NEW MEXICO UFO CRASH ENCOUNTER IN 1945
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New Mexico UFO Crash
Encounter In 1945
By Ben Moffett
Copyright© the Mountain Mail, Socorro, N.M., and Ben Moffett
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."
"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 said.
"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
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 mysterious?
"I think the term 'weather balloon' was a euphemism, a catch-all for
anything and everything that the government couldn't explain, said, Reme.
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 spaceships.
"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 universes.
"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
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 extraterrestrial 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 Augustin (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 in 1947.
"There was a pattern of sightings and incidents in a band 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
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, in 1964.
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 control work. 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
pipe." Reme said he regrets using it now, but it was handy. "I kept it 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
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."
Remigio Baca of Gig, Harbor, Wash., was born in San Antonio in
October,1938, to Evarista Serna and Alejandro Baca. He attended
San Antonio Grade School and Socorro High until he transferred to
Stadium High in Tacoma, Wash., in his freshman year.
Reme served in the Marines for six years during the Vietnam War,
worked as a tax compliance officer for the Washington Department of
Revenue, and was involved in Washington politics. A meeting with
Vernon Jordan, national chairman of the Urban League, encouraged
him to get into politics, which he did with enthusiasm. Reme was
instrumental in the election of the famous scientist and Nixon
administration politician Dixy Lee Ray to the governorship of
Washington as a Democrat, and served on Ray's executive staff.
In that role, he helped get qualified Latinos in administrative
positions in government.
When Ray was defeated, Reme became an insurance agent in Tacoma,
moved to California for awhile as an independent insurance broker in
Oxnard, Santa Paula and Santa Barbara, and retired in Gig Harbor,
a suburb of Tacoma.
He has been married for years to Virginia Tonan, a classical pianist and
teacher. He has been back to San Antonio many times, and has relatives
in Socorro County.
Jose Padilla was born in San Antonito in November, 1936, to Faustino and
Maria Padilla, attended first San Antonito Grade School and then San Antonio Grade School when San Antonito's school burned down. He also attended
the Luis Lopez Grade School for a time. He made first communion with Reme
Baca at the San Antonio Church. While at Socorro High he left to join the
National Guard at age 13, when very young children were allowed to sign up because of the World War II death toll in the New Mexico Guard. After leaving
San Antonio, Jose continued guard duty in Van Nuyes Calif., Air National
Guard, and when the unit was activated, spent time in Korea. He married
his wife, Olga, and served with the California Highway Patrol for 32 years
as a safety inspector.
The Padillas have three boys, including a son, Sam, who lives in Contreras,
near La Joya, and he has numerous relatives in Socorro and vicinity.
(Editor's note: Thanks to the Mountain Mail for allowing us to run this piece
by Ben Moffett. The newspaper, which covers Socorro and Catron County in
rural New Mexico, is rapidly gaining a reputation as a "good news" newspaper
with strong editorial pages which come from both the left and the right,
innovative pieces on such locally controversial subjects as rooster fighting,
gay rights, and, yes, UFOs, and such locally important ones as birding, farming and ranching.)
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