Laredo, Texas UFO crash
According to Texas Monthly, talk of a UFO crash near Laredo 1st surfaced in the 1950s, with additional details being released in 1978 by the late Leonard Stringfield, one of the 1st UFO researchers to advocate serious investigation of reported UFO crashes. Stringfield wrote, “In the Fall of 1977, new word of a 1948 crash came to me from a well-informed military source. His information, however, was scanty. He had heard from other “insider” military sources that a metallic disc had crashed somewhere in a desert region. His only details indicated that the craft had suffered severe damage on impact and was retrieved by military units.”
Also in 1977, Stringfield received more information about the case from another UFO researcher, the late Todd Zechel. Stringfield wrote, “Formerly with the National Security Agency, Zechel stated that a United States Air Force technician told him that his uncle, then a Provost Marshall at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas, had taken part in the 1948 recovery of a crashed UFO, which was described as a metallic disc, 90 feet in diameter.”
In a report presented at the Mutual UFO Network Symposium on July 29, 1978, Stringfield stated that “one dead alien was found aboard the craft, which was described as about 4 feet, 6 inches tall, completely hairless, with hands that had no thumbs.”
In December 1978, two photographs fitting Stringfield’s description of the dead alien suddenly appeared in Maryland. The photos, along with a brief note about them, were received in the mail by Willard F. McIntyre, founder of a civilian UFO group called the Mutual Anomaly Research Center and Evaluation Network. The photos showed the badly burned body of a small biped with a large head and clawlike hands. The photos were purportedly sent by a retired U.S. Navy photographer from Tennessee who claimed to have taken them at a UFO crash site along the Texas-Mexico border in 1948.
McIntyre corresponded by mail with the unnamed former Navy photographer from 1978 through 1981 and learned more details about the Laredo crash, which McIntyre later disclosed to numerous civilian UFO organizations. McIntyre claimed that MARCEN had thoroughly checked out the photographer’s military service record and had verified that he was who he claimed to be. McIntyre further claimed that the Eastman Kodak company and the UFO group Ground Saucer Watch had both independently verified that the negatives of the photos given to McIntyre in 1978 were approximately 30 years old.
The photos were 1st released to the media in April 1980 by Charles Wilhelm, director of the now-defunct Ohio UFO Investigators League, were picked up by the Associated Press, and were published in a number of U.S. newspapers, including the Cincinnati Enquirer (on April 29, 1980).
Based on a number of accounts published in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a large UFO was spotted in the airspace above Albuquerque, New Mexico on the afternoon of July 7, 1948, moving at approximately 2,000 miles per hour. Stringfield said that the object “was tracked on radar screens”, and other sources stated that the object at one point made a 90-degree turn before heading toward southwest Texas.
It is important to note that in the 1980s some UFO researchers confused this story with that of the Del Rio, Texas UFO Crash of 1955, which also occurred along the Texas-Mexico border. Some of the early accounts of the Laredo crash, therefore, contain inaccuracies based on this confusion.
A number of UFO investigators have stated that, prior to crashing near Laredo, the UFO was chased across the skies of Texas by at least two military aircraft. Neither the type of aircraft nor the base from which they were dispatched is known. Schaffner referred to the aircraft as Lockheed F-94 Starfire jets; however, the F-94 wasn’t in use until 1949. It is possible that the actual aircraft involved were Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star jets, of which the F-94 was a variant.
It is also not known if the pursuing aircraft might have contributed to the downing of the UFO by firing upon it or otherwise causing it to fall. However, there are numerous other documented cases of U.S. military aircraft firing upon UFOs during this time period.
Stringfield wrote that the UFO crashed “about 30 miles inside the Mexican border across from Laredo, Texas, and was recovered by U.S. troops after it was tracked on radar screens.” Ohio UFO investigator Ron Schaffner wrote, “At 1410 hours, other pilots in pursuit said the object was slowing down and was wobbling in flight. By 1429 hours, the object disappeared from all radar screens. Using triangulation from all the radar installations, it was determined that the object must have gone [sic] down in Mexico, approximately 30 miles south of Laredo, Texas.
The location of the crash was given more specifically in UFO Crash at Aztec: A Well-Kept Secret, a 1986 book by William S. Steinman and Wendelle C. Stevens. They wrote, “This site was about 30 miles SSW of Laredo, not far from the highway to Mexico City, and near where the Rio Sabinas joins the Rio Salado before they empty into the Rio Grande, in the Sierra Madre Oriental.”
According to Stringfield’s account of the Laredo case, a provost marshal stationed at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth admitted that he had taken part in a mission to cordon off and secure the site where a UFO crashed to the Earth near Laredo, Texas in 1948. The marshal told his nephew, who later told UFO researcher Todd Zechel. Stringfield later wrote, “Zechel learned from his sources that the troops involved in the retrieval were warned that if they said a word about the incident, they would be the sorriest people around.”
Steinman and Stevens later identified the eyewitness as John W. Bowen, who they said “was sent over to take immediate charge of cordoning off and controlling the area.” According to the authors, after Bowen’s group secured the area, a team was flown in from the missile range at White Sands, New Mexico to photograph the crash site, and later, a convoy of large Army transport trucks removed the wreckage, taking it the San Antonio Air Depot for further study.
In 1986, Steinman and Stevens added, “They [the military photographers] only saw and photographed one body but rumors were floating around the site that two or more creatures had been blown out of the vehicle and were captured and taken away injured severely but still alive. Our source said he had no confirmation of this aspect of the case. The body they photographed was 4′ 6″ long. Its head was extremely large for the body size by human proportions. The eyes were gone from the fire but the eye sockets were much larger than in humans and were almost wraparound as if to give 180-degree vision. There were no visible ears or nose, but there were openings where ears and nostrils would have been in humans. There were no lips and the mouth was just a sort of slit with no teeth or tongue. There were two legs of normal proportions with short feet having no discernible toes. The two arms were longer than in humans and the hands had four claw-like fingers each with no apparent thumbs. The arms and legs appeared to have joints in approximately the same places as in humans.”
Shaeffner wrote, “Army doctors arrived on July 8 and performed an examination of the body. They could not find any reproductive organs. They compared the gray skin to the texture of a human female breast. The bone structure was more complicated than a human and no muscle fiber was discovered within the torso.”
The body depicted in the photos sent to McIntyre has over the years come to be known as the “Tomato Man” due to its large, roundish head. Many UFO researchers, including Shaeffner and Kevin Randle, believe the body is that of a human pilot who was badly disfigured by intense heat following a plane crash. They argue that one of the photos shows a pair of eyeglasses, such as a human pilot would wear, near the body. Randle has classified the entire “Tomato Man” story as a “hoax.”
Other researchers believe the body might be that of a monkey used as a test subject in a missile experiment. Still other UFO researchers argue that even if the “Tomato Man” photos are fakes, that does not necessarily invalidate the UFO crash incident itself, knowledge of which preceded the appearance of the photos.
Steinman and Stevens looked into a rumor that notable U.S. scientist Luis W. Alvarez, now deceased, may have been involved in an investigation of the site where the Laredo UFO Crash occurred. Supposedly in July 1948, Alvarez and other top U.S. scientists were taken under circumstances of complete secrecy to a location in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, which is the general vicinity of the alleged Laredo UFO Crash. Their mission was to “examine the residue on site of a crashed 100-foot-diameter [30 m] circular flying vehicle of unknown origin.” As a scientist, Alvarez was noted for applying scientific principles to paranormal subjects. Steinman and Stevens contacted Dr. Alvarez in the late 1980s and asked whether he was involved in any investigations of crashed UFOs, but he refused to make any comment to them.
UFO researcher Wendelle C. Stevens, whose 1986 book UFO Crash at Aztec: A Well-Kept Secret included a section about the Laredo crash, now believes that the UFO was a top-secret U.S. experimental aircraft and that the burned body was that of a large rhesus monkey. In a 2009 interview, Stevens said that, although he believes many UFO incidents do involve extraterrestrial spacecraft, he thinks the 1948 Laredo crash was really a secret experiment that originated at the White Sands, New Mexico missile range.
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