History ETDs

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In July 1947, something crashed in the desert north of Roswell, New Mexico. While initial reports indicated that the downed object was a flying saucer, the United States Army Air Forces explained that it was a weather balloon. The object recovered was a weather balloon, but it had been employed in a top secret Cold War project, and the military felt it necessary to conceal the balloon's true purpose. Some observers, however, charged that the military was covering up a flying saucer crash instead, and the myth of the Roswell Incident was born.

This thesis examines the construction and perpetuation of the Roswell Incident in three chronological phases. First, the Roswell Incident was a product of the Cold War. It developed in the Cold War atmosphere of 1947 and was resurrected during the 1980s.

Second, with reports of a UFO crash and a government cover-up remaining at the core of the myth, it appealed to the American popular culture of the 1980s and 1990s, which was generally sympathetic to conspiracy theories and extraterrestrial origins. These factors allowed the Roswell myth to spread to a broader audience.

Finally, the thesis analyzes how in the 1990s the town of Roswell, facing an economic downturn, capitalized on the fifty-year old myth and the popular culture environment to create their own industry of UFO-related tourism, transforming the Roswell Incident into its current form.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Timothy Moy

Second Committee Member

David Farber

Third Committee Member

Ferenc M. Szasz



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