by Robert L. Salas
This incident happened almost thirty years ago. Until about two years ago, I had not given it much thought. In the spring of 1967 I was stationed at Malmstrom AFB, Montana. My recollection of the incident was that, while on duty as a Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander (DMCCC) at a Minuteman Launch Control Facility (LCF) during the morning hours, I received a call from my NCO in charge of site security topside. He said that he and other guards had observed some unidentified flying objects in the vicinity. He said they had over flown the LCF a few times before he phoned. He could only distinguish them as "lights" at that time.
I did not take this report very seriously and simply told him to keep observing them and report back if he saw anything more significant. At the time, I believed the first call to be a joke. Five or ten minutes later, I received a second call from my security NCO. This time he was much more agitated and distraught. He stated that there was a UFO hovering just outside the front gate! He wanted to know what he should do. 1 don't recall what I said except to secure the fenced area. As we were talking, he said he had to go because one of the guards had been injured.
I immediately woke my commander who had been taking his rest period and started to relate the phone conversations. Within seconds, our missiles began shutung down from "Alert" status to "No-Go" status. I recalled that most, if not all, of our missiles had shut down in rapid succession. Normally, if a missile went off alert status, it was due to a power outage at a particular site and the site power generator would come on line and pick up the power load and the LF would come back on line. It was extremely rare for more than one missile to go off line for any length of time. In this case, none of our missiles came back on line. The problem was not lack of power; some signal had been sent to the missiles which caused them to go off alert.
After we reported this incident to the command post, I phoned my security guard to determine what had transpired topside. He informed me that the guard who had approached the UFO had been injured - not seriously. The guard was being removed by helicopter to the base. I do not recall the nature of the injury or how it was incurred. We were relieved by our scheduled replacement crew later that morning. The missiles had still not been brought on line by on-site maintenance. Once topside, I spoke directly with the security guard about the UFOs. The only additional detail he added, that I recalled, was that the UFO had a red glow and appeared to be saucer-shaped. I do not recall any other details about its appearance. He repeated that it had been immediately outside the front gate, hovering silently.
When my commander and I returned to the base, we discussed the incident with our squadron commander and an Air Force investigator from Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI). The Colonel was just as shocked about the incident as we were. Neither he, nor anyone else we talked to that day about the incident could explain it or indicated that it was some sort of readiness exercise. After that day, and through the time of my transfer from the base in June 1969, none of the crews, including ours, ever received any additional information on the incident. There was never a report of investigation that was released to the missile crews or any other explanation given of the incident. This was also unusual because we were given regular briefings about any technical areas of concern regarding the readiness of our weapons. These were my recollections at the time the FOIA requests were submitted to the Air Force in January 1995. After nearly a year of submitting these requests and waiting for responses, USAF declassified an incident which appeared to be the one in which I was involved. I will refer to that as the Echo Flight incident.
Jim Klotz, the investigator who had submitted the FOIA requests, and I had previously narrowed the time period by retrieving news reports from the Great Falls Tribune about UFO sightings during the early part of 1967. I had recalled reading such reports after my incident. In fact there were many news articles about UFO sightings a few weeks before and one week after the Echo incident. We requested USAF to release any information they had of such an incident that occurred during the spring of 1967. We made no reference to UFO sightings in our request. As a result of these FOIA requests USAF sent us copies of the unit histories for the 341st Strategic Missile Wing, Great Falls, Montana for 1967. The histories, which included the Echo incident, had been classified. In addition, USAF sent copies of some previously classified messages regarding the incident. One message was sent from SAC headquarters. The Echo incident, as related in one of those messages, is described as loss of strategic alert of all ten missiles within ten seconds of each other for no apparent reason and a "...cause for grave concern... [to SAC head quarters]". The date of the Echo incident is March 16,1967. When we received this information, I assumed that I was in the Echo capsule during this incident because the events of the incident were very similar to my recollection.
The first unit history (January - March 1967, pg. 38) also has a brief statement suggesting reports of UFO activity. It states the following: "Rumors of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) around the area of Echo Flight during the time of fault were disproven. A Mobile Strike Team, which had checked all November Flight's LFs (launch facilities) on the morning of 16 March 67, were questioned and stated that no unusual activity or sightings were observed." This statement was informative in that there would be no reason to query the November Flight strike team (security) about rumors of UFOs in the area of Echo Flight. This is the only reference to UFOs regarding this incident in any of the documents received from USAF and the statement is simply untrue. None of the reports we received from guards or maintenance personnel were ever retracted.
After reading this statement I recalled something my commander had said during our incident. After we reported the incident to the command post, he had received a call from another LCC. After that call he turned to me and said, "The same thing happened at another flight." With this new recollection, I began to question if I was at Echo during the time of our incident since I knew I was assigned to the 490th Squadron, which did not have responsibility for Echo Flight. We did however, occasionally, man LCCs outside our own squadron.
With some assistance, I was eventually able to contact on old friend who had served with me at Malmstrom. He recalled the Echo incident and was certain that I was not in that LCC at the time of the incident. He also recalled the names of the Echo crew and the name of my commander. With some additional effort, and a lot of phone calls, I was able to locate and speak with both crew members of Echo, the commander of the Echo relief crew, and my own commander.
As a result of these conversations, more information was revealed. The Echo MCCC related to me that prior to the shutdown of all his missiles he had received more than one report from security patrols and maintenance crews that they had seen UFOs, one was directly above one of the LFs in Echo Flight. The Echo crew confirmed that they had spoken to my commander that day and told him of their incident. They also told me that they were flown to SAC Headquarters, Omaha, Nebraska the next day and had to brief CINCSAC (Commander in Chief Strategic Air Command) about their incident. The Echo DMCCC also informed me that he had written an extensive log of the Incident and turned that over to staff officers at SAC headquarters. They certainly did report the UFO sightings and their guards and maintenance personnel were interviewed about their sightings by Air Force investigators. The MCCC of the crew that relieved the Echo crew also confirmed that the Echo crew had spoken to him about the UFO sightings during the time immediately preceding their shutdown incident.
My own MCCC confirmed my recollection of events with the exception that he recalled that about five of our ten missiles shut down in rapid succession. My own recollection is that it was more than five. However, he did add something I had not recalled. We sent a security patrol to our LFs after the shutdown of our missiles and they reported sighting another UFO during that patrol. They also lost radio contact with our site immediately after reporting the UFO.
To summarize the events of that morning:
Further discussions with individuals from Boeing who had provided technical assistance and performed additional tests during the investigation into the cause of these shutdowns, confirmed that there was never a resolution as to cause or explanation for these incidents. The unit histories for 1967 also confirm that conclusion.
Since the termination of Project Blue Book, the Air Force has maintained the position that no reported UFO incident has ever affected national security. The incident I described above clearly had national security implications. The Air Force has clearly and deliberately hidden the fact that a large number of Air Force personnel reported sighting UFOs at the time many of our strategic missiles became, unaccountably, disabled.
Source: MUFON, MUJ-345, 15