Research Strange Events in American History

Exploring HeinOnline, Law Journal Library, U.S. Congressional Documents
Shannon Sabo

On June 4, 1947, the first high altitude data gathering balloon was launched from the Alamogordo Army Airfield in New Mexico. Officials later determined that remnants of this balloon were discovered on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico, prompting the start of what would later become known as the "Roswell Incident." This area still carries an air of mystery, possibly due to an extremely popular feature film directed by Steven Spielberg called Close Encounters of the Third Kindwhich dealt with UFOs and alien life forms.

Brief Timeline of Events
  • June 14, 1947: Foreman William Brazel notices debris at his place of employment, a ranch near Roswell, on the Foster Homestead
  • July 4, 1947: Brazel returns to the scene to gather up the material
  • July 7, 1947: After hearing reports about "flying discs" he reports his findings to the local Sheriff, who in turn contacted personnel from the Roswell Army Air Field
  • Soon after, the materials found are officially determined to be a weather balloon and its radar reflector, and interest in the story largely diminishes, until the late 1970s
  • Between 1978 and 1980, UFO researchers interview several hundred people who claimed to be affiliated with the Roswell events and obtain hundreds of documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Several books are published between 1980 and 1997 describing various competing accounts of the Roswell Incident and adding details such as the discovery of alien bodies, military cover-ups, and other conspiracy theories
  • Witness accounts discussed in these books are examined and deemed to be largely hearsay, in addition to being contradictory with each other. Critics point out that many accounts were described between 30 and 40 years after the events took place.
  • This report and its subsequent follow-up report, both published by the United States Air Force and available in HeinOnline, reflected no actual evidence of extraterrestrial spacecraft remains ever being found.
  • Despite the lack of evidence, UFO proponents still firmly believe that an extraterrestrial incident did occur and that there was a government conspiracy to cover up the truth.
Research It in HeinOnline

Due to the decades-long debate and copious amounts of corresponding paperwork on the Roswell Incident, there are legal materials available on this topic in HeinOnline.

A proximity search for the words Roswell and UFO within 50 words of one another can be done by putting both words inside quotation marks and using the tilde (~) symbol and the number 50:

"Roswell UFO"~50

Search results include journal articles and congressional documents:


Note that matching text is highlighted in yellow within search result snippets. Refine search results by using the facets provided on the left side of the page. 

A more general search for the phrase "unidentified flying objects" produces hundreds of results, with the majority composed of congressional documents. Sort results by Volume Date (Newest First) to find the most recent congressional hearings on this subject:


Use the tools located on the right side of each search result to download an instant PDF of a section, access additional print/download options, email a universally-accessible PDF link, or bookmark a result to your MyHein personal research account.

To search specifically for congressional hearings on this subject, enter the U.S. Congressional Documents collection and click the Advanced Search link located beneath the main search bar. Enter search terms in the text field and select Congressional Hearings using the Select Document Type box, then click Search:


Results include this hearing from 2015 which discusses UFOs in comparison with "Unmanned Aircraft Systems" (UAS) such as drones, which have become increasingly popular during the past few years.


While HeinOnline can provide a platform to research the most interesting or obscure topics, it will remain the responsibility of the researchers to reach their own conclusions as to whether or not extraterrestrial life exists. For help researching in HeinOnline (yes, even for topics like this!) contact our dedicated support team at (800) 828-7571, email us, or chat with us!



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