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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
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 band 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
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
By Ben Moffett Mountain Mail email@example.com
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
oothills of the Magdalena Mountains looming to the
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
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 moved closer and found the heat from the
wreckage and burning grease wood to be intense.
"You could feel it through the soles of your shoes,"
said Reme. "It was still humid from the rain,
stifling, and it was hard to get close."
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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 alittle 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 band across central New
Mexico and elsewhere, giving rise to a UFO and "flying
saucer" phenomenon that is still debated today.
Continued next time