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Roswell Snapshot:

The Wit and Wisdom of J. Bond Johnson

by R. J. Durant

Ufologists tend to be deadly grim people, sour, dour, never cracking a smile. At first blush that would seem odd, because there is plenty of UFO-related humor out there. Much of it appears in the newspaper accounts of sightings, where reporters who can't find an outlet for their creativity in stories about dog shows or zoning meetings can let loose a barrage of witticisms about "the silly season." After a while it gets boring if you happen to care about the topic, and of course as a serious student of UFOs you are either directly or tangentially the butt of the joke. So the ufologists don't grin.

One unfortunate result of this mind-set is that we fail to identify the truly creative ufological jokester on the rare occasions when he appears in our midst. This is the case with the humorist J. Bond Johnson. Even his name is funny, the J. standing for James. Remember 007?

He's pushing 80, and after a very full life, he finds himself sitting around worrying that the world has forgotten him and all his accomplishments. Senility is not the only deficit brought about by age. One also loses the companions of yesteryear who would listen to the stories, and laugh and laugh, sharing the mirth. So J. Bond has done the natural thing, which is to seek another audience for his exceptional wit.

In 1947 J. Bond was working at the Fort Worth, Texas Star-Telegram as a photographer and reporter. One day he was sent to the office of Brigadier General Roger Ramey to photograph some material thought to be a "flying disk." A previous press release from the Roswell Army Air Field had proclaimed the capture of same, causing an uproar. Johnson arrived, Speed Graphic in hand, took the photos and delivered them to the newspaper. That was all he did, or at least that is the sum and substance of what he told Kevin Randle during three hours of taped telephone conversations 42 years after the event.

Along with a great mass of other photographic material, the original Ramey office pictures were donated by the newspaper to the University of Texas, which maintains a huge photo archive. The University has supplied prints to anyone willing to pay the nominal copying fee. In this way Roswell researchers and even the U.S. Air Force, and through them the CIA, got these famous shots, and were able to study them with care.

J. Bond's first foray into ufological leg-pulling came about when he teamed up with another jokester, William Moore. That's the fellow who stood up at a MUFON symposium and admitted -- or claimed -- that for many years he had been cooperating with government agencies to furnish them with UFO data and to help spread disinformation. Moore has written much on Roswell, and in a refreshingly open self- assessment of his book he said it is "...a disgraceful hodgepodge of fact and fiction."

Moore and J. Bond teamed up, which is not surprising, given their mutual merry- making interests and proclivities. For years the two proclaimed that the Ramey office photos showed the "real" debris, meaning the material found on the Foster ranch, and described in detail by various awed witnesses.

The literal-minded ufologists did not get the hint, missed the nudge and the wink. They studied and studied those photos. So did the Air Force, when it undertook to review the Roswell matter, even enlisting the photographic analysis facilities of the CIA for the purpose. But the photos show only a battered radar reflector. Always have, and always will, because that -- and that alone -- is what was on Ramey's floor. Even J. Bond eventually conceded, but only after much smoke had been blown in many eyes. (Moore has long since dropped from sight.)

Now suddenly, after a long absence from the scene, J. Bond has returned to pull more legs, yank more chains. This time he has no partner, just the Internet. He composed a "press release," written as if it issued from some neutral reporter, and in this way sprung his latest joke. The major claim is the old one, slightly amended: the photos are of a radar reflector, but in the foreground, thus unnoticed by myriad observers, is some of the "real" debris.

J. Bond's "press release" begins this way: "It has been announced by the University of Texas at Arlington that on June 1, 1998, a special exhibit will open in the Special Collections Section of the Main Library featuring super-enlargements of the more than half-century old famous Roswell UFO crash photographs. In making the announcement, Dr. Gerald D. Saxon, Associate Director for Special Collections, Branch Libraries and Programs, University Libraries, stated that the special exhibit will be offered in response to an unprecedented demand by the public to view at close range details of the newly enhanced photographs of the most famous and controversial UFO wreckage, which was 'captured' by Unites States military forces near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947."

"Dr. Saxon stated that photographic exhibits at the library usually are scheduled at least two years in advance, but that this special photo exhibit has been arranged on very short notice due to world wide attention once again being focused on the UTA Library following a recent announcement that it has finally been established that the photos are of portions of the actual crash debris."

Of course, the "recent announcement" also emanated from the smoking word processor of J. Bond Johnson, but the reader is cleverly steered away from that fact.

A call to the UTA Library revealed that yes, they have received many calls about the photos subsequent to J. Bond's "recent announcement." Yes, they are making the photos available to walk-through visitors. Contrary to J. Bond's breathless claims, the UTA "special exhibit" consists only of the four Ramey office photos in 16 by 20 inch format, the largest they make. These are under plastic and laid out on a table. No special security precautions are being taken, simply because none are required.

The Library hasn't a clue about what J. Bond means by "super-enlargements." Nor do they know what he is talking about when he claims the pictures show "portions of the actual crash debris." They are concerned that their public service function is being turned into a circus. It appears that the librarians are just another group that has missed the point of J. Bond's humor.

Elsewhere, J. Bond has claimed that when the Air Force studied the Roswell issue in 1994, they engaged in a hot dispute with the UTA Library over the photos, apparently demanding that the originals be transferred to the U.S. government. I asked the Library to comment on this claim, and received the following reply from Dr. Saxon.

"Jane Klazura, a staff member in the Special Collections Division of the UT- Arlington Libraries, forwarded me your undated letter re the Roswell negatives/photos held by UTA. I wanted to answer your questions so that there is no mistake as to what we have done in the past with the negatives/photos.

"You mention in your letter that Mr. Johnson has said that an agency of the U.S. government engaged in a "dispute" with UTA re these photos. That simply is not true. There was no dispute. A few years ago the Air Force wanted to analyze the Roswell negatives, and we provided high quality copy negatives for them to use. As a matter of policy and archival practice, we do not send out original negatives to anyone or any institution. The Air force was pleased with the quality of the copy negatives and used them in their analysis and subsequent report.

"For your information I am speaking from firsthand knowledge of this because I was in charge of Special Collections at the time. Our staff member in charge of the Star-Telegram Photograph Collection at the time, Betsey Hudon, has since retired. The Roswell negatives/photos are a part of the Star-Telegram Collection, which has close to one million images in it."

One would suppose that J. Bond would tell us just a bit more about the means by which the photos have recently been magnified or enhanced, revealing the "real" debris that all others have failed to spot. Despite repeated requests for elucidation on this vital point, his responses have been extremely obscure. Michael Lindemann interviewed him, and wrote that the process consisted of using a xerox machine to "blow up" the photos in many steps!

Lindemann didn't catch on, and I suppose that out of desperation to get a rise out of the ufologists, J. Bond came up with what he thought would be the unmistakeable give-away. He started saying that the "enhancement" work was done at Staples, an office supply chain. According to this version, Staples provides a service in which a photo or document is "digitized" and transferred to a computer disc. The "digitized" image can then be magnified almost infinitely. Professionals familiar with image enhancement know how ridiculous all this is.

But once again, we failed to take the hint -- when J. Bond said he did it at Staples, that should have been the occasion for a big belly laugh, not the intense furrowing of brows that afflicted the hopelessly literal ufologists.

I paid the U of T 24 dollars each for the seven photos they offer, in the 16 by 20 inch format. Once again, the joke is on me. A careful examination with a magnifying glass revealed none of the exotic stuff J. Bond talks about.

Then a friend has used some sort of (real, not Staples) computer enhancement to magnify the photos about sixty-fold. Still nothing. My friend, who is in touch with J. Bond, has passed the bad news on. J. Bond, ever the jokester, replied by angrily claiming that my friend must be blind.

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