THE ROSWELL BASE PHOTOGRAPHERS:
THEIR CRASH SECRETS REVEALED
(originally published July 2013)
Roswell Army Air Field base photographers who were stationed there at the time of the UFO crash over six decades ago have recently been located and contacted. In their 20s at the time, today they are in their mid and late 80s. And today they offer intriguing details about what they maintain was indeed a very strange day in early July of 1947. They vividly remember it – and the stories they tell are internally consistent and they are corroborated by others.
It has now been learned that:
Oddly, the base Photo Unit was completely “cut out” of photographing or filming the fallen “balloon“ that was “mistaken” as a flying disc. They state that though they had photographed all types of balloons and experimental craft (including their retrievals) many times before, they never received orders to photograph or process images of the Roswell crash debris at any point.
It now appears evident that Base Commander Butch Blanchard and his superiors agreed that it was best to have outsiders who were located off-base take on the task of photographing and filming the wreckage and corpses. This vital task needed to be compartmentalized. It was a security risk to have too many involved, examining the material and corpses close-up, all stationed together at the same base at the same time. It was deemed wiser to use people from other bases or nearby retired military with Top Secret clearance.
Incredibly, the Commander of the Photo Unit was relieved of his duties by Special Order and transferred out of Roswell to a base in California almost immediately after the military had discovered the crash. This was at the very same time that the Roswell Base Chaplain was also relieved of his duties and shipped to a far west location, as reported in a previous article.
“Men from DC” were flown into the base following the discovery of the crash. It is believed that they were brought in to photograph the dead corpses and debris. One of these DC photographers has confessed his involvement in photographing the crash aftermath. And he too was transferred from where he was stationed after his crash site involvement.
The base photographers interviewed never believed that the crash resulted from any kind of balloon downing, but rather that there was a hush-up.
A civilian is identified who held Top Secret military clearance and photographed the bodies nearly immediately after they were discovered. Within three hours of the discovery, the DC photo crew had arrived to take over the task.
THE 3RD PHOTO UNIT SPEAKS
The 3rd Photo Unit at Roswell had personnel who held Top Secret clearances. This is because, they explain, they often had to photograph and process images of experimental craft and weapons (and their crashes) and many other types of highly classified projects and technologies. If the crash was in fact the downing of a Mogul balloon (as the Air Force now maintains), photo unit personnel possessing Top Secret clearance would have been deployed.
Two of the base photographers and the wife of a third (whose husband is still living and lucid but unable to speak due to a recent stroke) have recently offered up insight into the crash incident for the very time:
PFC 3rd Photo Unit
Jim Remiyac was a 20 year old PFC in the 3rd Photo Unit at Roswell in July of 1947. Now 85, he has recently suffered a stroke, but I had the opportunity to talk with his wife about his time there.
She and her husband discussed the crash incident over the decades, including well before all of the books, magazine and shows on Roswell.
She explained that her husband said that he and his unit were “shut out from everything” and that “even though they should have been there as they were many times before for similar things, they were not called out. And they wondered about this after the newspaper accounts too. Why? What was so special?”
Remiyac noticed increased flight activity in and out of the base, and he had heard rumors that people from Washington, DC were there for a serious matter. He called them “brass.”
He never believed it was a balloon – and he does believe that there was a cover-up. He also does not discount that the crash could have been extraterrestrial in nature, but he had no first-hand knowledge of that. He explained that everyone got quiet about it until they got out. “Beginning in the early 1950s we would again mention it to one another.”
PFC 3rd Photo Unit
Gene Niedershmidt, pictured at left, was also a Unit member who possessed Top Secret clearance. Gene echoes Remiyac’s recollections. Remiyac and Niederschmidt discussed the incident for decades and kept in touch. Mrs. Remiyac provided me with Gene’s contact information.
Though they were normally brought in to photograph and document “any and all kinds of crashes”, Gene remembers that no one was called from his unit to do so when it came to that specific crash that particular time in July. Gene remains uncomfortable to this day about why this is so:
If it was a highly classified project of any type that had fallen, quick response and visual documentation would be required by base operations policy.
If it was a weather balloon, they photographed many of those as well. Any airborne device that comes to grief near or over the base was to be filmed.
Asked if this was a rather mundane thing to do, Gene explained that they even took pictures of servicemen after they had been in Friday fights, or of the crashed jeep of a drunken soldier, and similar “events.”
Gene and I agreed that someone from somewhere photographed and filmed the fallen debris no matter what its origin. The DC folks that were discussed may well have played that part.
Gene recommended that I contact Calvin Cox, his PFC companion who he said could confirm all of this, and that he had another story to tell about that day.
PFC 3rd Photo Unit
For Calvin Cox, that early July in 1947 was especially eventful. Readers will remember my prior article on this website, Roswell Crash Debris Guard: I Was Ordered to Kill, in which it was related that it was Calvin Cox who was enlisted by Major Edwin Easley to help guard the hangar at Roswell containing the debris, and who had orders to “shoot to kill” anyone who was unauthorized.
Calvin confirms Gene and Jim’s accounts that there was a “blackout” of information and a “shut out” of participation.
And like Gene and Jim, he also recalls unfamiliar faces around the base and his activity areas in the time immediately following the crash. He noted that some of these base visitors were thought to be from the FBI in DC.
Earlier corroboration of these three accounts comes from a brief interview that was conducted with the Unit’s Operations Manager, Vernon Zorn. In 1991’s UFO Crash at Roswell by Kevin Randle and Don Schmidt, Zorn confirmed that “no photos of the crash site were taken by his men.”
COMMANDER OF PHOTO UNIT ORDERED OUT OF ROSWELL
1st Lt. Lewis Cain Bohanon commanded the 3rd Photo Unit at Roswell which normally took pictures in the field and processed highly classified photos in the Lab.
Very interestingly, by an issued Special Order (#139), Bohanon was relieved of his duties at Roswell on July 18th, 1947, less than two weeks after the military discovered the crash. The decision by his superiors to relieve him was likely made several days earlier. Bohanon was transferred out to Hamilton Field in California, and was replaced by an outsider, Lt. Harold W. Arner.
It is worth noting that Reverend Elijah H. Hankerson, the Roswell Base Chaplain (whose strange story is reported in my article The Reverend at Roswell: A Chaplain at the Crash?, and in the book Witness to Roswell, 2nd Edition) was also relieved of his duties days after the crash. Like Bohanon, he too was suddenly replaced by an outsider.
Bohanon was reached by author William Moore when researching his 1980 book The Roswell Incident. Though Bohanon did not speak of his sudden base transfer, on page 196 of the book, Moore briefly states: “Lt. Lewis Bohanon insisted that no photographic record remained documenting the incident.”
Perhaps Bohanon became aware of the use of the ‘outsiders’ to image the crash incident. Roswell Base Commander Blanchard may have been required to tell Bohanon not to go out to the site, just as Roswell’s Fire Department was told by the military not to do so. Or perhaps Bohanon actively coordinated and collaborated with these outsiders.
Whatever the reason for his post-crash transfer, Bohanon knew too much and it was deemed necessary to ship him out.
He was obviously compliant, and was afterwards rewarded with a promotion to the rank of Major.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: THE PHOTOGRAPHERS NAMED
With decay of the creatures a concern, photographing and filming them had to be of immediate importance. There would have been field photographs taken. But stirring up the base’s photo unit was not wanted; the task had to be done on the down-low. A nearby photo studio owner was tapped for this task.
A civilian who ran a successful Roswell photo studio, he also functioned as an occasional contract photographer to the base. As a veteran who still retained his Top Secret clearance, he photographed many sensitive military things. This man’s name was Jack Rodden Sr.
According to Tom Carey and Don Schmidt (as reported in their book Witness to Roswell), Mary Rodden (Jack Rodden Sr.’s daughter-in-law, a Nursing Manager at New Mexico Rehabilitation Center in Roswell) said that he had told her that he had taken pictures of the crash debris and the bodies, and that he had been sworn to secrecy.
He also cryptically and sparingly indicated to his namesake son, Jack Rodden Jr., that “they killed it” when speaking of one of the photographed creatures. Though they have yet to be found, Rodden Sr. told his son that he had “hidden records about it.”
Jack Rodden Sr. also told family a ‘side story’ on the incident: A rancher had said that his three children had come home at the time of the crash frightened by the military because they got too close to the site.
Confirming the testimony of the three photo unit vets who told me that “men from DC” were flown into Roswell after the crash is the testimony of one of the DC photographers himself:
Frederick Benthal was a Sergeant and Army Air Force Photographer in Washington, DC in the summer of 1947. Benthal was interviewed for inclusion in Stanton Friedman’s 1994 Crash at Corona. Referred to only as “FB” in Friedman’s book, Carey and Schmidt some time later examined the case and determined that “FB” was “Fred Benthal.”
Benthal explained that he and Col. Al Kirkpatrick were under sudden orders to fly to the Roswell base, a three hour flight. There they were taken north of Roswell where they observed covered trucks carrying some type of wreckage. Further on they were taken to a desert site with a tent. This is where he
and others took photographs of small humanoid bodies temporarily stored in the tent on tarps. They had large heads, darkish complexion and very thinly constructed bodies. He also detected a strange odor within the tent.
Benthal said that his picture-taking was sharply supervised by an officer who did not want Benthal to make sustained observation of the creatures. He stated that all of his photographs and equipment were then confiscated and he and his Colonel companion were debriefed that they were to say nothing of this as a matter of national security and then were flown back to DC.
And just like Col. Lewis Bohanon (Commander of the 3rd Photo Unit at Roswell), who was transferred out of the base after the crash, Frederick Benthal reported that after the crash incident, he too was “transferred out.”
Someone really didn’t want Fred talking. He was reassigned to Antarctica “to study the effects of cold on pieces of equipment.”