As Master Sgt. Lewis "Bill" Rickett and his boss, Capt. Sheridan Cavitt, walked Mack Brazel's field near Corona, N.M., Rickett was concerned whether the site was "hot." Cavitt assured him that there was no evidence of radioactivity.
Rickett, the noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the counterintelligence office at Roswell Army Air Field had been on assignment in Carlsbad, N.M., when all the excitement about the recovery of an actual flying saucer began. When he returned to his office the morning of Tuesday, July 8, Cavitt invited him to take a drive north of town. It would take about 45 minutes, he said.
Rickett described what he saw in great detail: There were riflemen stationed on the periphery of the property and another encirclement of guards posted around a small containment of metal-like pieces. The vast majority of the recovery at the Brazel site had already been completed. Cavitt wanted to get Rickett's reaction to the strange material still scattered on the ground.
Rickett found one piece that was about two feet square and appeared to be slightly curved. He then placed it over his extended knee and tried to bend the semi-reflective, paper-thin sheet — the way one might try to bend a supple tree branch. According to Rickett, the material didn't seem to weigh anything.
Somewhat amused by Rickett's inability to warp the sheet, Cavitt said to Maj. Edwin Easley, the 509th Bomb Wing's provost marshal, "Smart guy. He's trying to do what we couldn't." Rickett couldn't believe that a piece of material so thin would not bend. As he and Cavitt drove back to the base, the captain reminded him, "You weren't here and neither was I."
Two months later, in September 1947, Rickett was given another field assignment. He was ordered to assist Manhattan Project scientist Dr. Lincoln La Paz, from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. La Paz was a famous meteor expert, as well as a nuclear scientist, and had just arrived at the base in Roswell after being briefed in Washington, D.C. La Paz and Rickett's assignment was to determine the speed and trajectory of the object that impacted north of town.
According to Rickett, he and La Paz discovered a possible touchdown point about five miles northwest of the debris field. Not only did they recover identical material as that which Rickett had handled before, they were startled to find that the sand in the high-desert terrain had crystallized, apparently as a result of exposure to tremendous heat.
They spent a total of three weeks interviewing witnesses and making their calculations, which were contained in La Paz's official report. Rickett never had a chance to see the document, which was delivered directly to the Pentagon. The professor did confide to the plainclothes intelligence specialist that, based on all the physical evidence they'd collected and tested, the original object was an "unmanned interplanetary probe."
Sgt. Rickett continued to search for answers. Unfortunately, his supervising officer, Capt. Cavitt, refused to discuss the matter with him.
One year later, Rickett met once again with Dr. La Paz, this time in Albuquerque. La Paz remained convinced that the object which crashed near Corona, N.M., was from another planet. In all his confidential meetings with various government agencies, he said, he had learned nothing which contradicted that position.
The very next month, while on assignment in Washington, D.C., Rickett met with fellow counterintelligence agent John Wirth. Rickett asked about the status of the materials recovered at Roswell the previous year. According to Wirth, the government's top researchers had yet to identify its metallurgic content and still "hadn't been able to cut it."
One can well imagine Bill Rickett's surprise when, after more than 40 years of silence, he received an evening phone call in 1991 from his former commanding officer.
"Happy birthday, Bill," said the voice on the other end of the phone. "Its 'Cav,' your old boss."
After exchanging niceties, Cavitt queried, "Have you been talking to anyone about what happened back in 1947?" Rickett identified one specific investigator, whom Cavitt knew as well.
"What have you been telling him?" pried Cavitt. "We both know what really happened out there, don't we, Bill?"
"We sure do," Rickett responded.
After a short pause Cavitt snapped back, "Well, maybe someday. Goodbye, Bill."
Lewis "Bill" Rickett, who passed away in October 1993, never heard from Cavitt again.