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New Mexico UFO Crash
Encounter In 1945
By Ben Moffett
©. 2003 The Mountain Mail - Socorro, NM
|Just before dawn on July 16, 1945, scientists detonated the world's first atomic bomb at Trinity Site, some 20 miles southeast of San Antonio, N.M. Three weeks later, on August 6 and 9, the United States brought World War II to a dramatic end by using the bomb to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 6, the world first learned that the Trinity event, which had frightened San Antonioans witless, was not "an ammunition magazine containing high explosives and pyrotechnics" as the military had reported. It was an atomic bomb, "death, the destroyer of worlds," in the words of project physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. |
It was in this crucible of suspicion and disinterest bred by familiarity that a small contingent of the U.S. Army passed almost unnoticed through San Antonio in mid-to-late August, 1945 on a secret assignment. Little or nothing has been printed about the mission, shrouded in the "hush-hush" atmosphere of the time. But the military detail apparently came from White Sands Proving Grounds to the east where the bomb was exploded. It was a recovery operation destined for the mesquite and grease wood desert west of Old US-85, at what is now Milepost 139, the San Antonio exit of Interstate 25.
Over the course of several days, soldiers in Army fatigues loaded the shattered remains of a flying apparatus onto a huge flatbed truck and hauled it away. That such an operation took place between about Aug. 20 and Aug. 25, 1945, there is no doubt, insist two former San Antonioans, Remigio Baca and Jose Padilla, eyewitnesses to the event. Padilla, then age 9, and Baca, 7, secretly watched much of the soldiers' recovery work from a nearby ridge. Their keen interest stemmed from being the first to reach the crash site.
What they saw was a long, wide gash in the earth, with a manufactured object lying cockeyed and partially buried at the end of it, surrounding by a large field of debris. They believed then, and believe today, that the object was occupied by distinctly non-human life forms which were alive and moving about on their arrival minutes after the crash.
They reported their findings to Jose's father, Faustino Padilla, on whose ranch the craft had crashed. Shortly thereafter, Faustino received a military visitor asking for permission to remove it.
During their school years, Jose and Remegio, best friends, would sometimes whisper about the events of that August, which occurred before any of the other mysterious UFO incidents in New Mexico, but they didn't talk to others about it on the advice of their parents and a state policeman friend.
The significance of what they saw, however, grew in their eyes over time as tales of UFOs and flying saucers multiplied across the country, especially in a ban across central New Mexico. Among the most prominent was Socorro police officer Lonnie Zamora's April 24, 1964 on-duty report of a "manned" UFO just south of Socorro, less than 10 miles north of the heretofore unnoticed 1945 Padilla Ranch crash. Jose and Remigio were long gone from the area by the time UFOs and flying saucers became news, and although both kept up with Socorro County events, they lost contact and never discussed the emerging phenomenon with each other.
Reme moved to Tacoma, Wash., while still in high school and Jose to Rowland Heights, Calif. Then, two years ago, after more than four decades apart, they met by chance on the Internet while tracking their ancestry. It was then their interest in the most intriguing event of their childhood was rekindled.
During one of the conversations, Remegio and Jose decided to tell their story to veteran news reporter Ben Moffett, a classmate at San Antonio Grade School who they knew shared their understanding of the culture and ambiance of San Antonio in the forties and fifties, and who was familiar with the terrain, place names, and people. This is their story as told to Moffett.
By Ben Moffett Mountain Mail firstname.lastname@example.org SAN ANTONIO, N.M. (Address is not good)
The pungent but pleasing aroma of grease wood was in the air as Jose Padilla, age 9, and friend, Remigio Baca, 7, set out on horseback one August morning in 1945 to find a cow that had wandered off to calf. The scent of the grease wood, more often called creosote bush today, caught their attention as they moved away from this tiny settlement on their horses, Bolé and Dusty. The creosote scent is evident only when it is moist, and its presence on the wind meant rain somewhere nearby. So, as they worked the draws on the Padilla Ranch, they were mindful of flash flooding which might occur in Walnut Creek, or side arroyos, if there were a major thunderstorm upstream. Gully-washers are not uncommon in late summer in the northern stretches of the Chihuahuan Desert of central New Mexico, especially along the foothills of the Magdalena Mountains looming to the west.
Despite minor perils associated with being away from adults, it was a routine outing for Jose and Reme. It was not odd to see youngsters roam far afield doing chores during the war years. "I could ride before I could walk," said Jose in a recent interview. "We were expected to do our share of the work. Hunting down a cow for my dad wasn't a bad job, even in the August heat."
At length, they moved into terrain that seemed too rough for the horses hooves, and Jose decided to tether them, minus bridles, allowing them to graze. He had spotted a mesquite thicket, a likely place for a wayward cow to give birth, and they set off across a field of jagged rocks and cholla cactus to take a look. As they moved along, grumbling about the thorns, the building thunderheads decided to let go. They took refuge under a ledge above the floodplain, protected somewhat from the lightning strikes that suddenly peppered the area.
The storm quickly passed and as they again moved out, another brilliant light, accompanying by a crunching sound shook the ground around them. It was not at all like thunder. Another experiment at White Sands? No, it seemed too close. "We thought it came from the next canyon, adjacent to Walnut Creek, and as we moved in that direction, we hear a cow in a clump of mesquites," said Reme. Sure enough, it was the Padilla cow, licking a white face calf. A quick check revealed the calf to be healthy and nursing, and the boys decided to reward themselves with a small lunch Jose had sacked, a tortilla each, washed down with a few swigs from a canteen, and an apple. As they munched, Jose noticed smoke coming from a draw adjacent to Walnut Creek, a main tributary from the mountains to the Rio Grande.
Ignoring their task at hand, the two boys headed toward it, and what they saw as they topped a rise "stopped us dead in our tracks," Reme remembers. "There was a gouge in the earth as long as a football field, and a circular object at the end of it." It was "barely visible," he said, through a field of smoke. "It was the color of the old pot my mother was always trying to shine up, a dull metallic color."
Illustration by James Neff ©2003
Based on the description by Reme & Jose. When asked
how close this rendering comes to what they saw, Reme says
"Almost as if you were there... It doesn't get any better."
They retreated briefly to talk things over, cool off, sip from the canteen and collect their nerve, worried there might be casualties in the wreckage. Then they headed back toward the site. That's when things really got eerie. Waiting for the heat to diminish, they began examining the remnants at the periphery of a huge litter field. Reme picked up a piece of thin, shiny material that he says reminded him of "the tin foil in the old olive green Phillip Morris cigarette packs." "It was folded up and lodged underneath a rock, apparently pinned there during the collision," said Reme. "When I freed it, it unfolded all by itself. I refolded it, and it spread itself out again." Reme put it in his pocket. Finally they were able to work their way to within yards of the wreckage, fearing the worst and not quite ready for it. "I had my hand over my face, peeking through my fingers," Reme recalled. "Jose, being older, seemed to be able to handle it better."
As they approached they saw, thought they saw, yes, definitely DID see movement in the main part of the craft. "Strange looking creatures were moving around inside," said Reme. "They looked under stress. They moved fast, as if they were able to will themselves from one position to another in an instant. They were shadowy and expressionless, but definitely living beings."
Reme wanted no part of whoever, whatever was inside. "Jose wasn't afraid of much, but I told him we should get out of there. I remember we felt concern for the creatures. They seemed like us-children, not dangerous. But we were scared and exhausted. Besides it was getting late."
The boys backtracked, ignoring the cow and calf. It was a little after dusk when they climbed on their horses, and dark when they reached the Padilla home. Faustino Padilla asked about the cow, and got a quick report. "And we found something else," Jose said, and the story poured out, quickly and almost incoherently. "It's kind of hard to explain, but it was long and round, and there was a big gouge in the dirt and there were these hombrecitos (little guys)." Their tale unfolded as Jose's father listened patiently. "They were running back and forth, looking desperate. They were like children. They didn't have hair," Jose said "We'll check it out in a day or two," Faustino said, unalarmed and apparently not worried in the least about survivors or medical emergencies. "It must be something the military lost and we shouldn't disturb it. Leave your horse here, Reme, and Jose and I will drive you home, since it's so late."
Two days later at about noon, state policeman Eddie Apodaca, a family friend who had been summoned by Faustino, arrived at the Padilla home. Jose and Reme directed Apodoca and Jose's dad toward the crash site in two vehicles, a pick-up and a state police car. When they could drive no further, they parked and hiked to the hillside where the boys had initially spotted the wreckage.
As they topped the ridge, they noted the cow and calf had moved on, probably headed for home pasture, then they walked the short distance to the overlook.
For a second time, Jose and Reme are dumbfounded. The wreckage was nowhere to be seen. "What could have happened to it?" Reme asked. "Somebody must have taken it," Jose responded defensively. Apodoca and Faustino stared intently but unaccusingly at Jose and Reme, trying to understand. They headed down the canyon nonetheless, and suddenly, "as if by magic," in Reme's words, the object reappeared. "From the top of the hill, it blended into the surroundings," Reme explained recently. "The sun was at a different angle, and the object had dirt and debris over it," which he speculated may have been put there by someone after the crash.
Apodoca and Faustino led the way to the craft, then climbed inside while Jose and Reme were ordered to stay a short distance away. "I can't see the hombrecitos," Reme offered. "No," replies Jose. "But look at these marks on the ground, like when you drag a rake over it." "The huge field of litter had been cleaned up," Reme recalled. "Who did it, and when, I have no idea. Was it the military? Using a helicopter? Or the occupants?"
The main body of the craft, however, remained in place with odd pieces dangling everywhere. Now it was time for the adults to lecture Reme and Jose, Reme remembers. "Listen carefully. Don't tell anyone about this," Reme quoted Faustino as saying. "Reme, your dad just started working for the government. He doesn't need to know anything about it. It might cause him trouble."
Faustino also worked for the government at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and the ranch itself was on leased federal land. Faustino was a patriotic man and honest to a fault in his dealing with the federal government, according to Jose. "The government calls them weather balloons," the state policeman chipped in. "I'm here to help Faustino work out the recovery with the government. They'll want this thing back." "But this isn't like the weather balloons we've seen before," said Reme. "They were little, almost like a kite." "You're right, Reme. Este es un monstruso, que no Eddie?" Faustino said. "Yeah, it's big for sure," the state policeman acknowledged. "And the hombrecitos?" Reme persisted. "Maybe you just thought you saw them," said Faustino. "Or maybe somebody took them, or they just took off."
Then they headed home. The cow and calf also grazed their way back in a day or two.
Next time: The story continues with the military's removal of the wreckage, while Jose and Reme, equipped with binoculars, spy on their every move, including the soldiers slipping off to the Owl Bar for a little diversion.
Jose and Reme also look back at the incident from the perspective of time. Was the object that required a flatbed truck and an "L" extension a weather balloon, or an alien craft from space or from another dimension? The two men, now in their mid to late 60s, still have a piece of the craft and know where other parts were buried by the military. Reme also speculates about how the 1945 incident fits in with the many sightings that were later reported in a ban across central New Mexico and elsewhere, giving rise to a UFO and "flying saucer" phenomenon that is still debated today.