Nuclear Connection Project
NCP Paper

The Cuban Missile Crisis & UFOs?

Francis Ridge
  NCP Coordinator

First, watch this scary video clip of our M280

Premier Khrushchev authorized his Soviet field commanders in Cuba to
launch their tactical nuclear weapons if invaded by U.S. forces.

8/21/2008, updated 4/23/2019

Since November of 1960 I had been an authorized FI & Subcommittee Chairman/team leader for the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. In September of 1963, as head of Indiana Unit #1,  I was asked to give a briefing to the 1127th Air Reserve Squadron at Vincennes, Indiana. My briefing covered the key points of the concern about serious UFO reports, including the possibility of accidental war from misinformed air defense radar men mistaking UFOs for Soviet missiles during dangerous alert periods.

In October of 1961, two years earlier, one of NICAP's newsletters explained the dangers: "In a recent statement, Vice President Johnson declared: 'The western allies must be prepared for every possible eventuality- - deliberate or accidental.' Three weeks prior to that, the Vice President sent the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee an urgent NICAP report on one increasing hazard: The danger of mistaking UFOs for Soviet bombers or missiles. The NICAP newsletter also mentioned that there was an equal danger that Russia might fatally mistake UFOs for a U.S. attack. If our Government would spotlight this risk, it might cause the Kremlin to take similar steps to end confusion over UFOs." How this ties into the Cuban Missile Crisis will be discussed very shortly.

I began database work on UFOs in 1986. The idea was to track UFOs in databases as they move from one location to another, actually crossing state lines. Close encounters and radar cases adding credibility to even distant daylight and nighttime sightings. But this was an extreme rarity: Database research showed UFOs apparently left the scene vertically, or at least that's what they appeared to do in many instances. I settled down with a six-state region, covering and listing sightings from Missouri to Ohio and Indiana to Tennessee. After looking for correlations in the printouts I noticed something unusual, but I didn't give it much thought at the time.

In 1997 I began work on the new NICAP web site to collect and post all the massive evidence from the NICAP files. Soon I would elicit the help of what would become the A-Team, about 25 people who could help me conduct this huge effort. One of the jobs we had was to update the old chronologies (prior 1947 to 1995) and create the new ones (1996 to date). In that process we posted the 1962 chrono in April of 2006. What I thought was unusual also showed up in the updated chrono.

Because of my years-long interest in the possibility of a UFO/nuclear connection, in July of 2003  I established the Nuclear Connection Project (NCP) to look for nuclear connection cases and post them, along with related material. I got together a team of specialists and went to work. The main focus of the NCP was to look for connections, correlations.

In the earlier years we were more concerned with UFOs triggering accidental nuclear war. Declassified government documents show that unexplained objects with extraordinary technical capabilities pose challenges to military activity around the globe. U.S. fighter jets have been scrambled to pursue UFOs, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) logs and U.S. Air Force documents. Peruvian and Iranian Air Force planes attempted to shoot down unexplained objects during air encounters, and Belgium F-16's equipped with automatically guided missiles pursued UFO's in 1990 .In those earlier decades, such concerns were openly discussed among American government officials. In 1960, for example, Representative Leonard G. Wolf of Iowa entered an "urgent warning" from former CIA Director Vice Admiral R.H. Hillenkoetter (one of our NICAP's members) into the Congressional Record that "certain dangers are linked with unidentified flying objects." Wolf cited Gen. L.M. Chassin, NATO coordinator of Allied Air Service, warning that "if we persist in refusing to recognize the existence of the UFOs, we will end up, one fine day, by mistaking them for the guided missiles of an enemy - and the worst will be upon us."

So what happened in 1962?  If we consider only the Cuban Missile Crisis, that was bad enough. 1962 was one of the most dangerous years in history, if not THE most dangerous. It is nothing short of a miracle that we are here today talking about this. What you are about to read will astound you.

One of the papers I posted on the Nuclear Connection Project site is one called, "20 Mishaps That  Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War", by Alan F. Philips, M.D. TWELVE those incidents occurred in 1962!!!!

1) B-52 Navigation Error. A SAC Chrome Dome airborne alert route included a leg from the northern tip of Ellesmore Island, SW across the Arctic Ocean to Barter Island, Alaska. On August 23, 1962, a B-52 nuclear armed bomber crew made a navigational error and flew 20 degrees too far north. They approached within 300 miles of Soviet airspace near Wrangel island, where there was believed to be an interceptor base with aircraft having an operational radius of 400 miles. Because of the risk of repetition of such an error, in this northern area where other checks on Navigation are difficult to obtain, it was decided to fly a less provocative route in the future. However, the necessary orders had not been given by the time of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, so throughout that crisis the same northern route was being flown 24 hours a day.

2) U2 Flights into Soviet Airspace. U2 high altitude reconnaissance flights from Alaska occasionally strayed unintentionally into Soviet airspace. One such episode occurred in August 1962. During the Cuban missile crisis on October of 1962, the U2 pilots were ordered not to fly within 100 miles of Soviet airspace. On the night of October 26, for a reason irrelevant to the crisis, a U2 pilot was ordered to fly a new route, over the north pole, where positional checks on navigation were by sextant only. That night the aurora prevented good sextant readings and the plane strayed over the Chukotski Peninsula. Soviet MIG interceptors took off with orders to shoot down the U2. The pilot contacted his U.S. command post and was ordered to fly due east towards Alaska. He ran out of fuel while still over Siberia. In response to his S.O.S., U.S. F102-A fighters were launched to escort him on his glide to Alaska, with orders to prevent the MIG's from entering U.S. airspace. The U.S. interceptor aircraft were armed with nuclear missiles. These could have been used by any one of the F102-A pilots at his own discretion.

3) A Soviet Satellite Explodes. On October 24, a Soviet satellite entered its own parking orbit, and shortly afterward exploded. Sir Bernard Lovell, director of the Jodrell Bank observatory wrote in 1968: "the explosion of a Russian spacecraft in orbit during the Cuban missile crisis... led the U.S. to believe that the USSR was launching a massive ICBM attack." The NORAD Command Post logs of the dates in question remain classified, possibly to conceal reaction to the event. Its occurrence is recorded, and U.S. space tracking stations were informed on October 31 of debris resulting from the breakup of "62 BETA IOTA."

4) Intruder in Duluth. At around midnight on October 25, a guard at the Duluth Sector Direction Center saw a figure climbing the security fence. He shot at it, and activated the "sabotage alarm." This automatically set off sabotage alarms at all bases in the area. At Volk Field, Wisconsin, the alarm was wrongly wired, and the Klaxon sounded which ordered nuclear armed F-106A interceptors to take off. The pilots knew there would be no practice alert drills while DEFCON 3 was in force, and they believed World War III had started. Immediate communication with Duluth showed there was an error. By this time aircraft were starting down the runway. A car raced from command center and successfully signaled the aircraft to stop. The original intruder was a bear.  

5) ICBM Test Launch. At Vandenburg Air Force Base, California, there was a program of routine ICBM test flights. When DEFCON 3 was ordered all the ICBM's were fitted with nuclear warheads except one Titan missile that was scheduled for a test launch later that week. That one was launched for its test, without further orders from Washington, at 4 a.m. on the 26th. It must be assumed that Russian observers were monitoring U.S. missile activities as closely as U.S. observers were monitoring Russian and Cuban activities. They would have known of the general changeover to nuclear warheads, but not that this was only a test launch.

6) Unannounced Titan Missile Launch. During the Cuba crisis, some radar warning stations that were under construction and near completion were brought into full operation as fast as possible. The planned overlap of coverage was thus not always available. A normal test launch of a Titan-II ICBM took place in the afternoon of October 26 (same day as the California Titan launch!!!), from Florida to the South Pacific. It caused temporary concern at Moorestown Radar site until its course could be plotted and showed no predicted impact within the United States. It was not until after this event that the potential for a serious false alarm was realized, and orders were given that radar warning sites must be notified in advance of test launches, and the countdown be relayed to them.

7) Malmstrom Air Force Base. When DEFCON 2 was declared on October 24, solid fuel Minuteman-1 missiles at Malmstrom Air Force Base were being prepared for full deployment. The work was accelerated to ready the missiles for operation, without waiting for the normal handover procedures and safety checks. When one silo and missile were ready on October 26 no armed guards were available to cover transport from the normal separate storage, so the launch enabling equipment and codes were all placed in the silo. It was thus physically possible for a single operator to launch a fully armed missile at a SIOP target. During the remaining period of the Crisis the several missiles at Malmstrom were repeatedly put on and off alert as errors and defects were found and corrected. Fortunately no combination of errors caused or threatened an unauthorized launch, but in the extreme tension of the period the danger can be well imagined.

8) NATO Readiness. It is recorded on October 22, that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and NATO Supreme Commander, General Lauris Norstad agreed not to put NATO on alert in order to avoid provocation of the U.S.S.R. When the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered DEFCON 3 Norstad was authorized to use his discretion in complying. Norstad did not order a NATO alert. However, several NATO subordinate commanders did order alerts to DEFCON 3 or equivalent levels of readiness at bases in West Germany, Italy, Turkey, and United Kingdom. This seems largely due to the action of General Truman Landon, CINC U.S. Air Forces Europe, who had already started alert procedures on October 17 in anticipation of a serious crisis over Cuba.

9)  British Alerts. When the U.S. SAC went to DEFCON 2, on October 24, Bomber Command (the U.K.) was carrying out an unrelated readiness exercise. On October 26, Air Marshall Cross, CINC of Bomber Command, decided to prolong the exercise because of the Cuba crisis, and later increased the alert status of British nuclear forces, so that they could launch in 15 minutes. It seems likely that Soviet intelligence would perceive these moves as part of a coordinated plan in preparation for immediate war. They could not be expected to know that neither the British Minister of Defense nor Prime Minister Macmillian had authorized them.

10) Moorestown False Alarm. Just before 9 a.m., on October 28, the Moorestown, New Jersey, radar operators informed the national command post that a nuclear attack was under way. A test tape simulating a missile launch from Cuba was being run, and simultaneously a satellite came over the horizon. Operators became confused and reported by voice line to NORAD HQ that impact was expected 18 miles west of Tampa at 9:02 a.m. The whole of NORAD was reported, but before irrevocable action had taken place it was reported that no detonation had taken place at the predicted time, and Moorestown operators reported the reason for the false alarm. During the incident overlapping radar's that should have confirmed or disagreed were not in operation . The radar post had not received routine information of satellite passage because the facility carrying out that task had been given other work for the duration of the crisis.    

11): False Warning Due to Satellite. At 5:26 p.m. on October 28, the Laredo radar warning site had just become operational. Operators misidentified a satellite in orbit as two possible missiles over Georgia and reported by voice line to NORAD HQ. NORAD was unable to identify that the warning came from the new station at Laredo and believed it to be from Moorestown, and therefore more reliable. Moorestown failed to intervene and contradict the false warning. By the time the CINC, NORAD had been informed, no impact had been reported and the warning was "given low credence."

12) November 2, 1962: The Penkovsky False Warning. In the fall of 1962, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky was working with the Soviets as a double agent for the (U.S.) C.I.A. He had been given a code by which to warn the CIA if he was convinced that a Soviet attack on the United States was imminent. He was to call twice, one minute apart, and only blow into the receiver. Further information was then to be left at a "dead drop" in Moscow. The pre-arranged code message was received by the CIA on November 2, 1962. It was known at the CIA that Penkovsky had been arrested on October 22. Penkovsky knew he was going to be executed. It is not known whether he had told the KGB the meaning of the code signal or only how it would be given, nor is it known exactly why or with what authorization the KGB staff used it. When another CIA agent checked the dead drop he was arrested.

It is hard to imagine that out of 20 mishaps that could have led to a nuclear war, 12 of them occurred in 1962, most of them during the Cuban missile Crisis. But it gets worse....


This was discovered in 1992:  Unknown to U.S. intelligence for 30 years, the Soviet Union had sneaked about 100 small tactical nuclear weapons into Cuba at the time of the 1962 missile crisis, in addition to its more powerful strategic missiles.

The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had authorized his field commanders
 in Cuba to
launch their tactical nuclear weapons if invaded by U.S. forces.

But Khrushchev, horrified that Castro had urged him to launch strategic nuclear missiles against the United States at the height of the crisis, ordered that all the tactical weapons be swiftly removed. The crisis ended and the last of the tactical warheads was reported returned to the Soviet Union in December 1962, according to documents found by Western and Russian researchers in once-secret Soviet archives.

"In retrospect, it shows the crisis was more dangerous than thought,'' said George Washington University professor Jim Hershberg, an expert on the crisis. "If we had invaded Cuba (the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon had urged President Kennedy to invade Cuba immediately, before the Soviets' missiles were fully operational) and they had used some of these [tactical] weapons, it would have been awful.'' The Soviet archives showed that the CIA's failure to spot the tactical nukes led to a potentially catastrophic underestimation of the threat that Cuba posed as President Kennedy was considering invading the island to knock out the strategic missiles.
Robert Hastings: "To his everlasting credit, Kennedy pushed back. Still stinging from the poor advice he had earlier received from the military and CIA, when they eagerly advocated the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion by anti-Castro Cubans, Kennedy wanted to explore other military options before actually invading Cuba. Hence a sea blockade was implemented, intended as a barrier to further Soviet shipments of missiles to its Cuban allies. Only decades later did the enormity of Kennedy's decision become known." (UFOs and Nukes, Hastings, Page 124).

At a 1992 academic seminar in Havana on the missile crisis, Gen. Anatoly Gribkov, of the former Soviet armed forces general staff, blurted out that Moscow had sent to Cuba, in addition to the 24 medium range  nuclear missiles, nine nuclear warheads for ground-to-ground Luna rockets, also known as FROGs, in 1962. With a range of 30 miles and 2-kiloton warheads -- the Hiroshima bomb was 14 kilotons -- Lunas are considered tactical ``battlefield'' weapons, unlike strategic missiles with a 1,000-mile-plus range and warheads of one or more megatons. These nine weapons were under the authority of local Soviet field commanders. In event of war, those could have been launched at the officers' discretion, without prior authorization from Moscow. Gribkov said that had President Kennedy ordered an invasion, it was the Soviet commanders' intention to use the tactical nukes against U.S. forces as they landed on Cuban beaches.

The world has long known about Moscow's deployment in Cuba of the 24 SS4 and SS5 missiles. With that one stroke, Khrushchev hoped to double the number of Soviet missiles capable of hitting the U.S. heartland, while extending his nuclear defensive umbrella to Cuba. They included 80 FKR cruise missiles armed with 12-kiloton warheads. The FKR was essentially a scaled-down, pilotless version of a MiG jet, with a target guidance system good out to 100 miles, although it could fly much farther. It was designed to defend the Cuban coastline and the land around the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay from any U.S. invasion attempt.

The Soviet freighter Indigirka, carrying 45 SS4 and SS5 warheads, 36 of the FKR warheads and all of the Luna and Il-28 nuclear warheads, left the Soviet Union on Sept. 15 and arrived in the Cuban port of Mariel on Oct. 4, three weeks before the crisis erupted. The Aleksandrovsk, carrying 24 strategic warheads and 44 FKR warheads, docked in the north-central port of La Isabela on Oct. 23 -- the day before the U.S. blockade of Cuba's shipping lanes went into effect. The hot part of the crisis essentially ended that Oct. 28 when Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the SS4s and SS5s in exchange for a public Kennedy promise not to invade Cuba and a secret vow to remove U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey.

Perhaps most alarmingly, at the time of the crisis, no one in Washington, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff—who were urging Kennedy to send troops into Cuba as soon as possible—knew of the tactical missiles' presence. Decades later, while referring to General Gribkov's dramatic revelations, Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, said of the proposed invasion, "Had we carried out that attack, there would have been [tactical] nuclear war [in Cuba] and where that would have lead nobody knows."

With all that was going wrong in 1962 it was a miracle the human race still thrives on Planet Earth.

But there's more. I recently became aware of the following incident.

Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov (Russian) was a Soviet Navy officer. During the CUBAN Missile Crisis, he prevented the launch of a nuclear torpedo and thereby prevented a nuclear war.

In July 1961, Arkhipov was appointed deputy commander or executive officer of the new Hotel-class ballistic missile submarine K-19. During its nuclear accident, he backed Captain Nikolai Vladimorovich Zateyev during the potential mutiny. While assisting with engineering work to deal with the overheating reactor, he was exposed to a harmful level of radiation. This incident is depicted in the American film K-19, The Widowmaker.

On 27 October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a group of eleven United States Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph located the diesel-powered nuclear-armed Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 near Cuba being in international waters, the Americans started dropping practice depth charges, explosives intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. There had been no contact from Moscow for a number of days and, although the submarine's crew had earlier been picking up U.S. civilian radio broadcasts, once B-59 began attempting to hide from its U.S. Navy pursuers, it was too deep to monitor any radio traffic, so those on board did not know whether war had broken out. The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, believing that a war might already have started, wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo.

Unlike the other subs in the flotilla, on board the B-59 three officers had to agree unanimously to authorize the launch: Captain Savitsky; the political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov; and the second-in-command Arkhipov. Typically, Russian submarines that were armed with the "Special Weapon" only required the captain to get authorization from the political officer if he felt it was necessary to launch the nuclear torpedo, but due to Arkhipov's position as flotilla commander, the B-59's captain was also required to gain Arkhipov's approval. An argument broke out among the three, in which only Arkhipov was against the launch.

Although Arkhipov was only second-in-command of submarine B-59, he was commander of the entire flotilla of submarines, including B-4, B-36 and B-130, and equal in rank to Captain Savitsky. According to author Edward Wilson, the reputation Arkhipov gained from his courageous conduct in the previous year's Soviet submarine K-19 incident also helped him prevail in the debate. Arkhipov eventually persuaded Savitsky to surface the submarine and await orders from Moscow. This action effectively averted the nuclear warfare which most likely would have ensued had the torpedo been fired. The submarine's batteries had run very low and the air-conditioning had failed, so it was forced to surface amidst its U.S. pursuers and head home. Washington's message that practice depth charges were being used to signal the submarine to surface never reached B-59, and Moscow claims it has no record of receiving it either.

There are probably many other things that went on that year that will never see the light of day.

On any given day during any crisis, the introduction of a bonafied UFO on somebody's radar screen could mean accidental war. We have come close many times.According to two studies I conducted, there was a conspicuous lack of UFO reports during the crisis. UFO incidents happen when people do normal things, go to work, come home from work, etc. Even with a crisis on and people glued to the TV and radio, they have to do things that put them into the  UFO environment. There were almost no reports.  One would also expect military cases with misidentifications. There was a lack of those too.

Robert Hastings: "According to published sighting report data bases, they were decidedly conspicuous by their absence. Based on declassified U.S. government documents and the ufological literature, it appears that UFO activity during those ominous days of October 1962 was at a rather low level worldwide. This fact had always struck me as odd. Given other clusters of UFO activity at nuclear weapons laboratories and storage areas, or during periods of intense atomic testing in Nevada and the Pacific (and, later on, at U.S. Air Force ICBM sites outside various Strategic Air Command bases) one might predict that a UFO presence would be in evidence, in one form or another, during the planet's closest brush with nuclear catastrophe."

There were six good radar cases BEFORE the crisis. Item # 4 (620418) was extremely interesting. It was a National Defense Alert case:

On April 18th the Air Defense Command was alerted after an object was tracked by NORAD and ground witnesses as it traveled for 32-minutes from Oneida, New York across the midwest, through Kansas & Colorado, Utah, and the disappeared from Nellis AFB radar at 10,000 feet. Jets had been scrambled from two locations. Power outages were reported and the object made a turn toward the east and landed. There is quite a bit of information from numerous sources concerning this major incident, including Project Blue Book documents. It is very interesting that every one of these states except Utah, has or was in the process of obtaining ICBM Bases: New York, Plattsburg AFB;  Kansas, Forbes AFB, McConnell AFB; Utah, Minuteman production at Air Force Plant 77 at Hill AFB; Idaho, Mountain Home AFB; Montana, Malmstrom AFB; New Mexico, Walker AFB; Wyoming, F. E. Warren AFB; Arizona, Davis Monthan AFB; California, Beale AFB.

The most hair-raising incident I'm aware of occurred right before the Crisis. I found out from a close friend that an incident, triggered by a UFO over U.S. airspace at the time, had occurred. I was told that I could release this report once my friend had passed away. Here is Harold Hartig's story.

October, 1962; Palermo AFS, New Jersey
The entire U.S., Canada, and Alaska were on a top Security Option 5 alert. In NORAD Region 21 something slower than an incoming missile, but faster than our jet interceptors, was violating airspace all the way from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, on into Canada and Alaska, and we were ready to use tactical nuclear weapons, if necessary, to stop it. A friend of mine was a radar expert and a defense radar operator at that time. Years before he died he told me of this incident during the Cuban Missile Crisis which fully illustrates the seriousness of the situation, plus gives us an insight into who was, or was not, the intelligence behind the UFO phenomena.

There were eight good radar cases that year. The last one occurred after the Crisis.

November 10, 1962; North Star Bay, Greenland
At 2:15 a.m. local time, a fast moving target was observed on ground radar on a magnetic bearing 280 inbound. A CIRVIS REPORT was made. Airway notified Thule ACC. Target lost in ground clutter. Two F-102 aircraft and an L-20 aircraft searched the area without results.

But by and large it looks as if somebody, who knew what was going on, made the smart decision to keep a low profile. They might have been able to do something else had we attacked Cuba, but in any case, by 1967 they had disabled nuclear missiles at Malmstrom AFB in Montana. And even before that, in 1964 they were apparently able to disable an Atlas D warhead at Big Sur in California..