'Our Grandfather Was the First Person To Investigate The Roswell Crash Site in 1947'

Our grandfather, Major Jesse Marcel, was a decorated intelligence officer in 1947 stationed at the 509th Bomb group, at the time the only atomic bomb unit in the entire world. He played an integral role in planning the group's nuclear strike sorties over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and had an illustrious career guarding some of the most important secrets of the Second World War.

In early July of that year, a mysterious crash occurred in the desert outside Roswell, New Mexico and he was chosen to investigate the crash site and report back to his superior, Colonel William H. Blanchard. What he found was remarkable, and he believed that what he was examining was not made by human hands. We were told growing up that he broke protocol and a few orders by packing up some of the debris to share with his son and wife, our father and grandmother, before returning to the army base. This was an event that would change our father's life, and our own, forever. As they were examining the material, our dad clearly recalls grandpa saying that they were looking at "pieces of a flying saucer."

Dad would share with us many more details of that night, often at dinner time with Star Trek playing in the background for effect. He would talk about seeing foil sheets that were incredibly strong yet light as a feather. He would further describe beams with hieroglyphic looking writing that he claimed would appear if you looked at them at an angle.

Roswell, Roswell crash, Roswell incident
Major Jesse Marcel pictured at a press conference about the crash in Roswell in 1947. Courtesy of the Marcel Family/The History Channel

In their book Witness To Roswell, Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmidt spoke to eyewitnesses who said that they saw "metal" material, like that described by our father, that returned to its original shape no matter how much you twisted or tried to put a wrinkle in it.

On summer trips to visit our grandfather in Louisiana, he would add to the story. He told us that he had seen glass-like fiber optic materials strewn throughout the debris in the field and even what appeared to be an animal hit by the craft that had crashed. He would describe how it took five to six large 2.5 ton 6x6 cargo trucks to transport all the debris back to the base.

As we grew older, Grandpa would share more of the story with us but was still very guarded when it came to telling us too much, maybe out of concern that information that haunted him would come back to haunt us. We could see on his face that he was conflicted between the need to expose the entire story as he saw it and the need to honor the oath he had taken to his country. We would try to get him to tell us more, but with a career in intelligence, he knew how to record and keep a secret.

As a military family we moved to wherever our father was stationed at the time, and in the early 70s this was from the Great Lakes of Michigan to the rural town of Clancy, Montana. In those days we had neither the internet nor video games, and on a good day we could make out three TV channels at best.

One of our fondest memories was spending time with our father as he educated us in everything from physics to astronomy. When not in school, we would stand side-by-side with dad working on one of his many projects. One such project was using red powder to grind thick plates of glass into a parabola shape, this became the mirror for a telescope he was building in the backyard. Once completed, we would spend awe filled nights as dad would show us many parts of the sky, including the rings around Saturn or the moons of Jupiter.

The significance of the events that our grandfather was part of was instilled in us at a young age. The stories shared by our father and time spent with him are forever etched in our memories. Dad would always say that we humans are not alone in the universe and that when we were peering through his telescope, there was a chance that some other beings could be looking back at us. This belief was what led him to share his experiences handling physical evidence of the materials found at the Roswell site—which he believed were from a UFO—and one of the reasons he built the telescope in the first place.

Roswell, Roswell crash, Roswell incident
The three Marcel Grandchildren (left to right: John, Jesse and Denice). Courtesy of the Marcel Family/The History Channel

People have asked where the debris ended up? Or whether our grandfather kept a memento and if so where is it? Although his own voice has been silent for almost three decades, people still refer to his comments from that time. And, we have a diary found amongst his things after he died, which has not been shared with the public before.

We have wondered whether buried in some of the private writings, he has left us with a treasure map for discovering any secrets that have not fully been exposed to the world. One theory is that the diary was written in a kind of "home-brewed code," and might point to places where crash debris still exists or contain other revelations our grandfather wanted the world to know. With our memories, documents, and our grandfather's unseen diary, a door is cracking open that was once thought closed.

As a family, we aren't surprised about the continued interest in Roswell given the inconsistencies in the early explanations shared by the government, along with a number of witness testimonies. Although the U.S. Air Force released reports in the 90s that stated the incident was not a "cover-up" and that the object that crashed was a balloon that was part of Project Mogul, a top secret balloon project designed to monitor then-Soviet nuclear testing, there are many conspiracy theories and those who believe it is still an unsolved "UFO" mystery.

Grandpa thought he was lucky to have been the right person at the right place at the right time even though it came at a great cost—exposing him and our family to the world. With actions he took both at the time of the incident, and leading up to his death, we believe he showed that he well understood the extraordinary uniqueness of the event.

Today we live in a different era. It is widely accepted that we are not alone in the universe, although no-one is certain what that truly means. Incidents like what happened in Roswell in 1947 have likely inspired scientists, astronauts, and a few grandchildren, to look into the sky with hopes and dreams to someday meet with our celestial family. Grandpa would be pleased...

Jesse Marcel III, Denice Marcel and John Marcel are grandchildren of Major Jesse Marcel. You can discover more of their family's connection with the 1947 Roswell incident and the contents of the diary in "Roswell: The First Witness," a 3-part investigative series that premieres on The History Channel on Saturday, December 12 at 9PM ET/PT as part of the History's Greatest Mysteries franchise starring Laurence Fishburne.

All views expressed in this article are the authors' own.