By Douglas Dean Johnson
@ddeanjohnson on X/Twitter
January 25, 2024. Updated February 28, 2025.
"Jose Padilla was an officer with the Highway Patrol in California for many years, and fought in Korea– had two bullets in his body. I mean, this is the best witness you could have, because it's someone who has been in conditions where his value of observation was really the key, and he's really an excellent observer." – Jacques Vallee, Into the Vortex with Jimmy Church, December 25, 2022
"[It is the] sober accounts of Mr. Padilla that are the primary basis of our continuing interest in the case." – Jacques Vallee, Trinity: The Inconvenient Reality: A Response to Douglas Dean Johnson's "Crash Story" (May 15, 2023)
"Several statements we presented as factual or truthful in our book [Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret] have been rightly questioned by Mr. Johnson, and on that point, we do concede that his method of investigation is valuable... [Among these] The State police officer called to the [UFO crash] site by the family could not have been Officer Eddie Apodaca [as long asserted by Jose Padilla], because he [Douglas Dean Johnson] tracked him [Apodaca] to the European theater where Germany had recently surrendered...I am willing to ascribe this drivers' license episode to faulty memory, or plain bragging, on the part of Jose." – Jacques Vallee, A Tale of Two Urchins: Truth and Consequences in New Mexico Ufology, September 23, 2023
"Jose [Padilla] was 16 in 1953, the last year of the Korean War, but no Peace treaty was ever signed. After the theoretical 'cease fire,' the US Army still needed boots on the ground for clean-up, repatriation of material, documentation and the like. Mr. Padilla has told us repeatedly that his service in Korea was during that phase, and that he was shot as part of mop-up operations, but not in regular combat." – Jacques Vallee, Trinity: The Inconvenient Reality: A Response to Douglas Dean Johnson's "Crash Story", May 15, 2023
"My dad [Jose Padilla] is a pathological liar....He's also been telling people he was a police officer in California, which he never was. He's talking to people about, he's a war veteran. He was never in the– because he's deaf in one ear."– Sammy Padilla, son and housemate of Jose Padilla, video-recorded interview with the New Mexico State Police, July 23, 2022
Original publication of this article: January 25, 2024. Any subsequent revisions are listed in a log that appears at the end of the article. I published a small portion of this material in earlier articles titled "Jose Padilla's 'stolen-valor' military claims" (May 1, 2023) and "My dad is a pathological liar" (September 29, 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 to the Crash Story hub story and index, click here.
TWO STORYTELLERS DECEIVE AN ICON OF UFOLOGY
In their years of promoting the story of a 1945 alien-craft crash and recovery, Jacques Vallee, Ph.D., and Paola Leopizzi Harris constructed a towering skyscraper of speculation on a thin foundation made of chalk. The foundation has disintegrated, yet Vallee and Harris continue to engage in tortured exertions, seeking to avoid acknowledging the reality that their skyscraper has collapsed.
In June 2021, Vallee and Harris self-published a co-authored book, Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, reciting a story of the crash and recovery of an alien craft. The event supposedly occurred a month after and not many miles away from the site of the first atomic-bomb test, the Trinity test of July 16, 1945.  An expanded Second Edition followed in August 2022. Vallee hired a publicist to promote the book and the story. By January 2023, the Trinity-crash story had been featured by media outlets as diverse as the New York Times, Tucker Carlson Tonight on the Fox News Network, and the Daily Mail in the UK, and on innumerable UFO-oriented websites and podcasts. 
The "Trinity" crash tale was originally based solely on the claims of two men who were both over age 60 when they first told the story in 2003 – Remigio (Reme) Baca (born October 26, 1938; died June 12, 2013) and Joseph Lopez (Jose) Padilla (born November 24, 1936, currently age 87).  Beginning in 2003, both men made public claims to have witnessed the crash, associated alien beings, and the subsequent recovery of the damaged alien craft by Army personnel, all of this ostensibly occurring during August 1945.
The far-reaching implications of the Trinity crash-recovery story, were it true, are the only reason why it is worth my time, or anyone's time, to further scrutinize the credibility of the witnesses, including the still-living Joseph Lopez Padilla. Padilla is now an 87-year-old man of whom few people would ever have heard, were it not for years of public promotion of his UFO crash tale by Vallee and co-author Harris, with Padilla's active cooperation. If the Padilla-Baca story is true, then the U.S. government has concealed custody of a crashed alien craft since August 1945, a span of more than 78 years – a very big deal indeed. 
WHY THE TRINITY UFO-CRASH TALE IS STILL A "LIVE ISSUE"
After publication of my initial investigative articles on the Trinity UFO-crash on May 1, 2023, concluding that the story was a hoax, several prominent long-time associates of Vallee (including scientists Eric Davis and Garry Nolan) reflexively sprang to his defense, but none of them then or since has published any substantive rebuttal to a single one of my factual findings.
Vallee has repeatedly failed to respond directly to my substantive questions about his Trinity-related claims, or about his plans for further testing or future promotion of those claims. My most recent set of questions, which I emailed to Vallee on September 28, 2023, and to which I have received no response, are reproduced below as End Note 5.
However, Vallee has so far published two documents that were styled as responses to my articles, the first on May 15, 2023 and the second on September 23, 2023 (linked here and quoted below).  The two memoranda contained multiple mischaracterizations of my statements and my findings, multiple evasions, and multiple irrelevancies, and also more than a few careless factual errors (e.g., the more recent memorandum attributed my work to "Dale Johnson") – but neither memoranda contained any real refutation of a single one of my numerous substantive factual findings regarding Baca, Padilla, William P. "Billy" Brophy, or their morphing tales.
No one has produced any bona fide documentation or testimony that was created or recorded before 2003 to support the claim that a UFO crash occurred in Socorro County, New Mexico, in August 1945, or even that the story existed before 2003, when it was first published in a small Socorro County newspaper.
In Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition, page 41), Vallee-Harris wrote: "As they grew up, Jose and Reme, best friends at school, occasionally spoke of their experience in private, but they were smart enough never to talk to others, even as prominent UFO sightings made the worldwide news..." In December 2010, radio host Richard Syrett asked whether Padilla had ever mentioned the crash, even to his wife or other family members, prior to 2003. Padilla answered, "No, not until 2003, when we got discovered, when my wife heard about it."
Both Vallee and Harris appeared in a film released in October, 2023, titled We Are Not Alone, which included an animated depiction of the Trinity crash (a depiction inconsistent with earlier accounts, incidentally). Harris has also recently attempted to tie Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret to the currently popular movie Oppenheimer, claiming a linkage partly on the basis of a crudely faked letter talking about aliens, ostensibly co-signed by Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein in June 1947. (See Trinity UFO-crash fictions clash with real atomic history, September 30, 2023.)
As recently as September 16, 2023, during a virtual "master class," Harris said that a movie by the Walt Disney Company based on the Trinity story had been discussed with "Disney guys," and that she thought it would eventually happen. [See End Note 7 for details.] Harris also said that a new edition of Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret is in the works, and even displayed the planned cover (shown at the top of this article, and below). In his September 23, 2023 memorandum, Vallee also spoke of a forthcoming "reprinted book" in which "we will fix the few inaccuracies Mr. Johnson has noticed."
Given the continued promotion by Vallee and Harris of a tale fabricated by two inveterate liars, my investigation of and challenge to Trinity-related claims also will continue, as time allows.
THE MANY DECEPTIONS OF JOSE PADILLA
As discussed below, in recent times, in response to my reporting, Jacques Vallee has belatedly confessed that he had always regarding Reme Baca as untrustworthy in some important respects. Vallee now insists that he relied largely on Padilla as the trustworthy witness. But as detailed below, my investigations have found Jose Padilla to be a fountain of false claims about his own background and other pertinent matters. For example:
● In the Second Edition of Trinity: The Best- Kept Secret (2022), Vallee six times cited Padilla's claimed decades of service as a member of California Highway Patrol, and dedicated the book to "Officer Jose Padilla." Vallee asserted that Padilla carried a bullet in his body, picked up while apprehending a criminal as a California Highway Patrol officer. After I demonstrated in one of my May 1, 2023 investigative reports that Padilla had never been a member of the California Highway Patrol, and that it was very unlikely that Padilla had ever served anywhere as a commissioned law enforcement officer, Vallee withdrew the claim that Padilla had been a California Highway Patrol officer, and substituted a new claim that Padilla had actually been shot by a criminal while working as a "truck inspector" supporting the California Highway Patrol as a contractor. Vallee has provided no names, dates, or other specifics that would allow anyone to check this highly implausible claim regarding an incident which (if real) would have left records both in the news media and the files of government agencies.
● In a key scene in the Baca-Padilla alien-crash tale, the two boys watch a New Mexico State Police officer named Eddie Apodaca, a "friend of the [Padilla] family," enter the crashed alien craft in August 1945. When I reported (May 1, 2023) that the real Eddie Apodaca had been in the Army Air Corps in Europe in August 1945, and had not been commissioned as a New Mexico State Police officer until 1951, Vallee quickly disputed the relevance of my findings. But in a September 2023 memorandum, Vallee withdrew the oft-stated claim that Officer Eddie Apodaca had been present at the UFO crash scene. (The matter of Eddie Apodaca is discussed in more detail below.)
● After I wrote, in one of my May 1, 2023 articles, that Padilla's claim to have been shot while in the Army during the Korean war did not check out, Vallee substituted a new version in which Padilla served in the Army and was wounded in "mop-op operations" in Korea after the July 1953 Armistice. As I now report below, that improbable revision also does not check out.
● In earlier articles, I pointed out that Jose Padilla has contradicted himself regarding multiple elements of the UFO crash story itself, major and minor, in various interviews over the years. I do not intend to enumerate such contradictions in this article– an illustration or two should suffice.
In a video interview with Paola Harris conducted at the "crash site" after Reme Baca's death in 2013 (the "EMN interview"), Padilla described what the two boys saw as they approached the just-crashed alien craft: "It was like a forest fire here, because these trees over here, and cactuses, they were grown, and you know, with the heat and everything like that, it makes a lot of smoke."
The dramatic detail of the alien craft igniting a fire also has been recited by Padilla in other interviews. For example, in a 2019 interview with Vallee-Harris, Padilla said, “I tell you, that thing was so hot when it hit the ground, that it started a fire!” (Trinity, Second Edition, p. 105.) Vallee has also included this element in his public narratives: “There was fire. The vegetation was on fire.” (A Different Perspective, June 3, 2021, at 19:40)
But in an interview with Padilla alone, recorded by Mel Fabregas way back on November 24, 2010 (broadcast on December 10, 2010), Fabregas led Padilla through a step-by-step description of the two boys hearing the crash and approaching the downed craft. Fabregas asked, "Did you see fire?" Padilla promptly responded, "No, no fire at all. Just smoke." (Audio clip below, from 7 minutes into the program file.)
Padilla's descriptions of the aliens have also morphed drastically over the years. For example, in the very first radio interview by Baca and Padilla following the initial newspaper publication of their story, an appearance on The Jeff Rense Program on November 18, 2003, Padilla described watching the aliens though military-grade binoculars from about 200 feet away– but his description of their attributes was very vague. Rense asked, "But you didn’t see eyes at that distance?," and Padilla answered, "No." Yet when interviewed by a crew associated with filmmaker James Fox in 2013, Padilla answered differently: "They were bald headed. Slanted eyes, tear-drop eyes."
Unaccountably, even in the face of the multiplying evidences of gross deception and/or gross delusion on the part of Jose Padilla, Jacques Vallee continues to present Padilla's statements about the purported alien-craft crash and recovery as the credible foundation for a tale with world-shaking implications. Vallee seems to be so invested in the Trinity tale that he is unwilling to abandon his initial judgment that Jose Padilla is an honest man, no matter how much evidence is presented to demonstrate otherwise.
DETAILS OF JOSE PADILLA'S KOREA-RELATED MILITARY CLAIMS
Vallee-Harris reported in their book that Jose Padilla had received a wound in U.S. military service in Korea – a wound that still troubled him in 2020, according to Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition), page 229:
On Friday, the 16th of October 2020, Paola and I were back in Socorro one more time, to meet again with Mr. Padilla...Jose was recovering from an operation on his first bullet wound, the one from Korea. The second wound would require another surgery, a few weeks away. He now walked with a cane but after a period of depression his old energy was returning.
In one of my May 1, 2023 articles, I pointed out that the Korean War officially ended through an Armistice on July 27, 1953, when Padilla would have been 16 years old—too young to serve in the military, much less in combat. Moreover, no variation of Joseph Padilla's name appears on the official lists of Army personnel killed or wounded during the Korean War, which may be searched through the on line resources of the National Archives and Records Administration. In his May 15, 2023 response memorandum, Vallee presented an adjusted story, in which Padilla "was shot as part of mop-up operations" after the official end of the war. Vallee wrote:
Jose [Padilla] was 16 in 1953, the last year of the Korean War, but no Peace treaty was ever signed. After the theoretical <<cease fire,>> the US Army still needed boots on the ground for clean-up, repatriation of material, documentation and the like. Mr. Padilla has told us repeatedly that his service in Korea was during that phase, and that he was shot as part of mop-up operations, but not in regular combat. – Jacques Vallee, Trinity: The Inconvenient Reality: A Response to Douglas Dean Johnson's "Crash Story," May 15, 2023
Vallee produced no documentation to support this "mop-up" story, which seems to me both transparently contrived and historically highly improbable. [Regarding "improbable," see the material that I assembled from multiple authorities on the military history of the Korean War and its aftermath, in End Note No. 18, and regarding Padilla's likely ineligibility for military service, in End Note No. 19.] Indeed, neither Vallee nor Harris has ever presented a shred of medical evidence (doctors' affidavits, X-rays, etc.) to support their oft-stated claims that Padilla carries two bullets (or even one bullet) in his body, much less any documentation to support the successive stories they have passed on regarding the origins of the two purported bullets. I do not expect that any such documentation will ever be produced, because it seems to me likely that both of Jose's bullets are as imaginary as Jose Padilla's decades of service in the California Highway Patrol, and as imaginary as Officer Eddie Apodaca's exploration of the imaginary crashed alien craft.
WHAT JOSE PADILLA'S SON, SAMMY PADILLA, SAID ABOUT JOSE'S MILITARY CLAIMS
Jose Padilla's son and house-mate, Sammy Padilla, when interviewed by a New Mexico State Police officer on July 23, 2022, said, "My dad is a pathological liar." In the police officer's body-cam recording, Sammy Padilla is seen specifically challenging the veracity of his father's claims to have been a "war veteran," noting that Jose Padilla has had a significant disability since age 3. Sammy Padilla said:
But he's [Jose Padilla has] also been telling people he was a police officer in California, which he never was. He's talking to people about, he's a war veteran. He was never in the– because he's deaf in one ear. Oh, he's telling people– do you know, when the atomic bomb went off? My dad's claiming--because my dad grew up in San Antonio--he's claiming now that the bomb made him go deaf in one ear, which I know he was three years old, a doctor was drunk, trying to get something out of his ear, punctured it. And my brothers can verify this. I mean, family can verify. He's just saying a lot of stuff that's not true. But my dad, after looking back on things, narcissism, because he's always the victim. [At a different point in the conversation, Sammy also disputed his father's UFO-crash story; see End Note No. 8.]
NATIONAL PERSONNEL RECORDS CENTER SEARCH COMES UP "NEGATIVE" ON SEARCH FOR PADILLA'S CLAIMED ARMY RECORD
A search conducted at my request by the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), a division of the National Archives, was unable to locate any record that Joseph Lopez Padilla ever served in the U.S. military or had filed claims with the Veterans Administration. The agency employed both his full name and his validated Social Security number. The letter that I received from the NPRC, dated January 17, 2024, stated in part:
A search of our registry using the Name and Social Security Number which you provided was negative. We also searched for an electronic record maintained by the Military Service Department [the U.S. Army] and no matching record was located. 
Veteran UFO researcher Frank Warren, editor and publisher of The UFO Chronicles, in response to an independently submitted search request, received an even more unqualified response dated January 31, 2024:
We have been attempting to verify the veteran's military service from the information that has been provided. We have conducted extensive searches of every records source and alternative records source at this Center; however, we have been unable to locate any information that would help us verify the veteran's military service.
I must emphasize that such a document search by itself cannot definitively exclude the possibility of a lost service record.  But the NPRC response is along the lines that I expected to receive, consistent with what Sammy Padilla told the New Mexico State Police officer on July 23, 2022: that his father has been deaf in one ear since age 3, and has not served in the military.
Since Vallee has repeatedly cited Padilla's claimed military service and wound as credentials of credibility, the burden now rests on Vallee to bring forth documentary proof of Padilla's claimed service in the U.S. Army– for starters, by providing Padilla's Army service number. However, I do not expect Vallee or Padilla will produce an Army service number, because in my opinion it is quite likely that what Sammy Padilla told the New Mexico State Police officer is the truth.
PADILLA'S UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIM TO HAVE JOINED THE NEW MEXICO NATIONAL GUARD AT AGE 13
The Baca-Padilla tale of a 1945 UFO crash first appeared in the form of two stories written by Ben Moffett that appeared in late 2003 in the Mountain Mail, a small newspaper then published in Socorro County, New Mexico. In a sidebar, Moffett wrote that Padilla had joined the New Mexico National Guard at age 13 (that is, in 1949 or 1950) under a New Mexico National Guard policy that allowed such young children to join at that time, and that Padilla later "spent time in Korea."
In 2015, Moffett stated explicitly that he had no source for any of what he wrote about Baca and Padilla, other than what Baca and Padilla told him. Moffett also expressed skepticism about the UFO story. 
In the real world, the New Mexico National Guard (like the rest of the Army) did not deliberately enlist anybody known to be under age 18 (or 17 with parental consent). Although some individuals no doubt lied and snuck in somewhat under the age limit, that is quite different from claiming that there existed a policy under which Padilla could and did enlist when he was 13. That claim was implausible on its face, yet Moffett transmitted it to his readers with a straight face.
At my request, thorough searches were conducted of the membership records of both the New Mexico National Guard and the New Mexico Air National Guard. These professional searches found no record of Joseph Lopez Padilla ever having served in either organization. The search was conducted using name variants, date of birth, and Padilla's validated Social Security number. (See letter above.)
Padilla's claims to military service beginning at age 13, and to later receiving a grievous wound in the service of his country in Korea, in my opinion appear to be examples of what is sometimes termed “stolen valor." The term is understood to refer to a person making a false claim to have faced physical danger in service to one's country or in defense of public safety. Making false claims regarding military service by itself is generally not a crime . But such unfounded claims certainly are pertinent to the credibility of the man whom Vallee has presented to the public as the primary and reliable eyewitness to extraordinary events– the man on whose testimony Vallee has widely disseminated claims that the U.S. government has held possession of an alien craft since August 1945.
FALSE CLAIMS THAT JOSE PADILLA'S HAD SERVED AND BEEN WOUNDED AS A MEMBER OF THE CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL
In the Second Edition of Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, Vallee had six times cited Padilla's claimed decades of experience as a member of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) as a credential of credibility. Vallee has repeated claims about Padilla's law enforcement career in other places, as well. For example, in an interview with George Knapp on October 21, 2021, Vallee said:
Mr. Padilla went on to be a highway patrolman after being at war in Korea. He has two bullets in his body, one from the war, and one from someone that he was arresting as a cop in California as a highway patrol officer. These are serious people, this is not a joke.
But it appears that was another example of "stolen valor" on Padilla's part.
After one of my May 1, 2023 articles demonstrated that Padilla had never been a commissioned peace officer in California or anywhere else, Vallee revised the claim, asserting in his May 15, 2023 response that Padilla really had been a truck inspector under contract to the CHP, and that Padilla carried a bullet in his body from an encounter with a criminal while conducting an inspection. Such an incident would have produced both press reports and state-agency records, but consistent with his consistently credulous approach to the Trinity story, Vallee has not provided a place, date, or any other evidence that would allow any independent checking of this new and improbable claim by Padilla. Nor has Vallee explained how the story of Padilla's long career in the CHP arose and was perpetuated by Vallee through two editions of the book (the Second Edition is dedicated to "Officer Jose Padilla"), and in numerous interviews.
JOSE PADILLA'S LIES AND/OR DELUSIONS ABOUT EDDIE APODACA
One of the key characters in the Baca-Padilla crash tale was Eddie Apodaca. As recited in Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, Baca and Padilla said that Eddie Apodaca was "a friend of the family," a New Mexico State Police officer who was summoned by Jose's father Faustino after the boys reported the UFO crash. As the story goes, the boys watched Eddie Apodaca enter the crashed alien craft with Faustino on August 18, 1945; Apodaca afterwards also gave them advice on how to handle future questioning on the matter. Moreover, as I have reported elsewhere, during in a phone conversation on May 9, 2023, when I told Jose Padilla that Eddie Apodaca had been in Europe in August 1945, Padilla doubled down, insisting that Eddie Apodaca had assisted him in obtaining a driver's license when he was "eight and one-half" years old (that is, in the spring or summer of 1945),
In one of my May 1, 2023 articles, Eddie Apodaca: The real policeman who cracked the Trinity UFO-crash case, I documented that the real Eddie Apodaca truly was a member of the small New Mexico State Police force, and that only a couple of years after his graduation from the state police school, he was involved in a much-publicized rescue of a busload of hostages in Socorro County, no doubt becoming something of a local celebrity. Unfortunately for the hoax-makers, Eddie was not commissioned as member of the New Mexico State Police until August, 1951 (the hostage rescue incident occurred in 1953). In August, 1945, when the hoaxers claimed they'd seen Eddie Apodaca enter the crashed alien craft, Apodaca actually was serving in the Army Air Corps in Europe, as I proved with documents and photographs from at least four different sources.
In his initial response to my articles (May 15, 2023), Vallee suggested that the Eddie Apodaca I had located in Europe must be the wrong man. Vallee wrote:
Recently consulted again, Mr. Padilla is certain of the name [Eddie Apodaca]: it was the same officer who administered his driving test for his car license, someone any young man would remember. The fact that there was someone else by that name, still deployed in France, isn't relevant to the case.
This remarkably evasive and illogical response was directly contradicted by the documentation that I had already published. But Vallee was sure that I must be wrong, simply because he believed whatever Jose Padilla told him.
However, in his subsequent memorandum of September 23, 2023, Vallee rather drastically shifted his ground regarding Eddie Apodaca:
But here Mr. Johnson raises another fair point: the State police officer called to the site by the family could not have been Officer Eddie Apodaca, because he [Johnson] tracked him to the European theater where Germany had recently surrendered. He [Apodaca] may have given a restricted license to Jose Padilla, but not until he returned to New Mexico....I am willing to ascribe this drivers' license episode to faulty memory, or plain bragging, on the part of Jose.
But this simply will not do. In the Baca-Padilla story, Eddie Apodaca was not just a random State Police officer who showed up to investigate in response to a call. No, in the story, told many times by Padilla and Baca with various elaborations, Eddie Apodaca was a man they already knew, "a friend of the [Padilla] family." Set aside for the moment the drivers' license story – Baca and Padilla said they watched this adult whom they knew, New Mexico State Police Officer Eddie Apodaca, enter the alien craft. Is Vallee now also prepared to chalk up that claim, and all the other Eddie Apodaca stories provided by Baca and Padilla over the years – the advice Eddie gave to the boys about answering questions from authorities, the accounts of other UFO sightings by Eddie that he related to Jose, and so forth– to "faulty memory" on the part of Jose Padilla?
It should be noted that Jose Padilla was only 66 years old in 2003 when he first told the UFO crash story to Ben Moffett, and only 66 when he gave his first public radio interview on The Jeff Rense Program (which included the story of watching Eddie Apodaca enter the alien craft). Since then, both Vallee and Harris have made innumerable public claims that Padilla possessed a "photographic memory." 
There is a far more obvious and more plausible explanation for the Apodaca contradiction, of course: Baca and Padilla simply borrowed the name of a police officer who had been something of celebrity in Socorro County after the widely publicized hostage-rescue event that occurred in April, 1953, when the boys were, respectively, ages 14 and 16. (They may or may not have ever encountered Apodaca in person after he was commissioned and assigned to Socorro County in 1951.) When the two hoaxers introduced that familiar name into the final (2003) version of their fabricated 1945 UFO-crash story, they probably didn't bother to check where the real Eddie Apodaca had actually been in August 1945, or to inquire into what year Apodaca had become a State Police officer. They didn't expect anybody to check on such details. And for 20 years, nobody did. 
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE TRINITY TALE
In the wake of my 2023 investigative reports, Jacques Vallee (and to a lesser degree Paola Harris) have acknowledged serious credibility problems with respect to Reme Baca; below, I summarize some of their belated confessions regarding Baca. In the light of the evidence that I have presented above, demonstrating that Jose Padilla is also thoroughly unworthy of credence, perhaps it is time for them and others to step back and look at the entire trajectory of the Trinity alien-craft crash tale.
After the initial appearance of the 1945 crash story in the Mountain Mail in late 2003, in two articles written by local feature writer Ben Moffett, the story was subsequently given some modest attention in books by Ryan Wood in 2005 and Timothy Good in 2007.  "Exopolitics" promoter Paola Harris latched onto the Baca-Padilla tale in 2009, but Harris's long history of uncritically promoting claims by persons widely recognized as hoaxers (e.g., Billy Meier, George Adamski), as well as the absence of any independent evidence whatever for a 1945 UFO crash in New Mexico, initially limited the spread of the Baca-Padilla tale.
However, in 2016 Jan Harzan, then the executive director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), joined forces with Harris in promoting the case in the UFO Journal and at MUFON-sponsored conferences. Harzan did this despite strong objections from the organization's internal investigative team, including Special Assignments Team (SAT) head Chase Kloetzke and SAT member James C. Clarkson. 
The reach of the Trinity story expanded exponentially after renown ufologist Vallee latched onto it in 2018, and especially after the first edition of the Vallee-Harris book came out in mid-2021. The ripples spread out further after publication of the book's Second Edition in August 2022. Driven by Vallee's reputation and the efforts of a capable hired publicist, by January 2023 the story had been featured not only by innumerable UFO-oriented podcasts and websites, but even in the New York Times, the Daily Mail (UK), and Tucker Carlson Tonight on the Fox News Network, among others.
On May 1, 2023, I published a suite of articles that, in my view, documented beyond reasonable doubt that the entire Baca-Padilla story was a hoax, cooked up in 2002-2003 in the hope of cashing in on the then-widespread interest in the Roswell Incident.
On May 20, 2023, I published a follow up story, The Reme Baca smoking-gun interview, based on a newly uncovered recording– made less than a year before the Ben Moffett articles appeared in late 2003– in which Reme Baca pitched an entirely different boyhood UFO-crash memory to Tom Carey, a researcher-writer who was heavily involved in Roswell-centered TV and book productions.
In the recording (the audio file of which I posted in its entirety), Baca was heard describing how he and Padilla stumbled across an already-crashed disk in 1946 (not 1945). The story differed in virtually every significant aspect from the later story popularized by Harris and Vallee– other than the identities of the two boy protagonists. (The same aluminum bracket was presented as an alien artifact in both stories, but the two accounts of how it was obtained were absolutely incompatible.) On the recording, Baca was heard inviting Tom Carey to come and visit with Baca and Padilla about the supposed 1946 adventure. However, Carey did not believe Baca's story, and filed the recording away until I came along two decades later. [A side-by-side comparison of Baca's two different boyhood-UFO-crash tales appears in End Note No. 17.]
THE OFF-RAMP NOT TAKEN
The existence of the Baca-Carey recording was entirely new information (even Tom Carey had forgotten the details of the story that Baca had told him), and it could not be dismissed as a mere memory error or misunderstanding. In my opinion, the discovery of the Baca-Carey recording offered Vallee and Harris a respectable "escape-ramp" from the collapsing structure that had been shoddily constructed two decades earlier by the two not-very-sophisticated hoaxers. Presented with the Baca-Carey recording (on top of all the rest of the deceptions that I had already documented in my May 2023 articles), Vallee and Harris ought to have said something like, "New evidence has come to light that shows we were badly misled by Reme Baca and Jose Padilla. We are very disappointed to have had our trust abused in this way by these two men. We regret our misjudgments in accepting their claims at face value. We retract our previous writings based on their now-discredited claims."
But, that is not at all what Vallee and Harris have done.
Instead, they have attempted to put distance between themselves and the long-deceased Reme Baca, while engaging in all manner of evasions and contortions to avoid squarely confronting Jose Padilla's multiple and manifest deceptions.
VALLEE AND HARRIS BELATELY REVEAL THEIR PREVIOUSLY CONCEALED RESERVATIONS ABOUT REME BACA
Here's part of what Jacques Vallee wrote about Reme Baca in Vallee's May 15, 2023 Trinity: The Inconvenient Reality, Vallee's rambling 5,000-word response to my initial batch of articles:
As research developed, Mrs. Harris found that Reme Baca, possibly inspired by the wildly expanding hype and financial bounty around Roswell, viewed the [Trinity] case as a personal opportunity and tried to promote it. To that effect, he wrote a fairly well-developed amateur book [Born on the Edge of Ground Zero, 2011] in which he did give himself the better role, and published it...In Trinity, we recognized his appetite for fame on the part of Mr. Baca, and as a result I wrote the book very much from the point of view of Mr. Padilla who was our primary source of information....As the primary author [of Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret], I only used the recorded data originating from Reme Baca when it could be compared and verified against other statements of fact....Reme Baca was dead by the time I became involved in the case but Mrs. Harris was well aware of his boasting, a frequent source of contention between him and the sober accounts of Mr. Padilla that are the primary basis of our continuing interest in the case.
Vallee went even further in discrediting Baca– and in illuminating Vallee's narrative-smoothing methods– in his more recent apologia, A Tale of Two Urchins: Truth and Consequences in New Mexico Ufology (September 23, 2023):
When I became involved, she [Paola Harris] warned me about the variants of the truth Reme had nurtured. I did not choose to elaborate on them in writing the book...I didn't see Reme as the major character who could lead the reader through the unfolding of the case investigation. I was willing, however, to consider his recollections from the day of the first sighting, and I still stand on that analysis, because we were able to correlate them closely with Jose Padilla's testimony and track down the variants.
This attempted revisionism is somewhat breathtaking. Let us first note that absolutely none of these reservations about the credibility of one of the two "eyewitnesses" were shared with the readers of either the first or second editions of Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, nor did I ever hear such reservations expressed in any of the many Vallee interviews about the Trinity case that I reviewed, prior to the publication of my initial investigative reports on May 1, 2023. Indeed, I saw Vallee repeatedly go out of his way to burnish the credibility of both Baca and Padilla. A typical such expression occurred during Vallee's appearance on Kevin Randle's podcast A Different Perspective on June 3, 2021: “So we have a very unusual situation there, where we have the best possible witnesses.”
It was only in the wake of my May 1, 2023 articles that Vallee and Harris began to public assert that they had always regarded Baca as unreliable, and to acknowledge that Baca had been driven by monetary motives.
In a September 16, 2023 virtual "master class," Paola Harris said that "Reme Bacca was pretty greedy. He wanted $250,000 for the piece, and he wanted $250,000 for the story...." By "the piece" she meant an aluminum alloy bracket that Baca and Padilla insisted that Padilla had pried off an inner wall panel of the crashed alien craft. Apparently no one was ever willing to fork over those sums. (See the video clip embedded below.)
Those monetary demands by Baca had never been shared with readers of Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, nor had they ever been mentioned, as far as I have been able to determine, in any of the innumerable interviews in which Vallee and Harris had individually or jointly promoted the story from 2021-2023, prior to publication of my initial investigative reports in May 2023. [For further discussion of the money-making aspects of the Baca-Padilla scheme, see my article Looking for a payday (May 1, 2023, updated September 30, 2023).]
REME BACA'S BOOK – INCONSEQUENTIAL, OR "PRIMARY REFERENCE"?
As for Born on the Edge of Ground Zero (2011), written and copyrighted by Baca (although co-signed by Padilla), which Vallee now calls the "amateur book" and attempts to dismiss as insignificant: It is the same book that Vallee and Harris had previously told their readers was their "primary reference." That's right: At the beginning of the list of sources ("Books and Monographs") in Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, this paragraph appears:
The primary reference to the events described here is a monograph by Reme Baca and Jose Padilla, entitled: Born on the Edge of Ground Zero: Living in the Shadow of Area 51. Privately printed, 2011. [Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret. First Edition, on page 317. Second Edition, on page 337.]
When Baca's book was on the verge of publication, Harris herself issued a press release celebrating it– she said the book would provide a "detailed account of what happened in their childhood. They explain what they saw; the actual crash, the creatures' appearances, the pieces they took, the military clean up and an in-depth analysis of the significance of this case."
Even now – January 25, 2024– in the section of Paola Harris's website devoted to selling and recommending books, we still find Baca's work being promoted, even though the book has long been out of print (but you can read it here).
Finally, what about the "smoking gun" interview of Baca by Tom Carey? Well, in his September 23, 2023 statement, Vallee characterized the 1946 boyhood UFO-crash story that Baca pitched to Carey as a "re-purposed story" that would have been better labeled as "fiction." And yet, incredibly, Vallee continued to insist that the very different boyhood 1945 UFO-crash story that Baca and Padilla told to Ben Moffett less than a year later must be received as the truth.
Why? Because Jose Padilla swears to it, that's why.
 Harris and Vallee have cited figures varying from 13 to 25 miles for the distance between the site of the Trinity atomic blast of July 16, 1945, and the purported alien-craft crash site.
 For more detailed histories of the development and dissemination of the Trinity crash tale, see The sources of the Trinity tale and The shifting narratives of the Trinity UFO crash and recovery, both published May 1, 2023. For samples of media coverage, including the wave of coverage in January 2023, see the page Selected Comments About and Media Coverage of the Trinity UFO Crash Story.
 After the original Baca-Padilla story had been published several places, William P. "Billy" Brophy came along to claim that his military pilot father had been tasked with the initial Trinity-crash recovery effort, during which a live alien had been captured. "Billy" Brophy had previously associated his departed father with multiple other UFO crashes, but I found no record that Billy ever mentioned the 1945 crash story until after the Baca-Padilla story had been published by Ben Moffett in 2003, by Ryan Wood in 2005, and by Timothy Good in 2007. In 2009, Billy Brophy brought the case to the attention of Paola Harris, along with his newly minted claims that his pilot father had been in the thick of the action on the 1945 crash recovery. In a still-later revision, Billy claimed that his father had actually flown over the fresh crash scene and saw it all, including the two boys. This last claim contradicted both Billy's previous accounts and years of previous explicit testimony by the two primary "witnesses," Baca and Padilla – yet Vallee and Harris seized on the new claim and featured it in the Second Edition of Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret and in interviews. For further details, see The morphing fantasies of Billy Brophy about his airman father (May 1, 2023). In their book, Vallee and Harris toned down Billy's tales by omitting, for examples, Billy's claims that the Army had captured a live alien, and had also recovered two alien cadavers that airman Brophy flew to Wright Field. See The suppressed tale of the captured alien, (May 1, 2023). Vallee's subsequent attempt to explain these omissions from Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, in his rebuttal memorandum dated May 15, 2023, was so evasively opaque that it defeats any attempt on my part to fairly summarize it. Vallee's second response memorandum, dated September 23, 2023, was entirely silent regarding Billy Brophy and his ever-morphing claims.
 Jacques Vallee also has claimed publicly that, on the strength of Padilla's story and Vallee's endorsement of it, the start-date for a congressionally mandated report on past government involvement in UFO matters was moved back two years, from January 1, 1947 to January 1, 1945, during the legislative progress of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. That bill was enacted on December 23, 2022, as Public Law 117-263. The enacted mandate requires the Pentagon's All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) to prepare "a written report detailing the historical record of the United States Government relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena" with "focus on the period beginning on January 1, 1945." Release of an initial volume of the report may occur soon.
 The most recent occasion on which I submitted questions to Jacques Vallee was on September 28, 2023, as shown in the email below, to which I have received no reply. (I have redacted email addresses and phone number.)
 Jacques Vallee has issued two responses to my Trinity-related articles (as of January 25, 2024), which were titled "Trinity: The Inconvenient Reality: A Response to Douglas Dean Johnson's 'Crash Story'," dated May 15, 2023, and "A Tale of Two Urchins: Truth and Consequences in New Mexico Ufology," dated September 23, 2023. Both of these writings initially were posted on web platforms controlled by Vallee's co-author, Paola Harris. The first document has since disappeared from those sites, and the second has been available there only intermittently. In this article, I have linked to archived PDF files of Vallee's two memoranda exactly as they were originally published.
 Contradictory statements by Paola Harris about a possible Walt Disney Company movie based on the Trinity story, made on September 16 and September 26, 2023, are quoted in my September 28, 2023 email to Jacques Vallee, shown above (see numbered paragraphs no. 5 and 6). The Walt Disney Company has not yet responded to my repeated inquiries about the matter. In a telephone interview on September 18, 2023, Sabrina Padilla told me, "They're trying to make a movie. It just takes some time to establish everything with Disney." Sabrina Padilla is a niece of Jose Padilla, who says she was born in 1953. Many pages of the Second Edition of Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret are devoted to discussion of various childhood memories recited by Sabrina, none of which provide any evidence that anything extraordinary happened on the Padilla ranch in 1945 even if the statements are taken at face value, in my judgment.
 In his meeting with a New Mexico State Police officer on July 23, 2022, Sammy Padilla directly disputed the veracity of Jose Padilla's story of a childhood UFO encounter, as seen in the body-cam clipping embedded below. ("My dad claims he saw a UFO when he was small. Well, there's these people from Europe. There's a woman especially named Paola Harris, and she has gotten him to back things up. And now they wrote a book about it, and now she's writing a life story about him, and it's going to be made into a movie, supposedly, and all this stuff. A lot of people knew it was bullshit what he's saying...") For more details, extended video, and transcripts, see My dad is a pathological liar (September 23, 2023).
 The search that I requested was specific to the U.S. Army, the service in which Vallee said that Padilla served in Korea. However, the searches conducted at the independent request of Frank Warren, editor and publisher of The UFO Chronicles, were not limited to the Army. My thanks to Mr. Warren for his advice and assistance regarding research into military records.
 Sixty-two (62) years after someone is separated from military service, military service records become "archival records" and are accessible to the public, which means that the records of those separated from service before 1961 are now public records. Thus, if Padilla had actually served during in the Army during the era that he claimed (the mid-1950s), any military records of that service discovered by an archival search would be available to the public. (For records that are newer than 62 years, some military records are public, but the most detailed records may only be released on request of the veteran or close family.) In 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis destroyed a considerable quantity of pre-1964 Army and Air Force military records. However, the NPRC is able to search various other government records, including certain Veterans Administration records, certain Army Surgeon General records, "final pay voucher" records, and others, in an attempt to find any record of military service, yet no military-associated record was found of anyone named "Joseph Lopez Padilla" during the appropriate time period, or of any veteran with his Social Security number. It should be noted that until 1974, the military departments kept records based on department-issued service numbers, but neither Joseph Lopez Padilla nor Jacques Vallee have provided any Army service number for Padilla.
 In a review of Reme Baca's self-published book Born on the Edge of Ground Zero, Ben Moffett in 2012 put the following on the record: "My story in the Mountain Mail reflects what Remigio Baca told me, and I used no other sources except his co-author, Jose Padilla, both of whom claim to have seen a crashed UFO." Moffett also took pains to record that "while it was written in a serious tone, I was never comfortable with many of Baca's assertions, that went into his book."
 In its 2012 ruling in United States v. Alvarez, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a federal law, the original Stolen Valor Act, that made it a criminal misdemeanor to falsely claim receipt of certain U.S. military decorations. In my opinion, the analysis contained in this ruling implies that in general, lying about military service, war wounds, and the like, is deemed to be protected under the First Amendment. Subsequent to the Alvarez ruling, Congress enacted a revised version of the Stolen Valor Act that again makes it a misdemeanor to falsely claim to have been awarded certain military decorations, but only if this is done "with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit." 18 U.S.C. § 704. In any event, I am not aware that Jose Padilla ever has claimed to possess any military decorations. It should be noted, however, that in the event an Army member had actually been shot under the claimed circumstances ("mop-up operations" after the Korean War), that man presumably would have been eligible to receive the Purple Heart.
 In interviews going back years, Vallee has gone out of his way to testify to Jose Padilla's supposed exceptional powers of memory. For example, Vallee told interviewer Jimmy Church in December, 2022 that Padilla was "the best witness you could have," and repeated his frequent assertion that Padilla has a "photographic memory" (sometimes rendered as "an eidetic memory"). "He is really an excellent observer, and we were able to reconstruct what happened on every single day when they were there– you know, of the object and the witnesses and so on." (See video clip below.)
Likewise, in a virtual "master class" on September 16, 2023, Paola Harris said that Padilla "is one of the most honest people I've ever met." She also touted Padilla's "photographic memory," adding, "The thing about Jose is you can't sit with him and not realize he has a photographic memory. He can name you the day, he knew it was a Thursday. I've never met anybody like that. You can't ask him anything without his telling you the whole story around it, the date it happened, everything around it....Jose is a walking encyclopedia. He remembers everything. He remembers the whole thing. So he doesn't change his story no matter who's gone down there, because it really happened." (See video clip below.)
 The role played by New Mexico State Police Officer Eddie Apodaca was one of the new elements that Reme Baca introduced in his rewritten hoax story– after Tom Carey and others failed to bite on Baca's bare-bones 1946-crash story. In the 1946-crash story as told by Baca to Carey, an unnamed State Police officer approaches the crash site, but then departs without even laying eyes on the crashed craft, much less entering it.
 In an interview on May 31, 2023, Ryan Wood told me that he now believed that the Trinity crash story was "most likely" a hoax. See "Ryan Wood: Trinity 'most likely' a hoax" (June 1, 2023).
 In July 2020, MUFON separated Jan Harzan after he was arrested and charged with criminal sexual solicitation of a minor in Huntington Beach, California. Harzan pleaded not guilty. At the time this article was initially published (January 25, 2024), a jury trial was scheduled for February 5, 2024, but the jury trial was later re-scheduled for April 17, 2024, "as the prosecutor is currently engaged in another trial," according to an email from the public information officer for the Orange County Office of the District Attorney (February 7, 2024).
 The table below compares some of the many divergences between (1) the childhood UFO-crash adventure of Reme Baca and Jose Padilla as told by Baca to UFO writer Tom Carey in a recorded conversation circa late 2002, and (2) the later public version promoted by Baca, Jose Padilla, Paola Harris, Jacques Vallee, and others, from late 2003 forward. For more details and to access the actual recording of the Baca-Carey interview, see The Reme Baca smoking-gun interview (May 20, 2023).
 Regarding Jacques Vallee's claim that Jose Padilla was shot while a member of the U.S. Army in Korea, during "mop-op operations" on an unspecified after the Armistice of July 23, 1953: On February 18, 2024, I interviewed Steve Tharp, an expert on the pertinent military history. Mr. Tharp served in the U.S. Army in Korea for 26 years, including six years as a U.N. Command negotiator in Panmunjom, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. After that he served for 11 years as the Chief of Strategic Outreach, U.S. Forces Korea, advising commanders of the U.S. Forces in Korea, retiring in 2017 as a GS-13.
Tharp told me that the Armistice took effect at 10 PM local time on July 23, 1953. The written agreement provided for a 45-day period of cleaning munitions out of the new DMZ, by unarmed personnel, and records are clear that were no violent encounters during that cleaning-up period, Tharp said. Moreover, things on the ground were peaceful for the rest of the 1950s, he said.
Mr. Tharp also pointed me to a book produced James P. Finley, command historian for the U.S. Forces in Korea, The US Military Experience in Korea, 1871-1982, which includes a table (reproduced below) headed: "Casualties Suffered by UNC (US/ROK) and North Koreans Due to North Korean Hostile Acts Since the 1953 Armistice." ("UNC" stands for "United Nations Command," which included the U.S. Army.) The table shows zero incidents of U.S. Army personnel being wounded by hostile acts between the July 23, 1953 Armistice and 1962. If a shooting such as that suggested by Padilla-Vallee actually had occurred, "it would have been on that table, and there would have been a [Military] Armistice Commission meeting to discuss that," Tharp said.
During the period 1953-1961, one death resulted from hostile action, when Capt. Charles W. Brown was shot while flying over the DMZ in an unarmed training plane in 1955. According to an on-line compilation that drew on records from the historian's office of the Eighth Army Staff, among other sources, three other U.S. Army deaths occurred in the DMZ during 1955-1961, but they were accidental.
 On July 23, 2022, Sammy Padilla told a New Mexico State Police officer that his father Jose has been "deaf in one ear" since age 3, due to Jose's eardrum being punctured by a doctor who was drunk. If in fact Jose Padilla has a substantial hearing deficit in even one ear, then it appears that he would have been ineligible for military service during the 1950s (or today). The 1952 edition of The Manual of the Medical Department for the U.S. Navy, reprinted in February 1958, stated that "deafness of one or both ears" or substantial hearing loss in either ear required rejection of a potential enlistee. While I have not yet located the comparable U.S. Army enlistment regulation for the same period, a retired military medical historian told me that he was pretty sure that the Army and Navy had the same policy on hearing loss during the 1950s, just as they do now.
LOG OF POST-PUBLICATION MODIFICATIONS IN THIS ARTICLE
Any substantive modifications to this article made after its initial publication will be logged here. Comments are welcome via email; my gmail address is my full name, Douglas Dean Johnson. If you employ the "Subscribe" button you will receive future UAP-related articles as soon as they are published, by email; there is no charge, and your email address will not be used for any commercial purpose.
(1) February 2, 2024: In the subsection headed "The Rise and Fall of the Trinity Tale," I added this sentence: "The same aluminum bracket was presented as an alien artifact in both [Reme Baca] stories, but the two accounts of how it was obtained were absolutely incompatible."
(2) February 7, 2024: I added an image of, and a quotation from, a letter received from the National Personnel Records Center in response to an independent records search requested by Frank Warren, stating that the Center was unable to find any verification of military service by Joseph Lopez Padilla despite "extensive searches of every records source and alternative records source at this Center," and modified End Note 9 to reflect this change.
(3) February 8, 2024: I updated End Note No. 16 to reflect a scheduling change confirmed by public information officer of the Orange County, California, Office of the District Attorney.
 February 18, 2024: I added material from Steve Tharp and other authoritative sources on the history of the Korean War and its aftermath, showing that Jose Padilla's claim to have been wounded during "mop-up operations" in Korea, after the 1953 Armistice, are contradicted by detailed military records; this material now appears as End Note No. 18.
 February 28, 2024: When this article was first published, it five times correctly cited the date that Sammy Padilla was interviewed by a New Mexico State Police officer, which was July 23, 2022, but in one instance incorrectly said "July 23, 2021." I have corrected the single errant date.
 February 28, 2024: I inserted information documenting that deafness in one ear was cause for rejection of a potential military enlistee in the 1950s, as End Note No. 19.