By Douglas Dean Johnson
@ddeanjohnson on Twitter
Original publication: May 1, 2023
You are in the Crash Story Files, a series of investigative reports examining claims that a UFO crashed and was recovered near San Antonio, New Mexico, in August 1945. To go back to the Crash Story hub story and index, click here.
“There seems to be nothing unusual about the metal which presents us with a problem.” – Paola Harris MUFON UFO Journal, June 2016 (p. 12).
“What kind of interplanetary spacecraft would contain a device made of a common, human industrial alloy, without brand identification, manufactured to precise metric dimensions (30 cm long by 9 cm high) and metric diameters for all the holes? – Jacques Vallee, Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition, August 2022, page 306).
Beginning with early versions of the Reme Baca-Jose Padilla story, Padilla, while inside the crashed alien craft, uses “a pipe," or in later renditions a “cheat bar” (crowbar), to pry a metal device off the inner wall of the craft. As Padilla described it to radio host Richard Syrett in December 2010:
There was a piece of material there, you could turn it around in circles...I got a cheater bar, and I went back in there and pried it off, I ripped it right off...to me it looked like a boomerang.
“I had to put all my one hundred pounds that I weighed to get it off,” Padilla said in 2010 (Veritas interview at 30:10). Striving to explain the workings of his ostensibly eight-year-old mind, Padilla added, “I had to get something out of evidence, that will some day, you know, we’ll come up with something, you know.” (Veritas at 30:30)
I will refer to this metal object as “the artifact,” which is a neutral term that merely means it is an object that was manufactured by someone, not a product of natural processes. Both Vallee and Harris have referred to it as a “bracket.”
Jacques Vallee believes that the artifact is of terrestrial origin. In an October 21, 2021 interview with ufological celebrity George Knapp, Jacques Vallee said, “It’s a bracket similar to many brackets can buy for a spout of a well. In fact, I bought one...so it’s not very unusual.” Vallee also observed that the object had dimensions “in the metric system,” and speculated that it might have been manufactured in Mexico rather than the United States.
Likewise, in Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition), pages 139-140, Vallee wrote:
The shape and possible function are generally reminiscent of devices activating mobile vanes, such as the mechanism of water wells, and the mast section of windmills, for example in the Aermotor Company’s list of standard parts widely used in industry. Yet they don’t correspond to any of the specific products we’ve found so far.
If Jose Padilla’s story had been that he found the artifact on the ground near the crashed spaceship, believers in the tale could simply say, “Well, obviously Jose jumped to the wrong conclusion—it was just an old piece of junk that happened to be sitting near where the alien spaceship crashed.” But Padilla swears that the artifact was securely pinned to a panel of the interior wall of the alien craft—so well secured that Padilla needed a crowbar and his full strength to pry it off.
Faced with objective physical findings incompatible with an unverified tale of purported events 75 years earlier, one might think that an analyst with a modicum of critical discernment would conclude, “Well, it looks like that old rascal Jose Padilla has been stringing us along.” But regrettably, that has not been Jacques Vallee’s conclusion, as is demonstrated by these passages from the Second Edition of Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret.
I had become convinced it was likely a common industrial object, but Paola disagreed, and indeed some mystery remained. Actually, it had only become more puzzling: How did that piece of rough aluminum alloy end up pinned to the interior wall of the extraordinary vehicle the military had been so eager to remove and hide away in an undisclosed laboratory, where it presumably rests today?” (Trinity, page 125)
That convoluted instrument may appear standard but it is not “unremarkable." We have yet to ask what an ordinary, human fragment of some low-tech aluminum gadget was doing aboard a fantastic craft dropping from the sky in the middle of a storm, shattering the Marconi Tower of the White Sands Missile Range as its crew of diminutive insectoids skidded weirdly through the cabin. (Trinity, page 140)
What kind of interplanetary spacecraft would contain a device made of a common, human industrial alloy, without brand identification, manufactured to precise metric dimensions (30 cm long by 9 centimeters high) and metric diameters for all the holes? (Trinity, page 306)
As for Paola Harris, she has continued to defend the position that the bracket itself is of non-human origin and was an integral part of the alien craft. During a virtual "master class" presentation on September 16, 2023, Harris said, "Jose went inside the craft, took a cheater bar or what do you call it, a crowbar, pulled the piece off. They will never mention... that it was on a plaque that looked like this, that it had a silver circle and a copper circle, and it revolved, it revolved. I wanted this to be the cover of our book, because if you just talk about the piece, [some people say] 'oh, it's an Army piece, they used it to wrap a cable.' No, no, no, no, no. If they did, why in the world did they put it up against a plaque like that?" [At 43:00 minutes. The illustration that Harris displayed during this part of her presentation appears just below.]
REME BACA’S TAKE
Reme Baca had his own explanation for the prosaic appearance of the artifact, in an interview with Ben Moffett of the Mountain Mail in 2003:
It was a fairly crude craft with no parts numbers on it, and the piece we have, we were told is not remarkably machined even for 1945. But there’s nothing that says aliens have to travel in remarkable spaceships.... Perhaps they got here by some method we can’t fathom and they manufactured a crude object here to get around in this atmosphere.
If that explanation seemed strained, is it any more so than this baffling, nonsensical suggestion found in Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition)?
The Marconi tower, which appears to have dominated the northern section of the White Sands Missile Range, reportedly generated its own power with a small windmill, so perhaps the specially-designed aluminum bracket came from there. [In some renditions of the Baca-Padilla story, the UFO struck this radio or radar tower before the craft slammed into the ground.] That would explain why the device was still inside the craft on the last day, unlike other materials the Army may have found there. This is only one of several hypotheses we entertain, but it would also account for the fact that the military desperately wanted to get it back... (Trinity, page 141)
Vallee and Harris did not explain how an alien craft striking a tower that had a small windmill on the top, would result in the windmill part becoming affixed with fasteners to the inner wall panel of the alien craft.
THE FATE OF THE ARTIFACT
[UPDATE (September 30, 2023): In an internet "master class" on September 16, 2023, Paola Harris said, "Reme Bacca was pretty greedy. He wanted $250,000 for the piece [the artifact], and he wanted $250,000 for the story."]
In 2014, the year after Baca's death, Mexican ufologist Jaime Maussen visited San Antonio. There exists a video clip of Maussen, holding the artifact and remarking, "This is very important. You took this from a UFO. I think it is very valuable," and then asking Padilla what he intended to do with it. Padilla responded that he thought he would place it with a museum. Maussen asked, "Reme wanted a lot of money to present this [artifact], but you don't -- why?" Padilla answered, "Money is not important to me. It's just the principle."
Who owns the artifact now? I asked Jacques Vallee this in an email dated April 17, 2023, but in his reply to my email, he did not answer that question.
In Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition, p. 315), the authors wrote, “[Jose Padilla] entrusted us with the unique object he retrieved from inside the craft, which we had the opportunity to analyze. It has now been donated to a University as part of our records of the case, according to his wishes.”
[UPDATE (September 30, 2023): In a "master class" presented on the internet on September 16, 2023 (ticket price $30), Paola Harris said that she had attempted to donate the artifact to Rice University, but "they didn't have a safe deposit box and they had no security, and they did not want it." So, she said, "the piece is now in Mexico City, and it will be at the University of Mexico City...they can analyze it, they can keep it. And I don't care if I receive it again, because for me, it's not about the piece." Ms. Harris also spoke about various disputed issues regarding the artifact. Under Fair Use, for purposes of commentary, scientific research, journalism, and education, I have embedded below a 7-minute excerpt from Ms. Harris's 99-minute presentation.]
THE LABORATORY ANALYSES
From the earliest days of the Trinity story, Reme Baca referred to purported laboratory analyses, by persons he would not name, that supposedly showed the metal of the artifact to possess unusual properties. Electronic microscope photos showed hair-like structures, he said; for a number of years, Paola Harris suggested that these were micro-circuits. We need not spend any time on these anonymous studies (one of which was apparently performed by Baca’s brother in law).
In material submitted to Ryan S. Wood for a conference in 2005, Baca claimed that metal would not melt even when heated to 2000 degrees. Most aluminum alloys would melt at temperatures less than 1240 degrees Fahrenheit.
In June 2004, Baca gave a small piece of the artifact to visiting UFO author Timothy Good. In his 2007 book Need to Know, Good wrote:
It appears decidedly terrestrial, a point conceded by the witnesses. Looking like a bracket of some kind, it is 12 inches long, weighs 15 ounces and contains a number of holes for fasteners of some kind. A section cut off for analysis, as well as acid tests reveal the metal to be 200-series aluminum.
In Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition), Vallee wrote that by the time he got involved in studying the case:
It had already been tested in Mexico (on October 24, 2017) at the Centro Educational Analitico where chemical engineer Bernabe Hernandez Santos found a preponderance of Aluminum (757 mg per gram) followed by an “unreadable” element for 34.6 mg, then zinc (27.0), iron (6.5) and another unknown for 158.5 mg. All of which didn’t quite add up. “I don’t believe in unreadable elements,” I told Paola. “There must be better results somewhere and anyway, we’ll redo the measurements.” (Trinity, 65)
The results of an analysis conducted in Australia in 2016 are also summarized in Trinity (p. 139), and they were also unremarkable: "The sample is observed to be standard and unremarkable."
By 2015, Paola Harris had enlisted the aid of Jan Harzan, at that time the executive director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Harzan became a big promoter of the case, which was the subject of a feature article by Harris in the June 2016 edition of the MUFON UFO Journal, cited elsewhere in these Crash Story Files.
Harzan commissioned a new analysis by P.A. Budinger, “analytical scientist” at Frontier Analysis, Ltd. in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The report can be viewed at the link below.
The Budinger report concluded that the metal samples “are aluminum primarily alloyed to copper and silicon...This composition is known and compares with cast aluminum in the 3XX.X series...and the 2XX.X series...These alloys have a wide variety of uses. Some include: engine crankcases, gas and oil tanks, engine oil pans, typewriter frames, and engine parts. Isotopic ratios determined for nickel, copper and zinc compare to terrestrial values.”
However, perhaps wary of disappointing the client, Budinger added that even though “the isotopic radios are terrestrial, an extraterrestrial source for the metals is not ruled out...The aliens may be time travelers...The aliens may have bases on Earth and construct their craft from materials found on Earth...”
One would think that all these analyses already performed would more than suffice. But, we read on page 65 of Trinity, “Jose recently gave the piece [the artifact] to Paola, who cut off a small section for me to have analyzed.” In an email to me dated April 17, 2023, Vallee said, "We have new lab analyses under review."
I can hardly wait for the lab reports.
REVISIONS TO THIS ARTICLE SINCE ITS INITIAL PUBLICATION ON MAY 1, 2023
(1) September 30, 2023: I inserted a two short updates, one still image, and one video clip from a presentation on the internet by Paola Harris on September 16, 2023, in which she discussed various disputed issues regarding the artifact, and said that it currently resides at "the University of Mexico City." Ms. Harris also revealed that Reme Baca had been "pretty greedy" and made unsuccessful attempts to sell the artifact for $250,000.
(2) December 29, 2023: I inserted a quotation from Paola Harris, from her September 16, 2023 virtual "master class," in which she described details of the "plaque" that the bracket was supposedly mounted on within the alien craft, as depicted in the illustration she displayed, in order to make her point that the bracket was an original part of the craft and not something that the Army added after the crash.