Methodology in Reading Ramey Memo

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* Materials: About prints and scans used

* Software:  A short discussion on image enhancements and manipulation

* Font comparison:  Comparison of the image text with actual teletype font

* Line numbering:  System of numbering lines

* Confidence levels:  Indicating word and letter confidence levels in text and graphics

* Guiding principles in analyzing the Ramey memo:  An important discussion on the physical , grammatical, semantic, and contextual constraints used to greatly narrow the field of possible words.   Includes some criticism of others' work plus criticism of skeptical objections to interpreting the memo.

* More details on applied constraints and methodology
* 1. Evenly spaced, all capital letters
* 2.  Positions of letters and letter counts for words
* 3. Consistent left margin
* 4.  Consistency of style
* 5. Spelling and typographical errors
* 6.  Common English short words


Interpretation of the Ramey memo is based largely on two blow-up, first-generation prints of the message I ordered from the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries (for ordering information click here). The enlargement of the message portion of the negative is approximately 20-fold.

Upon my instructions, one print was developed to be darker and higher contrast to help bring out faint letters.  The other print was given a longer exposure to lighten the image, particular the shadowed areas.  Besides improving the readability of the shadowed areas, the lighter image also helped suppress film grain noise in the well-lit portions of the message, but at the cost of letter darkness.

These prints were scanned using a commercial HP 3C scanner, generally at 600 dpi.  Areas of text compressed by page tilt and perspective (such as the address header) were also scanned at resolutions of up to 1200 dpi.  (Note:  At 600 dpi, average letter spacing is typically 35 to 40 pixels, depending on which part of the image is viewed.)

To a lesser extent, I also worked from a direct drum scan off the negative done by Roswell researchers Tom Carey and Donald Schmitt and kindly shared with me.  This scan is darker and of higher contrast than my prints.  But the resolution is several times lower than the enlargements and the shadowed areas are completely unreadable.  However, the lower "resolution blur" and high contrast of letters in the illuminated portions of the message have sometimes proved to be very useful in making out letters and words I was having trouble with in the higher-resolution blow-ups.  Sometimes I couldn't see the forest because of the trees.  E.g., one keyword that finally emerged from using the negative scan was "OPERATION" on line 2 of the first paragraph, which eventually led to reading the complete phrase "OPERATION AT THE RANCH".  The abbreviations "AF" (for Air Field),  "PR" (for Press Release), and "RAWIN" (for Radar Wind target) were also initially discerned using the negative scan.


No special software and no fancy enhancements were used in analyzing the memo.  In fact, I used the popular freeware paint program Paint Shop Pro.  Most enhancements consisted of little more than adjusting the luminance and contrast levels to try to bring out letters and suppress film grain noise.  Occasionally text was resized or stretched to more normal proportions in regions where tilt perspective compressed the letters. Sometimes creases and other paper curvature also caused severely tilted letters, and the skew function in PSP was used to "unskew" the letters.  For greater readability in my high resolution composite images, I also used the rotate function to help straighten out portions of lines, particular the left side of the second paragraph.  This was then spliced in to the rest of the image on the composites.

The lower resolution drum scan makes up the bulk of the full page composite reconstruction.  Shadowed areas that were unreadable in the drum scan were spliced in from the lighter print image,  but at reduced resolution.  In some places both print and drum scan images are side by side for comparison purposes.

Note that I used a scanner and software also used by millions of other PC users and readily available for the past dozen years. In this light, readers may wish to ponder the plausibility of the 1995 Air Force Roswell report statement that nothing could be discerned in the message by the "high-level", nameless government organization they said digitized and analyzed the image.  Are we really to believe that the photoanalysis labs of "high-level" government organizations such as the CIA, NRO, or NSA had inferior equipment and software than that available to the public at large?

Font comparison

Most modern computer fonts are proportional fonts, i.e., they use variable letter spacing depending on the width of the letters.  The closest, standard, non-proportional PC font to the old teletype font is Courier, but even this is not really a good match.

For better comparison of words and letters in the photographed message with true teletype font, I scanned several old teletype messages from the time period and compiled an alphanumeric and punctuation teletype font.  Scanned teletype messages include the FBI Roswell telegram of July 8, 1947 and United Press wire stories from July 8, 1947, saved by Roswell newsman Frank Joyce.  In addition, I found some military, UFO-related telegrams from the early 1950s reproduced in "Above Top Secret" by Timothy Good.  The only difference I found between the military and non-military teletype fonts was the use of a slash through the number "0" in the military telegrams to clearly distinguish it from a capital "O".  Thus, all the teletype machines of that period seem to have used a standardized font, and the compiled font is truly representative of the font used in the Ramey teletype.

The compiled teletype font was used for comparison in the high resolution, line-by-line reconstruction of the memo.  Just one example of a good match is the number "4" found in "1947" in the address header and in "C47" in the second paragraph.  The teletype "4" is open at the top rather than closed to a point, as in nearly all modern fonts, and this can also be seen in the two instances of "4" that I found in the message.

Another example is the letter "W" which tends to be narrower and with slightly curved outer edges not found in present-day fonts.  This can also be discerned in several places in the memo.  The letters "C" and "O" are also narrower than in most present-day fonts.  This is again visible in various places in the memo.

Analysis of the scanned teletype messages also showed that teletype machines had their little quirks. Unlike modern, non-impact computer printers where letters are nearly always reproduced perfectly, even the same letter on the same teletype machine seldom reproduced exactly the same.  Sometimes a letter would be printed in its entirety while elsewhere the machine would drop parts and produce a "broken" letter (yet another source of noise adding to the difficulty in analyzing the message).  Sometimes a certain letter would occasionally be elevated.  E.g., the letter "S" in the Frank Joyce teletype messages was sometimes elevated.  In the Ramey message, the letter "C" is also sometimes raised above the rest of the line. Examples of this can be seen in the words "VICTIMS", "WRECK" and "DISC".  Such quirks can sometimes provide clues to the identity of a letter.  (See also comparison graphic)

Line numbering

Early on when people started tackling the Ramey memo, the first clearly visible line in the first paragraph was called Line 1, and subsequent lines of text were numbered sequentially as Line 2, etc.  I have chosen to stick to this numbering scheme for reasons of consistency with previous work by myself and others, even though "Line 1" really isn't the first line of the memo.  The true first line of the first paragraph is extremely difficult to see, being sharply tilted away from the camera and in shadow.  It was necessary to use my lighter print of the image to make it out.  To maintain consistency with the previous numbering scheme, I have denoted it as "Line 0."

In addition, there is a 7-line address header directly above the two paragraphs of text making up the memo.  I have arbitrary labeled these lines A through G.

Confidence levels

As a rough guide to the level of confidence that I attach to a given letter or word, different colorings of the letters/words are used in the graphics.  Basically there are three levels: high confidence, low/medium confidence, and invisible. 

Invisible letters are literally impossible to see because they are hidden by obstacles such as Ramey's thumb or bends in the paper.  In black and white graphics, these are indicated as light gray letters.  In colored text versions of the memo, I use aqua letters.  Although impossible to see, these words/letters can often be inferred through context or reasonable, educated guessing.  Examples are "THE" under Ramey's thumb to the left of the word "CORDON" and "H AAF"  after "HQ 8T" in the address header (thus
"HQ 8TH AAF" for Headquarters 8th Army Air Force), the hidden part being concealed by a bend in the paper.

Lower confidence words/letters are denoted by medium gray in black/white versions and lavender in colored text versions.  These letters are out in the open to be seen, but are still very indistinct and open to question.  Some are only partially formed.  Some are in shadow or folds or damaged by photo defects.  Sometimes, like in the lower left margin, they are so faint and indistinct, they are practically invisible.  But if letters aren't physically concealed, they are never denoted as being invisible. Like the true invisible characters, their identities can usually be deduced through context.  Examples are "THAT" at the left margin of line 6 and "BETTER" on line 8.

High confidence words/letters are denoted by black letters.  Even though I may not be able to make out all letters in a word clearly, I may have such high confidence in the word as a whole that that I will still indicate all letters as black.  Examples are "VANDENBERG" in the address header, "VICTIMS" on line 2,  and "ROSWELL" on line 5.  If there is still some reasonable question in my mind about the word, some of the letters may be indicated with a lower/confidence color.  Examples of this are the word "WRIGHT" or "AIRFOIL" on line 5 or "OPERATION" on line 2.

Whether to indicate the letters in a word as being higher or lower confidence is a judgment call on my part and often changes.  I admit to some inconsistency in this.

Another three-level confidence scale for strictly black and white text versions (useful for comparing various versions in chat groups) was proposed by researcher Neil Morris.  Higher confidence words/letters are indicated by capital letters, lower confidence by lower-case letters, and invisible letters are placed in parentheses.
Guiding Principles in Analyzing the Ramey Memo

Reading linguistically

I've seen a lot of nonsense written by skeptics that nothing of use can be learned from the Ramey message because the number of possible word fits is nearly infinite.  A phrase commonly employed to flippantly dismiss the Ramey message is that people are just seeing "faces in the clouds."  Others refer to it as being like a Rorshach ink-blot test or tea-leaf reading.

Of course it is true that in a barely legible image peoples' imaginations can run wild and see things that aren't necessarily there.  But unlike clouds or ink splotches or tea leaves, the photo is not one of arbitrary blotches.  There is an actual meaningful military teletype message there presumably written in English.  As such it is not a random collection of dots.

Because of this, various rules of the English language can be applied to the text.  This imposes a number of linguistic constraints that when properly adhered to severely limit what really is or is not in the message. Broadly speaking these can be classified as physical constraints and language/contextual constraints

Physical constraints are more objective and include countable word lengths, definite margins, determinable letter positions, and font type  (e.g all caps vs. mixed case, proportional vs. nonproportional font).

Language constraints, though generally less objective, are nonetheless extremely powerful. These include proper English spelling, punctuation, syntax, and semantics.  In short, the text should follow basic rules of English grammar and make sense, not only locally in short word phrases, but in the context of each sentence and the entirety of the message as well.  Sentences should be complete sentences and not disconnected word fragments.  Sentences should also flow logically from one idea to another.  Paragraphs, if properly written, should express a central theme.

Gen. Ramey could conceivably have been an illiterate, but as a first and reasonable assumption, he probably would not have risen to his rank if he couldn't express himself in at least a semi-coherent fashion.

It is also conceivable that the message was written in dense military jargon, as is sometimes the case.  But I have again assumed initially that something approaching regular English was used, and I think the results bear this out.  I have resorted to consideration of possible jargon terms only when normal English words didn't seem to work.  My first choice was always to try to fit a word with a standard English word.

That the message adhered to good grammar has been an important guiding principle for me.  It has forced me to reconsider some earlier interpretations where the grammar was poor or the language seemed stilted or unnatural.  When the message doesn't read like reasonably good English, it is probably a good indication that something is wrong.

Contextual clues include deducing a likely word from the probable part of speech based on the words that surround it (again this goes to grammar), probable letters than can be discerned from the image, and the semantics of the sentence and message.  There may be a large number of words of the proper word length, but the number with certain letters in certain positions severely restricts the total possible.  When semantics (meaning) and syntax (correct part of speech and correct construction of English sentences) are thrown in, the likely number of words usually drops to only a few or maybe even one.

E.g., what are some possibilities for the key 7 letter word which nearly everybody sees as "VICTIMS"?  One or two skeptics suggested "REMAINS."  This works in terms of word length, grammar, and semantics, but several of the letters are a poor match for what is actually in the image, particularly the "R" and "E" at the beginning.

Another word I've recently heard proposed is "FINDING".  Again this would work properly for word length, grammar, and semantics.  But the "F" is highly dubioius as the beginning letter, as is the "G" at the end.  The letter "V" in particular is certainly a much better match for the beginning letter.  On this basis alone, "REMAINS" and FINDING would have to be rejected.

To better illustrate this, the reader should look at the word in the complete phrase and also another comparison of the five words printed in teletype font against the actual image of the word.

What if we do word searches for all 7 letter words with the letters VI**I*S, which are almost undoubtedly there, and make no assumptions about the other 3 letters which aren't as clear and make them wildcards? From context of the words surrounding it we also know that the word must be a noun.  (The contextual phrase is "THE VI**I*S OF THE ." which forces the conclusion that the search word is a noun.)

(An example of an Internet search site that enables one to search hundreds of on-line English and specialty dictionaries and lexicons for potential matches is located at

The search engine came up with the following 8 possible matches out of tens of thousands of possible 7 letter words, acronyms, abbreviations and jargon words:  VICTIMS, VIRGINS, VILNIUS, VITRICS, VIROIDS, VIOLINS, VIBRIOS, VILLI'S, VIGLIUS, and VINNIES.

Thus when simple constraints are applied, the universe of possible words turns out NOT to be infinite, but very limited. One can then apply historical context and a little common sense to narrow the possibilities down even further.  This is a military telegram about the Roswell incident.  Which word (or words) makes sense in this context?

VILLI'S is the wrong case (grammatical constraint) and the message has nothing to do with intestines or other possible biological villi.  VIROIDS or VIBRIOS would be possibilities if this message had to do with microbiology, which it does not.  Nobody would seriously argue that the message had anything to do with the capital of Lithuania (VILNIUS).  If the message was about glass-making, then VITRICS would be in the running.  But since it is not, it can also be safely discarded.  The message also isn't about music, so throw out VIOLINS.  Nor is it about sex, religion, or human sacrifice, so do we need to seriously consider VIRGINS?  VINNIES is a modern-day, regional term in Seattle for St. Vincent dePaul, so again obviously inappropriate.  And VIGLIUS was a 14th Century Dutch statesman.  What would he be doing here?

Thus after an exhaustive search of the English language, the only sensible word with the given search letters that could possibly work in the context of the message is VICTIMS. This also happens to square with witness testimony of bodies being recovered from the Roswell crash.  Again historical context matches well with the final word.

"Faces in the clouds" this is not.  Instead it is a very good example of how physical, grammatical, semantic, and contextual constraints literally force this to be the correct word out of the many thousands of possible 7 letter words.

I have also tried a number of other possible search letters that might match what is seen in the image, such as beginning the word with YI or WI.  But nothing else seems to work.  That the word is VICTIMS is almost a 100% certainty.

Another example of how context and other constraints such as word length and certain search letters can force a word is in the address header.  I initially noticed the first two letters of the word were clearly "VA".  Since this word was in the context of where an addressee would probably be named and I knew historically that Gen. Vandenberg was the acting Army Air Force chief at the time and named in the newspapers as being involved, my immediate guess was that the full word was VANDENBERG.  A closer look at the word indicated that it was indeed 10 letters long, and the last two letters, though much less distinct, were likely "R" and "G".  VANDENBERG is the only possible word given these constraints.  Even if the constraints were made looser, e.g., by using only the "VA" in the word searches, VANDENBERG is still the only word that makes any sense given the context.

An example of utilizing more global context was determining who the author of the memo was.   I am now almost certain this was Gen. Ramey himself.  First of all, the signature line always looked very "RAMEYish" to me, though others insisted that the signature was actually a mystery man named "TEMPLE".  But nobody knew of anyone named "TEMPLE" connected in any way with the Roswell incident.  Gen. Ramey, however, was commanding officer of the 8th AAF at Fort Worth and was clutching the telegram in his hand.  He was almost certainly either the sender or receiver of the telegram.  Thus the odds of it being Ramey's signature seemed to be at least 50/50 from the start.

When I began attacking the address header, the first and key word that emerged was VANDENBERG.  Other words in the header soon followed such as HQAAF (Headquarters Army Air Force) and WASHINGTON.  Clearly the message was directed to Gen. Vandenberg at AAF headquarters at the Pentagon.  This further indicated that Gen. Ramey was the sender and this was truly the "Ramey memo."

Other corroborating details then emerged.  The "FROM:" line below VANDENBERG showed the characters "*Q 8*".  From context, this had to be "HQ 8TH AAF", even though most of the letters were either hidden from view or unclear.  Again this pointed to the message being from Ramey.

Finally the first two words of the message I believe read "FWAAF ACKNOWLEDGES", where FWAAF would stand for Fort Worth Army Air Field, the location of the 8th AAF and Ramey's command.  All these interpretations of the message are internally consistent with one another and confirm the message was sent by Gen. Ramey. "Ramey" is now the consensus signature word of various Ramey memo readers.

If the message was from Ramey, then he would be providing Vandenberg with an update on what was happening.  In true military fashion, he would probably first state what the current situation was, followed by what was being done about it.  This would be expected to form the overall context of the two paragraphs of the message. 

As it turns out, in the first paragraph Ramey informs Vandenberg about what had just been found (a "disk" and "victims").  In the second paragraph he informs Vandenberg about what their plans were.  The bodies inside the "disc" were going to be shipped to Fort Worth, perhaps to be dealt with by the flight surgeon..  Wright Field was going to assess the object.  And finally the press was first told a somewhat misleading account (the Roswell base recovered flying disc press release) and then was going to be given a weather balloon story followed by debunking demonstrations using weather balloon radar targets.  All these interpretations are further corroborated by historical documentation and witness testimony.

The main point is that the message should not be viewed simply as isolated letters and words.  Ramey was trying to tell a story here and it has an overall structure.  Furthermore, the memo was written in a historical context.  Context in various forms is vital for rejecting spurious interpretations, as hopefully the examples above illustrate.  Context definitely should not be ignored (although I have again seen skeptics write that context should be completely ignored on the grounds that it supposedly makes reading of the message more "objective").

In addition, details of the message should be internally consistent and flow in a more or less logical sequence.  It should also have some cross-corroboration from other facts about the case that have been unearthed in the 30 years.

Problems in reading the message aren't all that much different than those commonly encountered in reading a letter from someone with very bad handwriting.  Many of the words and letters will be illegible and indecipherable if viewed in isolation.  But usually the message can be read with a fair degree of accuracy by applying grammatical rules of English and context.  Knowing in general what the message is about can be very helpful in deciphering it.  Most people would think it the smart thing to do to apply such knowledge to help in the reading.  But oddly not the skeptics of the Ramey message.

Some aspects of the Ramey teletype make it actually easier to read than poor handwriting.  Unlike handwriting, the Ramey message has fixed letter spacing, a known font and character forms, and countable word lengths.  In this respect it is similar to solving a crossword puzzle.  One knows the length of the words and often some of the letters and usually the part of speech (from the word clue, however ambiguous).  Often that alone is sufficient context to guess the word.

(Interested readers who like to solve puzzles may want to check out a demonstration of how context can be used to make out broken up, very difficult to read words.)

Unfortunately I have seen some interpretations of the Ramey message which look as if Ramey wrote the message in encrypted Klingon pig Latin rather than logical, fluent, and grammatical English.  When you see interpretations like this, it is a good indication that people are trying to read the message without any overall perspective or systematic plan of attack.  Without consistently applied methodology with constraints on choices, readings are indeed in danger of becoming "faces in the clouds."
More Details on Applied Constraints and Methodology

1.  Evenly spaced, all capital letters

An overall examination of the message in high-resolution indicates that the letters are all uppercase, as would be expected with a teletype message.  Inspection of universally agreed on words "FORT WORTH, TEX." and "WEATHER BALLOONS" alone clearly establishes this as an all-caps message.  (Another possible indication of a teletype message are the words "ARMY CABLE" that may be at the top.) 

When people began to take another look at the Ramey message in 1999, there was some question as to whether the message was in all caps or if it was mixed case, perhaps typed on a typewriter.  This ambiguity was largely the result of initially working from lower-resolution scans of the image. 

2.  Positions of letters and letter counts for words

Although the locations of characters and the spaces between words are generally clearly visible in the message, those characters in shadows, creases, photo defects, or portions of the paper tilted away from the camera often are not. 

However, in a teletype (or typewritten) message, all letters are evenly spaced (non-proportional font).  This one physical constraint is extremely important because it enables one to accurately line up letters in columns, determine letter positions in the difficult-to-see regions, and do accurate letter counts for nearly all words in the message.

In my high-resolution composite images, some of the column alignment lines are present, particularly those used for determining the positions of letters in the barely readable first line of the message and in the address header.

A more detailed graphic has been added to my website in 2009, showing column aligment across the entire main body of the message, with comments on particular disputed words by various readers.  Determining letter counts for words is simply a matter of counting the column lines.

The word letter counts have the advantage of being both precise and very objective.  I adhered very rigidly to these counts.  Many conceivable words were rejected because they were either too long or too short. 

Word lengths are a very powerful constraint on the universe of possible words. Unfortunately, I have seen others who have attempted to decipher the Ramey message fail to adhere to some very apparent and objectively determinable word lengths.  E.g., on the second line of the second paragraph, I interpret an 8 character "word" as "ROSWELL." at the end of the sentence (hence the last character is the period punctuation mark).  However, others have tried to squeeze "MAGDALENA," (with a comma at the end, as in "MAGDALENA, NMEX") into the same space, which is 2 characters too long.  (See 2009 newly added comparison word reads)

Someone else tried to fit "CARLSBAD", as in "CARLSBAD NMEX" (with the comma missing between the town and state).  While "CARLSBAD" by itself has the required 8 characters, this can only be made to work by leaving out the comma punctuation between the town and state.  This is an obvious inconsistency in the grammatical style, since the end of the first paragraph has the words "FORT WORTH, TEX" with the requisite grammatical comma clearly present. 

Based on word length alone, "MAGDALENA," is very obviously incorrect.  If one assumes that the message is grammatically consistent and follows standard rules of English punctuation, "CARLSBAD" would also have to be rejected.  ("Carlsbad" also has no known historical connection to the Roswell case and, to my eye, doesn't come even remotely close to matching the actual letters in the message.  Neither does "Magdalena" for that matter.)

Another example of where others have gone astray by failing to adhere to proper word lengths is on the same line at the beginning of the sentence.  I read it as "WRIGHT AF ASSESS"  But others read it as "POWERS ARE NEEDED."  The "word" in question is the second one, which is in a crease in the paper. Visual inspection plus column alignment objectively demonstrates that there are only two characters here, not three.  On this basis alone, the entire phrase "POWERS ARE NEEDED" would have to rejected as incorrect.

3.  Consistent left margin

The left margin of the Ramey message is generally either hidden under Ramey's thumb or difficult to discern in shadow.  Nonetheless, all left-most words in the message text should be of the proper length to meet at a common left margin (left-justified text).  Words that don't satisfy this restriction should be rejected.

Determining the exact position of the left margin wasn't easy, but a consistent left margin gradually emerged in the process of reading the second paragraph.  I then used this margin and context to deduce words and letters hidden under Ramey's thumb in the first paragraph.

The beginning of each paragraph could conceivably have an indent and thus violate the fixed left margin rule.  However, I don't believe this to be the case.  E.g., most of the letters in the first word of the first paragraph can be discerned just across the top of Ramey's thumb.  Since this word would need to be 5 characters long to meet at the left margin and the second character is clearly there, this means that any indent would be one character at most.  This also seemed to be the case with the first word of the second paragraph, where 2 characters were missing under Ramey's thumb but characters to the right of Ramey's thumb were visible.  A standard 4 or 5 character indent seemed to be missing here as well.  Context and good word fits also seemed to dictate that any indent was one character at most, and probably not there at all. The final reconstruction has no paragraph indents and all words in the message portion meeting at the same left margin.

The address header turned out to be another story.  The letters "VA" in what I believe is "VANDENBERG" are very clear and established the header left margin.   Text column alignment with the message body then indicated that the header was "out-dented" 7 spaces from the message left margin.  In addition, the last two lines in the header (starting with  "FROM:" and "SUB:"), were indented two spaces from the rest of the header left margin, or 5 spaces out-dented from the message body. 

My indentations and margins have been criticized, perhaps rightfully so.  I have to agree, such indentation, particularly of the message body, would have been unusual in a teletype.  It is conceivable that the left margin of the message body is another 7 characters out from where I have it.  The problem here is that words and letters out to the left are largely invisible and even more educated guessing of what is out there using context would be required, which would also be criticized by skeptics.  So it is a no-win situation.

4.  Consistency of style

Another guideline of mine was that the message would probably have consistency of writing style.  This is somewhat subjective and also isn't as powerful a constraint as something like word length or English syntax, but it does have its uses.

One example was given above, where an obvious comma between town and state on one line was not matched by a comma between town and state on another line in an attempt to force an 8 letter word into a 7 letter space.  This inconsistency of style alone could be used to reject the 8 letter guess word as probably incorrect.

Another example of Gen. Ramey's writing style that proved useful was his use of quotes around unusual or special uses of a word.  (In journalism sometimes referred to as "scare quotes".)  The clearest example of this was the word "DISC" near the beginning of the second paragraph surrounded in quotes.  I found another instance of this on the first line of the message with the word "DISK".  Although the spelling is inconsistent, both spellings were commonly used in newspapers for the newly coined "flying disc/disk" or "flying saucer" phenomenaa. (To cite but one example, examine the use of both "disc" and "disk" in the headlines of stories on the Alamogordo balloon demo of July 9, 1947.)  The word "disc" or "disk" was usually surrounded by quotes, just as Ramey did here.

On the third line of the message, I found another instance of quotes around a word I believe to be "RANCH".  Again, realizing that this word was possibly surrounded in quotes was key to determining actual word length and possible word fits, since the first 4 characters are hidden under  Gen. Ramey's thumb.  Although I could make out a probable "CH" just to the right of Ramey's thumb and strongly suspected the word "RANCH" from historical and sentence context, RANCH by itself was of insufficient length to meet at the left margin (7 characters were needed).  In addition, the last character, if a letter, seemed to be incompletely formed, looking like the top of a "Y". 

Quotes around RANCH instantly solved the dilemma.  The quote was the incompletely formed letter looking like the top of a "Y".  The second quote brought the word to the left margin.  And the word "RANCH" completed the phrase "OPERATION AT THE RANCH."  A major part of the Roswell story was the large debris field found by rancher Mack Brazel at his ranch.  Eyewitness testimony further tells us of a large military clean-up operation at the ranch which began the morning of July 8, the day of the Ramey memo.  The phrase now agreed contextually with history and witness testimony.

(Side note, added Nov. 27, 2002:  Roswell researcher Tom Carey once asked me why Ramey would put the word "ranch" in quotes.  One can only speculate.  One possibility is that Ramey was referring to the general vicinity around the ranch rather than the ranch itself.  Another possibility, based on research I did recently into Ramey's background, was that Ramey turned out to be an actual Texas cowboy in his youth before going off to West Point.  He won a rodeo competition and worked as a ranch hand. Another aspect of Ramey's personality was that he tended to be humorous.   Maybe Mack Brazel's desolate sheep ranch did not strike him as being much of a "ranch" compared to what he was personally familiar with in Texas.  It was a wry or sardonic put-down of a "ranch" not quite up to Texas standards.)

Another important stylistic point is recognizing Ramey's occasional use of jargon, abbreviations, and acronymns in the message (these make up about 15% of the message). Some of these are straight-forward:  "HQ" for "Headquarters", "AAF" for "Army Air Force" (or Army Air Field), "AF" for "Air Field," and "PR" for "Press Release."  Others are not so obvious and may represent old, obscure military terms.  A key one is at the end of the first line of the second paragraph, and tells us who received the shipment of whatever was "IN THE 'DISC'" (the "whatever" I suspect is the word "AVIATORS", i.e., "THE VICTIMS OF THE WRECK" referenced in the paragraph above).  The phrase reads "A1-8TH  ARMY****"  The "A1" is standard military jargon for a chief personnel officer, which includes not only the regular personnel officer, but also the Flight Surgeon and judge advocate general (JAG).  The "8TH ARMY" portion is undoubtedly referring to the 8th Army Air Force located at Fort Worth.  The last four characters, however, are poorly formed.  They hold the key to the identity of the recipient.  I believe from testimonial evidence and the message context about "victims" that the 8th AAF A1 in question here was the chief Flight Surgeon, and the abbreviation was for the medical unit.  But currently the true reading here is up in the air.

Another example is the word partly under Ramey's thumb at the end of the first paragraph.  This was the recipient of wreckage or victims forwarded to Fort Worth.  I have been unable to come up with what I would consider to be a good match for this word, though  I suspect again it might be a military acronym or abbreviation.  Currently the best guess is some sort of "TEAM".

A third example is the second from last word in the message.  It is 9 characters long (determined from column alignment and letter spacing) and ends in "RAWIN", an old military acronym for a RAdar WINd target.  The word begins with the letter "D", but the next 3 letters are in a crease and difficult to make out.  So what's the full word?  I know from sentence and historical context that this is about adding demonstration RAWIN crews to firm up the weather balloon story.  So my guess is that Gen. Ramey was using the term "DEMORAWIN" here.  If so, it is another old, obscure military term, and few people today would have ever heard of it.  Although I think "RAWIN" is the correct ending, the rest of the word could conceivably be something else.  (At one time, e.g., I thought the word might be "DROPSONDE", an obscure meteorological term for a radiosonde dropped by parachute from a plane, usually over water.)

5. Spelling and typographical errors

I have assumed when reconstructing the message that Gen. Ramey knew how to spell and that there were no typographical errors.  Of course, these assumptions don't necessarily have to be 100% true.  It is relatively easy to find telegrams with both spelling errors and typos(The Roswell FBI telegram, e.g., has several spelling errors, e.g. "balloon" is misspelled twice as "ballon".)   However, I adhered strictly to my assumption (though there were times when I was sorely tempted to relax it a little bit).  My fear was that if I started to ignore this constraint, it could seriously undermine my word length and letter matching constraints, both extremely important in limiting the number of possible word matches.  It could again become a situation where "anything goes."

In my final reconstruction, there are no spelling errors in the message (at least none that I could find).  The telegram may be letter perfect.  The one and only exception to this would be at the end of line five where I have the 6-letter ASSURE, where there are only 5 characters clearly there.  However, I believe there may be a very faint letter "E" at the end that can be bought out by enhancing contrast (though I could be wrong about the E being there).  Similarly the previous word, ROSWELL, has two very faint "L's" at the end which need to be brought out by contrast enhancement.

6.  Common English short words

The entire Ramey memo, including address header, consists of approximately 100 words and abbreviations.  About 45% of these are common English short words, parts of speech such as articles, conjunctions, pronouns, simple verbs, and prepositions.  Examples are "A, THE, THIS, THAT, AND, OR, IF, THEY, YOU, IS, WAS, WILL, WOULD, IN, OUT, FOR, OF, AT." 

These words are important because they are usually relatively straightforward to pick out and read.  Together they form a syntactical framework or context for the entire message into which less common or more obscure words can be inserted.

These small, common words are also very importantly semantically because they can provide strong indications of true meaning.  E.g., I got into an e-mail debate with a notorious UFO debunker (Phil Klass) who tried to argue that maybe the word before "VICTIMS" was the word "NO", as in there were "no victims of the wreck."  Too bad he didn't first bother to actually look at the image which clearly shows a 3-letter word there, not two letters, and which is almost certainly the common article "THE."  Thus Ramey was actually talking about "THE victims of the wreck," not the absence of victims.  The conjunction "AND" in front of "THE VICTIMS" is also important semantically because it tells us that something else in addition to victims was found.

Another short but very big word semantically is the preposition "IN" within the phrase "IN the 'disc' they will ship".  Debunkers might try to argue that Ramey's reference to a "disc" here could refer to a radar target.  Historically, the military in 1947 also tried to deliberately confuse the so-called "flying discs" with the radar targets as part of a post-Roswell debunking campaign.  So have modern-day Air Force counterintelligence debunkers.  However, use of the word "IN" disproves this already feeble position because the radar targets were little more than two-dimensional balsa wood kites with no insides and no contents that could be shipped.  Obviously whatever the "disc" might be, it had an interior that contained something worthy of shipment.

Some contend that the preposition is "ON" rather than "IN".  Even if this were the case, it would still disqualify a radar target kite, which also had nothing "on" it to ship.

For a high resolution view of the two critical phrases "AND THE VICTIMS OF THE WRECK" and "IN THE 'DISC' THEY WILL SHIP", click here.  Notice that 8 of the 12 words in these phrases are common short words, and, in most cases, are relatively easy to read.  As you look at this image, again judge for yourself the plausibility of  the Air Force statement that nothing could be read here.