In this photo, Gen. Ramey is shown reading the surprise news in the San Francisco Chronicle, dated March 23, 1946, that President Truman had delayed the first Bikini A-bomb test (Operation Crossroads), originally scheduled for May 15, 1946. The next day, the Chronicle reported that Ramey left San Francisco and returned to his headquarters at Roswell, N.M. Click on thumbnail for large version of photo. (Photo originally from 1946 book, Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record)
Ramey was in charge of Task Group 1.5 (Army Air Group) for Crossroads, responsible for dropping the first A-bomb at Bikini and air monitoring of results. Col. William Blanchard, C/O of the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell, the only A-bomb base in the world at that time, was Ramey's right-hand man during the testing. Both men, in fact, were observers on the B-29 that finally dropped the bomb on July 1, 1946. Ramey also overflew the second, underwater A-bomb test on July 25. Many of the men with the 509th involved in the Roswell incident a year later in July 1947 were also at Crossroads. E.g., Major Jesse Marcel, the head intelligence officer at Roswell and the first to investigate the crash, was in charge of AAF security and intelligence briefings at Kwajelein base (command center for Crossroads), for which he received three commendations, including one from Ramey. Lt. Walter Haut, the base public information officer who put out Col. Blanchard's press release of a recovered flying saucer, dropped an instrument package into the bomb blast. Cpt. Oliver "Pappy" Henderson, who later claimed to have flown alien bodies and saucer wreckage to Wright Field, was a pilot in the "Green Hornet" air transport unit and flew materials, VIPs, and scientists to and from Crossroads. (The "Green Hornet" line flew out of San Francisco, and the Chronicle also reportedthat Ramey consulted with the Green Hornet liaison officer there before returning to Roswell.)
By coincidence, my youngest son was teaching English on one of the outer Marshall Island atolls (the Bikini atoll is part of the Marshall Islands). My wife and I rvisited him, and therein hangs the tale of the following photo. First we flew to the main island of Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands. Some of the Bikinians were relocated to one of the tiny islands (Ejit) just a few hundred yards from Majuro. Our son had previously recommended we snorkel there in the lagoon, but we were told we should first get permission from the Bikini town hall in Majuro. There pinned to a bulletin board was the following photo of Gen. Ramey (there seems to be no escaping him). The caption read, "ATOMIC BOMB: It was a happy day for Maj. Harold H. Wood, left, bombardier, and Maj. Woodrow P. Swancutt, center, pilot -- the men chosen to fly the atom bomb mission on Able Day. They are being congratulated by Brig. Gen. Roger M. Ramey, commanding Task Group 1.5." The caption also goes on to say that the print was received on July 24, 1946 and was used in the July 1946 issue of AAF REVIEW.
Ramey was in charge of selecting the crew, and as mentioned before, also flew on the mission along with Col. Blanchard. At the time of the Roswell incident, Maj. Swancutt was with the 830th Bomb Sq. at Roswell and Maj. Wood was one of Col. Blanchard's staff officers at 509th Headquarters. It is not known whether either man was involved. However, the B-29 that dropped the bomb, named "Dave's Dream," is also thought to have flown Major Marcel to Fort Worth to see Gen. Ramey on July 8, 1947 along with accompanying debris. The pilot of the plane, however, was Roswell Deputy Base Commander Lt. Col. Payne Jennings, not Maj. Swancutt.
The following photo has direct relevance to the Roswell incident of July 1947. I first found it in a recent search of the San Francisco Examiner morgue files archived at the San Francisco main library. Gen. Ramey is at the left and pictured third from the left is Examiner science reporter Dick Pearce. The photo and accompanying article was time-stamped June 22, 1947 In an article on the Roswell incident written by Pearce two weeks later in the July 9, 1947 Examiner, Pearce stated that he surmised that "higher headquarters" in the Roswell base flying disk press release meant Eighth Army Air Force and Gen. Ramey in Fort Worth. Therefore he bypassed the jammed phone lines into New Mexico and called Gen. Ramey directly. Ramey told him the object resembled a weather balloon and radar reflector, just like, Pearce noted, the ones they sent up everyday in Oakland. Pearce also claimed to be the first reporter to speak to Ramey and the first to get the true story out.
I also found another Examiner article written by Pearce, dating from early June 1947, describing how Gen. Ramey was going to be getting the new B-36 bombers to replace the B-29 bombers currently being used by the 8th AAF. Obviously Pearce knew very well who Gen. Ramey was! The fact that he had also previously met and spoken with him may have had a lot to with Ramey being willing to talk to him about Roswell when Pearce called.
Also pictured next to Gen. Ramey was the famous Berkeley atomic physicist Dr. Ernest O. Lawrence, and at the far right, Dr. Donald Cooksey, another Berkeley atomic physicist. Dick Pearce died in 1991, but his wife Carol still lives in San Francisco. She told me she was very familiar with this photo since they were very proud of it. A framed enlargement still hangs over their mantlepiece. She kindly provided me with a good print copy, scanned and used below. She also told me the photo was taken at the San Francisco Press Club, but she didn't know the date.
The photo well-predates the June 22, 1947 time stamp. It would have been taken when Ramey was in San Francisco, probably sometime during the course of Operation Crossroads the previous year. Ramey would pass through San Francisco on his way to and from Crossroads (see, e.g., photo at top showing him in San Francisco and reading a San Francisco newspaper). My best guess is the photo was taken either in May while Ramey was proceeding to Crossroads, or immediately after the conclusion of the tests and Ramey's return from there in early August 1946.
The photo caption also hints at this. It suggests that Lawrence with his hands spread apart was discussing the size of the A-bomb blast at Operation Crossroads. In addition, the photo accompanied an article about a Pearce short story that just came out in the June 21,1947 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. Titled "The Girl and the Atom," It used Pearce's knowledge of the work of the Berkeley atomic physicists and the cyclotron installation there as the backdrop for a romance. Mrs. Pearce said her husband knew many of the top physicists at Berkeley. They trusted Pearce because they knew him to be discrete and therefore gave him all sorts of inside information. An example of how Pearce used such information can be found in his journalistic history. Clear back in 1940 in an Examiner exclusive, Pearce wrote the first article ever on the race to build atomic weapons by the United States, Germany, and Japan. His sources at Berkeley were probably people like Lawrence and Robert Oppenheimer, the eventual head of the Manhattan Project. Therefore, it wouldn't be surprising if Pearce, already well-versed on the atomic bomb, would be discussing Operation Crossroads with the likes of Ramey and Lawrence.
Gen. Roger Ramey Photos
This page was last updated on: January 23, 2011
This photo shows Gen. Ramey with his mustache shaved off following his retirement from the Air Force in 1957 . Dating from 1960, it was taken about 3 years before his death in 1963. The accompanying story announces his appointment as president of the Permanent Filter Corp. in Los Angeles. This was the last story about Ramey to appear in the New York Times.
Ramey's graduation photo from West Point, June 1928. The accompanying short biography notes that "Cowboy" Ramey had trouble with the tough West Point academics but was very perseverent and ultimately did OK. He was known as a prankster with fellow classmates. "There are few tricks or jokes that he doesn't know." This carried over into Ramey also being something of a troublemaker for those upholding regulations, which ot him into trouble on numerous occasions. He was described as good-natured, friendly, witty, and fluent. (Thanks to Stan Friedman for supplying this to me.)
Another Operation Crossroads photo, showing Ramey with staff officers Colonel William "Butch" Blanchard, his right-hand man at Crossroads in charge of the actual bombardment, and Colonel Alfred F. Kalberer, head of intelligence. Blanchard soon afterward assumed command of the 509th Atomic Bomb Wing at Roswell and was base commander during the Roswell Incident in July 1947, issuing the now-infamous press release of a recovered flying disc. Kalberer was Ramey's intelligence chief at Fort Worth during Roswell. Ramey's chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Thomas Dubose, indicated that it was either Ramey or Kalberer who came up with the idea of explaining Roswell with a crashed weather balloon. Ramey and Kalberer were already debunking the new flying saucer phenomenon over a week before Roswell, and Kalberer continued to debunk even after the weather balloon story was swallowed by the press. Major Jesse Marcel, head intelligence officer at Roswell and initial investigator of the crash, was also at Crossroads and played a major role in the intelligence there, probably with Kalberer as his boss. Marcel ran the briefing room for the 8th AAF and 509that Crossroads. (Again, thanks to Stan Friedman for photo)