CIA Operative Joins the Search for Answers to the Roswell Mystery

Laurence Fishburne and History's Greatest Mysteries hope to discover the secrets behind the Roswell UFO crash mystery.

History's Greatest Mysteries Roswell
Photo: A+E Networks

A former CIA operative is teaming up with the family of the first Army officer on the scene of an alleged crash of an alien spacecraft near Roswell, to search for the truth in a new three-part investigation for History’s Greatest Mysteries

On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) distributed a press release claiming they had recovered the remains of a “flying disc” crashed in the New Mexican desert outside of Roswell. The news made headlines, but the media’s enthusiasm was short-lived. The next day the US Army released a second statement claiming the recovered object was just a weather balloon.

The incident would have been lost to the dustbin of history had it not been for Jesse Marcel, a former intelligence officer stationed at RAAF in 1947. When a local rancher reported the debris’ discovery, Marcell was sent out to take a look and bring some of the material back to the base. He was then ordered to fly some of it to Fort Worth, Texas, for examination, where he took photos with the material.

However, in the late 70s, Marcel told UFO researchers the photos with him and the debris was staged for the press. He claimed the Army whisked the real debris away while he was ordered to aid in the cover-up of what was really found. Marcel claimed the actual crash site included extremely strong shiny material that was foil-like but returned to its original shape after it was crumpled. He also described light balsa-wood-like I-beams with strange markings.

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His claims began civilian UFO investigations that led to the Roswell event becoming world-famous as an alleged alien spacecraft crash.

History’s Greatest Mysteries hosted by Laurence Fishburne is dedicating three episodes to the Roswell incident. The lead investigator is former CIA operative, Ben Smith. The Marcel family joins him. According to the family, Marcel’s son, Jesse Jr., also saw the debris. Both Marcel and his son have since passed, but the grandchildren say Roswell has always been a part of their lives.

“My dad built a huge telescope in our backyard,” Denice Marcell, Jesse Marcel’s granddaughter, tells Den of Geek. “On the weekends, when the weather permitted, we would look through that telescope, just searching the night skies. And then, afterward, we would pull out our sleeping bags and look for UFOs. I probably was eight or nine years old, and I’ve never been embarrassed about it because it’s the truth. So I can’t be embarrassed about the truth.”

“He was honest,” Denice says of her grandfather. “He was hardworking. He loved his family. I think, above all, though, I think he was just a very honest man.”

“I’ve been interested in the UFO question for some time,” former CIA operative Smith adds.

“For me, it has always been a question of national security. I’m a national security professional, and had been in the intelligence community for almost 15 years. If UFOs are out there, are they a threat to us and the human species, to the United States national security regime?”

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Shows investigating Roswell are common, but Smith says for History’s Greatest Mysteries, they are employing more resources than you typically see on TV. 

In the first episode, they deploy a drone to investigate geographic anomalies, metal detectors, and other advanced tools to measure the area of the alleged crash for magnetic anomalies.

The show also features some forensic investigation into a mysterious diary left by Marcel.

“The diary has always been in our family,” says Denice. “The entries are very intriguing. They kind of don’t make sense. So that’s why we decided to have some people take a different look at it.”

A lot is made of the diary in the first episode. It consists of notes such as jokes, quotes, and music lyrics. Although the show presents the journal as mysterious, it doesn’t yet explain why they believe the diary to be mysterious at all. At least not convincingly.

So far in the series, the tech and the forensics are not providing much of interest. What the show offers that is interesting and compelling is an abundance of testimony from Roswell locals and family members of those involved in the incident. The Marcels included.

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“Now grandpa always said that he never saw any bodies, but here’s the thing,” explains Denice. “He was the base intelligence officer. He could have very well maybe seen them, but that’s one thing he’s just not ever going to say because that’s part of his secrecy oath.”

Alien bodies being part of the Roswell mystery did not become a part of the event’s mythos until well after it was famous. However, Denice says there didn’t need to be aliens present for the object to be extraterrestrial. 

“What if it was something that was really old,” speculates Denice. “It came from another planet, obviously, but maybe it’s been out there traveling for hundreds of years.”

She holds out hope that the smoking gun evidence for what her grandfather saw will be found, and she hopes the show will inspire others to keep an open mind.

“I think once they see [the show], that they’re going to realize that this case is definitely not closed. It actually does need to be investigated further because, at the end of the day, this material has to be out there somewhere.”

History’s Greatest Mysteries airs Saturday nights at 9 p.m. ET on History Channel.