Robert Salas and Jim Klotz were the first to tell the story of Echo Flight, first in an online article at cufon.org and later in their book, Faded Giant. Robert Hastings, in his UFOs and Nukes, provided additional information. The story they told started early on the morning of March 16, 1967, when two missile maintenance teams who had been working on two of the flight’s widely scattered launch facilities had said they had seen strange lights in the sky near where they were located. A mobile security team confirmed this, saying they had seen the lights as well. All of this was told to Colonel Don Crawford by Captain Eric Carlson and 1st Lieutenant Walt Figel as Crawford came on duty, at least and according to what Salas had been told during his 1996 taped interview with Figel. Hastings had been told virtually the same things during his interviews with Figel.
|Malmstrom Air Force Base (for those who can't read)|
About 8:30 a.m., that same morning, as both Carlson and Figel were performing routine checks, the flight’s missiles began to drop off line. Within seconds, though Figel would later suggest it was minutes, all ten missiles were inoperable. In the event of war, they could not have launched. This was a major national security issue and a point that would become important later as the government files are searched.
Hastings wrote, “Immediately after the malfunctions at Echo, the launch officers ordered two separate Security Alert Teams to drive to each of the launch facilities where the UFOs had been sighted. Nevertheless, the maintenance and security personnel at each site reported seeing UFOs hovering near the missile silos.”
He added, “…some months after my book came out, in July 2008, I interviewed Figel on tape. He said one of the two SAT teams reported seeing the UFO over one of the silos. In 1996, he told Salas that both teams had seen it. A faded memory, it seems…”
But the story wasn’t quite so mundane, as Hastings learned during his interviews with Figel. When Hastings talked to Figel, a retired Air Force Colonel on October 20, 2008, he was told that one of the guards had suggested the UFO had shut down the missiles. Figel thought the guard was joking. He told Hastings, “I was thinking he was yanking my chain more than anything else.”
Hastings asked, “He seemed to be serious to you?”
And Figel responded, “He seemed to be serious but I wasn’t taking him seriously.”
Hastings wanted to know what the man had seen and Figel said that it was just a large, round object that was directly over the launch facility.”
To clarify the situation Hastings and Figel discussed the security procedures. Figel said, “[When] the missiles dropped off alert, I started calling the maintenance people out there on the radio… [I asked] ‘What’s going on?’ … And the guy says, ‘We got a Channel 9 No-Go. It must be a UFO hovering over the site.”
Figel, of course, didn’t believe him. He said that one of the Strike Teams, they had dispatched two, but one of them thought they had seen something over the site. They told Figel that a large object was hovering there.
All of this, of course, suggests that UFOs were somehow involved with the sudden shut down of the missile systems. Although the government files reject the idea, there is a great deal of eyewitness testimony for this.
The maintenance teams were dispatched and once they had located the problem, they were able to bring the missiles back on line, but the process was not simple and required hours for each missile. There was an extensive investigation that involved not only the Air Force but also the contractors who had designed and built the missiles.
According to the 341st Strategic Missile Wing Unit History, recovered through Freedom of Information:
On 16 March 1967 at 0845, all sites in Echo (E) Flight, Malmstrom AFB, shutdown with No-Go indication of Channels 9 and 12 on Voice Reporting Signal Assemble (VRSA). All LF’s in E Flight lost strategic alert nearly simultaneously. No other Wing I configuration lost strategic alert at that time.
Guidance & Control channel 50 dump data was collected from E-7 facility and E-3 Facility and all 10 sites were then returned to strategic alert without any LF equipment replacement. All 10 sites were reported to have been subject to a normal controlled shutdown…
The only possible means that could be identified by the team involved a situation in which a couple self test command occurred along with a partial reset within the coupler. This could feasible cause a VRSA 9 and 12 indication. This was also quite remote for all 10 couplers would have to have been partially reset in the same manner…
In the researching of other possibilities, weather was ruled out as a contributing factor in the incident.
A check with Communications maintenance verified that there was no unusual activity with EWO-1 or EWO-2 at the time of the incident.
All of which, in the short term, did not explain why the missiles all went off line at virtually the same time. In other words, at that point they didn’t know why the missiles went off line. In a very technical aspect of the Unit History, it explains that a “30 micro sec Pulse… was placed on the Self Test Command (STC) line… Seven out of 10 separate applications of a single pulse would cause the system to shut down with a Channel 9 & 12 No-Go.”
Or according to the government files, a randomly introduced electronic pulse which might be considered an EMP, which shouldn’t have affected the missile systems, had shut them down. The point of insertion was apparently the Launch Control Facility, but all those areas should have been shielded from just such an occurrence.
The information about the Echo Flight was, quite naturally, communicated to the Condon Committee, and Dr. Roy Craig responded. Although not exactly government files, Craig was working on a government contract for the Air Force when he made his notes on his meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Chase at Malmstrom. Craig’s notes on the meeting said:
After Colonel Chase and I exchanged pleasantries in his office, I asked him about the Echo incident. The Colonel caught his breath, and expressed surprise that I knew of it. ‘I can’t talk about that’… If I needed to know the cause of this incident, I could arrange through official channels, to see their report after the completion of the investigation… Although local newspapers carried stories of UFO sightings which would coincide in time with Echo, Colonel Chase had assured me that the incident had not involved a UFO… I accepted the information as factual and turned review of Major Schraff’s report (on the Echo incident) over to Bob Low [Dr. Robert Low, also a member of the Condon Committee], who had received security clearance to read secret information related to the UFO study… Low, in turn, had to interface with his Air Force Liaison in Washington, Col. Hippler [Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hippler]…. [Low wrote to Craig] ‘Roy, I called Hippler and he said he would try to get this, but he suspects it’s going to be classified too high for us to look at. Says he thinks interference by pulses from nuclear explosions is probably involved.
So, it seems that a cause had been found, or rather it seemed to have been found, but the ultimate source of the pulse was not identified. Hippler, speculating about the source of the pulse came up with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nonexistent atomic blast. That the pulse shut down all the missiles made it a national security issue, which changed the level of the classification.
Oddly, in the 341st SMW Unit History, it noted, “Rumors of Unidentified Objects (UFO) around the area of Echo Flight during the time of the 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.”
But that doesn’t seem to be quite accurate. Hastings interviewed James Ortyl who had been assigned as an Air Policeman at Malmstrom. Ortyl said:
I was an Airman 2nd Class [A2C] at the time. We were working the day-shift at Kilo Flight in March of 1967… It was mid-morning and three or four Air Policemen were gathered in the launch control facility dispatch office. Airman Robert Pounders and I were facing the windows looking out to the yard and parking lot. The others were facing us. As we were conversing, I witnessed a shimmering, reddish-orange object clear the main gate and in a sweeping motion pass quickly and silently pass by the windows. It seemed to be within 30 years of the building. Stunned, I looked at Pounders and asked, “Did you see that?!” He acknowledged that he had.
To be fair, Ortyl didn’t know the exact date, but said that in was near his birthday of March 17th. But then there is Craig’s interview with Chase which also moves in the direction of UFO sightings on the proper date. Craig’s notes indicate that he had the names of some of those involved with the UFO sightings at the time of Echo’s shut down, but he never contacted any of them.
Craig also had the name of Dan Renualdi who, in March 1967, was a member of the Site Activation Task Force (SATAF). He said that he had been within a few feet of an object. There was also a sergeant with the Air Force Technical Evaluation Team who said he had seen a flying saucer. There is no record of Craig talking to either of these men, nor are there any reports in the Project Blue Book files to suggest that the sightings had been reported there. That was a violation of the regulations in force at the time, although it could be argued there were contradictory regulations.
All this demonstrates is that there was another reported UFO around the time that Echo Flight had gone down, contrary to what the Unit History said. It does not prove that the UFOs had anything to do with the anomalous pulse.
There is another aspect to this. Quite naturally, the Air Force wanted to know what had happened. The man who conducted the investigation for Boeing, the Defense Contractor for the missile systems was Robert Kaminski. In a letter dated February 1, 1997 to Jim Klotz, he wrote:
At the time of the incident, I was an engineer in the MIP/CNP (Material Improvement Project/Controlled Numbered Problem) group…. The group was contacted by the Air Force so that Boeing could respond to specific Air Force Minuteman Missiles problems that occurred in the field…
I was handed the E-Flight CNP assignment when it arrived by the group supervisor. As the internal Boeing project engineer I arranged meetings necessary with management and technical personnel required to determine a course of action to be taken, in exploring why 10 missiles had suddenly fallen from alert status – green – to red, with no explanation for it. This was an unusual request and we had no prior similar incident or experience to this kind of anomaly….
Since this was a field site peculiar incident, a determination was made to send out an investigative team to survey the LCF and the LFs to determine what failures or related incidents could be found to explain the cause…. After a week in the field the team returned and pooled their data. At the outset the team quickly noticed a lack of anything that would come close to explain why the event occurred. There were no significant failures, engineering data or findings that would come close to explain how ten missiles were knocked off alert. This indeed turned out to be a rare event and not encountered before. The use of backup power systems and other technical system circuit operational redundancy strongly suggests that this kind of event is virtually impossible once the system was up and running and on line with other LCF’s and LF’s interconnectivity….
The team met with me to report their findings and it was decided that the final report would have nothing significant in it to explain what happened at E-Flight. In other words there was no technical explanation that could explain the event… Meanwhile I was contacted by our representative… (Don Peterson) and told by him that the incident was reported as being a UFO event – That a UFO was seen by some Airmen over the LCF at the time E-Flight when down.
Subsequently, we were notified a few days later, that a stop work order was on the way from OOAMA to stop any further effort on this project. We stopped. We were also told that we were not to submit the final engineering report. This was most unusual since all of our work required review by the customer and the submittal of a final Engineering report to OOAMA…
However, as I recall nothing explained this anomaly at E-Flight.
Hastings, in a review of the material in 2013, wrote, “Actually, the large round object sighted by the missile guard, and reported to launch officer Lt. Walter Figel, had been hovering over one of the Echo missile silos, not the launch control facility itself. Nevertheless, Boeing engineer Kaminski’s revealing testimony essentially confirms Figel’s account of a UFO presence during the incident.”
This all happened while the University of Colorado study, known as the Condon Committee was going on, and an investigator from Colorado arrived at Malmstrom AFB to learn what had happened. Dr. Roy Craig, was dispatched to meet with Chase. Once Craig was in Chase’s office, rather than ask about the sightings around Belt, Craig asked about Echo Flight.
Craig wrote, “The Colonel caught his breath, and expressed surprise that I knew of it. He said, “I can’t talk about that.”
Craig turned the investigation over to Robert Low, who had been granted a security clearance so that he could read the classified information in the Project Blue Book files. That wasn’t good enough and they eventually made the request to Lt. Col. Robert Hippler who was involved with the Colorado study, and had, at one point, told Low and Condon what the Air Force expected in the study. You can read more about that here:
Hippler wrote back that it was his opinion that the Echo Flight trouble was classified too high for them to see it. He didn’t explain what that classification might be, but here was a case in which UFOs were involved, even if that involvement was tangential to the problem with Echo Flight.
In fact, they were told that there was no UFO involvement, but the trouble with Echo Flight was a matter of national security. Here’s the point, it was believed impossible for all ten missiles in a single flight to be disabled by an outside force. There was redundancy built into the system. Ignoring the fact that UFOs might have come into play, what was important here was that an outside force had disabled the missiles. If the enemy learned that such a thing was possible, then that enemy could begin to search for a way to do it. UFOs could lead to that discovery, even if those UFOs weren’t alien in origin… and there it is. The reason that we have not gotten further is National Security. That is why, today, we still don’t have any real answers from the government. And if you’re arguing that this is old news, then I remind you that Area 51 was exposed during UFO investigations. They conceal the information because they believe they’re protecting National Security. I’ve laid all this out and provide addition information about the missile intrusions in the book The Government UFO Files.