Thursday, 5 January 2012

Why Roswell was so important to the US Military in 1947

The presence of the large air base near Roswell is important as there were two events unfolding in the background that would have been known to all residents of Roswell and may well have affected their reactions to what happened.

The first of these was the international situation. World War II was over, but tensions with Communist Russia were rising fast. Today we know that these tensions led to four decades of Cold War between the USA and Soviet Russia. We know that several small scale wars were fought in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere that had as much to do with the superpower Cold War as with local antagonisms.

In 1947 nobody knew this. They did know that Soviet Russia was a hostile power of growing might and impressive military abilities. It seemed likely then that the USA and Russia might face each other in open warfare within a year or two. The most likely flashpoint would be in Europe, then recovering from having a savage war fought across it. Soviet tanks might roll into western Germany and France, with the USA and its allies responding in kind.

Soviet spies were known to be active in the USA. How many there were and how widespread their activities might be was unclear. They might well have been active around any military base. But the USAAF base at Roswell was no ordinary base. It was a very special and secretive place indeed. It is not generally recognised today just how special Roswell Army Air Force (RAAF) base was in the summer of 1947, but everyone living in Roswell would have known.

Stationed at RAAF was the 509th Bomber Group of the 8th USAAF. This was the only unit in the entire world that was trained, equipped and ready to deliver atomic bombs. This was only 2 years after the world’s first atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The awesome power of the weapon was still new and deeply terrifying. And the bombs were almost unbelievably secret. Only the USA had atomic bombs, which gave them a huge military advantage over every other state on Earth.

The citizens of Roswell were fully aware that they had the 509th based barely a ten minute drive outside of their town. They knew that the 509th was the atomic bomb group. Even though they did not know the details of how many aircraft or atomic bombs were kept on site, the civilians of the area did know and understand the sensitivity of the base. They knew also that it was their patriotic duty to protect the air base and its secrets.


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