- Note: This Story May Not Be Reproduced In Part Or Whole
In Any Media Without Written Permission of Author - ed
- In mid August, 1945, before the term "flying saucer"
was coined, Remigio Baca, age 7, and Jose Padilla, 9, were first on the
scene of the crash of a strange object on the Padilla Ranch west of San
Antonio, a tiny village on the Rio Grande in central New Mexico.
- Both Remigio, or "Reme" as his friends called
him, and Jose, believe they saw "shadowy, childlike creatures"
in the demolished, oblong, circular craft when they arrived at the scene,
well before anyone else.
- The U.S. Army told the public nothing about it, and told
the Padilla family it was a "weather balloon," according to Reme
and Jose, now in their mid 60s. And the two men insist the Army went to
great lengths to keep the operation under wraps, even concocting a cover
story to mask their mop-up mission on the ranch.
- The recovery operation actually started two days after
Reme, Jose, Jose's father, Faustino, and state policeman Eddie Apodaca,
a family friend, visited the site on August 18, 1945. It was then that
a Latino sergeant named Avila arrived at the Padilla home in San Antonito,
a tiny southern extension of San Antonio.
- After some small talk, Sgt. Avila got down to business.
According to Reme's and Jose's recollection, and what they learned subsequently
from Faustino, the conversation went something like this:
- "As you may know, there's a weather balloon down
on your property," Avila said. "We need to install a metal gate
and grade a road to the site to recover it. We'll have to tear down a part
of the fence adjoining the cattle guard."
- Illustration by James Neff ©2003
- "Why can't you just go through the gate like everybody
else?" asked Faustino.
- "Well, the problem is that your cattle guard is
about 10 feet wide, and our tractor trailer can't begin to get through
there," said the sergeant. "We'll compensate you, of course."
- The sergeant also asked for a key to the gate until the
military could install its own. He also wanted help with security. "Can
you make sure nobody goes to the site unless they are authorized. And don't
tell anyone why we're here."
- "What should I tell them?" Faustino asked.
- "You can tell them the equipment is here because
the government needs to work a manganese mine west of here," the sergeant
- "That was to justify the presence of road-building
equipment," said Reme in a recent interview. "It wasn't until
decades later, on the Internet, that I learned the Army told a lot of fibs
along about that time. I found another manganese mine story was used to
cover a UFO incident on the west side of the Magdalenas near Datil in 1947,
about the time of the Roswell UFO incident."
- "I know for sure that the cover story was at least
the second piece of misinformation they gave out in a month," noted
Reme, a former Marine, chuckling and referencing the acknowledged false
press release used to cover the Trinity atom bomb explosion as the first.
- It wasn't long after the sergeant's departure that the
Army was on the scene with road building equipment. Long before the road
was graded, however, soldiers were at the site, carrying scraps of the
mangled airship to smaller vehicles that were able to immediately get close
to the scene.
- Although they were warned by their father to stay away
from the area, Jose, sometimes with Reme, and sharing a pair of binoculars,
watched from hiding as the military graded a road and soldiers prepared
for the flatbed's arrival. Jose actually made off with a piece, which is
still in their possession.
- "The work detail wasn't too efficient," said
Reme, who noted from his experience in the Marines that military parts
had numbers and were carefully catalogued. "The soldiers threw some
of the pieces down a crevice, so they wouldn't have to carry them,"
he said. "Then they would kick dirt and rocks and brush over them
to cover them up."
- According to Jose, four soldiers were stationed at the
wreckage at all times, with shift changes every 12 hours. "One stayed
at a tent as a guard and listened to the radio. I could hear the music.
They'd work for an hour and then lock the gate, climb in their pick-ups
and go to the Owl Café, where they'd look for girls. I know because
one of my (female) cousins who was there told me."
- Once the flatbed was in place, the soldiers used wenches
to hoist the intact portion of the wreckage in place. "They had to
build an L-shaped frame and tilt it to get it to fit into the tractor-trailer,
because it bulged out over one side," Jose said. "They finally
cut a hole in the fence at the gate that was 26 feet long to get it out."
- Off it went, shrouded under tarps, through San Antonio
and presumably to Stallion Site on what is today White Sands Missile Range,
where, according to Reme, it still may be today.
- Was this clandestine operation undertaken to recover
a weather balloon? Or, as Jose and Reme contend, was it something far more
- "I think the term 'weather balloon' was a euphemism,
a catch-all for anything and everything that the government couldn't explain,
- Reme and Jose knew about typical military weather balloons.
"My father and I found about seven of them before and after the 1945
crash," Jose remembers. "We always gathered them up and gave
them back to the military. They were nothing but silky material, aluminum
and wood, nothing like what we found in that arroyo in 1945."
- "Those weather balloons were not much more than
big box kites," said Reme. "They sure couldn't gouge a hole in
the ground. Remember, in 1945, despite the bomb, we weren't all that sophisticated.
The Trinity Site bomb, Fat Man, was transported on a railroad car to the
site. Radar was primitive or non-existent in some places. Maybe the military
knew what they had, maybe they didn't, maybe they couldn't say."
- Reme and Jose are convinced, and they say Faustino soon
came to join in their belief, that the object on the ranch was no mere
weather balloon, but an object of mystery. Faustino, however, had no interest
in challenging the status quo, nor did state policeman Apodaca, whatever
his beliefs were.
- And why would a mere sergeant be sent to negotiate with
Faustino Padilla on a mission that involved something more than a routine
weather balloon flight. "He wore sergeant stripes," Reme said.
"That doesn't necessarily mean he was a sergeant. And he was Latino.
He was sent to San Antonio because he could communicate with the locals."
- Finally, why would the military allow such cavalier treatment
of the wreckage, if it were a foreign or alien craft with scientific value?
- "I don't know if they knew what they had,"
Reme said. "It was a fairly crude craft with no parts numbers on it,
and the piece we have, we were told is not remarkably machined even for
1945. But there's nothing that says aliens have to travel in remarkable
- "Given what we know about distances in the universe,
space travel seems far-fetched, I'll grant you. Perhaps they got here by
some method we can't fathom and they manufactured a crude object here to
get around in this atmosphere. We hear about other dimensions, and parallel
- "I don't know much about those things. But I do
know what I saw, which was some unlikely looking creatures at the crash
site. I know that later other people in the area reported similar things.
And I know the government was interested in keeping it quiet."
- Reme has studied the UFO phenomenon in his spare time
over the years, especially as it pertained to New Mexico. "The military
opened the door at Roswell, and then they closed it," he said, referring
to a July, 1947 report by the Roswell Air Force Base information office
about the crash and recovery of a "flying disc" that they reported
had been bouncing around the sky. Then the base retreated by reporting
it was merely a "radar tracking balloon" that had been recovered.
- Details of the Roswell event can be found in a 19-page
Freedom of Information Act request by the late New Mexico Congressman Steve
Schiff and released by the General Accounting Office July 28, 1995. It
can be found on the Internet at http://www.conspire.com/ds/gao2.html).
- The Roswell crash, which along with the sighting of a
UFO south of Socorro by city policeman Lonnie Zamora in 1964, are the two
most famous of a string of UFO reports over central New Mexico and in all
of UFO lore.
- From 1946 through 1949, 25 UFO sightings that "may
have contained extra-terrestrial life" were reported worldwide by
the Center for the Study of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Of those, seven
came from New Mexico, including one near Magdalena (1946), Socorro (1947),
Roswell (actually near Corona), July 4, 1947, Plains of San Agustin (Catron
County), July 5, 1947, Aztec, 1948, White Sands, 1949 and Roswell again,
1949. Another was in the pattern, too, on the Hopi Reservation of Arizona
- "There was a pattern of sightings and incidents
in a ban across New Mexico. Socorro and San Antonio are right at the center,"
notes Reme. "Our 1945 sighting just adds to that base of information.
It's intriguing to say the least. If you were an eyewitness it becomes
even more intriguing."
- Reme and Jose are excited enough to tell their story
after more than 55 years, even knowing the problems that plagued Lonnie
Zamora after his spotting a UFO near Socorro, less than 10 miles away,
- Jose and Reme would like to see an excavation of the
crevice where a few odds and ends from their "alien craft" were
tossed. The crevice was recently covered up by a bulldozer doing flood
- And they'd like to have the part they have from the wreckage
examined more closely. They are not eager to surrender it to anyone, however.
"I've heard from others that if you give it up to the government,
you stand a good chance of not getting it back," Reme said.
- A second piece, which Reme likened to the "tin foil
in a cigarette pack," is gone. "I used it to stop a leak in a
brass pipe under a windmill at our house in San Antonio in the early 50s,"
he said. "I used it to fill the stripped threads on two pieces of
- Reme said he regrets using it now, but it was handy.
"I kept in for years in an old Prince Albert (tobacco) can in the
pump house, and it was the nearest thing available." Reme said the
foil stopped the leak in the pipe for years. The windmill is now gone and
the property is no longer owned by the family.
- Finally, Jose and Reme were asked why they decided to
tell the tale today, after nearly 60 years.
- "It's something you can never get out of your head,"
said Reme. "When we saw it, we had never heard the term UFO, and 'flying
saucers' didn't become a part of the language until June of 1947 when a
pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported nine objects in a formation in the
area of Mount Rainier.
- "We didn't invent this phenomenon," said Reme.
"We experienced it. Others have apparently had similar experiences.
I believe Jose and I have an obligation to add our information to the mix."
- (Editor's Note: Thanks to the Mountain Mail in Socorro,
N.M., for allowing us to run this piece by Ben Moffett. The newspaper,
which covers Catron and Socorro Counties in rural New Mexico, is rapidly
gaining a reputation as a "good news" newspaper, with strong
editorial pages from both the left and the right, innovative pieces on
such controversial topics as rooster fighting, gay rights, and, yes, UFOs,
and such important local topics as farming and ranching, rodeo, and birding
at Bosque del Apache NWR and along El Camino Real.)