In December 1995, UFOlogist Robert Todd released an issue of his KowPflop Quarterly that was another blow to the Roswell faithful. In his article, he revealed that he had managed to obtain the military records of Jesse Marcel SR and exposed some problems with the stories told by Marcel to various researchers. In conclusion, Todd had written, "Clearly Marcel had a problem with the truth" (Todd). Ever since this article, UFOlogists have gone out of their way to explain away much of what was revealed. Probably the most interesting posting I have seen about Jesse Marcel SR, is a commentary by David Rudiak about how he reads the military record of Jesse Marcel.
Strangely, David Rudiak has no military experience that I am aware of that makes him an "expert" on analyzing Jesse Marcel SR's military performance. Has he ever written a military evaluation or commendation? Is he familiar with problems in these systems?
Having written more awards and evaluations in my 20-plus years in the navy than I care to think about, I think I am at least somewhat qualified to understand Marcel's evaluations and his awards. Writing such evaluations is an art that takes some effort on the part of the grader. Not only are you trying to praise the individual for his good performance, you also want to make it clear what problems he/she still needs to improve upon. This becomes more important as a persons paygrade increases (this goes for enlisted as well as officers). The most important aspects of mid-level officers (O-3 to O-5) in an evaluation are the leadership categories, where initiative and action taken are required. The military does not like to promote individuals who are timid decision makers and can't inspire others in a crisis. Other categories often relate to how well the person does their present job and how well they are in other categories like military appearance and such. They are important as well in judging how well a person handles his present duties. Each category is graded on a numerical scale that should put the average performers (The GI Does) at the center of the scale and the superior performers (The GI Joes) at the upper end. This all sounds good on paper but what happened when we put "theory to practice" in the military evaluation system.
I knew that there had been problems with the military evaluation system from my years in the US Navy. I decided to go back to my old evaluations from the years past to refresh my memory. The system used by the Navy at the time was a 4.0 scale that was broken down in 0.2 increments. Anything less than 3.0 was considered substandard performance. Based on this, you would think the average sailor would be scored at 3.2 or 3.4 but this was not the case. Any score of less than 3.6 was really below average. A case in point are my evaluations for first class petty officer during my last full year on board USS Lafayette. There were 17 first class petty officers graded, with 13 being graded 4.0 (the highest) and 4 being graded 3.8 (the next highest mark). There were no E-6's graded less than 3.8! The same scoring system followed me to my next command at Nuclear Field "A" school, where everyone was scored at 3.8 and 4.0. When I began to write up evaluations for my petty officers I found myself struggling with the same problem. I pretty much followed the same guidelines with scores running between 3.6 and 4.0. The only way one could tell the difference between the really top performers and the average ones were by key words in the body of the text that supported the scores listed and where the person was ranked amidst his peers. It was a mess and the Navy finally corrected the problem in the late 1990s. This version seemed to get matters under control and "overinflation" stopped simply because commanding officers were strictly instructed to allow only so many top performers. The AF and Army had similar problems with their systems over the years as demonstrated by these statements from a Rand research document:
In a competitive environment, performance evaluations often become inflated. Inflation over time has long been universal across the services and common to performance evaluation systems in the private sector as well. With inflated grading, the language used to describe the officer and his/her performance takes on paramount importance; an example is the difference between an "excellent" officer (not quite up to snuff), an "outstanding" officer (a good officer), and the "best officer in his/her year group" (an outstanding officer)...An "excellent" officer who has received two or three Bs among the A grades may not realize that his or her performance is actually being rated below average. As officers gain more experience in reading and interpreting performance evaluations, it is not unusual for them to provide input to their performance evaluation. This input may range from a list of job accomplishments all the way to a complete draft of the performance evaluation... Many believe that the system does a poor job of differentiating between performance across officers. Ratings have inflated over time, with most officers now being rated in the top blocks. Further, the written comments also tend to be inflated. Army promotion board members indicated that they find signals for exceptional performance by searching for certain key phrases or words. (Hosek et al. 18, 112)
Notice the statement that even junior officers/enlisteds have a difficult time realizing what their scores mean.This is not unusual and I recall having little to no real understanding of my evaluations until I was an E-5. About that time, I recognized how the scoring system was inflated and how important it was to make sure my scores were just as high. The overinflation of scores has been ongoing for the past twenty years but were things just as bad in 1947? We really can't tell for sure without seeing all the evaluations for the group that was graded but we might find some critical clues.
While Rudiak spends a bit of time talking about Marcel's subsequent posting, it seems that the most important thing to examine are his performance at Roswell. Anything else is nothing but a waste of time since it does not reflect what kind of officer Marcel was at the time of the incident and those who evaluated him in that new position would have no knowledge of that event to influence their evaluation.
- Marcel's first evaluation occurred in June of 1946, where he received an average score of 5.2 out of 7. We are only shown the first page of the report but we do see the verbal remarks where it is stated, "This officer is an extremely hard worker but his organizational capabilities are limited" (Rudiak). It seems that Marcel was an average to good officer (there were not many high marks in the 7 category) but had some deficiencies to correct that needed mentioning. Most important are his marks in "initiative" (5) and "leadership" (4) demonstrating that his leadership qualities were not that hot. This is not saying that Marcel was a bad officer but he would not be everyone's first choice for promotion based on these marks/write-up.
- Marcel's second evaluation occurred six months later in January, 1947. Again, he scored 5.2 out of 7 with a remark, "This officer is exceptionally experienced in all kinds of intelligence work. His attention to duty and his ability to perform long hours of hardwork are outstanding"(Rudiak). It sounds like Marcel has gotten his act together but let's look again. Where are the comments about leadership and initiative? They were marked at a score of "5", which is only a slight improvement from his previous evaluation. Marcel's highest scores were "6" marks in "physical activity and endurance" and "attention to duty", which are not much to crow about. It sounds like Marcel was a hard worker but not an exceptional officer. Based on what is written and scored, we figure that Marcel was a good intelligence officer that probably put a lot of time into doing his job. One other key point is that this was the time period of "Operation Crossroads", where Jesse would have to dedicate many hours to doing his job. It is odd that his marks did not go up significantly if Marcel performed extremely well during the operation.
- Marcel was evaluated again in June of 1947. We are again given the same score of 5.2 out of 7 but this time we see the write up, "A loyal extremely diligent officer, rather lacking in imagination and initiative. He is definitely a "plugger" and makes harder work of all his assignments than is necessary"(Rudiak). Rudiak comments, "Marcel was obviously not Jennings' kind of officer"(Rudiak). Blanchard was commanding officer and had been since January 1946. One can only assume that Blanchard was there most of the six months but had delegated the administrative portion of the evaluations to his second in command (which usually is part of the deputy commanders job description). While Jennings' name appears on the document, Blanchard definitely had a say in what was written about his staff in these evaluations. So, while Rudiak can say it is Jennings' remarks, he might need to rethink assigning blame for the comments. In the marks, Marcel never scored higher than a 6 in any category with a 4 being given for initiative (which is downgraded from his previous evaluation - an important sign in reading evaluations). He still managed to keep his "5" score in leadership and the only reason he was able to maintain his average score was due to "6" scores in the two previous evaluation categories and one "6" for "cooperation". Again, Marcel's score maintained the average indicated but the comments seemed less than complementary. This evaluation could have been serious blow to Marcel's morale. Isn't it a bit odd that only a few weeks later, Marcel was trying to show "imagination and initiative" when recovering the remains of a flying disc?
- Rudiak's prize evaluation for Marcel was the next one in May 1948. This is Marcel's first evaluation after the Roswell incident and, according to Rudiak's line of thinking, he should have been severely punished for mistaking a radar reflector/balloon for a flying disc. Rudiak triumphantly shows that Marcel is graded, 4.29 out of 5 (there was a new system in place after the Air Force separated from the Army in September 1947). Additionally, Blanchard remarks, "A quiet mature field grade officer. Exceptionally well qualified in his duty assignment. His only known weakness is an inclination to magnify problems he is confronted with. Superior moral qualities"(Rudiak). We are faced with a quandary here. Had Marcel found a weather balloon/reflector or a real crashed disc? Certainly, anyone who found a crashed disc and recovered for study, would be commended and recognized throughout the chain of command. However, Colonel Dubose writes in the remarks, " I personally do not know this officer. (how)ever, I have the utmost confidence in the rating officers ability. I concur with the rating officers comments"(Rudiak). Strange that Dubose would say he did not know Marcel despite Marcel making the greatest discovery since the atom bomb. Would it be less of reach if Marcel made a simple misidentification that was forgotten ten months later? Marcel was neither commended nor reprimanded for the Roswell "incident". Even his evaluations do not reflect an officer that performed incredibly well during the period because his ranking against the other Majors in the command was 3 out of 4! This despite him being the senior intelligence officer and part of the command staff. Also, his "initiative/leadership" category only reflected a score of 4 out of 5. In fact, the only marks he got "5" (the highest score) were in the areas about getting along with others and his present job assignment. Clearly, Marcel was not the top officer at the 509th and one might be able to grade him as "average" compared to the other Majors at RAAF
- If one really wants to know exactly where
"the pecking order" Marcel was in at the 509th,
it is telling in his August 1948 evaluation. Despite
having a "tremendous" score of 4.0 of 5
(downgraded from 4.29 in the previous marking), Marcel
was listed last of 8 majors that were graded at the
509th! Rudiak explains this error:
This might be mitigated by Roswell being the only atomic bomber base at the time and composed of elite, hand-picked men. Marcel would have faced unusually high-caliber competition. Furthermore, unlike most other officers at Roswell, Marcel was a civilian WWII draftee and not a West Point graduate (as was, e.g., Col. Blanchard). Academy graduates are almost automatically going to be given preference over draftees. Similarly, because Roswell was a bomber base, Blanchard was a bomber pilot himself, and this was the Air Force, Blanchard would again probably give preference to pilots as Air Force assets over intelligence officers (assuming most of these other men were pilots). (Rudiak)
The "elite" statement is misleading. "Elite" units usually are "elite" because they have specialized training that makes them stand out beyond the others. The 509th was "elite" simply because they were the only unit at the time that was qualified for nuclear weapons (although this was rapidly changing in 1947). The term "hand-picked" is probably just as misleading. Perhaps during the initial selection of crew for the events to end the war, "hand-picking" did occur. However, after the war, things rapidly changed. Downsizing occurred (The Army Air Force went from over 2 million men to around 300,000 in 1947) and the 509th was just as affected by these changes as other units:
The 509th Composite group had dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan and many regarded it as the nation's most important strategic air unit. It was not spared. In January of 1946, it was stationed Roswell AAB, New Mexico. Drastic cutbacks in manpower and support had an enormous impact. It could barely keep it's bombers in the air to maintain even minimal pilot proficiency. (Broyhill)
It seems that the 509th was given replacements just like any other unit. One also must realize that the 7th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) had been formed in late 1946. In order to train its pilots and crews, it seems that personnel from the 509th would be used to help/assist and be transferred to augment the new group. The 509th would have to compete for "hand-picked" replacements as early as 1946. It seems highly unlikely, one can call the unit "hand-picked" in July of 1947.
If Marcel were as competent as claimed, he would have no problem standing out among the other officers in the 509th and Rudiak's justifications just don't hold much water. After all, Jesse Marcel was the man who had found the spaceship! Despite allegiances to old military academies, Blanchard would not have forgotten this act and ranked Marcel so low in either evaluations. That is, unless Marcel's performance was so poor, the Roswell event did not carry much weight. It seems that Jesse Marcel was just the guy who goofed up bringing in some balloon/reflector debris and was just an "average" officer that could not compete with the more aggressive Majors.
In the evaluation write up, which Rudiak makes out to be extraordinary, we read,
Very highly qualified for his present duty assignment and highly recommended for intelligence work at higher level. Due to this officer's personal efforts to be standard of the 509th bomb wing's intelligence, is considered to be of the very highest order. This officer is serious minded, loyal to the extreme, will to work long and hard hours. Highly dependable. (Rudiak)
He had been doing the job for at least two years, which usually means he is "highly qualified" and, with a transfer coming up, he would be recommended for a higher intelligence position. Note there are no remarks about initiative and leadership. In fact those categories were downgraded to a value of "3" during this time period. Marcel was a good and valuable intelligence officer but nothing else. You can't make a hero out of these marks but he wasn't a "shirker".
Probably the most interesting item to glean from these evaluations are the rankings. Being ranked at 3/4 and 8/8 with scores of "4" or greater out of "5", does not say much for the performance scores. It indicates that the scores were overinflated and this was most likely the case throughout the Army Air Force at the time. After all, nobody would want their officers "downsized" and have to train a new one. All units probably "inflated" scores to make sure they did not lose people due to average performance because other units used a higher average. After downsizing was over, it would not be unusual for the scores to remain at the "inflated" levels. This is only a guess but it seems standard based on my experience with US Navy.
Other comments by Rudiak are that he makes a great deal about Marcel being commended for his performance at the "Operation Crossroads" mission. This was a big operation for the 509th and what Rudiak probably fails to understand is that many of the people involved received commendations. This is standard and being the biggest operation for SAC since the war, it would not be surprising to see all officers involved receiving some form of an award. Every time our ship completed a mission, the awards practically gushed forth. Officers in particular were highly awarded since they had the greater responsibility. These awards meant something to the individual and were an appreciation for their good work during these operations. In order to insure these officers received these awards, glowing remarks were added to the recommendations (otherwise those authorizing the awards would not approve them). You can't receive an "Army Commendation" medal just by a recommendation that the officer "deserved" it. You have to add the "glowing words" that made the individual appear "god-like". Reviewing officers had to weed through this nonsense to figure out who was most deserving. Despite Marcel's glowing comments, the review board decided not to award the Army Commendation medal to Marcel. As a result, he got the next possible award, which is standard procedure. Interestingly, Marcel's evaluations for this time period are not as "glowing" as these recommendations reflect. Marcel got an award for being involved in Operation Crossroads and that is it.
Probably the most interesting thing that one can see in Jesse Marcel SR's military record is that he was an "average" officer, who really did not stand out to his seniors at RAAF. While this may not mean much it does mean that he did nothing "extraordinary" while at Roswell. In fact, he was not even commended for his work in the Roswell incident in any way. His marks were not stellar (and did not change at all) and there were no applications for awards. For those who think that a Top Secret event would prevent such an award or mention, I suggest they look harder. A "spaceship" would not even have to be mentioned. In fact, Jesse Marcel could have received an exceptional grade in many categories with a comment like "Major Marcel demonstrated superior initiative during this time period associated with a classified operation" or words to that effect. The same could be said for an award. He could have been easily commended for his superior work and outstanding leadership/initiative during July/Summer of 1947. Not once, in Jesse Marcel's records, is there any indication that Jesse Marcel Sr. EVER did anything out of the ordinary that would have made his name a household word in the upper chain of command. In fact, Colonel Dubose could not even remember who Jesse Marcel was ten months later!
On the other end of the spectrum is the thought process that suggests there should have been a reprimand in Marcel's record. People who suggest this have no military background or understanding of military procedures. Military justice, while harsh, is usually fair. Exactly what charge would Jesse be assessed with for such a reprimand? I can't think of any that might apply. Nobody was injured and no damage to military property (except for increased hours on planes) occurred. Officers and enlisted men are not officially reprimanded for making an honest mistake. During my career, I made several mistakes (some of these while I was an E-7/E-8 see SUNlite 4-6 pages 14-17) that could have gotten me an official reprimand or subject to military discipline. Instead, I received a good old-fashioned "butt chewing" or "slap on the wrist" with a "don't do it again" speech. Nothing else was said or recorded. If you talk to other military personnel, I think they can recall similar stories. After all, Jesse would not even be the person who would have been reprimanded. It would have been one of two individuals, Colonel Blanchard or Walter Haut. The media made a big to do about Haut getting a "butt chewing" of some kind and it is possible that he or Blanchard received exactly that. However, other than a bit of public embarrassment that ended a few days after it happened, there is no reason to severely jeopardize either man's career. Based on what I have read, Blanchard does not strike me as the type of person who would try to shift responsibility. If he authorized the press release, then he would have accepted any blame. That is, unless Haut's actions that day were as Jesse Marcel described, "an eager beaver PIO who took it upon himself to call the AP on this thing" (Berlitz and Moore 74). Maybe one might need to look at Walter Haut's evaluations to find the "smoking gun" of a reprimand.
The evaluations of Jesse Marcel SR do NOT indicate that Jesse did anything out of the ordinary in July of 1947. They only point to the conclusion that Jesse Marcel Sr was just another "GI Doe" making his way through the ranks.