Died Aug. 24, 2013

HELENA, Mont. (AP) – Dr. Jesse Marcel Jr., who said he handled debris from the 1947 crash of an unidentified flying object near Roswell, N.M., has died at age 76.

Denice Marcel said her father was found dead at his home here Saturday, less than two months after making his last trip to Roswell. He had been reading a book about UFOs.

Over the last 35 years, Dr. Marcel appeared on television and radio programs and in documentaries, was interviewed for magazine articles and books, and traveled the world lecturing about his experiences in Roswell.

“He was credible. He wasn’t lying. He never embellished – only told what he saw,” his wife, Linda, said.

Dr. Marcel’s father was an Air Force intelligence officer and reportedly the first military officer to investigate the wreckage in early July 1947. Dr. Marcel said he was 10 when his father brought home some of the debris, woke him up in the middle of the night and said the boy needed to look at it because it was something he would never see again.

His father maintained the debris “was not of this Earth,” Linda Marcel said.

The item that Dr. Marcel said fascinated him the most was a small beam with some sort of purple-hued hieroglyphics on it, she said.

After an initial report that a flying saucer had been recovered on a ranch near Roswell, the military issued a statement saying that what was recovered near Roswell was debris from the crash of an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to what was then a top-secret program named Mogul.

But many UFO proponents disagreed.

“They were told to keep it quiet, and they did for years and years and years,” Linda Marcel said. Interest in the case was revived, however, when physicist and UFO researcher Stanton Friedman spoke with Jesse Marcel Sr. in the late 1970s.

Friedman wrote the foreword to Dr. Marcel’s 2007 book, “The Roswell Legacy,” and described him as a courageous man who “set a standard for honesty and decency and telling the truth.”

Dr. Marcel graduated from the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in 1961 and joined the Navy in 1962. He retired after nine years and later joined the Montana Army National Guard and became a flight surgeon in 1981.

He was called back to active duty in October 2004 and served as a flight surgeon during the Iraq War.

He was an ear, nose and throat specialist and retired after serving at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Fort Harrison, west of Helena.