Big Sur, California
UFO Filmed Circling Atlas Rocket
September 15, 1964

The SM-65 "Atlas" ICBM

T. Scott Crain, Jr.:
Getting the Air Force to admit they have on film a UFO encircling an Atlas F missile while in flight, is not an easy thing to do. For the better part of a year, this researcher tried to track down a film taken by First Lieutenant Robert Jacobs of a UFO that interfered with a missile launch off the coast of California on September 15, 1964. 

The 1369th Photographic Squadron dispatched from Vandenberg Air Force Base unwittingly filmed the UFO while tracking the missile some 60 miles above the Pacific Ocean. Two days later, Chief Science Officer at Vandenberg AFB, Major Florenz J. Mansmann, summoned Jacobs to his office to view the film. Among those present in Mansmann's office were two CIA agents from Washington, D.C. 

As the men watched the rocket soar high in the sky, an unidentified light swims into the picture and encircles the rocket, emitting brilliant, strobe-like flashes, around the missile Upon closer inspection of the film, Mansmann confirmed later the light was definitely "saucer-shaped". According to Jacobs, the warhead malfunctioned while in flight, and fell several hundred miles short of its intended target. Mansmann tells Jacobs to keep quiet about the incident, and the two CIA agents leave with the film, which has never been seen again. 


When this researcher initially reported on this incident in the January, 1987 issue of the MUFON UFO JOURNAL, Mansmann's testimony was unavailable. Since then, he has responded to my inquiries, as well as OMNI magazine UFO writer, Eric Mishara, who was helpful in identifying a spokesman for the Air Force who claims the rocket did not go off course, but hit its target. 

In a letter from Florenz Mansmann (May 6,1987), he confirmed Robert Jacobs' account of the incident that is described in detail in issue No. 225 of the Journal. Mansmann states he ordered Jacobs not to discuss the incident with anyone "... because of the nature of the launch, the failure of the launch mission and the probability that the optical instrumentation (the film) showed an interference with normal launch patterns." 

Mansmann confirmed he studied the film, having screened it on four different occasions. Mansmann said he viewed the film "once in my quality control review and editing for the General and his staff; once in review with the Chief Scientist and his assistant; once for the Commanding General with only one of his staff; and a fourth time with the Chief Scientist, his assistant, the three government men and Bob Jacobs." If Mansmann's recollection is correct, a number of military officials viewed the film before the CIA agents confiscated it. 

When asked why he told Jacobs to "tell no one about this," that "it never happened," Mansmann explained that he was "ordered not to discuss any of what was seen or discussed during the screenings. I only passed my order, as the ranking optical instrumentation officer, on to Lieutenant Jacobs." 

Wouldn't the CIA agents have to sign out a military film before leaving the Air Force Base with it, I asked. According to Mansmann, "No film was ever released from our archives without a signature. I even signed out film when we had launch showings to VIPS in the General's office on short notice. However, I released the film to the Chief Scientist over his signature, then they departed." 

I asked Mansmann to comment on an article about this case that appeared in OMNI, in which UFO writer Eric Mishara quoted an Air Force spokesman as saying, "We have no documentation of a UFO incident  - The dummy warhead hit the target." 

Mansmann claims the statements made by the AF spokesman makes no sense. If the Air Force spokesman did review a close-dated launch and saw nothing, it could not have been the launch that perpetuated such quick security action." 


Mansmann's past military credentials are impressive, having served in special projects for the Air Force throughout his entire career. He worked on airborne radar during World War II, Air Defense Systems during the Korean War, and Airborne Reconnaissance Systems during what could be called the Cold War. He also worked with photo computerized systems of unprecedented utilization and intelligence gathering during the Vietnam conflict. 

Whatever happened to the film both these Air Force officers claim the CIA took? I attempted to find out. 

Beginning on January 19, 1987, a series of letters were forwarded to Vandenberg AFB in California, requesting under the Freedom of Information Act that copies of all films taken by the 1369th Photographic Squadron on September 15, 1964, be sent to me, along with any analyses that may have been performed on these films. At the end of this tedious letter-writing campaign, I finally reached Vandenberg's FOIA Manager, William I. McCorvey, who responded to my request. His last letter to me dated March 10, 1987, ended with "The records you requested do not exist in our files." 

My associate in this investigation, Robert Todd of Citizens Against UFO Secrecy, also made similar FOIA requests to Vandenberg AFB for the film. His response from McCorvey in a letter dated March 27, 1987, ended with "... our records indicate that no Atlas F missiles were launched from Vandenberg AFB, CA on 15 September 1964." It was obvious that McCorvey either was not aware of, or wanted not to discuss with us the details behind this incident. 

Another lead in our search for information was the article written by Eric Mishara entitled, "UFO Cover up," in the January 1985 issue of OMNI. Mishara writes that an Air Force spokesman knew of this reported incident, indicated that there was no UFO, and that the missile successfully hit its target. Here was an Air force officer who publicly admitted that he had knowledge of what happened, and could even report the Atlas F missile did not veer off course but completed its mission. 

Through the assistance of a senior editor at OMNI, I was able to track down Mishara at his residence. "Who was the Air Force spokesman you quoted in your article," I asked. His answer surprised me. It was a Sergeant Lorri Wray who worked in Media Relations at none other than Vandenberg AFB, California. Needless to say, a letter to Sergeant Wray on September 7, 1987, went unanswered and unreturned. 

In the end, if it was not for the courage of Robert Jacobs and Florenz Mansmann in coming forth and telling what happened, we may never have known about the saucer-shaped UFO that caused a missile to crash near Vandenberg AFB in 1964.. 

Source: MUFON UFO Journal, No. 245, September 1988
(T. Scott Crain is a MUFON Journal staff writer and state section director for Pennsylvania)


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