The 1947 UFO controversy of Roswell, N.M. is like a bad penny: It keeps turning up.

The legend, rehashed by conspiracy theorists in countless documentaries, revolves around allegations that an unusual object fell from the sky -- an object so bizarre that the U.S. Air Force issued a press release that a flying saucer had crashed.

That story was quickly recanted, creating what would become one of the greatest urban legends in American history.

Until now, most debunkers doubted that there was even one crash. Now, in an exclusive interview, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard French told The Huffington Post that there were actually two crashes.

This revelation is especially remarkable considering that French was known in the past to debunk UFO stories.

roswellheadline

"There were actually two crashes at Roswell, which most people don't know," French told HuffPost. "The first one was shot down by an experimental U.S. airplane that was flying out of White Sands, N.M., and it shot what was effectively an electronic pulse-type weapon that disabled and took away all the controls of the UFO, and that's why it crashed."

French -- an Air Force pilot who was in Alamagordo, N.M., in 1947, being tested in an altitude chamber, an annual requirement for rated officers -- was very specific in how the military allegedly brought down what he believes was a spacecraft from another world.

"When they hit it with that electromagnetic pulse -- bingo! -- there goes all their electronics and, consequently, the UFO was uncontrollable," said French, who flew hundreds of combat missions in Korea and Southeast Asia, and who held several positions working for Military Intelligence.

Another retired officer doubts French's story.

"No chance! Zero chance!" said Army Col. John Alexander, whose own top-secret clearance gave him access in the 1980s to official documents and UFO accounts. He created a top-level group of government officials and scientists who determined that, while UFOs are real, they couldn't find evidence of an official cover-up.

"In the 1980s, I was the guy developing all of the pulse-power weapons systems. We couldn't have done it then. In the 60s, they had a laser system, but your range was extremely limited, and we didn't have operational laser weapons in that time frame," said Alexander, who is working to get amnesty for military personnel who wish to talk about their UFO experiences.

Except for the initial newspaper headline declaring the military had captured a flying saucer outside of Roswell, the Air Force closed the books on Roswell, claiming that the true identity of the object was a high-altitude surveillance balloon, code-named "Mogul."

But after eyewitnesses -- including numerous military personnel -- began to tell stories of their participation in an alleged cover-up of the Roswell incident, some researchers insisted that it was, in fact, an alien ship that crashed at Roswell.

Watch this video of Ret. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard French

French says he was told about the UFO "shootdown" by another military officer -- a confidential source -- from White Sands Proving Grounds, an area of the New Mexico desert where the U.S. military tested many weapons systems.

His source told French there was a second UFO crash near Roswell a few days after the first one.

"It was within a few miles of where the original crash was," French said. "We think that the reason they were in there at that time was to try and recover parts and any survivors of the first crash. I'm [referring to] the people from outer space -- the guys whose UFO it was."

While French offered no further details on what he says was a second UFO crash, he teased something else.

"I had seen photographs of parts of the UFO that had inscriptions on it that looked like it was in an Arabic language -- it was like a part number on each one of them. They were photographs in a folder that I just thumbed through."

That's an interesting parallel to the recent story of ex-CIA agent Chase Brandon, who claimed he found a box at CIA headquarters in the 1990s -- a box labeled "Roswell."

Brandon told HuffPost he looked in the box and went through written materials and photographs confirming his suspicions that the object which crashed at Roswell, "was a craft that clearly did not come from this planet."

That story set off a fury of controversy between those who believed and didn't believe Brandon's story.

Watch this 1997 news report on the Air Force's 'Case Closed: Final Report on the Roswell Crash'

And now we have French, who served more than 27 years in the military, including as an investigator and debunker for the Air Force's famous study of UFOs, known as Project Blue Book, which began in 1947.

"I'm one of the authors of Project Blue Book, and started with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, stationed in Spokane, Wash. One of the duties I had in 1952 was to debunk UFO stories," French said.

"In other words, if someone had a UFO sighting, I and another agent would try to come up with some logical explanation for this strange aerial appearance. Most of the reports were from civilians than military. We gave our analysis and tried to debunk it by saying it was swamp fog or that the thing they saw was actually hanging on wires. It went up through channels all the way to the presidential level."

But why was French ordered to debunk UFO reports in the first place?

"They never give you an explanation, but I'll tell you what my analysis of it is: If they accepted the fact that there are creatures coming to Earth from other universes or from wherever, it basically would destroy religions, and the fact that our military's helpless against them would destroy the reputation of the military," French said. "You're talking about military, national defense and religious reasons."

As it often turns out with eye-opening UFO stories, it comes down to who you believe.

Antonio Huneeus is a 30-year veteran UFO investigative reporter who recently spent time with French and is trying to uncover more facts about the information the former Military Intelligence officer would have us believe.

"We did a search and found his name on an official Air Force page that confirmed he was a combat pilot, but that page had nothing to do with UFOs," Huneeus, editor of Open Minds Magazine, told HuffPost.

"My reservations are about some of the claims that he makes, and because of his age, his memory isn't as good as it used to be," Huneeus said. "It's clear to me that he's fairly well read on the subject of UFOs, or he might have heard stories or talked to people. So, I'm trying to separate exactly what he lived and saw directly from what he heard and read."

Sixty years after French began investigating UFOs for Project Blue Book, he still thinks there's a cover-up.

"It's going on today. There's no question about it. I've listened to their denials many times and, at that time, I was in direct opposition to their position. In my mind, there wasn't any question that UFOs were real."

Loading Slideshow...
  • UFO Over Mojave Desert Sept. 9, 1985

    This cigar-shaped UFO was photographed by general aviation pilot David Hastings as he piloted a Cessna Skymaster plane over the Mojave Desert on Sept. 9, 1985. There has never been an indication of hoax in this case, which remains unexplained to this day.

  • UFO Over Holloman Base

    An unidentified flying object was photographed by a government employee over the Holloman Air Development Center in New Mexico in 1964. Conspiracy theorists have claimed the photo is proof that the U.S. government has been in contact with aliens.

  • Strange objects over France

    While descending an Austrian mountain in 1954, photographer Erich Kaiser captured an image of what he called mysterious silvery-white flying objects.

  • Mexican Air Force Pilots Video

    Mexican Air Force pilots filmed strange, brightly lit objects that moved quickly in the skies on March 5, 2004. Some scientists said the phenomenon could have been caused by gases in the atmosphere.

  • Roswell

    America's most infamous UFO case centers in Roswell, N.M. Some people claimed an alien spacecraft crashed there in 1947; the military said it was a weather balloon.

  • Roswell dummies

    The Air Force issued "The Roswell Report" in 1997. Countering claims that aliens were recovered at the New Mexico site, the report said military officials picked up 200-pound dummies, above, that were used in an experiment.

  • Alien in Brazil

    Video grab close up. What looks like an alien creature with visible head, neck, arms and body standing in the Brazilian rainforest in Manaus, Brazil. In this Amaz-alien footage, a lone unidentified being appears to stand in the jungle of Brazil -- even arching its back -- just feet away from a bright flashing blue light. In what some allege as proof that Earth is being visited by aliens from another planet, the video was obtained by paranormal writer Mike Cohen who says the video was taken by two British tourists visiting the Manaus region of the Amazon jungle.

  • Crop Circle in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

    A large circle and geometric pattern local residents say were created by a UFO appeared in a rice field in Krasakan hamlet in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on the morning of Jan. 23, 2011.

  • Stan Romanek film

    Stan Romanek claimed that this still image from a three-minute video he shot in 2003 shows an alien looking into his home in Nebraska. In the film, a strange face appears to be popping up and down outside Romanek's window.

  • Sketch of UFO sighting

    This eyewitness drawing of an alleged UFO sighting is in one of 19 once-secret files posted to the British National Archives website. The files cover sightings reported between 1986 and 1992. Although many of the reports were debunked, some remain unexplained.

  • France field markings

    An investigator in 1989 measures markings that some said were left behind by a UFO in Normandy, France. France began releasing its "X-Files" on UFO sightings in 2007.

  • President Jimmy Carter

    President Jimmy Carter, shown here in 1971, reported that he saw a UFO above Leary, Ga., in 1969. He filed a report about the sighting to the International UFO Bureau in 1973.

  • Astronaut Gordon Cooper

    Astronaut Gordon Cooper, who piloted Mercury and Gemini space missions in the 1960s, once said he saw a "typical saucer shape, double-cylindrical shape, metallic" UFO. He was also outspoken on the idea that some UFOs were interplanetary vehicles visiting Earth.