared many stories with me over the years about the funeral business and Glenn should have written a book about some of those experiences. Some were humorous while others involving crashed military crews were not. I felt privileged that he shared those with me.

Several years ago, Sheriff Wilcox’s daughters and a few other researchers met with the daughters at the Sheriff’s old office. They told us about how their mother would cook for the prisoners, since the Wilcox family actually resided in the building, and showed us where each room in the residence was located. When we decided to go upstairs to the jail portion, they refused because their Dad (the Sheriff in 1947) had told them it was not a place for ladies to be, and 50 years later they still respected that.

I’ve know Robert Shirkey for the past ten years and attempted unsuccessfully to obtain paperwork about his sudden transfer from Roswell to the Philippines in 1947 through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Of those witnesses I mentioned above that leaves James Bond Johnson, who took the photographs in General Ramey’s office back in July 1947, while assigned to the Fort Worth Texas Star Telegram newspaper as a reporter.

“Bond” as he liked to be called, passed away on March 25, 2006. Once I heard about his passing I tried to find an obituary on him, and eventually heard from his son who wrote a detailed account of Bond’s life, which also included much more than his involvement in the Roswell Incident. I was honored when Bond’s son wrote to me and said he was making copies of the interview I did with James Bond Johnson in April 2001, available at the Memorial Service for those in attendance.

My first contact with Bond was in July 1999, when he located me and wondered why the Roswell folks had never contacted him, since the photos he took in General Ramey’s office were on display at the UFO museum. (The photos on display that he referred to were obtained for the museum by a researcher from Indiana through the University of Texas at Arlington archives.)

Bond had also formed a group of researchers to analysis the photos he took in order to try and determine what the typed writing on the paper held by General Ramey might say. He requested my inclusion in his group known as RPIT (Roswell Photo Interpretation Team). One of his first requests of me was to submit a FOIA (Freedom of Information Request) to the Air Force requesting information about who had analyzed the photographs for the Air Force as stated in their 1994 report. The results that came back on those requests indicated a “no records” determination.

Bond and I continued to communicate with each other and in April 2001, he informed me that he was planning on visiting Roswell and asked that I show him around, which I was happy to do. We had dinner together and toured the museum and locations in Roswell that were of importance to the Incident including the locations of Hangar 84, Col. Blanchard and Major Marcel’s residence in 1947, Sheriff Wilcox’s office, etc.

An amusing side note to his visit to Roswell was his surprise when the local Roswell Daily Record interviewed him at my request, and printed the article on the front page of the Sunday edition. His comment when he saw the article was, “I realized that Roswell is the ONLY town in the world where my arrival would make the front page.”

As with many of the other witnesses I have met, Bond’s personal life was as full and rewarding as any I’ve known. He served in the Army Air Corps as a young man and was called back to military duty being sent through Marine Corp Officer Training School. After the Korean War he was released from active duty and continued in the Marine Reserve until 1962, when he was honorably discharged and immediately entered the U.S. Army Reserve. After 33 years of military duty he retired as a full colonel.

He attended Texas Wesleyan as a journalism major and soon gained employment with the Fort Worth Star Telegram newspaper also obtaining a degree from Texas Christian university. He would later earn higher academic degrees in education, theology and psychology from Southern Methodist, Southern California and Claremont universities.

Bond was ordained as a Methodist minister by the Central Texas Methodist Conference, and served as a pastor at various churches in Texas and California before retiring from active ministry in 1996 after 50 years of serving.

He received the most attention in recent years for having photographed the six pictures taken in General Ramey’s office in July 1947. There will never be any doubt that James Bond Johnson did take those photographs and I’m pleased that I had the opportunity to meet him and interview him.

More . . .

See Also: Interview: James Bond Johnson (Roswell Wreckage Photographer)


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