…and we looked down and saw these things and I said to myself — it just didn’t register to me. And then all of the sudden I realized what we had seen and I just couldn’t believe it, you know, like it was not happening. And yet it was happening, like it was a dream.” – Irwin Fortman
It’s probably the most discussed UFO event of our time, and has been a source of ongoing controversy even amongst UFO researchers through the years. But is it possible the now-famous incident at the Roswell Air Force Base in July of 1947, where witnesses claimed to have encountered the wreckage of one or more crashed UFO’s in the New Mexico desert, was followed just a few months later by a similar incident? As unlikely as that might seem, I’d simply invite the reader to consider the following facts before making up their mind.
First, a little background as to how I became involved with this story. For several months beginning in 1986 and extending into early 1987, I spent time in retreat at a Buddhist monastery in upstate New York — Zen Mountain Monastery, specifically — where I came to know a young man from Manhattan, a computer programmer who seemed both intelligent and informed. After I departed the monastery, we kept in touch and several months later I received a phone call in which he said he had something fascinating to talk about.
While at a family reunion in Tucson late in 1987, he wound up talking with an uncle from California he hadn’t seen in years. As the two began conversing about astronomy and space, the uncle finally divulged that he had an unusual experience while stationed at the Roswell Air Force base back in the late 1940s. It turns out he hadn’t spoken with anyone about this experience since that time for fear of reprisals—not even with his wife, nor even a well known UFO researcher he became friends with later on, amazingly. But with advancing age, the pent-up frustration of holding this story in for so long finally got the better of him, and he figured his nephew would be a sympathetic listener.
According to the nephew, the uncle’s story involved a late-night retrieval of alien bodies from a crashed UFO out in the desert, after which he was sworn to secrecy by high-level government officials who threatened him if he ever spoke about it to anyone. On hearing about this story, I was intrigued enough to try and get in touch with the man to find out more about his experience. I was also intrigued to learn how a historic event like this might affect someone’s mindset. But my friend, the man’s nephew, said his uncle probably wouldn’t want to talk to anyone outside the family and discouraged me from getting my hopes up. I continued to press him periodically about it over the next year, though, and the nephew finally said he would give it a try and let me know what his uncle said.
After several attempts, and repeated assurances that I could be trusted, his uncle finally relented and agreed to talk with me. So, several months later I had my first telephone conversation with the uncle. His name was Irwin Fortman, though the nickname by which I (and everyone else) came to know him was “Tiny.” He ran a hardware story in Culver City, California, and struck me as being a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy with a thick New York accent that belied his upbringing. One thing was obvious: he didn’t want publicity, nor any financial compensation for his story. He simply wanted a sympathetic listener to hear his tale and record it for posterity. I gave him assurances I wouldn’t go public with any detail of his account while he was still alive, and if I did, it would only be with his permission.
We had four conversations all together, all of them conducted by phone. He hadn’t followed developments in the UFO field beyond what appeared in the daily newspapers, so was pleasantly surprised to learn there had already been a fair amount of discussion about the Roswell incident in recent years, with several witnesses coming forward who also claimed knowledge of the event. In fact, the first of my conversations with him took place shortly before the now-famous episode of TV’s Unsolved Mysteries which catapulted the Roswell incident into worldwide attention during the fall of 1989. I told him about the upcoming show, which he eagerly watched; but when we spoke about it afterwards, he seemed vaguely disturbed about some of its details.
In particular, the timing of the famed July incident didn’t jibe with his own. That’s because he arrived at the base in the fall of 1947 and was emphatic about the fact that his experience occurred in the dead of winter, not in the middle of summer. Before long, it was clear to me he was describing a distinctly different event from the more famous one generally spoken about.
After hearing his account in full, I decided to get in touch with well-known researcher Stanton Friedman, who was featured on the Unsolved Mysteries TV show, to get his opinion and perhaps even put these two figures in touch with one another. After talking it over with both of them, Stanton eventually met with Tiny at his home in California and later said he was impressed by his story and by his sincerity. But he chose to hold off on publishing anything about it until he could obtain more evidence or a corroborating witness, since he hadn’t heard before about a “second” Roswell event and wanted to be cautious about going pubic with information before it could be validated. What he could verify, though, based on the 1947 Roswell yearbook, was that Tiny was indeed stationed at the base the year he said he was, and that by itself was significant.
I put the recordings and the story aside for some 20 years, and didn’t give it much more thought until another well-known researcher in the field, Anthony Bragalia, heard through the grapevine about my story and contacted me for more details. It was because of him and his subsequent research that I learned, sadly, Tiny died not long after my last conversation with him in the early 90s. It was also through Anthony that I was able to obtain a copy of Fortman’s photo in the 1947 Roswell yearbook, shown here.
What follows is a transcript of two of the four talks I had with Tiny in late 1989 and early 1990. I very much wanted to record the first two of our conversations but chose not to out of respect since he hadn’t yet granted me formal permission to do so. As a result it was only our third and fourth conversations that were recorded and from which this transcript is drawn. Unfortunately, there are some interesting details from those early conversations that I’ve since largely forgotten now (such as a description of his close friendship with the red-haired Colonel Blanchard, a prominent figure in most Roswell accounts); but by and large I was able to recap much of the information from those first talks through my questioning in these last two talks. I might add that it became obvious as we spoke that he hadn’t given much thought to some of the details I pressed him about, as he struggled to recall subtleties of events that happened over 40 years earlier; but considering the time lag involved, that was hardly surprising.
This is a composite of those last two talks, and I’ve pooled material from both into those sections where it seemed relevant. Because of the age and condition of the tapes from which this interview was transcribed, some moments are inaudible and I’ve marked those accordingly. (My thanks here to Anthony Bragalia and his associate Tom Carey, by the way, for producing a cleaner version of these recordings from which I drew much of this transcript.)
Interview with Irwin Fortman:
RG: First of all, let me begin by asking you to describe what took place on the night this all came down, starting with how you were approached by the lead officer?
IF: Well, it seems like we’d just gone to sleep, and then—boom! We had been out late, you know, and they woke myself up and this other guy, and a couple other guys in the barracks, told us to get dressed and meet us in the surgeon’s–what they called their “pre-op room,” away from everything else, basically. And they had coffee for us and they sat there and started talking to us, you know, just enough to wake us up and make sure we were mentally, that we didn’t run the ambulance off the road or things like that, you know.
RG: So this was pretty late at night?
IF: Oh yeah, they woke us up out of a sound sleep. To me it felt like 2 o’clock in the morning.
RG: And at this point they weren’t acting like anything was out of the ordinary?
IF: No. Until we got in the ambulance and—you know that gate, the north gate? When we hit that, he was waiting there for us. And then they told us: “You are to keep your mouth shut! (inaudible) You don’t repeat (inaudible)!”
And then after that, after we’d picked the bodies and the pieces there, we got back and then they really gave it to us, I mean they laid down the law. (Author’s note: in an earlier conversation Tiny related how the officer in charge said something to the effect that, “If you breathe a word of this to anyone, they’ll be picking your bones out of the desert, along with the bones of all your family members, too.”)
RG: I’m curious, here you were, 17 or 18 years old and…
IF: 18, yeah I wasn’t 19 yet.
RG: …it had to have been a startling experience. What was your reaction upon arriving at the site?
IF: When I saw the things?
IF: I was so completely stunned, and I was half-asleep, and it was ice cold out, I remember this, and we looked down and saw these things and I said to myself—it just didn’t register to me. And then all of the sudden I realized what we had seen and I just couldn’t believe it, you know, like it was not happening. And yet it was happening, like it was a dream. You know, how often do you see things like that?
RG: What did you think these things were once it finally dawned on you? Did you automatically assume that they must be from somewhere else?
IF: Definitely. I don’t know what it was, they looked oriental-type, but you know, they were very small. And I knew that the Japanese weren’t that small. And I couldn’t think of any other countries, maybe Bali or something, you know, maybe they were very small there, but…
RG: But the heads were very large?
IF: Very large, sort of like…Well, they were completely out of proportion to the body. You know what I mean? I mean, to a point where it was like, if your head was about one and a half times what it is now, that’s about how big it was.
RG: And was there anything unusual about the features?
IF: (Pause) No hair on the head.
RG: How about the eyes, nose or mouth?
IF: (Long pause) I saw nostrils…but as for a nose itself? If there was, it was very, very small. And the lips — wait a second, I don’t know if it had lips, but I saw teeth, at least I think I did. Ears? Jeez, if there were, they were very, very small. I don’t remember about ears.
RG: What about the color of the skin?
IF: Ahh….yellow-like, but a very pale yellow. It looked very parchment-like, a lot of wrinkles.
RG: And you said something about how one of the bodies didn’t have a helmet, but there was one complete body?
IF: Yes, that was the one we picked up.
RG: And that one didn’t have a helmet on?
IF: No, it didn’t have a helmet on.
RG: What was your reaction to that, when you saw that?
IF: The only thing I can think of is that someone who helped me – I‘m not sure if that was Tommy – said, “He must have taken his helmet off and come (kneeling?) out of whatever it was, the device.” Because everybody else, their heads were in the helmets. Well, I didn’t actually see that but I assumed the heads were in the helmets, you know. The whole bodies were shattered, in pieces.
But this one that we picked up, he was completely whole. Now, we didn’t take his clothes off, so we didn’t know if he was torn up inside — that they wouldn’t let us do. They just said, “Put ‘em in the bags.” We didn’t even put them the bags into the big plane that they took them off on, the transport planes.
RG: What did you say to me a few weeks ago about the suits on these beings, that there was a fabric?
IF: There was a fabric, but it was like aluminum, something. It wasn’t something I had ever seen before. I’ve seen something like this lately, you know like a metal type fabric they’re showing that the women wear…
RG: On commercials or in fashion shows?
RG: And was it one-piece outfits? Do you remember any seams, or anything like that, or zippers?
IF: I don’t remember, that I don’t remember.
RG: Do you remember if the hands and the feet were enclosed? Or were they exposed? Do you remember anything about the hands and the feet at all?
IF: The feet had some kind of shoes on, something. The hands? They weren’t shaped like ours.
RG: In terms of the shape, or the number of digits? Or both?
IF: Both. Now, the only thing I could think of when I saw it was, you know, that cold air and everything else from lying there, it got (inaudible ) up or something. They just didn’t look human.
RG: And how many fingers? Do you remember?
IF: That I don’t remember.
RG: Do you think there were more, or less than a human has?
IF: (Pause) It seemed like less than we have…
RG: And when you say they weren’t shaped like humans, do you remember if they were larger or smaller than humans?
IF: Smaller, (but) they were proportionate to the bodies. In other words, they weren’t large hands, large feet. The feet itself were in a heavy shoe, like a boot. It seemed like it…wasn’t a leather boot, it was like a cloth boot.
RG: And I think you said the eyes were closed…?
RG: But you could still see the shape of the eyes…?
IF: It looked like a little old oriental (unintelligible)
RG: How heavy were the bodies?
IF: Hmm… In those days I was stronger than an ox…
RG: But they were light, though, right?
IF: Oh yeah, they were light – 70-80 pounds, if they were that much. We both picked it up, but to me it felt like, uh, less than 100 pounds, like a sack of potatoes, you know?
RG: And yours was the only complete body on top of that, right?
IF: Right, but these guys were throwing, I think they were trying to throw, you know, what they felt was one complete body…pieces. I don’t think they just indiscriminately threw heads or (arms or) other things… They could have, but I thought they were trying to keep what they felt belonged to each other. How they did, I don’t know. They spent more time looking for things like that than we did. We just went over and got the…they just pointed out what they wanted us to do, you know.
RG: And you were there how long? Was it five minutes, or a half hour?
IF: I would say 15 to 20 minutes. And the reason it took us that long is because we had to wait for the officers, the ones who were running the show, to show up.
RG: So you couldn’t act until they showed up?
IF: That’s right. And we weren’t allowed to shine the lights until we got there. And the only way we knew that we were there was we had somebody in a jeep before us, and they came over and told us what to do, as far as parking the car (in?) the shape of, the u-shape. He told us not even to use the high lights, I remember that, just use your low-beams.
RG: So they were that secretive about it then?
IF: No, no, I think it was that they felt the high beams would be too high up in the air, because you know with those ambulances the lights hit up so high. And I remember they said something about the low-beams. And we had one little spotlight on each, they said to leave those off, just to use the low-beams on the car. Now that, you know, it was still, about four or five ambulances, the way I could figure it out.
RG: And each vehicle took a body, or set of pieces?
IF: Yeah. Oh, I’m just guessing that way, but I would say… or maybe they picked up pieces that they felt were critical ad put them in the back too, you know. I can’t tell you because I don’t know.
RG: And when this happened, how many officials were standing around when you were taken to that site late at night?
IF: Well, I know there were quite a few officers there. In other words, when I say field grade officers or better, which would be majors or better. Now whether they were with the Washington group with the generals, or what, I have no idea. Because they just told us to get those bodies and get going. So we didn’t have much time to turn around and look at people. And the lights, the way they hit… they were standing in like, they made like a semi-circle (inaudible), the ambulances. You know what I mean? And some other cars were there. And we couldn’t see too well. Except for what was on the ground. But as for what the facial features were, as far as the officers, go, I didn’t catch that too much.
RG: I seem to recall you saying something about how you could vaguely overhear some of the officers talking, and then they kind of backed away because they didn’t want you to hear. Did I misunderstand that?
IF: I could overhear somebody talking, but you know, they were talking back and forth, but whether it was the high-ranking officers, I don’t know. I was so excited about seeing a thing like this that the conversation wasn’t that important to me. Looking down and seeing these things, and Tommy and I looking at each other, rather than listening to conversations that were about 25-30 feet away.
THE REMAINS OF THE CRAFT
RG: Now what about the craft? Was there a craft, or were there pieces, or what exactly?
IF: There were metal pieces all around, I mean, big pieces, as big as a coffee table (inaudible). And the only thing I could figure out is the outline on the ground, you know, and so I knew it was in a circle. But there was pieces laying all over, outer (inaudible) circle, too, you know. There was quite a bit of metal shattered up.
RG: And that was over how wide of an area? Was it the size of a football field?
IF: Oh, no, no. This was like, I would say, a good third of a football field. At least that big.
RG: And you weren’t able to pick up any pieces, were you?
IF: No, they were watching us pretty closely. Personally, I don’t think that…they told us to wear these surgical gloves. In fact, I think we wore two pair, one was on top of the other.
RG: Oh, really?
IF: Yeah. It was like, you know, “Be careful; don’t pick up any sharp objects and cut yourself.” Because they didn’t know, according to the way I felt at the time, they didn’t know what was going on as far as the biological. So that was why they told us to put on those rubber gloves, and maybe put on two pair, in fact we had to help each other put the second pair on.
RG: Now, you and the others took away the bodies, but it didn’t look as though they had taken away any of the metal yet?
IF: Well, yes and no. It looked like there was quite a bit of metal. And yet it didn’t quite…look as though there was enough metal to…(long pause)
RG: Make up a whole craft?
IF: Right. And yet you could see that it was a circle.
RG: Apart from the pieces of metal, could you make out any distinctive items from the crash site, like chairs, consoles, or wires?
IF: Not really. Wait a second…there may have been something like crystals….but that may have been from the cold weather, they could have been ice crystals, I don’t know.
RG: And did you notice a crater? Was it your impression that this thing had plowed into the ground, or that it had exploded above the ground?
IF: The only thing I can think of, now you that mention that, was maybe there was a crater farther away, and this stuff was the stuff that bounced off of it, and it just, you know….that’s the only thing I can think of. But I didn’t see any real crater. I saw an impression on the ground, of these big pieces, you know. I don’t know why I had the impression it was a circle…
RG: Did you handle any of the metal?
IF: No. They wouldn’t let us. First of all because of the rubber gloves, I guess. I noticed that most of the stuff had sharp edges though.
RG: I thought you mentioned once before how there was something unusual about those edges. Was there some peculiar quality about the metal, far as you could tell?
IF: Well I tell you it looked like aluminum, but it sure didn’t waver in the wind, or anything.
RG: So it was thin?
IF: Oh yeah, it was thin!
RG: So it wasn’t like heavy metal beams or anything like that?
IF: Oh, no, no, no. It wasn’t big heavy pieces, no, no.
RG: So it was almost like shredded sheet metal, or something?
IF: Well, more like…I don’t know…I can’t figure it out. I’ve never seen anything like it, where they, it was like somebody took and threw pieces of metal around, that’s the only thing I can think of. You know, odd shaped. As far as the edges are concerned, I don’t remember talking about that.
RG: An interesting detail from our earlier conversation a few weeks ago was your saying how when they first briefed you before heading out to the site, it sounded like they had their rap down pretty well, almost as if they had rehearsed this all carefully or had done it before, like this wasn’t the first time. Do I remember that correctly?
IF: Yeah. To me it sounded like they knew exactly what was (inaudible). And then after that, after we’d picked the bodies, the pieces there, we got back, and then they really gave it to us. I mean they laid down the law!
RG: So whatever happened to the bodies? They were taken off somewhere?
IF: Oh yeah, they were taken off somewhere, I’m almost sure they were, because we never heard about them again, nobody mentioned them.
RG: Colonel Blanchard never said another word about them?
IF: Nothing, no, no. In fact, he was very cool about the whole thing, and the general that was there — he was a three-star or a four-star general — he disappeared that same night too. That I saw, anyway — maybe he was staying around the base. But we didn’t have to pull duty the next day, I remember that. They just let us stay around the barracks, they told us to stay around the barracks, and they just used the excuse that in case something else happened they needed us. So we laid around the barracks.
RG: And did you talk about it amongst each other?
IF: Well , Tommy — I keep mentioning Tommy cause that must have been his name, I think it was Tommy — he and I talked about it when we were shaving the (next) morning, or in the afternoon — we slept all morning. We got back, we ate breakfast, and then we went to bed.
RG: You never heard anything about the where the wreckage or the bodies might have been transported?
IF: No, I have no idea. I don’t even know what kind of airplane the transporter was, whether it was it a small one, you know, or the big one, like the A-26’s, which were part of the first ATU up there, (inaudible) they even had a couple of converted B-29s that were made into transports. That was the first ATU, they did all the (slupping?) for all the, you know, the bomber group, (inaudible) transport arm for the atomic bomb group.
RG: I’m curious how you even wound up on this mission. In other words, how did you get clearance as an 18 year-old to go on a mission like this?
IF: I don’t know. I had clearance to go right into the atomic area, they checked on my family, and everything else.
RG: You mean before the incident, you had clearance?
IF: Oh yeah, I had clearance before. We all did, to be able to get through those areas. Because that’s where they started the atomic bomb. It was on the north end of the field.
In other words, on every crew that stayed on the ambulance or the flight line, at least one guy had to have clearance through the north gate. But he would have to drive, and the other guys, I don’t know, we never had any incidents where we had to go through the north gate. I did have to go down one time, we had a couple of fellas got burns, radiation burns, and we had to pick them up.
THE EARLIER INCIDENT
RG: Now, I’d like to talk a bit about the seeming discrepancy between the incident you’re talking about and the one generally talked about back in July. You told me the incident you were witness to happened between New Year’s and Christmas—or was it before then?
IF: I know it was not before Christmas.
RG: And not after New Years?
IF: It could have been, maybe a day or two. The base itself was pretty quiet.
RG: I seem to remember your saying that the reason the base was comparatively quiet was because of the holidays, and you had given up your own holiday leave because you were Jewish, which allowed others to go off.
IF: That’s right, and I figured I could always go away for Passover. It didn’t make any difference for me to be there for Christmas. And the other guys who were there on the excursion (i.e., the crash retrieval mission) had basically just arrived at the base, so that’s why they were there.
RG: You said that you had heard something about the earlier Roswell case when you first arrived at the base in August or September?
IF: The guys who were still here from that group, that were there and witnessed it, they always talked about it. They talked about how they made this one guy, this civilian, sound like he was a moron, you know, the rancher or the farmer, they made him sound like he was…these guys knew that he wasn’t crazy, you know.
RG: But the official line was to make him look like he was a moron?
IF: Yeah, you know, stupid. Nothing was written about it in the papers by the time I got there, but some of the guys would talk about it, you know, they’d sit there late at night when we got through with a late shift or something, drinking coffee, and they’d say, “Oh jeez, I wonder what’s happening about the UFO?”
RG: And these conversations took place before or after your own incident?
IF: Oh, it was before! The second time, nobody talked. The only ones who ever talked about it was me and this friend of mine, and we only talked about it in such a short conversation that if you didn’t know what was going on, you wouldn’t know what we were talking about.
Look, when a three-star or a four-star general tells you, if you open your mouth, he’s going to get you and your family, what do you think?
RG: So why then do you suppose those other guys from the earlier incident spoke about it the way they did? Was there not as much pressure on them?
IF: I think it was open, you know, it was something that happened, and the government didn’t clamp down on it until after a while, when they realized what was going on. That’s the only thing I can think of. But the second time—man! They kept quiet about it! They probably got these guys down and just really…we all sat there and I tell you, most of the guys in the ambulances were young guys, 18, 19 years old.
RG: But what did you think when you first heard these stories about the earlier incident?
IF: I never did pay that much attention to it because that was before we got involved with that other thing ourselves. So I never really did let it absorb into me that the guy said that, because I wasn’t really interested, unless I had seen it myself, you know. I was interested in it as a curiosity rather than as a UFO, because I thought it was just something the guys made up. And then I realized they hadn’t made it up. You know, some of the guys, I don’t know if they were all there (at the first site), but the way they spoke like, they knew it was really true. The first one, you know.
RG: So when you saw a crash site yourself, you automatically drew a connection in your mind to the earlier one?
RG: I’m curious where you think this incident you witnessed took place, relative to the actual base. Did you say it was through the north gate?
IF: Well they (the briefing officials?) were down there, in the north gate area. They weren’t through the gate, they were just before it. And to get (through?) the north gate, on the other side — wow, that was a pistol, because I know they must have had all kinds of bunker things and everything out there to stop people from coming in.
RG: Now what’s your recollection of how far your ambulance actually went, and where did you actually go?
IF: Well, I tell you, the only thing I can remember is that maybe…it was not like a steady drive, you know what I mean? In other words, we had to follow this jeep, and we were like the third or fourth ambulance in a row, and we’d stop, then go, then take a right, a left, you know. So the only thing I can think of is, they were trying to throw us off of where approximately the place was. In other words, if anybody wanted to out there and visit it later on, they’d have a tough time finding it. And at night like that, I just felt they did that for a reason, so that we could never find the place, by ourselves.
RG: How long was the drive?
IF: Well it was a lot faster coming back, but I would say at least 25 or 30 minutes going, and about 10-15 minute coming back, just about half the time. Maybe it was my imagination, I was so… we were driving a lot faster coming back, you know what I mean? The jeep in front of us didn’t seem to turn as much, and he was going at a better clip of speed.
RG: In the long run, I can’t imagine something like this happening without it having a pretty profound impact on someone’s views. Has this had any kind of impact on your personal ideas or philosophy?
IF: The impact it’s had on me is that I believe so much in UFOs. (Author’s note: during our first, unrecorded conversation, he spoke at greater length about the shock this experience held for him, how hadn’t ever given any thought to things beyond our planet before, but in the blink of an eye all that changed and he was forced to realize we truly weren’t alone.) And even when Jim was working with me….
RG: Jim Lorenzen? (Author’s note: Jim Lorenzen was an early pioneer in the UFO research field.)
IF: Yeah, you know, I kept thinking about the promise I made (to the government) that I would keep my mouth shut, and yet I was very interested, but I stayed away from it. Like when Jim called me the night before he made that trip to White Sands New Mexico — we had a steady engagement at the old El Dorado lodge, I had a band there for seventeen years and Jim was playing bass with my group — and Jim said to me, “I’ve got to go up to White Sands, they’ve spotted a UFO up there, and they’ve got quite a bit of information.” I said, “Look Jim, that’s no problem. I’ll just get somebody else to fill in.” In other words, if I was really just a stranger to the whole subject, I would have just said, “Well Jim, you know, if you really believe in that kind of thing…” But I knew I couldn’t tell him how much I believed in it myself, you know.
RG: But you did eventually tell him what happened, didn’t you?
IF: Oh, no, no! I wouldn’t take a chance. Because Jim had that magazine there and you know, he was a very open guy. If somebody gave him information and he felt it was something that should be repeated, which I know this would have been, I would have felt that I’d be jeopardizing my family.
RG: Considering how he was one of the foremost researchers on UFOs at the time, I imagine that must have been frustrating for you not to talk about it.
IF: Right, it sure is.
In the end, we’re left essentially with this fact: Tiny was stationed at the base in 1947 just as he said, though there is yet no firm documenting exactly when he arrived. It’s been suggested that Tiny might have actually witnessed the July incident, not one in late December, and simply misremembered when he came to the base. But throughout our four conversations he was adamant about the fact that he shipped in to the base after July of 1947, something especially apparent in his recollections of stories he heard from other servicemen about the earlier incident. But this will have to remain an open question until a more detailed account of his service record can be found.
Regardless of when this particular incident occurred, Tiny’s story is important since there are so few first-hand testimonies on record from military eyewitnesses to the crash sites that year. As for his trustworthiness, it bears repeating that Tiny sought no profit or attention for his story; in fact quite the opposite. Which begs the question, why would anyone make up a story like this when it would probably do little more than subject him to ridicule? Personally, I have no doubt he experienced something unusual, and struggled with conflicting emotions for years as a result, having been ordered to keep quiet about such a profound event for him. In fact, the sense I had as our conversations progressed was almost one of relief on his part, as though he felt a weight lifting off his shoulders now that he could finally talk about what happened to him back in the desert on that cold night.
While I agree with both Stanton and Anthony that there’s no corroborating proof yet for his story, it’s for precisely that reason that I think it’s helpful getting Tiny’s account out there, in hope that it might flush out any other surviving witnesses (or more realistically, surviving family members of witnesses). This isn’t an unimportant issue, in any event. One sometimes hears scientists say that the discovery of intelligent life beyond Earth would be the most important and paradigm-changing event in human history. But what if that discovery has already taken place? If stories like Tiny’s are to be believed, then those wheels of change may have already been set into motion.
Ray Grasse is a writer and editor living in the Chicago area. He is author of two books, ‘The Waking Dream’, and ‘Signs of the Times’, and worked on the editorial boards of Quest Books and The Quest Magazine for ten years. He can be reached at jupiter.enteract [at] rcn.com.