Project Blue Book files reveal that on March 24, 1967, near the small town of
Belt, Montana, a truck driver, Ken Williams, saw a domed object land in a
canyon near the road. He was curious enough that he stopped, got out of his
truck and began to walk toward the object. The UFO then lifted off, flew
further up the canyon and touched down again, now hidden from the highway by a
in a handwritten document filed with the National Investigations Committee on
Aerial Phenomenon, told the whole story of what he had seen that night. In
response to their request, on April 7, 1967, Williams wrote:
was first observed approximately 5 miles southeast of Belt, Montana. I was
traveling North on Highway 87 enroute to Great Falls, Montana. Object was
approximately 1 mile to my left and appeared to be about 5 or 6 hundred yards
[1500 – 1800 feet] altitude. I would estimate its speed to vary from 40 to 50 miles
per hour. I am judging this speed by the speed I was traveling as object seemed
to be running evenly with me. Its appearance was that of a large doomed [sic]
shaped light or that of a giant headlight. Upon climbing up the Belt Hill in my
truck, I looked to my left and about ½ mile up a gully. I witnessed the object
at about 200 yards [600 feet] in the air in a still position. I stopped my
truck and the object dropped slowly to what appeared to me to be within a
very few feet from the ground. [Underlining in original]. It was at this
time that I felt something or someone was watching me. As a very bright
effecting light emerged from the object it momentarily blinded me. This
extremely bright light seemed to flare three times. Each time holding its
brightness. By the third time the light was so bright [underlining in
original] that it was nearly impossible to look directly at it. It was at this
time that I drove my truck onto the top of the hill which was about another ½
mile. I stopped a car and asked the people [Don Knotts of Great Falls] if they
would stop at a station at the foot of the hill and call the Highway Patrol. I
went back down the hill and viewed the object for several more minutes. It was
while watching it the second time that it rose and disappeared like a bolt of
lightning. I went back to the top of the hill where my truck was parked and
just as the Highway Patrolmen [sic] Bud Nader, arrived the object appeared once
again. About 2 miles away and traveling in a Northeast direction, whereas it
stopped once again and appeared to drop to the ground [Underlining in
the original.]. There are several deep gullys [sic] in the area where it
appeared to drop out of sight. This was my last sighting of the object.
the case is labeled as “unidentified,” it also noted that there was “(1
witness),” which they believed to be so important that it was underlined. But
that isn’t true and other documents in the Blue Book files prove it.
to a letter written by Lieutenant Colonel Lewis D. Chase, and addressed to
Edward Condon at the University of Colorado, there was, at least, one other
witness. According to Chase, “Mr. Nader [sent by the Highway Patrol] reported
that upon reaching the scene he observed an unusual light emanating from the
area that the truck driver, Mr. Williams, claimed the object had landed a
Great Falls Leader carried a series
of articles about the UFO sightings in the area at the time. Interestingly,
some of what was printed in the newspaper was not found in the government
files. Those who conducted the military investigation should have been aware of
the other sightings, but there is no mention of them. It seems that, to the Air
Force anyway, those sightings never happened.
were visual sightings as well. Airman Second Class (A2C) Richard Moore, a
communicator-plotter said that he had seen something about five or ten miles
from the base at 3:30 a.m. Airman Third Class (A3C) said that he had seen an
object that he said was a bright light with orange lights on the bottom. This,
according to Moore, was close to the ground and it was what the FAA radar had
also said that a sabotage alert team had located another object about 4:40 a.m.
directly over Malmstrom. Moore said that he saw it as well, but it was more a
point of light moving across the sky than anything else. He said it wasn’t a
satellite because it was zigzagging.
airman, Warren Mahoney, said that Moore had told him about the UFO at 3:10 a.m.
and that at 3:42 he had received a call from the FAA that there was an object
on their radar northwest of the base. Three minutes later it had turned, flying
toward the southeast. At 4:26 a.m. it disappeared from the FAA radar.
had been a search of the canyon where Williams and Nager saw the UFO and they
found some evidence, though it isn’t clear exactly what they had found.
Sheriff’s deputies Keith Wolverton, Jim Cinker and Harold Martin, searched the
ground for about two and a half hours and discovered some freshly broken twigs
on bushes and branches of the trees. They thought it might have been cattle,
but there were no cattle in the area. Martin was reported as saying, “Some of
the trees are 25 feet high, and had limbs broken from them, and some bushes
below them were broken. All were fresh breaks.”
to the Great Falls Tribune, Trudy
Fender provided a rough drawing of an object she had seen with a steady white
light on one end, a blinking white light on the other and a red light in the
center. She had been waiting for her ride on March 26. The sighting isn’t
important because of the object, but the fact that she saw something. That
refuted a theory that there had been no UFO sightings in Montana other than
Williams sighting two days earlier.
The Government File
all that was going on that night, with the news media alerted and with local
law enforcement involved, there wasn’t much that the Air Force could do other
than respond. The government files, in a teletype message that was unclassified
revealed, “Between hours of 2100 and 0400 MST numerous reports were received by
Malmstrom AFB agencies of UFO sightings in the Great Falls, Montana area.”
message noted that “Reports of a UFO landing near Belt, Montana were received
from several sources including deputies of Cascade County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigation is being conducted by Lt. Col. Lewis Chase… The alleged landing
site is under surveillance. However daylight is required for further search.”
investigation was apparently completed several days later and on April 8, 1967,
Chase wrote a report that he sent on to Edward Condon at the University of
Colorado who was leading the Air Force sponsored investigation into UFOs. After
setting the scene, Lewis wrote:
reports were being received by the dispatcher at Base Operations, plus
questions from the public. At 2205 [10:05 p.m.], Lt. Col. Lewis D. Chase, Base
UFO Investigating Officer, was notified by the Command Post of a reported
landing. Sequence of events following notification were as follows:
– Discussion with the Sheriff of Cascade County revealed that he had dispatched
additional deputies to the area. Requested that he notify me of any significant
findings. While talking to the sheriff, he contacted one of his mobile units.
The man reporting said that they were at the scene and that there was no
activity at the time. Requested the sheriff to forward any subsequent
– Discussion with Colonel Klibbe. He suggested that I go out and evaluate the
situation and make my recommendations from there…
– Departed the base in radio equipped station wagon accompanied by Major John
Grasser of the Helicopter Section, for an evaluation of the terrain for any
possible helicopter survey at daylight, a driver, and the alert photographer.
– Arrived at the scene. Was met by Sheriff Martin, who repeated the previous
reports. He had been on the scene continuously. A study of the terrain revealed
the hopelessness of any ground survey at night. A tentative plan was agreed
upon – the sheriff’s office to conduct a ground search of the reported landing
area on the morning of 25 March 1967, while concurrently a helicopter survey of
the area would be performed by Malmstrom. (It had been reported by Major
Grasser that a helicopter training flight was scheduled for 0730 Saturday
morning. This procedure was later approved by 15th AF, provided no
landing was made). Sightseers were in the area due to radio publicity and
Martin reported some had gone on the ridges before he could stop them.
to 0340 – Numerous sightings reported.
– Discussed the make-up of a message with Captain Bradshaw, Wing Command Post,
IAW [In Accordance With] AFR [Air Force Regulation] 80-17, to notify concerned
agencies, including CSAF, of numerous sightings, plus the reported landing
under investigation. Was concerned with resulting publicity and the need to
notify other agencies prior to press releases. Message will merely state
reported landing, that it is under investigation, that daylight hours are
required to complete investigation, and that a subsequent report will be
submitted. Preliminary message dispatched.
– Sheriff’s ground search and Malmstrom aerial survey completed with negative
results. Follow-up messages dispatched to interested agencies (AFR 80-17)
stating negative results of the investigation.
last part of the report confirmed that Chase had conducted it and provided
contact information for him. He later, in a teletype message reported, again,
that there had been negative results.
mention of the radar reports are missing from the Blue Book files, as are the
reports from Air Force personnel. Even if Chase was uninterested in most of the
civilian sightings, he would want to talk to the airman who saw something, if
for no other reason than to explain them. This is a hole in the investigation.
might have been something else operating here, and that was the mission of
Malmstrom AFB. It was a minuteman missile base, and just days before, an entire
flight of missiles had suddenly fallen into a “No-Go” situation which meant
that they had been deactivated. This was an issue that was a matter of national
security and that might explain the reason the Belt, Montana sighting was so
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.
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.
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.”
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,
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.”
asked, “He seemed to be serious to you?”
Figel responded, “He seemed to be serious but I wasn’t taking him seriously.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
to the 341st Strategic Missile Wing Unit History, recovered through
Freedom of Information:
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.
& 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…
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…
the researching of other possibilities, weather was ruled out as a contributing
factor in the incident.
check with Communications maintenance verified that there was no unusual
activity with EWO-1 or EWO-2 at the time of the incident.
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.”
according to the 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
that doesn’t seem to be quite accurate. Hastings interviewed James Ortyl who
had been assigned as an Air Policeman at Malmstrom. Ortyl said:
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.
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
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
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.
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:
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…
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….
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….
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.
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…
as I recall nothing explained this anomaly at E-Flight.
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.”
found in many other UFO incidents, there are a small number of people who seem
to be outraged by the thought that a UFO had been seen and interacted with the
environment. In this case, that is James Carlson, son of the Echo Flight MCCC
on March 16, 1967, Captain Eric Carlson. He has carved out quite a presence on
the Internet suggesting that Hastings and Salas, to be generous, were somewhat less
given all the information available, given the number of men who had been identified
as being members of either Echo or Oscar Flight, and given the documentation
that is available in the government files, some conclusions can be drawn. The
situation, as it stands today, and looked at through neutral eyes, can be
Carlson is of the opinion that nothing UFO-related happened that day. He said
that his father had told him about the events, and there was no need to speak
to others. In fact, Carlson apparently wrote to Billy Cox, blogging as Devoid
at the Herald Tribune (article at http://devoid.blogs.heraldtribune.com/
didn’t question Walt Figel because his response is already part of the record.
It wasn’t necessary. My father was the commander at Echo Flight, and I
questioned him… my father would never lie to me about something like that.”
according to Hastings, he interviewed Eric Carlson on October 6, 2008, and was
told that the elder Carlson “he himself had previously received reports from
missile security guards of UFOs during other missile alerts… but that he didn’t
take them seriously.”
not a ringing refutation of what he son was saying, it does speak to the idea
that UFOs had been reported and that Eric Carlson didn’t believe them. In fact,
he added, “You take an 18-year-old kid and stick him out there for days, with
nothing but TV dinners, and they have a tendency to see things.”
noted that the 341st SMW Unit History didn’t mention any UFO
sightings. It did say only that “Rumors of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)
around the area of Echo Flight during the time of the default were disproven.”
there is nothing in the Unit History to explain how they had been disproven,
nor why, if the UFOs hadn’t been around, and there were no stories around, they
would even bother to mention this. It seems to be one of those things that
Sherlock Holmes would say. “It was strange that the dog didn’t bark.”
reality, however, Figel mentioned the maintenance crew talking about UFOs.
There are suggestions that the security teams saw lights and UFOs. In other
words, the rumors weren’t disproven, merely ignored, which isn’t quite the same
importantly, any UFO sightings at the time, especially if linked to the failure
of the missiles, would be a matter of national security. They would not have
been reported through the same channels as other UFO reports. That none of
these reports were filed with Project Blue Book, which regulations required,
unless it was a matter of national security, is interesting.
a similar vein, Carlson said that Figel had not believed the UFO story and
thought it was a joke. He quotes Figel as saying, “I thought it was a joke.”
But the line is taken out of context. True, Figel did think that the
maintenance crew was joking, but it is also true that Figel said they sounded
sincere. In other words, he thought of it as a joke, but they did not and were
attempting to tell him what they were seeing above ground.
Carlson didn’t see any UFOs, but he talks of others, above ground, seeing these
things and reporting them. He seems to reject the idea that any UFO was seen on
March 16, and that UFOs had nothing to do with the shut down, contrary to what
his deputy, sitting in the capsule next to him had to say about this.
makes a big deal that Figel didn’t attend the press conference held at the
National Press Club by Hastings and Salas, wondering why he was excluded. But
the reason for not wishing to participate, rather than being excluded, was that
Figel didn’t want to get in the middle of an argument between Hastings and Eric
Carlson. Figel severed his communications with all, once the acrimony among all
parties became known. Figel had been invited, he just never responded to the
sorts of arguments can become quite tedious, especially when one side takes
statements out of context, doesn’t provide full disclosure on all that
witnesses said, and is driven by an agenda that leads to a very narrow and
extremely hostile point of view. It is clear, based on the government files
that all ten Minuteman missiles of Echo flight failed in a matter of minutes,
possibly seconds. There were reports of UFOs in the area, and both Captain Eric
Carlson and 1st Lt. Figel knew of it. That Figel thought of it as a
joke does not mean that it didn’t happen.
is strange that there is no documentation for a similar failure at Oscar Flight
just days later, but there are UFO sightings in the government files. There are
witnesses to this other than Robert Salas, and while their stories don’t
completely agree, the differences are minor. They are the sort of thing to be
expected after decades when the men are relying on their memories.